Saturday, May 19, 2018

Armed Forces Day — 2018

There are three national holidays recognizing the men and women who put their lives on "hold" to serve our country.

•  Armed Forces Day
•  Memorial Day
•  Veterans Day

It's easy to misunderstand the difference between the three holidays.

To demonstrate my point, ask a friend or associate if they know the purpose of each holiday, beyond no mail delivery, banks closed and limited (or no) public transportation?
•  Armed Forces Day. Celebrating current active duty service personnel. Created in August 1949, to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps,  and US Air Force Days.Also includes the US Coast Guard, oldest branch of our military established in  1790, as a celebration of  the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense (DoD).

This year, Armed Forces Day will be observed, as always, on the third Saturday of the month., May 19th.

About 50 miles south of me, Bremerton (Washington) claims to have the longest running (71 years) parade and celebration.

A large — and popular contingent from Naval Base Kitsap.This years parade will feature more than 50 bands, floats, military marching units, and drill teams.

•  Memorial Day. 

Following the Civil War, many cities established  Decoration Day, to honor those who fought and died in both the North and South.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs states "the Official birthplace declared in 1966, when Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May

This year, Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, will be honored on May 28th..

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.

The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”(Source:US Dept. Veteran's Affairs.)

•  Veterans Day is set aside to thank living veterans for their service and to acknowledge that their contribution to our national security is appreciated.

This year, Veterans Day is Sunday, November 11. Since the 11th is a Sunday, observance (day off, no mail, banks closed and in many areas, no public transportation,) will be Monday, November 12.

Armed Forces Day around the World

First, England, Scotland and Australia recognize their Armed Forces on the same day, 3rd Saturday of May. Thanks to President Harry S. Truman, it's a day to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces.

Armed Forces Day in Thailand: On 25 January 2018, H.E. Mr. Pitchayaphant Charnbhumidol, Ambassador of Thailand to Indonesia, presided over the reception to commemorate the Royal Thai Armed Forces Day 2018 in Jakarta.

The event was organized by the Office of the Defense Attache and supported by the Royal Thai Embassy in Jakarta, Team Thailand, and Thai community in Indonesia.

From the 69th anniversary of the Armed Forces Day in 2017. Observed by South Korea October 1st.  70th anniversary coming up this October 2018.

The Republic of South Africa varies in celebration date, but the honors remain the same.

Finally, the largest and longest running recognition of Armed Forces Day is celebrated about 40 miles south of here at Bremerton, Washington. More than 50 units are scheduled for this years parade.

Located on Sinclair Inlet, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard employs hundreds of civilian and Naval personnel.

Friday, May 18, 2018

May 18, 1980 - Mt St Helens: The Burlington Northern Connection

My how time flies!  Today marks the 38th anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption.  Here is how I originally presented the story  ...

Portland Oregon, May 18, 1980.
After months of teasing us, Mt St Helens finally blew her top off. Literally. One square mile of it!

The mountain is about 60 miles north and slightly to the east of the Portland - Vancouver metroplex. You just had to find a hill with an unobstructed view to the north, to enjoy this, the most violent of natures land re-distribution schemes. These folks were watching from the Pittock Mansion located on a hill overlooking Portland.

Prevailing weather patterns took the ash plume into Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and beyond. Residents of Ritzville in eastern Washington explore the moon like dust. On a positive note, the ash-fall from Mt St Helens is often credited for the richness of the soils in the Palouse Region, famous for it's wheat, pea, and lentil crops.

The Internet is rich with the history and background leading up to the Big Blast, which I will not reiterate. This site is one of the better ones; you will be challenged to look up more than a half dozen references!
While most of the ash fall was to the east, changes in weather patterns brought ash south into the Vancouver - Portland area, on several occasions. And of course like everyone else, I had to collect a jar or two.

This is my last jar. When you look at it carefully, you have to marvel at the mechanism that creates millions of tons of this stuff, and blasts it into the atmosphere. I could only shake my head at anxious passengers who are still being disrupted by the eruption in Iceland.

They grouse about not being able to fly. While it looks pretty and feels soft to the touch, it is composed of silicates, and can damage human lungs and internal combustion engines with equal aplomb. Does this read like something you would be comfortable inhaling?

This jar had been sealed since I collected the ash in 1980. When I took the lid off last night, a strong odor of hydrogen sulfide gas was emitted!

This was early in the morning of May 25, 1980. Looks like snow falling, but that is volcanic ash! Taken from my living room window in North Portland, facing west, the volcano would be to the right ... 60 miles north!

This is what we woke up to on May 25th. Deceptively beautiful. These are the roofs of two other buildings in the small complex where I bivouacked. Several of us spent the day helping the landlord get this off the roofs, before rain turned it into dangerously heavy mud, which would threaten the structures.

Trying to hose the roof down resulted in creating heavy mud, which clogged the drains. It had to be shoveled and swept.

Check the '80's look! I look like a ding-dong, I cleverly inscribed "Mt. Ash" on my truck. This despite constant warnings by authorities NOT to drive in or breath the ash, which had the composition of grinding grit! Those "Mt. Ash" engravings were visible on my vehicle for many years following.

And, of course I just had to see what was going on in the neighborhood. Notice the lack of motor vehicles, which meant only a few of us were out trying to clog air filters!

And automotive air filters flew off the shelves of parts stores! This photo shows folks navigating in downtown Portland. Not only automotive air filters, but any kind of filter was hard to locate, and commanded a considerable "markup" when located.

The ash was deceptively beautiful. One could hardly avoid touching it. Since it is silica based, cottage industries sprung up with creative people making coffee mugs, icons, and of course, ash trays, out of the stuff.

A report issued by the US Geological Survey gives this assessment of potential disruption to railroad operations, should there be renewed activity on Mt St Helens:

  • Rail transportation is less vulnerable to volcanic ash than roads and highways,with disruptions mainly caused by poor visibility and breathing problems for train crews. Moving trains will also stir up fallen ash, which can affect residents living near railway tracks and urban areas through which railway lines run.
  • Fine ash can enter engines and cause increased wear on all moving parts. Light rain on fallen ash may also lead to short-circuiting of signal equipment.
  • Temporary shutdown disruptions caused by poor visibility and breathing problems for train crews, and potential damage to engines and other equipment, can result in the temporary shutdown of rail services or the delay in normal schedules. For example, ten trains in western Montana (USA) were shut down for nearly a day because of 1-2 mm of ash fall resulting from the eruption of Mount St. Helens volcano, 625 km to the west. Rail services were back to normal operations within 3 days.
Mt St Helens today with a Lenticular cloud cap. Elevation 8,363 ft after loosing 1,314 feet.

Oh! You remember I mentioned the top one square mile of Mt St Helens blew away? Well that land was owned by Burlington Northern (read Northern Pacific!)  Dating back to the days of railroad land grants, the Northern Pacific railroad owned the land covering a large segment of the top of the mountain.

In an effort to protect themselves from accident or injury liability, what with scientists and TV crews landing helicopters on the summit almost daily, Burlington Northern Railroad Loss Prevention asked the US Forest Service (USFS) to declare their property on the summit as closed.

But television crews who had landed on the summit days before were immune to prosecution. They had landed on property just outside the closure area enforced by the USFS.

And it all became a mute point following the eruption; the entire area was scattered over five states!

The joke around town was, "Did the Burlington Northern Railway file an Environmental Impact Statement prior to setting off the explosion, as required by the EPA?" 

The US Forest Service and Burlington Northern swapped parcels of land on August 26, 1982. This was done to facilitate the Mount St Helen's National Volcanic Monument.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Locomotive VIN

This is a stainless steel locomotive builders plate, approx. 8" x 5", documenting a General Electric Class B-50/50-IGE733, 25 ton industrial switcher.

Bethlehem #2 — not the one pictured — switched cars around the Bethlehem Pacific steel mill in Seattle for a number of years. Her most dramatic work was moving slag cars from the furnace building out to the tide flats of Elliot Bay, where the slag was dumped; rather spectacular at night!

Port of Seattle Terminal Five now covers the site.

I worked at the mill two summer breaks from High School, 1960 & 1961.

1960:  The first year as a production clerk at the 22" rolling mill; the second year feeding bar stock into a railroad spike drop hammer machine.

At that time, the 22" (558.8 mm) was the widest rolling mill west of the Mississippi.

It was a thrill to watch the magic of manned roll passers, riding guides feeding the ingot through a series of rollers that that reduced an ingot into a cherry red steel plate.

Even more impressive, watching an ingot transformed through a series of rollers into an I-beam, the very essence of the logo I wore on my hard hat.

1961:  Laborer, Bethlehem Steel  Nuts & Bolts facility, Seattle.  Rotated around on a work pool. We waited out in a room, and got work assignments based on folk who called in sick (read actual sick or more likely, hung over) .
One assignment I drew based on that calculation, was "feeder" on the massive and loud drop hammer that formed a railroad spike in one earth shaking bang!

I stood in an unnervingly narrow isle between a holding furnace, holding heat on steel rod cherry red, and the drop hammer.

As the last bar passed into a horrid, intimidating drop hammer, my job was to feed another bar and yank it across the insanely short distance between the furnace. I had a foot peddle that opened the door to the holding furnace, grabbed a cherry red bar with my tongs and yanked from the holding furnace into the jaws of the feeder for the drop hammer.

The machine made 60 railroad spikes per minute.


Even standing on a thick rubber mat, I relived the 60 slams per minute, as I rode the bus back home. Proudly wearing my I-beam hard hat!

I cannot recall how I came into possession of the plate.  That was more than 50 years ago! These days, I can not remember if I had breakfast, never mind what is "breakfast!"


•  Bethlehem Pacific Steel #2
•  Wheel arrangement: AAR  "B"
•  SN: 15701
•  Built:Date: July 1942
•  Prime mover: Cummins HBI-600, 150 hp, 110 kW, inline six.

I do not recall how I became curator of the plate, which I recently sold the builders plate on EBay, hopefully to someone who relishes the extreme rarity of having such a railroad momento.

A delicious bonus to this posting, a copy of the "Owners Manual."

Next:  "Cable Innovator"

Monday, March 12, 2018

Last Run.

Prince Rupert, March 30, 1959. 
With the massive Ocean Dock in the background, Engineer Pete Briggs ties up CNR 4205 in for the last time.

At more than 1,000 feet long, the Ocean Dock was the tie-up for the ABC Comet and her rail barge ABC 24 and served as "passenger terminals" for the Grand Trunk, Canadian Pacific,  

and Union Steamship company.  It's where we "landed" when we moved from Seattle in 1957 on the Queen of the North, nee Princess Norah.

Originally constructed in 1925, the 1,600 x 800 foot facility became the corner stone for the US Army as part of the Seattle Sub-Port of Embarkation at the beginning of WWII.

The structure caught fire in June, 1972, and despite the best efforts by the Prince Rupert and Port Edward Fire Departments, along with the Plant Fire Brigade from the pulp mill at Port Edward, tug Comet, and other vessels, the fire advanced foot-by-foot, scumming to inaccessible old timber caked with creosote, slowly but surely transforming into a distant memory.

Having just disconnected from Extra West 922, flying white flags and displaying white classification lamps, Mr. Briggs brings to a close 37 years of service to the Canadian National Railways.

A tribute to a man who survived the transition from the heady smell of wet steam to the wondrous elicitor of diesel oil. Transiting from boiler pressure of PSI, to the enigma of amps per hour. 

On this day, Mr. Briggs was inducted into the Halls of the Gods of the High Iron, whose lives were ruled by a Code of Operating Rules, a Time Table, a set of Train Orders, and a Regulated Pocket Watch.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year 2018!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas!

The two years we lived in Prince Rupert, 1957 through 1959, are among the most memorable experiences of my formative years, age 14 - 16.

I became immersed in the exciting world of locomotives and trains. An eager student — ferroequinologist — of the Iron Horse.

Two Geeps and a Steam Generator Car drawing Santa's sleigh (caboose.) Notice one little cookie cruncher pointing to Dad; another taking an interest in me! The car in the background is an "Instructional Car." Steam is giving way to diesel, and there is a lot to learn!

Moreover, the timing of my indoctrination; exquisite! Diesel replacing steam. Traction motors replacing steam chests. Voltage meters replacing water glasses. Strident air horns replacing musical steam whistles.

Penny, my office manager, and I, thank you for your continued readership, and wish a very Merry Christmas and auspicious beginning for 2018!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Thanksgiving Story

NP Stacy Street Yard, Seattle, December 13, 1959. My sister and I were taught from an early age to be grateful every day for our blessings, rather than wait for Turkey Day. Speaking of my sister, she has a number of friends up in Vancouver and Richmond BC. So she gets to partake of two Thanksgiving feasts, since our Canadian neighbors celebrate Jour de l'Action de grace earlier in the month.

And so I have a "Happy Day" story to share with you on a day when we give thanks for our blessings.

This grand lady can certainly count her blessings, spared the cutter torch on more than one occasion!

I knew her as Port of Olympia #2 when I snapped this shot of her sitting at Stacy Street yard in Seattle. I was a young man of 15, and really did not know until a few years later what I'd shot! It is a long story, which I will spare you.

Baldwin Locomotive Works built the locomotive in May 1910, for the Black Hills (Washington State) & Northwestern Railroad #7, a subsidiary of the Mason County Logging Company of Bordeaux, Washington, near Olympia. She stuck like glue to the rails, with those water tanks straddling her boiler.

In 1928, Mason County Logging sold #7 to the Port of Olympia for use as a switch engine around the docks on Budd Bay.

The Port operated her as # 2 until her retirement in 1955.

The locomotive was purchased in 1956 by Charlie Morrow of Seattle, one of the founders of the Puget Sound Railway Historical Association, reorganized and re-named the Northwest Railway Museum, at Snoqualmie, Washington.

She was on her way via the Northern Pacific when I captured her waiting for her next movement, at Stacy Street in Seattle, in July, 1958.

Owner ship next went to Maynard Lange, also a founding member of the PSRHA, and sent to the Mount Rainer Railroad in Elbe, Washington.

Maynard was train chaser with Elwin Purington. So I, by default, joined up with them at the PSRHA.  

When Maynard passed away, Chris Baldo of Willits, California, purchased PoO#2. She was refurbished at the "Roots of Motive Power" in Willits, and become one of their star attractions.

Now that's a great "Thanksgiving Day" type of story, don'tcha think?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Auspicious Beginning!

I never saw this coming — Oil-Electric turning 10 years old!

Thanks to Kurt Clark, a fellow rail fan and frequent Blogger. I followed his wise advice to quit sparring with a popular rail fan posting site, and create a Blog, where I could post real images of of trains and locomotives in fog or rain, with opposing lighting, and write a description as long or short as I wish.

Oil-Electric by the “numbers:”
• 1,559,422 page views
• 800 articles written.
• 11K hours spent on computer, researching and writing.
• Hundreds of photos processed through PaintShop Pro and Photoshop.
• Hundreds of emails and phone calls requesting photo permissions and vetting information.

The Blog has connected me with a few threads back to my younger years in Prince Rupert, has connected several people who had lost track of each other, and enabled me to contribute to more than one book currently in production.

My ramblings have covered more than railroading. It is impossible to point to one story that I enjoyed researching most, but IF I had to pick out the most memorable, it would have to be my encounter with Shell.

To have three of the most unusual vessels anchored side by side in Port Angeles harbor — well just doesn't get any better!

Thank you for your continued readership and encouragement!

 Robert in Port Townsend