Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

Whilst rummaging around my photo collection, looking for the perfect "seasonal" shot, I came across this photo, shot from the cab of CNR 4255, stopped at Amsbury Station.


Our family moved from Seattle to Prince Rupert in September, 1957.  My Dad was Chief Engineer on A.B.C. Towing "Comet" from 1956 to 1959. It was here in "Rupert," at the age of 14, my rail journey began.

My first "cab ride" occurred when I rode the Comet down to the rail bridge at Pillsbury Point.  This was only a mile or so from where we lived.

Lots going on in this photo:
1. Comet nudging barge into rail bridge.
2. ABC 24 with box cars full of raw pulp bales, en-route from Ward Cove Mill to Rome, Georgia for final processing.
3. Bill Trimmer, first mate, ready to exchange customs documents with agent.
4. CNR 7242 ready to begin car transfer.
5. Loads of materials for Ward Cove paper mill (near Ketchikan.)
6. Pile driver performing maintenance.
7. Fairview Cannery, destined to be site of a world class container facility. 

 So I climbed onto the barge and made my way deftly through a dizzying maze of track work onto the beach.

Here I took photos of the Canadian National Railways switch engine marshaling cars onto the barge. A guy learns out a cab window and asked me a question the answer to which became the beginning of an epic adventure over the next three years: "Would you like to ride with us?"

My routine was to ride with Dad on the Comet down to the rail bridge, and ride with the switch crew back to town.

Over time, my knowledge of railroading expanded — exponentially!

My First Road Trip

My first over-the-road trip was with a gregarious engineer, Bill Geddes.

Over the next two years — 1958, 1959 — I made many trips to Terrace with Bill and fireman, Hugh McIntosh.

Conductor Stan Wozney and head end and rear end brakemen rounded out the crew.

The first time I met Mr. Geddes in the cab of GP-9 CNR 4409, he explained to me that once in a while, not often, these locomotives could explode! Followed by a loud pop in the cab, which yielded my startled gasp, and the roar of laughter from the crew.

The pop was created by jamming a wad of flimsy (train order) into the exhaust port on the brake stand. At the appropriate point of his story, he hit the release lever, causing the flimsy to be expelled like a bullet!

Thus my initiation to the crew.

My Last Road Trip

It was a sad day when my Dad announced in late 1959, we would be moving back to Seattle. It quickly sank in that my days of riding freight and passenger trains was coming to a screeching halt.

My last ride was on November 18, 1959, on  east bound passenger train 196. Power pack included two GP-9's, 4255 + 4206 + Steam Generator Car. (A handful of Geep's in the 4200 class were retrofitted with controls necessary to operate the Vapor-Clarkson Steam Generator.)

Here we are stopped at Amsbury, MP 9.6 Skeena Subdivision. (Westward Train was 195.)

Amsbury was a classic Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Station Plan 100-152 design, sometimes erroneously referred to as "Type E." Amsbury was one of the last fourteen stations on the Western Extension of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Apparently the name "Amsbury" is attributed to Capt S.J.R. Amsbury, a pioneer  settler.

GTP constructed more than 200 of these structures between 1910 and 1916.  Amsbury was constructed in 1911, at a cost of $2,403. Today, it would cost more than $61,000 for the structure, not including the cost of transporting everything from lumber through the office and living quarters furnishings from Prince Rupert.  The station was upgraded with insulation and a coat of stucco.

Mile Post for Amsbury changed from 34.4 to 9.6 when the division point was moved west 24.8 miles from Pacific to Terrace.  Skeena Sub lost four stations, Pacific, Pitman, Usk and Kitselas, to the Bulkley Sub.

The change took place with the issuance of Time Table 1.  Mile Posts — and my negative collection—had to be updated.

The June 1920 edition of American Lumberman announced a handful of new sawmills in operation or coming on line. The mill at Amsbury, operated by C. Lindbloom, opened in 1917 to process Sitka Spruce, valued for its light weight and straight grain, ideal for aircraft construction. The mill closed in 1928.

During construction of the Westward Extension, Grand Trunk applied to BC Government for water rights for their steam engines. Amsbury was identified on Water Rights file 0127384, 13 May 1937; name confirmed 4 October 1951. The Grand Trunk Pacific, later CNR, obtained their water from Amsbury Creek.

The water tank had been removed by the time I began my road trips.

With the installation of Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) in the 1970's requiring fewer operators, many were dismantled, or worse, burned to the ground. Amsbury was demolished in 1966.

The plan was to ride in the cab of 196 to Terrace. Hang out around Terrace with my buddy Ron and his friend Ken, and then grab 195 for the evening run back to Prince Rupert.

There was no radio communication, trains ran under strict instructions delivered by train orders, referred to as flimsies due to the thinness of the paper. Operators took their instructions from Division, either by phone or telegraphic code, wresting in thick manifolds of forms separated by carbon paper to type instructions for the train crews.

Digging through my collection of train orders I found both sets of orders for my last train ride.

Later that evening, said my good byes to Ron and Ken at the station, whilst waiting for 195.

Presenting my "pass" to the conductor on 196, who kindly gave me the train order set when we got back to town.

Power pack for 195 was CNR 4223+Steam Generator Car.  Here I am riding CNR 4223 earlier in the year, on a special train up to Terrace to see Queen Elizabeth.

Since it was dark with no opportunity for photos, I road in a passenger car on the way home, plus that, I was becoming rather maudlin about this all coming to an end.

Six days later, we were driving on Highway 16, heading back to Seattle.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Just in Time for Christmas!

It is always a head scratcher — what gift to give that rail fan in your family or friends?

As an example.  My late Dad was a very accomplished and recognized amateur marine historian.

The challenge was, to find a recent book about marine history or compilation on a particular tug company, as a gift at Christmas.

He pasted away long before the Internet, but somehow, he managed to outsmart me on more than one Christmas by saying, "Well thank you Son.  But I have that book in my collection ..."

Fortunately we have a suggestion: Thomas Hillebrant's adoration for the Palouse Empire shines through in his newly released tome, "Palouse Rails: Granger Railroads of the Inland Northwest."

[Ed Note: A "Granger" is a farmer.]

As a student at Washington State University, in the heart of the Palouse in Pullman Washington, back in the early 1960's, I too, was mesmerized by the distinct seasons of the Palouse, which yielded the nation's richest crops of wheat, barley, lentils and chick peas.

Wheat grown in the Palouse, with it's soil rich in volcanic ash produced by the volcanoes of Washington's Cascade Range,  yields up to 100 bushels an acre, twice the national average.

"Palouse Rails tells the stories of seven major railroads serving this region, from their origins to the present day, through the eyes of contemporary railroad photographers. These images capture the railroad equipment, locations, personnel, and operations that, for generations, have connected Inland Northwest agricultural regions with each other and with the world."

Yes — there are a few of my photos included in this volume.

I've placed a handy-dandy order button in the right margin connecting you to a site recommended by Tom, who wrote, "Proceeds from purchases made through this History Preservation Group (Washington, Idaho & Montana) will go toward some rail preservation projects that are important to me."

Buy a copy for yourself, and rail fans on your Christmas List!

1. Union Pacific in the Walla Walla
2. Union Pacific in the Palouse
3. Northern Pacific in the Palouse
4. Northern Pacific in the Walla Walla
5. Great Northern in the Palouse
6. Spokane, Portland & Seattle in the Palouse
7. The Milwaukee Road in the Palouse
8. The Camas Prairie Railroad
9. The Washington, Idaho & Montana Ry.

Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (SC)
Book Format: Paperback
Language: English  
Number of Pages: 190  
Author: Thomas Hillebrant
ISBN-10: 1634990609
ISBN-13: 9781634990608
Publication Date: October, 2018
Dimensions:  9.25" x 6.50"
Photos: 200  Black & White, Color.

See Also:
"Palouse Rails" — Thomas' Blog
"Rails to Trails - Part 1: The Soil"

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Birthday Oil-Electric!

Thank you for your continued readership — more works in the oven!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

US Plywood #11 — Redux

Story about US Plywood #11, owned by Washington State Parks, on long term loan to Northwest Railway Musem, has been modified.

Lead photo rescaned, new photo inserted, and "404" error codes updated.

Structure in background is Sears, Roebuck & Company, where my sister and I were subjected to our annual school clothing updates, family friends from Vancouver BC completed annual holiday shopping, and our washer and dryer came from!

Built in 1912 by the Union Pacific Railroad to lure Sears to Seattle, the original building was constructed of heavy timbers sourced from the historic Yesler Mill.

Who knew?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Shoebox #1, Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Ltd #17 — Redux

I recently noticed a massive revisitation, more than 100 viewers, of "Shoebox #1, Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Ltd #17."

Written in March 2008, I have updated "404" broken links, resized photographs and edited story copy.

When we returned to Seattle from Prince Rupert in 1959, I learned about the Puget Sound Railway Historical Associaiton.  Monthly meetings were held in a retired interurban car — I believe from Vancouver BC —  parked alongside Northwestern Glass on East Marginal Way, in Seattle.

That was how I came to to a member of the rescue mission to Union Bay, B.C., (south of Courtney on the Island Highway) to prepare Baldwin 4-6-0 #14, for shipment to Snoqualmie, Washington.

The headline photo is of CC(D)L #17, shown here as a 2-6-0T saddle tank — with a tender, operated by the Northwest Railway Museum.

• CC(D)L a#17 was originally built as an 0-6-0T locomotive by Baldwin for Union Colliery as #3, and later, became Wellington Colliery #17.

• CC(D)L was incorporated in 1910, and rebuilt #17 as 2-6-0T in 1918, replacing the dreadful leakiy saddle tank with a tender, and adding a pony truck for greater stability.


• 1957. Puget Sound Railway Historical Associaion (PSRHA) founded in Seattle.
• 1999. Reorganized as Northwest Railway Museum, in Snoqualmie, Washington.
• Operates various restored trains over a five mile plant.

Railroad Stuff:  0-6-0T built for Union Colliery, Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1891, SN 12344. Rebuilt with a tender as 2-6-0T. Designed for 180 pounds pressure driving 50" wheels.  Sold to Puget Sound Railway Historical Society and shipped to Snoqualmie, Washington.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

Memorial Day is the day we remember, we reflect, upon a loved one, friend, or acquaintance, who was killed for some obfuscated principle.  A somber day, as compared to Armed Forces Day, when we puff up our pride and display our military hardware with festive "open houses."

Trump the Snollygoster highlighted "Me" in his tossed salad Memorial Day tweets.

He conveniently neglected to explain his miserable failure to contribute his service to protect our country, using the "Bone Spur Scam."

This Memorial Day,  I recall a true hero, my buddy, A1C (Airman First Class) William H. Pitsenbarger, known to us as "Pits." Pits was a rescue-paramedic. He was killed in Viet Nam on April 11, 1966.

Fresh out of boot camp, I was sent to my permanent duty station at Hamilton AFB in California as a 732X0, Personnel Specialist, assigned to Western Air Rescue Center (WARC).

WARC was a rescue coordination center covering the 8 western states plus Alaska.  Any incident, civilian or military, involving a missing aircraft, was coordinated through our rescue coordination center.

The rescue center ran 24/7.  It featured a massive mapping table (12'12') with topo maps covering every square inch of our coverage area,  and a telephone banks plugged into every single rescue group, bloodhound owners, and search volunteers in the eight western states!

My responsibility was to maintain personnel records of our officers and airmen in all aspects of their careers, from training, to shots, to weapons qualification, not only for the Center, but every officer and airmen stationed at our local base rescue units.

We had 14 Detachments covering the 8 western states. Each Detachment had two Kaman Huskie HH-43B rescue helicopters, standing by to support local training flights.  And in those days, activity was high.  Things were heating up in Southeast Asia.

It was a total rush watching the "Pedro" launch. The aircraft crew - pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and two aluminum suited firefighters - could be air borne in 90 seconds, poised to pick up a fire suppression kit.

We were considered a Tenant Group, on an Air Defense Command base. There was a group of Phantom F4C's, poised in alert hangers, to protecting San Francisco and environs.

And they were awesome to watch, especially when they took off in pairs, hitting afterburners right across from our office, located next to the runway! Roaring blow torches!

When we were fully staffed, there were less than three dozen of us in the building, and only a handful of us living on base. Six of us shared billet with the 41st Air Rescue Squadron. 

The field of blue represents the Sky from which our mission is accomplished, with a star for each of the Air Rescue Detachments, plus Alaska, within Western Air Rescue Center. The thunder bolt and olive branch symbolize our mission in time of war or peace, and the Airman and Space capsule; those who depend on us.

After reporting to the barracks chief for my assigned "living" space, I am struggling with my duffel bag containing my worldly possessions, when this fellow comes over to help me.

"Hi! I'm Pits!"

Turned out my bunk area was next to his. Open bay barracks were sparse; a bunk, a locker, a dresser  and a lot of roommates! Worse, I was the only one from WARC amongst the 41st Air Rescue dudes.  They were 24/7, so it took a while to learn how to sleep with mechanics coming an going all night long!  There were 4 WARC guys who had a room to themselves!

I realized Pits had been leaving the barracks when I stumbled in, but he was extremely helpful getting me established.  Then he offered to take me over to the Airman's Club for a cool one, and introduce me around.

William Pitsenbarger - "Pits" - was assigned to the 41st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron on Hamilton AFB, as an  Paramedic - Jumper (PJ) - jump and combat qualified - to be dropped in to rescue people in distress and administer top of the line first aid.

This is the Pits I remember.  Ready smile. His bunk was next to mine.

Think of PJ's as jump qualified paramedic;  medically trained, jump qualified first responders. A select group if ever there was one, rivaling the US Army Green Berets.

Our commonality was we were both under ARS - Air Rescue Service - headquartered in Orlando, Florida.

[Ed Note: The Air Rescue Service (ARS) was established in 1946 under the Air Transport Command, just before the U.S. Air Force's designation as a separate service in 1947, as a sub-command of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).

On 1 January 1966, MATS was renamed the Military Airlift Command (MAC) and the ARS became the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS.). My outfit, Western  Air Rescue Center (WARC) became Western Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Center (WARRC.)

The fixed-wing and helicopter air crews of ARS were credited with 996 combat saves in the Korean War and 2,780 in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The unit's motto was: "These things we do that others may live."

ARRS returned to its former name of ARS in 1989 and was disestablished in 1993, following the disestablishment of Military Airlift Command and the dispersal of USAF search and rescue (SAR) forces among other commands

For the most part we didn't see that much of each other. The 41st running at full speed three shifts, with a full complement of mechanics and support personnel, caring for a couple of  Grumman HU-16 Albatross search-and-rescue amphibian aircraft.

Pits and his fellow Pararescuemen were constantly flying training missions, preparing to send Paramedics to Viet Nam. Following a six week survival school in Panama, Pits went with one of the groups.

We had a hell of a send off party for him, and decorated his bunk area with memorabilia. It was generally speculated that Pits probably didn't sober up until he got to the Philippines!

We were a tight group. Our aircraft and pilots were constantly running rescue missions in Viet Nam, with Paramedics assigned to each mission. One day just after lunch, our Commanding Officer called us into a conference room.

In a barely audible voice he read aloud a classified message, that I had just picked up from the Western Union Message Center, notifying all Air Rescue Service Personnel that "Pits" wasn't coming home.

The message went on to explain that Pits had been killed during Operation Abilene, in Xa Cam My. Pits had been lowered on a jungle perpetrator to render medical aid to army troops.

A Capt Hal Salem was the Rescue Crew Commander of the HH-43F, (armor plated, modified jet turbine upgrade of the 43B) who placed Pits down in the midst of a fierce fire fight.

Well, there wasn't a dry eye in the building. It was painfully incomprehensible. Lives were being lost In Country daily. We saw it on the evening news with Walter Cronkite.  You got numb to it. Until you recognize a name and match it to a face, a real personality.

A1C (Airman First Class) William H. Pitsenbarger received the Air Force Cross posthumously on June 30, 1966.

Upon his return from Viet Nam, the very same Capt. Salem was assigned to us at Western Air Rescue Center as our Flying Safety Officer, responsible for training and check riding pilots and crews at our 14 Local Base Rescue (LBR's)  in the eight western states.

We never talked about that day.

But "Pits" story didn't end there.

Some years later, through the persistence of many, his award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.  It is a fascinating epoch, told in Air Force Magazine, 2001. 

On Dec. 8, 2000, the Medal of Honor was presented posthumously to A1C William H. Pitsenbarger in a ceremony at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, not far from his hometown of Piqua.

Secretary of the Air Force presented the award, which was accepted by William F. Pitsenbarger senior and his wife Alice, on their son's behalf.

Citation to Accompany Medal of Honor

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. 

On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an ongoing firefight between elements of the United States Army's 1st Infantry Division and a sizeable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.

On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day was recovered, Airman Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get more wounded soldiers to safety. 

After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind on the ground to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. 

He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time he was wounded three times.

Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting that followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and Airman Pitsenbarger was fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. 

His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.

During the same ceremony Pits was also posthumously promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. The audience included battle survivors, hundreds of pararescue airmen, a congressional representative and the Air Force chief of staff. He is buried in Miami Memorial Park Cemetery Covington, Ohio.

His grave can be found in plot 43-D, grave #2.

"Pits" was further honored by the M/V A1C William H. Pitsenbarger, a civilian-crewed container ship operated by Red River Shipping Corporation of Rockville, Maryland, under charter to Military Sealift Command from 2001-2008.

The vessel was launched in 1983 as the Therese Delmas.

She was acquired by US Navy, 1 March 2001 from Red River Shipping Corp. of Rockville, Maryland, and placed under long term contract to the Military Sealift Command (MSC).

M/V Therese Delmas was renamed MV A1C William H. Pitsenbarger (T-AK-4638).

A pair  of F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., flew over the ship on November 28, 2001,  when the ceremonial bottle of champagne was broken, officially renaming the ship.

The Pitsenbarger carried containerized ammunition for the US  Air Force.  About 720 containers fit under the deck and 135 in compartments above deck. Both cargo areas were air-conditioned and dehumidified in peculiar deck structures, to protect the ammunition.

The Pitsenbarger was returned to her owner on August 29, 2008.