Saturday, April 16, 2016

"Ticket to Ride!"

Smithers Division, Skeena Subdivision, 1958 - 1959. I had just turned 15, and by now had it down to a science riding in the cabs of freight and log trains between Prince Rupert and Terrace.

I had the choice of riding the 1st Class 196 or the Log Train from Prince Rupert to Terrace. Since the varnish was always double headed, I’d ride the second unit. I preferred to ride the Log Train, since it was always more interesting.

We’d leave Prince Rupert with a dozen or so freight cars, stopping at the Columbia Cellulose paper mill at Port Edward, picking up a string of empty log flats, destined for the re-load at Kitsumkalum Reload, just west of Terrace.

Kallum Re-load had 3.5 miles of track with a moderate car capacity of 279 cars with only a single west end connection.

The drill was if two Geeps were assigned on the Log Train from Prince Rupert to Terrace, I’d ride solo in the trailing unit. 

If, on the other hand, a single Geep were assigned, I’d ride the caboose out to Kwinitsa, where a mandatory walking inspection of the consist was performed. 

And in the process, do an end-for-end switch with the head end brakeman. I rode his seat in the cab, whilst the displaced brakeman rode in the caboose with the rear end train trainman and conductor, the remaining 50 miles to Terrace.

We tied up at the Terrace Station and walk into the village for lunch.

After lunch, we'd switch the empty log cars we had picked up at Port Edward, for loaded cars at the Kallum Log Spur, and return to Prince Rupert in late afternoon.


If I rode the passenger train to Terrace, I had a connection problem getting home.

Fortunately, one of my high school buddies, Ron Dolphin, had moved to Terrace.  So I had a place to stay Saturday night, but there was no Log Train on Sunday.

(Ed Note: I recall with glee, the first time I went to Terrace to stay with Ron, I told him I'd be riding in the cab of the passenger train. But as we arrived at the station, Ron kept looking back toward the passenger cars. As I approached him, he said "you weren't kidding!")

To get me home, log train conductor, Stan Wozney, gave me a “Ticket to Ride!,” redeemable on the Sunday evening run back to Prince Rupert aboard 1st Class 195 – in the passenger section.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Big Bertha is Mining Once Again!

The State of Washington has given "provisional approval" to continue the SR99 tunnel bore.

To insure the past mistake in tunneling procedure, which resulted in a large sink hole just behind Bertha, the world's largest Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM).

That resulted in Governor Jay Inslee ordering tunneling to stop some 40 days ago, over the strong objections by Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) manager, Chris Dixon. The governor requested Dixon review policies and procedures, and create a plan for continuing the dig.

To that end,three areas of operation have been beefed up:

•  A permanent Tunnel Manager will be appointed to back-up STP manager, Chris Dixon.

•  Three temporary specialist positions will monitor digging:
    a. A Tunnel Technical Director.
    b. A Tunneling and Soil Conditioning Specialist.
    c. A TBM Operational Specialist.

•  A through review of TBM Operator training.

If Bertha can keep it together over the next 260 feet, she will make a mandatory halt at "Save Haven Three," for a complete systems check and scheduled maintenance.

"Safe Haven Three" is located just west, adjacent to the SR 99 Viaduct.  The double deck Viaduct will be closed to traffic for the estimated two weeks it will take Bertha to bore beneath it.

Once past the Viaduct Bertha will really be on her own under the Streets of Seattle. Once "in the zone," there will be no way a rescue pit can be dug;  no space to install the Mammoet Lifting Device.

Another contentious issue is the resumption of barging spoils to Mats-Mats.

Since the barge lost stability and was severely damaged, Naval Architects will try to determine the reason the barge lost stability during loading, and make recommendations before barging can resume.

According to Chris Dixon, barges can haul away dirt twice as fast as trucks, allowing Bertha to advance twice as fast, or about 40 feet forward per day.

"Every 6½ feet, the machine pauses so crews can fasten another ring of the double-decked, four-lane highway tunnel, now predicted to open in spring 2018.

“We can do three rings per day with trucks until WSDOT lifts the barging suspension, after which we will be able to do up to six rings per day.”

Crews and staff will be inhaling anti-acid pills the remainder of ~9,000 feet to the North Portal!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Wilson Creek Elevator Fire!

First news color photo published in a newspaper; a grain elevator in Chicago!
On January 2, 2016, a fire broke out just after 2 p.m., at the Wilson Creek Union Grain & Trading elevator.

The town of Wilson Creek, population ~200, is located between Odessa and Soap Lake, an area west of Spokane Washington, accessed by State Route 28 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (nee Burlington Northern, nee Great Northern.)

Blogger Dan Bolyard - "Big Bend" Railroad History" - has just posted a series of photographs taken by photographer Jonathan Fischer, recording the death of a grain elevator, by fire, in central Washington state.

Fischers series of photos demonstrate the results of:

•  Volatility of wood elevator construction.
•  Volatility of elevator contents.
•  Wait time for fire personnel - probably made up of volunteers - who are arriving from different distances from their homes or work-sites.

•  Heavy dependence on water tenders - tankers - to provide suppressing fire stream. Rural departments struggle to own fire trucks capable of handling residential and "normal" business structures.
•  Height of structure, in this case 100 feet, creating a problem of getting "the wet stuff to the burning stuff." 

According to Grant County 12 Fire Chief, Scott Mortimer, the fire occurred in a wood-cribbed elevator and bin house containing wheat and canola. Both are a "total loss. At least one of the buildings had been in operation since the 1940s.

"The Improvement Bulletin" June 13, 1908, page 33
"There's a tremendous amount of wood in these old elevators; neither was completely full. The elevator was more than 100 feet tall. Particularly at harvest, grain stored unintentionally with a high moisture content can be subject to spontaneous combustion."

Mortimer went on to say "If a cause for the Wilson Creek fire is determined, it could be due to the structure. What remained of the structure and its contents was still burning January 4th.

"The building is located near a BNSF Railway rail. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the railroad temporarily closed the rail line to inspect the line." —  Matthew Weaver, Capitol Press.

First on the scene would have been Grant County Fire District 1, Station 1, located a few blocks from the fire.

Remaining units would have about 20 - 30 mile runs; but again, only once their volunteers arrive at respective stations.

•  Grant County Fire District 12 received aid from Grant County Fire District 5, the City of Ephrata Fire Department, Grant County Fire District 13 and Grant County Public Utility District.
•  BNSF closed the line to allow fire department access, and to inspect the track following the fire.
•  Note the green Center Pivot Irrigation systems.

While the photo sequence is a little muddled, in reference to structure collapse, the beginning of the fire through the third frame, when the fire fully ventilates the roof is awesome.

Then we see two water tenders (tankers) arrive an begin squirt water from their front mounted monitors, best suited for dealing with range/crop fires.

In the following frame, we clearly see the interior construction of timber-framed construction. Finally, a telesquirt (remote controlled nozzle) show up and later,

we see two manned aerial platforms are pouring on suppressive water. Overall, a great series of photographs.

Be sure to checkout Dan's book on the history of the Mid Columbia railroad history!

Finally, learn how one company, Old Globe Reclaimed Wood, turn elevator timbers into stunning works of art!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Wonderful Tribute to GingerSnap ...

While the pain of her loss is overwhelming, I am very grateful to GingerSnap for her companionship and fun times we shared together!

Thank you, Dr. Johnson and the Staff of Hadlock Veterinary Clinic and the Northwest Watershed Institute.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Shut Bertha Down! The Gothic Horror Story Continues ...

On Thursday January 14th, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Bertha, the Worlds Largest Tunnel Boring machine,  to stop drilling the SR99 tunnel beneath the streets of Seattle.

This followed two back-to-back incidents created by the dig.

Thank God we have a Democrat governor.  Who knows what a "Republican Rick Snyder - type Governor," who has been poisoning the residents of Flint, would have not done?

■  First incident. On Tuesday January 12th, a spoils barge began tipping over whilst being loaded at the Pier 47 loading site. A bulkhead collapsed, spilling spoils into Elliot Bay.

Instead of hauling up to 5,000 tons of the tunneling spoils away each day in a fleet of trucks, Seattle Tunnel Partners inked an agreement with Foss Maritime (Seattle), to move up to twice that amount in barges.

Pier 47 sustained considerable damage to pilings. Pier 48, where the barge drifted following its release also sustained damages. (WSDOT purchased the pier and it was scheduled for demolition.)

Spoils from the Tunnel Boring Machine travel on a conveyor belt, through the completed bore, across former Alaskan Way, to a site on Pier 47.

Foss Maritime has the concession to transport the spoils to an abandoned rock quarry located near Mats-Mats on the Kitsap Peninsula.

■  Second incident.  Hours later, following the barge accident, a sink hole opened up behind the Tunnel Boring Machine. I measured 35 feet long, 20 to 25 feet wide and 15 feet deep, sucking up ~250 cubic yards of dirt!

The emergence of the sink hole sent alarms through the Department of Transportation. Smelling potential law suites against the City of Seattle, and the State of Washington, Governor Jay Inslee directed Seattle Tunnel Partners cease boring.  Stop Bertha in her tracks!

Washington State Secretary of Transportation, Lynn Peterson, requested Seattle Tunnel Partners shut the Tunnel Boring Machine down.

"I have great concerns regarding public safety if the contractor were to move forward without addressing the root causes of this sinkhole," Governor Inslee said during a news conference. "We must continue to protect the public safety."

This following a two year delay, during which a 100 foot deep rescue pit had to be constructed, the TBM driven into the pit and dismantled. Crews spent months repairing and replacing components of the complex machine.

Finally on December 13th crews began filling the repair pit, burying Bertha beneath tons of sand. Eight days later on December 20th, the sand back-fill was completed at 2 a.m.

Within minutes, at 2:13 a.m., concrete pumping trucks were in place, pouring a concrete plug atop the sand. 14 hours later, the concrete plug was complete at 4:05 p.m.

Bertha broke out of the rescue pit, and had advanced a short distance before the sink hole appeared.

The only activity on site today is the disassembly of the massive Mammoet Hydraulic Jack Lifting Device.

The project is sadly behind schedule.  Should work continue, this highly detailed interactive graphic, produced by WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation), offers an optimistic view of what lies ahead for Bertha.

There are many moving pieces in this presentation. As a retired Instructional Designer, I award 10 out of 10 points for instructional value! Take your time to absorb the content of this interactive graphic.

Back in December, 2013, as the first pieces of Bertha were being hoisted to the surface for repairs, Washington Governor Inslee told an assemblage, "There's no plan B if Bertha tunnel project fails."

While it may be true that the State has no "Plan B" in the event of a catastrophic failure of Bertha, inventive citizens have worked up very clever and creative uses for the existing tunnel, terminating with a majestic Community Hall and atrium, featuring an awe-inspiring view of Bertha, the Worlds Largest Tunnel Boring Machine.

And, of course, you'll be able to pose for photos in front of the massive 5-story high cutter head:

Bertha Viewing Gallery
•  Adults — $15.00
•  Seniors / Military — $7.00
•  Children under 10 — Free!