Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Special! Monster Road!

1959 – 1961. Trick or Treat! Halloween! Yes indeed kiddies, there is a Monster Road in Seattle. It runs down through a scrubby forest from what is now called Martin Luther King Way, to SW 16th. And along this windy corridor, there was a testing lab, mysterious and glowing in the dark behind a chain link fence. Who knows what unspeakable experiments were carried in that structure! Only the foolish would linger and ask!

In those days, there was no MLK Pkwy, I-5 was still under construction and there was no such thing as I-405. 3M was the only tenant at what is now South Center. That became what is because of the Metro Sewage Plan, which motivated many companies to move out of Seattle. Longacres racetrack was the only other presence.

And for miles, between Renton, Auburn, Kent, Pacific and Fife, there were hundreds of acres of truck farms, from which we shopped every Sunday for fresh vegetables and fruits. Compare that with the sterile acres of concrete, business parks and asphalt acres of the West Valley!

The passage down Monster Road was great short cut from Renton.

First and foremost, Black River Junction was the wye of the Milwaukee Road. The line, having descended through Cedar River, and down the main street of Renton, empties out onto the Valley, and via the wye, heads north toward King Street Station, or south to end-of-track at South Tacoma Yard.

My train chasing buddy, Elwin Purington and I, spent many an hour at this wye, because not only did we have close-up action with the Milwaukee electric trains, but over there, just to the west, ran the race tracks of the GN, UP, NP and Pacific Coast lines!

(Oh, how sad that all of this has been homogenized into BNSF – you have no idea of what it was like then!)

It was a veritable orgy of sounds, and especially at night, when the roars of the EMD’s in differing lash-ups, and differing types of air horns, running north and south past the Junction was intoxicating!

And in between trains, the night sounds of frogs and crickets, and critters.

As a bonus to all this, the night trick operator at Black River Junction Tower always had coffee brewing, and Ed Frisby, loved company at his lonely outpost. Elwin and I spent many an hour in the tower watching the rich variety of movements to and from Seattle, listening to the radio traffic, jokes, and come-ons between the hogger's and the tower. Actually found a photo of the old Black River Tower

One evening while we were recording at Black River Junction, the King County Sheriff patrol showed up, wanting to know what we were up to. The deputy spent a half hour, with the headphones on, listening to tape playbacks in the back seat of Elwin’s Corvair! And went away with a big grin on his face!

However, the most memorable occasion at Black River Junction, was when an electric train (EF-1) growled around the wye at a snails pace, while being aligned to head for Seattle. The engineer leaned out of the window and asked me if I wanted a ride! I looked at Elwin who nodded “go for it!” and ran to the cab ladder.

Two things hit me immediately: Number 1, how stinted the cab of this electric locomotive was, and Number 2, the smell of ozone!

We went ran up past Boeing Field, up Rainier Avenue, and dropped off a long cut of cars from St. Paul at Van Asselt, and then did a reverse maneuver back to Black River Junction, where I de-trained. Backing up on the wye, the switch was made, and then, blowing that terrible horn, she moaned and groaned south with the remaining train to South Tacoma. That ride is so crystal clear in my mind, that whenever I think about it, I can recall the growling of those big electric motors, and that smell of ozone!

To this day, I wonder what were the experiments going on in that lab on Monster Road!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tight Fit!

May 1965. It’s a tight fit in the cab of an EF-1. Click on photo to enlarge. Looking carefully you can make out the curved radius of the 16 notch throttle controller.

As I recall, these units were part of a growing scrap heap out back of South Tacoma Shops. Built in 1915 by Alco-GE, A+B were semi-permanently coupled, the pair rated at 3,000 hp. While the road is still operating when these photos were taken, this place always had an ominous empty feeling ...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cisco Crossing

November 1959. Cisco Crossing. Looking north. This is the famous crossover, wherein the Canadian National Railways and Canadian Pacific Railway exchanged sides of the Fraser River between Boston Bar and Spences Bridge. Boston Bar is about 100 miles north of Vancouver, BC., on Trans Canada Highway 1.

This view point has been a favorite haunt of a very limited number of railroad photographers because of the remoteness of the Frazer River Canyon. And it just keeps getting better as the railroads swing to the right and into the Thompson River Canyon, heading toward the Canadian Rockies. There is a stretch up on the Thompson, where the two railroads run very closely, side-by-side!

The name Cisco (view looking north, station in lower right quarter of picture), was recognized in October 1936 by the BC Geological Survey. It is believed that the name is a derivative of Siska, an Indian word meaning "uncle." Canadian Pacific Railway also had a station just north of this location. Canadian National Railways abandoned the Cisco Station in 1961, but maintained a siding with a 64-car capacity.

The Canadian National Railways occupies the upper level bridge, as Milepost 104, Ashcroft Subdivision, and the Canadian Pacific Railway occupies the lower level bridge, as Mile Post 99.6 of the Thompson Subdivision.

It is easy to find photos of trains crossing the bridges, but not to easy to find photos taken from a train crossing the bridges. Well, I located a set of photos taken by Gordon Hall.

So that’s pretty much the way things were, until January, 2006, when the CN and CPR announced “they have reached an agreement that will make rail operations more fluid in the Lower Mainland, enhancing service for rail customers and supporting the growth of Pacific Gateway ports and terminals. The operational improvements are expected to begin in March 2006.”

Under the joint agreement CPR will handle all trains of both railroads, from Boston Bar to Vancouver’s South Shore, using CPR train crews. CN will handle all trains of both railways from Boston Bar to Vancouver’s north shore, Burrard Inlet, using CN crews, and finally, CPR will handle all coal trains from Boston Bar to the Robert’s Bank coal terminal.

CN and CPR have a long established directional running zone extending west of Ashcroft to Mission, BC., in the Fraser Canyon. All westbound trains operate over the CN line, and all eastbound trains of both railroads operate of the CPR line."

Cisco Crossing, then and now.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Railroad to nowhere!

We are well aware that most railroads were built to join point “a” to point “b.” But there is a bunch of railroads built to “nowhere!” These are found on coastal river bar jetties. This is a photo I took in 1962, on the North Jetty of the Columbia River, looking toward Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

I wonder if I could hike this far out on the jetty today! Looking carefully, you can see remanence of the railroad trestle used to construct the jetty. This construction railroad ran from 1914 to 1917.

A pile driver creates a trestle, which is advanced out into the open sea, driving piles upon which a railroad is built. A locomotive pushes dump cars out onto the advancing trestle, dumping rock to the center, left and right, filling in between the pilings, forming the completed jetty. Can you just imagine the death defying excitement of the workers aligning the piles for the pile driver out at the head of such a construction site? In this case, rock was barged to a transfer dock at the beginning of the trestle and loaded into dump cars.

This jetty, the Columbia River North Jetty, when completed in 1917 was 2.3 miles long, 30 feet above sea level, and 25 feet wide. This construction method was used on several Pacific Coast river bars.

I was able to locate some excellent photographs of the trestle construction method at the WSU Digital Archives. See "Interesting web sites" on the right hand side bar. This series of photographs were taken of the Grays Harbor North Jetty in 1913. Photograph number two in the series of four, shows the transfer station used to unload the rock barges to the rail cars.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Prince Rupert Engine House Update

Wow! What a shock to see the changes made since this photo was taken in 1958. The three diesel oil tanks - gone! The sanding tower and water tanks, including the historic hex wood stave water tank - gone! The Engine House no longer does anything more than keep the road engines out of the weather during lay over, and the road crews get a premium for pulling the engines out and running out to their train. The massive WWII Ocean Dock burned down years ago, and was never replaced. The ariel photos I looked at show a rubble beach revetment. And the grain elevator at the south end of the yard is - gone! A new elevator was built out at Ridley Island adjacent to the Tumbler Ridge Coal Terminal. And the passenger rail station which featured a overhead bridge to allow passengers to walk into down town - sits all alone at the end of track!

I think I should not have gotten so curious as to what changes have taken place. I'd like to remeber it the way it was, when I was a young man climbing over the engines, and riding the yard goat ...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

In my own back yard!

Right across the street from my apartment is an aging car float rail bridge. I got curious as to who owned it and so forth. This is the amazing story I uncovered!

In 1869, an enthusiastic group in Port Townsend, seeing the end of the Northern Pacific Railroad heading toward the Northwest, organized the Port Townsend Southern railroad, hoping to become the western terminus of the NP.

To further their hope, James B. Hogg, an engineer on the Cascade Division of the Northern Pacific Railroad was appointed Chief Engineer of the Port Townsend Southern Railroad and was charged with exploring, locating and overseeing construction of its line. But by 1887, only a mile of line had been built.

James Hogg’s home is one of many historical register homes located in Port Townsend.

In 1889, a shell of the Union Pacific Railroad, the Oregon Improvement Company bought the rights, and launched a plan to join Port Townsend to Portland, Oregon. But plagued with financial difficulties, the line was only completed some 30 miles south of Port Townsend to Quilcene.

Port Townsend Southern ran from August 1890 through May 1914, when it became Port Townsend and Puget Sound Railway. Then it reverts back to Port Townsend Southern from June 1914 through May 1929.

Meanwhile, the Seattle, Port Angeles and Western Railway line was laid between Port Angeles and Discovery Bay in 1915. At Discovery Bay, the Seattle, Port Angeles and Western Railway line tied into the Port Townsend Southern. This connection allowed passenger rail service between Port Angeles and Port Townsend Passenger service was expanded westward from Port Angeles as far as Twin Rivers.

In 1927, Crown Zellerbach built a paper mill at Glen Cove, just south of Port Townsend, which promised to generate rail traffic from Pier 27 in Seattle: The mill, built on some 6,000 pilings at Glen Cove by Crown Z, was purchased by Haindl Papier GmbH in 1983. The Kraft paper mill would undergo two more ownership changes; 1997 to NW Capital Appreciation, and 2001 to present owned by Crown Packaging of BC.

In 1931 passenger service ended due to competition from the automobile. The rail line, now operated by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, was utilized for freight and timber hauling after 1931.

In 1945, the Port Townsend Southern was renamed the Port Townsend Rail Road.

The Seattle and North Coast Railroad acquired the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad lines in 1980 and tried to revive passenger train service between Port Angeles and Port Townsend. This effort failed and by 1985 the train was out of service and the tracks began to be removed.

In May of 1975, the Port Townsend Southern was sold to the Milwaukee Road, and was designated the 14th Subdivision.

Operating as Milwaukee’s 14th Subdivision, the trackage ran over the old Port Townsend Southern to Discovery Bay, named in honor of Capt George Vancouver’s ship of discovery, and thence to Port Angles on the old Seattle, Port Angeles and Western line.

Shown here is a Milwaukee Road GM product at Sequim, about half way between Port Townsend and Port Angles.

Car barge service to Port Townsend originated at Pier 27 in Seattle, and towed to Port Townsend by Foss Tug and Barge, later renamed Foss Maritime.

I was able to locate a photo of the Port Townsend car barge rail bridge IN USE.

Then Milwaukee Road hit the skids, and the operation was sold to the Seattle and North Coast Railroad
, until IT went bankrupt in June 1984.

In June 1988, the Olympic Railroad Company operated the rails, by now reduced to trackage owned by Port Townsend Paper Company.

The absolute end to a fascinating, if little known piece of Pacific Northwest railroad history, finally came on March 25, 1985 with the Diane Foss pulling the last rail barge out of Port Townsend.

The yellow line shows the north leg of the transfer wye. South leg of wye in the distance. Larry Scott Trail, old road bed, is to the right and extends two miles up to the State 19 Hy overpass of the old road bed. We are looking south to Port Townsend Paper Mill.

116 years after a group of wildly enthusiastic city boosters, probably most likely fueled up on whiskey and beer, had visions of Port Townsend becoming the “end of the transcontinental line.”

Bravo to that group! Dreams are what made this country great!

Updated: August 21, 2008.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Prince Rupert Engine Servicing Facility

May, 1958. Three new massive diesel oil tanks dominate the Prince Rupert Engine Facility. Ball on the old wood stave octagon water tower shows almost full! Fuel, sand, water, and a stand-by steam generator car for the passenger trains. This is Canada’s “wild west.” The next major facility is hundreds of miles to the east. Two Geeps [GMD 4216 & GMD 4426 GP-9's 1750HP] are power for tonight’s time freight, which lifts off just after the passenger train 196. Prince Rupert was designated, with the Canadian Government's consent, a Seattle Sub-Port of Embarkation in March of 1942. Thousands of US Army support personnel swelled the town, and the massive transit pier in background, was built, which we called the Ocean Dock, along with large freight and storage facilities. A disappearing gun emplacement and a submarine net to guard the entrance to the third best deep-water port in Canada. The Ocean Dock burned down in a spectacular fire years ago.

But very recently, a new Chapter has been added to the Prince Rupert story, with the grand opening on September 12, 2007 of a $120m, 500,000 teu container ship facility. Closer to Asia by 500 miles, CN has launched an aggressive campaign to challenge Vancouver, Seattle, SF, and LA. CN improvements include upgrades to rail traffic control systems west of Prince George and extended sidings that will increase capacity in the corridor from Prince Rupert through to Memphis. CN has upgraded tunnels and bridges, bought out the the PGE (BC Rail) N-S route, built new intermodal terminals in Prince George and Edmonton, acquired 2250 platform cars and 50 new state-of-the-art locomotives specifically to serve this new venture. I've included a link to this magnificant re-birth of a city in my links.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Boxcars Go to Sea!

February, 1957. Miki class M/V Comet (LT 393) is leaving Prince Rupert harbor heading for Canadian National Railways farthermost customer, Ketchikan Pulp Company. Loaded cars carried supplies for the pulp mill, returning cars carried kraft and kraft liner for final processing in the US.

June, 1958. Depending on weather, the 110 mile trip to Ward Cove would be completed in about 14 hours. Once secured to the rail bridge, there may be a wait for the tide. At this end, a 50 ton Whitcomb diesel locomotive was used for working the barge, and shunting cars about the Pulp Mill.

June, 1958. Louisiana-Pacific was the parent company of Ketchikan Pulp Company. In 1954, they completed a $54m viscose-process mill. Construction of the mill took nearly 1,000 workers many of whom moved to Ketchikan for the duration of the two-year construction project. It was a huge financial boom to Ketchikan, housing was at a premium and local developers took advantage of a change in Federal law that offered economic incentives for large apartment complexes. L-P shut the mill down in 1997. I've never been able to find out builders information on this unit, and do not know what became of her when the pulp mill was closed.

July, 1958. Leaving Ward Cove. Actual un-loading and re-loading of the barge took about two hours, then back to Prince Rupert.

March, 1958. Car barge rail bridge, Prince Rupert. Most folk think of Prince Rupert as being the western terminus of the Canadian National Railways. But CNR had a customer 100 miles north and west at Ketchikan Pulp and Paper’s Ward Cove Complex, a few miles north of Ketchikan.

The only way to service this customer was via ABC (Alaska British Columbia Transportation Company), a shell of Puget Sound Tug and Barge out of Seattle. The tug Comet is nudging ABC 24, a steel rail barge with a capacity of 24 rail cars on four tracks, into the Prince Rupert Rail Bridge, just south of town. There is a "3rd rail" between running rails, that is the anchor for a “screw-jack” assembly that the tug’s deck hands use to secure the four corners of each car to the barge.

Now I could stop here, but there is a lot more going on in this photograph! The deck hand on the front of the barge (left front box car) is guiding the tug’s skipper into the slip. Since they didn’t have “handi-talkies” or radios, the deck hand is guiding the skipper into the barge slip with a “police” whistle" The Acme Thunderer made in England! And the skipper is communicating with the engineer below decks with a manual engine room telegraph for power and direction. As I recall, 1 whistle, turn to port; 2 whistles, turn to starboard; 3 whistles, put her amidships; you get the idea …

April, 1958. Car barge rail bridge detail. Stationary “land rails” are in foreground. Looking carefully you can see the hinge that mates land rails to the adjustable bridge rails. The bridge is raised and lowered by means of two electric motors mounted atop the twin towers. You can make out the concrete counterweights inside the wooden towers. Once the tug has “roughly” aligned the barge rails to the bridge rails, steel cables, attached to winches on the bridge structure, do the fine tune positioning, pulling the barge left or right to mate with the bridge rails.

It was a fascinating operation, that had to be synchronized to the tides, which, in Prince Rupert, had a healthy range. On this particular day, the barge has just been unloaded, and the workers barely visible in the lower right are adjusting something. This would make a challenging “scratch build” project for an HO layout, yes?

1956. Prior to 1957, CNR 7536 (0-6-0) had the duty unloading and loading box cars at the Rail Bridge.

April, 1958. The operation was loud and noisy! The barge, being a steel shell, rang out as each wheel set banged on board. Deck hands secured each car at its four corners with a combination screw-jack up in the securing point, and a ratchet-hook-and-chain pulling down next to it. First Mate Bill Trimmer is carrying a packet of customs papers and car report from CNR Agent.

April, 1958. Built in '53 [GMD SW 9, 1200 hp, retired in 1988] this young lady displaced the steamer 7536 in 1957, working the yard in Prince Rupert for a number of years. Shown here, she has a buffer of flats between her and the cars she is loading on the barge, to keep her weight off the bridge. I spent many an afternnon riding around on this unit; even learned hand signals!

August, 1958. Fully loaded with twenty-four cars, the Comet is leaving Prince Rupert behind. Kaien Island, on the right, is home for some 12,000 souls (1957) in Prince Rupert. CNR mainline is barely decernable threading along the beach.

This rail operation was my first exposure to railroading at the age of 14. And one of my many "defining" moments. I made this trip many times with my Dad, and as I think back upon those trips, I never cleared customs when I got off at Ward Cove to explore the pulp mill!

Railroad Stuff: Thanks to R.H Lehmuth for providing builder's data on Ketchikan Pulp #1 (and only!)

Be sure to read the other entries in this series:

Boxcars Go to Sea - CN "AquaTrain" - Mar 20, 2008
Boxcars Go to Sea - Alaska Steamship - May 26, 2008
Boxcars Go to Sea - Vancouver Island - Nov 8, 2008
Boxcars Go to Sea - "M/V Corbin Foss Burns!" - Feb 28, 2009
Boxcars Go to Sea - Alaska Railbelt Marine Part 1 & 2 - Oct. 2009

Saturday, October 6, 2007

In the beginning...

We all have defining moments in our lives. This is one of my defining moments. That's me in the cab of CNR 9098. All of 14 years old! This blog will explain how I got there in 1957, and where I went from there.

My Dad was a career diesel engineer on tugboats. In 1956, he was assigned Chief Engineer on the "Comet," a Miki class tug (LT 393) based in Prince Rupert, BC. It was a good posting.  The Comet towed a rail barge from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan Pulp at Ward Cove, Alaska, a few miles north of Ketchikan.

Chief Engineer Harry McDonald
The company, ABC - Alaska British Columbia Transportation Company - was a shell of Puget Sound Tug and Barge out of Seattle. The decision was made to move Mom, my sister, me and the dawg to Prince Rupert. So it was, we boarded the Queen of the North - the old Princess Norah - not the vessel that sank off Gil Island two years ago - and moved to Prince Rupert.

Prince Rupert is named to honor Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, commonly called Prince Rupert (1691-1682.) How they picked him is probably a story in itself!

The town of Prince Rupert began as a dream when founder Charles Melville Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company, saw the island on which it sits as the perfect terminus for marine trade, and rail and sea travel. Unfortunately, on a trip back from Europe in 1912, where he was rustling up money to finance his vision, Hays met with an untimely and tragic death aboard the Titanic.

My only contact with railroading up to this point was my tinplate UP streamliner! (Which became boring after the third circuit around the track ...)

But big changes were just around the corner.

Most structures in Prince Rupert are constructed on pilings or on blasted out rock. Pilings were driven through the water soaked muskeg down to bed rock . There was a third alternative. The house we rented was build on a log crib literally floating in the muskeg.  The house had a 10° tilt to the front; when Maggie pissed in the kitchen, it flowed through the dining room into the living room.

Friends of ours, the Sampson family, commissioned a new home in Section II in Prince Rupert. It featured 20 foot pilings driven down to bed rock to support the front of the house, and 5 to 10 feet of  rock blasted out to support the rear of the house!

So this was to be our home for the next three years. And they were filled with many experiences, which, if all goes well, will gradually unfold here in "Oil-Electric!"

Next: "Boxcars Go to Sea"