Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Give me snuff, whiskey and Swedes!"

Great Northern Railroad 712, Interbay Yard, Seattle, July 9, 1960. It was always a great treat to drive up to Interbay – there were such a variety of power units awaiting assignments. And if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, I’ve remarked before on dispatch not hesitating to pick "one from column A, one from column B and one from column C” when assembling a power pack, resulting in some interesting lash-ups!

This summer is the last summer of “hanging out at the rail yards”– as I prepare for my senior year in high school. Even at that, I was working a darn good paying job at Bethlehem Steel.

"Give me snuff, whiskey and Swedes, and I will build a railroad to hell!" This rather colorful promise attributed to James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railroad. An interesting character born and raised in Ontario, he adopted the US for his grand adventure, completing the 1,700 miles from St. Paul to Seattle in January 1893.

The key to the Great Northern line was Hill's use of the previously unmapped Marias Pass. The pass had been discovered by John Frank Stevens, principal engineer of the Great Northern Railway, in December of 1889, and offered an easier route across the Rockies than that taken by the Northern Pacific.

GN 712 was no sooner spotted when I climbed aboard and got a neat shot of her control stand. I wonder if railfans have such easy access in this day and age?

Rail Road Stuff: Great Northern 712, built by Electro Motive Division, La Grange, as a GP-9, 1,750 hp, April 1957. Serial Number 22480. Suffered the Big Sky Blue treatment following the Big Merger. Sentenced to expire at General Metals, Tacoma, June 1986.

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