Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Oil-Electric!

One year ago today. I can vividly recall how I became a blogger. I had been submitting photos to one of the on line archiving/sharing groups, when it became abundantly clear that:

A. I had some old stuff that was out of place with the roster shot galleries.
B. I had a lot to say about each photo.
C. Since I ran the blog, I could relax some of the “submission” requirements!

I got off to a running start and kept up a daily pace until I was struck down with a severe heart attack. Since then, I’ve reexamined my priorities and slowed the pace somewhat. And after all, I am retired! So what’s the hurry!

The basis of my blog has been to pull up a slide, print or negative out of my collection, and write a story around that photograph. I try to be of interest not only to the “pure” rail fan, but also a casual observer who may pass this way.

It’s been a lot of fun this past year reliving past memories, and as the song goes, “I’ve only just begun!”

When my Dad was assigned to the MV Comet as Chief Engineer in 1956, towing a Canadian National Railroad car float from Prince Rupert to Ward Cove, he made an impressive decision to move “the Family – Mom, Sister and I and the dawg” to Prince Rupert.

For the next three years, 1957, 1958 and 1959, we all experienced the “joy” of living on the edge of no-where. In fact, I could stand at the end of my bed looking westward, and see the virtual end of the then known world! Only at night could I enjoy “rock and roll,” listening to Wolf Man Jack on XERB out of Chula Vista California, broadcasting from a high powered transmitter located in Mexico, on 1080 AM. The skip signal fading in and out added to the feeling of living at the end of the world!

We lived next to the yard, and I wandered through the Engine Facility to visit my Dad, as the Comet was tied up at the Ocean Dock. I’d ride the tug with my Dad when they went out to the rail bridge and watch the loading and unloading of the car float.

One afternoon, the switch engineer invited my up into the cab, to watch the loading operating, after which, he offered me a ride back to town on the locomotive. That was my defining moment; my epiphany. At age 14, I became a ferroequinologist!

I remember my Dad saying to me one night, “If you’d pay as much attention to your homework as you do those damn locomotives, you might amount to something one of these days!”

We arrived in Prince Rupert as steam was going through its final act. The freight and yard service had already succumbed to the General Motors Chant, and the few Pacific’s hauling the varnish 600-plus miles up to Red Pass Junction, to meet up with the Canadian Nationals transcontinental artery, were on their last assignments.



I rode with freight crews, passenger crews, and spent summer afternoons riding around on the switch engine doing this and that.

I wandered around the engine service facility, watching the carmen and mechanics change brake shoes, knuckles, and burned out headlamps and run those V-16’s up to Run 8 – oh what a sound!

I learned hand signals from firemen, took to heart the stern warnings of the Yard Master in train safety, and watched in fascination, as Don Vaale, the night trick telegrapher, send the time freight train car list up the line to Division at Smithers, with his lighting fast speed key! And I can still hear the “smack-smack-smack” as the operator pounded out a manifold of train orders in the old Remington Standard, with the purple ribbon!

We moved back to Seattle at the end of 1959. And until my enrollment at WSU in Pullman in 1961, I prowled the yards around Seattle. But it wasn’t the same. Although access wasn’t a problem, the “insider” connections were gone, and I even though I tried, I never got to ride in the cab of the Empire Builder!

Railroad photography took a near fatal nose dive with the Great Merger. And even to this day, while I get the urge to go over to “the mainland” and shoot some freights, I finally say “Phooey!” BNSF everywhere you look and high horsepower that I cannot identify.

Nope, I will stay within my comfort zone, and hopefully come up with some interesting new material as we head into our second year!

5 Comments - Click here:

LinesWest said...

Well, happy birthday to Oil-Electric. I've certainly enjoyed the posts this past year - thank you for taking the time to put all of these great photos and memories on the web. About 10 years ago I spent a couple of days in Prince Rupert after riding the Skeena in from Prince George with my Dad. It's great to see the photos from earlier times and compare them to my own (brief) experiences in the area.

I enjoy your approach to the posts as well, it sounds something like my own: start with a photograph and then write about it. Best wishes as you roll into the second year of Oil-Electric. I'm looking forward to it.

-Leland

William ~ The Old Fart said...

Congratulations on your Anniversary Robert, I like coming to this blog and reliving the past. You are allowing us railfans that were too young to remember this transition, and a Great Big Thank you is given.

Kurt Clark said...

All the best to you on this birthday! It's great having historic blogs out there like yours. Here's to a grand future!

SDP45 said...

Robert,
As someone who followed you from that picture website to your blog, I find it hard to believe it has been a year already. It sure has been fun.

Must feel good to be 1 all over again.

Dan

Jacques Valiquette said...

I just discovered your blog, it takes me back to my active days as I was a car inspector with CNR in Ottawa from 1950 to 86, and then as master mechanic with HCW tourist steam train in Gatineau , across the river from Ottawa till 1996, before retiring for good. Thank you for your pics and interesting commentaries.
Jacques Valiquette, Gatineau Qc.

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