Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Time to Remember ...

Port Townsend, today. I’ve been reminiscing about holidays past. And recalled when my former business partner and I - operating our video production company in Vancouver - held a big carrot out for the employees: Meet or exceed our program production schedule for the year, and we will reward you with workdays between Christmas and New Years off, with pay!

It was an “unpublished” policy that worked like a charm!

While this is billed as a “railroad” blog, from time to time I just have to share some goodies with you that I trip over whilst wandering the Internet!

This is one such goody! I am of the opinion that the “golden era” of travel, if there ever was such an era, had to have been the ‘40’s, ‘50’s, perhaps extending into the early ‘60’s. Buses and trains were offering some fantastic rides in those days, with dome cars and scenic cruisers. I am remembering traveling the old US 99 from the Bay Area to Seattle on some really great “hounds” (Greyhound) and the occasional Pacific Trailways.

People for the most part were upbeat and friendly, and on long trips, friendships even erupted. As a young Airman going home on leave, I’ll never forget the winter of 63-64, when the Klamath River overran US 99 and heavy snowfall buried the Siskiyou Summit!

"It's so relaxing to take the bus ... and leave the driving to us!

We got as far as Red Bluff just after midnight, when heavy snow closed the US 99 in both directions. There were about 20 Greyhounds and Trailways buses stranded in Red Bluff. The station ran out of food and the machines were devoid of candy bars. Someone up near the front of the bus had a pocket radio going, and one by one we learned that a “drive through” liquor store was opening up at nine a.m.

Well, one by one, folks said they were getting off the bus to smoke and stretch! Uh-huh! Now heavily fortified with Christmas Spirit, it was party time all ready, and once the driver took a head count just after noon and we departed Red Bluff, Siskiyou Summit be damned!

"All I needed was a few more minutes - and the keys - to get us rolling again!"

Of course there was a passenger with a guitar (no - not a nun,) and soon a sing along, well sort of, evolved. A young Navy dude fell head over heals in love with a young lady and decided to spend Christmas with her and got off with her in Grants Pass. The rest of us wondered how he’d put his life back together when he sobered up! We gave his folks the “good news” that he was alive and well … in Grants Pass … when we got to Portland!

Even airplane travel was fun in those days! Remember when you had a choice of beef, chicken, or fish? And refills of coffee or tea and an after dinner mint on longer flights? Even getting your “wings” on certain airlines?

And I will always remember the radio ads inviting you to ride the “Vista Dome North Coast Limited, with ‘Sue’ the Stewardess Nurse on board!”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Do Not Hump"

Canadian National Railways 4412, Prince Rupert, March 1959. Winter has once again taken its toll on the Prince Rupert Extension, Skeena Subdivision. I found Geep 4412 marshalling Jordan Spreader CNR 50970 and a cut of Western Air Dump cars, heading out of town under white flags as Work Extra 4412.

Judging by the rock in the Western Air Dumps, there will be some shoring up of an embankment somewhere up the line.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been up close and explored a Western Air dump car. Two large pistons mounted underneath the car body push up either the left or right sides of the car with the side doors flipping open to release the payload.

A sign mounted conspicuously on the ends of the car bears the admonition “Do Not Hump.” Hum. So you know what follows, yes?

I had been up to Terrace and back one Saturday, riding in the cab of the log train – see previous blog entry. It was late afternoon as we drifted into the yard at Prince Rupert; a flagger brought us to a stop, and directed us onto a particular yard lead. He climbed up into the cab with us, and pointed out the fever pitched activity in the middle of the yard.

Apparently the switch crew, making up a ballast train, gave a loaded Western Air Dump car a vigorous kick, and when she met up with her mates with a “bang,” there was heard a sudden “whoosh!” and the stimulated dump car dumped a full load of ballast off her starboard side, partially burying two box cars on the very adjacent track, containing the evening Time Table governed freighter!

Generator driven lights were brought in, and since the space was so confined, it was all backbreaking shovel work by hand to clear the mess. I would love to have been a fly on the wall down at the Super’s office to hear the explanation from the switch crew!

You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time to see these cars in action. When that body lifts up, it is damn impressive! This shot of a car dumping sideways will give you an idea as to what the MOW crew was up against – literally – freeing the adjacent cars and track!

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 4412, nee 1736, built by General Motors Diesel (GMD) London Ontario, as GP-9, 1,750 horsepower, March 1955, serial number A-655. Renumbered 4412 in 1956. Rebuilt St Charles Shops as GP-9RM 7070, road class GS-418c, in 1992. Apparently alive and well as of June, 2008.

Friday, December 26, 2008

First Snows of Winter on the Skeena River

Canadian National Railways 4426, Skeen Subdivision, Mile Post 86, October 1958. Winter is coming to the Skeena River Country, and my buddy Mike and I do a couple of photo runs before Highway 16 becomes miserable. The first snows are already evident, and the wind blows damn cold down the Valley.

Under cover of white flags, running as Extra West 4426, the solitary geep hurries along near Salvus at top speed for this subdivision, 35 mph. Train crew recognizes “Prince Rupert’s Rail Fan Club” and gives us a tattoo on the air horn.

She’s got some fuel oil tankers and 28 log bunks destined for the paper mill at Port Edward. After the set out, she’ll hook up to the crew car, and finish the 10 miles or so into Prince Rupert.

There were no radios out here on the Prince Rupert Extension, and a lot of long lonely stretches between anything resembling civilization. I am truly blessed to have been able to experience this wild country.

While it looks wintry and beautiful now, it can get downright dangerous and deadly up here. Four months after I took these shots, the local newspaper sent this dispatch to the outside world:

Prince Rupert Daily News, February 2, 1959. CNR reported two large snow slides near Mile 67.9, between Salvus-Kwinitsa. On February 1 at 8:30 p.m. a westbound freight train was hit by a slide. A second slide struck and derailed three cars. One car went into the Skeena River and two onto the highway. Heavy rainfall was reported in the area at the time. Besides the derailment at Mile 42.2, snowslides and washouts occurred between February 1st and 3rd . The largest slide came down at Mile 46.7, measuring a length of 100 ft. (30 m) and a depth of 20 ft. (6 m). The rail line was closed for 45 hours.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 4426, nee 1750, built as GP-9, 1,750 horsepower, by General Motors Division (GMD) London Ontario, Road Class GR-17a, April 1955, serial number A-669. Renumbered 4426 in 1956. Converted to slug 244, road class GY-007, St. Charles Shops, 1990. Ran with 7200 series GP-9 Mother units, similar to this setup.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Canadian National Railways 5152, Prince Rupert, 1957. 1st Class 196 with a double header lead by 4-6-2 5152 getting ready to head east. Double headed varnish was not common, but not unheard of when the cannery's were cranking out salmon. Two or three extra express reefers brimming with fresh salmon needed a little boost to market!

Departure time was always an electric experience, watching the train crew fussing around with this and that. Then two sharp blasts of that magnificent steam whistle!

Hope you have a pleasant Holiday!

Robert in Port Townsend

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Union Pacific's Wings!

Union Pacific 1417, Argo Yard Seattle, July 27, 1961. The F3 locomotives began making their presence known on the Union Pacific in 1947. Among my “favorite” units, the F3 had a very utilitarian look about it, with the chain link fencing to keep the crew in and the critters out.

Many “purist” students of locomotives would refer to this little lady as a “later day Phase II” power pack, as defined by the “four rectangular” openings and “two portholes” covered with a full length run of “chicken wire.”

As with Canadian National Railways so-called “Type E” stations, “Phases” of General Motors cab units was manufactured by ferroequinologists. And just as the Canadian National Railways never had a “Type E” station floor plan, General Motors never had “Phases” in their product line up. These were contrived by rail fans to keep track of progressive model improvements, or, in the case of the railroad stations, to separate that plan from others.

Of particular interest with the Union Pacific 1417 is the “wings” logo painted across the nose of this cab unit. The “Wings” logo first appeared in 1939, and disappeared in the 1960’s. The “Wings” hit the rails again in 2000 (see page 7) and remain through current production models.

Railroad Stuff: Union Pacific 1417. Built as an F3A road number 1417A, 1,500 horsepower, January 5, 1948, serial number 4622. Renumbered 1417 in August 1948. Retired to Electro-Motive Division in June 1964.

Monday, December 22, 2008

55 MPH - The Double Nickel!

Amtrak 538, Vancouver Washington, 1983. By now I was totally removed from “railroading” as a hobby. I was deeply involved in working on a business plan to establish a new business.

As you may recall, the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1974 was signed into law by another doofus serving as president, which made interstate freeway travel at a maximum speed of 55 mph suffering beyond description!

With my folks living in Olympia, my former wife and I did the I-5 from Vancouver numerous times a year. You may recall (if you were driving back then) that after about a half hour of anguish driving on a freeway at 55 mph, you swore you could get out of your motor vehicle and walk faster!

I recall passing a double’s – it took 10 minutes to creep by him. Most drivers in those days were reduced to hideous monsters, with whom you did not want to make eye contact!

To avoid the torment, my former wife and I decided to take the train from Vancouver to Olympia for a family reunion. While waiting for our northbound connection, this SDP40F came churning southbound, and the negative for this photo has laid dormant for years. I never even made a print of it ‘till lately.

As I understand it, there were some 150 units involved in the transition to Amtrak. They were plagued by stability problems resulting in more than a dozen derailments at speed – not good for a passenger locomotive! The culprit seemed to be in the so-called “hollow bolster” wheel sets and additional water tanks installed to support a steam generator boiler. Despite imposing 40 mph speed restrictions on certain curvatures, studies by the Federal Railway Administration were inconclusive.

And so these units were parted out to become F40PHR’s with this unit being renumbered Amtrak 369. I’m not sure how long it was until these units became history. I do know one of them ended up in the Minesota Transportation Muesum.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

300th Posting - More Snow!

Canadian National Railways 55401, Bucker Plow, Prince Rupert September 8, 1958. While Prince Rupert had both a rotary and this bucker plow assigned to the Skeena Subdivision, it was this plow that saw most winter action.

This type of plow seems to have a number of names; wedge plow, pusher plow, bucker plow, but the principle remains the same. Use it early on to keep the line open. The big rotary, CNR 55361, was called out whenever snow slides occurred.

There were two Jordan Ditchers assigned to this subdivision, but I don’t recall them being used to clear snow. But then, it’s been a few years (50+) and there are times when I forget what I went to the kitchen to get!

I found an interesting engineers view of the track ahead when working a push plow! Talk about flying blind! And this in daylight! And there are dozens of videos of rotary plows in action, but I especially liked this one for two reasons:

1. A tripod was used for most of the shooting, and
2. some interesting evening shots – absolutely beautiful!

Prowling the web in search of “plough” information, I tripped over this page, which I think you will find most interesting, concerning the development of the “snow plough!”

Railroad Stuff: I have no information about this plow. It was such a fixture behind the Engine Facility, that I paid it little attention. As I recall, the only reason I shot it was that I had just taken delivery of my 2¼” by 2¼” Zeiss-Ikon twin lens reflex camera, and was fascinated by the large square focusing glass. I could count the rivets on the plow had I needed to!

Seems as though we’ve hit another landmark with our blog! And I’ve still got a pile of negatives, slides and photographs to share! Thank you for your continued interest and support! We appreciate your input and comments.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Saskatchewan, 1928 - Part II

Port Townsend, today. Browsing through an album that hasn’t been touched for years. In it, I found some real gems. When my Dad was 18, he and his brothers Hector and Alfred and a couple of other fellows decided to seek their fortunes working the crops in Saskatchewan. It is our good fortune that he had a folding camera and a couple of rolls of film and captured some rare images for us to enjoy!

So. The boys ended up in Bengough, Saskatchewan. Bengough was named in honor of one of Canada’s more famous cartoonists; John W. Bengough, and is located in the southern part of central Saskatchewan.

Here is a wonderful shot of a Leslie farm tractor. That’s my Dad in the middle. The tractor has a power take off, running a massive leather belt to power other farm implements. Uncharacteristically for me, I came up empty trying to find more information on this tractor. I hope a reader can help us out and drop off information in the “comment” section below!

It seems to me that the group broke up here, with Dad and his two brothers heading back to Victoria. As I mentioned before, they hopped freighters without incident ‘till they got back to the Rockies, and got caught by a no-nonsense conductor. He gave them the choice of hoofing it back to Vancouver, or shoveling coal in the cab! And so Dad learned about the workings of a Canadian National Railways “Mountain Class.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saskatchewan, 1928 - Part I

Port Townsend, today. This afternoon I found an album that hasn’t been touched for years. Since the only family left is my sister and I, I’ve been trying to downsize, minimize, you know what I mean.

At any rate, this album has pure gold in it.

When Dad was 18, he and his brothers Hector and Alfred and 1 or 2 other fellows decided to seek their fortunes working the crops in Saskatchewan. Here is a view of the climb up to Jasper on the Canadian National Railways.

This photo is marked “Wolfenden” which was 8.2 miles from Blue River, on the Western Region, British Columbia District, Clearwater Subdivision. Blue River was 132. 0 miles from Jasper over the next Subdivision, Albreda (132.3 miles, Jasper to Blue River.)

I can’t remember the story in its completeness; I mean we are reaching back 80 years for gawds sake! I am confused as to where the brothers began the trip to Saskatchewan, because my Dad did work for a while as a laborer on the section gang at Blue River.

Be all of that as it may be, here is my Dad, age 18, at Jasper.

I remember my Dad telling us that on their return trip, for whatever reason – probably to save whatever earnings they had acquired, did the freight train hop back across Saskatchewan, Alberta, back into British Columbia.

They had a choice of either the Canadian National Railways or Canadian Pacific Railway. Memories fade as to which return route they took, but somewhere in British Columbia, they ran out of luck and ran afoul of the train crew.

Dad clearly remembered the locomotive as being in the 6000 class, which would have been a Canadian National "Mountain" 4-8-2. As the story continues, they were given the choice of walking back to Vancouver, or shoveling coal!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reader Service Request - Part X

Prince Rupert, 1958. Finally the Reader Service Response I had been looking forward to the most arrived, from General Motors, La Grange Illinois!

They sent along a first class product catalog, and several booklets: “Power – the horsepower requirements for Diesel Locomotives” and “The Requirements of a Diesel-Electric Locomotive.”

My buddy and I were talking about the good old days, when a Northern Pacific FT came from McCook Illinois ...

and a Pacific Great Eastern RS-18 came from Montreal Quebec.

For many years, I lived in Vancouver Washington, about three miles from the wye where the Burlington Northern Santa Fe north-south interstate corridor splits to the east up the Columbia River Gorge.

Decided one day to grab my camera and watch several freight movements come and go. All I remember was the monotone shrill sounds of the super blown diesels.

I took a few photos, and when I got home, fired up the computer and downloaded my camera. I had no frigging idea what I was looking at.

I hit the erase button never returned.

In my “train-chasing career” perhaps the foremost change since the "Great Merger" was the demise of General Motors, Electro Motive Division, along with all the other changes in manufacturers. And along came, of all things, a snowmobile builder who now manufactures locomotives?

Bombardier Transportation builds everything from snowmobiles to executive aircraft. And I am sure their stockholders appreciate their diversity - although they seem to have problems these days with their snowmobiles!

Somewhere along the way, they hooked up with Electro Motive Diesel, formerly Electro Motive Division of London Ontario, and now manufacture General Motor’s locomotives in several different locations, including Mexico.

Bombardier Transportation has been involved in Mexico since 1982 when the company of its first contract in the market with Mexico City's Sistema de Transporte Colectivo-Metro for the manufacture of rubber-tired subway cars.

Since 1998, Bombardier's Sahagun ("saw-goon") Mexico facility has produced almost 2,000 locomotives for EMD. The first units were preceded by a pilot model locomotive, BNSF 9865 erected in London, Ontario. She was then sent to Sahagun as the “training” model used to build Burlington Northern Santa Fe SD70MAC’s, road numbers 9866 – 9942 and 9995 – 9999.

Since then, locomotives have been built in Mexico for several roads including the BNSF and Union Pacific (road numbers 8606 – 8620.)

And even the current worldwide financial chaos seems to be bypassing Bombardier. Andre Navarri, Bombardier Transport president, reiterated during a recent (October 2008) three-day investor tour hosted by
UBS that he believes the current economic downturn poses little threat to the rail division’s $31-billion backlog.

So now the question becomes one of, when one sees a GM locomotive rumbling down the track, how in are you supposed to know where on planet earth it was built?

“Made in Mexico?”

I remember when Lionel tried that ..

Related Reader Service Request reads:

Reader Service Request
Reader Service Request – Part II
Reader Service Request – Part III
Reader Service Request – Part IV
Reader Service Request – Part V
Reader Service Request – Part VI
Reader Service Request – Part VII
Reader Service Request – Part VIII
+ Reader Service Request – Part IX

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reader Service Request - Part IX

Prince Rupert, 1958. The package from Fairbanks Morse also included a short form product brochure from their Canadian licensee, Canadian Locomotive Company located in Kingston, Ontario.

The Canadian Locomotive Company was founded in 1848 as the Ontario Foundry, and through a convoluted series of ownership and name changes, in 1901 became Canadian Locomotive Company, further redefined as the Canadian Locomotive Company, Limited in 1911.

CLC was a major contributor to the Canadian National Railways and its predecessors. Notable locomotives include the K-1-a Pacific’s, U-1-a Mountains, U-2-a Northern’s, and the T-2-a Santa Fe’s. CLC built about ¼ of CNR's steam locomotive fleet. While Canadian Pacific Railway built more that 1,000 steam engines in their Angus Shops, CLC also built a number of steamers for the CPR.

Under license agreements, Canadian Locomotive Company manufactured products from American companies, thereby avoiding costly import fees on units manufactured in the US and sent to Canada. Under such arrangements, locomotives were built for both Baldwin and Fairbanks Morse.

Canadian Locomotive Company built a wide variety of locomotives including dinky 10 ton diesel mechanical mine locomotives, 4-6-2 5’6” gauge steam locomotives for the Indian Railways and Fairbanks-Morse H16-44 and H24-66. Trainmaster road switchers used by Canadian Pacific, from the early '50's to the mid '70's, operated mainly out of Nelson, in southern BC. By 1974, most units had been scrapped.

And who can forget the "C-Liners," owned by both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, chortling along with that unique Opposed Piston motor.

In July 1965, CLC was renamed Fairbanks Morse (Canada) Limited. Look for the red builder’s plate, wherein CLC is replaced with Fairbanks Morse.

The combination of reduced numbers of locomotive orders and stiff competition resulted in the operation being shuttered in 1969.

Related Reader Service Request reads:

+ Reader Service Request
+ Reader Service Request – Part II
+ Reader Service Request – Part III
+ Reader Service Request – Part IV
+ Reader Service Request – Part V
+ Reader Service Request – Part VI
+ Reader Service Request – Part VII

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reader Service Request - Part VIII

Prince Rupert, 1958. Fairbanks-Morse had responded to me in early 1958, sending me brochures on their latest product offerings. See "Reader Service Requests" listed below.

Included in this packet was a copy of a technical paper prepared by Fairbanks-Morse, to be accepted at ASME Headquarters in January 1957, entitled “Dual-Powered, High Speed Locomotive.”

It describes two units currently (1957) in service, powering lightweight passenger equipment developed by ACF (American Car & Foundry) and Pullman-Standard Manufacturing Corporation, the famous ACF Talgo.

The Talgo (Tren Articulado Ligero Goicoechea Oriol) technology was developed in Spain, and in general, constructs a passenger car to act as a pendulum, allowing it to move in harmony with track curvature at high speeds.

In 1956 and 1957, ACF - Pullman Standard built the first handful of push/pull "Talgo" concept trains, under license from Talgo, for trials in the US, as follows:

2 x 1,000 hp Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton power packs;
+ New York Central – Xplorer
+ New Haven – Daniel Webster

2 x 1,200 hp Fairbanks-Morse P-12-42 power packs,
8-cylinder Model 38D8 1/8 Opposed Piston engine;
+ New Haven – John Quincy Adams
+ Rock Island – Jet Rocket
+ Boston & Main – Speed Merchant

Dual Power - The First of its kind.

The Fairbanks-Morse Speed Merchant was fitted with a third rail pickup, to allow operation in Grand Central Station. The engineer moves the throttle handle to idle and throws a transfer switch from third-rail to diesel-electric. This disconnects the large dc motor from third rail power. When the speed of the motor-alternator set equals the engine speed, the over-riding clutch engages. The dc machine, the alternator, the exciter, and the auxiliary generator are then driven by the Opposed Piston diesel engine.

Boston & Maine 1, "Talgo," Boston, June 1958. Now it wasn't until many years later that I did a little train chasing in Massachusetts (Cape Cod,) but somehow I amassed a small collection of Boston & Maine, New York Central, and New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railroad negatives.

I was trading negatives with someone from my home in Prince Rupert, but there is no record on the negative envelopes as to who the individual was. But I am not going to let them molder without sharing them with you.

A report in TIME magazine details a demonstration run of the New Haven version of the Talgo.

Before moving here, I lived in Vancouver Washington for about 20 years, and I did ride the Amtrak “Cascades” South service between Vancouver and Seattle several times.

It’s a 4th or 5th generation "Talgo." I didn’t care for it at all. Like riding inside an aluminum beer can. Felt “cheap.” And noisy, with rug rats running amok in the isle, radios, DVD players and cell phone racket.

As compared to the trip my late wife and I took years ago on the Amtrak “StartLate” service from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Double deck heavy weight car. Felt safe. Secure. Firmly on the rails.

Back on the “Cascades” between Vancouver and Seattle. There were only a few places where we actually went faster than the traffic on nearby I-5, so I’m not sure I got to experience that “pendulum” ride!

However, I did enjoy chatting with the train crew. They knew where I was coming from when I asked, “Since when does varnish take the hole for a freight train?”

Related Reader Service Request reads:

+ Reader Service Request
+ Reader Service Request – Part II
+ Reader Service Request – Part III
+ Reader Service Request – Part IV
+ Reader Service Request – Part V