Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dave Cooley's Wonderful Maps!

Port Townsend, January 29th. Just got off the phone with Dave Cooley over in Auburn. As you may recall, Dave is the author of a fantastic series of map books, perfect for train chasing. Well since I last reported on Dave’s Railroad Maps, he hasn’t let any grass grow under his feet!

His latest work, “Stampede Pass” has received rave reviews from The Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association. Now the ubiquitous BNSF, Dave’s tome explores the route as we wish to remember it, as the Northern Pacific Railway, over a pass named for not a cattle stampede, but when the workers stampeded out of camp to escape a particularly "driven" foreman!

This is an invaluable guide for those of you who love to hunt down unique photo opportunities. Dave shares it all, where to go and how to get there. And he has an affinity for attention to detail. Here’s a sample page from another of his publications, showing the exquisitely detailed map features:

Before Stampede tunnel was completed, a series of switchbacks moved trains over the mountain. I managed to fine a few rare and dramatic photos of these alignments at “Yakima Memory.”

Urban legend relates that it took two 2-10-0’s to move a five-car train over the hump, battling gradient approaching 5.6%. The Decapods (named in honor of creatures like shrimp with 10 feet) featured blind drivers - no flanges on certain wheels - for operation on sharp curves.

Finally, Dave has expanded his site to include photos, videos (mercifully shot on a tripod!), and a blog link.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Save Blaine Station! Part II

Port Townsend, January 28. You know, when I got to looking at the different photos of the Blaine Station, it suddenly struck me that I was looking at two different buildings! One has two gables the other has one. (You mean to tell me you didn’t notice?)

I mentioned this today during a phone call with Richard Sturgill, and he explained the mystery of the missing gable:

“Some time ago the station had a fire, one can see evidence of a fire in the rafters I don't know if this was the reason or not but Great Northern shortened the building about a third which removed the south gable.”

Great Northern’s “Sea Level Route” was precisely that, all the way from New Westminster down the Puget Sound to King Street Station. The amusing part of this interesting slice of history is that landslides still interrupt Seattle-Vancouver traffic at least once or twice a year, more than 100 years later!

According to Richard, the present station is the second location, the first being a distance east. When the Great Northern realigned the roadbed to basically follow the beach along Mud Bay and Semiahmoo Bay to Blaine, this station becomes number two!

There is an exquisite irony in that James Jerome Hill was a Canadian by birth, who masterminded the building of the transcontinental Great Northern Railroad. And William Cornelius Van Horne was an American by birth, selected to build the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railroad!

It is interesting to note that Blaine is one of four towns in the United States named in honor of a very controversial gentleman by the name of James G. Blaine. Most notable for serving as Secretary of State in the cabinets of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur; he was the second and last person to hold this position in two non-consecutive terms.

[I’d like to express my gratitude to Pat Grubb, Publisher and Managing Editor of The Northern Light for getting me connected to the right people for completing these articles.]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Save Blaine Station!

Port Townsend, January 27. Yet another piece of railroad history here in the great Pacific Northwest is in danger of being lost forever. I received a dispatch from my sister the other day informing me of the plight of a landmark in Blaine. Great Northern’s Blaine Station - now of course under the ownership of the omnipotent BNSF, is in danger of being lost.

Whatcom County had a rich railroad history, which I introduced you to in “Shoebox #3.” The New Westminster Southern Railway (NWSR), taken over by the Great Northern Railway (GN) after the line's completion in 1891, connecting South Westminster, British Columbia with Blaine. By 1898, these were the rail routes through Whatcom County.

Apparently the BNSF has plans to expand trackage at the Port of Entry, with the station in the surveyors cross hairs. So here is an opportunity for rail fans to rally around the station, and see if there are ways we can get the word out on the situation and help round up resources to “Save Blaine Station.”

To that end, I’ve been in contact with Captain Richard Sturgill who is the go to man for “Save Blaine Station.” He is no stranger for rescuing the past from the cutters torch. As founding director of the Drayton Harbor Maritime Society, he successfully rescued the “M/V Plover” from the bone yard. She’s been fully restored, providing tourists with a great boat ride from Blaine out to Semiahmoo Spit.

The estimated cost of moving the station ranges from $495,000 to $614,000, depending upon variables. Full reports and copies of feasibility studies are available through Richard Sturgill:

We've all witness the loss of great railroad structures; let's not loose this one! Perhaps we can turn this into the vision of the artist, with the historic station interfacing with the historic "M/V Plover" serving multiple purposes!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

National Association of Train Order Collectors - NATOC

Seattle, 1960. I really can't remember how it came to be, but for a while, I was the treasurer of the National Association of Train Order Collectors. NATOC. I would bet that there are a lot of rail fans out there today who have never seen a "flimsy" - a train order!

The purpose of this association was to trade train orders amongst the membership. One of those deals wherein you send any number of orders in and select from the listing that someone had to maintain, which they would send you.

Our "house organ" was "Wire Tapping," (a title the late Dick Cheney would have loved!) Back in those days, without computers and desktop publishing, printing a house organ was a royal pain!

The process we used was known as mimeographing. The first step was typing the stencil, and you could NOT make an error. If you did, the correction process was also a pain!

The image transfer medium was waxed mulberry paper. This flexible waxed sheet is backed by a sheet of stiff card stock, with the sheets bound at the top. This "stencil" assemblage is placed in the typewriter, with the ribbon removed! The impact of the type element displaces the wax, which we called "cutting a stencil."

If the typewriter keys were struck too hard, letters such as "p" or "b" will be cut out, causing solid black blobs instead of loops with white space in the center. Not struck hard enough, a faint or missing letter resulted!

The printing part was the best part of the process, I forget the chemical used, but it was a very inexpensive high! Here's a delightful journey down memory lane for those of you who engaged in this practice - and a history lesson for those of you with all-in-one printers.

This particular issue is Volume II Number 4, June 1960. The inside cover features the Officers and Directors for FY 1960 to 1961. Because we were scattered all over the country, everything was done by US Mail.

We typed out our particular articles for inclusion to the editor, who then, you guessed it, had to RE-TYPE your submission on that stencil I mentioned, creating the master for the mimeograph machine.

This issue includes a treasurers report, which I remember my Mom setting up the basic "spread sheet." No, there was no MS Excel - remember - no computers!

Gene Glendinning wrote an article entitled "Train Order Kinks." Catchy titles were the rage then. He explained how to iron your flimsies to get the wrinkles out!

And then there were the listings of train orders that could be traded. There were 87 railroads listed in this edition! We must have been doing something well, at least for a while - we had some 5.5 x 8.5 inch stationary printed up!

All that remained was paper cutting, collating, stapling, typing mailing labels, affixing stamps and a trip to the post office.

The whole rotten process began almost immediately for the next month issue!

Postage on this piece, at the third class single rate was $0.03, a purple Statue of Liberty would handle that!

We peaked out at less than two dozen members - mostly kids with no business acumen. But it was a good experience. As I recall, internal bickering about how this thing should run brought it down. And I ended up with a pile of flimsies.

Uhm. I wonder if I can unload them on eBay?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Kitsumkalum - Revisited

Kitsumkalum Log Spur, Mile Post 28.3, Skeena Subdivision, April 9, 1959. Running under white flags, white classification lights, and a set of train orders, Extra East 4201 has arrived at the Kitsumkalum Log Spur 3.5 miles west of Terrace BC.

Canadian National Railways 4201, a doughty GMD GP9 was the power pack on this particular trip, leaving Prince Rupert at 930k with 10 loaded boxcars and several tank cars full of chemicals. A few of the box cars and chemical tanks were dropped off at the Columbia Cellulose Mill at Port Edward, and a cut of 40 empty log bunks were spiced in just ahead of the caboose.

This was my favored train to hitch a ride on, I was comfortable with the crew, and I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to ride “the log train” as it was informally known. And it returned the same day, so I wasn’t stressed about where to stay in Terrace, some 100 miles up the line.

On most occasions, I’d ride with the Conductor up to the mandatory (within first 50 miles) train inspection at Kwinitsa. (type “Kwinitsa” into the Google search engine for other commentary about this location.)

I’d walk up to the power pack and ride the remaining distance to Terrace. The crew would tie up for lunch, and then perform whatever switching needed to be done at the Terrace yard, then shuffle back to the Kitsumkalum Log Spur.

Kitsumkalum is the First Nations tribe that covered roughly from Terrace down the Skeena River and a few miles up and down the outer coast islands and islets. They have a tremendous history, and I would encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes learning about their history.

I go into more detail about the Log Spur in this blog entry, so I won’t repeat it here.

Kitsumkalum was shortened by the Canadian National Railways, on both the public and employee time tables, to “Kallum.” I’m sure the operators appreciated that!

The photo shows Hugh Macintosh, the fireman, watching for hand signals from the trainman helping us make up the loaded log train to be delivered back to Port Edward.

Bill Gedes, engineer, is sitting off to the side, letting his fireman run the power pack as we make up the loaded log train. These fellows had a bunch of rhymes they quoted for calling out hand signals from the trainman on the ground. Like “One – Two - that’ll do!)

And once the air was pumped we’d wait for our train order clearance time to head back to Port Edward and Prince Rupert as “Extra West 4201.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day Dawning!

Port Townsend, January 20th. There was a lot of cheering going on in our apartment building this morning!

We understand "Scooter" Libby went into a tantrum as Bush left him swinging in the down-draft of a Marine helicopter as she lifted off with former president Bush. ("Marine One" call sign annulled when Obama was sworn in.)

And now we know Darth Vader (Dick Cheney) did have us fooled all along! Turns out that he was really Doctor Strangelove!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Goodbye and Good Riddance!

Port Townsend, January 19th. While we all have some defining moment when we realized that there was a mad man in the wheel house; this photo of Bush says it all for me.

I have been waiting oh so long for this day to arrive. And my friends have been expressing the joy and happiness they feel as this huge dark cloud that has been hanging over this country for so long, is finally being lifted.

Tomorrow we remove the rubbish from the White House!

One can almost hear a collective sigh of relief passing from time zone to time zone around the world tonight as people awake and realize the end of Bush is finally here.

In all honesty, I had a pretty vitreous post written for this evening. I trashed it. We do not need to be reminded of what has past. We all lived through it. It is finally over and done with.

However, I could not resist including this tid-bit! Too bad that Bush still doesn't get it!

January 19th, 2009 3:41 pm
Protesters throw shoes at White House

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Anti-war protesters were throwing shoes outside the gates of the White House on President George W. Bush's last day in office.

About 500 people marched to the White House and threw about 40 pairs of shoes at the gate while tourists looked on and took photos.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama is taking the train!

Port Townsend, January 17th.

train schedule, iStockPhoto

The Obama family is setting a great example by taking the train to the inauguration instead of a private jet. After all, taking mass transit when possible is something we can all do to help reduce pollution and end our dependence on foreign oil.

But how much of an impact will the historic train ride make on the planet, especially when you consider what a short distance it is from Philadelphia to Washington D.C.?

To find out, TerraPass crunched the numbers and came up with estimates for a family of four making the 137-mile trip. These are only estimates and they do not take into account the extra people and/or vehicles that would accompany the Obamas in their travels.

Ultimately, the savings depends on which mode of transportation they would have chosen instead. Here are some different scenarios:

  • Taking the train instead of flying on a Boeing 747-200 (same type as Air Force One) saves the equivalent of the carbon footprint for shipping 110,000 bottles of French Champagne, or the emissions of roughly 50,000 people watching five hours of inauguration festivities on a 42" plasma screen.

  • Choosing Amtrak over a helicopter (Sikorsky Sea King, VH-3D, also known as Marine One) saves the equivalent of taking a Hummer off the road for a year.

Obviously, the savings for the rest of us are much more modest, but they're not insignificant. A family of four riding the train instead of taking a commercial flight for the same distance saves the equivalent carbon footprint of 588 bottles of bubbly. Not bad.

The bottom line: It definitely makes good sense for all of us to follow the Obamas' lead on this whenever we have the opportunity.

What an absolutely exciting day, to see this gentleman riding down to Washington aboard "Georgia 300," a 1930 Pullman. Gallery of photos of "Georgia 300."

Exciting day indeed!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Time Tables - And More! Part 2 of 5

Seattle, 1961. So now we are back in Seattle, and I soon discovered that the intimate relationship I had with the Canadian National Railways was impossible to duplicate in Seattle. However, that lack of intimacy was more than made up for with the diversity of operating lines at our front door!

Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Pacific Coast, Milwaukee Road!

One of the things us kids loved to do in December or January of each year was to grab a bus and head down to downtown Seattle. The purpose of these expeditions was to hit travel agencies and ticket agents clustered up and down 4th and 5th Avenues, asking for the new year’s calendars and time tables. Back in those days, everyone was competing for the best calendars, and there was plenty to go around.

The agencies were clever enough to know that it was smart to give kids these give-aways, knowing that they were going to end up being hung in plain sight, possibly influencing the parents or friends next travel plans.

While the Great Northern and Union Pacific had nifty poster size calendars with a full year and photograph, I would have to say that the greatness prize each year was the Pan American Airlines calendar. They always had “wow” appeal with magnificent photographs of far away exotic lands that we’d knew we’d never see!

This Great Northern Passenger schedule – the words “time table” are noticeably absent – is from 1961. Lovingly carried around all these years, it too, has a wealth of information. The “center fold” is a complete route map, with, as an extra bonus, a simplified track profile from east to west.

In addition to the usual condensed schedules for long distance travel, we find schedules breaking down the major through lines, and a gaggle of branch line schedules, which generally connected to the "Hound." That was back in the days when Greyhound went everywhere!

Scattered here and there are a few advertisements:

Detailed equipment lists for major trains:

And this particular Great Northern schedule also featured a complete fare schedule for all classes of travel.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Time Tables - And More! Part 1 of 5

Prince Rupert, December 1958. My pathway to the Yard Office was through the passenger station, and up the creaky oiled wooden stairway. I spotted a box of shiny new passenger schedules and grabbed a copy. Fifty years later, I still have that time table – which has survived about a half dozen marriages and one heck of a lot of moving from venue to venue!

Yup, it’s gotten a little dog eared over the years. But my belief is, that just like a book, if a time table isn’t doggy eared, it hasn’t been used, looked at, appreciated for the hours and hours of effort it took to create it.

There is an entire body of knowledge and skill that goes into the creation of a time table. Let me share a few considerations that must be dealt with once we’ve decided where to build the railroad:

  1. Distance between stations.
  2. Ruling gradient, curvature, and alignment of tracks – can the train be safely moved from point to point at a profitable speed?
  3. How long does it take to get from A to B to C?
  4. How long will the consist stop at any given station?
  5. How many cars are needed and of what type?
  6. What type of power pack will be needed to move this consist?

I think your knowledge of railroading will help you figure out what a challenge it would be to take a blank piece of paper and at the end of the day, have a workable, reasonable, accurate time table.

Now multiply that by all the branches and variations included – back in those days – to provide a seamless transportation system the traveling public could rely on.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

4th of July

Canadian National Railways 6534, New Westminster, July 3 1961. 
El Purington and I have spent two days over the Forth of July “train chasing” up in Vancouver, and this is our final shooting site, at the Fraser River crossing of the Canadian National Railways over to the south bank of the river. 

Since this was the fourth of July in Canada, everyone was working!

The “Super Continental” with lead unit 6534 and her sister’s 6612B and 6632B are leading the varnish out of town, tiptoeing at restricted speed across a marvelous wood trestle. The precise geometry of wood trestles have always held a fascination for me, going back to the rugged structures found on ancient logging railroads.

The timetable from 1958 indicates this train will be in Montreal in 70 hours.

In the bottom right corner, you can see Elwin with his earphones on, monitoring the sound of this trio. His microphone stands are clearly visible. At this time, El was using a Wollensak reel-to-reel recorder, having made the major jump from his wire recorders.

As I said, this is the end of our two days of recording audiotapes, with me doing the stills in rail-rich Vancouver. We saw power packs from the Pacific Great Eastern, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Pacific Coast Terminals and the Great Northern.

While we saw some neat power, I for one was glad to be heading home. At 6’0”, sleeping on the backseat of a Corvair with my feet hanging out the window was damned uncomfortable!

In a move similar to the establishment of Amtrak here in the States,
VIA became a Crown Corporation taking over the running of Canadian passenger trains in 1978.

Railroad Stuff:
Canadian National Railways 6534, built by General Motors Division (GMD) London Ontario as an FP-9, 1,750 horsepower May 1958. Ownership transferred to VIA in March 1978. Rebuilt at Pointe St. Charles Shops and renumbered VIA 6301. Stored in the 1990’s and retired in 2001.

For articles relating to this trip, put "4th of July" in Google search engine.