Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last Spike - Great Northern Railway

Port Townsend, today. “Know your spikes?” So the recent poll question read. Out of all our visitors, only 12 took the spike challenge! The location for the driving of the Final Spike on the Great Northern Railroad being a choice of:

  • 1 vote for North Dakota
  • 7 votes for Washington
  • 3 votes for Montana, and
  • 1 vote for Idaho.
Washington is the correct answer. As I researched this trivia, I was amazed to learn that Washington State, not Idaho or Montana, was the site of the meeting of east and west. But my plate is too full right now to dig into the reason why the meeting point is so “off center.”

“On January 6, 1893, amid cheers, shouts, and gunshots, workers drive the last spike into the Great Northern Railway track that opens transcontinental travel to Seattle.”

The last rails were laid at Madison, Washington.

Well, I got curious as to where Madison Washington was or is at, and that turned into a dispute! After spending a few days mining in the Internet, with little success, I turned to the Museum of History and Industry over in Seattle. It turned into a treasure hunt for them as well!

This morning, I received this dispatch from Carolyn Marr, Librarian at the Museum:

Dear Robert,
Thank you for the question regarding the driving of the last spike for the Great Northern Railway. We were not entirely sure whether you were hoping to clarify the exact location or the name change of Scenic, or perhaps some other point. Our volunteer researcher located a wealth of information, given below. It appears that Scenic was indeed known, at least to the Great Northern Railway, as Madison before it was Scenic.

The earliest schedule we have for
Great Northern is the employee schedule dated "To Take Effect at One (1:00) O'clock A.M. Tuesday July 18th, 1893. On that schedule, Madison is included on the list of stations and is shown as 255.3 (miles, I assume, though it does not say) from Spokane, 11.7 from Skykomish, and 9.4 from Wellington. Madison remains in all the printed passenger and employee schedules we consulted through the June 3, 1906 employee schedule.

Our next schedule is the employee schedule for July 22, 1906 wherein Scenic appears. The 6/3/1906 listing for Madison and the 7/22/1906 listing for Scenic both give the distance from Leavenworth as 45.2. There is a small discrepancy in altitudes. Madison's altitude is given in "The Great Northern 'Flyer'" passenger schedule (January 4, 1903) as 2081, but in the "Route of the Oriental Limited, May 5, 1912" passenger schedule "Scenic (Hot Springs)" is listed with an altitude of 2086. In case it is of use or interest, here is some more information.

One source indicating that Scenic was Madison is Carlos A. Schwantes' 1993 book Railroad Signatures Across the Pacific Northwest (p. 78). The statement regarding Scenic and Madison is used verbatim in HistoryLink's article "Workers drive last spike into transcontinental tracks to
Seattle on January 6, 1893" so I do not count this as a separate source. Schwantes did not cite his source.

Another source is Stevens Pass: The Story of Railroading and Recreation in the North Cascades by JoAnn Roe, 2002 (ISBN 0870044281, 9780870044281). On pages 63-4 Roe refers to "near Scenic" for the location of the last spike. She goes on to list the stations on the route as including "Scenic (still called Madison?)." Page 73 says "Scenic, first called Madison, was at first little more than a water tower and depot..."

The Washington State Railroads Historical Society has a photo of a station labeled "Madison, Washington." No sources are given. The date is given as circa 1900.

Carolyn Marr
Museum of History & Industry

1904 Map

Sure enough, looking up the "Map of Washington. (1904)" from the George F. Cram Company, there she be, between “Skykomish” and “Wellington,” “Madison.”

1908 Map

But wait a minute! Not so fast! The maps are different. There are vast differences between the 1904 map and the 1908 map. So I’ve made a diagram, below, showing the place names in yellow that appear on the 1904 map, and the names in red as they are shown on the 1908 map. As you can see, “Madison” gives way to “Corea” and “Scenic” appears in 1908.

But remember, the researchers at the Museum, looking at Employee Time Tables, found “The 6/3/1906 listing for Madison and the 7/22/1906 listing for Scenic both give the distance from Leavenworth as 45.2 miles.”

You can clearly see by studying the maps and my diagram, that more questions arise! If you can shed light on this, I would be most appreciative. But for now, the Last Spike of the Great Northern Railway” was driven at “Corea” nee “Madison.” Yes?

Inquiring minds need to know!

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Class 196 - UpDated

Canadian National Railways 1271 + 1279 +Steam Generator, Mile 119 Skeena Subdivison, Prince Rupert, August 1959. We are just moments away from the departure of First Class 196, heading for Red Pass Junction, connection to the CNR’ s main east-west line.

During salmon or halibut season, it was not uncommon for several reefer express cars to be connected up front, speeding fresh frozen fillets to the rest of the world.

As I think back upon these events, I paid little, if any attention to anything aft of the locomotives. This is one of only two or three shots I took that included the Steam Generator Car. I am paying the price now, for the lack of photographs and builders information, despite spending time on board watching the boilers being serviced and fired without blinking an eye.

From what I have been able to determine, Canadian Car & Foundry made a handful of these units. Others were manufactured by Canadian Pacific. The distinguishing CC&F feature is the square windows, as opposed to round portholes.
Thanks to one of our readers, Bill, a.k.a. The Old Fart, we are able to supply considerable more information on the CNR Steam Generator cars. Click on "Comments" at the end of this article for complete builders information. Thanks, Bill!

There was usually a standby or spare car available at Prince Rupert, especially during “slide season” when the Coast Range mountains took aim at the main line snaking its way up the Skeena River. There was never a question of if there was going to be a slide, just a matter of when it would occur.

The tool of choice for dragging equipment back onto the last good piece of track was the Lidgerwood, which required a source of steam.

The use of SW1200RS road units was short lived. Crews complained about the rough ride on it’s 20 foot wheelbase. Indeed, whenever I rode in the second cab, I was startled to see the violent action at all of 40 miles an hour!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mobile Train Order Office!

Port Townsend, today. Got a nice email today from a new reader, Eric Gagnon. Eric has a web blog intitled "Trackside Treasure." I recommend you check out his interesting blog, concentrating on Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, especially in Ontario.

He has an interesting item entitled "CP's Loose Caboose." Don't think many of you have ever seen one of these before!

Have a very special three part treat lined up on an obscure Canadian National operation up in British Columbia. Cauterizing some loose ends, with publication this weekend. I hope.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rocky Sez ... It's Great!

Great Northern 693. Interbay north departure, Seattle, January 9, 1960. Hoggers had about a mile between the yard north end switch and the approach signal for Bridge Four. Some took the opportunity to wind it up a bit; others resigned themselves to drifting up to the signal. There was a mandatory slow order on Bridge 4 crossing the Lake Washington Ship Canal, and a residential area up to Golden Gardens Park, which kept the giddy-up-go low.

GN 693 was delivered without dynamic brakes. But within a few years, dynamic brake iron grids, air intake blister and 48” fan were installed greatly adding to her usefulness working the Cascade Mountain crossing.

Railroad Stuff: Great Northern 693, built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division, La Grange, Illinois, as a GP9, 1,750 hp, in April 1957, serial number 22473. She was subjected to the “Cascade Green” paint job when taken over by Burlington Northern and renumbered 1766. Returned to GE Credit in 1985.

Purchased by Hillsdale County as 1766. Subsequently retired once again, snatched up by Indiana Northeastern Railroad and renumbered 1602.

Just got off the phone with some fine folks over at the Indiana Northeastern, enjoyed some train talk, and you'll be pleased to know that 1602, nee GN 693, is still running strong!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Wet Steam!"

Canadian National Railways, 5152, 2510 & 7536, Prince Rupert BC, September 1957. We have only been in Prince Rupert for a few weeks, and I am just beginning to realize what a unique opportunity I have with unrestricted access to the Canadian National Railways.

Our house was just a couple of short blocks flanking the yard. So, after dinner, I borrowed my Dad’s 35mm Konica camera and Weston light meter, and walked down the tracks to the engine house to see what is happening.

A lot!

The switch crew is tying up 7536, the local yard goat. She is the locomotive with her back to us. CNR 2510, a doughty Consolidation, is being serviced at the sand tower. She came in late in the afternoon, having powered a loaded log train down from Terrace, some 95 miles up the Skeena River. Later in the evening, she will amble down to the opposite end of the yard to be turned on the wye, in preparation for her pulling the empty log cars back up to Terrace tomorrow morning.

The road crew has picked up Pacific CNR 5152 for the evening passenger train number 196 heading across the wilderness of British Columbia some 700 miles to Red Pass Junction.

They have a couple of switches to thread before hooking up to the waiting varnish just off frame left. Cylinder cocks wide open, making quite a show! Looking at this photo, I can taste the “wet steam” in my mouth. “Wet steam” has a unique flavor that once you have experienced it, you never forget it.

Putting this scene into proper perspective, remember, I am just 14 years old. I have been a ferroequinologist for about three weeks. I have no idea what I am looking at, but instinctively, I feel it is not going to last forever.

Photography runs in the family. My Dad was an avid photographer. My Sister was an avid photographer, and I loved taking pictures. And my Mom had her Eumig 8mm silent film camera. At this time in my life, I had a hand-me-down Kodak 620 folding camera, with enough holes in the bellows to simulate a star chart of the heavens on a frame of emulsion.

That camera was up to Jack Wrathall Photography being “fixed,” so I begged my Dad to let me use his brand new Konica 35mm camera. At that time, I was still mastering the art of taking the light reading with the Weston Light Meter, adjusting the camera, and shooting the shot.

This process works well when shooting Mt. Rainier. The freaking mountain stays in one place long enough to follow procedure, think through the depth of field combinations, focus the lens and snap the exposure.

However, it got exciting when shooting a moving object, such as a locomotive. The exposure is constantly changing as the background and lighting transitions. And then when you think you have enough information to dial in the camera, “Whoosh!” a giant white cloud of steam!

Furthermore, the camera had a load of Kodachrome 64 in it – which shows how far off I was!

So all factors taken into consideration, I am damn lucky to have these shots to share with you. And since it is representative of the last days of steam in Prince Rupert, and there was not anyone else around shooting, these become rare exposures, no matter how exposed they are!

But it was a damn good way to learn photography from the ground up, so to speak, learning the relationships of exposure time, depth of field, film speed and so forth. I suppose those things are not important now. In this digital age, even a cat can take studio quality digital pictures not knowing or understanding any of those principles or relationships!

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 7536 switcher 0-6-0, road class O-20-a, built by Montreal Locomotive Works in a group of 10 in 1911. Canadian National Railways 2510 Consolidation 2-8-0, road class N-2-b, built in a group of 50 by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1918. Canadian National Railways 5152 Pacific 4-6-2, road class J-4-f, built in a group of 12 by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1920. All were retired and scrapped between 1957 and 1961.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Merci, beaucoups!

Port Townsend, today. I am sure there is an entire generation of rail fans who have never heard of the “Friendship Train” and subsequent reply to it called the “Merci Train” both in response to helping rebuild Europe, particularly France, following World War II.

I used to attend the Washington State Fire Training Officers conference over in Yakima every year for several years. That is where I came across the car donated to the State of Washington from the Citizens of France on display in a city park.

40 et 8 Merci Car on display at Helena, Arkansas
Each region of France represented by
it's unique plaque.

It is a fascinating story that begins with the "Friendship Train," created by citizens gathering food and other relief material from across the US to send to the citizens of war ravaged France.

As a token of their appreciation for the outpouring of support shown by the Friendship Train, the French reciprocated with the “Merci Train,” (“Thank you,” in French) composed of one railway car filled with thousands of gifts of gratitude from the French citizenry, donated to each state. Herein is the interesting story of that train, including a state by state listing of displayed cars.

I just received an email from Michael M. Siebol
Curator of Collections
Yakima Valley Museum

assuring me the car is still on display! red number 5 on map.

As the weather begins to improve, and we begin plotting train-viewing adventures, try to work in stopping by a display near you, relishing this priceless piece of Americana.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Prince Rupert's Armored Train!

Port Townsend, today. I spend considerable time mining the Internet for interesting sites. And I find one or two damn near every day. Today was no exception.

Whilst searching the Internet for information on an upcoming article, I tripped over a fascinating account of one of World War II's best kept secrets!

"The Armored Train" apparently operated out of Tyee, about 25 miles east of Prince Rupert. This would have been an ideal place for this train to tie up, because of it's remoteness, away from the City of Prince Rupert.

Having ridden that subdivision so many times, I can image this train snaking its way up the Skeena River. What a sight it must have been! What an experience for the Officers and Enlisted, manning the guns!

I sent an email to Mr. Ted Hackett, requesting his permission to share his story with you here on "Oil-Electric."

I was unprepared for the response:

Greetings Robert, Bill Hillman, our Web Master, forwarded your request regarding subject. I'm sorry to say that Ted Hackett passed away in March of 2009. Ted was a Wireless Air Gunner in Bomber Command, 426 Squadron, during WW II. He was an avid contributor to our newsletter, SHORT BURSTS.

I was a wireless air gunner stationed at #7 BR Squadron, Prince Rupert, B.C. during 1942 - 1943, but we never heard of the armored train. Security was very tight. Air crews had to take turns being at the 'ready', sleeping in the hangers.

Sub Hunting Team at Seal Cove, Prince Rupert, May 1942. Aircraft is a Blackburn Shark.. Left to Right - Me - John Moyles, wireless operator & air gunner, age 19, Hank Hankinson, Navigator, age 19, Gerald McKenna, Pilot, 20, age 20. Gerald was killed in action 1944, age 22, buried in Iceland.

In all that time, we had only one "scramble", May 8, 1942, when the Japanese task force attacked Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians.

I'm sorry I cannot give you any further information on the armoured train.

And so I would like to dedicate this article - republished on "Oil-Electric" in memory of Mr. Hackett, who lived in Spruce Grove, Alberta.

Jon Moyles


The Armoured Train
by Ted Hackett

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the enemy’s successes in the following weeks and months caused great concern on the West Coat of Canada. Prince Rupert was now a strategic port, and embarkation point for US Army Personnel and supplies destined for Alaska. The United States had already built an installation and had several personnel stationed at the port. The Canadian National Railway line that ran along the Skeena river now became very important. At that time no highway ran to Prince Rupert.

The defence of Prince Rupert was supported by seven coastal batteries and, in 1942, by two railway guns supplied by the United States Army.The RCAF 7 BR Squadron patrolled the area using Blackburn Shark aircraft on floats. John Moyles was stationed there and hopefully he will write an account of his adventures at that time.

In early 1942 it was decided to build an armoured train to patrol the railway line between Prince Rupert and Terrace, B.C., a distance of 95 miles. The train was assembled at the CNR Transconna Workshops in Winnipeg, Manitoba and consisted of seven pieces of modified, armour plated, rolling stock pulled by a steam locomotive. The locomotive was a CN class H-10, number 1426 and 4-6-0 commonly called a “10 wheeler”. That last bit of information is for any railroad buffs amongst our readers. There were plans to replace the steam locomotive with a diesel electric and CN No.9000 was chosen, but by the time it was obtained through the US Navy the need for the train was downgraded.

The train was manned by a company from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and equipped with Bren Guns, 75mm and Bofor guns. The assigned task was to patrol the Skeena river and engage any ships that attempted to sail up the river and, perhaps land troops.

The Japanese departure from Kiska in the Aleutian Islands and the reoccupation of the Island by the US Army certainly lessened the threat to Prince Rupert and the train was eventually taken out of service. The train was parked on the siding at Terrace and eventually returned to the CNR for dismantling., a little over two years since its creation.

Ted refers to an excellent book on the topic; THE ARMOURED TRAIN IN CANADIAN SEVICE by Roger V. Lucy. Your Editor was able to obtain this book, courtesy of Robert Henderson. Following are some interesting excerpts from Roger Lucy’s book.

With the attack on Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941 and the fall of Singapore 15 February 1942, public opinion on the West Coast, in the words of C.P. Stacey were ….in a state approaching panic…..
[Editor – at that time plans for the mass evacuation of Vancouver Island where being formulated.] Security was so tight that people in Prince Rupert did not know of the armoured train until after the war.

The CNR train crew consisted of, engineer, fireman, conductor, and two brakemen. Department of National Defence reimbursed the CNR $100.00 per day for each crew member and $80.00 per day for rental of equipment.

The train at all times was to be in charge of the CNR crew, who in turn were under the orders of the O.C. Troops and move the train in accordance to his instructions subject to the standard of operating rules.

The five officers and 145 Other Ranks were made up mainly of Home Defence conscripts and moral was not high. Major General W.A. Giesbach , Inspector General for Western Canada states that he found them unenthusiastic, even sullen. On the first run to Prince Rupert two went AWOL.

And you tail gunners thought you had it tough.

To add to the problems the rail bed was in need of up grading. Ties were rotting and some spikes were so loose they could be removed by hand. The resulting vibration necessitated lowering the speed to 10 to 15 mph. The vibrations played havoc with the search lights and gun mountings which were attached solidly to the floors of the rail cars. The cars had to be sent to Vancouver for adjustments.

For security reasons the train did not adhere to scheduled runs. As a result it ran over a man asleep on the tracks severing both is legs. It was determined that he was a local sleeping off a binge. Two CNR rail line workers were killed when the train hit them when they were using jackhammers. Due to the non scheduled runs they were not expecting the train and they did not hear it approaching over the sound of jackhammers .Due to the status of the roadbed, the train was located at Tyee, close to the mouth of the Skeena.

On November 7, 1942 the train complement consisted of a Major, Company Sgt. Major, Quarter Master Sergeant, 3 Corporals,, clerk, artificer, and cook. The remainder of the crew were detailed from 14th Brigade, an Infantry company (5 officers and 119 Ors) gun crew (2 officers and 24Ors, searchlight crew (8 Ors), signals (3Ors), Medical staff, and 3 Royal Canadian Engineers.

Prince Rupert Regiment Badge provided by
stamp and Military Memorabilia Collector
Nick Kainer, Regina, SK.
Nick served with 5th Canadian Armoured Troop W/S
in the Italian Campaign.

The first Commanding Officer of the Armoured train was Captain N..K. Gateson of the Winnipeg Grenadiers who served from 27 June, 1942 to 28 February 1943. He was replaced by Major J.C. Herbert of the Oxford Rifles who served until the train was moth-balled in October 1943.

On July 31, 1944, Royal Assent was given to the Order in council disbanding the Unit.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"C" is for "Character"

Port Townsend, today. Eventually I was bound to hit upon the touchy subject of copyright violations on the Internet. And it comes at a time when I accidentally discovered a blog in which several of my photographs were posted.

Now let me be perfectly clear. If a person were to link to one of my photographs, and give me credit, no harm, no foul. This because he/she is not intimating that they are the persons responsible for taking the picture.

It would be nice to receive an email from the person connecting the link as an expression of common courtesy. After all, there may be cases where I am being linked to a right wing conservative site that I'd rather not be associated with!

I have routinely linked to photos that I have found on the Internet, as you may have noticed, when I want to show you a locomotive that I shot as she was later renumbered, rebuilt, or under new ownership. But I have left the photograph intact exactly as you would find it on any quality search engine, when you click the link I provide. If it is a RailroadPictureArchives photo, which most are, I present the entire web page, unedited. You can readily see that it was not I, but someone else who took the photograph.

Other photos I have used I have specifically requested permission to include them in a blog article. For example, I am working on a three part series on a Canadian operation that I have requested permissions to use certain photographs. As I receive permissions via email, I keep in my resource file.

There is no ambiguity or vagueness about what is covered by copyright law. If you held the camera that contained the film that was exposed to a locomotive, you are, in fact, the copyright holder. Period.

The photograph does not need to be engraved with copyright circle "C", or "Copyright," or any of the creative variations folks have come up with to try to protect their original works.

The downside to that is, you have no recourse under Copyright law to sue or claim damages.

The next level of protection has you inscribing the photo with the copyright symbol - "circle c" - or the “Copyright” with year and name – “Copyright 2008, RD McDonald,” as example.

You still have no recourse under Copyright law to sue or claim damages. All you can hope to accomplish is that the casual rip-off person will shy away from entanglement. The hard-core rip-off person will not be dissuaded.

A lot has changed since I last filed a copyright application. Now it can be all accomplished on line from completing the form, deposit of visual work and payment of fee ($35.00 for a basic single work.)

See Title 17, paragraph 411 to learn what remedies are available to you provided you have filed appropriate registration with the Copyright Office.

The highest level of protection –filing with the US Copyright Office - gives you legal recourse to sue and recover damages in a court of law.

The most common situation is filing to protect a photograph or slide. See Circular 40a for all the works that can be protected, from tee-shirt designs to digital photographs. Referred to as Visual Arts Materials, Form VA is required.

To cover an entire collection, you need to file form VA – GR/PPh/CON which requires a copy of every photograph in the collection be submitted. See the form for submission requirements.

So remember, to have anything meaningful in the way of protection, you have to have filed form VA, paid the fee, and sent a copy of the photograph to the Copyright Office. Then you need the legal resources to develop an actionable case, and the staying power to follow through.

Where does this leave the rest of with who cannot afford the luxury of filing copyright forms for every photograph? And all the hassle of a legal action?

In my case, I not only confronted the violator – who never responded to my emails – but also filed a complaint with PhotoBucket. You can download the forms you need to file to get illegal copies off their system.

It is fast. I filed last week by mail, and was notified today that PhotoBucket went into his collection and removed said photo!

Blogger also uses similar forms that you can download. Like PhotoBucket, they request you file by snail mail, I guess because you need to sign the complaint, to insure authentication. I will be curious to see how fast several of my photos are removed from the violators blog.

I have had several individuals request copies of my photos. Instead of a purloined picture, they receive a lab quality Kodak glossy print, in a reasonable span of time, for a reasonable cost.

In the final analysis, I guess it boils down to a matter of a man’s character. My Dad explained “character” to me as “As being able to do the right thing, even if no one is watching over you.” A person with little or no character will rip you off – make copies of your photos without permission. Who knows what other character flaws are exhibited by such person. You would never want to invite them in your home!

So perhaps that letter “C” with a circle around it can be an aide memoire of “character?”

Monday, April 6, 2009

CNR 4200 - 50 years old and still running!

Canadian National Railways 4200, Prince Rupert August 17, 1959. Following a disastrous experiment using SW1200RS units to haul varnish on the Prince Rupert Extension, management finally listened to the complaining road crews, and assigned Geeps to trains 195 and 196.

195 and 196 ran between Red Pass Junction and Prince Rupert. Steam was finally removed from passenger service at the end of 1957, with Pacific 5149 leaving Prince Rupert, and a duo of SW1200RS’s arriving from the east that same evening.

Even with being fitted with Flexicoil trucks, fancy number boards and multiple unit controls, the short wheel base of these glorified yards goats gave the crew a rough ride, despite the fact that top speed on the 715.3 mile Prince Rupert Extension was a incredible 40 miles per hour!

Anther factor that became evident after one or two encounters with rock slides was that running long hood forward for crew protection resulted in the unexpected proximity of the jackknifed second cab.

After about five or six months of trials, the SW1200RS units were replaced with GP9’s, as shown in this photo of CNR 4200. In this shot, the hostlers are running the power pack and her accompanying Steam Generator Car down to the wye, in preparation for the evening run up the Skeena River into the Canadian Wilderness.

The Canadian National Railways had just instituted a renumbering scheme, with the new 42-hundred series being renumber from the 44-hundred series. It was not hard to read the old unit number on the cab under the new coating of green paint and new road number!

It is important to note, that not "just any" locomotive could be used in conjunction with a Steam Genarator Car. Indeed, the cab needed a control panel installed, complete with wiring and connector plug, to mate with the gen car.

In all, 28 units, 4496 to 4609 were grouped together and renumbered 4200 to 4227. New orders from GMD began with number 4228 through 4244.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railways 4200 nee 4496, built by General Motors Division as a GP9, 1,750 hp in London Ontario, November 1956, serial number A-1014. Renumbered 4200 in 1957. Flexicoil trucks replaced with Bloomberg’s and renumbered back to 4496 in 1963.

Rebuilt as GP9RM (re-manufactured) up rated to 1,800 hp with a 16-645c motor, re-geared to 62:15 and renumbered 7258 in 1990, road class GY-418e. Typically mated with a daughter” unit. Still running!

See also "Steam Generator Car."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Shoebox #5 - Another "Upside down Aeroplane!"

Southern Pacific 10, Willits California, August 1963. Well, on my list of things to do today was to start throwing out photographs and negatives and slides containing stuff that I have no idea where it was taken or why, or really bad quality.

I began with that shoebox full of photos that I had purchased at Shories Bookstore in the Pike Place Market in Seattle many years ago.

You may recall that I did find a few goodies in amongst the “traders” and “fillers.” See:

Shoebox 1
Shoebox 2
Shoebox 3
Shoebox 4

I’ve gone through this box several times, but today was “use it or loose it” day. There was a set of four Polaroid’s, poor quality, but representative of a instant photography long before digital. Two shots of the Skunk M-100. One exposure was overexposed, the second – fair. Oh yeah, Polaroid photography was an expensive venture. There was always the obligatory over or under exposed panel that you ate or saved!

The third shot is of the Skunk and a Budd car. Budd car?

The fourth photo in the series is of a Budd car. The inscription on the back was in soft pencil, but I was able to make out, SPRR #10. So I dug out my Budd roster, and discovered, low and behold, I have got yet another upside down aeroplane in my collection!

This is because, despite the size of Southern Pacific’s coverage area, the road only purchased one Budd car. One! RDC-1 was purchased to run between Oakland and Sacramento, a service that continued through March 1959.

San Francisco and Eureka Railway formed by Southern Pacific Railroad in 1903 to build a connection from Willits to Eureka, forming a subsidiary, Northwestern Pacific in 1907. SP 10 was leased to Northwestern Pacific, running train #4 (northbound) and #3 (southbound) between Willits and Eureka, California. The 135 mile run, advertised as an “air conditioned streamlined car,” connected with Western Greyhound Lines running up US 101 from San Francisco.

(As an aside – looking at the Southern Pacific Timetable Form 2, April 26, 1959, you will see “Hamilton Field” – were I was stationed between 1964 and 1967.)

A close encounter with a truck, carrying railroad ties, ironically, demolished one control cab so badly, the decision was made to reconstruct that end as a mail and cargo compartment, thereby converting the Budd RDC-1 to a Budd RDC-1+!

In this rare view, you can see the reconstruction of the former “A” end, demolished in the wreck. Passenger capacity was reduced from 90 to 68, but she did well until service was abandoned in 1970.

SP 10 found herself on the Oregon Pacific & Eastern south of Eugene, Oregon on I-5, where she ran until 1978. Film buffs may remember the 1973 motion picture Emperor of the North Pole, starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine “The Shack”, and Keith Carradine, filmed along the railroad's right-of-way and using some of the company's equipment. The film was released on DVD as Emperor of the North in 1985.

“The Goose,”
as she was affectionately known on the OP&E, was then sold to the Center for Transportation & Commerce in Galveston Texas, where she was maintained in running condition until September 2008 at the Galveston Railroad Museum.

In early September 2008, the third most powerful hurricane to hit the mainland came ashore near Galveston. Among the causalities of this major storm was the Galveston Railroad Museum.

I just got off the phone (Friday April 3rd) after talking to the Museum Director, Mr. Morris Gould, and it was a heart-rending conversation. The destruction of the museum was almost complete. The area was under 4’ to 13’ of filthy salt water for up to 14 hours before the storm surge receded, and that was enough to do in the locomotive collection and virtually everything else.

Photographs of the extensive destruction are posted on their website.

In addition to the rolling stock of cars and locomotives, dozens of displays of “O” “HO” and other collections were inundated, along with collections of books and other historical documents.

Mr. Morris explained to me that the museum is working with FEMA and the Texas Historical Commission to determine what is feasible to try to salvage. On the short list is Union Pacific 410, a Fairbanks-Morse H20-44, unique in that it was the last of that model manufactured by Fairbanks-Morse in 1954.

According to Mr. Morris, it cost nearly $10,000 just to clear the site of sand, silt and snakes! He personally inspected the locomotives, and found salt water in all crankcases.

As for Southern Pacific 10, the “hybrid RDC-1”, her fate is as uncertain as the rest of the units.

Railroad Stuff: Southern Pacific 10, built as a Budd RDC-1, March 1954, serial number 5917.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who the heck is FRED?

Port Townsend, today. As I scan railroad picture-posting sites, am amazed at the luck of most railroad photographers to shoot on a sunny day, with lighting befitting a Hollywood lighting director.

These photographers never take photographs early in the morning, late in the evening, suffocating in smog, fog, rain, drizzle, flash flood, earthquake, hurricane, typhoon, forest fire, or tsunami!

Real trains just don't operate under those conditions!

For years my train-chasing friend - El Purington - and I slogged around Puget Sound and rarely found "calendar perfect" shooting days, on our days off. As you scan back though my blog, the wonderful treat we had with the Spokane Portland & Seattle (SP&S) down in Auburn, were shot late on a rainy, cold, overcast December day. We could not ask the railroad to bring the units back when shooting would have been optimum.

I remember getting up a 4 a.m. to get down to the Green River to shoot a Northern Pacific freighter, only to find the frigging bridge hidden by a blanket of fog! Fortunately, a gust of wind cleared the bridge just enough that my drive was not wasted.

And I stood on a damn stump for a half hour waiting in a downpour for a Great Northern freighter to clear Index, only to discover I was near a spur track instead of the main line and watched in disbelief as the freight roared by about a quarter of a mile from where I stood!

You get my point. Real Railroading is not under a blue sky 9,000 Kelvin 3 p.m. sun, in the middle of a high-pressure center, visibility unlimited!

Well, I'm on a roll now, so I may as well air my feelings about a couple of really irritating issues, at least for me. I occasionally find terminology or an abbreviation I do not understand.

Unfortunately for me, the picture poster assumes I share his wisdom. The photographer in his accompanying caption fails to explain what the term or abbreviation means. In my professional opinion, that can only be attributed to one a handful of reasons; poor sentence structure - not knowing how to present material properly, or a dash, however unintentional, of superciliousness.

Here is an example of one of my favorites: A caption accompanying a BNSF toaster oven - modern locomotive - “It is early morning as a BNSF Dash 300 roars out of Sky Tunnel with OKSDFS.”

What in tarnation is a Dash 300?

What does ODKSSF mean?

Fortunately, I’ve been around long enough to know that Dash 300 must be a designation for a locomotive model, and ODKFSS apparently is a code for the train, that either the writer hasn't got the foggiest idea what it means, but certainly could care less that we, the reader, know what it means.

(So whatever happened to Boise to Spokane 233, or Extra West 4455, or 1st section of 655?)

If you were cleaver enough you discern the six-letter code OKFSDD designation for the train, get off your ego trip and let the rest of us in on your secret!

Another one making the rounds these days - "DPU."

Well, bless my soul! Distributed Power Unit. The correct way to write the caption of your photograph would then be, Disturbed Power Unit (DPU) that way, the rest of us mere mortals would know what the hell you are talking about. (See the "New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage.")

My point being, rather than being smup about what you, share this information with the rest of us.

So, what is a DPU?

Oh! It is a helper! So, what is with the supercilious DPU?

Call it what it is; a helper. "Helper" has worked for a hundred years! And then go on to describe what kind of helper it is; a mid-train helper, or trailing helper, which may be on the rear pointy end of the train, or cut in two-dozen cars ahead of the caboose.


Ahead of FRED!

Who the heck is FRED?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Almost went to Mexico!

Union Pacific 1499, Argo Yard, Seattle June 14, 1962. Argo Yard was easy to “pre-screen.” As we drove south across the Georgetown Viaduct, looking to the right we could see if there was power down there or not.

If not, continue southbound to Milwaukee’s Van Asselt Yard. Being more of an interchange than a yard, per se, road power was rarely seen there, having made their drop in the middle of the night. Maybe see a switcher, and that only if they had completed their chores.

Some time ago, I detailed the yards that served Seattle during my “railroading” years, and discovered several yards had interesting backgrounds. Then I got to Union Pacific’s “Argo” yard, and found the source of its name plainly straightforward!

Alas, all of this history, all of the individual qualities that made railroading in Seattle what it once was began to crumble with the Burlington Northern Merger. Today there is absolutely no motivation on my part to go over to Seattle to photograph trains – everyone is shooting the same toaster ovens, of questionable ancestry.

Back to the 1499. Apparently, Mexican National Railways (NdeM) had placed an order for two General Motors FP-7A’s. They were built for NdeM as 9103 and 9104. The railroad defaulted on the order – no dinero – so Union Pacific picked up this unit and her sister 1498, nee NdeM 9103 in May of 1952.

Railroad Stuff: Union Pacific 1499, nee NdeM 9104, build as an FP7A by General Motors in La Grange, Illinois, April 1952, serial number 17234. When NdeM defaulted, sold to Union Pacific in May 1952. Removed from passenger service and regeared for freight service in 1956. Retired to General Motors on a trade in program in 1964.