Port Townsend, today. Ditch Lights were pioneered by the Canadian National Railways in 1955 or 1957. Today we see them in sleek lamp housings, along with other attention grabbing luminaries.
Ditch lights were NOT a factory option. They were added on in those divisions that had serious safety problems with rock slides, wash outs, and blind curves. They first appeared in Prince Rupert in 1957.
They were bolted on the hand rails of Geeps and SW1200RS's, and bolted to brackets mounted on cab units. And they were adjusted very scientifically - shining on the Engine House doors!
They were adjusted to cross beams 50 to 100 feet in front of the locomotive, giving the crew the effect of "seeing around a curve."
In those days, they were not about warning pedestrians or motorists. They were all about crew safety.
Pacific Great Eastern's RDC cars had them bolted on top of the cab!
I do not recall seeing them on Canadian Pacific engines at that time. None of my photographs taken in that era show any type of ditch lights on CPR locomotives.
And only those of you alive and well in 1957 can tell me what US roads were doing.
Obviously they became standard equipment and various light arrangements and flashing patterns have evolved.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Port Townsend, today. Ditch Lights were pioneered by the Canadian National Railways in 1955 or 1957. Today we see them in sleek lamp housings, along with other attention grabbing luminaries.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I went to Seattle the other day – actually twice in two weeks - something I try to avoid at all cost. While I consider it my “home town” something happened to it while I was in the Service from 1963 to 1967. Seattle grew.
Once upon a time, I produced a weekly half hour radio show entitled “We Believe in Seattle.” I conducted an interview with a senior planning manager of a company promoting new business in Seattle. He pointed out what many of us already knew in the 60’s. While Seattle owes its beauty to its watery venue, it is crammed between Elliott Bay and Lake Washington, resulting in a town that could only grow north and south, resulting in a high-density core.
This is why I do not like to visit Seattle – too much traffic. I mean here in Port Townsend, if you get four vehicles at a four way stop simultaneously, you have a traffic jamb!
Seattle has always been a maritime hub. During the Gold Rush, Elliott Bay was the principle staging area for people and goods heading “North to Alaska.” And the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay gave it another kick in the rear.
The Port of Seattle has gone out of its way to interface its activities with city residents. A prime example is “Jack Block Park” at the head of the Duwamish Waterway, named to Honor Jack Block Senior, a former Port Commissioner.
Port Commissioners in Seattle are elected by the citizens, rather than being appointed, as is the case in most American Ports. As a Port Commissioner, Jack Block Senior was not only voted into office by the people, but he was also a card carrying longshoreman, bringing a unique perspective to port deliberations. He served for 28 years until his defeat in 2001.
This rail loading bridge, at Jack Block Park, is one of at least four located on Elliott Bay that moved rail cars on to barges for transport not only around Puget Sound to places like Shelton, Port Townsend, Bellingham, Vancouver BC, and more important, to Alaska.
This type of rail bridge is unique in that there are no tower structures housing giant sheaves, cables, and counterweights to raise and lower the bridge to match the deck of the rail car barge.
The end of the bridge is supported by and floats on a water tank, housing several compartments. One only needs to pump water in and out of the tank to raise and lower the bridge, riding inside two vertical guides. The left/right tilt for fine-tuning the connection is similarity achieved.
Unlike a cable and sheave tower bridge, horizontal support with this type of bridge is achieved when the ramp engages and rests upon the barge.
This bridge is located just off Harbor Way, north of the Bethlehem Steel plant slag dump. The Northern Pacific, now part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe mega-railroad, owned the small classification yard located here.
Obviously now a part of Seattle’s waterfront history, “Jack Block Park” adjoining Terminal 5, is one of many parks and view points surrounding Elliott Bay owned and maintained by the Port of Seattle, offering residents a neat place to enjoy the waterfront and observe many Port operations.
Finally, while we generally think of places like parks as being named to honor deceased individuals, as of this writing, the Senior Block is still with us!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
After pumping air and a brake check, they'll follow about an hour behind 196 up the Skeena River. Long shadows are forming just after 1900 hours on a balmy evening in 1958.
The ditch lights are not yet a factory option. They were bolted to the hand rails, adjusted so the beams, as I recall, crossed 50 feet ahead of unit. Heat and juice for passenger cars provided by the steam generator car behind 1279. Top speed on the Skeena Sub was 45 for passenger trains.
Because of the short wheelbase, engines lurched and yawed and crews disliked them. I rode several times in second unit, and it was dramatic! After some months, Geep's, wired with remote control panels for operating the steam generator cars, took over the varnish.
Monday, September 21, 2009
While this blog is billed as a railroad blog, I had an interesting experience the other day I think you will enjoy. I was down to Safeway getting gas and this old 1913 Buick pulled in beside me!
If you have never heard one of those old time automobile engines, they sound exactly like J. Thaddeus Toad, Esquire’s automobile in “Wind in the Willows!” A kind of “pookty-pook pookty-pook” sound. This one really sounded neat!
In talking to the driver, I learned there was a gaggle of these pre-1916 machines billeted down the street. So I whipped back to my apartment to grab my camera.
[Ed. Note: One of the nice things about living in a small town is that nothing is very far. All this is taking place within four blocks of home!]
Next stop was the motel down the street. There were about two-dozen of these machines in the parking lot, hardly a sole around, so I just started taking photos. The group is The Skagit-Snohomish chapter of the Horseless Carriage Club of America stopped in Port Townsend for a day or so. Several dozen antique cars are on a four-day tour of the Olympic Peninsula.
While most of the vehicles were transported in large trailers, two members of this unusual caravan traveled in style – behind a 1967 Peterbilt Motor Home, out of Golden, Colorado.
Now to be sure, Peterbilt never built motor homes, but enterprising folks for years have taken the chassis of Pete’s, Freightliners, Mack’s – you name it, and put motor home modules on the frame rails, resulting in some nifty machines!
This matching trailer transports two classic cars. Connection is made with a standard highway truck "converter dolly." Often referred to as “Class C+” motor homes, these are beautiful and very spacious machines.
Now I do not know a darn thing about these old tyme auto-mobiles, other than that they represent the lower branches of the motor vehicle family tree. And I am not going to muck it up by yakking about them. Just enjoy the photos!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Here we go again!
Every time Norfolk Southern runs a flight of advertising touting locomotive fuel efficiency, the “how come a locomotive gets 400 miles per gallon when my beater only gets 9 miles per gallon?” questions begin anew.
A locomotive does not get 400 miles per gallon. That's an example of comparing "apples (ton miles per gallon,) to oranges, (miles per gallon.")
Years ago, Mr. David P. Morgan, distinguished editor of “Trains Magazine” wrote an editorial entitled “16 of ‘em in a block.” In that photo editorial featuring a two page spread black and white photo of a GM V16-567C motor, he went on to explain the fuel efficiency of that diesel engine.
During one of my infamous “clean the apartment” fits, boxes of “Trains” magazines went to the dump. Some time ago, I begged a marketing fellow in Chicago to find that editorial, written in the late 1950’s for me. I never got my hands on it. Too bad, because DPM wrote very succinctly about the fuel efficiency of that V-16.
To get a handle on how much fuel a diesel locomotive consumes, click on this link for some down to earth data!
To address that issue, the American Association of Railroads provides a carbon emissions calculator, fun to play with, yet a serious tool for identifying the output of carbon emission contribution into the atmosphere from a locomotive as compared to a truck.
Back to Norfolk Southern’s TV advertising copy. To call it “advertising slight of hand” would be disingenuous, the hypothesis probably being that the audience understands the difference between “miles-per-gallon” and “ton-miles-per-gallon.”
And while we can readily demonstrate that a train is more efficient than a truck for hauling freight, adding inland barge transportation opens up an entirely different playing field!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Editors Note: Been getting a little behind on my production schedule! Because I have just moved. Under normal circumstances, a move across town, across state or across country dictates boxing your goods and hiring a truck – so on and so forth.
But this move was only 30 paces down the hall. So I figured why box everything up to move it 30 feet and unbox it? Just move the stuff! So I went over to Safeway and grabbed a big cart, and began moving. Four days and 3,219 trips with the Safeway cart, the “move” is accomplished.
The difference is at the end of the move. With everything in boxes, you un-box stuff and put it away. Organized chaos. I am now faced with is this massive pile in the living room. I should have moved across state!
So you think you are pretty well informed as a ferroequinologist? Try answering this question: Can you diagram the history of the Columbia & Port Deposit Railway Company showing how it ended up being a part of Conrail?By clicking on “Merger Trees” you cannot only find the answer to that question, but a ka-zillion other facts. The merger trees form a virtual encyclopedia of American railroad history, on a site created by a gentleman from France, Laurent, who has likewise posted "Oil-Electric" to his preferred reading list.
Being a somewhat competent researcher, I can appreciate the work this fellow has created. I can only imagine how it was accomplished. The only way it could be done is by going backwards through each railroad, charting its beginnings and from whence it was begot!
But wait! There’s More! We are all familiar with locomotive rosters, which can be a momentous challenge to accomplish for the prototype folk. But as applied to HO scale?
Well, this fellow has also included on his site, an HO Scale Motive Power Roster, which includes Atlas, Kato, and Life-Like.
And BNSF “Toaster Oven” fans will find a wealth of material on that mega-railroad.
Finally, “Merger Trees” has been scrubbed by the World Wide Web Consortium Hypertext Markup Language Standard 4.01 (W3C HTML 4.01.) This means his site meets a high standard of technical construction: pages load quickly, error free, with no dead links, earning honorable mention on my Blog.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Port Townsend, today. Introducing Scott Duffus. Scott has an interesting rail blog entitled “Prince Rupert Rail Images.” What makes his blog so interesting is that Scott is a current resident of Prince Rupert BC, whilst my offerings were shot there when my family were residents some 50 years ago!
Geeze! When I put it that way, 50 years ago, that’s a gawd damn half century ago. Funny thing is that I don’t feel that old!
I’ve been hoping to see more posts from Scott, but he explained to me that he is a very busy family man, while I am retired and have more free time to devote to my writings.
I really look forward to Scott's postings because I am anxious to see the changes made from when we lived in Prince Rupert. When I look at Scott’s blog, I am amazed to see big bore horsepower that I cannot identify, and changes in the scenery that I can’t comprehend!
For example, you’ll see Trans Canada Highway 16 blacktopped, with a center line and fog line! It had only been opened about 15 years before we moved up there in 1957, dusty gravel in the summer time, muddy gravel in the winter.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
South Carolina is having a heck of a time shaking it's "hillbilly" reputation. The state has fielded one of the better teams of Republican dolts.
First the problem with Governor Sanford who goes AWOL and thinks he's done nothing wrong. And now tonight's absolutely incredible outburst at President Obama by Joe Wilson, Republican Rep from South Carolina.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with political dissent. It's the "American" way. But Wilson's outburst shows an ignoramus mentality. A hooligan. A total lack of moral fiber. How in the hell did he get elected?
Furthermore, the coward went into hiding shortly there after, rather than take the high moral ground of apologizing in person. His web site is "unavailable."
I feel the shame and sorrow of the decent citizens of South Carolina tonight.
What's that I hear in the background? Uhm. Sounds like the mumbler, Bob Dylan, who's been telling us now for what, since 1964 - that's 45 years! "The times they are a changing..."
Index: Joe Wilson
Monday, September 7, 2009
Port Townsend, today. We have reached some kind of “milestone” today with posting number 400. I am not sure what kind of a milestone it is. If it were number “500” then we’d be half way to “1,000.”
But 400 does represent almost two years of dedicated research, writing, and re-writing. It has been a logical extension of my “working career.”
The premise of the Blog was to write a story on each negative or transparency I had shot since age 14 up through the Big Merger. Early on, I intended to rotate between the railroads I had photographed as a young man; Canadian National, Pacific Great Eastern, Northern Pacific, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, Great Northern, and the Milwaukee Road.
But the ratio was not thought out fully. For example, I only have maybe two dozen Southern Pacific, as opposed to a lot of Canadian National. So, that format quickly died a natural death.
And so the Blog has morphed into one that is more spontaneous, which means something like “Fade to Quiet” triggers a rejoinder resulting in the Blog article, “Clark-ee Idaho” that I just published.
And that is okay. I am not the same person I was two years ago when this all started. So, it is okay to adjust objectives. In fact, to maintain “freshness” it is imperative to recast your itinerary from time to time.
I have met some fine folk through this experience. The most profound recently happened when I published “A Tribute to Johnny Bateman.” I have received some moving emails from relatives of the family. And the experience brought me around full circle to those days in Prince Rupert in the late 1950’s when I met Mr. Bateman.
Mr. Bateman was the Foreman of Engines in Prince Rupert. And he laid down a few rules for this youngster to follow if I wanted to continue hanging around “his shop!” And without access to “his shop” my railroad experience would have been very different from what is was.
What has not changed is the process. Long before a negative is scanned, a storyboard must be created. It can be as simple as a “mental” image, scribbles on a page, or a formal work of art, but before any visuals are selected, a storyboard – visual map if you will – must be created.
An article typically goes through four phases:
1. Picking the subject material. A lot of that comes from doing mindless “reps” in my “Exercise for Health” class up at Jefferson Health three times a week. I begin formulating my next article in my mind, and work out a “carrier” mechanism for the article.
2. Writing. That is the fun part, researching, writing and modifying the article, trying to present the written word in a colloquial format. Part of the success I had as a successful video producer was in insisting that the written word be as close to the spoken word as possible. “Forget the King’s English!” I decreed. “Write for the audience, not for yourself!” The goal for our training programs was to make a script flow so well, that the narrator would sound like he was talking, not reading a script.
Many times, I find conflicting, or worse, missing information or supporting documentation about my subject. In those cases, I send out emails requesting clarification, and often just pick up the dang phone and talk to the individual who can help me in person.
3. Visualizing what I have written. Many of my negatives are 35mm. And worse than that, they are Tri-X, which was selected at the time – years ago – because of its “speed.” 200ASA, and 400ASA, which got grainy fast! I use a good scanner software package, which overtime, has allowed me to produce a pretty decent print. And I calibrate my monitor and system at least twice a month.
4. Posting. Google Blogger is a free program. I know subscribers often receive two or more notifications of the release of an article. It is a free program. Many times this is the result of “unexpected results” posting to Google Blogger, requiring tweaking and re-posting. It is a free program.
In the end, while I hope you enjoy my writings, perhaps learning something you did not know about the subject presented, it is therapeutic for me. In my case, following retirement, I perceived a vast emptiness. No more interaction with employees, no more problem solving discussions, no specific goals and objectives for the day.
Writing this Blog fills many of those voids.
Index: 400th Posting
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Lewsiston Idaho, September, 1982. Several days ago, “Lost Rail” offered an essay entitled “Fade to Quiet,” recalling the Milwaukee Road’s Elk River Branch, known today as the Saint Maries River Railroad, located in western Idaho.
Reading “Fade to Quiet” evoked memories of long ago, when I spent the better part of a day flying in a helicopter over the stunning beauty of the St. Joe National Forest. It was sensory overload for me, sitting in an open doorway of that chopper, bracing my video camera on my knee, eyes blurred by the wind, trying to hold steady on logging trucks moving deep in the dark green forest below.
I was commissioned to produce a sales program on the Hale Hydraulic Retarder. That in itself nostalgic, as Hale Retarder had set up shop on Quimby Street in Portland, where Freightliner Trucks had their original assembly line back in the ‘50’s.
It was an engine retarder for class 8 diesel trucks. When engaged, the diesel engine of the truck became a hydraulic pump. By forcing hydraulic fluid through an adjustable constriction operated by the driver in the cab, vehicle speed was arrested descending a grade.
The idea was pure genius, invented by the Hale Brothers who were loggers down in Swisshome, Oregon. It did not require the complex engine modification like the Jacobs Brake. And, unlike the Jacobs Brake or Blue Ox exhaust brake, the Hale Retarder was absolutely dead quiet!
The timber industry was the engine that drove the economy of this area, rich in history. Formed in 1903, the Potlatch Lumber Company (from the Chinook word for" gift giving ceremony") built a 47 mile railroad from the interchange with the Northern Pacific Railroad at Palouse, Washington.
Named the Washington, Idaho & Montana Railroad, surveys began in 1905. The purpose of the line was to connect their successful mills at Potlatch, Princeton, Harvard, Deary, and Bovill, gaining access to thousands of acres of valuable White Pine forests.
Despite its ambitious name, the line never made it past Bovill, Idaho, arriving there in 1907. In 1962, the railroad was sold to the Milwaukee Road. In 1980, sold to the Burlington Northern. Purchased from the BN in 1996, the line operates now as the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad, terminating at Princeton. That portion of the line running from Harvard to Bovill was abandoned in 2000.
To the north, the Milwaukee Road Elk River branch line, constructed between 1909 and 1910, started at the main line at Saint Maries, and ran 72 miles south through Clarkia, Bovill, terminating at Elk River. As with the WI & M, the purpose of the line was to tap rich timber country, crisscrossed with logging lines.
Clarkia (CLARK-ee) was named for a plant - clarkia pulchella – a tiny plant that so fascinated William Clark of the Lewis and Clark “Voyage of Discovery,” his 500 word description of the plant has become a minor classic!
The Elk River branch line arrived in Bovill three years after the Washington, Idaho & Montana. When the Milwaukee Road expired, the line was sold to Potlatch Corporation (renamed in 1973) and named the Saint Maries River Railroad. The acquisition included the 18-mile stretch from Saint Maries west along the Milwaukee main line to Plummer Junction, an interchange with the Oregon Washington Navigation & Railroad, now Union Pacific.
Milwaukee Road Time Table #30 from September 25, 1960 traces that 72-mile expedition into timber country.
One hamlet on this line just north of Fernwood, - “Santa” – faced with declining timber demand, tiny Santa made national headlines back in 2005 with this clever marketing idea to shore up its waning economy!
Having expended considerable fuel in a fruitless search for a grade known as “Telephone Booth Hill,” we made a fuel stop at Bovill, Idaho.
In this view, looking west, the former Milwaukee Road’s Saint Maries to Elk River branch line enters at the bottom center of the photo. Bovill is in the distance. Log bunks are discernable on what I now know to be the Saint Maries River Railroad. A line angling off at the lower right is a leg of a wye, which was the connection with Washington, Idaho, & Montana RR. The other line runs just a short distance to a log-loading stub.
Hillcrest Helicopters had a fuel cache (“cash” not “ca-shay” as you often hear the word incorrectly articulated) at various locations, such as here at “Femrite International Airport” thereby extending their operating range from Lewiston.
Notice the lack of TSA! Those were the days when flying was fun.
This view was shot as we approached Clarkia from the west, just a short run - 15 miles from Bovill. You can see two logging trucks heading east on Popular Street into Clarkia.
I was to meet “Jump Up John” He had the Hale Retarder installed on his Kenworth. The plan was for me to record the ease with which a fully loaded log truck could be restrained on a downgrade. Local legend explained that he earned the nickname “Jump Up John” because he could stand next to his Kenworth, and leap up onto the frame rails.
The meeting time was a little loose, what with the distances involved in a remote area long before the days of cell phones. Just after noon, the Bell Ranger I had rented set down in Clarkia, a genuine logging town with a railroad reload (the Saint Maries River Railroad) row of old wooden houses, and a general store.
As my ride lifted off, leaving me with a pile of camera gear in the middle of nowhere, I asked one of the five or six women who had ventured out onto the front porch of the general store “Where am I?”
The women looked incredulously at me, and one of them asked “Didn’t you know where you were going when you landed here?” I could not let this moment slip by. I responded, “They dropped me off because I farted!”
The looks were unforgettable!
It was one of those marvelous general stores found only out in timber country miles from anywhere. Stocked everything from dynamite to pantyhose. It was the kind of store you can spend hours exploring. Creaky oiled floors, with that wonderful oiled wood floor smell.
And in the back, a long thick marble counter with six or seven stools covered in yellowing white vinyl. An honest to god old-fashioned soda fountain. Gradually suspicions about me thawed, and the woman sitting near me with a big damn shot gun laying on the counter in front of her asked who I was meeting up with.
I told her, “Jump Up John.”
“Yeah,” she said, pulling the shotgun a little closer, “I’m waiting for him too!”
Just at that moment, Rod Serling appeared at the front door:
“Consider Robert. A video producer finds himself at a remote general store. A shotgun-toting woman dressed in dark denim. A combination of improbable events. A practical joke, wearing the trappings of nightmare, of terror, of desperation. Small human drama played out in a lonely forest 68 miles from Lewiston Idaho U.S.A., continent of North America, the Earth, and of course - the Twilight Zone.”
Well, it was not as dramatic as all that. Turned out the lady was John’s wife. It was John’s shotgun. And he was to drop it off in Lewiston for repair.
About every five or ten minutes, a log truck would stop out front, the driver dash in and grab a six-pack of Mountain Dew. After four or five such occurrences, I thought, “Damn! What a place to shoot a Mountain Dew commercial!”
By and by my client drove up, and informed me that the video shoot would be scrubbed with “Jump Up John.” His Kenworth had experienced a dashboard fire causing him to miss his turn in rotation up to the loading site, about 40 miles round trip from where we were in Clarkia.
[As it turned out, my client had accidentally left a screwdriver in “Jump Up John’s” dashboard when installing the special gauges we needed for the demonstration. It was reasoned the screwdriver had caused a short, resulting in the dashboard fire.]
But my client had a plan “B.” I would ride from Clarkia up the mountain with another log truck driver, video taping our descent down the mountain with a load of logs. Although he was not equipped with the Hale Retarder, the footage was invaluable to visualize the exceptional haul road conditions in the magnificent St. Joe National Forest.
And I was giddy at the prospect of riding in a logging truck. Until I discovered there was no passenger seat. Just a big toolbox to sit on. But I really enjoyed the trip!
A special “Thank You” to Dave Honan for graciously allowing me to feature one of his photographs taken on the Saint Maries River Railroad in September 2008. GP-9's 101 and 103 are reflected on the beautiful Saint Maries River. You can view Dave’s many interesting contributions on Railpictures.net.
The September 2009 edition of the St. Maries “Gazette Record” announced, “No more log trains from Clarkia.” “Potlatch Corporation recently closed the huge log yard at Clarkia, opting instead to haul logs directly to area mill for processing by truck. The line will continue to transport finished wood products from St. Maries to Plummer. (Interchange with Union Pacific.) Comment was declined on rumors that the Saint Maries Railroad is up for sale.”