Friday, January 15, 2010

Guest Editor: Ron Ferrel on the Great Northern

[Ed Note: This is a new feature on Oil-Electric; “Guest Editor.” Ron Ferrel wrote today’s article. Ron is a retired mining engineer living with his wife in Beautiful Pocatello Idaho. Ron says he's an "infrequent" rail photographer, but does shoot "local oddities on the Union Pacific in Pocatello." As many of us have lamented, his favorite roads "GN, NP and MILW are long gone."

Ron is the Secretary of the Pocatello Model Railroad & Historical Society and takes pictures for the monthly newsletter. Be sure to leave a comment about this new feature below.]

Went to your site to download the NP FT calendar and found some photos of Seattle area (my original home town). On your blog about GN Alco 276B, you make a comment about numbering an A unit "B". Actually, GN's covered wagon numbering methodology was fairly straight forward if you know how they did it. Loco sets purchased in pairs were A-A and numbered in the 200 series.

They were separately identified as A and B, hence 276B is the second A unit of a 2 loco set. A 3 unit loco (A-B-A) was numbered in the 300 series and lettered A, B, and C. A four-unit A-B-B-A diesel was numbered in the 400 series and numbered A, B, C, D. That's why you could get an A unit lettered A, B, C, or D. Neat, huh?

The Alco demonstrator that GN bought was a 4 unit set A-B-B-A. When they bought it they broke it into 2 A-B sets, 278 A & B and 279 A & B, numbered in the 200's so the B on these are actually B's.
For every "rule" there's an exception and the GN was good at those. I think there are some 2 unit EMD passenger sets that are also physically A and B units as well as being lettered A and B. So, you might want to qualify my response a bit. But, anyway, now you know why a GN A can be a B. There were also 200 series FTA and FTB units that had "A's" lettered as "B."

Also in the Alco department, they also had 310 A, B, C which was an A-B-A set and a couple of 400 series A-B-B-A sets that I think got sold off to the SP&S.

I've found many little items in your photos not intentionally part of the subject. A GN flatbed MOW truck with a partial shell on it, other little things. I remember the Lander street wooden pedestrian overpass.

Oh, the MILW 514 (no dynamics) was used on the Everett to Cedar Falls line with a couple of other SD's. One ex-employee said they were called stump pullers and they actually used one to pull the old water tower down in Everett. They only had one fuel tank and the six axles helped spread out their weight on the light railed branch lines.

I was just telling my model railroad club buddies about GN using Buicks as inspection cars. A GN exec told us they used them because the staggered 39-foot rail joints would tear a Ford apart, but the Buick suspensions were such that the car rode along very smoothly. So, justifiable largess.

There are all kinds of interesting anecdotes to be absorbed as one goes along. On the GN's Alcos--road crews hated them, they were always breaking down and you had trouble stopping them exactly where you wanted. Shop crews loved 'em, guaranteed employment! Got this from an old head who has since passed on.

My wife and I have wanted to visit Port Townsend for years but have never managed to actually do it. We really like Victorian architecture and I've heard that Port Townsend has a fair amount of it. That's one positive aspect of progress passing one by. Seattle had spectacular Victorians, but now mostly gone.

I'm a retired mining engineer, one of the last to graduate from the University of Washington in Seattle. I got interested in mining from the little tracks that ran into underground mines, and then spent my entire career designing open pit mines. Now I can play trains full time.

I appreciate your photos from the late 50's to 60's. I learn something new every time I see a "new" one. I lived up on Magnolia hill in 1957 and often dropped down to Dravus street to watch trains, never took any photos though.
-- Ron Ferrel

Guest Editor
We invite you to participate as a Guest Editor here on Oil-Electric. All the advantages of publishing a blog article - seeing it in print - without the hassle of managing a blog.

If you have a photo or two and a story you’d like to share with our ever-growing readership, click on the email upside-down aeroplane in the right margin, and tell me what you’d like to publish here on Oil-Electric as a Guest Editor.

Yes, there is small print. Oil-Electric is a "Toaster Oven Free Zone." That means no Toaster Ovens or Big Macs are allowed. That means, to be a Guest Editor, rummage through those musty files, and find your interesting PRE-MERGER (March 1970) real railroading photographs and anecdotes.

We look forward to sharing your stories ... It should be a great experience for you!

1 Comments - Click here:

Rangachari Anand said...

Very nice article. Please keep more coming.

Post a Comment

"Comment" is for sharing information related to this article. "Anonymous" comments are not published.