Sunday, March 28, 2010

50,000 Visitors!

Port Townsend, today. We hit yet another Blog milestone when the 50,000th viewer signed in just a few minutes ago!

We don’t know specific details as to who visitor number 50,000 was. But from my monitoring programs, this much we know:

Our monitoring service tells us visitor number 50,000 signed in at 6:37:43 pm, from Castroville, Texas. And didn't stay long - 18 seconds. Not as dramatic as I would have liked! Sorry, there isn’t a door prize, just the bragging rights to being visitor number 50,000.

Not everyone who enters intended to be here. Placing “Oil-Electric” into “Google” yields much different results than plugging us into “Yahoo” or “Alta Vista.” And I’m sure the guy who was looking for a furnace filter had a few choice words about his search engine as he left!

And those are not singular events that are counted. In other words, our solid core of returning readers trips the meter with every visit. Some of you check in once a week, some once a day, and several up to two or more times a day! One can only hope you are on your break time, or better yet, own the company!

And we have readers from all over the world.

I did get sweaty palms for a while when the US Army listening post in Arizona, you know, the one detailed in Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger,” - Fort Huachuca - had me dialed in for a few days, but obviously I’m still here!

The photo used today is a Damoy Omnium Stereoscope; a very elegant French stereoscope made of chrome plated brass, geared shift focus, and metal eyepieces. The detachable wooden handle has a black lacquer finish.

This viewer was manufactured in 1910 and would have been the delightful center of entertainment for upscale French families, following an elegant dinner. Family and friends would “ooo” and “awww” viewing 3D stereo photos, featuring subjects from around the world, would educate, inform, and yes, even titillate audiences of all ages.

My French isn’t all that great; however we do have Babblefish. So I typed in the wording of the instruction sheet, which gave us this rough translation:

Stereoscope Omnium d' mode; employment
Take the handle the stereoscope in your right hand and the stereoscope in your left hand, in introduce the nipple. A. into square tube B. while pushing well from the bottom. This made, open l' apparatus, after having releases the right hand on the button. C. which forms spring. For the development, after having place the chart, turning the serrated roller. C. adjust for focus (sic).

View-Master Ad - 1959
Of course virtually everyone at one time or another got to play with a View-Master. View-Master reels were the master at telling a complete story in seven frames. My favorite was the Cisco Kid and Pancho rounding up a gang of bank robbers, in seven frames!

I remember us kids swarming the Admiral Theater in West Seattle in 1953 to see Vincent Price in the 3D version of the “House of Wax.” I still have those flimsy cardboard frames with the red and green plastic film lenses around here somewhere!

My sister reports having just seen the new “Alice in Wonderland” in 3D. She was very impressed with the quality and reality projected.

3D television has now arrived, to educate, inform, and yes, even titillate audiences of all ages. Aren’t you glad you forked out all that money last Christmas for a HD Plasma or LED display?

Should have waited

If you are the “hands on” type, who enjoys making things from scratch, here’s a project that will allow you to create your own stereo images.

Nevertheless, here we are on your computer monitor, in high definition 2D at 72 or 96 dpi, featuring subjects from around the world, to educate, inform, and yes, even titillate audiences of all ages!

And we certainly appreciate your patronage!

In response to many requests - and complaints about "lifted" photos being of "poor quality" - we are now making available prints from our blog articles.

Prints are high resolution, printed not on a home printer, but through arrangements with Shutterfly. We like the feature that allows us to send them the photo file which they send directly to you.

This eliminates the delay of prints being sent to me, then I have to turn around and send to you.

Photo prints are available only on photographs that I own. They are marked with either the "copyright" notice, or the "collection of" notice, which must not be removed or cropped.

Pictures I release to you may not be reproduced in any format, nor re-sold.

For more information, click on the "Order Prints" icon on the right hand margin.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Panama Canal Expansion

Port Townsend, today. I know, I know, this is supposed to be a railroad blog. But from time to time events occur that I am compelled to pass along to you. That's the beauty of a blog - flexibility!

I am will to bet you that you did not know there is a multi-billion dollar project underway to add a third lane to the Panama Canal. Don't feel bad, most people are pretty ignorant about the Canal and its history.

The expansion program quite literally began with a "bang"on September 3, 2007. Completion date set for 2014. Shown above is the artist conception of the third traffic lane locks at Miraflores, with its unique "water saving" basins.

My favorite line is "did you know the Canal runs north and south?" That's a good one to get a animated discussion going! I'll let you deal with that one for "extra credit."

At the Altantic end of the Canal, an equally imposing new traffic lane is being constructed at Gatum, shown here:

This document has all the facts you need to bring you up to speed on one heck of a challenging engineering feat, which rivals to completion of the original Panama Canal!

.Previously, I wrote about the Panama Canal Railroad, operated by Kansas City Southern, in the context of their state of the art Positive Train Control.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great Northern's Bridge 4

Great Northern 350A. Bridge 4, Seattle, July 15, 1961. It took a while, but I finally figured out how to traverse a trail through prolific indigenous blackberry bushes, to get a shot of Great Northern traffic crossing the Lake Washington Ship Canal, connecting Lakes Union and Washington to Puget Sound, at "Bridge 4."

Here is a full accounting of Bridge 4, a bascule bridge with an interesting history!

This post card rendering by Frank H. Norwell predates the construction of the U.S. Government Locks in 1917, which would have been in the background.  Indeed, looking carefully between the left and second pillars, (toward the east) you can see a web of steel which was probably the Northern Pacific bridge, which had to be relocated further to the east when the locks were constructed.

Great Northern 350A is bringing the International #357 down to Seattle from Vancouver. She left Vancouver at 8 am, and is running a little late – supposed to have been at King Street at 12:10. Here she is crossing Bridge 4 at 12:35 pm!

In its heyday, Great Northern ran two Internationals a day, a morning and late afternoon each way between Seattle and Vancouver, from 1950 through 1969. And the fare? $11.25 First Class, $8.90 coach, round trip!

It was a beautiful trip along the Puget Sound, which recalled the term “POSH,” from the days of the cruise ships from England to the Mediterranean. Book your cabin “Port (left) Outbound – Starboard (right) Home,” to avoid the blistering sun. On the train; to enjoy the waterfront view.

Bridge 4 is just to the west of the Lake Washington Ship Canal Hiram Chittenden locks. (Select the fifth virtual panorama in the menu, and you can see the bridge in the background.)

Forty-eight years later, in September 2009, while writing the three part "Alaska Railbelt Marine" story, I rode Western Towboat's "Alaska Titan" through the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Locks. That's Bridge 4 just beyond the Locks. (View looking west)

Here we are leaving the Hiram Chittenden Locks, with Bridge 4 just ahead.  By the way. Back in 1961, I returned six months later to shoot some freighters, and the shot was gone, totally obscured by the indigenous blackberry bushes!


Railroad Stuff: Great Northern 350A. Born EMC 350A, F3, 1350 hp, November 1947, sn: 4673. Wrecked and subsequently rebuilt in June 1952, as 1500 hp F7A. Mercifully, she was spared the indignity of the  “Big Sky Blue” paint scheme, and retired out to EMD in 1966.

See also:  NP Bridge 14

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Talgo's Ordered for the Northwest

Port Townsend, today.  Shortly after the Feds announcement of funding being made available for high speed rail service, we now learn the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has  just negotiated the purchase of two new passenger train sets from Talgo-America for the Amtrak "Cascades" Route.

Each 13-car train set seats 285 men, women, and screaming kids. Well, “screaming kids” is my editorial bias, based on personal observation!

The new trains will be will be updated versions of Talgo-made trains presently serving the Northwest. Amenities will include WiFi service, a “Bistro” food and beverage car, a business class section and baggage car bicycle racks.

The trains, which cost $18.3 million per set, will be assembled at a new Talgo-America plant in Wisconsin with a majority of “American-made” components. The locations of the assembly and maintenance facilities have not yet been determined, but are likely to be in south central or southeastern Wisconsin.

Aluminum alloy structural frame parts for the Talgo trains will be manufactured in Spain and then shipped to Wisconsin for assembly. Talgo will be working with Wisconsin and other U.S. vendors to supply parts for outfitting the trains.

A dedicated rail car maintenance facility will provide ongoing service for equipment used in the Midwest. Talgo currently operates a maintenance facility in Seattle, Washington, to service Amtrak Cascades trains.

Delivery is expected in 2012. The Oregon-owned trains will join five older Talgo-America train sets; Washington State owns three, and Amtrak owns two, as of this writing. The new equipment will provide continued Amtrak Cascades passenger service in the Pacific Northwest rail corridor between Eugene and Vancouver, B.C.

Performance Issues

Despite spikes attributed to the economy and gasoline prices, the load-factor for Amtrak system wide was 52%, the "Cascades" service registered 56% in the most recent report available mid-2009.

I'm sure that factor is negatively impacted by the Portland to Eugene segment, although that is my personal opinion. It's a logical function of population imbalance.

There have been improvements from the miserable 52% on time performance of the "Cascades" service, to near 80% last year.

And last year the “Cascades” recorded it’s 5th straight year of increased ridership, an impressive 823% since beginning of service in 1994. 

You’d never know it, driving on I-5!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Museum Train - Part 3

Museum Train, Prince Rupert, May, 1958. To help celebrate British Columbia's 1858 - 1958 "Centenry," Canadian National Railways has dispatched her "Journey into Yesterday" museum train. I think my sister was attempting a "B & E." Three legacy Grand Trunk locomotives accompanied the exhibit.

Grand Trunk Railway 247. This is an 0-6-0 "Saddle Tank" locomotive built at Grand Trunks Point St. Charles Shops in 1894, car number 1270. Small tank engines designed as yard engines were indispensable in assembling trains in railway yards across Canada Now you gotta love the conning tower in the cab!

Grand Trunk Railway 713. This is a 2-6-0 "Mogul" type, built at Grand Trunks Point St. Charles Shops in 1900. Road Class E-7-a.

It is likely that the locomotive class name Mogul derives from a locomotive built by Taunton Locomotive and Manufacturing Company in 1866 for the Central Railroad of New Jersey; that locomotive was named “Mogul.”

However it has also been suggested that, in England, it derived from the engine of that name, built in 1879 by Neilson and Company for the Great Eastern Railway.

Apparently she is still on display at the
Canadian Railway Museum in St Constant, south of Montréal, Canada, housing the biggest collection of locomotives in Canada.

Grand Trunk Railway 40. This is a 4-4-0 “American” type, built by Porter Locomotive Works in 1872. Road Class X-7-a. It was assigned the name “American” due to the large number of this class. The first 4-4-0 design was developed by Henry R. Campbell, then the chief engineer for the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railway. Campbell received a patent for the design in February 1836.

Museum Train - Part 2

Canadian National Railways Museum Train, Prince Rupert, May 1958. There is a loooong queue of Prince Rupert Natives waiting their turn to enter the “Journey into Yesterday” train museum.

This colorful train featured six exhibit cars plus three or four crew support cars, including a dormitory car and day coach for the traveling docents accompanying the exhibit. This photo must have been taken on a Sunday, as my Mom and Sister are in their Sunday best.

In addition to the historic exhibits, three legacy locomotives were included; GT 40 (4-4-0), GT 247 (0-6-0ST), and GT 713 (2-6-0).

The layout was very efficient; folks entered the first car and walked the length, exiting six cars later. Docents were dressed in vintage clothing to answer questions adding to the atmosphere of the dining car, coach, and sleeping car.

In the dining car, historic place settings (under Lucite!) were presented; demonstrating what class the Grand Trunk – later Canadian National Railways – treated her customers. Fine English Bone China, heavy silverware, and pure white linens.

The woodwork in all three cars demonstrated the lost art of heavy veneers and inlays. Placed in service in 1953, this train hosted thousands of visitors in both Canada and the US.

Museum Train - Part 1

Museum Train, Prince Rupert, June 1959. What a treat. I learned at the Yard Office that a very special colorful train would soon be trundling into town “Journey into Yesterday” was the name of Canadian National Railway’s Museum Train.

The train had its inaugural run in 1953, and consisted of six cars and three vintage steam engines. She hosted thousands of people in Canada and the US. On this occasion, she was brought in to help celebrate British Columbia’s Centenary – 1858 to 1958.

More than just a static display of the history of Canadian railroading, there were a cadre of men and women, dressed in period clothing acting as docents for this magnificent one-of-a-kind walk-through museum.

There were six cars which housed the history exhibits, and cars for the docents, including dormitory support. Each car interior replicated, to the smallest detail:

- An 1875 Dining car
- An 1859 Day Coach
- An 1890 Sleeping Car

And exhibit cars, containing such memorabilia as an original Chicago and Grand Trunk Railway timetable from 1880, plans for expansion to Manitoba and the “Northwestern British Possessions,” and the bell that heralded the record breaking 67 hour run of the first rail diesel car from Montreal to Vancouver in 1925.

Included were three vintage steam engines. This train was the last and only one of it’s kind.

I wonder what became of it?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deconstructing a GF6C Electric Locomotive

Port Townsend, today. Whilst researching the reorganization of locomotive repair and refurbishing companies here in the Pacific Northwest, (see previous post,) I discovered photo of GF6C BC Rail 6003, being dismantled at Coast Engine and Equipment Company (CEECo) at Tacoma. BCR 6003 was one of only seven engines of this type GMD ever fielded. She, like CEECo, was one of a kind.

We told the complete story of BC Rail and the GF6C’s in “Tacheeda, Bullmoose & Quintette.” It’s a three-part story, with the GMDL-DD GF6C being detailed in Part Two. And it's tough to look at the remnants of such a magnificent machine, who staked out an important chapter in electric locomotive design.

In June of 2005, Sean Lamb caught this deconstruction scene at CEECo at Tacoma, now also deceased. Many times when we look at photos like these, looks like so much stuff. But these are key components, the heart of what made the GF6C so unique, so I labeled them for you.

The GF6C was built on the same inch thick steel bed and High Traction (HT-C) trucks as the SD40-2. It supported a lot of weight:

* The parking hand brake was located inside the nose door. Behind it was a “super-duper-pooper” compartment.

* The “S7 cabinet,” weighs almost two tons. It formed the rear wall of the cab, separating the cab from the machine room. It was control central for all the “hot stuff.” The 74-volt panel, the 120/240-volt panel, the 480-VAC panel and the Locomotive Control Panel, which included lights, fuses, isolation switches, dynamic brake and miscellaneous switches and fuses.

* The Main Transformer, weighing more than 17 tons. Processed incoming 50kV 60Hz current.

* The Thyristor Rectifier Cabinet, including the smoothing reactor, weighing another 3.85 tons. Here, ac was converted to dc, and “smoothed” before being divided and fed to six three-ton dc traction motors!

When you think about it, an electric locomotive really isn’t a “locomotive” in the classic sense. It is nothing more than a shoebox on wheels, processing incoming electrical current and distributing it to a group of axel mounted traction motors.

Thankfully, one GF6C narrowly escaped deconstruction. She’s on display in Prince George, BC. And we related CEECo’s fate below.