Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Are We Doing in Parsons, Kansas?

Port Townsend, today. A recent news item drew me to Parsons, Kansas. If you have never been to Kansas, you are in for a special treat. Being from the Pacific Northwest, the first time we traveled east of the Rocky Mountains, I was flabbergasted at my first look at the mid-west.

Flat as a pancake.

My first road trip across this interesting country was in the early 1970's. My new bride was anxious for me to meet her family in North Dakota.

I could write and entire blog about that trip, but I know you are anxious to find out what flimsy excuse I have this time for deviating from Oil-Electric's Mission Statement.

When I gaze down upon Parsons, Kansas, in Google earth, the checkerboard symmetry of roads and highways reminded me of a remark I made to my newly acquired father-in-law; "Gee, there are some really long stretches of "thump-thump, thump-thump" concrete roads out here that go for miles, with offset intersecting side roads!"

At any rate, I am sure you are anxious to learn what are we doing in Parsons, Kansas. The last trip we made east to west across Kansas, my wife took over about half way, as we headed for Colorado.

I awoke from a nap, and looked out the window. There in the distance, a church steeple, water tower and grain elevator - another town. I asked my wife, "How fast are we going." She replied "80." I said, "Step on it!"

But neither the endless Kansas freeway nor a lesson in land surveying brought us back to Kansas today.

We are back in Kansas, because today, at Dwayne's Photo, in Parsons, Kansas, the last roll of Kodak Kodachrome film will be processed.

An article appearing in the New York Times, tells of a railroader, who, upon learning about the end of processing, sent in 1,580 rolls of film to be processed before the machine was shut down. As the article points out, Dwayne's is not closing, but ending Kodachrome film processing.

You can get one of those "collectible" T-shirts at Dwayne's web site.

I include here, a "Tribute to Kodachrome" Be sure to run the slide show.

For decades, the prima film chosen by photographers, from National Geographic to armatures who appreciated capturing an authentic image of what they were shooting. Some of my best shots were captured using Kodachrome ASA 25. The color rendition is as accurate as when I tripped the shutter more than 50 years ago.

On-line processing cannot replicate the crystal clarity of properly exposed Kodachrome. These slides are more than 50 years old, with no extraordinary "storage"

Slow ASA 10, later 25, speed and very fine grain yielded slides - or prints - as crystal clean with precise color as the day the film was exposed.

You had to have a steady hand, especially in low light conditions and fast action for the capture. But if you pulled it off, the results were stunning, even after all these years.

Paul Simon imortalized Kodachrome accurately with

"Kodachrome, it gives us those nice bright colors
Gives us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera, I love to take a photograph

So momma, don't take my Kodachrome away"

One of the interesting intersections of Kodak and railroading occurred with the failed merger of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific. I guess the merger was so assured, while the filing was still being processed by the Interstate Commerce Commission, the railroads began re-painting locomotives with the anticipated new color scheme!

Because of the similarity in colors used by Kodak packaging, rail photographers dubbed the new paint scheme "Kodachromes."

Southern Pacific 8530, Dunsmuir California, April, 1991. When the merger Southern Pacific and Santa Fe, fell apart, approximately 306 ATSF locomotives, 4 ATSF cabooses, 10 ATSF slugs, 96 SP locomotives, and 1 SP caboose had been painted in the new scheme.

The railroads made an effort to repaint locomotives in their standard paint schemes.
Santa Fe repainted all Kodachrome’s still on roster by 1990, though some engines “escaped” - were sold, in this scheme!

After the ICC's merger denial, rail fans joked that SPSF really stood for "Shouldn't Paint So Fast!”

Railroad Stuff: Southern Pacific 8530, Built as General Motors SD40, 3,000 hp, December 1978. SN: 786174-32. Modified as SD40-T, April 13, 1991.

Share with us your "Kodachrome" moment in the "Comment" section below!

See Also: Are We Still in Kansas?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winds of Change - Kitimat

Port Townsend, today. An associate Blogger in Prince Rupert, Scott Duffus, sent along a series of photos of the Canadian National Railway station in Kitimat, B.C.

Absolutely knocked the wind out of me.

I have written a couple of articles about Kitimat, which was built as a company town supporting a massive aluminum smelter. This is the way I would prefer to remember Kitimat:

CNR 5000 (4-6-2) on one of her final runs with Fourth Class Mixed Train at Kitimat, 1958

The Station was painted a muted green and gray combination, which really looked nice in its wilderness site, 38 miles south of Terrace, B.C. Unfortunately, my 35mm slides, less-than-Kodachrome, are fading.

Completed in 1955, Kitimat Station was known as a Special Floor Plan #100-356, incorporating passenger and package freight. Built at a cost of $92,142, the asbestos siding and roofing would be considered an absolute "no-no" in this era!

Most of the ingots cast at the smelter were shipped out by freighter. The line was serviced by a mixed freight, which served several logging shows. With a speed limit of 25 on the entire length, it was faster to drive your motor vehicle to Kitimat!

Almost dead center between Kitimat and Terrace (MP 13.4 timetable below,) a beautiful lake, Lakelse. My Mom and Sister decided they would do the Mother-Daughter Bonding Wilderness Experience there for a week in mid-1958. On the way, we stopped in Terrace and picked my buddy Ron Dolphin. (It was with Ron that I stayed on my overnght train rides to Terrace.)

Ron helped Dad and I set up camp for the ladies, and and bid them "fair thee well," planning on retrieving them the following weekend. My Dad was chuckling all the way back. He told Ron and I that by the time we got home, we would have received word begging us to come and get them!

We dropped Ron off in Terrace and continued back to Prince Rupert.

A week later, Dad and I drove up to retrieve the Happy Campers. Dad was chuckling all the way back to Lakelse. He said we would find them all packed up, sitting on the side of the highway, ready to come home.

Such was not the case. They claimed they wished they could have stayed longer! But knowing my Sister as I do, I never believed a word of it!

"Thanks" to Scott for sending his photos along. It has been interesting comparing and contrasting his current view of Prince Rupert, expressed through his blog, to the three years my family lived there, from 1957 through 1959.

See also:
Terrace, British Columbia

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lemon into Lemonade

Port Townsend, Today. The nation's controversial airport pat-downs and full-body scanners are here to stay, at least for now.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the [new pat down and scanning] systems on CNN this morning, crediting them with preventing “unknown numbers of potentially dangerous devices from making their way on to airplanes.

"The new technology, the pat-downs, is just objectively safer for our traveling public," Napolitano said. "We pick up contraband now, and we pick up more contraband with the new procedures and the new machinery. What we know is that you can't measure the devices that we are deterring from going on a plane."

  • “We know unknown numbers are prevented from making it onto planes.
  • "The pat down is objectively safer for our traveling public."
  • “We cannot measure the devices that we are deterring …”
That is "Janetspeak.” It doesn't have to make sense; that is not important. What is important is, that it sounds intelligent!

Our recent article, “If you touch my Junk,” chronicled the new touchy feely approach the TSA is taking to insure your flying safety, by giving you a tune up before you fly.

One admirable trait American entrepreneurs exhibit is an uncanny knack for taking “a lemon and making lemonade” out of it. With all the flap created by TSA agents groping and fondling passengers “junk,” it was inevitable that someone would seize the opportunity to profit from our suffering.

4th Ammendment Underware, takes an upfront approach, to let the TSA know that we know our rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment is clearly spelled out in metallic lettering for the edification of TSA employees, a constant reminder of the abuse they are perpetrating on fellow citizens.

Rocky Flats Gear takes a less instructive approach, realizing that logic doesn’t necessarily apply when dealing with the government. Rather, this line of protective underwear takes a more traditional, if not biblical approach, applying strategically placed fig leaves. Apples are optional.

A third company, Betabrands, invites you to submit your design for a pattern to be woven into underwear. Here is your chance to be a creative underwear designer, by designing a pattern providing strategic camouflage protection of your junk against intrusive x-ray snooping.

For the ladies, would a "ditch light" pattern be attractive? Or a more tongue in cheek "caboose" pattern work?

Fo the men, would a “Big Boy” pattern, for the “
size does matter crowd," or perhaps the more traditional, yet suggestive "Johnson Bar" be a possibility?

See Also: If you Touch My Junk ...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More on Mom.

Port Townsend, today.

[Ed Note: Regarding the story of Mom and the Indian Chief, I received additional information from my Sister.]

"Was thinking about your story about Mom on the Indian.

Did you know her first husband, Dennis Barroclough, had the first Indian Motorcycle dealership in Victoria (BC) and serviced all the bikes for the Victoria Police Department?

They owned a motorcycle with a sidecar. Dennis took her out to teach her how to drive it and ride in it.

He was riding in the sidecar and when they came around the corner by their house. She flipped him out.

But the kid that lived next door was watching, so she calmly kept riding like nothing happened, put the kick-stand down and walked into the house.

Dennis eventually dragged himself home."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Valemax: From Whales to Rails!

Port Townsend, December 25, 2010. I hope you have a Happy Holiday. Thank you for supporting "Oil-Electric."

You remember the "Whales." It all began last summer when the world was presented with a hastily modified the super tanker m/v "A Whale," sent to save the Gulf of Mexico by skimming oil from a runaway undersea oil well.

m/v A Whale skimming test Gulf of Mexico, July 2010

I was frustrated trying to learn more about this mysterious vessel.

Typing "A Whale" in Internet search engines sent back results ranging from "a whale is …" to "they call me Ishmael."

The breakthrough occurred when I discovered photos taken of her, months before she became newsworthy. A photographer shot the "A Whale," on her maiden voyage, waiting to load iron ore in Brazil. It is all chronicled in "A Whale: Super Skimmer or Great White Elephant?""

Remembering "Oil-Electric" is a railroad blog, I used the paradigm of the Whales to introduce the two longest Heavy Haul iron ore railroads in the world:
  • "A Whale: The Rail Connection" introduced the Estrada de Ferro Carajas, Vale's intense Heavy Haul corridor in Brazil. (Vale is pronounced "valley.")
  • "B Whale: The Rail Connection" introduced the second longest Heavy Haul corridor, the Saldanha Bay Export Line in South Africa. Part Two of that operation is in "re-write" and scheduled to be published soon.

Originally named Taiwan Marine Transport (TMT), Nobu Su, son of the founding father, known to be somewhat of a gadfly in the shipping industry, changed the name of TMT to "Today Makes Tomorrow."

Beside giving his company an usual name, Mr. Su knows how to have fun with naming ships. In addition to the five "Whales,"A, B, C, D, and E, he owns three "Elephants" A, B, and C, (tankers),

and two "Lady Bugs," A, B, and C, which are PCC's - Pure Car Carriers. And a host of other vessels.

By the end of 2010, Mr. Su's first five "Whales" are commissioned and in service on the oil and iron ore trade routes, with more on the way. (Thanks to Mats, ShipSpotting dot com) IMO number and name:
  • 9445473 F Whale - launched
  • 9468853 G Whale -launched
  • 9470040 H Whale - launched
  • 9470052 I Whale (sounds like an Apple mechanical whale...) On Order/Not Commenced
  • 9488279 J Whale - On Order/Not Commenced
  • 9488281 K Whale - On Order/Not commended
Checking with the marine reporting service, this is the position report as of today (Dec 24th) of the five Whales.

"A Whale" is crossing the Indian Ocean, having departed Singapore westbound two days ago. She completed a delivery of iron ore from Brazil to China.

"B Whale." She just completed hauling a load of iron ore from Saldanha Bay, South Africa, to China.

"C Whale." Following a delivery of iron ore to China, she entered the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, to pick up a load of crude oil.

"D Whale." Cannot locate her. The reporting service lost her?

"E Whale." Brand spanking new, is en-route to China with her first revenue cargo of iron ore wrest from the Sishen Mine in South Africa, last reported eastbound Strait of Singapore.

This is the iron ore terminal in Caofeidian, China, 130 miles ESE of Beijing, where "E Whale" will unload.

Regular readers of this blog may recall these vessels represent a departure from standard ore and oil transports. Classified as Very Large Oil Ore (VLOO) carriers. Designed to carry iron ore from Australia, Brazil, or South Africa, to China and Europe.

Instead of back-hauling empty, they can carry crude oil or other bulk liquid.

As an example, earlier this fall, the "C Whale"delivered a load of crude oil to the LOOP - Louisiana Offshore Oil Platform, traveled to PDM Brazil for a load of ore which was delivered to China, and is now in the Persian Gulf, once again loading crude oil.

Careful cleaning of the cargo tanks is requisite when switching from one cargo type to the next. In the "ore ship" mode, only pelleted iron ore is loaded, to prevent damaging tank lining.

A recent visitor to the Blog, remarking on the Brazilian EFC said, (sic) "If you think a 150 car freight with Distributed Power Units is impressive … well, you haven't seen anything yet!" He is correct. These Heavy Haul railroads routinely run regularly scheduled 330-car unit trains, in loop-to-loop service.

From mine to deep-water, computers insure maximum efficiency closely monitoring the entire production process. If there is break down in the mine, a derailment en-route, or a malfunction at the tidewater terminal, the entire process could be thrown out of whack.

Stockpiles at the mine and shiploader provide a shock absorber against such an occurrence.

This recent derailment on the Saldanha Export Line resulted in 100 cars and two locomotives on the ground. 100 cars! That is an entire average freight train off the track! Remarkably, the line was reopened in a week.

While certainly not an every day occurrence, this sinking of an ore carrier at PDM tied up that shiploader for months, until the wreckage was removed. Fortunately, two other berths were available; but this particular accident tied up the deepest loading pier.

To further illustrate the choreography at play, consider the latest "Vessel Position Report" for PDM (Ponta da Madeira, Brazil)

[click to read]

The report is broken down into three major groups:
  • Vessels Moored. Vessels currently loading at the three available berths.
  • Vessels in the Roads. Vessels anchored in Baia de Sao Marcos Roadstead. 14 carriers lined up waiting to load. Just like a long haul trucker, every minute a vessel is at anchor waiting to load, overhead expenses (bills that have to be paid whether the ship is working or not, like fuel, crew wages, food, supplies, etc., averaging $70,000/day USD,) in addition to charter fees ("rental" of the vessel,) are drawing down profit.
  • Vessels Scheduled. Vessels converging from all compass points on PDM. In the next 30 days, 40 additional ore carriers are arriving!
While that "pressure" or "potential" is felt all the way up the supply line to the mine managers, the most immediate pressure is on the terminal manager. He has three loading piers, only one of which has enough water along side, to allow the likes of the m/v "Bergh Stahl" to load.

When fully loaded, she sits the equivalent of seven stories into the water along side the pier.

As the worlds largest ore carrier, she can only fully load 350,000 tons of iron ore at PDM, and unload at Europort, the Netherlands. She can fully operate only between those two piers. I highlighted the "Bergh Stahl" on Vales Vessel Position Report. Here is the timetable to get her into position at Berth 1:
  • When I wrote this, the m/v Stellar Daisy is loading. She is scheduled to be finished loading 268,620 tons of ore, with an ETD (estimated time of departure) from Berth 1, on December 24th at 3:01AM.
  • The Alfred N has an ETB (estimated time at berth) at Berth 1, at 5:30AM. That allows two and a half hours for tugs to pull the Stellar Daisy away from the pier, get her on her way to sea, then assist the Alfred N into the pier and secured, ready for the shiploader.
  • The Alfred N has an ETD (estimated time of departure) 24 hours later, on December 25th at 15:29 (not 15:30!)
Vale operates a fleet of tugs at all her marine terminals. This is the newest, assigned to PDM. Tugs are allowed three hours to extract the Alfred N, get her on her way to sea, and assist the Berg Stahl into Berth 1 with an ETB (estimated time at berth) of 18:29 hours (not 18:30!)

I hope this gives you a deeper appreciation for the pressure on the operation, and why the Heavy Haul corridors must be maintained in peak condition to handle long heavy trains efficiently and safely.

Vale orders the largest ships in the world!

The "A Whale" and her sisters are capable of ingesting the contents of approximately 8 - 330 car ore trains. In the neighborhood of 265,000 tons.

These are simplified estimates to illustrate the relationship between vessel demand at the shiploader, as compared to the number of trains needed to fulfill that demand.

In August, 2008, Vale (pronounced "Valley") entered into an agreement with a Chinese yard to begin building a fleet of 16 - 400,000 Dead Weight Ton (DWT) iron ore carries. They will be the largest iron ore carriers in the world.

Steel Cutting Ceremony - September 2010
400,000 DWT ValeMax

Financing was completed several months ago. This is the yard where construction is underway on the first four of 16 vessels. Officially classed as "Valemax, " they are capable of carrying 400,000 tons - that's 50,000 tons more than the Berg Stahl.

That means, at 400,000 tons capacity, in round numbers, each ship will devour another 1 to 2 unit trains!

[click to enlarge, click magnifying glass to read]

Obtaining these photos and figures pushed me to new areas of Internet mining skills. I combed through dozens of web sites composed in Chinese, which I then processed through a page translation program, using "Vale" as my anchor word.

Boy, would I love to have a copy of those plans on the wall!

In building their own vessels, Vale will exert market pressure on Australia's Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton. And pressure on the South African government to keep the Saldanha Export Line in the competition.

By owing their own ships, Vale will be able to micromanage production costs all the way from the mine to the customer, without involving a third party charter.

Vale's operation in Brazil is damn near dead center between traveling around Cape Aghulas, across the Indian Ocean, and up the Asian East Coast to China, as compared to traveling through the Panama Canal, thence a straight shot to China. I measured it out. It is very close.

In anticipation of the Valemax vessels, new deep-water terminals have been under construction for some time in both Brazil and China.

To load these giant vessels, a new berth, Berth 4 is under construction at PDM in Brazil.

For unloading in China, several deepwater improvements are being added. One of the more dramatic is this new terminal at Lanshan, where two massive breakwaters have been built out into the Yellow Sea.

The top breakwater extends almost 3 miles, the lower, 1.7 miles.

Close up of pier under tower crane above

Clearly, Heavy Haul railroads are the critical link in the high stakes iron ore global market.

Thanks to Nobu Su's "Whales," we have been introduced to some high tech Heavy Haul railroads; Vales Estrada de Ferro Carajas, and TransNet's Saldanha Export Line.

I can hardly wait to see the first of the 400,000 DWT "ValeMax's."

Too bad the United States isn't in the game.