Monday, February 28, 2011

UP 1459 - Updated Story

Union Pacific 1459A, Argo Yard, Seattle, July 31, 1961. Leave it to Union Pacific to have interesting power packs on display at Argo Yard. Today was no exception. As a mere lad of 18, this would prove to be my last summer of dedicated "train chasing" and locomotive photography. In less than two months, I would be off across the Cascades to Pullman, Washington, to begin my inauspicious pursuit of a college degree at Washington State University.

Seattle was the "end of the line" for the Union Pacific, who never did lay rails from Portland, Oregon. In 1910, Union Pacific began running from Portland to Seattle, thanks to an arrangement brokered by E.H. Harriman giving UP access to the Puget Sound on Northern Pacific steel to Tacoma Junction. From Tacoma Junction to Black River Junction, via Milwaukee Road. Finally, laid their own steel from Black River Junction to Argo and Union Station.

Furthermore, Union Pacific shared Union Station, across the street from the original Union Station - now King Street Station, with the Milwaukee Road to service her passenger trains. Seattle on the "cheap."

There was always a feeling of anticipation as we made our rounds of Seattle's varied and distinctive rail facilities. Interbay, Stacy Street, Duwamish Interchange, and now Argo Yard, on our way to VanAsselt, ending the day with the Northern Pacific at Auburn.

We could find a set of drumming FM Opposed Piston passenger units, providing rhythmic backup to a chanting set of cab-less road switchers, or even a veteran of the first round of diesel warfare, the esteemed F3. I was always curious to know if the chain link fencing on the locomotive was designed to keep the critters "out" or "in."

Items of Curiosity: Perhaps you are able to explain the purpose of the exterior piping on the roof of 1459. In addition, can you explain why two distinctly different journal boxes on the front truck?

Update, March 1st.

I sent my inquiry to Utah Rails, a site that has the most comprehensive history of Union Pacific motive power on the net. As to the pipes on the roof, Don Strack responded:

The pipes (on the roof) were cooling coils for the air line between the air compressor and the air reservoirs.

As to the journal boxes on the leading truck:

Half of the roller bearing business went to Hyatt (a division of GM), and half to Timken (a direct competitor of Hyatt's. Probably due to a shortage of materials during and after the war.

The square ended journal boxes (rear front axle) could have a speed recorder drive mounted into it. Not possible with the sloped front journal box (leading front axle).

Inside the journal box was a thrust block to absorb the lateral shock of the lateral movement of the axle (traction motor). In the square boxes (rear front axle) the spring plates that supported the thrust block had a hole through it for the speed recorder spline drive. The plates in the sloped boxes had no holes.

The boxes were totally interchangeable except for the option of applying a speed recorder drive.

When applying a traction motor to the position of the speed recorder drive, the axle had to have a splined hole in the center of the axle. Not all traction motors have the splined hole in the end of the axle. On the Union Pacific all the oil bath journal boxes were Hyatt and all the sealed grease boxes were Timken.

Thanks, Don!

Several readers wrote in to explain the pipes on the roof were part of the train radio system. Wrong answer! Your "homework assignment" is to review "Induction Trainphone."

Railroad Stuff: Union Pacific 1459A, built as UP 908, June 14, 1948 by General Motors as a 1,500 hp (1,100kW) F3A, serial number 6663. Renumbered UP 1459, September 1953. Traded to General Motors in May 1964.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pinched or Screwed at the Pump?

Port Townsend, today. Everyone is feeling the "Pinch or Screw at the Pump" these days, and of course, the oil companies, (whom the Republicans love to give massive tax credits to,) are going to "milk" the unrest in the Middle East for all it's worth.

Looks like another banner year for oil company profits, and it's only February.

I am really confused about all this, since what goes on in the middle east has zip to do with our gasoline supplies. Here in the Pacific Northwest, our gasoline comes from refineries in Anacortes, processing crude oil shipped by tanker (remember the Exxon Valdez?) from the North Slope via Valdez. Still more crude comes to Anacortes from B.C.

There are pipelines transporting product in western Washington and Oregon from Anacortes, Washington - Kinder Morgan and Olympic. Chevron supplies the eastern part of Washington and Oregon via pipeline from Salt Lake City, and Yellowstone delivers across Montana and Idaho into eastern Washington.

I think we are getting screwed at the pump. And I don't hear a damn moan or groan from anyone about it!

Even the folk who haul the crude are looking for ways to reduce their liability during this period of elevated oil prices. Maersk Tankers announced a change in modus operandi in a recent news release:

Maersk Tankers is taking slow steaming to a new level on its VLCCs with speeds as low as 8.5 knots – something that no other tanker owner has done.

The company said that it had taken a hard look at bunker consumption, which for example, on the VLCCs makes up about 85% of the voyage costs.

By slow steaming, the company had significantly improved earnings over the past 18 months, compared to competitors.

Ballasting at 8.5 knots – compared to the normal 14-16 knots - saved about 50% in bunker costs on the ballast leg and removed $400,000 on the bunker bill for a standard round voyage.

However, it also added another 11 days to the voyage, but as Maersk Tankers’ CEO Søren Skou commented in a recent interview:

“What it effectively means is that on an Arabian Gulf to Japan or China voyage the fuel savings will pay for the additional days. It doesn’t really cost you to extend the time the voyage takes and you are doing something good for the environment.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revised Service Exclusion Signage

Port Townsend, today. The owner of a cafe near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the TSA knows of his displeasure over invasive screen procedures. An employee has offered this explanation:

“We have posted signs on our doors basically saying that they aren’t allowed to come into our business. We have the right to refuse service to anyone.

"If he (my boss) sees a TSA agent come in, we turn our backs and completely ignore them, and tell them to leave. Their kind aren’t welcomed in our establishment.

"A large majority of our customers — over 90 percent — agree with our stance and stand by our decision.

"We even have the police on our side. They have helped us escort TSA agents out of our cafe. Until TSA agents start treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve, then things will change for them in the private sector."

Seem a little over the line? Consider another incident this past weekend at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, involving Alaska State Representative Sharon Cissna, faced with a TSA pat-down Sunday February 20th.

Having recently undergone a mastectomy, she refused the pat-down. She underwent the invasive procedure southbound to Seattle, and the experience left her shaken.

"It feels like torture. It's a horrible experience. "My upper torso doesn't look exactly the same as it does for somebody who hasn't been through that," she said.

Cissna said she required a pat down for the same reason three months ago and obliged. After that experience, however, she vowed to never go through it again. "It's extraordinarily invasive. I was in full sight of everybody of going through that process."

Thus refused boarding Alaska Airlines, Cissna and her husband rented a car, drove to Bellingham and returned to Juneau on the Alaska State Ferry.

Her colleagues praised her actions.

Last Wednesday, Reuters News Service reported the arrest of two TSA agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport, accused of stealing $40,000 cash from a passenger's bag.

TSA "Agents" Davon Webb, 30 and Persad Coumar, 44, are believed to have committed earlier thefts as well. The investigation began on January 30 when another TSA agent tipped police that the two agents had taken money.

Coumar allegedly X-rayed a passenger's bag and found cash inside. Coumar told Webb, who allegedly marked it with tape. Coumar then located the marked bag in a luggage area, took out cash that he hid before taking it home.

Authorities said they found roughly $40,000 stashed at the homes of Coumar and Webb. Police said the men confessed to other thefts that could total as much as another $160,000.

By the way. Excluding the TSA from a restaurant is perfectly legal, just as refusing service to people without shoes and without shirts. The exclusion is not the same as refusing service on the basis of ethnicity or race.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Out of conflict ... accord."

Port Townsend, today. A remarkable day in Madison, Wisconsin. As I watched the throng of men and women struggling to hang onto the right to collective bargaining, I remembered some of the crummy jobs I've held over the years, where the only recourse to workplace injustice was to walk out the door.

And I recalled conversations with my Dad over his early years as a marine engineer, before they had a union on the boats.

Sure there are examples of excesses on "both sides." But the alternative, not having recourse in the work place against bad management, results in a terrible, frustrating way to earn a paycheck. I've experienced it.

"The stamp's theme, "Out of conflict... accord," is one to which every citizen can subscribe.

The fact that we have developed a strong, flexible collective bargaining system stands as a tribute to the millions of men and women of both labor and management who have devoted themselves to building a better and better America.

Our people cannot live on islands of self-interest. We must build bridges and communicate our agreements as well as our disagreements. One of the longest and sturdiest bridges in this land is collective bargaining.

Today, more than ever in the past three decades, there are really three parties at each bargaining table--management on the one hand, labor on the other, and the third, our national welfare.

There is an ever-growing responsibility on two sides for restraint in the interest of the third party--our national interest. I most sincerely ask all of you here this evening, and all members of labor and management teams around 'the country, to remember that there is a silent partner sitting down with you at each bargaining session, your fellow citizens everywhere.

Let's try to remember, as we can, bearing each individual's respective responsibility, America's interests, and the search for social as well as economic progress-our objectives, yours as well as mine, are as old as human nature. Each man and each woman are the roots of his or her own survival.

So, it is so true in democracy. Democracy has within it the roots, as well as the strengths, to save itself. And that strength is national unity and a strong, strong national purpose."

Those words were not spoken in Madison, Wisconsin. They were delivered by President Gerald Ford on the occasion of the first day issue of the 10-cent "Collective Bargaining" stamp, almost 35 years ago to the day, on March 13, 1975.

Our system of Collective Bargaining has a deep rooted history, which can be traced back to 1800 B.C. What came to be known as Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, was honored by the issuance of this US Postage stamp.

ADR was first brought into serious conflicts between labor and management in two heavy US industries; the coal miners, and the railroads.

As you read Fords words, think about the thousands of union workers gathered in Madison Wisconsin, and what they represent, and what they are in danger of losing. And the further threats nationwide as Republican governors move to eliminate collective bargaining for state employees.

And just this past week, the TSA narrowly avoided losing their newly won right to collective bargaining, even before they got to use it!

President Ford's observations are as true today, as they were in 1975.

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where's the Blister?

Prince Rupert BC, May 24, 1959. A pair of GP-7's have just returned from a trip through the wye. The CNR ran long nose forward. Since the ditch lights were bolted onto the nose of only one unit, the set had to be turned.

The 4822 will be the lead power pack for 922,the late evening Time Freight heading up the Skeena River and beyond to Red Pass Junction. Pooled power on the Western Extension was such that only occasionally did a unit show up that I hadn't taken a photo of. When I spotted something new in town, I'd shoot it if I had my camera along, and lose it if I didn't.

At age 15, I was working part time as a box boy at Three Boys Market on the weekends, cutting into my train photography. Of more significance, I had begun cultivating a new phase of my life, a lady friend! I discovered early on, that a man has to learn to prioritize correctly or pay the price! So railroading was struggling to maintain a foothold!

Somewhat of a curiosity, this is one of four units delivered without dynamic brakes in this class. Not completely an outcast, there were a number of GP-9's built for the Grand Trunk Western without dynamics. While it may seem like no big deal if you were used to seeing units without dynamic brake blisters, to me, these units seemed "unfinished."

Also noteworthy, this unit has Blomberg trucks, wherein succeeding orders shipped with Flexicoil's. This series were the only Geeps to be equipped with the Pyle "barrel" headlamps. Subsequent orders came with twin sealed beams. She has the smaller 1,000 imperial gallon fuel tank to save weight, and of course, the Canadian invention - the ditch lights - were still an add-on, not a factory option.

Railroad stuff: Canadian National Railways 4822. Built as GP-7, 1,500 hp, road number 7577, November 1953, serial number A-556. Renumbered 1722 9/54, 4372 6/56, and 4822 in August 1957. Retired in June, 1975. Scrapped in March 1980.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Amtrak Cascades: Coming & Going!

Port Townsend, today. Oil-Electric was "launched" in October, 2007. In the intervening years, I've had the pleasure of "meeting" interesting folk who also enjoy armchair railroading. Some, however, are "on the ground" working for a railroad, giving them extraordinary access to activities the rest of us can only read about.

One such person, Carl Johnson, a.k.a. "trackwalker," was "at the right place at the right time," capturing two Amtrak "Cascades" performing a "running meet" near Bow, Washington.

Exhaust distortion identifies both units facing the camera as being the "power pack" for the push-pull Talgo equipped service, running between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, Oregon.

Fully tested by the Feds at Pueblo, Colorado, at 125 miles per hour, the exotic "tilt" train technology is mostly wasted on this run, where blistering bursts of 79 miles per hour are the exception.

Originally the Great Northern roadbed, Burlington Northern Santa Fe continues plant improvements, many of which have been captured and posted by Carl on his "Flicker" site.

Among Carl's postings, an interesting set illustrating the Stanwood Rehabilitation project north of Seattle, Washington. This included installation of high-speed switches, allowing crossover at 30 mph, as compared to 15 mph.

If I were a model railroader, this would be an interesting setup to portray: a front loader shoving the main line over to a new alignment!

The "Cascades" service is a joint venture between the Oregon and Washington Departments of Transportation and Amtrak. Originating in Eugene, Oregon, terminating in Vancouver, B.C., the service is an ongoing success story, with steadily increasing ridership.

I recently posted a Happy Day story of a marriage proposal, cultivated by the "Cascades" service!

A second "Cascades" was plugged in between Seattle and Vancouver in August 2009. During the 19 days of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, 16 trains were sold out!

The second train continues to this day. And the numbers are bound to increase, as $3.50 (USD) a gallon gasoline seems to be here to stay.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

100,000th Visitor - CNR 9140 Face Transplant

Just after 2pm local time Friday, as I was dealing with a dead battery in my motor vehicle, we passed a milestone of significant importance. We hosted the 100,000th visitor. My monitoring service indicates the visitor was from Stockholm, Sweden.

We certainly appreciate all our visitors who find us through Google, referrals from other web sites, and recommendations from other readers.

I've threatened to throw in the towel several times; researching and writing each story is both time consuming and at times, frustrating. And I am supposed to be retired!

Thank you for your support!

CNR 9140 Prince Rupert, Skeena Subdivision, July, 1959. Power pack for the evening time freight idles in anticipation of a late evening run up the Skeena River. It's almost 800 miles from here to the connector at Red Pass Junction with the Canadian National Railway main line. A vast, sparsely populated wilderness.

I was 15 years old when I captured the face of 9140. One of 2,366 "A's," from this angle, the beautiful symmetry of the "bulldog" face, as it became known to rail fans, is clearly defined by the CNR pin striping. And she's only five years old!

Remember this face.

Railroaders out here on the Western Extension were pretty much on their own, with only the Employee Timetable, regulated pocket watch, a set of Train Orders, and the words of the dispatcher to keep law an order. There was a saying back in those days; "If the Dispatcher didn't know where you are, neither did God!"

There were no radios in this era. Just a list of track-side phone boxes in the Employee Timetable. And they were few and far between. If the train broke down or derailed or tripped over a rock slide, the Rule Book kicked in, sending the head end and rear end brakemen hoofing it down the tracks with a couple of track torpedoes and a fist full of fusees.

CNR 9140 is the trailing unit of this evening's consist. Easy to tell which end of a power pack you were looking at. This end has no ditch lights. Ditch lights were "invented" in this country in 1956 as near as I can figure.

I felt a pang of excitement watching units move out to make up with their train. I always felt that "anticipation" of travel, and wished I could be on board! Even around the tugs my Dad worked on, "Sailing Day" had that same air of expectancy!

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railway 9140, 1,500 hp F7, built by General Motors Diesel in London Ontario, December 1952. Serial number: A-406. Rebuilt to 9162, March 1973. Wrecked in May 1983 on Kitimat Subdivision, with cab going to rebuilt VIA 6516.

And additional information from CN Lines Special Interest Group; CN 6516:

  • FP9A, class GPA-17c, built January 1957
  • retired from CN roster and transferred to VIA 31 March 1978
  • involved in level crossing accident shortly after transfer to VIA; repaired using portions of nose from F7A 9162; returned to service; photos (Photo) (Photo) before and during repair. Photos by Richard Longpré.
  • last run-rebuilt FP9A used by VIA as part of an A-B set when it lead train 1 January 1990, an extra from Gaspe to Montreal (Photo.) Photographs shot by Richard Longpré.
  • sold by VIA 8 March 1995 to Locomotive Fifteen Corporation, North Conway NH for use on the Conway Scenic Railroad, as captured in September, 2007.
Cab of CNR 9140 still going strong, how many years later!