Monday, March 19, 2018

Locomotive VIN

This is a stainless steel locomotive builders plate, approx. 8" x 5", documenting a General Electric Class B-50/50-IGE733, 25 ton industrial switcher.

Bethlehem #2 — not the one pictured — switched cars around the Bethlehem Pacific steel mill in Seattle for a number of years. Her most dramatic work was moving slag cars from the furnace building out to the tide flats of Elliot Bay, where the slag was dumped; rather spectacular at night!

Port of Seattle Terminal Five now covers the site.

I worked at the mill two summer breaks from High School, 1960 & 1961.

1960:  The first year as a production clerk at the 22" rolling mill; the second year feeding bar stock into a railroad spike drop hammer machine.

At that time, the 22" (558.8 mm) was the widest rolling mill west of the Mississippi.

It was a thrill to watch the magic of manned roll passers, riding guides feeding the ingot through a series of rollers that that reduced an ingot into a cherry red steel plate.

Even more impressive, watching an ingot transformed through a series of rollers into an I-beam, the very essence of the logo I wore on my hard hat.

1961:  Laborer, Bethlehem Steel  Nuts & Bolts facility, Seattle.  Rotated around on a work pool. We waited out in a room, and got work assignments based on folk who called in sick (read actual sick or more likely, hung over) .
One assignment I drew based on that calculation, was "feeder" on the massive and loud drop hammer that formed a railroad spike in one earth shaking bang!

I stood in an unnervingly narrow isle between a holding furnace, holding heat on steel rod cherry red, and the drop hammer.

As the last bar passed into a horrid, intimidating drop hammer, my job was to feed another bar and yank it across the insanely short distance between the furnace. I had a foot peddle that opened the door to the holding furnace, grabbed a cherry red bar with my tongs and yanked from the holding furnace into the jaws of the feeder for the drop hammer.

The machine made 60 railroad spikes per minute.


Even standing on a thick rubber mat, I relived the 60 slams per minute, as I rode the bus back home. Proudly wearing my I-beam hard hat!

I cannot recall how I came into possession of the plate.  That was more than 50 years ago! These days, I can not remember if I had breakfast, never mind what is "breakfast!"


•  Bethlehem Pacific Steel #2
•  Wheel arrangement: AAR  "B"
•  SN: 15701
•  Built:Date: July 1942
•  Prime mover: Cummins HBI-600, 150 hp, 110 kW, inline six.

I do not recall how I became curator of the plate, which I recently sold the builders plate on EBay, hopefully to someone who relishes the extreme rarity of having such a railroad momento.

A delicious bonus to this posting, a copy of the "Owners Manual."

Next:  "Cable Innovator"

Monday, March 12, 2018

Last Run.

Prince Rupert, March 30, 1959. 
With the massive Ocean Dock in the background, Engineer Pete Briggs ties up CNR 4205 in for the last time.

At more than 1,000 feet long, the Ocean Dock was the tie-up for the ABC Comet and her rail barge ABC 24 and served as "passenger terminals" for the Grand Trunk, Canadian Pacific,  

and Union Steamship company.  It's where we "landed" when we moved from Seattle in 1957 on the Queen of the North, nee Princess Norah.

Originally constructed in 1925, the 1,600 x 800 foot facility became the corner stone for the US Army as part of the Seattle Sub-Port of Embarkation at the beginning of WWII.

The structure caught fire in June, 1972, and despite the best efforts by the Prince Rupert and Port Edward Fire Departments, along with the Plant Fire Brigade from the pulp mill at Port Edward, tug Comet, and other vessels, the fire advanced foot-by-foot, scumming to inaccessible old timber caked with creosote, slowly but surely transforming into a distant memory.

Having just disconnected from Extra West 922, flying white flags and displaying white classification lamps, Mr. Briggs brings to a close 37 years of service to the Canadian National Railways.

A tribute to a man who survived the transition from the heady smell of wet steam to the wondrous elicitor of diesel oil. Transiting from boiler pressure of PSI, to the enigma of amps per hour. 

On this day, Mr. Briggs was inducted into the Halls of the Gods of the High Iron, whose lives were ruled by a Code of Operating Rules, a Time Table, a set of Train Orders, and a Regulated Pocket Watch.