Saturday, March 26, 2022

SD70MAC vs Moose!

Moose in a stand-off with Alaska Railroad (ARRC) General Motors model SD70MAC locomotive.

The Alaska Railroad owns 28 SD70MAC locomotives, which make up more than half of ARR's 51-unit locomotive fleet. “SD” refers to Special Duty and “MAC” translates to “M” for Modified cab and “AC” for Alternating Current traction motors.

Each 4000-hp unit features a name on its nose:

• 4001 — Spirit of Alaska
• 4002 — Spirit of Seward
• 4003 — Spirit of Moose Pass
• 4004 — Spirit of Whittier
• 4005 — Spirit of Girdwood
• 4006 — Spirit of Anchorage
• 4007 — Spirit of Palmer
• 4008 — Spirit of Wasilla
• 4009 — Spirit of Talkeetna
• 4010 — Spirit of Cantwell
• 4011 — Spirit of Denali
• 4012 — Spirit of Healy
• 4013 — Spirit of Nenana
• 4014 — Spirit of Fairbanks
• 4015 — Spirit of North Pole
• 4016 — Spirit of Delta Junction

ARR 4010 "Spirit of Cantwell" named in honor of Lieutenant J. C. Cantwell, military explorer and commander of the revenue steamer Corwin on the Yukon River, 1898-1900.

Cantwell Alaska, population ~200 souls, is located in the Denali Borough (a.k.a. "county").

Photographer Jon Hall captured 4010 in Anchorage on August 25, 2008. Great "roster"shot! 

You gain "extra points" if you can spot the Big Dipper and  the North Star, painted on the car body. The Big Dipper and North Star are defining features  is featured on the Alaska state flag.

The "average" weight of an adult male moose is ~1,000 lbs (455 kg, 71 st), whilst the GM six axle SD70MAC weighs about 415,000 lbs (188,241 kg, 19,643 st.)

You may know that the moose is the largest member of the deer family. (Note to those who rail about deer eating their rhody's — don't antagonize the deer! — they have enforcers!)


I am not an expert in accident analysis, but common sense dictates that if you hit an animal of this size, you could end up with  a ~1,000 pound caucus ramping up your hood impacting your windshield!

What do you think?  Click "comments" below to express your opinion.


Finally, a jaw dropping Close encounters of the "Moose" Kind!" 



Thursday, March 24, 2022


Character of an individual. Forbearance: patient self-control; restraint, tolerance.

I was down at the beach waiting for a cruise ship to pass Pt. Wilson, beginning its journey to S.E. Alaska.

I noticed a Great Blue Heron, waiting for a delicious tidbit to pass by on the flood tide.

After fusing around with my camera, my attention was directed back to the Heron. I realized he was in a territorial  stare-down with a dreaded Woody Beach creature.

And that conjured up Travis' famous dialog with his mirrored image in Taxi Driver ...

We all know the Heron is the epitome of forbearance. I've seen then stand stoically for hours waiting for a tasty snack. 

Great egrets, snowy egrets, great blue herons, and other migratory birds are protected under federal law. It's illegal to shoot, trap, or harm them in any way. 

However, there are steps you can take to protect the fish in your pond: Wading birds fish in shallow water.

The cruise ship came and went. I packed up my gear. As I climbed into my motor vehicle, I smiled. The show down between the Great Blue Heron and the devilish Woody Beach creature continued ...

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Goodbye 2021! Don't let the door hit you ...

[Reminder. Click images for full frame]

Somehow we survived another year despite the terrible pandemic encircling the world.

Once more we extend our gratitude for the front-line medical personnel, who are showing signs of trauma, taking its toll in fatigue, burn-out, and some, unfortunately, dropping out of the field of medicine.

I determined to shake this miasma of stress and uncertainty, largely fed by the intense, incessant pessimism of the media.

One of the best self-help steps I took toward shaking the miasma,  was "cutting the cable." I switched to Roku streaming services.  Not only did I realize a ~$100/month saving, but for the first time in my television viewing history, I CONTROL what I want to watch and when. 

Readership since October, 2007

Invigorated by today's Blogger report of readership statistics, I will begin to gnaw on the backlog of unpublished materials developed last  year.

Several significant news stories were released under the abhorrent banner "Breaking News!" in 2021. Some stations prolong the drama by following "Breaking News" with "Developing Story." 

We will be sharing in-depth coverage of a few of those stories, including:

• The events leading up to the discovery of brand-new refrigerators on a desolate stretch of Northern Vancouver Island shoreline.

 • Deconstruction in-situ of the constructive loss of the PCC Golden Ray. 

• Limited reopening of WSDOT/ODT/Amtrak "Cascades" service. Sorta. Canadian Border remains closed. 

• Limited reopening of cruise ships to SE Alaska.

•  Who is Royal Caribbean's "Flying Dutchman," and why she is destined to have no destination in the foreseeable future.

Canadian National Railways 5000 (pronounced 50-hundred) was erected by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1913. CNR's mechanical department adopted the Canadian Northern's method of locomotive classification, which is in the format of X-1-a.

X" denotes the wheel arrangement (and in some cases the driver size), while "1" denotes common specifications between groups of locomotives, such as cylinder sizes. "a" usually used to distinguish different batches of similar locomotives. CNR 5000 was Pacific 4-6-2 (Whyte notation); Type: Class J-1-a. 35% represents the locomotives rated "efficiency."

Of course you need the Official Roster, to interpret the class code. Diesel locomotives also carry the class code, such as GFA-15b, et sic perro.

She was constructed with a "California Cab" featuring an open cab with canvas side curtains. 

5000 worked the Skeena Subdivision as the "local" servicing Terrace and Kitimat.



I suggest this is probably the last photo taken of her in Prince Rupert, becoming part of 922, Time Freight out of Rupert, heading for a temporary deadline in Jasper, in May, 1958.

Soon there came a day when steam powered eastbound 196, met diesel powered westbound 195, at Morricetown (Bulkley Subdivision) at 15.10k, ushering in the diesel era to CNR's West End. 

The serotonin-boosting chant of the EMD 16V 567C engines had been on the freighters for some time, as reflected in this photo of the round house leads. CNR 7242 is the yard limit switcher. On her death bed, CNR 5152 (4-6-2) will lead varnish 196 up the Skeena River at super time,  and CNR 4208 (GP-9) married to a bravo unit,probably an F-7, will follow 196 with 4th class freight 922 into the overawing Skeena River Valley.

Despite being a novice "rail buff," I instinctively knew how close I was to "the prize!"

My Dad, sensing my thoughts, reminded me I would be the prime suspect should I follow through with removing the number plate — simply because I was the only kid in town running at large in the yard with camera in hand.

So. 5000 left town later that night stitched into Time Freight 922, with her number plate and a mesmerizing brass bell ...

Friday, October 15, 2021

Oil-Electric Turns 14!

It all began with a major disagreement with a popular web rail site. 

A friend advised me of the freedom I could enjoy, writing and posting what ever I wanted, by authoring a Blog.  Nearly 800 entries and 2.8m hits later. Still hanging on.

Like many of you, especially single retirees, I succumbed to the mind-numbing isolation as a result of the COVID event.

Like I told my PCP, your day is as normal as before the pandemic. Sure, you've cleaned out all the outdated and useless magazines in the waiting room, but you have a steady steam of bodies coming and going out of your office.

When I leave your office and return to my brain-numbing isolated apartment. No human contact for days on end.

However, several articles are on the ramp; don't count me out — just down.

As a refresher, I invite you to read the first posting, Oct 6, 2007.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020: Plenty to be thankful for!

Whilst preparing my Thanksgiving dinner, I pondered about what I was grateful for, exasperated by a network news story concerning the toll the endemic is taking on our healthcare workers and first responders.

•  I witnessed several nurses, reduced to tears as they related the horrific stress of confronting death on a daily basis, and the stress COVID-1 is placing on our healthcare services.

 •  Visuals of bodies being stacked up like cord wood in refrigerated trailer vans, unable to be sent to overloaded morgues. 

•  Danny Westneat, Seattle Times columnist, posting "Death Threats and Firings: the Pandemic's Strange Turn." He questioned  (sic) " how did we plunge from saluting healthcare workers by banging on pots and pans, to now, vilifying health departments by firing department heads. Or worse, employees receiving death threats, claiming the pandemic is over blown and will miraculously evaporate." 

Turns out, that in addition to the many blessings I've enjoyed this year, we do have a robust roster of not only dedicated healthcare and first responders,

but also an army of worker ants from truck drivers to postal employees, to grocery workers and countless others who expose themselves on a daily basis, to keep our country going!

Mary Turner in the CNN interview asked the question, "why were they — Trump —  not providing Protective Equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing?

Because they had more  important things to do!

The Cavalry is Coming!

The familiar sound of horses in the background signal relief is on the way!

Thank god, the nightmare is almost over!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Ten Years Ago; November 2010: "Mogul the Magnificent!"

Port Townsend, today. Tim Ball recently sent me photos from his latest "road trip." Amongst the interesting lot were these two shots of Canadian National 2-6-0 #81. 

This doughty little engine is representative of the backbone of the Canadian National Railway's branch line feeder connections, with 469 of these Mogul's shouldering the load. 

  There were 25 locomotives, in this series, built by Canadian Locomotive Works in 1910 for the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR). They were rated at 63 horsepower, with a starting tractive effort of 26,300 pounds, and set up to provide heat and electricity for short run passenger service as needed. 

Road Class E-10-a had 63" drivers, regulated by Stephenson Valve gear, at 170 psi. The water tank carried 5,000 gallons of water and 10 tons of coal. 

In 1923, GTR 1001, boiler number 914, became Canadian National Railway #903, and subsequently renumbered #81 by the CNR in 1951. Her brothers and sisters went to the scrap yard in the mid to late 1950's, becoming Nikon cameras!

Today, #81 is proudly displayed, without intervening fence, at Palmerston Railway Heritage Museum, Ontario. 

As a class, more than 11,000 "Moguls" were built between 1860 and 1920 at the Canadian Locomotive Company, CLC, who continued supplying traction well into 1971.

The "Consolidation" 2-8-0 quickly overran the popularity of the 2-6-0 beginning in 1866. The term "Mogul," used to designate the 2-6-0-wheel arrangement, despite urban legends to the contrary, was applied to any large freight locomotive regardless of wheel arrangement in the 1870's. 

Baldwin selected the name "Mogul" for its 2-6-0 locomotives in 1871. Others hold to the claim that the class was named for a 2-6-0 built in 1866 for the Central of New Jersey, bearing the name "Mogul." But I prefer to go to the root of the word. Where did the word originate?

Mogul "Mo·gul" noun [ From the Mongolian.] 1. A person of the Mongolian race. Great, or Grand, Mogul, the sovereign of the empire founded in Hindostan by the Mongols under Baber in the sixteenth century. Hence, a very important personage; a lord. [Dryden]

That version appeals to me. Whichever version you subscribe to, it is proof once again that the old timers had it right. "Mogul" is a heck of a lot more romantic name for a type of locomotive than is "ES44C4!"  

Thanks, Tim, for sharing your great photos!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What a Great Choice!

Monday, May 18, 2020

May 18, 1980 - Mt St Helens: The Burlington Northern Connection

My how time flies!  Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption.  Here is how I originally presented the story  ...

Portland Oregon, May 18, 1980.

"Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" (Jeff Renner, retired weather man at KING-TV, Ch 5, Seattle)

The mountain is about 60 miles north and slightly to the east of the Portland - Vancouver metroplex. You just had to find a hill with an unobstructed view to the north, to enjoy this, the most violent of natures land re-distribution schemes. These folks were watching from the Pittock Mansion located on a hill overlooking Portland.

Prevailing weather patterns took the ash plume into Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and beyond. Residents of Ritzville in eastern Washington explore the moon like dust. On a positive note, the ash-fall from Mt St Helens is often credited for the richness of the soils in the Palouse Region, famous for it's wheat, pea, and lentil crops.

The Internet is rich with the history and background leading up to the Big Blast, which I will not reiterate. This site is one of the better ones; you will be challenged to look up more than a half dozen references!
While most of the ash fall was to the east, changes in weather patterns brought ash south into the Vancouver - Portland area, on several occasions. And of course like everyone else, I had to collect a jar or two.

This is my last jar. When you look at it carefully, you have to marvel at the mechanism that creates millions of tons of this stuff, and blasts it into the atmosphere. I could only shake my head at anxious passengers who are still being disrupted by the eruption in Iceland.

They grouse about not being able to fly. While it looks pretty and feels soft to the touch, it is composed of silicates, and can damage human lungs and internal combustion engines with equal aplomb. Does this read like something you would be comfortable inhaling?

This jar had been sealed since I collected the ash in 1980. When I took the lid off last night, a strong odor of hydrogen sulfide gas was emitted!

This was early in the morning of May 25, 1980. Looks like snow falling, but that is volcanic ash! Taken from my living room window in North Portland, facing west, the volcano would be to the right ... 60 miles north!

This is what we woke up to on May 25th. Deceptively beautiful. These are the roofs of two other buildings in the small complex where I bivouacked. Several of us spent the day helping the landlord get this off the roofs, before rain turned it into dangerously heavy mud, which would threaten the structures.

Trying to hose the roof down resulted in creating heavy mud, which clogged the drains. It had to be shoveled and swept.

Check the '80's look! I look like a ding-dong, I cleverly inscribed "Mt. Ash" on my truck. This despite constant warnings by authorities NOT to drive in or breath the ash, which had the composition of grinding grit! Those "Mt. Ash" engravings were visible on my vehicle for many years following.

And, of course I just had to see what was going on in the neighborhood. Notice the lack of motor vehicles, which meant only a few of us were out trying to clog air filters!

And automotive air filters flew off the shelves of parts stores! This photo shows folks navigating in downtown Portland. Not only automotive air filters, but any kind of filter was hard to locate, and commanded a considerable "markup" when located.

The ash was deceptively beautiful. One could hardly avoid touching it. Since it is silica based, cottage industries sprung up with creative people making coffee mugs, icons, and of course, ash trays, out of the stuff.

A report issued by the US Geological Survey gives this assessment of potential disruption to railroad operations, should there be renewed activity on Mt St Helens:

  • Rail transportation is less vulnerable to volcanic ash than roads and highways,with disruptions mainly caused by poor visibility and breathing problems for train crews. Moving trains will also stir up fallen ash, which can affect residents living near railway tracks and urban areas through which railway lines run.
  • Fine ash can enter engines and cause increased wear on all moving parts. Light rain on fallen ash may also lead to short-circuiting of signal equipment.
  • Temporary shutdown disruptions caused by poor visibility and breathing problems for train crews, and potential damage to engines and other equipment, can result in the temporary shutdown of rail services or the delay in normal schedules. For example, ten trains in western Montana (USA) were shut down for nearly a day because of 1-2 mm of ash fall resulting from the eruption of Mount St. Helens volcano, 625 km to the west. Rail services were back to normal operations within 3 days.
Mt St Helens today with a Lenticular cloud cap. Elevation 8,363 ft after loosing 1,314 feet.

Oh! You remember I mentioned the top one square mile of Mt St Helens blew away? Well that land was owned by Burlington Northern (read Northern Pacific!)  Dating back to the days of railroad land grants, the Northern Pacific railroad owned the land covering a large segment of the top of the mountain.

In an effort to protect themselves from accident or injury liability, what with scientists and TV crews landing helicopters on the summit almost daily, Burlington Northern Railroad Loss Prevention asked the US Forest Service (USFS) to declare their property on the summit as closed.

But television crews who had landed on the summit days before were immune to prosecution. They had landed on property just outside the closure area enforced by the USFS.

And it all became a mute point following the eruption; the entire area was scattered over five states!

The joke around town was, "Did the Burlington Northern Railway file an Environmental Impact Statement prior to setting off the explosion, as required by the EPA?" 

The US Forest Service and Burlington Northern swapped parcels of land on August 26, 1982. This was done to facilitate the Mount St Helen's National Volcanic Monument.