Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Christmas in Prince Rupert, 1958. With horns blaring, bells a ringing, and red signals showing, Santa Clause arrives to the delight of a cadre of children in Prince Rupert.

GMD GP-9 4807 and GMD GP-9 4411 along with a steam generator car, and Santa's caboose pull into town on a cold, wet and windy day before Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Hard to believe another year has slipped beneath our bows. It seems like the older I get the quicker they pass. The corollary being, the less I remember of what transpired!

During my Christmas vacation in 1958, I managed a cab ride on the log train up to Terrace. The plan was to stay overnight with a buddy of mine, and hitch a ride home on the westbound passenger train Sunday evening.

There had been quite a snowstorm, and the Skeena River was beginning to freeze over. It was a beautiful ride.

Just before lunch, we arrived at the Kalum Log Spurs, the big re-load facility where entire bundles of logs, over legal for highway transport, made a comfortable load for the empty log cars.

While we’d experienced occasional snow flurries it had stopped by the time we got to the reload. I watched as the head end brakeman made his way to the front of the locomotive. He turned, backed down three steps and stepped off into a pile of snow up to his armpits!

I’m sure he could hear the roar of laughter coming from the cab!

A Jordan Spreader had preceded us by about an hour, and had curled just enough snow to make things interesting for that poor fellow!

More than 50 years later, sitting here at my computer in the wee hours of the morning, I can close my eyes, and travel back in time to the warm cab of that Geep. I can hear voices and occasional laughter in the cab. Hear the “pit-sah --- pit-sah” of the windshield wipers. Smell the diesel oil. Hear the hissing and exhausting of air from the brake stand; the whining of the generator. I can feel the power of the GMD V16-654 motor as I watched the brakeman dig snow away from the switch stand …

My office Manager GingerSnap and I hope you enjoy a nice holiday season. Sometimes life isn’t fair as far as the human condition goes, but we should all strive to do the best we can with whatever hand is dealt us.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Survey Results - An Early Christmas Present!

Just completed graphing the results of our first ever Oil-Electric Reader Blog Survey. Thank you to those who took the time to complete the survey! I am taking it as an "early Christmas present!" The Survey ran for 30 days, during which we were logging more than 100 readers per day. And the results got my attention:

The first piece of attention grabbing information was, that people shy away from Surveys. Only 18 readers responded. This over a period when almost 3,000 readers logged on.

While 50% expressed an interest in railroading and other transportation modes, only 21% were actively involved in railroad photography. From my perspective, when you have only a handful of Class 1 Roads running in the US, the diversity has been greatly diminished. Wonder how many guys have shot each others recent photo op as the locomotive crosses the country!

Fifty-six percent of responders, when asked about Internet participation, said they were just lucky to be able to turn computer on. Never mind write a blog or fiddle around with a web site!

More than 25% of our readers found the inclusion of hyperlinks of little or no use. We include hyperlinks (the red underscored words) to link to expanded detailed information on our topic. The function serves another practical purpose. I can share a page or photo with you without the hassle of contacting the site owner for permission to use materials.

We were gratified to see the “Railroad Stuff” proves to be of interest to more than 80% of our respondents. Sometimes it can take days of painstaking work to track the lineage of a locomotive. And like me, I feel you are interested in learning where the unit ended up.

75% or more of readers were complementary in rating my blog content as “excellent.” I appreciate that feedback. While I have strayed off course to take shots at Sarah Palin, or Seattle’s Toonerville Trolley, my only rationalization is “I could not help myself!”

Ease of reading was rated only fair by 6% of readers. But when I look at the ratings for “font size,” “font readability” and “page layout” it may be that I should pay more attention to sentence structure or complexity.

Almost one-quarter of readers expressed concern about photo sizes. I must confess certain wariness about being “ripped off.” Although one wag said, “if you don’t want to loose it, keep it off the Internet!” Twice I’ve found my photos on someone else’s site, with my identification erased. In one case, the individual came close to loosing his blog. Google responded quickly, once I produced evidence of ownership.

At this point, I know a lot more of the mechanics behind "Blogger by Google." I now know how to adjust elements of the blog page. Making the reader column wider won’t make past photos bigger. They were scanned for a column width of 500 pixels. Moreover, a column width of 500 pixels is an ideal "reading width."

You can read the complete results of our First Ever Oil-Electric Blog survey by clicking on the portable document file logo below. Included are the “written” comments of survey respondents not discussed here.

So when all was said and done, an overwhelming 94% of respondents rate “Oil-Electric” as an “excellent blog” that they have bookmarked and have recommended to others.

And that’s a great Christmas present. Thank You!

Robert in Port Townsend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Always in back, tagging along!

Union Pacific Railroad 142B. Argo Yard Seattle, July 27, 1961. Well, here is another unit destined to be a follower, never a leader! Always hooked up with an "A" unit, the first thing a rail photographer sees in the view finder!

Electro Motive Division manufactured 165 "GP-9B" units for several roads between February 1954 and December 1959.

Union Pacific Railroad purchased 75 of these units, beginning with UP 130B ending with 204B.

"GP-9 B" units were often created following a wreck or other misadventure, sometimes by the railroads own shops. They eliminated the need for control stand electronics and air brake systems, cab seating, and other amenities associated with an "A" unit, excluding a toilet!

The downside was that most railroad photographers shunned the "B" unit, focusing on the "leader" "A" unit, be it cab or, in this case, road switcher "B." However, they failed to acknowledge that you cannot run a "B" unit on the head end of a train!

Railroad Stuff. UP 142B, EMD 567C 1,750 hp, built February 1954, sn: 19218. Weight 122 tons. Sold to Precision National Corp., Mount Vernon, Il., in September 1976; sold to ICG, rebuilt to ICG chopped nose GP10 8304, completed on 25 August 1977; sold to VMV; sold to US Army 4608 in February 1992.

Apparently now in the
US Marine Corps! Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow located in Yermo, California.

My roster information is getting a little dated on this unit. If you can provide current information leave a note in the "Comments" section below!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Port Townsend, today. This is the time of year when folk begin scrambling around looking for a calendar or two for next year - the year of the Tiger. Well, you're right, the Year of the Tiger won't start 'till what - February?

I can remember when my late wife and I used to hit Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon every Christmas. They had an entire floor dedicated to calendars. We’d end up with one for every room and a bunch for Christmas presents.

As kids, my buddies and I would take the bus to downtown Seattle, and hit all the travel agencies and railroad ticket offices up on 5th Avenue. Northern Pacific occasionally issued a poster size railroad calendar. I had four of them at one time. Who knows were they ended up!

Pan American World Airways and American Airlines had pictures of aircraft landing in exotic places we could only dream of visiting. And they were great calendars too.

I have a few Kinsey calendars featuring geared locomotives in the Great Pacific Northwest. To image that fellow tramping through the woods with his wet plate camera! Like a National Geographic Magazine, one never considers throwing away a Kinsey calendar.

The absolute worst calendars were the Rexall Drug Store and Bartell Drug Store calendars, with pictures of pills, wheel chairs and bunion appliances.

The calendars that got prime posting sites in our home were the Foss Tug & Barge and Puget Sound Tug & Barge calendars. They competed every year, with solid offerings. And both featured the squiggly lines of the tide tables with precise phases of the moon.

Share with the rest of the audience your calendar story in the “Comments” below!

So here at Oil-Electric, we thought we’d give you an early Christmas present. It will become an instant collector’s item, because we’ve never done it before, and I don’t plan on doing it again! Click on the calendar icon at the top of the page for your Collector’s Edition 2010 Electric-Book calendar.

Notice! It is a high-resolution .pdf file, set to print at 300 dpi, so load your photo quality glossy paper. The file size is 1,147K so it may take a moment or two to down load, but your patience will be rewarded!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jean-Marc Frybourg

Two or three times a week I scan through the “Worlds Biggest Photo Posting” web site, looking for something new, something different, something exciting in an otherwise vast barren wasteland of GE toaster ovens.

I enjoy the occasional steam, and definitely the first and second-generation diesel shots, and the photography of Jean-Marc Frybourg, of Paris France.

Jean-Marc grabbed my attention some time ago with an interesting posting of elder Swiss electric locomotives. A few days ago, he posted these striking shots of a General Electric C30-7M, crawling across a rather imposing rock face:

When you first read the narrative, it is interesting to note that this is a standard gauge railroad operating General Electric C30-7M’s, down in the Peruvian Andes, running in absolutely spectacular scenery, and this train is climbing through an elevation of 14,700 feet heading for Galera at 15,675 feet.

Wait just a minute!

There is some serious railroading captured here! Think about it. 14,700 feet and still climbing! That is incredible! Let’s put this in perspective, to grasp the intensity this photograph captures!

The author shooting Mt. Saint Helens in 1983. Reduced to a mere 8,363 feet following the 1980 blast. Still have to go up more than a mile to be at the elevation of Jean-Marc's photo!

With the exception of Denver and a few other elevated towns, the majority of us in North America live in a narrow band ranging from sea level up to 3,500 feet. Flat Landers visiting Denver notice something different is happening with their breathing, at a mere 5,000 feet. And if you did the Interstate 70 to get to Denver from the west, you passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel.

At 11,158 feet, the Eisenhower is the highest motor vehicle tunnel in the world. I remember my van struggling to get through the Eisenhower! Years ago, Freightliner built a fleet of souped up Cab Over’s for Coors – the Powerliner. They moved the goods for Coors so well that drivers had to be careful not to rear-end conventional trucks crawling over the summit! Heck, even the Siskiyou Summit on I-5, only 4,310 feet, can take the pizazz out of the family bus.

The famous Matterhorn, at 14,692 feet, closely approximates the elevation of Jean-Marc's photos of the train passing through 14,700 feet!

Not only internal combustion engines begin to wheeze at elevation. Above 8,000 feet, humans begin to experience mountain sickness. By the time you get to 14,000 feet, you are in a danger zone, where the atmosphere is about 40% of down here by the bay. 40%! Without supplemental oxygen, at this elevation humans become susceptible to a handful of maladies, none of you would be anxious to repeat, such as High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which causes the lungs to fill with liquid.

For the technically inclined: “When engines are operated at higher altitudes, i.e., at a low barometric pressure, lesser amounts of air are introduced into the cylinders, causing the air-fuel mixing process to deteriorate relative to lower altitude, higher ambient pressure environments.

This combination of factors increases untimely and incomplete combustion in the engine cylinders which lowers fuel efficiency and increases exhaust emissions of CO, PM, and smoke. The reduced amount of air for the fuel-air mixture combustion, together with the increased untimely combustion, typically leads to increased cylinder exhaust gas temperatures.

For engines including a turbocharger, the decreased barometric pressure and the increased exhaust temperature cause an increase in turbocharger speed. This usually requires power duration to prevent turbocharger damage from overheating and excessive speed.”

While this article is a few years old, it worth the read if only to understand why these trains are running up to the roof of the world. A reprint from Issue 14 of Latin Tracks, March 2004 details the FCCA.

The Ferrocarril Central Andino (FCCA) is one of two separate rail operations in Peru. Railhead is at the port city of El Callo, running some 110 miles to Galera. In those 108 miles, there are six switchbacks that limit train length to 18 cars, 4% grades, 69 tunnels, 58 bridges, and an elevation gain of 15,000 feet, making it the second highest railroad in the world.

The highest railroad in the world opened in 2005, when China began operation of the Qingzang Railway in Tibet. The highest point being Tanggula Pass at 16,640 feet, 837 feet higher than the FCCA. The locomotives are fitted with oxygen supplies for the crew.

There are several good videos of the FCCA on YouTube, allowing us to some – eh – high adventure, including an interesting look at how to end-for-end a C30-7M!

Video by xwishmasterx2

You can view all of Jean-Marc's photos at Railpictures. Enter his name in the photographer's search engine. This is the rail tour Jean-Marc is in the midst of! Our thanks to Mr. Frybourg for sharing one heck of an interesting Arm Chair Adventure with the readers of Oil-Electric!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Static Display: Northern Pacific 2152

August 14, 1960, Auburn, Washington. Here we find a raving beauty, Northern Pacific 2152. She is a “Pacific” class locomotive, 4-6-2, Road Class Q-3. She was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in March 1909, and assigned boiler number 33277. The Northern Pacific Railroad donated her in 1958 to the City of Auburn.

Static displays are a wonderful way to preserve history. In some environments, such as the Willamette Shay on display at Railroad Park Resort in Dunsmuir, California, you can enjoy a hands-on experience, and climb up in the cab. The locomotive is out in the open in a "real life setting," posed with a water tank.

But she is in a protected environment, next to the manager's office inside the motel grounds.

On the other hand, displays in a public park like the NP 2152 is pictured in, are often the target of vandals. Look carefully at the number board on this engine, and you will see a glass segment has been hit, possibly with a rock.

Even more disturbing are the acts of ill-mannered so-called rail fans, who think they need to take home more than a photograph!

So up go the hideous chain link fences.

Static displays are expensive to maintain. Remember, when these engines were in service, they had constant daily maintenance. So, when budgets get tight, some static displays, like the Great Northern engine that had been on display at Woodland Park in Seattle, end up being scrapped.

Fortunately, the NP 2152 lives on! In 2006, when the City of Auburn announced they wanted to get rid of her, she was snapped up by the Northern Pacific Railway Museum in Toppenish, Washington.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Port Coquitlam

Canadian Pacific Railway, Port Coquitlam, BC, July 4, 1961. My buddy El Purington and I have ventured north across the border to do some train chasing. Like Seattle, Vancouver was a cornicopia of diesel delights: Canadian National Railways, Canadian Pacific Railway, Pacific Great Eastern, Great Northern, and Pacific Coast Terminals.

Heading up the Fraser River, our next stop is Port Coquitlam. Port Coquitlam is located on the confluence of the Pitt with the Fraser River. At that time she boasted the largest Canadian Pacific Railway yard in BC.

The Canadian Pacific Railway moved its freight operations from Vancouver to Port Coquitlam in 1911. The city was incorporated in 1913. The name “Coquitlam” comes from the First Nation’s Salish word 'Kwayhquitlum', meaning red fish in the river, referring to the river’s annual salmon spawning run.

It's interesting to note the operational differences between the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific. While the CNR ran their Geeps long nose forward, rigged up with home-brew ditch lights, the CPR, running in the same dangerous Fraser and Thompson Canyon countries, ran short nose forward without ditch lights.

I don't expect any "study" or "analysis" was undertaken to decern if one operating mode was any safer than the other. Probably more a state of mind ...

Railroad Stuff: CPR 8687, GMD GP-9, built London Ontario, 9/57, sn: A-1143, road class DRS-17d.

Apparently sent to Ogden Shops and rebuilt as a GP-9u, chopped nose and remote equipped in 1984, but I cannot verify. If you have information you care to share, please including that in the comments box below.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rare Bird!

Canadian National Railways 4800 and 4200, Prince Rupert, July 1959. It’s just after eight in the evening. I got off to a late start hoofing it out to my favorite photo location when my subject, the evening Time Freight, overtook me!

The engineer dusted my butt with a couple of “move along” tattoos on the horn as he throttled up past me. By the time I got organized and got a light meter reading, I was only able to get a moving away shot.

It’s interesting to note that rail photographers shy away from this type of shot. As can be attested to by the mind-numbing display on the world’s largest picture posting site. We all do the ¾ head-on’s. In doing so, we are looking at where the train is coming from, instead of going to. Furthermore, as a species, we always stand with our back to the scenery we are looking at, rather than looking at the scene we take photos of.

Canadian National Railways 4800 is a rare genus. The road got into purchasing GP-7’s (General Purpose) late in the game. I’m sure that many a rail fan will raise an eyebrow when I tell you they only ordered 24 units. I took photos of eight. That’s 1/3rd the fleet!

The Prince Rupert Extension was constructed as branch line. Weight saving locomotives were necessary to keep from beating up the tracks. Indeed, the entire 700 plus miles carried a 40-mile per hour speed limit for passenger trains. It wasn’t until the mid-60’s that monies were finally pumped in to upgrade steel. And that accelerated with the dawn of coal unit trains running out of Tumbler Ridge.

This photo tells us a lot of information. Lead engine – GP-7 4800 – is riding on heavy Blomberg trucks. She weighed in at 246,530 pounds.
GR-15a [102k]
Canadian National Railways 4200 is riding on weight saving Flexicoil trucks. The Flexicoil truck is much lighter than the Blomberg. The so-called “GP-9L” weighs in more than seven tons lighter at 232,240 pounds, but with more horsepower than the 4800! Weight savings in large part due to the Flexicoil trucks and 1,000 imperial gallon fuel tanks.

Given two identical units, Blomberg trucks added 6,000 pounds over a similar unit with Flexicoils.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railway 4800, nee 7555, built by General Motors Division, London Ontario, August 31, 1953, serial number 534, as a 1,500 hp GP-7. Renumbered 1700 9/54, 4350 6/56, and 4800 in August 1957. Running with CNR 4808, hit a rockslide at Mile Post 40.7, Skeena Subdivision on March 2, 1967. Both units were written off in June 1967.

Canadian National Railways 4200, nee 4496, built by General Motors Division, London Ontario, November 1956, serial number A1014. Renumbered 4200 in 1957. Refitted with Blomberg trucks and renumbered back to original number 4496 in 1963. Sent to St. Charles Shops and converted to GP-9RM number 7258, classs GY-418e, 1990.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winds of Change - Pillsbury Point

Prince Rupert BC, September 1957. My Dad decided to move the family, including the dawg, to Prince Rupert. He had taken the position of Chief Engineer on the M/V Comet for about a year. Since the tug spent her time between trips, towing a rail barge to Ward Cove, Prince Rupert would become our home for the next three years.

Whenever Dad had to stay on board for engine room watch, we'd spend the day helping him. Mrs. Kahley was the Skippers wife.

The tug and barge were tied up at the Ocean Dock between trips to Alaska. It was a massive dock, some 1,600 feet long, built and added onto during WWII when Prince Rupert was incorporated into the Seattle Port of Embarkation, staging and moving troops and material to the American Theater.

M/V Comet retuning to Ocean Dock with loaded rail barge ABC 24.Taken from our living room window.

When it was time to load, the Comet moved the barge downstream just over a mile to the Pillsbury Point rail barge loading bridge. There the Canadian National Railway crew would unload and load the barge with up to 24 rail cars carrying supplies up to the mill, returning with kraft bales heading for Rome Georgia and final processing

I loved to ride on the tug Comet with my Dad. Without radios or walkie-talkies, visibility limited by boxcars, the skipper maneuvered the loaded rail barge into the slip, guided only by whistle signals, issued by the first mate stationed up on the bow of the barge!

Brass whistles were commonly carried by crew as a means of summoning help should they fall overboard, and for docking operations such as landing the rail barge. This whistle, “The Acme Thunderer, London, England” is engraved with the name “Foss.” It belonged to my dad when he worked for Foss Maritime.

A few months before we arrived in Prince Rupert, my Dad caught the CNR 7536, an 0-6-0 switcher working the rail barge.

By the time I started riding with my Dad to the rail slip, the CNR 7242 had replaced the 7536, who now joined the growing dead line of steam up at Jasper, heading for certain conversion to razor blades.

It was on my second or third trip with my Dad to watch the barge loading, when I ventured off the tug, off the barge and onto the apron to take a photo of the locomotive doing her work.

Robert meets CNR 7242. I had just taken this photo when the engineer asked me if I wanted to ride with him. I did. I was all of 14 years old, didn't know a darn thing about railroads, and used my Dad's 35mm camera to take this photo. And my life changed forever!

This began a regular routine of riding the tug with my Dad to the rail loading bridge, and riding with the switch crew back to the yard. It was just a short walk, basically across a street, to meet the tug when she returned to the Ocean Dock.

Railroad Stuff: Canadian National Railway 7536, nee Grand Trunk Pacific 404, built November 1911 at the Montreal Locomotive Works. 51” drivers; 34,666 pounds tractive effort. Serial Number 50280. Scrapped November 1958. One of her cousins, CNR 7470 0-6-0 survives at the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway New Hampshire!

Canadian National Railways 7242, built by General Motors Division, London Onatrio as an SW-900, 900 horsepower road class GS-9c, December 1957, serial number A-1194. Renumbered 7942 in 1985, and retired in 1988. [Data: Michael Taylor]


The 7536 was dismantled. The 7242 is gone. The tug Comet burned at the dock in Prince Rupert in October 1966. Declared a constructive loss, and scuttled at Port Hadlock (five miles south of where I live.) Visited occasionally by dive clubs. The Ocean Dock burned down in 1972.

Only the Pillsbury Point rail loading bridge has survived the “Winds of Change.”

See also, "Boxcars Go to See - In the Beginning."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Lemmings are Coming!

At first I wasn’t going to write this article. But the material begs to be shared. I can't help myself. So if you admire Sarah Palin, stop here. Go to the Index and pick a topic you haven't read on this blog.

What fired me up is this continuing babble about what a wonderful person she is, while overlooking her lack of character and an anemic resume! She quit her job as Governor of Alaska, after serving only 1 year and 10 months. For gawds sake, she barely dipped her toes in the water. In no way does that count for a damn thing!

She recently stopped over in the Tri-Cities area of southeastern Washington; Richland-Kennewick-Pasco. Richland probably being the most recognizable name to my readers around the world as being the location where bomb grade plutonium was refined that ended WW II.

Her husband Todd is not with her, deciding it would be more stimulating to stay home and repair the family roof. Great timing. Lets fix the roof at Thanksgiving. I think it was a convenient excuse on his part not to be seen with her.

Anyway, as part of her Sarah Doll presence, she entered the local Red Cross “Turkey Trot.” (“Turkey Trot!” Get it? This is like shooting fish in a barrel!) A large crowd had gathered at the finish line to get autographs and a giggle fix. But she never finished the race! She peeled off before getting to the finish line to go to her turkey dinner!

Sarah – being Sarah – had a convenient explanation. She didn’t want to create a crowd control problem for law enforcement. Since when did a politician want to avoid a crowd? The Lemmings, being Lemmings, were very forgiving and understanding of her. “She is one of us” proclaimed one of her glassy-eyed supporters.

Much has been said about the Lemmings queuing up to get their books autographed. I would venture to speculate that fully 30% of those waiting to get the book signed are not there for Sarah, but plan on making a mint off that book when they put it on eBay!

I haven’t read the book (got to fix my roof) so I can't comment on the contents. But Craig Medred at the Alaska Dispatch did read the book and offers these observations. As you read them, remember, Sarah loves to admonish the Media to “tell the truth…”

If you intend to buy her book, make sure you get the “right” one!

In my last sound off, I asked if you had looked up the word “rogue” in the Merriam-Webster on line dictionary. Which definition did you decide best describes her? Number one? Or number two?

The Lemmings gave us King George (Bush.) And now they are anxious to offer us Queen Sarah.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

M/V Northwind and Image Processing

Things have been pretty slow in the yard here in Port Townsend this fall. I was out yesterday during a lull in our string of low fronts, and found this raving beauty on the chocks. The M/V Northwind is a 79 year old 130 foot motor yacht!

Still getting used to all the manual controls on my new digital camera. I am relearning the creative challenge of taking full control of the exposure, right down to processing the RAW format "digital negative."

The difference between a RAW image (RAW means nothing but "raw" ) and a normal camera image is that instead of depending on the camera's internal computer to process a .jpg image, RAW yields the equivalent of a film negative.

The RAW image is down loaded into my imaging program - PhotoShop Elements Seven, which gives me slider control over

  • white balance
  • color temperature
  • tint
  • exposure
  • recovery
  • fill light
  • blacks
  • brightness
  • contrast
  • clarity
  • vibrance
  • saturation
  • noise
to create my final image. All the fun I used to have in the dark room a century ago! My first "major shoot" was the photography for the two part Alaska Railbelt Marine article. Shooting in the RAW does have the drawback of being more time consuming to realize a final print. However, one thing I have plenty of, is time!

Because I have such control over the final .jpg photo, I wanted a more accurate monitor. I replaced my TFT analog monitor with a cPVA digital monitor. cPVA technology yields more accurate image performance and professional-caliber color, with 100% support of the sRGB color mode.

If you do not have "a handle" on LCD technology, or just want to refresh your memory, 3M offers a great LCD Optics 101 animated refresher class. [Be sure your sound is turned up, and click "next" to proceed from module to module.]

The M/V Northwind apparently has no owner, being listed by a broker. After the war ended, it is said that Winston Churchill used her as a refuge to relax and paint. She was built in 1930. Here is her interesting story.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winds of Change - Switches, Meters & Electrons

Canadian National Railways, Prince Rupert, October 1957. In my previous entry, I tell of the “Winds of Change” crossing Canada. Highly accomplished steam locomotive engineers found themselves sitting in a locomotive cab with valves and gauges replaced by switches and meters.

When we arrived in Prince Rupert in late 1957, the process of replacing steam power was just about completed. Steam had been pulled from all road freight operations. The scene at the engine servicing facility tells the story better than words.

Here we see CNR 5152, the last of the 4-6-2 class running the varnish out of Prince Rupert, flanked by a GP-9L 4208 and a “B” unit that will handle the evening time freight, and the 7242, an SW-900, which had recently given the pink slip to the 7536, a 0-6-0 yard goat.

Another transition issue: Fuel. Tank cars carried oil for the remaining steam, passenger only, while newly installed tanks, just off camera, store diesel fuel.

And a Mechanical Instruction Car was parked next to the station, with engine crews and maintenance workers learning about amperes, short time ratings, flash-over and dynamic braking.

A few years later, my buddy El Purington and I got to spend some time up in the cab of SP&S 300 and her sisters being serviced on a wild wet cold winter day down in Auburn. (See Spokane Portland & Seattle.)

I asked the hostler, a pretty outspoken elder gent, how he liked the new generation diesel locomotives. He was not shy telling us his feelings. The gist of his remarks to us:

“I started out [with the NP] as a fire builder. A man took pride in building good fire. These damn things all look alike. They have no personality [like a steam engine.] I don’t even know where to turn the damn heater on on this damn thing …”

You know, when you get to thinking about it, there were earlier changes imposed on steam locomotive engine crews. Remember? Back as early as 1895, when the Baltimore & Ohio began experimenting with electric locomotives.

For many years, big name railroads ran electric locomotives for one reason or another. Remember the high tech Ignitron-Rectifier electrics that the Virginian ran? And how about the GG-1’s.

I found a very interesting document concerning the remaking of a Milwaukee Road steam locomotive engineer into an electric locomotive engineer, written by W.F. Coors, a traction engineer with General Electric. He talks about everything from the engineers image of being a "motorman" to road assignments.

His observations were published in an article that appeared in the September 1917 edition of the General Electric Review. Highly recommended reading, especially for "students of the Road."