Saturday, February 28, 2009

Boxcars Go to Sea - "M/V Corbin Foss" Burns!

Port Townsend, February 28th. From the Editors Notebook, an update on our article: “Boxcars go to Sea.” Friday night, the “M/V Corbin Foss” suffered an electrical fire, lighting up the Harbor Island area of Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington.

As a testament to how responsive a blog can be, here is the transcript as it occurred last night from the “West Seattle Blog:”

Update: Fire aboard tugboat Corbin Foss off Harbor Island February 27, 2009 at 7:23 pm | In WS breaking news, West Seattle fires, West Seattle news | 7 Comments

ORIGINAL 7:23 PM REPORT: If you’re on the east side of West Seattle and have heard a lot of sirens - there’s a big “ship fire, 50′, on shore/pier” call on Harbor Island, 1700 block of 13th SW (map). Apparently at or near Todd Shipyard. Whatever’s on fire, it was attached to a barge, according to scanner traffic. More as we get it.

7:48 PM UPDATE: We’re along Harbor Ave to see if we can get a vantage point. Can still see smoke rising from the Todd vicinity, but it’s on the other side of the docks that are visible from here. Monitoring the scanner as well, and it’s clear that many firefighters are being used in what is still an intense firefight. No official word that we’ve gotten yet on exactly what (or what kind of) boat caught fire.

8:01 PM UPDATE: The fire’s just been reported under control; also from the scanner, one person who was on the boat is undergoing medical evaluation. Can’t see smoke any more from this side of the water (we’re now looking from Seacrest).

8:14 PM UPDATE: Just got the first official update from Seattle Fire Department spokesperson Dana Vander Houwen: The fire is aboard a 120-foot tugboat, and one person does have a “minor injury.” This is officially a “two-alarm fire”; no word yet on how it started.

9:25 PM UPDATE: Vander Houwen says the fire is now out. She says the tug is the Corbin Foss. She says 75 firefighters have been working at the scene, as well as the fire investigators who are waiting to be able to get onto the tug to figure out how the fire started.”

Be sure to read the other entries in this series:

Boxcars Go to Sea Oct 6, 2007

Boxcars Go to Sea - CN "AquaTrain" - Mar 20, 2008
Boxcars Go to Sea - Alaska Steamship - May 26, 2008
Boxcars Go to Sea - Vancouver Island - Nov 8, 2008

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Northwest Railway Museum

A recent news item on one of our wiz-bang TV stations reported that bad storm damage this winter could affect the re-opening of the Northwest Railway Museum at Snoqualmie Falls Washington. Scroll down page to dramatic flood pictures.

The original name for this organization was The Puget Sound Railway Historical Association. Operating The Puget Sound & Snoqualmie Valley Railroad, the association was incorporated in the State of Washington in 1957, “To preserve the spirit of Pacific Northwest railroading as it had been.” Shown here is a copy of the membership application. Cost for me was $10.00 per year when I joined in 1960.

Original tracks at Snoqualmie were the abandoned (1946) grade of the Northern Pacific coke oven and log re-load spur. The original plan was to have 5 miles of track run from Snoqualmie to Welbon Station at Icy Lake near Preston, Washington. The last mile was to be equipped with an overhead trolley for electric trains. (Perhaps a Milwaukee Road Box Cab?)

We had monthly meetings in an old NP business car parked on a siding next to Northwestern Glass on East Marginal Way in Seattle. The meetings included discussions of the progress out at Snoqualmie followed by a slide show or home movies and refreshments. It was there I met a fellow, Elwin Purington, with whom I spent many hours chasing trains in Seattle Area.

The Association in 1961 or ’62, published an eight-page illustrated roster of their equipment, including three tank engines: 0-4-0T Minnesota & Ontario Paper Company Davenport, an 2-6-0T Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited, Baldwin #17, built in 1886, and Port of Olympia #2, a 2-6-2T. 

September 4, 1960. Union Bay, Vancouver Island British Columbia. This disheveled crew is members from the Puget Sound Railway Historical Association, posing on Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited #14, Baldwin, 1898.

We were dispatched to Union Bay, Vancouver Island, to prepare this locomotive, and a coal car and CC(D)L #17, a 2-6-0T, for shipment to Snoqualmie Falls for the museum. Routing from the Island via Canadian Pacific car barge service to Port Mann, CP to GN in Delta, GN to Duwamish Interchange, NP to Snoqualmie.

While the adults partied all night, the two youngsters – me at far left, and my buddy next to me, were given orders to light off #14 in the morning, so she could be used during our chores. Notice I said "orders" ... but not "instructions."

Big mistake! What did we know about lighting a coal burning steam locomotive boiler?

Railroad Stuff: Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited #14, 4-6-0, Baldwin Locomotive Works 1884.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clear track ahead!

Port Townsend, February 24, 2009. Just watched the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, deliver the State of the Union Address.

Obama delivered an articulate and intelligent speech in coherent and complete sentences, as compared to the dimwit who delivered the last two Addresses. While it is a fact that both Barack and George attended Harvard - there is no question as to which of them acquired an education!

Friday, February 20, 2009


Victoria, BC, July 16, 1960. Canadian Pacific Railway 15 diesel-hydraulic sits it out at Victoria West roundhouse, waiting for a new assignment. A manifestly short bridge joins downtown Victoria with “the west end."

Canadian Pacific received 3,000 square miles of prime forestland worth $25 million, in exchange for building the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway, stretching up-island from Victoria to end-of-track at Courtney. At the time of construction, cost the company $2.5 million.

In a rare move, the City of Victoria has agreed to restore the original round house in Victoria West, making it a center piece for a condo development. One of my late Mother's high school fiends, was the Road Foremen of engines and took me to this facility where I had my first frightening encounter with live steam!

Canadian Locomotive Works
in Kingston, Ontario, built a lot of locomotives for Canadian and export customers under license from Fairbanks, Morse and Company. Diesel-hydraulic locomotives use the same principle of power transmission to the driving wheels as is used in an automobile automatic transmission. Since there is no rigid connection between the diesel engine and the wheels, possible damage to the transmission and diesel engine is eliminated.

Railroad Stuff: CPR 15, CLC 44-H-44-A2 diesel hydraulic, built March 1958, sn 2993, 2x250 Cat diesel motors.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Auspicious Beginnings!

Aberdeen Washington, 1959. I was working at a local radio station, and once again, distracted from the railroading opportunities surrounding me! Ah – a wasted youth!

Northern Pacific’s primary run to the Pacific Coast ran from Chehalis to Aberdeen and Hoquiam, with an extension out to the Pacific Ocean west and north out of Hoquiam to Moclips. The Northern Pacific, through acquisitions and construction, had advanced to Montesano when the Panic of 1893 stopped progress toward Aberdeen.

Aberdeen citizens, anxious to lure the Northern Pacific, couldn’t wait and built their own line from Aberdeen to Montesano. They used rail salvaged from a shipwreck, ties contributed by local mills, volunteer labor, and donated building lots! They turned the new line over to the NP and the first train arrived on April 1, 1895. The rails reached Hoquiam, just over the Wishkah River to the west soon thereafter.

In 1909, the Oregon Washington Railroad & Navigation Company, with connections to the Union Pacific and the Milwaukee Road, gave Aberdeen and Grays Harbor access to three transcontinental railroads, via a parallel line out to Cosmopolis, just across the neck of Grays Harbor, over the bridge from Aberdeen.

Northern Pacific’s second line out to the coast ran from Chehalis to Raymond and South Bend, completed in 1893. Expectations that this line would be the Western Terminus for the Northern Pacific that land values skyrocketed. Alas, it was greed that doomed the project, and South Bend fell back upon logging, lumber and fishing, as it’s primary exports.

This article from “The Sou’wester, Volume 39, Number 2, Summer of 2004” describes in words and photos one of the last runs in March, 1954 from Centralia to Raymond and South Bend. Town founder L. V. Raymond was one of the dignitaries present who could recall the first passenger trains to Willapa Harbor 60 years before. Mr. Raymond was a traveling express agent for the railroad when he met Stella Johnson. The two were married in 1897 and settled not far from the N.P. tracks before starting the town that now bears his name. It’s a great read, with photos taken by Portland’s Allan deLay.

In 1913,the Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul bought out the local Pacific & Eastern Logging Rail Road. New tracks were constructed, bringing the new line into downtown Raymond. Once again, the Milwaukee Road ran a parallel line to the Northern Pacific! In 1915, the Milwaukee Road opened its new line in November, between Maytown and Raymond and beyond. The company had combined several small logging lines to create the route.

Today, parts of the old Milwaukee Road line between Centralia and South Bend are still in operation as a tourist railroad. The extremely accessible Chehalis – Centralia Railroad & Museum. Seattle to Portland Interstate 5 crosses almost over the station! Cowlitz, Chehalis, & Cascade #15, long on static display, has been returned to service, and is very much alive as of this writing.

The Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad runs out to Aberdeen, but I’ve been unsuccessful in contacting Corporate to update this story.

I’ve just given snippets of the history of these two rail lines. But as Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.” The Summer and Fall edition of “The Sou’wester, 2006” has the most complete highly descriptive history of the NP and Milwaukee incursions into Pacific County that I think you will find anywhere. Highly recommended reading, if these railroads and this area are in your interest.

The burning question we are left with is this: “With these auspicious beginnings, what happened? With these halcyon days of trains and shipping, why didn’t these Pacific Coast Seaports go on to become bustling modern day container ports, with extremely easy access to the Great Circle Routes?”

Any thoughts on this?

My gratitude to Ms. Karla Webber, Manager of the Pacific County Historical Society for permitting the use of the cover shot. I encourage you to look at their web site as they have done a tremendous job of documenting the history of the area, and let them know what you think of their effort! Their pride shows!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stereo Comes to Pullman!

Pullman, Washington, 1962. Well into my freshman year at Washington State University and blowing the opportunity for railroading all around me! Both the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific passed within blocks of my dorm, yet my mind was elsewhere – besides classes – if you know what I mean!

I read in the news the other day that an outfit named Magnolia HiFi is one of the latest causalities of eight years of GOP shenanigans. Reading about the changes at Magnolia HiFi got me to remembering my first high fidelity equipment, and the entry of stereo into my life.

Magnolia HiFi was located in the Magnolia District of Seattle and was both HiFi and camera dealer in their early years.

A gentleman by the name of Len Tweetin hit upon the novel idea of offering a customer oriented HiFi store, with high-end discrete (separate components) and integrated high fidelity equipment. I spent my first hifi dollars at Magnolia, purchasing a Grundig turntable, which as I recall, needed a dinky pre-amp for the pickup!

In 1958, the first rudimentary stereo receiver, the budget busting Harmon-Kardon TA 230, hit the market. It was a complex puzzlement with two tuners (look carefully at the photographs) that received Channel 1 from an AM (Amplitude Modulated radio station) and Channel 2 from an FM (Frequency Modulated radio station.) This required, obviously, that your radio market have an AM/FM station to pull off this aural wonderment!

On April Fool Day in 1962, two of the Inland Empire’s finest radio stations teamed up in a heavily promoted experiment in stereo broadcasting. KOFE-AM, home of Pullman’s “Lorenzo Toad of Toad Hall,” and KRPL-AM, home of Moscow Idaho’s seductive “Date With Shirley,” show did a simulcast from Pullman Music, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

All day Saturday before the big broadcast, dormitories became a beehive of activity as radios and speakers were moved around for the big experiment. Two radios and their attendant speakers needed to be placed just so, with one radio tuned to each station: KOFE AM Pullman broadcast Channel 1 on 1150 kilocycles, and KRPL AM Moscow Idaho broadcast Channel 2 on 1400 kilocycles.

I can’t remember how it sounded. It was a two or three-hour nightmare for both stations, and because Channel 2 was sent by land line the 5 or 6 miles or so over to Moscow transmitter site, there were timing errors, resulting in a hollow sound. Manager’s Bill Wipple (left) and Gub Mix (right) put heart and soul into the experiment, but it was never replicated. Frequency Modulation Multiplex was just over the horizon.

HH Scott premiered the first FM Multiplex Model 350 receiver in 1961, where upon a single signal with offset channel modulation could deliver honest to gawd stereo. If you are old enough to remember those days, you also know that a true apprentice of stereo always removed the case.

Why? This allowed just enough light from the tubes glowing in Scott, Fisher and Harmon-Kardon and other receivers, to bath the living room or rumpus room in a seductive level of lighting, which the ladies found irresistible, demonstrating that you were a true stereo aficionado!

And the “Seductive Date With Shirley?” Well a couple of us were her guests one evening over at KRPL. Just behind Larry Aire, the DJ on duty, is a cube like device with a meter on it's face. This was a relatively new tape recorder/player manufactured by Gates, called the ST-101 Spot Master.

A marvelous piece of machinery, it had a tape 13" wide, and could record up to 101 audio tracks at 5 1/2 ips. On it we recorded commercials and jingles. Damn near every radio station had at least one of these marvels. It could only play one track at a time, and took up to 6 seconds to rewind. You can make out the indexer just below the VU meter. One NEVER rewound it while the mic was open, as it sounded like an old fashioned Sears Roebuck washing machine when it was reversed!

We watched in awe and wonder as Shirley Mix, the station owners wife, turned the studio lights down, and in her creamy deep voice, announced that she had a few hours to spend on her “date” with us.

I know toes were curling and hormones raging at the men’s dorms at the University of Idaho and Washington State …

Sunday, February 15, 2009

ALCo's High Hoods

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railway 0928, Readville NY, April 14, 1958. Prince Rupert, 1958. Whilst living in Prince Rupert, I began contacting other rail fans through the advertising in Trains and Railroad magazines. Through these connections, I traded negatives and photographs, recently uncovering a fistful of negatives from New Haven, New York Central, and Boston & Maine.

Geeze, talk about going back to my “Oil-Electric” beginnings, this little babe was erected in January 1940. Yet another distinctive body style by noted industrial designer Otto Kuhler, who designed dozens of famous locomotives. Here is an interesting before and after look at Mr. Kuhler's locomotive design magic! New Haven purchased 10 of 43 units built to the HH-660 specification.

ALCo’s “HH” designation stood for “High Hood.” The HH-600 was the progenitor to the HH-660, which was the precursor to the S1 and S3 second generation of ALCo switchers. I located a photo of one of 0928’s sisters, shot by Donald Haskel back in the atmospheric 1960’s with wood box cars, a gaggle of cabeese – simpler times.

Railroad Stuff: New York, New Haven & Hartford 0928 built as ALCo HH-660 switcher, January 1940, serial number 96229. The power supply was an in-line 6 cylinder, 4-cycle Macintosh-Seymour 538 diesel, rated at 660 hp. I remember the Macintosh Seymour diesel on one of the tugs my Dad worked on. Distinctive gait.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

ALCo's "Woodies"

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad 0738, Readville, Massachusetts, April 13, 1958. Prince Rupert 1958. Whilst living in Prince Rupert, I began contacting other rail fans through the advertising in Trains and Railroad Magazines. Through these connections, I traded negatives and photographs, recently uncovering a fistful of negatives from New Haven, New York Central, and Boston & Maine.

Our featured unit today is the New Haven 0738, manufactured by ALCo. This locomotive represents the first attempt at streamlining diesels for passenger service. The distinctive body style by noted industrial designer Otto Kuhler, who designed dozens of famous locomotives, was at once radical and unmistakable.

A notable “feature,” or lack thereof, is the minuscule number board, which isn’t front facing, and rather small. All were equipped with steam generators for passenger service during the day. Rather than being tied up at night, they hauled freight – part of the War Board Concession allowing their wartime manufacture.

New Haven owned 60 of the 78 units manufactured, and did so at a difficult time. These units were constructed with metal covered plywood side panels, metal being critical for the War effort. These panels were later replaced with steel panels when manufacturing returned to “normal” following the War.

Railroad Stuff: New Haven 0738. Manufactured by ALCo as a DL (Diesel Locomotive) 109, in January 1945, serial number 72958, road class DER-1a. Powered by 2 x ALCo 539T inline 6, 4-cycle 1,000 hp motors. All New Haven DL-109’s were retired by the end of 1959, except for one, used as a third rail test bed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"It's a Brill!" (A Little car will do ya!)

New York Central Tunnel Clearance Car X-8016. Prince Rupert 1958. Whilst living in Prince Rupert, I began contacting other rail fans through the advertising in Trains and Railroad Magazines. Through these connections, I traded negatives and photographs, recently uncovering a fistful of negatives from New Haven, New York Central, and Boston & Maine.

Our offering today is the former New York Central Brill car M-10, converted to a tunnel clearance car.

The J.G. Brill Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania began building street cars in 1868. A visit to the Historical Society of Philadelphia reveals some interesting cars built by Brill, including this hearse car, complete with black feathers!

The tunnel clearance car bristled with wooden feelers, like some rail mounted feeler gauge! According to documents I’ve read, the feelers were extended six inches beyond the expected dimensions of the largest cars to use the tunnel. If a feeler broke off, a detailed inspection would be initiated!

Unknown to me at the time, but recently revealed, Sperry Rail Services inspection car, shown here in Prince Rupert in 1958, was the sister ship to New York Central Brill car M-10. SRS 136, which I had the pleasure of visiting several times, was built as New York Central Brill car M-11!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Boise Budd"

Boston & Maine 6300, Budd RDC-3. Prince Rupert 1958. Whilst living in Prince Rupert, I began contacting other rail fans through the advertising in Trains and Railroad Magazines. Through these connections, I “met” such legendary photographers as Harold K. Vollrath and others.

Through these contacts, negatives and photographs were traded. I recently uncovered a fistful of negatives from New Haven, New York Central, and Boston & Maine.

I had taken up black and white photo processing at the Prince Rupert Civic Center and learned how to process my own photos. I watched some of the “advanced” members fiddle around with color processing, but it was much too expensive and nerve wracking for my budget!

The featured photo today is the Boston & Maine 6300. She was one of 64 Budd’s operated by the B&M – said to be the biggest fleet operator. And they got it down to a science in that once the commuter rush hour was over; multiple units could be quickly broken down into smaller units to continue passenger traffic through out the day, and reassembled for the evening rush hour.

An advertising brochure published by Budd claims B&M replaced 67 locomotives and 245 coaches with this magnificent fleet.

During the turbulent ‘70’s when passenger service began to falter, B&M 6300 was absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, largely replacing B&M passenger service.

Railroad Stuff: Boston & Maine 6300, Budd RDC-3, built May, 1952, serial number 5610. In 1978 she was converted to a steam generator car, and then sent west to Boise, where Morrison-Knudsen, better known as the builders of Hoover Dam, converted her to a “Boise Budd” in October 1982. The “Boise Budd” is the final fall from glory days, with the power pack and roof blister removed. There are several examples on this page.

Monday, February 9, 2009

PGE - Prince George Eventually!

Pacific Great Eastern 562, North Vancouver, July 3, 1961. Here we are near Pacific Great Eastern’s Mile Post zero in North Vancouver, BC. The other “end of track” is almost due north at Fort Nelson, Yukon Territories, Mile Post 928.4, 262.5 miles north of Prince George!

Her sister, PGE 561 is on display at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, BC.

An article in Trains Magazine years ago spotlighting the PGE, remarked on the roller coaster track profile up through the gut of British Columbia. 2.2% grades, ascending and descending were rough on brake shoes!

Birthing as Howe Sound and Northern, the Province of BC (hence, the public) took over in 1918, as Pacific Great Eastern. Shown here is Victor West photo of HS&N #1, used during construction.

Lovingly referred to as “Please Go Easy” or, my favorite, “Prince George Eventually” the line conjured up profits with wood products, and service to hinterland communities. Tumbler Ridge coal came in 1982, when the name had been changed to BC Rail. Montreal Locomotive Works supplied the bulk of locomotives to the line. With their asthmatic four-cycle motors, at throttle-up, they sounded like they were going to disintegrate!

Rail connoisseurs held the Pacific Great Eastern in awe, as the Caribou Dayliner, First Class 1 northbound, First Class 2 southbound, service passed through some of the most remarkable scenery in North America. The Budd RDC’s (Rail Diesel Cars) were an efficient means of travel, which served the dozens of communities well for many years.

But there was a Change in the Wind. A master plan was brewing, and Canadian National bought the operating rights, not the roadbed upon which the rails lay, for 1 Billion (B as in billion) Canadian Dollars in 2004. The roadbed is still owned by the Provincial Government, hence, the Public. Purchasing these track rights gives CN a direct link from Prince George to Vancouver, as part of the massive investment in the Prince Rupert Container Port.

Railroader Stuff: PGE 562, built by Montreal Locomotive Works as an RS-3, 1600hp, built 1955, SN 76108. Rebuilt by BC Rail in 1985 as slug S-410. Retired 1987.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Red Pass Junction, British Columbia

Port Townsend, today. Now I’ve never been to Red Pass Junction, but the genesis of the Prince Rupert Extension began at that far flung wilderness outpost located in the shadow of Mount Robinson, as I like to say, “about a mile and a half from the end of the earth!”

The Fraser River flows out of the western end of Moose Lake, 44 miles west of Jasper on its 800-mile journey to the Strait of Georgia. Here, at Red Pass Junction, the Grand Trunk mainline divides into separate routes to the ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver. At one time, there was a double spouted steel water tank standing between the diverging tracks, well positioned to service steam locomotives from either side.

Canada’s first transcontinental railroad was the Canadian Pacific Railway. And although it eventually ended up in Vancouver, there had been discussion, and indeed a route explored out to Port Simpson, a deep water port in northern BC, close aboard Prince Rupert at the mouth of the Skeena River.

It was an American, Charles Melville Hays, General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway, who envisioned competing against the Canadian Pacific for the rich harvests of the interior provinces, and constructing his line to a location roughly at the mouth of the Skeena River, or as an alternate, Kitimat. Both locations providing extraordinary sheltered deep water, ice free ports, just a few miles inland from the North Pacific. And following great circle plots, some 500 miles closer to the Orient than Vancouver.

After much politicking and finagling, the final terminus was staked out on Kaien Island, the township named Prince Rupert, and construction begun in 1907. It is indeed a part of the larger tragedy surrounding the April 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, that one of the First Class Passengers who perished was Charles Melville Hays. Fortunately his wife and daughter survived the disaster.

Construction crews labored through total wilderness, crossing northern British Columbia for more than 700 miles.

Construction camps were spaced out about every ten miles, and certainly resembled “wild west towns.” And they had all the “social” problems associated there with!

Mail brought in by dog teams.

Day in and day out, the track laying machines worked year after year, steadily advancing toward the hook up point.

After seven years of construction, crews working from the east and west joined up with a big ceremony in the absolute middle of nowhere, a mile or so west of station Fort Fraser. The President of the Grand Trunk Pacific, Edson J. Chamberlain drove the last spike. There was no special spike, just an ordinary black spike – driven into the tie almost 2 years to the day, April 7th, 1914 following the death of visionary Charles Melville Hays.

Several landmarks at Prince Rupert are named in Mr. Hays’ memory, including Mt. Hays overlooking the town site and Hays secondary school “replacing the antiquated Booth Memorial Secondary …” of which I was a student!

The Prince Rupert Extension, subsequently named the Smithers Division, totaled 715.3 miles, divided into six subdivisions:

- Tete Jaune Subdivision, Red Pass Junction to McBride, 63.6 miles
- Fraser Subdivision, McBride to Prince George, 146.1 miles
- Nechako Subdivision, Prince George to Endako, 115.4 (Fort Fraser – Last Spike MP94.3)
- Telkwa Subdivision, Endako to Smithers, 125.2 miles
- Bulkley Subdivision, Smithers to Pacific, 107.1 miles
- Skeena Subdivision, Pacific to Prince Rupert, 119.4 miles.

After diverging at Red Pass Junction, the Vancouver and Prince Rupert legs parallel each other westbound at different elevations for about 20 miles. And then the Vancouver line takes a decided left turn heading south, while the Prince Rupert line strikes out into the vast empty wilderness and spectacular scenery of northern British Columbia.