Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Railfan Five Challange

I recently received a note from a fellow Blogger Steve Boyko, Confessions of a Train Geek, to share five photos that visualize my introduction to and development as a ferroequinologist; to accept the Railfan Five Challenge.

My journey on railroading began at age 14. The family had moved from Seattle to Prince Rupert, BC.,where my dad served as Chief Engineer on the tug Comet. Till then, my only contact with "railroading" was a tin-plate Union Pacific M100000 train set, which I got bored with a packed way in my closet following the third turn around the set!

I developed a routine of riding on the Comet with my Dad from her tie-up at the Ocean Dock to Pillsbury Point, where the rail barge was unloaded and loaded with up to 24 cars, on a "milk run" between Prince Rupert and Ward Cove, Alaska. While it has undergone upgrades, that same facility is where the current  AquaTrain is loaded for her journey to Whittier Alaska.

On one occasion, the engineer of the yard goat threading cars onto the barge asked me if I'd like to ride back to town with them. A routine I quickly adopted! This locomotive, CNR 7206, was my introduction to real railroading!

A ride on a real locomotive; I was hooked!

On Christmas 1957, Mom and Dad gave me a subscription to Trains Magazine. The first issue arrived in February 1958. That magazine opened a whole new world of trains, propelling me forward.

One of the photo purveyor who advertised regularly in Trains, Harold K. Vollrath, helped me assemble a full collection of the Whytes wheel inventory.

I also began a subscription to Railroad magazine. This was the "pulp" version of Trains!

The Comet and her rail barge tied up at Ocean Dock, directly across the street from the CNR passenger station, adjacent to the round house.

Our house was at the south end of the yard. So to go down to the tug and hang out with Dad when he had engine room watches, my Sister and I, along with our scruffy Scotch Terrier, Maggie, would walk a trail along a trail parallel to the yard, which lead us to the back door of the round house.

From there we made our way through the round house up to the station, and across the street to Ocean Dock.

Depending on the tide, we had to make our way down a rickety ladder onto the rail barge, follow a narrow passage around the bows of the barge, and descend another ladder down to the after deck of the Comet.

I fell in love with the round house and the mesmerizing chant of what I began to learn about General Motors locomotives, and the intoxicating smell of diesel oil and exhaust. When we landed at Prince Rupert in August 1957, I quickly learned that Canadian National Railways was dieseling, and that the days of steam in Prince Rupert were quickly coming to an end - within weeks!

Freight operations had already made the transformation to diesel, and so the only steam left was a trio of Pacific's used on First Class 195 & 196, a jaunty 2-8-0 Consolidation used to work outside the yard limit marker, schlepping local freight out to the Port Edward Pulp Mill and a handful of canneries.

CNR 7536, an 0-6-0 switcher had just been replaced with the SW-9 7206.

I quickly made friends around the operation. The Road Foreman of Engines Johnny Bateman, took me in his office at the rear of the round house and laid down "Rules of Conduct."

•  No walking on rails
•  Watch for moving equipment

Over at the station, I met the Yard Master Morris Bishop, who reinforced my "Rules of Conduct", and befriend a fellow who was a year ahead of me.

Frank Cantafio. Frank worked as a Yard Clerk on the weekends, whilst still in school.Yard Master, clerks, and telegrapher were on the second floor of the station.  To this day, I recall the smell of oiled hardwood flooring and burnt coffee!

Frank would let me tag along when he made up the consist for the Time Freight. We'd climb to the top of the last boxcar, and write a list of car numbers, from rear to front, as we scampered along the roof tops!

Doors began opening for me. I met Don Vaale, night trick telegrapher. I wrote a Blog article about him.  I was gobsmacked when a few years later, I got an email from him! He had stumbled across his story on my Blog!

Time freight 922 left town eastbound at 18:20k, and I quickly discovered a neat time to be at the Yard Office was about an hour before departure. There in the Office, the train crew assembled.

Don received train orders from Smithers via telephone. He typed a manifold of flimsies,a set for each crew member.

A conductor, Stan Wozney, asked me if I like to run up to Terrace, on the so-called Log Train. Mom and Dad never restricted my Sister and I from new experiences; a deal was struck to ride the Log Train.

The Log Train ran off the Time Table, protected by Train Orders, displaying white flags and white bullet lights and a railroad authorized time piece. (This was real railroading, as I came to realize.)

In those days, the line was signal track, with station sidings about every 10 miles. There was no radio communication.

Broke down? Bust a knuckle? Burn a journal? Set out flag protection and torpedoes, and hoof it to the nearest station, or one of two trackside phone boxes.

My first over-the-road trip was with a gregarious gentleman, Bill Geddes, my second illustrating photo.

Over the next two years I made many trips to Terrace with him and Hugh Macintosh, fireman, and of course the fussy Stan Wozney.

The first time I met Mr. Geddes in the cab, he explained to me that once in a while, not often, these locomotives would explode!

At the log spurs outside Terrace, we would make up a log train to drag back west to the pulp mill at Port Edward. And we did switching movements in the Terrace yard, making dismantling cars for the mixed train to the aluminum smelter down at Kitimat.

I learned how to read switching hand signals, learned what "loading" was, air brake functions; a cornucopia of information.

It was a sad day when my Dad announced in late 1959, we would be moving back to Seattle.

Back in Seattle, I was the proverbial "fish out of water." I can't remember how I found out about it, but in 1960, with my newly acquired drivers license, I joined the Puget Sound Railway Historical Society. They met monthly in a former Northern Pacific business car on a siding next to Owens-Corning Glass on East Marginal Way in Seattle.

Great comadry, watching 8 mm films - mostly over or under exposed with no sound, and 35 mm slides - mostly over or under exposed with wise cracks about the photographer, and plenty of donuts and coffee.

There was one fellow there, Maynard Lang, who displayed magnificent 16mm sound films he had shot of Rayonier logging, Simpson Logging, and the Class 1's serving Seattle. His brother was a fireman on GN Electrics up in the  Cascades.

I joined him at a card table over refreshments to learn more about his work, and he introduced me to my number three influence in railroading, Elwin (El) Purington.

El and I became great friends. His specialty was making stereo recordings of trains! Hed began his hobby recording on a wire recorder!

He also provided sound track for railroad films.

He had a great vehicle, not only for chasing trains, but also attracting round house personnel! The photo shows the shop crew at Northern Pacific's Auburn facility, admiring El's XKE. (El is the baldie.)

We spent many hours making stereo recordings. Our favorite haunt was Black River Junction south of Seattle. There we could capture Great Northern, Milwaukee Road, Northern Pacific and Union Pacific, all in one fell swoop! And often with a combination of road movement!

Because of speeding issues, and subsequent chastisement by insurance companies, El down graded from XKE.  I spent a miserable weekend in Vancouver BC on a PGE train chase, sleeping in the back seat of the Corvair with my feet hanging out the window!

My further learning the ropes around Seattle was through other members of the Puget Sound Railway Historical Society, highlighted by joining a work party dispatched to Union Bay on Vancouver Island. Which leads me to my fourth photograph highlighting my learning about railroading.

We had gone over to Union Bay to prepare newly acquired locomotives and a rolling stock for shipment to the Societies property at Snoqualmie Washington. I'm furthermost left in photo.

 In an action packed three-day weekend, I learned a lot about STEAM.

Up to this point, I sophomorically proclaimed "Diesel is King."

What a wonderful learning experience that weekend. I learned how to start a fire, shovel coal, bank a fire, the wonderful aroma of wet-steam. And we all took turns running Number 14 up and down the tracks of the defunct Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited.

Last, but not least, my fifth and most important influence in learning railroading (and life), was my Dad.

He reluctantly posed next to a grinder set on the Speno Rail Grinder/Profiler train that we encountered profiling on the Northern Pacific down at Auburn.

As a tugboat engineer, my Dad was absent from home, for long periods of time. I remember as a kid, when he would call us via the Marine Operator, that we had to learn to say "over!"

My Dad had worked on the Canadian National Railroad at Youbou, Vancouver Island, and as a section hand at  Blue River, B.C. He and his brothers Al and Hector and a few other guys, road the rails to make money on the Canadian wheat harvest.

A well respected amateur marine photographer, Dad encouraged my love of photography. And I was always pleased when he upgraded his camera, as I would be the recipient of his trade off.

Once or twice a month, Dad and I would take off for a day of photography! We'd leave our house in West Seattle and head for Foss tie-up on the Ship Canal, nearby Great Northern's Interbay Round House, Puget Sound Tug & Barge tie-up at Pier 57, south along Alaska Way waterfront checking out ship, thence to Northern Pacific Stacy Street yard, Duwamish Interchange, Union Pacific, Milwaukee Road, and then south to Auburn Northern Pacific facility.

Clearly, my pilgrimage learning about railroading was the plethora of interesting people who were willing, neah, anxious to share their knowledge with me.

I pass along the Railfan Five Challenge to Leland Weiss, author of the Lost Rail Blog, to select five photos that illustrate his initiation to and progress in learning about railroading.

3 Comments - Click here:

Eric said...

Fine Five, Robert!
Great stories and photos - you've taken the Challenge to a new level of historical detail. This challenge owes a lot to Chris Mears of PEI and his Prince Street Terminal blog, who really hatched the idea of five special photos. It's great to see it spreading across North America!

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Thanks, Eric. Strikes me that our fathers played a role in our endeavors.

Eric said...

So true, Robert. We would come home with railway spikes, tie nails, placards and who knows what else we would find trackside. Artifacts. Trackside treasure to us!

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