Sunday, July 19, 2015

One of a Kind: NP 603

Seattle, June 1958. This photo captures the essence of salt waterfront railroading, with a trainman sitting on the front deck, absorbing the sights and sounds of tourists and seagulls!

Until the Great Merger took place, Seattle had a plethora of roads and power packs that contributed to enjoyable railroading. The Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Milwaukee Road had distinct personalities with a great variety of road and yard locomotives to observe.

The other thing they had in common; great outlook toward rail fans! I often prowled the round house out at Interbay, the diesel shop in Auburn, and the busy interior of Milwaukee's facilities at the Tide Flats. The rule universally understood: Look but don't touch!

In a previous post, we included a shot of a Great Northern transfer run along Alaskan Way, taken from the Lenora Street overpass, which fed the Canadian Pacific pier. There were few footbridges from First Avenue to the waterfront over Alaskan Way. I have forgotten which overpass this was taken from, perhaps Seneca Street, and that is a Northern Pacific Railway transfer unit shuffling south bound from Great Northern's Interbay Yard, with the massive support pillars of the Alaska Way Viaduct in the background.

Then, too, she may have also come from the area around Lake Union, as there was an NP bridge over the Lake Washington Ship canal just west of Ewing Street. The tracks up in that area were converted to the Burke-Gilman Trail, a very popular "Rails to Trails" bike/hike corridor along the Ship Canal and Lake Union, following the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Route, later NP, BN.

Rule #1:  Never ever shoot at high noon!
NP 603 was the one and only ALCo S1 switcher on the Road. One of a Kind! This is the "classic" ALCo S-1, often confused with the S-3.  Look at the trucks - the running gear. The S-1 is riding on a proprietary design Blunt Truck used only by ALCo. The S-3 rides on AAR "Type A" trucks. This is the only clear difference between the S-1 and S-3.

The rounded curves of the machine room hood was created by ALCo design engineer Raymond E. Patten, best known for the PA Covered Wagons!

In the days before the containerships, it was imperative that rail transportation had easy access to water transportation.

Indeed, the first major piers in Seattle grew out of a need for the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and Milwaukee Roads, who each constructed rail-water interfaces.

Pacific Coast Coal also had a large facility for loading coal onto vessels, many destined for the furnaces of homes and business in the Bay (San Francisco) Area. The Pacific Coast Railroad brought the coal up from Black River Junction from coal mines south and east of Seattle.

An artifact left over from the days when sailing ships used rocks and gravel for ballast, instead of water, the ballast had to go "somewhere." This gave rise to "Ballast  Island"[pdf 3.09MB] now buried under the Seattle waterfront at the foot of Washington Street.

The Ballast Island "Formation" is one geological feature Seattle Tunnel Partners wants TBM Bertha to avoid. (No! Bertha still isn't glued back together! At last report, she'll resume boring in November, 2015, 2 years behind schedule.)

Railroad Stuff:
•  ALCo S1 660hp
•  Built: 8/1945 as NP 131
•  SN: 73585.
•  Prime mover, McIntosh & Seymour 539 4 cycle straight six. (M&S was purchased by ALCo in 1929.) This motor was found on many a tugboat, including the Active, which I rode on many times as a kid with my Dad on the Puget Sound. She had a 500 hp main.
•  Sold to International Terminals before the Merger.

3 Comments - Click here: said...

Really interesting engine...and thanks for the Bertha update, in the East I have not seen a word about her mis-adventures lately.

Steve Boyko said...

Nice to understand a little of the history around there. Another great post!

LinesWest said...

It looks like such a nice day in that fist photo Robert. Thanks also for that history lesson on the trucks. I had seen the difference between the designs before but didn't realize the proprietary nature of those beneath the S1. Good stuff.

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