Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Slow Waltz at Brockville, Ontario

My high school and college railfan buddy Roger Puta was at Brockville, ON one day in March 1980.  Every day trains from Montreal and Ottawa arrive, are combined and head off to Toronto.  Later a train from Toronto arrives and is divided into two trains, one goes off to Montreal and the other to Ottawa.  Sounds simple.  Yes.  But fun to watch?  Yes! 

And here's Roger's slide show.

This is the train from Ottawa.  The water tank for the steam generator (to heat the cars) in the first unit is being filled.  In the far distance you can see the cars of the train that arrived from Montreal.
These are the cars from the Montreal train.

The Montreal cars (right) and Ottawa cars are coupled together to make up the train for Toronto.
And Roger photographed the train about to depart ...
... and departing.
And what about the diesel that came in on the Montreal train?  VIA 6791 has been hiding behind the depot!
And everything is quiet for awhile.  Roger positions himself on a bridge east of the depot. Then ...
... a westbound comes through without stopping as the red nosed train of interest from Toronto arrives at the Brockville Depot.
VIA 6791 moves into position while the red nose prepares to leave with the Ottawa portion of the train.
Red nose moves out leaving the Montreal cars behind.
And the crew on the ground prepares the way for  VIA 6791 to move to her train.
And she leaves town just as a local freight shows up.

And Roger can go get warm.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

An 8-Photo Sequence of Semaphores - Before, During, After a Train

The photographs in this PhotoBlog were taken by Roger Puta in October 1985.  This amazing sequence shows Roger's love of signals. Few of us would have stayed around to get the whole sequence. 

The aspects of the signals in the first photo show the track is clear in both directions.

The location on the Southern Pacific RR was along the Tuscon Division, Carrizozo Subdivision - Ancho Block (Direct Traffic Control) - between clearance point east switch Robsart siding M.P. 1447.4 and clearance point east switch Ancho siding M.P. 1463.6 in New Mexico. Thanks to Bob Finan via the Train Orders Discussion site for the location information.

The one blade signal shows the block ahead is now occupied.
The one blade signal shows the block ahead is occupied.
The one blade signal shows the block ahead is still occupied. The two arm signal shows the engineer that the next two blocks are clear.

The double blade now shows the block next to the camera is occupied.
The double blade now shows the block next to the camera is occupied. The single blade shows the block ahead of the camera is clear.

The train has cleared the block next to the camera. The aspect on the double arm signal is equivalent to a yellow signal which tells an engineer in a train coming at the camera to prepare to stop at the next signal.
The train has cleared the second block behind the camera. The signals say clear in both directions. 

The End

Thank you Roger for this documentation and for teaching us.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Alaska Railroad's Denali Express, A Chase, Summer 2009

During the Summer of 2009 the Alaska Railroad ran the DEX (Denali Express) for the cruise ship lines between mid-May and mid-September between Whittier and Denali National Park, both north and southbound on Saturdays and again on Mondays. That took two train sets. The northbound set was put away at the end of the day in Fairbanks. The southbound run in Anchorage.

I caught a southbound DEX the afternoon of August 22, 2009 at Wasilla and followed it south to Whittier. It had left Fairbanks very early to pick up its cruise line passengers at Denali at 7:45 a.m. and would bring them to a cruise ship at Whittier. As my photographs show, there is much beautiful scenery for them to see as they ride in luxury.

The train consisted of SD70MAC 4007, a Holland America Tours car, and five Princess Tours cars. The cars are self contained and required no electricity from 4007.

I first photographed the DEX just south of the Wasilla depot at 2:25 p.m.  (above two photos)

I then hurried down to Anchorage and caught the train just before the depot.  (next two photos)

Here the DEX is passing Potter Bird Sanctuary (foreground) just south of Anchorage at 4:07 p.m. Above the train is the Turnagain Arm of Cooks Inlet.

And again south of Potter at 4:25 p.m.

At 7:00 p.m. the DEX is in Whittier, discharging its passengers.  The crew has run the locomotive around its train so it can head back through the tunnel to Portage. There are no turning facilities at Whitter. 

At 9:11 p.m. it is back at Portage using the wye so it can pull the train back to Ancorage Yard cab first. In the foreground the higher track in the mainline and the lower a siding. A crewman is on the ground throwing switches.

The crew continues to wye the locomotive. I didn't chase the DEX north to Anchorage. I waited and chased the Coastal Classic north.

I hope you enjoyed my photographs of the DEX and the Alaska scenery. Your comments and corrections are quite welcome.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Permit Me to Show You a Bounce

When a suburban train makes a second run during the commuter rush, it does not always run out to the end of the line.  I photographed an example on the Burlington Northern Racetrack the morning of May 13, 1991. The Burlington Northern Racetrack is the three-track mainline that runs from Aurora, Illinois to Chicago Union Station.  Daily it sees many commuter trains (called dinkys), several Amtraks, and a good number of freight trains.  It is big-time railroading, and has been since about 1900.

Burlington Northern locomotive 9914 and her train had already been to Chicago and were returning to bounce at Lisle, IL. I took this photo at 7:35 am. She is on the inbound track (eastbound) approaching (about a half mile from) the Lisle inbound platform. She has run express back from Chicago Union Station where she had deposited her first load of commuters. Her train is now empty. She is pulling. Her head light is on. For the record she was an E9A. Some call her an E9AM because in September 1973 she was rebuilt with diesel generator (HEP) from CB&Q 9989B, an E9A with a steam generator, built in January 1956. She was retried in October 1992. I'm sure she pulled the best over the years: The Denver Zephyr, The California Zephyr, The Empire Builder, and The North Coast Limited. And she did that while rotating in and out of commuter service. 

 It's now 7:50 am, the Lisle passengers have boarded and are reading their newspapers.  No smart phones.  She is pushing her train back to Chicago and will make a few local stops before hopping on to the Zephyr track (the middle track) for a fast run back to Union Station and then a restful day in the coach yard before the evening rush.  Maybe she will visit the Zephyr Pit (what the Chicago engine terminal was called).  

She has a High Green, her headlight is out, and her engineer has abandoned her for the bi-level cab car. She is pushing with everything she's got.  And don't tell her her train is a Dinky.  Never insult an E9A! 

Note, not all railroads call this a "bounce".  I have heard "flip-back".

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SPUD, Not a Potato, But St. Paul's Train Depot

On Thursday May 14, 2015, while at my daughter's in Minneapolis, she and I visited St. Paul Union Depot, SPUD, by riding the Green Line light-rail to St. Paul and back.  I wanted to see the renovated depot I had known in its glory in the 1960s when I worked for one of the tenant railroads, the CB&Q.  She had used it recently to ride Amtrak's Empire Builder.

Thursday was a dark day with intermittent light showers.  We boarded the Green Line at the Warehouse District Station after a short bus ride from her neighborhood.

And about 45 minutes later arrived at SPUD, which is to the left.

This is looking back from the front of the depot at the light rail station.

The first SPUD burned in 1915.  The completion of this SPUD was delayed by World War I until 1923.  The renovation took it back to its 1920s appearance. Here is the headhouse in its early years.  The headhouse is one grand room with multi-story wings for offices, meeting rooms, etc.
photo from the SPUD website                                

Let's Take a Tour

This is the grand room in the headhouse on Thursday. It contains a Greek restaurant.

When I first entered the headhouse in June of 1964, it was the waiting room and housed the steam locomotive William Crooks. This 1954 photo is licensed under Wikimedia Commons. The ticket windows are to the right.  Note the "modern" florescent lighting from the 50s has been replaced.

this 1954 photo is licensed under Wikimedia Commons       

The restaurant uses the ticket windows as a bar.

Looking up.

The concourse of the station was above the tracks with staircases down to the platforms between the tracks.  Between the headhouse and the concourse is a wide hall which serves as the waiting room today for Amtrak passengers and intercity bus passengers.  The Amtrak Chicago to Seattle/Portland Empire Builder goes Chicago bound in the morning and westbound in the evening.  Midday Thursday nobody was waiting.

The Concourse

At the end of the hall is the concourse.

The concourse was above and perpendicular to 9 platforms serving 18 tracks.  During its heyday, the depot hosted the passenger trains of nine railroads, and at its peak in the 1920s, 282 train movements daily according to Wikipedia.  The concourse was also a waiting room.

To the left (east) in the above photo are the gates which lead to staircases down to the platforms.  The next photo from 1964 is looking back at these staircases and gates.  The black arrow points to one of the skylights in the concourse.  Today this area east of the concourse is basically vacant.

And another 1964 photo of about the same area.

This is my daughter looking at one of the gates along the east wall of the concourse.  Both local transit and intercity buses serve some of these gates from below.  If you look all the way down at the end of the concourse you can see a gate marked "C".  That is where the only train platform, a new one, is.  Amtrak's Empire stops there.

The last train to stop at SPUD was in 1974 when Amtrak moved to the Midway Station.  Amtrak came back on May 7, 2014 after the renovated SPUD was opened.  

Only one of the original stair cases from the concourse down to the platforms survived.  It is along this east wall of the concourse.  I had to photograph it. 

This is that gate "C" where the Empire Builder arrives and departs.

This picture was shot on Thursday from a window in the west wall of the far end of the concourse.  To the right is the ex-St. Paul Central Downtown Post Office complex.  In SPUD's hayday the depot's trains handled more than 20 million pieces of mail annually to or from the Post Office.

Beyond the Post Office Complex is the Robert Street Bridge over the railroad tracks and the River and just beyond it you can see the tower of the railroad bridge that crosses the River.

The next photo was taken in 1964 from the Robert Street Bridge looking back at SPUD's concourse (upper center).

Looking back from the far south end of the concourse looking toward the headhouse on Thursday.  The west wall of the concourse has a set of murals instead of gates. That's sure a lot of floor to keep shiny.

Walking back to the headhouse end of the concourse and turning around we see the the murals displayed.  

Tour End

As a final note, in 1964 SPUD even had its own switch engine!

I hope you enjoyed this photo visit.

SPUD's website is: