Contemporary Views 
Along the First Transcontinental Railroad

Judah Monument, Old Sacramento, California – This monument was built in the honor of a promising young engineer, Theodore Judah. In addition to being a tireless promoter for the Pacific Railroad in the halls of Congress, he envisioned and then plotted a twisting line that would get the Central Pacific through the Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see but a few miles of the route with rails spiked to ties.

While construction of the Pacific Railroad ostensibly began during the Civil War, it was not until that great conflict was over that it really got rolling. In a race for government subsidies and land grants, the Central Pacific built eastward from Sacramento, California, while the Union Pacific built westward from Omaha, Nebraska. The two railroads met at Promontory Summit, just north of Great Salt Lake, Utah Territory, on May 10th 1869. It was a watershed moment.

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Returned to Reality

Rebirth of the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway

On June 15, 1933 the southbound train of the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway (WW&F) jumped the track in Whitefield, Maine. The locomotive nosed down an embankment towards the Sheepscot River, coming to rest just feet from the water’s edge. Although the WW&F had been resurrected from near-closure on at least two other occasions, this time it was not to be. The WW&F was closed for good. Following closure, the railway’s mainline was scrapped to satisfy the creditors, and equipment was either scrapped or sold. While the railway faded from the daily lives of residents in the Sheepscot Valley, it would live on in their memory. Well remembered especially by children, like Harry Percival, who grew up along the right-of-way. For them, the railway was a playground where their imagination could run wild. Percival’s memory proved to be the ember that, when fanned, gave rise to today’s WW&F Railway. Read more

Editor’s Notebook

Gadsby’s Tavern – C&O Railway Heritage Center – Clifton Forge, Virginia – 2011
You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner
Nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham an' eggs in Carolina*

I never ate in the dining car of a train during the heyday of passenger train travel. I regret that. But I can imagine sitting in the dining car with a salesman going to the next city; a mother and a small boy; a family going on vacation; a soldier returning home. The passengers may be lonely or bored, excited to be going someplace new, or just happy to be going home.

I imagine sitting at a table in the diner with a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. surrounded by other travelers. People come and go and the world slips by the window. I'll be home in the morning. 

In 1932, the C&O inaugurated the George Washington as its flagship passenger train with service between Newport News, Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio. Three dining cars built in 1922 were refurbished for the George Washington. Gadsby's Tavern is the only car that survived. The C&O Historical Society owns the car and has restored it to its original 1932 appearance.
For a moment as I stood in the door of this old dining car, I could imagine what it might be like to eat dinner here with the sound of the rails beneath my feet. I almost expected a porter to come through the door on the other end of the car. But I was all alone and the car was still and silent, a ghost of railroading's past.

Edd Fuller, Editor - Text and photographs Copyright 2017

 *Chattanooga Choo Choo - Mack Gordon/HarryWarren

Railroads in the Weeds

In 1983, the former Burwell, Nebraska (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) depot sat abandoned along the remnants of the Burlington Route branch line than served the community in Nebraska’s “Sand Hills”. I was told it once saw loads of grain and cattle headed for market, along with the occasional “mixed” train of freight and passengers

I have been a fan of trains and train-watching since I was a 7-year-old kid getting a cab ride from my cousin’s grandfather on his last run as engineer of a Canadian National Railway’s passenger locomotive.  But I’ve also always had a deep regard for and interest in history, and not just in the sense of big events. It’s the seemingly small things that get overlooked, like rusty old railroad spikes or a long-abandoned railroad bed where the rails are long gone and nature has taken over. Read more


Lull on CN’s Rivers Sub west of Portage la Prairie, 1984

I brought my camera, look at me,
While trackside, not a train I see.
Does that deter me? No, not I,
What’s that, grey ballast that I spy?
A groundhog brown, geese flying by?
Images to my camera card now fly.
When I get home, downcast and sad,
My NoTrophy photos don’t look half-bad!

NoTrophy, (a short form of No TRain photOgraPHY) is a recognized trackside syndrome characterized by train photography completely unfettered by trains. Don't worry, it happens to everyone at some point. If it lasts more than four hours, don't consult your doctor. Just go home and come back tomorrow.

I have decided to present some of my best NoTrophy photography (or if you prefer, my worst railfanning photography) with poetry. I'm proud of the photos, I'm just not proud I had to take them...oh, the bleak and desperate futility of NoTrophy!

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