Railroads today are very standardized in their operations and equipment. It is very difficult to distinguish one railroad from another other than by their paint scheme. Things were different in the golden age of railroading. The railroads were very different from each other in terms of operating practices, the equipment used to move freight, and even the structures used to support operations such as depots or interlocking towers.
I will cover just the general look and design that the railroads followed most of the time. Please keep in mind that there were always exceptions to the rules.
Each railroad’s towers had their distinctive look and most followed a standard design or plan, but even within the same railroad, the towers could differ in looks or style from line to line. Read more
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the 42d Annual Steam & Gas Pasture Party in Somerset, Virginia. This event is hosted each year by the Somerset Steam & Gas Engine Association. Now, I know that this is not exactly a railroad thing, but if you are interested in steam railroading, experiencing some of the 19th century steam technology that grew up with the railroads will be of interest. This nine-minute video will give you a brief tour of the steam shed, a sawmill powered by a steam tractor, steam plowing demonstrations and more.
From massive steam powered tractors to small stationary steam engines, all are in steam and operating during the three days of the show. It’s a taste of the way things were over 100 years ago, when steam not only powered the railroad, but found widespread application in industry and agriculture.
By 1880, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway had an operating depot in the City of Topeka, Kansas. For roughly the next 120 years, that depot was manned daily by a ticket agent until Amtrak went to a five day work week for the agent. During the days when the Santa Fe operated the depot, trains like the California Limited, Grand Canyon, Antelope, Kansas Cityan, and Scout all made stops at Topeka, along with many nameless trains known only by a number. The number of trains would decrease in the years leading up to the inception of Amtrak. When Amtrak began operating over the Santa Fe, trains like the Super Chief, El Capitan, and Texas Chief all made stops in Topeka during the early years of Amtrak Service.
I have been thinking about the role of photography in historic preservation lately.
This summer, plans were announced to widen the intersection in a crossroads town here in the county where I live. The change will require the destruction of an old wooden store building, and it is the last vestige of the town as it once was. After the “improvements” are completed, there will be nothing left but a post office, and a four-lane highway lined with fast food restaurants and gas stations. Read more
I was driving down Highway 4, between Rosetown and Swift Current, Saskatchewan, when I saw the old abandoned wood crib elevator in a farmer’s field just off the highway. How, I wondered, did it come to be there, all alone?
As it turns out, the elevator was once on a railway line—the old Canadian Pacific Railway McMorran Subdivision. Built in 1923, it was one of at least two elevators in the hamlet of Thrasher. But on this summer day in 2015, there is only one elevator left, abandoned like the rail line, and like Thrasher itself. Read more