In December 1990, the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad (RBMN) bought 150 miles of tracks in east-central Pennsylvania from Conrail in the process of expanding from a 13-mile shortline (the Blue Mountain & Reading, on the remaining portion of the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Valley branch) to a 300-mile regional. The “Anthracite Cluster” included mostly ex-Reading Company routes—both main lines and branches—as well as bits and pieces of ex-Lehigh Valley and ex-Central of New Jersey trackage.
To celebrate the expansion, and the railroad’s heritage, the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern operated a weekend of freight and passenger trains in early June of 1991, using Reading Technical & Historical Society diesels and their own ex-Reading T-1 #2102—herself built in 1945 in the Reading Company’s shops in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania. For a few unseasonably hot days, the tracks between Reading and Cressona once again felt the weight of a giant 4-8-4 pulling coal cars, almost like the old days. (Unlike the old days, the engine wore Blue Mountain & Reading lettering on her tender, and all of the coal cars had Conrail markings, but I don’t think too many of the assembled fans minded much.)
No, this isn’t from WWII in the forties, but present day history buffs volunteering their time in their magnificent period uniforms aboard the “Frank Thomson” PRR closed-end observation car, seated in its comfortable art deco lounge area and photographed on September 16, 2018. The train is the “Joliet Rocket” clipping along at over sixty miles per hour on its way to Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station powered by the famous Iron War Horse #765 of the Nickel Plate Road. Built in 1944, NKP 765 is now owned and operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society. The four fan trips held over the weekend of September 15th and 16th, 2018 are named in remembrance of the fallen-flag Rock Island Rocket trains of the past that ran on these rails.
Saturday, October 20, 2018 was the final day of the week-long Lerro Productions photo charter on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. The anatomy of an image: here are the accounts of Polson #2 steam locomotive fireman Martin E. Hansen, and photographer Matthew Malkiewicz.
Reflecting on a steam run as experienced inside the cab and from behind the lens
Martin E. Hansen
The night before the last day of the charter I was told that one of the firemen for the charter had to leave and go home early. Our trainmaster asked if I could fill in for him on the log train the next morning with Polson Lumber Company #2, a standard gauge 2-8-2 Mikado built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1912. Since I had just completed a week of hard work days in the shop with our restoration crew finishing the jacket, piping and other final installations on the Skookum locomotive, I was ready for a change and gladly accepted the assignment.
I can hear the chuff of a Canadian Pacific mixed train coming up behind me. There! A Canadian National roadswitcher burbles as it ambles along in the warm afternoon sun.
I am day-dreaming. I’m walking exactly where those steel-wheeled sights and sounds were once felt. I’m on the City of Kingston’s Urban K&P Trail, the umbrella name for the multi-use trail that traces the paths of Canada’s two major railways from mainline to lakefront.
When the railways
first mapped out their steel arteries, the ‘line of best fit’
could not possibly reach every community. Canadian Pacific’s
Montreal-Toronto mainline was many miles north of Kingston. The Grand
Trunk Railway (later Canadian National) barely entered city limits.
The Kingston & Pembroke (the trail’s namesake) connected Kingston to the CPR mainline in 1885, with GTR’s Kingston trackage having reached the waterfront in 1860. Industry grew along the water; grain elevators trans-shipping to lake freighters, coal and oil dealers supplying the city’s heating needs, even one of Canada’s major locomotive manufacturers. Trackage was extended as far south as it could be—mere feet from Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the Great Cataraqui River.
I am with two of my best friends. We are riding through central Pennsylvania after a successful visit to the Alco haven of Scranton. Following the Norfolk-Southern, ex Pennsy main is always interesting and by the time we reach Mt. Union we are in good shape for images of big black horses pulling freight.
The object here is to peek into a lost world, frozen since 1956, caused by the shutdown of the East Broad Top Railroad. Mt. Union was the site of the EBT’s major yard and was their interchange point with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Most of the yard, a few structures, plus a load of old narrow-gauge hopper cars still exist here. They are intact (mostly), but the ravages of all these years are slowly dissolving them. Read more
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