Saturday Afternoon at JO

JO Tower

Many people have memories of their childhood. I am more fortunate than most to have had a father who took me to work with him. Of course he never looked at it like that because he would have preferred to be at home rather than at work on weekends like most people. When I think back to those days when my dad worked in the A&P supermarket in the dairy department part time, it brings a smile to my face. He would get up Saturday mornings and walk to the A&P and work from 9:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. Each week he would tell me not to come into the store to see him because it did not look right to the boss. Each week when I could, I walked down to see him anyway. I would try to time it to when he was cutting up those big wheels of cheese. There he would be in his white apron behind the counter, and I would pop in and say “Hi dad!”

He would frown and say, “What did I tell you about coming here!”

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I Liked It!

I have been involved with railroads, one way or another, my entire life. My very earliest memories at three years old are of being on board the Southern Pacific/Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific’s Golden State with my Mom. As a pre-teen, I would regularly ride my bike to the depot in Goleta, California, to take in what the Southern Pacific’s Coast Line had to offer an observer. Once a teen, and into my college years, I decided mere observation wasn’t quite enough, and I started hopping freight trains. It was at about this time that I picked up a camera and began recording these adventures.

In 1976 I snagged a job with the American Freedom Train and traveled the country for a year as the AFT’s Assistant Curator. Now my interest in railroads made a transition—I was getting paid!

I liked it.

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Riding the Joliet Rocket

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.

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Back in the Day

The scene is winter, 1964.
The snow came down hard. Then, a man with a broom came out . . .

Modern railroading is amazingly high-tech. The BNSF completed installation of PTC, so it knows where every train is. LORAM units pass by, slowly resurfacing rails. Track gangs have laser sighting devices so track is always straight. Tier 4 locomotives maximize horsepower while minimizing pollutants.

It wasn’t always so.

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A World Apart, A World Within

Mound, Louisiana

The Mississippi River Delta region has been the subject of books and portrayed in movies, but rarely have stories accurately captured the region, its people and its reputation as an agricultural empire.

To some, the Delta is flat, barren and less than inspiring visually. To others, it’s a wonder of nature, fertile and diverse. There is no question that the Delta has abundant agricultural and natural wealth, but it also has a heritage that can’t be duplicated.

The Delta is different than the agricultural areas of the Midwest and the open spaces of the Great Plains, but just how it is different is difficult to describe.

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Traces on the Waterfront

Kingston’s Hanley Spur

San Luis Central car carrying potatoes to Quattrocchi’s from Bath, New Brunswick.

Are the tracks really gone?

 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.

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