Last Run

The End of Mail Service on the Chesapeake & Ohio

Postal clerks busy sorting mail on the go. The RPO car is on one of the C&O passenger trains that ran between Washington, DC and Cincinnati, Ohio.
F. Douglas Bess, Jr. Collection

The Railway Post Office (RPO) was in existence for over 130 years and was an efficient way to move mail throughout the United States. Mail was sorted in-route for destinations to insure timely delivery. The RPO car was off-limits to passengers, and postal clerks were armed with pistols.

October 28, 1967, however, marked the end of through RPO mail service on Chesapeake & Ohio passenger trains between Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Ohio. Although some limited sorting of mail still existed, it was really the beginning of the Post Office Department’s move to handle mail on trucks and planes throughout the U.S. Read more

Trackside Interview #4 
Steve Crise

Steve Crise is a professional still photographer and lighting designer based in Los Angeles, California. His love of trains led him into photography, and his work has been featured in Railfan & Railroad, Trains, CTC Board, Railroads Illustrated, Model Railroader’s four articles on Rod Stewart’s HO scale layout, and annual report work for the BNSF and Union Pacific. He teaches each February at the Nevada Northern Railway on the basics of night photography using his electronic strobe equipment. Steve is active in several organizations devoted to the preservation of railroad history and has traveled widely to document the remaining traces of our railroad heritage.

Edd Fuller, Editor, The Trackside Photographer – Steve, shortly after I started The Trackside Photographer, I wrote to you asking if you would be willing to write for us, and we subsequently published a great article by you called “Macro vs. Micro.” I want to thank you for that, and for taking the time to talk with us about your work. Although you are a professional photographer with clients in many different fields, the railroad seems to be at the heart of your work. How did your love of railroads come about?

Steve Crise – I’m not entirely sure how my interest in railroads came about but legend has it that I used to cry in my car seat at the Southern Pacific’s Fletcher Drive crossing when my mother would often get stuck at that crossing. Her accounting of the situation would have you believing that I hated those noisy trains, but I think it was more about not being able to see them well enough from three car lengths behind the gates. Whatever it was that lit the flame it has stuck with me all these years. And to add fuel to that fire, it seems as though just about every Christmas I received some sort of toy or model train as a gift. Wooden trains, plastic trains, Marx, American Flyer, Tyco—it goes on and on. Aside from the modeling, I used to draw and paint a lot when I was a kid. I always had some sort of project going on. The American Flyer was always set up around the Christmas tree and once we moved into a larger home, I was allowed to build a small HO layout. The layout added to my interest in real trains because naturally I wanted my layout to look as real as possible. Read more

The Glenapp Boys

Keeping the Dream Alive

Two thirds of the Glenapp Boys: Dennis Sibson (left) and Rob Sibson stand outside the cabin at Glenapp that they hope to stabilize and restore. Alan Sibson was not present the day this photo was taken.d

Early on a typical grey, warm and humid January morning, I find myself driving down the rough road that runs alongside the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) crossing loop (siding) at Glenapp, near the border between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. The last time I was here was in 2007 to observe the electric staff working be replaced by the new Remote Control Signalling installations ARTC was putting in on the crossing loops at the north end of its North Coast line. Back then, the vehicle access down to the signal cabin was poor, and hemmed in by rampant vegetation of numerous weedy varieties, while the signal cabin itself looked to be on the verge of going the same way as the electric staff machines it housed. Now, as then, the place is quiet, with just some bird song and an odd low rustling sound in the background. Read more

Trout Lake

I cross the Big Mac into the Upper Peninsula, paying four dollar for the privilege at the St. Ignace toll booth. A few miles north of St. Ignace, I leave the freeway, taking Michigan 123 into the heart of the Upper Peninsula.  The road follows the former roadbed of the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad which Ernest Hemingway rode a few years after the Great War as he and his friends headed to a fish camp along the East Branch of the Fox River outside of Seney, Michigan.  That adventure provided fodder for his classic short story, “Big Two Hearted River.”  In those days, one had to cross the Straits of Mackinac by ferry, but in 1957 the bridge opened, spanning the straits.

It’s late afternoon on a hot July day when I reach Trout Lake. There is a small IGA here with wonderful sandwiches, piled high with sliced meats.  As I plan to have dinner with friends in Marquette, I avoid the temptation and order a cone of hand-dipped black cherry ice cream.  As I wait on the clerk, I look around the store for a minute.  In addition to groceries and a deli, they have fishing gear and some hardware.  It seems to be a place from the past, which is why I like stopping here. Read more

The Bodmin & Wenford Railway

Riding a steam train through Cornwall, England

Traveling in England, Scotland, and Wales for over 25 years has given my wife and me numerous opportunities to ride the extensive rail system in the United Kingdom. On our latest trip, in May of 2017, we were finally able to check off something that has been on our bucket list a long time—ride the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, pulled by an historic steam locomotive. The Bodmin rail line was one of the first railways in the world to use steam locomotives, certainly the first in Cornwall, and it is Cornwall’s only full size railway still powered by steam.

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Last Stand on the Topeka Sub

The cantilever at Eudora, Kansas. with one US&S searchlight, stood for nearly a century. It is now gone.

Since 2015, I have lived on or near the BNSF’s former Santa Fe Topeka Subdivision. This proximity has allowed me to watch firsthand the replacement of the searchlights, color light signals, and the code lines that have governed the subdivision for decades. All over the country, on busier lines, the old signals have been falling, rapidly replaced by Positive Train Control (PTC) and the new, “Vader” style color light signals. The BNSF’s former Santa Fe Topeka Sub is no exception. Running from Holliday to Emporia, Kansas (KS), this portion of the BNSF has acted as a relief valve for the busy Emporia Sub. It also hosts Amtrak’s #3 and #4, the east and westbound Southwest Chiefs. While the signals on many lines have been upgraded on many parts of the BNSF system, the Topeka Sub has largely been untouched. That is until now. Read more