Sunday in the Car with George

Earth Day  2018, Pittsburgh and environs
Part One

In April 2018, my friend George Hiotis and I made a fourteen-day, 2,300-mile journey from my home in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, to Chicago and back. We had a GREAT time.

Ostensibly, we made the trip for the Center for Railroad Photography & Art conference, but we spent most of a week before and all of a week afterwards on the road. I came back with 4,200 pictures—crazy, right?—and George brought home more than 5,000. We photographed at something like seventy-five locations, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia, from before dawn until long after dark on most days. We stumbled on some astonishing places and buildings in addition to the dozens that George had put on the initial itinerary, developed through scads of research in the months before the trip. We also met some memorable people, a few of whom I photographed. I had set out on this trip determined to overcome my self-consciousness about photographing strangers, and you will see some of the results here. 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

The Union and Me

EMD SD40 – Photograph by Nate Beal (originally posted to Flickr as Testing the IS) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

All in a Night’s Work

Dispatcher On The Radio: “Mr. MacDermot, AB2 had to set off a unit last night account a slipped pinion. It’s on the siding near the signal on the west side of Richmondville hill; could you arrange to get someone out there to cut the pinion off so we can move the unit?” (“Slipped pinion” is railroad lingo for a locked axle, usually.)

“What’s the unit number and did they say what axle has the slipped pinion?”

“It’s one of them ex-Detroit Edison 6-axle EMD SD40’s; I think he said it’s number three pair of wheels that were locking up.”

“OK, I’ll see if I can get someone from Oneonta to meet me out there – might have to get a track department person to slide a tie out to make room to drop the gear case.” Dispatcher Over-And-Out Read more

The Power of Place

I have a fondness for steam radiators. That gentle heat soaks right down to the bone and although the houses I grew up in didn’t have them, the Pennsylvania depot did.

From the time I was five or six years old my dad and I made a pilgrimage to watch trains at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot in Richmond, Indiana every Sunday morning. The waiting room was our refuge from the cold and I was never very far from one of those big radiators.

Daniel Burnham’s design for the PRR depot has a new lease on life that should see it standing strong for many years to come. – Photo taken September 1, 2017.

The main objects of our quest were two westbound passenger trains that were still on the Pennsy’s schedule in the 1960s. My memory is faulty where the early train is concerned, though a check of a 1960 timetable suggests it might have been No. 71 or the Cincinnati Limited. Read more

An Afternoon
  on the Buffalo Southern

Heading back home in October, 2014 after three days in Ontario, Canada, I decided to drop off the interstate in Hamburg, New York to see if I could scare up an Alco or two. I knew only two things about Hamburg; first, the Buffalo Southern Railroad had a shop there and second, that shop was home to my favorite diesel locomotives—Alco. It isn’t a big town, so finding the tracks wasn’t hard and they led to a small station, behind which sat a beautifully restored Alco High Hood switcher and an old friend from the Pittsburgh area, a Pennsylvania Railroad decapod (2-10-0), now sitting on display. A few derelict (likely parts sources) 539 powered Alco switchers were there also, slowly rusting away. The Buffalo Southern shop wasn’t here, that was for sure, but there was a hobby shop sign on the station door, so in I went, finding a large “O” scale layout occupying most of the space. Three old guys sat in a corner swapping stories and I asked them if they could point me to the Buffalo Southern shop complex. “Yeah, they’re down behind the Carmeuse plant, but don’t go in there cause they’ll arrest you or throw ya out.” There were nods all around in agreement to that statement, so I thanked them and headed off to find me some Alco’s—I’ve been escorted out of a few places after simply wandering in like a bumpkin, so it was no big deal to take a chance.

Read more

A Maine Central Education

Waterville Yard
Waterville Yard in 1968

Fifty years ago Railroading was far different from today. My introduction to the Maine Central started in 1964 when I went to Colby College in Waterville. Once exposed, I became fascinated by this amazing industry, the people who worked in it, and the coordination and teamwork required to run the railroad.

The Maine Central, Scott Paper, Hathaway Shirts, Keyes Fiber and Colby were among the largest employers, and Waterville was a thriving industrial community.

The Maine Central Railroad was originally known to me only as a name painted on a boxcar. I knew very little about railroading, but I had always enjoyed puzzles, and how this industry worked became a lifelong interest and hobby. Read more