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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Anatomy of a Photograph
 The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

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.

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Richmond Division Recollections

Part Three

Peninsula Subdivision

Providence Forge

Providence Forge depot.

Margaret Askew was the agent-operator at Providence Forge which was a train order office. During the summers of 1972 and 1973 when I worked at that depot, I never met Margaret nor copied a train order. However, I did handle a couple of small Railway Express Agency shipments.

I heard Margaret on the dispatcher’s line when she OS’ed passing trains. Her voice seemed elderly and all comments about her by other personnel were complimentary. She was among the women who were hired during World War II as telegraphers and had sufficient seniority to stay at Providence Forge as other agencies were closed. Read more

My Last, Best Christmas

At this time of year, nearly everyone will have recollections of Christmas seasons, recent or distant, when time seemed to stop and it was almost possible to live a lifetime in that moment.

Moments like that are rare. People usually remember them with almost perfect clarity, regardless of whether the experiences are joyful or, maybe, not so joyful. For me, Christmas of 1976 was one of those experiences. Read more

Christmas Then and Now

My mother had fallen ill during the Christmas Season of 2011. That horrible demon known as Alzheimer’s was slowly tightening its grip on her memory and functions. It was soon obvious that she needed to be institutionalized and have round-the-clock care and treatment for her devastating illness.

The darkness of winter grew longer each day, and our holiday spirits were darkened as well. My wife Yoko and I thought it would be a good idea to brighten up her home once again with a Christmas Tree in the living room to help rekindle the flames of the Christmas season. So for the first time in more than a few years, there was once again a Christmas tree in mom’s house. Read more