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.

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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

The Drummer

Antlers Hotel ca. 1910 (scanned from old copy of photo, source/photographer unknown)
It’s 1910.

The drummer* stepped off the westbound Austin & Northwestern Railroad train onto the wet wooden platform, a carpetbag in one hand, a leather-sheathed cardboard sample case in the other, wishing he had booked another night in Austin at the Depot Hotel. He was glad it was only sprinkling when he walked the few blocks from his hotel to Austin’s Union Station. With a sigh he set both down, pulled his coat tighter around him in a useless attempt to set off the bone-chilling dampness of the evening. If it weren’t for the rain – a downpour of the kind seemingly known only to Central Texas – and a washed out bridge a few miles up the line, he’d be spending the night in Llano at the Dabbs where he had reserved a room. Picking up his bags he fell in with his fellow passengers, all but a few stranded like himself, toward the large hotel across the tracks. Read more

Bayard Summer Night

It was just a hunch, a guess made on the way back from a jobsite. Having been through Minerva, Ohio in the morning, I knew an Ohi-Rail crew was out, so I looked for them again on the trip back east and home. No luck finding them until they unexpectedly came out of the woods, rumbling back into town, heading for the Norfolk Southern interchange. Since the motors were both old, high nose, unrebuilt Geeps, I decided to follow them a bit. At the eastern edge of town, they cross Route 30 and, while waiting on them, I chanced upon a track repairman, who told me that they were heading out to pick up 35 stone (ballast) cars for the repair of the line south of town. After jawing for a bit, I lit out for Bayard where the Ohi-Rail meets the NS and found the crew doing their brake test.

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