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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Editor’s Notebook

Progress, Preservation
and the End of an Era

Vicksburg, Mississippi – December, 2007

Hunter Harrison is in the news again, and this time CSX is in the cross-hairs. Whether you think Harrison’s style of railroading is progress or desecration, one fact remains: more change is coming.

Harrison is one agent of change, but there are many others. The infrastructure changes legislated by Positive Train Control (PTC) will dramatically alter the railroad landscape. Those changes are well underway. The April issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine reports that BNSF has completed PTC installation on more than half of its system. CSX will replace searchlight and color position light signals on much of its system in 2017 and 2018. Other railroads are following suit. Read more

Trackside People

Can I Have Your Hat?
Conductor David Howell collects the tickets of a family riding the Fort Collins Municipal Railway on August 21st, 2016. One of the youngest guests seems to take an interest in his hat during the process!

At its very core, railroading is and always has been about connecting people. Whether it’s the conveyance of travelers from point A to point B or commercial goods from seller to buyer, serving people is the common link in all of railroading. It’s easy to spend time trackside and witness the locomotives, rolling stock, tracks, signals, buildings, etc., but  when distilled down to its very essence, railroading is a very human subject to photograph.

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