My Railfan Experience in Germany

German Class 023 (2-6-2) steam locomotive at the passenger station in Trier waiting on signal from the conductor.

As a US Army soldier stationed in West Germany during 1971 and the first quarter of 1972, I had an opportunity to witness and photograph one of the last bastions of steam in regular service and to observe operations at a major train station.

The German Federal Railway (Deutche Bundesbahn or DB) was formed as the state railway system of the newly formed Federal Republic of Germany on September 7, 1949. The DB was a successor to the Deutsche Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft (DRG). The original DB remained the state railway of West Germany until after German reunification, when it was merged with the former East German Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) to form Deutsche Bahn AG, which came into existence on January 1, 1994. The DB initials remained but the logo was slightly modified to a more modern style.

The post where I was stationed was located in Wiesbaden and was known as Camp Pieri. It was located near the top of a hill and on clear days you could see part of the city and even the city of Mainz, which was located across the Rhine River.

After being in Germany for a little while, I was itching to get out to do some train watching. I had no car at the time so I depended on public transportation to get around Wiesbaden. Read more

New Life for an Old Station

A bit of the new and a bit of the old at Denver Union Station. The graceful curves of the new canopy frame the old Beaux Arts structure as Amtrak Train #6, the eastbound California Zephyr, arrives on March 8th, 2015.

Denver’s Union Station has been a fixture in the Mile High City for more than a century. The dominant Beaux Arts portion of the building dates to 1914. In the early 2000’s the station became the centerpiece of a transportation themed urban redevelopment known as FasTracks. I moved to Denver in 2001 and lived there until I moved 2 hours south to Pueblo in April of 2016. As such, I was witness to the evolution of a relic from a bygone era into a re-imagined hub of transportation activity.

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Our Man in Havana

The Central Railway Station

 

The American Architect, 1913 Sept. 10, v. 104.
Courtesy of the Avery Library, Columbia University, New York, New York

Cuba is a fascinating travel destination in every way – culture, music, architecture, art, nature and bird life. And the people are friendly, gracious, and welcoming.

I borrowed my title from Graham Greene’s 1958 novel, Our Man In Havana, which was set in Cuba before the 1959 Revolution. It is about a vacuum cleaner salesman, who may be a Mi6 British spy, or maybe he isn’t. Who can be sure? It’s a great read, like most of Graham Greene’s novels.

When I visit new cities, I like to check out the railroad station and train infrastructure. Read more

Sawed in Two

A Brief History of the
Coutts – Sweetgrass International Train Station

Looking north from the United States toward the newly built train station with the NWMP barracks in the background, in the fall of 1890. Note that the water tower spout is also visible. Glenbow Museum and Archives NA-1167-15.

This is the story of a unique building (the only one we know of) – an international train station that was run by one family operating two railways in the Northwest Territories (pre-Alberta) and Montana and how it was almost lost in the redevelopment of the new border crossing at Coutts Alberta (AB) – Sweetgrass Montana (MT).


Background

In 1883, Sir Alexander Galt and his son Elliott co-founded the Town of Lethbridge, AB when he established a mine on the banks of the Oldman River in the southwest portion of the district of Alberta, Northwest Territories. Galt is a well-known figure in the Lethbridge area where a public park (Galt Gardens) and a museum (Galt Museum and Archives) are named after him. Canada’s then Governor General, the Marquis of Lansdowne, demonstrated the Government’s support of the Galt enterprises by opening the Galt’s railway in September 1885.

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Christmas in the City

Grand Central Terminal

Just the sound of the words is enough to evoke powerful memories for the many hundreds of millions of passengers who, in the last 110 years, have started or ended their railroad journeys at this place.

Grand Central Terminal has been especially significant to me, because from my earliest memories, it has been the entry to a lifetime of experiences in New York City. Boarding a train from the suburbs with the knowledge that when the train arrived, I would be in the heart of Manhattan has always given me a thrill.

After a day in New York, the feeling of relief when entering from outside into the shelter of GCT was palpable. In rain, or snow, or cold, or heat or nighttime darkness, opening those heavy outside doors in to the Main Hall meant that I was almost home.

Grand Central Terminal during the holidays is especially wonderful. Arriving by train en-route to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, or to see the lights on Fifth Avenue, or to visit the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, always begins the same way. The Conductor’s announcement as the train comes to a stop, is part of the ritual.

We are now arriving Grand Central Terminal, be sure to take your personal belongings, and thank you for riding with us”

These photos were taken three weeks ago, on Thanksgiving Day. The exterior lighting captures every detail of the building’s facade. The lighted wreath on the Park Avenue viaduct is a reminder that Christmas is coming.

When one enters the building from 42nd Street, there is a memorial to the people who built Grand Central Terminal. I’m sure many people never even notice it, but every time I go in, I pause for a moment to read the inscription:

“To All Those Who With Head Heart and Hand Toiled In The Construction Of This Monument To The Public Service This Is Inscribed”.

And then to the Upper Level Information Booth, probably the most famous meeting place in the world. Take a look at the people in the photograph. The elegant tall woman carrying a dozen white roses. Who is she talking with, and what are they saying? And where are all the other people rushing to?

This is, to many people and especially to me, a magical place.

Grand Central Terminal. We have arrived. Home at last.

Bob HughesPhotographs and text Copyright 2016

Point of Rocks, Maryland

A Very Special Rail Fan Destination
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Former Baltimore & Ohio train station – Point of Rocks, Maryland

Rail fans come in many flavors: train watchers, history buffs, modelers seeking details, technical enthusiasts, equipment lovers, and photographers both hobby and serious. Point of Rocks has it all with robust rail traffic as an added bonus.

The station itself is the shinning jewel. Designed by E. Francis Baldwin in the Victorian Gothic style and built by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) in 1876, it remains as one of the most beautiful of historic rail road structures. It is not opened to the public and is used by CSX as an office. In 1931 it was struck by lightning and gutted by fire. We can be thankful that the B&O ordered its full restoration.

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The attached freight house is located on the east side of the station.

The station sits inside a wye formed by the junction of two former B&O mainlines (all tracks are now owned by CSX). The south side of the wye (shown above) is the Metropolitan Subdivision which carries most of the traffic you will see here and moves CSX freight east and west. This is the “new” main line completed by the B&O in 1873. The north side of the wye is the Old Main Line Subdivision and carries trains to Baltimore. This is the original B&O main line completed in the mid-1800’s. The east side of the wye connects these two main lines and is used primarily by Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) trains diverging from the Metropolitan Sub to the Old Main Line Sub and eventually to the Frederick Branch.

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Point of Rocks Tunnel

Just west of the station is the Point of Rocks tunnel. The original single-track main line is the track on the left which goes around the cliff. The tunnel was completed in 1902 when it became necessary to add a second track. The tunnel portal is an interesting brick structure with “Point of Rocks” cleverly spelled out by protruding bricks. Both the east and west portals are of the same design. Most tunnel portals are drab concrete affairs but from time to time the railroads made the decision to get fancy. Another good example is the old Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Ft. Spring, WV tunnel which is of a classy art deco design.
Just over the river bank from the original main line was the Chesapeake& Ohio Canal (C&O). Space is tight here and the rail road and canal folks were often at odds. A wall between the two was constructed to help ensure the trains did not scare the mules pulling the canal boats

“Less than the width of a baseball diamond. For a quarter mile at Point of Rocks the space between the Potomac River and the mountain is that narrow. The C&O Canal Company and its arch rival the B&O Railroad were sure both a canal and a railroad wouldn’t fit there. Which one would get the land needed for their project? Who would decide? How long would the decision take?

These are things that intrigue me about Point of Rocks. The C&O Canal Company believed they owned that strip because their predecessor, the Potowmack Company, had owned the land. The B&O Railroad fought this and the dispute went to court in 1828. It took four years for the court to decide in the Canal Company’s favor.

In the end the C&O Canal Company came to an agreement with the B&O Railroad because the canal company needed the money. They managed to squeeze a canal and railroad into this narrow strip. It still didn’t quite fit. To make more room the B&O Railroad later blasted a tunnel through the hill next to the canal. Both companies operated side by side until the canal closed in 1924.”  – Ranger Lisa – CanalTrust.org

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Under a beautiful sunset an east-bound freight approaches the station.

For night photography Point of Rocks has a pleasing array of lights which are helpful in illuminating the area, lessening the need to use a flash (I actually never use a flash for night photography). The well-lighted areas also provide a measure of safety when moving about trackside. My only complaint, and it’s a minor one, is that I wish the station had some exterior lighting.

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The blinking light from the EOT of an east-bound stack train rolling through Point of Rocks.

I grabbed a few shots of commuters de-boarding the MARC trains. I’ve never had any real objection to people showing up in my images. Most often, unless they are blocking the critical elements of a composition, they can add interest to an image. I enjoy capturing the hustle and bustle of folks coming and going about their daily routines. In large cities like Chicago or New York the mass of souls moving about can be quite fascinating.

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MARC passengers at the Point of Rocks station.

The MARC Brunswick Line runs 9 east-bounds and 10 west-bounds through here Monday through Friday. Not all of them stop here though. I’m not clever enough about train movements to understand how that 9/10 train schedule works. In addition, the Capitol Limited goes by twice a day seven days a week—one west, one east. Those 21 passenger trains are a nice addition to the already busy freight traffic.

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My recent trip to Point of Rocks (September, 2016) was my first and I look forward to a return. My primary interest in such places revolves around railroad photography and this beautiful place offers a rich array of photo opportunities. I did not explore all potential locations and following my return home I’ve thought of other compositions I’d like to explore. A little east of the station along the Old Main Line there is a grade crossing. From looking at Google maps it appears there might be some nice views looking back west towards the station.

Saying goodnight from Point of Rocks and wishing you Happy Rail Fanning!

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Fred WolfePhotographs and text Copyright 2016

See more of Fred’s work at http://fredwolfe.Zenfolio.com or find him on Facebook at Wolfelight-Images and at http://www.facebook.com/fred.wolfe.98