San Francisco has always had a special place in my heart. I lived there for three months in 1953, was the only non-Oriental in my third grade class, and as a curious eight-year-old soaked up the images of cable cars, street cars, Twin Peaks tunnel, and Golden Gate Park.
In 1953, with a family of four and luggage for three months away, the best way to travel was by train. From Grand Central Terminal, take the New York Central’s Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, connect with the California Zephyr to California, and see ground level America from sea to shining sea. For my eight-year-old curiosity, it was an exposure to travel and the USA that made a permanent impression on me.
The post war renaissance of long distance train travel was in full swing, and arguably the most aggressive effort to capture the travel market was the California Zephyr.
I can hear the chuff of a Canadian Pacific mixed train coming up behind me. There! A Canadian National roadswitcher burbles as it ambles along in the warm afternoon sun.
I am day-dreaming. I’m walking exactly where those steel-wheeled sights and sounds were once felt. I’m on the City of Kingston’s Urban K&P Trail, the umbrella name for the multi-use trail that traces the paths of Canada’s two major railways from mainline to lakefront.
When the railways
first mapped out their steel arteries, the ‘line of best fit’
could not possibly reach every community. Canadian Pacific’s
Montreal-Toronto mainline was many miles north of Kingston. The Grand
Trunk Railway (later Canadian National) barely entered city limits.
The Kingston & Pembroke (the trail’s namesake) connected Kingston to the CPR mainline in 1885, with GTR’s Kingston trackage having reached the waterfront in 1860. Industry grew along the water; grain elevators trans-shipping to lake freighters, coal and oil dealers supplying the city’s heating needs, even one of Canada’s major locomotive manufacturers. Trackage was extended as far south as it could be—mere feet from Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the Great Cataraqui River.
Railroads today are very standardized in their operations and equipment. It is very difficult to distinguish one railroad from another other than by their paint scheme. Things were different in the golden age of railroading. The railroads were very different from each other in terms of operating practices, the equipment used to move freight, and even the structures used to support operations such as depots or interlocking towers.
I will cover just the general look and design that the railroads followed most of the time. Please keep in mind that there were always exceptions to the rules.
Each railroad’s towers had their distinctive look and most followed a standard design or plan, but even within the same railroad, the towers could differ in looks or style from line to line. Read more
In the summer of 1992 I attended an industrial archaeology field school at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and spent my free time investigating railroad action around Martinsburg, Winchester and the surrounding Shenandoah Valley. Two years later, my annual Christmas stocking-stuffer book was Michael Flanagan’s illustrated novel of railroad paintings, Stations: An Imagined Journey which to my surprise was set in the same geographic area. I was immediately drawn to the paintings, many of which looked like familiar places. The narrative seemed cryptic on the first reading. But I kept returning to the book, which eventually led me on my own journey, a personal exploration that rewarded me with a deeper understanding of my attraction to the railroad landscape.
The last time I saw the East Broad Top under steam was October 29th, 2011, during a freak pre-winter blizzard fondly referred to as Snowtober. The storm produced unusually early season snowfall across the northeastern United States, breaking records for total accumulations. In fact, in some cities Halloween was cancelled and children were left without treats. Two months later, the tourist excursion season ended, and the East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company suspended operations indefinitely. The narrow gauge railroad has been dormant since, their doors locked. Once touted as the oldest operating narrow gauge steam train at its original location in America, water has not boiled inside a locomotive for five years. But I never stopped going back to visit this historic landmark. Face-to-face in the presence of absence; the current chapter.
Since its most recent closure, I have been routinely visiting the towns of Orbisonia, Mount Union, Robertsdale, and all points of interest in between. Regardless of season, weather conditions, or time of day, it is my mission to photograph and document the facilities as they exist present day. With permission from EBT management and ownership, access to the railroad complex has been graciously granted to capture photographs of these spectacular scenes. Read more
On July 6, 1892, the “Battle of Homestead” was fought at this site between the striking steelworkers of the Carnegie Company and the Pinkerton detectives.
The conflict had been brewing for several months. For union members belonging to the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers the working and living conditions were dismal. Twelve hour days, seven days a week with every other Sunday off was the norm. Efforts by the union to negotiate were ignored. Management in the form of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick refused any form of negotiations. Frick developed a hard line, telling Carnegie that he, Frick, would take care of the strike. The workers were locked out; they, in turn, surrounded the plant, refusing entry to anyone. Read more