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Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

2012 will be an important year for Union Pacific, as it marks the railroad’s 150th year of service.  The anniversary will be a year long celebration and UP has announced that it will begin with commemorative merchandise.  The railroad has recently made more than 50 items available to rail enthusiasts.  Commemorative memorabilia includes: wall clocks, crystal locomotive replicas, custom die cast key chains, snow globes, calendars, travel and outdoor gear, shirts, lapel pins, and caps.  For those interested in sharing in the celebration, items can be purchased at http://www.upstore150.com.

The history of Union Pacific goes back nearly as far as the country itself, so the railroads 150th anniversary is something all rail enthusiasts should celebrate. Union Pacific is giving railfans a chance to be a part of the monumental occasion by making the commemorative merchandise available.   Whether it is a 150th anniversary cap, key chain, or other item, supporters of Union Pacific will be able to join in the celebration in their own small way.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

The Gazette, Dec. 10, 1955

A full-scale riot described by Acting Police Director Thomas Leggett as "appearing to be worse than the Forum riot" of last March raged in downtown Montreal last night and forced all trams and buses off the streets.

Assistant Police Director Alfred Belanger said there has been nothing to equal it for "prolonged activity" since the anti-conscription riots of 1917.

Target of the mobs was the Montreal Transportation Commission which suffered "untold" damage to about 200 trams and buses as well as to power lines and other installations. At 10: 07 the MTC called all its cars and buses back to their barns and said that service would be resumed this morning only "if conditions permitted."

The riot was sparked by an afternoon student demonstration against higher tram fares. But of 90 people arrested early today only three were listed as "students," and only 12 as "juveniles." The others were adults, some over 30.

Police said they expected 150 arrests by morning and added they were holding all in cells.

At 10: 50 last night police officers had been ordered to "arrest on sight" every person suspected of causing trouble.

Mayor Drapeau earlier issued an official proclamation banning all parades and demonstrations and expressed regret that "subversive elements" and "fomenters of trouble" had infiltrated the student demonstrators.

Assistant Director Belanger said that extra men would be on duty this morning to protect passengers and MTC property when service was resumed.

Most of the serious damage was done between about 6: 30 p.m. and midnight by gangs of youths, some in the black leather jackets associated with teenage troublemakers but many in ordinary hats and overcoats of good quality.

The riot had its beginning in a fairly orderly and good-humoured demonstration by about 3,000 University of Montreal, McGill and Sir George Williams College students who early yesterday afternoon marched to City Hall where they were welcomed paternally by Mayor Drapeau. He told them he was pleased to see them and promised "action" on their demand for lower tram fares.

(The University of Montreal students paraded to City Hall on a similar mission last Wednesday and received a similar reception. Yesterday's parade was held to enable the McGill and Sir George Williams students to demonstrate for lower tram fares also.)

By 6: 30 however the "orderly" student demonstration had gotten out of hand and police, who apparently had been ordered to "take it easy" with the students, began to make arrests.

There was only one report of a constable being injured. Constable Bernard Labonte, hurt at St. Urbain and St. Catherine Sts., was taken to St. Luke Hospital.

Almost 55 persons had been arrested by 11 p.m. as police, augmented by men called back to duty, battled gangs roving all over downtown Montreal.

Ten people were injured, streetcars set afire, bus tires slashed and streets littered with glass from smashed streetcar windows.

M.T.C. and police blamed hoodlums for taking over when the students disbanded about 5 p.m. after pulling trolley wires off, letting air out of bus tires and tying up rush hour traffic completely.

By 11 p.m. gangs of leather-jacketed youths were parading along St. Catherine St. on which not a tram or bus moved. Police drove their cars into the crowds to break them up but there were a steady stream of damage and violence reports.

Newspaper switchboards were plugged by hundreds of calls from people wondering how they would get home.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Tunnels: Seattle's boring past filled with thrills

Tunnels R Us, Seattle ... now more than ever.

By Lynda V. Mapes

WELDING TORCHES flare, and sparks shower deep inside this tunnel, 30 stories under Lake Forest Park.

Up top, few people know about, much less appreciate, the work going on down here. To hear our local pols discuss construction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Tunnel, you'd think we'd never done this before. Somehow, what was lost in much of the public discussion getting to "yes" on that project was this: Tunnels R Us, Seattle. And they have been, for more than 100 years.

Now, and for about the next five years, Seattle will be in the middle of an unprecedented tunneling boom, from the behemoth viaduct-replacement project to three tunnels being dug to carry Sound Transit users to Capitol Hill and the University District. More than 250 workers are already on the job — 150 mining two tunnels from the University of Washington to Capitol Hill, 107 more working to bore a tunnel from Capitol Hill to downtown. And many more are coming.

This is good news. For while process is the coin of the realm in Seattle above ground, rate of advance is the gold underground, and it's measured by the hour. The underground trade may be Seattle's last bastion of active verbs: Mine it, fill it, drain it, freeze it, grout it, grind it, split it or just plain blow it up. Whatever's in the way of a tunnel alignment, once the crews get going, it probably won't be for long.

In a world where most work is done with a keyboard and dispersed into electronic ether, their work is refreshingly real, lasting, utilitarian. Workers seem also to share a frontier can-do spirit. Masters of a subterranean universe, not for nothing is their line of work called heavy civil: a good name for a grunge band, or a workforce that stops at pretty much nothing.

Hostile work environment? This is a place so alien there is a vocabulary particular to the array of hazards involved: Slickensided clay, raveling sands, perched water tables, glaciomarine drift, shear zones and voids — gaps the size of a small house where chunks of glacial ice melted eons ago. Then there are the prehistoric buried forests, boulder fields and pockets of methane gas.

While Seattle is the extreme-sport version of the tunneling industry, mostly, it's just our ornery nature, what the experts politely call our geologic context. Shoved here from Canada and dropped by the glaciers some 10,000 years ago, the soils that tunnelers confront here are full of the boulders hard enough to survive the trip. We are talking igneous, metamorphic and granitic brutes facing off rock crushers and boring machines tricked out with disc cutters, rock rippers, carbide-tipped steel teeth, the works.

The inconsistency of Seattle's glacial till is also infamous, with material changing from hardpan to gravelly soil to boulders to shifting sands without warning from foot to foot.

"If you go to the Midwest, the layers might go for miles," says Red Robinson wistfully. Senior vice president of Shannon & Wilson Inc., one of the biggest tunnel geotechnical and environmental consulting firms in Seattle, he is a battle-tested vet whose job is determining, as well as possible, what will be encountered on a tunneling job. Not just soils, either: Seattle's buried past also lurks underground: riprap-armored, buried shorelines; abandoned well casings; snapped steel cable from logging mills; mishmashes of fill in long-forgotten, man-made embankments.

Through it all, Robinson helped lead the work on the Mount Baker Ridge Tunnel, and he savors to this day bringing a novel construction technique to completing the tunnel on time and under budget in 1986.

But then, many of the biggest advances in tunnel construction — from the machines that gnaw through the earth to projects bigger and more complex than ever built before — that's Seattle. Robinson has mapped our history of tunneling, and counts more than 100 tunnels under the city, more than 40 miles' worth in all, built since 1890.

One, the Downtown Transit Tunnel, was the first tunnel for buses ever built to be used by rail, too — and it crosses alignment not once but twice, with the double-track railroad tunnel along the waterfront, twining both under and over it with just 5 and 15 feet of clearance, respectively.

No wonder the tunnel tribe here — the workers, engineers, designers, geotechs and construction managers — is known around the world for its innovation, expertise and sheer bench strength. "Seattle Renews its Large Diameter Legacy," noted one of the leading trade journals last spring of the city's commitment to build the Alaskan Way tunnel, which, at 58 feet in outside diameter, likely will be the largest tunnel of its type in the world.

Again.

The Mount Baker Ridge Tunnel we zip through on Interstate 90 to get to the Lake Washington floating bridge is still the largest tunnel in soil (as opposed to hard rock) in the world.

The Great Northern railroad tunnel along the waterfront the bus tunnel twines around? That tunnel, completed in 1904, was excavated by more than 350 men with pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows. The highest and widest tunnel in the U.S. of its time, the tunnel, having shrugged off at least four big earthquakes, is still in use.

The tunnel drilled into the rock at Snoqualmie Falls houses the world's first underground hydroelectric project, a pioneering feat completed in 1898. It, too, is still in use.

PROVIDING ALL-WEATHER, reliable, energy-efficient conveyance, tunnels in Seattle today remain an option for everything from buses to sewage.

But why Seattle's tunnel affinity? The answer is as old as our topography.

Rising from tideflats to a series of north-south ridges, Seattle's terrain has been a challenge since the Denny Party beached.

Ever notice those purple glass squares in the sidewalk in Pioneer Square? Those are not art installations butskylights into the now largely abandoned underground of the old downtown Seattle. That underground today is covered with the streets and sidewalks built after the Great Fire leveled 25 blocks of the city in 1889.

A great chance, it turned out, for a do-over. Today's street level is actually at the second-story level of the city's oldest buildings, whose feet reside in the unseen netherworld of the city's abandoned first draft. It was just the first in a series of monumental razing, grading, filling, replumbing and tunneling projects undertaken in our obsession to remake the lay of the land.

Tunnels enable us to get around without the bother of going over or around terrain that even after our regrading bender still rises some 300 feet above Puget Sound. And — as with the viaduct-replacement tunnel — tunnels put the utilitarian stuff out of sight, saving aboveground for pretty things, such as waterfront views. Tunnels also put gravity to work, using hills to move water and sewage in pipelines to provide and preserve clean water, a very old Seattle priority.

Those workers on the Brightwater sewage-plant tunnels? Their predecessors built the first tunnels in Seattle beginning in the 1890s. Spurred by a cholera outbreak in San Francisco caused by sewage-contaminated water, those first tunnels were built to carry sewage — untreated, back then — to Puget Sound.

The workers labored using donkeys, picks and shovels, with candles for lighting; mule- or horse-driven fans provided ventilation. Men worked in street clothes and felt hats, hand-shoveling muck and laying temporary wood supports followed with brick lining.

The death toll to build those first tunnels was terrible — losses of at least one man per mile were simply expected.

Those old but still-functioning tunnels, and water pipes bored through wood timbers, were the beginning of a modern, clean-water infrastructure that remains under construction, in the 13 miles of conveyance system for the Brightwater plant from the suburbs of Woodinville to the Sound.

Transportation has been the city's other big impetus for tunnels. The Great Northern tunnel, owned by the BNSF and used for freight as well as Amtrak and Sound Transit Sounder trains, was built right along the waterfront with, shall we say, aplomb unimaginable today. Engineer John F. Stevens recollects in his memoirs directing railroad boss James J. Hill to "secure, under cover, by purchase or option," the lands through downtown Seattle he figured would be needed for the job, and assuring him, "I would go to Seattle and assist with the matter of getting the ordinance (to build the tunnel) which I did . . . We secured the ordinance without much difficulty."

DESPITE LAYERS of Seattle process accreting for better and for worse ever since, we haven't stopped tunneling or innovating. The Robbins Company in Kent was in 1952 the birthplace of the world's first machine of its type, a rock-tunnel-boring machine that could, with a giant, rotating disc fitted with cutter heads, rip through the earth like a T-Rex.

The cutter head of the machine that will dig the Alaskan Way tunnel will be more than five stories high and custom-made for the job, as most tunnel-boring machines are. A mobile, underground factory, it will cruise through the ground like a computer-guided, hydraulic-jack-powered submarine, mining earth, crushing rock, ejecting grout and other soil conditioners from the cutter head to ease passage of the machine through the soil, then slurrying muck mined from the hole out the back.

When, along the way, things get stuck, go sideways, dive, jam or literally grind to a halt, that just makes it more interesting for guys like Greg Hauser.

A construction manager for Jay Dee/Coluccio JV who was hired by King County when another contractor's tunnel-boring machine jammed up on the Brightwater project, Hauser and his team rescued the job by boring in, finding the machine spot on and cutting it up with a torch.

"Things are going to happen, and when they do, we handle it," says Hauser, a career-long tunnel rat who looks like he should be leading a cattle drive.

From the Supercollider in Texas, to sewage tunnels from Chicago to Washington, D.C., Boston and Seattle, he's worked all over the country, maintaining a focused mission statement: "You find out as much as you can about something, you plan it well and get on with it. They want a tunnel from here to there, and you are going to make it for them."

The tunnel, he notes as he marches down it with the second-shift workers, is a beauty: clean, dry, straight. Too bad, he notes, few will appreciate their work. "They make calendars with pictures of bridges," he says ruefully. ". . . This gets filled with smeg, and no one ever sees it."

THOUGH THEY labor sight unseen, the workers' pride down here is real. With four years on the job, laborer Willie Bullard didn't mind confessing that at first he got the creeps working underground. "I always think, 'What's going to happen?' But my boss keeps saying: 'Nothing is going to happen to you.' So it's a scary thing. But it's a good thing.' " Like all tunnel workers, he wears a small brass disc with his number on it when he goes underground, leaving a second disc with his number hung on a board at the entrance to the tunnel when he's on the job, moved to the active, at-work side of the board.

That way, if anything happens, everyone knows who's underground. It's an old practice — as are many of the ways of this very traditional business, where till, hard rock or mud is all called muck and the workplace is Down in The Hole.

For many here, tunnel work is what's fed their families for generations, a proud, unionized trade they learned from fathers, uncles, grandfathers. The money is good: Often paying six figures, the underground trade may be one of the last places in Seattle a hard worker with a high-school education can own a house and support a family before age 40.

"Keeps you out of the rain!" cracks Mick McMackin of his job in the Brightwater tunnel. An electrician here, he likes the work because it's consistent, different and busy. "And you make a tunnel, it's going to be there."

Shift foreman Edgar Valles of Everett said over the roar of fans and torches that it was his uncle who first started taking him underground. "Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to do this work, it was something different from all the other jobs up top."

Hauser squeezes himself through a port in the cutter head of the tunnel-boring machine, all that's left of the tons of steel, hydraulics and electronics the workers cut up after the machine completed its bore-through from Point Wells.

It's interesting to see, after some 30 years of work underground, how instinctively careful Hauser is down here, checking with a gas meter the oxygen level of the tunnel on the far side of the machine's cutter head, where the lighting and ventilation systems have already been removed, and the tunnel recedes into spooky blackness miles away.

Against the darkening distance, his living breath is white, wispy, vulnerable.

"Dragon's teeth," he says, passing a gloved hand over the worn rippers on the cutter head of the machine his team steered to its exact meeting place, head to head with the other section of tunnel they were tasked with completing.

"It's amazing, what we did here," Hauser says. And it is: boring in, to dock one gigantic tunnel-boring machine against another without an inch of tolerance to miss the target. "We were able to move in here from 31,000 feet and come right to it. Dead nuts right where we wanted.

"That's the way we do things."

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Just a few runs left before Railtown 1897 State Historic Park ends train rides for winter

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By Lucy D'Mot

Special to The Bee

Published: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 - 12:00 am
Page 1I

You'd better hurry if you want to get on board the trains at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park next weekend.

The Santa Day Trains will run on the hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 18, but once the holiday rides are over, you'll have to wait until weekends in April to get back on the rails. Although the park and its historic roundhouse remain open over the winter, the train rides will end.

I squeaked in for a visit on the last Saturday in October – Halloween! – for a ride on the steam train with its "skeleton crew."

It was a perfect day for the 90-mile drive to Jamestown, combining the clear blue skies of summer with autumn color and a hint of crispness in the air. A couple of my friends and my dog Roxy piled into the car along with me.

Driving through the quaint towns of Jackson, San Andreas and Angels Camp, I had to fight the urge to stop and explore the many historic markers along the way. I vowed to rent a cabin in Calaveras County sometime in the future and spend a week visiting them all.

Once in Jamestown, we stopped at a local mini-market to pick up a picnic lunch. In the spirit of the hallowed holiday, a clerk with pink and yellow hair offered to apply colored hairspray to all who entered the store. I opted for a couple of blue streaks down the back of my dark brown tresses while my friend Jeannie went for a few swatches of pink. The fumes of hairspray filled the market.

Lunch acquired, we drove the half-mile to the park. Before eating, we purchased tickets for the 2 p.m. train ride, because sometimes they sell out in advance.

The Sierra Railway Co. was formed in 1897 by Thomas Bullock, who had logging and mining interests in the area. Bullock owned three locomotives and several miles of track, the remnants of a failed railway venture.

With investment assistance from William Crocker and Crocker's brother-in-law Prince Andre Poniatowski, Bullock developed the short-line Sierra Railway to Oakdale, where it hooked up with the Southern Pacific Railroad and served the growing Sacramento and San Francisco areas.

An impressive variety of passenger and freight locomotives are strewn about the park, awaiting restoration. Train parts and tools are everywhere. This is an active, working facility.

While exploring the park, I had to frequently walk on or cross a railroad track. Even when a track wasn't working or abruptly ended, I could hear a train and sometimes feel its rumble. The sensations rattled my nerves and made me want to jump off the track, but I persevered, lured by the Hollywood connections to this railroad.

Since 1919, the Sierra Railway has starred in more than 200 movies, TV shows and commercials. Its freight-hauling days were ending, but the trains were still being used by movie moguls.

Railway 1897 is home to the oft-filmed Sierra 3 locomotive, for instance. It was fully restored just last year – and whistled and rumbled in the background during our picnic.

With Railway 1897's miles of tracks, wealth of old trains and rugged Old West landscape, the motion picture industry helped keep the railway afloat during tough economic times and prevented the locomotives and cars from becoming wartime scrap metal.

I found movie memorabilia all around me.

There were old movie posters, John Wayne's handcar, and a screen backdrop for a "photo opp" for you or, in my case, a certain canine. I found myself wishing for some rope to do my best impression of a silent film damsel-in-distress.

There are reminders of other famous celluloid images. The water tower from "Petticoat Junction's" Shady Rest Hotel sits at the back of the park amid a lot of "train stuff."

At 2 p.m., we boarded our train, the Sierra 3 Movie Train, which a young actor named Clint Eastwood once strode in the guise of ramrod Rowdy Yates.

Eastwood once said: "The Sierra No. 3 is like a treasured old friend. Early in my career, I rode Sierra No. 3 on the television series 'Rawhide.' Over 20 years later, I returned to use No. 3 for my own productions 'Pale Rider' and 'Unforgiven.' Even in the business of 'make believe,' you can't beat the real thing."

Since we visited on Halloween weekend, we had a "skeleton crew." The train was decorated with orange and black spiders, skeletons and the like. Many children were in costume.

The 45-minute ride crossed the highway, rolled through the backyards of foothill homes as well as rocky vistas, then ended at a quarry. Here, the train stops while the engine is moved to the other end of the train for the return trip. There's a stop at the water tower to "refuel," and then back to the station where we embarked on a guided tour of the roundhouse.

The locomotives "rest" here at night, allowing for restoration and repair. We saw lots of grease, metal shavings, machinery and tools, including items that are no longer used but were part of how things were done "in the old days."

We saw large holes in the ground, deep enough to allow crewmen to work beneath the train. The tour guide was able to answer complex questions while also explaining the complex in a simple fashion.

A few of the walls had some markings from years gone by, noting the weather conditions on a given day.

The day's finale – and for me, the most exciting part – was watching Sierra 3 return to the roundhouse. As it whistled and puffed back to its stable, I was allowed to stand within a few feet of the track as it passed by, a genuine thrill.

The turntable was built in 1922, and Sierra 3 was given a full 360-degree spin for our viewing pleasure. Then, slowly, grandly and with great dignity, Sierra 3 was put to bed as the doors were closed behind it. Wow! Suddenly, I got the fascination with trains that so many people have.

There were only moments left now before the park closed, not nearly enough time to see the film, but perhaps enough time to gather a bit more information and hurriedly talk with some volunteers.

I spoke with no one who could conceive of the park closing. It is associated with the California State Railroad Museum and has 150 volunteers donating more than 29,000 hours annually. Each volunteer who spoke to me plans to be back when the park reopens in April.

The trains were full for every ride, and the roundhouse tours were well-attended. Given the attendance and volunteer commitment, this park certainly does not suffer from a lack of love.

It's a great place for a family outing, and then you can come home and watch "Back to the Future III" or one of the many other films shot here and say, "I was there!"

RAILTOWN 1897 STATE HISTORIC PARK

Location: 18115 Fifth Ave. in Jamestown

Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily from November to March and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily from April through October. It will be closed on Christmas and New Year's Day. Excursion trains operate hourly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from April to October. There is limited holiday service in November and December. The steam train operates Saturdays, and the diesel train on Sundays.

Things to do: Take the Santa by Daylight train tour Saturday and Dec. 18, and you'll enjoy caroling, hot chocolate and a visit with Santa. The train runs on the hour, starting at 11 a.m. and ending with the last ride at 3 p.m. (Reservations are strongly recommended.) The historic roundhouse is open for tours every day.

Cost: Admission to the park is $5 general; $3 ages 6-17; and free to children ages 5 and younger. The entry fee allows you to take advantage of a guided tour of the roundhouse or a self-guided tour of the park. Tickets for the excursion trains, which include admission to the park, are $6-$13.

Parking: There is free parking in a small lot immediately adjacent to the Railtown Depot and a larger lot just to the west and across the tracks from the depot.

Information: (209) 984-3953, http://www.railtown1897.org

Park news: On Nov. 27, The Bee ran my story about Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve. The next week, The Bee's Matt Weiser reported that The Bodie Foundation nonprofit group had struck a deal to prevent closure next year. There will be a $3 daily parking fee.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/12/11/4110318/just-a-few-runs-left-before-railtown.html#ixzz1gFblXDC1

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

AMERICA’S GREAT RAILROAD STATIONS

By Roger Strauss III, Hugh van Dusen and Ed Breslin (Viking Studio, $40)

It’s hard to step into one of America’s great train stations without feeling enhanced — those lofty ceilings and elongated perspectives can jazz up even the most frivolous day-trip. Architectural photographer Roger Strauss and railroad buffs Hugh van Dusen and Ed Breslin pay homage to these living monuments, celebrating how they have endured even as times have changed. Among the stops on their cross-country trip: Philadelphia’s 30th Street station, New York’s Grand Central and a multitude of Union Stations: St. Louis, Los Angeles, Portland and our very own. — Dennis Drabelle

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Just a few runs left before Railtown 1897 State Historic Park ends train rides for winter

Share

By Lucy D'Mot

Special to The Bee

Published: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 - 12:00 am
Page 1I

You'd better hurry if you want to get on board the trains at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park next weekend.

The Santa Day Trains will run on the hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 18, but once the holiday rides are over, you'll have to wait until weekends in April to get back on the rails. Although the park and its historic roundhouse remain open over the winter, the train rides will end.

I squeaked in for a visit on the last Saturday in October – Halloween! – for a ride on the steam train with its "skeleton crew."

It was a perfect day for the 90-mile drive to Jamestown, combining the clear blue skies of summer with autumn color and a hint of crispness in the air. A couple of my friends and my dog Roxy piled into the car along with me.

Driving through the quaint towns of Jackson, San Andreas and Angels Camp, I had to fight the urge to stop and explore the many historic markers along the way. I vowed to rent a cabin in Calaveras County sometime in the future and spend a week visiting them all.

Once in Jamestown, we stopped at a local mini-market to pick up a picnic lunch. In the spirit of the hallowed holiday, a clerk with pink and yellow hair offered to apply colored hairspray to all who entered the store. I opted for a couple of blue streaks down the back of my dark brown tresses while my friend Jeannie went for a few swatches of pink. The fumes of hairspray filled the market.

Lunch acquired, we drove the half-mile to the park. Before eating, we purchased tickets for the 2 p.m. train ride, because sometimes they sell out in advance.

The Sierra Railway Co. was formed in 1897 by Thomas Bullock, who had logging and mining interests in the area. Bullock owned three locomotives and several miles of track, the remnants of a failed railway venture.

With investment assistance from William Crocker and Crocker's brother-in-law Prince Andre Poniatowski, Bullock developed the short-line Sierra Railway to Oakdale, where it hooked up with the Southern Pacific Railroad and served the growing Sacramento and San Francisco areas.

An impressive variety of passenger and freight locomotives are strewn about the park, awaiting restoration. Train parts and tools are everywhere. This is an active, working facility.

While exploring the park, I had to frequently walk on or cross a railroad track. Even when a track wasn't working or abruptly ended, I could hear a train and sometimes feel its rumble. The sensations rattled my nerves and made me want to jump off the track, but I persevered, lured by the Hollywood connections to this railroad.

Since 1919, the Sierra Railway has starred in more than 200 movies, TV shows and commercials. Its freight-hauling days were ending, but the trains were still being used by movie moguls.

Railway 1897 is home to the oft-filmed Sierra 3 locomotive, for instance. It was fully restored just last year – and whistled and rumbled in the background during our picnic.

With Railway 1897's miles of tracks, wealth of old trains and rugged Old West landscape, the motion picture industry helped keep the railway afloat during tough economic times and prevented the locomotives and cars from becoming wartime scrap metal.

I found movie memorabilia all around me.

There were old movie posters, John Wayne's handcar, and a screen backdrop for a "photo opp" for you or, in my case, a certain canine. I found myself wishing for some rope to do my best impression of a silent film damsel-in-distress.

There are reminders of other famous celluloid images. The water tower from "Petticoat Junction's" Shady Rest Hotel sits at the back of the park amid a lot of "train stuff."

At 2 p.m., we boarded our train, the Sierra 3 Movie Train, which a young actor named Clint Eastwood once strode in the guise of ramrod Rowdy Yates.

Eastwood once said: "The Sierra No. 3 is like a treasured old friend. Early in my career, I rode Sierra No. 3 on the television series 'Rawhide.' Over 20 years later, I returned to use No. 3 for my own productions 'Pale Rider' and 'Unforgiven.' Even in the business of 'make believe,' you can't beat the real thing."

Since we visited on Halloween weekend, we had a "skeleton crew." The train was decorated with orange and black spiders, skeletons and the like. Many children were in costume.

The 45-minute ride crossed the highway, rolled through the backyards of foothill homes as well as rocky vistas, then ended at a quarry. Here, the train stops while the engine is moved to the other end of the train for the return trip. There's a stop at the water tower to "refuel," and then back to the station where we embarked on a guided tour of the roundhouse.

The locomotives "rest" here at night, allowing for restoration and repair. We saw lots of grease, metal shavings, machinery and tools, including items that are no longer used but were part of how things were done "in the old days."

We saw large holes in the ground, deep enough to allow crewmen to work beneath the train. The tour guide was able to answer complex questions while also explaining the complex in a simple fashion.

A few of the walls had some markings from years gone by, noting the weather conditions on a given day.

The day's finale – and for me, the most exciting part – was watching Sierra 3 return to the roundhouse. As it whistled and puffed back to its stable, I was allowed to stand within a few feet of the track as it passed by, a genuine thrill.

The turntable was built in 1922, and Sierra 3 was given a full 360-degree spin for our viewing pleasure. Then, slowly, grandly and with great dignity, Sierra 3 was put to bed as the doors were closed behind it. Wow! Suddenly, I got the fascination with trains that so many people have.

There were only moments left now before the park closed, not nearly enough time to see the film, but perhaps enough time to gather a bit more information and hurriedly talk with some volunteers.

I spoke with no one who could conceive of the park closing. It is associated with the California State Railroad Museum and has 150 volunteers donating more than 29,000 hours annually. Each volunteer who spoke to me plans to be back when the park reopens in April.

The trains were full for every ride, and the roundhouse tours were well-attended. Given the attendance and volunteer commitment, this park certainly does not suffer from a lack of love.

It's a great place for a family outing, and then you can come home and watch "Back to the Future III" or one of the many other films shot here and say, "I was there!"

RAILTOWN 1897 STATE HISTORIC PARK

Location: 18115 Fifth Ave. in Jamestown

Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily from November to March and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily from April through October. It will be closed on Christmas and New Year's Day. Excursion trains operate hourly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from April to October. There is limited holiday service in November and December. The steam train operates Saturdays, and the diesel train on Sundays.

Things to do: Take the Santa by Daylight train tour Saturday and Dec. 18, and you'll enjoy caroling, hot chocolate and a visit with Santa. The train runs on the hour, starting at 11 a.m. and ending with the last ride at 3 p.m. (Reservations are strongly recommended.) The historic roundhouse is open for tours every day.

Cost: Admission to the park is $5 general; $3 ages 6-17; and free to children ages 5 and younger. The entry fee allows you to take advantage of a guided tour of the roundhouse or a self-guided tour of the park. Tickets for the excursion trains, which include admission to the park, are $6-$13.

Parking: There is free parking in a small lot immediately adjacent to the Railtown Depot and a larger lot just to the west and across the tracks from the depot.

Information: (209) 984-3953, http://www.railtown1897.org

Park news: On Nov. 27, The Bee ran my story about Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve. The next week, The Bee's Matt Weiser reported that The Bodie Foundation nonprofit group had struck a deal to prevent closure next year. There will be a $3 daily parking fee.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

For a show about building a railroad, Hell on Wheels sure has been judicious with its use of trains. Before last night’s episode, I was ready to rename it Hell on Hooves because, you know, there are more horses than trains. But then "Pride, Pomp and Circumstance" arrived bellowing enough black smoke to warrant a visit from the EPA. We’ve got trains.

Senator Jordan Crane, whom we met way back in the pilot, arrives on the first train. Durant is stumbling over himself to get a piss-poor brass section and a photographer in place for his arrival. Crane shows up, the band stumbles through ten seconds of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and Durant’s transformation from the boisterous manipulator to total doofus is complete.

When we met this guy, he was feeding a room of politicians shovels of smeg about the wonders of rail and they were eating it up. He wanted their money and they handed it over. But from that moment on, Durant has devolved into a total boob. If that wasn't clear in the first five episodes, this one drives it home. First he fails to impress Crane with the Mighty Mighty Railtones. Then we learn The Swede is feeding Crane information about Durant’s dirty deals. Then we see Lily walk all over him like he’s a puddle of mud.

Lily’s Durant dissing moment comes when they share lunch with Crane at one of those tablecloth-covered tables that spring forth so plentifully from the Nebraska soil. She mentions to Crane that Durant’s missing the plans to cross the Rockies her dead Robert drew up. She’s trying to pressure Durant into paying her the money he owed Bob. For now, though, all Durant can do is give her exasperated looks. And those are, I will say, the best part of Durant’s transition from villain to village idiot. Colm Meany is brilliant at turning thoughts like “Whaaaaat?” “Oh, come on!” and “Yooouuu smeg” into facial expressions.

He gives a few of those to Chief Many Horses during negotiations meant to avoid a massacre of the Cheyenne at the hands of the military. Those negotiations are why Crane has traveled to Hell on Wheels. Not that he’s really concerned about avoiding confrontation, though; as he put it, "If these savages want a scrap then, by God, we'll give them one that they won't soon disremember."

Before CMH and his Cheyenne posse come riding into town, Reverend Cole convinces Bohannon to try to keep the idiots who live there from turning the peace summit into a bloodbath. It quickly becomes clear that the town’s resident racist Irishman is going to make that hard. Speaking of Racist O’Hurley — ugggggh. This guy is the most one-dimensional character in a show full of cardboard cutouts. In previous episodes, he’s existed solely to say racist things about blacks. Now he’s saying racist things about Indians. At this point, it seems just as likely that he’ll drive up on a Vespa as speak a line that doesn’t end with a slur.

Further preparations for the Cheyenne’s arrival are taking place in the church tent, where Joseph Black Moon and the Rev’s daughter Ruth are laying Bibles for the heathens. After giving her a look that says he might be interested in laying more than lose Bibles, Joseph tries out his best pickup line on Ruth: “How did your mother die?” (Don’t blame him. This was before The Game.) Ruth tells the story of her dead mom and Joseph does the same. He ends by saying his mother’s with God now. But Ruth is all, “Uhhh, if she wasn’t a Christian, no she’s not.” To make sure he gets the point, she calls Indians inferior. Do these guys know how to party or what?

Meanwhile, Senator Crane is taking a leak of pee as The Swede leaks some information. The Swede tells Crane that Durant has stolen $147,000 meant to go to railroad construction. All The Swede asks in return for this info is info of his own about Sergeant Harper, the last man Bohannon tried to kill for having a hand in his wife’s death. Brief though it may be, it’s good to see someone still cares about the vengeance story that brought Bohannon to Hell on Wheels in the first place. Weird that it’s The Swede and not Bohannon, though, who’s more occupied overseeing the railroad, firing Racist O’Sullivan from the cut crew for being insubordinate, and protecting the Cheyenne from the savage white men who want to kill them.

The meeting between CMH, Crane, and Durant isn’t going very well. Durant tries to convince CMH to leave his land. "We will give you everything you need if you'll just submit to living on a reservation!” Of course, CMH isn’t interested. Then he lets slip that his son, the piercing enthusiast from last week, had a vision he would defeat a train. So Durant offers him a chance to do just that by racing a train. The train, of course, wins the race, and even though Durant smugly celebrates and CMH is dejected afterward, the result doesn’t seem to matter.

Finally, some intrigue arrives in the episode’s conclusion. Crane confronts Durant about the money he’s stealing and threatens to turn him in as soon he arrives back in Chicago. Lily overhears this, which will be important soon. Later she sees a Cheyenne woman wearing dead Robert’s hat. She causes a scene trying to take it back, but Bohannon stops her. As luck would have it, the woman returns the hat later after Joseph explains to her why Lily freaked out on her. Turns out the woman got the hat after it was found at the scene of her husband’s death, making her husband the cat-eyed Indian whom Lily killed after she and Robert were attacked. Small world!

Anyway, the combination of Crane’s threat and that hat results in a change of Lily’s heart about that whole map thing she’d been toying with Durant about. She gives Durant the maps and tells him he has to now complete Robert’s dream. Maybe these maps will be Durant’s idiot elixir.

We’re sent off this week with Racist O’Reilly trying to rouse up his rabble to go after the Indians. Sheriff Bohannon stops him with the help of Sheriff Swede, leaving him craving the services of a young lady. When he gets to the brothel and looks for his favorite girl, Face Tat, she isn’t there. He knows where she might be, though. Racist O’Hurley and his posse barge into Elam’s tent, where he and face tat are mid tender moment. They drag Elam out and … everything goes black. Cliff-hanger! Guess we’ll have to spend a week wondering what happens to Elam and whether it rhymes with pinching.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Are streetcars the answer to our transit and environmental needs?

By Steven Dornfeld
Published Mon, Dec 12 2011 9:06 am

Siemens

Cities could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more by linking streetcars and higher-density land use.

Patrick Condon wants to turn back the clock to the streetcar era.

Condon, an urban planner and professor at the University of British Columbia, says bringing back the streetcar is the best thing cities can do to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases and become more sustainable.

Speaking last week at the University of Minnesota, Condon said most North American cities developed out of the agricultural grid system, in which the land was divided into one-mile-square parcels. Streetcars could easily be added back into cities that developed on a grid pattern and many suburbs could be retrofitted to include them, he said.

Congdon said he came to be a "train nut" late in life, and does not readily identify the older guys "in bib overalls hovering over their train layouts in the basement."

But he argued that cities could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more by linking streetcars and higher-density land use. Making communities walkable and bikeable also could help.

One major challenge would be getting public buy-in, Condon said. Half of the public "doesn't believe climate change is a problem."

There is, however, a certain amount of nostalgia for streetcars. Many baby boomers and their parents recall the days when it was possible to hop on a trolley and get to just about anywhere in the Twin Cities area.

900 streetcars

Up until the early 1950s, the Twin Cities had 900 streetcars and more than 500 miles of track that extended from Lake Minnetonka to Stillwater. On University Avenue, there were more than 60 cars operating during peak periods.

Annual ridership hit a peak of 238 million in 1920. It began to drop as automobiles became affordable and plummeted after World War II, when GIs returned home, formed families and sought that prized home in the suburbs. (By comparison, transit ridership last year was 91 million.)

The streetcar system came to an unfortunate end in 1954, when the last trolleys were pulled from the streets and replaced with buses financed by General Motors. In the conversion process, the transit system was defrauded by company executives and mobsters, several of whom went to jail.

Hennepin County Library

The last run of the streetcars in Minneapolis on June 19,1954.

The history of the system is recounted in a richly illustrated book, "Twin Cities by Trolley," by John W. Diers and Aaron Isaacs. The Minnesota Streetcar Museum also provides a brief history of the system.

Condon said there are solid environment and economic reasons for bringing back the trolley. A modern low-floor tram [PDF] manufactured by Siemens has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile of all transportation options.

Streetcars also are more affordable, with a capital cost of $20 million to $40 million per mile compared with $60 million to $100 million a mile for light rail transit.

Key density goal

The key, Condon said, is to achieve sufficient density — 10 to 40 residential units per acre — to support the investment. "You could marry transit to land use in a way where you don't have to subsidize it at all," he says. However, he acknowledged that achieving that density goal "is going to be very hard."

In the Twin Cities, the typical urban neighborhood might have a density of seven to 10 units per acre, while the density in developing suburbs is more in the range of two to four units per acre. The Metropolitan Council requires a minimum of three units per acre in areas where communities want regional sewer service.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have expressed interest in streetcars, and Minneapolis landed a $900,000 federal grant to explore the idea. The city has embarked on a study of a possible nine-mile line along Nicollet and Central Avenues from 46th Street in south Minneapolis to a transit station just outside of Columbia Heights.

St. Paul failed to win a $200,000 grant to conduct a study of its own, but Joe Campbell, a spokesman for Mayor Chris Coleman, says the city is "pursuing other options" to fund the effort.

Metro Transit, meanwhile, is studying another option — a form of bus rapid transit (BRT) — in 11 urban corridors in the two cities. It is would include such features as distinctive vehicles with traffic signal priority, heated bus shelters, off-vehicle fare collection, real-time travel information, more frequent service and faster trips.

The capital cost for urban BRT would be about $2 million to $5 million per mile, according to Metro Transit planners.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

GRAPEVINE - On May 5, 1995, Michael Percifield was tasked with taking steam Engine 2248 and its cars from the Fort Worth & Western's Eighth Avenue yard to the stockyards to pickup passengers.

It was Percifield's job to ensure everything went smoothly with 2248 on the chartered train trip. But he had not counted on the severe weather that was approaching Fort Worth on the Mayfest weekend.

"As we pulled out of the yard, we could see the clouds getting darker and darker," he said. He and his crew received word that those clouds held more than just rain. Hail and a tornado also were possible. Percifield knew he had to get the train safely to the stockyards and shelter before that storm hit.

"Do not hold the horses, get to the stockyards," the train master told Percifield.

He didn't hold back.

Percifield opened up the throttle.

"We were flying," he said.

The engine, pulling its tender and water box plus the passenger cars, made the normal 25-minute trip in 12 minutes.

"We probably had her up to 50 mph," he said. "We arrived and had just enough time to run the train around and get it into the stockyards depot."

With the threat of tornadoes adding to the worst hail storms the area had seen, the excursion was cancelled. But Percifield said Engine 2248 performed flawlessly in that dash to safety.

"It just shows the difference a good mechanic can make," he said of the crew that kept the steam engine running back then.

Now Percifield is back fulltime with Engine 2248, which was built in 1896. He is no longer engineer, but is now Grapevine's newly named train master in charge of all related rail operations for the city's Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Unfortunately, he has taken on the job with his beloved 2249 sitting partially disassembled in the station barn.

The engine has not run since February, after one of its two piston rods flew apart. But Percifield and his current crew of mechanics are determined that 2248 will be fixed and back on the rails pulling tourists down to the stockyards and back. "We are putting a plan of action together for her to attack the issue," he said last week.

In the meantime, the 1953 diesel engine is doing the heavy work of pulling the cars. "It's a good locomotive," Percifield said.

He should know. The 42-year-old has been working around engines a good part of the time since graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in architecture. Instead of going in that field, Percifield said he went to work for the Fort Worth & Western Railroad two weeks out of school. At the time in 1993, the short-haul rail company had a plan to provide public excursions from Fort Worth's Eighth Avenue rail yard to the stockyards. The engine doing the work was 2248 running as the Tarantula.

When the FWWR moved on to more lucrative freight hauling, Percifield did also. He went to work for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and then did other jobs including having a construction company. All the time, though, he would take part-time runs on 2248, even after Grapevine acquired the engine.

"I've always had a passion for this train," Percifield said. "It's been run correctly, and I want to make sure it's properly handled."

He said engines, especially steam engines, have a bit of an attitude. "It's almost like working on something alive," Percifield said. "Its sounds like its breathing, because of the mechanical aspects. If you are trained properly, you can get a sense of what the locomotive is doing, not only by hearing it and seeing it, but how if feels. You can sense when things are not working, so you can head something off before it becomes serious."

While 2248 is not huffing and steaming right now, it will be as soon as new pistons can be created, Percifield said. "I'd like to see it running as soon as possible," he said, "but there are a lot of factors involved. Once the piston situation is taken care of, I don't see why we won't use her on a regular basis."

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

Probably the best 360-degree view of the city from the downtown area is atop the 155-foot-tall Clock Tower in Riverfront Park. And pretty much the only person who gets to see it is David Randolph, laborer foreperson for the city of Spokane. He’s the man who winds the clock.

Although the clock can be wound to run for eight days, Randolph makes the climb once every seven days – allowing a day’s leeway, just in case – to ensure that the clock runs, well, like clockwork. It’s a combination of 133 steps and ladder rungs up to reach the little room where the mechanism for the clock’s four faces is housed. The crank has a 2-foot-long handle, and it takes 99 turns of the crank to keep things working for the next week.

“The vista from up there is just unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve been hoping for quite a while to get funding for an elevator so guests to the park can ride up to see the inner workings of the clock and see the panoramic view. There is part of an old elevator shaft in the tower, but it doesn’t reach the clock.”

Randolph said he does recognize that as the park will be 40 years old in 2014, there are probably other repair and maintenance issues that need to be taken care of first. “Still, it could be a nice revenue source for the city.”

Randolph has been taking care of the clock for the past 20 years, including greasing, cleaning and general maintenance. It’s not always easy. This year two bushings needed to be repaired, and a master clockmaker was found to reconstruct them.

When one of the windowpanes on a clock face was damaged and a new one installed some years back, it had to be sandblasted to match the texture of the 100-year-old glass it replaced. Another time, when there was a failure of the 8-inch-long spring-steel plates on which the 3-inch-wide, 500-pound zinc pendulum swings, new ones had to be handmade and hardened. “We needed to get the right hardness and tension or it wouldn’t work,” he said. “While we just needed two, we went ahead and had 12 made, so we’re set for the future.”

When the Clock Tower and its attached Great Northern Railway Depot building were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the 9-foot-across clock faces were declared the largest timepieces in the Pacific Northwest. And they were then and today remain quite hefty. The glass faces alone total more than 1,400 pounds.

As is pretty well known in the region, the Clock Tower – now one of the most recognized symbols of the city – is all that remains of the railway depot, which was demolished in 1972-’73 to make way for Expo ’74, the world’s fair the city held in the area of downtown Spokane that was to become Riverfront Park. The Clock Tower was retained as a memorial to the city’s railroading history.

The depot itself was considered the finest railroad station west of Chicago when it opened on May 30, 1902. The clock in the tower began keeping time at high noon on June 20 of that year. Over the years, rail lines connected through the depot – from the north, linking Spokane with the rich lumber and farming areas of northeastern Washington, also uniting Spokane with Canada. And the Spokane and Inland Empire Railway connected Spokane with both North Idaho and the wheat-growing areas to the south of the city. These rail lines, along with the Great Northern (their future parent), helped Spokane become headquarters for regional mining operations as well.

A smaller rail line – the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway – known as the “Northwest’s Own Railroad,” according to historical documents, also operated through the depot, connecting Spokane with Pasco, the Big Bend area and Portland.

The Clock Tower still chimes the hours, but it also serves many other purposes now, too. Randolph recalls that when the Harry Potter films first opened in Spokane, he’d have to fill smoke machines that would go off high in the tower each hour as a promotion for the films. He used a green gel on the lights to tint the color of the smoke. “Multiple calls went to the fire department reporting that the tower was on fire,” Randolph said, “even though the smoke people were seeing was green.”

Randolph also hangs banners from the tower, as needed, and is sometimes stationed high up during fireworks shows to check the grounds for possible fires or problems. Useful for publicity, as a symbol of the city and a reminder of the past, the Clock Tower still does something extremely well, as it has for 109 years – it keeps pretty good time for the city.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Most of us, while visiting the New York Transit Museum, will not care too much that in the 1930s large coiled tubes containing liquid carbon tetrachloride were used as fuses to protect the city’s subway system from short circuits. Many of us approach this subject so lightly that we might think a label on an electrical contraption — “Edison Bipolar Dynamo” — is missing a colon after the name of the inventor, who may not have been bipolar but was certainly a dynamo.

We also don’t think much about what makes the trains run, which is the subject of a major new exhibition here, “ElectriCity: Powering New York’s Rails.” Usually the only possible thrill in combining the words “electricity” and “subway” comes from recollections of the ominous sensations of childhood coalescing around that half-hidden “third rail.” The topic now inspires excitement only in times of failure, when stories are told about passengers lining up in the darkened tunnels, trying to avoid scampering rats while mounting ladders to safety.

One of the ways in which this charming and often engrossing museum in Brooklyn Heights works, though, is to recognize that most of us are thoroughly convinced of its subject’s ordinariness. We approach the museum as we do the subway early in the morning, in calm resignation, prepared for whatever fate has to offer. We descend the steps almost as if we were ordinary straphangers, as if we didn’t realize this Court Street subway stop (complete with original enameled signs, tiled walls and miscellaneous turnstiles) was decommissioned long ago to be used as a museum.

But it doesn’t take long before a nostalgic, geekish curiosity replaces ordinary commuter consciousness. We look around in wonder. How did this come to be? When did it change? How does it work?

This is a museum of specimens, a natural history museum of the city’s public transportation. There are facades of buses and trolleys along with their genealogies; models of diesel engines; examples of 70 years of turnstiles; and even an examination of how money and tokens — now almost obsolete — were once the subway’s currency. Original signs are posted like remnants of a dream: “Spitting on the platforms or other parts of this station is unlawful,” or “Warning. Do not lean over the edge of platform.” There are archives of photographs, drawings and blueprints. Head down to the tracks, and you see the ghosts of trains past: long extinct cars along with their descendants. They stand with open doors, as if awaiting passengers to rush for cane seats and enameled poles, the sight of which inspires fulsome memories of sweltering summer heat.

The new electricity exhibition doesn’t quite succeed in making a place for itself in this company, but no one who comes here will see it in isolation, so it is best to take its strengths and weaknesses in stride. It was designed by curators from the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and has some clever participatory displays (particularly those encouraging visitors’ play with electrical circuits) along with some terrific old machinery. But it takes its time on things that can be quickly portrayed and rushes through matters that are potentially bewildering, as if an uncertain engineer were at its helm.

It also seems somewhat anemic since it immediately follows an exhibition, “Steel, Stone and Backbone,” that examines the subway’s construction during the early decades of the 20th century, when 30,000 men were extending the city’s reach below ground as others were propelling it skyward. Along with equipment of that era — surveying chains, enormous digging tools, a 15-ton jack — are explanations of how tunnels were dug underwater; how the “sandhogs,” the men who did the most dangerous work, worked in compressed air at the tunnels’ most vulnerable endpoints; how ethnic politics and labor unions evolved with the subways; and how, from time to time, lives were lost and sometimes saved.

In 1916, we learn, Marshall Mabey and two other men were working on the tunnel under the East River when air started rushing out through a hole, and water began to pour in. The men were shot upward through the soft earth as if on a geyser. Only Mabey survived. “The last thing I recalled,” he said, “was seeing the Brooklyn Bridge above me while I was whirling around in the air.”

How can descriptions of electrical generators compete with that? It can’t. At the opening of the electricity show we are dutifully shown four methods of generating power that together account for 98 percent of United States electricity: fossil fuel, nuclear power, hydropower and wind power. Each is represented in a panel display in which lights blink and mini-turbines spin, showing how the pressure of steam, water or wind creates electrical power. But the demonstrations are humdrum, the graphics rudimentary and the generators essentially the same.

More interesting is a map of United States energy production. The top three states in production of hydropower? Washington, Oregon and California. The top state in production of wind power? Texas. Also suggestive is a rough chart of energy costs: Wind power requires more land and is most expensive; nuclear energy requires the least land; fossil fuels are the cheapest but have by far the highest carbon emissions.

The most effective demonstration of a generator, though, is a real one. Turn an enormous wheel that moves coils through a magnetic field, and arcing sparks of electricity are created. But it is unnecessarily difficult actually to see what is taking place. You can try studying a nearby diagram, but compressed details — “Wire coils connect to the commutator, which turns the rotor. Brushes gather electricity from the commutator.” — eclipses the clarity and immediacy of the working model.

And how is this related to the transit system? This should be the clearest and most dramatic part of the exposition, yet we can’t really put the pieces together. Why is Thomas Edison’s concept of direct current used for the subway’s third rail? George Westinghouse’s and Nikola Tesla’s rival idea of alternating current allowed electric power to be transmitted over long distances and into homes. But what is the advantage of direct current in the subway? And how does the train itself close the electrical circuit? This should be much clearer.

“Control boards” of earlier eras, once used to manage the subway system, are also intriguing but mysterious. You can actually learn more about the subway’s controls from the two film versions of “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” both of which used the museum’s subway station as a set.

Pay attention instead to the atmosphere of this underground technological world, which has its own version of muscular wonkiness, as if demanding full attention from the menial and the mental. It is also astonishing how much equipment from the turn of the 20th century was used almost to the century’s end. A wooden ammeter for measuring current was in use from 1900 until the 1980s; the system’s rotary converters that changed alternating current into direct current were used until 1999; a 1932 control board was in service until 1994. How is this possible, given the ordinary pace of technological change?

One answer is implied in another exhibition here, “The Plans Behind the Power,” which displays blueprints for the subway’s electrical stations and equipment. The plans don’t just demonstrate great care but are also self-consciously monumental, as if this project were as grand as, say, the construction of dams and canals. A 1903 drawing of a cross section of the 59th Street Powerhouse in Manhattan is an archetype of industrial art. A map of the slew of third rails in the 1910 Coney Island station looks like the beginning of an intricate roller coaster.

Monumentality and care accompanied an almost elementary simplicity: the entire system, after all, is based on the creation of sturdy electrical circuits. Once established, no major improvements were really necessary; pieces could simply be replaced by more sophisticated counterparts. Advances really came in engine construction and brake design and ultimately with the introduction of computers, which now make it possible to analyze enormous amounts of data used to control the largest urban transportation system in the world.

That doesn’t always translate into passenger delight, but in much of the museum, at least, it is possible to come close.

The New York Transit Museum, Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn Heights; (718) 694-1600, mta.info/mta/museum.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum and Trains Magazine are offering a special Steam, Steel and Strobes Scholarship to attend the historic railroad's annual Winter Steam Spectacular Photo Shoots. The free contest is open to anyone age 18-30. There are two opportunities available - Feb. 3-5 and Feb. 10-12. An individual will be selected for both events.

The photographer selected will receive a Photo Shoot Scholarship and a $500 stipend. He or she will work with professional photographer, Steve Crise, during the February 2012 events.

To apply for the scholarship, applicants must e-mail a proposal of no more than 250 words along with three low-resolution images to Trains Editor Jim Wrinn, editor@Trainmag.com. Entries must be received by Dec 31.

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum and Trains are making this opportunity available to encourage young adults to participate in an outstanding heritage railroading activity. The scholarship includes attendance at Nevada Northern Railway's annual photo shoot and $500 that can be used for travel to Ely.

Steve Crise, a professional photographer, will mentor the winners. This is an outstanding opportunity to participate and learn about heritage railroading. For more information on Steve Crise, visit his website at http://www.scrise.com. The Nevada Northern Railway Museum's website is http://www.nnry.com. Trains Magazine can be found online at http://www.trains.com, along with its affiliated publications.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

It's been more than half a century since the trains of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad — quaintly remembered by old-timers in these parts as the Ma & Pa — rolled over a single band of steel on a circuitous 77.2-mile route that began in the Jones Falls Valley and, after wandering across Baltimore and Harford counties, finally terminated in York, Pa.

And it's been nearly that long since a new full-scale profile of the railroad has been undertaken, when in 1963 noted railroad historian George W. Hilton's "The Ma & Pa: A History of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad" was published.

That all changed this fall when authors Henry C. Peden Jr. and Jack L. Shagena Jr. wrote "The Ma & Pa Remembered: A History of the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad."

This 502-page production, jammed with high-quality photos (many in color), drawings, maps, postcards, original paintings, track diagrams, timetables, advertisements and pamphlets, weighs in at an impressive 3 pounds, 5 ounces.

This massive undertaking is no doubt destined to become the ultimate and quite possibly the last word on a railroad whose memory has been kept alive by a hardy and steadfast band of fans and preservationists who seem to be impervious to the passage of time or mother nature as it reclaims its old former right-of-way.

Many of the photos of locomotives, both steam and diesel, trains, stations, cars, trestles, bridges, yards, engine houses, water tanks and other aspects were drawn mainly from the collections of Charles T. Mahan Jr. and Jerome E. Murphy, who devoted their lives to preserving the Ma & Pa on film.

If Santa Claus left you some green under the tree — and I don't mean dried needles from the tree — this book would be a worthy investment.

Always something of an anomaly, the Ma & Pa began life in 1867 as the Maryland Central Railroad and 15 years later merged with the Baltimore and Delta Railway.

A narrow gauge operation, it merged again in 1891 with the York and Peach Bottom Railway, and along came another new name, the Baltimore and Lehigh.

The modern name that lasted until the abandonment of operations in Maryland in 1958 was the Maryland and Pennsylvania.

And like most railroads of that era, the Ma & Pa was not immune from the rigors of angry stockholders, even angrier bankers, reorganizations, receiverships, and merger fever.

Somehow or other with its agrarian traffic base that consisted of picking up and delivering to Baltimore fresh milk from dairy farms in Baltimore and Harford counties and hauling farm supplies, mail and passengers, the Ma & Pa managed to slug it out and somehow thrived in a territory where the tracks of the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad were never too far away.

Throughout its history, the railroad was never quite able to shake its 19th-century origins. Even as steel cars replaced wooden cars, it soldiered on with a fleet of tea kettle steam engines and only in the 1940s realized that diesel motive power was finally here to stay and would be cost effective.

Even though its rolling stock would have been envied by any railroad museum, it got to be so old that the Interstate Commerce Commission, for safety reasons, forbid it being used in interchange service or going off line.

In its bucolic ramblings, the Ma & Pa never seemed to run straight for very long on its journey to York, and when all added up, traversed 476 curves and 114 bridges including such aptly named trestles as "Jail Trestle No. 70" in Towson or "Washhouse Viaduct No. 92," which is near the intersection of Loch Raven Boulevard and Interstate 695.

Those two stone piers on York Road in Towson are decorative but one supported a steel-span of a bridge. Sharp-eyed travelers can still spot a remaining stone pier of the Joppa Road bridge near Towson Estates.

If such stone remains catch your attention, one out in the open is "Jennifer's Trestle No. 108," with abutments at the intersection of Satyr and Cromwell Bridge roads. Another stone pier stands in the Gunpowder River.

Other extant Ma & Pa industrial archaeology would be the small depot called Homeland, on West Lake Avenue, now a private residence, or the piece of diagonal trackage peeping through Charles Street by Eddie's grocery store, which was happily spared being paved over last summer.

Wags loved making fun of the Ma & Pa and its imponderable four-hour journey between Baltimore and York, much of it made at a civilized and leisurely pace of 20 mph, and never much higher.

The other thing the Ma & Pa provided in way of public service, in addition to hauling freight, was to give a rail connection to the outside world to the citizens of such villages and towns as Hornberger's Siding, Bynum, Forest Hill, Baldwin, Glen Arm, Highland, Bel Air and even Towson.

The Ma & Pa exited passenger service in 1954, and ended its Maryland operations four years later. While the road in Maryland was dismantled, it did continue to operate several miles of trackage between York andHanover, Pa.

So much is chronicled here that it is impossible to go into all of it. But there are a few things I want to mention.

On page 162 is a stunning photo (among many in the book, I may add) of the famous head-on collision of a freight and passenger train at Woodbrook, on North Charles Street just north of the Elkridge Club, that occurred May 22, 1920.

It's the first time I ever saw a picture of the wreck that killed the engineer on the passenger train and the fireman on the freight train and injured several passengers.

The book concludes on an impressive note with Chapter 18, which contains 35 pages of "Fond Memories of the Ma & Pa" that had been contributed by fans who remembered the railroad. The book's 57-page Chapter 19 lists every employee who worked for the railroad between 1867 and 1999, when it became part of Yorkrail and officially went out of business.

The book, which costs $75, is not available in bookstores. Those interested in obtaining a copy can go to the Ma & Pa Railroad Historical Society's official website.

 
wanderer53 Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: front left seat EE set now departed

The Hollywood Reporter:

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the cable network is expected to announce a formal renewal of the Western drama starring Anson Mount and Common in the coming days.

The series, which revolves around the building of the first transcontinental railroad, became AMC's second-highest original series premiere when it launched in November behind the net's zombie hit The Walking Dead, drawing 4.4 million total viewers, and an impressive 2.4 million in the key adults 18-49 demographic.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

It's an anniversary you won't find on your calendar. But railroad historian John Willever has it on his.

Today is the 100th anniversary of one of the great achievements in railway construction: the opening of the Lackawanna Cutoff to passenger rail traffic.

The cutoff stretched 28.5 miles from Lake Hopatcong in Sussex County, N.J., through Warren County to Slateford in Upper Mount Bethel Township, just north of Portland.

When the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad Co. opened the cutoff on Christmas Eve 1911, it cut 11 miles off the trip along the old freight line that measured 39.5 miles and dipped deeper into Warren County.

The cutoff was one piece of a larger 400-mile route that started in Hoboken, N.J., and reached to Scranton, Pa., and Buffalo, N.Y.

It was built mainly with grunt labor across New Jersey farmland and lasted until Jan. 15, 1970, when passenger service was eliminated, Willever said.

"January 15th was a sad day for the employees of the railroad," said Willever, who lives in Washington in Warren County and worked in the railroad's operating department in Hoboken. "By that time, the airlines and the buses and the freeways had all but wrecked our long-distance passenger trains."

Willever is acting secretary of the Lackawanna Chapter of the Railway &  Locomotive Historical Society Inc. The ranks of those with ties to the railroad -- and its history -- are thinning every year.

"I guess we'll talk to each other on Christmas Eve and drink a silent toast together over the phone," Willever said. "That's about all we can do."

For Willever, remembering the cutoff's heyday is a nod to American ingenuity and workmanship. It took three years to build the rail line, which at the time served as a model of modern construction.

At its peak, it serviced 14 main-line trains every day, each capable of carrying about 350 passengers.

"It was the largest railroad construction of its kind in this area, ever," Willever said. "It really was the last major railroad construction, because most of the railroads in this area were built from 1840 to about 1860. And soon, the automobile would change everything."

View full sizePhoto Courtesy of John Willever

This photo, also from Syracuse, shows an engineer in Scranton, Pa., with Phoebe Snow, a fictional character always dressed in white and used by the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company to promote the cleaner burning anthracite coal used for its locomotives.

Conrail abandoned the right-of-way and the cutoff tracks were torn up in the mid-1980s, Willever said. The right-of-way now belongs to the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Efforts to restore passenger rail service to the 81 miles between Hoboken and Scranton have long been debated but mired in red tape and high costs.

In 2006, restoration was estimated to cost $551 million, with no state or federal funding available.

Earlier this year, work began in New Jersey on a $37 million project to restore commuter service from Andover Township, Sussex County, to Port Morris in Roxbury Tonwship, Morris County -- 7.3 miles of the old cutoff.

Said Willever: "You know that old saying: The more things change the more they stay the same."

***

'PHOEBE SNOW'

The Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad Co. used anthracite coal to fire its steam engines; the anthracite didn't produce the smoke and cinders of soft coal. Railroad executives deployed a fictional character, Phoebe Snow, in their promotional materials to highlight the cleaner-burning fuel.

Phoebe Snow's white gown never dirtied, and her name was invoked in dozens of jingles that railroad historian John Willever, of Washington, still can recite, like:

Phoebe Snow, about to go, upon the road to Buffalo

My gown stays white, from morn to night, upon the road of anthracite

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that AMC has renewed its newest series, period Western Hell On Wheels, for a second season. That means that 5 out of the network’s 6 original scripted series to date have now gone beyond their maiden season. Hell On Wheels, developed by Endemol USA and produced by Entertainment One and Calgary-based Nomadic Pictures, got off to a strong start in November. It debuted with 4.4 million viewers, ranking as AMC’s second-highest-rated series premiere behind mega-hit The Walking Dead in total viewers as well as adults 18-49 and 25-54. Hell On Wheels has slipped since but consistently delivers more than 2 million viewers in first-run broadcasts, most recently 2.3 million last week. The series has aired 7 episodes of its freshman series to date, with Episode 8 slated for Jan. 1. Hell On Wheels is set in post-Civil War America circa 1865 and centers on a Confederate soldier (Anson Mount) who sets out to exact revenge on the Union soldiers who killed his wife. The series was created Joe and Tony Gayton who are executive producing with Endemol USA’s Jeremy Gold and showrunner John Shiban. David Von Ancken, who directed the pilot, also serves as an executive producer on the current first season. eOne’s Michael Rosenberg oversees production.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

THOUSANDS of kids are going to find model train sets under the tree on Christmas morning — freight trains, circus trains, Wild West trains, military trains, express trains, commuter trains. ... But one train setup you won’t see is a replica of the street-level freight line that plied the West Side from 1846 to 1941. The line killed and mutilated hundreds of people, and its path well earned the name Death Avenue.

In 1846, what was then the Hudson River Railroad negotiated a charter with the city to run tracks on an irregular route down 10th and 11th Avenues to a freight terminal at Beach and Hudson Streets and then to a final stop at Chambers Street. The trains were sometimes several blocks long, interfering with crossing traffic. Pedestrian deaths along the way were fairly common. The New York Times reported at least one each in 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854 and 1855, describing one victim as “shockingly mangled.”

At some point, trains were required to send a man ahead on horseback waving a red warning flag, at a pace of six miles per hour.

Park Avenue north of Grand Central also had street-level tracks, and people were killed there, too; it was nicknamed Death Avenue first, no later than 1872. Neighborhood residents succeeded in pressing the railroad to sink the tracks. But the protesters on the East Side were brownstone owners; 10th and 11th Avenues were tenement territory.

The New York World referred to the West Side route as Death Avenue in 1892, long after the Park Avenue problem had been solved, saying “many had been sacrificed” to “a monster which has menaced them night and day.” The railroad offered to move the tracks along the river, but that never happened.

Outrage mounted, and two years later Willie Lennon, who had lost a leg to the railroad, lit a bonfire on the tracks as a protest. In 1897 The New York Herald reported that absconding thieves had darted in front of a moving train and taunted the police from the other side before getting away. In the same year, Michael Fox, a watchman stationed at 11th and 40th who had saved many lives over his decades of duty, was killed by engine No. 147 when it proceeded without his signal. The engine had earned a nickname, too: the Butcher.

The death of 7-year-old Seth Low Hascamp in 1908 sparked a protest march by 500 schoolchildren. The Times said he had been “ground to death” at 11th Avenue and 35th, either on his way to school or while playing follow the leader, depending on the account. The Times gave a figure of 198 train deaths in the prior decade, mostly of schoolchildren, mostly in the dark winter months.

The Bureau of Municipal Research, a private reform organization, said in a report issued in 1908 that over 56 years, 436 people had been killed on the line. The time was ripening for a full-scale attack on the railroad. The city began refusing to accept the annual license fee. But the railroad fought back, saying it carried three million tons of food into New York annually, and that the term Death Avenue was a “malicious piece of sensationalism.”

But it was hardly in a good position, with accidents like the one in 1911 in which 5-year-old John Murray slipped on a wet flagstone and was decapitated. So the railroad offered to spend $65 million to elevate the tracks — in exchange for a perpetual franchise from the city. The proposal failed.

The Board of Coroners reported that Death Avenue was unfairly singled out as a source of fatalities, citing figures for the previous five years showing that 3,413 people had been killed in building falls, 401 by streetcars, 202 by automobiles and 149 on the Death Avenue route.

For unexplained reasons deaths declined after 1900, sometimes to none per year. So perhaps it was traffic volume, not the death toll, that produced the real pressure to eliminate the street-level tracks. In 1929 agreement was reached to build an elevated system, what is now the High Line. A year later, Mayor Jimmy Walker pried out the first spike at 11th Avenue and 60th Street, but it took years to close all the tracks.

Some flavor of the old in-street route shows up in the 1938 film “King of the Newsboys,”which stars Lew Ayres and is posted on YouTube. Take a look — there’s a few minutes of Ayres on horseback with an engine at his heels, waving his flag, calling to guys hanging out in front of a poolroom and stopping to talk to his girl, who is hanging laundry on a fire escape. To please her, he quits the locomotive escort business, goes into newspapers and gets rich.

He was prescient: in 1941, train service finally ended. The New York Herald Tribune reported that the last horse to make the trip was Cyclone, ridden by George Hayden, who wore a 10-gallon hat for the occasion. Death Avenue, after a century, was dead.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

AN architectural historian with a penchant for railroad stations, David Naylor has been traveling by train since the 1970s. He described the view from a train as a sort of movie, a documentary on the history of a region. “I would say that compared to the fragmented views out of car windows and the miniaturized views out of planes, the meditative view out of a train window is even better than television,” he said.

Here are excerpts from conversations with Mr. Naylor about why and where to ride the rails.

Q. Why travel by train?

A. For me it is all about the window, watching the world pass by. You can just settle down into your seat, and the variety of the landscapes, even if you’re passing through the worst industrial sections, is fascinating.

Q. What are some of your favorite rides?

A. My most memorable experience was onboard, and off, the Indian Pacific in Australia. The service starts on the Pacific coast at Sydney and ends as the train reaches a dead end at the Indian Ocean 2,700 miles away. After a day staring out at the Nullarbor Plain, we stopped in the century-old gold mining town of Kalgoorlie for a few beers at a gloriously decayed Victorian-era hotel. We were served by a barmaid wearing only lingerie. The best ride was from Venice to Ljubljana in the former Yugoslavia, being plied with alcohol by a pair of grandmothers from Belgrade who talked me into smuggling a few pairs of jeans into the country for them.

Q. Which rails should be ridden?

A. American trains offer a full range of vistas, like the majestic mountains near Puget Sound in the Northwest.

I plan to take the Pacific Surfliner in California, from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. We’re lucky that some of these tracks were laid so early on that there wasn’t anything else around. They got first dibs on the seasides and mountain passes. If you take a train up through the Northeast Corridor from Miami, you’ll see the industrial heart of the Northeast. It’s not pretty but it’s a good reminder of how this country works.

The French and the Swiss seem to be on to something with the TGV high-speed rails. They are actually building new infrastructure, which is rare. And the stations in Lyon and in Zurich were designed by the Spanish architect and engineering genius, Santiago Calatrava. The station in Lyon is a perfect mix of art and engineering.

Q. What other stations would be worth a trip?

A. There are beauties like the Union Pacific Depot in Boise, Idaho, built by Carrère and Hastings, the architects of the New York Public Library. That tells you something about how powerful the railroads were that they could get those architects to design a station in the middle of Idaho in 1925.

My favorite station has long been the Central Railway Station in Helsinki, Finland. The building, by the architect Eliel Saarinen, can be seen as something of a late Art Nouveau, Finnish Nationalist masterwork, underlaid by a phenomenally efficient circulation system.

Mr. Naylor is the author of “Railroad Stations: The Buildings That Linked the Nation” (Norton).

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Dec 24, 1911 - The Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western Railroad opens its New Jersey Cutoff, bypassing severe grades and curves on its original line to Scranton, PA.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Cities have origin myths – the stories they tell themselves, often without much concern for authenticity or fact.They are usually semi-heroic episodes about military conquest, a founder’s lucky discovery of an unexplored, unclaimed Eden, or the arrival of pioneers after a gauntlet of hardships. Statues and plaques are mounted to mark where the city was born, and, as time and convenience work their magic, things move around.Tacoma’s beginnings have no such mythic romance. Our city was born, or perhaps more accurately avoided dying, in the cold Christmas season of 1873.In the last year of the Civil War and his life, Abraham Lincoln signed the charter for an ambitious northern transcontinental railroad. Improbably, Commencement Bay was selected as its end point on the Pacific. The decision was made in July 1873, just as the tracks headed west and then north from the Columbia River were reaching the Tenino area. A serious problem loomed, however. A condition in the land grant charter required that the railroad reach saltwater just before Christmas or millions of acres along the line would be forfeited.A second, more serious problem was that the Northern Pacific railroad, along with the entire nation, was headed toward an economic collapse. The best chance for saving the whole enterprise was to rush the track-laying in a straight line across the glacial prairie between the Nisqually River and Commencement Bay and then begin cashing in on the real estate value of a newly created terminal port city.By the end of September, the financial crash came and the House of Jay Cooke, bond seller for the NP, collapsed. With no money for wages, a quarter of the workers quit, armed themselves and barricaded the track 25 miles from Tacoma. Then, it started to rain.The situation, which meant certain death for the City of Tacoma, was famously averted when Capt. J.C. Ainsworth, NP’s West Coast manager, put up his own money to pay the strikers. The legendary deep woods engineer E.S. “Skookum” Smith was put in charge of a last major push to reach the ocean with a steam locomotive.Over the next two months, 750 Chinese laborers graded the line to the crest of Commencement Bay near the south end of today’s Hilltop neighborhood. At one point, workers covered 14 miles in 18 days. But now they faced the most complicated and uncertain section of the work: the drop to the sea.Between the engineers, surveyors, timber cutters and Chinese gang bosses, a diagonal 80-foot-wide shelf was mapped across the hillside, creating a railroad grade down to tidewater. The steepness exactly matched the climbing horsepower of the locomotives. To save time, the crews used the trees they cleared on the hill for wood ties and fuel.Then, it started to snow.END IN SIGHTOne day that December, a Chinese laborer in a mud-soaked, quilted silk jacket standing near what became 17th Street and Pacific Avenue looked up from his work and noticed through the cedars the saltwater of Commencement Bay. He was seeing what Abraham Lincoln only dreamed of – the completion of the Northern Pacific transcontinental railroad. At 3 p.m. on Dec. 16, 1873, a crowd of people bundled in heavy coats, long capes and trade blankets assembled somewhere along the fresh railroad tracks that crossed a City of Tacoma yet to be born.They were there to drive a last spike. Around them were work camps, steam-age machinery, canvas tents and tree stumps that no one expected to last long. At their feet, however, was a wide swath of cleared, level ground marked by iron rails that climbed the hill and set off for the prairie and the continent beyond.Today, as another Christmas approaches in Tacoma, if you find yourself downtown near where a skating rink adds cheer to Pacific Avenue, take note of the diagonal open space that ramps gently down the hillside through the University of Washington Tacoma campus and under Interstate 705.Never broken, narrowed or built upon, it’s the Prairie Line, the last terminal section of the transcontinental railroad – and the very certain place where the City of Tacoma began at Christmas a long time ago.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/12/23/1957505/tacoma-traces-history-to-lincoln.html#storylink=cpy

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

Three Rivers History

— As Christmas approached in the winter of 1871, residents in the Three Forks area were watching with anticipation for a very important arrival. It wasn’t Santa Claus they were expecting, however; it was the Missouri-Kansas & Texas Railroad.

When the MKT won the right to cross Indian Territory by being the first Kansas rail line to reach the border, its managers believed they could cross quickly through Indian lands to reach Texas. But that proved not to be true.

First the railroad workers were hampered by early spring rains that turned the prairie to mud. Then mosquitoes nearly drove them crazy as they worked through the swampy bottomlands. By June 1871, they had just reached Pryor Creek, 50 miles from the Kansas border and another 50 miles away from Fort Gibson.

Another hindrance was the open hostility many Cherokees felt toward the railroad. Individual Indians fenced off the best timberlands, forcing the railroad to negotiate with dozens of Cherokees for railroad ties instead of buying them through the Cherokee national council.

But by the end of July, the line had advanced only 10 miles to Chouteau’s Creek and it was late August before it passed Flat Rock Creek to arrive at the Verdigris River. Here a supply depot was established that gained the name Gibson Station because a supply road connected it to Fort Gibson.

The rail line had been following the wide Texas Road to reach the Three Forks area in the early fall, but its progress was slowed even further by the necessity of building two river bridges — one over the Verdigris and another over the Arkansas River. Heavy fall rains had caused flooding and at one point a section of the Verdigris bridge was washed out. The railroad officials must have been very frustrated to have reached the end of 1871 with only half the length of the Territory crossed.

It was common knowledge that the MKT officials planned their primary depot for the line in Indian Territory to be located somewhere near the Three Forks. While the region was still sparsely populated by Eastern standards, there were a number of small communities near the convergence of the Three Rivers.

Fort Gibson was surrounded by a growing town, Three Forks had long been a little fur trading community, and Creek Agency, near Fern Mountain, had a number of businesses and a school located there. Within a day’s ride or so were the missions at Tullahassee and Koweta and the tribal capitals of Tahlequah and Okmulgee.

It was an exciting day when the bridge over the Arkansas was completed. Despite misgivings by many tribal members, everyone recognized the significance of this milestone and it came right at Christmas. For those who welcomed the railroad, this gave them something extra to celebrate.

The hard-fisted Irish railroad workers most surely would have been given Christmas Day off from the work of laying track. But to mark the special occasion of completing the Arkansas bridge, a ceremony had been planned. On Christmas, a Katy steam engine called a “General Grant,” crossed the bridge, officially opening it for use. For this brief moment this was the end of the line for the MKT in Indian Territory. But it marked the beginning of big changes for the region.

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

December 25, 2011

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A steam locomotive built in 1936 will pull the trains at Edaville Railroad in south Carver for its Christmas Festival of Lights event on four evenings, from Thursday through next Sunday. The narrow-gauge railroad theme park’s management recently repaired the locomotive, which was last in use five years ago. After closing for Christmas Day, the park’s Christmas Lights festival continues tomorrow evening through New Year’s Day, from 4 to 9 p.m. On the evenings when the steam locomotive is not in operation, the narrow-gauge train will be drawn by a diesel locomotive. Special ‘‘Polar Express’’ runs have been added on New Year’s Eve, when Santa will board the train to greet children and give each their own jingle bell, as in the children’s story by Chris Van Allsburg. For more information, visit the theme park’s website, http://www.edaville.com. — Robert Knox

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

In this year leading up to Arizona's centennial, Feb. 14, 2012, we'll reprint a story or excerpts each day from the Arizona Daily Star or Tucson Citizen archives.

Dec. 5, 1912

Commencing on the first of the new year, the El Paso and Southwestern will run two or three trains daily each way over the Tucson division. Two daily trains will certainly be run, and if the business justifies it, three will be scheduled to leave and arrive in this city each day. It is expected that the big increase of business which will come with the new year will make this necessary.

The engineering offices of the company have been discontinued at Tucson and from now on the engineering problems will be solved at the office of J. R. Emerson, division engineer, located at Benson. It is rumored that this office will be moved to Tucson with several other departments of the division. J. S. Barlow, who was construction engineer during the building of the yards, has gone to El Paso.

All construction work on the tracks in the yards has been completed. About 14 miles of track have been laid in Tucson and this comprises the yards. A gang of men is ballasting these tracks now, and it is thought they will be finished within a short time.

Work on the new depot was started Monday. Excavations for the foundations goes on steadily. It is said that the building was supposed to be completed on December 1. The Pearsons company of El Paso has the contract. The work on the depot was held up early in the fall by untimely rains.

Work on the freight depot is progressing rapidly. All the concrete foundations are down, and soon the construction of the building will be commenced. The round house will be finished shortly. It is of concrete and brick and will shelter 12 engines.

Read more: http://azstarnet.com/special-section/az-at-100/100-years-ago/railroad-was-adding-trains-roundhouse-depot-being-built/article_0b9e0144-788f-5c59-8b98-7c011e29db9c.html#ixzz1hl69fhCU

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

From: Pete Lerro

Date: December 16, 2011 2:09:58 PM EST

To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Subject: Valley Railroad Charter

Patrons,

Lerro Productions is in the final stages of putting together a photo charter at the Valley Railroad in Essex, CT tentatively set for May 17-18, 2011. The charter will feature recently acquired and restored 2-8-2 #3025. The former Knox and Kane Railroad locomotive #58 has been restored to look like a New Haven Railroad locomotive.
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=381729

The Valley Railroad runs along the very scenic Connecticut River and features a number of bridges, rock cuts and several old railroad buildings. As many of you know, the locomotives at the VRR normally face north during their passenger operations. This makes it very difficult for good photography on a sunny day. For our charter, locomotive #3025 will be turned to face south, making this a very rare chance to photograph this line in optimal lighting conditions. Also for our charter, one day will feature a freight consist with caboose and the 2nd day will feature a Pullman passenger consist.

Tickets will go on sale soon so keep your eyes open for the formal announcement.

Regards,

Pete Lerro

 
Tonymercury Sir Nigel Gresley

Location: Botany NSW

SANDERSON — With Chinese crews laying track from the west and mostly Irish working from the east, the two rail gangs met about 50 miles east of here in 1883, with a silver spike marking completion of the California-to-Louisiana line.

Shortly afterward, Sanderson, about 280 miles west of San Antonio, was established as the switching point for Southern Pacific train crews working between Del Rio and El Paso.

A large stone roundhouse and a modern station complete with cafe were built, and for the next century this was a bustling railroad town.

In the early days, train holdups always were a threat. In 1912, locals posed outside the station for photographs with the pale bodies of two failed train robbers, Ben Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek.

But the last of the Southern Pacific train crews left about 15 years back, triggering a long-term economic and population decline in Terrell County.

About all that remains are the ruins of the once-magnificent depot with its 12-foot ceilings, where locals once dined with passengers.

Mostly abandoned by the Union Pacific, which took over the Southern Pacific, the old station now awaits demolition, despite sporadic local efforts over the past decade to save it.

“To me, this depot represents the heart of Sanderson, our beginnings. It represents the Wild West, where people carved an existence here out of nothing. They started coming here before the Indians moved out. There were still lodge poles and buffalo skulls on the ground,” said Bill Smith, 63, a local historian who was born in nearby Marathon.

“It just amazes me that we have quite a few people in town who are in favor of not saving it. I do not understand that attitude,” he added.

A spokesman for Union Pacific said demolition could come early next year, and that the contractor will work with preservationists to salvage important elements.

“We’ve worked for the possible donation of the depot over the past 10 years,” Raquel Espinoza said.

“We’ve really tried to make this work, but unfortunately at this point, we have to move forward,” she said.

No one faults the railroad, which about nine years ago was willing to give the depot to a local group that had secured a $500,000 grant to create a railroad museum. That effort crashed on the rocks of local politics and uncertainty over the county’s potential financial exposure.

More recently, the railroad has given Smith and other preservationists repeated extensions of demolition deadlines.

Another recent short-lived scheme, to save the depot by moving it 110 miles west to Marfa, died a quick death because of logistics.

“It’s a moot issue. We tried every which way to get it through Alpine. Cost-effectively, it can’t be done,” said Tex Toler, the Marfa director of tourism, who years ago worked in Sanderson and was involved with the failed museum plan.

And now, since fundraising efforts have fallen woefully short, Smith said the best the preservationists can hope for is to salvage some doors, windows and lumber from the wreckage to construct a smaller replica structure.

The plight of the Sanderson depot has come to the attention to Henry Bender, 74, of San Jose, Calif., who recently completed a book about Southern Pacific Railroad train stations.

“My thought is that $100,000 would save it, and that is not a lot of money. Someone somewhere must have the wherewithal. It’s finding that person,” Bender said.

“I believe the Sanderson depot was built in Oakland in kit form, and shipped there. Of that particular style, with the lunch room, there were only five or six built,” he added.

While structurally intact, the 180-foot-long building has been vandalized. The roof tin and paint are peeling, and windows are broken.

These days, the only occupants are occasional illegal immigrants, hiding out in hopes of jumping a passing train. In bad weather, the rare Amtrak passengers wait in the nearby post office.

Some in town would be glad to see it turned to ashes.

“Most people would say it’s too bad someone hasn’t gone by there with a match,” remarked one prominent local resident who asked not to be identified.

“We don’t have the money. There is no public support whatsoever to save it,” the resident added.

Still, the station evokes fond sentiments among some old-timers.

“It’s sad. It was here when I was born, in 1927. I remember when they had a restaurant there, the Brown News. There’s about two or three of us left who remember it,” said Mary Nell Hinkle. Blain Chriesman, 52, the local school business manager and tax appraiser, echoed what’s probably the prevailing local sentiment.

“I’ve got mixed feelings. Yes, it’s probably the cornerstone of this county and I’m gonna hate to see it go,” he said.

“But I’m doubtful there will ever be enough support to save it. It was a very divisive thing when they got that big grant years ago,” he said.

County Commissioner Ken Norris, who years ago favored accepting the $500,000 grant, only to be out-voted, finds the attitude of the old railroaders to be odd.

“You’d think the old hands would step forward and say, ‘Here’s $100 or $200’ but as far as I know, that hasn’t happened,” he said.

“Bill Smith has the most love in the world for this thing, and he did everything he possibly could have done, but in my opinion, the general public doesn’t care either way,” he added.

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Railroad-station-nears-the-end-of-the-line-2427984.php#ixzz1hr4crozz

 

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