Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy New Year 2017

Some steam to welcome the New Year. 

And some steam whistles.


His pick for #1 is also my favorite.  I have been in the cab of #12 but didn't get to blow the whistle.

Check last years New Year post for how to make a whistle from wood.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Trains

Merry Christmas

Spokane, Portland & Seattle #700 Holiday Express Train. Trains are operated on the Oregon Pacific Railroad and depart from Oaks Park Station adjacent to Oaks Park in southeast Portland. Ride in vintage rail cars behind Portland's historic steam locomotives.

Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 is the only surviving example of the E-1 class 4-8-4 Northern type steam locomotive. Nearly identical to the A-3 class Northerns built for Northern Pacific Railway, it burns oil instead of coal.

"Christmas Trains" running in the western United States. Many are decked out with colorful lights and wreathes. Quite a variety, even a couple of steam locomotives.

Friday, December 2, 2016

FEC 428 Stuart, Fl.

FEC 428 in Stuart at A1A crossing 12-01-2016. (Approx. MM 262) EMD GP-40-2
FEC ordered 24, road numbers 411–434. 

Note the section crew just past the crossing. I was listening on the scanner and after the train passed I heard them call the dispatcher and tell him they were going back to work repairing the broken rail. It is single track here, just north of the Port Sewall passing track.

Bonus: If anyone is interested "A Railfan's Guide to the FEC, Version 32A, prepared 7/25/98" is available here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Atlas 5 Launch - Off the Rails

Not trains but it was a beautiful night, severe clear and an Atlas 5 launched from Cape Canaveral, about 90 miles north of here. It was at 6:42 PM EST.
Payload was the newest of the GOES weather satellites, GOES-R
Sorry the camera lost focus a couple of times. 

From the above linked website.

NOAA's next generation of geostationary weather satellites
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) is the nation’s next generation of geostationary weather satellites. The GOES-R series will significantly improve the detection and observation of environmental phenomena that directly affect public safety, protection of property and our nation’s economic health and prosperity.
The satellites will provide advanced imaging with increased spatial resolution and faster coverage for more accurate forecasts, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity.
The GOES-R series is a four-satellite program (GOES-R/S/T/U) that will extend the availability of the operational GOES satellite system through 2036.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Okeechobee Waterway Railroad Bridges

The Okeechobee Waterway crosses Florida from Stuart on the east coast to Ft.  Myers on the west coast crossing Lake Okeechobee. Shown east to west from Stuart to Lake Okeechobee.

Bonus Tugboat
Gives a feel for size

Britt Point Bascule Bridge at Stuart

Indiantown Swing Bridge

Port Mayaca Lift Bridge
South Central Florida Express
(Was FEC K-line)

Slightly off topic but we went by the Port Mayaca Cemetery, site of the mass burial after the 1928 hurricane that collapsed the earthen dike around Lake Okeechobee. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day Post - A Link

Chickenmom at her Chickenfeathers blog does a Friday Night Steam post every week. She outdid herself with her Veteran's Day Post today.

Thank you to all our veterans.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

El Zig-Zag

Let's take another trip to South America and visit an interesting railway, PeruRail

Train Ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru

El Zig-Zag, or switchback, allows a 400 meter elevation change in less than 5 kilometers. This section of PeruRail is 3 ft. narrow gauge. All other track in the system is standard 4 ft. 8 1/2 in. gauge. 

Another trip on standard gauge rails to Puno, Peru on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the "highest navigable lake" in the world at 12,507 ft. 

Peru - Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno

At its highest point, La Raya Pass (14°28′59″S 70°59′20″W), the altitude is 4,313 m (14,150 ft). The train makes a stop in La Raya pass where there is an exquisite view over all the plains to the snowcapped mountains, and a beautiful old chapel, standing all alone in the middle of the Andean plateau.

Shipping: The car float Manco Capac operates across Lake Titicaca between PeruRail's railhead at Puno and the port of Guaqui in Bolivia. PeruRail also owns the former ferry SS Ollanta, which was launched on Lake Titicaca in 1931. Ollanta is now refurbished for tourist cruises and PeruRail has leased her out for charter work.

 You can buy your tickets at the PeruRail website here.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Toot Toot and Switchbacks

Or Blowing Steam up the Devil's Nose. I was going to put this in another post about South American Railroads but it was just too good to not have a post all to itself.
Tren Equador - from Guayaquil to Quito Ecuador.
 Lots of whistles and a surprise at about the 6 minute mark. 

"Filmed in 2007 this is probably one of the last runs of Baldwin 2-8-0 No 17 up the Devil's Nose to Alausi in Ecuador before the railway was closed and subsequently rebuilt. Rebuilding was completed in 2012 restoring the full link between Guayaquil on the coast and Quito the capital which had been severed in several places in recent years due to landslips, bridge washouts etc. But as recent YouTube clips testify the new 'Tren Ecuador' is now a very different railway.

The clip conveys much of the atmosphere of the old railway - from the bark of the Baldwin echoing across the valleys, spiked track in varying degrees of repair (the box van carried a supply of timbers for running repairs) and not forgetting roof riding which is no longer permitted.

There is also an amusing encounter with a straying donkey.

The clip is from video taken on the RTC tour in October 2007 when as much of the usable railway was fully travelled by train."

Friday, November 4, 2016

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Steam

 Visited the Bryson City, NC area in September and the first part of October. The GSMR operated their steam locomotive the last weekend we were there.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Locomotive 1702, a 2-8-0 Consolidation steam locomotive #1702, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1942 for the U.S. Army during World War II, was purchased by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) of Bryson City, NC, in the mid-1990s for use on its scenic railway excursions. After a decade of service, no. 1702 was retired in 2004. In October 2012, a partnership formed between GSMR and Swain County to provide funding to restore the locomotive. In 2013, a complete restoration was launched and the locomotive returned to service during summer 2016.

Steam on a Country Road
DeHart Cemetery Road and US 19

Note the first car behind the tender. It looks like a converted caboose and is the generator car to supply power to the passenger and dining cars.

1702 is oil (diesel) fired and there was a bit of a leak one evening. We just happened to be there and saw the leak breaking out in flame. Pretty exciting for a couple of minutes. The first 2 or 3 fire extinguishers they grabbed didn't work. Double oops. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Pan American - L & N Railroad

The Pan-American was a passenger train operated by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) between Cincinnati, Ohio and New Orleans, Louisiana. It operated from 1921 until 1971. From 1921 to 1965 a section served Memphis, Tennessee via Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Pan-American was the L&N's flagship train until the introduction of the Humming Bird in 1946. Its name honored the substantial traffic the L&N carried to and from the seaports on the Gulf of Mexico. The Pan-American was one of many trains discontinued when Amtrak began operations in 1971.


Postcard of the Pan-American as it passed the WSM transmitter in Nashville.

Another source with additional information and some more photos of different EMD locomotives used is at American-Rails

"The Pan-American" (1948) by Hank Williams

This song is one in the playlist from a previous post and was the reason for this post. 

More information on the WSM transmitter tower found at Wikipedia. I have seen it numerous times.

WSM's unusual diamond-shaped antenna (manufactured by Blaw-Knox) is visible from Interstate 65 just south of Nashville (in Brentwood) and is one of the area's landmarks. It is located near the I-65 exit 71 interchange with Concord Road (State Highway 253). When the 878-foot tower was built in 1932, it was the tallest antenna in North America. Its height was reduced to 808 feet (246 m) in 1939 when it was discovered that the taller tower was causing self-cancellation in the "fringe" areas of reception of the station (it is now known that 195 electrical degrees, about 810 feet, is the optimum height for a Class A station on that frequency). For a period during World War II it was designated to provide transmissions to submarines in the event that ship-to-shore communications were lost. It is now one of the oldest operating broadcast towers in the United States.
As a tribute to the station's centrality in country music history, the diamond antenna design was incorporated into the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's design in 2001. The tower is listed as a National Engineering Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 2011.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Spooktacular Train Rides

As I was looking for something to post for tomorrow, I found this list of Halloween train rides. Many ended yesterday, some end today and a few go through tomorrow, Halloween day. The list is worldwide.

See Spooktacular Trains. 

Bookmark it for next year!

Hank Snow Train Songs

He is one of my favorites. Long playing and mostly steam. Hank Snow was born in Nova Scotia.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


A preview of out visit to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City, NC. This was about 4 miles from town at the DeHart Cemetery Road crossing.

Edited to add Alaska Locomotive Photo:
Rev. Paul commented he did a double take thinking it might have been an Alaska Railroad locomotive. No wonder, here is one:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Macon Georgia Terminal Station

Before Terminal Station was built, Southern Railway passengers used this station built in 1886. On the left side of the picture is a trestle that took the Central of Georgia over the Southern tracks. 

Macon's 1916 Terminal Station, at the foot of Cherry Street downtown, is Georgia's grandest surviving railroad station. It was designed in the Beaux Arts style by architect Alfred Fellheimer (1875-1959), who with his partners also designed stations in Cincinnati, Buffalo, and other cities.
The 13-acre station was owned by the Macon Terminal Company, which in turn was owned equally by the Central of Georgia, the Southern Railway, and the Georgia Southern & Florida. Each of these companies, along with the Georgia Railroad, had offices on the upper floors. Other railroads using the station were the Macon, Dublin & Savannah and the Macon & Birmingham.
In 1926-27, the station handled as many as a hundred arrivals/departures each day. The eight tracks for through trains and ten tracks for local trains had platforms between each track. The through tracks were connected by a tunnel.

Terminal Station closed in 1975 and became offices for Georgia Power. The city purchased the building and refurbished it, completed in 2010.

Note the four eagles standing guard over the entrance.

Much more at

H/T to Dan in Georgia again.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mineral Bluff Depot

Mineral Bluff is located in Fannin County, GA about five miles NE of Blue Ridge.

The brick depot at Mineral Bluff was constructed in 1887 by the Marietta & North Georgia Railroad , a predecessor of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (now CSX). Located on the now-abandoned line from Blue Ridge, Georgia, to Murphy, N.C., it is only surviving M&NG depot in Georgia.
Using funding from the federal Transportation Enhancement program, the community rehabilitated the building in 2007. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. (News article on the listing.)
Source with more information and photos.

 Mineral Bluff depot April 2015

H/T to Dan for the link.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Peak Tram - Hong Kong

The Peak Tramway is a  funicular railway that goes to the top of Victoria Peak on Hong Kong island. I was lucky enough to ride it once in the early 1990's while there on a business trip. I was reminded of it by Chickenmom's post about the cog railway on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. 

The Peak Tram was opened for public service on 28 May 1888 by the then governor Sir George William des Voeux.[4] As built, the line used a static steam engine to power the haulage cable. In 1926, the steam engine was replaced by an electric motor. It has a maximum grade of 48% and is .87 miles long.

On 11 December 1941, during the Battle of Hong Kong, the engine room was damaged in an attack. Service was not resumed until 25 December 1945, after the end of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.
More information here
A funicular, also known as an inclined plane or cliff railway, is a cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope, the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalancing each other. Funiculars of one sort or another have existed for hundreds of years and continue to be used for moving both passengers and goods. Its name derives from the latin, funiculus, diminutive of funis, meaning "rope". More information, history and pictures of numerous examples of funiculars can be found here

The only old video I could find didn't show the steam power but is pretty cool anyway. 

Here is a YouTube video by Luis Costa from December 2010 that includes the tram ride and spectacular views and a tour of Victoria Peak. (almost 15 minutes)

 From Luis' descripition:
 "Hong Kong skyline is nothing short of amazing, and it's best admired at Victoria Peak.
The city has more buildings above 100m and 150m than any other city in the world.
Hong Kong also holds the title for the world's biggest skyline with a total of 7,681 skyscrapers, placing it ahead of New York City, even though New York is larger in area."

The population of Hong Kong in mid 2015 was 7.3 million in an area of 427 sq. miles. (includes Hong Kong island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. See the Wikipedia entry for more information.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Radio Telegraph

After I did the Railroad Telegraphy post I thought I would mention another type of key and keyers. The electronic fully automatic keyer that uses "paddles". Instead of just two wires with bugs and straight keys, paddles have three wires, one for dit, another for dah and ground. They go the keyer. Close the contact between the dit wire and ground and they keyer generates dits for as long as the connection is made. Dahs are generated the same way, continuity between the dah wire and ground. To my knowledge, these keyers were never used with the railroad.

What happens if you close both contacts at the same time? Glad you asked. From Wikipedia:
"Iambic keying or squeeze keying creates alternating dits and dahs. This makes sending some characters easier, like the letter C, by merely squeezing the two paddles together. In single-paddle, non-iambic keying, the hand motion would require alternating four times for C (dah-dit-dah-dit).
Iambic keyers function in one of at least two major modes: Mode A and Mode B."

See the wiki article for the differences in modes. 

My newer ham radios have keyers built in.

Photos of my iambic paddles:

MFJ-564 similar to Bencher BY-1/2

Brown Bros Model BTL-A

dit dit

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Some Railroad Memorbilla

My very small collection of railroad collectables.

And a big Thank You to Ken Lane for adding to it.

Clinchfield Railroad Company
Enlarge to see the name. 

Playing cards from the Southern Pacific Lines.
I want to thank Ken Lane (Wirecutter) for giving these to me. And to Miss Lisa for coordinating everything. They belonged to one of his grandparents and have never been shuffled.

 The face of each card has a different picture.

Paperweight made from railroad track.
Approx 7" high, 6" across the foot and 1/2 " thick.
Weight 2 pounds
Track is graded by its linear density. This is at the highest
range of the usual pounds per yard at 141 lb/yd.

Track installation hardware. 
Spike, square head sleeper spike, e clip, railway anchor (top to bottom, left to right)

I don't have an original railroad lantern. This is close. It is a W. T. Kirkman #100 Watchman that is new. Red and green glass globes are available.

Sheet music from 1940.
See previous post here.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Railroad Telegraphy

Something a little different, no train photographs. For the hardcore, there are some pics in the links. :)

The first ever railroad telegraph message was send and received in Orange County, NY in January, 1851.

Samuel Morse invented his telegraphic code in 1832. Originally magnets were used to mark the dits and dahs on paper tape with ink. The telegraphers discovered they could decode the letters by the sound made by the machine, later to be called the sounder.

Sounder with resonator. Note the tobacco tin to give it a distinctive sound.

The first ever railroad telegraph message was send and received in Orange County, NY in January, 1851. There is an interesting website with a nice telegraph page here.

In addition to the sounder the telegraph key was essential. There are numerous styles but basically there are two kinds. The manual "straight key" and the semi automatic key or bug. Descriptions follow.

This is called a straight key. It is a Speed-X model J-38. J-38 is the military designation from WW II.  Note the shorting lever, required for land line keys. No one mentions that the shorting lever was also required for some older ham radios that used cathode keying. It was closed when you wanted to use voice.

Next is the Vibroplex "bug". It is a semi automatic telegraph key which automatically sends "dits" but the "dahs" must be made individually. Vibroplex was founded in 1905 by Horace Martin and the basic design has remained unchanged.

I am also an amateur radio operator (ham). My straight key is pictured above.  Here is my Vibroplex Original Standard. It is not very old, the serial no. is 108708.

Close up of the nameplate and "dit" contacts. 

There are several versions of Morse code but the two that are important for this post. American and international Morse

American Morse Code — also known as Railroad Morse—is the latter-day name for the original version of the Morse Code developed in the mid-1840s, by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail for their electric telegraph. The "American" qualifier was added because, after most of the rest of the world adopted "International Morse Code," the companies that continued to use the original Morse Code were mainly located in the United States. American Morse is now nearly extinct—it is most frequently seen in American railroad museums — and "Morse Code" today virtually always means the International Morse which supplanted American Morse.

 Another excellent article with some great photos found here.

Ever wonder what all the wires on the poles that used to be next to the tracks were for?
- Carried telegraph communication, both railroad and public
- Dispatcher's voice communication
- Teletype communication
- Electrical power to run signals, switch machines, wayside detectors
- Wayside detector communication
- Vital signal information
Some of the lines were leased to companies like Western Union.
It has all been replaced by radio, satellite and buried cable / fiber.

EDIT: An article by Jim Thompson, a retired Frisco telegrapher. Long but really interesting. Some history plus personal experiences.(Moved here from my comment below)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Conductors Birthday

It is the "Conductors" 17th birthday today, July 31

Happy Birthday Barron!

Dancing for his lunchtime treat today.

And to his littermate sister, Shadow.
They look so much alike.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Stop. Look and Listen

Wig Wags and more! Wigwag is the nickname given to a type of railroad grade crossing signal once common in North America, named for the pendulum-like motion it used to signal the approach of a train

Illinois Railway Museum

Some pictures from our visit to the North Carlolina Transportation Museum in September 2015.

Click to enlarge / read

H/T to Chickenmom for the idea.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Communications and Signals:Then and Now

Lots of interesting information and some great video from Norfolk Southern Corp.

Love the NS logo.

Two units still active.  More here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Vintage Video

I think Chickenmom may have posted this some time ago, but I had to post it anyway.

Footage shot between 1897 and 1906 by the Edison & Biograph Production Company

From "America's Railroads: A Steam Train Legacy" by Timeless Media Group

h/t dmt

Wednesday, June 29, 2016