Archive for September, 2017

Natural Disaster Consist

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Like many of you, natural disasters are on my mind a lot lately. Close to home here in Oregon there are wildfires seemingly ‘everywhere’ and throughout the west. At the same time, hurricanes of historic strengths have been and are still hitting the American south. When that seemed like more than we could handle at one time, Mexico got hit with an 8.1 earthquake spawning tsunami, reminding us that anything can happen. It’s daunting to say the least. Once we’ve donated what we can to the American Red Cross (or other organizations, I’ll post a list of good options at the end of this) what can we do to process the destruction and uncertainty? For me, I have been feeling compelled to write about railroads. I’m weird.

At the end of July our extended family had a once in a lifetime vacation together in Yosemite. It was grand and a privilege for four generations to share a house together in Wawona on the South Fork of the Merced River and explore the park and surrounding goodness including the Sugar Pine Railroad. Right before we arrived, the park had been inundated from smoke from the Detwiler fire. Right after we left, the South Fork and Empire fires broke out prompting evacuations of the very location we had been staying. And then the Railroad fire broke out, named after the very Sugar Pine Railroad we had just recently enjoyed an excursion on. It should be noted that this fire broke out near the Railroad but the cause is still listed as unknown.

Shay #10 at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad Photo by Cat Cook

Shay #10 at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad – Photo by Cat Cook

Here is a video posted by the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad of the fire inspection on September 3, 2017.

Video of current Railroad fire inspection on 9/3/17

Posted by Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad on Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Then, thanks to kids throwing fireworks off a cliff in the Columbia Gorge for kicks, the Eagle Creek fire was sparked along the Columbia River east of Portland, OR. It became so big so quickly it crossed the Columbia River and spread to the Washington side. If you are familiar with the train lines along the Columbia that means it moved from the Union Pacific/Oregon side of the river to the BNSF/Washington side of the river.

Some of you may also know that the SP&S 700 and the SP 4449 occasionally run excursions along the Gorge. It’s special railroading country to many. We were fortunate enough to meet up with the 4449 on one such excursion in 2011.

4449 at Wishram WA (attempt at tilt-shift photography) - Photo by Cat Cook

4449 at Wishram WA (attempt at tilt-shift photography) Photo by Cat Cook

Seeing before and after pictures of the Gorge and the fire helps to give some context.

Before and after photo of the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia Gorge - Photo by James C. Kling, appearing in the Camas-Washougal Post-Record

Before and after photo of the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia Gorge – Photo by James C. Kling, appearing in the Camas-Washougal Post-Record

All of the above got me thinking about railroads and natural disasters. Sometimes trains cause natural disasters, sparking fires through derailments or even just passing through trackage surrounded by tinderbox-like conditions. Other times, railroads are affected by natural disasters just like the rest of us and our infrastructure whether that be fire, flood, earthquake, what-have-you….

Railroads can also there to save the day with firefighting trains that either help put out fires or prevent their trains from sparking fires.

A BNSF firefighting train working the White Lightning fire in Oregon in 2010. Photo credit unknown.

A BNSF firefighting train working the White Lightning fire in Oregon in 2010. Photo credit unknown.

When disaster strikes a railroad, I luckily have a massive library of railfan DVDs that I can turn to and visit these places close up. I’m going to share some of them that I’m watching right now.

 

Ride tourist logging railroads including the Yosemite Sugar Pine

Ride tourist logging railroads including the Yosemite Sugar Pine

 

West Coast Railroad Logging Volume 1

West Coast Railroad Logging Volume 1 (Yosemite Sugar Pine included)

 

Sierra Shortlines - Volume 2 (Yosemite Sugar Pine included)

Sierra Shortlines – Volume 2 (Yosemite Sugar Pine included)

 

Columbia River Gorge Part 1 - Union Pacific's Portland Sub

Columbia River Gorge Part 1 – Union Pacific’s Portland Sub

 

Columbia River Gorge Part 2 - BNSF Railway's Fallbridge Sub

Columbia River Gorge Part 2 – BNSF Railway’s Fallbridge Sub

 

Gorges and Mountains Volume 1 - The BNSF (Columbia River Gorge)

Gorges and Mountains Volume 1 – The BNSF (Columbia River Gorge)

 

Gorges and Mountains Volume 2 - The Union Pacific (Columbia River Gorge)

Gorges and Mountains Volume 2 – The Union Pacific (Columbia River Gorge)

 

Daylight Freedom Special (Columbia River Gorge)

Daylight Freedom Special (Columbia River Gorge)

 

Columbia River Gorge Volume 1

Columbia River Gorge Volume 1

 

Columbia River Gorge Volume 2

Columbia River Gorge Volume 2

 

Steam to Spokane (Columbia River Gorge)

Steam to Spokane (Columbia River Gorge)

 

Tough Times on the Southern Pacific (Assorted problems including natural disasters)

Tough Times on the Southern Pacific (Assorted problems including natural disasters)

There are many more on both of those locations but those are some great ones to explore if you haven’t already. I promised some disaster/emergency relief organization information for donations. Aside from the American Red Cross which assists with all of the disasters mentioned in this blog and more, here are some others:

Both Hurricane Harvey & Irma:

Hand In Hand: A benefit for hurricane relief

Hand In Hand: A benefit for hurricane relief

Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 8/7c, all the major networks will be broadcasting a celebrity-studded fundraising telethon, Hand In Hand: A Benefit For Hurricane Harvey Relief.

Hurricane Harvey:

The Greater Houston Community Foundation

The Texas Diaper Bank

Best Friends Animal Society

Lone Star Legal Aid

Houston Humane Society

United Way of Greater Houston

Hurricane Irma:

GlobalGiving Hurricane Irma Relief Fund

Best Friends Animal Society

Eagle Creek Fire (Columbia Gorge):

Friends of the Columbia Gorge

Hood River County Sheriff and Search and Rescue: Immediately following the rescue of 153 hikers from Eagle Creek, Friends of the Columbia Gorge launched a social media fundraising campaign to support these heroes. We raised over $30,000 in less than a week! A memorial fund has since been created in honor of a recently deceased sheriff deputy. The Hood River County Mike Anderson Search and Rescue Fund will directly support the county’s search and rescue efforts. Donations can be made at any U.S. Bank branch or can be delivered or mailed to: 601 State Street, Hood River, OR 97031.

Railroad Fire (Near Yosemite):

This is almost contained now and I can’t find any specific need to donate to so how about a more general suggestion for keeping Yosemite awesome with the Yosemite Conservancy.

In general if you are ever donating to an organization be careful not to be scammed. Charity Navigator is a great site for getting an objective rating for non-profits before you donate.

I’d be interested in any of your stories of railroads and natural disasters. Feel free to comment! Stay safe out there.

~Cat

 

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