Archive for the ‘Railfanning’ Category

National Train Day Street Faire this Saturday in Ashland, OR

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The Ashland Historic Railroad Museum is celebrating National Train Day this Saturday the 7th from 12pm – 4pm at their current location 258 A Street in Ashland, Oregon. Aside from live music, railroad presentations by historians and rail organizations, and children’s activities they will be holding a raffle to help raise funds to acquire the original Railroad Depot for museum expansion.

The original Railroad Depot for Ashland at 5th and A Streets. Photo by Cat Cook

The original Railroad Depot for Ashland at 5th and A Streets. Photo by Cat Cook

We are already committed to attend the Rickreall Grange Train Swapmeet & Show May 7th & 8th and can’t attend ourselves but we donated a raffle prize to help the cause: a complete deluxe Thomas & Friends train set plus a Short Line Engineer Kit so the lucky winner can operate their new train in style.

Cat delivering the Thomas Train set to the museum for this weekend's raffle. Photo by Don Cook

Cat delivering the Thomas Train set to the museum for this weekend's raffle. Photo by Don Cook

If you live in the State of Jefferson consider dropping by to have a good ol’ time and support the museum! They are raffling off lots of goodies including a stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel!

Ashland Historical Railroad Museum Director & Curator Victoria Law and her husband getting ready for the event! Photo by: Cat Cook

Ashland Historical Railroad Museum Director & Curator Victoria Law and her husband Chris getting ready for the event! Photo by: Cat Cook

Here’s the flyer for the event!

National Train Day Flyer

National Train Day Flyer

Railfans & Passengers Recruited to Observe & Report

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Do you love trains and enjoy fighting crime in your spare time? Amtrak and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) have jobs for you complete with official identification cards! BNSF has been doing this since 2006 under the Citizens for Rail Security program but now Amtrak has joined in with their Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security program. Picture, if you will, a neighborhood watch for railroads where railfans and, in Amtrak’s case, rail passengers report suspicious activities.

Once you sign up online you are able to print out your very own membership card. You are also given some direction about what type of activities qualify as suspicious. This includes things like: trespassers, unattended vehicles, suspicious objects/packages, suspicious activities or people all on or near railroad property, crimes in progress like vandalism or theft, threats against the railroad, gates left open or damaged, track obstructions, potential mechanical problems with trains and illegal dumping.

Nothing to see here, move along. Photo by Cat Cook

Nothing to see here, move along. Coast Starlight, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

So, you’ve seen something suspicious! Both Amtrak and BNSF make it pretty clear, just because you have a special badge doesn’t mean they want you to go take care of it. What they want you to do is report it! This is where the card comes in handy, as it has the number they would like you to call to report your particular flavor of suspicious activity. Before you call they want you to note some specifics first, here it is helpful to pretend you are a newspaper reporter and note the 6 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.

  • Who is being suspicious? Describe them, their vehicle….
  • What is suspicious? Describe what you saw, what occurred….
  • Where is the suspiciousness? Explain where the issue is, include streets or mile markers….
  • When was it suspicious? Relate when this happened, or when you noticed it….
  • Why/How is it suspicious? How doesn’t start with a ‘w’ but it’s in the list; include any other information that might help the police or railroad personnel.
Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Now, I know you are really liking this badge situation and feel pretty special. Like you have a special ‘in’ with the railroads but wait! There’s more…. The railroads want to make sure you understand that this isn’t an invitation to trespass. You are supposed to report trespassers, not become one! That would defeat the whole purpose. Don’t trespass even to answer the 6 W’s.  Restricted areas include places like: employee areas, maintenance facilities, unoccupied trains, engines, or maintenance vehicles, office areas, baggage areas, delivery areas, commissaries, right-of-way areas, track areas, and in-service train cars. Then there are the tracks, don’t walk on the tracks! That’s a big no-no. It’s highly illegal and highly dangerous. Only cross tracks at roadway crossings or designated pedestrian areas and when taking photos of trains always do it at least 15 feet from the closest rail.

San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station November 2009 Photo by Cat Cook

Where not to stand when taking a photo. Obviously I hadn't read the rules yet. San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

Of course, we should all be reporting suspicious activity whether we have a special identification card or not.  However, you may want to consider signing up with Amtrak or BNSF since the cards are handy for reminding us of rules around railroads and for providing the phone numbers to contact authorities in case of suspicious activities or safety hazards. Oh, and then there is the cool factor. I printed mine on card stock to give it that extra little ‘something’. Now, I just need a laminator to preserve my fancy ID cards for all time…

Eugene Train Show: Railfans & Layouts & Speeders – Oh My!

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Last weekend (April 9 & 10, 2011) was the 23rd Annual Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club Train Show & Swap Meet in Eugene, OR. It was our first time there and we met many new & friendly folks. We look forward to going back for this show year after year. In all, it filled 3 large rooms of the Expo Building at the Lane County Fairgrounds. There were layouts, equipment, vintage railroadiana, railfan goodies, model trains & accessories in abundance. Lee & Diane Temple were on point organizing the show, their hard work paid off with a well-attended and smooth-running event. When they aren’t organizing the train show they specialize in buying, selling, and consigning trains, paper, books, memorabilia, & more! Their business is Temple’s Trains and Things and they can be reached at ttandt@ram-mail.com.

I think I was in the right place - Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Show - Photo by: Cat Cook

I think I was in the right place! - The Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Show - Photo by: Cat Cook

There were a few layouts including Clay’s Trailer-n-Train Railroad, a 24 by 10 foot G-scale layout that is displayed right on the trailer used to transport it from event to event. Across the way were the Oregon Electric O-Gaugers with their 30 by 12 foot O-scale layout. In one of the other rooms Roger Fegles, one of the members of the Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club, had an awesome N-scale layout displayed.

Gary & Roger of the Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club were all smiles while working the door at the show. Photo by: Cat Cook

Gary & Roger of the Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club were all smiles while working the door at the show. Photo by: Cat Cook

Nearby, Ken showed off Dawson Station, his 1 x 4 foot N-scale layout based on the Hull-Oakes lumber mill in Dawson, Oregon. If you’ve never seen Ken’s Dawson Station layout or his website please check it out! I love his video tours, especially the Nightfall at Dawson Station which includes a soundtrack of Willamette Valley frogs & the Arduino Control of Model Train which gives an overview of the circuit boards used to control the locomotive and sound (Hey Dad, if you are reading this, watch that one!) By the way, wanna see how to use a Wii Nunchuk to control a locomotive forwards and backwards (with realistic acceleration) as well as to operate turnouts? You can see it in the Arduino Control of Model Train video. It’s pretty cool and geeky (two attributes I appreciate equally.)

Dawson Station Layout based on Hull-Oakes Sawmill - Photo by: Cat Cook

Dawson Station Layout based on Hull-Oakes Sawmill - Photo by: Cat Cook

If you’ve been to a train show before, you may have seen one of these on display:

M-19 Fairmont Speeder - Photo by: Cat Cook

M-19 Fairmont Speeder - Photo by: Cat Cook

These railroad motorcars, AKA speeders, were used to travel on and inspect track although nowadays Hy-Rail vehicles are usually used instead. The North American Rail Car Operators Association (NARCOA) is comprised of people who privately own these rail cars and get together for excursions on tracks around the country. We met Guy and his speeder named Sophia (pictured below) at the show and got to hear about this fascinating hobby. Because NARCOA has an excellent reputation for safety, they are allowed to rent out rail lines for their excursions. Often these excursions take the motorcar owners and their lucky few passengers to locales miles from civilization for some very unique railroading experiences. For more information about this hobby check out www.narcoa.org and www.railspeeders.com.

"Sophia" the Speeder! Photo by: Cat Cook

"Sophia" the Speeder! She's a Tamper TMC-2 - Photo by: Cat Cook

On the way home I snapped a couple more pictures of Central Oregon & Pacific’s Winchester switching yard:

CORP's Winchester Rail Switching Yard - Photo by Cat Cook

CORP's Winchester Rail Switching Yard - Photo by Cat Cook

Here are some EMD GP20Ds in Central Oregon & Pacific (CORP) and leasing company Capital Equipment Funding (CEFX) paint:

EMD GP20Ds at the Central Oregon & Pacific yard in Winchester, OR - Photo by: Cat Cook

EMD GP20Ds at the Central Oregon & Pacific yard in Winchester, OR - Photo by: Cat Cook

We passed this mystery piece of Maintenance of Way equipment on a West Rail Construction flat bed, if you can identify it please email me (Cat) at media@theshortline.com:

Maintenance of Way Equipment (Unidentified) Photo by: Cat Cook

Maintenance of Way Equipment (Unidentified) Photo by: Cat Cook

Happy Railroading!

Train Video Reviews – Northeast Rails Remembered II (DVD)

Sunday, March 27th, 2011
Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II on DVD (2011) makes its debut March of 2011 highlighting the end of the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) in the early 1990s. It succinctly covers the history of the D&H, and gives interesting tidbits about some of the towns, industry, and history surrounding the rail line and its transition to Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail.

All the power you will see in this video is diesel-electric from GP38s to SD50s & B23-7s to C40-8s all built between 1967 and 1991 including paint from: Canadian Pacific (CP), Chesapeake & Ohio (CO), Conrail (CR), Chessie Seaboard Multiplied Transportation (CSXT), Delaware & Hudson (D&H), Grand Trunk (GT), Maine Central (MEC), Missouri Pacific (MP), Norfolk Southern (NS), New York, Susquehanna & Western (NYSW), Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (RFP), Santa Fe (SF), Seaboard System (SBD), Seaboard Coast Line (SCL), SOO Lines (SOO), Southern Railway (SOU), as well as some leased power from GATX & PLMX.

Delaware & Hudson power from Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD by Charles Smiley Presents

Delaware & Hudson power from Northeast Rails Remembered II DVD by Charles Smiley Presents

That’s a lot of variety but nothing like the variety of rolling stock witnessed during the 93 minutes of this program. Aside from the road names already mentioned you’ll see the following in varying quantities: Ashley, Drew & Northern (ADN), Bangor & Aroostook (BAR), Bay Line Railroad (BAYL), Boston & Maine (BM), Berlin Mills Railway (BMS), Burlington Northern (BN), Columbus & Greenville (CAGY), Corinth & Counce Railroad Company (CCR), Canadian National (CN), Green Bay & Western (GBW), Greenville & Northern (GRN), Illinois Central Gulf (ICG), Illinois Terminal (ITC), Lamoille Valley (LVRC), Milwaukee Road (MILW), Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern (MNS), Norfolk Western (NW), Oregon, California & Eastern (OCE), Pittsburgh & Shawmut (P&S), Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), Quebec Central (QC), Reading (RDG), Sandersville Railroad (SAN), Southern Pacific (SP), St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SSW), Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks (TASD), and Union Pacific (UP).

But wait! There’s more! In addition to all that you get to see acid trains, coal trains (I was pleased to see a bunch of Shawmut Line hoppers!), iron ore trains and phosphate trains. Also checkout the Rail Analyzer Car and Track Geometry Car courtesy of Conrail, a few passenger cars via Chicago & Northwestern (CNW) and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDT) and a great look at the James E. Strates Railroad Carnival.

James E. Strates Railroad Carnival from Northeast Rails Remembered II from Charles Smiley Presents

James E. Strates Railroad Carnival from Northeast Rails Remembered II from Charles Smiley Presents

Phew! That’s a lot of variety.  Which in some ways dictates the overall form of the video. Although there is some narration regarding D&H and some of the history and locales, the majority of this film is simply presenting run-by after run-by of colorful trains. Many trains will make an appearance several times throughout the video as it passes through different locations. To some, that might sound dangerously boring but as a chronicle of graffiti-free trains from a time gone by it excels, giving you plenty of opportunities to view the trains from different vantage points. This format also allows you to experience much uninterrupted natural sounds from the trains with almost no competing sounds from the environment. It provides a nice, pure train experience.

Shot by Tom Luckey (Mountain Grades of the B & O, Northeast Rails Remembered) this video was filmed in the late 1980s and early 1990s throughout all the seasons (though winter/fall seems to dominate with most shots containing bare northeastern trees). Aside from some landmarks like the Lehigh River, Hill to Hill Bridge, and Bethlehem Steel Plant the frequency of winter forests are a nice neutral backdrop for all the colorful trains to stand out against.

Northeast Rails Remembered II Map from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II Map from Charles Smiley Presents

Northeast Rails Remembered II is great for people who like diesel locomotives, lots of variety in road names, and appreciate seeing pre-graffiti trains of the northeast, particularly Pennsylvania. The majority of this film simply lets the trains roar by telling their own story however, it’s punctuated by the tried and true Charles Smiley maps and narration giving some reference and structure to what is a high volume, quality, and variety of train footage.

From the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad to Union Pacific in Dunsmuir

Friday, December 31st, 2010
We attended the Great Train Expo in Pomona, December 18th & 19th, despite the torrential downpour that turned Los Angeles into a rather large puddle a week before Christmas. Attendance was likely diminished due to the historic rainfall (this is the third wettest December since they started keeping track in 1877) but it was a successful show despite it, and Don and his son Alan (who helped out in my stead) met some fine Southern Californian train folks.

We spent the holiday down in So Cal where our respective families still reside.  I was given a tour of the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad, my dad’s N-scale layout which is under construction, and took some pictures.  Below you can see the roundhouse and turntable in the foreground of this photo with my dad inspecting some track in the back section.

Dad Working on the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad Photo by: Cat Cook

Bill Haigler Working on the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by: Cat Cook

All of these switches work and the lights light up! It’s quite something.
The Control Panel for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by: Cat Cook

The Control Panel for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by: Cat Cook

Here you can see some, just some… of the detailed wiring involved in the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad. You can also see some washers used as counterbalances for the coal mechanisms.
Bill Haigler working on the wiring for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

Bill Haigler working on the wiring for the Haigler Creek & Western Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

On the way back home we took a spur of the moment jaunt into Dunsmuir, CA. Just as we pulled into town, so did a Union Pacific train coming from the south.  Don quickly navigated us down to the tracks and I jumped out to wave at the engineer and snapped this photo of the GE ES44AC and accompanying video in the nick of time.
UP 7736 (a GE ES44AC) entering Dunsmuir from the south - Photo by Cat Cook

UP 7736 (a GE ES44AC) entering Dunsmuir from the south - Photo by Cat Cook

And here’s a video of most of the rest of the train as it pulls into the station for a crew change:  Union Pacific pulls into Dunsmuir

I’ve been through Dunsmuir at least 8 times before while traveling on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight but as the schedule always puts the train there in the dark of night I’ve never seen the town properly before. Our plan is to go back and spend a day there since it is only a 2-hour drive from Merlin, OR.

A Semaphore in front of the Dunsmuir Post Office

A Semaphore in front of the Dunsmuir Post Office - Photo by Cat Cook

Happy new year to all and happy railroading!

Klamath Model Railroad Show & New Donner Pass DVD Release

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

October 23rd & 24th was the 3rd annual Model Railroad Show in Klamath Falls, Oregon and we brought all our goodies over the hill (and through the woods) to share with the good folks of Klamath County. This is a nice little show hosted by the Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club. Members of the club show off their large HO scale layout  rain or shine (in this case it was rain and the rain threatened to bring down the ceiling tiles of the Klamath County Fairgrounds but the dedicated club members and show-goers were not deterred!)

Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Cat Cook)

Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Cat Cook)

The Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club also brought their traveling HO layout. Between the two layouts most of the exhibit hall was filled with railroad goodness. Along the edges of the exhibit hall were vendors of varying goods and the Klamath & Western Railroad out of Chiloquin, Oregon which offered rides on their passenger-ready ‘model’ locomotive.

The trains were great, of course, but it’s the people who make train shows especially enjoyable. Steve Hart and the rest of the Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club members made us feel welcome (this was our first time at the show.) It was great to see Bruce, Brad and the other members from the Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club, we will be seeing more of them next month at the Annual Rogue Valley Train Show at the Medford Armory November 27th & 28th.

We met some new friends as well. Our next door neighbors at the show included Al from Trains & Things (you can find him at most train shows throughout the Pacific Northwest with his selection of railroad Books, DVDs, and T-shirts) and Bob from Robert Gavora, Fine and Rare Books who has a huge selection of hard to find railroad books, magazines, time tables, manuals, and more! Both of these gentlemen will be at the Annual Rogue Valley Train Show in Medford so if you attend be sure to drop by their booths as well!

Donner Pass: Stacks in the High Sierras

Donner Pass: Stacks in the High Sierras

We’ve been featuring DVDs from 7Idea Productions for about a year now, at the Klamath show we finally got to meet Aaron, the man behind those fabulous videos. Aaron’s enthusiasm and passion for railroading is infectious in his videos and in ‘real life’ too! His latest video is Donner Pass: Stacks in the High Sierras which was just released! We are carrying it in both DVD and Blu-Ray!  Check out the trailer for this brand new Donner video here!

After the show we packed up and got back over the hill just as night (and snow) was beginning to fall. Now it’s time to get ready for the next show!

Happy Railroading!

Locomotives & Hot Sauce – Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
Locomotives and hot sauce… two great tastes that taste great together? Why not? B&O Railroad Hot Sauce has released 4 hot sauces inspired by the Baltimore & Ohio. This deserves some exploration…
The Four B&O Railroad Hot Sauces

The Four B&O Railroad Hot Sauces

These bottles of liquid fire are licensed products of the B&O Railroad Museum. Their sauces include: Thunder Fire Hot Sauce commemorating the ‘Fire’ that keeps steam trains alive; Iron Thunder Hot Sauce evoking the power of ‘hundreds of tons of iron roaring down the track’ (and into your mouth); and Fire Box Hot Sauce providing a smoky flavor with aged cayenne red pepper & chipotle in honor of the hottest part of the steam engine, the firebox.

Finally, there is Ghost Train Hot Sauce which according to these Hot Sauce folks commemorates the general phenomenon around the world of ‘Ghost Trains’, phantom locomotives that appear ‘out of nowhere and in an instant, consume your senses’ likely, much like their hot sauce. This sauce is made with the world’s hottest pepper, Bhut Jolokia, which is also known as Ghost Chili.

Naga Jolokia - The World's Hottest Pepper (Photo by Peter Baer)

Bhut Jolokia - The World's Hottest Pepper (Photo by Peter Baer)

But the B&O rails have their own haunted history. In the 1800s there was work going on in the Brandy Gap Tunnel (also known as the Flinderation Tunnel) in West Virginia when a train unexpectedly came through startling the workers. One of the workers was unable to get to a safety alcove in time and was killed by the train which then derailed.  The resulting ‘ghost train’ has been the subject of some television shows such as Ghost Stories on the Travel Channel. Reportedly visitors experience hearing the train’s whistle and sounds of metal scraping the walls when passing through the tunnel which is now part of West Virginia’s 72-mile North Bend Rail Trail.

Haunted Flinderation Tunnel - Photo by Jerry Edmundson

Haunted Flinderation Tunnel - Photo by Jerry Edmundson

Each bottle of B&O Hot Sauce sports an eye-catching railroad label designed by artist Rena Debortoli and brand manager Jamie Klim with photos and art work provided by the B&O Railroad Museum. These sauces would make a great addition to a B&O themed gift when accompanied by a train DVD or maybe even some B&O rolling stock.  Since that’s a fabulous idea, check out the B&O featured products at www.theshortline.com where you can now redeem coupon code BLOG1BO during check out to take an additional 15% off B&O related merchandise! (Valid through December 20, 2010)
Happy (Haunted) Railroading!

I Coulda Been A Gongoozler

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Today while watching the Pentrex DVD,  Southern Pacific Film Archives Combo, I found myself recalling childhood memories of waving at these very same trains in Southern California. These were the trains that turned me into a Railfan! This led me to contemplate the beginnings of Railfanning.

Evidence of the first Railfan (or Trainspotter as he would be known in the UK) can be found in the National Railway Museum in York. A 14-year old boy observed and wrote a description of the opening of the Stockton to Darlington Railway and the world’s first steam passenger train in 1825. In a letter home to his sisters, John Backhouse wrote:

It was a very grand sight to see such a mass of people moving on the road from Stockton to Darlington, 600 people were said to be in, on and about the wagons and coaches! And the engine drew not less that 90 tons!!!!!”

He even includes a drawing to help describe this new technological marvel to his readers.

John Backhouse Drawing of the Stockton to Darlington Railway

John Backhouse Drawing of the Stockton to Darlington Railway

Apparently, there have been Railfans since trains emerged onto the transportation landscape and luckily for contemporary Railfans, people have been documenting railroads since the beginning as well.

The first “train” movie was filmed in 1895; almost as soon as cinematic technology was available people were choosing to put trains on film! You can enjoy, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1895), through the wonder that is YouTube. One of the challenges to Railfans has been the ever-threatening disappearance of the object of their affection, I’m grateful to those who spent their time and money creating video records of locomotives that Railfans of today would not be able to experience any other way. 

In reflecting on the origins of Railfanning, I wonder about other hobbies that share a common link with ours.  You may have heard of Aircraft Spotting…

Famous Russian Aircraft Spotter Sergei Alexandrov at Work (Photo by Villa16)

Famous Russian Aircraft Spotter Sergei Alexandrov at Work (Photo by Villa16)

But have you heard of Bus Spotting?

Bus Spotters in Action! (Photo Credit: Arriva436)

Bus Spotters in Action! (Photo Credit: Arriva436)

Satellite Spotting?

Ed Morana imaged the International Space Station as it crossed in front of the Moon.

Ed Morana imaged the International Space Station as it crossed in front of the Moon.

What about Roadgeeks? (fans of all things road-related) or Gongoozlers? (fans of all things canal-related)…. These are the Railfan’s brethren! Unite ye hobbyists! Embrace your inner geek!