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Railroads

Tokyo Super Ambient Discotheque

Only the dead stand still. Where are you headed?

Make ya lonesome, now

The Blues is a product of a distinctly American culture. Its peak and decline parallels American passenger railroading. The peaks left us with a wealth of blues songs about the rails. Since riding the railroad is something that our parents and grandparents did, the blues tunes are charged with a personal melancholy that puts the past right into your heart.

Here’s maybe my favorite of all:

261 Will Stay in the 55413

After a winter of rumours and uncertainty, an historic steam locomotive has been purchased by a metro-area railfan group:

Earlier this month the [Friends of the 261] Board of Directors approved the purchase of Milwaukee Road No. 261 from the National Railroad Museum of Green Bay, Wis.

The locomotive, which operated from 1993 to 2008, was owned by NRM and leased to the Friends for operation. For the past several years the two organizations have been negotiating for a new lease, but were unable to agree on terms. At one point NRM offered to sell the engine to the Friends for $800,000 or lease it for $70,000 per year. Things finally came to a head in November 2009 when negotiations ended and it was agreed that No. 261 would return to NRM for display - the engine had been on exhibit in Green Bay from 1958 to 1992.

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A New Way to Run a Railroad

This ad from the 1970s (spotted on NRR’s “Vintage Ads” siding) shows big business working toward improving service to its customers:

Southern Railroad cargo-tracking ad from 1970s

The 70s were not a good time for railroads. But the Southern was certainly still a huge and powerful corporation. And we’ve heard so often about how evil corporations exist to screw people.

How does that narrative square with this ad copy (signed by Southern’s Chairman):

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Basement Switchmaster

Model Train Layout from 1929

The first comment to this photo from the Shorpy Historic Photo Archive:

I can only wonder what Mr.Swartzell would have thought if he was told his model railroad would be admired by thousands of people all over the world in the next century.

Yes, indeed.

As is often the case with Shorpy photos, the subject is not the only interesting element in the photo.

I love the dogs barking at the wagon team at the bottom of the shot. God lives in detail like that.

It May Come, But They Do Not Ride

I observed the Northstar commuter rail service make its 4:40pm outbound stop at the Fridley station. I did not see anyone get off the train. There ten vehicles in the park-and-ride lot.

The locomotive was in the livery of FrontRunner, a commuter rail service in Utah. Perhaps there were no riders there, thus freeing a power unit to pull our empty trains.

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Nature Always Wins

Trains are pretty impressive beasts. But we saw a while back that snow can stop them in their tracks.

What happens when a tornado and a freight train cross paths?

Nature - 2 ; Trains - 0.

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The Empire Hauls Freight

The opening sequence of the Star Wars movie (the original 1977 one, now known as Episode IV) is most famous for its crawling text that sets the scene for the film. I was always more moved by the Imperial Star Destroyer as it hunts a hapless freighter.

The freighter must be huge. It has ten eleven engines!

But the Destroyer dwarfs it. When you think you’re seeing the tail of it, there’s more. And then there’s more again.

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BNSF Practicing Space Management

Fans of the Garage Logic radio show are familiar with “space management”. That is, keeping all your pavement clear of snow and snow piles. Theo Spark has posted photos of the railroad version:

Locomotive stuck in snow

Stuck.

Rotary Plow in action

Here comes the plow!
(It’s being pushed by the blue locomotive, which is running backward.)

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Activists Against History

Some Minneapolis activists held a protest march against a proposed commuter rail project. I imagine they normally love commuter rail, except when it interferes with their NIMBY utopia:

Organizers of the march warned that Hennepin County’s proposal to use a 13-acre parcel in Bryn Mawr for train storage would jeopardize long-term redevelopment plans for Bassett Creek Valley. The largely industrial valley west of Downtown is divided between Bryn Mawr and Harrison, and residents from both neighborhoods have contributed to a decade of redevelopment planning.

In February, the City Council is expected to consider a city staff recommendation to negotiate a sale of the parcel, known as Linden Yards East, to Hennepin County by the end of the year.

The First Rule of Railroad Safety

Expect a train on any track at any time from any direction.

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The Green Economy Runs on Rails

Coyote has a great post about rail transport as an example of government foolishness:

High speed rail is a terrible investment, a black hole for pouring away money, that has little net impact on efficiency or pollution. But rail is a powerful example because it demonstrates exactly how this bias for high-profile triumphal projects causes people to miss the obvious.

The US rail system, unlike nearly every other system in the world, was built (mostly) by private individuals with private capital. It is operated privately, and runs without taxpayer subsidies. And, it is by far the greatest rail system in the world. It has by far the cheapest rates in the world (1/2 of China’s, 1/8 of Germany’s). But here is the real key:  it is almost all freight.

Nimby Neighbor Rails Against Trains

Progressive Rail, a Lakeville-based shortline railroad, made the news this week:

The neighborhood off Kenwood Trail has become a parking lot for trains, bringing with it more problems than residents would like.

Pam Steinhagen has enough anger to fill a train tanker. She says since last November, the cars have been parked here and have created an eyesore on rails. Not only that, Steinhagen says she's worried about kids who've turned the cars into a playground.

So Steinhagen has organized a neighborhood petition and contacted the city and the company that owns the cars' progressive rail.

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Rain, Steam and Speed

Tax Dollars Commemorate Corporate Excess

The decades before and after the dawn of the 20th century were the golden age of US railroading. The biggest of corporate bigshots traveled in luxurious personal railcars, the equivalent of today’s corporate jets.

Now the corporate jet is popularly held as an object of scorn. Yet, the Federal government granted $400,000 toward restoring one example of last century’s wealth at work:

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Different Times, Different Men

It’s 1943, and this man from Chicago isn’t interested in “dialog” with European leaders. I imagine he doesn’t care much for high-minded lawyer types, either. CNW Railroad Welder via Shorpy.com

From the amazing collection at Shorpy.com. They’re not all railroad photos—take a look.

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8 Minutes of Railfan Pron

First, a four-minute tour of the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. Billed as, “The world’s largest model railway,”  it’s more than just trains:

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Trains Can Fly!

A Gift for Railfans

In 1825, in the northeast of England, the Stockton and Darlington Railway began operating the world’s first steam locomotive. Next February, in the same locale, the world’s newest steam locomotive will enter service.

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Hard to Deny

St. Charles Streetcar in Snow

A streetcar in snow. Nothing unusual in any northern US town during the first half of the 20th Century. Is this a quaint Rockwell-style image to illustrate a Christmas shopping story?

Nope.

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