Real story of one that got away – freight car that is ……

When Jim Johnson and his delightful wife were visiting our layout a short while back I asked him if he would share with stories about his life working on the railroad. This first one is a beauty!!!

In 1973 I was assigned to the extra board in Portola CA. This was the summer of 73 and every year about this time Stockton ran short of men and the company, Western Pacific, forced low seniority people to Stockton. The only way to get out of this was to bid and hold a regular job. I was determined that I was not going to Stockton so I bid on a midnight switch engine in Oroville, CA. I bid the job successfully and so began my summer in Oroville.

I don’t really remember the name of my ground crew but there were threee switchmen assigned to this job. One night instead of switching the yard we got the tramp duties to spot up industries outside the yard. So out the mainline west we went, a mile or so out to a place called Forest Products. We had two cars. One for Forest Products and one to go elsewhere. They were both behind the engine so the move out was a shoving move.

We got to Forest Products. We cut the one car off and left it on the main line and ducked into Forest Products. We spent about five minutes spotting up the car and then went back out to the main. As we entered the main the switchman jumped off the train to line the switch back. As he did so he looked up at my engineer’s window and threw his hands out to the side and exclaimed “Its gone. It’s gone”.

I looked out and realized that the car that we had left on the main was indeed gone. I looked further west down the mainline at the signal that was about a mile away. The signal that had been green was now red. Well. it’s downhill all the way to Marysville, 26 miles away. Away we went in chase of that car. I called the dispatcher, Gene Edgeman, and advised him of what was going on and advised him to stop any trains headed east and to call the SP dispatcher and advise him to stop their trains at the interlock at Marysville. About 12 miles down the main, just before Craig siding we caught up with the car doing 45 mph. We made a good joint with the runaway car and got stopped.

I did not go by any absolute signals but …….  We headed back for Oroville yard just knowing we were all fired when the dispatcher called us and advised no damage had been done and to forget about the incident. Ours jobs were intact. There was no one in the yard office, and no-one including the trainmaster was any the wiser. So. we put our car away and I went home with a solemn promise to myself  NOT to repeat this this again.

As I was reading this I thought what a great movie it would make.

Thanks Jim.

I couldn’t find any songs about runaway freight cars. But, I did remember this one from my childhood ……

The wreck of the Ole 97

I think that I have every record that the Seekers and their lead singer Judith Durham have ever made. I had the shuffle control on the other day and this one came up:

It sounded very authentic but, was it? The ‘net coughed up this vid which tells the “real story” better than I can:

At the end of the above vid is a reference to the original best-selling version of the record.:

I hope I am not the only twit around here who didn’t know the whole story!!!

Mendocino Lumber Co. Loco #2 – a geared Climax

A Climax locomotive is a type of geared steam locomotive in which the two steam cylinders were attached to a transmission located under the center of the boiler. This transmits power to driveshafts running to the front and rear trucks.

Rush S. Battles patented the basic design in 1891. Battles’ design had horizontal cylinders connected to the drive shaft through a 2-speed transmission. The drive shaft passed just above the axle centers, requiring the use of hypoid bevel gears to transfer power to each axle. Unlike the later and somewhat similar Heisler design, there were no side rods on the trucks and all gearing was open, exposed to the elements. Battles’ patent describes the core design that became the Class B Climax, and as his patent illustrations show the name Climax emblazoned on the locomotive cab.

Charles D. Scott, an inventor who had previously proposed a less successful geared steam locomotive, patented improved versions of Battles’ trucks in 1892 and 1893.Scott’s 1892 patent was the basis of the Class A Climax. His 1892 patent included gear-case enclosures.

Many loggers considered the Climax superior to the Shay in hauling capability and stability, particularly in a smaller locomotive, although the ride was characteristically rough for the crew. Mendocino Lumber Co. owned one of the two Climaxes along the Mendocino Coast – Caspar Lumber Co, owned the other.

Mendocino Lumber Co, #2 Climax loco

Mendocino Lumber Co, #2 Climax loco


Here Comes Big Boy!!!!!!! The world’s largest steam locomotive is crossing America

The world’s largest steam engine is making its way across the country, attracting crowds in cities and small towns wherever it goes. The steam engine’s name is Big Boy, and he is a very big boy.The occasion for Big Boy’s restoration was the 150th anniversary of the completion of the 1,900-mile Transcontinental Railroad in Promontory Summit, Utah. Big Boy steamed into Ogden, Utah, for the festivities in May, and then continued his journey. You can track his progress on this interactive map.

Big Boy is 132 feet long and weighs more than a million pounds. That is a lot of feet and pounds!  ALCO produced 25 Big Boy engines starting in the early 1940s, but only eight are still in existence, and only one—the Big Boy, No. 4014—is in operation. Union Pacific acquired the retired engine from a museum in 2013 and spent the past several years restoring it. The engine had previously had been out of commission for six decades, which makes his journey this summer a very big deal to “railfans.”

Big Boy - UP's restored 4-8-8-4

Big Boy – UP’s restored 4-8-8-4

Big Boy is a tremendous hit wherever he goes. In West Chicago, Illinois, Union Pacific estimated that 45,000 people came to see the behemoth; town officials had initially planned for fewer than 10,000. Suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald reported that some small communities along Big Boy’s path have seen their populations triple as he rolls through town. “Thousands turned out to view the engine, whether it was children on their way to Sunday school or travelers from across the continent and around the globe,”

Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941. The locomotives were 132 feet long and weighed 1.2 million pounds. Because of their great length, the frames of the Big Boys were “hinged,” or articulated, to allow them to negotiate curves. They had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which meant they had four wheels on the leading set of “pilot” wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight drivers, and four wheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive. The massive engines normally operated between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyo.

There are seven Big Boys on public display in various cities around the country. They can be found in St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941. The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service.  Union Pacific reacquired No. 4014 from the RailGiants Museum in Pomona, California, in 2013, and relocated it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process.

I decided to post this after I spoke with a couple today who got up at 2.00 am and drove 9 hours to visit with Big Boy! Can’t see my wife getting up at 2.00 am to see a steam loco. But, you never can tell.

To finish this off I’m adding my latest favorite train song:

The runaway train came down the track and she blew – up! Incredible footage captures trains strapped with explosives crashing at up to 90mph to entertain huge crowds 100 years ago

So sayeth the Daily Mail. I got this link from LeeAnn Dickson – she is the wife of our VEEP Lonnie.

Watching two trains hurtle into each other at full throttle causing complete destruction and chaos might not sound like ideal weekend entertainment. But more than 100 years ago, thousands of people would flock from miles around to do just that. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, showmen in America would intentionally crash two trains, strapped with explosives, into each other to attract hordes of people to a fair. 

Ticket to collide! Trains crash head-on in archive footage taken at the California State Fair. Click here to see. 
This one is a staged crash at the Minnesota State Fair in the 1930s. Click here to see.
A purpose-built track would be laid with two trains that were no longer fit for purpose placed at opposite ends facing each other. Brave engineers would then fire them up to full speed and jump off at the last second, just before the machines smashed into each other at a combined speed of 90mph and caused huge explosions.  By the late 1800s train crashes were common and often fatal and large crowds would gather to watch the damage caused.  A man known only as A L Streeter was the first to put on an intentional train crash in Buckeye Park, Ohio, in 1896 Pictured is the aftermath of a staged crash at the Crush site:
Train crash

Train crash

 Pictured below are thousands of people looking at a real train crash that happened near Nashville, Tennessee in 1918.

Real crash at Nashville

Real crash at Nashville

But not all of the dangerous crashes ran smoothly. 

Later that year (1896), a man called William Crush started a similar event in the middle of nowhere in rural Texas. Crush’s events didn’t always run smoothly. One crash ended in the death of three people when the trains’ boilers exploded and sent iron debris flying into the crowd. He even created a purpose-built city for his customers by drilling two water wells and inviting the Ringling Brothers to put on a circus. Erecting a grandstand, telegraph office and train depot, the ‘city’ became so big that they named it Crush – after its creator. Before the first Crush crash, he asked the engineers. whether there was any chance the boilers on the steam engines could explode. All of them except one said they wouldn’t. A staggering 40,000 people had turned up to the event – double the number that had been expected. The crowd was kept 200 yards away from the crash zone while the trains both rattled toward each other at 45 mph. 

Joe Connolly, another event promoter, earned the nickname ‘Head-On Joe’ for successfully putting on more than 100 deliberate train crashes from 1900 to 1932. Pictured is the moment just before another crash at Crush:.

Moments before the crash

Moments before the crash

Moments after impact

Moments after impact

Head-On Joe would also decorate his trains to encourage more visitors and make the crash more exciting. Pictured is the crash from the Iowa State Fair in 1932 when he painted Hoover on one train and Roosevelt on the other, depicting the political rivalry that was going on during the presidential election. At the moment of their collision there was an enormous explosion that sent debris flying hundreds of feet into the air. Terrified onlookers sprinted away from the scene but lumps of steel and iron reigned down – killing three people and seriously injuring others. Despite this catastrophe, staged crashes continued to be popular. “

A Shay of the Greenwood (aka Elk) Railroad and Caspar Railroad #3 2-6-2t

This is part of a recently received e-mail:

My name is Tammy Durston – I grew up in Annapolis, went to Pt Arena High and am author of three books on the area. I am writing a fourth book featuring what the Mendo coast looked like in the past versus what it looks like now. My husband’s family has been in the coast since around 1850. I’m the family historian and have been going through old photos. My husband’s great grandfather was a train engineer in Elk and Caspar. I’ve attached a couple of photos. I wondered if you could give me any background on these engines.”

Here is the first of the two photos:

One of Greenwood Railroad Co #2, #3 or #5 Shay

One of Greenwood Railroad Co #2, #3 or #5 Shay

My reply: if you go to this page in our website  I think you will find this loco in one the top three photos. So, I think this photo is of  a Shay although I can’t tell if it is #2, #3 or #5. Toward the bottom of this web page you’ll see what we know about the Elk/Greenwood Shays. GRCO I am reasonably sure is short for Greenwood Railroad Company.

And photo number 2:

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern Railroad #3 - a 2-6-2t

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern Railroad #3 – a 2-6-2t

This one took a bit of finding.  I finally located it on our website in Issues 315-316 of the Western Railroader magazine – Caspar Lumber Company. If you click here you can bring up the entire book . Page though to page 12 and you’ll see this loco in the top photo.

Whew that took a bit Shelock Holmesing!!!!