Discussion in 'On the Road' started by KL7AJ, Aug 11, 2017.
Atherton Caltrans depot
Pearly Gates leading from caltrans station to our neighborhood. This was a Vanderbilt estate during the golden age of railroad, subdivided during the early years of vacuum tube valley. These gates were the original ones build by the Vanderbilts.
Think about why that service went away......
The line you remember existed because people rode it - lots of them, every day. And they paid fares which permitted the railroad to make money on the service. It was faster, cheaper and easier than driving a car to work.
But then the freeways were built (with taxpayer dollars), gasoline was cheap.......and driving to work became the faster, cheaper, easier way. And as ridership went down, the railroad was losing money.
People talk about "the golden age of the railroads" but they forget what it was really like, and what changed.
In the last days of the Southern Crescent and the Carolinian, it sometimes got busy--even in the 80's. Tho by 1979, the Crescent (New York-New Orleans was relegated to the history books. The Crescent was one of the last of the long haul passenger trains owned by Southern Railway System. It was losing 2 million a year, but Mr. Claytor basically got into an argument with Amtrak in '71 and bluntly told Amtrak to go **** themselves; he'd run the Crescent for FREE before he'd let Amtrak screw up SR's most profitable freight lines with passenger trains. So it continued on until 1979 under the Southern banner, losing riders to the automobile and cash to the bottom line. Despite the losses incurred by the passenger department, Southern Railway System was a VERY profitable company and, while it didn't LIKE those losses, it was well able to sustain them. I know because I was in the company's stock purchase plan that really made money for its employees thus enrolled even during that period. It split at least twice before the merger with Norfolk & Western, and WE loved it!
Southern Railway System was also well able, and very supportive, of the Steam Excursion Program from 1965 into the merger with NW. We had our own steam locomotive rebuild facility in Irondale, AL, and Mr. Bill Purdie was listed in the company phone book as "Chief Master Mechanic, Steam". At times when one of his engines was in Charlotte, NC, he'd call over to our Roadway Shop and get our machinists to make something for him.
Anyway, the day of the glorious crack passenger trains was all but over when I was a Yard Clerk and Operator. My memories include riding the cab of those big, green E8's with the gold striping and the word "S O U T H E R N" emblazoned in white along the sides. Or.........crossing thru the engine room from the baggage car to the cab with those GM 567's chanting so LOUD. Its quite the thing to cross between engines, nose to nose. There was a step-down in the cab where you would open the nose hatch, then open the hatch to the OTHER engine. Then, you'd step across the couplers, holding tightly to the grab irons as you swung across. We might be running at 80 per (actually 79 per FRA Regulations), and for a moment you were OUTSIDE the engine until you finished swinging into the nose of the opposing E8 where you'd turn and close both hatches behind you. Step UP into the cab with those 567's purring behind you and dim lights lit the area inside.
Passengers didn't see this "romance of the rails" in the same way WE saw it. It was its own world completely different from the "civilian" environment with its own language, culture, and way of doing things. I dunno that Amtrak captures that feeling like the company trains did. Many memories fade as we do also, but we railroaders hold onto memories that just won't die. The last weekend before the Southern Crescent became a note in a history book, I caught up on the engine, E8 6908, to ride to Salisbury, NC and return. I was glad to be a part of that fading era. The train was packed that Saturday night. It hasn't been that way since. Not even for Amtrak.
If by "Mr. Claytor" you mean W. Graham Claytor, he was quite a guy.
Served in the Navy in WW2. Was a lawyer, joined the Southern Railway in 1963 and was president from 1967 to 1977. Ten years....
Then he was Secretary of the Navy for President Carter (1977-79)
Then he retired - for three years.
In 1982, he came out of retirement.....to take the top job at Amtrak. He held that job for 11 years - longer than he was the top guy at Southern. He retired again in 1993, and passed away in 1994, age 82.
Quite the railroad man, W. Graham Claytor. A lifelong Democrat, too.
Or did you mean his brother, Robert B. Claytor, who became president of the N&W in 1981, then led Norfolk Southern from 1982 until 1987, when he retired. Robert B. Claytor was instrumental in reviving the N&W steam program.
What killed off the Crescent and almost all rail passenger service in the USA wasn't Amtrak and it wasn't the railroads themselves.
It was a combination of factors.
Starting in the 1930s, superhighways began to be built all over the USA. One of the first was the Pennsylvania Turnpike, right here in the Keystone State. After WW2, the trend increased. and then the Interstate Highway System was created in the 1950s.
The Government - at all levels - used tax money to build and improve roads, bridges, tunnels and other facilities for cars and trucks. The increasing prosperity of Americans after WW2 meant that more and more families not only had cars, but had cars capable of sustained high-speed travel. For many trips, it became less expensive and about as fast to load the family into the car and drive, than to take the train.
But that wasn't all. The airline industry boomed, benefiting from progress in aircraft design during and after the war. Cities built and expanded airports, and for long distance travel, flying was the fastest way - and often the cheapest, in those days when fuel was inexpensive.
Meanwhile, the railroads had to build and maintain their own rights-of-way with capital obtained the usual free-enterprise way, not from taxes. To add insult to injury, railroads had to pay taxes on every bit of right of way they owned! On top of that, a railroad needed Government approval to change service on any line, and all rates were regulated, regardless of whether the railroad made money on them or not.
Imagine running a chain of supermarkets where the price of every item is dictated by the government - you can't raise or lower prices without permission. And you can't close a store nor discontinue an item, nor change the hours a store is open, without approval.
Meanwhile, your competitors operate with much less regulation.
Good Thread !!! -
Bing Crosby - (From a by-gone era)
Double your pleasure !!
John Denver version...
Steve / W5BIB (old enough to remember)
IF you loved the steam engines, or were fortunate enough to be around them, you'd like to be on Southern Railway 1965 forward. As mentioned, Southern, along with a few other roads like Union Pacific, was very active with steam stabling quite a few steam locomotives at various times. We had #4501, #622, #630-all Southern engines, then there was Texas & Pacific 610, Canadian Pacific #2839, C & O 2716. They were handled just like any other train, running-wise, and were scheduled just the same as any other train, usually as Extras. It gave us a glimpse, perhaps, what it was like circa 1941 what with all the SHUUUUUUUUUUUUU of air pumps, brakes, dinging bells, melodious chime whistles, and "AWRITE, Extra 4501 shove to the rear five cars, FIVE------four cars, FOUR-------three cars, 4501, THREEEEE, TWO, ONE CAR, ONE--------50 FEET---AH, THAT'll DO WHEN YOU GET STOPPED, OV-AH!!!!!!" "COUPLING MADE, COUPLIN' AIR! TOOOOT TOOOOOOT! SHUUUUUUUUUUUUU-TTTT! DING DING DING DING DING, air pump settling down to a SHHT-CLICK, SHHT-CLICK, SHHT-CLICK! Then its on to the Coach Yard to await its call, usually early the next morning. "CHUFF-chuff. CHUFF-chuff, CHUFF-chuff----------------------" There'd be HUNDREDS of rail buffs clogging the station and yards, snapping photos, and literally DROOLING at the mouth. We called 'em "FOAMERS" that got a glaze in their eye, and a dreamy countenance as they stared at this beautiful (?) machine working in the yards, preparing to take them on a journey next day.
But it wasn't 1941. It was 19-81, and next day, I was called to protect 1st trick operator. The platform would be SLAM PACKED with fans waiting to board this train to nowhere, fulfilling their fantasies. Such it was on any given day in the Excursion days, handing up these orders to the head end and conductor-plus the Clearance Card. Form 23A all rolled up together. Or if I was called for an outlying station, I might have orders for one of the steam trains. I then would hoop up the orderson a y-shaped stick, first, rolling up the orders, card, bulletins and notes, secure them with a paper clip and rubber band. Then I'd attach them to a twine, thread it thru notches at the top (It looked kind of like a big sling shot). I'd put several twists in the string, slip it into a spring clip at the bottom of the "V" leaving the orders up in the center top. Then I'd wait for the choo choo, one set for the cab, another for the conductor. One was to make sure that the spring clip faced TOWARDS the direction of travel. If it was facing backwards, it would, at the least, snatch the stick out of the crewman's hand, at worse, INJURE the crewman's arm, or your hand. and you'd have to explain why you LOST the train order hoop!
So as you and I remember the old steam trains in this thread, I remember them more vividly because I actually LIVED it as a modern railroad employee because steam was still alive and well at Norfolk Southern into the 90's, and revived just a few years ago as NW 611, a very modern design as steam engines go, was rebuilt just up the road at Salisbury, NC. I even rode in the cabs of a few of them, including 611 and C & O 2716.
I have a lot of memories of the railroad, and feel fortunate as I look back and realize that I was able to experience something that had "died" by 1960 on most roads. I was right in the middle of all of it!
The Strasburg Rail Road (two words) is a small historic/tourist railroad in Lancaster County PA, several dozen miles west of Philadelphia, just of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.
They have two 1910-vintage steam locomotives that run trains on a few miles of track they own. Because of track limitations they can't go very fast, even though the locomotives and rolling stock are kept in first-class condition.
Back in the mid-1980s, somebody who knew somebody got permission to run a steam excursion to Philadelphia and back on the Main Line, on a Sunday. How they got the permission I don't know, but they did. It sold out in about 10 minutes.
Strasburg put together the excursion train using both locomotives and all the cars they had. They got authorization to run track speed and without any diesel protection power - such was the excellent condition of the equipment. This would be a run for the ages; those locos could easily do 70 MPH if allowed.
To see the train go by, I went to the Wayne station, which is used by SEPTA commuter trains. I had two relatives who were small boys at the time so I brought them along.
The station was very quiet that Sunday afternoon, and the three of us waited for the train to pass. After a few minutes, a very proper older lady arrived, all dressed up, to take the SEPTA train somewhere.
She saw me and the two small boys, in old clothes, and sort of sniffed - implying that "our kind" didn't belong there, on the Main Line.
Off in the distance, I saw a pillar of smoke - and it was moving. Fast. There's a curve a few thousand feet down the track from the station, so the train would not be visible until almost on top of us.
The lady looked around for a posted schedule but couldn't find one, and finally approached me. "Young man" she said (which tells you how long ago this was) "do you know when the next train will arrive?"
I looked at the moving column of smoke and said "About five minutes"
"Thank you" said the lady.
"But it won't stop" I added.
The lady sniffed. "Young man!" she said. "I have been riding these trains for many more years than you have been on God's green earth, and on Sundays, ALL trains stop at Wayne!"
"That may be" I said. "But this one won't stop".
She sniffed again and moved away.
And then, from around the bend, came an apparition from another age. A double-headed steam express, with at least a dozen cars, belching smoke and steam and cinders, people hanging out of the windows waving, throttle to the roof. I don't know exactly how fast it was, but it was FAST. It's uphill all the way from Philadelphia to Paoli, so those locomotives were working hard.
When the engineers saw two little boys, they started playing the whistles for all they were worth. In seconds the train was upon us, in a blast of heat and noise, grease, oil and dust. Then it was gone, rattle and bang, around another curve and on back to Strasburg.
The astonished lady just looked at me as I turned to go. "I told you it wouldn't stop" was all I could say.
That was the day I learned what "the wrong side of the tracks" really meant - the downwind side. Because we were on the downwind side, and coal-fired steam locos aren't exactly the cleanest things to be downwind of.
It's easy to be all nostalgic about old stuff that disappeared decades ago. But in some cases, there are very good reasons the old technologies went away. If US railroads hadn't switched to diesels when they did, they would not exist today. In fact, they would have switched about 10 years earlier, but were delayed by WW2.