Wednesday, August 5, 2020

“Iron Giant”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

December 26, 2018

My youngest son Andrew walks by while I’m post-processing this image and says, “Looks like the Iron Giant,” me, “Perfect, that’s the title!” The unwitting, innocently ironic observation is spot on. A reference to the cult classic, cold war-themed animation about a boy - Hogarth Hughes - and a giant indestructible, self-repairing, alien robot whom he befriends and adores. A timeless story Andrew, his Irish twin brother Alexander, and I watched many times over when they were toddlers. And, yes. In some respects, former Santa Fe GP30r 2722, does look like a menacing Iron Giant. The irony doesn’t end there. This La Grange Iron Giant was born in 1962 during the onset of the Cold War and the end of nuclear test detonations in the Nevada desert. 56 years forward on the day after Christmas, now Washington Eastern 2422, it might seem this EMD giant is truly indestructible, and while it isn’t self-repairing, it certainly has been rebuilt from the ground up at least once by craftsmen at the Cleburne Shops in Texas in 1983, and, albeit figuratively, still eating up the track just as the cinematic Iron Giant had, whose voice is none other than Vin Diesel’s - pun intended. And still, there are more parallels with the story of the metal alien in that like Hogarth, who sheepishly exclaims, “My very own giant robot - I’m the luckiest kid in America!” I too feel that boyish exuberance of “having” my very own giant robot each time I’ve been at 2422’s, or any locomotive’s throttle just as it was this snowing, as if, though thankfully not, nuclear winter night near MP83 on the CW Sub. However, eventually, everything comes to an end. Someday, in the not to distant future, 2422 will, as in the movie, encounter destruction. And the boy says to the Iron Giant: “You go, I stay. No following!”

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

While out working with Bruce Butler on Work Train duty, I managed to harvest a date nail from the CW Sub. Most of the date nails have long disappeared from ties along the actual right of way. This '31 nail let me discover it at a former Davenport Stock yard located just west of the US 2 underpass. I'd always wanted to check out the ties that had been used as fence posts at the yard while engineering past it and finally got my chance. In '31, 88-years-ago, America was still reeling from the stock market crash with over 8 million unemployed and the "Dust Bowl" wasn't helping matters. Al Capone was sent to Alcatraz, and "Frankenstein" was at the movie houses.

Average Cost of new house $6,790.00
Average wages per year $1,850.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 10 cents
Average Cost for house rent $18.00 per month
A loaf of Bread 8 cents
A LB of Hamburger Meat 11 cents
Alarm Clock $3.50
New Car Average Price $640.00

Monday, August 3, 2020

“Tunnel Motor Blues”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

January 24, 2019

Blue hour at Hanson, but a stub track of antiquated elevators in a non-existent community on the CW Sub, on a sunless overcasted January day, gaining elevation one crosstie at a time, though nothing like the tunneled Sierra grades, engineer Ted Curhpey with the usual file of laden CH’s in tow, spies his train in the mirror of former Cotton Belt to wheat belt tee-dash-two 8702 as her trident of ample candles electrifies the near parallel sticks like illuminated neon gas-filled glass tubes pointing the way. Combined exhaust and radiator heat deflection of the three-motor consist distorts the hibernal landscape so barren, yet so fertile rolling fields neath a cold cotton-white snow blanket in sharp contrast with the boiling wool-black exhaust plume. The momentary cacophony fades in a muffled doppler effect and the soundless vacuum is filled with emptiness, again. Every time I’m here I marvel at why the local farmer’s posted an unambiguous sign nearby. Says, “No Hunting, No Trespassing, No Excuses, Violators Will Be Prosecuted.” Seems no nefarious spirit would care to even kick a rock, out here. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

"The Office"

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

November 12, 2019

Aka, "The Seat," or as I tend to refer to it, "The Saddle." After all, it is an Iron Horse! The once ubiquitous "standard" AAR control stand is becoming a rare and venerable scene as these aging mares are pulling and putting in their last train hauling miles. Here, in the seat, the Hogger, plies his deft (and deftly plies), intuitive craft of locomotive engineering, i.e., train handling. To the citizen waiting for the train to pass at a grade crossing it may seem a simple task. It is not. Vigilance and control are constant and paramount: Even before the wheels begin to roll, myriad considerations and inspections are executed to ensure all is in good working order. Only then is the "Hiball" given between Engineer and Crew. Keeping the train rolling efficiently and safely requires diligent monitoring of tangible gauges (control stand) and intangible gauges (gut instinct). Sadly, today's hi-tech locomotives are equipped with "Trip Optimizers" that virtually "run" the train for the engineer, the arguable natural progression thereof begetting trains remotely or computer operated in the not too distant future. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

“Purple Haze”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

January 30, 2018

Mused Jimi Hendrix - an avid science fiction fan - whilst being interviewed: “You know the
song … It was about going through this land. This mythical [land] … because that’s what I like to do is write a lot of mythical scenes. You know, like the history of the wars on Neptune.” Well, I’m might be a bit of a mythologist myself, though I’m no meteorologist, near as I can tell the gaseous, Jovian-like, vapor is “scud clouds” boiling overhead refracting and commingling into a mythical, Neptunesque purple haze the myriad lights from near-by Spokane International Airport and the Highline Grain facility where antecedent, former Union Pacific Dash-8 9129, meets its descendent, BNSF Dash-9 1023. Now NIWX owned 9129 and her sisters from another mother, an SD40T-2 and SD45, have brought in from CW Sub points west some 60 EWG “Scoot Train” loads of Eastern Washington wheat to be posited into Highline’s mega silos where it will be, graded, State-inspected, classified, mixed, and loaded for export into this BNSF unit grain train of which 1023 brings up the rear as its DPU on this brisk penultimate January evening of 2018.