Tuesday, February 25, 2020

"Star Crossing At Telford Road

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.
"I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream." ~ Vincent van Gogh

"General Purpose Sunset"

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

October 31, 2017

On the way home from work today, I couldn’t resist breaking out my ne’er-without gear to work this ephemeral, “General Purpose” sunset. Tied down at Espanola with a string of CH’s gathered up from “High-Line” elevators the likes of Harrington and Odessa and a few other, all but ghost towns with station names in between, the “Scud” local with an A-B-A trio of Geeps will need another crew to bring it into Yardley less than 25 mile poles east. Here, in Espanola, a hamlet of say 30-if-that inhabitants, where Manila is the main and only “drag” that crosses BNSF’s Columbia River Sub and disappears into an endless field of dust; where the long since closed mercantile and post office; a dilapidated motel and forgotten storehouse; the brick, now renovated schoolhouse; a harvest-filled cluster of elevators and just the other side of the right-of-way a concrete slab is all that remains of the tiny section house complete with rails to tuck away a speeder, one gets the sense that the place might have been a microcosm of trade, travel, and teaching decades past. But like so many start-up townsites that sprung up as railways like the Great Northern built west in the late 1800’s, it has succumbed and shriveled in the face of progress just as quickly as it sprung out of the ground.

“Fire ‘n Ice”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

February 7, 2017

Man, as the railroader, in his limitless imagination and endurance of sheer will power will stop at nothing to move his train down the line, hence he will use every tool at his disposal to do so, be it sticks, stones, steel, steam, or heat. Not even a frozen-solid coupler will deny him making the next joint with a cut of cars that his switch list shows are to be added to his train. Few realize what it is to be a railroader; that it’s not just sitting in a warm cab as the train rolls down the track. Rather that it is a demanding, hands-on, on-your-feet-thinking, problem-solving, detail oriented “job” requiring acute sense and senses to ensure his train arrives timely, moreover unscathed. I propose the next time you fuel your vehicle, adjust the heat in your home, buy a loaf of bread you consider that a railroader was involved making sure that grain to make bread; that oil used to produce gasoline; that coal to fuel the power plant was delivered efficiently, safely, here with the Promethean gift of fire – tool of tools – in hand. 

“Creston Crepusculum” (Redux)

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

June 8, 2017

20:52 – a minute after sunset and Preston Cliburn has his mule train comfortably in deft control: whining – like second gen EMD’s in DB do – two four-foot-'cross ten-paddle grid blowers suck cooling air over the current-dissipating grids commingling it with hot exhaust-distorting chilled summer air, together with a little set pinching the wheels to keep thirty-five loaded at Coulee City, Hartline, and Almira CH’s from bucking and bunching slack. No sweat. With 56 jugs workin', ex-MRL, nee-SP SD45-2’s 329 leading, 328 mid-consist, ex-UP nee-Cotton Belt snoot SD40T-2 8702 trailing ease into the west end of Creston as the sun leaves her fleeting colors in the cumulus clouds behind. But this day’s work ain't done, yet. The crew will continue to move their responsibility eastbound and down the line right up to nihil hour before tying down HL8 to be crewed next day becoming the HL8-2.

“Black & White Lightnin'”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

May 5, 2017

Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad was on the move as numerous, heavily charged electrical storms brewed, collided and moved through Central and Eastern Washington during the night of Thursday (Thor’s Day) May 4th and into small hours of Friday the 5th. Though I myself was not working, I decided to forgo sleep and exploit the opportunity to follow my colleagues Engineer Ted Curphey and Conductor Gary Durr headlong – literally – into the storm(s) to bag some lightning-train images. Early on it seemed I had made a bad bargain: a previous storm had petered out. Then, as the crew began setting out empties at Almira (scene at hand), a fierce storm began exploding on the near South-Southwest horizon. Lightning flashes could be measured less than seconds apart. Thousands of mostly horizontal intracloud and many vertical, negatively charged immixed with unmistakable positively charged cloud-to-ground strikes illuminated the ominous atmosphere in paroxysms of divine flash bursts. Later, at Hanson, Ted brings the train into the longest tangent on the line as an intracloud and a stepped leader bolt discharge from Thor's Mjölnir. Yet there are just a few rain drops. I am dry though the air is noticeably electrified. Image made, I’m en route to the next station of Hartline and then all Hell breaks loose as the skies open and a deluge of biblical proportions with golf ball sized hailstones is unleashed. Wipers: unable to keep up. Fusilladed: like the business end of a 50 cal. Lightning: strobing in rapid succession. I am forced to a crawl but make into Hartline before Ted and the train - itself sustaining numerous strikes - where the inclemency finally subsides nearly an hour later. 

"Orion's Ghost"

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

October 26, 2017

Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka, Saiph, and Rigel. Sound like an ancient spell? Possible. Arabic-stemming-names of constellation Orion bodies (top left). The latter star’s 279,000 times-as-bright as our sun’s luminosity has taken 863 light-years to reach the human eye. And, as the Hunter travels the southern night sky in perpetual unperturbed search of his prey, here, on terra firma, the small hours of another day find an eastbound Eastern Washington Gateway movement going head-to-head with a vaporous, otherworldly apparition - Orion's Ghost - just west of Creston. 

“Sippy Cup Takes the Hill”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

November 20, 2017

You say “Sippy what?!” Sippy Cup! Yeah, well that’s our diminutive for our colleague Ryan Reierson. Yup. Lilliputian and livin' the dream while breakin’ off his nineteenth year of life on his way to becoming a certified Locomotive Engineer under the watchful tutelage of Steven Welch. Ryan's in charge of Eastern Washington Gateway train HL20 with some 50 Big Bend grain-loaded PS2’s, ACF’s and a couple of BNSF hoppers in tow, takin’ the ruling 1.0-1.2% of Wilbur Hill with 10,200 horses out front. No worries. He’s got this. Regardless of his stature, he is respected for his quiet, good-natured manner, and professional work ethic making him an integral part of the EWG Brotherhood. I bet he’s standin’ tall inside right now! Who of us wouldn’t be: runnin’ a venerable former Cotton Belt SD40T-2 in notch eight biting into the railhead, amp meter buried doing under a dime? Roger that? 

"The power of suggestion"

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon. 

"The power of suggestion" as noted by Philip A. Brahms when I first posted this image a year ago. — with Philip A. Brahms.

"Tunnel Queen"

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

November 8, 2017

Time to bring the “Tunnel Queen” from the Land of Cotton in for her 92-day inspection: not easy and quite a rigorous task, but with a competent team, it gets done. It’s not often, if ever that we think of, much less get to “see” this mechanical aspect of a locomotive aside from the various, proprietary nomenclatures used to technically differentiate models and makes and types of diesel engines, traction motors, and such. Thus this rarely witnessed image – in black and white for affect – from the inspection pit of her underbelly with a quick rundown of the industrial, wheel-to-rail business side of a “Unit” – Locomotives 101: Presently, we are looking at the front-to-back #6 (partially), #5, and #4 D77B traction motor-wheelset combos. The hardware at the top of the frame holds one set of four field coil assemblies in place within the motor casing. Below that is the brace that holds the snubber in position securing the motor to the Dash-2 introduced HTC (High-adhesion-Truck-C (six-axle)) truck frame while buffering the 1000-hp motor’s torque, in turn, allowing it to apply a combined six-motor maximum starting tractive effort of 92,000 lbs. The two cables are part of a four-cable-bundle-per-motor that delivers the juice and amps galore from the AR10 main alternator. To the left of the right wheel is the gear case housing with round inspection cover for the 62 tooth bull and 15 tooth pinion gears. Hence, 62:15 gear ratio. The best possible power-to-rail formula relative to 1978 standards – her birth year. Crater, as it is commonly referred to, is the black-as-coal near-solid in its inert state lubricant that liquefies under the tremendous heat generated by the friction of the gears while pulling. Her wheels are nice and fat and will last for some time to come. Finally, to either side of the wheels, outside the frame, are the Hyatt 6-1/2 x 12 enclosed roller bearing boxes that support the weight of her 410,000 lbs equally with the 10 other boxes. That about sums it up. Questions, comments, additions? Feel free.


Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

February 26, 2017

In toe-and-mind-numbing temps a loaded eastbound Eastern Washington Gateway “Scoot Train” scoots past Telford Road into icy thin air as it seemingly slips through a stargate from one frozen, alien world into another. Surreal as it may seem, EWG is, in essence, the non plus ultra-railroad that reaches into the heart of Central Washington’s vast Big Bend wheat growing communities, efficiently and safely transporting its bounty of grain as infinite as the night’s stars to what are “worlds” away. 

1930s Grand Coulee View

Sunday, February 23, 2020

1901 Wilson Creek View

Courtesy of the Grant County Historical Society.

Note the large coaling dock in use, as this was an intermediate terminal, located about half way between Hillyard and Leavenworth. Just behind the lower part of the ramp to the dock is the backside of the roundhouse.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Derailment Tips Grain Cars

From the "Spokesman Review."

April 23, 1984

From the Spokane "Chronicle."

April 23, 1984

Saturday, February 15, 2020

“Molto Bene”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

April 13, 2017

The distant, looking distinctly like the easy hills of a sprinkly Tuscany spring morn, save for the scabish-sage, brownish-brushed fore returns the beholder to Eastern Washington near – seems like – “nowhere” where Engineer Bruce Bulter brings ‘em in. Loads. Of Grain. Staple of the Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad, the indispensable 100-mile-long steel link in the food chain that begins here in the breadbasket of the American Pacific Northwest emanating into the world; EWG moves to markets-to-mouths millions upon millions of pounds of the auric bounty from the grain-growing hamlets sporadically tucked - some here, others there - into the infinite folds of this so fertile loess dirt, their concreted and corrugated, above-ground, seemingly bottomless “wells” endlessly streaming their golden commodity that the masses may not go hungry. 

“Knock, Knock…”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

February 26, 2017

It’s 02:45 and BNSF ‘70ACe 9211 and mates wait for a fresh crew to bring its loaded unit grain train through the load/unload shed of Highline Grain at Four Lakes and back down to the BNSF main some seven mile poles south in Cheney. 

“Ride of the Valkyries”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

May 26, 2017

I remember the day he mentioned the “Three Sisters.” I thought to myself: “What is he talking about? Nuns? Wraiths? People? Around here?” Apparently, Dave Reagan, our resident English language, spin and pun master himself, affectionately christened the stoic stand of three solitudinous pines on the right curve just west of Hite as such. Here, on his last “official” trip west on the CW and penultimate day as an EWG Hogger, Dave brings his train to bear on his “sisters,” guiding him like Valkyrie incarnate as he – our brother – rides into the sunset and Valhalla of railroad engineers on his lash up of glinted steel steeds – fittingly neath a blazing brass sky blaring that symphonic Wagnerian leitmotiv. 

“Blowin’ Smoke”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

Nearing Yard Limits, Curphey opens his throttle to muscle his train up and over the last grade into Davenport. If the iconic SD’s weren’t so readily distinguishable, and the cars were 40’ boxes, one might think there’s a Northern Pacific 2-8-2 on the head end. In a scene repeated ad Infinitum, under various owners and contractors since 1889, the “CW” still lives as the Eastern Washington Gateway.

“Just Another Day at the Office”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon. 

April 7, 2017

Who wants to be a railroader? Ask any kid – though, sadly, not as much today – if he likes trains and would like to become an engineer. The question is rhetorical. As a shit-eatin’ grin fills and beams from his face that emanates from deep inside his gut. I would even venture to say that those who are railroads, not necessarily because the ever wished to be, are nevertheless serious about their profession and take pride in their enormous responsibility, which, by-the-way, not everyone is capable of. The odd work hours, constantly on call unable to keep promises because his job trumps everything else – literally. And the work environment? No, there’s no office. Only hard steel-on-steel; bitter cold or egg-cooking hot; snow, plenty; rain, buckets. Case-in-point: It’s 0600 ’ve been on duty for many hours already, and as my train rolls into town a biblical deluge looses so much rain and hail that it appears to be making bullet holes in the windshield of the crew van from which I must exit to begin spotting cars at Almira Farmer’s Warehouse. Who in his right mind loves this!? What is it that makes a relatively sane man want to expose himself to such inclemency to wrangle thousands of tons of train with precision. There is no answer. It is – simply – what we do: To overcome any and every obstacle to get the job done, irrespective of our comfort or personal wishes. Indeed, an unusual breed and brotherhood, we are: said with collective pride. 

“Hot Rail Govan”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

March 12, 2017

For those unawares of the term “Hot Rail!” - that’s, obviously, Railroader’s speak to warn fellow crew members of a train's imminent approach as here in the pitch of night at Govan on the Eastern Washington Gateway. For the anticipatory effect, I’ve chosen to omit the train save for its impending, unmistakable, piercing beam that pushes aside the curtain of darkness to make way for its forward progress as the damp rails ahead of its approach light up as if electrically charged, and, indeed, appear to be quite white “Hot!”

“Umbilicals of Life”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

July 30, 2017

It is said “Man cannot live by bread alone,” yet he likewise cannot live without it – or a form thereof – either, thus grain and its unquenchable need. At hand: mercury rising – unabated. It’s half past midday, the ambient temperature is rapidly coming to a boil under an unforgiving sun ablaze as she easily bends the flaccid line between double and triple digit Fahrenheit with her unflinching glare. The whine of EMD’s in dynamics is unmistakable as Engineer Jerry Miller brings his train with four motors and 22 loads to a stop on the main while the conductor considers the pending pickup of eleven – loaded earlier in the lesser heat of the day – covered hoppers from Central Washington Grain Growers’ spur. But bread is the furthest from the crew’s mind. Instead, hydration is focal: always close at hand as the steel of the right-of-way and rolling stock soak up the heat and radiate it like a furnace flame that burns your touch and sucks you dry in a parched heartbeat. Yet man and machine force themselves against this abominable convection belied by the quivering heat distortion that hampers distinct image and mental focus. Harvest is nearing fever pitch, and the hopper troughs have consumed copiously from the crib, corrugated, and concrete elevator umbilicals at the CWGG Almira Station and ready to head east for movement of their staple sustenance beyond this breadbasket hamlet. Claiming some 280 resident souls, once the only “dry city” in the Big Bend territory, and temporary terminus of the precedent Central Washington Railroad, it was prophesied in the Wilbur Register on July 26, 1889, “that [this] place may make a town in the future […] If you desire to learn of the ‘glorious future’ in store for the town just confer with ‘Tom’ Hodges, the resident town-site agent. He never tires of reciting it." Indeed, it became an oasis, but the mirage of a “glorious future” – in retrospect – was surely hyperbole, if not cooked hubris. 

“Rocklyn ‘n Rollin’”

Guest post by Frederick Manfred Simon.

August 3, 2017

Rockin’ through the night: Its head and ditch lights search the right-of-way as cooling night quickly consumes blistering day’s loitering l’heure bleue light, a westbound EWG train hogged by Brett Engert, EWG’s newest Engineer and his colleague Steven Welch, who’s along to assist Engert in familiarizing himself with the track profile of, and train handling on the “CW,” roll by the Rocklyn “station” sign and with its lights left on, monolithic la bête noire appearing elevator. 

Contract Let For NP Branch

From the Wenatchee "World."

June 10, 1909