Tag: railroads

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The 117th Congress is winding up its work with a heavy-duty “lame duck” session, replete with unfinished business – items before the election that were kicked down the road. While oddly focused on legislation that wasn’t needed – the misbranded “Respect for Marriage Act” – it faces deadlines on more pressing matters. That includes funding […]

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Working on the Railroad


What happens when a PhD in English, a woman, takes a job with the railroad?..specifically, a blue-collar craft job…in 1979?  Linda Niemann tells her own story. I was reminded of this book, originally published in 1990, by the recent railway labor troubles and the threatened national strike.

On the Rails is a remarkable document–a book that “is about railroading the way ‘Moby Dick’ is about whaling”, according to a Chicago Sun-Times reviewer. (Although I think a better Melville comparison would be with “White Jacket”, Melville’s book about his experiences as a crewman on an American sailing warship. Which is still very high praise.) 

Death on a Narrow Gauge


Johann Mueller is a physicist. He fled Germany for the United States to escape Nazism.  The US is at war with Nazi Germany, with Mueller employed by the US government as a scientist. It is why he is on Denver & Rio Grande Western’s San Juan Express, heading towards a Colorado mining town.

In “Murder on the San Juan Express,” a historical mystery by K. C. Sivils, Mueller never makes it to his destination. His body is found along the track after he fell from the train. Was his fall an accident or was he pushed?

Since Mueller is a federal employee, the FBI investigates. Special Agent Nelson Paine is assigned the case. Paine’s boss, intends to steal the credit if Paine solves the crime, and shift the blame to Paine if Paine does not solve it. Paine knows this, but does not care. He wants to solve the mystery.

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Many American businesses seem to now feel it is incumbent on them to take positions on the political issues of the day, even at the cost  of alienating a substantial number of their customers. There is a historical precedent for this–the British actress Fanny Kemble, visiting the US circa 1830 observed with amusement a store […]

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Union Pacific RR Derailment: Tempe AZ [Update: July 30]


A Union Pacific Railroad mixed freight train derailed, caught fire, and caused the collapse of the heavy rail bridge over Tempe Town Lake. That bridge reportedly was the site of another derailment in June. The location is a low speed section. with an area light rail bridge next to the heavy rail bridge. Just on the north side of the bridge is a major highway loop, Loop 202, carrying people in and out of Phoenix. The smoke could be rising into one of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport landing flight paths, and they were be keeping an eye on the potential explosion of tanker cars. Reportedly, the FAA redirected flight traffic onto the north runways, to keep further low flying traffic out of the area. Thankfully, no lives have been lost so far in this derailment.

A stretch of Loop 202 was closed for several hours, but ADOT reported Loop 202 reopened in time for afternoon commuter traffic. A traffic camera image from 5 pm showed no sign of smoke left at the west end of the railroad bridge.

Book Review: ‘Last Train’ Details Fascination with Railroads


Railroading was the great romantic adventure of the 19th century. By the 20th, although every boy seemed to go through a phase where railroading was mesmerizing, trains soon lost their place to aircraft, automobiles and spacecraft. Yet some boys kept their enchantment with railroads, and railroads remain a critical artery to our 21st-century economy.

“Last Train to Texas: My Personal Railroad Odyssey,” by Fred W. Frailey, illustrates both. Frailey was obsessed with railroads as a child and maintains that interest to this day.

He turned his obsession into a career, without ever working for a railroad, transforming a journalism career into one focusing on railroading. He documented the modern railroad industry’s impact on the nation over the last half-century in the business press and Trains magazine.

Half Right News


The Jim Bohannon Show included a short bit of news on a woman who had bought a Utah ghost town, in which this artist is now the only resident. Looking up Eileen Muza and the town of Cisco yielded a story that, like the radio show segment, was obviously incomplete, or should have been so. See if you can spot the problem in the Denver Post/AP story:

Eileen Muza is the sole resident of Cisco, Utah, a scattering of old buildings in the high desert 30 miles west of the Colorado line, KUTV reports. The town was created in the 1880s as a fill-station for a railroad, but died off when Interstate 70 was built a few miles north.

Think about it. A fill-station for a railroad was a logistics node where water and coal would be loaded into steam locomotives. The arrival of an interstate highway would have nothing to do with the railroad. So, we need to fill in the rest of the story.

All Aboard! 10 May 1869, 150 Years Ago Yesterday


On 10 May 1869, 150 years ago yesterday, the newly reunited United States were tied together, from coast to coast with the first transcontinental railroad. Without any modern construction or surveying tools, the two teams, building towards each other from east and west, met in Promontory, Utah. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroad presidents met and drove a ceremonial final spike. With this, transportation accelerated far beyond any prior technology.

The inherent efficiency of even wood or coal steam engines over animal and sail power meant those modes would change. Horse or oxen would now service hubs defined by rail stops. The stops, necessary to refueling with coal and water, became towns. The glorious era of clipper ships was cut short, the golden spike puncturing their whole business model as surely as the rocky coast of Cape Horn could hull them. @seawriter can tell that tale far better.

The original wire story from AP has been reprinted in honor of the 150th anniversary of linking the United States by rail.

When Flying and Railroading Were New


GLDIII posted Orville Wright’s 1905 description of the sensations of flying. This reminded me of Fanny Kemble’s description of her first train ride, in 1830. First, here’s Orville:

When you know, after the first few minutes, that the whole mechanism is working perfectly, the sensation is so keenly delightful as to be almost beyond description. Nobody who has not experienced it for himself can realize it. It is a realization of a dream so many persons have had of floating in the air. More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace, mingled with the excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.