Monday, June 30, 2014

State Belt Railroad at Pier 43-An Infrastructure Story

Here I stand by the former trackage of the State Belt Railroad of California.  Here, at Pier 43, San Francisco, freight cars were once transferred by barge to and from the Santa Fe, Western Pacific and Northwestern Pacific Railroads.
Through this archway, merchandise from across America headed to ships at waiting piers.  Longshoremen along the railway loaded boxcars bound for America.
Carloads of lumber from California and the Northwest rolled across Pier 43 to build the young city of San Francisco.  Troops headed to and from the Pacific Theater and trainloads of war supplies passed under this arch during World War II.
This small arch is not practical for today's shipping needs.  Larger ships require deeper berths.  Vast intermodal cranes, trains and trucks need wide roads and large tracts of land to spread out.
This archway was a key transportation infrastructure project in its day.  Our infrastructure must continue to move forward.  

Transit Is On The Rise

We may be attached to our cars, but begin to look.  City buses, subways, light rail, and commuter trains thrive around us.  Transit is on the rise.
Many of us grow more and more aware of the environmental impact of our everyday driving.  Many of us simply cannot afford a car or the fuel.  Many of us switch to transit's pleasant alternative to traffic and it's congestion.
City buses, subways,
light rail and commuter trains accomplish the difficult task of delivering us into the heart of a city.  Crossing lanes of traffic at rush hour on city streets can be a daunting task, especially in unfamiliar cities.
In the era of the super-commuter, light rail and commuter trains allow us hands-free time to work on projects.  This time savings is invaluable for us all.
Time is one of our greatest assets.  How much time we once thought we saved by driving is finally coming into question as we watch the highway traffic from inside a passing commuter train.

A Bright Future For Railroad Signals

Steam locomotives moved trains across our vast railroad network protected by interlocking towers at key junctions where two railroads converged.  As the train thundered past, the tower operator hooped up the train orders, giving the crew instructions how to proceed.
Railroading is always on the move.  In Fostoria, Ohio, in 1927, centralized traffic control changed the era of the train order.
Trains needed to move more efficiently.  Rail traffic was on the rise.  More trains were meeting both on the mainline and on remote branches.  Centralized traffic control offered a solution to the obsolescence of the train order in that a dispatcher could control train meets, increase traffic flow and increase safety by being aware of each train's location.
With centralized traffic control and increased volume came the need for additional infrastructure.  More rails became double-tracked and additional miles of siding were added where trains could safely rest.  With this new trackage came increased signaling, with signaling came miles of thick expensive cable to relay signals.
Railroading drives our economy, however, with every ton of freight moved, many of us do not see its intense overhead.  Each mile of track must constantly be maintained.  Its signals must operate safely.  Rail cars must  constantly pass inspections.  Locomotives are constantly improved to increase fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
Whenever a fixed cost can be lowered in railroading, it is key to the system moving more smoothly.  If branch lines and short lines, which may only see two or three trains a day, can be made more profitable, this may even result in rail capitalizing on routes which could not have been possible.
Siemens Sinet, invented by Anton Reichlin,
makes this next step ahead in railroad signaling.  Sinet greatly reduces the infrastructure in railroad signaling by replacing cable-heavy, point-to-point connections with bus or ring structures.  This increase in efficiency will greatly increase the viability across the railroad, will lead to faster return on infrastructure investments and will make more and more rail lines viable.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I Love Cabooses

The caboose punctuated the train.  Standing vigil, the caboose watched over the train as it rolled safely into the night.
As the train thundered onward, a friendly wave from the conductor meant all was well.  The train and its crew continued onward down the track.
The caboose worked as an office and as a bunkhouse.  Crews cooked meals and warmed themselves by its stove.  The caboose stood as the guardian of the train.
America's communities have embraced the caboose.  Cabooses serve as chambers of commerce and act as libraries.  Many cabooses have found a new life as hotels.  
To many, a caboose is a symbol of America's wanderlust.  The caboose followed its train always on an endless journey, however, always with somewhere to go.  
Perhaps this fuels our love affair with the caboose.  Not just an icon of the railroad, but an icon of America.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bangor & Aroostook and its State of Maine Products Box Cars

Bangor & Aroostook Railroad linked Northern Maine with America.  Proudly painted on its red, white and blue box cars the slogan "State of Maine Products."
As their box cars circulated across America, they acted as rolling billboards for the farmers and craftsmen of Aroostook County and their neighbors.  People from Alabama to California wondered, "Some day I may venture to that proud corner of Maine where those patriotic box cars call home."
As Americans ate their Maine potatoes and sat on their rockers, perhaps they thought a little harder about The Pine Tree State.  All because red, white and blue box cars roamed our nation so proudly.

Barstow, CA-Transportation Oasis

Barstow is a transportation oasis in the High Desert of California.  It is located where today's Transcon intersects with I-40, I-15 and Highway 58.  Barstow sits one day's travel outside of Los Angeles, making it an ideal location for transcontinental shipments to get classified before delivery.
Barstow owes much of its existence to the Santa Fe Railroad.  The city takes its name from William Barstow Strong, president of the Santa Fe Railroad during the town's growth.  Establishment of a Santa Fe Harvey House as the town grew was key to Barstow's development.
As you drive Main Street in today's Barstow, you see the Barstow that many were familiar with so many years ago.  Diners and motels still proudly brandish the Route 66 signs that welcomed so many weary travelers to California.
Alongside Main Street sit the large classification yards of today's BNSF Railway, successor to the Santa Fe.  Carloads of California perishables bound for Eastern markets and merchandise from across America are efficiently placed onto their trains.
As we hear a highball in the distance, we watch, and another train rolls onward, ready to make its trek across America.  Onward from Barstow, transportation continues to roll.       

Symbiosis in Transportation

Symbiosis is key to nature.  A mother nurtures her child and the child grows strong.  Organisms everyday depend upon one another to survive and make a better world for each other.
Ships cross the globe laden with cargo and dock at our ports.  Upon arrival, their intermodal containers are stacked two-high upon rail cars with quick agility.  Rail provides the efficient, sustainable solution for the cross-continental trek the cargo is about to make.
Many of our communities incorporate intermodal facilities where this cargo from across the country or across the globe can be easily unloaded and distributed by trucks.  These economies flourish, as distributors arise and businesses find a promising environment due to their key location.  Symbiosis in transportation truly benefits us all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Missouri Pacific Freight Crosses Kansas

A Denver bound Missouri Pacific freight powers across the Kansas prairie at Frederick.  A thunderhead forms as the train races into the evening.
Wheat across the prairie begins an uneasy blowing as the storm picks up power.  The train rumbles onward.  Its carloads bound for the Rockies and beyond. Box cars marked Route of the Eagles, Rio Grande, Burlington Northern and Western Pacific hustle past as the way car vanishes into the distance.


The Intermodal Container-Genius In Design

An intermodal container is a solution.  It brings many answers in many ways.
As trains roll across America with containers stacked two-high, the container's design is truly genius.  As the world moves faster, the ease of stacking #intermodal containers upon ships, interchanging at terminals and transferring from train to truck makes the container the perfect solution to the antiquated shipping crate.
Intermodal containers are flexible.  One stacks upon another.  This one carries finished steel, that one may carry child's toys, another may carry coffee.  The simplicity of their design makes them truly an elegant invention, truly a beast of burden, carrying the load of our economy without recognition.
The #intermodal container is perfect for carrying goods from one town to another yet can carry goods across the globe.  As manufacturing is on the rise in more versatile ways, truly the intermodal container stands ready for the task.

Railroading-The Transportation Solution

We live in an age of solutions.  Everyday we look to find answers.  Whether it is in the products we buy or the way we commute to work.
Most of the time, in looking for solutions, we as consumers do not think of the way the products we use everyday are manufactured.  At times we think of their structure.  But often, we do not think of how these products arrived at our store shelves.
As we drive our car, we think of the traffic we are stuck in.  Late for work once again.  We do not have time to think that our car was delivered on a train.
We look around, and we think there must be a solution.  A commuter train races into the city.  It, indeed provides the most visible solution to the congestion in our cities, as less and less traffic flows on the clogged arteries of our interstates and city streets.  But often, we do not see the freight yards full of intermodal containers and the long range solution they provide to both our environment and traffic congestion.
More and more freight on our railroad system brings promise.  Not only for today, but for generations to come.  With manufacturing on the rise, railroading truly is the cost-effective, eco-friendly solution we all seek for the transportation of freight and passengers.

New York Central- The Scenic Water Level Route

New York Central and its competitor the Pennsylvania Railroad dominated railroading throughout the Northeast and North Central United States.  New York Central's elegant, famous 20th Century Limited passenger train raced from Grand Central Station to LaSalle Street Station Chicago on a racetrack that followed both the Hudson River and the Great Lakes.  This advantage it needed over Pennsylvania Railroad's shorter route to Chicago over the Allegheny mountains via the Horseshoe Curve.  Both railroads fought a bitter rivalry until their ultimate merger into Penn Central in 1968.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Day in the Life of Railroads of the Midwest

Railroads of the Midwest link agriculture, mining and manufacturing with flag stops, small communities and urban centers.  Stretched out across the plains, the height of prairie gain elevators mark the importance of a community and its location on the railroad.  The brief silence of the landscape is broken by the arrival of today's local freight.  It brings manufactured goods that farms rely upon.  It exchanges a cut of empty hoppers with loads of grain bound for the city.  Such is a day in the life of the railroads of the Midwest.

America Needs Freight Rail

America's freight railroads link mining, industries, ports, customers and consumers to fuel our economy.  Rail is the eco-freindly, fuel-efficient method to haul the goods we need everyday.  Railroads built our communities and continue to make them strong.  America needs freight rail.

Chicago Burlington and Quincy-Way of the Zephyrs

Chicago Burlington and Quincy connected the agriculture and mining of the Midwest and Rocky Mountain States key with gateway cities throughout its route.  Chicago Burlington and Quincy also provided the eastern leg of the famous California Zephyr Passenger train between Chicago and Denver.  Proudly painted upon the sides of its locomotives the slogans, "Everywhere West" and "Way of the Zephyrs"