UtahRails, This and That

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Thoughts and commentary about [whatever]

This page was last updated on May 15, 2023.

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This is a simple effort to capture some of my own writings. I have participated in numerous online discussion groups as far back as November 1998, when I created LocoNotes on what was then OneList.com. I've been through numerous hard drive crashes, and some of what I have written about has survived, but most has not, especially before the mid 2001 time period. As I clean out my old emails, some are worth keeping, and most of those are presented here.

Back in April 2005, I started a personal web log (blog) on Blogspot. It lay dormant for over two years while I was completing other projects. After the last book project, the second edition of Ogden Rails, was completed in 2005, I spent most of my time creating and updating a large number of web pages (Union Pacific steam locomotives and Union Pacific passenger cars), along with keeping the online roster listings of Union Pacific diesel locomotives up to date. Other activities included magazine articles for The Streamliner, published by Union Pacific Historical Society.

In August 2010, I migrated all of the Blogspot content to Wordpress.com, and in late June 2015, I retired the blog and migrated all of that content to either new web pages, or integrated it into existing web pages. This page is a place to put whatever does not fit on other pages.

Many of the items included here come from some of the 15,000 emails I retained from as far back as 1999. I started a complete review of all my emails in October 2014, and finished the effort in May 2016. (Read more about my emails)

What Makes A Good Railroad Book?

Originally written on September 4, 1995, borrowing from a May 1992 essay by Harre Demoro.

Most people are stunned to realize that it is just as difficult to write a good book about a railroad as it is to hammer out chapters about the White House during the Coolidge years, or a detective story. Writing books is hard work, and the financial rewards at best modest. My advice to people who want to write railroad books is: Don't. Books are awful work. To do them well requires massive bruising of ego. Books can ruin or challenge marriages and friendships -- especially friendships.

Once a person is willing to accept these conditions, the prospective railroad book author ought not to attempt to write a railroad book. The approach should be to write a book. Period. The fact that the topic may be about a railroad should not make any difference. Approach the subject as a curious person, not as a railfan. The worst research projects are conducted by people who are writing about their favorite railroad, or type of locomotive. Photographic collections usually don't make great books. The ones that are finished are almost always dull, slow journeys through every fact and non-fact, using muddy and mediocre photographs and maps. They tend to be totally about the railroad, without mentioning the geographic region, and the social, political, and economic conditions that may prevail on the railroad's operation.

A book should tell a story. It should have information that almost anyone, railfan or not, would find interesting. I am doing two projects that, for the sake of readers, I probably should avoid: books about my two favorite subjects, Union Pacific diesels and the railroads of Utah. I am stumbling over facts. I am unsure my perspective is sharp. I fear I will bore the reader. The subjects are so close to me that I question my approach. The photographs and maps will be great. I have discovered that about 50 percent of what I was sure was about is 90 percent wrong and a lot of the remaining 50 percent is questionable. So I am researching more intensely that I thought would be necessary. Maybe that will save the books from dullness. I know there will be errors. Every book has them. Even mine.

(View a list of my books and magazine articles.)

The Sound and The Fury

Posted to the Diesel List on April 19, 1999.

There is no sound system that gets it right, especially the feel. I appreciate the effort that went into them, but they are not for me. I have heard, and felt, the real thing. There is nothing that can duplicate the sound and feel of 12,000 ponies in four UP SD40-2s lugging 8,000 tons up Echo Canyon at 35 mph, and being side by side with them on a parallel road, for over four miles, sometimes right at truck level. The senses are almost in overload with the sound, the sand dust, the vibration; that's why I'm a modeler and a railfan. A real close second is standing at exhaust stack level as five Utah Railway SD45s and F45s pull 10,000 tons of coal past you, with four SD45s and F45s as mid train helpers, as they throttle up and come off the Utah and on to the Rio Grande at Utah Railway Junction in Price River Canyon.

I think I became a railfan in the summer of 1964 as I watched and listened to a D&RGW GP9, in yellow stripes, work the Sugar House Local in Salt Lake City, following the train on my bike as it switched the myriad of industries found along the line. Its sound and feel was later firmly set in place in the cab of a UP GP9 in April 1968, when I was still in high school. There was a last run of the Cache Valley Local, a mixed local on one of UP's branch lines here in northern Utah. I was invited to sit in the fireman's seat of the train's GP9 for a good part of the trip, riding in the cupola of the caboose the rest of the trip, as they traveled at 25 mph over the branch, switching industries both coming and going. The sound and feel is something I will never forget, especially the sound of the diesel engine itself running, it is a sound truly unique to a GP9 (or at least to the 567). The sound of the engine rpm going up to kick a car, then coming back down. I have heard the sound several times since, and enjoyed it every time. A GP38-2 comes close, and is almost as good, but nothing beats a GP9.

And, yes, an idling GP9 makes a great sleeping pill. UP's fireman and brakeman cab seats were large and extremely comfortable, nothing like those stools that are in the units now. Warm cab, dark outside, work caught up, and the boss out of sight. Good. Night.

Misguided Rail Museums

(Posted to Trainorders.com on on August 27, 1999.)

Preserve a UP C630? Why? Because it's an Alco? It sure isn't a significant UP locomotive. As Blair said, there were only 10 C630s on UP, and they became orphans real quick. They were retired and sold six years after they were delivered.

Preserve the SD40X from Cheyenne? They were definitely landmark locomotives, but not on UP. They were bears to maintain (unique electrical), and didn't play well with others. Steve Lee told me they saved the 3042 from the Houston dead line only to keep it from being scrapped, hoping to interest some museum at a later date. It was offered to several, with no response. Finally, they decided to sell it as an asset of the heritage fleet and use the money to keep the other stuff running.

How many realize that the old C&NW 5525 (planned UP 707) was the first GP40 built, as NYE 3036? I asked Steve Lee about preserving it, and he gave essentially the same answer as John Bromley, that UP is no longer in the preservation business. The heritage fleet must pay for itself.

Which brings me to the museums. The local Promontory Chapter of the NHRS had Utah Railway 306 and 401 in its collection. Great idea. But they sold them to keep their passenger car in operation, running with the Thiokol shuttle cars from Brigham City to Cape Canaveral. The money they make from these Thiokol moves doesn't come near covering the costs of keeping that stupid car in Amtrak running order, so they have to do anything they can to keep the money coming in, including getting rid of two locomotives that were very significant in Utah's railroad history. They were also offered a UP caboose back when UP was donating cabooses to anyone that was interested. Not interested. Go figure.

In 1993, Morrison Knudsen took over the maintenance of Utah Railway's locomotives, a fleet of rebuilt SD40s. When MK took over the actual shop space, they wanted the McKeen car body moved. This is the steel body of the largest McKeen car built, the most powerful one built, and the only one with a six-axle power truck. The car body had been sitting adjacent to the Utah's locomotive shop since 1926, and was recognized by Utah Railway as being historically significant. They offered it to the NRHS for preservation. Guess what? I was told that the NRHS chapter responded that they did not have the money to move the car (they were saving it for needed maintenance on the trucks on their passenger car). Utah offered to pay for the move. NRHS chapter said they did not have the money to store the car. End of discussion, thanks but no thanks. The car was sold to an employee, cut in half, and moved to his farm as a storage shed.

Book Reviews

Originally posted to The Streamliner at YahooGroups, on May 10, 2001.

One of the many valuable lessons I have learned by being part of the publishing community is that no one gives a negative review. It's okay to give a positive review, but you will never see a negative review in any publication that has any advertisers to keep happy, or any kind of standing in the publishing field. It's okay to say what's right about a subject, but unless you truly feel that the item is a rip-off (and not merely as good as you think it should be), and that the producer is a con-man simply trying to separate people from their money, I would stay away from a negative review.

If you read an neutral review, it could mean that the reviewer did not care for the product, but had enough courtesy to not say so. Case in point is the recent review of my Diesels of the UP, 1934-1982, Volume 1 in Trains magazine. It is a neutral review in that the reviewer simply told what the book was about, and did not include any positive remarks, such as "This is the best book ever written!" A neutral review could also mean that the reviewer has no background at all in the subject of the book, so really could not do an in-depth review.

I have seen several exchanges recently in online communities about whether or not someone is qualified to publish a review, meaning does the reviewer have a background in the subject being reviewed, giving credibility to his opinion. Simply being a consumer of the product does not make one qualified to publish a review. Such a thing would be akin to me doing a review of a book about the steam locomotives of the Florida East Coast simply because I decided to buy a copy of the book for its pretty pictures. I have no background whatsoever in FEC steam locomotives, so why would anyone care what Don Strack thinks about such a book. If I went ahead and did a review anyway, it would show an embarrassing level of arrogance on my part. But hey, that's just me. Back in my apprenticeship days at Union Pacific, many, many years ago, a very wise old boilermaker once told me, "It's best to stay quiet and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Believing the Written Word

Posted to Observation Car at YahooGroups, September 28, 2005

Way back on August 20th, Joe Brugger wrote:

At any rate, in a world of $50 - $100 books, it's [Wikipedia] a useful tool for the researcher.

Like all sources; some are good and some are bad. It's up to the reader to figure out the difference. That's what a "scholar" is, someone who has wasted enough time going down alleys to see if they are blind, and can call the bullshit factor right away when reading something.

I have a co-worker who quotes the Bible regularly to prove or disprove whatever point is under discussion, and obviously believes whatever he reads that is printed to paper. Like many others who think that if they read it, it must be gospel, either on paper or on a computer screen.

This attitude scares the yikes out of me. As a railroad author, I am haunted by this way of thinking, as in, "Will this story be quoted forever as the definitive source?" I certainly hope not. I sincerely hope that anything I write gets someone either curious enough, or mad enough, to do his or her own research; either to add to what I write, or to prove me wrong. Please do. My favorite phrase is, "As always, comment or correction is most welcome." And I truly mean it when I say it. Not that I'm on some sort of crusade, but that's what I like about Wikipedia: it's open source nature so that anyone can add to, or correct what is published on any particular subject.

Historical Vandalism

Posted to Observation Car at YahooGroups, September 28, 2005.

Blair Kooistra wrote:

. . . where it can sit in boxes on a concrete floor and rot away. OR it can be sent to a large museum or library, where it will likely also sit in a box until it crumbles into dust. Just donating the material someplace doesn't guarantee that it will be 'saved." Lord knows there isn't enough money out there for museums and such to take care of what they've got, let alone process the piles of new stuff donated to them. I find the bigger issue of "historical vandalism" is the destruction of large amounts of valuable (to me at least!) paper material and computer data by railroads in this country over the past couple of decades. Containers of shredded documents sent overseas for recycling; the reliance (can't blame em, really) of putting all the information on computers to save space, cost, money and improve accessibility to the information. None of which bodes well for the historically minded.

Like many other railroad historians, I've certainly done my share of dumpster diving. How about the time, during a light drizzle on a weekday morning many Aprils ago, I was ass-deep in Union Pacific's South-Central (old LA&SL) superintendent records, at the wrong end of a 24-inch cardboard tube that hung outside of the top floor of the Salt Lake depot. The stuff I was finding from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s makes me almost weepy-eyed today. Everyday stuff, like tearing down this roundhouse, or building that new spur. It was an unplanned opportunity, so all I had was a (dumped-out) grocery sack, which was soon filled to the brim. I was already late to get someplace else, and by the time I got back to the dumpster, a new one was in place. Whatever was in the first dumpster was gone. Gone forever.

My recent Ogden book gave me several more chances to see other people's stuff, and where they were keeping it. Like Blair said, in a box, rotting on a concrete floor. When I think of all the stuff the kids have thrown out after the old man died, oh my! Here's the scenario: Dad's been in the hospital for three weeks, and he passes on. In about a week, the kids go into his train room and say, "Now what?" They all know how important this all was to Dad, but none of them have the faintest idea of what to do with it. Depending on whatever else is going on in their lives, the photos, books, magazines, and other odd paper items, may or may not get to the local historical society. More than likely, for want of time or desire, it all goes to the dump.

A couple months ago, while en route to the annual convention in Denver, I helped the Union Pacific Historical Society go through boxes and boxes of stuff that gets donated to them every year. Most of it from the old railroaders in the Cheyenne area. By far, most of it is junk, like drink coasters or match books, but in almost every box there is a gem that truly adds to the documentary evidence of the Union Pacific Railroad. One recent example is in a box full of UP calendars from the 1990s. Among the rolled-up calendars, there was a calendar from 1953 and another from 1958. In the same box were some mimeographed sheets meant as a guide for dignitaries on board a business car. The sheets described the Wyoming Division in mind boggling detail, with full history and intelligent commentary about the business and traffic of the division at the time, in this case, 1963. Great stuff.

Of course, we are all free to do whatever we want with our stuff, and this *is* just a hobby. But any historian (of any subject) can tell you a story of how he or she found something that really told the story better, simply because someone kept that photo, or piece of paper. We should all be giving some thought to what happens to our stuff after we leave this earthly existence.

Trying To Write Right

Posted to Observation Car at YahooGroups, November 23, 2005.

In a discussion about researching and writing, Joe Brugger wrote on November 22, 2005:

The word for that process is "gathering string," picking up bits and pieces of a story until it finally gels into some kind of coherent picture. For the writer, it's research, observation and interviews.

This is my experience also. Before an article takes shape, or text for a book starts to firm up on the computer screen, I have always done the digital equivalent of 3x5 note cards, i.e., a Word file that is arranged in chronological order to help me understand my subject. Then, I make a trip. My most vivid was a couple years ago when I wrote about UP's Shay locomotives, and the mining district here in Utah where they ran (published by the Union Pacific Historical Society in The Streamliner, Volume 19, Number 3, summer 2005)

For the Tintic article, I had looked at what seems to be a hundred maps and photos of the area, and then there I was, standing on the abandoned grade between Eureka and Mammoth, where the UP uphill line crossed the D&RGW downhill line. The crossing is a flat patch of cinder covered sagebrush hillside, and suddenly I could hear the offbeat exhaust of UP 61 as it climbed the 3 percent up to Mammoth. The view out across the Tintic Valley is still astounding, and the ghosts of Shay locomotives were so vivid that the memory is deeply embedded forever. I had the complete attention of 10 or so whiteface cattle, but they will never understand.

(Read the text of the Tintic article)

Other times, I've been working on Utah coal mining areas in Carbon County. Although the mines are long gone, as well as the rail spurs and branches that served them, I have stood among the sagebrush in Spring Canyon and listened to the ghosts of Utah Railway and D&RGW coal jobs as they shove their empties up the canyons. Malleys and Alcos, oh my!

And of course, there's the magic spot on the curve at Echo as UP super power charges up the 1.14 percent, whether the power is a Challenger, a Big Blow, a Centennial, or today's SD70Ms, raw horsepower is raw horsepower. I've told my wife that she should spread my ashes on the ties of Number 2 track at Echo. She thinks I'm joking, but the thought of what's left of me mingling with the traction sand of up-bound trains headed east, brings a grin to my face every time.

As to the process of notes becoming something more final, I have come to realize that many of my projects will never come to final form, with maps and photos. So I made the decision a couple years ago to share my research notes with the world on my UtahRails web site. There they are, warts and all. The worst wart is the number of times that I failed to record where I got the information from. They are the result of 20-year-old research, back before I realized that I would not be able to remember where I got the information from. Oh well. At least the poor schmuck who follows me will at least have the barest of leads, so they can do better research.

What To Do With It All

(Originally posted to Trainorders.com on December 11, 2005.)

I have also been giving lots of thought about what to do with what's in my basement. I have one advantage of a family member being an employee of my state's archive department. By far, most of what they preserve is mandated by either federal law or state law. Items such as birth and death records, military records, and communications and correspondence concerning the state's lawmakers. The advantage here is that they are not rail-centered, and everything that comes into their hands is treated with equal importance. They have a nice new high-tech storage facility, and everything at least gets its own archive box, with proper indexing in their multi-layered computer database, which is also accessible by way of an internet connection.

My state (Utah) is small enough that there are three state entities that are equally capable of preserving my stuff: the state archives themselves, the state university (University of Utah), and the state historical society. All are tied together by virtue of shrinking state budgets, and management of all three communicate closely to make best use of those limited funds, meaning they want to avoid duplicate efforts.

My major concern is that the stuff be accessible from a public entity, funded by public monies. This will ensure that at least the stuff is accessible, although the trend lately with all archives nationwide makes it hard for anyone to simply drop by to do some same-day research. Planning ahead is essential.

The point of this is that my stuff will likely be donated to the University of Utah's Special Collections. But before I die, I am getting good, professional advice as to the best ways to organize all that I have, and to get the stuff as fully indexed as possible, including good summaries that non-rail people (namely archives employees) can readily understand. What it is and why it's important. Also, I am making the time and financial commitment to get the photos scanned and preserved to CDs and DVDs. I've spent the past 30 years researching various aspects of Union Pacific history, and the history of railroads in Utah, and among the stuff are the only copies of numerous paper items and photographic prints and negatives and color slides, and I really don't want any of that to be lost to some random dumpster.

Lightning Stripes and Paint Schemes

Posted to Observation Car at YahooGroups on April 28, 2006

Way back on April 17, Dave Saums wrote:

Chris Faulk mentioned the credit to Mike Iden for the addition of a lightning stripe in the last C&NW diesel paint scheme.

Mike told me a couple years ago that his inspiration for the C&NW lightning stripe, and the later (and now-current) UP lightning stripe, was specifically his admiration for the NYC version.

Speaking of the UP version, the newest iteration was seen on several eastbounders and westbounders through Cheyenne these past weeks as Uncle Sam had me running all over southeastern Wyoming doing some magical tech things of which I cannot speak. But I did see lots and lots of trains. I don't take very many photos these days, but I did scramble a digital byte or two on a couple pure sets of brand new GEs. Those things are downright gorgeous, especially in packs of four. Building America, lightning stripes, yellow frame stripe, and wings, all in one place and still sticky fresh. Wow!

Giving It All Away

Posted to Observation Car at YahooGroups on May 25, 2006

Dave Crammer wrote:

I have on my hard drive a ton of articles I've written about the technical aspects of railroading. When someone asks a question that it pertinent to one of the articles I simply post the article. Why? Because it was written to pass on information. I've gotten to tour shops, ride with train crews, visit harbors and if I simply sit there with the information it does no one any good. If I pass it on it enhances other peoples experience of railroading. I will continue to follow this policy because when I started out I was helped in the same way by other people who passed on information.

I, too, "give it all away". On my web site are edited versions (with updates and corrections) of my 28 articles, and the text from my 11 books, plus lots and lots of other stuff. I tend to shy away from posting any accompanying photos, but I do have some on-line photos. I only have one outlet now for my paper-published work, but, like Dave, my previous works have gotten me contacts that still amaze me. I am truly surprised at the number of people in the railroad (and now, railroad contracting) business who buy railfan books and magazines, and even more surprised when they recognize my name from something that has appeared in print. The current gaggle are the folks building our local commuter rail network, known formally as Salt Lake Commuter Rail Constructors. Apparently many are boomers in the railroad construction business and when they arrived here in Utah from all over the country, they went looking for Utah railroading info, and found my stuff.

The same goes for new arrivals with Uncle Pete; you know, the guys who keep the railroad running. Notably, they went looking via Google, not by visiting local hobby shops and bookstores. In-print stuff was dutifully procured, but only after an on-line search found the results, mostly from sites such as Karen's Books or Joe McMillan. This hobby is changing, or at least the sources of information are changing. The slow ones will cry about it and point fingers; the quick ones will adapt and continue on.

Over the past 15 years, many people have willingly helped me, and they ask nothing in return, not even credit. I figure that the least I can do is share the results with other interested people. I'm in this to learn more about whatever subject may be at hand, and I share the results with whoever else is interested. It's nice that I can occasionally make some money, but that has never been the motivation.

First Time Bylines

Posted to Observation Car at YahooGroups on June 18, 2006

PDS wrote:

Do *you* remember the first time you saw your byline in print (for a photo or a story) and how you felt? And does the feeling change after you've been published a few times?

My first time was as Trackside Editor for Don Dover's Extra 2200 South, back in 1973. Then again for the UP roster in X2200 in 1978/1979. The first "real" byline was in 1988 in Railroad Model Craftsman for my article about the Bamberger RS-1m. After that, they came kind of regular, with the last being last year for the second edition of Ogden Rails.

Lucin, A Boat [Book Review]

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on October 20, 2007)

(Book review published in Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, Number 4, Fall 2001, page 360)

Tale of the Lucin: A Boat, a Railroad and the Great Salt Lake. By David Peterson. (Trinidad, California: Old Waterfront Publishing, 2001. 158 pp. Paper, $16.95)

Whether we admit it or not, all of our lives are touched by the history of America's railroads, and it can be an unusual involvement with railroads and railroading that makes us each aware of that association. In the case of author David Peterson, who spent some of his formative years on the Pacific Ocean at Eureka, California, his story began with a boat, the oldest boat in the fleet at Eureka’s dockside.

This wonderful 158-page book tells the story of small boat that started its life in 1893 as a passenger launch on San Francisco Bay. Along the way, this book also tells the story of boats and shipping on Utah's Great Salt Lake, and the story of the completion of one of the greatest engineering feats of the Twentieth Century, the construction of Southern Pacific's Lucin Cutoff across this famous inland sea. In 1902 the boat was moved by Southern Pacific to the Great Salt Lake to help build the earth-fill and wooden trestle across the lake, becoming the first of a fleet of both large and small boats operated by the railroad on the lake.

For anyone interested in the Great Salt Lake, or railroads in Utah, this book is a must read. It begins with full review of the boats and shipping on Great Salt Lake, including the early explorers, and early attempts by Patrick Connor to use his steamer "Kate Connor" to ship mineral ores from Stockton on the south shore to Corrine on the newly completed railroad line on the north shore. Included is a review of the resorts and their excursion boats. The book makes excellent use of maps and photographs as visual aids.

Chapter Two relates the story of the construction of the railroad's Lucin Cutoff, beginning with the early engineering studies, and the 1900 decision to begin construction. The Lucin Cutoff was completed in 1904, and the author was able to complete extensive research, and successfully relates many aspects of the cutoff's difficult construction features. Intertwined are bits of how Southern Pacific's fleet of boats, specifically, the Lucin, did their part in the cutoff's construction. Especially well done are examples of the challenges of using earth fill to cross what was, and still is, a lake that has at its bottom a thin salt crust layer atop "10,000 feet of mud." The delicate balance between the weight of the fill material, and the ability of the lake bottom to support the load is a battle that continues today.

Additional sub-chapters tell the stories of how the same construction crew, and their boats, built Southern Pacific's Dumbarton Cutoff across the southern part of San Francisco Bay, which was completed 1910. Under the heading of "What's Next," the author presents material about the maintenance of the Lucin Cutoff, and its complete replacement in 1959 with an all-earth fill. This new fill also used a fleet of boats, and these later sub-chapters relate the modern methods of moving massive amounts of fill through the use of large tugs and barges. Later sub-chapters bring the reader up to date with the subsequent removal-from-service of the original wooden trestle, and the reclamation of its virgin-growth redwood lumber.

An interlude chapter does an excellent job at what the author calls biographies of all the San Francisco Bay launches that served on Great Salt Lake. In it are histories of the individual boats that Southern Pacific moved to and from the bay area to Utah.

A final chapter returns to the later history of the boat Lucin, the survivor. This little boat was returned to San Francisco Bay with the completion of its namesake cutoff in 1904. The chapter contains numerous details of how the boat was converted from its original passenger launch configuration to a more utilitarian tug configuration. Its use on the bay ended with its sale, and movement in 1917 to Portland, Oregon, for service at the mouth of the Columbia River. In 1937, the tug was sold for its powerful gasoline engine, and in 1939 the hull was sold and converted from a medium-draft tug to a deep-draft fishing boat. This reviewer will leave the story of the boat’s final years to prospective readers to discover with their own reading of this most enjoyable book. The book ends with a note from the author seeking additional information, and a full bibliography that relates the author's journey for research for anyone who might want to follow in his path. A full index is also included.

In his prologue, the author states, "History does not neatly divide into separate topics and periods; it is a complex weave of all that has ever passed." Nothing confirms this statement better than this book. While it is the story, or rather a tale, of a boat, it is also the story a railroad and the Great Salt Lake, and of man's crossing of the lake. There is no better history than history placed in context, which this book does very well.

Publishing, Other Options

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on January 12, 2008)

Like others, I have been contacted by Arcadia, and after a couple phone calls, they sent me their author guidelines. A review of the guidelines made it obvious that I wouldn't be making anything more than a good meal at a fast food restaurant. They make all the money, but...

...maybe making money isn't my purpose. In most cases my motivation has always been to simply share my research. Having my own web site works great for that. In other cases, the subject requires photographs, so I've had to pimp myself to a publisher so that they can add the needed photos, but the costs of that (both real and emotional) have nearly undone me several times.

In my case, the subject of Arcadia's interest is my work concerning the railroads of Bingham Canyon here in Utah. I've got hundreds of photos (most are 8x10 negatives), and have access to lots more. Their guidelines show that I provide all the scans, and all the words, in their format.

This means that, as others have said, I do all the work and they get the money. But the benefit is that my book will get promoted and distributed. A friend in the railfan publishing field has mentioned that I should look at this like "chumming the waters," hoping that doing an Arcadia book could lead to more photos and "memories" that could end up in a much bigger (and more scholarly) book later, with larger photos and good maps.

With my current skills, I could easily write all the words, and scan all the photos. From comments I have seen on a couple forums, it would be best to provide Arcadia with minimal words and clearly identified photo locations, due to Arcadia's editing methods. Since all the work is then done, I'm thinking, why not simply do a web page, with an associated photo album?

The difference is distribution and market. An Arcadia book would be put into people's hands via local bookstores and gift shops, and would likely reach an audience that a web page never would. But a web page has a potential worldwide audience. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection, and a web search site, will likely find my web page (as they do today, with over 1500 hits per day). I guess it all depends on which market we are chasing. And I still can't decide what to do. I'll wait until all the photos are scanned, maybe sometime this year, to make that decision.

In response to the above words, a suggestion was made that I look into on-demand, self-publishing, via something like Amazon's Kindle.

In response I say that they were assuming that everyone interested has a computer, or worse, that they even know how to use one.

I have found that a surprising percentage of people interested in the history of industrial technology (railroads, mining, etc.) tend to shun using a computer for little else other than email, if that. That fact may be changing, as those persons either die, or become more technically savvy, but they are a significant part of the market, whether I make any money off of them, or not.

Michael Seitz writes that "the bigger hazard of a purely on-line distribution is the obsolescence factor and archival longevity of digital data. What if the device is damaged or lost? If you want your research to remain accessible to a larger portion of the reading public, then you really should consider hard-copy publication. How many folks can access 3.5" floppies, or documents stored on old hard drives of obsolete computers?

He adds that when his "local newsletter went from hard copy to digital distribution, I found I hardly looked at the thing after initial receipt. There are other things I have downloaded that I do refer to, but all are one hard drive crash away from oblivion, or I will need to burn back up copies of the information on the media of the day.

"Why not both? Web for control and continual updating, and the book for long term information preservation?"

I agree completely, Michael.

As for the long-term reliability of digital technology, I can certainly attest that your hard drive *will* fail. Make your backups now!

Railroad Records

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on February 5, 2008)
(Originally posted to the UP Modelers Yahoo group, January 21, 2002)

While Union Pacific's records for its cabooses and other rolling equipment show retirement dates up to the late 1970s, the records after that time are spotty and mostly incomplete, especially for sales. It was at about this time that Union Pacific began using a central computer for all record keeping. Most of the caboose donations were recorded, at least up to about 1995. After that time, records are mostly nonexistent.

The fact that UP's own equipment records are so incomplete is sad but true. In these days of no government regulation, and focus on increasing shareholder value, costs at headquarters have been severely cut, and the most expensive cost is labor, especially having clerks record and maintain information that the government no longer requires (car ownership and usage). Cars and locomotives are merely assets to be bought and disposed of, kind of like the little car that the guy at the pizza place drives; when he needs a new one, he simply goes and gets the cheapest one he can get, and does not need to answer to anybody.

The Federal Railroad Administration still requires the air brake information to be recorded on the blue card in the locomotives, but only for the most minimal of safety reasons. The original blue card is in the locomotive cab, and a copy of the blue card is kept in Omaha, but there really is no hard emphasis to get the previous ownership right, or to get the date information correct. There is no penalty from the FRA if the information is found to be wrong, except for a minor slap-on-the-wrist of a one-time $250 fine. It's easy on the new stuff, but the leased stuff and stuff from merger partners generally falls by the wayside. And there is none of this safety requirement on cabooses after the 1989 decision by the Supreme Court that found that states could no longer require cabooses on all trains.

Getting information about railroad equipment is very hard these days. It is amazing how many records have simply been destroyed. They take up space (that needs to be paid for), and there is only the most minimal government requirement for them in the first place.

Almost everything we know about Union Pacific from 1914 to about 1995 comes from the railroad's records that it kept to fulfill the ICC requirement for valuation of its assets. The ICC went away in January 1996, and with it went the history of railroading after that date. UP has disposed of almost everything prior to the magic seven years of required records retention, and they are very focused on that constantly moving date. Now, seven years later, anything before 1996 is gone. I have seen many, many boxes with this notation: "Throw away after [some date]" with the exact date being seven years after the record was initially boxed up and kept.

To return to the subject of cabooses; I have copies of records up to 1995 (retirements and donations, but sadly, no sales). After 1995, there are simply no records available, other than whatever some individual clerk may have kept at their own desk, or in their own files, to make their own everyday job easier. As these people have retired (and many have, with several buyouts having been offered), either the person themselves threw the stuff away as they left, or the railroad disposed of it to clean out the person's desk and files. I have gotten to know several clerks over the years, and they all have horror stories about missing records since 1995.

What does this all mean? It means that current and future historians are in for a rough haul.

End of the D&RGW

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on July 26, 2008)

Steve Seguine wrote on March 8, 2002:

I find 1988 a convenient end of the Rio Grande, because it was then that it officially became the SP. It has taken years for the SP and UP to erase the spirit of the D&RGW and soon that will be all gone.

The spirit of the Rio Grande will continue to live as long as people remember it. That's the purpose of a historical society. The equipment that was painted in D&RGW colors may be long-painted to another paint scheme, but we can all remember what is underneath it all, next to bare metal. Don't get sappy about it, but don't forget either. One benchmark most fallen flag historical societies use for their coverage of any particular railroad, is if the property still exists, i.e., the roadbed and trackage where the trains ran. I suspect that UP will be using former D&RGW trackage for quite some time.

As to dates, the DRGW reporting mark was transferred to UP on June 30, 1997. This is the same date that all existing equipment ownership and leases were also transferred to UP. The D&RGW corporate existence went away also on the same day. D&RGW never merged with SP, it was only controlled by SP on October 13, 1988 (actually, D&RGW's parent company is the one that took control of SP, and SP, in-turn, took control of D&RGW). The same goes for UP and D&RGW. September 11, 1996 was the day that UP controlled D&RGW, along with SP, SSW, and SPCSL.

But, don't worry about the dates, or the company. It's the railroad we want to remember. The spirit of the Rio Grande is different for everyone, and we really should not be arguing amongst ourselves about when D&RGW ended.

I personally caught the spirit in 1964, when I spent an afternoon riding my bike along side a yellow stripe EMD GP locomotive on the Sugar House Local as it switched all the various spurs between Roper and Sugar House. The crew was very nice to a bike-riding 13-year-old kid, and explained all sorts of things about railroad operations. I was hooked, and as they say, the rest is history.

(The other memory is that I completely filled my bike's tires with sticker weeds, and had to walk it five miles home on two very flat tires.)


(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on July 26, 2008)

In response to several comments in a railroading forum about railroaders and drugs, a fellow railroad enthusiast named "Wadsworth" wrote on July 8, 2006:

The only reason Jerry Garcia used train & cocaine in that song is because it rhymed. It's not an anthem to professional railroaders. Your feeble attempt to connect the two is a slap in the face to professional railroaders. And you guys wonder why railroaders can't stand foamers -- sheesh!!

I've been banging around this hobby for over 40 years, including working for Union Pacific for ten of those. I've come to know numerous professional railroaders who have a deep appreciation of their industry, well beyond it simply being a job to them. Many take photos, lots of photos, and read all the various railfan publications.

But, I have yet to meet a railroader who respects railfans as a group. Over the years I've known a couple national railfan magazine editors, who often meet professional railroaders at various symposiums and conferences. They tell of similar experiences in the battle between railfans and railroaders.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that while at UP (almost thirty years ago), on one or two occasions I mentioned to a visiting "railfan", a couple bits a really silly information, just for the entertainment value. I recall one instance back in the early 1970s when I mentioned that I had just seen a Big Boy pass though town. The response was a bit frantic as the guy promptly set out on the grand chase. I know of other professional railroaders who admit to the same thing. Railfans can be, at times, amazingly gullible.

On the other side of the coin, professional railroaders can be amazingly dense about anything other than their own immediate job activities.

Some of the worst are the few railfans who are also professional railroaders. These guys want to be seen as some sort of expert; a big fish in a small pond. They share information that they have access to through their jobs, and get all upset and defensive when someone applies common sense to the information's validity. I have learned on many occasions that, unfortunately, not every bit of information from a railroad employee is pure, or totally complete and accurate. This is free country, and you can say almost anything that tickles your fancy, but these guys should give consideration to the shrill and silly nature of their defensive responses. They likely want to be seen as professionals, not realizing that their responses prove otherwise.

Railroaders and railfans do not mix very well. Mostly because railroaders think railfans are a bunch of idiots. Unfortunately, there are a few railfans who continue to prove that statement. I know one railroader who calls them "fidiots". And another who calls them "vesties".

The worst example of a railfan is the guy who uses only "gossip" from fellow railfans, including today's internet newsgroups, as his only source of information, without applying any sense of real-world logic, or business sense to what he may hear or read. I've seen guys who get tears in their eyes when they talk about UP 844. Like Wadsworth said, "Sheesh!" I always try to remember that this is just a hobby. It's what I do in my spare time.

As for myself, I like trains, I like railroads, and I like Union Pacific. I know enough to respect their business decisions, but I also like to simply watch their trains. And I like to research and write about railroad locomotives, UP history, and my local railroads and their history. But I describe myself as a railroad historian, not as a railfan, and definitely not as a rail buff.

Local Museums

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on November 15, 2008)

Sorry to say, I've never been much of a preservationist, other than photos and books. I have found that too many people get wrapped up in keeping for all time and forever, their mother's wedding dress, or Uncle Wilbur's family bible, or Aunt Wilma's dress from when she was baptized.

Too much attention is paid to keeping the "one-only" stuff, rather than the every day stuff used by people to get through each and every day. The worst I've seen is at Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and at the Union Pacific museum in Omaha. Most of the stuff is insignificant junk that the museums dare not throw away because it was a gift.

I've been to many local museums that have one too many washboards and butter churns, or three gold watches, and seventeen different gold buttons. Obviously, I'm not a fan of local museums, so I'm not the person to ask for an encouraging word. But yet, I visit them at every opportunity.

My interest is the history of industrial development in Utah, with a focus on railroad-related industries. I continue to be hopeful when I do go to a local museum, hoping for old photos of what the world looked like back then. The best have been in Crockett, California, with its great stuff about the C&H sugar factory there, and the museum in Helper, Utah. Both are wonderful places to visit, but I'm sure there are several more. A recent trip through Torrington, Wyoming included another very good local museum.

Local History

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on March 28, 2009)

I've been asked for my thoughts about compiling the book with local history as its subject. Like any other project, you will have to decide what story you want to tell. No publisher will touch an "all-time", definitive history. So the challenge is the compromise that the author is willing to live with.

This is precisely why I do web pages. I'm in complete control, with no publisher breathing down my neck about page count and always trying to reduce costs. Plus there is no fear of a lack of promotion. Any good internet search engine will find a web site.

In my case I will always consider the Ogden Rails project incomplete. But there comes a time when you have to move on. I'd love to do a "Salt Lake City Rails" book, or a full history of Brigham Young and the railroads. But in reality, I doubt that such projects will ever see publication, other than in the form of loosely associated web pages.

About doing a local history book: maybe a simple update of a previously published project might be good enough, such as my personal favorite, Ira Swett's "Interurbans of Utah", but with more and bigger photos, and good maps. Doing day-to-day newspaper research almost always adds new information, but can be incredibly boring and time consuming. At some point you will have to ask yourself, "will it really add to the story I want to tell?"

As words of encouragement, continue gathering data, photos, and maps. At some point, you will have to decide what exactly you want to say. Hopefully that decision will come sooner rather than later, and you won't pass from this world and leave your family with the decision as to what to do with all of your research.

Dates in History

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on April 26, 2009)

History as pure dates is boring to many. But dates are the skeleton of history.

If you have your dates wrong, then any history based on those dates will be seen as lopsided and unsupported. This includes any history of equipment, of operations, or even social and cultural histories that seem to be in vogue today.

History in context brings the past alive.

History and Web Sites Are Fragile

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on April 26, 2009)

In June 2006, Ken Clark wrote:

The problem is that the records are fast disappearing. Twenty five years ago we had a lot of records that were 25 years old, now we can't find or read files that are three years old.

In my recent visit to UP at Omaha, I was more than surprised to learn that UP themselves cannot access equipment records from the mid 1980s, and through to the time of my visit in 1995. It was during the mid 1980s that UP computerized their record keeping. I discussed this with several contacts within the company, and learned that they accept the new reality, along with the fact that if an employee did not print the report out, and keep it in his personal stash, the record is likely not available. Also, now that the ICC no longer exists, with its requirements for volumes and volumes of retained records, the railroads simply don't retain the depth and range of records that they did previously. Also, one of the "buried-in-the-minutiae" parts of the 1980 Staggers act was the reduction in reporting required by the railroads, and less reporting meant less records retention.

Ken continued:

One author who contacted me brought up a more troubling issue, that of the relative fragility of the web site. Many have not had the staying power of the hard bound volume. What happens upon the maintainer's death? or the internet host quits? Dead links abound. Will historical societies provide secure host space and maybe digital backups to ensure that the information is not lost? At this time I think the digital media has proven more fragile than the printed medium. It requires continual renewal onto current technology to avoid rapid obsolescence.

When I realized just how fragile web sites are, I determined to generate web pages that conform to current standards of future compatibility. All my web pages are fully compliant with XHTML standards, meaning mostly that they are simple text with formatting being handled by separate style sheets. I use PHP server-side includes so that I don't need to worry about keeping the formatting of every page perfectly up to date. No glitz. Each and every page is all about just the content.

I'm a great believer in open source, public web sites, such as Wikipedia, the free on-line encyclopedia. They have over 200,000 articles, supposedly more than Encyclopedia Britannica and Encarta combined. For us railroaders, there is a remarkable range of railroad-related subjects. The editors take their (volunteer) jobs very seriously and strive to the most accurate information available. But their weakness is similar to any author's weakness; you can't use a source if you don't know of its existence.

The information at Wikipedia is always suspect, as is information in any printed source. But Wikipedia is fully editable by any registered user, with a full history shown of all changes. Wikipedia makes good use of peer review, much like academic research. Peer review is something our railroad writing could certainly use more of, but I have learned that there is a definite shortage of peers in the subjects I write about.

I determined years ago that railroad publishing to paper has a severe limitation. The potential market is astronomically small (1000 to 1500 books), therefore the economics of such a small market severely limit both the size and content of the published work, and the promotion and advertising of newly released, or still available, books. I figured this out at about the same time that Google became available as the web's premier search engine. From then on, I decided to make my research readily available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. The hard part, a difficulty also shared by commercial interests on the web, is to get the search engines to find your web site through a simple key word search.

My first Wiki edit was for Cooper bridge loadings. Some recent research about the weight limitations of the Salt Lake trestle brought a private email that mentioned the bridge loading standards known as Cooper loadings, with its axle loading standards, of which E-70 is an example. I did a search on Cooper loadings, along with the engineer who developed them, Theodore Cooper, and was a bit surprised that neither Google nor Wikipedia had any reference to this basic facet of railroad engineering. There is an article about Cooper, the man, but it makes no mention of the bridge loading standards named for him. Oh well, yet another subject to be researched and developed. Life goes on, and every work is a work in progress...

Metallic Smokebox Color

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on April 26, 2009)

In October 2006, Harry Wong wrote on the Espee List:

...had a darker shade of metallic on the smokebox.

This brings to mind my experience as a boilermaker apprentice back in 1971. I was an active modeler at the time (Denver & Salt Lake), and we were re-tubing the boilers in UP's huge power plant in Salt Lake City. These were massive water tube boilers, three in a row and three stories tall.

My journeyman was Glen Rice. One day he had me mix up what he called graphite paint. It was about a half gallon of some thick valve oil (a bit darker than your typical motor oil for automobiles), into which I mixed an equal measure of powered graphite. I then brushed it on an exposed part of the upper tube sheet. The heat took care of the oil in a couple hours, leaving behind a durable graphite coating as form of corrosion control. The next day, it was exactly the same color as Floquil's then-Graphite color that I took with me to work to compare.

I have since learned that what we modelers know as silver paint is actually aluminum paint, or aluminum powder in a carrier solvent. I have also learned that aluminum paint came about as a replacement for aluminum leaf, which itself was a cheaper version of silver leaf in lettering. Aluminum paint was so cheap and so durable in high heat situations, that many railroads began using it in lots of applications. It wears very well, but also oxidizes pretty fast.

Asking Questions

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on April 27, 2009)

An anonymous stranger wrote in June 2006:

I cannot believe how mean spirited the responses to a simple question have been. Many of us (myself included) live on a limited income and cannot afford the spend $50.00 or more on books.

Jeff Cauthen wrote in June 2006:

I'm sick of this "limited income" crap. WE'RE all on limited incomes. Buy a book, it won't kill you!

I have been able to get an amazing variety of books through my local county library. It may take a while, but you, too, might be surprised as to what's available through interlibrary loan. At no charge, so the "limited income" argument has nothing to stand on.

But I can understand Jeff's frustration. I suspect the question asking for a detailed list of Cab Forwards that operated in northern California and southern Oregon was simply ill-considered about the depth and range of possible answers, but Jeff's words could have come from any of the 30+ authors that I know.

There are times that we authors get real tired of answering basic questions that we have all written about many times (kind of like a doctor being asked medical questions at a party). Why oh why don't people read the books and magazines they buy. By far, most railroad books are sold for the photographs, with most buyers simply flipping through a new book and putting it proudly on the shelf.

As for asking simple questions, it's a whole lot easier to simply tap a question on the computer keyboard, than it is to spend a couple hours reading various printed sources. A good comparison would be a conversation on a street corner, which is what I consider all of these discussion groups to be. Two people are talking, and one of them will ask the other a question.

I run a very large web site, with over 1500 pages. It has a "Contact Me" feature. Anyone would be amazed at the variety and range of questions that get thrown my way. Most are pretty senseless, like a recent one, "Can you tell me about my Grandfather Hector Holmes, who I think worked for a railroad in Colorado?" This to a web site that is clearly marked UtahRails.

But every now and again, a question comes in that makes it all worth while. Or, even better, an offer to send along some item of interest, such as an extended correspondence with the son of Martin Blomberg, a design engineer at Pullman-Standard, and later at EMC/EMD almost from Day One.

The good questions force me to think about what I may, or may not know. The good questions make it all worth while. I love doing research, and I enjoy sharing the results of my research, but please, do a little basic research before asking your question.

The Truth Is Out There

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Blogspot on November 1, 2009)

Like everything on the internet, YouTube has some crap, and some great, funny and well done stuff. One recently viewed example is that all of the Super Bowl commercials are on YouTube, as well as lots of other clips of this and that, and even some other stuff. Whatever you want, even soft porn, and dumb ass guys doing stupid things.

For a place to start, click at the bottom "Browse Channels", then pick "Best Of YouTube".

(Videos Popular On You Tube)

Here is another example of why I like YouTube:

(Reporters Blow Whistle on FOX News)

The truth is out there. We just have to find it. And the internet makes that a bit easier. Stuff like this is why "they" are always warning us about the dangers of the internet. "Dangers" indeed -- the truth always hurts. The people with an agenda hate that so many people have video cameras and cell phone cameras, and an internet connection.

As a historian, all I ever want to find is what really happened. Every time I get going on research on just about any subject, I soon learn that it is usually one person's personal agenda that drives any particular event, throughout history. And everyone around them either agrees with that agenda, or goes along in the interest of avoiding confrontation, or keeping their job. Peel away the layers of history, and it's always about money and power. "You will do what I want you to do, because I think it's a good idea."

Conservatives want to limit your choices to what they think is good and right. Liberals want to offer you so many choices that nothing gets done, because in life's choices, nothing is easy.

The best we can ever hope to do is EDUCATE OURSELVES, make the decision and hope for the best. My favorite defense comes from Steve McQueen's character in the movie The Magnificent Seven when he said, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Shoving Cars

(Posted to Trainorders.com on October 10, 2010.)

In the General Code for Operating Practice for railroad safety, Rule 6.5 states: "When cars or engines are shoved and conditions require, a crew member must take an easily seen position on the leading car or engine, or be ahead of the movement, to provide protection."

My own oops came back in 1979 when I was protecting a shove of ore cars on Kennecott's Utah Copper Division. I was second man on the midnight shift on the Magna Yard Turn, with one of the old Nevada Alcos as power. One of our regular jobs was to switch the Magna car shop to swap the bad orders for the repaired cars, about 10-15 cars every night. I was protecting the far end of 12 cars when at the last moment I noticed from my perch up on the car that a switch was against us. Oops. I was out of sight from the hogger and did not have the radio (only one per crew, and the foreman had it). The standard "big hole it" signal was to take off our hard hat and wave it above the top of the car. We were in a bit of a hurry and two cars got through the switch before we stopped. One was on the ground and the second was half-off and half-on. We were all greenhorns except for the hogger, Holly Nielsen. He was an old Bingham & Garfield guy from the late 1940s who liked graveyard shift. We were standing around scratching our heads at 2:30 am, when Holly walks up and simply says to back up and hope for the best. It worked and no one found out. The switch was sprung, and we had to use a six-foot pipe to pry the lever out of the switch stand, and to bend the lever back to where it belonged.

And then there was the other time I was on the far end of the Fogarty (Magna) dumper, uncoupling cars after they shoved through, two at a time. We had to make sure the knuckle was open on the cars as they rolled away. It was production work, dumping cars as fast as possible. An accident waiting to happen. One night I was busy getting a stubborn knuckle to stay open on a cut as they rolled away, and did not notice that the cars on the dumper had rolled out about two feet. The guy at the other end gave the dump operator a green light and up the cars went. The end hanging out made a big crashing sound as it hit the dumper frame, shaking the whole building. It wasn't the first time, nor I'm sure the last time. But it was my job to catch it and I missed it. I learned some new words that night from my foreman, the dump foreman, and mill foreman. The whole Magna mill was down for four hours because they could not dump while they fixed the damage. All because of Don. Much to my surprise I wasn't fired on the spot, but I had a long talk with Bruce Morrison, the boss of Ore Haulage the next morning. He had hired me, and was willing to overlook the on-the-job hard lessons. When I quit a month later, he actually tried to talk me out of it, saying I was a natural railroader, and not at all like the yucks they were getting off the street.

Kennecott was not an ICC or OSHA railroad. It was a mining railroad and under MSHA rules, which were a lot less safety oriented than ICC/FRA/AAR. Loose grab irons, in-op coupler pins and handbrakes, leaking air brakes. The list goes on. After almost ten years on Union Pacific, I couldn't take the lack of safety and brutal hours, which were 8-on and 8-off. It was very good pay, but at what cost. I quit after just three months.

Railfan Books

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on October 25, 2010)

Back in January 2010, I completed a brief history of Montana Union Railway, the line between Butte and Garrison, Montana that is still today owned by Union Pacific but leased to BNSF. This was all done to add some background to five steam locomotives that ended up on UP, but it turned out to be a very interesting story.

Montana Union Railway

I'm sure there are a couple very nice magazine articles out there, plus a couple very well done books on the various subjects I covered in this very brief history. But the challenge is finding them. Sad to say, for something like this where I merely want to fill in some background history for five steam locomotives and how they were used before coming to UP, it really does not make much sense to spend $40-50 to buy a book to glean 17 words from it. And in reality, this is pretty detailed stuff about a very small region, so I doubt any railfan author has actually written anything about Montana Union operations. Add to that, most railfan books are locomotive picture books, not railroad history books.

While we are all interested in locomotives, I like to put locomotives in context with the railroad that owned them, and how and why they were used. This Montana Union project was all done using stuff I've accumulated over the years, mostly about UP, and about railroads and railroad-related industries here in Utah, plus a lot of Google searches. The Google searches found several old books that are part of the Google Books project, and which date from before their 1923 copyright cutoff.

Union Pacific U50s

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on October 25, 2010)

A recent note from John Gezelius on Trainorders.com about UP's U50s reminded me of a couple memories I thought I'd share...

I started at Union Pacific in October 1969 as an apprentice in the Salt Lake shops. My first shift was from midnight to 8am. One of the jobs I helped on that first night was to change the air reservoirs on a U50. They were mounted under the walkways, and because the U50 was so tall (walkways were eight feet above ground level), we had to have the unit pulled right next to the shop door so that we could use forklift to remove the reservoirs. It took us all night to do the four reservoirs (three along the fireman side and one at the rear on the engineer side) because of the height above the ground, and having to use a forklift and step ladders. The U50s were in service from 1963 to 1977.

After I became a journeyman, a U50C came into Salt Lake with one of its two very large radiator fans inoperable. The fan bearing had seized and since the fan was so large, it kept spinning and self-destructed, taking out the fiberglass ducting that surrounded the fan. The flying pieces of fan also dinged the bottom of the radiator sections pretty bad. There was also lots of damage to the equipment blower and air compressor that were mounted adjacent to the fan gear box, all within the radiator intake compartment. The unit was in the shops for well over a month while the replacement parts were purchased, delivered and installed. My job was to install the fiberglass duct ring, which was over six feet in diameter. It was not designed to be put in after the locomotive was assembled and definitely not from the top through the radiator grille opening, so we cut the ring in half and drilled some additional mounting holes to ensure a solid mount. Removing the beat-up duct and installing the new duct took two shifts. The U50Cs were in service from 1969 to 1978.

Bad Captions

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on November 26, 2010)

Anyone who writes captions for photos in a book soon learns that it is one of the hardest tasks of the process. There is the temptation to simply duplicate the information in the text, but I always thought that since the photos add to the text, the photo captions should add to the photo, discussing in added detail what the photo shows. But in a book with lots of photos, the task of writing captions will wear you down to be a grinning idiot. I've done it many, many times in my books and magazine articles, and it's a bear. For my UP roster books from Withers, the publisher and I decided to do minimal captions: unit number, date, and location. I know it seems to be a cop-out, but in this case I did not have the photos, and he didn't have the background in UP's diesels to write good captions. One solution might have been to send me the photos and I could have written the captions, but we were unsure as to which photos we would/could use due to page layout, and photos were coming in right up to the day the manuscript went to the press. But we both agreed that the minimum should be date and location.

Tony Thompson wrote on the Steam Freight Cars discussion group on June 21, 2008:

It is common for museum and archive photos to have "dates" attached to them which are years or even decades wrong, based on evidence right in the photo itself, such as reweigh (not shop) dates. Two lessons to learn: first, don't trust those "official" dates unless you can verify them, and second, tell the good folks at that archive about reweigh dates. Usually they will thank you profusely.

... and again on May 24, 2009:

In all fairness, every archivist has experienced the self-described "expert" who offers many "factual" inputs which turn out to have no foundation. You are effectively asking staff to differentiate input on the basis of "knowing the experts." I'd agree that going with name suffixes is not sufficient, but neither is going with an individual's sense of confidence (or bluster). Just put yourself on the other side of that desk, conversing with a visitor you have never met or heard of, before you are too critical.

I know one of the archivists at the Utah State Archives. She has related numerous horror stories about the items that have been dropped off at the state historical society's doorstep. They have to process them in some manner, and most archivists haven't a clue about what something may, or may not be. Garbage in/garbage out. They try to provide proper labels, but without good source data, they really struggle. Hence when an "expert" starts providing *any* input, it is usually taken because he appears to know what he is talking about. Being a published author really helps. And having a web site that they can check right away. Not so much for the snob factor, but that it makes it easy for the archivist to do an independent background check, if they so choose, which they usually don't.

A good case can be made for us historians all to get to know the librarians and archivists we deal with. Build a trusting relationship. Try to swap information for information. Give, as well as take. It's amazing what may come your way as duplicates and extras from their collections, plus the occasional "guess what we just found" phone call.

Captions are only as good as the research; some are a lot better than others. There is still so much to research and write about. The biggest challenge is to find what has already been written. The next biggest challenge is to capture for future use, what is happening right now.

Utah Copper/B&G AAR Reporting Marks

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on December 11, 2010)

Prior to 1948, Utah Copper Company owned the Bingham & Garfield Railway, a common carrier that was used to move its ore from the Bingham Canyon mine, sixteen miles north to the mills on the shore of Great Salt Lake. In 1948, they built their own, private electrified railroad. The B&G trackage was abandoned, its corporation was dissolved, and its operating organization became the Ore Haulage Division. It was the OHD that bought the big electrics, and later operated the SD40-2s. On July 1, 1984, OHD was shut down, and the SD40-2s were leased to Canadian Pacific, then to British Columbia Rail (BCOL) on a ten-year lease. They were later sold to Helm. With the SD40-2s gone, the railroad was operated with the tall-cab GP39-2s until the new slurry pipeline started up in September 1988.

Utah Copper and B&G swapped steam locomotives, and electric locomotives, back and forth as operations in the mine, at the mills, and the railroad between them, waxed and waned. Several B&G steam locomotives were assigned to Utah Copper for operation, and several Utah Copper electric locomotives were assigned to B&G for yard and car dumper service. How to refer to them in photos?

The best answer is to simply write about the changes. Reporting marks or abbreviations simply don't work in cases like this. In photos of the equipment, the only abbreviation is UCC, for Utah Copper Company. Until it was dissolved in 1948, all internal documents show the B&G as the Ore Delivery Department, or ODD. After 1948, it became the Ore Haulage Division, or OHD. After 1941, although still a common carrier, the lettering on the B&G steam locomotives was changed to KCC.

My reference to UCC comes from a photo of a company-built ore car that was used on the former steam-powered Bingham & Garfield. The original Utah Copper reporting mark, UCCX, is currently assigned to Union Carbide Canada.

An interested observer wrote via email in July 2008, concerning Utah Copper and Kennecott:

So anything pre-1941 is UCCX and anything post-1941 is KCCX. Do you have any idea why people insist on labeling Kennecott units as having KCC reporting marks?

Some railfans and magazine editors are convinced that any reference to Utah Copper after 1941 was wrong, wrong, wrong. (The railroads and their trade press are all wrong; we railfans are the only source for accurate and up-to-date railroad information.) One particular editor has always been convinced that every piece of railroad equipment must display a reporting mark, and is always looking to the appropriate reporting mark to use on slide labels and in photo captions.

I have always felt that we should simply use the recognized abbreviation, i.e. N&W vs. NW. It's kind of like, instead of using a company's name, only using a company's stock market ticker tape abbreviation, or using only the zip code two-letter abbreviation whenever we write a state's name. Bad abbreviations are the same as saying, "I'm too lazy to look this up." Of course, they will say they have a dead line.

As for having any idea why people insist on labeling Kennecott units as having KCC reporting marks, the best answer is simple laziness.

It's easier to write KCCX when we should be writing Kennecott. People like to abbreviate, and what better abbreviation to use than the AAR reporting mark. Except that the AAR reporting mark only applies to railroad rolling stock involved in interchange, including the brief movement of non-operating locomotives. They are not (and never were) intended to be a catch-all for railroad name abbreviations. I'm a bit sensitive to pointless abbreviations and acronyms, since I work with the military, who excel at pointless acronyms.

I can't find any reference to any Kennecott reporting mark other than KCCX. The white Kennecott acid cars still use the KCCX mark. Here is the only current listing of AAR reporting marks that is active. The other listings have apparently gone inactive:

AAR Reporting Marks

In the UP/SP merger hearings by FRA, when BNSF was given overhead, local switching, and trackage rights to UP and SP customers in Utah (which would have become a one-railroad state), they always used "Kennecott", without any abbreviation. In their guidelines for accident report preparation, the FRA doesn't show a KCCX abbreviation.

I checked my photos of Kennecott units being shipped to MPI in Boise for their rebuild in the 1992-1994, and none exhibit any reporting mark. The road numbers were eight feet high on the sides of the hoods. The outbound units were lettered for Kennecott Copper Corporation, and the inbound units were simply lettered as Kennecott.

I guess my point is that we should not use any AAR reporting mark for anything Kennecott, other than the hundreds of white acid tank cars that are involved in national interchange service.

Clearfield Navy Supply Depot Utah

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on January 10, 2011)

I've been going over some really old notes and came across these two bits. They are the only data that I have ever seen that put U.S. Navy locomotives in land-locked Utah. Both are from the base newspaper for Clearfield Navy Supply Depot.

USN 65-00256 is shown in a photo dated July 4, 1958; caption says it is one of three locomotives assigned to NSD Clearfield.

USN 65-00181 is shown in a photo dated September 26, 1958.

I think these were both Baldwins, but I failed to note the model, or even the builder (I guess I thought I'd never forget). I sure wish I had at least Xeroxed the photos, but I didn't.

Here is some information about NSD Clearfield, from the December 27, 1957 issue of that same base newspaper:

NSD Clearfield was dedicated on April 10, 1943
841 acres, 68 storehouses, 110 buildings
40 miles of railroad track
Construction began in June 1942, and was completed in April 1943
Six railroad locomotives
Peak operations were during WWII, with 4,108 carloads
Two large 300,000 gallon wooden water tanks were replaced by a single 200,000 steel water tank in February 1959.

NSD Clearfield was closed in 1962 and is today known as Clearfield Freeport Center, a large commercial manufacturing and warehousing facility.

Utah was the home of at least six other very large military facilities, for all branches of the military. It was (and still is) the hub of cross-country rail lines and highways. It also helped that its politicians were very well placed in the Democratic power structure.

Below is some information I researched back in 2003 from a web-page biography of Jesse H. Jones, the head of federally funded Reconstruction Finance Corporation, whose subsidiaries included the Defense Plant Corporation, which itself was responsible for numerous new railroad locomotives.

Under the newly passed legislation, the RFC was authorized to set up subsidiaries (federal agencies) to accomplish the goals of the preparedness program. Among the myriad of organizations established were Defense Plant Corporation, Defense Supplies Corporation, Metals Reserve Company, Rubber Reserve Company, United States Commercial Company, War Damage Corporation, Petroleum Reserves Corporation and Defense Homes Corporation. During World War II, more than 20 billion dollars was disbursed for the war effort under Jones. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing the new synthetic rubber and magnesium industries. Below are some highlights of Jones' efforts through these agencies to help America build its great "arsenal of democracy."

Defense Plant Corporation -- Much of American industrial expansion during World War II was financed by the RFC through the Defense Plant Corporation. The War and Navy Departments, the Office of Production management, the War Production Board and the Maritime Commission would request what they needed and in turn, the DPC would ensure that the plants were constructed, equipped and operated. Jones negotiated the contracts for the construction and operation of the plants and managed the corporation along with Emil Schram and Sam Husbands, both of whom were presidents of the organization during the war.

From its inception in August 1940 through 1945, the Defense Plant Corporation disbursed over nine billion dollars on 2,300 projects in 46 states and overseas. Most of this money was used to build and equip new factories and mills. In general, the plants were leased to private companies to operate. In spending these billions, the government acquired a dominant position in several industries, such as aircraft manufacture, nonferrous metals, machine tools, synthetic rubber and shipping.

The materials and supplies produced during the war ranged from tiny jewel bearings to giant guns, tanks, ships and airplanes. In fact, about half of outlays were used directly or indirectly for aviation. Next to the Geneva, Utah steel mill, the most expensive single Defense Plant Corporation project was the $176,000,000 Dodge Chicago plant, which manufactured aircraft engines for the B-29 and B-32 airplanes. The plant's nineteen one story buildings stretched over 6,300,000 square feet -- about 145 acres -- of floor space. It was so large that it had its own steel forge and aluminum foundry and could take in raw material at one end and turn out finished engines at the other.

Defense Supplies Corporation -- Jesse Jones felt that Defense Supplies Corporation was the most versatile of the agencies set up under the RFC. He described it as a "catch-all, go-anywhere, do- anything organization." Over nine billion dollars in buying, lending and subsidizing was disbursed in the United States and 45 foreign countries. More than five billion dollars was used to buy, stockpile and distribute 200 kinds of commodities, ranging from abaca (Manila hemp), to silk and wool.

The Unit Rig Story

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on January 25, 2011)

My quest for information about the large haulage trucks used in Kennecott Copper's Bingham Canyon mine has brought contact with Mr. Jerry Shelton, retired Vice President, Sales, of the former Unit Rig and Equipment Company, makers of some of the largest mining trucks. Mr. Shelton has graciously shared his self-published history of the company, named "The Unit Rig Story."

The Unit Rig Story

This is the first time this company's history has been told in such a complete manner. It's a fascinating story of one company's groundbreaking innovation, as well as the story of that same company's decline at the hands of corporate raiders of the late 1980s.

Mr. Shelton has given his permission to have the text of his book presented here at UtahRails.net, and to make a PDF version also available. Thank you Jerry.

Additional information about Unit Rig can be found here, including its purchase by Terex in 1988, along with the purchase of Terex by Bucyrus International in 2009. In 2010, Caterpillar has made an offer to purchase Bucyrus.

The Heber Creeper and Me

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on February 10, 2011)

Back in 1968, while still in high school, I was a member of the Golden Spike Model Railroad Club. The membership included Rod Edwards, Dennis Spendlove and Gordon Wheeler. I made several railfan trips with them, and spent a lot of time with them as we were building models and running the railroad at the Golden Spike club. The group included their friend Chick Nielsen, and all four of them were involved in the movement of the first rolling stock to Heber in 1970. In 1968, I was with Rod on one of his many trips to Heber as he was building support for the effort. He and I found the bars used on the agent's window in the D&RGW depot, laying in the grass outside of the building. That cage was used almost immediately as the ticket window at the Golden Spike Model Railroad club at the state fairgrounds.

I was among the group of about 15 guys that went to Tooele and loaded all the steam locomotive stuff that Tooele Valley had donated to the guys in Heber. I especially remember how excited we all were when among the items donated, there were two complete air pumps. Dennis Spendlove drove the truck (owned by Don Reimann) from Tooele to Heber, and I rode along. It was a great day. Dennis and I were good friends, but after he moved to Heber to help get the railroad up and running, we lost touch while I focused on model railroading and railfanning in and around Salt Lake City. He and I renewed our friendship in 1981 when he visited my model railroad. Within a couple weeks we spent a day chasing UP 3985 on one of its many trips to Utah. I was really saddened to hear later that he had taken his own life.

I graduated from high school in 1969 and got a job as a boilermaker for Union Pacific in their Salt Lake diesel shop within six months. I worked there for 10 years, but quit for a brakeman's job on Kennecott's Ore Haulage railroad. Much to my surprise, after losing touch with them over the intervening years between 1970 and 1979, I began working with both Gordon Wheeler and Chick Nielsen, and with Chick's Dad, Holly. They were all working as engineers on the same railroad. I worked the Magna Local a lot, and Holly Nielsen was the regular engineer. Gordon worked the Magna dumper job, and we spent a lot of down time talking about our common interests as we waited for a green light on the dumper. Chick was a mainline engineer, and he taught me many valuable lessons about staying safe as the rear-end brakeman, a job that was kind of scary because I was alone for the entire trip. It was a great job and I enjoyed working with real railroaders, hearing all their stories. But it didn't last due the plunging price of copper in 1979, and I was laid off after just two months. Even though the change in jobs forced a radical change in my life, I've had a soft spot for Bingham & Garfield and Kennecott ever since.

When I hear of the trains of Heber, or read about some special event taking place there, I can't help but recall all of the hard work that those guys put into the enterprise during those very early years. I recall the time I spent with them, and grin again at some of the jokes and good times we shared. The variety of items that the four of us "rescued" from the dead line at Bingham makes me shake my head in wonder these 40 years later. To this day I often wonder what happened to all that stuff.

Modeling and Railfan Magazines

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on February 10, 2011)

Like most railfans and railroad modelers in the west, I looked forward to the monthly magazines. With titles like Model Railroader, Trains, Railfan & Railroad, and Railroad Model Craftsman, we all got a regular update to what was going on in the railroad world around us. I bought my first Model Railroader magazine in July 1966 at a local drug store a short bicycle ride from my home. It was in the the local strip mall that included stores such as an Albertson's grocery store, a five and dime store, a Sherwin Williams paint store, and a department store where our parents bought their household goods and clothes for us kids. It was the Walmart of its day. This was in the early and mid 1960s, and I was exploring the world that was within bicycle riding distance.

My brother had several American Flyer models that were stored away, but still readily available to be looked at and appreciated. A neighbor across the street had a Lionel setup on a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood, and we spent hours and hours watching the trains go round and round. I liked trains, and two uncles who worked for Union Pacific made sure that I learned all sorts of fascinating and wondrous things about trains and railroads, meant to keep my interest alive.

On a day in October 1965, my brother (who had his drivers license) and his friends went to Keith's Hobby House in downtown Salt Lake City, and they let me come along. I think they were looking for parts for their plastic model cars and their electric slot cars (a hobby that was the rage at the time), but as soon as I saw the model trains, I ignored the airplanes and the cars, and spent the entire time looking at the variety of model trains. I recall that in the magazine racks, there was a wondrous selection of magazines for both railroad and model railroad interests. I only recall the October 1965 date because in later years I saw the magazine cover and recognized it as the first Model Railroader I ever saw.

When I discovered Model Railroader, I soon realized that this was really something amazing. There was a whole world out there, and trains were part of it. I had very little money, but bought magazines when I could. Then I got my first job in 1967, and as they say, "the rest is history." The first magazines were modeling magazines, then as I was able to get around by driving, I wanted to learn about the real trains I was seeing. My Uncle John gave me a pile of Trains magazines, and I wore them out by reading them, and re-reading them. I joined the newly formed Golden Spike Model Railroad Club in early 1968, and the friends I made there readily shared their knowledge as well as their assortment of magazines.

I started work with Union Pacific within a month of turning 18 (their minimum age), and with money in my pocket, I became a regular customer of the local hobby shops. In October 1970 I discovered Extra 2200 South, the locomotive news-magazine, as well as Pacific News, which kept me up-to-date on western railroading. I kept them all, and re-read them on a continuing basis. Only recently, and due to space considerations, have I begun thinning out what became a collection of magazines that spanned what was then, the entire 35 years of my railroad interest.

Western Railfan Publications

Each of these publications were labors of love by each of their publishers. They were all essentially intended to get the news out as soon as possible, based initially on door-to-door surface mail, then on telephone communication and early dial-up email communication.

This information about Western Railfan Publications started back in 1989 and early 1990 as I was doing a page-by-page review of various printed sources of railfan news, including CTC Board, Pacific News, Pacific Rail News, Flimsies, and The Mixed Train. These were newsletters meant to get the news out to local and regional railfans about what was happening in the world of western railroads and their locomotive fleets. At the same time, I was reviewing issues of the national locomotive news magazine, Extra 2200 South, which started in 1961 as a similar newsletter.

The effort was to gather and glean whatever I could about Union Pacific's locomotives, with the information being blended with the large volume of information I had collected from sources within the company itself. The sources were combined and used in the 1990 and 1992 published versions of my Union Pacific locomotive rosters. I took a hiatus during the early and mid 1990s, then succumbed to the siren song of a Union Pacific locomotive roster when UP took control of SP and D&RGW in late 1996. That effort resulted in the Union Pacific 1998 Locomotive Directory, as well as the later 1999 and 2000 editions.

By the late 1990s, several web sites were established that allowed "bulletin board" communications among railfans, including such email discussion groups like OneList, which became eGroups, then YahooGroups. In addition, there were separate web sites that specialized in railfan news, with one of the first being Trainorders.com.

As the on-line readership of "the boards" increased, the subscriber base for the "railfan rags" decreased. The biggest complaint was usually given as a lack of current news in the printed-to-paper publications. Some took longer than others to pass away, but all have fallen by the way side, casualties of the internet age.

Just like all things in life, there's a "but." As easy as it may seem, blame cannot be fully laid at the doorstep of the internet. As in any business community, there are good decisions and bad decisions, and businesses fail for a wide variety of reasons. Even in the very small community of railfan publications, rumors persist of failure due to cheating and partnerships gone bad, as well as profits being wasted.

Everybody's Wrong

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on May 30, 2011)

Back in July 2000, Robert X. Cringely wrote in his "I, Cringely" column about the history of high tech and America On-Line. In his column, called "Everybody's Wrong," he compared a recently published article in BusinessWeek magazine, on the subject of AOL's history, with a video tape of a brown bag lunch presentation by Mark Seriff in 1996.

Cringely's comment about whose version of AOL's history historians will buy, Marc Seriff's or BusinessWeek's, in which he concluded that it will be BusinessWeek's, is absolutely correct. Why? The BusinessWeek version, right or wrong, is published and readily available. Mr. Seriff's version is only available either from a person who was at the presentation, or from someone who has the video tape, or from Cringely's column. The value of an informed eye-witness is priceless.

As an historian, I spend my time researching and writing about business and industrial history. I recently added a history of the Unit Rig company, and the leading-edge technology they used for their diesel-electric mining trucks. Called The Unit Rig Story, this history came from Jerry Shelton, the retired Vice President of Sales. His insight has never been captured in readily available sources, but at least a Google search for Unit Rig finds his history on the UtahRails.net web site.

The greatest impediment to my own research is the cost of the research itself, i.e., time to travel, travel expenses to get to a repository or archive, and lodging once I get there. So when someone is preparing a history of AOL, I'll guarantee that they will use the BusinessWeek version since it would be readily available from a researcher's remote location, such as a local library, if for no other reason than time and money, and if you have the money, you have the time. But the time needed to ferret out obscure bits of information, such as Marc Seriff's personal history of America On-Line, would be almost non-existent, since any researcher cannot know all of the participants' names until the basic research in readily available sources is completed.

I'm not trying to defend bad research; Lord knows there is plenty of that. But I am trying to put the limitations of research into context. It would be great if today's internet search engines could find all the bits of information needed to tell a story, but they are woefully inadequate. (Try finding the history of ordinary plywood.) The whole concept that all information known to man will one day be on the internet is baloney. The value of newspaper and trade magazine research cannot be overstated, but the cost of putting all published newspapers and magazines on the web would be astronomically expensive. It simply will not happen.

Keeping Busy

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on September 25, 2011)

Technology rules our lives, and UtahRails is no different. In mid-August, new computer hardware came into our world, including Windows 7, and time has been needed to embrace the improvements and develop alternate work flows.

It is gratifying to see the phenomenal response to the newly released Bingham Canyon Railroads book. Sales at Amazon are apparently quite brisk, at least for a railroad history book. There are a couple local book-signing events scheduled. One is on October 1st at 2 pm at the Barnes & Noble in Bountiful, and a second is at 6 pm on October 8th at the Barnes & Noble in Layton.

As for the web site, there have been numerous, but small updates and error-corrections, on several different subjects. Interested persons continue to share new information, and this has also been incorporated.

In addition to adding literally hundreds of newspaper items to the Bingham Canyon information, there has been progress in the realm of Union Pacific steam locomotives and passenger cars. Small tweaks and tidbits, to be sure, but each one adds to the overall history.

Under the heading of “Coming Soon,” is a whole new world of video. I now have the capability to add video to the web site, so work is needed to develop the best method to do so. There is a lot to learn, but learning is always fun.

About History

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on December 29, 2011)

I have to agree with Roger Eyrich, when he wrote:

Facts: Some things, with research, such as track location, camp location, equipment on the roster, etc. can be confirmed. Often confirmed through multiple sources which is always a good thing. Getting out in the woods and confirming the locale by eyeball is also satisfying to the soul, and being able to confidently say so verbally or in print is good for the historian/authors image and ego and he can point to the pictures or ledgers and say "See, there it is."

Flavor: Stories, Bullshit and Memories of those who were there are colored by the way the mind files, and often confuses and cross-references, events, places and people.

Preservation: Right now the history of any industry that "exploits" the earth's resources is about as popular as a turd in the punchbowl. Such is life. However, I have hopes that in the future the general public will realize that, good and bad mixed, it is our history, Worldwide. and it is important history.

Until then, I pursue it because it's in my blood, I love it and I enjoy sharing with others of like mind. I also have hopes that when, down the road, people lament the loss of this history, those of us who have preserved and organized what we could say, "Here it is".

Bingham Lecture

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on Wordpress on January 22, 2013)

Since the last post about the Lake Park Resort in early October 2012, the remainder of October was spent preparing for an opportunity to be a guest lecturer at University of Utah's College of Mines and Earth Sciences. I was asked to present a history of Utah railroads, and the part they played in the history of mining in Utah. As I prepared for the one-hour lecture, I realized that a bit more research was needed to fill in some of the minor bits to make the verbal story more complete. The result is that numerous updates have been added to the Bingham Canyon pages, and the Utah coal pages. A recent addition of several years' worth of newspaper clippings (a stack of paper about six inches high) has brought the story well into the Rio Tinto era.

The presentation was on November 7th, so that first week of November was also spent adding the final bits. The actual class lecture was in a large conference theatre and I used a 72-page Powerpoint presentation. My greatest fear was that I would commit the dreaded sin of "Death By Powerpoint" by trying to cover too much material in such a short period of time. Sad to say, I saw a few too many yawns. I suspect that although I was able to at least touch on several parts of the story of Utah railroads and the part they played in the success of mining in Utah, the presentation was a bit long in the tooth. I've been invited back to do it again next year as part of the same class, and will make an effort to shorten the time used.

Century of SP Steam

In an exchange on the Espee List in May 2011, Glenn Joesten wrote, "What is the current availability of Dunscomb's 'A Century of Southern Pacific Steam Locomotives?' Price?"

Rob Sarberenyi responded: "Note there were several printings of this book over the years. It was last reprinted in 1984 by The Train Shop, a hobby shop in Santa Clara, CA. It's possible the store may still have a few in stock. " "The Original Whistle Stop in Pasadena, CA also carries OOP books."

Gene Poon wrote: "Do be sure that you get the set of SP maps that was included with the book when it was sold, or a corresponding reduction in the price you pay."

I have the Third Edition, First Printing from July 1984. I was surprised when I bought it back on 2008 (for just $30!!) that it had the map supplement, plus a six-page "Amplifications, Additions and Corrections" foldout dated January 1984 and compiled by Guy L. Dunscomb, Arnold S. Menke, and Joseph A Strapac.

This book was one of the first railfan books I ever bought, back in 1970. This was just after high school; I had just started working for Union Pacific, and the money was burning a hole in my pocket. In the years since, I've been through many life changes. During one of them that included no income, someone made me an offer I couldn't refuse, and I sold it. A decision I've regretted ever since. Given the history between me and that particular book, when I saw it on a list of used books, I simply bought it, regardless of condition. I was very surprised when it arrived, with the supplements included, and in very good condition, with its jacket fully protected by a nice Gaylord No. 14 jacket cover.

When I first bought the book in 1970, I was so taken by SP steam that I had my Grandfather make some wood inlay pictures of the locomotive silhouettes used on the chapter headings. He prided himself on only using natural colored woods, so he used a very blonde, light wood for the backgrounds, and ebony for the silhouettes. The wood itself is 1/28 inch thick, mounted to 3/8 inch particle board. The finished pictures are about 12 inches high and vary between 28 and 32 inches in length, depending on the locomotive shown. I chose the Pacific (page 163), the Articulated (page 265), the Mountain (page 289), and the General Service (page 301), which I modified to have the dual headlight casing. He died in 1984, but wherever I have lived, they have been proudly hanging for all to see. Over the years, they have aged to a lovely patina that almost takes your breathe away.

Kip Farrington Books

(Read more about the railroad books written by S. Kip Farrington)

Storing Slides

Posted to Trainorders.com, August 17, 2014

When I started shooting and storing slides in 1972, I used Logan slide file boxes. These were all-metal and held 600 slides, divided into 30 sections of 20 slides each. My friends and I all bought our Logan slide files at our local K-Mart. I had tried Kodak carousels, but they were too limiting and too expensive. My friends and I held regular slide shows for each other, and we all decided to buy Kodak stack loaders that allowed us to show groups of 20 slides. Life was good for at least 15 years, from the early 1970s through the late 1980s. Then the Logan boxes started to get hard to find, as well as getting more expensive.

I had really slowed down my picture taking in the mid 1980s, so the lack of Logan boxes was not a problem. I started traveling in 1989 as part of my work and was able to shoot railroad photos all over the West. I needed more storage and started looking around for a way to store slides, but in something portable to take to slide shows. At my local Ace Hardware store I found a great little clear plastic divided box meant for small parts storage. The price was only $5.99 each, much less that a Logan metal slide file. The Ace parts storage box was 11" long x 6-1/2 inches deep x 2-1/4 inches high. Divided into 15 sections that each held 20-24 slides perfectly. My friends and I began buying these storage boxes from Ace.

Soon Ace stopped carrying the box, but after some phone calls, I found that they were manufactured by Akro-Mills as their 05-505 Utility Box. I stumbled on some Akro-Mills boxes in a local hardware store, up on the top shelf, and bought all six that they had. By 2014 I hadn't needed any new boxes for quite some time, since I had started selling my collections, and started giving away the extra boxes, both Logans and the extra plastic boxes.

I've seen similar parts boxes in a lot of stores (Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Target, etc.), and always recalled how nice a solution they were for storing slides. These were such a nice solution that I can easily continue to recommend using the concept of a clear plastic box that divides into slide-sized compartments. Look around, measure the compartment size, you may find something that fits your needs.

Ogden Union Station and UTA Frontrunner

Posted to Facebook, June 9, 2016

Concerning Ogden, I had a friend who was with the Frontrunner construction consortium. In their planning meetings with UTA and Ogden City back in 2004-2005, as part of the Frontrunner service to Ogden, UTA offered to spend more than a few of its federal dollars to upgrade Ogden Union Station, and improve the facilities in relation to the city. Ogden City would have none of it. UTA said, "Are you sure? Won't cost you much at all; we will pay for about 90 percent." The answer was still, "No, we don't have money for all this old-timey stuff." That's why Frontrunner ends where it does today. The blame falls entirely with the leaders of Ogden City. Kind of makes the situation today, with the museum, more understandable. I think Ogden City simply wants all the train stuff to simply go away, and they are doing their best to make it so.

Bingham Mills Back Story

(November 17, 2016)

Researching the mills at Bingham...

A recent group of photos on the Bingham Canyon History Facebook group showed one of the wrecks of the Copper Belt railroad. I was able to do some research to determine the dates of the photos, including the dates of the wrecks themselves. Two of the wrecks literally destroyed the Wall concentrator mill in Bingham canyon due to that building's close proximity down-slope from the Copper Belt tracks.

(Read more about the Copper Belt wrecks)

This set off a binge of research to find some history of the Wall mill, along with more research about the other concentrating mills in Bingham, to determine the Wall mill's place in the history of ore processing and railroads in Bingham. There were several mills whose names show up regularly as being closely associated with railroads in Bingham, such as the Winnamuck mill, the Rogers mill, the Markham mill, and lastly, the Lead mill. This last mill was also associated with a station on the Rio Grande known as "Lead Mine" at the mouth of Bingham Canyon. More research found some good history of the Lead mine and mill, and the four-mile tramway that connected them along the east slope of the Oquirrh mountains. The Lead mine was one of the earliest and most important mines in the history of Bingham Canyon, and one of the most successful in the period between the mid 1870s and the mid 1890s.

(Read more about the mills at Bingham)

(Read more about the Lead mine and mill)

As the mines on the east slope (located at the top of Copper Gulch, Lead Gulch, and Yosemite Gulch) grew in production of lead and silver, with small amounts of gold, they were soon consolidated as the Dalton & Lark company, including the Lead mine and mill, and tramway. In 1895, the Dalton & Lark company began work on a drain and transportation tunnel, with its opening down on the foothills of the east slope at the base of Copper Gulch, the site of today's Lark.

In 1900, the Dalton & Lark group was sold to a new company that took the Mascotte name to separate itself from the small portion of the Dalton & Lark group that remained with the original owners. Work on the drain tunnel continued, under the name of the new Mascotte company, and was completed in 1904, draining the former Dalton & Lark properties and connecting with the main Dalton & Lark incline working shaft.

(Read more about the Dalton & Lark mine)

(Read more about the Mascotte tunnel)

The Dalton & Lark story includes the story of when the United States Mining company moved its facilities in Bingham from the Niagara tunnel out to Lark. This in turn brought still more research about the history of the Niagara tunnel.

(Read more about the United States Mining company)

(Read more about the Niagara tunnel)

It's all connected. I have yet to find any event in history that happened all by itself and had no effect on something else. The story these new pages tell is all connected, and make the story of Bingham canyon, its mines and its railroads all the more fascinating.

Utah, Crossroads of the West

I have been asked how far back that phrase goes. With the understanding that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, I did some newspaper research...

The earliest reference to Ogden being the crossroads of the west is in the July 28, 1921 issue of the Ogden Standard Examiner. "Ogden is the place which should be made the center of railway mail activity in all this region, as this is at the cross-roads of the west..."

Then in the October 14, 1923, the Ogden Standard Examiner wrote, "The very strategic position which Ogden occupies at the cross-roads of the West should lead, with the aid of surrounding territory such as Cache Valley to a great enlargement of the importance of Ogden in western trade and commerce."

Then Salt Lake City stole the phrase to promote its new aeroport. The earliest reference in online newspapers about Salt Lake City as the crossroads of the west was in the July 1, 1928, issue of the Salt Lake Telegram, in an article about new airline routes, calling Salt Lake City the aerial crossroads of the west.

The September 2, 1929, issue of the Salt Lake Telegram refers to Salt Lake City as the air crossroads of the west.

The April 1, 1931, issue of the Salt Lake Telegram had an editorial titled "Blowing Our Horn" saying that "Salt Lake City and Utah stand at the crossroads of the west in the very center of Scenic America. On railroads and highways its strategic location is second to none. The major portion of the tourists who come into the west pass through the city and state."

In this statement ("the major portion"), I suspect Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads along the northern tier would likely disagree, as would the marketing folks at the Santa Fe railroad, and the Southern Pacific railroad along the southern tier.

In the November 2, 1934, issue of the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's Governor Blood declared "Utah is the crossroads of the west."

With that announcement in his speech calling for the establishment of a government "air defense station" in Salt Lake City, and the stationing of a unit of the Army Air Corps in Salt Lake City, Governor Blood created the phrase of "Utah, Crossroads of the West."

Roster Style and Format

(First published to the UtahRails.net blog on September 22, 2007; taken from an email to the Observation Car group at Yahoo Groups, dated January 16, 2006.)

A question about roster style and format:

I recently upgraded some software to Microsoft Office which includes Access and Excel. It is time to move my MRL roster from the old Radio Shack TRS-80 4p to the real world of Windows XP.

The question is about any 'standard' roster formats for Access or Excel. Does anyone know of a boilerplate template commonly used for rosters to allow greater interchangeability? Lacking a set format, what common column headers are used to make the data easier to integrate with other personal formats?

I also have Lotus Smart Suite available to me and could use the database in that program instead of the Office option.

Mr. Ardinger, Mr. Strack what works best in your experience? How well does Access work with dBase based rosters? Is there an easy way to attach photo thumbnails to a roster entry? Can the finished roster be posted to a web page with links to photos?

I did my first locomotive roster in January 1973. It covered the diesel and electric locomotives of Kennecott's Utah Copper Division. It was done on a regular typewriter. My first computer arrived in late 1986, but was characters on an amber screen. The software was Wordstar. Within a couple years I was using a Windows computer with WordPerfect. In late 1988 I started compiling my Utah railroads research into computer files, including the locomotive rosters.

From then on, all my rosters were formatted as tab-delimited columns in Wordperfect files. The first ones were what was used in Cockle's UP 1990 book. Next came the UP 1992 book from Hyrail, with the same file structure. By the time of the C&NW book in 1995, I had switched to Word and soon discovered that tables worked better than columns. For the files that were used for publication, I converted the tables to tab-delimited columns, but the actual roster files remained as tables.

When I did my first web rosters, it was by direct conversion of the tabled Word files, into tabled HTML files, although Word back then (and still to some degree today) tended to produce really bloated HTML files. I have since gained quite a bit of experience in manipulating HTML tables, especially using styles for the actual on-line presentation. Today, the actual roster data is in simple HTML rows and cells, with CSS styles governing how the data looks.

I have tried using formal databases on several occasions (including Access and FileMaker), starting way back in the late 1980s with DBASE II. But getting the reports to generate in a format usable in publishing was always the limiting factor. I always ended up exporting the report to a delimited text file and fixing it in either Wordperfect or Word. I have used Excel spreadsheets with some success, but always ended up exporting them into Word tables to be able to format the rosters into a usable format.

For anyone looking to start compiling rosters, I would recommend using tables in Word (or any other word processor). Using a database is too complex for the simple data we use in rail equipment rosters.

All my rosters today are done in HTML using Dreamweaver as the editor of choice. Editing a roster is very easy in Dreamweaver because it displays the HTML code as What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) tables, and I simply edit the data in the tables. Take a look at the source code for any of the rosters at UtahRails.net and you will see "the man behind the curtain".

Using this combination of software makes immediate publishing very easy, and I don't have to hassle with page-count as a limiting factor. Publishing to the web removes all of the limitations that publishing to paper brings with it, such as the limitations of page count, the lack of promotion, the lack of distribution, and the limited press runs. Of course, I have never seen my railroad interests as a potential revenue stream, which is good since there really isn't any money in it, except for fewer than five publishers who need to cover as broad a market as possible. Serving a broad market means that any "deep-dive" into any subject needs to be kept at a minumum.