Category Archives: Railroad

More security theatre on trains

CNN has the story about yet another intrusion by the TSA that will do nothing to make anybody safer. This agency of thugs, thieves, and perverts has long since made it clear that when it comes to civil rights, their view is that you have none. They have also made it clear that they don’t know the first thing about security, as illustrated in the article by the ridiculous screening of passengers getting off a train. (What would they do if somebody refused to allow the search? Make them get back on?)

The idea that spot checking will cause terrorists to cancel their plans is beyond idiotic. In the unlikely event that a TSA team happens to be present at the time and place the terrorists intend to board, they would simply leave and return later, or go to another station. Or they would attack the people waiting in line. This is assuming they ever planned to board the train in the first place, rather than simply plant a bomb somewhere along the 140,000 + miles of railroad track that crosses the country.

The TSA needs to be disbanded yesterday.

 

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Again with the train porn

Over the Christmas holiday we traveled up Highway 395 into Oregon and then west to Portland. Along the way we stopped in Lakeview long enough for me to get a few shots of the Lake Railway, a short line running from Lakeview to Perez, CA where it interchanges with the Union Pacific.

This is the engine house in Lakeview. In the distance you can see the railroad’s one and only locomotive.

 

Here is a closer shot of the engine house, taken from the other direction.

 

A closer shot of the locomotive, an EMD GP49 formerly owned by Alaska Railroad.

And finally, one more picture of the locomotive. I was told by someone working at the agricultural inspection station just inside the California border (which is adjacent to the track) that the locomotive has broken down and the railroad is using a modified tractor-trailer as power instead. I would have loved to get a picture of that running down the track, but unfortunately we didn’t happen to see it.

 

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It’s here!

The first locomotive for the Los Angeles Junction Railway (Bedroom Division) has arrived. (As always, click to embiggen)

I’ve confirmed that it runs. When we get back from vacation I’ll add a DCC sound decoder and speaker, and weather it.

(Don’t worry, I’ll get back to posting about archaeology soon.)

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This woman needs to lose custody of her child NOW

Regardless of whether you support the Occupy movement or not, this kind of behavior is not acceptable, ever. Her magical “faith in humanity” is meaningless. The humanity of the engineer has damn all to do with how long it takes a train to stop. Good intentions will not change the laws of physics. And since she was at the entrance to a major port, she had no way to know whether the next train to come through would be a switcher with just a couple of cars or a mile long string of loaded hoppers weighing tens of millions of pounds.

Railroads don’t like collisions. I know; I was part of the field crew that did the archaeological compliance for the BNSF Triple Track project in the Cajon Pass. I had to attend the morning safety meeting every single day before starting work. And yet, according to Operation Lifesaver, 260 people were killed by collisions with trains in 2010, with another 810 people injured. Those injuries and deaths didn’t happen because the engineers wanted them to, or because the big faceless railroad corporation didn’t care. In nearly every case, they occurred because somebody was on the track when they should not have been.

(BTW, if you’re alongside the track and close enough that you could conceivably get in front of an oncoming train, you should expect the engineer to sound the horn. It’s considered polite to look at them and wave and let them know that you’re aware of the situation and not about to do anything stupid.)

 

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All aboard!

After many, many years of wishing and thinking and, yes, procrastinating, I’ve finally gotten started on a model railroad. Power (in the form of an HO scale CF7 diesel locomotive) has been ordered, and I’m developing the final track plan. Sometime in the next few days I’ll be getting some lumber to begin construction.

The right of way that I’ve managed to procure is rather small; just 6 1/2 feet long by 2 1/2 feet wide. But it’s a start. Someday we’ll move into a larger house, with more room for hobbies. In the meantime, it’ll sure be nice to be able to run a train without having to go all the way down to the club in Carson City.

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A master at work

Lance Mindheim has done an incredible job modeling Miami in HO scale. Go check out the photo galleries on his website. It’s hard to believe that some of those pictures are models.

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Not-so-obscure technologies, part 2

As with the video about the differential I blogged about earlier, I’m not certain exactly when this documentary was produced. Based on what is shown, it would have to be between 1938 (when the AT&SF 3765 class locomotive featured in this film began its service) and 1957 (the last year of steam operation on the AT&SF). It most likely dates from the earlier part of that range.

One of the things I particularly like about this video is that it doesn’t just explain the technology, but it also shows a lot of the human activity necessary to make these wonderful machines work.

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A train bound for nowhere

According to a new poll, about two-thirds of Californians now oppose the high-speed rail project that was authorized by voters in 2008. Normally I’d say I’ve never seen a train I didn’t like, but in this case I’m inclined to agree with the majority. It’s hideously expensive, for one thing, and isn’t projected to be complete until 2026. And given that this is a government project, it’s a sure bet that it will take much longer and cost much more than projected.

When privately owned railroads are built, the first segment to be constructed is nearly always chosen with an eye toward generating revenue as soon as possible. Given the chosen route of the California high-speed rail line, either Los Angeles to San Diego or maybe San Francisco to San Jose should be built first. Instead, the plan is to begin constructing the line between Fresno and Bakersfield. This already is enough to show that it’s being built by morons.

Another major problem is that, due to federal safety regulations, high-speed trains in the United States have to be massively heavier than their European or Japanese counterparts. (A good summary of the problem can be found here.) This makes them slower and more expensive, as well as more polluting. Those regulations are a significant part of the reason the Acela Express only averages about 70 mph over the length of its route.

Currently, no passenger train is allowed to exceed 150 mph (the Acela’s maximum) except under special conditions, which won’t exist on the California high-speed route. The average speed end to end will, obviously, be significantly lower. What that ultimately means, is that the rail line is unlikely to be fast enough to compete with airlines. It will just be a huge money pit.

(Don’t even get me started on the Desert Xpress. Las Vegas to Victorville! Are you freakin’ kidding me?)

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DIY Railroad

What do you do when you have a railroad track but no trains? You build them yourself, of course.

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Sierra Ry. train porn

Here’s a few pictures I took out behind the roundhouse at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.  (click to embiggen)

 

An old Shay is awaiting restoration. This type of locomotive uses gears instead of rods to drive the wheels. Speed was low, but pulling power was much higher than conventional steam locomotives.

 

Here’s the other side of the same locomotive. This angle is not as interesting visually, and very few historic photographs of Shays  show this side.

Underneath an awning they’ve got an old narrow gauge boxcar saved from the Yosemite Short Line. Sadly, there are no plans at present to restore this historic little gem. I’d really hate to see this car just rot away.

 

Most of the equipment at Railtown appears to be in need of a little work (some more than others), but #3 is fully restored and running. It takes passengers on a short but enjoyable ride through some beautiful foothill country.

There has been some concern that Railtown might have to close because of state budget cuts. I urge anybody who likes old trains to get out there and ride this one and help them continue to operate.

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