P&LE Commuter Train Last Run

P&LE Commuter Train Last Run

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a lot of people traveled by train to and from work every day.  It still happens in some cities here in the US as it has for years.  In some cities, our local leaders have perhaps decided that the trains weren’t so bad after all.  They’re spending exorbitant amounts of our money to put them back right where they used to be before!  Progress is sometimes strange, but I digress.

By 1985, Pittsburgh PA was down to two commuter train services.

The PATrain was operated by Port Authority Transit.  It served the Monongahela and Youghiogheny River Valleys between the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station at 12 Grant Street in Pittsburgh and the terminus at Versailles, PA.  (You had to learn to pronounce some funky street and place names in Pittsburgh!)

The other nameless service was operated by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad.  It ran between its’ headquarters at Station Square on Smithfield Street and College, PA.  The P&LE commuter train followed the Ohio and Beaver Rivers on its’ route.

The former Pennsylvania Railroad commuter trains that served the Pittsburgh area in river valleys and over and through the hills were all gone in the 1960’s.

The last run of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad's commuter train from Pittsburgh arrives at the end of its' run in College, PA. July 12, 1985

The last run of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad’s commuter train from Pittsburgh arrives at the end of its’ run in College, PA.   July 12, 1985.

There were no bands or gala events at College to greet Train 261’s last run.  There were a few reporters, some families to greet the riders, and some active and retired railroaders.

A train of empty coal cars headed south to the mines for another load to feed a steel mill or power plant crept by to break up the voices of the crowd.  As the train passed and the quiet singing of the welded rail went silent, the crowd dispersed.  A few stayed to watch the 1501 run around her train and prepare for the deadhead run back to the shops at McKees Rocks.

And then, with two short horn blasts, the 1501 headed south.  Quiet returned to College as an era ended.

It was by no means a fancy train, but it was dependable point to point transportation for many.  But the many were not enough in the eyes of those funding the train.  While it may not seem like it, lives were altered by the loss of the train.  What was once a bearable commute became less so.  Some were left to ponder the balance of a bucolic existence in the river valleys and a job in Pittsburgh.  I don’t remember thinking about that then.  I didn’t appreciate it until I became a semi-regular city commuter and found myself taking the train every chance I could.  In my present job, I can’t feasibly take the train or any other form of public transportation.  I wish I could.  Instead, I get a sore butt like millions of others.  But I am digressing again.

Join me in a look back at the last run of the P&LE Commuter Train.  It’s easy – just click here.

Don’t forget to visit Laughing Frog Images – it’s never to early to start shopping for the holidays!

 

 

The Canadian / le Canadien Gallery

The Canadian / le Canadian.

Sacred words to some.

For me, they’ve been on my Bucket List for most of my life.

I first saw the Budd stainless steel cars of The Canadian in Toronto in the late 1970’s.  Nothing against Amtrak, whose fleet was also largely stainless steel at the time, but The Canadian’s cars looked different.  Polished.  Cleaned.  Loved?

A Park car (that’s the dome-observation-lounge car at the end of the train in the image below) being switched is an image that was etched in my mind – no, maybe stamped, and the desire to take The Canadian across Canada was imprinted.

VIA Rail Canada Train #1, The Canadian / le Canadien, east of Oba, ON.

VIA Rail Canada Train #1, The Canadian / le Canadien, east of Oba, ON.

Fast forward about 35 years or so, and the time and elements finally came together to make it happen.

As VIA Rail Canada Train #1 The Canadian pulled out of Toronto Union Station, the train silently began to move at 2200h on the dot.  I was in the Park car with Mrs. Frog, and it was finally happening!

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters, and every train trip is a journey unto itself.  This was no exception.

From the fine (yes, fine) food to the 1954 vintage Budd stainless steel equipment, from the friendly and professional train crew to the stories and the conversations of and with our fellow travelers, it was a journey.

Many “top train trip” lists put The Canadian in the Top 10 – and I found no reason to dispute that.

Waking in Capreol, ON the first morning, it was -2 degrees F – and we were snug as bugs in a rug.

At one dinner seating, I agonized over the choice I had to make – veal chop, pan roasted duck, or fresh trout.  There was a vegan option – but that wasn’t a choice!

The image above was taken from the Skyline dome at the front of the train for coach passengers – as a matter of fact, it was the 8500 – the first Skyline.  Try finding a view like that in coach on a 737!  The Park car brings up the rear.  Either car is perhaps the best way to travel – at least in the Frog’s eyes.

And the people…  A couple from Australia.  A couple from Scotland.  Honeymooners from the UK.  People traveling for business, family visits, vacations, and necessity, as The Canadian serves many remote towns along her journey.  A lawyer.  A writer.  Active railroaders.  Retired railroaders.  A family with their young daughter on their first train trip (she was so cute looking out the window hoping to see a bear as we left Jasper).  Those on their first train trip.  Those with more than 20 trips on The Canadian.  Conversations in the dome and lounge about life, perspectives, world views, and, commonly (for better or worse) – the U.S. Presidential campaign.  It’s the journey…

The snow and ice covered lakes and rivers in northern Ontario gave way to the fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which gave way to the Rockies and then the canyons of British Columbia.  And then, we backed in to Pacific Station toward the modern skyline of Vancouver.  It’s the journey…

As I sit here and review this post, I’ve wrestled with not going off on this tangent or that tangent and ending up with a 1000 word post.

There’s so much that could be written, whether inspired by the beauty of a scene, something learned in or inspired by a conversation, releasing the inner train geek and talking about the train, or musing about what life would be like in a quiet small town somewhere along the line.

I may revisit bits and pieces over time.  But, for now, I’m going to let you check out The Canadian / le Canadien gallery, and see some of what we saw along the way.

If you find inspiration to make the journey as a result of this gallery, or anything I’ve written – don’t wait too long.  Unfortunately, The Canadian, and VIA Rail Canada itself, exists to a great extent at the mercy of the politicians – much like Amtrak here in the U.S.  Logic and politics are often mutually exclusive, and much of Canada’s rail passenger system has been gutted in the last 26 years.  Every year, there are new worries about The Canadian, and this year is no different.

N&W 1218

On August 18, 1987, there was a passenger excursion from Bellevue, OH to Columbus, OH and return behind Norfolk and Western Class A 1218.

The train traveled on the Norfolk and Western mainline between the Lake Erie docks at Sundusky, OH and Columbus, OH.

This was the largest steam engine I had ever seen in service, and was the first and last time I saw 1218 run. She hasn’t run in years, and may never run again.  You can click here to learn more about N&W 1218.  She’s currently at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, VA not far from her birthplace.

Chasing a steam excursion on the flatlands of west-central Ohio is much different than chasing a steam excursion in Western Pennsylvania. Let’s just say that the hills and curves make this a lot easier to do on Sand Patch, the Wheeling Pike, and Sand Patch!

You’ll note that this was another gray sky day. The more that I scan, the more it seems like Mr. Blue Sky had most of the same days off that I did in the 1980’s.

In deference to the gray skies, most of this gallery has been replicated in black and white. It’s more complimentary to the gray sky, and steam locomotives in general. The black and white emulates Kodak’s Panatomic X film. It was so gray this day that I shot the originals on Kodachrome 200 slide film.

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The Mail Pouch Barn at Attica Junction appeared in many photographs in the 1950’s, as this line was originally owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and it was one of the last bastions of Pennsy steam. Things had grown in somewhat since the 1950’s – probably because there was no ash and related “stuff” from steam engines to kill the vegetation – so it was it a very tight shot in 1987, and not at all what I’d hoped for.  I checked Google Earth before finishing this post, and not surprisingly, the barn is gone.

None of these shots are in my honest opinion going to grace a wall in large format, but they’re more than suitable for a mug, water bottle, or small print – and for your enjoyment.

Enjoy a look at N&W 1218 in the N&W 1218, Bellevue to Columbus gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

 

C&O 614, Akron to Pittsburgh

On June 28, 1981, the Chessie Safety Express pulled by C&O 614 made a round trip from Akron, OH to Pittsburgh, PA via the Baltimore and Ohio main line.

I didn’t realize how harsh the lighting was for many of these images until I started to work on them. The gray sky for most of the day wasn’t helping things either.

I’m going to guess that when you’re fairly young, still learning photography by trial and error, and excited to be photographing a steam engine running at track speed, you tend to overlook things like sun angles and shadows.  Just a guess…

So, this became a black and white gallery for the most part. The black and whites mimic the profile for Kodak Panatomic X film.  And, there’s nothing wrong with images of a steam engine in black and white.  Some would argue that it’s only right and proper.

As I put the gallery together, it hit me that this isn’t just a train gallery, it’s also a history gallery, as much has changed and much is gone in 35 years.

JO Tower in Akron is gone. The tracks to the left of the train at JO are the former Erie / Erie Lackawanna mainline to Chicago. I believe they’re gone now.

At Edinburg, you can see the four-track signal bridge of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie spanning the two remaining tracks. Centralized Traffic Control made the other two redundant. The downfall of the domestic steel industry later made the P&LE itself redundant.

At Eidenau, you’ll see that the block signal is sitting in the middle of the former eastbound mainline. CTC had just been installed on the Pittsburgh and Western Subdivision.

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The station at Bakerstown wasn’t long for the world at that point in time. Bakerstown Hill was a pain to the B&O – heavy trains in either direction (particularly westbound freight trains out of Glenwood Yard) required helpers. The P&W is now split between the Allegheny Valley Railroad and the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad.

C&O 614 hasn’t turned a wheel in a while.

A look back?  Memories?  Times past?  History…

You can visit the C&O 614 Akron to Pittsburgh gallery on Laughing Frog Images by clicking here.

There are a couple more C&O 614 galleries to come in time for you to order for the holidays, and they include perhaps my favorite images of her.

Getting any gift ideas yet?

C&O 614, Pittsburgh to Rockwood

On September 27, 1980 C&O 614 powered a public passenger excursion from B&O’s Grant Street Station in Pittsburgh, PA to Rockwood, PA and return via the mainline of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  As I recall, a seat in an open window coach car was about $36, cinders included!

It was steam!  I was able to borrow the car (a 1978 Volkswagen Dasher station wagon with a 4-speed manual that did a fantastic job in the hills along the B&O), and I was the chauffeur for friends from New York and Ohio.  This was a Saturday trip – Sunday would bring a trip over the Wheeling Pike to New Martinsville, WV.  Of course, there was a Vinnie Pie to be had in between (that’s another post in itself).   Quite the weekend indeed!

This excursion was part of the Chessie System’s Safety Express trips, and the cars were staffed by volunteers from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and the Pittsburgh Transportation Museum Society.  In a couple of years, I was no longer photographing many of these trips as I was working on the train as a volunteer.

The original images were made on Kodachrome 64 slide film. I was still in my formative days, and some have been rescued by virtue of modern technology and onOne Perfect Photo Suite.  As I’ve been scanning and processing, it has occurred to me that my exposures were either dead-on.  Or not.  Not much in between!  Overall, the Kodachromes have held up marvelously.  Many of the color news films you’ve seen from the 1940’s and 1950’s were shot on Kodachrome movie film.  They’re 35 years old, and still have that Kodachrome smell.  (Somewhere out there, some of you are smiling and nodding your head in agreement!)

Being a steam engine and all, I also created some black and white images in Perfect Photo Suite that emulate the profile of Kodak Panatomic X film.  Some folks prefer their steam in black and white, so I’m trying to accommodate those folks as well.  And, some images of steam are simply timeless in black and white.

That said, I couldn’t resist removing the Exxon sign from one of the images at CF Tower…  I’m not one to modify images beyond exposure and color corrections – but I simply couldn’t resist in this case.  The tower with its’ shingle siding spoke of an earlier time.  The steam engine spoke of an earlier time.  And that Exxon sign – yes, it gave a time perspective to the picture, but it also was just begging to be removed for a view of what things were once like in the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains.

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C&O 614 never operated here in regular service – she stayed on the Chesapeake and Ohio rails to the south – but it’s the scene that allows one to drift back in time.  For some it’s a memory, and for others it’s a state of imaging what it would have been like to grow up with steam engines.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the series at CF Tower almost weren’t – look at where the cloud shadow is!  We were sweating it out, and every possible finger and appendage was crossed as we heard the 614 whistling her way east through the Narrows.  As she got closer, we could hear her working against the grade.  And we looked at the cloud.  And the sun.  And the shadow.

And, it all worked out…

You may notice that I didn’t crop all of the images – I left them as scanned so that you can determine the most appropriate crop for what you’d like to do with the image.  I don’t want to be “the decider” of how you get to enjoy an image.  You can crop the image however you want to make it yours on the product you want – and through December 15, you can do that for 25% off!

On a somber note, CF Tower was destroyed in a derailment in 1987 that also killed the Operator.  I watched many a train from that tower…  RIP Mr. Leonberger.

If you’d like to learn more about C&O 614, click here www.co614.com.  Yes, she has her own website.  Thank you Ross Rowland!

Thanks for looking!

30th Street’s Solari Board

The Solari board is an interesting creature.

They’re a form of display board that I most closely associated with railway stations before I started to research them.  One of the more known Solari boards was at Grand Central Station in New York City.  The first time I remember seeing a Solari board was in an old black and white movie that had a scene in a railway station.  No, I don’t remember the movie… just the board updating.

Compared to a digital display, a Soalri board has a personality and some intrigue about it.

How is that possible?

Well, check this out Solari board updating itself and tell me if there’s personality and intrigue in a Solari board compared to a LCD or LED display!

Sorry for the wiggle – this is hand held video taken of the Solari board at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.  Yes, I know, I preach tripod use… but sometimes, you just can’t travel with a tripod…

Why do I say it has personality?

Well, it has sound and action.  It doesn’t flicker – it’s very straightforward and direct.  It’s not like looking at a television or computer display to be told where to go or when to be there.

Why do I say it has intrigue?

Well, it’s like a carnival or casino game in that you don’t know what it’s going to say until it stops and is silent.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, there are exactly eight (8) Solari boards left in the U.S.  You can learn more about Solari boards, which are covered on Wikipedia in an entry called “Split-flap display” by clicking here.

This video is also posted on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube Channel.

The original video was shot in 4K format on a Lumia Icon.  It has been downsampled and reformatted for posting on YouTube.

Amtrak Gallery updated!

You might has well have figured that this was coming given the recent videos and NJT gallery update!

There were some firsts in my brief time on the platform waiting for my train.  Besides the NJT ALP-45DP, I saw and photographed my first Amtrak ACS-64 locomotives.

There was probably two  “lasts” that day as well – my final video and still images of Amtrak’s AEM-7 locomotives.  As the ACS-64s arrive, the AEM-7s are being put out to pasture.

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In the above photo, we see Amtrak’s Siemens ACS-64 pulling a northbound into the station as a Bombardier ALP-45a pushes a NJT train south.  If those names don’t sound familiar to you, or sound”foreign”, there’s a reason.  These locomotives are based on European locomotive designs, as there isn’t a sufficient market (or cohesive transportation policy) here in the States for the domestic manufacturers to create and maintain an off-the shelf domestic locomotive design.

Fittingly, at least to me, was that my southbound Northeast Regional Train was pulled by AEM-7 917.  As she drifted into the station, there was still enough sun left to capture her in pixels, and that image is in the Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor Gallery on Laughing Frog Images.  In all likelihood, that was my last ride behind an AEM-7.  Despite being over 30 years old, she was earning her keep that day, and I clocked her over the century mark (100 m.p.h.) more than once on my journey.

Amtrak donated AEM-7 to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, so they won’t go the way of Alco’s C-628 and numerous steam and electric locomotives that either live on in recycled metals or are forever gone.

Amtrak is betting that the Siemens ACS-64 will be around for a while, unlike the HHP-8 locomotives from Bombardier / Alstom that were 15 years old and are being replaced along with the AEM-7s.  The Amtrak HHP-8s never quite lived up to their expectations or potential.  Time will tell…

For the curious, all of the new images started as a .dng file from my Icon smartphone.

Thanks for looking!  And think about what a cool coffee cup this picture would make for you or the railroad enthusiast that you know…  If this one doesn’t catch your fancy, there’s more in the Frog’s galleries!

NJT gallery updated

As you might have noticed, there’s some new “stuff” from New Jersey popping up on Laughing Frog Images.  I’m still processing and sorting out the vacation photos, and this little run of NJT and Amtrak is what you might look at as “low hanging fruit.”  The day job has been really busy of late, so I’m making do with what I’ve got to work with.

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I managed to catch NJT ALP-46A electric locomotives (4600 series numbers) and ALP-45DP dual mode diesel and electric locomotives (4500 series numbers) in some sweet late day sunlight, which has given me the chance to add to the NJT Gallery on Laughing Frog Images.

I haven’t been a good student of the NJT fleet, and when I saw the first 4500 roll by – I noticed that it only had one cab.  Of course, that happened while a cloud was stealing my sun, so that shot didn’t make it to the gallery.  I was starting to watch the clock, as the time for my train was drawing near.  And I saw an ALP-46A.  And then another one.  And then – you guessed it, another one.  And the clock kept ticking…  The last train before mine was headed up by a 4500, and that image did make the gallery.

When I had some time to research the 4500s, below is what I found on the Bombardier website (the link follows as well if you want to look at some of the technical information that’s posted).

Dual power for all lines

New Jersey and Montréal: Two metropolitan regions, similar challenges. Only a few electrified tracks for passenger transport are integrated in a well-utilised freight transportation network with diesel traction: a heterogeneous infrastructure that often forces passengers to change trains.

To overcome such system limits and to markedly increase travelling comfort, both NJT and the Canadian Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) utilise Bombardier’sALP-45DP. This modular locomotive combines the technology used in the bogies, the locomotive body and the propulsion of the ALP-46A. However, two further diesel engines are also integrated. Because the DP locomotive is used in push-pull operation with double-deck coaches, it also has a pantograph and driver’s cab.

http://www.bombardier.com/en/transportation/products-services/rail-vehicles/locomotives/alp.html

So, while it was a brief wait at EWR for my train, it was an interesting one, as I managed to catch a new locomotive that quite frankly, I wasn’t even aware of!

Thanks for looking!  Enjoy this brief look at how many folks in Jersey travel every work day.  It has to be better than I-10 in Los Angeles County….

 

45 Seconds at EWR Station

One of the nice things about waiting to see a train at the NJT / Amtrak Newark International Airport Station is that you’re generally going to see trains, especially if you’re waiting during rush hour.

Occasionally, you’ll see multiple trains at once – I’ve been able to capture three trains at once in a still image.  Not a great still image mind you, or else I’d be posting and talking about that, but I’ve done it.  There are times where it’s a busy 45 seconds at Newark.  And there are times it all comes together.

So there I was with my trusty Icon, and a southbound Amtrak Acela was coming through.  So, I set up for it and started the video before the train entered the viewfinder.  There’s a neat thing that happens in advance of a fast moving train on continuous welded rail – the rails start to “sing” before the train gets there.  As I set up at a bit of an angle to the tracks, if you turn the volume up – you can hear this before you see the train.  It’s pretty neat.  I’m sure that there’s a technical explanation and term for this phenomenon, but I’m going to go with singing…

 

And the Acela slides on through the station.  Then, I hear another train behind me – I have no idea what it is or what track it’s on, and I can’t turn around without really screwing up this hand-held video.  So, I try to stay still and just keep the video rolling.  I let it roll until the northbound Amtrak is out of view.  Until 45 seconds at Newark are memorialized.

An Amtrak local comes into view, cab car first.  Ok, that works!  And then, in the golden light of late afternoon, I hear the “psst”s (yeah, I know that’s not a word, but I don’t know how else to try to phonetically describe the sound) of the locomotive – and I still can’t turn around to see it.  And then, an AEM-7 in push mode glides by me.

And I’m happy, because I finally got a great video clip of an AEM-7 in sweet light!  You see, the AEM-7’s are being replaced after 30+ years, and I don’t get an opportunity to see them very often, let alone get a video in sweet light.  For all I know, this is the last time I’ll get an AEM-7 on video.  So, it was a good day.

One day, I might even find that miracle tripod that you can take with you on a whirlwind transcontinental business trip.

In the meantime, enjoy, hand-held and all!

 

 

Gone in 8 Seconds…

While waiting for my train at the Newark (NJ) International Airport Station on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, I pulled out my trusty Nokia Icon and made some images and videos.

As this was a business trip, I wasn’t traveling with a tripod.  So, the pictures are fine, and the videos… well, a couple of them turned out well enough to share on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube Channel simply because they’re a little different.

Here’s the first one – Gone in 8 Seconds.

Why “Gone in 8 Seconds”?

Well, I had something different in mind when I shot this New Jersey Transit (NJT) train that’s carrying people home (or somewhere else) from Manhattan.

There are a lot of train videos out there that hold one camera position and allow you to see the entire train as it comes by.  They’re usually a 3/4 angle view parallel to the tracks.  And, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I looked to my left, and noticed the same guy was still sitting in the same seat waiting for his train.  He’d look up when a train came by, but he wouldn’t turn his head, and his view was almost perpendicular to the tracks.  So, the creative part of me said “hey – maybe there’s a different view that would make a different sort of video…”

When I saw the train coming, I framed up my shot and hit record when I could hear the train (not as simple as you think – they’re electric, and pretty quiet).  My goal was to replicate his view – look at the train from a hard angle and watch it blow by the camera.  Which it did.  In about 8 seconds.

So, in case you ever wondered what it would be like to be sitting on a bench at the Newark International Airport train station and watch a train blow by you in about eight seconds, you now know what that’s like.

You’re welcome!

Enjoy, and thanks for looking!