In a blog that I posted a few months back I talked about the time when my interest in trains started. Not long after, I bought my first copy of Model Railroader. It was the September 1994 issue and it, more than any other issue inspired and molded me into the modeler that I am today.
On the cover was a photo of Michael Tylick's O scale Pioneer Valley. A layout that I love so much, but this blog is about another. Further in was an article by Bruce Chubb on his Sunset Valley railroad that shook the infant foundations of my model railroading interest. I spent many hours re-reading the article and studying every detail in the photos. The scene that hooked me more than any other was his passenger station that was built over the tracks. So much of what I saw still influences my modeling today.
18 years later at the 2012 National Train Show in Grand Rapids Michigan, I was invited to a layout tour of the Sunset Valley. It was amazing to see in-person the layout that inspired me so much. Then something special happened... I somehow ended up with a throttle in my hand. I was given the opportunity to run a passenger train across the layout and make a station stop at the location that inspired me so much. Fortunately a friend of mine took a photo of this moment.
This month, Model Railroader releases their 1000th issue. Congratulations on this milestone and thank you for the inspiration you gave me starting with this issue and from so many others after.
A 'cachet' is a quality that distinguishes something as unique, and it connotes a state of superiority.
A "railfan's cachet" is a quality that distinguishes something as unique, and it also connotes a state of superiority--but only from the point of view of the trackside enthusiast. Everyone else regards this same thing with a state of total aversion.
Okay... so I may have just made that up... But, it kind of describes our world, doesn't it? The things that are attractive to railfans are often the very same things that others view with antipathy.
Take for example Utah Railway's (UTR) roster of Alco locomotives. No career railroader would claim that, by the late 1970s, the UTR fleet of RSD-4 and 5s was a mark of superior distinction among railroads. No, they were derided by crews for what they were: second-hand, temperamental, smokey and old. And, the railroad operated them well beyond its peers--up until 1982. But of course, for railfans, the Alco fleet was Utah Railway's cachet--it was a railfan's cachet.
Watch the video below. It is probably worth it.
Yet, we have a remarkable inability to appreciate change except from the point of view of great distance. For example, in the year of my birth, nine railroads operated within an hour of Utah’s Wasatch front. Today, there are three. It goes without saying that there is a tremendous difference between then and today, and it is easy to point to how things are different. But, it is more difficult to point to how things are different from six months ago. It seems as though our minds are very imprecise for dealing with change in real time.
It is rare when one has the clarity to see change as it happens in the now--recognition that, at this very moment, the earth upon which you stand is shifting. This week, I had that moment when the Utah Railway operated its last coal train over Soldier Summit. This move was the end of a 105 year service record.
105 years... Let that sink in.
In 1912, the Utah Railway was chartered to carry coal from Utah mines to points of interchange with the Union Pacific and Rio Grande. For decades, the labor of moving coal over Soldier Summit was almost the railroad's exclusive task. Today, the railroad is in a state of transition. It is an emergent bridge carrier, and this is good. It will keep the railroad operating into the future.
But, it is not the same. And while I watched the crew cut-out six mid-train helpers, I knew that tomorrow was going to be different. Somehow, tomorrow already feels different.
ExactRail will be attending the Amherst Railway Society (ARS) Railroad Hobby Show in Springfield, MA! On January 28 and 29th, visit us at space 39 in the Better Living Center building of the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds. Come see what is new and let us know what you would like to see in the future!
The ARS Railroad Hobby Show is America's largest model train show. There are over 360,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space. Furthermore, ARS gets our applause for being socially conscious organization. It has donated over $750k to deserving, non-profit groups. By attending the Railroad Hobby Show, you are supporting a good cause.
We looking forward to seeing you there!
May all of your signals be green!
We have a friend who visits our offices from time to time, and my blog about the Tintic branch gave him cause to reminisce about being young and living near the branch. One of the signature features of the line is 120’ trestle where the Tintic branch crosses Union Pacific’s Sharp sub. One afternoon in the early 1960s, he and some friends were passing time at the bridge. There was a flange greaser at this location, and nearby, there were buckets of grease. The doldrums of summer demand creative invention, and in time, aimlessness turned to a balancing competition. The challenge was to step into the grease and see who could walk the furthest along the rail. The summer day was long, and untold minutes were spent as the young kids tried again and again to outdo each other.
At this time, Union Pacific operated heavy, iron ore trains from Iron Mountain, Utah (in the southwestern corner of the state) to Geneva Steel and Ironton near Provo, Utah—a distance of about 230 miles. Typically, these trains were powered by SD7s, and, due to their weight, they were long, slow moving drags. When the headlight of the day’s train came into view, the young boys stepped from the rail and eagerly awaited its passing—the thought of the greased rail already long absent from the fickle consciousness of youth.
The grade is uphill. Of course, when the train reached the section of rail greased with a thousand footsteps, it spun to a halt. And of course, the conductor sees from his window the toothless smiles of the feckless summer vagabonds of perfidious toil. Their soiled shoes and pant legs leave no doubt as to who perpetuated the crime, notwithstanding their friendly grins. According to my friend telling the story, the conductor had “a come apart”—meaning he emerged from the cab and, with a violent slur of words, commanded the attention of each one of those young boys.
In the Utah desert, anthills can be large. Our friend recalled with a memory reinforced from a dozen stinging ant bites how the conductor marshaled the boys to use the anthills to sand the rails. Imagine what that looked like: four or five young kids dancing around, swatting ants, and pouring sand atop the rails underneath a massive iron ore train from cups and little pieces of tin they found scattered about. Meanwhile, the conductor stood from behind, a twinkle of schadenfreude in his eyes, while the day’s wrongs were made right. It is almost a Norman Rockwell painting, right?
God bless the railroads.
We have in our portfolio of freight cars molds a car that, as of the this post, remains unannounced and unreleased. This car presents a challenge for us. We have the molds, but we lack a well developed data package for the creation in accurate paint schemes.
At this point, we feel like we need to broaden our search for data.
ExactRail is producing the Berwick 7440 Boxcar. For Penn Central fans, this is the X77.
This is not an announcement. It is more like an attempt to part the curtain and crowd-source information. If you have any pictures, paint diagrams, or other information with this car, please feel free to share it with me directly at:
We hope to make this an actual announcement sometime during the 2017 year.
From as long as I can remember I have been interested in most modes of transportation. When I was a child I would count all of the 18-wheelers between my home and the eventual destination. The few times I went to the airport I was entranced by the huge airliners. Trains were just as interesting to me trucks, planes & ships but it wasn't until the summer of 1994 that it changed for me.
My Dad wanted to take me out on a camping/fishing trip with just the two of us. We loaded up the Dodge and left the rest of the family behind. After driving for about an hour and half we stopped and pitched the tent at Scofield Reservoir in Utah. Once camp was setup, I tried to do a little fishing but the day was hot for anything to bother being caught. While attempting to fish I could hear a rumbling in the distance. Not long after, a long train of hoppers appeared and slowly rumbled by. While this wasn't the first train I had ever seen, it was one of the first that I had just sat and drank in the whole thing. Something was different now, a switch flipped in my head and I wanted to know more.
James Belmont photo showing a coal train in 1989. Area where I camped was not far from here.
About four hours later I was in the tent working on going to sleep and I could hear a familiar rumble in the distance. I hopped out of my sleeping bag and unzipped the tent to try to see the train go by. Unfortunately it was dark and the tracks were about a 1/4 of a mile away but I could see the headlight illuminating the tracks ahead. Although I couldn't see it, I still looked in the direction of the train and listened to the sounds disturbing the warm summer night.
The next morning another train went by. After breakfast and another failed attempt at fishing, my dad and I decided to drive around and explore the area. We first explored the near by town of Scofield and then moved up to the semi-ghost town, Clear Creek. Fortunately the railroad tracks paralleled the road to Clear Creek and just before arriving to the town we came across the coal train that had passed by this morning. It was moving slowly under a flood loader being loaded with coal. Later in the day we found a different place to camp where the fishing was better but there were no trains to watch.
After getting home I was hooked. I picked up my first issue of Model Railroader (September 1994) and I drank in everything I could. This is a wonderful hobby that has impacted my life in many ways. Without this one camping trip my life would be very different today. I wouldn't be working where I am and most of the friends I have now would only be strangers. I am thankful for what it has brought me and look forward to where it will take me.
On the Thursday following our blog Rio Grande's Incredible Tintic Branch, I met some friends for lunch. One individual from this group owns a construction company that specializes in highway bridge construction. An issue which affronts his business is that the aggregate supply in the Salt Lake valley is diminishing. He was pleased to identify new sources for material in the Tintic/Goshen region of Utah, an area about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.
As we spoke, he told me about an idea to mine aggregate near the old Rio Grande Tintic Branch, build or acquire a railroad siding in the area, and then use the railroad to ferry cars to a trans-load facility that he would construct in the Salt Lake valley. However, a few days before we met for lunch, Union Pacific informed him that the rail line was dismantled by vandals, and that there was no actual connection to that area. For today, a rail link to the area was dead.
For me, this was an interesting touchpoint given the blog I had just written. The timing was so uncanny, and it seemed appropriate to follow up here. In so doing, one may be tempted to make the ostensible point that vandalism has real effects. It affects enterprise, the community and romantics (like myself) who like old things. But I think that it is more important to drill down further to illustrate the more trenchant point: the people who vandalized the branch are real buttheads. That was the point of my last blog, and I am sticking with it.
The truth of the matter is likely that my friend's project probably would not have developed further anyway. It is doubtful that the operation would have generated enough car loadings to justify rehabilitating the line. In recent years, the LDS church attempted to find an agreement with the railroad whereby it would ship 300 car loads annually from a LDS-owned grain elevator in this same area. The outcome was that this volume was insufficient.
And so rail traffic on this line of the old Rio Grande remains a memory, and it just may stay that way a little while longer.
The photo above is from James Belmont, a remarkably talented photographer who documents railroads in Utah. In 1998, Belmont, Blair Kooistra and Dave Gayer published a book entitled Crossroads of the West, A Photographic Look at Fifty Years of Railroading in Utah.
It was a dark and stormy night...
Or, some people are real buttheads...
Given the intrigue to the story to follow, the start of this blog could begin either way:
Often overlooked, the Denver & Rio Grande Western's Tintic/Goshen Valley Branch gets my vote for being among the more interesting locales for the 1980's-era Rio Grande. The branch has an aesthetic that is truly anachronistic to the present. It consists of a shallow right-of-way through marsh and fields and over mountain grades. It meanders from one canyon wall to another with an inefficiency that has long been lost from contemporary railroads.
The branch is currently in disuse. However, opportunistic businesses tease ventures that would reopen the line, and as such, the branch is a coquette to Utah-area rail fans. Local enthusiasts hope for the slow moving trains to return to the pile trestles and operate past the old mine load-outs. And one day, it could happen. There is still rail on those old wooden ties.
Enter the buttheads:
In an article published by KSL on August 31, 2016, two local buttheads, Alan Dean McKee and Gary Anderson, employed a local contractor to scrap the Tintic branch. The problem is, McKee and Anderson do not own the line, and they acted without the permission of Union Pacific Railroad. It is speculated that McKee and Anderson did so to pay the legal fees for a lawsuit in which they "impersonat[ed] high-ranking officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to legitimize" a project for which they were seeking investment capital.
To read the full article, please click here.
Seven miles of track were removed before Union Pacific Police Department and Utah County Sheriff's Office intervened. Now, any chance that D&RGW's Tintic Branch would reopen is probably a little further away.