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When I was a young boy growing up in West Linn, Oregon, one of our favorite activities was to visit the small railroad yard in Oswego. We would ride our bikes to the tracks and hide them in the bushes. We then wandered through the yard collecting spikes and other discarded railroad paraphernalia. Always in the back of our minds was the fear of being arrested by the old watchman who patrolled the yards. The possibility of being thrown in jail for trespassing added to the adrenaline rush we got as we walked between the cars, watching for moving trains and the watchman. Almost always he would detect our presence and then it would be a race for our lives as we tried to out wit him and escape back to our bicycles.

Another thought sent a cold chill running through my veins every time we arrived at the rail yard. My best friend always told me the story of a friend of a friend of a friend of his and his buddy’s horrible demise at this very rail yard several years before. Being young, impressionable and very naïve, I believed every word of his story. The story went like this: The two boys were wandering through the yard when a sudden gust of wind blew his buddy’s had off his head. The hat came to rest between the rails and under the trucks of a box car. His buddy crawled under the car and was about to retrieve his hat when the car suddenly jolted forward pinching the skin of his abdomen between the rails and the wheel of the car. The boy screamed in agony. My friend’s buddy tried to extricate his friend from under the car but was unable to do it. In desperation he left his friend and ran towards the engine far down the track. As he did so, the train slowly started moving. The screaming of his friend reached a crescendo and then there was an eerie silence. His friend returned to the scene to find the severed legs of his buddy lying in a gory pool of blood.

This story always haunted me as we climbed between freight cars and ran across the tracks. Could such an accident happen to me? I shuddered at the very thought but the thrill of the rail yards was inescapable.

We would wander around for what seemed like hours making note of the various railroad logos we encountered. For me this was a great way to escape the uneventful life that beset me by imagining where these various freight cars had been and where they would go next. Sometimes we would count as many as twenty-five different railroads represented.

On the way home we often took a shortcut through the garbage pit and past the hobo camp. My parents warned me about the dangers of these pitiful men but their warnings only intensified the thrill of adventure we felt. We would find recent fires and occasionally huts built out of abandoned wood and debris from the garbage pit. Rarely we encountered an actual hobo which sent the fear of God through our veins as we ran as fast as we could.

Now we come to the present. Rail yards are no longer filled with a multitude of colorful box cars from railroads across the nation. Rarely are found flat cars with fascinating loads on them. We do not see many gondolas full of who knows what.

Today most freight yards are thick with security barriers preventing young boys from enjoying the adventure of risking life and limb walking through the yards. If we are able to enter what we do see are strings of grain cars all identical to each other. We see hundreds of flats carrying containers, most of which seem to have foreign names on them. We never see monstrous iron horses belching steam and smoke. We rarely see a caboose. How can a train be a train without a caboose?

So my point in all this boils down to the fact that trains have lost their interest for me. I could care less to see many modern trains. Give me the trains of the past. Give me Chama where a person can still walk among the engines of the past and smell the grease and smoke of those beautiful machines.

I wonder how many of you might feel the same way?
John
 

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All we had was a little passenger station and a siding in my hometown, but I still agree that trains are much less interesting these days. All they seem to pull is double-stack containers full of stuff made in China. There are so many of them that it's not economic to send them back, either. They just scrap them after one use.

Meanwhile, in Chama, there are real trains pulling real rolling stock. You get in your car and get bearing grease on your floormats. There's nothing else like it in the US. I agree with you completely!
 

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My only interest is Steam Locomotives and even at that it is a very narrow subset of wheel arrangements and profiles.

Garden railroading is just so that I can run my Live Steam Aster Mikes.


Rail-fanning (going to a Rail Yard near here and watching trains go by) is only to provide imagery to focus my thoughts on the events of my childhood that I now find so fascinating... namely, Steam Locomotives (and the one in particular that scared me airborne) and a place where a road entered a city, crossed several RR tracks and turned "BETWEEN" those and several more, to then make another turn a block later to cross the remaining tracks. We took that route when I was a kid to go visit Grandparents a few times per year. Passing down the middle of that small Rail Yard was fearful (I thought we might get caught there by passing trains at each road entrance and then... well, I never got past that fear to realize that the trains would pass and we could continue... but such is the course of fear in a child!).

That Rail Yard was busy... lots of (well.. 2 or 3... I do remember seeing 4 once) Steam Locomotives, hissing and steaming, either parked or pulling forward and backward with a few freight or passenger cars in tow, with several men on the ground with lanterns (we usually went through in the early evening twilight), throwing switches and signaling the Locomotives to move. The whole route took maybe 30 to 45 seconds to traverse, so I usually didn't really see much, but, I think due to the fearfulness of the place, the imagery is strong in my mind.

Now, when rail-fanning, it may be a Diesel passing by or switching a few nondescript cars, and it may be only one man on the ground and he may have a radio hanging from his orange Safety Vest, but I am SEEING several Steam Locomotives and a half dozen men throwing switches and using lanterns to signal the trains.


I don't think Rail Yards are any place for a child, EVER.. NOT when you and I was kids and NOT now. (Yes, I knew a kid that was chopped up by a train. I was not there and did not see it, but I knew him.)

BUT... I understand your feeling of loss that kids today are not having the experiences that will generate such pleasure when they are old.

How much pleasure will they get remembering scoring 100,000 in some video game on the TV or computer?
For those that do trespass into a Rail Yard... how much pleasure will they have remembering when they vandalized the cars there. Or how much reminiscing can you get from cutting the locks off the tank cars to steal the Anhydrous for making Meth?

But, quite frankly, considering the direction that morality is taking, I doubt if reminiscing when they are old will be of much value anyway.
 

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Like John I lost interest in the modern railroad scene. So, how do I maintain my interest.

I volunteer on a steam operated Heritage Railway which closely follows the steam railroad of my childhood and early years. I still have colorful boxcars and what I perceive to be interesting stock running around my backyard and as I have never seen them in reality my imagination can run riot.
 

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I feel much the same way. Unfortunately, I was born many decades too late to experience the steam locomotives and colorful, diverse boxcar fleet you describe. I've always had a fascination for railroads, which eventually led me to seek employment on one. Now I find that "modern" railroading has little appeal for me outside of work.. I see 1000 freight cars a day, so why would I want to go out seeking more on my time off? To maintain my interest and love for trains, I model the 1950s in HO scale and the 1870s in Fn3.
 

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When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's our town was serviced by ATSF, Rock Island, MoPac and UP; four depots in a town of 10,000! Now, BNSF and UP but UP rolls through at 60 mph! This may be why diesels never quite captured my attention the way steam did! Why steam? Oh.....it might have had something to do with vacationing out in Colorado visiting my father living in Golden. He was the steamaholic! Funny, it seems that his idea of showing us a good time was taking us over the state to ride steam engines! Even funnier, I seem to be following in his footsteps as each family vacation includes (if not highlights) a steam train excursion!
 

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My "cold chill" moment came when I was about three years old. I can remember it as vividly as though it had happened this morning.
My dad had stopped at the first set of tracks at a multi-track crossing to wait for a freight to pass. There were flashing lights, but no crossing gate. As soon as the train cleared the road, Dad started off. As we crossed the second set of tracks, I glanced to the left and saw a huge locomotive - steam of course - bearing down on us. It couldn't have been more than ten yards away. We made it across with no time to spare; the car shook from the vibration and wind.

My recollection is that neither of us said a word, but you can be certain that my dad - and later me - always waited for the flashing lights to stop before crossing tracks again!
 

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Well John I had a similar experience actually that I am going to bring up. Just like most people on here, I was obsessed with trains at a super young age. Fast-forwarding to 1999 when I got my job with the railroad, a rude awakening was coming to a young boy who still wanted to be an Engineer. "The Company" was much different in person than what it was in Trains and Railfan magazine. It went from being a railroad to being a business where if I wanted a job, I would do what they said, when they said it, yesterday. Upper management has no respect for someone trying to make a living on a lesser salary. It all boiled down to the almighty dollar and the magic of trains was dying for me. I didn't want to see trains, hear them, talk about them, acknowledge that they existed for a few years. But at the same time, every time I caught a train out of the corner of my eye I would turn to look.
Politics got in the way of what I loved and blinded who I was. I had to do alot of soul searching and face the facts on some things in order to separate the bad from the good. What worked for me was keeping in mind that the railroad has always been the same as far as management goes. The only difference is that now I know it is there. Railroads have always invented new ways to make more money and since railroading is a business it has always been that way. Even Big Boy was just a new avenue for the U.P. to make more money as they could cut several jobs off when they eliminated the helper service and got product to it's destination faster. Corporations are on the same basic level as people. They will do whatever it takes to survive and they will accumulate as much as they possibly can, far more than what they realistically need (greed), and won't give a dime to someone in need because those people should earn it themselves.

Politics seem to get in the way of everything, especially progress. Politics give us all a way to profile each other no matter what continent we live on. Each government has a different flag stuck in 'their' ground and advocates a certain set of standards, religion, and way of life. And most of the time this separates the fact that we are all people and so we say idiocies like "Them damn Chinese" etc. etc. etc. We can't help what way of life we were brainwashed, um, I mean taught in school, we just happened to have the stork drop us in that area. What I am getting at is that things are different now and they will continue to change until the end of time or the Earth, whichever happens first. But there are always good things to embrace in times of change.
Most people base the rest of their lives on their glory days, or when they were the most happy. A time when they had freedom at their fingertips and were most likely getting laid alot. A time when they had much less responsibility and their entire life was in front of them rather than behind them. Ahhhhh, now those were good times. That was an 'era'. An era of railroading that someone chose to base the rest of their life on. Whatever trains were in their life at that time are the ones they are going to demonstrate on their layout throughout their life. It will be that era or any time before that era, but not afterwards when their life became a rutt of work, marriage, responsibility, whatever. It was this same entity that overcame me just in a different way.

What worked for me was taking the politics completely out of trains. It wasn't the trains' fault that management treats me badly, or that I get treated like crap at work. {I have to be real careful here with what I say due to tarnishing a certain railroad's 'public image' and them lunging at the chance to fire me for it} I simply keep that certain railroad's trains and rolling stock off of my layout and out of my off-work time. One thing you can do John is to actually read up on a diesel locomotive that you hate. Learn about the good things that that locomotive accomplished. Learn of the struggles that EMD went through to make that engine better, stronger, and more fuel efficient. Learn about just how incredible the SD40-2 was and why. Buy an SD70MAC in a paint scheme of a railroad that you care nothing about. Watch it go around your layout with anguish, then after compliments from a few whipper-snappers with pride. You will learn to like your new purchase and it will cause you to do research on that locomotive, when it was purchased by that railroad, just how strong that locomotive really is (70MACs are damn strong locomotives), and when people ask you about it you will have all sorts of new info to tell them about it.

Change can be a good thing but it does take effort and therefore is something that not many people like. Our glory days are over, but our lives don't have to be. Do something different with your layout. Get away from narrow guage and try some new modern diesels or try some steam of a different railroad. Try modelling European trains or make a kitbash that noone has thought of. There are alot of things you can do to rejuvenate your love of trains, it just takes a little effort and reading. But that is what keeps you young is when you have to work for new things. I hope this eyesore helps you.

-Will
 

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Afterthoughts:

When you do buy that SD70MAC, take that young looking engineer out of it and put an old, grey-haired engineer with a hankerchief around his neck in it's place and glue an I-pod into his ears.
Also, put some figures of some young kids with drooping clothes and their butt cracks hanging out and a 50's looking woman as their mother with her hands on her hips looking at them in disapproval.
Put some overweight old man in a G-string on a street corner making suggestive gestures at cars containing people with shocked looks on their faces.
Put a dog on your layout dragging a small child around the yard by his pants leg.
Make Bush's oil refinery and put bush in Ranch clothes riding around the refinery on a horse checking up on his employees.
Make a Hilton hotel and a blonde girl out front getting arrested for parking violations.
Put a pond in with naked figures skinny dipping and call it the wet and wild nudist colony.
Put in a man in a business suit hiding in thorn bushes trying to catch railroad employees breaking rules so he can fire them.
When people visit your layout they will laugh hysterically. And when they laugh, you will find that you do to. Laughing will always keep things interesting.




-Will
 

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I must admit, I've never quite forgiven diesels for replacing steam... a silly, emotional, and illogical attitude I admit, but who ever said feelings are based in logic? ;)

As I've said before, stand next to a stopped, idling diesel. Basically, it just sits there smelling and sounding much like an idling semi truck. It's sheer size is impressive, and some are painted up quite nicely, but when you've seen one, you've essentially seen them all.


Now stand next to a stopped steam locomotive under fire that's perhaps taking on water or boarding passengers on its train. It's alive! It's breathing, coughing, wheezing, sweating, etc. Wisps of steam are curling about it from various and sundry places, and it's dripping water here and there. Suddenly the air pump kicks on with a loud knocking, and steam pump exhaust jets into the air. And there's that incredible smell like absolutely nothing else in the world! Like I said, it's alive!!
Romantic to be sure, but that does nothing to lessen the experience.

A few movie clips to illustrate my point...

Roaring Camp Heisler #2 arrives to exchange passengers and take on water[/b][/b]

Roaring Camp Heisler #2 departing station[/b][/b]

Roaring Camp Heisler #2 departing[/b][/b]

Roaring Camp 3-truck Shay #7 departing station[/b]
[/b]
 

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Thank God for history books and the tourist lines, if I had to rely only on the modern RRs forget it, I'd be stamp collecting or something.

We get 5 types of trains here, only 5

1. Unit trains, (coal, gravel, hoppers either way}

2. Double Stack container trains, lot less with the downturn.

3. Commuter Metrolink

4. Amtrack trains, which are almost the same thing as the Metrolinks

and 5. the traditional mixed freight, which are now fairly uncommon as everything is containerized.

All pulled by either an SD70, Dash 9, F59PH, or a Gennie...yawn.
 

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Posted By Dwight Ennis on 02/15/2009 12:01 PM
I must admit, I've never quite forgiven diesels for replacing steam... a silly, emotional, and illogical attitude I admit, but who ever said feelings are based in logic? ;)" src="http://www.mylargescale.com/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/wink.gif" align="absMiddle" border="0" />

As I've said before, stand next to a stopped, idling diesel. Basically, it just sits there smelling and sounding much like an idling semi truck. It's sheer size is impressive, and some are painted up quite nicely, but when you've seen one, you've essentially seen them all.


Now stand next to a stopped steam locomotive under fire that's perhaps taking on water or boarding passengers on its train. It's alive! It's breathing, coughing, wheezing, sweating, etc. Wisps of steam are curling about it from various and sundry places, and it's dripping water here and there. Suddenly the air pump kicks on with a loud knocking, and steam pump exhaust jets into the air. And there's that incredible smell like absolutely nothing else in the world! Like I said, it's alive!!
Romantic to be sure, but that does nothing to lessen the experience.

A few movie clips to illustrate my point...

Roaring Camp Heisler #2 arrives to exchange passengers and take on water[/b][/b]

Roaring Camp Heisler #2 departing station[/b][/b]

Roaring Camp Heisler #2 departing[/b][/b]

Roaring Camp 3-truck Shay #7 departing station[/b]
[/b]


Boy does this bring back memorys from the 50ths and 60ths... Tks Dwight. Question thro... Is that a Table top Garden R.R. r.on the last video??? Is it there now all of the time?? Noel
 

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Posted By jbwilcox on 02/14/2009 10:59 PM
When I was a young boy growing up in West Linn, Oregon, one of our favorite activities was to visit the small railroad yard in Oswego. We would ride our bikes to the tracks and hide them in the bushes. We then wandered through the yard collecting spikes and other discarded railroad paraphernalia. Always in the back of our minds was the fear of being arrested by the old watchman who patrolled the yards. The possibility of being thrown in jail for trespassing added to the adrenaline rush we got as we walked between the cars, watching for moving trains and the watchman. Almost always he would detect our presence and then it would be a race for our lives as we tried to out wit him and escape back to our bicycles.

Another thought sent a cold chill running through my veins every time we arrived at the rail yard. My best friend always told me the story of a friend of a friend of a friend of his and his buddy’s horrible demise at this very rail yard several years before. Being young, impressionable and very naïve, I believed every word of his story. The story went like this: The two boys were wandering through the yard when a sudden gust of wind blew his buddy’s had off his head. The hat came to rest between the rails and under the trucks of a box car. His buddy crawled under the car and was about to retrieve his hat when the car suddenly jolted forward pinching the skin of his abdomen between the rails and the wheel of the car. The boy screamed in agony. My friend’s buddy tried to extricate his friend from under the car but was unable to do it. In desperation he left his friend and ran towards the engine far down the track. As he did so, the train slowly started moving. The screaming of his friend reached a crescendo and then there was an eerie silence. His friend returned to the scene to find the severed legs of his buddy lying in a gory pool of blood.

This story always haunted me as we climbed between freight cars and ran across the tracks. Could such an accident happen to me? I shuddered at the very thought but the thrill of the rail yards was inescapable.

We would wander around for what seemed like hours making note of the various railroad logos we encountered. For me this was a great way to escape the uneventful life that beset me by imagining where these various freight cars had been and where they would go next. Sometimes we would count as many as twenty-five different railroads represented.

On the way home we often took a shortcut through the garbage pit and past the hobo camp. My parents warned me about the dangers of these pitiful men but their warnings only intensified the thrill of adventure we felt. We would find recent fires and occasionally huts built out of abandoned wood and debris from the garbage pit. Rarely we encountered an actual hobo which sent the fear of God through our veins as we ran as fast as we could.

Now we come to the present. Rail yards are no longer filled with a multitude of colorful box cars from railroads across the nation. Rarely are found flat cars with fascinating loads on them. We do not see many gondolas full of who knows what.

Today most freight yards are thick with security barriers preventing young boys from enjoying the adventure of risking life and limb walking through the yards. If we are able to enter what we do see are strings of grain cars all identical to each other. We see hundreds of flats carrying containers, most of which seem to have foreign names on them. We never see monstrous iron horses belching steam and smoke. We rarely see a caboose. How can a train be a train without a caboose?

So my point in all this boils down to the fact that trains have lost their interest for me. I could care less to see many modern trains. Give me the trains of the past. Give me Chama where a person can still walk among the engines of the past and smell the grease and smoke of those beautiful machines.

I wonder how many of you might feel the same way?
John



Remember it well.... AS kids in the 40ths we did the same thing during the war here is Sacramento, Ca. Sometime picked up stuff that our bikes had a hard time carrying back home... and If you got a flat tire, you were in bad shape.. My worst experience was we live on 55 st. and H during the war and early in the morning being SP Main tracks was only a block away, We hear a big boom. So we ( Dad and me ) went up to the track and down a 1/2 of a mile where a Cab forward enter a sidings on a curve and ran in to a set of Empty Ref. cars.
There was cars all over the place and the boiler blow up with pipes out the back end of it and in to the tender. Heard no one made it out.

It took 3 days to clean that mess up and from then on we never venture to the R. R. yards again. These Eng.'s were alive.. and can go boom.. To a 11 yr old, that sunk in..

But now days sure miss those old day steam.. And the crews we met as kids were very nice after an lecture on safety. Then would give us a ride in the caboose around the branch area switching. Boy to be young again... Sniff
tks for the post. Noel
 

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Define interesting.. the day I loose the feeling and the "rush" of seeing any train coming around the curve blowing its whistle at the grade crossing. I will have died.
 

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Dwight,

The first video you posted says it all. Absolutely fits the description you gave about steam engines being alive. I am old enough to have seen the cab-forwards come through the city of Glendale when I was a kid. Pulling PFE reefers. Also remember the cab-forwards in Dunsmuir, CA. I was probably about four or five when the Daylight would come through Glendale station after leaving Los Angeles Union Station, pulled by the likes of 4449. I remember being absolutely transfixed looking up into that massive firebox with the blinding glow and the sounds.......I'm sorry but diesels just don't come close. "Dis-easals" are just big machines-steam engines are living creatures.

Great videos of the steam at Roaring Camp. Thanks Dwight.
 

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I wouldn't say they're not interesting. Even I--a dedicated narrow gauger who was born 100 years too late (except for that whole indoor plumbing thing)--get a charge out of seeing the coal drags head up and down the front range. I grew up watching coal drags head down the Pope's Creek branch of what was then Conrail, led by GPs and SDs. As a kid growing up, my HO collection was full of late-era steam and first-generation diesels. I also had a collection of passenger trains from around the world. I had no real specific interest in any aspect of railroading--it was all fascinating. My interest in narrow gauge railroading was really first started when I entered large scale, because that's what LGB made--narrow gauge. I think that had Aristo and USA had their lines at that time, my large scale railroad would probably have resembled my HO stuff at the time--1st generation diesels, mikados, and pacifics.

I think my modeling interests were formed as much by aesthetics than anything else. I always admired N-scale railroads for how they allowed the "broad view" of railroading. A long coal drag worked in N-scale because the trains fit into the landscape. Large scale doesn't allow for that--at least unless you're blessed with half the state of Nebraska :). The railroad dad and I designed and built in the 80s was far more in tune with small trains typical of narrow gauge (which worked out, since at the time, narrow gauge prototypes were pretty much "it" in terms of choices).

When I stopped modeling HO, I just stuck with the narrow gauge side of things in large scale. Since then, it's just become such a fascinating history lesson and ongoing research project that I can't leave it alone. It's not that the other eras aren't interesting, but I've found a genre that fits my space and holds my attention.

Later,

K
 

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Interesting RRs still exist. Short lines today are everywhere and some of the more unique ones still have dozens of boxcars from every corner of the country and many other kinds of cars as well. They often use old or exotic Locomotives.

Take the short line that I worked for in college and model now: The Connecticut Central RR operated from 1988-1998 when it was absorbed into the Providence and Worcester (a failry interesting regional in itself). Over those 10 years we ran an ecclectic mix of first generation ALCOs and EMDs. The ALCOs were amazing and sounded like anything but a truck, they would snort, wheeze, chortle and whistle their way through the day some 20-30 years after their builder went out of business, and in one case 50 years after being built. We moved Boxcars with paper and brick from such fun sounding RRs as the Hartford and Slocumb, and (my fav) The Terminal Railroad of the Alabama State Docks. We moved flats, bulkhead flats, gons, covered gons, and coil cars loaded with steel. We moved covered hoppers with Amonium Nitrate for a company that did blasting for highway projects. We were even the first RR in the country to move sewage sludge in liquid form in tank cars (it stunk, but it was the contract that saved the RR). We would stop the train between switching customers at the local hot dog stand for lunch, and in the summer, even the Italian Ice stand across the street. When there were no train moves to be done I did everything from freight conductor, to mechanic's assistant (he was often my engineer), to track work. I learned a little of everything, even how to grease the mechanism of a large swing bridge over the CT river.

So there are interesting operations out there, they are just the often overlooked shortlines and regionals where sometimes the RRs very survival means doing some unorthodox things.
 

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I bet it is a bunch of fun workign for the right short line Chris ^^

-Will
 
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