Sunday, September 27, 2015

North Texas Whistle Stops

A passenger train cannot be made to look inelegant. They beckon us towards discovery, to elegance, to all of the epiphanies that one collects in the process of a journey. They remind us of a  time when travel was dignified, effortless, untroubled by the frustrations and delay that taint the process of getting from place to place in modern times.  Retired passenger equipment never looses this power, no matter how long it has been left to fallow on a siding, or how many iterations of motive power have passed it by on adjacent mainlines.

The Union Pacific Company Special is one of the most colorful and least seen cross-country passenger trains operating in the United States today. In this picture, the train deadheads past Argyle, Texas,  after traveling to a board meeting in San Antonio. It is heading northwards to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Problem With Ditch Lights

Forgive the inclusion of a personal portrait. 
Two articles ago, Friends of the Flange discussed the nuances of preserving first-generation diesel locomotives. This article isn’t quite a sequel, but more of a tangent into the nature of preservation.
So many steam locomotives and passenger coaches were culled during the 1950s and 1960s that it sometimes seems like a miracle any of them survive into the present day at all, let alone that more than a hundred of them are still in operable condition. Keeping them supplied with enough  money and spare parts is an ongoing battle, though, and the railroad network as a whole has continued to evolve.

Sometimes, this combination of factors forces the owners and operators to be flexible in how they operate, or to make certain decisions about the appearance and upkeep that may not be in line with historical accuracy or the practices of the company that originally owned the equipment. (For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to say ‘locomotive’ for the rest of this article--steam locomotives tend to bring out the most stalwart defenders of historical accuracy--but the discussion could apply to any and all forms of railroad equipment.)