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Archive for the 'Human Interest' Category

Photos and Story by Martin Burwash

The Montana Rail Link is a regional line that tends to think big. Maybe it’s the big skies of the Big Sky State. When you are having issues with a tunnel what do you do? Remove part of the tunnel, of course! Essentially, the narrow smokey hole through the Great Divide west of Helena, known as the Mullan Tunnel needed an upgrade. With the arrival of the newer hi-tech locomotives, the SD 70 ACe to be exact, the narrow confines, high heat and thick carbon laden exhaust was more than the computers and circuitry of the new engines could handle. Unit after unit, the engines assigned to help trains over Mullan Pass were falling victim to the harsh interior of the tunnel. Full Story

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Workday

Workday

Eric Miller

Every morning, the ritual is repeated, millions upon millions of times. The workday begins, men and women preparing themselves, and then preparing their machines, be it computers or cash registers or trucks…Or locomotives… (read more)

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Chapter 7 Cotton Belt Engineer

COTTON BELT END OF STEAM 1950-1953

Ed Cooper

C. W. “Red” Standefer railroaded from 1917-1967 and saw everything from the sharp end of saturated steam locomotives to second generation diesels. He saw his first train in 1907 while the Stephenville, North & South Texas Railway was being built into his hometown of Hamilton. Standefer decided then and there to become a railroad engineer at the age of eight years. It took him ten years to land the job of engine watchman for the Cotton Belt in Hamilton. He was promoted to fireman in early 1918 and began working for the Cotton Belt out of Tyler and Waco. He moved to the Cotton Belt rail center of Commerce, Texas in 1920 and started his family there. He lived in Commerce for the rest of his life. Red Standefer was promoted to engineer in early 1939. He loved his job and the steam locomotive. This is the story of Red Standefer’s last acquaintance with active steam locomotives and how the Cotton Belt’s last steam locomotives were used…  (more)

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How I became a lifelong railfan

Glen Brewer

A non railfan father’s influence in the making of a young railway enthusiast.

I think most people become railfans because their father or some other close relative or friend is a fan or works in the railroad business. But my father was not a railfan, and I didn’t know anyone who was or who worked in the business either… (more)

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Hi-railing with Buck

It’s a sunny Friday morning and Buck is about to work west, making his weekly inspection of the mainline over Mullan Pass. His territory today will go from the depot in Helena to just beyond the west switch at Avon, on the west side of the mountain…(more)

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Grandfather’s Watch – Learning the intricacies and the superiority of a railroad watch

Glen Brewer

My grandfather taught me that if one wanted a good timekeeper, a railroad watch was the answer. It was also from him that I learned the mysteries of lever setting a watch.

Grandfather never worked for a railroad, but he carried a railway watch. It was normally at the end of a braided leather strap attached to his bibbed overalls. Grandpa was already old when I first knew him; he was born in 1873 — the son of a Civil War veteran turned Illinois farmer… (more)

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Boardman Coal

Boardman Coal

Martin Burwash

A year ago, with the permission of the Montana Rail Link, I rode the helpers west from Helena, Montana over Mullan Pass. I did a series of rides in June and September of 2005. I have posted bits and pieces of these rides, but now have put together the photos taken on a single trip. (more)

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One Tough Day

Martin Burwash

It was the beginnings of a nice summer Sunday in 1988. I could just picture the first trick Seattle East Dispatcher taking the desk, his first cup of coffee steaming to his right. Just about the time the third trick man is out the door, the radio speaker crackles with the bad news. An eastbound stack train, already short on hours, has stalled halfway through the Cascade Tunnel and has to perform a reverse move. It was the beginnings of one tough day on the mountain. (more)

 

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A day out with my daughter

TomNanos

Everyone needs a day away from the rigors of daily life to decompress a bit – a so-called sanity day. Well, my wife & I noticed that our 3 year old daughter was craving some one-on-one attention away from her 16 month old little sister. (more)

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When the Snow Falls

Martin Burwash

It begins as rain. Thick, gray doldrums blow in off the Pacific chasing away the warm blue skies of Indian summer. Ever so slowly the raindrops turn to flakes. Like a cancer, the white canopy inches its way downward, from the high peaks of the Cascades, to the river valleys carved through their spine. (more)

 

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