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Showing posts from January, 2007

The Darkest Hour

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The electrics had been gone for nearly 6 years, the other big and reliable diesel locomotives had been forcibly returned to points east in November of the previous year, and the harsh winter of 1979 had brutalized everything that remained. Locomotives were parked instead of fixed, the increasing burdens of the car fleet rental drained the company's pockets, and the amount of deferred maintenance to the tracks and right of way was showing itself in the slow orders and derailments. On average a train derailed somewhere on the western extension once every day. These were the Road's darkest hours.

Occasional bright spots were quickly blotted out. The state of Montana's interest in purchasing the line was quickly abated by the many strings management and the lenders tied to the sale. Interest from other rail lines like Southern was documented, but came to nothing. And the traffic continued to fall, travel times continued to rise, and the company started double-counting mai…

Difference of Decades

In the winter of 1995 I stepped aboard a set of mis-matched Superliner cars and began a journey that would go on for many years. In 1995 the Capitol Limited, and other Superliner trains as well, still sported the occasional El Capitan coach as well as the standard "transition sleeper" for the crew. The locomotives being used were F40's, and the paint was faded candy striping that was slowly giving way to the more stylized blue-band with small white and red stripes. Things that have now passed into history.

I remember well the trips between Pittsburgh and Mt. Pleasant, IA where I'd escape between semesters. The sunrises across the Midwestern plains were amazing. Occasionally fresh snow would be kicked into the air as we raced along at 80, turned a brilliant orange with the rising sun. Telephone poles rolled by outside the windows as we blasted through small towns that came and went, bearing only a silent testimony to our travels. In the darkness of night and lak…