Trains August 2019


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12 Numeri

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5 min
bolting through iowa

ROBERT FRANZEN is responsible for maintenance and operation for Iowa Interstate’s two Chinese-built QJ Class 2-10-2s that have been in the U.S. since 2006. One of the engines, No. 6988, ran 510 miles in 2018 and 1,742 in 2019 after being stored since 2013. The engine rolled off those miles on short fundraising trips (using five open-window P70 coaches) to benefit local emergency response organizations along the Iowa Interstate’s cross-Iowa route and on deadhead moves (some of them with tonnage freight). Crewing the engines and working to maintain them are volunteers with the nonprofit Central States Steam Preservation Association. We asked Franzen to update us about the two steam locomotives that are among the most remarkable in U.S. railway preservation. No. 6988 can operate through July 2020, he says, before it is…

1 min
twilight of the iron rooster

SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE DAYBREAK at a dozen degrees below freezing, a small, dedicated group of railroad workers prepare for the twice-daily, crew change (12 hours on and 12 hours off) in Sandaoling, China. Located 1,800 miles northwest of Beijing at a remote, mountainous border with Russia, Sandaoling is a high desert plain along the ancient Silk Road trade route. Since the 1950s, the bounty here has been coal that is extracted and shipped by rail all across China. I visited the town and adjacent 10-mile-long, 3-mile-wide open-pit mine in 2018, to document the mine and railroad’s last months of operation prior to an anticipated closing at the end of 2019. Sandaoling mine was the last exclusively steam-locomotive-powered freight railroad in daily revenue service on earth. Powered by Chinese-built, JS-Class, 2-8-2 steam locomotives…

2 min
what to watch in 2019 and beyond

CIMARRON VALLEY RAILROAD was covered in this column last year with its eclectic mix of power, but major changes have occurred since then, and more are to come. The Kansas Department of Transportation has awarded a grant to the railroad that partially funded the acquisition of seven secondhand General Electric locomotives to modernize the fleet. Three C40-8s and four B40-8s will become the primary power on the line, with only the existing GP26s and B39-8 remaining after the new locomotives are delivered. The company has apparently retired its all-blue paint scheme and adopted the former Santa Fe pinstripe scheme used on freight locomotives delivered between 1960 and 1972. Two C40-8s, Nos. 4052 and 4053, have received the new colors and should be in operation shortly. WESTERN NEW YORK & PENNSYLVANIA will…

3 min
central maine & quebec’s dna

CENTRAL MAINE & QUEBEC’S ROUTE MAP includes lines from Canada’s first transcontinental railroad and many miles of a famous Maine potato hauler. CM&Q has integrated these Canadian Pacific and Bangor & Aroostook routes to best serve the overhead and online customers. Nearly three-quarters of Central Maine & Quebec’s active trackage consists of lines that were operated by CP until 1994. CM&Q’s primary artery is the 263-mile route between Brownville Junction, Maine, and Saint-Jean, Quebec, in suburban Montreal. Completion of the Montreal-to-Saint John, New Brunswick, line (which includes 200 miles across northern Maine) in 1888 was the final link in CP’s Atlantic-to-Pacific rail system, a true transcontinental. For decades, CP carried freight to and from Saint John and its busy port. Traffic was heaviest during the winter months when the Port of Montreal…

13 min
doodlebug country

It’s May 20, 2018, in Sunol, Calif., and the Pacific Locomotive Association is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Niles Canyon Railway. While the railroad is home to seven steam locomotives and more than a dozen historic diesels, the star of today’s event is diminutive railcar M200, affectionately known as “The Skunk.” Painted bright yellow and adorned with a cartoon version of its namesake animal, the car makes for an unusual sight as it arrives at the restored Sunol depot to the delight of waiting passengers, accompanied by the sounds of a brass band. It was this car that inaugurated service on the Niles Canyon Railway in May 1988 at a time when volunteers were slowly re-laying track through the canyon. Long before its time in the spotlight, the car rolled…

4 min
q what is the purpose of the a1a c4 truck on the bnsf es44c4s?

A BNSF Railway uses two models of six-axle locomotives with only four powered axles: GE Transportation’s (now Wabtec Freight) ES44C4 and Progress Rail’s SD70ACe-P4. The two builders have chosen different arrangements for power: GE uses an A1A-A1A arrangement while EMD uses a B1-1B setup. Translated from the Association of American Railroads wheel arrangement system, letters are powered axles in a row, where A is one axle, B is two, C is three, and so on. Numbers are unpowered idler axles in a row. An A1A truck has an idler axle in between two powered axles while a B1-1B truck has the two axles closest to the fuel tank unpowered. Both locomotive models use alternating current for traction. They aim to give railroads the increased reliability of A.C. traction at the lower power…