8 October 2017
Durango Colorado USA - A storied veteran will soon come out of retirement to again scale mountains in southwest Colorado.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad's locomotive number 476 in February will take to the tracks for the first time since 1999.
The 1923 steam locomotive's re-introduction comes after a multi-year, US$1 million rebuild made possible by resurgent ridership on the historic rail line through the San Juan National Forest.
The locomotive is one of 10 steam engines owned by the company and, along with its sister the number 473, is the oldest still able to be used in regular operation on the historic railroad, first established in 1881 as the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW).
When the D&RGW officially became the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (DSNG), it was number 476 that hauled the company's first passenger train in 1981.
Officials say the lengthy restoration process provided the railroad's maintenance crew with valuable experience that will help protect all 10 engines in its stable well into the future.
"This is probably the most historic engine that we operate on a regular basis," said Allen Harper, co-owner and CEO of the DSNG.
"More than that, it's a celebration of the whole historic preservation process and the fact that we have a program now that will make sure these steam engines will be available for generations to come."
Number 476 is one of a family of ten 470 series locomotives built by the American Locomotive Company in 1923, according to American Heritage Railways, Harper's family-run company that owns the DSNG, as well as historic railroads in Washington and North Carolina.
The sibling engines served the entire D&RGW at one point, carrying passengers on routes such as the San Juan Express from Durango to Alamosa.
In 2001, the Federal Railroad Administration (FAA) adopted new regulations that required major rebuilds of steam locomotives after every 1,472 service days, railroad officials said.
That meant that the already shelved 476 needed an overhaul to return to action.
Then, in 2002, the Missionary Ridge wildfire burned 71,739 acres near Durango and ridership on the popular tourist railroad fell dramatically.
After reaching a peak of about 213,000 riders a year in the 1980s, ridership the year of the fire fell to just 130,000, Harper said.
Number 476 was out indefinitely.
"We just didn't have the passenger levels to justify the million-dollar fix," Harper said.
But in the years since, the railroad has diversified its offerings and expanded its appeal.
While nostalgic train fans still make up roughly 20 percent of riders, Harper said his company has focused on making the railroad attractive to people of all ages and demographics by adding excursion rides to special destinations and a variety of special events.
There is "The Brew Train," which introduces riders to craft brewers and their beer, and "The Durango Blues Train," which features live bands.
"The Polar Express" Train Ride, based the classic children's book and movie, will welcome about 30,000 riders between Nov. 17 Nov 2017 and 2 Jan 2018, Harper said.
The CEO expects the DSNG to close out 2017 with more than 200,000 riders.
With 476 ready for action again, its first job will be powering the company's Winter Photography Train on 17 and 18 Feb 2018.
Harper is excited about the future.
"It just gives us the capacity to do huge numbers that we haven't done in years," he said.
Harper said the plan for his railroad going forward is to have up to six engines in service at one time, three stationary, and one in overhaul.
Randy Babcock, the railroad's mechanical foreman, said rebuilding 476 provided his team with valuable experience that should help lengthen the life of all 10 of the company's engines, each an average 90-years-old.
"We're always pressed for time getting our engines ready to run, so the chance to work on a multi-year rebuild allowed our crew to expand its skill set, especially on the finer points of boiler making and locomotive machining," Babcock said in a news release.
"Number 476 is really just the first of our engines to receive some of this work."
Count Charles Proudfoot among the people excited to hear of 476's impending to return to service.
He is the president of Friends of the 169, a volunteer group that is striving to see locomotive 169, an 1883 engine now on display in Alamosa, returned to working order.
Proudfoot noted that 476 is lucky to still be around at all.
Seven of its 470 series sister engines were requisitioned by the U.S. Army during World War II and sent to Alaska to help with the war effort before being broken down for scrap.
Now she'll be back in action on some of the same routes she carried riders on 90-years-ago.
"Anytime any of us in restoration see a locomotive returned to service, we're all happy," Proudfoot said.
"That's simply good for everybody."
9 October 2017
Belfort France - Alstom presented its first Prima M4 passenger locomotive for Azerbaijan Railways (ADY) today in Belfort, France.
Ten Prima M4 (AZ4A) passenger locomotives are being manufactured on this site as part of a contract awarded by ADY in 2014.
"We are very pleased to deliver our first multi-purpose Prima locomotive to Azerbaijan and become a part of ambitious projects to increase transit link between the Black and Caspian Seas and between Russia and Iran. This technologically tailor-made product is the result of a solid relationship of trust between Alstom's and ADY's project teams", said Bernard Peille, Alstom Managing Director for Western and Central Asia Cluster.
The locomotives will operate under both 25 kV AC 50 Hz for the East-West corridor and under 3 kV DC for the North-South corridor.
The AZ4A passenger locomotive is based on the Alstom Prima modular platform designed to provide operators with the most suitable solutions for passenger and freight services.
It is one of the most versatile, in terms of applications, electric locomotive in the world.
Prima AZ4A is able to run at 160km/h in passenger service with longer runs between maintenance and repair, reduced power consumption, as well as reduced locomotive maintenance costs, and enhanced fleet management efficiency.
The AZ4A is a Prima M4 locomotive developed on the basis of the Azerbaijan Railways technical requirements and in compliance with GOST standards and specifications.
The locomotive has a cutting edge traction system based on Alstom technology.
It requires minimum maintenance and provides a high reliability level and low life cycle cost thanks to its modular design.
With around 3,000 kilometres of track, the Azerbaijani railway network is an important link between the Black and Caspian Seas and between Russia and Iran.
12 October 2017
Darlington England United Kingdom - Multi-million pound plans have been revealed to restore one of the world's oldest engine sheds to become a base for the engineers responsible for the region's railway revival.
The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, the charity that built the 100 mph steam locomotive "Tornado" from scratch, has revealed its ambitions to move its operations to a 156-year-old former Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&D) shed.
The Darlington site, which has fallen into disrepair after not being used for half a century, has been earmarked to once again house live steam locomotives proudly built in the town that gave the world the gift of the railways.
The charity has stated that fund raising efforts to renovate the shed on Whessoe Road, in Darlington, would also mean the base could be connected to the East Coast Mainline in time for the 200th anniversary of the S&D opening.
Proposals also include creating a purpose built three road (track) workshop, complete with overhead cranes and educational facilities, as well as offering regular open days and limited steam hauled passenger rides to Bishop Auckland.
Graeme Bunker-James, trustee and operations director at the The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, said, "Our long awaited new base will be somewhere that both "Tornado" and "Prince of Wales" can truly call home. We hope that we will be able to operate the world's newest steam locomotives from the world's oldest active main line engine shed, a true Top Shed of the north. The intention is to open the Whessoe Road site as an operational base for the Trust soon after we complete the construction of Gresley class P2 number 2007 "Prince of Wales", which is scheduled for 2021. And it will open in good time to play a central role in the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025."
The shed was designed by William Peachey and built in 1861 as one of the S&D's last developments before the company was absorbed by the North Eastern Railway in 1863.
Despite being one of the world's oldest surviving engine sheds, the building fell into disrepair and would require major roof repairs and other remedial works before it can store steam locomotives.
The Trust, which has been based in former S&D carriage works on Hopetown Lane in Darlington for 20 years, has stated that positive talks about the proposed move have already been held with landowners Network Rail and Darlington Borough Council.
An A1 Trust spokesman added, "The site can be easily and relatively cheaply reconnected to the national network as there is already a fully signalled connection into a rarely used siding in the former yard at Whessoe Road."
10 October 2017
Lester Washington USA - Our Lester series continues this week with this 1915 overview of the now historic ghost town.
As detailed in previous columns, Lester was primarily a railroad town located in the upper Green River Valley where Stampede Pass connects the east and west sides of the Cascades, about 12 miles southeast of Snoqualmie Pass.
The town was originally known as Deans, for the owner of the first sawmill in the region.
The name was changed in 1891 to honor Lester Hansacker, a local Northern Pacific telegraph operator.
During its most important period the town was home to assorted railroad facilities.
But its fortunes fell after diesel locomotives replaced steam locomotives in 1944.
The Soundview Pulp Company moved into Lester in 1948 to log timber, most of which was owned by the railroad.
Soundview built one of the last of the old-fashioned logging camps complete with bunkhouses, offices, and the popular cookhouse where loggers ate meals of 6,000 to 8,000 calories per day.
It later became Scott Paper's camp and lasted until 1978.
Through the years the school district held the town together educating a host of notables including Mike Binetti who grew up in nearby Stampede.
Binetti later became a teacher and principal for the Enumclaw School District, which absorbed the Lester School District in 1985.
At the time of merger there were over one-half million dollars still in the Lester's bank account.
This photo shows the ramp where rail cars unloaded coal into the fueling bunkers, the large covered building in the center.
To the right is the water storage tank, an essential component for the coal-fired steam locomotives, which climbed the steep Stampede Pass.
Further right is the roundhouse where the Northern Pacific locomotives were repaired and maintained.
By Bill Kombol.
8 October 2017
Grosmont Yorkshire England United Kingdom - The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has had one of its most successful Annual Steam Galas, with record breaking passenger numbers over the three-day event.
Chris Price, General Manager at North Yorkshire Moors Railway, said the event from 29 Sep 2017 to 1 Oct 2017 involved 4,000 visitors experiencing nine locomotives in steam, traction engines, and annual beer festival along the heritage line.
He said, "It has been a pleasure to see so many visitors travelling along the line. The volunteers have worked exceptionally hard to show the railway at its very best. This year's steam gala has been a huge success with revenue up 14 percent on last year's event. The income will support the charitable trust and enable vital work to take place over the winter months."
Visiting locomotives included 5199 from Llangollen Railway, along with 1501 and 7714 from the Severn Valley Railway, brought a western feel to the line.
North York Moors Historical Railway Trust is a not-for profit charitable organization run as part of the local community.
The railway is one of the most historic lines in the North of England.
Learn more about the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in the article Bed Breakfast & Budgie Grit.
12 October 2017
Roanoke Virginia USA - The Virginia Museum of Transportation Inc. has announced the hiring of Richmond-based Riggs Ward to study and recommend actions and plans to develop the museum's next major project.
The exhibit will be called "The Roanoke Story" and tells the story of how a small crossroads named Big Lick, at what is now the intersection of Williamson Road and Orange Avenue, became Roanoke after the Shenandoah Valley Railroad decided to connect to the old Atlantic Mississippi & Ohio Railroad.
It all started with the midnight ride of Mr. John C. Moomaw with a large amount of funds raised by the citizens of Big Lick to entice the new railroad to Big Lick.
The new exhibit will tell the great story of how Roanoke developed with emphasis on how it became America's Richest Little Railroad, built some of the finest steam locomotives in the world, and because of its capable leadership became one of the largest players in North American Railroading.
The development of the "Magic City" that grew from 500 people to 5,000 people in just a few years was just the tip of the iceberg in the long partnership with the Norfolk & Western Railway that made Roanoke one of America's greatest Railroad cities.
"This is the largest professionally designed exhibit ever planned at the museum," Virginia Museum of Transportation Executive Director Bev Fitzpatrick said.
"This has been in the strategic plan for a long time, and as we've completed other projects this undertaking is the next major step in continuing to be a world class heritage museum."
The exhibit will chronicle the powerful Norfolk & Western Railway influence on the growth of Roanoke and its impact on Railroading in the United States.
"The museum hopes Roanoke's leaders along with others across the state will invest in this new exhibit that celebrates Virginia's Transportation Heritage.
As a museum that represents the entire commonwealth of Virginia we would like to see this be an exhibit sponsored by people from all over Virginia," Fitzpatrick said.
"While we are noted as one of America's greatest Rail Museums, we are much more than that with our Auto and Aviation Galleries and the Commonwealth Coach and Trolley Museum. The VMT is flourishing with construction ready to start on our "Big Three Building" for our Norfolk & Western locomotives, the Roanoke Story, and plans for a new bus and truck section in years to come. But, telling The Roanoke Story is essential to our mission and purpose and is the next best step for the VMT."
The Virginia Museum of Transportation was founded as the Roanoke Transportation Museum in 1962 and was located in Wasena Park.
The Flood of 1985 destroyed much of the museum and was the impetus to move to its current home in the former Norfolk & Western freight depot in downtown Roanoke in 1986, re-branding itself as the Virginia Museum of Transportation Inc.
In the 31 plus years since, the museum's rail gallery layout and exhibits have been updated as funds were available, but largely remained the same.
As the Commonwealth's Official Transportation Museum, the new design will focus on the Roanoke Valley's long and significant transportation history as it is reflected throughout the Commonwealth, specifically the role it played in a state-wide railroad culture, which includes a worldwide reputation for innovation and excellence.
With Roanoke's roots as a railroad town, the museum plans to feature stories of those who helped design, build, and run the Norfolk & Western Railway.
Their accomplishments include the big three steam locomotives often noted as the best in the world who were the folks that made America's richest little railroad so successful and who built the world's finest locomotives.
The exhibit will explain how the leadership at the Norfolk & Western Railway started America's rail mergers movement that has forever changed the map of American railroading.
"As museums and museum philosophies change and grow, so must our exhibits," Virginia Museum of Transportation Curator and Historian Deena Sasser said.
"Working together with Riggs Ward, we will help evolve the museum and become more sophisticated storytellers of the history of the transportation in the Commonwealth."
With Riggs Ward as the museum's strategic partner, the goal is to utilize the Museum's Master Interpretive Plan as the basis for impactful exhibition and programming opportunities, audience engagement strategies, economic impact analysis, operation efficiency, space planning, and infrastructure improvements.
New exhibits might include hands on design-a-locomotive interactive experience, an interactive relief map presenting original routes of transportation, and an animated simulation on coal mining's impact on communities.
Regarded as the most noted Norfolk & Western heritage museum in the world, the exhibit will showcase unique artifacts, and create exhibits that conform to state regulated learning programs.
By strategically deploying new technologies with a wink toward nostalgia, the newly renovated VMT hopes to build Roanoke's pride while attracting visitors from around the country to explore America's roots in transportation.
Riggs Ward has worked on many projects involving local civic groups and a variety of different stake holders throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the region including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Atlanta History Center, University of Virginia Rotunda Visitors Center, and the Library of Congress.
"The VMT project, in particular, evokes fond memories I have of the region developed since my childhood. My mother's family is from Salem and my wife's family is from Franklin County. I've been coming to Roanoke my entire life," Riggs Ward Principal Brent Ward said.
"The Roanoke Valley has always been a cherished part of my life and I cannot think of anything I would like to do more than to help improve the region's visibility and economic outlook."
Following the success of the "Fire Up 611" campaign that returned the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam passenger locomotive to operational service, the Museum believes it can raise the funds needed to revive and reintroduce the public to Roanoke's legacy as one of America's top transportation resources.
The funding for this initial planning phase came from a private donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation Board of Directors believes the project can be a reality and will work with staff to develop and identify funding sources for future execution.
The project is slated for execution following the construction of the museum's new building to house the Norfolk & Western's Big Three Locomotives on the west end of the Rail Yard.
"We are very pleased to have Riggs Ward on board with us as we move to create a very important exhibit that will portray our local rail history," Virginia Museum of Transportation Deputy Director Don Moser said.
"Riggs Ward's reputation precedes them, and we are looking forward to working with them to produce a world-class exhibit for our visitors."
13 October 2017
Delhi India - "Fairy Queen", the world's oldest running steam locomotive, will start chugging again from Saturday.
The 162-year-old locomotive will haul a tourist train called "The Steam Express" once a month between Delhi and Alwar via Rewari.
Built in Leeds, United Kingdom, in 1854, Fairy Queen made its first commercial run on 15 Aug 1855, from Howrah in West Bengal.
Fairy Queen, which retired in 1908, was resurrected by Rail board chairman Ashwani Lohani in 1997 when he was director of the National Rail Museum.
The heritage engine has also made it to the Guinness World Record.
The locomotive was vandalized and looted at a railway shed in Delhi in 2011 after which it was rendered useless.
It took Indian Railways six years to restore the locomotive.
Railways will operate the locomotive on the mainline till April next year.