Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Ud og Se med DSB" = [Go] Out and See with DSB

One of my missionary friends, Ældste Karl Hugh, greets a passing freight train in proper Danish fashion.
Middelfart station, June 1986
As a much younger man, I spent 22 months working in Denmark as an LDS (Mormon) missionary.  And during that time I rode a lot of trains.  A lot.  Did this break my heart?  No, it did not.

The first train I rode in Denmark was “hyggetoget” leaving from the main Copenhagen train station (Københavns Hovedbanegård, or KBH for short) on the way to my first area in Kolding.  Each month for transferring missionaries around the country, the mission office relied mainly on two trains.  It worked like this: the intercity train that left KBH about 8 AM would haul all transferring missionaries moving west/north, and the train leaving the far end of the line at Fredrikshavn at the same time would haul all the transferring missionaries moving south/east.  Wherever you were in the mission, your transfer letter would instruct you to travel toward the mainline such that you ended up on the same train as the rest of the transferring missionaries.

A typical DSB route diagram. Frederikhavn is at the end of the rail lines at the upper (northern) end of the country, while Copenhagen is at the far east (right) edge of the map where all the lines converge.
"Hyggetoget" (the hygge train) was a nickname missionaries gave these two trains, because once you had boarded the train, it was easy to find and make friends among the other missionaries transferring that same time.  Hygge is a uniquely Danish word that implies comfortable companionship with good friends, and that's what we usually enjoyed for those few minutes traveling together.


This will always be my ideal passenger train - a Danish State Railways Intercity train with an MZ-class diesel leading a long string of B-class carriages. This eastbound IC train was photographed in my wife's hometown of Middelfart in May of 1993. The then-recent advent of mainline electrification to support the new IC-3 trainsets, meant this type of train did not have long to live.
So, on that first train there were several other missionaries leaving Copenhagen for new areas elsewhere in Denmark.  Cities we stopped where other missionaries may have hopped on or off the train included Roskilde and Slagelse on Sjælland, then Nyborg and Odense once we crossed Storebælt by ferry.  Middelfart could also have been one of those stops, except I’m pretty sure neither Ældste Lund nor Peterson transferred in or out of there that time.
For me, I got off the train at Fredericia and found my way to the train heading west toward Kolding and Esbjerg.  Søster Asplund, whom I’d met in the MTC, was transferring to Esbjerg, so we changed trains together.  With my Danish not being 100% yet (or even 10% for that matter), I had difficulty understanding the station announcements on the loudspeaker.  I almost got off at the first stop, Taulov, but Søs. Asplund helped me avoid that mistake.  The next stop was Kolding, where I stepped off and met my trainer, Ældste James Jensen.

Travel by train was a very frequent occurrence for all missionaries serving in Denmark, not just during the time I served. This photo was taken of my district while in Odense when Søster Bradley (front left) hopped on a train for a new assignment in København, August 1986. Søster Bradley's companion, Søster Dansie, is at my right. In the rear are (from L to R) my companion, Ældste Jeff Hill, then Ældste Chad Lambourne and Ældste James Healy. Within less than a year, I would have served as a companion to both of the other elders in this photo.

There was too much new stuff for me to process all at once, but after further experience with DSB, the Danish State Railways, I can now comment on the equipment used during this May, 1986 time frame.  The main Intercity trains, which ran the length of the KBH to Fredrikshavn mainline usually consisted of one or two 1st class cars (A vogne) and a long string of 2nd class cars (B vogne).  The only difference between the two classes were fewer, larger compartments in the 1st class cars and more, smaller compartments in the 2nd class cars.
These were the European style compartment cars, similar to those seen in the Harry Potter movies, with six-seat compartments along one side and an aisleway on the other side of the car.  In addition to the privacy afforded by the compartments, the best part of the cars was that the top half of the windows slid down! And if your compartment mates didn’t want it open, you could also stand out in the aisle and open one of those windows. "Læn Dem endelig ud!"
A typical DSB MR-tog, seen crossing Gudenaaen (Denmark's largest river) as it approaches Silkeborg in June 1987
MZ class locomotives pulled the IC trains almost exclusively.  These Swedish-built locomotives had EMD 16-cylinder, turbocharged 645 engines and rode on three-axle “C” trucks, so except for having two cabs pushed as far as possible to the opposite ends of the frame, these were equivalent to the SDP-40F locomotives once used by Amtrak.  Plus they were "dual-purpose", meaning MZs powered high-speed freight trains just as often as they did passenger trains.

An eastbound freight just west of Slagelse. It is led by an MX-class locomotive, with an MY-class and MH-class switcher in tandem behind the MX.
The smaller MX and MY classes with A-1-A trucks had EMD 567 engines, 12-cylinder versions for the 1425 hp MX class and 16-cylinder versions in the 1900 hp MY class, so they looked and sounded just like double ended American "F-units".  These saw use primarily on freight trains, although from photos in books I understand MYs may still have been used as passenger power on some of the more obscure routes while I was in Denmark.

Most of the DSB branchline passenger runs I rode were the MR-class self-propelled cars, very similar to the Budd RDC cars that ran some places in the US.  The MRs were two cars, each with a cab at one end, and semi-permanently coupled at the non-cab end to form an articulated dual-end car.  These had a more American-style seating plan with a central aisle and pairs of seats facing each other to form four-seat “pods”.  There was actually a two-seat compartment at the end of one of the cars, which were nice to ride in if not already occupied.  These were the trains serving much of the Esbjerg-Fredericia traffic, so Ældste Jensen and I rode them a lot to and from our Saturday post-P-day district meetings.  I also rode them frequently while serving in Silkeborg a few months later.
Another enjoyable aspect of rail travel in Denmark, up until about 15 years ago, was the need to cross Storebaelt (the Great Belt) between the islands of Sjælland and Fyn by ferry, instead of the bridge/tunnel now in place. Riders could leave their rail car and ascend to the upper decks of the ship, purchase refreshments, and enjoy the view and fresh air from the open decks. Sisters Dansie (left) and Asplund (right) join Elder Healy (center) and two I don't remember, November 1986.
Hers's a shot taken at Korsør of an MT-class switching locomotive shoving half of an intercity passenger train into the lower deck of the ferry Kronprins Frederick.  August, 1987
Nearly all my train travel while in Denmark consisted of trips on either local passenger trains to and from meetings, and occasionally on the IC trains either during transfers or to Zone Conferences. 
There was a “hobby” among the missionaries at that time of “collecting lines”, meaning one would trace on a map all the highway and rail routes they travelled during their mission.  I fell easily into this hobby because of my interests in geography, travel and railroads.  I collected some interesting routes by bus on a few occasions, but my favorites were those I covered by rail.  Some of these were part of our missionary work, and some were as tourists on P-days:
·         While in Kolding, we rode the train out to Esbjerg (July ’86) with other missionaries and members to attend a music fireside at the ward there.  Nici King (a recently returned missionary from Fredericia Ward, and my future wife) was also on this trip, and she regretted wearing the shoes she did because of the long walk from the station to the church.
·         Shortly before leaving Odense (Nov ’86), I arranged for a cab ride with a DSB engineer we’d met while tracting.  Unfortunately, I got transferred shortly beforehand, and Ældste Hill and Dozier had the most boring day of their lives on that trip.  They may have ridden an MY, but I’m not sure.


A Lollandsbanen Y-class arrives at Nykøbing F station, December 1987
·         While assigned to Nykøbing-Falster for a few weeks (Nov-Dec ’86), Ældste Talbot and I rode the private railway Lollandsbanen from Nykøbing out to Nakskov and back (equipment note:  all the private railways I rode used Y-class trains for passenger service, basically older versions of the MR trains DSB was using).


A typical DSB railroad depot for medium-size towns such as Silkeborg

·         While in Silkeborg (May of ’87 maybe), Ældste Linford and I were invited to spend a night at the President’s home in Greater København (can’t remember exactly where at that time - President and Sister Jacobs later lived in Holte).  We took the standard route to get there, but then received permission to return via the Kalundborg to Aarhus ferry, with some “rare mileage” (for missionaries, at least) by rail out to Kalundborg and between the Aarhus ferry dock and the station.



A section of my line map showing roads, railways and ferry routes I traveled while on my mission. The line from Herning, in the extreme upper left, angling southeast down to Vejle required special permission from the Mission President, since it deviated from the route I was directed to take when I transferred out of Silkeborg.
·         While transferring out of Silkeborg (July ’87), I called the office and received permission (after a lengthy and pointless discussion with Ældste Jakobsen) to deviate from my assigned routing (Silkeborg-Skanderborg) and travel via Herning to catch “hyggetoget” at Vejle, resulting in another rare mileage line on my map.
·         While in Slagelse (Aug ’87), Ældste Saunders and I rode to Høng on the Høng-Tølløse Jernbane at least once to visit some potential investigators.
·         Also while in Slagelse (Sep ’87), Ældste Lambourne and I rode down to teach a potential investigator living on the north edge of Falster.  On the return trip, we missed the next-to-last bus.  Although we then caught the last bus and successfully made our rail connection at Nørre Alslev, we were too late into Næstved to catch the last bus back to Slagelse.  Instead, we ended up hitchhiking halfway and walking the rest to arrive at our apartment about 5am the next morning.

Electric trains on Kystbanen - during my mid-1980's mission, this was the only electrified mainline in Denmark. Since then, nearly every mainline has been electrified. These locomotives were designated EA-class.
·         While in Næstved (Fall ’87) Ældste Lambourne and I took a P-day to visit a bunch of tourist sites in and around København on a P-day (equipment note:  the local trains on Sjælland almost exclusively used Bn class coaches in a push-pull configuration.  The end car facing toward København had a control cab, and the cars themselves were a center aisle style with two doors at the one-third and two-thirds points of the car’s length.  I did not like these cars very much. Power was either a Sjælland-only ME-class or an MZ).  He and I were no longer companions, but he was the DL for our district.  Neither my companion, Ældste Morrow, nor Ældste Lambourne's comp wanted to travel that day, so we paired them up at our apartment, and then Lambourne and I headed out. This arrangement probably would not be allowed today.  I don’t remember our exact routing, but I’m pretty sure it included the electrified Kystbane (Coast line) up to Helsinør, and the private railways to Hillerød and Fredriksværk before returning home.
·         Also at some point while in Næstved, I believe Ældste Roe and I returned from a meeting in København via Køge.  This would also have been rare mileage for missionaries back then.
·         I also seem to remember a trip to Gedser, at the far southern tip of Falster, and then back to Nykøbing, again just for the sake of a “line”.
·         In my last area, Birkerød (Jan-Mar ’88), Ældste Kolditz and I probably rode the Hillerød to Helsinør route at least once more.  And, we also rode a lot of S-tog commuter trains in the Greater København area.

Denmark's own IC-3 trains.  Great for riding, but kinda awful to look at.
I have returned to Denmark five times since my mission and ridden trains for some portion of all these trips.  My biggest disappointment has been the onslaught of diesel and electric IC-3 trains that now carry passengers on nearly all DSB routes.  I’m pretty sure things hadn’t changed too much rail-wise when I visited Nici for Christmas of 1989, but on subsequent trips it has all been IC-3s and newer versions of the old MR trains. The IC-3s are designed and built in Denmark by Scandia of Randers.  Yes, they are sleek and functional, but the blunt ends - intended for ease of coupling multiple sets in series - represents the absolute lowest point ever for Danish design (my opinion). Great for riding, but kinda awful to look at.

“Sølvpilen” captured at speed just west of Slagelse in the summer of 1987
The high point of my ’89 trip, besides spending time with my intended, was returning to København aboard DSB’s “Sølvpilen”, the silver-bodied “lightning train” that was the ultimate in speed and comfort in its day.  The ride wasn’t that much more exciting than a standard IC train, but at least I can say I rode it before it was gone.
A newer self-powered passenger train passes the tiny community of Napstjært, where some of my 19th Century Danish ancestors were born. July, 2010.
On that trip, we also rode the train up to Fredrikshavn to visit Nici’s cousins Marianne and Kaj.  This was my first time traveling north of Aarhus.  Their home sits only a few meters away from one of the platforms for another private railway, Skagensbanen.  We visited them again in May of 1993, and that time I arranged to ride the Y-train up to Skagen and have Nici and Marianne meet me up there.  This ride also took me through my “ancestral home” (at least on Grandpa Brady’s maternal side) of Napstjært, so I videotaped part of the ride for posterity.
During this visit, I also made a side trip to Silkeborg, with a stopover in Aarhus to see Shad and Ulla Roe, my former companion and his wife.  He had also married a Danish girl but they chose to live in Denmark rather than the US - I can't always say I blame them.  They lived south of Aarhus and I rode another private railway Y train with him down to their home, and then by myself back up to Aarhus after our visit.
I did not have much time for recreational train riding during trips 3 and 4.  Number 3 was to see the Copenhagen LDS Temple and to visit my mother-in-law Ellen King one last time, and number 4 came a year later to arrange Ellen’s funeral with Nici.

The main railway station at Malmö, Sweden. July 2010
However, when our whole family went over in July 2010, I managed a little better.  Most of our travel was driving a rented Citröen, but I did catch an IC-3 to Slagelse one evening to meet up with another former missionary friend.  At the time, he worked for Railion - the current contract operator of freight trains on DSB rails.  I rode with him over to Malmö, Sweden for my long-awaited cab ride.  This time it was aboard a German DB electric locomotive, at the head end of a high-speed freight on the routing the new Øresund and Storebælt bridges has opened up.  Another engineer took over for my friend at Nyborg, but my friend continued with me as far as Odense, where my rental car was parked.  Between the late hour, welded rail, an electric locomotive, and green signals nearly the whole way, it was a pretty anticlimactic trip and I’m sure I dozed at some point.  Still, I was grateful for the experience!

Late-night, speed-blurred view of Roskilde Station from my 2010 cab ride.
Here are a few more images of favorite Danish locomotives:

With lines very similar to the classic American "F-unit" locomotives, and with diesel engines identical to them, DSBs MY- class are easily my favorites. I shot this particular one at Nykøbing-Falster, and by chance MY1154 was one of the last two to operate in regular service on DSB twenty years later.
By luck, I also managed to photograph this rare specimen at Nykøbing-F. Manufactured by Frichs, a Danish builder at Aarhus, the eight examples of this model, only owned by Danish privatebaner - private railways, did not have a class designation. Instead, they came to be known as "Marzipanbrød" because their curved roof and ends bore resemblance to chocolate-covered marzipan candy bars.

Most Danish trains today run off the electrified catenary wires. This one is an EG-class hauling empty container cars westbound near Odense in July 2010



Plus, here are a few segments of video I've shot on post-mission visits to Denmark:

From May 1993:


From February, 2007:


And from July 2010:

 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Dozen Favorites from 2016

At the close of another year, here's a collection of twelve favorite photos I've taken in 2016.

I call them favorites, which is not entirely fair because I still have lots of favorites that will not be included here.  It was a good year for me - I made at least eight successful field trips to photograph shortline railroads within my travel radius, and I shot lots of photos of other railroad activity closer to home. 

So here's a sampling of my bounty, presented in reverse chronological order just for the heck of it:

An "experienced" SD-40-2 still in Cascade Green leads BNSF's "Low Line" local train toward Wallula WA and a connection with Union Pacific's "Washy" subdivision, where BNSF has running rights to reach an interchange with the Great Northwest Railroad (former Camas Prairie RR) at Ayer, WA.  This was taken on the last day of the year.
An eastbound BNSF stack train cruises through Finley WA while a white heron wades in the drainage ditch looking for a meal.  This shot was also taken on New Year's Eve.
A loaded Canadian Pacific unit grain train heads through Kennewick WA on Union Pacific's truncated Yakima Sub to reach a grain transload loop track in nearby Richland WA.
Having just left Pasco Yard, BNSF's Byron Turn waits for its turn to cross the Columbia River drawbridge before heading west to work in Richland.  I had a chance here to try a slow shutter speed, keeping the stationary locomotive in focus, while giving the passing grain train some motion blur.
I finally got a chance this year to photograph a train on the Weston Loops, just south of Milton Freewater OR.  As this Palouse River & Coulee City RR train headed up the hill and around the main loop, I took a bunch of photos.  Normally, with the angle of the sun placing the train in silhouette, this would be a throwaway shot.  However, I felt the silhouette effect wasn't too terrible, and the backlighting gave some real interesting contrasting effects to the foreground trees and bushes.
This is another photo where the lighting was less than ideal, but I still like how it turned out.  With this day's Byron Turn headed home for Pasco, I knew it would be crossing this bridge over the Kennewick Irrigation District's main canal.  To get this shot, I had to speak with a homeowner to ask permission to shoot this from his back yard.  KID had just shut off the water for the season a few days prior, leaving the canal less than photogenic.  I tweaked this one with some electronic post processing, and I think the colors are a little stronger than I wanted them, but any less saturation and the image would be really flat.  Come spring, I will try to take this shot again with the canal full and, hopefully, with better lighting.
On one of my few ventures into the Palouse this year, I had a chance to chase Union Pacific's Fairfield Turn.  Just up the line from Rockford WA I found this short trestle over Mica Creek, so I waited a few minutes for the approaching train and then snapped this image.
On a rare Sunday visit to Marshall WA, I found the UP train inching down the connecting track between the former NP mainline on the floor of the valley, and the former SP&S route on the raised fill.  UP has rights to use the SP&S tracks between Fish Lake and here, so it can get onto the NP line, which is usually reserved for eastbounds entering Spokane.  After waiting at the signal for several minutes, the BNSF grainer came up from behind on the NP line, allowing me to shoot this image of both railroads' trains.
The Lions Club excursion trains on the Pend Oreille Valley railroad have been a Northeast Washington institution for over 35 years - I was able to ride them the first year they were offered.  This year, POVA announced they could no longer maintain the tracks north of Usk solely for use by the excursions when there is no freight traffic on the line.  This would be the last year for the excursions, at least on this scenic part of the line.  Fortunately, they were running two trains each day, so I dragged my family up there on a Saturday in September.  Thanks to their understanding why Dad wanted to leave so early for the trip, we managed to be at this scenic overlook to photograph the earlier train crossing the Pend Oreille River at Box Canyon Dam.  With the photos saved on my SD card, we then rode the later train and enjoyed the view from another angle.
Despite several trips to Utah this year, I had precious few opportunities to chase trains.  Fortunately, this particular early morning shot, taken in April at Honeyville UT, turned out well.  I especially like the GRS signal mast in the background.
This is a shot I've been wanting to take for several years now.  The daily CBRW train passing the brick former NP depot at Grandview WA.  The whole chase from Whitstran to Sunnyside that day resulted in several favorite images, this is just one of them. 
From another field trip in April, I got a chance to follow an Eastern Washington Gateway train led by Montana Rail Link's ex Great Northern SDP-40.  Again, a lot of great shots resulted from this trip, but this was one of the better with the train crawling up out of Deep Creek on its way toward Reardan.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Utah Rail Encounters


A Utah Railway coal train behind former SP SD-45's along the Spanish Fork River, Fall 1989
Utah has always been a part of my life, although I don’t consider that something to brag about.  With both family and religious ties to the Beehive State, I visited there many times as a child.  As my interest in railroads coincided with my growing awareness of place and time, later trips to Utah also became opportunities to see and learn about railroads other than those I encountered at home.


Two early rail photos from North Salt Lake yard, August, 1981
So on one trip, circa 1978, the high point for me was riding the Heber Creeper, then operated by the Wasatch Mountain Railroad.  Back then, the trains turned at Bridal Veil Falls, where the roadbed today is a hiking trail.  On another visit in 1981, Dad took me down to Union Pacific’s North Salt Lake yard for an hour or so, where I shot photos of an idling Union Pacific GP-30 and an arriving Western Pacific train.  That 1981 trip may have been the last one until my August 1984 arrival in Provo to attend Brigham Young University.

Here’s what I knew about Utah railroads prior to my actual residence in that state: first, Union Pacific in Utah looked a lot like Union Pacific in Spokane.  This was one railroad to which I was not a stranger, so I certainly found it the least interesting.  Of course, UP’s history is inextricably linked with Utah’s history, thanks to the 1869 driving of the Golden Spike in possibly the most god-forsaken corner of the state (more on Promontory later, and no, it’s really not that bad out there).

I found other railroads in Utah much more intriguing than UP.  Southern Pacific met up with its Overland Route partner, Union Pacific, in Ogden.  The Denver & Rio Grande Western connected Denver with Salt Lake City (and Ogden) “Through the Mountains, Not Around Them”, and no truer words were ever contained in a railroad motto.  Finally, there was Western Pacific, or at least there had been until two years earlier when that proud road fell victim to UP’s voracious merger appetite.

Provo's "brick and mortar" depot, the location for many hours of "homework" my freshman year.  That's my 10-speed propped against the light pole.
Of the three remaining, SP stayed outside my reach, as it did not serve Provo directly.  There was the catch, my only transportation as a college freshman was my dad’s old 10-speed.  But that was enough to make the Provo depot accessible to me, and it became the backdrop for many hours of train watching that school year.  This was when the actual brick-and-mortar depot still stood at the foot of 3rd West.  As an active Amtrak stop, the waiting room was open most hours.  Even though it was not staffed all the time, it did offer restroom facilities that made long visits there bearable.

When I had time available, most often on Saturdays, I would load a couple textbooks in my backpack, hop on the 10-speed, and pedal down to the depot for some “homework” while sitting out on the platform with my back resting against the sun-warmed bricks.  Yes, a few assignments got completed, but most often I was craning my neck up and down the tracks, or straining my ear, to detect the next oncoming train.  And frankly, the DRGW did not slouch in that department.


Two of perhaps hundreds of D&RGW trains I witnessed in Provo.  Fall 1984 (top) and Spring 1985 (above)
There’s no way I could count all the Rio Grande trains that passed on my visits – I don’t think I made any trips there where I didn’t see a train.

I took this shot just because I was bored. I was not a fan of UP's "SW-10's" - EMD switchers modified with the radiator section from a retired GP-7 or -9. But now, everything has changed in this location except the mountains, and I'm really glad I took this photo when I did.
Union Pacific also made periodic visits, and provided some local switching activity as well when one of their “SW-10” locomotives worked the scrap yard where the FrontRunner station is today.
Before I continue relating my experiences, I should list all the things I did not see because of limited transportation, and really crappy timing.  I did not see the Utah Railway Alcos – they were all gone by then.  Even if they were still operating in Fall of ’84, I’m not sure I would have known about them as they never ventured west of Provo Yard, and that yard was not easily accessible to me (plus, I didn’t have any good maps of Provo to show me how to get there).
By about 12 months I missed seeing the Rio Grande Zephyr.  Instead, I had to settle for Amtrak’s pale replacement, the California Zephyr, and it looked a whole lot like the Empire Builder back home.
I did not see Geneva Steel’s fleet of Baldwin switchers in action. They still ran out there at the mill, but it was outside my travel radius.  And besides, most of them had been re-engined with EMDs, so the thrill would not have been as great.

Another thing I did not see were cabooses on every passing train.  I knew from reading Trains magazine that caboose-less trains would save the industry time and money, but this first year in Utah happened to be when that trend first became apparent.  Sure enough, when I returned home the following summer, only about half of BN's trains ran with cabooses, and that number dropped off quickly from there.
Fourth unit back is one of UP's Centennials hauling freight.  Oct, 1984.
One thing I did manage to witness in Utah, if only barely, was the last gasp of Union Pacific’s “Centennial” fleet.  At this time, UP was experiencing a modest traffic boom, so they had brought a few of their 8-axled, 6600 hp, 6900-series locomotive out of storage.  On a quick weekend jaunt home to Spokane with a friend, I had seen a few of these in the power sets of UP trains up in Oregon.  On our return trip, when curiosity got the better of us, we drove down to Nevada from Twin Falls then east along the salt flats.

On that straight stretch of Interstate 80, I saw an oncoming train on the parallel ex-WP mainline.  My friend pulled over, and I took an into-the-sun shot of the passing train.  Owing to the distance, the short focal length of my Canon “Sure-Shot”, and the backlit train, I have in tiny silhouette my own image of a DDA-40X locomotive in freight service.  And, it wasn’t even leading the train.

Fittingly, my freshman year complete, I left Utah on a train: Amtrak’s Pioneer, which story has been recounted elsewhere in my blog.

After a three-year absence from the state, two years of it on my mission in Denmark, I returned.  My first trip back was with my mom to retrieve my sister from her sophomore year at BYU.  Rail-wise, this trip was significant only because of a chance encounter with a rare and long-ago-scrapped piece of railroad history.

My interest in Baldwin diesel locomotives had grown significantly in the past few years, so I couldn’t help noticing the squared off hood of a Baldwin road switcher spotted on a rail spur out by the airport, along with some other old rail equipment.  Mom and Julie were shopping somewhere, and I didn’t have to meet them for an hour or so.  I pulled onto the shoulder of the freeway onramp and took a short walk over to the siding.

Former Baldwin Locomotive Works demonstrator DRS-6-4-1500 1501 languishes in the weeds near the Salt Lake Airport, April 1988.  Despite its historic status, the local NRHS chapter let her go from their collection to a scrapper.  Idiots.


I purchased this slide on eBay (photographer unknown), showing the same locomotive in better days.  Note that even after receiving the chopped short hood, she retained a simplified version of her BLW demonstrator paint scheme.
Sure enough, it was a Baldwin, but one with a “chopped” short hood, which was odd - normal for an EMD “geep”, but odd for a Baldwin.  It had no markings beyond its number painted in bold numerals, and it clearly wasn’t going anywhere soon under its own power – there was a crankshaft laying on one of the walkways.  Probably not a good sign.  I snapped a couple photos and got back to my car.  Good thing I took those – this was actually a former BLW demonstrator locomotive that Kennecott Copper had purchased, given a nose job after a collision, and then donated to the local NRHS chapter upon its retirement.

Unfortunately, NRHS chapters apparently have no love or respect for Baldwin diesels.  This is one of two I can name where the NRHS guys were too lazy, broke or stupid to preserve an historic Baldwin and let it go to the scrappers!  I probably will never join the NRHS on account of these failings.

In August, 1988, I returned to continue my schooling at BYU.  My circumstances hadn’t changed much as far as transportation, but I did manage to get out and see a little more than my freshman year.  The most significant experience I had that semester was seeing Soldier Summit for the first time.  Two former mission companions were getting married the same day in September.  While trying to figure out how to be in two places at once, my new boss offered me the use of his delivery van.
Originally a Great Northern unit, Utah Ry. F-45 6613 still wears Burlington Northern's Cascade Green in this September 1988 encounter at Soldier Summit.  Notice how the BN logo was altered to a "Flying U".  Another F-45 can be seen as third unit in the consist.
After attending my one friend’s ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple, I hustled south to Price for my other friend’s reception.  Julie joined me for this leg of the trip, and she had to put up with a lot of wows uttered under my breath as I realized what a fantastic place that series of canyons was to watch trains.  And (bonus!), at the summit I found two Utah Railway trains with former SP and BN SD-45s and a couple ex-BN (originally Great Northern) F-45s!!

After Christmas at home in Spokane, I returned to Utah armed with a proper 35mm SLR camera, a Nikon N4004.  Another difference was that one of my apartment mates had recently purchased a used Ford Bronco II, and he was willing to drive me places in exchange for gas money.  I began experiencing some frustration with my new Nikon, however.  It was too automated.  For instance, if the computer did not agree that my chosen settings would result in an acceptable image, it would not open the shutter when I pressed the release.

And, you would think that a technological marvel like that would be smart enough to let me know when film in the camera was not properly loaded!  This bit me in the butt at a very inopportune time.  My friend James had driven up from Phoenix for a long weekend of train chasing, and we saw quite a bit of action during his visit.

A westbound UP coal train, led by C30-7 2437 at Springville.  One of several shots taken during James' 1989 visit that actually made it onto film.
While on the far side of Soldier Summit, we encountered a westbound Utah Ry. train with a mix of 20-cylinder EMD power, 3 up front, 4 mid train and 3 shoving.  In the confines of the Price River Canyon, the racket this train made was simply amazing.  We followed it up grade and shot a bunch of photos, except I found out too late my camera was not loaded and none of my intended images ever made it onto film!!  The rest of the weekend was OK; we shot a bunch of other trains up on Soldier Summit, we visited the Kennecott yard and saw the odd high-cab GP-39-2s at work, and we saw other items from the NRHS collection, including two Utah Ry. Alcos.

The next school year, I was able to bring a car down with me, a green 1972 Galaxie 500 I’d inherited from my grandfather when he passed away.  This made me somewhat more mobile, but not consistently due to a series of mechanical problems that sidelined it for weeks at a time while I saved up money for each repair.  When it was running, I still did not stray too far, but managed to visit Soldier Summit a few more times.

Clay Peterson and his friends let me tag along on a trip slightly outside the Utah border to see this, the last D&RGW SD-9 and one of the last GP-9s in hump service at Grand Junction, CO, Fall 1989.
This year, my understanding of Utah railroads grew exponentially when I started hanging out at a nearby hobby shop – Trainmaster Hobbies.  That shop’s proprietor, Clay Peterson, and a gang of his friends who also visited frequently, educated me considerably on the comings and goings of trains in Provo.  They spent a lot of time lamenting the increasing frequency of Southern Pacific locomotives on D&RGW trains.  Rio Grande Industries had recently purchased the SP, but in a reversal from typical railroad acquisitions, the new parent recognized that SP had greater name recognition and chose to have SP absorb the D&RGW.  My new friends were not happy about this!

At mid year, I was able to travel back to Denmark to spend Christmas and New Years with my fiancée, Nici King.  However, on the way home I managed to misplace my N4004 at JFK - not the best place to lose a camera - and I never saw it again.  I wasn't too sad to be rid of it, but I had hoped to sell it and buy something else!  When Nici heard about my dilemma, she chose to give me her camera as an early wedding present.  She sent it over to the States with friends of ours who had also been holiday-ing in Denmark, and they delivered it to me within a couple weeks!  This was a Nikon F-301 (the European model equivalent to the N2002), and was a much better camera for me.  Even in this digital age, I still use it to shoot B&W film alongside my digital Nikon.

Another school year came and went, and by the time the next one dawned, I was a married man.  I made a couple “last chance” railfan trips prior to the blessed occasion – including one down to Arizona that I described in a previous blog.  One limitation my married status placed on railfanning was my budget-minded wife insisting I not burn as much film.  This actually taught me patience and “pre-envisioning”, so that one or two exposures (rather than a half dozen shots) of a passing train would result in the best possible photos.  Nici did not mind going on short trips with me to watch trains, at least until our first child arrived.  But that was another year in the future at the time.

Taken from the employee parking lot at Jolene Co., this set of GP-30s appears headed for work at Geneva Steel, or possibly running farther up the line to Midvale.
Once settled into our apartment, Nici took a job with JoLene Co., which produced children’s clothing and had its production facility on the south side of the tracks through Provo.  So, nearly every day when I would drop her off or pick her up from work, I would see one or more trains!  The best ones were afternoon westbounds, which would be particularly well lit when viewed from the parking lot where I waited for her.

The last three years of school all seem to blur in a railfanning sense – there were few significant adventures that stand out.  However, the mundane was not too bad.  Every-day events included:



·         Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe’s little ex-UP NW-2 switching beat up gondolas of scrap iron,

·         Coal trains led by sets of Utah Railway’s rebuilt SD-40s, wearing an updated version of their famous gray with red stripe paint scheme, with mid and rear train helpers still slogging over Soldier Summit,

·         Many freight trains still led by “pure” consists of Rio Grande tunnel motors, and


·         Lots of DRGW GP-30’s still working hard in local service, including occasional sightings of them working the Tintic Branch west of Springville.
One additional benefit to marrying Nici was her “adoptive” family, the Elmer clan, living in Ogden.  Several times while married, we visited and stayed with Grandma Elmer, and this gave me opportunities to witness the rail activity up there.  Most of the family’s households sat on 17th Ave. in a part of town completely cut off by the SP’s Overland Route from the Great Salt Lake causeway and into Ogden Union Station, so it was nearly impossible to avoid the trains if I had wanted to.

The eastbound Pioneer exiting UP's Ogden Subdivision, June, 1991.
An eastbound UP freight near Honeyville, June, 1991
An SP local working west of Ogden, Feb, 1993.
Two significant episodes I remember from Ogden visits were chasing UP trains on the single-track, ABS controlled Ogden Sub north toward Pocatello.  I also shot an early morning photo of Amtrak’s Pioneer coming off that sub.  And, on a dreary winter day, I drove out toward the lake and encountered two SP GP-9s working one of the industrial spurs out that way.

An omen of the future, for me at least.  Conrail C30-7 leading coal empties at Scofield, UT, May 1993.
Upon graduation, we prepared to travel east to a new job in Michigan.  Before leaving, another railfan friend invited me to head up Soldier Summit with him one last time (I have been back since, but not many times).  We bagged Utah Ry. trains coming over the summit, but the most interesting thing we saw was a train of coal empties heading up the Scofield branch, with two Conrail GE units!  That was a weird coincidence, because less than a week later, we were setting up housekeeping just a few blocks from a Conrail branch serving our new community.


As a graduation present, my parents purchased a video camera, ostensibly to record their grandkids - but they knew full well what it would mostly be used for.  In the last week before leaving , I managed to record a few glimpses of Utah railroading in action.

As said, I’ve been back to Utah many times since, and many things have changed.  For starters, on short visits with family and friends, there is seldom the same kind of time available to watch trains as there was when I lived there.  After the UP-SP merger, no D&RGW-painted locomotives can be found in revenue service, and SP engines are almost gone too.  And, with UP now owning redundant mainlines in the Denver/Cheyenne to SLC/Ogden corridor, traffic levels over Soldier Summit have suffered.
A southbound FrontRunner train approaches its terminal at Provo.  Aug, 2015.
One thing that has changed for the “better” is the establishment of UTA’s “FrontRunner” commuter trains, operating on or alongside the former D&RGW mainline between Ogden and Vineyard (near Orem), where it shifts over to UP’s Provo Sub for the last few miles into Provo station.  This means scheduled trains can be seen in action 6 days per week.

With the approaching May, 2019 sesquicentennial of completing the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, west of Brigham City, the Beehive State will become a major mecca for railfans.  No less than four separate railroad history organizations will hold their annual conventions in Ogden, in addition to whatever corporate events Union Pacific decides to host.  Plus, most enthusiasts are hoping UP’s Big Boy steam locomotive 4014 will have been fully restored and operating as part of the celebration.
My long term plans certainly include attending this event.  Whether I can afford to participate as one of the conventioneers or will have to settle for whatever crumbs fall off their table remains to be seen.  But, even if I am fully vested in all the official activity, I certainly plan to break away for some of the more mundane rail activity while there.  Just like the good old days, I guess.