Freight Trains

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Back in my previous life as a locomotive engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad (now BNSF), I fell in awe of locomotives and trains in general. Although that was decades ago, I still love to hear the distant blare of air horns and feel the rumble of horsepower and wheels turning from these diesel-electric monsters. Yes, they burn fossil fuel unlike many transit trains on the east coast or in Europe, but there are three thousand miles to cover between New York and California which makes electric trains across America impractical. Besides, it is unlikely that electric locomotives can efficiently produce the horsepower needed to pull a 100 car coal or grain train. So, for now, diesel-electric is the main freight locomotive used in America, Canada and Mexico.

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I had a difficult time coming up with a title for this post as there are so many good songs about trains and railroads that I wanted to use. Since I couldn’t make up my mind, I thought of Iron Horses as this was the name given by our Native American ancestors when they first encountered the steam locomotive. However, the rail-line linking of the east and west in 1869 had devastating consequences for their way of life so I didn’t want to celebrate a cool name with such negativity. The past cannot be changed, but there is no denying that the trans-continental movement of freight plays a huge role in almost every segment of our lives.

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In the first two photographs, the westbound grain train is waiting for a mixed-freight eastbound train to pass so that it can proceed. There was track work being done east of here so trains had to share one track for a short distance. This double track runs from Chicago to San Bernadino and handles millions of tons of freight each year.

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Cabooses were replaced by signalling devices which feed the engineer with vital information about the amount of compressed air in the brake lines at the end of the train. As the eastbound leaves us behind, the westbound starts his movement. Destination unknown, but it will be up to speed within a few miles.

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Horse Power

I have been a high performance kind of guy (gearhead for short) since I was old enough to understand speed and cars. I came of age during the Muscle Car Era, and weekly racing was as common as going out to grab a soda or beer (underaged at that time). I owned several muscle cars including a ’67 mustang, ’69 Mopar Superbee with six-pack carbs, and a ’70 Roadrunner with dual quad carbs. I didn’t have the bucks to really add more horsepower as many of my friends did, but it was still a blast and good memories. I set no records, but had a lot of thrills.

Below you will see two images: one of a magnificent horse in the early morning sunlight on a cold day (one of my favorite images) and a combination of that same horse with a diesel-electric locomotive pulling a southwest bound load of coal cars to some power plant.

I love horses for their majestic beauty, sheer strength and independence. I love fast cars with their mind-boggling horsepower as that of a dragster or funny car with almost 8,000 horsepower! Try zero to 300 mph at less than 4 seconds in a quarter mile and you will begin to understand these rockets on wheels.

However, without the horse, how could man develop a symbol for power! Besides, the horse is a God-given creation whereas a machine is a God-given adaptation of the original design. Both are important, but my money is on the original.

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Dual horsepower with the original in the fore-ground. Isn’t he wonderful…the horse)?

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BTW, I was a locomotive engineer for several years!