The Rail Philatelist June 2003 Newsletter

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Email Notification



Volume 8 Number 3 ................ PRICE $1.50 (10 ISSUES FOR $12.00)............... June 2003

Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:

Well, I have certainly proven that neither my Previa nor I could handle the overly ambitious show schedule I planned for 2003. As you probably noticed by the absence of newsletters, pricelists and web page updates over the past few months, too much travel and turmoil elsewhere has prevented me from keeping up with most of the myriad tasks associated with my mail order business. And the Previa has been in the shop almost as much as she has been on the road! Starting with a tire blowout in Sacramento that caused me to miss the Friday setup for the Great American Stamp Expo in San Jose in January (at least I made it Saturday morning), things seemed to get progressively worse. In early March on my way to a train show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, a snow storm had the highways closed west of Laramie, WY, but the highway patrol and a snow plow decided to lead a small convoy west on US 30. The road and visibility were so bad I questioned my sanity for being out there. Just when things seemed to be clearing up, I heard a snap and lost propulsion as I crested a small hill in the middle of nowhere west of Medicine Bow, WY. The engine was running but the U-joint/ drive shaft had broken. The remainder of the convoy kept on going while I called AAA. They informed me that since the roads were officially closed, they couldn't help me but they would notify the sheriff's department of my predicament. A few minutes later, an eastbound snowplow stopped and radioed my location to his dispatcher. About an hour later a highway patrolman came by and towed me a couple hundred yards up the road to a turnoff since I was stuck partway on the highway and they were bringing another convoy thru. He told me that a tow truck was on its way from Rawlins 60 miles to the west. Shortly after the westbound convoy came thru an hour later, the tow truck showed up and delivered me to Rawlins about 9:30 PM. Because of the road closures, most of the motels were already full but I managed to find a room a short distance from the Sinclair station where we dropped off the Previa (there isn't a Toyota dealer in Rawlins). Thursday morning I walked over to the station at 8AM when they opened and learned that the mechanic didn't come on duty until 9 AM so I headed off in search of breakfast (I had had one pack of saltine crackers for dinner last night!). Back at the service station, I watched as the mechanic used a 4 wheel All Terrain Vehicle to push my Previa into the service bay. About 10 AM the mechanic indicated that he could replace the U-joint but that the drive shaft was also damaged and he couldn't fix that. Another call to AAA but the tow trucks were all busy pulling 18-wheelers out of ditches. About 11:30 the tow truck that had brought me in showed up to take me to the Toyota dealer in Laramie. As he was loading the Previa onto the truck his cell phone rang. His boss informed him that the roads to Laramie were again closed so we couldn't go there. The roads west were okay so we got AAA's permission for the 107 mile trip to Rock Springs. We arrived in Rock Springs shortly after 2 PM, but the cutoff for parts orders was noon. That meant that they couldn't order parts until Friday morning for Monday delivery. I had the tow truck driver drop me off at the Comfort Inn where I got a room with a view of the Union Pacific mainline. I could have been comfortable there for the weekend but they were celebrating my granddaughter Christine's first birthday on Sunday so I called for a rental car only to be told that all the rental cars in town were stuck in Cheyenne or Laramie because of the road closures. I asked them to put me on a waiting list and settled back in the armchair to watch trains. Lots of trains but nothing unusual.

At 9:30 AM Friday morning, the rental car company called to say they just had a car returned from Salt Lake City so I took it and drove the 450 miles back to Colorado Springs. Spent most of the weekend sick in bed but I did manage to enjoy the birthday party. Monday I drove back to Rock Springs and arrived just as they were completing the repairs. The service manager thought he heard some other noise and was hesitant to let the car go, but after a second test drive he decided it should be okay, so I paid them and drove it back to Colorado Springs and then to St. Louis the following weekend for a train show. The Previa seemed to be making some strange popping noises on low speed turns, so when I had the van serviced in preparation for a show trip to Montana, I told them to check it out. They didn't find a problem with the axles, which was their initial diagnosis, but thought it might be the transmission. When I picked up the van, I drove it straight to the transmission shop where I had had it serviced in January. After looking it over, the manager said, "It isn't the transmission. But your differential is about to explode. I wouldn't drive it across town let alone to Montana!" Since the differential dealer they recommended was across town, I had the car towed there. Thursday morning when I went back to talk with them, the owner said, "How in love with this car are you?" I replied, "It's going to be that expensive, huh?" Turns out it wasn't the differential, but the transfer case. It evidently had been damaged when the U-joint broke. But you don't just install a transfer case on a Toyota; they typically come as a unit with a transmission. So I authorized the repairs and cancelled the Montana trip.

Since I had had car problems on my last three trips to the Bay area, it was with some trepidation that I set out for WESTPEX the last weekend of April. Aside from snow over Sherman Hill in Wyoming and the chain law in effect over Donner Pass in the Sierras, the trip to San Francisco was uneventful. Since the Weather channel showed snow and rain all the way from California to Colorado for the return trip, I opted for the southern route. I was sailing along at 75 mph on a beautiful day at Two Guns, AZ when, in my rear view mirror, I saw my right rear tire and part of the axle go flying off the side of the road and smoke billowing from the rear. I got the car stopped off the side of the road and got out to see what was left of the wheel in flames. I threw dirt on the fire and snuffed it out. Once I was comfortable that the fire was out and that the whole van wasn't going to burst into flames, I got back in the car and again called AAA for assistance. (One of the frustrations in waiting for tow trucks was that I was within a mile of a busy mainline railroad but a hill blocked my view both times!) Two and a half hours later, the tow truck dropped me off at the Toyota dealer in Flagstaff just before the 6 PM closing. They could order the parts Wednesday morning but wouldn't receive them until Friday so I would be here until Saturday morning at least. I walked a couple doors down to the Super 8 Motel and got a room with a view of the BNSF mainline - 100 trains a day should provide some entertainment. I hesitate to admit it but after three days of almost constant stackpacks and TOFCs I really appreciated the occasional manifest. I did see the SOUTHWEST CHIEFS each day but the EB comes thru about 7 AM and the WB about 9:30 PM so I only got pictures one morning. The most interesting trains I saw were a two car track measurement train, a Cargyle corn syrup unit train, and a log train that originated on the Apache RR carrying logs harvested from last years forest fires on the Indian reservation for delivery to a lumber mill in California by the Sierra RR. When I finally picked up my van at 6 PM Friday evening and drove to Cracker Barrel for dinner, I noticed that the right rear fender was cutting a groove in my tire even though there was about an inch clearance. I immediately took the van back to the dealership and parked it inside as they were sweeping up. Glad I hadn't started driving home; I would surely have had a tire problem some where in the dark in the middle of nowhere. Evidently they put an ordinary shock absorber on instead of the heavy duty one needed for the loads I carry. Of course, they couldn't do anything Friday night since they had closed at 6 PM so I wasted Saturday morning while they tried unsuccessfully to find the proper shock. Faced with the prospect of spending three more days in Flagstaff while they ordered the right shock or going with one they found that "should work", I said a prayer, crossed my fingers and toes and headed home expecting a blowout every time I hit a bump. Fortunately I made it without incident although the tire did get grooved slightly more.

20 YEARS SO FAR!: It was in May, 1983 when I registered THE RAIL PHILATELIST trade name with the El Paso County Clerk's office in Colorado Springs. I had recently received the remainder lot of the Sterling Foote railway collection from the Roger Koerber auction galleries in Detroit, MI. It contained a single and a block of four for most of the train stamps up thru the early 70s. Since I really only needed the singles for my personal collection, I had extra stamps to sell or trade. I used the Heathkit 59 computer I had built to produce my first pricelist and the rest as they say is history. In celebration of my 20th anniversary in business, I will offer a 20% discount on all purchases from this month's alphabet lists (New Issues and Monthly Specials are already at reduced prices, so no additional discount applies to them). I will be hosting a Social Hour after the Casey Jones Railroad Unit meeting at the National Topical Stamp Show in Denver June 28. I also plan to have a special philatelic gift for those in attendance.

SHOWS: Aside from my difficulties getting to and from shows as outlined in the Perils of Pauline above, the shows themselves have also been up and down. Sales at the Great American Stamp Expo in San Jose were very good and buying was also good, but sales at ORCOEXPO in Anaheim the following weekend were disappointing. My take on Saturday was a mere $37.00. Nevertheless there were some highlights: Bill Chappell, President of the Casey Jones Railroad Unit of ATA had been in the hospital all week, but made it to the show on Friday and joined me for dinner where we discussed his various train trips. A collector who hadn't been to a show in a few years came just to tell me how much she enjoyed reading my newsletters. Unfortunately, unemployment has made it difficult for her to keep up with the 35+ topics she collects. She had a G scale train set that I took on consignment and was able to sell for her in Houston the following weekend so that worked well for her. For me, the Houston train show at the Astrodome was marginal as were the train shows in Albuquerque and St. Louis, but the Denver show was excellent. My favorite train show, the Hostlers Railroad Festival, in Ogden, UT was also marginal in terms of sales but the banquet food and speaker were excellent and worth the trip. Many dealers had their best WESTPEX stamp show ever but my sales were down somewhat because one of my best customers there is no longer buying and is actually selling parts of his collection. Sales were still good thanks to several mail-order customers from the area and I had an enjoyable dinner with Bill Senkus, editor of THE DISPATCHER and Sec/Treas. of the CJRRU and his designer friend Alyson Kuhn as well as another pleasant stay with the Dempseys (dba A & D Stamps & Coins). Peter Gutter, (dba Gutter Pairs) followed up his beef stroganoff culinary masterpiece from the January San Jose show with an outstanding Irish stew Sunday evening and delicious French toast Monday morning - stamp dealers are not just one dimensional after all!

MAJOR TED'S STAMP TALK: One of the new customers I met at WESTPEX was P. T. Bahry, Jr., host of Major Ted's Stamp Talk internet radio show Saturdays 12 PM Pacific time at He purchased some Lionel stamp items and a set of the movie stamps. He said he needs listeners so I checked out the web site while I was stranded in Flagstaff. The site is easy to use and archives previous shows including the one he did live at WESTPEX where he interviewed Tom Horn from the APS Sales division and Cinderella dealer Roger Riga (dba Rigastamps) among others. I am more of a visual learner rather than auditory but it still would be worthwhile to visit the site periodically just to review the wide range of topics covered and stamp personalities interviewed.

FANTASTIC EXHIBIT: At ORCOEXPO I was privileged to see an award winning exhibit put together 20 some years ago by Dr. Keith Kelly, STEAM LOCOMOTIVES FOUND ON STAMPS & POSTAL ISSUES OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. As the title page explains "All regularly issued postage stamps of the 19th Century bearing steam locomotives are shown. The Theme is the PHILATELY ENCOUNTERED DURING THE STUDY OF THE TOPIC. (For Convenience, arranged by country). Printing and engraving history; Postal history; Private and Local Posts; Express Companies and forerunners; Postal Stationery; Post and 'corner' cards; Cinderellas, Revenues; Watermark; Commemorative Covers and Cachets. Fakes and forgeries are a part of philately, some are shown for edification. Also found are a number of 'firsts', i.e. first true topical stamp, U. S. commemoratives, World's first commemorative stamp (not all agree), first official cachet, et. al."

I was unable to make a deal with the west coast dealer who had it, but I had the opportunity to study the exhibit in my hotel room Friday evening. Unfortunately only about half of the original 100 pages were still present. Therefore some of the best items had already been sold by the time I saw the exhibit. For example, there were no US #114s. I would assume there were multiples, essays, maybe even a proof or two. It is hard to speculate on what all may have been present. I wonder if there is some kind of an exhibit registry that would contain that information? Nevertheless, much of what remained was still material that I had never seen before. The complete exhibit must have been spectacular!

RAILROAD EVENT COVER CORNER: At ORCOEXPO dealer Jim Leer sold me a copy of the book UNITED STATES PATRIOTIC COVERS OF WORLD WAR II by Lawrence Sherman, M.D. While I didn't find any pictures of train related patriotics in it, I did find information on a series of covers that has long intrigued me. The covers have a beautiful steam train cachet with "ON TO VICTORY" in large letters below the locomotive and JLL-(number) in smaller letters below that.

The 24 that I have all are different color combinations: JLL-9 (red train, dark blue lettering), 11 (dark blue, red), 19 (green, magenta), 20 (yellow, magenta), 21 (brown, magenta), 22 (magenta, brown), 23 (green, brown), 25 (yellow, brown), 26 (yellow, green), 27 (dark blue, green), 28 (red, green), 29 (brown, green), 30 (green, red), 31 (green, yellow), 32 (green, dark blue), 33 (green, brown), 39 (yellow, red), 46 (yellow, dark blue), 50 (brown, yellow), 51 (red, yellow), 52 (dark blue, yellow), 72 (red, black), 79 (yellow, black), 80 (red, magenta). All but one of mine have a typed address to "W. R. Threlkel, 2626 Lindsay Ave., Louisville, 6, Ky" and were mailed "FREE" from various military camps around the country between Sept. 13, 1944 and Sept 1, 1945 by different individuals. Maybe Mr. Threlkel was collecting postmarks from all the military bases. I have seen others with a hand written address to Mr. Threlkel from Denver with a US #922 so they didn't all come from military bases. Dr. Sherman numbers the patriotic cachets alphabetically by the cachet text so I found "On to Victory" listed as number 5112, color red, Topic EagV (Eagle plus V), publisher Lowe, Price A ($3.00 - 6.00). In his "Catalogue of Publishers" listing P335 for Lowe gives the Imprint "JLL (+ No.)" and the name James L. Lowe, Chattanooga, TN. The index had a listing for James Lewis Lowe, p.23 that provided this interesting story:

"In the April 1996 issue of PATRIOTIC PATTER (pp.1-2), James Lewis Lowe recounted his adventure in patriotic covers that began more than 50 years earlier when he was a thirteen year old boy living in Chattanooga, TN. Thanks to his subscription to LINN'S WEEKLY STAMP NEWS he learned about patriotic covers in 1943

'But had no means of printing them until I visited a one-man print shop near Fourth Ave. and Twenty-third St in Chattanooga. Fascinated by his shop, I wanted to establish my own but could not afford new equipment. The printer told me that he had an old, broken down, 3" x 5" Kelsey hand press that he would sell for $5. I managed to save up that amount, purchased the press, had my father weld it back together, and set to work producing patriotics, printing over a hundred designs, many of which were merely color varieties... I visited almost every printer in Chattanooga in search of patriotic cuts, i.e. engravings that I could use along with patriotic slogans or quotations. As we say in the south, pickings were slim.'

Looking back somewhat ruefully decades later, Lowe recalled that 'my patriotics were simple, some rather stupid. In fact some words were misspelled.' But he joined the new Patriotic Cover Exchange Club, became 'the proud and patriotic member number 527', and began exchanging a few of his printed patriotics with other collectors. Soon he realized that 'my simple designs were in some demand. So I increased production from twenty or thirty to a hundred, offering them in quantity through Linn's classified ads. The response was amazing. I devoted most of the summer of 1944 to printing, packaging, and mailing unused patriotics.' All with an 'old, broken down' but rehabilitated Kelsey hand press and youthful energy."

Unfortunately the above doesn't give me a real clue as to how many of Lowe's covers had the train on them. From his number JLL-80 there may be at least 80, but from the color combinations I have seen, his seven colors would produce only 42 different covers if all were bi-colored and 49 if JLL-1 to 7 were single color. As I recall, I think I have seen covers with a tank rather than the train and Dr. Sherman has evidently seen at least one cover with an eagle and a "V". If these different designs are all in the same number series, there may not be 80 different trains (or even 49). Does anyone out there have any of these covers with different numbers than the ones I've listed or any additional colors?

MY "FAREWELL TO AMTRAK TOUR" PART 4: The EMPIRE BUILDER from Seattle to Chicago. The Ramada shuttle made stops at Washington University Hospital, the Space Needle and Pike Place (a major shopping and tourist attraction) before dropping me off at King Street Station about 11:25 AM. The AMTRAK web page had indicated that the WB EB (#7) was two hours late when I had left the hotel at 10 AM so it evidently made up quite a bit of time since the arrival board showed it due in at 11:45 and it actually got there at 11:37 - two Genesis locos, a baggage car, transition sleeper (crew car), a sleeper, diner and three coaches. There was a flurry of activity as the passengers got off. I heard one woman say, "It was long" when asked "How was your trip". About 20 minutes later the train moved on south, presumably to be cleaned and serviced for the return trip. I was filming a NB BNSF manifest on the mainline about noon when an AMTRAK "Cascade" pulled into the station on track #3 (#761 from Bellingham). At 12:58 "Cascade" #750 arrived from Eugene and Portland on track #5. At 1:45, #753 left for Portland on time from track #3 while I ate my cheese cracker/Pepsi lunch. A SB BNSF stackpack rolled by at 2:35 PM while I was exploring the waiting room reading signs, etc. A poster "Redeveloping King Street Station" says "moldings, friezes and columns" as well as windows have been hidden by false ceilings and partitions. The plan to redevelop the station doesn't say anything about hotels for the area. Opened in 1906, the station handled 400,000 passengers in 1997 and they are planning for six million in 2007! I didn't see a donation box anywhere - I'm sure they would collect some much-needed funds if they had one displayed prominently. But maybe security isn't good enough in the area. Three BNSF locos came SB about 3:20 PM. There were two "Sounders" parked on the number 6 and 7 stub tracks but none were shown on the arrival/departure board. A NB local rolled by at 3:33. About 3:45 the waiting room started to fill up and I started getting antsy to be on my way. At 4:00 PM they announced that they were having trouble with one of the EB sleeping cars so we would be delayed at least 30 minutes (I prayed it wasn't mine!). A SB local with caboose came by at 4:05 and Cascade #752 pulled into track 4 at 4:12. At 4:30 the agent came by and took the "4:45" off the departure board and left it blank (not a good sign!). I said "You need a question mark" and he replied "Yes, but they are pretty sure that they have it fixed." A Sounder pulled in on track two at 4:36 and another on the same track at 4:39 in preparation for the rush hour. It left fully loaded at 5:11 PM. Both Cascade #755 and 762 left a minute or so early. The other Sounder left SB at 5:38. A NB BNSF manifest rolled by at 5:52 and a SB came to a stop on the mainline in front of the station at 6:13, evidently waiting for the EB EMPIRE BUILDER(#8) that pulled into the station at 6:30 PM, allowing the manifest to go on south. During the delay I spent some time talking with a tall, thin, bronzed cowboy from Montana who could have been the "Marlboro Man" except he didn't have a hat (or horse). He had come in on #7 just before noon after some excitement in Whitefish. Police had crawled all over the train looking for a terrorist (or professional killer) but hadn't found the guy. The "Marlboro Man" had caught a train down to Tacoma, talked to his lawyer about a child custody case, caught a train back and would be on #8 back to Whitefish.

We started boarding at 6:35 and were rolling at 6:42, only a couple hours late. We only had about 75 passengers when we left Seattle led by Genesis P42 #60 and #159, baggage car #1756, transition sleeper #39021, sleeper #32056 (831 - mine), sleeper 32039 (830), diner #38039, coach #34052 (811) and coach #31504 (812). After going thru the tunnel under downtown Seattle, I saw a shed for the Waterfront Streetcar but no streetcars as we met four SB locos. As the conductor collected tickets, we passed a large BNSF yard on the west and engine servicing shop with roundtable at 6:55 PM. According to Melvin, my car attendant, there is no EMPIRE BUILDER stationery, but they did have an EMPIRE BUILDER magazine. Each of the three sleepers I have been in has been slightly different so I guess I've been in Phase, I, II and III but I'm not sure which is which. This one has a small, enclosed closet for a hanging bag, the CS closet was open but accommodated a hanging bag, and the CZ just had a wider seat on one side. Based on the AMTRAK car numbers, the CZ was Phase I, the EB was Phase II, and the state named sleepers on the CS are Phase III (highest numbers). There were lots of small sailboats in the sound as we rolled north into some dark clouds. I heard on the scanner that we would get some slow orders because of a slide fence indicator. We met a SB manifest just before we pulled into Edmonds (MP 17.1) where it had obviously been raining pretty hard. The ferry was just leaving WB as we departed NB along the shoreline. We met a WB manifest at 7:38, a stackpack at 8:02 and another at 8:40. Everybody must have had dinner at the first sitting because there were only a few of us at the 8:45. I shared a table with a gentleman from AZ who had grown up in this area and brings his motor home up each summer so he can go salmon fishing. He had left his wife in Edmonds with the motor home while he returned to Whitefish, MT to pick up a car that had needed repairs while touring Glacier National Park. We went through the 7.79 mile long Cascade Tunnel under Stevens Pass - longest in the US - as I ate my New York Strip Steak, potatoes and green beans. We came out as I got my chocolate truffle and decaf coffee. I got back to my room at 9:45 after walking to the end of the train and watching the tracks behind us for awhile, then realizing I could ask my dinner partner to mail my 10 covers from Sand Point, ID on his way back, I quickly trimmed some advertising cards to fit the #9 envelopes and walked back to coach to ask the favor. Back in my room, I had the attendant make up the lower berth (can't see out from the upper berth) and turned the lights out at 10:30 PM. Saw one last stackpack just as they announced the Wenatchee stop.

As I had hoped, my internal alarm clock woke me up at 2:10 AM as we rolled into downtown Spokane. Thus I saw WB #7 led by P42s #191 and 168, baggage, eight Superliners and two express boxcars (#1414 and #20010) sitting at the station along with the four cars of #28 from Portland. Genesis # 129 was at the east end of the station track holding #7 as we rolled by, stopped and backed into the track holding the Portland cars. The coupling was so gentle that I doubt anyone not fully awake even noticed it. (Certainly nothing like the AMTRAK horror story my friend Fred whom I met on the CS and his brother experienced on the CZ leaving Chicago last summer. The train stopped west of the station so they could add on the freight cars. The switcher brought them in too fast and hard, forcing the CZ forward 3-4 feet, knocking everyone standing into tables, walls, floors, etc. Most of the service crew and many passengers were hurt. They brought in several EMT's to treat the injured. Then AMTRAK had to bring in replacement dining car and car attendant crews before the train could continue.) I listened on the scanner as #8 coupled onto #28, then added loco #129 between #60 and #159 and as they split #27 from the end of #7. When they loaded the baggage, a modern tractor pulled three old baggage carts like the ones I saw in Kane, PA growing up in the 40s. As the baggage man came back from loading the baggage, he stopped at #27's sleeper just opposite me and turned on the lighted car number. It came on 2830 instead of 2730. All the AMTRAK coaches and sleepers have two numbers - the five digit number painted permanently on their sides and vestibule doors and a four digit number that indicates the train number and type of car. Thus #0532, #1431 and #0830 are sleepers on the WB CZ, NB CS, and EB EB while #0611, #1113 and #2712 are coaches on the EB CZ, SB CS, and WB Portland section of the EB. #7 highballed for Seattle at 2:45 AM and #27 headed for Portland at 3 AM. We started rolling east at 3:11. There was an SD-9 working the BNSF Yardley Yard on the east side of Spokane and two manifests waiting to go east as we rolled by at 3:23 meeting a WB stackpack. Then I turned off the scanner and went back to sleep.

Awoke about 5:30 AM as we followed the Kootenai River northeast of Sand Point, ID. I saw a beaver swimming toward shore as I got dressed. We met a couple WB manifests and went through four or more short tunnels before I went to breakfast at 6:30. Sat with a couple from Los Angeles and a man from just outside Portland. He was going to Minneapolis for his son's high school graduation, then on to Chicago to visit his mother. The couple had been put on a bus at Klamath Falls, OR yesterday so they could make their connection with the EB at Portland. Sure seems like AMTRAK needs to adjust their schedules somewhat if they are continually putting people on buses to meet their connections. I watched an eagle soaring along the river as I ate my eggs and bacon. After breakfast, I walked to the rear of the train so I could record the car numbers added in Spokane -lounge car #33023, coach/baggage #31007 (2714), coach #34818 (2715), sleeper #32075 (2830 - "Connecticut") and express boxcar #1447. Back to my room to brush my teeth and pick up my paraphernalia, then off to the sightseer lounge for the ride through Glacier National Park. Found a good seat and created more cardboard stuffers for the ten covers to be mailed in Montana, then caught up on my journal. We entered the seven mile long Flathead tunnel at 8 AM so I've now been through the three longest railroad tunnels in the US. There were a couple WB locals waiting for us near the east portal plus we met a WB autorack and a stackpack before reaching Whitefish, MT at 9 AM just an hour and 15 minutes late. I got off and actually found a mailbox, then took photos of the beautiful depot and a Great Northern diesel switcher on display. They used a small John Deer tractor to pull the old baggage carts in Whitefish. The baggage carts may have been the same all along the trip but I didn't notice them until Spokane. Rolling again at 9:08. There was an EB manifest with five BNSF locos in three paint schemes waiting for us to clear the area. We met a manifest, stackpack and work train in the span of just twenty minutes, passed a Loram Railgrinder in the yard at the Isaac Walton Inn and met a grain train with four locos on the point and two pushing a few minutes later. We went through several snow sheds but these were more open than the ones on Donner Pass. Unfortunately I couldn't get any decent pictures as we went through Glacier - either I was on the wrong side of the car or all I could see was the reflection of the bright yellow shirted guy next to me. We also didn't see any wildlife so the whole car cheered when a lady said, "I see a bird over there." After we crested Marias Pass, I went back to my room in time to catch an EB TOFC at 11:05, then a long grain train with two locos at each end so I'm not sure which direction it was going.

About noon we went into a siding and stopped so I assumed we were waiting for a train. Then I heard on the scanner that something had gone into emergency and they were going to walk the train to find the problem. Shortly after I saw the crewman walk by my window, the announcer said, "You'll notice we have stopped. We are waiting for a freight train." Like the airlines, no mention of the true situation. I then heard the trackwalker tell the engineer that they didn't find any problem. He suggested that a passenger might have touched one of the brake valves. (I don't even know where they are - I guess I'll have to look - probably on the lower level where I don't spend much time). After the crew got back on, the conductor came on the PA and admonished all passengers not to touch the brake valves, etc. and outlined the consequences for the train if someone does. We were rolling again at 12:10 and I went to lunch at 12:20. I was fortunate to be seated with two attractive young ladies. Jenny was from Portland on her way to Devils Lake, ND to spend the summer working at a relative's hunting lodge bed and breakfast. Riley was from near Missoula, MT on her way to Memphis to visit her family so she was planning to catch the CITY OF NEW ORLEANS tomorrow evening. She has made this train trip about ten times and was lamenting the greatly reduced menu since her trip in January. All her favorite meals are gone, particularly a salmon salad at lunch and some fantastic bread pudding dessert. She also pointed out to Jenny (who was in coach and on a budget) that you can get great deals on the sleepers if you wait until the last minute. The Southwestern chicken salad was really good but almost more than I could eat and still have room for soup and ice cream!

The landscape had changed dramatically when we departed Glacier Park - from forested mountains to flat, treeless plains, probably for the duration of the trip. The "little houses on the prairie" were few and far between in ND and eastern MT. Not much else to look forward to now except meeting a train or two. Returned to my room about 1:30 and went back to work on the cardstock inserts for my covers. At 1:53 we passed a yellow and blue "geep" (Parus RY (?)) idle at a grain elevator. Arrived in Havre, MT about 2:35 PM, an hour late. Another beautiful station and an excellently maintained Great Northern steam loco on display.

Started rolling at 2:58 and immediately met WB #7 - three locos, baggage, ten Superliners and an express boxcar. Back to work on the cardstock - only 110 to go. One of the WB manifests we met was led by a loco whose orange "Heritage" paint was so faded that the loco was a pale yellow compared to its sisters. I finished trimming the cardstock and stuffing the 110 envelopes about 6:45, giving me a few minutes to kick back before my 7 PM dinner call. When Melvin stopped by to empty my wastebasket, he asked if I had been shredding and I replied, "Yes, I work for Arthur Anderson." That brought a hearty laugh. My dinner companions were a psychiatrist who was going back to upstate NY to move all her belongings after 14 months setting up a new practice in MT and a pair of research chemists going to Minneapolis for their nephews wedding. The chemists were in the compartment across from me so I had to explain what I had been doing tearing cardstock all afternoon. My baked pork chop was another excellent dinner and the lively discussion on a wide range of topics made the time go much too fast - it was 9:30 (now central time) when we broke up. We slowed down considerably before crossing the high trestle over Gassman Coulee just west of Minot, ND where we stopped for servicing and a crew change at 10:27 PM. Since I didn't want to be up for the stop in Fargo, ND in the wee hours of the morning, I wanted to mail my covers from Minot. I couldn't find a mailbox and considered giving the covers to a taxi driver but opted for an Air Force sergeant instead (one of the two sets of covers that never showed up). Completed putting stamps on the covers for MN, WI, IL, TN and MS and turned out the lights at 11 PM.

Up and ready for breakfast at 6:30 AM as we left St. Cloud, MN. My dining partners were the guy from Portland I had breakfast with yesterday and a railfan from Albuquerque. He used frequent flyer miles to get to Seattle just to ride the EB to Chicago and will fly home from there. He has made several such weekend AMTRAK trips and hopes to ride a SAN JOUQUIN in California, then the SOUTHWEST CHIEF back to Albuquerque next weekend and THE CARDINAL from Chicago to DC in the near future. The French toast and sausage were as good as the company. Got back to my room as we passed a huge BNSF yard on the outskirts of Minneapolis. We then passed a WB Canadian Pacific local. I saw some old passenger and freight equipment behind a string of cars on the south side of the tracks as they announced we would be in Minneapolis Midway Station in ten minutes. There was a maroon Minnesota Commercial Ry (MNNR) loco with three AMTRAK express boxcars waiting as we pulled into the station, plus two fluted side dome cars and an AMTRAK coach a little further down the track. The stop in Minneapolis was fantastic! Not only was there a mailbox in the station, but I was able to photograph a beautiful maroon and yellow observation car "Prairie Rose" and videotape MNNR#316 (an Alco RS-27) removing the express boxcar, then adding coach #35010, two private dome cars ("Puget Sound" and "Sierra Hotel") plus three express boxcars and eight Roadrailers. The brakeman said that they always add several Roadrailers at this stop. I also talked briefly with the owner of the dome cars, a pilot for Northwest Airlines. I said that in my Air Force days in Vietnam "Sierra Hotel" was a Falcon code for cuss words we couldn't say over the radio. The owner smiled as he replied, "You've broken the code."

The cars are available for private charter at I got back to my compartment in plenty of time for our 8:40 AM departure, now only 40 minutes late. The MNNR loco storage area was to the right as we left the station so I didn't get any good photos but it was jam-packed with an assortment of locos including some in Conrail blue. There were several UP, BNSF and CP/SOO trains plus a couple large yards as we made our way thru St. Paul - too much rail activity to keep track of it all. We stopped at a beautiful little ex-Milwaukee RR station built in 1880 in Winona, MN about 10:55 AM. Actually we stopped twice (once for the sleeper cars and again for the coaches) as we have done at a couple other small stations where the platforms are too short to accommodate the entire train. Rolling again at 11:03 so even two stops don't take much time! Had a pleasant ride along the west bank of the Mississippi River and then across a long truss bridge for the stop in La Cross, WI. Didn't find a mailbox but as I headed back to the train, the station agent asked if he could help me so he took the covers for me. Back on the train, I walked to the rear to see what the dome cars looked like,

then sat in the sightseer lounge until my 11:50 lunchtime. I was surprised when we went thru a tunnel just as our lunch orders were being taken. I was seated with an elderly couple from North Carolina who just got on in La Cross but had been both directions on the EB and the CS on this trip. The other lady got on in Winona and is spending the next three weeks riding trains in eastern Canada - VIA RAIL and the Ontario Northlander. She has already ridden all the US trains except the ADIRONDACK, which she plans to do on the way home. She is a mathematician and her husband has a PhD in physics (like me) but doesn't like to travel - not even by rail! (unlike me!) When I asked if she had been a train nut all her life, she said no - it started in 1989 when she didn't want to take an airplane to a conference that got her back really late into La Cross (no airport in Winona) so she took the train and fell in love with it. So now she always takes the train. On this trip she discovered another AMTRAK pricing anomaly: from Winona, MN to Chicago the train #8 Seattle sleepers cost $116 while the train #28 Portland sleeper costs only $96 [Why would not having a diner on the west end of the route affect prices on the east end where the diner is available?] Another good lunch with interesting companions. Got back to my room about 1:15 .

I have always heard about Wisconsin Dells as a great vacation spot but I couldn't see anything particularly interesting or remarkable when we made our stop there still 50 minutes late. After passing an EB CP manifest waiting in the hole at 2:05, we flew by a beautiful stone station at 2:16 that I wasn't quick enough to catch the name of with my head buried in my book. About the time they announced our next stop would be Milwaukee in five minutes, we passed a large but mostly empty CP yard to the south. Over the scanner I heard someone say, "Take the clean linen from #8 for use on #7" so I guess AMTRAK is trying to be efficient in small ways too. As we pulled into the station, there was an AMTRAK train with P42 #70 on the west end, four Amfleet coaches and F40 #90200 (actually a CCB unit) on the east end. It departed promptly at 3 PM as AMTRAK #338 HIAWATHA SERVICE (one of six each way). We started rolling at 3:04 but then had to stop for #338 to clear the block. Passed a stopped EB CP manifest at 3:10 PM, then almost saw the WB EB #7 race by in a blur at 3:30. I think it had at least four express boxes or Roadrailers on the rear but I couldn't really distinguish individual cars at our 160 mph combined speed with just a few feet separation. Saw a bright orange Milwaukee bay window caboose in a park a couple minutes later, but couldn't get a picture. I need to develop my anticipation and photographic skills - I've missed a lot of good photos on this trip. After passing a UP coal train at a power plant, I caught the tail end of a defect detector report at 3:55 that warned me HIAWATHA #337 was coming, but it was still a blur. I think it had a Genesis loco on each end and four Amfleet cars. The defect detectors have reported our train length anywhere from 1960 to 2094 feet. I know we are going about 60 mph for the shorter lengths and almost 80 mph for the long lengths so maybe the air resistance at speed stretches the drawbars some (increases the separation between cars). It is hard to believe that it could be about four feet per car so maybe the readings aren't too accurate. Anyone know? In addition to seeing the unusual loader and hopper cars I had seen in Raton, NM a few weeks ago, there seemed to be METRA trains everywhere as we made our way into Chicago - at one point there was one to my right, another off to my left on a separate line from the eight track right of way we were on, and one above us on an overpass as we went underground into the station. Passed a string of orange AMTRAK gondolas and dump cars doing ballast work. HIAWATHA #338 was unloading as we pulled in and an AMTRAK with Viewliners was also in the station. There was sadness for the end of an enjoyable train trip as we pulled into track #28 at 5 PM, but also anticipation for the start of the next one and excitement about exploring this busy, grand old station. I had heard on the scanner that #8's cars would become #59 (the CITY OF NEW ORLEANS) without the last sleeper and St. Paul coach. The freight cars had been dropped at one of our many stops on the way into the dark station - probably when the conductor had announced we would be losing power for a few minutes. He had cautioned us not to stand or move around since we would be making several stops and starts before our final stop - not sure why it takes so many. The SIERRA HOTEL was beautiful at the end of the train but it was too dark to get a good photo of the drumhead and observation platform.

I made my way thru the crowd to the AMTRAK ticket counter to see if I could catch the CNO tonight. All the seats for my fare plan were sold so I would have to pay the full coach fare $180 minus a small discount for my present ticket. No thanks. Then I checked on a possible sleeper for tomorrow - just one standard left at $166. I asked if that included dinner since the train leaves at 8 PM (or later). The agent said, "They start the dinner service in the station." Still more than I wanted to pay since I would miss out on all the rail activity leaving the station. Made my way up the escalator to Canal St. and was surprised to see a huge, columned edifice "UNION STATION" across the street!

I thought I had just come out of Union Station - I had but not thru the Great Hall waiting room. I walked a few blocks south on Canal St and got a room at the Holiday Inn across from the main post office. After checking in and freshening up, I mailed my letters, then walked back to Union Station where this time I went in the columned building, down the well-worn marble stairs and stood enthralled in the immense Great Hall waiting room. There weren't many people around at 7:30 PM, so I sat on one of the benches for a while to absorb the atmosphere and try to imagine what this huge room was like in the heyday of train travel. Then I walked thru the glass doors "To All Trains" exit and found my way to track #21 to see the CNO (and the cars I rode in on) off. Scheduled for 8 PM, they started boarding at 8:18 and the line was onto the platform by 8:23. She started rolling at 8:30 led by Genesis #199 and #25 (still in the old paint scheme), baggage cars #1415 and 1756 and nine Superliners. The SIERRA HOTEL and PUGET SOUND were evidently going elsewhere.

I found my way upstairs to the food court and had dinner at McDonalds - how can you not patronize a place that has train pictures on the walls and employees dressed in engineer's overalls, scarves and caps. Watched the ANN RUTLEDGE come in from Kansas City and the INTERNATIONAL from Toronto - each with a single P42 loco and four Amfleet cars. Also watched the THREE RIVERS depart for NYC with a few coaches and 15 express boxcars. Got back to the hotel for a good nights sleep about 10:30 PM. More on Chicago and the CITY OF NEW ORLEANS next time.

RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: Graham Greene in TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT "When a train pulls into a great city, I am reminded of the closing moments of an overture."

RAIL FACTS AND FEATS: Philip Berlin, manager of the Cumberland Valley Railroad, designed the world's first sleeping car. It operated between Harrisburg and Chambersburg, PA in 1837. Sleeping arrangements were adapted from the seating.

STAMP OF THE MONTH: Instead of a stamp, I present my "Invitation of the Month". You are all invited to join Sue and me for a Social Hour from 4-5 PM Saturday, June 28, in the Steamboat Room, Holiday Inn DIA, Denver, CO after the Casey Jones Railroad Unit meeting. Thanks go to Bill Senkus, Alyson Kuhn and especially Paul Kagiwada of Michael Osborne Design, San Francisco, for creating this special invitation for all of you.

May all your signals be green,


Al's signatureAL PETERSON

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1-800-807-RAIL access code RR or 719-591-2341 or e-mail
Dues $10.00. Contact Contact Bill Senkus @ CJRRU-ATA P.O.Box 4584, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-4584 



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