The Rail Philatelist March 1999 Newsletter
Volume 3 . Number 10 March 1, 1999Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
POSTAL RATE INCREASE: The one cent postal rate increase (3%) was innocuous enough and the reduction of one cent in the extra ounces rate left the two ounce rate unchanged so my newsletter mailing costs didn't change - I actually save a penny or two on most of the orders I mail out. But all the other services I use went up even more: Certified Mail to $1.40 (up 3.7%), Priority Mail to $3.20 (up 6.7%), Registered Mail Fee to $6.00 (up 21%) and my P.O. box rent up 10.3%. Incidentally, I am sure most of you noted that the Postal Service will issue a set of five "Famous Trains" stamps - the Southern Pacific "Daylight", the Pennsylvania "Congressional Limited", the New York Central "20th Century Limited", the Milwaukee "Hiawatha", and the Santa Fe "Super Chief" - but you will need to buy a complete sheet of 20 if you want all the SE-TENANT combinations since the stamps appear in different positions in the five columns in the sheet! The USPS sneaked a train stamp into the 1940's "Celebrate The Century" sheet also with a "Streetcar Named Desire" Playbill - but no streetcar - at least the Tennessee Williams stamp (Scott #3202) had a small streetcar in the background (that makes the CTC 5 for 5 in train stamps!)
PARETO'S LAW - THE 80/20 PRINCIPLE: This law of sociology is applied widely, probably even to situations where it doesn't apply. As used here, it means "80% of the results come from 20% of the effort". Or, "80% of the sales come from 20% of the customers". Or "80% of the show sales come from 20% of the shows". You get the idea. Therefore, management theories suggest you concentrate your efforts on those 20% of the activities that produce 80% of the results and don't waste time on all the marginal activities. Taken to the extreme, this would have me devoting all my time to my best customers and ignoring the rest. As an optimist, I keep hoping that if I give the proper attention to those marginal customers, they will become good customers. And occasionally it works - I had two examples this month where customers who had sent in occasional small orders sent in much larger orders! I am however applying Pareto's law to shows next year - I am cutting out the marginal 80% to concentrate on the 20% that produce satisfactory sales. Bonnie and Roger Riga, dba RIGASTAMPS (somewhat of a misnomer since they specialize in cinderellas and non-Scott listed items) did an experiment a couple years ago where they eliminated most of the smaller shows they had been doing for years to concentrate on a few bigger ones. They found that their sales were virtually unchanged or increased slightly while the overhead went down dramatically. The explanation is that the good material always sells well, but is hard to find. If you are doing a lot of shows, the good material is sold a little at a time and then you don't have it for the better shows. And the time spent at the poorer shows keeps you from getting material worked up to sell. I've known this for some time but it is hard to cut back on shows since I enjoy the travel and interacting with customers. On the other hand, I don't much enjoy those 20% who cause 80% of the hassles. I've felt like I'm on a farewell tour thus far since most of the shows I'm doing I am doing for the last time - I plan not to return to many of the Great American Train Shows I'm doing this year.
FEBRUARY TRAVEL: On my trip to the San Francisco Cow Palace train show, I saw 30 trains between Cheyenne and Green River, WY including two firsts! At the Union Pacific's ballast quarry in the mountains west of Cheyenne, I had seen empty and loaded ballast cars on the siding several times but this time there was a switcher (looked like an SW-1500) pushing a short string of loaded ballast cars south to the siding. And just west of Green River, I have hoped for years to see a train on what I thought was a UP spur over I-80 to the Solvay potash mine - today there was one! To my surprise the three GP-38s were Conrail blue not Armour yellow - evidently Solvay owns their own railroad that interchanges with the UP main line a few miles north of the mine. There were only three trains between Evanston, WY and Ogden, UT but happiness is hurtling down Weber Canyon alongside a UP Intermodal! Then there was the train headlight off to the south between Stateline and Wells, NV on the old Western Pacific line - actually "MP 769" according to the Defect Detector that reported. Also saw an Eastbound TOFC on the old Southern Pacific line while typing this in my Wells motel room (the old WP and SP lines meet at Wells, NV and run almost side-by-side for 175 miles to Winnemuca, NV before the old WP line goes North for the "Feather River Route" while the old SP goes thru Reno and over Donner Pass). On a crisp zero degree morning, the sunrise on the snow-covered Nevada vistas was beautiful but there were no trains the whole way to Winnemuca ( well, I heard a dispatcher report for one just west of West Carlin but that section is not visible from I-80). There were three trains (2 EB and a WB) between Winnemucca and Lockhart, then four at Reno, two waiting to tackle Donner Pass. I made my first ever stop at Truckee, CA and planned to have lunch at a diner with a track view from the corner booth as recommended by customer John Azzaro. There was a train with three helpers heading toward the summit when I entered town. When the lady in the visitor center in the depot told me that the westbound AMTRAK had just gone thru "5-10 minutes ago", I decided lunch could wait and raced toward the summit hoping to see one or both of the trains going in or out of the snowsheds. Those structures always impress me - more so on a clear winter day - an awesome engineering feat! But I didn't see either train - must have missed them in the tunnels. So I grabbed a McDonalds "2 Big Macs for $2" special (didn't see a Carls Jr's until later) and headed for the Roseville, CA station to wait for AMTRAK #5 "The California Zephyr" to come down the hill. There were about 50 people waiting when I got there at 1:28 PM so I assumed #5's arrival was imminent. But talk on the scanner was about #6! Sure enough, at 1:39 PM, eastbound #6 arrived from Oakland with Genesis locos #71 & 46 and PH40 #518, a baggage car, 9 Superliners (3 sleeping cars, a dining car, a Sightseer Lounge and 4 coaches), an express baggage car and an express boxcar. It left at 1:43 and then I walked around. Since #5 was scheduled in at 2:20 I decided to wait for it. They have removed most the tracks from the former SP east yard in Roseville - in fact the tracks some of the rotary snowplows and flangers were on are no longer connected to anything - I hope they don't need them in a hurry! Incidentally, silver Union Pacific rotary snowplow #901080 was sitting across the tracks from the Roseville station along with a couple black former SP rotaries. Most of the locomotives in the repair shops and the engine servicing facilities were Armour Yellow, not black! At 2:13 I heard a dispatcher report that #5 wasn't due in until 3:33 - I guess it picks its way slowly across the high Sierras. I couldn't wait that long so I headed west. On the way, I checked out the new west yard UP is building - all the tracks seem to be in place but they aren't connected to anything yet - at least not on the East end (where is UP doing the switching and train make up that SP did in Roseville?). There were two WB trains waiting on the south side mains and an EB waiting on the north side mains. Near downtown Sacramento I heard a harried dispatcher say calmly "To the management from Hell, yes, stand bye please". I'm not sure who he connected the caller to but there are evidently still some disgruntled former SP employees around. I crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge (U.S. #C36, Poland #3350, Tunisia #1125 and Tonga-Niuafo'ou #198 ) and could barely see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge thru the haze. Got to the Cow Palace at 4:30 - fortunately I was going against the rush hour traffic - the freeways were really just parking lots in the other direction that time of the day. Got things unloaded and set up by 6PM, then saw a couple CALTRAINS double-deck commuter trains on the way to my motel. I had my dinner in the bar of the Hungry Hunter Restaurant because there was a 45 minute wait for the dining rooms. (The Hungry Hunter is a little upscale compared to my normal travel eateries but their prime rib is outstanding!) The guy next to me was an ammunition dealer from the gun show, also at the Cow Palace this weekend, so we had an interesting conversation during dinner. His sales are up significantly over a year ago - mine are down. His seven-person team's sales of ammunition in one weekend are more than I did all last year selling train stamps including shows, mail order and Internet sales - and he does that almost every weekend. Am I in the wrong business or is there something wrong with our societies values? (Probably both!). The show turned out pretty good thanks mostly to three good local mail order customers who showed up! My radio worked this time so I was able to listen to the Super Bowl the last part of the show and while packing up, then watched the 4th quarter in my motel room - way to go, Broncos! There wasn't any rail activity in Roseville Monday morning but I was glad I had waited to tackle Donner Pass in the daylight - it was still sloppy in spots with a couple of rotary snowplows cleaning up so it was probably bad the night before. I heard a couple defect detector reports but didn't see any trains between Sacramento and Reno-Sparks. Saw two trains (one a BNSF using trackage rights gained in the mergers) between Sparks and Winnemucca, then seven UP of all types between there and Wells, NV - much better than on the trip out but AMTRAK #5 slipped past me someplace in there. Tuesday morning started well with WB autorack, stackpack and TOFC trains in Weber Canyon, UT within the first 25 minutes I was on the road, then nothing until the I-80 UP overpass east of Evanston, WY. There must have been only one track open thru Rock Springs because there were 6 EB waiting between Rock Springs and Peru hill west of Green River, and another 2 WB waiting just east of Rock Springs while an EB TOFC passed them all. A couple WB stackpacks had come thru while I had my breakfast at the Embers in Green River so they were evidently only allowing the high priority traffic thru. All in all, I saw 46 trains with none in Cheyenne for the first time ever even though I spent a half hour at McDonald's watching while I ate a late lunch. I may have missed a couple between Rawlins and Laramie - the snow was blowing so hard I couldn't see the road in front of me much less a train. I heard on the scanner that an empty autorack train was being held in Laramie because of 80 mph wind gusts on Sherman Hill. The engineer wasn't too happy but he hadn't seen the 5 semi-trailers turned over on I-80 either! That made me wonder who makes the decision to hold the train - does the UP have their own staff meteorologist or do they rely on the Nation Weather Service. My dealer friend George, dba GANDY DANCER VIDEOS, tells me the UP has weather stations with anemometers, etc. all along their route at critical places where they have had problems in the past. On the way to the Albuquerque show (another to cross off my list), I saw nine trains including AMTRAK #3 at Lamy, NM (I missed seeing #4 by about five minutes!). I went to Belen on Monday morning to check on a couple sand lots I own near there and spent a couple hours on the road bridge over the north end of the BNSF yard. It was a great morning for train watching with cool, sunny weather and lots of rail activity. The three westbound service tracks were busy - as soon as one train pulled out another pulled in. Two sets of GP-38s were flat switching strings of cars and there was a continuous parade of crew "taxies" (actually 9-passenger vans) at the yard office. Belen has a Harvey House Museum also but it is closed on Mondays - too bad. I went home via Vaughn and saw three more WB waiting to get into the Belen yard and an EB waiting its turn up Abo Canyon plus a couple more near Mountainaire and three in Vaughn. I had just pulled into my vantage point near the BNSF-UP crossing (over/under) in Vaughn and started my snack (there are no recognizable fast food outlets in Vaughn,NM!) when a WB UP autorack train came by (this is the old SP/RI Chicago-El Paso line). The last car had barely cleared the tunnel (?) (more like a large culvert) when a WB BNSF stackpack passed over it. Just a few seconds from a precious Kodak moment! On my St. Louis trip, I saw 5 EB UP trains between Wild Horse, CO and just east of Oakley, KS - the two coal trains had two locos on the point and one on the rear just as I've seen previously on some UP coal trains in Nebraska. Spent part of Friday at one of my favorite train sites - in the Kansas City bottoms near Santa Fe Junction. There was almost more activity than I could keep track of but I did manage to also read USA TODAY, MUTUAL FUNDS magazine and finish a time management book I checked out of the library (I know, "time management" and "train watching" may be an oxymoron, but if I become more efficient in my other activities then I'll have more time for train watching! Dumb like a fox!). There were at least three trains of note: a 69 unit Norfolk Southern (NS) "Triple Crown" road-railer, an AMTRAK Genesis #76 with diner and 3 coaches that came west on the high line at 1:33 PM to just before the double-deck bridge, then backed toward Union Station. It must have been turning on the wye because it was sitting at the small AMTRAK station headed east when I drove by at 2:40. There was a colorful Public Belt Railway switcher and a nondescript WATCO (?) "Geep" parked nearby. The third interesting train was a Kansas City Southern (KCS) grain train coming in to UP's Armourdale Yard. I heard the engineer asking for instructions from the yard tower: "We're a road crew, ma'am. We just follow the blocks. We don't know where we are going. With the cut-backs in transfer crews, we have to bring the train in ourselves and we've never been here." So she gave them detailed instructions to "come across the bridge, around the curve to the left, over the crossover and across track 301 to track 303". She told him to have his conductor walk ahead to make sure the switches were aligned because she couldn't set them. About that time a helpful UP track hand on the ground who had been listening called in and volunteered to get the switches set for them. As they were pulling into their track and getting tie-up instructions the tower operator said "You should have a train packet there with a map of the yard" (I'd like to get my hands on one of those!) The engineer replied "We don't even know where to look for that". The last I heard of this 30 minute drama was the crew was trying to figure out who to call to get a taxi back out of that foreign territory! There were a couple lulls but I usually had 4 or 5 trains in my sights all the time I was there. The 40+ trains were about evenly divided between UP (including SP and C&NW) and BNSF (green; blue & yellow; "Warbonnet" and both "Heritage" paint schemes) with trains from KCS, NS, Kansas City Terminal, Iowa & Missouri Railink, Conrail, and AMTRAK and locos from Canadian National, CSX, HCLX, and LMX (18 paint schemes). A veritable smorgasbord for an avid train watcher! After setting up for the show in St. Louis, I got to my motel room in time to watch a PBS travelogue on South Africa's "Blue Train" (Scott #994-8) while logging my daily expenses and typing this. The show turned out okay as far as sales plus I narrowly missed two potential disasters: just after the show opened Saturday there was a deafening din as a severe hail and thunder storm moved over the area. As a paper dealer I am always extra cautious when it rains so I immediately checked over my area for drips and heard the tell-tale noises near my main display. The leak was actually hitting on a shelf in the booth behind mine and splashing over. I whistled to get the other dealer's attention as I covered my tarrifold display with plastic to protect it. Fortunately, we both got things moved or covered before anything got damaged but it did disrupt things for almost an hour. I hadn't been lucky enough to find a parking place on the street so I had paid $7.00 to park in a parking garage - all those "lucky" people who parked on the street had extensive hail damage to their vehicles - one dealer had just bought a new van - now it has dimples all over! Things weren't quite as active at Santa Fe Junction on the way home. I saw 9 BNSF trains in a little over an hour - no UP, but there were 10 UP freights between Lawrence and Oakley plus an EB KYLE RR grain train at Edson, KS and another at Limon, CO (both on the old Rock island route) - that may be some sort of record. I can't recall ever seeing that many trains in the 30+ years I've been traveling the route - I'm usually thrilled to see one or two - UP must be increasing their traffic on the old Kansas Pacific route.
STAMP OF THE MONTH: In addition to sending in the info on the Camber railway, Keith Downing also e-mailed the following: "As for the idea of favourite railway stamps -phew, there's so many it's hard to think. (Ed: I certainly agree with that!). The one that started my collection was W Germany 1979 showing the first electric railway (Ed: Scott #1294) so it has pride of place in my display, but it's hardly the best illustration. Another early addition to my collection is the 1939 set from Turkey for the opening of the Erzurum railway (Ed: Scott #829-32). Perhaps it's my nomination. It shows the scale of engineering works in wild terrain as the country became modernised, the stamps are engraved and show great detail, and they are not often seen, so yes, I think I'll make that my suggestion!" And excellent choices they are!
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: "Does your train of thought have a caboose?" My daughter -in - law in Pittsburgh sent me this one - what do you think she is trying to tell me?
MAR 5-7 HOSTLERS TRAIN SHOW UNION STATION OGDEN,UT MAR 13-4 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW AMERICAN ROYAL COMPLEX KANSAS CITY, MO MAR 20-1 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW THE CENTER OF NEW HAMPSHIRE MANCHESTER,NH MAR 27-8 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW STOCKYARD COMPLEX DENVER,CO
MAR 5-7 HOSTLERS TRAIN SHOW UNION STATION OGDEN,UT
MAR 13-4 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW AMERICAN ROYAL COMPLEX KANSAS CITY, MO
MAR 20-1 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW THE CENTER OF NEW HAMPSHIRE MANCHESTER,NH
MAR 27-8 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW STOCKYARD COMPLEX DENVER,CO