Rails & Trails Pages

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Knoxville Trip

November 9 - 13, 2011 saw me attend a GREAT Railroad Convention in Knoxville, TN.  The Lexington Group is a group of rail historians and railroad personnel who meet yearly in various cities around the US and Canada.  We had 3 days of various speakers which included many historical topics.  The Conference was sponsored by Norfolk Southern Railroad, Gulf & Ohio Railroad, and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.  One of our speakers was NS President Wick Moorman.

Besides all the great meals, we were treated to several train trips.  Due to visiting family in Louisville, I did not ride the Chattanooga to Knoxville train on Nov. 8th or the Knoxville to Chattanooga trip on the 14th.  But the others were GREAT!!!

Thursday afternoon saw 2 steam trains running on the Three Rivers Rambler Tourist Line.  One train of NS passenger cars was pulled by steamer 154.  This engine is a coal burner built in 1890 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works.  It is one of only 10 engines built by this company still in existence and was given to the City of Knoxville in 1953.

Due to the length of the train, a diesel was used to pull the train on the trip back.  This is diesel #2250 was completely gutted and fitted with a 4-cycle prime mover instead of the normal 2-cycle to meet the new emissions standards.  RR fans--it's featured on the inside of the front cover of the December, 2011 TRAINS magazine.

The other train was pulled by the Tourist Line's 203, built as a 2-8-0 coal burning steam engine but converted to oil.  It was built in 1925 by Baldwin Locomotive Company of Philadelphia and has been rebuilt by the Knoxville Locomotive Works and volunteers.  It has been pulling tourists on this line since 2001.

It pulled a string of vintage passenger cars AND the open air car that I would ride in.  We boarded in a small NS yard and got to go through an industrial area where the train normally doesn't run.

The tracks pass between the Tennessee River and the University of Tennessee Campus.  Here's the basketball auditorium:

And bridges are always fun to go under or over.
As we get out of town, we pass over the Holston River Bridge.  The Holston River, the French Broad River, and the Tennesee River all meet just on the other side of this bridge (hence the 3 Rivers Rambler Tourist RR).

The ride today will end at one of the marble quarries.  Marble from these quarries was used to build many structures in Washington DC including the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument.

On Saturday we would get a round trip ride from Knoxville to Asheville, NC and back, 240 miles in all.  This train would be a 14-car NS Executive Car Train, pulled by their 4 F-units.  This train was FIRST CLASS in all respects.  The 4 engines were completely gutted and rebuilt to 21st Century standards.  They are now essentially GP38-2 units.  I talked with George Eichelberger who designed the SOUTHERN Railroad-inspired paint scheme.  He's really happy with the end result except the number boards need to be redone as they aren't the correct SOUTHERN number font.
Here's a couple of shots on the web of our train:

Our train would closely follow the French Broad River for most of the trip.

There were 2 'special' cars that everyone wanted to ride in.  Here's the Theater Car.  The back end has been removed and a large window installed.  Theater seating gives many people a chance to 'see where they've been.'
Note at the top:  Our brake line pressure is 107 pounds, we are going 27 MPH, and it is 9:41 AM.

The other car everyone likes is the dome car.
It never ceases to amaze me concerning the number of people that HAVE to sit here the whole trip and then just visit--not viewing the scenery or letting other people get to experience the view from the dome.
And here's a view from inside the dome:
 Other shots on the way back:

On Sunday we had a 5-car train composed of the NS Executive cars and Engine 154.  Our train traveled to Alcoa and back (think Alcoa Aluminum--boy is that place BIG.  I saw 3 flat cars, each having a big ingot (slab) of aluminum.  Missed the picture on the way out and they were gone on the way back.
This was a FAMOUS trip and you'll probably see pix of it in future train magazines.  Engine 154 is a SOUTHERN Railroad engine and sat in a park in Knoxville before finally recently restored.  The 1982 World's Fair was held in Knoxville and a contest was held for a painting to commemorate the event.  The winning entry had engine 154 pulling a passenger train over the Tennessee River and was titled "154's Dream!"  Today is the day this would finally happen!  154 is a 2-8-0 Consolidation engine built in 1904 by the American Locomotive Railway Company in Richmond, VA for the SOUTHERN Railroad.  Norfolk Southern donated it to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in Chattanooga in 1999.  Here is our engine:

I grabbed a seat in the "West Virginia" open end observation car (we couldn't go on the deck in this direction as it was too close to the smoking engine).  This car usually resides in Washington, DC where it is used to entertain lobbyists and dignitaries (and now ME!!!)

Our train soon passes the site of the 1982 World's Fair:

We're about to pass over the Tennessee River Bridge.  Below us are the 3 Rivers Rambler's track, the track we rode on last Thursday.
A local television station's helicopter chased us for the whole ride.

Here's an example of the crowd that gathered at every intersection along the route, as well as many open locations in fields.

We were pulled back by Engine 630, a 2-8-0 Consolidation built in 1904 by the American Locomotive Railway Co. in Richmond, VA for the SOUTHERN.  The NS donated it to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum in 1999.  It pulled the excursion from Chattanooga to Knoxville and the one from Knoxville to Chattanooga, neither of which I rode.  It hooked onto our train in Alcoa and I didn't get pix.  However, it is written up in the December, 2011 TRAINS magazine on pages 4, 7, and 62.

A highway bridge over the Tennessee River is getting a major facelift as its deck was removed and a new wider one will be installed.  The supports were left.
With this last picture, we must say good-bye to a great convention.  It's going to be tough to top this one next year which will be held in Peoria, Illinois but I'm already looking forward to it.  Below is the 3 Rivers Rambler at its normal loading site, awaiting another group of people anxious to ride a train!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Durand Line - South End

In the fall of 2010 Terry Yust, Dave Linderud, Carl and Pat Morsbach, and I checked out the south end of our speeder line.  None of us had been on this section of track and we were anxious to see what it looked like.  It was a perfect day for walking, about 40 degrees with no wind.  We parked our cars on Highway 35 and started walking north.  Here is what we faced:

 Right away we came upon trestle M18:

Shortly after we found a small washout:

No train has run on this track since 1977 so here is what happens:

We saw lots of evidence of wildlife but the only animal we actually saw was a muskrat.  But there was lots of evidence of beavers.  Here's one of their dams:

To build the elevated roadbed over this swampy area (officially called the Tiffany Wildlife Area), the original builders scraped ground from alongside the track:

We walked about 2 miles north until we came upon a major problem--think I could make it across in my speeder??

I did walk around it and got this shot of Terry, Carl, and Dave:

We could have gone further, but walked back.  Supposedly there are a couple more washouts beyond the one above.  We adjourned to the Bar-B-Que restaurant in Nelson.  I had a SUPER pulled pork sandwich.  Try this place sometime, you'll like it and all the antiques on display.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cannon Falls Bike Trip

On Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 a group of 4 rode the bike trail from Cannon Falls, Minnesota to Red Wing.  The group included 2 of my daughters Allison and Ellen, friend Joe Lewis of Bloomer, and myself.

The trail is only 20 miles long but probably long enough for me after my recent ankle surgery.  The trail is on an abandoned CGW (Chicago Great Western) Railroad roadbed.  We rented bikes and had the owner transport us back from Red Wing to Cannon Falls.  This saved a lot of hassle transporting bikes and getting back to our starting spot.  Rain was predicted for the afternoon and the morning started with overcast but the sun broke out and with a 70 degree temperature, it was a perfect day for riding.

Here is our group--left to right:  Allison, Joe Lewis, yours truly, Ellen.

At the trailhead is the old depot in Cannon Falls, quite in poor shape.

Much of the trail is overgrown with vegetation with trees making a neat canopy over us.

One of the "critters" we encountered.  Lots of songbirds and a woodchuck.

The trail closely followed the Cannon River although with the heavy foliage, it was hard to see most of the time.

One of several creeks we passed over on a short bridge.

The original trestle work under one of the bridges.

The trail is part of the railroad that ran from Red Wing and Mankato.  If you are interested in a little history of this line, use this link:

Here is one of the railroad mileposts still in place.

 The railroad was on the edge of a bluff and the rock face had to be cut back for building the track.

 About halfway through is Welch Village, a popular downhill skiing site in the winter.

 Where the railroad went under Highway 61, a telltale pole still exists.  These poles would warn the workers riding on the top of the train cars that an obstruction was ahead, like a bridge or tunnel.

 Near the end of the trail we are almost down to the Mississippi River level.  Here is one of the lowlands.

 At the trailhead in Red Wing I was calling back to Cannon Falls to have our ride pick us up when a Canadian Pacific train on the mainline suddenly went by us--with Soo Line engines.  With phone in one hand and trying to get the camera up quickly, I just caught them:

 I hope you enjoyed the little trip.  If you enjoy biking, this would be a good trail to explore!!