Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

USA May/June 2011

This trip also encompassed some travel in Canada as well and was the start of a very long trip indeed, which encompassed no less than 13 flights, and ended in Malaysia, after a few days in Vietnam!

The US part of the trip was all about Alco Locomotives on some of the US Shortlines, all of which have been broken down into their own sub-sections for ease of viewing.


Arkansas & Missouri Railroad (A&M) May 2011

Having flown into the NW Regional Airport near Fayetteville, AR, the first two days of our mammoth trip were spent based in Springdale, AR, at the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad which runs from Fort Smith, AR, to Monnett, MO and is an Alco haven, having only Alco locomotives on their roster!

Though a freight line the A&M do run regular passenger trains throughout the year, all the details of which can be found using the calendar feature on their website. Tickets can also be booked there too, although if you prefer to ring in I’m sure Brenda (Passenger Train Manager) will be happy to help. She certainly looked after us while we were there, as always. The whole staff at the A&M are very friendly and very helpful, they even had us “English folk” being interviewed for a local TV programme that was being filmed at the A&M during the time we were there.

This trip was a flying visit, literally, into the local NW Arkansas airport, two days doing trains then away by hire car. Our first day was spent riding the regular service which ran Springdale – Van Buren & return, with a trip from Van Buren – Winslow in between for those wanting to do a train ride from Van Buren, while the Springdale passengers enjoyed the afternoon in Van Buren. Our loco of the day was Alco C420 #68, which we were a little disappointed with as we’d had it on our previous two visits, although by the end of the day we’d had over 1000km’s off the machine.

The second day was a little different it was the day the A&M celebrated National Train Day, and also the same day that the Seligman Chamber of Commerce ran their annual train from Seligman to Van Buren, which meant lots of mileage and hopefully a different engine at Van Buren to operate the 4 Van Buren – Copp Jct “shuttle” trains which the railway operated for the National Train Day event. All the trains aside, Van Buren also had a “festival” with the streets being lined with all sorts of stalls, and there were people everywhere. It was a very early start, 0400 out of bed, to ride to Seligman in the morning, of course with C420 #68, which then worked back to Van Buren. We’d already worked out that there could only be one of three locos waiting at Van Buren to be the Copp Jct T&T loco, as we’d seen the rest. The maths for us wasn’t good, but thankfully it was #58, which we’d not had before on the A&M. One shuttle was enough though and we spent the mid afternoon soaking up the delights of Van Buren before returning to Springdale only with the return Seligman special. It was then a mad dash across the state to Little Rock for Amtrak’s Texas Eagle to Chicago…….


USA Main Lines May 2011

With all the travelling around the country we did on this trip there was time to sample some of the commuter stuff on the various mainline operations around the country, along with a bit of freight action.

Metra in Chicago being the first stop, which was only a quick out and back, on one of their F40PH-2’s, to Elburn on the UP West Line to fill the time between our arrival off Amtrak’s Texas Eagle from Little Rock and our departure that night on the Lake Shore Limited to Poughkeepsie.

Metro North in New York was second on the list, which provided me with an evening of entertainment on the Poughkeepsie line, immediately after getting off the Lake Shore Limited, my companion had a rather less productive evening trying get some decent photos in the pouring rain. The GE P32AC-DM’s didn’t disappoint. At least you can get near them during the rush hour when all the coaches are in use.

Amtrak provided us with some interesting journeys throughout the trip, if nothing else……

New Jersey Transit in “Philly” was the final stop before my long-haul from Philadelphia to Ho Chi Minh City, via London.

There were a few opportunities for the odd shot of a freight train during the trip, but we didn’t plan on any actual chasing freight trains anywhere so they were all just opportune shots.

Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMR) May 2011

Our visit to the Catskill Mountain Railroad was to ride with Bart Jennings on two of his “Rare Mileage” specials. Bart arranges these specials through the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum, details of which can be found here (as well as photos of all previously arranged trips):

As the Catskill Mountain Railroad is split in two we gathered at Kingston Westbrook for the first of the days two charter trains. A task that we almost couldn’t manage due to car hire issues, followed by some taxi related issues too. The result of which was me having to ring Bart to get the train to wait for us, which was very much appreciated indeed.

The charter ran from Kingston Westbrook to milepost 5, where further progression was hindered by a bridge, which needed some attention prior to trains being allowed to cross, it was then propelled back through Westbrook to the Depot at Kingston before returning to Westbrook. The loco for the trip was Alco RS1 #401, the only reason we were there of course. The weather certainly put a dampener on things in relation to photographs. It hammered it down the whole time we were there, which put even more of a dampener on the second charter of the day.

After driving to the Catskill Mountain Railroad’s second base in Phoenicia we were given a double whammy of bad news. Firstly that we couldn’t run as far as the railway usually operated to, due to the persistent heavy rain having caused a washout. Secondly and the worst news of all for us was that due to the poor condition of the tracks and potential for washout at any moment the railway’s Alco S1 #407 would not be used due to it being too heavy. Their Devonport #29 would be used instead. I almost flagged the whole thing and was going to sit waiting while the train went out and back without me, but i ended up doing it anyway. In the process we managed to coax the railway into using the S1 on an additional shorter run, once the main train returned to Phoenicia. It pushed the whole lot out to Camp Ground Crossing, just over a mile and a half out of Phoenicia and then dragged it all back it. We were even treated to a cab ride with the line’s General Manager to appease us, which was very good of them.

At least the rain had stopped for our drive to Albany to drop the hire car off, where we got a taxi into Schenectady to catch Amtrak’s “Lake Shore Limited” the short distance to Utica, where we arrived at 0330 the following morning, in a taxi! All courtesy of a swing bridge not aligning back up at Albany, trapping the “Lake Shore Limited” New York side of it. The fact that it took Amtrak 6 hours to offer us a taxi to take us the 80 miles or so it was to Utica was nothing less than shocking……… And the driving was something else! How we actually made it alive is nothing less than a miracle……..


Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR) May 2011

Based at Utica, NY, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad is a very well run Railroad indeed. On this trip the main purpose was to ride with Bart Jennings on one of his “Rare Mileage Trips”, which was to cover both the line from Utica to Carter, which the ASRR run over with their regular services, and the line to Lyons Fall, which the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern (MA&N) operate over with their freight services.

We’d planned the trip expecting Alco’s on both days, originally we’d been hoping for Mohawk locos, which we couldn’t fail with, however it then came to light that the ASRR would be using their own power, which meant we were in the lap of the gods regarding Alco power as the C424 #4243 had just been put off-lease and the RS3 #8223 was out of service. However, the ASRR had just bought two RS18’s and were returning them to service #1835 & #1845, unfortunately neither was fit for traffic at the time the train operated, yet one was a week later, which we found sitting under the bridge at Utica as we passed back through, so close yet so far……

As luck did have it the ASRR’s GP9 #6076 required assistance on the first day’s trip, to Carter, which was so kindly provided by the MA&N in the shape of Alco C425 #805! And a good day out it was, unfortunately the weather was a bit rubbish but the C425 more than made up for that. From an Alco perspective we weren’t so lucky the following day, for the trip to Lyons Fall, as the ASRR’s EMD F10 #1502 had been tripped in from the shops and worked the train in multiple with the GP9 #6076 on the outbound with the GP9 working back on it’s own, and the F10 left dead on the rear of the train.

There were plenty of photo-stops on both days, some requiring more challenging approaches to reach the correct spot than others, but all in all it was an excellent weekend, with no major injuries….. Details of the “Rare Mileage Trips” operated by Bart can be found on the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum’s website, along with photos from previous trips;

The ASRR’s fleet as at May 18th 2011 was as follows:

1835 (RS18u)    Under repair
1845 (RS18u)    Under repair
8223 (RS3)        Out of service, waiting a turbo
4243 (C424)     Off-lease, to leave the railway

1500 (F7A)    Stored out of service
1502 (F10)     In service
1508 (F7A)    Out of service, maybe to be bought by the railway
6076 (GP9)    In service
705 (SW1)      Stored


White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) May 2011

The White Pass & Yukon Route has to be one of the most scenic railway lines in the world. Opened in 1898 during the Klondike gold rush, the railway survived “normal” service until 1982, when its operations closed completely. In 1988 though the railway was revived as a tourist operation. Operations only ran from Skagway, AK to White Pass Summit, an operation that was later extended to Bennett, BC, Canada and then on to Carcross, YK, Canada, as recently as 2007. The remaining section of line from Carcross to Whitehorse remains closed but most of the line is still in place.

This was my third and most probably final trip to the WP&YR. On my first & second trips the railway was an Alco haven with nothing but Alco derivatives from Alco, MLW & GE. Unfortunately, from a cranking perspective, the railway has had to modernise its fleet, which has resulted in the GE fleet being completely overhauled and their Alco power units being replaced with Cummins ones instead. A very, very sad time indeed for the Alco follower. Not all the GE’s had been done when we visited though and the WP&YR fleet looked like this during our trip:

GE 90 Class (GEX3341)

90 – CERES140

91 – CERES140

92 – Alco

93 – Alco (stored out of service, next to go for overhaul)

94 – Undergoing overhaul (not on site)

95 – Alco

96 – Alco

97 – CERES140 (worked its first train since overhaul the day we arrived)

98 – CERES140

99 – CERES140

100 – Alco

Alco/MLW 101 Class (DL535E)

All were in service during our visit

Bombardier (DL535E(W))

114 – allocated to works train duties during our visit

We arrived at the WP&YR at their Whitehorse base, where although they don’t run any trains they do retain a depot there and connect into trains at Carcross & Fraser by bus. We’d stayed in the Westmark Whitehorse (beware as there are two Westmark Hotels in Whitehorse), which is ideally situated in the middle of town and in easy walking distance to the WP&YR depot.

Our bus journey connected at Fraser, British Columbia, as the Carcross service wasn’t running southbound on that particular day. Once into Skagway, Alaska, we met up with some WP&YR staff for a quick briefing on proceedings, had to sign a declaration, confirming we’d abide by certain rules and carry certain equipment with us during our stay on the railway. We were also introduced to our guide for the day (which wouldn’t be the same person every day) who would make all the arrangements we needed for our photographing purposes throughout the stay. Then we were off back up the hill to White Pass Summit again before heading to the Westmark Skagway, which was only 2 minutes walk from the depot……

The next 6 days were nothing short of fantastic. The weather was brilliant, the most sunshine the place had seen in years apparently. We spent some days trudging over 10ft snow deposits, 3000ft above sea level, in glorious sunshine with just t-shirts and others freezing on the front veranda of a train climbing through thick fog. We saw bears, bald eagles, porcupines, mountain goats and a whole host of other wildlife throughout the week, making it even more interesting.

By the end of the week we’d covered the whole of the WP&YR network, including Carcross (which hadn’t been open on my first trip and closed due to a washout on my second). I’d also got my last GE #95, which was thankfully still correctly powered, and my last two 101’s were put together in a triple set for us. The best thrash of the trip by far was with the 101 triple sets going up the hill to White Pass Summit, music to the ears. So all in all an excellent trip, it was a shame i probably wouldn’t return.

Loco Workings were as follows:

26th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 101, 100

1st Summit – 91, 99, 97 (97’s first run since overhaul – considered a test run)

2nd Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 92

27th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 101, 100 (101 replaced by 110 for the second trip)

1st Summit – 99, 91

2nd Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 96

28th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91

3rd Summit – 90, 98

29th May 2012

1st Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 96

30th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91

2nd Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 92

31st May 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91 (plus pm Summit)

2nd Summit – 90, 98

3rd Summit – 103, 107, 109

4th Summit – 101, 104, 106

Carcross – 96

Yard Power – 108

1st June 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91

2nd Summit – 90, 98 (plus pm Summit)

3rd Summit – 103, 107, 109

4th Summit – 101, 104, 108

Carcross – 96

Yard Power – 99


West Chester Railroad (WCRR) June 2011

Alco’s on the SEPTA, who would have believed it? And what’s more who’d have thought the West Chester would ever get through the tunnels beyond Philadelphia 30th Street! Well they did……….

On Saturday 4th June 2011 the West Chester Railroad ran a “special” Charter Train utilising their MLW RS18u #1803 & Alco C424 #4230. The trip was a very reasonably priced $50 per person with no reserved seating (which was good for those wanting to listen to the Alco’s), but the trip was fully booked. The Railroad used their own stock throughout. The only stipulation by SEPTA was that their Genset #70 was used in multi with 1803, instead of the C424, beyond Philadelphia 30th Street to prevent the Alco clag setting off the fire system in the tunnels.

1803 led 4230 from West Chester to Philadelphia 30th Street. The whole train was shunted out to the carriage sidings for SEPTA’s #70 to be marshalled inside 1803, before picking everyone up again for the run to Lansdale, the destination for the day, where the annual Lansdale Festival was taking place. The same took place in the return direction too.

It was excellent to be able to have open windows at the front of the train and to listen to some Alco thrash on a “proper” running line, with speeds up to 50mph, while trains were passing at speed in the opposite direction. Thankfully the Genset made less noise than a very quiet thing, which meant the only noise that could be heard was the 12 cylinder growl of the RS18.

There were plenty of photo stops in both directions, unfortunately the best of the day was at Leni, on the unused section of track between Glen Mills and the SEPTA line, after it had become too dark to take any decent photos. It was a run-past that had 1803 pouring out black clag in an attempt to bring the onset of darkness ever quicker.

A thoroughly enjoyable day out, with nice weather, decent running speeds, not one but two Alco’s, a load of photo stops and a raft of thrash to boot. What more could the Alco follower want?


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