Discussion in 'General Electric (GE)' started by gjslsffan, Apr 13, 2013.
A picture is worth a thousand words... Train 135 at Lockwood.
Makes me want one with sound! Great photo!
Bob Hoover (Frisco Friend) and I were in Ft. Scott one evening and the engineer on one of the early low nose boats told us that they had a 16 notch throttle and that it was extremely hard on the engineer if they were the lead unit. Hard to match up with the EMD units.
The 858 probably sounded like a jet engine more than a chugger. I wonder how long it ran like that before they shut it down. I assume it went to the shop soon thereafter and got a new turbo!
Preface: This was typed decades ago concerning an even earlier experience I had during my "wonder years" of railroading.
You know, before a person can really understand the essence of something, to acquire an empathy with it... you first have to be there. That was the case with The Trip. Ol' Mac could have told me the story, and it would have been really neat to hear the tale. But having experienced it... lived it... I now know that words could never have conveyed the stirring of the emotions, the sights, the sounds... the feelings... of being there.
And so it was with U-boats. You see, as a teenager, when I would hang around the Frisco's Ft. Smith yard, "Standard Power" was defined by the letters F and GP with numeral 7's following, along with a few 3's, and an occasional singular 9. However, after a few years rolled along, another letter begin to appear fairly regularly, the letter "U".
When one has been raised on a diet of EMD products, a long hooded, short snout U-boat is indeed a queer serving on their motive power plate. And that sound as it idles... "cusha--cusha--cusha--cusha"... very strange. Though U-boats in several flavors had been an irregular part of the Ft. Smith scene for some time, it wasn't until January 18th of 1975 that we crossed paths there. Still riding the fervent inspirational fever The Trip had flung upon me, I had been going over to the Frisco's Ft. Smith facilities on an oft basis ever since. Thus, if a "stranger" wandered into town... more often then not, I was there to duly record it. Unfortunately, some of my "old friends" were now gone forever, for the last of the F's were traded off just a few short months ago. In view of this, I was determined their counterparts, the GP7 fleet, would not slip past me also... hence the sojourns to the FS Yard as often as practical.
So there I stood, looking at this ill-proportioned thing in front of me, an inordinately long hood and a short little pug nose: Meet a U30B. Yet, as with most "new" animals that are discovered, my interest was piqued. The longer I stared at it, walked around it, and listened to it... the more I liked it. U-boats... cool. Needless to say, I burned some frames on it.
Within a few days, I picked up Athearn's HO model version of a U30B. Why, I was already building my first FS Sub layout... and now that I've seen a U30B in Ft. Smith... why not have one for mine? Yes, a fever project if ever there was one... but that's the way it was.
As the weeks turned into months, U-boats became a fairly common occurrence to the FS Sub. More U30B's made their appearance, along with several different types of U25B's, including the "Moby Dick" look-alikes: The high hood U25's. Now that's one ugly engine. To me they looked like a big orange and white whale. "Thar she blows... it's Moby Boat."
Did I say U-boats in Ft. Smith on a regular basis? Well, you see, the same thing was happening to the "boats" that had happened to the F's. That is, as newer power came onto the roster, the older stuff was handed down to the Ft. Smith Sub. Deja vue... just like old times. After all, "hand-me-down-power" thinking would be Modus Operandi for this Sub until the arrival of the GP15's.
As the weeks turned into months, so to did my "fever" begin to pale for a U-boat on my layout. Oh, they were okay... but nothing spectacular. Really, I just couldn't relate. No, my best memories had EMD written all over them. U-boats? Interesting perhaps, but I just didn't have "feel" for them, know what I mean? That is, until one night in particular...
About nightly news time, Sharon and I were driving across the Arkansas River bridge, headed for our home in Van Buren. As was "standard procedure" for me then, I craned my neck to look over the guard rail in order to check the Frisco drop span bridge that was just up river about a half mile. After all, it was in the "high probability" time envelope for #730's northward trek to commence. Sure enough, the bridge lights were flashing, and I could see Frisco gumballs doing likewise. #730 was waiting for the bridge to drop into place.
The next series of events on my part was also "standard procedure"... I gassed it and headed for one of my favorite vantage points to watch #730 through Van Buren: The depot.
Within minutes of arriving at the old faded depot, I heard that night song of the Leslie horn as it sounded a warning for the first road crossing after the river bridge. Yes, though still out of sight, #730's impending presence was now being heard. (Odd. It never got old. In spite of the fact that several years went by while I lived at Van Buren, from 1974 to 1979, and in spite of the fact that I've watched countless Frisco trains around my region before, during, and for a short time after those years, there was always an anticipation inside me as I stood track side waiting for a yet another Frisco train to arrive. No, it never got old.)
Over a quarter of a mile down the track, the piercing headlight slowly eased around the bend. Then, all sense of movement seemed to stop as the train lumbered toward me... just the headlight (so barely and almost imperceptibly) seemed to be growing larger. Soon though, as if to prove that motion was indeed taking place, the lights and bells of the "Logtown Hill" street crossing signals punctured the tart night air. In moments, the personal audio signature of that Leslie 5-chime again added it's chord to the sounds surrounding me. (You know, there are times, like now while I'm writing this remembrance, that I sense a longing inside to once more be able to stand track side and hear, see... experience... the Frisco again.) With a clattering (the engine headlight swaying side to side in deference to the state of affairs beneath it's wheels) the train rumbled by me.
U-boats. You don't see that often, not on this Sub anyway. A solid quartet of U-boats, and U25's at that. Yessiree, no "Sub Sandwich" this time. A "Sub Sandwich" was what the power people at Springfield seemed to enjoy the most on the Frisco FS Sub Menu, such as a GP38, U25B, U25B, GP38. The lead unit was a low-nosed U25B, with a venerable old high-hood unit thrown in the mix for good measure. As the tatty looking foursome chugged past, I noticed they were slowing. This meant switching. Which also meant I was in the wrong place for that.
Hastily, I jumped in our car, and took off for a better vantage point, namely, at the north turnout to the Middle Track. If a typical move was going to be made, it would be to set out the "Mop's" for the next morning #731 train to pick up and to deliver along with it's own "Mop's". This way, #730 saved a rather involved run-around/set-out procedure consisting of a "down to the interlock, wait, get on the Mop, deliver, wait, return to our tracks, go back up the hill to VB, etc., etc."
I was right. That's what they were going to do, set off the "Mop's" that is. We parked by the Van Buren Library. This place, by virtue of the globe lamps lined up along the sidewalk, offered a hauntingly illuminated view of night railroading. For some reason, this time my wife got out and joined me to watch the switch moves. Likely, it was because it was one of the first crisp nights of the fall season, and to us, the first chills of autumn in the air is always invigorating.
All to soon, the move was complete, and the quartet of "boats" were sitting there idling in their own dialect, "cusha--cusha--cusha", all the while in the process of returning the brake line to a usable state. Then the sounds that a well "trained" railfan ear listens for: Those two short blasts of the whistle, followed immediately by the subdued hissing of air as the brakes are released. Their language changed slightly also, from the "cusha--cusha--cusha" of idle to "Cush-Cush-Cush-Cush" as the throttle was notched out a bit in order to get things rolling on the incline they were on.
Apparently, tonight there was a pretty hefty train of cars tagged to the hind end of those boats, for the engines were barely inching along.
I couldn't see who was engineer that night, but I'd be inclined to think it was "Highball" Hall (whose real first name will be omitted to protect the guilty, thus we use his fellow-employee given nickname). Now, we all know that a conscientious engineer will gradually work that throttle up as the speed slowly increases... right? Well, tonight was not one of those nights.
Though the train's progress could best be measured in inches, suddenly, thick black smoke began to belch out of all four engines, and the revolutions of their prime movers began to climb. I mean he cobbed those babies. In short order, the air was filled with a deafening staccato roar from the exhausts. Mufflers? Shoot, who needs mufflers? We're talking an unadulterated U-Boat symphony here. Now, be reminded, that north of the depot in Van Buren, the Frisco's mainline cuts a path through a very residential setting.
The tracks literally ran through the front yards of some homes, crossing sidewalks and the whole deal. Imagine a housing addition in your mind... now angle a set of rails across the road and cutting across your lawn in front of your porch... that's what I mean. I'm telling you, several blocks of windows in Van Buren were no doubt rattling from the raucous clamor those old boats were creating.
I stood there in awe. See it with me if you will...
By now, the train may be making three or four miles per hour, the old engines are roaring at the top of their lungs, heavy black smoke is boiling out of their stacks... whoa! As if this wasn't enough to make goose bumps on my back already, something I'd never seen before begins to happen. There, atop each engine, 5' tall orange balls of flame start popping from the stacks!!! Is was almost a stroboscopic effect, it would "pop" so fast. And as it would, the underside of the churning smoke would be momentarily illuminated by the orange halo. Each engine was offering such a display... first this one, then that, then another, all in a non-sequential random effect. It was akin to orange flash bulbs going off back and forth amid a row of excited photographers.
I literally stood there speechless, trying to absorb this impressive display of what a U-boat was really about.
"Wow..." I heard my wife say as she watched the spectacle before us. That's how moving the sight was. Never, ever, had she indicated any of my "encounters of the rail kind" were making an impact upon her. Yet, with the awesome display of raw power before us tonight, she too, had to acknowledge that this was indeed an emotional thing.
As we stood and watched the engines leaving us, the Leslie again broke into the night as the slow moving train renewed the job of crossing the seemingly innumerable grade crossings in Van Buren. The headlight piercing the darkness, the steel serpent eased toward it's appointment with The Mountain. As it passed under an overhanging tree, the branches rushed upward in response to the belabored exhales of the behemoths beneath it. The orange balls of flame were still popping atop struggling engines. The pungent, wonderful aroma of diesel exhaust filled my sense of smell as the trailing smoke began to settle upon us. We still stood silently as the cars rattled by. Soon, the lights of the caboose eased passed us, and the train slowly disappeared into the night.
There have been many "moving" experiences I have had the privilege to be a part of alongside twin ribbons of steel, and each one is unique to itself. Each reveals a different twist to the essence of railroading. Only after experiencing The Trip, could I really understand the impact, the drama, of The Mountain. And now, after this, and only after this, could I now understand what a U-boat was. I had now been there. I now knew. It was all a matter of being at the right place at the right time, with the right engineer in the right engines. Yes, it was all a matter of being there.
If you will allow, I will offer a minor disagreement with your premise that “being there” is required to understand the essence of something. Truly, literature, music, and art allow those of us who were “not there” to grasp the “essence of something”. Thanks to your marvelous words, I was there with you and your wife; I smelled what you smelled; I heard what you heard; I felt what you felt. Thanks for letting me hang with you at Van Buren.
A Really Great Story, Andre!
AND, Karl, You really nailed it!
Doug, As I recall, the install was pretty straight forward, although it was one of the new Bowser/Stewart U25b units. I think there should be plenty of room for a nice installation, even in the older units. I have one of those B/Y high hoods in my personal inventory to do.
Keith or Doug,
Does your B/Y unit have the one piece windshield and brake wheel?
That's a great story Andre, worthy of publishing. I wanted to comment but I was called.
A great and wonderful story. Yikes, nowadays they have 90 day wonders sitting in cubicles looking at your tapes and penalizing you if you move more than 1 throttle notch every 3 seconds.
Surprised I ain't fired yet lol.
Again great read Andre.
Well here we go another U25B on the roster, the SL-SF 811. A stewart/Ath product. I did remove the lettering on the long hood as well as the cab numbers with my old trusty erasers. Used Micro scale decals and a whole bunch of the "be safe" decals also made some number boards, installed an air dryer, bell sunshades, Mu hoses, a rebuilt Leslie 5 chime and such.
Now she will get a bit of weathering, and put to work.
Thanks for stopping by.
Looks great Tom, as always! You can never have too many U25s.
Tom - Great! See, told you that you would like U-boats in your fleet. Chuga chuga chug!, up the hills.
Got a bit of weathering done, so out to work it goes.
Thanks for stopping by.
Wow great story Andre, I almost feel those cold winds blowing by me, standing out in the middle of the right of way, waiting for the train to go by. Ok, trains coming were going to clear, take lunch. My frozen Peanut Butter sandwich just rolled away with the machines. Another missed lunch, well I'll start a fire. Ahhhh, fire, Cresote burning what a smell. Train blows embers into the national forest, and burns Mark Twain Forrest, now I'm in trouble, nothing to put out the fire. I yell for help and everyone laugh's. What the hell was funny about that ? !!!!!!!
811 looks great Tom. Nice job.
Bill I always enjoy your stories.
Nice Tom. I like the looks of the early "flat top nose" style better than the later sloped short hood.
Put it to work!
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