Tuesday, September 08, 2009


This is a 3-D wireframe drawing of a K-36 front pilot frame.

(left click to enlarge)

Not shown is the Bissell post, the snow plow assembly, springs, wheels and axle, and a host of other detail items.

Like most locomotives, the K-36 has few 90 degree angles to contend with. Most everything is designed with arcs and curves.

Arcs and curves are things computer 3-D drawing programs do not like.

The more points of reference that are identified on any arc or circle, the more memory it takes to store those points. It also takes more time to display it.. Refreshing or regenerating a view port can slow to a crawl when the drawings get large enough.

As an example, a straight line from point A to point B, regardless of length, takes only 2 data points, each having an X, Y and Z reference. however, a circle, regardless of size, having a point of reference every degree, has 360 data points, each having an X, Y, and Z co-ordinate. If it's a sphere, it's the square of that number, or 129,600 X, Y, and Z co-ordinates. They all have to be stored in memory.

But that's not my real problem... today's incredible computers can handle all that data easily. Look at the above wireframe. Every one of the circles and arcs have a center, a place where its radius is measured from. That center has its own X, Y, and Z co-ordinates, but this time, I have to know and label these points. They are identified using what is known as the UCS system, the Universal Co-ordinate System. The USC can be moved any place on the drawing and it can be pointed in any direction relative to the World Co-ordinate System, which is a fixed X, Y and Z used as a master reference.

When you get enough of these UCS points, it can become a nightmare just to remember them, and figuring a unique name for each one. And 3-D locomotive drawings are really just a massive collection of arcs and circles, with an occasional straight line here and there.

If you are a computer game player and play say, World of Warcraft, you will see there are no true 3-D circles or structures. They are all constructed of several straight sections, joined in such a way as to form the appearance of a "round" structure, generally using around sixteen sections. If Blizzard had used 360 sections to show the appearance of a true circle, the game would never move faster than a crawl. Don't confuse a 2-D circle drawn on the face of a 3-d structure.

I generally use 40 reference points - or isoframes - for each 90 degree segment of a circle. That's good enough to display a fairly reasonable rendition of an arc or circle. Each one of those points are shown as a straight line across the Z-axis of the arc or curve.

Monday, August 31, 2009


The Santa Fe Railroad's Belen, New Mexico roundhouse has/had quite of few relics from it's past tucked away inside. Included was the M190, a two-car unit often referred to as the "doodlebug".

The reason I say "has/had" is because I have not re-visited this place for over thirty years, so I have no idea if The SF RR scrapped this de facto museum and its contents, or if it still exists.

In the seventies, the New Mexico Railroad Commission Director, who happened to be a member of our local railroad club, arranged for the Santa Fe to pull the M190 out of its roundhouse stall so we could get some photos and measurements of the unit. the task took most of a whole day.
Some of the photos:

Look at that pilot... Straight off an old steamer.

This unit had the "War Bonnet" paint scheme found on all of the Santa Fe's crack streamliners.

That's the rear unit of the M190 just below the center support of the turntable. Beyond it you can see the GP unit that was used to pull the doodle bug out.

The catwalk on the front unit. The small structure down and to the left is the turntable operators shanty. In the background, you can see a portion of the turntable's concrete pit wall.

These a just a few of the photos I have. These photos - and the measurements taken - resulted in 1/4" to the foot scale drawings, ultimately used by an overseas brass modeling firm that manufactured an HO brass model of this unique and one-of-a-kind locomotive.

The factory-painted HO model was fantastic.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Originally a throttle valve was a plain slide valve that moved upon a seat in which were ports similar in operation to the steam ports in the valve chests, just smaller in size.

The problem with that kind of valve was that the pressure of the steam on it when closed made it very difficult to open the throttle gradually, or to regulate or adjust it while open.

These difficulties were solved with the invention of the double poppet valve, seen below.

The valve J, has two circular disks, J1 and J2, which cover two corresponding openings in the upper and lower portions of the valve body, which is attached to the dry pipe L.

When the valve is opened, steam flows around the edges of both J1 and J2 equally into the dry pipe, balancing the forces acting on the valve.

Steam pressure from the boiler acts equally on the top of disk J1 and on the bottom of disk J2, making the valve a balanced valve, tending to keep the valve in whatever position the engineer placed it in, open, closed, or any position in between. This made the valve very easy to operate.

However, disk J1 was made slightly larger than disk J2, since - during the assembly of the valve - disk J2 had to be inserted through the opening for disk J1. As a result, there was a bit more pressure on the slightly larger top surface of disk J1 than on the bottom surface of disk J2. This tended to keep the valve closed when the locomotive was not moving. This was a good thing... No engineerless locomotives drifting off down the tracks slowly gathering speed.

The throttle rod K, passed through the rear of the boiler head through assembly K1, called a steam-tight stuffing box, then attached by various linkage to the throttle lever in the locomotive cab.

Friday, August 28, 2009


This is about as far as I can go with what information I have been able to gather. Info on the cyclone and petticoat has been most difficult since just about all photos the the smokebox interior have been taken after those items were removed, like the photo below. There must be hundreds just like it.

While on a Chama visit some time ago, I had received permission from the main office to look through some erection prints they had on file, but the man in charge of those prints was just too busy that day to give me a bit of his time, and during other times I had visited Chama, no K-36 had an open smokebox with it's petticoat and cyclone still in place.

So the drawing shows them in size and position - as near as I can surmise - from two photos taken by Carlos Llama he had posted on his site.

Being the tickler for accuracy that I am, this print - with it's obvious inaccuracies - will be going into the dead file.

A few throttle details

The below drawing of the firebox is incomplete since the dimensions of the ashpan and the wheel well are only approximated. The one time I had been informed that a K-36 had it's rear truck out and available for photos and dimension taking was an opportunity that didn't pan out, since it took me three days to get there. By that time the truck had been re-installed.
I have discovered while attempting to complete this documentation project - no matter how many trips, photos and measurements one takes - It's not enough.

And if there's anything I have learned over the years, it's that narrow gauge modelers and affectionados will go into low earth orbit over a dimension off by a sixteenth of an inch.

No need adding fuel to that fire.

I recall that I started this documentation project of the K-36 because as an award-winning NMRA contest modeller, I had wanted to scratch-build an O-gauge K-36, and any useful information on the locomotive was practically non-existent. Information that had been gathered by professional model builders - the ones that sell us those brass and plastic models - was held tighter to the vest than the crown jewels of England were. It's easy to see why... Getting that information - accurately - takes incredible time and effort, and at 72, I'm running out of time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Following are a few samples of Railroad Business cards I have stashed away here and there. Many - in fact most - of the cards in the collection are those of individuals from railroads that no longer exist.

As usual, you can left-click on any image to enlarge it.

This first one was handed out by a delegate to the Brotherhood Of Railroad Trainmen Convention (BRT) in Buffalo, 1905

This next one, distributed by J. A. Kinder, neglects to mention whether he belonged to a railroad or a Union.

Below, Mr. Schilla shows us he worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. He further tells us that the 1905 Buffalo Convention was the 7th biennial convention of the BRT.

On the below card, Mr. Wm. Brennan indicates that perhaps his wife did not trust him out of town for any period of time. Seeings how he did not bother to print her name, maybe she wasn't his wife after all.

Mt. R. L. Willis believed in brevity. No wasted ink on this card.

Note the very early herald on this card for the Union Pacific. It called itself "The Overland Route", and claimed of heady title of "World's Pictorial Line".

Another one of those "let's not waste any ink" cards:

This last card, although a part of the collection, doesn't appear to be a railroad card. But it can make the claim of being a part of America's first "Hooters". I wonder if Waldo was a waiter.

It's was a bit difficult to pick a few out of so many. The one card I will not post is the one with the names of two ladies and their room number... They may have descendents.

It was, after all, a convention.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I didn't realize Galveston had any kind of tracks in 1900. That looks like a two-unit trolley. The first car has a lot of windows still in good shape, although it looks like both cars were blown of the tracks (up on the trestle) and landed in the sand.


There is no information as to where this breaker was. Somewhere near Sabina, Ohio, one must assume. Or perhaps Leesburg, wherever that is, the writer mentions that. But then again, the writer also mentions spending Thanksgiving in Washington. Apparently quite the traveler.

This card was so heavily modified during it's colorization process that its a bit difficult to establish if it originally was a photograph. Probably was, but most of the detail has been washed out.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


All three of these steam locomotives are barely large enough to be considered as such, but none the less they are. None of these cards have any writing or addresses on the back, nor do they have any dates. The top two seem to be of the 1940-1950 variety, while the bottom one has the look and feel of a card printed in the early 1900's.

The first here, called the "Oregon Pony" is described as the first locomotive in the northwest. It operated in 1862 and 1863 in both freight and passenger service for Oregon's first railroad. The railroad was on the southern bank of the Columbia river between Bonneville and Cascade Locks. A bit of checking reveals that more than one Oregon railroad makes the claim to be the first, but most were not in existence in 1862 or 1863.

This card is a Mirro-Chrome card by H. S. Crocker Co., San Francisco 1, Calif.

(left click to enlarge)

Below is a photo of a locomotive labeled ARR 1, or Alaska Railroad No.1. A quick check shows that the ARR considers their N0.1 as an 0-4-0-T similar to the one below, but one with three domes. Whether this photo is actually the real original AAR N0.1, I have no idea. The kid standing on the pilot hides the number plate that would be situated on the smokebox front.

Ths card is a Kodachrome Reproduction by Mike Roberts Studios, Berkeley 2, California.

(left click to enlarge)

This last one is of a steam-powered something-or-other on a railroad somewhere hear Santiago, Chile. Salto del Soldado y Cerro Hercillas translates roughly as "Soldiers Leap and Hercillas Hill". This particular postcard is a long ways from home.

This card was published by Hume & C0,. Santiago, Chile.

(left click to enlarge)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The below card, postdated 1903, was sent to Mrs. Anna Nussy of Nantucket, Mass. The photo is of the Sconset Limited, a rather grandiose label for an eight-wheeled contraption.

left click to enlarge

The Nantucket Railroad was a 3 ft gauge narrow gauge railroad on Nantucket. The railroad linked the town of Nantucket with the town of Siasconset. Built in 1881, the line closed in 1917, with the track and rolling stock sent to France as part of the Allied forces of the First World War.

The above photo is apparently the only surviving one of the Fairbanks-Morse 4wPM gasoline powered railcar that they claim could carry ten passengers. The line had four other locomotives to service the roughly nine-mile-long railroad:

A Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 Originally built for the Danville, Olney and Ohio River Railroad and scrapped in scrapped 1901;

A Sconset Mason Machine Works 0-4-4 Purchased from the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad 1888:

A Hinkley Locomotive Works 4-4-0 Originally built 1879 for the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad; purchased 1901

And an Alco 2-4-4 purchased in 1910.

Siasconset (also 'Sconset, Oggawame, Sconset, Seconset, Siasconsett, or Sweseckechi) is a village in eastern Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States. Its elevation is 52 feet. Although it is unincorporated, it has a post office, with the ZIP code of 02564.

SIASCONSET: Algonquian term for “place of great bones.” Si from missi, meaning “great;” ascon from askon, meaning “horn or bone”

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Look at the below 102 year-old hand-colored postcard.

left click to enlarge

It's a trolley load of folks nearing the summit of Mt. Lowe in California. It's wintertime, snow is everywhere. There's a man standing on the tracks in front of the trolley, so it's stopped for the photograph. Everyone else has left their bench seat and are standing up. Photography was pretty basic back then, with cameras the size of suitcases and using huge plate glass negatives, so how long did this photo take?

They are all up in the air maybe 50 feet on a spindly wooden trestle. There are no hand rails or guard rails on the trolley.

Even when sitting, the passengers are totally exposed to the open air and weather. Gotta wonder how long they stood there... and how much wind was blowing. Try to imagine the hissy-fit this kind of conduct would cause today. The NTSB, OSHA... Who knows what other government bureaucracy would have heart attacks over citizens acting so.... unsafely. Investigations, firings, lawsuits.

At least one of the ladies is still seated.

Another interesting point... The front of the card has a Kansas City postmark indicating the date the card was RECEIVED. Never knew any post office did that sort of thing.The back of the card is fairly typical, showing that it was mailed April 9, 1907, at Whitter, Calif.

The post date on the front shows it was received in Kansas city on April 12, 1907. Three days from California to Kansas. Not bad for 1907.

The Mount Lowe Railway was a scenic mountain railroad created as a tourist attraction on Echo Mountain and Mount Lowe, north of Los Angeles, California. The railway existed from 1893 until its official abandonment in 1938, and had the distinction of being the only scenic mountain, electric traction (overhead electric trolley) railroad ever built in the United States.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I know next to nothing about English railroads and equipment, but the postcard collection contains several dozen cards of English locomotives. As usual, you can left/click on the photos to enlarge. Here are a few:

This first one, using the Whyte classification of locomotives, would be a 2-2-2-T. No information is on the card other than it was in use in 1862. Named the "Dwarf", protection from the weather for the engineer and fireman was basically non-existent, only a metal windbreak surrounding the upright firebox.

This next one, a 2-2-2, or perhaps a kind of 2-2-2-T, if that's a tank with the number on it. Named the "President", the card says it was built in 1851 and had "7 ft" driving wheels. Good for more speed, but reduced pulling power. Crew protection from the weather was totally non-existent.

Next is another 2-2-2, named "Lady of the Lake", and shows that tenders had become a standard fixture. the locomotive had even larger driving wheels at 7' 6" diameter, and sported a half-hearted attempt at crew protection. According to the card, this locomotive - number 531 - was built in 1862, and rebuilt in 1876 and 1898. They ran this thing for 35 years?

Following is an 0-8-0. Obviously a freight locomotive, the drivers had shrunk to a diameter of 4' 3". Protection for the crew from the weather was still a joke. The card says this locomotive was built in 1901, and is said to be a four cylinder compound coal engine.

Lastly, this number 6000 is a 4-6-0 Pacific class type of locomotive, named the "King George". This loco was sent to the Baltimore and Ohio Centenary Exhibition in 1927, still sporting the six-wheel tender design first developed around 1862 for locomotives like the "Lady of the Lake" (see above)

The back of this card carries quite a bit of information:

Now here's a real unique item: A postcard sized photo of an African railroad locomotive... with a truly intriguing message on the back.

Says the message:
On our great worlds record run of 856 miles from Johannesburg to Cape Town, with the premier train of South Africa, the "Union Limited", August 13th and 14th, 1925.
(signed) Harry

Our (?) in white coat. He and I went together on all tests of these experimental engines.
Volumes and volumes left unsaid there.

Friday, May 01, 2009


One of my all-time favorite photos. Just thought I'd share it with you.

left click to enlarge

Usually my photos were of pipes or wheels, or couplers - something along those lines - but every now and again a scene would present itself too interesting to pass up.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Pennsylvania Railroad's "AMERICAN":

Chicago & North Westerns "400":

Southern Pacific's "Daylight":

Southern Pacific's "Sunbeam":

The Milwaukee Road's "Hiawatha":

Seaboard Railway streamliner:

A Union Pacific "Limited Train":

Next: Some of the Diesel streamliners.

I have quite a few postcards that were distributed by the railroad companies themselves, and will show a few from time to time.

Below is a typical example from the Burlington Northern.

(left click to enlarge)
Unanticipated bonus: Listed is the typical consist of both passenger trains, plus, it's a souvenir of a World's Fair. Which Fair? No idea. This particular card (it says) one was handed out from the Burlington's Postal Car at the World's Fair. However, most of the cards I have that were passed out from an RPO(Rural Post Office) were also dated and cancelled.

Friday, April 03, 2009


(left click to enlarge)

As the card says, it's an Observation Train, somewhere around Harbor Springs, Michigan. The railroad, according to Wikipedia,was The Harbor Springs Railway, a 30 in. gauge built from Harbor Springs, Michigan on Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

It was nicknamed the Hemlock Central because of the great numbers of hemlock trees growing in the area. The railway was chartered by Ephraim Shay, the inventor of the Shay locomotive.

30" gauge, 16-pound rail, and stub switches. Didn't get much smaller than that.

This card may be a photo of one of Ephraim Shay's earliest locomotives, possibly his first. It may also be hand-colored, indicated by the tan coloring on the bottom that goes below the details of the photograph - and washes over the darker rails.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


This "Carte Postale" shows no signs of ever having been stamped or mailed, but is intriguing because of the address:
Private Samuel Spriggs
Battery C G S(?) 1st field Artillers
American Expeditionary Forces

(left click to enlarge)

I can't quite make out what the guy is saying about the french girls... "Here is - - - one of the French girls - - - my name".

Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 28, 2009


(left click to enlarge)

This is a penny postcard of their Riverside, Calif. Depot.

I have always liked this type of architecture, made famous by the Santa Fe.

The postcard - made in Germany - was issued by M. Rieder, Publ., Los Angles, Calif. No. 2716.

I know of a lot of defunct railroads, but this one is a new one to me. At the very least, they had fantastic depots.