July made it’s annual appearance,. I love July, mostly because it’s my birthday month. I also love July because we celebrate the United States of America’s Independence from tyrants of England. Our fore-fathers, saw that we as citizens deserved the rights as humans to be free, while at the same time protecting each other. After all, remember the mantra, help those as you would expect help yourself. Railroads especially passenger lines, allow each American, and our invited guests to travel almost freely around this country. I admire that most of our Constitution. With the days of the US Terrorist attacks, past us but not forgotten, I pause to take a moment to remember what those brave human beings did, and what every human is suppose to out this earth. Not climb over someone else’ s back to rise above. Instead, By helping each other, that way we can all climb together. We are here for each other. Stop and look around. When you travel by plane, your fellow passengers, barely talk to you, but, other the passenger trains, “Trainese” is practiced quite often. Just Say’in…Thanks America…Let’s get going…We have a better job to do of it.
As a child, growing up in a house that was next to the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (FRISCO) Cuba subdivision in Webster Groves, Missouri with the Webster station that contained at the time a little train layout that was called the Springfield and Ozark aka the Big Bend Railroad Club. I was always intrigued by the trains. The members were always welcoming to me and my family. I had two uncles that worked for the roads. One worked on the Illinois Central and the other the Missouri Pacific, running the Kirkwood Local. I would often run down to the MoPac tracks after school to meet my uncle and ride his engine back to the Mill Creek yard, where he would then put me on a FRISCO train that was headed back to Webster in time for dinner. Of course, that was pre 9-11. I would ride my bike to the Maplewood Sutton Ave location and then head to the Lindenwood yard. Still other times, I would ride to the Kirkwood station and hang with a great group of people that would sit in the grass in their lawn chairs that the kept in the trunk of their cars. I started visiting Kirkwood station when I was just nine years old. I met a great man there, his name was Jim Chenault. He took me under his wing and showed me what a true railfan is and should be. He passed away this past December. Because of him, I would visit Kirkwood anytime I could.
I got job back in 1999 as a shuttle bus driver. It gave me a opportunity to see the country during my vacations. I got married in 2006, after being one of the original downtown St. Louis loft residents, moved to the rural western suburb of Washington. I had been to the town several times before. the first time was when my father and mother bought our new car at a dealer in Washington that has long since closed. I took the first AMTRAK train that started to be a test stop in Washington. I was there the first week they started stopping there permanently. I would take my bike on AMTRAK and get off and ride around Washington on the trail or around Downtown Washington. I remember each and every hill. Afterall, the town is on the banks of the mighty Missouri River.
When I got married and moved to Washington, I went to a public hearing about the planned rebirth of the downtown area. I was the only member of the community to stand up and speak about the TIF. I was for it, after a bank was going to expand and create a great new landmark for Washington. Another developer was going to create group of row-condos that fronted the front door of Washington. The town has a passenger depot and a freight depot. The benches in Railroad Park face in and have not been turned around so that railfans can watch the trains. The freight depot was recently converted to a retail.manufacturing business. The visitors center staff are Chamber employees. Most do not understand or have time for the railfan. I am trying to change that slowly. I am trying to show them, if you show interest in railfans , they will come and visit the town like all those motorcycle folks that visit town.
A few miles east down the Missouri Pacific line, lies Pacific. This town, was renamed after the railroad carrying its name. The town has hosted railroad days as long as I can remember. The steam trains have paid a visit, Amtrak has paid a special whistle stop. A local group of business owners in the downtown area, got together made a park next to the mainline of the Union Pacific and the BNSF railroads. the lines parallel each other pretty much most of the way from the Mississippi River. The line part from each other, in Pacific. BNSF’s Cuba subdivision heads to Springfield. Missouri via Cuba, Missouri. thus it namesake. UP’s heads west through two tunnels to Jefferson City and on to Kansas City.
A local concrete contractor turned property owner, found a local railfan, that was turned off by the Washington, Missouri folks not being interested in railfans, and the business they could bring to the town. The railfan, Bob, discovered that the property owner had a building right next to the UP tracks and was interesting letting railfans start a viewing center in the building. The property owner, Ron had no idea what a railfan was. All he knew that the city hosted a annual Railroad Days that attracted lots of people. Plans started growing. When I was first introduced to the center and both gentleman. I feel like they have a plan. I know that it is a grassroots plan. They seem to have the city of Pacific officials watching cautiously. I hope to bring them together with folks from Rochelle, IL and Galesburgs, IL. These two communities have shown that if you plan, build it, they will come. I have visited the center several times. I have even podcast the Let’s Talk Trains show from there. I am pleased that each time I go, I see new visitors and new blood watching the train. The center is in a great spot. next to two different railroads. The city is on the Old Route 66, now known as Interstate 44 which runs from St. Louis to Tulsa. Their website is still in the infant stages but it is up and running: http://www.Route66railfan.com. Keep watching for updates on their progress in upcoming blog post.
That’s it for this posting, we will to it again soon.
Well hello there everyone. Hope the everyone has been gearing up for a great summer. Railfans should have lots of exciting adventures this summer. Those on the left coast, get to have an early start with all the good weather they are having, minus the wildfires. The Railroad Days have been very well attended in lots of cities. The steam train trips have been sold out and are and running. The train watching is very intense right now at the Grand Canyon with their regular steam train, filled with recycled vegetable oil, and a visitor from the California area of a ATSF steamer.National Train Day was a huge success according to all the people that I know. National Train Day was even celebrated in town of Washington, Missouri. Even if I had to give them a push via all the Facebook postings on the Tourism site and the Missouri River Runner page. The Tourism official did see that people were interested. This in a town that was created by the steamboat, then the railroad. The town has two depots still standing. One, the passenger depot, has a United Way office, an art gallery, AMTRAK waiting area, and the town visitors center. The freight depot had a local retail business until a year ago, when it left for the highway part of town. Then the city father’s decided to allow a local small business manufacturing company to come in and cut two holes in the track side of the building for exhaust fans. A couple of railfans and I wanted to make the building a rail watcher paradise. The building has a transload platform on the trackside, that would have made a great platform to sit and watch the trains. Of course, we would have to put a railing up. Washington leaders did not think that railfan tourism would bring any visitors to the city. A developer got permission to build a new style row-house condos on the western edge of the track frontage. Of course, they wanted the team track removed. Which the city leaders gladly agreed to. I went to the TIF hearing when I first moved to Washington. I told them I was for the development but that I would need the city to keep the siding and develop that into a siding that private varnish could use to bring the travelers to eat, drink and be merry, after all we are smack dab in the middle of Missouri Wine country. Washington is a quiet zone, all though only one grade crossing of the two has been properly protected. That’s why I think that I will help the Route 66 Railfan Visitor Center and Mainline Viewing area get off the ground. I am planning on taking the mayor and city officials to Rochelle and Galesburg to show how it’s done and what type of tourism there is in train watching. Oh, by the way, did I say that I’m hosting today’s Let’s Talk Train BlogTalkRadio podcast from the center? Listen to the podcast on I-Tunes. Keyword: letstalktrains. Well that’s it for this time. Have to take the yardwaste to recycle place before show starts. Keep on keeping track of those trains.
Until next time…Toot Toot.
When I last left all of you, it was February, very abnormal one at that. I had two Let’s Talk Train shows under my belt. The first was from the National Transportation Museum in St. Louis County, Missouri. and then month later I moved east on the Union Pacific Jefferson City subdivision to the Kirkwood Missouri train station and interviewed two old friends. The mayor of Kirkwood, MO, Art. McDonnell and the StationMaster Bill Birkhalter. Both very interesting. men. At the time I did not know that the mayor was up for re-election two months later. Don’t know that at the time. But good thing for the city was that he was re-elected. Art ran the community grocery store before retiring last year. He and I got a chance to catch up about old times before the show. It was fun.
St. Patrick’s Day marked the third monthly podcast that i was the host. This was the one that I really started to be nervous about back in December. I was asking State of Illinois officials to come on to my show. I was glad that they agreed to. I even got the Midwest High Speed Rail Association Director to come on and give an update. I filled out the show with the first model railroad club of the month, my old Big Bend Railroad Club based in Webster Groves. MO. Great group of folks. Have made it back to the layout twice now. Living out the childhood all over again.
The end of March, brought the UP 844 back through Washington, MO for the Shiloh Limited. Since I visited Shiloh with my Boy Scout troop 301 when I was kid and more recently as adult. My wife, Pam and I went there on one of our first trips as a married couple way back in 2007. I was really good to see the local newspaper, a republican thinking paper, the Missourian, come out and offer some much support for the stopping and servicing the train in Washington. Even the Downtown Washington INC. group was really interested in generating support for people to come and watch a living legend.
The last Saturday, I got to start off my 50th birthday celebration, four months early. I got to join the main Let’s Talk Trains host, Chris Guenzler , two of his railfan friends, Winston and Christy Walker, my best man, Mike Strong and my great wife Pamela; on the Columbia Star dinner train. The Columbia Star runs from just north of Columbia, Missouri to just south of Centralia. Missouri. The rain boards at 6:30 pm on Friday and Saturday and 11:00 am on Sunday for brunch. The leaves the trans-load area promptly at 7:00 pm and 11:30 am respectfully. The food is great. A five course meal is served, with drinks extra. The train has floodlights, so you can see the countryside as you travel back and forth. The train consists of two F-7’s, one on each end. (the train does not have anywhere to turn around.) then two dining cars, followed by the kitchen, (an old baggage car), then two more dining cars. I got to find how much Chris really knows about trains in America. He has ridden over million miles on the rails. My friend, Mike was amazed that a person could ride that many miles on a train. I just may make a true railfan out of him yet.
I had to work at Enterprise that week, since I had just gotten new position as an Information Management/Global Distribution Systems agent. Pam and I left everyone and head back to Washington, Mo…getting home at 11:30pm. It was hard going back to work knowing that Chris was hosting a Railfan Picture Event in La Plata, Missouri that week. But it gave me a good feeling knowing that on Friday night, I was meeting Pam and AJAX, our dog, and heading up to La Plata to stay at the Depot Inn and Suites to be with Chris and another show host from Kansas City, Nathan. We would all go train spotting on that Saturday morning before doing the Let’s Talk Trains show from the La Plata train lookout point. I was glad AJAX, made friends with Nathan and Chris quickly. Why AJAX even laid down at Chris’ feet during the show. We had dinner again with Chris that night at the Red Rooster in La Plata. Which has some OK food. Chris, Pam and I headed back to the LaPlata Amtrak station to let Chris board the Southwest Chief back to California so that he could go back to work as a substitute teacher in Santa Ana area. We stayed over night again, and then early in the morning when back out to the lookout point to watch trains again. All toll during the weekend, we saw over 250 trains either in person, thru the webcam in the rooms or just hearing them travel through the town.
Since it was Easter Sunday, headed to church, then back to Wright City, Missouri to Pam’s sister’s for Easter brunch…followed by Easter dinner at my aunts and uncles in north Saint Charles, Missouri, then back to the good olde homestead in Washington, Missouri. The weekend was very relaxing, almost felt like week were gone for a week.
The next couple of months are going to be very busy. I am hosting the April 21st from the Washington, Missouri station with guests from Oklahoma Department of Transportation, The Midwest Model Railroad Association convention folks and the Boeing Employee Model Railroad Club and a corporate PR guy from Boeing listening in to make sure the guests don’t give out any trade secrets. May, finds us at the Route 66 railfan center in Pacific, Missouri. June, we’re at St. Louis & Iron Mountain railway in Jackson, Missouri. Rochelle, Illinois is our host city for my July birthday show. La Plata, Missouri is the host city for the August show., September has me doing two shows. My regular third Saturday, from my home city of Washington,. then a week later from the National Historical Site Steamtown USA, in Scranton, PA. October is Live Steam month, with both the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific and the St. Louis Live Steamers. November is from Kansas City. 2012 ends with a show at the Missouri Botanical Garden Express. Sound good huh?
Stay tuned…More soon.
Last month, after listening for over a year and then finally calling in and talking with the hosts of the show, I became a host myself. Wow, talk about a crash course in the new technical aspects of broadcasting, or as they say now, pod casting. The show is internet based..it’s control board is on a webpage. There are no knobs to turn, no turntable. There is no even a mic boom. you can use your phone. My, things have really changed my old days in radio back in the1980’s and early 1990’s. I wanted my shows to follow a certain format. The first 20 mins, a regional rundown of news items. The remainder of the first hour would be talking to one or two guests about certain train museum or station. The second hour would be 2/3rds more guests talking about railfan projects. And then the last 1/3 talk about model railroads. Sounds like a plan, however, last Saturday, I had to punt for the second hour because my guests did not call in as we had previously arranged, instead the guest did something else and forgot to tell me that he could not be on show. Well I stumbled a bit, found my train of thought and started filling the remaining hour. I had never had a guest just not show up in all of the days of being coordinating producer for several weekly shows during my earlier broadcasting days. I have also already had the folks at Norfolk and Southern decline to be on show. They passed because it would have too hard for them to find someone on a Saturday for two hours. I can see their point,but with companies giving flex-time to their employees now, I wonder. I even did the show last week with a cold/pneumonia ending. Because I believe I have a commitment. Last week, I was off work twice, once of being to sick to talk and another to be at good friends funeral. Today, home again, due the bug in the voice. Taking care it to take better care of my customers. That’s it for this week..till next time…Keep wandering around looking at everything.
Once again, I watched my email pile up wit reports of Amtrak trains crashing into a car or a truck. One might think that people would remember the very horrific crash in Nevada. I wonder if people even give that crash a second thought. I would hope so for the families that lost loved ones that day. No matter what the Operation Lifesaver Program does it does not seem enough. Wait. breaking news…a man just commuted suicide by train and all found was a hand. Man, that is not how I want to go. I remember few years ago I left St. Louis to go to Chicago and then turn some papers over to a another person that worked for the company. I got to Chicago, walked into Union Station and then walked back into the departure area and got back on the Southbound train for St. Louis. You can’t do that now because of the schedules. I remember almost falling asleep, bobbing my head. Then I hear it. I heard the train go into emergency. Looked up and out the window, and saw that head flying passed. I turned on the scanner, an started to listen. We were just two miles from Carlinville, Illinois. the local sheriff came and did his investigation. I peeked out the vestibule window and saw he other northbound waiting just a few hundred feet away. This man had stopped two trains in one wrong move. Wow, I was right when I said to myself that I would remember that image of that head for a long time.
Do people give any thought what they do moment by moment? I wonder if there were no I-pods, if trespassers would still miss hearing that approaching train. Do those quiet zones that cities set up, give an added sense of false protection? Do railfans ever feel because of the increase in deaths will authorities clamp down on them.
Just my wanderings for this week. Oh, by the way…a new train hobby shop museum opened in Washington, Mo my hometown. In a town where they are removing the train siding near the station and building a parking lot. Humm
This past January, I started hosting a blogtalk online internet radio show once a month. The first show was live from the National Museum of transprtation. I went fairly well. Only disconnected twice from the server. This month doing a show from the Kirkwood Train station, with all all people the mayor Kirkwood. I am starting off with things that I know are stories and places that I know a great deal about so that I can ask great questions. I had started working on the shows for March and April. I am falling back on the producing days from KMOS and KMOX. I traveled to LaPlata last week, which is the home of the gruop that sponsors the show. I wanted to get that feeling of being a train watcher again. I have been interested in the station types more recently, so I forgot how exciting it to watch a train go by. I have gotten my fellow employees listening to the show. Don’t know if I’ll will make railfans out of them yet, but, who knows? I plan to go to Jackson, Mo; Rochelle, Il; and even Steamtown NHS, Pa. Also trying to remind Enterprise that they are a partner in AMTRAK Giest Rewards. they seem to have forgotten how to promote it. Well, That’s it for this Week? All Aboard ..HighBall