Quotulatiousness

June 27, 2017

Armoured Trains of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special feat. Military History Visualized

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Railways, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 26 Jun 2017

Check out Military History Visualized and his video on armoured trains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvHTR-5n2_E

Armoured Trains were heavily armed and armored trains operating the vast rail networks of Europe, especially on the Eastern Front of World War 1. Their tactics and design evolved considerably during the First World War and the later Russian Civil War. From rather improvised locomotives to sophisticated designs specially built for combat purposes.

June 8, 2017

Life As A Railroad Engineer. What it is like to work for a railroad

Filed under: Railways — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 20 Apr 2014

http://www.djstrains.com

This is MY story about MY experience as an engineer for CSX. The views are not of that of CSX, nor anybody else but mine.

May 26, 2017

Toronto-London high speed train plan – “many Ontarians wouldn’t trust the Liberals to see an HO-scale model of this plan to fruition on time or on budget”

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Railways — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Chris Selley discusses the weak-but-barely-plausible high speed train plans announced by the Ontario government the other day:

High-speed rail is expensive — to build, certainly, and more on that shortly, but just as importantly to ride. It’s 202 kilometres from Le Mans to Gare Montparnasse in Paris. The first TGV of the morning takes 58 minutes — total average speed, 208 km/h — and will set you back €45. It’s 180 kilometres from Frankfurt’s Hauptbanhof to Cologne’s Hauptbanhof. The 7:27 a.m. ICE train takes 65 minutes — average speed: 167 km/h — and Deutsche Bahn wants €60 for the privilege. Brussels to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is 195 kilometres. The Thalys will get you there in 92 minutes tomorrow morning, at a relatively modest average speed of 127 km/h and for the eye-watering sum of €82.

This is the sort of distance Ontario’s Liberal government says it plans to cover with high-speed rail — from Union Station in Toronto to London via Pearson Airport, Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo. A report and “preliminary business case” by former federal transport minister David Collenette, released Friday, envisions 185 kilometres of track with a maximum speed of 300 km/h in one scenario and 250 km/h in the other, and by 2025.

The London-to-Toronto trip would take 66 minutes in the faster scenario and 73 in the slower, for a total average speed of between 152 and 168 km/h. Either would represent genuine high-speed rail, and it would come at genuine high-speed rail prices: somewhere between $4 billion and $11 billion under the 250 km/h scenario; somewhere between $15 billion and $44 billion at 300 km/h.

[…]

So it’s a bit of a conundrum for the Liberals. This is a big offer — just the sort of thing people in the GTA say they want when they come back from Cologne, Paris and Amsterdam. It ought to be a reasonably compelling plank of an election platform.

But many Ontarians wouldn’t trust the Liberals to see an HO-scale model of this plan to fruition on time or on budget. It’s vulnerable to the sort of grievance-mongering and populism that sometimes makes it hard to tell a New Democrat from a Tory these days. We haven’t even gotten into the technical details. And ultimately, I’m just not really convinced people want this to happen as much as they say they do — not unless it’s free, and stops just the right distance from their back yards.

On the technical details, here’s a very brief overview from a post I wrote several years back, at the time California was beginning their insane high speed rail project:

The best place to build a high speed rail system for the US would be the Boston-New York-Washington corridor (aka “Bosnywash”, for the assumed urban agglomeration that would occur as the cities reach toward one another). It has the necessary population density to potentially turn an HSR system into a practical, possibly even profitable, part of the transportation solution. The problem is that without an enormous eminent domain land-grab to cheat every land-owner of the fair value of their property, it just can’t be done. Buying enough contiguous sections of land to connect these cities would be so expensive that scrapping and replacing the entire navy every year would be a bargain in comparison.

The American railway system is built around freight: passenger traffic is a tiny sliver of the whole picture. Ordinary passenger trains cause traffic and scheduling difficulties because they travel at higher speeds, but require more frequent stops than freight trains, and their schedules have to be adjusted to passenger needs (passenger traffic peaks early to mid-morning and early to mid-evening). The frequency of passenger trains can “crowd out” the freight traffic the railway actually earns money on.

Most railway companies prefer to avoid having the complications of carrying passengers at all — that’s why Amtrak (and VIA Rail in Canada) was set up in the first place, to take the burden of money-losing passenger services off the shoulders of deeply indebted railways. Even after the new entity lopped off huge numbers of passenger trains from its schedule, it couldn’t turn a profit on the scaled-down services it was offering.

Ordinary passenger trains can, at a stretch, share rail with freight traffic, but high speed trains cannot. At higher speeds, the actual construction of the track has to change to deal with the physical problem of safely guiding the fast passenger trains along the rail. Signalling must also change to suit the far-higher speeds — and the matching far-longer safe braking distances. High speed rail lines cannot be interrupted with grade crossings, for the safety of passengers and bystanders, so additional bridges and tunnels must be built to avoid bringing road vehicles and pedestrians too close to the trains.

In other words, a high speed railway line is far from being just a faster version of what we already have: it would have to be built separately, to much higher standards of construction.

May 25, 2017

Dangerous railway practices of the past

Filed under: History, Railways, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

On Facebook, the New England, Berkshire & Western (“an HO scale layout created by the Rensselaer Model Railroad Society, which is a student club on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY”), posted a link to this fascinating — eventually banned for obvious safety reasons — method of moving railway cars on parallel track to the locomotive:

Raymond Breyer shared this video link on the pre-Depression page, about poling. […]

I always assumed they would move slowly and the trainman would have to hold the pole the entire time. Guess I was quite wrong! – JN

May 20, 2017

On board The Canadian

Filed under: Cancon, Railways — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Toronto Star‘s Jennifer Bain takes a trip on VIA Rail’s premier passenger train from Toronto to Vancouver:

VIA dome observation car, 2007. Photo by Savannah Grandfather (Wikimedia)

ABOARD THE CANADIAN-That first overnight on the train was a gloriously sleepless blur disrupted by clickety clacks, rumbles, grinding squeals and ding, ding dings. Alone in F-130 in the Château Cadillac car on a Murphy bed pulled down from the wall to fill the room, I stared mesmerized through an extra-large window into the dark depths of northern Ontario and thought deeply Canadian thoughts.

Happy 150th birthday, Canada. This year cries out for a celebratory road trip. I use the term road loosely. A train track will do just fine. Let someone else drive. For four nights on the Canadian, Via Rail Canada’s iconic train from Toronto to Vancouver, I relaxed and watched boreal forest become prairie and then mountains.

Somewhere north of Sudbury that first morning, I threw on clothes and tiptoed down the narrow hall, hands outstretched to brace for sways and lurches, through the Château Dollard sleeping car to the end of the train.

The Laurentide Park car is tricked out with a downstairs lounge and upstairs domed seating area. The DIY tea and coffee station became my watering hole.

Routes of The Canadian: the original 1955 route is in red (on CPR trackage) and the current route is in blue (mainly on CN tracks). VIA took over operation of The Canadian in 1978 and changed to the current route in 1990.

You are in your own world on the Canadian, but not necessarily alone. Work on the lost art of small talk in the dining car when you’re seated with strangers. Play a board game with fellow passengers since there’s no Wi-Fi and often no cell service.

This 4,466-kilometre journey is a throwback to simpler times.

Jason Shron — a train nut from Thornhill that I met through Box — has done the Canadian upwards of 40 times and found “there’s a tendency for people on the train to spill their guts to strangers,” especially if they’re on divorce tours, which can become awkward the next day. “There’s a certain magic to that,” he admitted. He was taking his three kids to Winnipeg to meet his wife and other family for Passover.

Shron owns Canada’s largest model train company, built a section of a full-size Via car in his basement, is restoring two train cars and is writing a book about Via for its 40th anniversary next year. The Crown corporation “doesn’t celebrate its own history and doesn’t celebrate its own people” nearly enough, he lamented, and so he’s “like this one-man Via fan club.”

Make that two. Shron and Box love trains for different reasons — the actual machines and the art of train travel — but they are anomalies. Too many Canadians have never been on a train, much less slept on one.

Trains are not a part of our modern lives or lexicon, so my learning curve is steep. Passenger trains don’t have cabooses, conductors are obsolete and drivers are called engineers. Freight trains have priority in Canada when there’s one line, so passenger trains like the Canadian have to wait on the siding, causing delays.

There are economy-class seats that you sleep upright in, and banks of seats that convert into upper and lower “berths” at night with just a curtain for privacy. There are private rooms, some with a toilet that gets covered when the bed comes out, and a shared shower down the hall. I was lucky enough to experience “Prestige class” in a room with an L-shaped couch, Murphy bed and private en-suite washroom, with access to a trio of concierges, reserved seating at the front of the dome car, meals, booze and all the Earl Grey I could drink.

Part of the reason “many Canadians have never been on a train” is that there are a lot fewer trains running today than in years past: when VIA took over most intercity passenger service, it rationalized a lot of the routes (but not enough to become profitable, hence the federal government’s ongoing subsidies to VIA). Even with those subsidies, passenger trains aren’t a bargain for the average traveller, and usually compare poorly to bus or air travel in both cost and frequency. Most of VIA’s trains lose money, as this table from 2014 shows:

So, how expensive is the trip that Ms. Bain took? I went to the VIA website to find out. Booking a trip from Toronto (in my case, Oshawa) to Vancouver on The Canadian to leave today (Saturday) would cost an eye-watering $9,684.10 per person in Prestige class (including a $500 service fee, but not including HST [Harmonized Sales Tax] of $1,114.10). There are cheaper fares — booking in advance, not taking the Prestige class ticket, other available sales, etc. — but a quick Google search shows return flights in the $600 range (but I could save $226 off that if I booked for tomorrow instead of today).

For a potted history of The Canadian there’s a useful Wikipedia page.

May 1, 2017

The Canadian Pacific Railway – 1920s Across Canada by Train, All ABOARD!

Filed under: Cancon, History, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Apr 2017

Historical footage of the places and highlights of one of the greatest train journeys in the world, a trip across Canada from sea to sea on the Trans-Canada Limited, Canada’s fastest transcontinental train.

The Trans-Canada Limited was considered as one of the world’s finest trains in its time. The concept of this train was that of a de luxe ‘Hotel-on-Wheels.’ It was the world’s longest-distance all-first-class sleeper train, with the fastest time across the North American continent from one ocean to the other.

The Trans-Canada Limited was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was inaugurated in 1919, just after World War I, and lasted until 1930.

As a result of the economic depression following the great Stock Market Crash of October 1929, it was cancelled in 1931. As with any other CPR passenger train, the equipment was the very best available, yet in June of 1929 the whole train was completely re-outfitted with 10 brand new sets of cars – each set costing in excess of one million dollars.

This early travelogue documents travel across Canada by rail, introducing major cities and places of interest. Traveling over 3,600 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific takes five days to by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The journey starts in Saint John, New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy. Highlights of the trip are: Algonquin Hotel; salmon fishing. Quebec City is the oldest city in the North America; The Chateau Frontenac Hotel towering over the St Lawrence.

Montreal is Canadian Pacific headquarters and Trans-Canada Limited. Ottawa is the capital of the nation. Toronto is the Queen City. Niagara Falls is connected to the French River and Georgian Bay. [edit: no, unless you include the Niagara River, Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and Lake Huron] Canadian Pacific steamer carries its passengers across the Great Lakes.

Winnipeg to the prairies and across the prairies through Regina and Saskatoon. Arrival at Calgary and Edmonton. Banff and Lake Louise are located in the Canadian Rockies. Through the Rockies, the train ends in Vancouver where English Bay and Stanley Park are located. The city of Victoria gives an image of England on the Pacific.

Source footage: The National Archives of Canada – https://www.canada.ca/en/library-archives.html

April 20, 2017

STEEL MILL RAILROAD RELICS Still found in Pittsburgh, Pa

Filed under: History, Railways, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Nov 2016

http://www.djstrains.com

Although it is 2016, and most mills closed in the 80’s, there are still many items still preserved in and around the Pittsburgh area. Here is just a small sampling.

March 22, 2017

The Backbone of Total War – Trains in WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 21 Mar 2017

Without trains, the modern armies of World War 1 were not able to move their troops en masse. Without trains, the soldiers at the front didn’t have food or ammunition and without trains, the soldiers wouldn’t make it to the nearest hospital. Trains were the backbone of the new, industrialised war of the 20th century.

March 8, 2017

Why can’t trains go uphill? – James May’s Q&A (Ep 30) – Head Squeeze

Filed under: Railways, Technology — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 19 Jul 2013

James May looks at why trains can’t go uphill

February 19, 2017

French Railway Guns – Physical Requirements For WW1 Pilots I OUT OF THE ETHER

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Railways — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 18 Feb 2017

It’s time for another episode of Out Of The Ether – Indy reads the best and most insightful comments of recent weeks. This week we talk about French railway guns and the physical and mental requirements of World War 1 pilots.

February 17, 2017

Industrial policy example – Kingston, Ontario

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Germany, Government, Railways — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

David Warren remembers when the government tampered with the free market to “save an industry” in Kingston:

Once upon a time, many years ago, I scrapped into one of these “no-brainer” political deals. The remains of the locomotive manufacturing business in Kingston, Ontario — whose century-old products I had glimpsed, still on the rails in India — were now on the block. A monster German corporation was offering to buy them, for the very purpose of competing, in Canada, with a (hugely subsidized, monopolist) Canadian corporation. The government stepped in, to “save” a Canadian industry, retroactively change the ground rules, and kick in more subsidies so that the Canadian monopolists, based in Montreal, could take over instead. This was accompanied by nationalist rhetoric, and Kingston was thrilled. Critics like me were unofficially deflected with bigoted anti-German blather held over from the last World War.

But I knew exactly what was going to happen. The local works, which would have been expanded by the foreign owner, were soon closed by the new Canadian owner, after studies had been commissioned to “prove” it was uneconomic. The latter’s last possible domestic competitor was thus snuffed out. The locals, whose lives had been for generations part of a proud Kingston enterprise, had been suckered. The politicians had told them it was little Canada versus big Germany. In reality, it was pretty little Kingston versus big ugly Montreal.

That is how the world works, with politics, so that whenever I hear of a big new national no-brainer scheme, my first thought is, which innocents are getting mooshed today?

Railways Of The Great War With Michael Portillo Part 1 A Railway War Begins

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History, Military, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 9 Feb 2015

In the run up to the 100 yr anniversary of the end of the First World War Michael Portillo travels across France and Belgium to find out the history of raiways of the past and present….

February 16, 2017

60163 Tornado Settle to Carlisle 14th Feb 2017

Filed under: Britain, Railways — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 14 Feb 2017

BBC News report on 60163 Tornado’s run on the Settle to Carlisle line this morning, the first Steam Loco to do the service run in nearly 50 years.

H/T to Jim Guthrie for the link.

January 21, 2017

QotD: 1815’s other triumph

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History, Quotations, Railways — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

[In] 1815, George Stephenson, a humble, self-taught engine-wright with an impenetrable Geordie accent (to which he probably gave the name), put together all the key inventions that — at last — made steam locomotion practicable: the smooth wheels, counter-intuitively less likely to slip if heavily laden; the steam-blast into the chimney to accelerate the draught over the coals; the vertical cylinders connecting directly with the wheels; the connecting rods between the wheels. A year later came his redesign of rails themselves, then later his multi-tubular boiler.

As his biographer, Samuel Smiles, put it:

    “Thus, in the year 1815, Mr Stephenson, by dint of patient and persevering labour … had succeeded in manufacturing an engine which … as a mechanical contrivance, contained the germ of all that has since been effected. It may in fact be regarded as the type of the present locomotive engine.”

Suddenly the movement of goods and people fast and cheaply over long distances became possible for the first time.

Not content with that, in 1815 Stephenson also invented the miner’s safety lamp (though snobbish London grandees, unable to conceive that such a humble man could have done so, gave and have continued to this day to give the credit to Sir Humphry Davy). The year of Waterloo was an annus mirabilis of the industrial revolution, putting Britain on course to dominate and transform the world, whether we beat Boney or not. Steam, followed by its offspring internal combustion and electricity, would catapult humankind into prosperity.

Incidentally, there is a tenuous connection between Napoleon and Stephenson. If Bonaparte’s conquests and the corn laws had not driven up the price of corn, then horse feed would have been cheaper and the coal owners who employed Stephenson would not have risked so much money in letting him build a machine to try to find a less expensive way to pull wagons of coals from the pithead in Killingworth to the staithes on the Tyne.

Matt Ridley, “Waterloo or railways”, Matt Ridley Online, 2015-06-18.

January 7, 2017

James May The Reassembler S02E01 Christmas Hornby Train Set

Filed under: Britain, Railways, Technology — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 28 Dec 2016

James May is back in his shed, reassembling a Hornby (or is it) train set

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