World Passenger Steam Trains – Railroad Anthropology – N-Scale Model


Beauty & Grit – Hopes & Dreams: MUSIC VIDEO

This is a great music video recently loaded onto YouTube by the young man “The Action Effect.” This is of American trains of the 40s to the 50s.

It’s a nice montage of Vintage Train action put to the music of Bruce Springstein’s “Land of Hopes and Dreams.”

From the 1920s through the 1960s, the railroads played a huge part in the imagination of the American people. While the rest of the world continued their respect for trains, the United States concentrated on planes and cars.  But in the U.S., there was the “Golden Age” and “revival.”

From its inception through the Golden Age of Passenger travel, trains were a strong part of American cultural identity due to its major role in the movement of goods and people, connecting lands and cultures and dreams as well as the violence and destruction and isolation that comes with these dreams.

Railroads leaders were usually ruthless, crushing smaller opponents and collecting their power to rule the land to lay the rails and rule the movements of food, shelter, clothing, oil, coal, stone. Moving mountains and shaping the lands to mold as well as adjusting to the lands, the rails created and destroyed lives, like dreams.

Young boys and girls stole away in the middle of the night to escape, perhaps, a boring and heavy life, or perhaps abuse and confinement, poverty and despair.  Taking what little they had in bags, meeting a friend or two, perhaps, at a pre-arranged meeting at midnight, jumping onto the trains, yearning for adventure and a “better life.”

African-American and Asian-American workers, searching for work and perhaps dignity in those days of a more emboldened and accepted dominant racist society, sought to work on the railroads to have livable wages and to be respected.  Porters and waiters and some of the best chefs of the lands, sought to work on the fancy and comfortable railroads, upon the trains that company executives, sports and entertainment stars and presidents often traveled. To wear the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad or the Pennsylvania, or the New York Central, or the Santa Fe or Northern Pacific and the countless other ‘Name-train” railroads were a mark of pride.  Young boys and some girls, dreamed of becoming engineers and agents on these railroads.

Promises of distant lands and different lives, promises of living wages and being looked at with dignity.  Back-breaking grimy work in track-laying and oil-loading and tunnel-making, marked sources of pride as well as resentment.

Love, hate, beauty, grime, political intrigue, assassination, assimilation and resistance– like life, are all present in the beautiful and grimy trains that passed in the day and the night.

Today, the workers and trains still work in America, albeit no longer in the mainstream cultural imagination.  But perhaps those days are slowly returning, in new forms.  The train is an important part of human consciousness and life.  It cannot be forgotten.

Enjoy this video put together and loaded by “The Action Effect.”  Song is by Bruce Springstein.

The 4-6-4 Hudson of the New York Central

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In the United States, in 1926, rail passenger travel was in its glory years.  That year, the New York Central Railroad, one of the most prestigious, powerful, and largest railroad corporations in the world at the time, wanted a faster and stronger locomotive to pull the longer and heavier passenger trains required by the increase in passenger travel in the United States.

That year, although the elegant and mightily Pacific steam locomotives had been handling the bulk of the fastest and longest passenger lines in the United States by most of the first world national railroad companies, the New York Central ordered the mighty 4-6-4 wheel arrangement “Hudson” locomotives, as they were to be called by the New York Central Railroads.

The Hudsons were popularized in the US American public via an intense publicity campaign.  Television ads, new movies, billboard signs and magazine articles abound.  Model trains pushed the “Hudson” as the epitome of the beautiful, grimy, energetic and powerful passenger steam locomotive that was constructed in the social imaginary during these times.

Later, the Hudson locomotive was re-designed on the exterior with a silver and gray streamlined body, which were assigned to the famous passenger trains: The 20th Century Limited and the Empire State Express.

Even later, as Diesel locomotives began erasing steam locomotives off their roster and into their garbage heaps, a stronger, faster and more efficient locomotive was to enter the New York Central Railroad’s roster–the Niagara.  I will cover this locomotive more in detail later.

If I were to be asked what is my most favorite of favorite locomotives of all time and I had to begrudgingly decide, it would have to be the NIAGARA.  But i am off-topic here.  Here I cover the Hudson locomotive, which dutifully and proudly served the New York Central from 1927 to the demise of steam in the mid-to-late 50s in the US.  Versions of the Hudson remained popular throughout the world however, into the 70s.

More reading:

Alan Pegler – Flying Scotsman Savior, passes away at 91 years old

On March 8, 2012, Alan Pegler passed away at 91 years old. Arguably the most famous internationally known steam locomotive is the Flying Scotsman, a LNER (former London & Northeastern Railway) Class A3 steam locomotive, #4472 of the United Kingdom. It was a famous express passenger locomotive of the time.  In 1972, the Flying Scotsman was brought on a tour of the United States. The tour was unsuccessful.

Alan Pegler is also credited with single-handedly “saving” the Ffestiniog Railway of Wales, from extinction, buying it and reviving it as a modern excursion/tour railway.

He had bankrupted his family fortune via the purchase and maintenance of the #4472 Flying Scotsman and was thought of by many to be obsessed.  However, most view him as one committed to his love of steam and historical rail in the United Kingdom.


The Flying Scotsman sits at the platform during an excursion in 2007.


Norfolk Southern (USA) Running Steam Excursions Again!

Nickel Plate Rd. 765 is one of the mainline locomotives to run excursions in 2012 for the program.

One of the largest and strongest railroad conglomerates in the United States, from 1838 through the Golden Age of Railroads in the US, was the Norfolk & Western Railroad (NW or N&W).

Through the years, as all large and powerful corporations do, the company bought out smaller and medium-sized rail companies as they all began losing business to the ever-increasing airline business and the automobile industries in the US.  Unlike Europe and Asian, where rail companies continued to play an important role in community lives and transportation, the US chose to relegate rail to the carrying of freight.  The NW merged with Southern Railway in 1982, to form the Norfolk Southern.

After the demise of steam in the late 1950s, certain rail companies continued to run excursion trips with steam locomotives, which were a large part of the steam and rail preservation consciousness.  The Norfolk Southern steam excursion program was one of the most beloved by fans. Its main locomotives included the N&W 611 and the N&W 1218 which are now displayed in museums but not running.  The excursion program ran its final steam excursion in 1994 . . . . . . . . until NOW!!

In 2010, the Norfolk Southern announced its plans to run steam excursions to celebrate its 30th Anniversary, working closely with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

In August-September 2011, the Southern Railway (SR) 630 was the first steam locomotive to kick-off the program, called: 21st Century Steam.

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society announced that is big and popular  locomotive, Nickel Plate (NKP) 765 is also slated to run (photo above, and last video). The NKP 765 video is of an earlier trip for you to enjoy, anticipating the upcoming excursion.

INDIA: Preserved Steam

Locomotive WP 7161 is a Chittranjan Locomotive Works built engine, beginning runs  in 1965. This locomotive was re-built and brought back for a special run in 2012.

Most of the locomotives in India, during the reign of steam, were built, of course by the colonial British that ruled India.  Since then, American-built locomotives were also used.

This locomotive is one of the bullet-nosed streamlined designs that gained royal favor with the Royal Indian government and gave service on some of the more elite express train service across the Indian continent.

Soo Line (USA) #2719 in 2011

video by SD457500

Narrow Gauge German Steam: the Harz System

The most famous and active narrow gauge steam train system in the world, is the beautiful Harz mountains system in Germany, the Harz Railway (Harz schmalspurbahnen).

The trains carry the most number of tourists from around the world and also serves as a community system linking various mountain communities.  It was built before the splitting of Germany into two, and today, serves as a most scenic and interesting system for locals and for tourists.