Saturday, May 19, 2018

Locomotives using sand for extra traction

Mark Hinsdale posted
"The Battle"
Like countless trains before it, Conrail #2365 and brethren blast grip-gaining sand onto the railhead as they struggle to lift a westbound merchandise train past "MG" (Mid Grade) Tower west of Pennsylvania's famous Horseshoe Curve, on the tough climb over the Alleghenies. The "battle" is always the same, tonnage against gravity, and the show is extraordinary for one witnessing it at trackside. Throughout the history of four different owners, the combination of mountain vs machine over this most iconic segment of a most iconic railroad, has never failed to captivate. October, 1977 photo by Mark Hinsdale
That cloud of sand is the first time I have seen a photo of sand being used for traction.

20150829 4309
While I was checking out the depot in Murfreesboro, TN, I noticed there were three locomotives parked on a siding that was right next to Overall Street. This allowed me to get some closeup photos of the locomotives without trespassing on railroad property. Grass obscured the wheels of the other two locomotives, but I have a clear view of the front wheel of this one. Note the sand tube ending near the bottom of the wheel to place sand on the rail head.
Digitally Zoomed
The sand tower is a piece of the steam engine infrastructure that is also used by diesels. It was important that the sand be kept dry.
20161007 6184c
The above is in the CN/IC yard that is south of Centralia, IL. But I have defined the label "towerSand" for both the Industrial History and Town and Nature Blogs to identify other photos of railyards that include a sanding tower. (I invented this label a while after I started a blog when I saw a question in Facebook about this subject. So this label is probably missing from older posts that contain photos with a sand tower.)

Steam locomotives would have two domes. One was the steam dome where steam entered the top of the pipe that fed the cylinders. The other was the sand dome. In this closeup of the CB&Q 3007 that is at the Illinois Railway Museum, we see a couple of tubes coming out of the front dome. So I assume that is the sand dome. I'm surprised that I don't see the end of the tubes in front of the drivers. They are some of the missing parts of this locomotive. You can see the tube in front of the rear driver in a photo of the other side. (I don't know what the rectangle box is that is between the two domes.)
20150627 2197
In this photo, you can clearly see the tube going down from the sand dome to the front of the first driver wheel. A closer look at the tube in front of the driver.

In this photo, you can see the tube going down to the back of the rear driver to provide traction for the reverse direction.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Robins Community Power Plant (from trash)

The sixth photo that David Daruszka posted is of the east elevation of the Rock Island Bridges over the Cal Sag Channel. That photo has a tall smokestack in the left background. Looking at Google Map reveals it is the Robbins Community Power LLC.

3D Satellite
I commented: That is a power plant I didn't even know about,!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4... It has a coal pile, but it is small and there is no rail and/or barge unloading. It has some of the most modern looking buildings I have seen for a power plant. This plant is a puzzle.

David responded: That was a trash to electricity scheme that got shut down because of pollution issues. Someone tried to restart it but they were shut down too if I remember correctly.

My response was: Thanks. That explains why it looks rather different as a power station. And why it doesn't need rail or barge support --- there would be plenty of locally sourced trash.

"Foster Wheeler built the Robbins plant in the early 1990s to produce electricity by burning trash, but the process became too costly when Illinois stopped subsidizing incinerators." Foster Wheeler went bankrupt and shuttered the plant in 2000. In 2007 Sylvan Power bought the plant and planned to burn wood waste that would otherwise go to landfills: "including clean construction scraps, teardown debris and tree trimmings." [ChicagoBusiness] I assume the 2008 recession killed that effort.

The smoke stack is 385 feet tall. It appears that most of the current employment opportunities are for lawyers. [CookCountyRecord]

Santa Fe tours of digging the Chicago Drainage Canal

Dave Arganbright posted some images with the comment:
It seems a little hard to fathom today, but in 1896 the Santa Fe’s passenger department created a detailed booklet for passengers to explore construction of the new drainage canal…as a destination.






[Note the I&M Canal on the right.]
David Darszka commented on Dave's posting
It was considered a modern engineering wonder. There were even excursion boat tours.
I include these photo because of the view of the tailings mound. Bill Molony posted two photos with the comment:
These two photographs from our collection are of a very violent head-on collision that took place in the 1890's on the Santa Fe Railway in the vicinity of Lemont and Romeo.
In the background can be seen the mounds of tailings from the excavation of the Sanitary & Ship Canal that was under construction at that time.
The Santa Fe was still single-tracked in this area at the time of this collision, and wasn't double-tracked until about 1910 or so.

This is the bobtail (offset swing) bridge that BSNF/Santa Fe now uses to cross the canal. Note that the drainage canal became an important commercial waterway when the 9-foot channel project was finished in the 1930s. That is why today's name is the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Unlike many areas in the Chicagoland area, industry is still exists along this canal. The edge I'm standing on is the dolostone that they first discovered in Lemont when they dug the Illinois & Michigan Canal. There are several abandoned quarries in Lemont because tehy provided dolostone for buildings until the beds around Bedford, IN were discovered.
20140820 0238

CPR Trestle oer Trent River in Trenton, ON

(Satellite, there are two railroad bridges in Trenton. I'm assuming it is this one with the tall trestle tower shadows.)

Joe Dockrill posted several photos of a tower trestle bridge being built.












Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Fourth Anniversary of this Blog

May 15th is the fourth anniversary of writing this blog. I have written over 2000 posts, and over 91% of them have been published. I have developed a style of mixing photos and text that I'm comfortable with. I've learned that Facebook URLs on the timeline are temporary and how to get permanent ones. I generally have spent several hours each day, seven days a week researching and writing. I even spend time proof reading, believe or not. It has done what I had hoped, allowed me to learn a lot and act as a memory aid.

I soon started another blog,, where I write about topics that are out of the Chicagoland area.

I continue to find information faster than I can deal with it. I have another blog,, where I dump links for topics that I don't have time to pursue now. (See the "links" label.)

I started another blog,, to save all of the photos I have been taking since last Summer of construction activity near downtown Downers Grove, IL; but I'm waaaay behind on that one.

Unfortunately, it is also the six-week anniversary of Google's "author keyword search function" breaking. I have used the Feedback button Google provides on the author's page, but it seems to be the equivalent of a suggestion box sitting over a paper shredder. Or what we called at work a "bit bucket." That is, I have received no response to my complaint about the search function breaking. A moral of the story might be: don't write over 2000 posts in a single blog because Google can't handle it.

I've been able to find most of my posts using either a label or a cross-reference from another post. But I've started a list of posts that I can't update because I can't find them such as "smoking locomotives." Even when I can find a post, it takes time guessing and goofing about labels or cross-referenced posts. On April 5th, I tried cutting back on the blog writing, but I went through withdrawal.

I have used keywords in the titles such as MoW:, MWRD:, IH:, etc. so that I could find posts using the author's search function. Since I can no longer trust the search results for those keywords, I may try reducing my blog writing again. We shall see.

Just today I can't find my posting on "shoving platforms." I've added that to a list of "lost posts" that includes information on edits I want to make for each lost posting.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Lake Champlain Bridges

1929 Bridge  (Bridge Hunter, Historic Bridges)
2011 Bridge  (Bridge Hunter)

At least an arch was replaced by an arch, but we lost another truss bridge.
Boston Public Library, CC BY
Lake Champlain Bridge, connecting New York State and Vermont at the "Narrows" from Chimney Point, Vt., to Crown Point, N. Y.
"The 2,187-ft-long 14-span two-lane bridge was the first long-span continuous truss highway bridge in the US." [FIU] Before continuous truss spans were developed, simple truss spans were used. Each end of a simple span terminates at the pier that holds it up. Forces in one span are not transmitted to the adjacent spans. Simple spans needed more steel, but it made the calculations of the stress in the truss members easier. It is significant that a continuous truss bridge was designed long before computers were developed to help with the truss member stress computations. Of note, the piers did not use steel bars for reinforcement.

Doug Kerr Flickr 2007 Photo, CC BY-SA
Crown Point Bridge over Lake Champlain

It is so nice to find a DOT site that has lots of interesting information. They have construction details and "information boards." The maximum depth of their 32 6' foundation shafts is 100', and the shafts are socketed 10' into the bedrock. As expected, the 402' basket handle modified network tie arch was built offsite and then floated into place and lifted with strand jacks. This Accelerated Bridge Construction technique developed by Florida International University was also successful in Kentucky for the Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley Bridges. Unfortunately, it was not successful for FIU's own pedestrian bridge.

I believe that "basket handle" means the arch beams tilt inwards as they achieve their 80' height. "Modified" means the V structures on each of the arch supports. [Yannotti, Slides 87,88]  I assume the modification was done to echo the curves of the bridge it replaced. But it also had the functional advantage of reducing the length of the arch span. "Network" means crossing tie cables that create a redundant system. Note that each box tie girder is held by two cables. "Tie" in "tie arch" means that there are steel beams going across the bottom that holds the sideways thrust created by the arch beams.

The center span was lifted into place without a concrete deck. This was done to limit the weight of the lift to just the structural steel components of the structure. To expedite the deck construction on the arch, precast concrete panels were used for both the roadway surface and the sidewalks, which are located on the outside of the arch. These panels were staged on barges, lifted by crane to one end of the arch and moved into position using rollers. After the arch was loaded with the weight of the precast panels, the final VT and NY approach deck pours were progressed. The transverse space between each precast deck and sidewalk panel was filled with concrete in a series of small transverse closure pours. With all of the transverse closure pours completed and cured, the precast concrete deck panel system was post-tensioned. [construction]
A main feature of the new bridge is the zinc metalized corrosion protection that will be applied to the structural steel. The new bridge one of the largest in North America to be completely zinc metallized. [Flatiron]
That is, the bridge is made with galvanized steel. I read a book about rust, and the author was rather adamant that galvanized steel should be used for bridges because the initial cost would soon be paid off by the reduced maintenance, e.g. no painting.

(new window)

While inspecting major repair work that was underway in October, 2009, the engineers found such serious problems in the piers that on October 16, 2009, they did an emergency closure at 1:30pm without advance warning to the public, causing major traffic issues. [storyYannotti, Slide 33] Given that the road detour route was 84 miles and 2 hours, the public was outraged. Meetings were held and heads were scratched including temporary pier repairs and various temporary bridge designs until they decided to build a temporary free ferry service at the bridge. [Slide 55] Design approval for the new ferry service wasn't granted until November 11. [Slide 60] The new service opened February 1, 2010. [story]

Because falsework was used to construct the old bridge, it was decided it would be removed with "energetic felling." [Slide 70]

(new window)   Skip to 0:39 for the big bang. The reason the video is so long after the explosions is that waves created by the steel falling into the water reach the ice in the foreground and break it up. It is worth waiting to see.

(new window) Just the explosion in slow motion

While the steel and piers of the old bridge were being removed, a normal year long design process was completed in 10 weeks in 2010 by HNTB. The good news was that they could use the existing approach since the old bridge was not using it. This saved a lot of environment impact study time. (Because of historic forts etc. that were very close to the existing alignment, any movement of the alignment had significant issues.)

The tops of the piers are angled to break ice formations. They are covered by granite slabs to reduce ice damage and abrasion of the underlying concrete. The granite has the side benefit of improved ascetics and of a homage to Vermont granite. I'm reminded that some buildings are clad with Vermont granite.

If we look at the initial concept for the network arch bridge below, we see how the V structures did improve the ascetics of the bridge for those used to seeing the deep truss arch bridge. (And for those who haven't. Personally, I think the modified design looks a lot better.) We also see how the design of the pier was changed so that the same concrete pour form could be used for the top of all of the piers and the height is determined simply by adjusting the length of the stem of the pier.
Yannotti, Slide 87

Sunday, May 13, 2018

BNSF/Santa Fe GM Yard


When I was driving north on Santa Fe Drive, I noticed a BN locomotive approaching. So I pulled into a parking lot to get some pictures.

20140521 0082
You can tell by the glare off the sides that the sun was low, and I was losing my light.

It was moving slowly across the road.

When the second unit got on the road, it stopped and went back.

When I learned about the GM Yard, I realized I was watching a cut of cars being drilled back at the yard.

By the way, not only is the BN livery old; the BNSF locomotive had the first livery design, H1.

On my way to the MWRD pumping station to take a tour of the McCook Reservoir, I went up to that crossing to get a photo with better sunlight.
20170806 1520
Most BN hoppers that I see now days are different shades of fading. This was one of the greener ones that I have seen, so I walked around to get a "roster shot."

It appears this happer always sets at that spot. Perhaps it is a "bumping post" that has give. They even have a pile of rock on the tracks near the road to provide even more resistance to keep runaways off the road.
3D Satellite
The yard is called GM Yard because the UPS building on the other side of  I-294 is located where there used to be a GM plant. Since Corwith Yard has been converted to an intermodal yard, this yard is now the one that originates local trains. I know a local comes from this yard to service the industries west of Argonne Labs. The power and crew for the local that serves the industries south of Joliet may come from here but the Joliet Yard may be used to prepare the train. I know that train uses a caboose as a shoving platform because I have seen that local three times, but I still have not been able to catch a decent photo of the caboose. Fortunately, Matthew Ginkel's posting did catch some cabosses.

Dennis DeBruler The H1 livery has worn well. Or did they repaint using the old livery?


On my way back home after the McCook Reservoir tour, I saw the BN locomotive working the Willow Springs Intermodal Yard, but I wasn't willing to get out of the van to take a better photo because just being in this parking lot was trespassing
BNSF keeps at least two BN painted locomotives at GM Yard because I spotted another one parked in the yard. That is I-295 at the top of the picture.

I took this photo to record that they also had an H1 pair. Matthew had to go on the east side of I-294 to get his photos. But I have not figured out a legal way to do that. I was looking for one this day because BNSF does store interesting locos and cabooses at the (timecard) west end of this yard. I've seen them when driving on I-294. But I haven't been willing to do the "broken car technique" to get photos from up there.