Saturday, April 4, 2015

MoW: Scorpion Flatcar

Rob Moore commented on a posting
On Facebook, someone asked for a closeup picture of the Maintenace-of-Way flatcar that carries its own ramp for loading and unloading  equipment. I learned that the ramp has an incline of 7% and that it can load both steel and rubber wheeled equipment. A hydraulic wench is provided to load disabled equipment. (ProgressiveRail1)

Rob Moore commented on a posting
Rob Moore provided this photo from CSX at Westfield, MA. I tried to imagine how that ramp is unfolded. Since a Facebook comment called it a "scorpion car", it was easy to Google it and find some videos --- retracting and deploying. When the ramp is in an intermediate position, it is obvious why the car is called a scorpion. The sequencing is automated. The remote control has two buttons --- deploy and retract. The longer deploying video confirms that it is unfolded starting with the segment attached to the car. Then the second and fourth joints are done in parallel. And then the remaining joints are done one at a time. One source indicated it took 15 minutes and another source indicated it takes 5 minutes. Since 3 people were watching in the deploying video, maybe it worked 3 times faster. Or maybe the 5 minute value is the correct one. I assume trains have more than one flatcar with bridges between them so that this ramp allows them to load multiple cars using the "circus ramp" style.

In fact, this video confirms that they load multiple flatcars from the ramp at the end. It shows the entire sequence of deployment, loading, and retracting in case you have a lot of coffee to drink.

Update: a video of unfolding when only the first stage worked. A later video when they got the later stages working.
Andre Tardif shared
[It looks like a couple of the MoW units were not needed for whatever job they are doing in this area so they were left on the flats.]

(new window)

(new window)   A comment explains that the arms for the tie-puller/installer are extended when loading to make sure the heads don't hit the cars.

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The unfolding starts are 1:41.
safe_image for 6:01 YouTube Video
Paul Waggle: I have drove a Holland welding truck up that ramp backwards. Will make your butt pucker lol
Christopher Dehart: Paul Waggle the scrap crane is the one that always made me pucker.

A 11:52 webcams video of loading equipment The good shots of them loading start at 3:33. At 4:53, a couple of the yellow critters had trouble making it up the ramp. At 8:50, they fold the ramp up.

Friday, April 3, 2015

1906 CN/GM&O/Alton Page Bascule Bridge over "Bubbly Creek"

(Bridge Hunter; Historic BridgesForgotten Chicago; HAER3D Satellite)

(Four years earlier (1902), Page & Shnable one a contract for the Ashland Avenue Bridge with an even more weird looking design.)

This bridge spans what many people call Bubbly Creek. (Actually, the real Bubbly Creek was the West Arm of the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River. But that stream has been filled in.)

HAER ILL, 16-CHIG, 114--1

The Chicago & Alton Railway Bridge was constructed for the joint use of three railroads: the Chicago & Alton, the Illinois Central, and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railways. Engineer, John W. Page of the firm, Page & Shnable, developed and patented the design of the bridge, which is known as a Page trunnion bascule. The Chicago & Alton Railway Bridge is significant for being the first of its kind erected for railroad use and it may be the only one left in existence. The superstructure is made from steel and operated by using two 124-horsepower motors mounted on a frame between two counterweights. These counterweights pivot and roll downward, tilting the bridge and giving it the appearance of the span rising effortlessly. The bridge's counterweights are contained within steel plates that visually blend with the structure giving it a graceful appearance. The bridge is visible from the Stevenson Expressway and Metra and Orange Line trains. Today, it is still in use, but its mechanism has been disabled, since it no longer is raised for navigational purposes. [ChiLandmarks]

.pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, Fig. 264, p. 487
Only four bridges were built using the Page Bascule design. Since the abandoned Monon span over the Grand Calumet River was destroyed by an illegal scrapper, this bridge is the only Page design in the world that is still carrying traffic.

20150705 2628
Update:  I captured a relatively complete north elevation shot because a previous building has probably been torn down and the replacement has not yet been built. Note the rather ambitious graffiti on the truss members. It took a lot of energy (and some ropes?) to paint the vertical members.
20171122 8146rc
In this grab shot, you can more clearly see the curve in the rack member. When looking at a rack member, the bridge being backlit is almost a feature.

John W. Barriger III Nation... Flickr
Jon R. Roma: Bridgeport, Chicago, IL, looking north.
[I would have said looking East. But then I realized that Jon is using the timetable direction. And, actually, it is closer to looking Northeast.]

Sorry, the content of this posting got replaced by the contents of a posting that I was working on so much of my original content describing the Page design is gone. But that information is still available in the documents provided by Historic Bridges.

Mike Matalis found a 1902 photo of the swing bridge that proceeded this bridge
And when Chicago required the railroads to elevate their tracks, they had to elevate this bridge. They are using screw jacks and lots of people like they did when they elevated the buildings in downtown Chicago starting in 1855 to install sewers on top of a swamp.
A 1902 photo showing the crew turning the screwjacks tused o raise the bridge another flight of timbers.
Micahel Matalis Flickr 1976 Photo


The RTG Turboliners were an attempt by Amtrak to both upgrade their fleet and their image during the 70's. Based on French prototypes, the train sets were powered by gas turbines rather than diesels, and sounded a lot like an idling jet plane. They weren't perfect; they used about as much fuel at idle as they did at full speed, plus while the power cars were equipped with standard couplers, the couplers between cars were European, which greatly limited their flexibility. There was also controversy about the original headlight arrangement, there were complaints it they looked too much like a car's at night, which lead to their rearrangement. Still, they lasted a fairly long time and gave good service.

Personally I think that the bridge it pretty cool too. Built to replace a swing bridge at the same location, at the time of these photos it appears to have been straight lined. The water course is the south fork of the south branch of the Chicago River, the infamous "Bubbly Creek", polluted almost beyond redemption by early 20th century dumping by local industries and stock yards. Since the time of these photos some clean up has been done allowing fish to return and a few brave souls to canoe the area, but back in the 70's you really didn't want to spend much time regarding the waters.

The structure atop the bridge controlled not only bridge lifts (from what I understand the last was in 1971) and the interlocking.

Chicago IL / Bridgeport drawbridge
AMT RTG Turboliner

AMT 59 RTG Turboliner

Heres a late addendum about the bridge from Bob Jordan:

Little late on this thread but thought I'd throw this out,

* Significance: The Chicago & Alton Railroad bridge
was the first Page bascule erected for railroad use. Patented by John
W. Page, a Chicago engineer, the Page bascule was not as extensively
built as other patented systems such as the Strauss-Trunion bascule.
This Chicago & Alton bridge may be the only one of its kind in
* Survey number: HAER IL-104
* Building/structure dates: 1906 Initial Construction

Concerning four heads per track, Jon Roma comments on his 1995 Flickr photo:
The only place where I've ever seen four-headed signals. Each head was assigned to a specific route - three mainline routes along with a restricting indication on the bottom head. The Santa Fe and the Illinois Central Gulf employees timetables called these "non-standard" signals and gave specific instructions about them.
Jon's Bridgeport album has several other interesting views, including the inside of the tower that controlled this junction. This signal is a reminder that the two bridge tracks fanned out to six mainline tracks, two each for CN/IC/ICG/GM&O/Chicago & Alton, CN/IC/CC&P/ICG/IC/Chicago, Madison and Northern Railroad, and Abandoned/Santa Fe.

Below, Michael is east of the bridge facing east for this photo. Note the two red lights above the caboose. That is a B&O CPL (Colored Position Light) signal target. A reminder that the B&O owned the Alton for a while in the 20th Century.
Micahel Matalis Flickr 1976 Photo
[Imagine what this was like when Santa Fe was still running passenger trains to Dearborn Station. The Santa Fe tracks have now been replaced by the CTA's Orange Line.]

Ladies in waiting

The bridge was a natural choke point, so it was not unusual to find one or more trains waiting for the tracks to clear. In this case it's the local/transfer (I still haven't decided what it was) and an intermodal headed for the IMX terminal just on the other side of the bridge. And get a look at that signal bridge, it's like the history of signaling up there!

Chicago IL / Bridgeport drawbridge
ICG local with w/b intermodal in distance

ICG 1248 SW9

I include this one because it shows an even bigger traffic jam caused by the bridge. It also shows how well focused the signal lights are. If you get off center, you can't see the lights anymore.
Michael Matalis Flickr 1976 Photo

Rights of passage

We've got another traffic jam, at times this place could be as backed up as the neighboring Stevenson Expressway! In this case we've got The Plug (heading for Glenn yard for midday servicing) and the local/transfer/whatever waiting as Amtrak #301 "The State House" (the only Amtrak train I ID'd that day) passes by.

Chicago IL / Bridgeport drawbridge
AMT w/b train 301 passing commuter transfer and local

Dennis Madia posted
Aerial view of Southwest Expressway clearing site, March 2,1964.
Paul Webb shared
Rick La Fever: That Bascule bridge is still there over Bubbly Creek.
Bob Dau: Rick La Fever yup tower is gone.
It had a kinda narrow staircase over river to get up to tower. My Dad took me there as a kid to see his friend Gapen.
Dennis DeBruler shared
The construction of I-55. This was back when Santa Fe, ICwest and GM&O used the bridge over the South Fork (typically called Bubbly Creek). Now just CN uses it.

Dennis DeBruler commented on both shares,-87.6584997,141a,35y,236.98h,74.88t/data=!3m1!1e3

While my daughter was driving me around Chicago so that I could take pictures, I shot a sequence from I-55. Fortunately, the camera was able to lock focus even though we were moving at highway speeds. Normally, these pictures are not good enough to include in the blog. But they catch that mixed freight trains are still running on the CN in 2015. I was surprised to see a freight train because I have read that after CN bought EJ&E, they were moving their freight operations to the periphery of the Chicago area and Kirk Yard.

20150502 0743c
 The covered hoppers are VeraSun Engergy, so they are probably taking corn to an ethanol plant.

Note that you can clearly see the teeth on the curved rack members. The rack members are the end members of the span truss. The members across the top hold the motor, shaft and the rack gears. As the bridge is raised, the ends of the top members go down as the rack members tilt backwards. Since the rack members are rigidly attached to the movable span, as it rotates back the rest of the span rotates up.
ICG, Chicago, Illinois, 1983, west side
Illinois Central Gulf Railroad freight train in Chicago, Illinois, on March 1983. Photograph by John F. Bjorklund, © 2016, Center for Railroad Photography and Art. Bjorklund-60-18-12
ICG, Chicago, Illinois, 1983
Illinois Central Gulf Railroad freight train (led by locomotives of predecessor Gulf, Mobile and Ohio) in Chicago, Illinois, on February 1983. Photograph by John F. Bjorklund, © 2016, Center for Railroad Photography and Art. Bjorklund-60-18-19

Bill Molony shared's post.
"SOO Line SD40 #756 and GP38-2 #4408 have just crossed the South Branch of the Chicago River with an eastbound freight at Chicago, Illinois on October 27, 1979." Jack D. Kuiphoff photo.
Tom Skowronski Yea, and if you notice, there are 4 searchlight heads on each signal. I don;t remember the exact indications, but the head that was cleared gave railroad routing on the other side where the tracks fanned out again along with bridge protection. It was completely different than normal indications on other railroads. And 4 heads! Only place I have ever seen that.
Mark Bilecki Sr. The tracks went from 6 to 2 tracks and back to 6 after the bridge, eastward with the GM&O on the north, IC in the middle and ATSF on the south. ATSF was removed for the Orange line elevated in 1989.
Jeff LewisGroup Admin I just noticed that the GP38 has red lettering. Unusual.

Steven J. Brown posted
Interesting ICG lashup at Bridgeport that includes an ex-Southern SD24 in third trail. Chicago, IL- September 1980.
Jon Roma More interesting to me is the unusual four head signals.
As trains diverged coming of the bridge, there were three separate railroads involved – Santa Fe, GM&O, and IC. The first three signal heads corresponded to each of these routes, and the bottom head was for Restricting indications to any route.
Paul Jevert Bridgeport Bridge over Chicago River south branch [actually, South Fork of South Branch] "Bubbly Creek" ! I ran I.C. trains, Hawthorne "Wobbly" City transfer, IMX Pigs, GM&O Job 10 Glenn/Markham transfer, GMO "Plug" and Amtrak over that Interlocking hundreds of times in 1960's -1990 ! Today its a CP point !

Steven J. Brown posted
NOW AND THEN? Lock Street, Bridgeport, Chicago.
When setting out to recreate these then images, I strive to get as close to the original angle as possible. Many times this is impossible to achieve. Sometimes its as simple as the light not being right or something more complex like plant growth. In this case it was impossible without climbing fences, being electrocuted or smacked by a CTA Orange Line train.
Here is Amtrak Lincoln #300 from St Louis on July 14, 2019 and an Illinois Central Gulf freight in September 1980 at Lock Street in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago as best as I could - thirty-nine years apart.

Steven J. Brown shared
Jon Roma Those who share my interest in signaling will note the FOUR searchlight units for each track on the bridge. This is a very unusual example of pure route signaling, and each of the top three signal units applied to trains running WITH the current of traffic onto the former GM&O, former IC, or former AT&SF. The bottom unit was used for restricted speed moves onto tracks against the current of traffic.

Ultimately, as is so often the case, this plant was rationalized after mergers and traffic movement changed over the years. The slip switches, signal bridges, and interlocking cabin (atop the bridge) have been gone since the Nineties.

By the way, the highway sign in the "now" photo mentions the National Museum of Mexican Art. I can't claim any Mexican heritage in my family tree, nor am I an expert in art. However, I have been to the named museum twice, and have enjoyed it immensely both times. The museum was free admission when I visited, and is a short two- or three-block walk through a safe neighborhood from the CTA Pink Line. I can highly recommend the museum. It's one of Chicago's many off-the-beaten-path gems.

Steven J. Brown posted
Illinois Central GP9 9255 is at Bridgeport in Chicago, Illinois circa 1979. 9255 will be squirt out of Paduch in April 1980 rebuilt with a new nose and paint job along with a new number; 8737.
Ron Wenzel That bridge is still there. Never to raise again.
Anthony Caci And it probably hasn't in many decades. Anyone know? Perhaps 1970s?
Ron Wenzel There is nothing there to raise it now
There was a small house on the west part of the bridge.
Archer and 35th had drawbridges replaced in the 1960s.

Steven J. Brown shared
Steven J. Brown shared

Ralph Spargo I hated the times I had to climb the stairs to Bridgeport tower on top of the bridge.
Ean Kahn-Treras talk about a spot that has completely changed. geeeeez!
Steven J. Brown Yup!

John DeWit Woodlock II posted two photos that were taken just west of the bridge with the comment: "EMDX 827,BN 6237 @ Bridgeport Tower-Chicago,IL 28 JAN 97."
Darren K Hill Very nice John!I used to shove across that bridge into IMX.
John DeWit Woodlock II Thank you. IC or SP?
Darren K Hill UP,2004,until it closed at the end of that year.
Dennis DeBruler Darren K Hill So that is when IMX closed. When I started seeing Fed Ex trailers on intermodal trains using the former CB&Q route, I looked for a Fed Ex facility. I found Fed Ex has been recently built on part of the IMX land. I still don't understand why CN pulled the plug on this yard.


William Shapotkin posted
It's July 1, 1977 and loco #517 leads W/B Amtrak psgr trn #3, the SOUTHWEST LIMITED as it x/o over "Bubbly Creek" and leaves ICG (GM&O) for ATSF iron at Bridgeport Interlocking (located near Archer/Ashland Ave) in Chicago. View looks N/E.
Dennis DeBruler commented on William's posting
This photo had enough resolution to allow zooming in to the 4-target signals.
William's 1977 photo above still has the bridge tower.
From Steve Rosen
Here's me, with a lot of hair on my face, working the levers at Bridgeport bridge, near Archer and Ashland, on the near south side. This tower was perched high atop a big steel bridge over a nasty little branch of the chicago river, that bubbled something icky in the summer.
This was what was called a "Pistol Grip" interlocker. The levers go back and forth, determining which way a switch or signal should be. The Bridge is closed, controlled remotely from another location.
From Steve Rosen
The view from Bridgeport Bridge, looking west/southwest, of a Turbo Train, so silent and fast that they were hitting too many cars at grade crossings that they discontinued using them out of the Chicago terminal.
This Turbo was likely on it's way into or out of the Amtrak Brighton Park Facility.

William Shapotkin posted
It is June 1977 and RDCs are no longer standard equipment on Amtrak's Chicago-Dubuque train, the BLACKHAWK. Here, loco #592 (an SDP40F) leads the W/B BLACKHAWK as it x/o "Bubbly Creek" and enters former IC rails at Bridgeport Interlocking (located near Archer/Ashland) in Chicago. View looks north. Wm Shapotkin collection.
Dennis DeBruler A nice view of the signals with four targets.William Shapotkin Yes, Dennis DeBruler. A friend of mine explained (on a couple of occasions) why the four signals and sadly, I still do not understand. If I recall correctly, part of the need for the fourth signal aspect was due to the fact that all three roads met/crossed one another here AND that there was the moveable bridge -- effectively in the middle of the interlocking. Perhaps one of the other readers of this thread could shed more light on the subject than I...and indeed, allow me to encourage exactly that. It is the sharing of information which makes discussion groups like this so damn valuable.
Nick Hart posted
Kirk-Glenn L537 heads west with a pair of IC SD70's in charge.
L537 runs from Kirk to Glenn. L536 is the local in the other direction.
William Shapotkin posted four photos of a westbound Plug travelling across and past the bridge.
Most of the time when we think of "commuter trains" we think about electric MU cars or bi-level, push-pull trains. That is today's world, but I would like to put in a plug for something a little different here. On July 1, 1977, the S/B ICG Joliet Plug is seen x/o "Bubbly Creek" at Bridgeport Interlocking (near Archer and Ashland Ave in Chicago) and heading S/B onto the ICG (former GM&O). Four tracks to the left are (left-to-right) ICG (former IC) and ATSF). Wm Shapotkin collection.
Dennis DeBruler This was long before the Orange Line was built on the abandoned Santa Fe RoW. Note that each signal above each track had four targets. I read there were special instructions in the Rule Book for the interpretation of those signals because the tracks for the IC, Santa Fe and GM&O funneled down to two tracks across the bridge.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3



[This is one of three similar photos that William posted and Edward shared.]
Howard Starr Thanks. Generally, the only pics of The Plug I've seen is her sitting Joliet Union Station.
Marty Bernard There are several not at Joliet in this Album.


William Shapotkin posted
We are in Chicago, IL, as a St Louis-bound Amtrak train made up of Amfleet equipment (led by loco #709) x/o over "Bubbly Creek" at Bridgeport Interlocking (located near Archer/Ashland). View looks N/E on July 1, 1977.
Ron Wenzel That house is no longer there on the bridge.

Richard Koenig posted
The Plug
Here’s a shot of Chicago, and one of its commuter trains, nearly 43 years ago. This was taken from the Stevenson Expressway where it (and the ATSF/GM&O) crosses over Bubbly Creek, just east of Ashland Avenue. I believe the train was backing into the station (Union Station) at this point.
The skyline has changed, just a little bit, since this image was made.
One image by 
Richard Koenig
; taken Dec 27th 1977.
David Daruszka: I trained as a engineer on The Plug at Metra. While they called it the Heritage Service the old heads still called it The Plug.
Bill Molony: By 1977, it was an ICG train.
Jon Roma: For fellow signal nerds, notice that the signals at left (Bridgeport interlocking) use four signal heads, which is quite unusual.
Joseph Tuch Santucci: Jon Roma each one those heads had a specific meaning. There was half a page or so of special instructions in the employee timetables that explained them.
[A 1977 timetable is posted in a comment in it shows that it had nine stops. And it could do those stops in less time than the Heritage takes today.]

Michael Riha commented on a post
The ATSF/GM&O arranged to share track 2 with the original Joliet Union platform, and that lasted into the Amtrak era. The continuous blocking of tracks 1 and 2 so passengers could walk to tracks 3 and 4 after the crossovers were removed was a partial incentive for the Gateway project.

Bing Owens posted eight images with the comment: "Chicago and Alton Railroad Bridge in Chicago...On Ashland...crossing the Chicago River...This bridge does not go up anymore, I do not believe, but it is a very important historical bridge here in town..."
David Daruszka
I ran trains over this bridge many times during my railroad career. Here's more info:









1 of 3 photos posted by HalstEd Pazdzior
IC 1021 is right at home as it leads a grain train (G889) through Chicago.   4/18/22