Graham’s Corner: Train Stuff

Train 2By Graham Henry, Resident Train Expert, May 7th, 2014

Speaking of whistles.
A dash (-) is a long blast.
An o is a short blast.

Before moving, the engineer will turn on the locomotive bell, indicating he is getting ready to move the locomotive or train.

oo means he is going to move forward.
ooo means he is going to move backwards.
oooo requests for a signal to be given or repeated.
oo means a second section is following.
ooo means flagman project rear of train.
– – – – means flagman return from west or south.
– – – – – means flagman return from east or north.
– – o – means train approaching a public grade crossing. Almost all railroads use this signal,  known as rule 14L.
– means inspect brake system for leaks or sticking brakes.

The following railroad whistles are desired by collectors:
Southern Pacific –Six Chimes——
Union Pacific–Hancock “Steamboat Chimes”
Chicago Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q)—five chimes and three chimes
Grand Trunk (Canadian RR) — shop made six chimes copies of Nathan Whistle
New York Central —shop made six chimes
Norfolk and Western—low-pitched, distinctive “hooter” whistles

May 10 is the 145th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit (not Point) in Utah. The Central Pacific (later the Southern Pacific) was built east from Sacramento and the Union Pacific was built west from Omaha. Finding men to do the work was easy for the Union Pacific, as the Civil War had ended, and there were a lot of men looking for work. A group of saloonkeepers, gamblers and women moved along the track as it was built west, and that helped workers spend their pay. This project was called “Hell on Wheels.”

But the Central Pacific had a problem finding enough workers, because of the California Gold Rush. Someone suggested enlisting the Chinese. After all, they had built the Great Wall! So the banker Otto Crocker brought over 10,000 Chinese, who worked year-round to cross the Sierras. Even then, the Chinese workers were not treated fairly. They had to buy their own food, for instance. But they boiled their tea water, so there was less sickness.

In addition to government bonds, a 400-foot right-of-way corridor on which to build the railroad—along with additional lands needed for all sidings, stations, rail yards, maintenance stations, etc.—was made by Congress. Extensive land grants of alternate sections of government-owned lands were also granted for 10 miles on both sides of the track—6,400 acres per mile of track—for companies. Grants were not allowed or given in cities, at rivers or on non-government property. While some of this land had potentially exploitable minerals, or was good farm or forestland and thus quite valuable, much of it was essentially valueless desert. Provisions in the Pacific Railroad Acts were made for the telegraph companies, who had just completed the First Transcontinental Telegraph in 1861, to combine their lines with the Railroad’s telegraph lines as they were built. Railroad-allocated land not sold in three years was to be sold at the prevailing government price for homesteads: $1.25 per acre. Had the bonds not been repaid (which they were, with interest), the Acts provided that all remaining railroad property, including trains and tracks, were to revert to the U.S. government for disposal The RRs were paid, in addition to the land, $16,000 a mile on flat land, $32,000 in the foothills and $48,000 in the mountains.

Next issue: Fallen Flags

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