My career on the railroad started 20 years after the last SP/ATSF/UP steam-powered train left town. I watched the workforce dry up from more than 200,000 employees down to 20,000 nation wide. I watched double track get torn up and replaced by Continuous Welded Rail ( CWR)
single track. I watched junction control towers
fall down to be replaced by centralized traffic control.
I watched train crews dissolve when they fired the ‘featherbedding
‘ firemen, then the first and later the second brakemen were lost. Then the conductor was replaced by a portable red light on the back. One dispatcher in San Bernardino
used to run the district from Barstow
to Los Angeles through Pasadena
and another ran the district from Barstow to Los Angeles through Fullerton
. Both were replaced by one dispatcher at the Argentine rail yard
in Kansas City.
This video is ATSF 3751, a ‘Northern’ class steam locomotive with a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement. It could easily cruise at 100 mph on straight level track. The video was taken along the LA-Pasadena-Barstow route in 2017.
Steam power was very labor intensive while diesel locomotives were capital intensive. EMD was almost giving locomotives away at the end of WWII because they were selling parts at premium prices.
ATSF 4 unit locomotive 115LABC
The ‘L’ is for ‘lead unit’. the ‘A’ & ‘B’ are cabless boosters, and the ‘C’ is the other cab unit.
One set of 4 EMD FT locomotives were delivered as a single unit, sometimes two or even three sets were on a train with just one crew at the front. Each locomotive unit produced 1,350 horsepower.
This video is of the ATSF ‘Redondo Junction’ locomotive shop where I worked.
A really bad rail accident happened there January 22, 1956 on the main line track right next to this building. I was in 3rd grade and watched the story on our local TV station.
The Redondo Junction engine house used to maintain more than 100 freight steam locomotives, but when the diesels came, freight maintenance moved to Barstow and a lot of jobs were lost. We maintained more than 50 diesel switch engines when I started there, but when old passenger engines were rebuilt into road switchers after Amtrak came, our Alco and EMD 1000 hp switches were sent to scrap and our workforce was reduced to about half. When Amtrak bought our engine house we started hiring again, but with half our workforce laid off more than a year, not many came back.
Ten years ago SP and UP closed their LA facilities. ATSF has one track over a pit for switch engine inspections in their LA yard. Almost all of the railroads that were continental in size have merged into a half-dozen mega-railroads. The unprofitable branches were abandoned or sold to mom and pop railroads that serve a few industries on a part-time basis. RJ Corman bought the surplus L&N lines in Louisville and operates the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train on weekends now. They also move a few boxcars at a nearby printing plant.
Airplanes have annual inspections. Locomotives have periodic (92 day) inspections as well as annual inspections
. If you use a locomotive even for a few hours, the inspection must be in date. You need a pit to inspect the bottom of the locomotive for a legal 92 day inspection. In addition, a locomotive must be inspected by a certified inspector every calendar day it is in use.