Oh, for a time machine.

I'm posting these two awesome pictures (circa 1989, from Greg Ropp collection) here for two reasons:  one, because they are awesome, and two, to host them to to be referenced for some questions to folks. 

R691 gets a push (and pull!) from the Shelby pusher crew, whose power would normally just be the U23B 3263 and Chessie GP40-2 (two four axles), but today have added two U30Cs for an extra boost.  Shelby cut them in ahead of a bunch of 72' centerbeams and 60' hi-cubes.  I quickly looked in the division timetable under division and subdivision special instructions and couldn't find guidance on the placement of cars/trailing tonnage limitations for cars 50' - 80', so I'll have to work on finding out the deal on this for pusher operations for the 691 on my layout.  These pictures are so awesome:  the head-end exhaust, the Fond du Lac car, the amazing pusher set, and of course the CSX hi-cubes which I'm trying to figure out what they were doing there so I can do it too!  You can click on the second pic for a slightly better res of the hi-cubes.

The Pace.

     We got ‘em rolling now.  Gravity’s been mostly responsible for getting the show back up to track speed after the unplanned, kicker-induced stop.  But now we’re starting to bottom out and the hogger’s been gingerly givin’ the loads one notch at a time over the last mile or so.  The right cowboy boot, with a not-quite steel toe, is properly propped up on the cab heater.  I’m sure the left one is lazily resting in some awkward-looking position on the cab floor, right next to the dirty Crew Pack that’s been there for 6 trips that no one cares to reach down and throw out the window.  The cowboy hat looks good up there in the cab window, slightly cocked forward in a mostly-successful attempt to betray the randomly swirling wind that makes its way into the cab every few moments.   The tanned forearm leads to a relaxed right hand somehow managing to keep a cigarette dangling between two fingers, resting on the armrest just out of the 35 mph wind an inch away.  We both silently wonder when the invisible left hand is going to end our misery.  The consist has been awkwardly throbbing in the seventh notch for a couple of minutes now.  The radiator fans sound pretty good, and we’re close enough to even hear the traction motors singing along, and I’ll never complain about the sound of a turbo 645 in any notch, but things just never seem quite in the groove in the seventh.  The cocky railfan attitude creeps in:  does he think he’s in the eighth as he blankly stares ahead and to the right, seemingly watching the road ahead of us and not the track he’s dancing over?  Nonsense!  He was “firing” F units before I was even born.  I look back at the consist, both by turning around and also in the rear view mirror.  It’s so impossible to describe to someone how or why the aesthetic beauty of an all-EMD lashup evokes such strong emotions of righteousness.  The things you are constantly taking in while pacing:  the drop-step chains constantly swaying back and forth in formation as pairs, sometimes more vividly when the track gets a little soft; the Hyatts, never resting in their up and down motion, your eyes always go to them as a grade crossing is leapt over; the motor blowers kick up the required small amount of dust as the decks bounce just a bit, out of sync, but not near as much as if the units were coasting; the mostly clean, barely discernable exhaust plumes being shoved out of the turbo hatches at just over 800 rpms.  Your eyes slowly make their way back up through the consist to the engineer, who’s now looking at you, seemingly somewhat amused.  He takes a short drag on his butt and you see him shift just barely as he moves his right hand up to the horn.  Still in the seventh.  He lets the weight of his hand rest on the handle as you see the whistle post stroll by.  Just a bit of air warms up the bells for a second before he plays.  He finishes his “two longs, short, and a long” with a quick jerky blast to punctuate the signal just as the dust flies and the cab bounces and the bell-less, lighted crossbucks flash by.  You catch yourself smiling.  The dust gets you every time.  Happening just as fast as you can realize it, you see the his hand drop from the horn and you see his shoulders jerk and you have a fraction of a second to enjoy the anticipation: you hear the bass change, the cylinder noise change tempo, and after that perfect tiny pause, you hear the four turbos, now obviously exhaust-driven, wind up to their full roar.  The four exhaust stacks dutifully reply also, belching out a few revolutions of darkness in perfect unison.  And in the same unison, their throats are clear again.  The prime movers settle perfectly as the fuel flow equalizes and now the chorus is complete.  The roar of the turbos, the scream of the fans, the staccato throb of 16 cylinders a piece, and the compliment of violent, yet brief, air let-offs is literally the best music to your ears you’ve ever heard and you’re glad everyone’s focused on the train so they don’t see your eyes glistening.  Did those La Grange engineers with the horn-rimmed glasses actually design all of the sounds of such complex machinery to be in tune?!?  How can it sound go good?  A signal unexpectedly flashes by, and you’re driving back just far enough to see it “drop” from green to red in the one second that the lens is visible.  Another involuntary smile.  You think to yourself that there never was, nor every will be, a signal that looks as good as “your” railroad’s.  You couldn’t fathom that just yesterday someone on the other side of the country thought the same thing about “their’s.”  You look ahead as everyone gently starts to lean in a broad curve to the right.  You hear the flanges grind in protest as you look in the mirror to see the consist and her trailing coal loads lean into the curve and obediently follow the rails laid so long ago.  La Grange got it right.  You hope as deeply and as passionately as you can about something that isn’t beloved family or friends that America will always be pulled by four SD40-2s.

~For Matt

The Launch!

BOOM!  AT&SF SD45-2 6488 and I welcome you to contrailroads.com!  My name is Brian Bennett.  I'm a 30-something train fanatic, jet pilot, runner dude, ski bum, Objectivist-Capitalist-American single dude.  And THIS is my web presence.  Glad you're here.  My goals of what you eventually will find here are:

~ A prototype model railroader's mecca of reference material, detail shots, model discussions, project blogs, and a place for general discussion and a meeting place for model railroader rivet counters.

~ A plethora of railroad photography that will supplement my "nice" stuff that I post on railpictures.net.  A little bit of cross-pollination with the above goal, but I plan on having a library online of prototype reference photos for modeling purposes, in addition to more "traditional" railfanning and railroad photography stuff.

~ A blog to investigate whether I really like to write as much as I think I might.  If not, I'll at least have a place cooler than facebook to post my overly-judgemental opinions and rants on everything ranging from trains to ice cream.  Hopefully we can generate some sixth-grade, ridiculously immature name-calling to justify this page as a feels-like-the-internet legitimate internet locale.  I'm kidding.

~ A place for photos for all friends and family to enjoy and share.

~ But wait!  There's more!  Eventually...........