Miracle at Charlottesville - Chapter 7

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    April 2007
  • From: Columbus OH
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Miracle at Charlottesville - Chapter 7
Posted by dabug on Thursday, April 7, 2011 8:14 PM

                       MIRACLE AT CHARLOTTESVILLE

                                    CHAPTER 7          

In March 1968, it was time to bid Sinope farewell.  All four of us retuned to Istanbul on the ship together, arriving on a Sunday evening after traversing the Bosporus again in the fading light of day.  (I remember seeing two Russian oil tankers heading through the strait into the Black Sea.)  Several days later we returned to the states, again on Pan American.  This flight left Istanbul midmorning, flew first to Rome, then to Paris, thence nonstop to New York, arriving in the evening.  (An aside – whenever we attended a movie in Sinope that showed an airliner, if it were a Pan Am plane we all stomped and cheered.  That airline may have assisted in bringing us to that “exotic” duty station, but it would also take us stateside again!)

My parents drove my wife to New York to meet me.  We stayed overnight in New Jersey, and the next day before heading west, my parents had graciously agreed to spend some time in New Brunswick NJ so I could take movies of trains.  I managed to get my dad to put up with this activity till around 1300 when we departed.  Nabbed 25 passenger trains on movie film, ignoring the MU commuter trains and freights for the most part.  But that’s another story.

Leave of course was split between my parents in Columbus and my mother-in-law in Toledo.  At that time she was renting the upstairs of a two-story house that sat at the end of a street in a Toledo suburb smack up against 14 railroad tracks!  Thirteen of them constituted the south end of a Toledo Terminal RR yard, and the 14th track – unfortunately the one farthest from the house and often partially obscured by standing freight cars – was the B&O’s Toledo-Cincinnati main.  But that’s another story too.

I also put together a 5-day driving safari from Toledo to the Chicago area in early April to chase and photograph trains.  Trouble was my wife and I were to leave for Chicago on Saturday, April 5th.  So what?  Well, the night before was when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.  And we were heading for the environs of a large city, with which I was not really familiar?  My mother-in-law was all bent out of shape that morning, but we went anyway.  I’m glad we did.  We had no problems with civil unrest, and in addition to a few token freight and commuter trains, I nabbed 36 passenger trains on 10 railroads.  Many of those trains would not survive to the start of Amtrak, let alone after.  (Yeah, that trip is another story.)

My next duty station was Adak Alaska, one of the Aleutian Islands.  Again a “hardship” duty station and a 12-month tour, this naval base did have dependent housing available.  But we decided it would be better for the wife to remain in Toledo to work and save money.  So it was at the end of that leave about mid-April I departed for Adak.  How did I travel?  I’m glad you asked!

I left Toledo on the rather sad and then-nameless remains of Penn Central’s combined 20th Century/New England States to Chicago, then the Empire Builder to Portland OR (partly due to Steve’s glowing report of his trip the year before), and the morning pool train from there to Tacoma to access Sea-Tac Airport for a flight to Alaska.  (By this time late in the privately operated passenger train era, Burlington combined the Empire Builder, North Coast Limited, and Afternoon Zephyr into one train as far as St. Paul.  Quite a colorful consist.)  Traveled coach to Chicago, then a duplex roomette to Portland, then the morning Seattle pool train as far as Tacoma.  (Military travel pay was sufficient for me to indulge the luxury of a roomette.  And traveling to Portland, then north, gave me about 150 extra rail miles than if I’d gone via Seattle.)  I took movies on the trip, of course.  Ironically, in using a movie camera for almost 30 years, on that trip I encountered the only problem I ever had with a cartridge of movie film; it jammed several times, resulting in some disjointed coverage in the area of Glacier National Park, the most scenic part of the trip, naturally.  Spent most of the daylight hours in the full-length dome of the lounge car.

When I awoke on the second morning out of Chicago, we were on the SP&S cruising along the north bank of the Columbia River, and I was traversing the smoothest trackage I have ever encountered, before or since!  (By contrast, I thought the CB&Q to the Twin Cities had been quite rough; the GN line I would place in between those two extremes.)  The train arrived in Portland about 0700, and the morning pool train to Seattle about midmorning was operated by the Union Pacific.  In actuality, that train was the inbound City of Portland from Chicago.  After the two sleepers on the rear were taken off, the rest of the consist proceeded to Seattle with me nestled in a dome coach.  Immediately after we arrived in Tacoma, the mid-day pool train from Seattle – operated by the Northern Pacific – pulled in.  I managed some quick movie footage of it from a stairwell window.  A taxi took me to the Sea-Tac International “airplane parking place,” where I caught a Western Airlines flight to Anchorage, arriving in the evening.

Stayed overnight in Anchorage, and the next morning boarded an old DC-4 or DC-6 of some outfit called Reeve Aleutian Airways.  This 4-engine prop job took about five hours to fly out to Adak, one of the outer islands in the Aleutian chain.

Arriving in April 1968, I finally wised up while there and purchased a 35mm camera to take color slides of trains.  Since acquiring the movie camera in 1966, I gradually came to realize that movies were fine for moving trains, but not so good for stationary equipment (duh!)  A slide camera on the other hand was equally good for moving or standing objects.  (OK, call me a slow learner.)  Now all I had to do was wait to get back to the mainland!

Also while there, the Pueblo’s crew was finally released from captivity after 11 months.  (The ship itself, however, is still in North Korea’s hands to this day.)  But still no letter arrived from railfan Chuck.  In time I gave up the idea of ever corresponding with him.

(To be continued…)

Golly gee whiz, how did the railroads ever do it in the age before computers or government "help"?  (Then: they did it.  Today: forget it!)

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