The way it was

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The way it was
Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 9:11 PM

Canadian Film Board

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 11:24 PM

Thanks Balt. One of my favourite NFB films. They did several films documenting the end of steam era. Interesting that the fella Fred Davis interviews states it is a 25 year program to completely Dieselize .. they were in Year 8 so that would put them in 1975. I wish!! The end came within a couple of years from this. 

Retiring Boomer on his last run didn't last much longer either. Mike did a search and found his headstone and obituary, less than 5 years from his last run on the Super Continental, bringing it into Melville. (I think it was mandatory at 65 back then for a working fella, not sure)

Melville was named after Charles Melville Hayes, president of the Grand Trunk, and perished in the sinking of the Titanic. I'm sure most know that fact but for the younger folk I thought it worth a mention.

Plenty of steam around in the film. The fella showing Fred Davis around explains about a train being made up going North to Flin Flon and Churchill. Imagine that! Also that Diesel horns were being replaced with 'steam whistles'. Too bad that really didn't happen, although there was some attempts. The pace of the film is charming. 

Melville is still an important railway town. Many many of the branch lines and secondary mains in Saskatchewan are gone. We were like Iowa, with a lot of rail lines going everywhere. 

Quite the bucolic scenes with kids playing with dogs and easy going steam locos soaking up the sun. Almost expect Rod Serling to walk on and talk about ' a quiet perfect place and things are about to change' schtic.

Must have been a real frantically busy and very serious place during the war years. I'm sure Boomer earned his pay in those times. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 2:00 PM

What a fascinating time capsule!

Anyone besides me notice how old  Boomer looks at 65?  Hey, I'm 65, and I don't look that old.  At least I don't think  I do...

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 3:27 PM

Having spent several years of my youth in Garrett, IN - a B&O railroad town - everything except active steam brings back memories. 

There was still inactive steam in the Shop Yard - and after hours a number of us 'railroad brats' would bicycle down to the Shop Yard and play on and around the T-3 Mountain engines that were awaiting their trips to the scrappers.

Remember the Capitol Limited having struck a semi-truck load of Joy liquid dishwashing detergent that was damaged beyond being able to continue on the train.  The unit was brought back to Garrett and left on one of the outdoor tracks at the roundhouse - Sunday afternoon a thunderstorm hit - and then engine became a genuine 'foamer'!

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Posted by Jones1945 on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 4:07 PM

50 years of railroading, a lovely family and a happy retirement. I am envy of Boomer.

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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 6:18 PM

What I would like to read about is the real nitty gritty of the war years during WWII. Not just the usual 'view from a height'  all encompassing items but the pace of operations in places like Melville, that NYC line up into Ottawa, lines around Buffalo, the Milwaukee Pacific extension, Great Northern and Northern Pacific. Everyone everywhere was incredibly busy. Daily multiple extra sections in addition to vastly increased and priority freight movements and all the secret stuff that can now be told. 

The effort in the backshops and roundhouses, dispatchers, yard workers, all had to have been truly Herculean and many untold tales of sacrifice and extra effort. Just getting the resources to keep it all moving from coal to copper was way over the top. 

That generation is all but gone and I wonder if anyone could put together these stories as seen from ground level. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 9:46 PM

Vince, I don't know of any one work that will tell you everything about domestic rail operations in World War Two, if it's out there I haven't found it yet.

The closest I've come, and I'm sure I've mentioned it before, is a book called "Decade Of The Trains,"  a collaboration between Don Ball Jr. and Rogers E. M. Whittaker,  Don Ball supplying the photos and Whittaker suppying the prose.

Whittaker's writing is absolutely superb, and as a US Army officer assigned to the Office Of Defense Transportation during the war he had a front-row seat to the action.  He writes of the rail transportation war as if he's writing about a battle, that is, the lead-up, the battle itself, and then the aftermath.  Makes sense, moving those trains was a battle in it's own right.  

Obviously the book can't tell you everything, but it tells more than enough.  Find yourself a copy, you won't be sorry. 

Wayne

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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 10:29 PM

Ok Thanks for that Wayne. This I will do. 

Perhaps someday through records both government and railroad companies and private writings and recollections a good reconstruction of those times can be made. 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 11:26 PM

The stories will all have some common threads.  Equipment and resourceful men (and women too) pushed to or beyond their limits.  It was a tough time, but the work had to get done. 

You can bet that whatever rudimentary forms of Hours of Service that existed back then were regularly violated. 

If it weren't for the hard work and resourcefulness of the railroaders then the Allies could not have won the War. 

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, January 17, 2019 11:08 AM
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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, January 17, 2019 11:39 AM
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, January 17, 2019 12:00 PM

Thanks for posting that film Vince!  

Thank goodness they had the foresight to film it in color, it makes it seem like yesterday and not 75 years ago.

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Posted by Jones1945 on Friday, January 18, 2019 9:36 AM

Miningman

Ok Thanks for that Wayne. This I will do. 

Perhaps someday through records both government and railroad companies and private writings and recollections a good reconstruction of those times can be made. 

Wish everything you said would come true! It is still hard to believe that after so many years, there aren't many books or documentary about the railroading in WWII. There are many stories and tales here and there on the web, but this topic really deserves a systematic record.Movie

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, January 18, 2019 2:45 PM

Jones1945
 
Miningman

Ok Thanks for that Wayne. This I will do. 

Perhaps someday through records both government and railroad companies and private writings and recollections a good reconstruction of those times can be made. 

 

 

Wish everything you said would come true! It is still hard to believe that after so many years, there aren't many books or documentary about the railroading in WWII. There are many stories and tales here and there on the web, but this topic really deserves a systematic record.Movie

I suspect there was a great feeling among all those alive during WW II that after it was over they just wanted to forget that it ever happened.  They didn't want to tell their stories, they wanted to forget their experiences so they could go to sleep at night.

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Posted by Jones1945 on Saturday, January 19, 2019 6:11 AM

BaltACD

I suspect there was a great feeling among all those alive during WW II that after it was over they just wanted to forget that it ever happened.  They didn't want to tell their stories, they wanted to forget their experiences so they could go to sleep at night.

I believe this was one of the main reason. I read some articles about PTSD of our serviceman in WWII as well as some first-hand sharing on the web in some yahoo groups more than 15 years ago. Many of those stories haunt me for a while and got me thinking.

On the other hand, most of the historians focus on the content of the War itself instead of things like the role of American railroad and railroader in WWII. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 19, 2019 9:07 AM

There's quite a bit of truth to what Mr. Jones said.  Quite often when writing about wars historians will minimize some aspects of the various conflicts so they can get to the exciting stuff like the various battles and campaigns.  In a way I can't blame them, they've got to keep the readers interested and there's nothing very sexy about logistics.

But it's also been said  "Armchair generals study maps, REAL generals study logistics."  

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Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, January 20, 2019 11:15 AM

Well said, Wayne. "Before the troops move, fodder and provisions go first", words of wisdom from 200 BC! But most of the new generation will forget and repeat many of the mistakes our ancestor did...

In another post, I learned how sections of different railroads were arranged during the WWII, but I hope I can know more than that. Coffee

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Posted by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer on Sunday, January 20, 2019 4:09 PM

...hit print button by mistake.  More will follow.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 21, 2019 9:40 AM

Napoleon said it best, "An army marches on its stomach."

Louse up the logistics and you're doomed.

One logistics failure which has always mystified me was the failure of the German army of World War Two to adequately prepare for the Russian winter during the invasion of 1941.  From 1939 to Operation Barbarossa in 1941 it seemed the German army couldn't do anything wrong. After Barbarossa it seemed like they couldn't do anything right.  I mean no stockpiling of cold weather clothing, no cold weather fuels or lubricants, no high-protein cold weather rations, no cold weather shelters, nothing at all, to say nothing of cold weather training for the troops.  Just unbelieveable.

I'm not a very religious man, but sometimes I think this is one of those times when the hand of God was making itself felt.  I can't think of any other reason for an organizational brain blockage of that scale.

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, January 21, 2019 10:15 AM

Wayne, I think it was William L. Shirer in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich who explained why thte Nazi army was unprepared for the Russian winter. As I recall, there was an uprising in Yugoslavia about the planned time of invasion that called for immediate attention--and thus the invasion of Russia (which der Fuerher thought could be quickly accomplished and so it was not necessary to equip his men with winter gear) was delayed, To paraphrase Robert Burns," the best laid plans of rats and men gang aft agley."

Johnny

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, January 21, 2019 10:56 AM

Yes Barbarossa was delayed. This worried the generals greatly but Nazi superiority complex got in the way.

I'm with Flintlock/Wayne and going with Divine Intervention. The initial success of the Nazi advance was spectacular, the atrocities were beyond  belief. They were stopped cold, thrown back and never got near Moscow again... and we all know what happened to Paulus at Stalingrad. 

Same with the Japanese... invincible, then Divine Intervention and in 15 minutes at Midway, were they can't lose, ...they lose. 

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Posted by M636C on Monday, January 21, 2019 5:04 PM

I guess it depends on where you are as to how you view it, but locally we tend to regard the Battle of the Coral Sea as the first real Japanese defeat, one month to the day before the Battle of Midway...

At least we celebrate the Battle of the Coral Sea formally every year, usually with US Navy participation. I remember this from my Primary School days, when many people, if not me, could remember the event.

Also, Hitler's first real defeat was the Battle of Britain in 1940. As presented in the movie, one day they just stopped attacking because they couldn't take the losses....

Peter

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Posted by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer on Monday, January 21, 2019 5:15 PM

Don't guess my messed up message went through afterall...

Any railroader like Boomer, who retired from engine service with 50 years of service, who probably started when he was a young man shoveling coal as a fireman and bucking the extra board years before he had accumulated enough senority to hold down a regular job after being promoted to locomotive engineer, in most cases probably did age way before his time.

I'm told that at 72 I don't look my age despite the fact I retired in 2010 having put in 40 years of railroading in Texas as well as Germany myself.  However, there are mornings when I look into my mirror mirror on the wall and see what appears to be the image of a man 101 years old looking back at me!

Would I do it all over again despite the aging?  You bet I would!  I loved almost every minute of my railroad career.  True, there were exceptions, but the positives far outnumber the negitives.

 

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Posted by Backshop on Monday, January 21, 2019 5:20 PM

Seeing as how Coral Sea stopped the Japanese southern expansion, I understand why it would be very important to Australians.  I think the difference is that while Coral Sea was a strategic victory for the Allies, it was, at most, a tactical draw.  Midway, on the other hand, was both a strategic victory and a tactical rout.  Coral Sea slowed down the Japanese steamroller and Midway put it into reverse.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 21, 2019 6:15 PM

Deggesty

Wayne, I think it was William L. Shirer in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich who explained why thte Nazi army was unprepared for the Russian winter. As I recall, there was an uprising in Yugoslavia about the planned time of invasion that called for immediate attention--and thus the invasion of Russia (which der Fuerher thought could be quickly accomplished and so it was not necessary to equip his men with winter gear) was delayed, To paraphrase Robert Burns," the best laid plans of rats and men gang aft agley."

 

I'vd read that myself Johnny, and from various sources.  Another thing which disrupted Adolf's Russian timetable was his having to bail out Mussolini's botched invasion of Greece.

That being said, even if Barbarossa went off as scheduled the conquered Soviet Union would still have to be garrisoned by occupation troops, a lot of them, thousands of not millions, so all those cold weather supplies would still have to be waiting and ready for issue for when the Russian winter set in.

It wouldn't have been a case of "OK, we beat the Bolsheviks, let's all go home!"

And what makes it even more unfathomable was Barbarossa wasn't the Germans first trip to Russia.  They fought the Russians in World War One, and beat them!  So you'd think there'd be some kind of institutional memory of what was going to be needed for a Russian campaign.  Maybe they just filed away the after-action reports and forgot them.

Like I said, just unbelieveable.

Wayne

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Posted by M636C on Monday, January 21, 2019 10:18 PM

Backshop

Seeing as how Coral Sea stopped the Japanese southern expansion, I understand why it would be very important to Australians.  I think the difference is that while Coral Sea was a strategic victory for the Allies, it was, at most, a tactical draw.  Midway, on the other hand, was both a strategic victory and a tactical rout.  Coral Sea slowed down the Japanese steamroller and Midway put it into reverse.

 

As I said, it is all relative to where you are viewing it from....

If you look at the map of the Pacific in the Wikipedia entry for the Battle and look where the Coral Sea is, and where Midway is, it is immediately evident why Australians view the Battle of the Coral Sea as important.

The Japanese plan was to take Port Moresby, on the south coast of Papua.

They didn't ever get there. There were battles on the Kokoda track that stopped a force from the north and at Milne Bay that stopped a force from the East.

But it was the Battle of the Coral Sea that kept Australia out of Japanese hands.

May 1942 wasn't a good time for the Allies, and the Coral Sea wasn't as important to the USA or the war as a whole. But we celebrate it every year, even if the US Navy people involved don't know why.

And the US Navy learnt to put aviation gasoline piping outside the hulls of aircraft carriers.....

Peter

 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, January 21, 2019 10:49 PM

A good book on rail operations in the US would be "Railroads at War" by S. Kip Farrington jr. The link is to Amazon, the only place I could find a brief synopsis of the book.

https://www.amazon.com/Railroads-at-war-Kip-Farrington/dp/B0007DQ2R0 

Jeff
 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, January 21, 2019 10:49 PM

Keeping this steam-related, I never cease to be amazed by the rapid repairs performed on USS Yorktown after the damage she suffered at Coral Sea, which was so severe the Japanese were certain they had sunk her. 

Without another carrier the U.S. would have had a much tougher time at Midway.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, January 23, 2019 10:34 AM

'Dude, I've been priveledged over the years to know a number of WW2 US Navy vets, and what they told me about the repairs of the old Yorktown  was those were essentially band-aid-jerry-rig fixes, there was no time for a decent refit, it was "Get it fixed and get it out!" all the way, that was all they had time for.  It wasn't perfect, but it was enough.

Those Navy vets were amazing guys.  Decades later their "Esprit-de-corps" was still intense, it seemed like they were all ready to go out and do it all over again.

Not that they wanted to, mind you!  But if the need arose...

Mind you, I mean absolutely no disrespect to todays Navy personnel, my admiration for them (and all serving US military people) knows no bounds, but in my opinion the US Navy of WW2 was the best navy we've ever had.  

The Japanese never had a chance.

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, January 23, 2019 11:35 AM

I do not remember the exact date (my copy of the book is not with me, but at my daughter's house), but in his book Japan's Imperial Conspiracy David Bergamini relates that, before attacking us, the powers that were calculated that if they had won by some time in 1943 Japan would lose the war.

Correction: "...if they had NOT won...."

I thought I had proofread it before I posted it.

Johnny

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