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Thread: Train scrapyard

  1. #1
    JHOLLAND1's Avatar
    JHOLLAND1 is online now Titanium
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    Ries's Avatar
    Ries is online now Diamond
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    I have been hoping to visit this someday. One amazing thing- its so big, its visible in the Sat photos-
    -20.466667,-66.833333 - Google Maps
    google, as usual, has the tag off by a mile or two.

    There is a similar graveyard right in metro Buenos Aires I went by the last time I was there- more rolling stock, fewer locos, but still mighty impressive.

    In the case of the Bolivian yard, its just too remote to be worth scrapping, plus, its become a tourist attraction, and the locals make money off of it.
    In Argentina, its just lethargy on the part of the state railroad.
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    Krutch is offline Hot Rolled
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    There is a bridge crossing the train yard here. The yard is now just a shadow of what it was. I can remember as a kid seeing, from that bridge, steam locomotives parked in the icehouse yard. They were waiting to go to the scrap yard. None of them were there when I worked for the RR in the '70's. There was another yard full of older rail cars still there when I worked there. I never had the opportunity to look at any of them close up. Even all of that is now gone. The whole yard has been revamped and the only landmark I recognize is a building called the "one Spot" which is a repair shop for 'bad order' rolling stock. All of the round-house and associated track are gone. The diesel pit and coal tipple; gone. The humps have been torn out and replaced. In fact, the RR industry in this town is more like a 'pass through' industry now. It is still a two hump yard, but all is automatic and the 'hand throw' switchs' are few. Even the carmen are gone. I'd be willing to bet there aren't even hobos around here anymore.

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    Lots of Belpaire fireboxes there.

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    Joe Michaels is offline Titanium
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    When I worked in Quito, Ecuador in 1978, the trains were pulled by diesels. However, there was one engine shed with a few steam locomotives in it. The shed was right in the city of Quito. It had walls that did not reach the eaves of the roof. I could see the sand and steam domes and stacks above those walls. I saw it from rides to and from work, and it was not close to either the mill where I worked nor the apartment block where I was billeted. I was on a job and could not divert to find the engine shed. I've always wondered what happened to it.

    When I worked in Paraguay in 1980-81, the railroads were still in operation and 100 % steam as far as I could tell. I was working at a sawmill site about 12 hours driving from Asuncion. One day, we needed a 10 ton chainfall, so two of took the mill's Jeep (a good Brazilian copy of a 60's CJ-5, with a Pinto engine in it), and went to Asuncion. Our first stop was the railroad station to ask about a chainfall. I figured if they had steam locomotives they had to have a shop, and maybe we could rent a chainfall from their shop. At the station, there was an engine shed off to a side. It was quiet and lazy around the station, but there were a few steam locomotives in the shed and on a ready track. The engines on the ready track had banked fires. All of the engines were built to "American" design as far as couplers was concerned. The engines I saw were built by North British, and the one date I remember was 1912. I climbed into the cab of one engine that had steam up, just sort of simmering in the morning sun. I remember the water in the level glass looked about like strong tea for color and flecks suspended in it. Those engines were fired on wood. The tenders all had additional height added to the coal bunkers in the form of "stake rack sides" to contain more wood. Each train also had a wooden truss-rod gondola car between the tender and the rest of the train. This car was piled with chunk wood. Not cordwood as we'd know it, but chunks cut any which way, some split, some not. As long as it fit thru the firehole, it was considered good for fuel.

    We found a young mechanical engineer from the railroad and asked about the chainfall. He told us to go to "Sapucai", which was where the Paraguayan railroads had their main shops. He also told us we'd have to wait 3 days for the next train to Sapucai. The locomotive simmering on the ready track was to pull passenger run to the Argentine border. We saw the passenger coaches and the coach that the (then) dictator, Stroessner, rode in. All of the coaches were truss-rod framed with wood sides and clerestory roofs. We joked that Butch Cassidy or Jesse James would have felt right at home robbing one of those Paraguayan trains. We never did get to Sapucai, and I regret it. I think some steam tour group does get to Sapucai and the shops are still there, kind of a museum now.

    I worked one job on the Island of Antigua, also about 1978 or 79. There was what appeared to have been an abandoned sugar refinery. I've written about it on other threads. As I got to know the caretaker, he let me wander and poke around freely in the old sugar refinery. It was steam powered, with B & W boilers built in Renfrew, Scotland, and a lot of Mirlees, Watson steam driven evaporator pumps and mechanical drive engines. The cane crushing rolls were driven by Corliss engines, and there were Bellis & Morcom high speed steam engines in the power house. I found a shed and yard crammed full of narrow gauge equipment from the days when the cane was moved to the mil by rail. The rails beyond the mil's perimeter had been taken up, yet crossing signs still remained in place on the local roads. In the locomotive shed was a collection of narrow gauge tank engines. Most were made by Hunslet, and there were a couple of gasoline/mechanical locomotives as well. There were the cars used to move the cane, and the locomotives, all put into this shed and yard, all preserved. I think possibly some of the steam locomotives from Antigua wound up on Barbuda as part of a luxury development for wealthy people. I've always wondered if anyone ever got any of those little narrow gauge steam locomotives from Antigua.

    When I worked in Marquette, Michigan in the mid 1970's, there was a real boneyard not far from the powerplant jobsite. This was the boneyard for the last steam power used on the Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad (LS & I RR). The LS & I was owned by iron mining companies and existed to haul iron ore and coal and some pulpwood. It was steam powered until about 1962. When the LS & I got rid of the last of its steam engines, an accountant named John Zerbel bought the lot. Zerbel had worked for the LS & I and knew something of railroading. He was also cheap beyond all rational belief. Zerbel got something like eight steam locomotives, all runners, and two steam locomotive wrecking cranes as well as some ancient wood passenger coaches. He took two of the running steam engines and some retired railroaders and went in the tourist train business on a branch line (which had been built by Ford Motor Company to handle hardwood auto body parts from Big Bay, for the T's and other Ford cars). Zerbel basically ran things into the ground, and he had enough track and enough engines and rolling stock that it took him a good number of years. As an engine would reach the point of being un-usable, even for Zerbel's operation, it was put in the boneyard. Some of the LS & I engines were so heavy or in tired enough condition that Zerbel just left them in the boneyard and never did anything with them except to have parts pulled off them. Stuff like lubricators, injectors, airbrake pump governors, anything to keep the other engines going was cannabilized. the heaviest of the LS & I engines in the boneyard had boosters on them and mechanical stokers. I fired a few times on the tourist train Zerbel operated, and as it snaked out of town on the old Big Bay branch, it ran thru the boneyard. I was in that boneyard many times, just looking at the old engines and the cranes. The cranes were so old they used chain instead of wire rope.

    Zerbel's operation, aside from relying on the boneyard, was one step from it in every other sense. His engineers were all ancient retirees, and his equipment was patched together. By the time I worked on it, there was one engine left in steam, and that was number 23, an Alco 2-8-0. 23 was tired. Her tender leaked water like a sieve and had been patched with concrete. Either Zerbel was too cheap to pay a welder or there was nothing left on the tender tank to weld to. I worked all night with a retired ex-Chicago and Northwestern RR boilermaker foreman to replace a few mudleg staybolts. I was 25, and the boiler maker was 76. I got in the firebox and worked while he watched and coached me. He said afterwards that if the railroads had kept steam, he had no doubt I'd have been a steam shop superintendent. We got a quick hydro on the boiler and our work held good. The old boilermaker and I had breakfast. He went home, I got a fire in 23 to raise steam for the day's tourist runs. It was a nice summer morning, and the regular fireman came aboard, as did the engineer. I decided to dead head, and just enjoy the ride from the engine cab. We rattled out of town with several heavy steel coaches and were meandering up the Big Bay Branch. The Big Bay Branch was not what it once was. Zerbel had sold about half the rails for scrap to keep his tourist train afloat, so the trains only went as far as Harlow Lake, about 10 or 12 miles from Presque Isle station.

    I was lounging on the coal pile, out of sight, enjoying the sun. the regular fireman went to get a scoop of coal out of the tender, and the firing hoe or clinker hook came down and nailed him in the head. The firing tools were carried on hooks above the gangway at the back of the cab. The fireman went down, out for the count. Louie, the engineer, put the airbrakes in full emergency and started blowing the emergency signal on the steam whistle. I got the fireman to see what shape he was in. He was semi conscious by that point. We realized the fireman might have a serious injury. The conductor and brakeman came up to the cab to see what was up. On their heels came John Zerbel. he had a party of his people from Wisconsin on the train, and he was irate that we'd stopped. We explained the fireman was injured. Zerbel was cursing the fireman and hollering the accident was the guy's own fault, it was stupidity, and "hard work never killed anyone, just stupidity". I said we ought to cut the engine off the train (no cell phones in those days) and run fast to the nearest grade crossing where there might be houses and phones. I'd fire the engine, the brakeman could keep hold of the fireman, and we'd get him to some help. The engineer agreed. Zerbel flew into a wild rage and told me to get up on the engine and fire (who else was going to ?) and never mind the injured fireman. Zerbel said the fireman was not hurt (was this guy a supernatural healer to make that diagnosis ?). We said if the fireman had a cervical spine injury or concussion or skull fracture, jostling on the engine deck for a whole run might worsen his condition. Zerbel chanted his mantra about "hard work never killed anybody". We said we would not move the locomotive until the fireman was given some kind of care. Zerbel hollered he was not paying for an ambulance call or medical bills. We decided the only thing to do was to move the injured fireman to the dining car's kitchen. We got him down off the engine, and two of us formed a chair and carried him back to the cook car. We rolled up some work shirts and whatever else we could find to stabilize his head and neck, and one of the waitresses said she'd stick with him and keep an eye on him. Zerbel was at a white heat, hollering and cursing. I got back on the engine with Louie and we got the train going. It was a long ride up to Harlow lake and back down. When we reached the station, Zerbel was up at the head end hollering that he did not want the injured fireman moved until the paying passengers and his guests had left the parking lot. The waitress drove the fireman to the ER. He had a cervical spine injury and a concussion, and took some time to heal up.

    Zerbel kept his boneyard train going a few more years.

    I had left the Upper Peninsula. About 7 years later, I was working for the NY Power Authority on a dredging job. I went into Kingston, NY to drop the site office mail and get lunch. As I drove around Kingston, there was old number 23, sitting in what had been the NY Central's roundhouse area. The roundhouse was gone, the turntable was derelict. 23 was boarded up and stripped and looking worse than ever. I found out she was now owned by the Empire State Railroad Museum. Some sleuthing and I became a part of the Catskill Mountain Railroad. 23 got moved to a yard in Kingston, NY. She mouldered and slowly deteriorated. We realized it was a "now or never" thing if she was to be restored and put back in steam. We began the job of stripping her down. As we stripped the cab piping, we came to a copper steam supply pipe which had supplied steam to the injectors. This pipe was always wrapped with asbestos woven tape type insulation and ran accross the boiler backhead, right qwhere the firemen would have been.
    As we stripped off the asbestos tape insulation, it was stuck fast to the copper pipe. We discovered that copper pipe had gotten thin, cracked and leaked. Another of Zerbel's cut rate repairs was done: patching a 200 psi steam line with epoxy resin and copper wire. Whether that patch ever saw steam is unlikely. If it had seen steam, it would have blasted steam off the backhead as soon as the supply valve up on the boilerhead was opened.

    We continued to find patching, dime-store galvanized screwed nipples and fittings on steam lines, the engine's driver tires were shimmed back onto the wheel centers with chunks of galvanized sheet metal, and on it went. My buddies all looked at some of thie cob job repairs and wondered that no one was seriously injured as a result. I said it was what happened when an accountant bought a branch line railroad, and hollered: "Hard Work Never Killed Anyone !"

    23 is in pieces now. We have her stripped down, and we need funds to start back together again. We've managed pretty well with scrounging and our own resources. She got a new tender, the body of an ex NY Central tender that we modified, and we lengethed her original tender frame. We've got a set of new flues for her boiler, and we've got tools and equipment, including our "boxcar machine shop". Little by little, time permitting and funds permitting, we work on 23. If anyone saw our yard in Kingston, NY, they'd think it was another boneyard. Old boxcars, some with stovepipes poked out the roofs or sides, two Alco RS-1 locomotives, an 0-4-0 Davenport tank engine also partially dismantled, and 23 off her wheels... along with old trucks, diesel gensets, an old Austin-Western crane, maintainenvace of way equipment, and a few juicy iron piles. None of us lets any kind of scrap steel get by us. Angle, Wideflange, plate, pipe.... there are stands and shed frames made from 23's old 2" flues. Nothing goes to waste. Her old smokebox is sitting up-ended, waiting to become maybe a forge hearth. The rivet forges we do use are made from turck wheel rims. It's a boneyard, but I call it our "Field of Dreams".

  6. #6
    ADFToolmaker is offline Cast Iron
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    I have been hoping to visit this someday. One amazing thing- its so big, its visible in the Sat photos-
    -20.466667,-66.833333 - Google Maps
    google, as usual, has the tag off by a mile or two.

    There is a similar graveyard right in metro Buenos Aires I went by the last time I was there- more rolling stock, fewer locos, but still mighty impressive.

    In the case of the Bolivian yard, its just too remote to be worth scrapping, plus, its become a tourist attraction, and the locals make money off of it.
    In Argentina, its just lethargy on the part of the state railroad.
    I've been there, worth the look, but the real feature is the salt flats, huge. We took a three day tour, including the train scrapyard. Really cool high altitude landscape with geothermal activity thrown in, and more flamingoes than I've seen anywhere. The lithium for the batteries in our electric cars of the future will come from here.

  7. #7
    peter is offline Titanium
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    One amazing thing- its so big, its visible in the Sat photos
    The old cliche', visible from space does not have the meaning it used.

    Now, I can see the vehicles parked in my back yard!

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