Rail Equipment You Don’t Often See.
Every so often I come across something having to do with railroads that I have never seen or heard of before. Here’s one of those:
This photo, taken by Matt Donnelly, is an inspection car operated by Amtrak. It’s built in the shell of a Viewliner and carries a lot of sophisticated equipment. Talk about a great view! I might even prefer a ride in this car to the Pacific Parlour Car on the Coast Starlight except you’re facing backwards and I doubt they’re serving Bloody Marys.
Winter Woes for Airlines. A couple of days ago, the national media had news of more than 1500 flights in and out of O’Hare being cancelled and no doubt there were multi-car pile-ups on the highways all across the mid-west. It is, therefore, time for my annual noting that passenger trains get through bad weather, particularly snow, much more often that any other form of public transportation.
Amtrak’s long distance trains run on track owned by the freight railroads and they go to great lengths to keep heavy snows from causing interruptions to their schedules and Amtrak’s as well. All railroads use two basic types of snow removal equipment—plows and blowers. In the photo above, a plow is mounted on the front of a Canadian National locomotive.
The alternative is a blower—actually, a giant whirling devise like a fan that bites into the snow bank and blows it off to the side. Believe it or not, these blowers were invented in 1869 by a Canadian dentist. This one is used in Switzerland by the Rhaetian Railway keeping the narrow gauge track open for the Bernina Express, which runs through the Alps to Tirano in Northern Italy.
I’ve never seen either of these brutes in action, but there are many spectacular videos available on YouTube. They’re mesmerizing. (Well, not for everyone. One of the clips fascinated my wife for almost four seconds.)
Back in the day, The Milwaukee Road operated Skytop Lounge parlor cars, and prior to that, Beaver Tail parlor cars, on the 100 mph Hiawathas. The Skytop Lounges (there were also six built as sleepers for the Olympian Hiawatha) had more rear-facing glass area than the theater car, and the last set of Beaver Tails had rearward-facing sofas and large slanted picture windows.
But tail cars have to be turned, and the absence of passageways at one end restricts their placement in the train, so no replacements came when Amtrak ordered new cars.