Rapido Announces GE B36-7


Most notable is the TTI paint scheme which is a conditional announcement, meaning that they require a minimum order number to produce the models.

I have talked to the R&D guys and the magic number is 250.  I know that I am in for a few TTI units and probably a CSX unit to patch for TTI to be a unit in service before repaint.  I just saw the pre-production samples at the Rocky Mountain Train show in Denver Co. this past weekend, and these are stunning models. You will not be disappointed.

Matt Gentry


March 2018 Ricky’s Replies!

Ricky Bivins, Chapter President

Greetings Western Kentucky Chapter Members!  The February meeting was a success. Ray Hagerman presented a detailed overview of Innovation Station its uses and goals. I believe our beloved train station is in good hands with a secure future. Jim Pearson was able to “connect” to the wifi/media center giving us an outlet for power point/DVD/VHS etc. for our programs. And speaking of programs, Blair Terry will be presenting a program covering his rail related travels while Bill Farrell provides refreshments. A big nod goes to Alicia Terry for taking minutes during the February meeting in Bill Farrall’s absence.

I received an email from the National organization regarding National Membership renewal delays. As stated last month National is between 600 and 800 membership renewals behind. If you have not received a renewal notice from National, you can go online via National webpage and renew without the dues notice. As we have discussed numerous times, we do not collect National dues nor will the Chapter “police” the National dues. It is an honor system and we shall leave it at that! If you have not paid the Chapter dues for 2018, please do so at the next opportunity.

The recent National online publications and mailings do contain a plethora of information as well as discounts to museums, gift shops etc. The photography in these publications is splendid as are the stories. It is well worth ones time to visit the National Web Page. And while on the subject of Web Pages, Our own website guru Jim Pearson has kept the Chapter sight fresh and inviting…visit often.

I request of the Chapter that all Chapter email notices etc. be sent to VP Steve Miller and he to distribute same to the membership via the Chapter email provider. This will help maintain control of the newsletter, information and financial data. Two former members has asked to be removed from the list, there are names on the list that need updating and a few past members that are no longer living! This action will streamline our newsletter mailings and the work Steve is faced with on the Chapters behalf.

As I type this, the March photo contest is wrapping up. Please participate in the next contest. These photos are judged by the membership and will be presented in our next Chapter Calendar. It takes very little time or effort to snap a photo on a camera or phone. A simple and fun way to be involved with the Chapter. And remember, calendars can be purchased from the Chapter Website.

In closing, try to make the meeting Monday, we will have an excellent time I’m sure. And bring a guest…let’s grow our membership base.

Rick Bivins


Pickin’ the Points – Opinions and Stories by Bill Thomas, Editor

The Look!

Many of you have experienced the recent up-tick in our “holy train nights”.  Honestly, I felt our chapter took a little dip in enthusiasm for a while, but I just left Keith Kittinger’s man cave over on Plainview Dr, and when I walked in, I was a bit taken by the number of people milling around, having conversations in small groups, and eating peanuts!  The room had a great positive energy I enjoyed being in. 

Every group or organization goes through hills and valleys – it’s a human dynamic no one can absolutely put their finger on.  We just know it happens.

Our success is due to a few ingredients: 1. We have common interests.  2.  Within that interest spectrum, we all have our different niches which provides some variety and makes us a bit interdependent – some know electronics, some know carpentry, some know painting, some know track-work, etc.  3. Most of us enjoy fellowship with one another which is probably the most important.  But, I don’t think any of these ingredients would stand on their own. 

I learned the term symbiotic by watch Star Wars movies since 1977.  The term refers to the belief that living things survive by sharing life from common sources.  It’s a little abstract for this article, but the older I get, the more it makes sense to me.  I think our chapter lives that kind of life, good or bad.  The life of the group varies with the health, contributions, and vitality of its members.

So, I think we’re on an upswing as I’ve witnessed a couple of these gatherings outside the monthly formal meetings.  I see good relationships, and enjoyment every time.  Just look at the pictures president Ricky sent me…

Somehow, Keith managed to get into every shot!

…that’s what I said…

Will, did you knock the power off again?


January 2018 Chapter Photo Contest Winners

We proud to announce the winners of the chapter’s first contest of the year! This year we’re doing the contest a little bit different by having the membership present for the meeting to judge the contest winners by selecting the photograph that they like the best. We had 7 entries in the January 2018 contest and after the first round of judging we had our first place winner by Bill Grady of Union Pacific power pulling a train at Jeffersontown, Ky. We also found we had a six way tie for second place!!! So, in order to break that we did a rejudge of the six images and came up with a two way tie, which we decided to let stand. The final tie for 2nd place was between Bill Farrell and Ricky Bivins. 

Our next contest will be from March 1-15, 2018 with a Submission Deadline of March 22, 2018. This contest will be judged at the April 16th meeting.

Your entries, no more than two, should be emailed to Jim Pearson at jim@jimpearsonphotography.com

Below are the winning entries for January 2018

1st Place West Kentucky Chapter of the NRHS Photo Contest for January 2018 – Cold Temperatures keep the snow fresh as NS #167 with UP 8166 on the point is digging in to climb up the hill in Jeffersontown, KY. Photo by Bill Grady, 1-18-2018

2nd Place West Kentucky Chapter of the NRHS Photo Contest for January 2018 – CSXT, 5312 Southbound out of Hopkinsville, Ky after crossing over the Skyline crossing, on January 13, 2018 on the Henderson Subdivision, Photo by Bill Farrell

2nd Place West Kentucky Chapter of the NRHS Photo Contest for January 2018 – 2nd Place West Kentucky Chapter of the NRHS Photo Contest for January 2018 – A intermodal heads through Mortons Junction at at Mortons Gap, Ky as it heads south on the Henderson Subdivision on January 12, 2018

More from the Great Northwest! By Gary Ostland

Photo credit:  Tom Post, David P. Oroszi collection

Eastbound just exited Tunnel #11 atop the Continental Divide – Pipestone Pass.  We recently discussed the train whistles, and to a short extent the signal calls.   Two longs, a short followed by another long is a highway grade crossing warning.   Three longs alert the whole train crew the intent to put the train in a reverse movement.   Switchmen and brakemen on the ground would usually communicate by hand signal, or by kerosene lanterns in darkness, and respond to whistle signals as appropriate.  Widespread railroad radio communications only goes back to the 40s & 50s. 

When a train made an unscheduled stop out on the mainline, for any reason, a flagman was dispatched from the caboose.  He was equipped with a flag, lantern, fusee (flares) and track torpedoes.   It was up to him to make the train secure from any following movement.   How far to the rear was dictated by the highest speed allowed on that track segment.

Upon removal of the cause for the delay, the engineer would “whistle-in” the flagman.      After waiting for a reasonable time the train would slowly get underway, assuming the flagman recovered from his position and was aboard the caboose. 

There were instances where the flagman may not hear the call; canyons, heavy tree foliage, unrelated noise, like highways, waterfalls, storm conditions, etc., even other trains, like across the river.    More than one flagman got left behind.   A good Conductor would not let that happen.  His method to prevent abandonment was to open the air-brake valve and disallow the brakes from releasing.   The engineer would know what is happening by the lack of air-pressure building in the train-line.*

Getting left behind up in the mountains or out in the desert had to be on the mind of that lonely flagman.   I guess worse than that would be stranded adjacent to an alligator-filled Southern swamp, in the middle of the night.  I don’t think they paid these guys enough.

* A discussion on air-brakes may be in order,  for another day.    Notice the Milwaukee Road used “Bay-window cabeese.”  Photo credit:  Tom Post,  David P. Oroszi collection,  May 1973, fourteen months prior to wires coming down. (rear cover The Milwaukee Railroader mag. 2nd Qtr. 2014)  – Gary O. Ostlund


Summit of Continental Divide…

Image Copyright by Steve Schmollinger

Summit of Continental Divide, at Donald siding, Pipestone Pass, Montana  –  1973 – We have at least three things going on here.   The eastbound freight will soon descend about 2 thousand feet into the Jefferson River valley.  The grade is a steep 2% compensated. The 3-unit set of boxcab helpers were apparently on the point climbing out of Butte, and not needed for regenerative braking. They ducked into the siding when the train stopped, it’s nose barely out of the tunnel, just out of view to the left.   The Speeder (putt-putt) will follow the train vigilantly watching as a fire preventive.

During fire season down bound trains were shadowed by water-equipped speeders.  Even with the motor/units up front applying regenerative braking some air-brake use is often needed.  That involved brake shoes pressing on spinning wheels, with sparks always swirling along the right-of-way.

This scene was in the Summer of 1973 at Donald, the summit of Pipestone Pass and the Continental Divide.   The train climbed out of the Clarks Fork River drainage that leads to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.  Ahead the train drops into the Missouri River watershed leading to the Mississippi and Gulf.

The helper crew, Engineer Fred Coombes and Fireman Del Hart are still in the cab hidden by the boxcar.  Del Hart is the former engineer that wrinkled up the Little Joe E-78 in Sixteen Mile Canyon on May 23, 1966.  Hart was fired, rehired after good union representation, but restricted to fireman status on the Butte Helper, only. He eventually retired from that position, and has since passed.   I knew both Coombes and Hart.  Coombes lived in Butte, Hart had a place about half way up the pass adjacent to the mainline.  

Coombes was #1 seniority in the division, and a fellow church member. He knew I was an avid railfan, but straight-laced as he was, he never even let me up in the cab the many times I saw him hooking up and trekking over the pass.  He retired when the electrics ended in 74, and moved to Seattle with his wife of many years.  I once asked him why as #1 on engineer’s roster that he didn’t bid on some glamorous hotshot freight run.  With a twinkle in his eye he stated;  “ I sleep in my own bed every night.” 

In a year the Milwaukee electrics will be history, and in 1980 the entire system west of the Red River of the North will shut down.  The roadway behind the helper is Old US Highway 10, by then downgraded by I-90, about 7 miles the way the crow flies to the north.   The Milwaukee Road favored bay-window type caboose, and the tri-level auto racks are open to the elements.   Why they are now completely enclosed, and the wreck of the E-78 are stories for another time.  – Gary O. Ostlund


February 2018 Ricky’s Replies

Ricky Bivins, Chapter President

Greetings fellow members. And welcome to February 2018. I am happy to report after talking with Bill Farrell, that he is doing well following open heart surgery where in he had five bypasses performed. He is following his doctors orders, his medical and exercise regime and of course Mrs. Farrell is keeping him at bay! We certainly hope to see Bill at the February meeting.

As you are well aware, inclement weather forced me to cancel the January meeting. I felt it was best for all parties involved. As a result, I will be hosting the February meeting as opposed to traditionally the January meeting.

Speaking of the Chapter meeting, we will meet at the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation headquarters. Which happens to be the former L&N Railroad station in downtown Madisonville. Located on W. Arch St., Madisonville, this building has been repurposed by the City of Madisonville and is now called Innovation Station.

My guest for the evening will be Ray Hagerman, President of Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation. Ray will enlighten us as to the events developing Innovation Station The trials and frustrations and the ultimate success of the building not to mention the function of the building. This will be an interesting night. I plan to depart from our normal meeting criteria and give Ray the floor at 7 o’clock. Then we will have our business meeting and I will follow with a short video program entitled C&O 614, March to Hinton. This 30 minute video pits Ross Rowlands 614 against the Diesel Locomotive in the hills of Virginia and West Virginia. It is very entertaining.

Jim Pearson will have the results of our first 2018 Photo Contest. The next contest is March 1-15 with March 22 as the entry deadline. Make an effort to enter this Chapter event, even if only with a cell phone photo. Keep in mind, The Chapter Calendar showcases the photos from these yearly contests.

Be sure to check the recent NRHS News and NRHS Telegraph publications available online from the NRHS Website. There are several interesting articles therein with excellent photos. And while on the web sight, check out the other tabs available. A lot of work goes into the National Newsletter and is very well done.

The only old business I have is a reminder to pay dues. National as well as Chapter dues are…well..DUE! One can pay National Dues online with a credit card or via check. Chapter dues are to be paid to Bill Farrell by check or cash. In one of the National publications there was a note stating in the future National dues can be paid through the Chapter. That option is not yet available.

    New Business will address our meeting space, Program idea’s, Chapter trips etc. Etc. being anything the membership wishes to bring before the Chapter. Bill Farrell has suggested we drop the raffle as a fundraiser. Once he has presented the results of the Breakfast with Santa, Photos with the Polar Express Characters and the raffle, we will discuss this option.

    As always, Members can step up with programs, ideas and suggestions. Trips trackside or to a museum etc. This is train enthusiast group…let us make 2018 another banner year.


Did you know…?

Above:  Hands-on Whistle Display at the Museum of American Railroads, State Fairgrounds, Dallas, TX  –  1998

 The working display of steam whistles was a popular attraction at the Museum of American Railroads in Dallas.  An air compressor rather than live steam provided the real whistling,  with a lanyard for each type shown.   This very noisy display commanded a lot attention……,  the kids loved it, some big kids did too.   

Railroad engineers don’t blow the locomotive whistle just for the fun of it, although that’s what you might have thought in years past, when you heard unusual series of dots and dashes coming from a steam whistle or air horn. In the era prior to radio and other modern communications the locomotive whistle signals were extremely important in safe train movement.  Most of the many signals are no longer used, even the flagman’s job has been eliminated along with brakemen and most switchmen,  along with the caboose.

“Whooooooooo Whooooooooo whoo Whooooooo,”    is the most familiar train whistle used as a warning for the highway grade crossing. That last Whoooooo is to be the moment the engine actually crosses the highway. As an aside: Dash-Dash-Dot-Dash is the Morse Code letter “Q.” That signal was used by the Queen of England’s yacht when entering a harbor, to announce her arrival.  (probably also meant get the heck out of the way…)

Another whistle signals still in use today is: three long bursts for “I’m about to back up.” You may hear that signal down at the harbor too when a large ship is about to move astern.

Steam whistles used by American railroads were almost always chosen for their ability to be heard over great distances and to stand out over other noises and whistles of the day. Not all American railroads used deep sounding whistles.  The Pennsylvania, for example, used a shrieking single note or “banshee” sound.  Most mainline railroads preferred either a three-note or six-note whistle with the most popular being the three-chime version.

Fast moving steam locomotives generally had an air-horn to supplement the whistle, as at speeds of 80 -90 even a hundred miles per hour, the air-horn provided warnings at a greater range.


Credits:   Photo by Mitchael K. Ostlund – Excerpts from Trains Magazines Feb 50 and Sep 2014 – Note: The Museum has since moved from Dallas to Frisco, TX.   The fate of the display is not known.     – Gary O. Ostlund


February 2018 Pickin’ the Points by Bill Thomas

Opinions and Stories by Bill Thomas, Editor

Thanks to my wife Angela, I have been given access to the former screened-in porch that I enclosed several years ago so our young boys could have a play room.  Well, play has evolved into video games and electric guitars in their bedroom.  The room has served mainly as a cat litter box facility and a place for my backyard container plants to find refuge in the winter. 

Upon receiving home dispatcher permission to enter the block, I quickly set up a 6-foot plastic folding table for a temporary work space.  Soon I was installing digital decoders in several of my locomotives which have been in storage for years – some for decades.  My soldering skills were revived as was my excitement of being able to “run” a train somewhere again in HO scale. 

Here’s my “point” for this month’s article.  The thought of moving these blue (Athern) and yellow box (Atlas) older locomotives into the digital command control (DCC) ages was daunting – but I’m a persistent man.  Overhearing sidebar talk at meetings about DCC from our own Steve Miller and Keith Kittinger, I knew from where my help would come.  And sure enough, I’m about to install my 5th and 6th decoders as I write. 

My next step was to begin preparations for painting some of my “foreign road” equipment to bring them into the L&N/Family Lines clan I have envisioned in the years 1970-1985ish.  Some train smack talk with Keith, Tony Clark, and former chapter member Bill Heaton, put me on track and today I bought my first 3 bottles of paint for the air brush I’ve never had out of the box. 

All this to say that one of the most valuable elements of being in a club, historical society chapter, or other organization of like-minded people, is the range and volume of helpful information and pure “assistance” and encouragement that can come from friends who have already tread the path before you.  Keeping us from making some of the mistakes they might have made along the way. 

So, with a grateful heart, I say, “Thanks!” to those who continue to work, play, and strive to increase the quality of our experience together.  Keep up the good work.  I hope to pass the favor on to someone new down the tracks. 


2018 NRHS Convention to be headquartered in Cumberland, MD

The 2018 NRHS convention will be held Tuesday-Sunday, Aug. 7-12, with headquarters in Cumberland, Md. The tentative schedule includes scenic rail trips through the countryside of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, plus the annual meetings of the Society. The registration room for the convention will open in mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The board meeting for the NRHS Fund Inc., will be held that evening.

The first trip is scheduled for Wednesday with an all-day outing to Cass, W.Va. to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad up to Spruce, W.Va. At that point, there will be a “cross platform transfer” from the Cass steam train to the Salamander diesel train to Elkins, W.Va. Lunch will be served on the Salamander. Once in Elkins, NRHS members will re-board the buses for the return trip to the hotel in Cumberland.

The tentative schedule for Thursday includes a charter train ride on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad from the depot on Cumberland (three blocks from the hotel) to Frostburg, Md., behind the newly rebuilt steam engine No. 1309. Photo run-bys are scheduled for this trip. Cab rides will be offered in both directions with proceeds benefitting the NRHS.

To read more from the NRHS News, go to https://admin.nrhs.com/NRHSNews/NRHS_News_October_2017.pdf.


Putt Putts!

The gentleman on the velocipede is coasting down the line on the Tacoma & Eastern Railway.   It’s powered by “Armstrong,”  translated:  human muscle and sweat.   Going back up the grade his arms and legs will get a pretty good workout.   There is no chain like on a bicycle, rather a reciprocating walking beam.  They were also known as “Irish mail carts.”

Velocipedes were complemented by four-wheel platforms with a see-saw affair whereupon up to four men could pump up and down to propel the rig down the track.   These vehicles were used to transport track repairmen and equipment to their job-site. 

As technology advanced numerous makers produced what most of us will remember as Speeders, or Putt-Putts.   In the scene above, Roger Sackett is using a chain and come-along to man-handle his Fairmont Speeder past an obstruction.    He and I spent the day up on Snoqualmie Pass trekking along the abandoned Milwaukee right-of-way.

After “setting on” (to use the proper RR term) at Garcia we scooted downhill to the washed out Hull Creek trestle.   We then returned up a few miles above where we began, only to find this log that had penetrated our course.   But Roger, always prepared, had the equipment for such a task.  We succeeded and ventured on, only to find another near identical obstruction around the next curve.  It was still a fun outing.  

Thousands of speeders were produced by the Fairmont Corporation in Minnesota and the Kalamazoo folks in Michigan to name a few.   They were belt driven and powered by a single-cylinder gas engine.    The railroads switched to hi-rail vehicles, traditional pickup trucks with retractable flange guide wheels.    Now only the railfan recreationist use them on treks around the country.   Great fun.

Credits:  Velocipede photographer unk., as seen in book:  Rails to Paradise.     Fairmont Speeder 35MM slide by me.

Submitted by Gary Ostlund


Drawing by O. V. Schubert appeared in Harper’s Weekly in the 1880s

Yes, last week’s story of the perils of the early-day brakemen included a “walk-in-the-park” picture.  The brakeman was enjoying the majestic palisades of the Mississippi in SW Wisconsin.    Such relaxing was not always the case.   Just look at the ice and snow this brakeman endured in helping to slow and stop a moving train.  

The drawing by O. V. Schubert appeared in Harper’s Weekly in the 1880s.  Note the lantern, kerosene no doubt, a handle with a hoop large enough to slide up his arm.   No need to set it down, and if you did it would never be seen again.   

Lanterns aren’t used much today, and no one need climb to the top of moving box cars.  Crews doing switching movements are communicating via hand-held radio.  Inventions of Air-Brakes by George Westinghouse, and Knuckle-Couplers by Major Eli Janney were patented in 1869 and 68.  Sadly, the railroads were not mandated by a Federal law to so equip their rolling stock until 1893.  Even so the Railroads were slow to implement these safety features.   Many brakemen never arrived at the destination terminal, and few switchmen had all their fingers, having had to manually couple cars with links and pins. 

On the narrow-gauge lines in Colorado some safety features were not installed until into the 1920s.   You can to this day see Telltales fronting tunnels on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway, a mighty fine ride.