If you thought my life was too adventurous as it is I have discovered a new line of excitement, live Railways pictures! What's that you say? Too exciting for you? Oh! That's not what you said...
Anyway, I have had hours of fun watching huge US frieght trains rumble across America!
Virtual Railfan covers a host of US rail cameras. Many static, some with operators ensuring close up shots of depots and passing trains as they hoot their way through. And do they Hoot! Horns blast all the way, no excuse for being on the line when they arrive. All stations have their 'anoraks' offering useful information, usually in an unknown language, most also using radios to keep track of the trains.
I avoid them.
The pictures come off the laptop so are a bit dull.
The train we see here, four 6000 hp (I think they said) engines, pulling 113 trailers. I was amazed at the number of units pulled along, I counted 175 on one train, and almost all have double deckers units, box cars are at similar height. Clearly US railroads do not have low bridges to go under and glancing at the passing railcars you get an understanding of the nature of the USA at a glance. This tells us the land is big! The size of the train indicates the line was laid before anyone got there to block it. It also, as History tells us, was pushed through in spite of opposition. Nothing was to get in the way. This ensured free passage of trains, even the mountains did not hinder travel.
Box car number 113 passes by in the rain.
Another thing made clear from these pictures re the huge size of the States is the weather. Laramie, in Wyoming, was deep in snow and remains that way, California was hours behind and in bright sunshine. Of course they also have different natural problems, Wyoming is near mountains, California has forest fires endangering the station! In minutes I can fly from one state to another, and this is almost like seeing several different nations rather than one. There, I suppose, lies the problem.
I suppose having been inundated with 'soft propaganda' over the years we already understand the US mentality, however looking at the land we see it is possible to gain a clearer conception of how that mentality came about. The size of the towns pictured varies widely, the top picture comes from 'Big Sandy' in Texas, a small place, a mixture of good houses and what I might refer to as 'White trash' in the run down streets. Hardly a blot on the landscape, while up the road more complex cities are found, all with that rigid street pattern inherited from the Romans.
Even the Heritage line seen here, real coal used in this engine, indicates something of the US mind. It is easy to imagine the sight of early trains steaming across wide open spaces, chasing Buffallo and scaring resentful Indians (oops, Native Americans). At a glance we see the incoming migrants, the ones who now oppose migration, removing the locals and transforming the land by sheer hard work. In only 300 or so years the wide open spaces have been concreted over and a new people emerge. Quite whether that new people realise they are all Americans is as yet unknown.
Here at Fort Madison, the reconstructed fort is just out of sight to the right, I first saw a train carrying a great number of doubled decker white containers, followed by similar green ones and a variety of other goods. Much later that day a similar train appeared in another state, although I do not know if it was an adjoining state. Yesterday the train appeared again and tonight, not that long ago, it passed through Elkhart, Indiana! Is this the same train I wonder? Is the driver lost? Is this one of those Soviet style trains? You remember, Soviet rail freight ran from 'A' to 'B' even if there was no reason for this, the Plan said it must happen, and no-one questioned the Plan. Is this train just wandering about? Could it be a train journeying across the whole of the nation? If so, how do they know when to drop the containers off? How do they divide them up? And if the driver is pulling 150 trucks how do the brakes work? Are all these trailers brake equipped? Do they have a wee man in Brake van at the back desperatelly truning the Brake wheel and losing his mind? Just asking.
Several UK stations now have similar cameras in place. Crewe has three, but I cannot find number 1, York also and there are others. It is a similar set up, controlled from somewhere, I as yet know not where, followed by a variety of people, mostly male, who like trains and in some cases have no life. I know how they feel!