Burlington Northern Railroad Branch Lines the Nebraska Experience Soft Cover
Burlington Northern Railroad Branch Lines the Nebraska Experience Soft Cover
Burlington Northern Railroad Branch Lines the Nebraska Experience Soft Cover
Burlington Northern Railroad Branch Lines the Nebraska Experience Soft Cover

Burlington Northern Railroad Branch Lines the Nebraska Experience Soft Cover

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Burlington Northern Railroad Branch Lines the Nebraska Experience Soft Cover
Burlington Northern Railroad Branch Lines the Nebraska Experience by Michael Bartels and James Reisdorff with Hedgepeth and Boslaugh
Soft Cover   Lower corner of the cover and some pages has been bent
Copyright 2013 FIRST PRINTING  
80 pages  10.5 X 8.5 inches  90 mainly color photographs
Nebraska's BN Branch Line Era
CB&Q Branch Epitome
BN Branch Transition
Competitor With Branch Lines
"Braking" on CB&Q Branch Lines of the 1950s
CB&Q Branch Line Operations in the 1950s
Lincoln-Nebraska City
Table Rock-Wymore
Wymore-Lester Junction
Lincoln-Daykin (Part 2)
Sutton-Clay Center

I first became acquainted with Mike Foley in the mid-1970s. At the time I was a high school student in Lincoln, Neb., and Mike was president of the Camerail Club of Omaha, an association of railroad enthusiasts. At a gathering of a group of rail enthusiasts watching home movies of 1950s railroad subjects, Mike introduced himself. In the course of conversation, he asked if I would like to present a program of my railroad photography at a Camerail meeting. (This was long before digital cameras and the internet, and so forth, and live slide shows were the way that railroad enthusiasts shared their experiences, and learned both what was currently going on and how things used to be.) That was pretty heady stuff for a high school student!
An Omaha native, among Mike's many interests were trains, travel and hockey. Regarding the former, he became a largely self-taught railfan photographer noted for his quality slide images of engines, freight cars, depots and railroad subjects in general. He was also an expert on knowing where obscure station points were located, places that only railroaders and rail devotees would know about. He knew the satisfaction of figuring out how to get there (and the harder it was, the bigger the prize), and timing it so a train could be photographed there. Mike was also a collector of model trains, especially those of the Lionel Corp. A goal he nearly achieved was to obtain an example of every item shown in the 1966 Lionel catalog--no small feat!
Mike held a series of jobs after attending college. Eventually he was successful in converting his interest in railroads into a career. Mike started as a conductor for Burlington Northern in McCook, Neb, and when his seniority allowed, he successfully completed training and was promoted to engineer. It was evident that he took pride in that accomplishment, as demonstrated by his 1995 Christmas card, a photo of a BNSF train near Atlanta, Neb., signed, "M.B. Foley, BNSF ENGINEER" Eventually he settled into working various assignments out of Lincoln, Neb., which included trips over some of the lines featured in this book.
So how did this book come about? The history of Lincoln area railroads in my lifetime might be described as volatile. Growing up in the 1960s, four different railroad companies still offered passenger service on several routes in Nebraska. A decline already underway accelerated in the late 1960s, the ultimate result being a single pair of trains across the state using government-subsidized Amtrak service. The Nebraska railroad map of my youth still featured an extensive network that reached nearly all 93 counties. Events such as the abandonment of the Rock Island across the state's southeast region changed that. The Wyoming coal industry boom lead to increased volumes and improvements on main routes, but the trend of decreasing branch line mileage continued.
Service on branch lines was often irregular and unpredictable, So observing railroad operations on a given branch generally required a lot of research and travel--not to mention luck. Many branches, having received little maintenance, had 10 mph speed limits. This meant "chasing" a branch local was a time-consuming experience. Yet branch line operations for a railroad enthusiast (or for at least some) always held a certain fascination: just as an astronomer savors the experience of a rare eclipse, a birdwatcher sighting a rare bird, or a baseball fan watching a perfect game.
In the summer of 1989, I was about to leave Nebraska in pursuit of higher education, and realized if I was ever going to photographically record what was left of those BN branch lines I had many times crossed over on family trips around the state, time was of the essence. I asked Mike if he would like to be part of the mission, and he enthusiastically agreed.
In many ways the BN's branch lines in Nebraska were time machines. For example, station and grade crossing signs installed more than 40 years prior, by BN's predecessor, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, were still in use, whereas on main routes such signage had long been replaced by BN standards. Although the 40-foot boxcars that had hauled the grain harvest for so many years were by then gone, replaced by higher capacity and more efficiently loaded/unloaded covered hopper cars, the locomotives used to haul them were 1950 era-built SD9s (close cousins to the SD7s that served these lines from when they replaced steam engines until their own retirement by 1984). The once ubiquitous small-town depot had by then mostly vanished, but many of the original commercial wooden grain elevators still stood at trackside. These anachronistic elements held a special attraction, and we strived to work them into our photos whenever possible.
Mike was a man of many facets. Few people ever saw all of them, and most saw only one. Thus he appeared to be a different person in the eyes of those he interacted with. I was fortunate to have seen several sides of his personality, with the most prominent being friend. His death came unexpectedly, and in the confusion of dealing with his demise, his very extensive railroad photography collection was destroyed. These unfortunate events mean we are left with only my images as evidence of the branch line odysseys that we made together. Perhaps the publication of these photos, which in many cases are very similar to those made by Mike, will, in some small way, pay tribute to his life and interest in railroads.

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