North American Railyards By Michael Rhodes Many photos w/ dust jacket
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North American Railyards By Michael Rhodes Many photos w/ dust jacket
North American Railyards By Michael Rhodes
Hard Cover with dust jacket
Copyright 2003 Writing on blank page
240 Pages Index
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Burlington Northern Santa Fe 10
Union Pacific 46
Canadian Railroads 100
Norfolk Southern 200
Other Railroads 224
The humble classification yard has attracted little attention in the railway press and no publication has ever documented the life and times of these important railway facilities. The classification yard is the focus of carload freight operations on any railroad. This is nowhere more evident than in the United States, where 90 percent of railroad traffic is freight. To the freight railroad, a major classification yard is like the grand terminus of the more glamorous passenger side of operations.
Just like the ornate Union termini before them, the classification yard is becoming an endangered species for several reasons: mergers and consolidations that have caused a decline in railroad traffic and the elimination of duplicate functions; a decline in carload traffic, paralleled by rapid expansion in intermodal services; and the paving of much of the land needed for the intermodal network, in order to allow parking for road trailers.
A 1993 report by Deco Ltd. (the largest supplier of mechanical retarders) revealed that there were 147 hump classification yards in North America in 1970. By 1993, just 72 were left. However those in the railyard business predicted that by 1999 there would be only 46. This prophecy has proven pessimistic. A survey conducted as this book closed for press revealed that more than 60 hump classification yards remain in active service in the United States and Canada.
The origins of the hump or summit yard date back to the 1880s in Europe. As did France and Germany, the British used gravity for classification in their Liverpool "grid-iron," which was fully operational in the late 1880s. The first gravity-assisted classification yard in the United States was probably built in 1890 at Honey Pot, on the Sunbury Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. By the first decade of the 1900s, several much larger and more ambitious schemes had been completed at famous locations such as Enola, Pennsylvania and Clearing, in Chicago, and the proliferation of hump yards began.
The size of such facilities often means that they are located out of town and away from centers of population. Many big cities have only small classification yards because the remarshaling of freight cars is often undertaken at focal points on a mil system, perhaps where two or more major routes meet.
Sometimes information about classification yards is hard to come by, and even their location can be a mystery to many interested in railroads. This book aims to provide the reader with a listing of major classification yards in the United States and Canada. I have attempted to present a clear idea of their layout and operations, and also how best to find the various yards and observe railway action in their vicinity.
Finding the various yards can be a challenge. The reader is advised to refer to either Rand McNally street maps if the yard is in a sizable city or to DeLorme atlases if the yard is out in the countryside. It can be difficult to obtain the appropriate street maps unless one is actually in the relevant area. The best way is often to stop at a gas station near or in town, where the relevant maps are invariably for sale. Both Rand McNally maps and DeLorme topographic atlases are available for sale online.
This book had its origins in a delayed 1989 flight to Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the Northwest Airlines 747 circled the city in a holding "stack,- I looked down and saw the sprawling tracks of Northtown Yard stretched out for several miles to the north of town. Around this time, the last of my native Britain's classification yards had closed for traffic as United Kingdom railroads moved to predominantly unit trains and intermodal services. From over 40 large hump yards, the U.K. now had none.
After my plane landed, I was pleased to persuade my host at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, that a Saturday in Minneapolis would be a good idea. Even though I had been a resident of Rochester in the 1960s and was therefore used to American life. I was completely lost when it came to finding Northtown. U.S. maps do not give much prominence to railroads and often fail to show them at all. Furthermore, asking a member of the general public for directions to a "freight yard" tends to elicit bemused stares rather than concise instructions. It is almost as if these vast facilities, often several miles long, are invisible.
After several hours of driving around the city we finally found Northtown and spent an enjoyable hour in the tower. 1 an sure the yardmaster thought we were crazy but harmless. He told us there was another hump yard in the Twin Cities at Pig's Eye but despite our best efforts, we never found it.
When I returned to the hired Kingdom, I started writing to the railroads and various historical societies, to find out how many of these massive hump yards were left in North America and where they were. I have listed some sources of help in the acknowledgments section, but one thing became evident: nobody had a clear overview of the country's railyards.
Not only that, but some yards, such as North Platte were mentioned by everybody with whom I corresponded while others were mentioned just occasionally, with question marks next to them because their operational status was unknown. TRAINS Magazine was an excellent source of information, and material from several older books provided an excellent historical profile of the yards in North America. In the end though it became clear that visiting the yards for myself was the only way to get a clear picture of their scale and operations, even though one or two of the visits were disasters.
For example Taylor Yard in Los Angeles was listed as a major Southern Pacific yard in the excellent Train Watcher's Guide to North American Railroads, published in 1993. However, when 1 visited the site in March 1993 I found only a vast expanse of rubble. The yard had been completely demolished some time previous. A similar site greeted me at Toledo's. Walbridge Yard. Other yards posed a different problem; for example, the facilities at Yermo and Hinkle were almost impossible to track down without local knowledge, because no towns bear those names.
Yet more problems arose in large cities because the street plans often omitted rail lines. I was left looking for gaps in the street pattern into which a large yard might fit. One particularly difficult yard to track down was Boyles Yard, in suburban Birmingham. Alabama, which took more than five hours of driving to locate.
Thus, what started as idle curiosity in 1989 became a long-term project to document and visit as many of the American freight yards as possible; the result is this book. Updated information on yards that have been rebuilt downsized, or changed significantly since I visited them has also been included.
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