6/5/14

The WRECK OF THE UNKNOWN TRAIN


This photo is a nod to this week's Sepia Saturday with trains as the prompt.

I have no information about where or when this train wreck took place. I can say that the photo was purchased from a Pennsylvania seller which, for me, opens all sorts of questions.


Click on image to see it larger.

I've mentioned in the past that my maternal grandfather worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad his entire working life. He started out as a fireman, including working on the Flying Scotsman when it made its visit to the states. Eventually he became an engineer on steam engines with his final years on diesel engines.

I spent quite a bit of time with my grandparents when we lived outside of D.C., but once we moved to Hawaii, and eventually a return to California, I saw them infrequently. I have so many questions that will never be answered because they both died in '68.

I have memories of my grandfather coming and going in his blue and white striped engineer uniform, carrying his black metal lunchbox and thermos. My dad has told me that there was a corner on his run that he always dreaded. A lot of trains had wrecked on this corner. I'll never know where that corner was located.

This shot is alive with sounds and texture. I can hear the steam pumping from the engine in loud spurts. Feel the cold of the winter wind. Hear the voices of the people talking. The photo is very much alive.  And for all I know my grandfather could be one of the people in this shot.

UPDATE: In case folks don’t read the comments I wanted to post what blogger WJY of The New Found Photography posted. He might have identified the location of this wreck.
Near Brady's Bend, Pennsylvania along the Allegheny River. I'd lay money on it. River ice would jam at the bend and get pushed up on to the railroad tracks, shutting down the route. When I was young and foolish, I once tried to walk across the ice.
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Come back and visit during the next week to see a "deconstruction" of a rather humorous group photo. I'll be featuring a different person, or group of people, each day until I've posted the entire large image. There are some real characters in this one.
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22 comments:

  1. Great photo and beautiful writing.

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  2. If there were a lot of wrecks at one place, there is probably a record about it somewhere.

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  3. The photographer has climbed onto the water tank or station roof to get this. I like how the contrast of steam and snow adds real atmosphere too.
    My grandfather was also a railroad man - a yardmaster at Union Station in DC. Once he took me to see train wreck and I remember the wonder that such giant heavy things could be overturned. I think that may be why there are so many vintage photos of train wrecks. For people in earlier times, the train represented speed, mass, and power, and a photo like this was a way to prove that even a locomotive had to obey the laws of physics.

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    1. You're right. It is hard to imagine one of them falling over. When you stand next to an engine, especially a steam engine that really does feel as if it's a living creature, you can't imagine it falling over. It's like when you stand next to a downed redwood tree. They're so huge and beautiful and you can't even fully imagine what it looked and sounded like when it went down. Funny thing is I read about one tree falling and people miles away said it sounded like a train wreck.

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  4. Near Brady's Bend, Pennsylvania along the Allegheny River. I'd lay money on it. River ice would jam at the bend and get pushed up on to the railroad tracks, shutting down the route. When I was young and foolish, I once tried to walk across the ice.

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    1. That's fantastic to hear some sort of information about this. Thanks!

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  5. Many of my ancestors were railroad men too. I'd like to hear and smell an old steam engine.

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    1. There are a lot of places around the country where old steam engines have been saved and are still running. Most of them are tourist spots where you pay to take a ride. Well worth the drive to a place to do it. Just to stand next to the engine when it's running. A living breathing creature. I love them. The last one I rode was from Carson City, Nevada to Virginia City.

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  6. Rare to see a train arrive ahead of time! Good to see it nevertheless, and I am looking forward to the deconstruction.

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    1. That must be it. Even startled the engineer.

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  7. Super shot and you are right- it does pull you right in to the scene.

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    1. I really want to be there to hear and smell all of it.

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  8. Wow, this is some train wreck! Great gads! I look forward to the characters you've promised that are coming soon!

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    1. There will be some real characters in the bunch.

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  9. It's a fearsome thing trying to imagine how they set those overturned cars aright again. It couldn't have been easy.

    I always think train cars seem precarious because they have such a narrow wheel base and are so high; add speed and curves to the mix and it's easy for me to imagine how they could fall over.

    I agree with your description of an engine seeming like living, breathing creature. And riding a train is just a wonderful experience.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I always wonder how they make the turns, especially the really narrow gauge tracks.

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  10. Railtown 1897 State Park in Jamestown, CA featuring rides on a train pulled by a steam engine is maybe all of a 15 minute drive from where I live, yet I've never ridden on it. (Before that we only lived a half hour from the park). I don't know why we've never taken a ride? We've certainly had plenty of opportunity. I think I shall make it a summer "must" this year! This is the same train (and tracks) that were featured in the "Back to the Future" movies. In fact one day when I was driving to Modesto, I happened to on a section of the highway paralleling the tracks while a scene from "Back to the Future II" was being filmed. Some sort of fight was going on and men were chasing each other back forth over the top of the train. In the movie, the train is racing along at breakneck speed while all this is going on, but in reality during the filming it was only crawling along at a snail's pace. Interesting how they do that.

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    1. I've been there several times too and never ridden the train. It's also the location of the opening credits of the old tv show Petticoat Junction with the water tower. Make a point of going over to Carson City to take the ride to Virginia City. Great ride. Also, though expensive, the Napa Wine Train. Pop for the high-end meal. It's worth it. Incredible food and a nice ride through Napa Valley. I do love train rides.

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  11. You've brought the photo well and truly to life. It also made me think of some of the train accidents we;ve had in Australia.

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  12. Good description and yes I can feel every bit of it.

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