Today in history: November 8

Santa Fe and Southern Pacific trains meet at the Tehachapi Loop in the 1980sIn 1874, the Southern Pacific was building its line south from San Francisco through California's central valley.  Construction reached Bakersfield and work began on the line that would include the Tehachapi Loop on November 8, 1874.  The line is still one of the busiest mountain passes in California, and is now owned by Union Pacific Railroad.  In this view from the mid 1980s, we see part of a container car, and under it in the background, the head end of the train of which this container car is part and an opposing Southern Pacific freight at the Tehachapi Loop.

RPO service in the US turns 148 today

Modeler's Moment - Need a project? YVRR Bagby station

Today, August 24, 2008, is the 63rd anniversary of the last regular operations of the Yosemite Valley Railroad. The railroad's last scheduled passenger train operated on August 24, 1945, from Merced to Merced Falls. If you're in need of inspiration for your next model building project, why not try one of the structures along this short line railroad? There is a fairly large amount of data to help you in your endeavors, including some in the public domain available through the National Archives. The image here is one of three images that contain plans for the Yosemite Valley Railroad's Bagby station. There is enough in the plans for any good model builder to create a reasonable model of the station. So let's get building (and if you do build this, send me a photo and you could be featured on this site too!)

Modeler's Moment - Happy birthday, E.H. Harriman

E. H. Harriman

Today is the birthday of the railroad executive who tried to merge Union Pacific (UP) and Southern Pacific (SP) almost a century before the merger was complete in 1996. E.H. Harriman was born on February 20, 1848, and joined the Board of Directors for UP in 1897, becoming President in 1903. He also became President of SP in 1901. He controlled both railroads (and several other companies) until his death on September 9, 1909. Many of the two railroads' operating practices were standardized, but Federal officials objected to a combined company at the time, so a complete merger would have to wait. In 1913, his widow set up the E.H. Harriman Award to recognize railroad companies with outstanding safety records.

Modeler's Moment - Happy Birthday, London Underground!

Blackfriars station

The first section of the London Underground opened on January 10, 1863, connecting Paddington Station to Farringdon Street. Since then, the system has grown to cover 253 miles of track on twelve lines. I can only imagine what it would have been like riding the Underground when it was still powered by steam engines; it certainly would have been quite a bit dirtier and darker in color than scenes from today, like this view of Blackfriars station.

Photo credit

Photo by Adrian Pingstone in June 2005, released to the public domain. Original image obtained from on January 10, 2007.

Modeler's Moment - Happy Golden Spike Day, Canada!

Driving the last spike in Canada

Today is the 121st anniversary of driving the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway creating a transcontinental system across Canada. That's Donald Alexander Smith, a CP director, wielding the spike hammer, with William Cornelius Van Horne, CP's general manager, standing behind and to the left of him (with the black beard and moustache). The last spike was driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia, on November 7, 1885. (photo courtesy of the National Library and Archives of Canada)

Modeler's Moment - Happy 999 day!

999 at the Chicago museum

Today is the 115th anniversary of the record-breaking run of New York Central's Empire State Express. On September 14, 1891, the Empire State Express, pulled by 4-4-0 locomotive number 999, ran from New York City to Buffalo, a distance of 436 miles, in 7 hours and 6 minutes, an average of 65 mph. Officially, the train's top speed was 82 mph, but unofficial reports put the top speed as high as 112 mph. 999 is preserved on static display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Modeler's Moment - Pioneer Zephyr

Pioneer Zephyr, observation end

On this date (May 26) in history, the Burlington's Pioneer Zephyr made its famous "dawn-to-dusk" non-stop run from Denver to Chicago in 1934 at an average speed of 77 mph; the trainset was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on May 26, 1960, and it can still be seen there today.

Modeler's Moment - Happy Golden Spike Day!

Golden Spike ceremony

It was 137 years ago today that a telegraph operator clicked his key in time with a spike hammer to signal the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States. The famed Golden Spike was driven on May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah, after which, Andrew J. Russell took this well known photo.

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