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Steel City Coupler Publication of the Steel City Division Southeastern Region - NMRA

Volume 3, Issue 8

August 2013

Steel City Division Meeting Please plan to attend the next meeting on

Thursday, September 19th, 2013 7:00pm Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, Room 203

Inside This Issue: Editor Jason Parham ( ©2013 The Steel City Division, SER-NMRA The Steel City Coupler is published monthly.

       

This Month’s Meeting Layout Tour Along the Line – Prototype Railroad News Superintendent’s Office Clerk’s Desk NMRA and SER News Mystery Image Timetable

1 1 2 3 7 10 12 14

September Meeting: Building bridges When you replace or install a bridge on your layout, it is usually done in a very relaxed pace. On the real railroads, that is not exactly the case. Every minute the mainline is down the railroad is losing valuable revenue. Every so often, such outages must take place and everyone is under pressure to keep the job on schedule and finish as soon as possible. This month’s presentation comes from Bill Barger who will show us how a real railroad goes about replacing a bridge while minimizing the time the mainline is out of service. Bill will show us a group of photos taken in Bakersville, Maryland over about a 3 day period, with emphasis on the 12 hours of track time devoted to the actual rip out and replacement of a bridge on Norfolk Southern’s route through town. Bill tells us the purpose of the replacement was to increase track speed from a 25 MPH restriction to 35 or 40 MPH, with speed still limited due to a series of curves in the vicinity. Come join us on Thursday, September 19th at 7pm. The location will be the Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church in Room 203 as usual.

September Field Trip: Magnolia Division Mini-Meet (Editor’s note: In lieu of a normal home layout tour this month, we are encouraging everyone to make the trip over to Philadelphia, MS for the Magnolia Division’s Mini-meet.) The Magnolia Division will host a mini-meet September 21, 2013 at the Dancing Rabbit Inn, 13240 Highway 16 West, Choctaw, MS 39350. This is a FREE event, open to NMRA members and soon-to-be NMRA members. •Activities begin at 8:30 am with the first of five clinics. Scheduled presenters are Bob Beaty, MMR, Howard Goodwin, Walt Liles, Cliff Powers, and Peter Youngblood, MMR. The last clinic will end at 3:00 pm.

The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


•At the conclusion of the last clinic, we will tour Phillip Prince's Pearl River Railroad. This outdoor G-scale layout features numerous bridges that cross the namesake river and many scale replicas of Philadelphia area landmarks. His layout is handicapped accessible with a poured concrete surround. •The day will conclude with a tour of the historic and restored Gulf, Mobile & Northern Depot. The depot was built in 1905 and purchased by the City of Philadelphia several years ago. It currently houses the offices of our local Community Development Partnership. For more information contact Magnolia Division Superintendent Troy Hight at or by phone at (601) 416-7617.This event is open to everyone, so please invite and bring a friend. There is no cost to attend this event and NMRA membership is not required to attend.

Along the Line – Prototype Railroad News 2013 Autumn Steam Excursion Announced – 630 Will Return to Birmingham As part of the Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam Program, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) will be offering a limited number of public excursions. General admission seating will be provided in climatecontrolled coaches with comfortable seats and large windows. A commissary car selling snacks, soft drinks, and light food items, along with souvenir items, will be part of the train. Don’t miss this opportunity to ride a vintage train in many areas long removed from passenger service. Power is scheduled to be ex-Southern Railway 28-0 #630 built in 1904 and recently restored to service by TVRM in Chattanooga, assisted by modern Norfolk Southern diesels unless noted otherwise. Please visit to buy tickets for any of these trips. September 14 & 15 ~ Birmingham to Parrish September 14 & 15 (morning): Birmingham, AL to Parrish, AL – (Steel City Rail Adventure) Approximate 4-1/2 hour, 82-mile round trip rail excursions depart at 8:00am and return around 12:30pm. These trips operate northwestwardly on the Norfolk Southern main line toward Sheffield, and return. Passengers will remain on the train for the complete round trip, including the turnaround point in Parrish. The boarding location will be the old Southern Railway Terminal Station property (now a vacant lot with parking) located at 2680 2nd Avenue North, Birmingham, AL 35203. All times shown are Central Time. Tickets are $45 for adults and $35 for children age 3-12. Children under age 3 not occupying a seat do not require a ticket. September 14 & 15 ~ Birmingham to Wilton September 14 & 15 (afternoon): Birmingham, AL to Wilton, AL – (Steel City Rail Adventure) Approximate 4-1/2 hour, 98-mile round trip rail excursions depart at 2:00pm and return around 6:00pm. The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


These trips operate southwardly on the Norfolk Southern main line toward Selma and Mobile. Passengers will remain on the train for the complete round trip, including the turnaround point in Wilton. The boarding location will be the old Southern Railway Terminal Station property (now a vacant lot with parking) located at 2680 2nd Avenue North, Birmingham, AL 35203. All times shown are Central Time. Tickets are $45 for adults and $35 for children age 3-12. Children under age 3 not occupying a seat do not require a ticket.

Centreville, AL Caboose Lookin’ Mighty Fine!

Last month I mentioned that the former GM&O caboose in Centreville, AL was being repainted by the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce who now owns the car. The car was donated about 20 years ago by Kansas City Southern RR who had the car in storage at their yard in Tuscaloosa. I contacted Mike Vickey of Vickey Graphics to help the chamber develop the correct lettering as it appeared upon delivery in 1970. A sign shop in Centreville took Mike’s artwork, cut the lettering in vinyl, and applied it to the car during the week of August 19th. I was able to swing down on August 25th and grab a few shots as she stood proudly in the sun. A few touch-ups remain to be done, but nevertheless, this is the best this caboose has looked in twenty years! Hats off to the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce for taking the effort to give the old girl her proper look once again. If you are interesting in visiting, the Chamber of Commerce is located between the Bibb Co. High School football field and the Cahaba River at 835 Walnut St in Centreville, AL (zip code 35042) in the town’s former GM&O depot which has been relocated and restored as well.

Superintendent’s Office Learning to Have Fun By John Stewart, Superintendent Here is one more thing from the National Convention that is worth sharing. We have several of our members who won awards in the model and photo contest. I think that is great and we can all be proud for these folk’s accomplishments. These folks were listed in the NMRA Magazine, September issue: The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


Judged Model Contest (Kit Caboose Class)

Jason Parham

People’s Choice Model’s & Photo Match Photos

Malcolm Sokol

People’s Choice Arts and General Original Crafts

Malcolm Sokol

Photo Contest Awards Judged

Bob Beaty, MMR


GM&O Cab #2603 N Scale Fallingwater Locust Grove “Morning Mixed Freight”

Photo Contest Awards Judged


Bob Beaty, MMR “Oiling Around”

Photo Contest Awards Judged


Bob Beaty, MMR “Departing Time”

National Award


Judges (Judges Choice)

Jason Parham GM&O Depot



I really think it is great that some of our Steel City Folks were willing to compete and able to win at the National Contest level. Speaking of achievement, I have been thinking about the NRMA Achievement Program. This is something that some of you have heard me say “I am not interested in that program”. Well, I have been thinking about it, and I decided to take the plunge. I submitted my SOQ (statement of qualifications) for the AP Author Certificate. I was told at the convention that the clinics that Craig Gardner and I did would count toward the AP Author. So, I got curious and looked it up, and realized that I had a lot of work that would qualify toward this AP item. Now, I know that there are a lot of other folks in the Division that have been working on this for some time, and I am beginning to realize what it is all about. I notice the certificates being displayed when we visit some folk’s layouts, and they are right to be proud of these achievements. I have made my submittal to George Gilbert in Nashville – he is the Regional AP Coordinator. I was able to put the submittal together and with George’s cooperation hand it off to him electronically. It took me a couple of hours to list everything and all. So, we’ll see how that turns out. Anyway, a long journey starts with a single step, and I have taken a single step. I am coming to see that the Achievement Program does two things in my point of view. First it allows you to follow a path to grow in the hobby of model railroading. Second, and most important, it challenges you to learn something new. That is something I have always tried to have high on my “list of things to do today” – learn something new. Malcolm Sokol has been suggesting that folks work on the Chief Dispatcher AP certificate. Malcolm has The Steel City Coupler – September 2013

Figure 1: Dispatcher's desk on the BDMRR with magnetic train board and car routing software on screen


attended some of the operations sessions on the Birmingham District Model RR (BDMRR) at my house, and he was good enough to prepare a set of forms for our operators to use to keep track of their hours which could be applied to this AP certificate. I guess that is part of what got me thinking about the AP program besides the revelation that the clinics at National would count toward AP Author. So, Malcolm is partly to “blame” for my changing point of view on the AP Program. In any event, I have been looking at the idea of learning more about timetables for our ops sessions on the BDMRR. And yep, there are those that heard me say – “I am not interested in timetables”. I said the same thing about “dispatchers” on the railroad and now we have one of those. Well, here’s the deal. We have a lot of fun in the ops sessions but we also have a lot to learn, including me. And we have found that we had a lot of congestion on the railroad. I thought that I had a way to “fix” that and made some adjustments to the order and selection of trains to be run in the session. All I did mostly was successfully “move the congestion” from one part of the layout to another part. Hmm. At least one of our wise and learned colleagues kept telling me “you need to make a timetable” and I kept saying “yea, maybe”. But after working on it I think he is right. When in doubt on most subjects, I went to the internet and Google, The All Knowing. I pretty quickly came up with a two page paper from the Potomac Division website written by a guy named Bob Reid who I do not know. But Bob’s short summary gave me the ideas needed to move into an Excel spreadsheet and try to make a timetable. When I started learning about operations, I did look into timetables but decided that we weren’t ready for them yet, or wouldn’t need them at all. I think that “yet” has arrived, and we do need them to solve the same problem that a prototype railroad would have – dealing with congestion. I was reading recently that in 1920 Birmingham, AL served 50 passenger trains and 200 freight trains every day! Can you imagine the congestion that would create, and this was before CTC type signals and control. The BDMRR isn’t going to generate that level of traffic, but we do have congestion as several of our operators can attest.

Figure 2: Dispatcher Bill Barger shows Malcolm Sokol about dispatching board and JMRI software

The real value of timetable creation, to me, is creating a “string diagram” which is a graphic that shows a line for each train. What you are graphing is location vs. time for a train along its route. Northbound trains “slant” one way, and Southbound “slant” the other. Whenever a line crosses, then the trains are at the same place at the same time. And that may be a bad thing. What the string diagram helps you do easily is to see the congestion points and try to adjust for them. And using the short paper that I found on the NMRA website for the Potomac Division got me up the learning curve quickly. One thing that many come to realize quickly in model railroad operations is that the time to travel between stations is “way too short”. On the other hand, switching activities at best are “real time” in duration. If the train crew is inexperienced, they can take longer than “real time” which is “a real long time…” Sorry guys, I couldn’t resist that one… For example, the BDMRR has a 200 foot mainline with another couple of hundred feet of branch lines. A train traveling at scale 25 mph can go all the way around in 8 minutes, more or less. On the other hand, a simple move like setting out of a cut of cars, and picking up another can take 4-7 minutes easily, depending on the details. The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


Anyway, it is more fun to keep your train moving even though it is prototypical to have your train sit on a siding or a passing track waiting for other trains to clear “your” track ahead. But at some point “sitting and waiting” while prototypical is not much fun. And I am all about “fun” in model railroading. So, I was “led into an interest” in timetables in order to have more fun in operations.

Figure 3: Lee Singletary and Sam Fell work on operations switching at Birmingham on the BDMRR at the Grade Separation.

And if you read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, you know that men tend to be “Mr. Fixit”. I am a male engineer which usually means that I am very much into “fixing things” so the operation congestion became a challenge. As I get older, I am learning to deal with this but I still seek to “fix”.

So, where is this going to lead? I am not sure, but I have found that we have “holes” in our schedules, as seen on the string diagram. A sample is included here for a 7:30 to 9:00 pm part of an ops session which is usually about 3 hours long. Some of you may cringe

at this first effort on my part, but I’m learning. And I haven’t EVEN decided how much of this to try and actually DO! Every situation is going to “graph” differently. On the BDMRR, I have convinced myself that our main “staging” yard is L&N’s Boyles Yard, north of town, so all trains leave southbound. And in my reality, we have “foreign” road trains working interchange out of Boyles. (The interchanges really represent “other” yards, like Finley, Thomas and so forth. Remember, Birmingham had 9 trunk railroads.) The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


So, all trains leave our main yard southbound and return northbound. But, like Birmingham there are real loops of track in the Birmingham District, so trains out of the yard might be able to go “clockwise or counter clockwise” which we call “via NB main or via SB main”. Anyway, that is all I am going to try to explain, but it justifies a line going NB and reversing to SB on the chart. You can ponder this one. And you likely understand that the “flat spots” are trains at a location waiting or doing switching. Now, this may be overkill, but it does illustrate the point that you may be able to find holes in the operating sequence. Without going way off in the weeds, this is going to put a lot of pressure on our engine terminal to get trains in and out of the main yard, as well as our brand new terminal switch crew. More importantly it shows the opportunity to change the way we have been handling switching at “Birmingham/Avondale/West End” on the layout. We have been having the road crew switch cars out of the trains for dropping off at interchange tracks as well as picking up. This takes way too long. What we are going to try now is to have a Birmingham Terminal switch crew that handles the “terminal area”. This crew will (I hope) be able to assemble the pickups for the interchange trains and have them ready in a cut. We have already started to “block” the setouts in the main yard before the trains start their journey. It has been taking our road crews as much as 30 minutes or more to “switch the interchanges”. Granted it is a challenge, but it was like 280 at rush hour. We had trains backed up all over the place. This in turn meant that our raw material trains for iron ore, coal, coke and limestone couldn’t get around the layout. I had tried last month to fix this by rerouting trains, but it didn’t do much except move the congestion as noted above. After all, our theme is Steel on the BDMRR and we aren’t making much steel! So, we’ll see. By the time you read this, we will have likely been through the next ops session on the railroad and the trial run of the Birmingham switch crew. And we’ll find out what I didn’t anticipate in the revised approach to operations. And we’ll likely learn some things. That’s if everyone doesn’t freak out and go home. And we’ll likely have fun. Two out of two ain’t bad in my book – learn and have fun. And I am beginning to understand that the Achievement Program as well as participating in contests may do that for many folks in the hobby. I have to add, if taken in the right frame of mind and spirit of learning and fun. I can’t see doing it if it gives a person an ulcer, raises blood pressure or impacts relationships. I think that like many sports activities we are best when we compete with ourselves, and work on our “personal best”. That is challenging and healthy in my opinion and can still be fun. And by the way, if you are interested in learning or doing operations, come to the ops sessions on the BDMRR. We currently meet on the first Friday evening of the month, and all are welcome. If we get too many folks we’ll go to twice a month. Now that would be a great type of “congestion” to have. After all, we are “learning to have fun”. – John

Clerk’s Desk Kid Shows and Model trains, Part 1: Won’t you be my neighbor… By Jason Parham, Secretary Having a little 15 month old girl has gotten me acquainted with some kid shows on TV as well as reacquainted with some favorites from my own childhood. How does this relate to model railroading? Well, with some of the shows, plenty. Definitely on my own “Must see TV” list a little kid was Mister Roger’s The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


Neighborhood. Besides the trolley that emerged from behind Mister Rogers to zip off to the Neighborhood of Make Believe, as it turns out the diorama of the neighborhood seen in the opening and closing segments of the program were model railroad models themselves. While there were earlier versions of the neighborhood, the one that is probably most familiar is the one that existed on the show from about 1974 through 1995. Interestingly enough most were slightly modified model kits that were quite common to model railroaders at the time. At left, we see the house where Fred Rogers welcomed us into his world.

Now, look at the picture at right. Look familiar? That’s because the house is nothing more than a Cape Cod-style house that was part of Bachmann’s Plasticville USA series of structures. Other than switching the porch to the other side of the house, it appears that a coat of paint is the only other change done. Another iconic building is this 4-story red brick building with the offset slanted roof, the so-called “NET Building” by fans of the show. In older episodes before 1970, an earlier iteration of this building had the letters "NET" on the back of it as a credit to National Educational Television networks. When NET changed to PBS, they changed the look of the building to remove the NET but the general shape of the distinctive roof remained. This particular structure was built by modifying two AHM Ramsey Journal Building kits by stacking them on top of each other and modifying the building to have a slanted roof.

Here are three kit box images showing the original structure. The new roof and taller height disguises the origin fairly well, but compare the window pattern on the wall and it is a dead giveaway. As we can see, The Steel City Coupler – September 2013 8

this little kit lived on well past the AHM days, going on to be marketed under the Tyco and Model Power names as well. It was also used in at least 3 other locations in the neighborhood: Brockett's Bakery, Betty's Little Theater, and also the blue/gray building to the right of Mister Rogers' television house. While watching a clip of the credit’s I also spotted the arched bricks of a very well-known kit. Seen here in the left-hand portion of the shot is a kit that originated from the Revell Catalog back in the late 50’s/early 60’s. While the kit originated as an engine house, it was adapted with different end walls and sold as “Superior Bakery” and this one known as the Weekly Herald. Even after the Revell days, those models went on to be sold under the Kibri , Heljan, AHM / IHC, and ConCor brand names. Without a doubt, the most iconic model on the show is Roger’s Neighborhood Trolley, but did you know that there were actually two trolleys on the show? The original near-G-scale trolley was hand-built from wood by Bill Ferguson in Toronto, Canada, back in 1967. In late 1981, the aforementioned HO scale diorama was modified by Paul Lalley (the show’s new director) and Pittsburgharea model railroader Tom Vitolo to have an HO scale trolley to travel across the set during the credits. As it turn out, adding the second trolley turned out to be a bit of a case of the old saying “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” In an article for the January 1988 issue of Model Railroader, Lalley admitted that he and Vitollo performed the trolley track and scenery refresh without mentioning it to anyone else on the crew, including Rogers himself. Lalley told MR: “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood had been on the air 24 years and doing quite well without me before I came to Pittsburgh, Pa., (where it's produced) in 1981 to work with Fred Rogers. Soon after I arrived, I learned two things: one, Fred Rogers is a wonderfully kind and genuine man who cares very much about children's needs. Two, the program was (and is) very successful - in other words, "Don't fix it if it ain't broke." I obeyed this law and didn't tamper with the program elements that make the show work so well. But whenever I looked at that fascinating HO scale model of the Neighborhood with all its houses and streets and trees, I just knew it needed something.” After a month of thinking about it, one day he was taking a good look at the original G-scale trolley and the light went off in his head. What the HO-scale set needed was a matching trolley. Without telling a soul, he and Vitolla set about with a router attachment on a motor tool to carve a trench in the cross street for the new trolley line. Being true model railroaders, they took the opportunity to spruce up the painted-on grass with some Woodland Scenics ground foam. Tom took Paul’s Bachmann trolley and did a major kitbashing job that resulted in a very close replica of the G scale trolley. To make the 29” run across the set, the two gentlemen devised a simple mechanism of fishing line and a stick that a television crewmember could operate. A SPUD power truck unit was considered, but the scale speed had to be very slow at times (maybe 5 scale mph at most), so the fishing line proved to be the best solution. A neat job, but modifying such an iconic diorama wasn’t easy. The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


“But all the while I was doing this (having a ball, I might add), I was nervous about the whole thing. It was like we were adding a new face on Mt. Rushmore without asking anybody. But deep down I knew if I ever tried to explain what I was doing people would think we were crazy. Grown men, playing with trains? Well, yes, we were grown and, yes, we were playing, but the result would be great. They would have to see it to believe it. And the only way that could happen was to DO IT. Despite the bravado, when the studio day approached I was very nervous. What if this addition was simply too much? ‘Don't fix it if it ain't broke’ rang in my ears. And then November 16, 1981, came and Studio A at WQED was filled with a crowd of very curious crew people and Mister Rogers himself. I announced very casually, "Here's a little something I'd like to show you." The camera took up its position. Music Director John Costa and his trio played the familiar opening music, the camera widened out to a cover shot, and I pushed the stick that pulled the fishing line that made the little red trolley creep along at a scale 5 mph. I held my breath, afraid to see the reaction on their faces, but wanting to as well. I looked up and saw Fred Rogers' eyes twinkle in surprise at seeing an HO scale version of Trolley go trundling along the pavement. He smiled. So did everybody else. Trolley II was born.” And so it was. The shot above is a screen capture of “Trolley II” making the trip across the layout during the credit sequence. To see it in action and observe how effective the fishing line setup was, check out this clip: Next month, we’ll look at another well-known children’s program to find out how model railroading helped to bring the story books about a group of “very useful engines” to life. – Jason

News from the NMRA Headquarters 

The National BOD meeting was held in Atlanta July 13-14. Some highlights of the meeting include:

Orlando, FL has been selected by the NMRA Board of Directors as the site of the NMRA 2017 National Convention and Train Show.

NMRA Secretary John Stevens announced the results of voting which took place earlier in the year for three Board positions. o At-Large Worldwide Director - Mike Brestel o Atlantic District Director - Kathy Millatt o Western District Director - Jack Hamilton

The NMRA Board of Directors has appointed Mike Yurgec the new At Large North American Director, a position vacated by Miles Hale, MMR.

The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


Gerry Leone, MMR, has been appointed Vice President-Special Projects. Gerry served as NMRA Communications Director for five years, and, prior to that, was Deputy Chair of the NMRA's Member Services Department.

SER Happenings 

The 2013 Annual Meeting and summer Board of Directors meeting were held July 18 at Peachtree Express in Atlanta. Highlights of the meetings include:

The Region remains in very sound financial status.

SER membership stands at 1,490, a whopping increase of 293 since the 2012 SER convention. Many of our newest members joined to attend the 2013 NMRA national convention in Atlanta. Even without the convention, region membership grew more than 6% from 2012.

The SER provided funding for projects at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA, the West Florida Railroad Museum in Milton, FL, and a welcome reception at the 2013 national convention.

The next region car project is underway. Details are expected after the fall Board of Directors meeting.

The Palmetto Division will host Palmetto Excursion, the 2015 SER convention in Greenville, SC.

Registration is open for Rails on the River, the 2014 joint convention of the SER and Mid Continent Region. Visit for a convention registration form and video.

The Magnolia Division will host a mini-meet on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at the Dancing Rabbit Inn in Choctaw, MS. Activities begin at 8:30 am and include five clinics and tours of a local garden railroad and restored depot. For more information check Upcoming Events on the region website or contact Magnolia Division Superintendent Troy Hight at or (601) 4167617.

Kalmbach has announced that the 2014 edition of Great Model Railroads will include the display HO scale model railroad in the rebuilt Aiken, SC railroad depot. The depot is open to the public and admission is free. For more information about the depot, visit

Glen Hall has appointed Terry Tucker Membership Chair. Terry replaces Tom Cusker, who resigned his position earlier in the year.

Division Happenings 

The Steel City Division has expanded its outreach program with the launch of its own Facebook page at If you aren't on Facebook, download the division's most recent edition of The Steel City Coupler at

Central Savannah River Division superintendent Steve Prevette and Don Barnes hosted operating sessions before and after the 2013 NMRA national convention. Steve's Burnt Hills and Big Flats Railroad was the site of a special OPSIG session. The division's next meeting is slated for October. Visit the division's page on the SER website for more information about Central Savannah River activities.

The 11th Annual Piedmont Pilgrimage, the Southeast's premiere model railroad layout tour, opens Saturday, October 12, 2013. The Piedmont Division has arranged more than 80 model railroad open houses during the event, running each Saturday and Sunday from October 12 through November 23. For additional information visit

The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


Mystery Image Only Craig Gardner was able to correctly guess last month’s mystery bridge. That seldom (if ever) used bridge still stands about 500 feet northwest of Birmingport Road (AL 269) between Maytown and Sylvan Springs. The “Woodward Iron Co RR, Crockard Division” cast into the pier alludes to this line being built for Woodward’s Crockard Mine which was built in the late 1920’s. The red line in the Google Earth image below shows the Woodward right of way crossing over the yellow line which is Birmingham Terminal Railway’s line to Birmingport. That is the location of the abandoned bridge. Note the proximity to Birmingport Road seen running across the lower right-hand corner.

Little information is known about the coal mine but indications are that it was quite modern for its time. Unfortunately, while it did get built, it doesn’t appear that Woodward ever opened it for operation. Perhaps it might have been due to the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression which followed, as Woodward and other iron and steel producers saw demand fall off quite severely. While I enjoy having a guessing game with these pictures, the downside is that I have to pass on a lot of really nice and interesting shots simply because there really isn’t much “mystery” to them. This month, we’re going to take a break from the brain teasers and simply present a nice specimen because, well, it’s cool. Most of you know that in the old days when a railroad ran an unscheduled, or “Extra”, train it was customary for the locomotive to fly white flags. This image at left of a GM&O SD40 flying white flags at the front corner of the cab is a great example. At night, the flags would be augmented or replaced with the classification lights burning white. Similarly, second sections of a regularly scheduled train would fly green flags or classification lights. This practice wasn’t specific to any railroad and appears to have been universal across the industry. It appears the GM&O Railroad, for a period of time during World War II, made an exception to the rule. Not too long ago, I discovered through my dad that Google has a function that allows you to search through vintage newspapers. Being a native of Tuscaloosa, you can guess which paper I experimented with searching through first. While searching for “Gulf Mobile & Ohio”, I came across The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


this neat snippet that was in the March 13th, 1942 issue of the Tuscaloosa News. In keeping with the boosted sense of patriotism during the war, the railroad began to substitute the white flags for the “Stars & Stripes”. The article even provides photographic evidence of the flags being applied to Mikado #459 in Mobile, AL. I had no idea this ever occurred, and I don’t know if this idea spread to other railroads or how long this lasted until white flags returned to use, but it is quite neat just the same. Also note the railroad’s initials affixed to a plate along the bottom of the smokebox, a small but classy touch. – Jason PS: I’m always on the hunt for interesting photos to use for Mystery Images. If you have one you would like to volunteer for future use (either vintage or present day), please let me know.

The Steel City Coupler – September 2013


Timetable 21st Century Steam Autumn trips Please visit to buy tickets for any of these trips. September 14 & 15 (morning trip) ~ Birmingham to Parrish Departs at 8:00am and return around 12:30pm. September 14 & 15 (afternoon trip) ~ Birmingham to Wilton Depart at 2:00pm and return around 6:00pm (Tickets for the Birmingham trips are $45 for adults and $35 for children age 3-12. Children under age 3 not occupying a seat do not require a ticket.)

Magnolia Division Mini-Meet September 20-21, 2013 Philadelphia, MS (For additional information, contact Troy Hight via e-mail at: , or by phone at (601) 416-7617)

Piedmont Pilgrimage Layout Tours Saturdays & Sundays, Oct. 12 thru Nov. 23, 2013 Atlanta, GA GM&O Historical Society Convention (Held in conjunction with Meridian Railfest) November 1-2, 2013 Holiday Inn Meridian, 100 North Frontage Rd Meridian, MS Soule Live Steam Festival and Meridian Railfest November 1-2, 2013, 9am-4pm both days The Great Train Expo Saturday & Sunday, Nov. 23 & 24, 2013 North Atlanta Trade Center Norcross, GA Smokey City Rails Train Show Saturday December 7, 2013 Pelham Civic Center Pelham, AL Piedmont Division Train Show Saturday & Sunday, March 15 & 16, 2014 Cobb Galleria Centre Atlanta, GA Steel City Division Meetings for 2013: 1/17, 2/21, 3/21, 4/18, 5/16, 6/20, 7/18, 8/15, 9/19, 10/17, 11/21

Steel City Division Officers Superintendent Assist. Superintendent Secretary Treasurer

John Stewart Jeff Johnson Jason Parham Carey Ketchum

205-989-4889 205-949-9325 205-534-6529 205-871-5495

The Steel City Coupler – September 2013

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