Final shift at the historic SOO Line Building

I just got home from working my final shift at the historic SOO Line Building. CP is moving its US operating headquarters from the 1915 built SLB to a more modern office building on the same block, which was recently christened Canadian Pacific Plaza. On Saturday, administrative offices made the move. The crew callers moved Sunday. On Monday, the Minnesota, Dakota and Portal desks were moved. Tuesday and Wednesday saw the movement of the DM&E desks and this morning, the Elgin, C&M, Wisconsin and River Desks transferred to the new building. As usual, the D&H was last. A week ago, there were 14 dispatchers, five chief dispatchers, eight crew callers, two caller managers and two superintendents on each shift. When I arrived at work this afternoon, all that was left was the D&H North, D&H South and the NEUS Chief all huddled together in the back corner of a now empty and half dismantled office. George Costanza's quote from Seinfeld, "Its like Hitler's last days in here!", seemed quite appropriate.
One interesting thing I realized is that today will probably be the only day in my career where I will have worked in a dedicated D&H office! Tomorrow I report to CP Plaza to rejoin the rest of my coworkers in our new digs.
Here is one last look at the SOO Line building.

Here's the view that I've been enjoying for the last 7 years. Looking roughly north out of the D&H South office towards the Mississippi River. I'll miss watching BNSF, TC&W, UP and Northstar trains on BNSF's Wayzata Sub, which were visible directly above the brown parking garage at right center. I could also catch glimpses of CP trains at Camden and BNSF trains at Northtown Yard.

 A view of the Milwaukee Road depot from the SOO Line building.

 A look down the classic marble stairwell towards the basement.

The last of the Mohicans! Chief DS Jon Gutzler keeps an eye on the railroad while Gordy and I enjoy our last night at the SLB.

The official Olan Mills portrait of veteran D&H DS Gordy Smith and yours truly at the end of our shift.

Remember to turn out the lights when you leave...

Thursday was the last day I worked in the SOO Line Building in Minneapolis. The SOO sold the historic building several years ago and Canadian Pacific leased office space for their U.S. operations. However, the building was sold last year and the new owners want to convert the building into condos, so they assisted CP in relocating to another downtown building. Luckily, we are moving right next door on the same block to what is now called One Financial Plaza, but in August it will be christened Canadian Pacific Plaza. History played out as the D&H dispatchers were the last to move from Milwaukee to Minneapolis into the SOO Line Building in 1999; and as the offices were transferred into our new headquarters, the D&H was the last to be moved. Attached are pictures taken by my co-worker Jim House who works the D&H South end. The new building is ultra modern but the individual dispatchers offices are very small compared to what we are leaving, and as Jim says, we have no windows in our offices. Thought you’d like to see some of the pics that Jim took on our last day at the SLB. This will be the 4th move of dispatchers offices in my career, from our office in Colonie to the temporary offices in Schenectady at Maxon Road, then on to Milwaukee when we consolidated with the SOO dispatchers in 1993, then to Minneapolis, and now next door. Rest assured, this WILL be the final move of my career!!

Gordy Smith


D Thirty Fun!

Perhaps some of my earlier shots were a bit nostalgic: I was looking for scenes of railroads similar to those captured by Link 60 years ago (to make matters worse, his photography was retro for his time). I wanted to find something uniquely modern … the concrete overpass!
The D&H’s Albany Main runs in a concrete canyon between the lanes of 787. I loved the idea of shooting the train as it runs under a mass of concrete and steel. Something other than black sky was an exciting prospect. However, with the Port on one side of 787 and downtown on the other I couldn’t really imagine setting up the lights and standing around for a couple hours without getting hassled.
That’s when I noticed a huge overpass were I-90 passes over the Albany Main, north of downtown in the warehouse district. Things are pretty empty up there at night and I figured things would be more my speed – I guess I knew the police would show up anyway.
A few minutes after getting some gear on the ground, the scene filled with red and blue lights. “Do you have permission to shoot here?” “Permission? No. I’m just going to shoot from the side of the road here.” After he was on his way, I figured that everything was going pretty well. However, a few minutes later an unmarked car showed up, “What’s going on here tonight?” And then another car showed up.
And that’s how I met my 2nd Railroad Special Agent. He ran my ID and noticed I’d been stopped by a colleague of his a few weeks ago. The train showed up right on schedule and I was able to get the shot I’d planned as the police checked out my car and lighting gear.
Here’s a shot of CP train D-31 just out of Kenwood Yard in Albany on its way to Cohoes and Waterford. The crew is checking out the scene I accidentally created as they head towards their switching work a few miles to the North. Rob Dennis was the conductor.

William Gill


Accord, NY on the O&W 1970-2012

I was inspired by Bill Shaumburg's three "time lapse" parings of Chicago to again show a subject as it appears with the passage of time. The Shaughnessy Files "Farewell, Old Woman" (in the current issue of Classic Trains) reminded me of my own O&W "files" so, off we go:
My first exposure to the O&W came in 1970 when I was living in Stone Ridge, NY. This is a small town not far from the Kingston Branch. The entire route from Summitville to Kingston was/is strung with small villages that had been served by rail. Like 100's (maybe 1,000's) of towns across the country they all had a small town center that included some rail served businesses. Accord and the other towns on the branch were all rural farming communities so the business were almost all a combination of coal, lumber and feed. Each with it's own unique and interesting architecture, I might add.

In the first set of pictures I took in Accord (1969-70) the passenger destination signs were still intact on the exterior of the station by the waiting room door. (What a dream for the collector of O&W memorabilia!) Notice they're all for boarding houses in Kerhonkson. Kerhonkson was actually just a couple miles below Accord. It had it's own station and freight house. Interesting!. Over the years I explored every town on the line but, when the urge to model something took hold I came back to Accord. Not only was it the archetype for a small rail served town, I had a close friend that grew up just a few houses down from the station. His stories of climbing on the box cars spotted at Anderson's Feeds and other adventures painted a powerful and inspirational picture. In 1982 he and I measured every building at Andersons, the station itself and we paced off the spacing between each structure. I spent several weeks on the mechanical drawings and many months scratchbuilding each model. What I finally acheived was an uncompromised or foreshortened model of the site in a 2X7' module. 
Back in 1982 the station was empty, as were many others on the line. There was still much O&W "paper" laying about to be recycled into a raifans collection and Anderson Feed's was still operating. Athough the coal business was finished the coal pocket was still operable. The main street had many buildings that once housed stores, a car repair shop complete with a 40's era gas pump but, the acutal businesses had moved a few 100 yards over to Rt 209. I've kept track (no pun) of Accord over the years as the old buildings on the old main street have been re-purposed. The town got a new and very large fire station that was built on the site where the town garage once stood. I don't know how things worked for fire protection years ago when the warning bell or siren was atop the feed mill tower and the engine was housed in a small nearby garage. It's fun to piece together scenarios of what was from what remains.

I've gotten enough requests to see more pictures of the diorama that I thought maybe a forward to all contacts was in order. As many of you know, the diorama only exists in pictures now. I have a box of slides taken from every angle imaginable and Walters included a number of these in their 1985 catalog. Here are a few others you might enjoy.  

Enjoy, Wayne Sittner
Had to run some errands for the shop. On my way to my first stop in East Greenbush I ran past the Port of Albany to see what was going on and noticed a loaded #642 ethanol waiting at Green Street to be moved Kenwood Yard.  After grabbing a shot of #642 it was off to Greenbush and then Brunswick and back to the shop. Lots of work going on at Kenwood Yard and at Erie Street.

Dean J. Splittgerber
Duanesburg, NY

The 600 with Rob Dennis

Rarely do “special dimensional” moves live up to expectations at night. For one thing, they usually run in daylight! LOL! Train 600 had been advertised for quite a while, amid the starts and cancellations of scheduling. High/wide moves are not unusual in the Albany area with the Port right there and GE nearby, but this train 600 was routed up the D&H North End! Very unusual. With the North End recently cleared of obstructions to operate all sizes of double stack containers, this special dimensional consist would not be a concern. But, the train kept being cancelled. Thursday night, it finally happened! And............ it operated at night behind a pair of SD 40-2s! Having made prior arrangements with Port Henrys Justice of the Peace, Brain Venne to open up the station in order to turn on the lights inside, I called Brian to inquire of my chances of getting this done tonight. Brian, to his credit, answered my request at 23:00.............”When will you be there?” I replied, one o’clock, and he said “okay”! Not only did this short conversation set in motion the treat of shooting the photogenic station with a working, active look to it, Brian himself also presented the opportunity to add the human element to the night photo, as he agreed to pose for me! Rarely, do night photos go as smoothly as tonights would. Arriving early at the station, I set up the lights outside while Brian turned them on inside! Finished with my lighting, I was checking out the views from the running boards of the RS-18 exhibited trackside while talking with Brian when the detector thirteen miles away to our south at Fort Ticonderoga went off, after its message of no defects, the crew acknowledged, identifying themselves as CP 600! I picked out my spot to shoot from on board the RS-18, then the lighting system attempted to entertain by two light stands collapsing on their own! It was a sound I was familiar with and visited the offenders to make adjustments, hoping at the same time this was not some “spirits” we had driven from the now lit up station interior idea of a joke! Quiet returned thankfully, and several minutes later we heard the faint air horn to our south announcing CP 600 at Burdicks Crossing. Still, we both were deceived as the pair of SD 40-2s drifted along the lakeside trackage into Port Henry! Knowing better than to wander away from the camera, I identified the low rumble, and Brian asked where I wanted him in the photo as the crossing signals went off just south of us confirming it was “train time” again! After a couple zig zags, Brian was good, and headlights were spotted through the trees! An awareness flash is fired off for the crew. Life is grand at moments such as this. Climbing up around the curve and past the station into position came a newly painted CP 5690 trailed by 5677 and the unique consist! I click away shooting the entire train as it passes. Not until after the dust settles, so to speak, do I notice the conductor Rob Dennis, returning Brians wave! Very nice! And the consist, check out those unique eight axle flat cars, with their springs depressed? Yes, I would say those modules are some heavy! The station, with its interior lit up compliments the passing train and Brian waving. Brain can be credited with playing a major role in obtaining the RS-18 1800 from CP to display here, then painted it! Shot in Port Henry, NY on March 30, 2012 at 01:57 with the 5D and Zeiss ZF 28/2 lens set at f2. Special thanks of course to the Honorable Brian Venne for his help! Please enjoy! Comments are welcomed.

All The Best In 2012;
Gary Knapp