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Track Star: 1938

Track Star: 1938

November 1938. "Union Pacific yards. Omaha, Nebraska." Medium format negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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I agree with Lost World

Note the pilot on engine 1928: it is the type that they outfit switch engines with, so the brakeman can step on and off easily. Looks like 1928 will be spending the rest of her days as a "yard goat."

Name Train

Script on the side of the coaches identifies this train as The Challenger, an economy Chicago-LA train devised by the UP in the 1930's to lure travelers back from the highways. It's in the process of being switched and reassembled, probably cutting a dining car in or out. The 1928, a low-drivered freight engine, is not the road power. That honor will likely go to one of UP's new 4-8-4 types.


I commute by rail. There's one of these puzzle arrangements coming into South Station in Boston. Some number of tracks coming in and another number of platforms, not all tracks can get to all platforms (I think), and each track change requires some amount of linear distance to accomplish. The amount of distance available is limited, since we're in an urban environment, with highways over, under and around us.

The number of switches and shacks holding the control equipment is impressive, but the person who makes it all work sits in a little 8x10 hut surrounded by PCs. I guess it's less puzzling for the computer. Still, it's impressive when your train hardly ever has to wait for the switches to set up -- we almost always go straight out or in, and within a minute of "on time".


That complicated trackwork is called "puzzle switches", even by professional railroaders who work with them every day.

UPRR 2-8-2's numbers 1928 and 2121

If I read the locomotive numbers correctly, they are #1928 and #2121. Both had the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement.

#1928 was retired in 1949, while #2121 soldiered on until 1957.


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