Light at the End of the Tunnel: A TL of the American Railroad

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Andrew Boyd, Jan 24, 2019.

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  1. Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    1948 is mostly going to be the same as OTL, so here are some ideas I had for future updates as we start 1949 soon.

    - The Santa Fe and Frisco make plans to merge at some point in the near future.
    - Assuming the Burlington Northern is formed earlier than OTL, a condition is the Rio Grande gets the C&S south of Pueblo, CO.
    - B&O and southern make plans to split the Monon. With the Michigan City - Louisville parts going to Southern and the Chicago - Indianapolis line going to the B&O.
    - The New York Central realizes competing with air is impossible. So they instead for a partnership with Pan Am. Eventually Santa Fe also gets in on the act and joins the same partnership.
    - Martin Clement, CEO of the Pennsylvania, becomes fed up with certain issues plaguing the railroad. As a solution, he further strengthens ties with the Norfolk & Western. With upgrades like CTC, modernized steam facilities, terminals were modernized, classification yards expanded. The PRR also takes up the RF&P to expand the NEC in Virginia. Which reaches Norfolk via the N&W Richmond Subdivision.
    - The Rio Grande realizes the tourism potential of its narrow gauge lines. This works handsomely, and a good chunk of the profit is used to electrify the Denver - Grand Junction line.
    - The Milwaukee Road gets taken over by former Southern Pacific employees. Whom bridge the gap of electrification, improved services in general, and make plans to donate steam engines to museums.
    - The New York Central decides that if they're going to go straight to electrics, they may as well keep the Niagara 4-8-4s running. Luckily, this means at least #6012 and #6015 are preserved eventually.
    - The Baltimore & Ohio makes plans to buy up the Reading and Jersey Central. Complete with plans to save some of the two railroad's equipment for the planned B&O Museum.
     
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  2. isayyo2 Low Key

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    Can't wait to see NYC's electrification plan
     
  3. Threadmarks: The Rio Grande: Renewals and Revolutions in 1949

    Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    "A big part of why the Rio Grande narrow gauge is still around is because of the money Hollywood threw at us. The scenery and rolling stock made it perfect fodder for western films. As did the subsequent tourist industry favoring the line. We ultimately got to use the massive profits from both sections to work on our electrification projects."
    - Gale B. Aydelott, former D&RGW President, in a Railway Age interview; June 1989

    During the 1940s, the Rio Grande had emerged as a profitable railroad. Its passenger trains were often successful due to the scenic routes through Colorado and Utah. The line had also become a regional bridge route from Denver to Salt Lake City. In partnership with the Burlington Route and the Western Pacific Railroad, the Rio Grande offered a competitive alternative to the Union Pacific for shipments from the Great Plains to northern California. The railroad was also a major partner with the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which itself survives to this day thanks to its important role as a way to shuttle traffic from the Rio Grande east to St. Louis and other places on the Mississippi River.

    [​IMG]
    4-8-4 #1705, seen here in 1941 was saved by Rio Grande enthusiasts, and served for a few years on steam excursions that connected to the famous narrow gauge. Today, it is displayed in Alamosa.

    The railroad had begun as a narrow gauge line which was converted to standard gauge beginning in the 1800s. But after World War II, the Rio Grande’s management was focused on its standard gauge operations. Especially with the ambitious electrification of the mainline from Denver to Grand Junction via Glenwood Springs. The antiquated, steam-powered narrow gauge didn’t fit in with the modern and efficient image the railroad publicized. With a shrinking business base due to improved highways and a decline in mining, abandonment was a fairly easy argument to make to the ICC. That is until the Rio Grande found a way to use the narrow gauge to its advantage...

    [​IMG]
    For much of the first few days of its revitalization, the San Juan narrow gauge passenger train was powered by the narrow gauge's ubiquitous Mikados. Lima-built P-36 Class Pacifics would later become the main motive power while Mikados handled other tourist trains.

    Hollywood and tourists began discovering the narrow gauge and its natural wonders. With its spectacular scenery, areas along the line were early destinations for motion picture production companies. Indeed, many had gone out to film in this area of the US. But with the rise of the Western genre, the narrow gauge would find itself a major revenue for the railroad as film-makers used it due to the lack of good roads in the area. Even as freight traffic dropped on narrow gauge, the scenic regions of the routes like the Alamosa - Durango mainline made for an excellent excursion train route. As a result, the Rio Grande aborted plans to cancel the San Juan passenger train, instead opting to have various hotels built along certain places like Chama, NM. Likewise, the Framington - Silverton branch via Durango was revitalized for similar purposes. Over the next few years, the narrow gauge was visited by Walt Disney, John Wayne, and other Hollywood icons.

    upload_2019-7-8_14-31-33.png
    GE Little Joes were the first electrics Rio Grande operated. Many of them remained in service until the mid-1980s, at least after being rebuilt to AC power.

    Meanwhile, the money used on tourism and Hollywood found itself pouring into the electrification plans.
    For their electrified operations, the Rio Grande started with some of the "Little Joe" electrics made famous by the Milwaukee Road and Chicago-area interurbans. These were found to be well-adept to the line of the Rio Grande. Which were long and mountainous, and needed strong power. However, the Little Joes were designed for 3300 V DC power supply, which was far less capable than the AC power supply system developed by the PRR. As such, the DRGW worked with GE to built the line to the 11 kV AC system used by the PRR. Whereas they would also have the Little Joe-style locomotives be built with Ignitron rectifiers, effectively making them E33 guts in a Little Joe body. The system would lead way to way more power for hauling freight and reduce your transmission losses.

    By September 1949, the electrification had managed to reach just west of Glenwood Springs. This was eventually extended further west during the 1950s until the entire Denver - Salt Lake City mainline was running under wires. However, this did not stop the Rio Grande from using diesels as well, and EMD F units were purchased for use on train like the California Zephyr. Which ran from Chicago to San Fransisco via their line and those of the WP and CB&Q. They were also eventually used for a new train titled the California Eagle; a train run in collaboration with Missouri Pacific from St. Louis to San Fransisco via Pueblo, CO.

    The success of Rio Grande's electric operations led to many more railroads re-considering the idea of electrification. In particular, railroads through mountainous territory like the Pennsylvania/Norfolk & Western, Southern, Chesapeake & Ohio, New York Central, and Southern Pacific all eyed the development in Colorado intently during the next few years.

    OOC: Special thanks to @Lucas and @TheMann for letting me use their ideas.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  4. TheMann Canuckwanker in Chief

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    So, this Rio Grande's mainlines between Salt Lake City and Denver and Pueblo effectively went straight from steam to electric power, then? That's a good move, but do bear in mind that Little Joes were designed for 3300 V DC power supply, which is far less capable than the AC power supply system developed by the PRR. If it were me, I'd have the DRGW electric operations built with the same 11 kV AC system used by the PRR or, alternately, the 25 kV/60 Hz system (the 25 kV system would be a real technical innovation in the 1950s, but its not out of the realm of possibility as GE could easily do it and the 1950s were an era of people trying all kinds of things in railroading) and have the Little Joe-style locomotives be built with Ignitron rectifiers, effectively making them E33 guts on a Little Joe frame. The system you'd get would give you way more power for hauling freight and reduce your transmission losses.
     
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  5. Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    @TheMann

    Thanks for the recommendations. What I might do is have the Southern Pacific use all that info, then the Rio Grande also upgrades their own electric lines later on with the same changes. I'll see what @Lucas can do
     
  6. Lucas Well-Known Member

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    @Andrew Boyd, what you have in mind? Create new electric style units based on Little Joes?
     
  7. Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    I depends on what @TheMann had in mind. I was thinking it would still externally be a Little Joe. So I'll think of some more design ideas later.
     
  8. TheMann Canuckwanker in Chief

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    If the DRGW is going to go with an AC electric system in the 1950s, the Virginian EL-2B or PRR E3b/E3c would probably be pretty close to what would be the most likely to be built. Indeed, both would probably be ideal for the DRGW's operations, provided they could be made somewhat faster, as the 35 mph top speed of the EL-2B is nothing like fast enough for the DRGW's 'fast freight' philosophy of the period.
     
  9. Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    I'll certainly keep that in mind when GE begins their "Great Fleet" of electrics. Meanwhile, I have retconned the DRGW post so the Little Joes are converted to AC power while electrification is being completed.
     
  10. Confederate Liberal Well-Known Member

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  11. isayyo2 Low Key

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    Could a large single locomotive like the Virginian EL-2B or Great Northern W-1 be regeared for higher speeds instead of drag freight?
     
  12. Confederate Liberal Well-Known Member

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    I'm not 100% sure about this but I would say that with enough MONEY and time and will anything can be done the question is would it be easier to design and build a new engine.
     
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  13. TheMann Canuckwanker in Chief

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    Yes, the question is whether it makes sense to do so. For the EL-2B, I would think so as having four sets of B-B trucks could easily be made to work provided the line's infrastructure is capable of handling the weight (which isn't gonna be a problem for the DRGW's main lines - they would be replacing 4-6-6-4s after all) and the electric infrastructure could handle the power demands of such huge engines.
     
  14. Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    @TheMann

    I revised my D&RGW electrics so the Little Joes are designed to use the 11 kv AC system. Thank you for the suggestion.

    You all can expect to more new electrification plans soon.
     
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  15. Threadmarks: Meet Alfred Banks: Keystone Visionary

    Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    "I knew many of the mergers would suffer severe regulatory hurdles. Which is why I included several ideas for lines we would all shed off after completion. In the end, my goal was to make sure the PRR, RF&P, and N&W stayed as one. Likewise, I knew the Panhandle to St. Louis may one day come in handy, which it did with the intermodal market."
    - Alfred Wilbur Banks (1912-1999); TRAINS Magazine, June 1988

    January 14, 1949
    Roanoke, VA


    "So you see, Mr. Clement." explained the foreman, "We are developing a new facility type that would allow the steam engine to be served with relative ease. Water and Fuel would be filled at the same time, while the crew could check over the engine one more time before the next duty."

    Martin Clement was interested as he looked on. In his mind, the PRR may as well continue with steam while the N&W was under their leash with its supply of coal and innovative maintenance creations. However, this was only the tip of the iceberg for why he was there. The main issue was bought up later at a joint PRR/N&W staff conference latter that day. Largely to discuss the continued steps towards an all but inevitable merger. But also so he could reveal his intentions for both railroads.

    "With our two railroads being inevitably merged." explained Clement. "I decided we should focus on how to cut costs and electrifying more rail lines. Would you come up, Mr. Banks?"

    Alfred Wilbur Banks, 37 years of age, had been working on the N&W for some time. At that point, he had become a legend among the workmen for his efficiency desires regarding how the railroad should run. He had worked as a dispatcher out of Roanoke for some time at that point. The day before, Clement had met him and discussed some major plans that had come to be in store for their railroads. Alfred had taken a map of the combined railroads, as well as the RF&P, Wabash, and Lehigh Valley, and apparently highlighted some routes in green, in blue, and red.

    The rest of the staff looked on in interest. As Banks started his explanation.

    "This is what Clement and I have thought about the merger of the railroads we currently own stake in." he explained. "You see, we would first standardize maintenance facilities for our steam engines. This specifically incorporates the facilities we built, where an engine can take on fuel and water at once while they are lubricated. As for electrification, I was thinking we could electrify the former RF&P mainline to Richmond. From there, our own new route to Norfolk via Petersburg would get wires, as well as the Richmond Subdivision to here and Bluefield."

    "What would the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard say though?" piped up a voice.

    "For one thing, we already agreed with them to give them a less congested interchange in the Richmond-Petersburg area. So I am not too worried about them."

    The audience murmured about the proposals before someone asked something about the map itself.

    "What's the map for?" asked the voice.

    "This map is all the railroads the Pennsylvania/Norfolk & Western own as of now." explained Banks. "The green lines are meant to be the lines Clement proposed whittling our system down to. So to allow for more work on upgrading those. The blue lines are ones that could prove hassles thanks to the ICC, so we would try to sell those off to other railroads as concessions of sorts."

    "Which ones did you have in mind?" asked John P. Fishwick, the N&W's assistant general solicitor. Who was likewise interested in using the N&W as an experiment at improving the efficiency of a hypothetical PRR empire.

    "Not the NYC." said Banks flatly.

    Everyone, even Martin Clement, laughed at this wisecrack.

    "In all seriousness." continued Banks, realizing he had only a minute left before the lunch break. "I reckon those former interurban lines that Wabash took over would be desirable to the Erie. Or perhaps the Akron to Columbus line as well. Of course this is all just propositions at this point, so it's not like we have made final decisions yet."

    At lunch, Clement and Banks reconvened.

    "How did I do?" asked Banks.

    "I think you did very well." replied Clement. "Though I do think I should replace most of my own subordinates with you and your co-workers."

    OOC: Special thanks to @Republic of Michigan and @Confederate Liberal for their help.
     
  16. Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    Would anyone like me to have more Chapelon-Lima collaborations?
     
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  17. Lucas Well-Known Member

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    I would like to see some backstory how they ended on Lima and what they arguments about increase diesel power, and what steam motive are planned.
     
  18. Threadmarks: Alfred Banks: Biography

    Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    [​IMG]
    A scene of Albert, fresh out of a meeting with Pennsylvania Railroad representatives in Philadelphia. This was one of the few times he was ever seen with a cigarette, as he gave up smoking in early 1954.

    Alfred Wilbur Banks
    Born June 3, 1912; Bluefield, WV
    Died October 4, 1999: Roanoke, VA

    Occupation: Railroad Executive
    Father: William Banks
    Mother: Maria Westland
    Wife: Clara O'Hara (m: 1944-1999)
    Children: Roger Herbert "Robert"; Michelle Anne; David Wallace
    Notable Grandchildren: Henry Andrew "Hank"

    Alfred Wilbur Banks had always loved railroads as a child. When he became an adult, he wanted to find a job in logistics. But ultimately found his passion in civil engineering. This led to him receiving a logistics apprenticeship on the N&W in 1934. Which eventually led to him becoming a dispatcher in the Roanoke area until 1939. At which point his talent for proposing innovative services and upgrades became noticed by N&W staff. Eventually, the N&W recommended that Martin Clement, CEO of parent company PRR, meet with him. It was Banks' idea to largely whittle down the PRR network so to allow more focus on the mainline traffic. Particularly taking advantage of how the Panhandle was the most direct railroad route from the East coast to St. Louis, and also using the comparatively rural nature of the main lines to give the PRR an advantage over the New York Central in terms of speed.

    For all his innovations, Banks was promoted to carry the torch from Martin Clement when the man stepped down in the mid 1950s. During this time, Banks would continue Clement's ambition to build upon what William W. Atterbury had already created. His rule say the electrification of the former RF&P/N&W tracks to Richmond and Norfolk, VA. As well as the PRR finally taking up the two railroads. His rule also made the PRR one of the first railroads to embrace the intermodal market; with the result being the odd sight of M1 Mountains, R2 Keystones, and J1 Texases on piggy-back trains on the Panhandle from St. Louis to the east. The electrification of the electrification schemes were also planned to extend beyond Pittsburgh west to Columbus and Cleveland, OH.

    For all his innovative beliefs, he was ironically a rather ardent support of maintaining steam operations as long as possible. All though he admitted that keeping steam beyond the early 1970s was something of a pipe dream, he did manage to prove many N&W steam innovations could work on Pennsylvania steam engines. Indeed, the oil crises that began in the 1950s proved his desire to keep steam where possible was not as far fetched. Even if he did support the idea of electrifying most of the Pennsylvania Empire.

    Banks eventually retired as the PRR CEO in 1981. He spent the rest of his life in Roanoke, VA. Which is where he would still go out from time to time to see PRR and N&W steamers operate special excursions.​
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
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  19. Andrew Boyd Resident Rail Enthusiast

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    Any ideas for entertainment and sports ITTL are welcome.
     
  20. Swede Tech-priest

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    Maybe alternate location of a stadium or two? Have a team that moved, not move?
    Or, have a railroad and Disney together bring a team to LA and place the stadium next to disneyland with a new station squeezed in between them?
     
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