Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Arizona Railway Museum - Part 1

Museum Sign In my youth, like many kids my age, I had a train set — Lionel, in my case, the kind with the three-rail track. Oh, how many hours did I play with that train set. My father even built a 4x8 platform, painted roads and grass then attached a loop of track.

Thus I was intrigued when recently, I noticed a roadside sign reading "Arizona Railway Museum". When I got home, I went online and found the link to obtain more information. I discovered that the museum is a "community effort towards the acquisition, restoration, preservation and display of railway equipment, artifacts and mementos related to railways of the past and present" — with a focus on the railways of Arizona and the Southwest.

Interestingly, they are not open in the summer (TOO HOT!) but from September through May — and even then only weekends from noon to 4:00 PM. Admission is free but a guided tour of the display cars is only $2 (and donations are accepted).

[A personal note, after I left home my mom donated my train set to charity — too bad because such items are currently in big demand as baby boomers try to relive their youth. It could have financed a few luxuries in retirement for my parents. Oh well.]

Steve They say that the only difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys and I think that might apply to the Arizona Railway Museum. The members of this non-profit organization meet most Saturday mornings to work on the equipment. Let me tell you, they do great work — obviously, for them it is a work of love.

One of the men "playing" with these big toys, greeted me when I arrived. He was very knowledgeable both about the railway equipment found at the museum but railroads in general. I really appreciated his tour and for pointing out many tiny details of the restored artifacts, plus the history on the condition of the equipment, when they acquired it and how the members had restored the equipment to its original appearance.

Thank you Steve.

Steam Locomotive Starting at the front of the train is, of course, a very powerful engine — in this case a steam locomotive — old number 2562. This engine reminded me of my Lionel engine, although the paint job is a bit different. This locomotive, weighing some 217,800 pounds, was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Company for the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1906.

Steam Locomotive Drive Wheels And here is where the steel meets the rails. The configuration is called 2-8-0 meaning two front wheels followed by 8 drive wheels (four on each side) and no rear wheels. The drive wheels are 57 1/2" in diameter — just shy of five feet. I looked around for a kid — it would be a great photo to have a kid standing in front of one of these giant wheels to show their massive size.

Steam Engine Controls One of the really cool aspects of this locomotive was that we were allowed to climb aboard and check out the cab where the engineers controlled everything. Obviously, this was before OSHA — there are no labels on the controls and few handholds for when the engine was rumbling down the track. This unit used oil to boil water and create the steam which drove the wheels. A tender car behind carried the fuel.

Steam Locomotive Controls For a while, this locomotive was on display in a park in Chandler but unfortunately, it was vandalized to the point that it no longer resembled the magnificent workhorse that it had been. Once it was given to the Arizona Railway Museum, it was moved and the members began the restoration effort. Here you can see additional controls located right next to the engineer's seat.

Steam Locomotive View If you sit in the engineer's seat (be careful, the seat may be hot due to sitting in the sun), you get a view like this. WATCH OUT —THERE'S ANOTHER TRAIN HEADING RIGHT TOWARD US ON THE SAME TRACK!!! Oh, that's right, we're all stationary. Phew!

Diesel Locomotive Okay, here is that train that gave us a moment of panic. Originally built as a steam locomotive, it was later converted to diesel (actually the diesel motor drives a generator and electric motors turn the drive wheels) and used for commuter service in Chicago. It was retired in 1991 and went through a few changes of ownership before being loaned to the museum.

Diesel Locomotive Cockpit When you see these engines from a distance, they are not that impressive. But up close? Wow. My mind in 2008 pauses to compare the cab to the cockpit of a commercial aircraft. Again, wow!

Caboose Well, if you have a front to the train, you have to have a rear. Or at least you used to have to do that. Modern trains generally do not have a caboose — so we are looking at history from a by-gone era. This caboose was built surprisingly recently in 1978 and subsequently retired from service in 1992. According to the museum, "This is an example of a center cupola, wide vision, model Ce-8 caboose".

Caboose Details I love the details that you can see up close such as these rungs to allow quick access to the top.

Light And lanterns hung on the cars. It appears that this one could swivel to change which color light was visible from the rear. I was not told the procedure of how the light was employed. Perhaps there is a train buff out there who will enlighten me.

And we have not finished our tour — next week, I'll take you aboard some of these restored cars to see how folks used to travel about the country (before air travel became ubiquitous).

 Life is good.

 B. David