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 Post subject: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 03, 2017 3:56 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7833
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
It has become a tradition that just before Christmas the former Milwaukee Road steam locomotive and it's doting crew stages an event mostly intended for children plies the rails in Saint Paul, MN. from Saint Paul Union Station (SPUD) to Santa's North Pole village and back. Santa comes out of his house and rides back to the station with the kids and parents and hands out treats and such. At the North Pole elves are busy repairing Santa's sleigh, the reindeer are in their reindeer health club getting in shape for flying Santa's sleigh to all the good little boys and girls all over the world....
Some of those little kids are a bit more on top of things than others. Now and then a kid has been heard to say, in different wording depending on which kid, "I didn't know the North Pole was this close!"

My input to this is, other than other little things where I can help out, is to take care of the engine overnight. My favorite job! All alone, just me and the beast. The beast needs tender care and if not cared for properly WILL bite back, and hard. The beast being a reasonably large steam locomotive that today is generally pressed into service as an excursion train hauler.

I spent most of this past week on the engine overnight from around 9:00PM to around 7:00 AM. It is constant work, not strenuous work, but work. Ignore this beast and it will nip for a small infraction and bite hard for a large infraction. Steam locomotives are essentially living and breathing beasts with no sense of humor at all. Feed me, Give me a drink. I have indigestion and you are going to clear that so I can eat more coal. My belly is hotter on the left than on the right and it doesn't feel good - FIX IT NOW OR I WILL BITE YOU!
I am tired of you using that injector. Use the other one until I tell you when you can go back to that injector. I want more water. I am thirsty. Feed me again..... Check my tender water, I think it's getting full. and on and on.

I love that task. I don't know why, but part of it is that I recognize that I am on it most of those times where nobody else is around because I'm trusted. Someone, somewhere, has faith in my ability to get that nasty thing through the night. I haven't blown it up yet anyway.

So this past week this old war beast from the 1940's when it was pulling the Milwaukee Road crack passenger train between Chicago and Minneapolis, sometimes farther west and sometimes to St. Louis, MO. with whatever train went there. It was built because of the war. The troop movements caused the passenger trains to become longer. The fast Hudson's weren't able to handle the load, to the Milwaukee Road ordered ten new 4-8-4 Northern type steam locomotives to replace the 4-6-4 Hudsons.
They really wanted diesel locomotives, but the War Production Board would not allow it, the diesel engines being built were needed for submarines and smaller surface water craft.

This engine was actually about to go into the scrap line in 1954, only ten years old, when a museum asked if they could have it as an exhibit. That happened.
Fast forward to today; it is owned by the Friends of the 261. I joined up in 1997 and never looked back. I have fired it on the road and probably will again, but I prefer the night job. It involves a lot of coal scoop work. On the road you just sit in your seat and watch out the left side of the engine for anything bad and for signals if they're on your side of the engine. The engineer trusts the fireman to tell him of anything on the left side that is significant to the safety of the train and most of all, let him know what the signals say. He can't see that side. The fireman can't see his side.

Back to SPUD.
Here are some links to what the North Pole Express is and does;

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sai ... &FORM=IGRE

Photo's of the "North Pole" and the engine are included.

https://www.bloomingtonmn.org/things-to ... le-express

A photo of the building where we do all the maintenance on the coaches we own and also for other coach owners, and the steam engine. We're equipped for all the heavy work along with day to day maintenance. https://www.facebook.com/theNorthPoleExpress

Mark D.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 03, 2017 9:51 pm 
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Location: WI 54812
That's a pretty sweet job you have there, Mark. I've always been a fan of those big old beasts, too. And to know those marvelous machines moved nearly everything across our great country at one time, what a nostalgic thought. We live very near a crossing on the old refurbished Soo Line, and we now have the frac sand trains that shake our house several times a day. I really enjoy hearing and watching them come through, especially enjoy hearing the horn blow off in the distance in the wee hours of a cold winter night. Just something comforting about it all.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Tue 05, 2017 2:25 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7833
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
I had originally decided to just post links for other people's photo's because I have to go through so many gyrations to get a photo both small enough in file size AND (the two aren't entirely tied together) length and width.
But those links I posted had a lot of other crap in there too, including the Canadian Pacific Christmas Special, which is a wonderful thing as they, too, donate to worthy causes.
But none of those show Santa's village at the 'North Pole' so I decided to post a photo. I might have gotten the photo a bit too small, I won't know untile I post it here. But too small beats resizing it eleventy seven times to get the best size without going overboard.
Santa's village is erected each year by the 261 crew. It seems to grow larger and more sophisticated every year.

Part of the tender of the engine also shows on the left. It holds 20,000 gallons of water and 25 tons of coal. I realize that black is difficult at night, but that's when I had the chance to take a photo of it beside the Santa village. That's where it's parked overnight. Nobody around but I. Most of the village consists of construction shack buildings with false fronts on them. During the day the train stops there, Santa comes out, looks over his sleigh and the 'elves' who are feverishly trying to get it into flying condition before Christmas while other 'elves' are making toys and packing them in crates with the BNSF Railroad stenciled on them (BNSF is a supporter of this operation)
Santa eventually climbs onto the train and hands out candy to the kiddies and rides back to SPUD with them while they tell him what they hope to get for Christmas.
It's interesting how smart kids are at even the age of four or five. They figure out very quickly that it didn't take long enough on the train ride to get to the North Pole. But they're having fun anyway.

I can't wait for summer when we can get out on the high iron once again and run some real excursions at track speed.
Mark D.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sat 16, 2017 3:25 am 
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Joined: Nov Thu 11, 2010 2:41 am
Posts: 35
I saw that big, beautiful beast on Sunday when I was at the Union Depot enjoying the Christmas market. It was just starting to go down the track and spewing steam into the sky. It definitely caught my attention! I stood and stared. I probably had drool going down my face (maybe not, it would have froze). My wife thought I was nuts...


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sat 16, 2017 5:01 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7833
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
If you have small children or grandchildren you should buy tickets next year (it's all over for this year) and give them the ride. I've never been on the Santa train, all I do is work with the engine, but from what I've read that not only do the kids get a lot of fun out of it, but so do the parents and grand parents.
Last Thursday I received my punishment for being one of the engine crew. I got to go into the now cold firebox with a hose and brush and clean all the pitch black carbon that is even more fine than flour off the inner sheets of the firebox and combustion chamber. That is a good five hour job if all goes well and I come out of there completely black from head to tow. And, sopping wet. I wash my hands and then try to change clothes, which make my hands black. Finally my face is washed and I've gotten into clean clothes and drive home where I shower and the water going down the drain is pitch black.
A steam locomotive is, in my view, the mechanical version of the character Pig Pen in the Peanuts cartoons. You can wash it up and make it look really nice. within minutes it's just as dirty as it was before being washed.

But they're OH SO COOL to work with.

Mark D.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 17, 2017 8:30 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 1125
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA
Mark, are you old enough to remember the Casey Jones Express that arrived on Track 11 at noon every weekday?


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 17, 2017 1:27 pm 
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Location: Connecticut
I always enjoy watching The Polar Express movie with Tom Hanks around the holiday.I'm glad its happening in real life for the kids and us adult kids.

_________________
Skip......


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 17, 2017 4:01 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7833
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
tubemaster wrote:
Mark, are you old enough to remember the Casey Jones Express that arrived on Track 11 at noon every weekday?


I am, and I saw some of the episodes. However, we didn't have a working television until I was old enough to be attending Northwestern Institute of Electronics where I learned, among other things, how to troubleshoot and repair a TV.
That means that the TV we had stopped working and my dad wouldn't get it fixed because he didn't want all us five kids staring at the tube all day. It's either that, or he couldn't afford to get it fixed. I don't really know which.
As a kid, I honestly thought that steam locomotive cab he waved from was real.
In May of 1997 I learned what REAL is.

WPPCProductions, there are a number of steam powered Santa trains, or Polar Express, or North Pole Express and other names that do operate in areas around the country. Ours is probably the shortest trip to the North Pole that you could find. But I hear the entertainment aboard the train makes up for the short ride. And when the train gets to the North Pole, Santa Claus comes out of his house and rides the train back to St. Paul. (Never mind that it never left St. Paul) Kids aren't stupid though. Most of them know they didn't really go to the North Pole. But they do know that they're having a good time and that's what it's all about.

Mark D.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 17, 2017 5:32 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7833
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
Since it is really tough to get a good photograph of a black object in the middle of the night, I went back in time. Here are two photo's taken last summer in North Dakota on the RRV&W railroad. We were operating a series of excursions both public, and private to the railroad employees themselves.
Looking to the rear of the train you can see almost all the train. From the same vantage point, looking ahead, you can see the engine and a box car we borrowed for the huge generator inside of said box car. That kept all the cars lit up and air conditioned. That way we didn't have to run the undercar generators.

Mark D.


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261 EXCURSIONS N D  JUNE 1 TO 5 2017 024 (resized).jpg
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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 17, 2017 8:03 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7833
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
I forgot to put this in - Choo choo in motion coming back toward Minneapolis after the above excursions on you tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JBuWej64yA
listen to the steam whistle.

Mark D.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 17, 2017 8:27 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 12529
Location: Omak,wa,usa
Hello Mark,
very cool what great thing that they do for the kids and young adults to keep
lots of fun for everyone


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