Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Back Pages

LONG GONE: The Kingdome, the F-units, even the mainline isn't here anymore; Everett Turn, southbound at Lander Street, July, 1981.

"Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

Back thirty-three years ago, my family had just moved to Seattle from Salt Lake City. Being awkward and not well socially adjusted, I spent much of whatever weekend time I didn't devote to work or school driving around area rail yards, listening to Bob Dylan or Little Feat or the Byrds on the Eight Track, railroad radio plugged into the cigarette lighter plug on my dad's silver 1975 Monte Carlo.

As a teenager, anything new and exciting was worth paying attention to, doubly so for a railfan who'd gotten a small taste of Seattle railroading a few years earlier when I joined classmates for a bus trip to the DECCA (distributive education club--an attempt to turn us all into Young Capitalists) national convention. Along with throwing apples out the hotel window onto the passing monorail down below and having a makeout session with a girl from who knows where in the Seattle Arena one night, I will remember the trip for two things:

  • glimpsing the Milwaukee Road's amazing cliff-hugging descent of the Cascade Mountains out the bus window on a rainy, foggy afternoon;
  • a tattered old BN F7A, still in faded Big Sky Blue paint, emerging from the King Street tunnel.

So, when we moved to Seattle, there was no doubt what I'd be doing with my camera: photographing the Milwaukee Road, of course, and tracking down those F-units. I ended up doing pretty good, and looking at the prints and slides from those high school years makes me feel at least I accomplished some good photography, even if it did prolonge my finally getting laid.

I've been reacquainting myself--from afar, anyway--with Seattle and its railroad scene as I learn to dispatch the terminal rail operations of the city for my employer. It'd been nearly 13 years, anyway, since I worked the Seattle Terminal desk, and to say things have changed a bit is a crazy understatment. Today, the railroad has been completely rebuilt, and handles 42 passenger and commuter trains a day! Quite a change from when I snooped around in the Grey Monte. . .if anyone had said then that the railroad would someday be a busy commuter railroad, they'd have though you were mad.

So, here's a few of my "moldy oldies," Kodachromes from Seattle, circa 1977-1981.

Northbound Crew 3, North Portal, September 1980: warehouses replaced by a wall of condos.

Amtrak Empire Builder departs southbound, December 1976. At the time, those Amtrak locomotives were less than 2 years old; they wouldn't survive another two years.

July 1980: Brand new BN 8100's approach North Portal. These locomotives are now in storage, awaiting eventual retirement.

Yours-truly, posing at Auburn in May, 1980 for his Tiger-Beat magazine cover. Hey, if it worked for David Cassidy. . .dig the frameless glasses and attempt to grow muttonchops. And when did I ever have a (relatively) flat stomach?


argyleeagle said...

In the last photo I bet you were thinking "damn if they would let me just dispatch this road I would have every train in early, all meets would be timed so neither train would have to stop, and I would and do the work of three 40-ish old men dispatchers"

BEK said...

Damn straight. But it's funny what 30-years of perspective will do to you. If I today saw someone looking like I did back then--mainly, young--I'd shoo their ass off the property. Back in the 70s, though, folks really didn't give a shit what you did, as long as you didn't get hurt doing it.