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Nostalgia & History > Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era


Date: 09/25/14 06:45
Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era
Author: rrman6

While reading the book of Lawrence Svobida's, "Farming the Dust Bowl", he mentions the ill effects of dust concerning the engines of tractors, automobiles and even the railroads (primarily the AT&SF, Rock Island, MoPac, UP, and several others including some short lines). There is mention of a newly delivered tractor to a dealer that had to sit outside for a short period that was unable to be started due to dust collecting internally through the exhaust system, locking the valves, pistons, etc. Also, Lawrence speaks of conversing with a Master Mechanic (Lawrence farmed near Meade, KS on the Rock Island Line, but this account fits the AT&SF) that after a steamer's single trip through the dust area when the land was blowing, certain bearings were entirely ground out and had to be replaced before the engine was again ready for service. In one case a new locomotive just out of the shops and on its way to California where it was to be put in regular operation, had to be delayed at Amarillo, TX, where new bearings were installed.

I've seen the "Black Blizzard" pictures involving the public in the Dust Bowl areas, but no pictures or stories involving the ill effects to the railroads. I can imagine where the visibility, signaling, and effects of static electricity might disturb transportation and communication operations temporarily, but never have I heard any accounts from anyone concerning such. I'm just throwing this in the ring to see what any others here on TO's may have seen or heard on this subject concerning the railroad operations.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/25/14 06:51 by rrman6.



Date: 09/25/14 11:02
Re: Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era
Author: hogheaded

An engrossing read is "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl" by Timothy Egan, but its rail-related stories are thin.

- E.O.



Date: 09/25/14 12:49
Re: Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era
Author: rrman6

Yup, that's my next book to read. Have it checked from the library but not yet started on it. Guess not many rail fans with "dustless cameras" in those days, and then, they probably were trying just to get a clean breath and the heck with taking a picture.



Date: 09/25/14 13:11
Re: Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era
Author: march_hare

My Texas girlfriend was from Marathon, and she had a pic that her parents took of an approaching duststorm, framed in the outline of the kitchen window, circa 1937. Taken with what was probably a Brownie Hawkeye or some similar inexpensive camera, but the image was right out of Walker Evans--dramatic low afternoon lighting on the dust cloud seen through poor quality window glass, truly a picture that spoke a thousand words. The family lore was that it was the last photo that the camera ever took, on account of dust penetration locking up the leaf shutter.

Did any of the high plains RRs have significant diesel rosters at that time? Seems to me those would have been affected the worst.



Date: 09/25/14 21:40
Re: Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era
Author: rrman6

March_hare, at that time in the 1930's, steam was still the primary power on most these rail lines for revenue service. If there were any internal combustion engines, these would likely have been some motorcars for combined baggage/freight/mail/passengers that would have been distillate/electric's. I believe if any diesels would have existed, they would be primarily for passenger power and would be just entering the scene at the end of the Dust Bowl era about 1936/37.



Date: 09/25/14 23:56
Re: Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era
Author: BCHellman

march_hare Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>
> Did any of the high plains RRs have significant
> diesel rosters at that time? Seems to me those
> would have been affected the worst.


There were three brutal periods of intense dust storms: 1934, 1936 and 1939-1940.

The ATSF was running E1s on the Super Chief and El Capitan during the 1939-1940 period. The Northern Lines were within the boundaries of the Dust Bowl, so they may have encountered a dust storm or two, but I've not seen a written any account.

It's also possible the TAs on the Rocky Mountain Rocket would have encountered a dust storm. Again, no account has been documented.



Date: 09/26/14 19:43
Re: Railroading During the "Dust Bowl" Era
Author: MP4093

Don't know of any reports from the 30's but here is a dust storm we saw approaching Kingman, AZ this last July. Got out of town before it hit and stopped just East to photograph it. The BNSF ex Santa Fe transcon runs through the middle of the valley here. Don't know how this affected the trains but I'm sure visibility was nil. It was awe inspiring to watch it swallow up the valley.




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