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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992


Date: 11/13/22 02:49
Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: santafe199

The stretch of Santa Fe’s passenger main between Dodge City & La Junta has been called many things. My personal favorite is “Western Kansas Racetrack”. Although the days of Red & Silver were long gone in the scene below, as late as 1979 Amtrak still ran these rails at 90 per. And then some. I was fortunate enough to experience this fast track during the great Midwestern blizzard of ’78-’79. In January of 1979. My good friend and fellow Middle Division trainman Dave Franz (“monaddave”) & I were furloughed from regular train service. So we took advantage of the free time and made our Amtrak student baggageman qualification round trip together.

In those days the “Southwest Limited” baggageman’s working territory combined four seniority districts between Kansas City & La Junta. So Dave & I being the conscientious employees we were, decided to work the entire 1000+ mile round trip. Even though the crew office informed us we could just get on & off the train at Emporia, we actually deadheaded up to Kansas City on train #16, the “Lone Star” to begin our baggage handling education in the proper ‘starting block’.

The blizzard conditions were absolutely brutal to Amtrak operations that winter. The SW Limited Dave & I rode that day was running around 8 hours late. A very surprising result was that our hogger out of Dodge decided to “let it all hang out”. When it occurred to us we were running REALLY fast, Dave & I went down to one of the track level Dutch doors and started timing the mileposts as they whizzed by. Keep in mind that 40 seconds per mile = 90 MPH, and 36 seconds per mile = 100 MPH. Timing those mileposts was definitely a 2-man operation. One of us would yell “NOW” as a post flew by while the other one had an eagle eye on his watch’s second hand. It was by NO means a scientifically accurate operation, but we timed several miles on the “wrong side” of 36 seconds. We were pretty sure #3’s hogger was clipping off the miles somewhere in the neighborhood of 34-35 seconds. No doubt at the absolute maximum the gear ratios allowed for: Like maybe 103 MPH + change!

Two good friends, two railfan photographers in the employ of the Santa Fe were riding a passenger train at over 100 MPH timing mileposts with child-like glee. It was definitely one of the extreme high points of my entire 32 years in train service...

1. Looking west at the AT&SF main line through the timetable location called Howell, KS. Even though it’s getting late in the game the wayside ATS apparatus & cantilever/single-masted semaphore signals still govern all passenger movements upon this burnished & well-maintained high iron. One doesn’t need Red & Silver to be stricken with railfan awe at this scene. One’s imagination can be quite enough to delve into “awesome”...
Original Kodachrome slide taken December 18, 1992 by John LaGesse, retired ATSF hogger.

Thanks for remembering!
Lance Garrels (santafe199)
John LaGesse (atsfer)




Date: 11/13/22 02:59
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: santafe199

Reply added:
Colorado Division TT #89 April 24, 1955
Here is a list of 1st Class trains at Howell, KS complete with times shown:
Westbound
3:41 AM #123, the Grand Canyon.
5:32 AM #223, passenger. (unnamed)
5:34 AM #21, the El Capitan.
7:09 AM #17, the Super Chief.
1:56 PM #7, Fast Mail Express.
8:56 PM #19, the Chief.
Eastbound
2:40 AM #224, passenger. (unnamed)
10:45 AM #8, Fast Mail Express.
4:29 PM #22, the El Capitan.
6:00 PM #20, the Chief.
8:26 PM #124, the Grand Canyon.
10:06 PM #18, the Super Chief.



Date: 11/13/22 06:07
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: atsfer

I feel lucky to have my slide associated with such a great write up of a railfan trip that was so memorable.



Date: 11/13/22 10:06
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: ironmtn

A fine image and a great backstory - thanks. Wonderful to see the semaphores on classic Santa Fe gantries, and the ATS inductor right there, too. 

The best I've done on Uncle John's railroad was 90 on Amtrak across Missouri from Ft. Madison, Ia. to near KC. And out in the desert in New Mexico west of Dalies. Hitting the century mark (and then some) had to be thrilling. 90 was and is neat enough.

MC



Date: 11/13/22 15:48
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: 3rdswitch

Looks like there USED to be a siding there with all that space between the cantilever and main line as well as signal spacing.
JB



Date: 11/13/22 17:26
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: Notch7

Very enjoyable story.  Triple digit speeds make good memories.  I did milepost timings too, maybe not with glee - just a thin smile.



Date: 11/13/22 17:31
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: santafe199

3rdswitch Wrote: > ... Looks like there USED to be a siding ...

I don't think Howell ever had an actual siding, per timetable. The switch between the cantilever & the single mast goes into the elevator. I have so little experience in ABS territory that I can't say why it needed to have signal protection, or if it was just a coincidence in placement...

Lance



Date: 11/14/22 18:51
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: cabsignaldrop

This is reason enough to keep renewing my subscription. Great story and picture!

Posted from Android



Date: 11/15/22 06:22
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: santafe199

cabsignaldrop Wrote: > ... Great story ...

Thank you, sir! It was pretty exciting stuff for a 23 year old Santa Fe nut... ;^)

Lance/199



Date: 11/17/22 06:23
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: texchief1

Nice story and photo, Lance!

RC Lundgren



Date: 11/17/22 09:44
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: PHall

3rdswitch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Looks like there USED to be a siding there with
> all that space between the cantilever and main
> line as well as signal spacing.
> JB

Yeah, the Santa Fe wouldn't have gone to all the extra expense to put up a cantelever signal if it wasn't required. Either there was an siding there or they were planning to put one there when the signal was placed.



Date: 11/18/22 16:43
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: MacBeau

Nice image and good story. Rode that line in a Budd six axle full length dome early 60s on the Chief.
—Mac



Date: 11/20/22 22:20
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: Ritzville

Very enjoyable shot with fun narrative.

Larry



Date: 11/21/22 13:35
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: santafe199

MacBeau Wrote: > ... Rode that line ... full length dome ... on the Chief ...

I'm officially, insanely jealous...

;^)



Date: 11/23/22 18:43
Re: Signal Sunday: Howell, KS ala 1992
Author: 567Chant

Foul / cold weather is probably not conducive to stringent enforcement.
...Lorenzo



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