Saturday, October 1, 2011

More Choo Choo History

After another hour of watching Southern Pacific, British, Russian, and Chinese trains on YouTube, I found a picture of the train station in Sioux City! I searched on Ebay, where there are always postcards of everything, and there was this postcard:

The station was located at Second and Jackson Streets. Carol remembers her Dad showing her a roundhouse in that part of town, but I now remember it was only a turntable behind the station for turning the engines around. The tower must be 8 stories tall. There were 4,6, or 8 tracks under the “shed” in back of the station for boarding. (There must be a word for “getting off” a train – “de-boarding?)

I found another roundhouse in Sioux City, too. This Chicago/Northwestern structure had 36 bays! Many photos (copyrighted) may be seen at Siouxland Railroads in Google Books. The photo on p. 121 says that the roundhouses were razed in 1950, but on p. 38 is a photo of them in the 1953 flood, which explains why I can remember them.

When I lived in Chicago, a popular book was Lost Chicago, with photos of all the buildings and other structures that had been gone for some time. (See Lost Chicago in Google Books.) Mostly, these things disappear and we think little of it. We tend to think that what exists now is better than what existed in the past. And since it is out of sight it is out of mind. The rail industry was in decline before WWII and declined rapidly afterward. Many people say they hate to see the old ways go, but they went because we found something better, in this case, the automobile, the tractor trailer, and the interstate highway, . Still, many of us will go out of our way to see, hear, and ride on a train pulled by a steam engine.

The sermon today reminds us that steam engines are about power and spirit. Afficionados of trains use the phrase “live steam” to describe the source of power. These behemoths come to “life” when fired up. Another “lost structure” on Second St. was the “steam plant,” a huge city utility that produced steam that was piped to all of the downtown buildings (about a square mile). I guess they are all on their own now, as are we all, in our increasingly fragmented and individualistic society.

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