Tag Archives: railway maintenance

DAILY POST: Packing Friction Bearings.

A Bit of History on Film.

Does anyone even remember friction bearings? By the 1990s, these were all but a forgotten technology, replaced with the omnipresent roller bearings. Southern Pacific’s season sugar beet racks were once of the few exceptions and continued to work until about 1992 with the old technology.

However, prior to that in January 1988, I had a class project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) that involved making photos of railroad workers. I’d arranged through the Rochester & Southern to spend time around Brooks Avenue Yard.

I spent a lot of time there, relative to what was required of me for the class.

Railroad workers
Packing friction bearings on freight cars at Brooks Avenue Yard, Rochester, New York, January 1988.

At one point the general manager, or someone in the know, directed me to a rip track where workers were packing friction bearings. This was really an arcane aspect of railroading.

I exposed a series of black & white negatives in the 645 format using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T. It was a dull cold day. I think I was using Verichrome Pan (rated at 80 ISO) to get a period effect. I used a wide aperture, probably f3.5, which gave me shallow depth of field.

Verichrome was a difficult material to work with in low light and my negatives were very thin.

To make the most of these photos I used an unusual printing technique: I intentionally printed the photo darker than normal, then used a potassium-ferrocyanide solution to bleach the highlights. I did this both across the print in a tray, and using a cotton swab on select areas such as the around the journal boxes.

The result is more or less as you see it here. This print has been in a box since 1988 and has hardly ever seen the light of day. (Incidentally, in case the name doesn’t suggest it to you, potassium-ferrocyanide is decidedly unhealthy, so use it cautiously, if you must.)

I don’t think my professor was especially impressed with my results. What did he know about bearings anyway?

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DeForest Station, June 14, 2013.

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Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road M&P Branch.

Dick Gruber, John Gruber and I, explored some former Milwaukee Road lines near Madison, Wisconsin on June 14, 2013.

“You hear a lot about deforestation these days,” Dick says to me, “I quite like it. What’s wrong with DeForest Station anyway?”

DeForest station, Wisconsin.
DeForest station, as photographed with my Lumix LX-3 on June 14, 2013.

Having inspected the restored depot. We continued northward (timetable west) along Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee branch from Madison to Portage. We had good information that the weekday freight was working towards us. Since track speed is about 10 mph, there was little chance that we might miss the train.

However, we weren’t expecting to find a CP work extra with an SD40-2 and vintage Jordan Spreader doing ditching work. Another case of good luck on my part. I’ve said this before, but I often have good luck on the railroad.

A Canadian Pacific Jordan performs ditching work for improved drainage. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

A few miles north of DeForest, I said to Dick, ‘Turn here, I think that road crosses the line, maybe there’s a photo op.” Sure enough! There we see the spreader working. While watching the works, I gave John a quick lesson on how to work his new Canon 7D. In the meantime, the weekday freight crept up and we made photos of the two trains together.

The Canadian Pacific Jordan has folded in its wings and prepares to get out of the way CP's weekday Portage to Madison local freight. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.
The Canadian Pacific Jordan has folded in its wings and prepares to get out of the way CP’s weekday Portage to Madison local freight. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

This local freight was led by a GP38 and one of the new ‘Eco’ GP20Cs built by Electro Motive. It was my first experience with these new units. Dick was appalled with the appearance of the GP20C,  “Ah! What do you call those engines? LODs! Lack of Design!”

CP Rail near DeForest, Wisconsin.
Canadian Pacific’s local consists of a GP38 and new GP20C leading a pair of tank cars. A Canadian Pacific Jordan performs ditching work for improved drainage. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm zoomm lens.
Eco 'GP20C'
Trailing view showing Canadian Pacific’s new ‘Eco’ GP20C which features a blocky adaptation of EMD’s road switcher body design.
Canadian Pacific's new 'Eco' GP20C
John Gruber inspects the new GP20C as it works industrial trackage near DeForest. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.

The local got around the spreader and did a bit switching at an industrial park then continued past the DeForest Station toward Madison.

DeForest station.
CP Rail approaching DeForest station. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.
DeForest station.
DeForest station. Exposed with my Lumix LX3.

Soon we were heading toward Sun Prairie and Waterloo to intercept a Wisconsin & Southern freight working toward Madison. I’ll cover that in a future post.

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