a nostalgic, but uncomfortable, last trip to Ashland
Back in '92, North Bank Fred, world-renowned hobo and all-around great human being, convinced me to ride the Southern Pacific's last eastbound train on the Siskiyou Line from Black Butte to Medford. I'd made many trips to Ashland (the terminus changed to Medford after I left SP), both on the head end and on the helpers during the mid-80's, and the Siskiyou Line definitely had been my favorite.

My first west trip out of Ashland as a student fireman had been a rush: On the "Racetrack", just west of summit Tunnel 13, the train's brakes suddenly released (suspected cause: a brake pipe slip joint on a WCTR boxcar had suddenly stopped leaking as the train bunched up after tipping over the hill). With one giant run-in, the train lept from its lawful 15 mph speed to 23 mph. The engineer, Bob Ferguson, immediately gassed the train, but the speed continued to rise to 35 mph, before the train began to slow down. The train took more than three miles to stop on the 3.6% grade, and Road Foreman Bob Miller (who was with us) told me later that he figured that we would have run out of sufficient rolling friction to stop at 38 mph. As it was, after we got going again and experienced no further problems, we breathed easier and Miller passed me a Playboy from his grip as we passed through the sag at Hilt.

Though I no longer worked for SP in 1992, both the head-end and helper engineers were friends, so I could have ridden with one of them. But OH NO! Fred convinced me to ride in a boxcar, something that I'd never done even in my brakeman days.

Man, you've never heard so much NOISE in your life! Further, as Fred pointed out, much of the noise came from empty boxcar wheels banging down after lifting completely off of the rail as the train rocked along at twenty mph. I thought that only loaded piggyback cars did that, but I visually confirmed the phenominon by hanging outside of the door. Yikes!

Nevertheless, the train made it to Medford in good order; we successfully evaded the SP Bulls (Police); and later found out that SP, at the last moment, had decided to run one more east train a couple of days later, but enough was enough. So much for my hobo career...E.O.

(above) Engineer Al "Double A" Marske labeled me "Hawaii 5" when I was a young SP fireman in Dunsmuir, due to my penchant for Hawaiian shirts. So in hobo tradition I came up with a (crudely drawn) moniker for the day's trip, which I scribbled on a few boxcars and bulkhead flats.
(below) A self portrait of North Bank Fred on another day, southbound out of Roseville

(below) This eastbound passed while our train's crew switched at Black Butte. Today (2012) the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture lays across the tracks behind the row of trees. Their prize is a restored GN/McCloud River wooden caboose, to which Wx4 made a modest donation towards completion. You'll frequently find the much-fabled North Bank Fred there, lending a helping hand.

(below) 'The Help', with Engineer George Faithorn manning the tools, near Klamathon

(below) George's engine again, this time at Bellview, OR

(below) semaphores at North Medford)

Just after we bailed off behind the Medford Pak 'N Save, a local headed into the yard.

Postscript: Most of the photography that day was done with a video camera (sadly, it's battery gave out at Snowden...), so the few photos below are sort of a 'teaser' for the clips that one day will appear on Wx4, assuming that staff technicians can figure out the stupid software.