Posts Tagged ‘trains’

The Top Dick’s World Posts in 2010

January 3, 2011

What is interesting to me about writing for a blog is the fact that posts keep getting read over time. WordPress sent me a list of the top posts of 2010 and the top five were first posted in 2009. The number one article about William Calley’s apology for the My Lai Massacre in the Vietnamese War got even more visits in 2010 than when it ran the first time in 2009, when it also topped the list.  WordPress said that illustrates that my writing has “staying power.” That’s nice to know.

Here are the top 5:

2 Savannah Revisited  #2 – June 2009

3 Behind the Scenes at IMAX at Patriot Park, Home of the New National Infantry Museum –  March 2009

4 Go to the National Infantry Museum at Least Once by Yourself – August 2009

5 Romance of the Rails – July 2009

The Chattahoochee Choo Choo

July 24, 2009

Pardon me,  boy,  is that the Chattahoochee Choo Choo?  That’s what GIs at Fort Benning named the narrow gage railroad trains that served the post from about 1919 to 1946.   Chattahoocheee Choo Choo is, of course, a play on the Glenn Miller 1940s hit “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” If you want to see the Army’s railroad in action, just click on the clip below, which was saved and put on YouTube by my old friend and fellow broadcaster John Gilbert.  It’s 16mm silent footage, so you might want to play a CD of “Chattanooga Choo Choo”  while you watch it. John writes that he rescued the film from a dumpster.  Whoever threw it away just didn’t understand the historic significance of such things. 

Romance of the Rails

July 20, 2009

Some people satisfy their love affair with trains by building elaborate model train layouts.     

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Bryson City, NC

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Bryson City, NC. It has one of the largest collections of Lionel model trains in the United States.

Others go on vintage train excursions, and some take trips on Amtrak trains.  But, there is a very special group. They buy and renovate private railroad cars.  That is a very expensive proposition, but a Columbus couple has done just that.

Let me tell you about Borden Black and Nelson McGahee.  Borden’s last name is actually McGahee, too, but she goes by Borden Black when she wears her journalism hat.   Nelson is a civil service employee at Fort Benning.

He is also a total railroad buff, and, since Borden is married to him,  so is she.  They are so much into it, they have been restoring a 1925 Pullman private car for years.  I asked Borden for a picture of it and she sent the one below.  For this picture, she changed the color of the paint job to what it will be before they actually hook it to a train.  This color is the way it looked originally, she said.

Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car, Charolette, NC.

Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car, Charlotte, NC.

Pending a federal inspection,  they plan to couple the car to a special train of 23 private cars that an Amtrak engine will pull from Washington D.C. to Cape Canaveral, ending up in Savannah for the The American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners National Convention on November 5.   Want a ride? They’re selling tickets for day trips.  They’ll run between $290 and $390 (that includes the $90 fee for joining the private car owners’ association) for different legs of the trip.  You can learn more by emailing Borden and Nelson at  They can seat nine people and serve them breakfast and lunch. 

Dining room on the Dearing,  Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car

Dining room on the Dearing, Borden Black and Nelson McGahee's private car

 Borden says she’s going to do the cooking.

Railroading in Georgia Started in Savannah

July 13, 2009

When we think of Savannah, we think of its port.  But there is another form of transportation that has played a huge role in development of the city. Savannah is home of the Central of Georgia Railroad.  The Roundhouse Railroad Museum, a National Historic Landmark,  really brings that home for us. 

Turntable at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

Turntable at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

This National Historic Landmark site is the oldest and largest existing nineteenth-century railroad operations complex in the nation. Construction began in 1850. Thirteen of the original structures remain today.  The turntable was restored and it still works.  

I was there recently and, except for the fact that I almost passed out from the heat and humidity, enjoyed it a lot.  The heat was relieved when I went inside the air conditioned Central of Georgia Office Car.

Central of Georgia office car,  Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

Central of Georgia office car, Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

The office car started out as a Pullman parlor car in 1925.  It morphed into a passenger car during World War Two when there was a dire shortage of passenger cars, and eventually became an office car, which was used by the railroad’s top executives. 

Lounge, Central of Georgia office car, Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

Lounge, Central of Georgia office car, Roundhouse Railroad Museum, Savannah, GA

 Oh, I remember telling you in an earlier post that I would explain this picture.


It’s the office car’s bathroom.

Georgia Transportation Folks, The Way You’re Doing It Now Doesn’t Work

December 1, 2008

  Why oh why doesn’t the Georgia legislature stop stalling development of commuter trains in the state?  My Friday night nightmare trip on rainy I-85 from Atlanta to Columbus made me once again reflect on how frustrated I get over the never-ending lane construction on I-85, and how difficult it is to get politicians to accept inevitable change. Trains are coming back because there are simply too many automobiles clogging the highways. The solution is not to continue to pour millions and millions of tons of more concrete and asphalt. The solution is mass transit.

  They learned this a very long time ago in New York City, London, Paris, Berlin and other major cities in the world. Atlanta is working on it, but is a long ways from providing enough mass transit service to come near to solving the problems of gridlock.


Baltimore-Washington International commuter Train (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

  The highway arteries leading in and out of densely populated areas are a part of the problem and that can only be solved with commuter trains. Every time I drive to Atlanta on I-85 I reflect on the astronomical costs and unsafe travel conditions caused by construction for adding more lanes. Running two rail lines up the center of I-85 would seem a lot simpler, less costly and saner policy.

  The state does have a plan to develop rail transportation, but the legislature won’t fund it. They talk about it, but when it actually comes to switching funding priorities, they back off. Why? So far, I haven’t seen a good answer to that question. I did read where Governor Sonny Perdue is backing implementation of a the Lovejoy to Atlanta commuter train because it is practical to get it up and running on existing tracks soon.  But, I’ll believe something is actually being done when I see it.

Metra vs. Marta – Marta’s Ridership Is Up 14%; Metra’s Up 7%

July 18, 2008

  Atlanta’s Marta transit system offers more convenience than Columbus’ Metra. But, it also costs more to use. Let’s look at the comparison.


   Columbus buses run every hour. Marta buses have varying frequencies, some as long as a 30 minutes, depending on demand.  However, Atlanta’s trains run every 5 minutes on trunk lines and 10 minutes on branch lines during the rush hours. Atlanta wins that one hands down.


  An adult one-way fare on Marta is $1.75. On Metra, it’s $1.25.  Metra does charge $1.90 to Fort Benning.


  Senior citizens and disabled in Columbus pay $0.65 one way. In Atlanta it’s $0.85.


  Marta offers K-12 students ten trips for $10.50. Columbus students can get a monthly pass for $20.00.  So, if Metra student riders who use the monthly pass get a much better deal because that comes to about $5.00 a week.  


  Marta offers university students a $40 unlimited ridership for a month. Metra doesn’t specify whether the 31 Day Trip Card is for university students as well as K-12.


  As far as ridership is concerned, Metra averages almost a million boardings a year, while Marta averages about 140 million.


  . Columbus has 40 busses covering 9 routes. Marta has 544 buses covering 120 routes and 238 rail cars. Those 238 rail cars have more boardings than Marta’s 544 busses.


Marta serves a population of almost 2 million people. Columbus serves a base of almost 300 thousand.


  Marta’s overall ridership is up 14 percent over this time last year. Metra’s is up 7 percent so far over last year.


  What good are those comparisons? I don’t know. I guess they just tell us that it’s cheaper to ride Metra, but Marta’s service is more convenient. Some will say, well, it costs more to live, but pay is higher in the Atlanta area.  It appears pay is definitely higher, and maybe the costs are higher for shelter because real estate is higher, and so are property taxes, but I doubt if there is much difference in food and clothing. One thing is for sure, though, life is a lot less hectic in Columbus than in Atlanta.