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I am Always Chasing Trains
Eritrean Railway & Ropeway

I am Always Chasing Trains
Rod McKuen wrote a poem about chasing trains.  I think that I always chased trains, I remember when ever it was opportune I went to see my dad at the "shanty" so I could watch the 400s charge through Necedah, Wisconsin.  I don't know how fast they went through town, but I do know that they were required to slow down to 92 mph on the curve at the west side of town.

Today, I cannot resist watching the coal trains pull through Huntsville, Alabama.  I am watching for one of the few Union Pacific locomotives still in the green and yellow livery of the Chicago and North Western Railway of my youth.  For several years, I carried a stopwatch on the rear view mirror to time the trains.  I started this because I had seen so many people cut in front of trains at a lighted crossing.  I don't know why they do this.  They would never cut that close to a car going 45 to 55 miles an hour.

My brother told of the the sampans cutting in front of the big ships in the Taiwan harbor.  He said that they called this cutting off the ghosts.  There was a belief that spirits were following them.  He said that occasionally they joined the ghosts.  I guess this is the American equivalent.  I like the sign I saw in Florida one time.  It said, "Warning! When these lights go on, a train will go through this crossing whether your car is on the front of it or not."

I don't particularly know why I didn't take more pictures of the Eritrean Railway.  I took a few pictures while riding down the mountain on a Littorina.  I knew even then that you have to take many pictures before you get a good one.  Colin Garratt in Legends of Steam states that hundreds of pictures have to be taken, even in good weather, to get the right one.

Nevertheless, I went out to what I now know as Devil's Doors with Billy Lowery and Charlie Hilliard.  At least, I think that was our third partner in crime.  If I remember correctly, we rode out there in a prewar Red FIAT.  I think it was Billy's.  Billy sent me this picture of us left to right as I identified us above.  The little fellow on the left decided to join us.  I don't have the foggiest idea who took the picture.  I can't believe how skinny we were in those days.  About 10 to 20 meters behind us, the Eritrean Railway winds to the bridge at Devil's Doors.

We took several pictures of the scenery at Devil's doors and a small shower drove us to the small ristorante on the other side of the bridge.  Why I didn't take a picture of the ristorante, I'll never know.  However, I did take a picture of a truck going up the mountain.  The light streaks on this page are an artifact of taking a night photograph.  When I was done and rewound the film, the stutter stayed open.

I took a picture of Billy on a camel:

The radio around his neck was tuned to KANU, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services station at Kagnew Station.  Interestingly enough, the KANU call sign could not legally be used in (then) Ethiopia and furthermore, it was already used by a station in Kansas.

While the shower blew over, we sat and drank Coca Cola.  We sat there for some time after the shower. We looked out across the valley and saw a small steam freight train coming down the mountain.

I would later get a picture of a train crossing this same bridge on my home page from Chuck Moulton. As the train approached,  we decided to take pictures and charged down the mountain side.  Unfortunately, we forgot to notice that the mountainside is covered with prickly pear cactus. This was not wise.

In putting this page together, I noticed for the first time that there was a siding just before the bridge. As near as I can tell, this one of their small Mallet engines.

The train passed us and went under the bridge into Mai Hentai Valley.

Now, we had to run back up the mountain through the prickly pear again to be able to take a picture from the bridge over the rail line.  This was really not wise.  Every once and a while, when I pull out a small splinter, I wonder if it isn't a thorn from the cactus 37 years ago.

The train moved a snails pace.  I imagine this was because they had to rely on brakemen and engine braking.  The imminent fear of death would be enough to motivate any engineer to move slowly.

Interestingly enough, the goods wagon just below the view above contained a couple of CONEX boxes.  The significance of this is that in at least once criticism of rebuilding the line, the "expert" said that containers could not be carried on the train.  Two CONEX boxes are almost the same length and exactly the same width and height of containers.


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