Rotary

Hello, I am George Forero from Antioch, Illinois USA (50 miles north of Chicago). I work for Amtrak as the Director Operating Rules for Amtrak Intercity. I've been to the White Pass three times now, the first time with the family in 1994 when we took the BCR from Vancouver to Prince George, VIA to Prince Rupert, then the Alaska ferry to Skagway. In 1997 I helped lead a Trains Unlimited Tour group in September when we chartered several trains over three days and most recently I went up to ride the rotary in April 1998.

The rotary was fired up on the evening of April 14 and made its first run the next day, April 15.

We started out of Shops behind the #99 and #100 and got as far as the Gold Rush cemetery before the #100 kept getting a continuous wheel slip indication. We backed down to Shops and swapped the #90 for the #100. The second start was successful and the train (consisting of Rotary #1, #99, #90, lowboy flat with backhoe, caboose #901) headed up the mountain. It was raining in Skagway and the first snow on the ground was encountered as we neared Glacier.

The tracks had been cleared to a point just north of White Pass by the usual method - caterpillar tractors - so we did not start plowing until about MP 22. The train stopped at White Pass for water, unloaded the backhoe, and set out the flat and caboose on the siding. Although the winter was considered extremely mild for that part of the country, the cut near MP 23 was about 9 feet deep (2.75 meters), or within a foot of the top of the rotary's 10 foot wheel.

It took over an hour and repeated tries before breaking through that cut. This cut is located just south of Fill 23A, which had originally been a trestle. There is a small steel tank (fuel for the cats, I think) and an old boxcar body at that location.

Remains of an old tall wooden snow fence could be seen just west of the cut. The plow then continued at a slow but steady pace to MP 26 where we quit for the day.

The plan had been to plow only to that point, just above Fraser Hill, in preparation for the "public" plowing operation on the 18th down into Fraser and on to Log Cabin. You can not imagine the experience of riding in the rotary. The noise is deafening, the machinery is thrashing about just an inch of so under the floor of the wheelhouse, and the whole contrapation seems to be shaking itself to pieces. Then you look out the door and discover you are moving at only 3 or 4 miles per hour. The snow is covering one of the front windows and the only visibility is through the one open window to the front (on the side away from the chute), or through the side doors. The train returned to Shops and the rotary placed back inside for some repairs before the run on the 18th.

I'll stop here for now and continue next time. Hope you find this of some interest.

All images of this story are from George's collection. Thank you for the permission to put them here on my web site

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