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June 1993


Bruce Fales Dies

[Reported by Ric Nelson] . . .

Bruce D. Fales, a noted photographer and railroader, died at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, on April 30. He was 84. He became fascinated with railroads at an early age, and he began his hobby of photography in the 1920s.

A promising baseball player in his high school days in Washington, he was approached with offers from professional ball clubs which he declined. He preferred to remain in Washington where he worked for the Daily News as a distribution manager. In 1929 he married May Shorb of Silver Spring.

In 1938 he was hired by the B&O as a locomotive fireman, first working in Brunswick, Maryland, and then in Washington, where he remained until 1952. He once was the fireman on President Franklin Roosevelt's special train.

When railroad officials became aware of Mr. Fales' photographic talents, he became a photographer for the company and its monthly employee magazine. His photos also began to appear in other magazines and books nationally. He prided himself in action shots of steam locomotives and he made numerous trips to where the railroad crossed mountains in Western Maryland and West Virginia.

He left the B&O in 1952 to accept a position with the Washington Evening Star as route manager, retiring in 1972. He became an avid collector of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad china that had once been used aboard the dining cars. He also concentrated on coloring many of his black and white photos with oil paint.

Both of his children, a daughter and a son, preceded him in death. He is survived by May Fales, his wife of 63 years, a brother, a grandson, and two great-grandchildren.


The "Old" Washington Union Station

[By Roger White] . . .

One of the interesting side effects of the decline and shrinkage of rail passenger service in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s was that many fine old stations never underwent major expansion, renovation or replacement. If passenger volume had continued to grow as it did in the early part of the century, or if railroad stations had held on to their commercial value, we probably would have seen far more expansion or remodeling of big-city terminals and more new ones to handle the traveling public with up-to-date facilities. Instead, atrophy led to status quo, make-do, and a perverse form of preservation achieved by not spending money on improvements. Within their peeling walls and rusting girders, many big-city stations managed to retain much of their original form, industrial grittiness, and imposing, intimidating feeling of grandeur and dignity that the architects intended.

This was certainly true of Union Station in Washington, D.C. Many of its original features remained intact through the 1960s, and today passengers age 35 and up have vivid memories of using classic furniture, fixtures and interior spaces dating from 1907 and the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

Since the 1960s, we have seen no fewer than four new versions of Union Station: one with red, white and blue plastic seats in the waiting room; the carpeted, pit-encrusted National Visitor Center; the appended mini-station-cum-parking garage of the 1970s and 1980s; and the stylish 1988 restoration that mixes new design and technology with beautifully restored spaces. During these rehabilitations, many original fixtures disappeared, and few have reappeared. Many functions traditionally done by hand and in view of passengers, particularly ticketing and posting train information, have been replaced by electronics or are done behind the scenes.

Before we become too accustomed to the commodious, efficient station of today, let's pause to remember the 1960s and try to make an inventory of some of the old station features in their original glory, and a few additions worth mentioning. Perhaps other readers will offer their recollections of Union Station in the 1960s or earlier periods in future issues of the Bull Sheet.

WAITING ROOM BENCHES. Still the original mahogany double benches, huge pairs of benches back to back, with heaters at the ends covered by ornate metal grilles. Add-on fluorescent lights ran along the tops of the benches.

SAVARIN RESTAURANT. Located just off the waiting room. By the 1960s it was a cafeteria. One of the highlights was to dine and keep tabs on train movements by the trembling of the floor as trains rumbled through the Capitol Hill tunnel on their way to or from the South. In the National Visitor Center, this room housed a bookstore. Today it houses the restored, Pompeiian revival-style East Hall with elegant craft shops.

ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE BOARD. A chalk board located in the waiting room. Uniformed employees updated it continuously with erasers and chalk in neat script handwriting. They recorded the train name, origin or destination, expected arrival or departure time, and current status.

TICKET OFFICE. A row of windows located just off the main waiting room along the southwest wall where the hat shop is now. This was the original location of the ticket office when the building was new, and it was still there in the 1960s. A notable feature was a tree of ticket coupons representing reserved spaces.

GATES. A long, axial row of tall iron fences and gates in the center of the concourse from one end of the room to the other. Today they would run from The Limited to the American Cafe. The gates figured prominently in passengers' anticipation of a trip. Admission to trains occurred in several dramatic stages, like passage through Ellis Island. First, passengers walked from the waiting room to the concourse, where they queued behind the intimidating iron gates for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, an attendant wearing an air of authority unfastened a heavy chain. Passengers walked carefully across a stream of motorized baggage cart traffic and down steps or escalators, if heading south, or straight to platforms, if heading north or west. Near the west end of the concourse gates were an elevated station office and a large, illuminated map of Metroliner territory.

TRAIN NAME BOARDS. These rectangular, painted signs hung above the concourse gates in V-shaped holders and were illuminated. The signs featured an endless array of colors, type styles, and, of course, mellifluous train names and railroad names. The signs were inserted and removed by hand.

USO LOUNGE. Inside a partition in the concourse, against the wall adjoining the main waiting room. A busy place during the Vietnam War.

CONCOURSE. The concourse appeared on live, national television in June 1968 when motor vehicles met Robert Kennedy's funeral train. The train had run on the Penn Central from New York to Washington. The television cameras showed the motor vehicles in their parking places in the concourse and followed some of them all the way to Arlington National Cemetery.


Conrail Begins Double-Stack Clearance Project in Pennsylvania

Conrail has started detailed engineering design and preliminary construction work on a joint program with the state of Pennsylvania to accommodate double-stack container trains. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 1995. Conrail has committed more than $40-million to the project, plus there will be some state funding.


Steel Mill Planned in Kentucky to be Served by CSXT

Two Canadian steel companies, Dofasco and CoSteel, have announced they will build a $300-million high-tech steel mill at Ghent, Kentucky, to be served by CSXT. The facility will open in 1995, and an expansion is planned for 1997 which would double the annual production of the facility to two million tons of flat-rolled steel. At that level, CSXT stands to handle more than 15,000 carloads annually of inbound scrap and outbound finished product.


Amtrak Train Speed Survey

The average speed for all trains in the Amtrak system this year is 49.4 MPH, which is unchanged from each of the past two years. Within selected service categories, however, most average speeds dropped.

While the average speed of Metroliners remained the same at 75.1 MPH, the average speed for Express Metroliners decreased by almost one mile per hour. There was more than a two mile per hour decrease for the New England Express, which operates between New York and Boston, as well as one mile per hour decreases for San Diegan, Clocker and Keystone service trains.

For all non-Metroliner trains, some of which are not included in specific service categories, the average speed remains the same as last year at 48.5 MPH.

The averages were compiled from Amtrak's current timetable with the help of statisticians Pete Sprusby and Joe Shlabotnik. Running times are based solely upon schedules, not actual performance. When a train arrives late, its average speed will be lower.