photo of the week

The Mighty 819
Awaits another Resurrection.

The crown jewel of the Arkansas Railroad Museum is Engine 819, which was built in the early forties not far from where it sits today.  After its first retirement, the locomotive rested at a park in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for several years until a local non-profit group, “The Cotton Belt Railroad Historical Society,” undertook the project of relocating and restoring it.
After its successful restoration, the fully operational engine pulled special passenger trains as far west as Dallas and as far north as St. Louis.  The locomotive was removed from service for inspection in the early nineties.  When it came time to reassemble and return the locomotive to service, the price of steel had escalated past local affordability.  So Old 819 was idled, and that’s where she stands today.  See our previous 819 story for more details and pictures.  If anyone out there has $350,000 or so in loose change and wants to do something cool with it.…  That’s what it will take to get the mighty machine up and running.  The Historical Society is ready to chat.

Mighty Locomotive 819

Sunday, September 27, 2015
Pine Buff, Arkansas

Author's Note:

Not every town has a history of a plant that made steam locomotives.  And not every town has a huge, open-to-the-public railroad museum.  Here in PBLA (that’s Pine Bluff [Lower] Arkansas) we have both.

As of this writing, time machines which can transport one back are still delicious figments of sci-fi.  That being so, the next best bet is the Arkansas Railroad Museum right here in River City.

A couple of years ago, my grandson, James Joseph Dempsey (AKA ‘Jay’) was gracious enough to accompany me on a “Grist trip” to the museum.  We did some serious exploration and image gathering, all of which resulted in the article below.  I hope you enjoy it again.  If you haven’t seen it before, I hope you enjoy it now.

Joe Dempsey

the bricks

A Brick of a Different Color

After taking a few steps into the museum, observant visitors will notice sections of unusual flooring.  What they are seeing are wooden “bricks.”  At one time these “bricks” covered most of the floor area in the building.  The rest was good ol’ dirt.  The wooden “bricks” created no sparks when workers dropped tools on the floor.

Mighty Locomotive 819

First Published on Sunday, October 20, 2013
Pine Buff, Arkansas

If you have at least a scintilla of appreciation for rail history, you’ll find something you like in the Arkansas Railroad Museum.  If you are a certified, card-carrying railroad nut, you may need sedation to abate your excitement to a manageable level.  If you are like the rest of us, you will spend more time in the building than you had originally budgeted.  It’s that good.


The Snow Didn't Stand a Chance.

After you are amazed by wooden “bricks,” you look up and see a giant machine that would have been right at home in George Lucas’ motor pool of unlikely machines in Star Wars.  This is a 1953 railroad snowplow, formerly operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  While the museum makes no bones about not messing with the plow end, they have the latch string out for visitors to climb aboard the back of the machine and peruse the spartan interior, including the cab where the operators sat.  The snowplow's cab windows are best described as “peek-a-boo” slits.  The red thing in the lower right of the picture is the front left fender of an antique hook-and-ladder fire truck.  Space was cramped, requiring me to position one of my camera's tripod legs between the bumper and the grill of the truck.  The wide lens grabbed the fender at an angle that discouraged cropping out.

it's big


When you first enter the Arkansas Railroad Museum, your lips begin to form the word huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge!  I’m guessing the building is, give or take a few standard deviations, every bit as long as a city block.  The first thing you see is a lineup of rail cars and locomotives standing at dress-right, dress.  That line runs well over 75 per cent of the length of the building.  Across the way from the car-locomotive line-up is a collection of miscellaneous large and small objects that I’m thinking numbers deeply into the thousands.

Photo Notes

Top, front of Engine 819, Nikon D300, ISO 400, tripod mount, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM -Base exposure for hdr blending, 1/25@f4.8; Bricks, Nikon D7100, tripod mount, ISO 200, AF S Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR, .6 sec. @ f3.5; Snowplow, Nikon D7100, tripod mount ISO 200, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM, base exposure for manual blending, 1/8@f4.0; Interior wide shot, Nikon D7100, tripod mount ISO 800, Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 EX DC HSM, base exposure for manual blending, 1/50@f5.0.


see more
But wait, there’s more at
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.
See another shot of the 819,
plus inside the 819 cab,
the driver’s seat
of a diesel-electric locomotive,
an old switchboard,
and a bunch of other cool old stuff.   Click, go and enjoy!
It’s low-fat, all-natural, and approved by my Momma.

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