February, 2012 Update
A lot has happened since I wrote this page about myself and Alpha Rail Net. Updates are noted below in blue.
Trains and Model Railroads
First of all, my name is Larry Tuttle and I was outshopped in 1948. I lived up and down the eastern part of the US until I settled in Oregon in 1976. My first railfan experiences occurred in Rochester, New York in the late 1950's when my Dad would take me to places like Genesee Jct. to watch, and once in a rare while, ride trains. Of course, I had the obligatory Lionel train set that came out at Christmas and for a while was set up on plywood in the basement. Next came a HO layout in the attic. A move to Louisiana (no basements in Cajun Land and the attics were waaay too hot) brought the HO empire into the bedroom as I finished high school and started college. Finishing college in North Carolina, I had a dinky switching layout with hand laid track and insufferable numbers of derailments. The models went into boxes for 15 years as I moved around and concentrated on other endeavors. All the while, however, I kept my eyes open for trains to watch wherever I was and even managed a few pictures from el cheapo point and shoots.
Chuck Graham, who I'd met in Rochester in my early teens, and I did a lot of railfanning together in Rochester and then managed to stay in touch (with a few hiati) through the years. From time to time we have gotten together to chase trains on each others' home turf. He always winds up with the better camera so a lot of the pix of our excursions are his shots.
In 1987 I made a wad of money fighting
a forest fire near my home in southern Oregon and decided to do something
fun with it. After finishing the single car garage, I began work
on the Siskiyou Pacific, a line based very loosely on the SP's Siskiyou
Line through the Rogue Valley. (The more I learned about the Siskiyou
Line, the more I realized just how loose my own efforts were.) After
a couple years of lone wolf modeling, I found the Rogue Valley Model Railroad
Club and have been involved with them ever since.
Through the RVMRC, I met Jerry Hellinga who is an engineer at the Sumpter Valley outside of Baker City in eastern Oregon. He invited me to come over with him and learn to fire their 1915 Heisler -- seems at the time they had a serious problem attracting sufficient capable bodies to fill all their crew positions. In a year I had qualified as fireman on the Heisler and shortly thereafter, began my student runs as engineer. But, those engineer runs were interrupted by the arrival of the 19 in 1996 as I got to begin all over, first learning to fire with oil and then to run the 2-8-2. On the eve of my 50th birthday, I qualified as fireman and engineer on the 19.
2012 Update: It's hard to believe I'm starting my 24th season with the SVRY. This year starts a new direction for me as I've been appointed as Training and Compliance Officer. Well, it's a dirty job but someone has to do it and I'll give it my best shot.
The Central Oregon and Pacific took over the Siskiyou Line from the Southern Pacific in January, 1995 and Jim Armstrong, a friend from the model railroad club, was hired as a trans-spec. Shortly, I was introduced to the insides of a working railroad operation as well as treated to a cab ride over the "hill". A year later, Bud Shirley, also from the model railroad club was hired and between him and Jim, my perspective of real railroading continued to broaden. In 1999, a few months after I'd started a small section about CORP on Alpha Rail Pages, I was contacted by Rick Perry and invited to visit him and learn all about signals. Rick and I have become good friends as I have gotten more attuned to the human side of railroading -- it's not just locomotives anymore.
2012 Update: The "Golden Era" of CORP is over, at least for railfans. After RailAmerica bought out Rail Tex, the attitude on the railroad started to change. When Fortress Investment Group took RailAmerica private it quickly became evident that CORP had become another Wall Street "resource" intended to maximize return and minimize risk. The employees focused on keeping their jobs, ride-alongs stopped and it became all business. In 2007 the Coos Bay line was shut down, purportedly for unsafe conditions in tunnels...with no money available for repairs. A year later CORP imposed a huge surcharge on the Siskiyou Line south of Ashland and the shippers immediately turned to trucks. The housing crash caused multiple mill closures in the Rogue Valley and the loss of most of CORP's traffic in and out of the Rogue Valley. Newer, more economical, power arrived on the property and the blue "Smurfs" (GP20-D's) replaced the older tunnel motors and geeps. Even with the south end closed, there was only enough traffic in and out of Medford to justify two trains a week to Roseburg and back. With the semaphores long gone, there was little of interest on CORP anymore and my interest waned. Hence, no updates on Alpha Rail Net.
Last but not least, in the summer of 2000 I found my way to the Yreka Western and a fill in job as relief fireman on their Blue Goose steam excursion locomotive and conductor on the freight run. It's interesting how similar Yreka's oil fired 19 is to Sumpter's -- just the wheels are a bit farther apart. The freight job was fun and I learned a lot about real railroading; I'd do it again, but only part-time.
2012 Update: 2006, 2007 and 2008 saw me making weekly trips to Yreka to fire and run the Blue Goose Excursion Train. That worked out very well for those three years. However, with the effective closing of the Yreka Western's Interchange connection with the Rogue Valley mills, the underlying source of revenue for the railroad was gone and continuation of the steam train was in jeopardy. By 2009, the YW was making its money storing freight cars idled by the recession. As the economy started to pick back up, the stored cars disappeared and it was becoming apparent that the very survival of the YW was again in question. With plans afoot to move the 19 to Elgin, Oregon, it appears that the Yreka Western is over, at least for now.
Well, when I'm not out chasing (or riding) trains and signal maintainers, I gotta do something to pay the bills and that something is usually carpentry. I've been a residential and light commercial contractor for 20-some years doing most phases of new construction and remodeling. Lately, I've noticed the old carcass hasn't been taking kindly to the abuses of pouring concrete, framing and roofing, and I've gone to specialize in cabinet installation and interior finish work. Heck, I'm still my own boss, it pays the bills, makes for a varied routine and still allows for a little foaming on the side.
2012 Update: The housing crash of 2007 effectively retired me. I saw it coming, got off the tracks and walked away from the train wreck ready for other pursuits. These days, I do a few odd jobs, but the contracting years are over.
Back in 1984 I must have needed a little more excitement in my life (or another hole in my head) and volunteered at the Evans Valley Fire Fire/Rescue (aka Jackson County Fire District 6). The adrenaline rushes have largely subsided, I've been into and out of EMS and now serve as Training Officer (thought they said TRAIN Officer and immediately raised my hand) and Company Officer (Captain in some depts.). Though it's something of a love-hate relationship, firefighting is definitely in my blood. Of late, I like the challenge and rewards of working to turn a raw recruit into a safe and skilled firefighter ready to charge into the jaws of the dragon.
2001 Update: I completely retired from firefighting and accepted appointment to the Board of Directors.
2012 Update: If there's been one thing in my life that has changed very little in the past decade, it's been my service to Evans Valley Fire District 6. I can't believe I'm in my 11th year on the Board and am looking forward to running for re-election again next year. There have been some ups and downs, of course, but the fire service is definitely in my blood.
Alpha Rail Net
Last but not least is this web site. Originally, I started what I called "Larry's Rail Pages" to present some pictures Chuck and I'd taken back in the 60's and 70's. I quickly filled my allotted 3 megs at CDS and moved to Simplenet changing the site name to Alpha Rail Pages on March 15, 1998. There was already another Larry out there with a railfan site and Alpha put me at the top of the alphabetized list -- besides, I happen to like the sound of Greek letters. In the fall of 2000, two and a half years into Alpha Rail, I overhauled the site completely and changed to my own domain.
Through the years with Alpha Rail, I've discovered a few things which I like in a web site and which I've tried to pursue with this site. Among them are:
2012 Update: In spite of the lack of updates, I've resolved to keep Alpha Rail Net up and running. Thanks for dropping by and checking it out.
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