Not the End of the Track

Summer is a time for both large and small projects for the students and staff in Conservation Services. Summer 2016 was certainly no exception, as our crew tackled a somewhat daunting and very dirty re-housing venture. This was an amazing group effort, with lots of help and good advice coming from many corners of the KU Libraries.

In the early nineties, the Spencer Research Library took possession of a massive set of technical drawings of the Kansas City Terminal Railway track system. The drawings date from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth  century, and are reproduced in a number of media including cyanotypes (aka blueprints), Photostat copies, and hand-drawn images. They range in size from smaller than a piece of notebook paper to rolls over thirty feet in length. There are just under five hundred sets of drawings varying in amount from one to more than twenty-five drawings per set.

Discover more about how our amazing Conservation Services team tackled this project on the KSRL Blog.


JR Tokyo Station (東京駅丸の内駅舎) with On-going Constructions, in Tokyo (東京) Japan by TOTORORO.RORO
Via Flickr:
JR Tokyo Station with on-going constructions in the front for Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. After finishing, it will have better and large bus stations and conjunctions to handle huge number of visitors. Camera Information: Model: Sony ILCE-6000 (A6000) Lens: Sony 10-18mm f/4 Wide-Angle Zoom Lens OSS Alpha E-mount (SEL1018).


No.246 steams out of Llangollen. by f22photographie
Via Flickr:
Class D49 locomotive steams out of Llangollen during Llangollen Railway’s “4-4-0 Day” on Thursday 23rd April. For more information on this locomotive, see :



Let’s momentarily ignore the fact that “Rusty the Rescue” distorted the real life story of how LBSCR No. 55 “Stepney” was rescued and preserved by the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society into a completely fictional “great escape” tale about Rusty helping Stepney escape from an imaginary scrap yard ruled by “evil diesels”.

Because tossing aside the fact that it’s distorting real life events, the setbuilding, photography, and writing in the episode is fantastic, in particular this scrapyard scene.

In only a few brief moments to establish it, the atmosphere of this place feels very real, especially with the rusted over, half-scrapped remains of “dead” steam engines without faces strewn about haphazardly.

And then there’s the whole element of Stepney’s driver sitting with him in the cab. Maybe its just me, but I perceive a lot of “worldbuilding” in that I might even go as far to say actually delves into aspects of this universe that even the original Awdry books didn’t explore in much detail.

This scene is presumably taking place some time after midnight, and this driver came out of his way to this lonely, dank, secluded area to spend time with the engine he once used to drive, as Stepney waits in what’s effectively his deathbed, SURROUNDED by already partially demolished locomotives waiting either to be demolished himself, or to to slowly rust away.

I mean, just the fact that the other diesels tell Rusty that there’s only one engine on the sidings pretty much indirectly states that the other engines surrounding Stepney are in effect, “dead”, perhaps signified by the lack of faces on their smokebox doors.

The whole setup builds a feeling that engine crews can actually become attached to or befriend the machines they operate, enough for Stepney’s driver to actually come all the way out to comfort his doomed locomotive, and probably after a long day’s work, too.

I really only wish that this imagination had gone into a story about Rusty saving FICTIONAL locomotive character, because as an American kid seeing this episode in the early 90’s with no internet access, I had NO idea that Stepney or the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society actually existed, and the original purpose of Rev. W. Adwry writing “Stepney the Bluebell Engine” back in 1960 was to spread awareness amongst children that there were people rescuing and preserving steam locomotives and making a place for them to pull trains.

What’s even weirder is how the characters continuously talk throughout the episode talk about how “Rusty is looking for a Bluebell Engine.” but don’t even explain what a “Bluebell Engine” is supposed to be, and only briefly mention the “Bluebell railway” at the end, depicting it as a branch line on the Island of Sodor.

Knowing nothing about UK rail history, until I got my hands on the anthology of the original Awdry stories a year or two later, I was running around thinking the Stroudly Terriers were called “bluebell engines” or something.

Also, a localization problem, the UK version explains that “Rusty’s engineer became Stepney’s fireman”, which surely meant that Rusty’s MECHANIC who was on the footplate with Rusty’s driver became Stepney’s fireman.

But in the US, an engineer in this sense could also mean an engine DRIVER.

The line was unchanged when they re-dubbed the episode, so I remember watching this tape in 1994 and thinking “What? Rusty’s engineer became Stepney’s fireman? Then who the heck is driving Rusty on the trip back?”

Man I didn’t mean for this to become an in depth review of this episode, but hey, aspergers or something.


Crouch End North London 13th October 2013 by loose_grip_99
Via Flickr:
British Railways Standard 4-6-2 70013 Oliver Cromwell running on the Gospel Oak to Barking line prepares to enter the short tunnel under the abandoned ex-Great Northern Edgware, Highgate & London Railway branch (now known as the Parkland Walk) from Seven Sisters Road (now Finsbury Park) just to the east of here. We were ex-Southall shed destination Barnetby via Harringay & the East Coast main line. The junction for the single line spur up to Harringay can just be seen under the bridge in the distance. This was an engine and support coach positioning run for 70013 to be ready for the next day’s Cheshireman railtour from Cleethorpes to Chester.

UNITED KINGDOM, Irwell Vale : A steam locomotive operated by the East Lancashire Railway transports passengers on a heritage railway experience in Irwell Vale, near Bury, north west England on July 16, 2015. The East Lancashire Railway preserves, restores and offers vintage train journeys with steam and diesel locomotives. The original East Lancashire Railway ceased to exist in 1859 but the name was revived in 1987 offering railway experiences on the formerly decommissioned Heywood to Rawtenstall section of line.   AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF                        

A Rock Island LWT-12 at Englewood Union Station (63rd & State) in Chicago.  This is the Rock Island Railroad’s locomotive #2 and its eight-car Aerotrain, an experimental ultra-lightweight train built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors.  The Rock Island Railroad purchased these trains for intercity use between Chicago and Peoria, but quickly reassigned them to commuter service between Chicago and Joliet.  This locomotive and its train proved unsuccessful in commuter service and was retired in 1965; it is preserved at the National Railway Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but it is not operable.  Photo taken July 20, 1960, from the collection of Bill Molony.


z Unavailable: Keighley and Worth Valley Railway by Fjara
Via Flickr:
In 1980, the oldest original working locomotive in the world, “Lion”, was restored at the Vulcan Foundry works of Ruston Diesels. Built in 1838 for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, it took part in the 150 years celebrations of that line. In 1981 “Lion” visited several preserved steam railways.