Arrow Cover Color Question

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sun Sep 20 12:25:12 EDT 2020

Ken, thanks for your reply earlier this month on my question about the cover photo.

As I went through the “High Noon” article, some right of way details stood out - especially in the color photos. I have some questions for anyone who knows the era.

The ballast is much dirtier than I expected. An example is the Christiansburg photo on the bottom of page 27, where the route through the crossover between the middle track and eastbound track is quite a bit darker than the center track beyond the crossover. I’m assuming that coal trains regularly crossed over here and some of their coal fines got rattled out?
The top photo on the same page and the Christiansburg photo on page 29 also illustrate well-fouled ballast. 
Several photos remind me of how little ballast was used back in the day. Several have ballast below the bottom edge of the tie ends, with some ties with no ballast support at all at the ends.
What looks like a very important side track at Walton (page 11) to the left of #605 appears to be straight cinder?
Several photos show a dark line down the center (more or less) of the track. I assume this is from locomotives. What is its source?
On the other end of the spectrum is the the servicing track at Pulaski on the bottom of page 19, where all the ties are weathered down to almost white. Is this due to creosote being leached out by water/heat from locomotives?
The top photo on the same page shows a pile of debris in the middle of the track. This looks like ash? If it is, in what conditions would ash be dumped outside of a pit?

There are a lot of good references for a person like me. Thanks to the author and editor for putting together an interesting collection of photos and descriptions.

Matt Goodman
Columbus, Ohio, US

On Sep 4, 2020, at 9:00 PM, NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:


I was not there, so my answers are “best guesses,” I wish my father was still around, I could have asked him, but we never really think of stuff like this until far too late. He could have been the brakeman on this photo and I did check his time book but it was not him, he also did not dress with bibs.

Cabooses were assigned in those days, and most of the conductors took great pride in keeping “their” cab clean and neat. It would not take a lot to take a ball of waste and wipe down the end of the cab. However, it seems likely they would not do such, as they did not ride out there except when passing another train to inspect, they were in the cupola keeping an eye on their own train, while the conductor would be doing his paperwork at his desk. I’d also think the roof overhang would help with keeping the ends cleaner than the back of the cupola.

At one time, at least on some cabs, the front and rear cupola windows could be opened, but I can imagine the amount of coal dust and dirt blowing in would generally have been stopped with waste stuffed into the cracks to stop that.

Ken Miller

> On Sep 4, 2020, at 8:19 PM, NW Mailing List via NW-Mailing-List <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:
> The cover of the latest Arrow really caught my attention tonight. It is a color photo of the tail end of a coal train moving away from the camera. 
> I noticed the side and back of the cupola of the caboose is very grimy, presumably from coal dust blowing from the train. However, the back platform wall is very bright (relatively, that is). 
> Is that cleanliness because of the protection of the roof, or because the crew keep that way?
> Whatever the cause, it’s a good weathering reference for modelers. 
> Thanks!
> Matt Goodman
> Columbus, Ohio
> Sent from my mobile
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