random thoughts on railroad photography, railfanning, technology, and such

Entries in Editorial (25)


Changing the World

I was on my way home via an eastbound Metrolink commuter train out of Los Angeles when I, like others, received a pop-up notification on my iPhone from a national news source that delivered the terrible news. The notification read, “Apple reports Steve Jobs has died.

I was stunned and shocked. I was seated on the floor of the trains “quiet car,” I boarded too late to get a seat, and I took a look around to see if other’s had received a similar message. Most of my fellow passengers were reading a book or already fast asleep, although there were a few others busily burying their faces in their mobile devices. I surfed the web for confirmation and quickly received it. I was devastated. I sent a text to my closest friends and a “tweet” as tears filled my eyes.

I got home in a somber mood and spent some time reading myriads of news stories, posts, and tributes late into the night. I was drawn to the reason I was so moved by Steve Jobs’ passing. Obviously, part was to do the fact that someone I was familiar with had died. But now, after several days of introspective reflection, I realize that Steve Jobs was someone I admired immensely.

For long time readers of my blog, you may recall that I have only recently become a fan of Apple products. I work professionally in the technology industry and for nearly 25 years now I have worked with Microsoft-based solutions primarily. It was only after purchasing an iMac computer for our home use that I began to appreciate the zen of Apple — and the masterful vision, leadership ability, and the intense level of commitment of Steve Jobs.

As my ownership of Apple products increased in number so did my use of Apple products on a day-to-day basis. I began to develop a deep sense of appreciation, and connection, with Apple and Steve Jobs. As anyone who owns an Apple product will tell you, there is something very appealing about being an “Apple user.” It begins with the unboxing process. As I unboxed our new iMac back in 2009, I thought, “with so much consideration given to something as simple and fleeting as unboxing a product, the rest of the experience is going to be amazing!” And it is, with all Apple products.

Much has been written about the successes, and failures, of Apple over the years, and a simple search of the internet will reveal a ton of content on the PC vs. Mac debate, so I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say — I am proud to be a Mac!

Through my appreciation of Apple and Steve Jobs, I began to read books regarding both and researched the “Steve Jobs story.” Suffice it to say that I would not be mistaken in saying that Steve Jobs was truly one-of-a-kind in our era. He was a prolific visionary, the best CEO of our time, and an amazing innovator. His talents will be unrivaled, unfortunately, for some time to come.

Over the course of the next few months there are sure to be many stories and television specials about his life and the contributions he has made for the betterment of all and I encourage everyone to watch or read them because Steve Jobs was truly unique and an amazing individual that had a far reaching impact on us all. There is much that we can learn from his story, struggles, and triumphs. For the uninitiated, and a little insight into what I mean, here is a video of Steve Jobs delivering a commencement address before the graduating class of Stanford University in 2005:



In my discussions about Apple and Steve Jobs to many in the last few years, you can tell those who “get it” and know exactly how you feel and/or what you mean from those who don’t. I think to “get it” you have to really use an Apple product and then you will see that Steve “got us” from the very beginning.

Steve, I get it and you will be missed.

Image of Apple Inc.’s web site honoring Steve Jobs. (Photo courtesy of Apple Inc.)

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs



And for those, like me, looking for a little levity…




Along the same vein as Travis Dewitz, John Benner captures truly compelling and inspiring photographs of modern railroads in action, complete with a sense of drama which “puts you there.” Here is John’s description of his passion from his web site at JohnBenner.com:

I strive to make photographs which convey a sense of place, in terms of atmosphere as much as physical representation.  The former Santa Fe territory across the southwest is a special place to me, and I try to relate the dramatic elements that make it fascinating.  This site is intended to exhibit a few selected images drawn from my work, both digital and legacy film images.  

It was John’s work that inspired me to go back out to BNSF’s Seligman Sub last April and try my hand at capturing the “drama and atmosphere” that John’s work conveys. I love his low light pieces shown below:

Image © Copyright 2011 by John Benner

Image © Copyright 2011 by John Benner

Image © Copyright 2011 by John Benner

Stellar work John and thanks for sharing your talent and work with us all.


A View of Metrolink's New "Guardian Fleet" - the Safest in the Nation

At a series of stations throughout Southern California, Metrolink (Southern California Regional Rail Authority, SCAX), the southland’s local commuter rail provider, debuted their new cab and passenger cars. The new equipment, dubbed the “Guardian fleet,” is considered to be the safest in the nation.

Read “IMPACT TESTS OF CRASH ENERGY MANAGEMENT PASSENGER RAIL CARS: ANALYSIS AND STRUCTURAL MEASUREMENTS (IMECE2004-61252) [November 13, 2004]” by Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, US Department of TransportationThe new cars were designed and built in Korea by Hyundai Rotem, a railroad equipment and systems manufacturer since 1964. What makes these cars so special and safe are the fact that they contain the cutting-edge in crash energy management (CEM) technology. The technology includes energy-absorbing retractable couplers, crumples zones, and interior improvements that decrease the forces involved during a collision. This technology is very similiar to the technology available in most modern automobiles today.

Here is a video that shows the cars, having recently arrived at Long Beach Harbor from Korea, still wrapped in shipping material and describes the technology in lay terms. The video is narrated by Keith Millhouse, Moorpark City Councilmember and Board Chairman for Metrolink. (Not the best produced video ever but I am glad it is available): 


Here is another video (more of an slideshow with audio but very good nonetheless and thanks to AmtrakSurfliner768!), that details the cars a little more and provides some background information on the need for cars such as these:


For those of your interested, here is a video showing the cars being unloading at the Port of Long Beach:


As a rail advocate and daily commuter on Metrolink, I was happy to be extended an opportunity to get a VIP tour of the new equipment as the result of a contest that Metrolink held via Twiiter. So I took a day off of work and Deb and I attended the “Whistle Stop Tour” at the famed San Bernardino Depot which is the eastern most terminus for Metrolink.

After finding a parking spot and grabbing something to eat, Deb and I crossed the street and made our way to the depot. Already in place was a Metrolink consist with 2 locomotives on the head-end and three of the new cars — two regular passenger cars and one cab car. The new cars are predominately stainless-steel, which was a surprise to me, that gives the fleet a taste of the good ol’ domeliner cars of yesteryear (much like the banner photo at the top of this page). The lack of paint which reduces the weight of the cars also affords reduced maintenance costs over the lifetime of the cars. As for the new Metrolink paint scheme, well, who knows, maybe it will grow on me - not a fan!

After poking around a bit and making some introductions, I set about to shoot some photos prior to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony which was preceeded by the requisite speeches from local dignitaries and Metrolink management.

Debut of the Guardian Fleet - As part of a multi-stop tour, the newest cars of Metrolink’s “Guardian Fleet”, are staged at the San Bernardino Depot for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry
The Business End of SCAX 638 - This is engineer’s end of SCAX 638 which is part of the new “Guardian Fleet” for Metrolink.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

SCAX 638 Debuts - Metrolink’s newest cab car, SCAX 638, waits for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the San Bernardino Metrolink station.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

SCAX 638 Waits in the Morning Sun - As the morning sun begins to clear the Metrolink San Bernardino depot, Metrolink’s newest cab car 638 waits for the pomp and ceremony to begin.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Cutting the Ribbon - A host of local dignitaries and Metrolink council members, including John Fenton - Metrolink CEO , far right, are just about to cut the ribbon on the new Guardian Fleet debut at San Bernardino, CA.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Currently ten cars are planned for immediate use and, according to Metrolink, their board recently approved an additional 20 more cars to be acquired to bring the total to 137 cars which are slated to be fully in service by late 2012. While the inital cars were manufactured in Korea, the balance of the new cars will be assembled at Metrolink’s Eastern Maintenance Facility in Colton, California.

Pristine Nevermore 1 - A view of the interior of the upper deck of Metrolink’s newest cab car, SCAX 638, which will never looks this good again.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

Pristine Nevermore 2 - A view of the interior of the upper deck of Metrolink’s newest cab car, SCAX 638, which will never looks this good again.
[12/8/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010, Joe Perry

At one point I was granted access to the cab car to have a look around and grab a few shots. I was impressed by the appearance of the interior and pleased to see that they raised the height of the seat backs. The interior seems roomy and well lit and it has that “new car” smell!

I can’t wait for these new cars to arrive on the San Bernardino line! Good job Metrolink - now how about WiFi? ;-)