Poems by Tyler Turpin

Note: Background information on Mr. Turpin’s work can be found on his bio page

Army diesel locomotive 8011

Most locomotives spend their whole service lives in one or two regions.
One went halfway around the world and to many states
It was not pulling relics from town to town
It will become a national treasure
Built for rural Georgia an ALCO RS-1 diesel road switcher locomotive
It left the factory in March of 1941
Over Richmond, VA river rapids that once powered Tredegar Ironworks it passed on its way to the land of Gone With the Wind, cotton shirt mills, peaches, rice, peanuts, and the Atlanta Ford Car Plant.
Locomotive 902 for the Georgia and St. Andrews Bay
The whistle sounds strange in the distance
As it comes by children look up
Steady hum of the diesel replaces the guttural workings of the boiler
What had been a chimney of black smoke turns to a haze
The Nutcracker come real an alien on the tracks
Children are told even simple things we take for granted someday change permanently
It will be a mechanical rainbow seen for a few months not to return to this line again
Others will come 4 years later to shove the steam locomotives away and become a daily fixture
902 will never come back to the Georgia line
The question is when like 80 years before will there be war
Already odd looking cargoes in and out of bases and new style factories rumble along with the cars of peaches, shirts and rocks and trees
The National Guard goes active in a parade and fades away in puffs of haze to two states away
In December not April and a continent and ocean away this time Pearl Harbor attacked
Rail not a novelty this wartime
Most of the young men and the young machine of the line are called to do their part
To distant lands they are not meant for
902 in the Army now and renumbered 8011
With a change of wheel mounts it becomes an RSD1
To the scrub, dry heat, and sand of Iran to hold in check the Nazi’s in the motherland of the USSR
War ends and it returns to the states still young proven and experienced newer ones available to replace it
Cost of overhaul would cancel other needs of owner
Like some other young veterans it starts any army career
Politics advances with technology, America in the Cold War now
Across the Bearing Sea, the bear it helped save gives America a menacing grin
Up to Alaska goes 8011 to scale the hills of the raven’s nest
Dark plumes no longer pierce the snowstorms of misty grey
A loud purring of pistons accompanies the Lynx in the Firs
Boiler bows to the diesel at even 30 below
Another generation passes railcars get longer
Some old diesels are ground up for metal to make Tomcats, Camaros and F40PH
Their motors to become backup power at the microchip factory
Not 8011 placement on the reutilization, donation, or transfer list gives it two more fates
To the DOT railroad research center in Colorado
Run test cars for making late night musing of mechanical engineers come true and artificial accidents to make gasses not release from tankers
The final miles for lasting well
A national treasure is found to the Smithsonian collection at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania it retires
Outlasted its manufacturer by 13 years
On a flatcar in 2011 over level two of Richmond, VA’s Triple Crossing
One level below is the Richmond and York River Railroad where rail first went into   battle
Through Central and Tidewater Virginia it travels
Past the cargoes of a nation in peace and war
To be in the collection at Ft. Eustis Army Transportation Corps Museum
Diesel Switchers still run on the rails
Once again the minds of children touched
This one reminds everyone how history of technology has turned a page
Unwind time to the dawn of the diesel era.

Belle Isle Hydro-Electric Plant Richmond, VA

It sits on the cliff of Belle Isle
On gnarled weathered slopes sculpted by man and nature
Its machinery began to rotate over a century ago,
64 years it ran,
A distant storm named Camille
Like a meteor entering earth parts of it impacts twice
On the Gulf of Mexico and in the James River
Physics runs the waterwheel
Physics with a blow turns the wheel to never align again
The river weaves threads of water and particles
Ensnaring the generators
The river reclaims the lease
No more infant striper and shad torn to bits before they can grow to spawn
Hydropower is clean energy if fine size screen and fish ladders are used
This one had neither
Trains of fossil fuels rumble by
On the wall the switch is set to
CLOSED, permanently
The walls crumble
With the echoes of the fishermen on the rocks below.

A-26 invader 44-35617

Built in 1945 to keep America free
Built to clip the wings of the evil eagle of the Baltic and free the slaves of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
War ends before it is used
A stifling chill breeze of ideology makes an iron curtain of exchange and real fences of barbed wire descend across Europe
Only 5 years of peacetime routine the Cold War turns hot in Korea
The once friendly bear must be monitored too
Its fighting men and spies ready to spread a lone star red
So the guns are slid out the bomb bay sealed
From the physicist and lens maker a panoramic view camera installed
A few years later the Cold War turns down to a simmer
Still good to use not just by Uncle Sam
He just wants jets that roar and turboprops that hum not propellers that churn
The camera unlatched the flashbomb pods put away
44-35617 is sold to a manufacturing firm becomes N600WB on the civil aircraft register
Transformed into a hot rod and mansion of the air
The war bonds repaid with the contracts resulting from its trips
A generation comes of age the Learjets come
Downgraded to an unscheduled cargo hauler
A succession of owners then N600wb purchased by an associate of the evil empires of the western hemisphere the drug cartels
The rewards of the cargo so great the plane can easily be replaced should it be lost
Now it brings manner of death again not to soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the nation’s foes but to the people of the country that built it
Each trip is hundreds of kilograms of poison: heroin, cocaine, and marijuana for minds and bodies
Each ounce triggers battles for corners of streets and families
Uncle’s agents with badges of gold wearing suits of Kevlar
Reclaim it with flashbangs and pointing MP-5 submachine guns
Off to the museum it goes to honor the crews of the A-26 that blazed a contrail of glory with rocket pods, bombs, and machine guns over Lorraine along the Rhine, Pork Chop hill, Hungnam the Imjin River and probed the boundaries of the bear’s lair
To honor too the grease stained men with the wrenches in their hands who made every flight possible.

Peck Iron and Metal 1948

For every ship service begins with a tow from the launching and ends with one to the scrapyard, scuttling, the target range, or the museum
Some Landing Ship Tank built at Newport News and other yards around the country end on the James River on a towline.
Downstream from Richmond, VA
Past Drewry’s Bluff over the frames of the ironclads of the Confederate States of America’s Navy that only lasted 3 years.
Salmon last only a few years and return to spawn and return to the earth.
These LST will return to the smelter
On the ironclads when Richmond was to nevermore be the Capital of the CSA
Lines of powder were lit with slow burning matches as fuses set by the crews.
Produced a flash on each to turn them to ruins never to be used again
These LST too will end in flashes. They too only served one war
Pass over the shattered hulks of the CSA ironclads
At Peck Iron and Metal beside the port
Men with welding torches descend on them like a flock of grackles to the fall harvest field
Peck them apart. Metals for appliances
Toxic substances rain like buckshot out of a shell onto men, water, and earth to join the molecules of oxidation of metal in the James from the ironclads on the riverbed
The engines are handled with the care given to a wedding dress before a wedding
To be used to bind two eras of time
Transform tugboats from the previous century and some from the war a generation ago
Anew from clouds of smoke from stacks tall as the columns of small temples of the pagan gods of Rome and the gentle rhythm of the steam engine that complemented the waves
To the roar of a diesel in a hold below a grate, a steel-case engine whose cannon-sized pistons provide a big rumble emitting barely visible haze scattered as dandelion blooms are quickly to the wind
Columns replaced with octagons that are like half a tree trunk
The edges capped with cartoon character like lips
From sailing ships to 800-foot freighters with Azipod propulsion units that only require one tug where once a 450-footer required 3 barges made of sailing ship hulls hauling jute to container barges taking synthetic fibers to the container ports for export
These boats towed it all. Lasted longer than their builders and first 3 generations or more of crews
Hulls of rivets with electronics in wheelhouse having cases cut with lasers
Some dock the sailing ships for the museums that own them
Lowell Thomas Movietone News clips live in color for those who choose to view real colors these days.

Mr. Trigg

Mr. Trigg
His legacy is all around not just in books or the Internet or point of case law brought up still
When government contractors fail with unfinished goods on the factory floor and creditors press against the court dock’s rail
Not just cigarettes, little things of iron, later foil and cough syrup too
Post-war Richmond known for more
Meet William Trigg, paralyzed by brain bleeding in 1902,
His wheels stopped turning in February ’03, kidneys not destined to make it through the winter.
The baseball diamond’s announcers voice echoes
Across the tracks to the wall of the factory
Where once machines that had pulled the trains of Cobb, Ruth, Cool Papa Bell were built
On screen on the Boulevard
The analysts and case officers of cold war spy thrillers practice their trades
From that very room parts for H2-293 of Finnish Railways were made
From small parts around the country and Tredegar and the Blue Ridge’s iron reheated
Machines cut grind and mold in whirring guided by eyes and fingers locked in unison
In 1917 revolution comes into Russia hidden on a train pulled by H2-293
Whose dark plumes pierce the fall clouds of misty grey portending fires of misery and industry in all corners of the globe
The factories sold to ALCO in 1901
In ‘27 Shockoe’s dynamo sends its last volt
Boulevard just a spoke on the supply chain as a parts plant after 1927.
1401, one of the last made,
Whose wheels had carried FDR, the man whose wheels had carried the nation…
Sits silently in shiny green paint, a statue, rods forever stilled in the Smithsonian’s basement hall,
The shrill whistle of 1904 built Southern 630, the only Richmond-built still running,
Accompanies the stataco of the Kingfishers on the banks of the Appomattox in March of 2013
And his shipyard, too, just a propwash on Richmond’s history,
Trigg’s, three short years of glory, now
The bleached white walls left of a drydock form a tombstone,
The dredge Benyuard improved the flow of commerce for the cargoes of the world at uncle’s behest for 44 years
Benyuard was built so tightly it got another 10 years of action to a private firm.  Outlasted the yard and many of her builders
Today’s locomotives just rectangles that give steady drone
Ships big boxes on the sea like chain stores
Tugboats do not have the fine lines like ballerina costumes anymore they just move like them.