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NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 3:54 p.m.

This one comes at the behest of Brett_Murphy, who said the following in the Hotlink Pics thread

You guys need a train thread. Don't get me wrong: I don't mind seeing the trains! It's just that you guys post these interesting stories and historical bits about the trains and they're just getting lost in this huge, rambling thread. I'd love it if I could go back and find some of the fact and pictures you guys posted in the past.

There's been a decent amount of train/railroad-related posts in the photo thread, so let's see if momentum moves over here. 

Basically, whether its photos, videos, anecdotes or any other cool stuff, put it here. American, other parts of the world, steam, diesel, electric, old, new, history lessons, questions, full-size or toys, whatever. Could be interesting. If it doesn't take off, then we'll just go back to occasionally hi-jacking the Hotlinking Pics thread.

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 4:05 p.m.

I'll kick it off with a bit of a personal anecdote about a steam locomotive that I have a personal connection with, Strasburg #90

Built in 1924 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Great Western Railroad (a subsidiary of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) the #90 was the largest locomotive on the line, a 2-10-0 Decapod, who made her career hauling sugar beets. In the 1950s, she was retired from regular duty and run by the CB&Q in excursion service until the early '60s, when they shut down their service, at which point she went to work for the Strasburg Railroad, hauling passengers and the occasional freight cars. Coincidentally, she was also the largest locomotive on Strasburg's 4.5 mile line, and kind of overkill for them.

Where do I factor in? When I was a kid, cars weren't even in the picture for me, it was all trains, got it from my father. But NY is not a great place to see steam trains operating, certainly not anymore. My family and I had made 2 trips to Steamtown in the late '90s and even as a kid younger than 10, I could see that place was kind of a joke, and failed to really see any operating steam locomotives there. Then, one year my father and I made the pilgrimage to Strasburg, and I was blown away by the place. Every piece of equipment was operational and beautifully maintained and they were breathing life into new stuff. My father and I took the shop tour (highly recommend it) and on account of it being the middle of the week and E36 M3ty weather, we were the only two people on the tour. So the guide, who was also one of their engineers, saw that we knew quit a bit and weren't the average tourist and personalized it a bit, taking us into areas people didn't normally see. And then, he let us up into the cab of #90, who was off duty that day, and had me sit in the engineer's seat and quizzed me on the various controls (which I aced and really surprised him). I don't even remember what engine was hauling trains that day, I think it was #89, an ex-Canadian 2-8-0, but I remember being up in #90.

This fall I was in the area, and decided to make a run to Strasburg. And what engine was on duty that day, greeting me like an old friend? #90. There may be faster, or more powerful, or prettier engines out there, but #90 is just fine for me.

 

JesseWolfe
JesseWolfe Reader
12/12/19 4:07 p.m.

Yeah, my full time job.  Its interesting, complicated and boring all at the same time.

 

 

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
12/12/19 4:24 p.m.

When the kids were much younger, we would often make trips to nearby steam railroads--Steamtown in Scranton, PA, Tweetsie Railroad in Boone, NC, Western Maryland in Cumberland MD, and Strasburg in PA.  All are wonderful in their way, but something about Strasburg was special.   I think the fact that they are in Amish country with those tidy little picturesque farms all around that really took me back in time.  It wasn't hard to imagine that you had just literally stepped back 100 years.

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 5:46 p.m.

In reply to 1988RedT2 :

The scenery is great at Strasburg. I also just like how nice the whole operation is. Every engine and car is clean and shiny and their is evident love and care and passion. The whole operation runs efficiently, without any volunteers or grants. And now they've built a reputation as being one of the places to get a steam engine overhauled. They just completed an expansion and already need to expand again, but they're getting actual work done I remember when I went to Steamtown in the '90s they had a single volunteer working on that Boston & Maine #3713 Pacific. Jump forward 20 years and it still isn't running (they were saying next year 5 years ago), their two big Canadian engines are inop and not being worked on (they said the Mikado 3524 will likely not ever be fixed due to old frame damage) and the stuff outside is falling to ruin. Canadian National #47, one of the last of the CN's class X 4-6-4Ts, almost makes me want to cry. That was a running engine in the '60s and Steamtown's first locomotive and now it is literally falling apart.

RealMiniNoMore
RealMiniNoMore PowerDork
12/12/19 5:55 p.m.

This guy came through town this past summer. 

Brett_Murphy
Brett_Murphy UltimaDork
12/12/19 6:15 p.m.

Thanks, Nick! I'm not much of a train geek, but I do enjoy reading a bit about them.

We've gone to the New Hope Valley Railway with the kids, and was the first (and so far only) time I've ever been on an actual train. The NYC Subway, the MARTA, BART and the DC Metro don't count.

e hope to visit the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, too.

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr UberDork
12/12/19 6:49 p.m.

My great grandfather was an engineer on a steam engine that was rebuilt in Altoona pa.  Need to research exactly what it was...

 

Please keep this thread going.  I'm enjoying it.

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
12/12/19 7:34 p.m.

My entire childhood revolved around trains. Railroad history, model railroading - I had Z, N HO, S, and O27 layouts at one point, plus a small G-scale set that my mom put up at Xmas. I was also fortunate to have a great railroad museum with a massive HO layout just down the street from us. I spent every weekend of my youth there. 

I sold almost all my stuff years ago. The only things I have left are a framed original PRR Uncle Sam poster from WWII, and a framed arrangement of C & EI buttons that spell out “C & EI RR”.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
12/12/19 7:46 p.m.

Another cool railroad destination that I forgot to mention is the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, VA, home of the restored and operational Norfolk & Western  J-Class #611.  Try to stay at the Hotel Roanoke, which is a very pleasant experience in itself.  You will be close to VMT and literally steps away from the O. Winston Link Museum.  For those that do not know, Link made a great many excellent photographs of the last years of steam operation on the N & W.

This is a photo I took of #611, in Petersburg, VA back in 2017:

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 8:15 p.m.

In reply to 1988RedT2 :

Funny enough, 611 was up visiting Strasburg Rail Road when I was there. She was just outside steaming and getting a bath. They were going to be operating it the next day, but I was going to be busy and couldn't see her in action. Gorgeous engine though, and a unique sounding whistle

I wonder if 611 and N&W 475 had a lot to catch up on. Strasburg just finished her 1472-day inspection and she was looking good.

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 8:18 p.m.
Brett_Murphy said:

Thanks, Nick! I'm not much of a train geek, but I do enjoy reading a bit about them.

We've gone to the New Hope Valley Railway with the kids, and was the first (and so far only) time I've ever been on an actual train. The NYC Subway, the MARTA, BART and the DC Metro don't count.

e hope to visit the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, too.

Hey, the NYC subway is some pretty cool stuff. Lots of engineering there to think about. I also rode the cable cars in San Fran, and that is some seriously crazy engineering, considering when it was built. As a kid, I always thought they were trolley cars, and then I got there and saw how it worked and went "Oh, they really mean cable."

kazoospec
kazoospec UltraDork
12/12/19 8:29 p.m.

I'm not a huge "rail fan", but this bad boy passed through my home town.

Image result for Southern Pacific 4449 from Galesburg, MI

It was over 10 years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Mostly for the glorious noise of it all.

02Pilot
02Pilot SuperDork
12/12/19 8:29 p.m.

I've always loved trains. My father commuted on the train, and I was at the station every morning in the car when my mother dropped him off. Used to put pennies on the tracks before the train came. Somewhere around here I've got a conductor's hat from the old Penn Central - my father got it for me the day P/C stopped operating. At some inappropriately early age (maybe 7 or 8), an Amtrak engineer let me drive the train heading for Montreal for a little while. I still like to see them go by; I'm fortunate to live in an area with two quite active rail lines, and even a few old stations still in use. I also seek them out when traveling. Here's a couple of shots from recent years.

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 8:30 p.m.

In reply to RealMiniNoMore :

God, that 4014 is a monster. I honestly never thought they'd get a Big Boy running. Fun fact: Union Pacific was going to call those things "Wasatchs", but then some employee at American Locomotive Company scrawled Big Boy on the smoke box of #4000, and that name stuck. UP has a pretty cool fleet, with the Northern #844 and the Challenger #3985 and now #4014, although #3985 is on the back burner for a while.

They also have a couple other steamers in their Heritage Fleet, although neither of them run currently nor likely ever will

UP #5511 is a big 2-10-2 Santa Fe, the last remaining UP Santa Fe. She was used as a stationary boiler for years after retirement and made some appearances in UP promotional films (it was actually inop at that point, and they just pushed it with a diesel and tossed some burning tires in the smoke box to make it look like it was under steam). Unfortunately, they cut her piston rods for easier movement, plus they cut off the feedwater heater and stripped a lot of the controls out of her cab, swapped her to a tiny tender and the boiler wasn't as religiously maintained during its second life. Even if it weren't for that, the long-rigid frame and flanged drivers make it not well suited to tracks with much curvature, it has old friction axle bearings instead of roller bearings, and as a drag freight locomotive, it'll only do about 40mph and beat the daylights out of you at that speed. 

UP #1243 is an old 4-6-0 Ten-Wheeler that was built in 1890 and ran right up until the end of the UP's steam era. They looked at making it operational for her centennial in 1990, but reportedly when they filled the boiler up, it leaked from every seam and rivet and pretty much put an end to that idea. A whole new boiler would be required, so they just towed it around on a flat bed behind #844 instead.

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 8:54 p.m.

Some photos from when I went to Steamtown in 2016. I was disappointed to see that they don't offer a shop tour anymore

Baldwin Locomotive Works #26 was their only operating steam locomotive. It's a little 0-6-0 switcher that Baldwin used at their facilities and was just off a sixteen year refit. Its restricted to just poking around the yard.

Canadian Pacific #2929 is the only CP Royal Jubilee left and its pretty much been let go. Sad to see.

Candian National #47 is a 4-6-4 Hudson in a Forney tank engine configuration that was used in their commuter service. Only one left, and again, literally falling apart. It was operational when Steamtown was back in their original location under Nelson Blount, but the roundhouse fire in the '80s burned up the boiler certifications and they would have either had to tear it down and get it recertified or stop using it. They chose the latter.

Reading T-1 4-8-4 #2124 at least had a shiny new coat of paint. T-1s are a pretty aesthetically "wrong" engine in my mind, between the slightly off-center headlight and weird Wooten firebox for burning bituminous coal. Supposedly her sister, #2102 is supposed to be running soon. 

Canadian National #3524 was their big road engine, a 2-8-2 Mikado, but they parked it in 2010 after it came due for it's reinspect. Apparently she was getting pretty tired by that point, and I guess it suffered a collision at some point in it's past that actually bent the frame. The cab doesn't sit quite centered and it always had trouble with axle bearings. They aren't sure if it's feasible to fix, so it just sits in the roundhouse gathering dust.

Canadian Pacific #2317 is a trim little 4-6-2 Pacific that was their other big road engine. But they parked it in 2012 when it came due for it's FRA 1472, and haven't touched it since. Supposedly once they are done fixing Boston & Maine #3713, this engine is next to get refurbished, but they've been working on that B&M engine for 20-something years, and it was supposed to be running "next year" when I was there in 2016.

Canadian National #3377 was a parts engine for the #3524. They stripped all the usable parts off of it and then shoved it out back. Considering the frame damage on the #3524 that is supposedly highly unlikely to be fixed, it makes me wonder if they weren't better off using the #3524 to keep the #3377 running.

Not my photo, but worth talking about. Delaware, Lackawanna & Western 565 is one of only 2 surviving DL&W engines. And seeing as how Steamtown is based out of an old DL&W roundhouse and shop, fixing this one would make a certain sense. So they tore it down to begin work, but because it's a national park and the 565 is considered a "structure" they got mired down in some bureaucratic nonsense where they didn't file the right paperwork and thus got told they had to stop all work by Park Services, even though when they had tried to work on the Shay locomotive they have Park Services themselves had told the staff to work on the 565 because of it's significance. Now its been years while they wait for approval and parts have been moved around and not inventoried and possibly lost and it's just collecting dust.

I hate to come off as bashing Steamtown, but the place really is depressing to go to. And considering it's a national historic site, it's kind of a disgrace that they don't really seem to have a plan and everything is on a shoestring. Even as a kid, both times I went there, they had one guy working on a single locomotive and I thought "Well, gee, that'll never get done anytime soon" and, surprise, it isn't. Realistically, I think they need to cull the herd a little, sell off some of the stuff that's rotting away outside to a museum that'll more likely give it the attention it needs, then use the money and focus on the stuff that can be saved and get some stuff operating so that there is a reason to go there.

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 9:38 p.m.

Stumbled across this gem of a photo tonight. That's a Union Pacific 2nd-generation GE gas-turbine electric locomotive (nicknamed "Verandas" for the wallkways on the side) doubleheading with a Big Boy behind it. That's roughly 10000hp on tap. The Union Pacific sure liked 'em big.

02Pilot
02Pilot SuperDork
12/12/19 9:43 p.m.

Seems like a fair number of rail museums have lots of equipment, but nobody to maintain or restore it, and sometimes nowhere to run it. The Danbury Railroad Museum is a case in point. Historic station, big yard filled with all sorts of stuff, and much of it rusting away. The railroad that now owns the line that runs past it won't let them run anything, so they're stuck in the yard. It's nice to see some projects being worked on (they've got a 20th Century Limited lounge car that was in the final stages when I saw it a few years ago), but it could be so much better.

 

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/12/19 9:47 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

Oooh, that looks like an Alco FA in the background. Yeah, I have heard that CSX is really difficult to work with. They do not allow any old equipment to run on their rails. Not just steam locomotives, but even the old EMD E and F units. I guess when Ross Rowland was running C&O 614 all over their rails doing testing, he was exceeding speed limits and they decided it was just too big of an insurance cost. Although I heard that recently they may have relaxed a little on the subject and let Nickel Plate 765 travel on their rails. Maybe they see all the good press UP is getting and want in.

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 Dork
12/12/19 11:03 p.m.

I am not a major train fan, but all old machinery and technical history interests me. I need to visit Strasbourg, it isn't very far away, I pass through the village occasionally. I have seen a running Shay at the Rough & Tumble Museum, and rode steam in England in 2002. Also stop at the North Carolina Transportation Museum when I go by. Major shout out to for the O.Winston Link Museum. His photos are spectacular.

Rough & Tumble's Shay running around their loop.

This used to run on the weekends near where I grew up. Photo from 1968.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
12/13/19 12:00 a.m.

Speaking of Shays, The Illinois Railway Museum just got their J.Neils Lumber Company 3 truck Shay#5 working again. She was cleared for service on October 28, 2019, after being down since 1999. Built by Lima in 1929. She was the first steam engine acquired by IRM in 1966.

Lima build photo:

As she looks today:

 

 

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/13/19 5:26 a.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

The Shay is like the the rotary of the steam locomotive world "Let's just take everything that everyone knows works, and throw it out the window." I remember reading that the New York Central planned on buying some monster 4-cylinder Shays for yard work but then decided against it.

Then you had the Heisler, which mounted two pistons like a Honda CX500 to drive a pair of driveshafts to the front and rear gear drives.

And the Climax was the third gear drive locomotive. I'm pretty sure that Cass Scenic Railroad in WV has all three types and they are all operation.

02Pilot
02Pilot SuperDork
12/13/19 5:27 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

It's not CSX, it's the Housatonic Railroad. New ownership came in a bunch of years ago and just terminated the previous agreement, at least according to what I was told by the people at the museum. I'm sure there's another side to the story, but the end result is the same.

I live fairly close to the Hudson River line, where the Century ran out of NYC for Chicago. You can see chunks of it in North by Northwest. I'd love to see some old NY Central equipment running along that line again, but it's already very busy with Metro North traffic, so I doubt it will happen.

NickD
NickD PowerDork
12/13/19 5:51 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

The other problem is that NYC equipment is so scarce. I understand they were a business, and one that wasn't doing particularly well (although Perlman almost turned things around) but it's still surprising that they saved none of their Niagaras and Hudsons, and the only two Mohawks survived through weird circumstances. There is an NYC 0-6-0 on display at the Utica train station, but it is in rough shape. And there is an old Indiana Harbor Belt (NYC subsidiary) 2-8-0 up in the woods in Maine that was sold to a logging operation that left her where she sat when they shut down operations but that is in a ludicrously remote location.

I had family who worked for the Central. I also had family who worked for the New York, Ontario & Western. The frustrating part is that neither of those railroads saved very little, so I can't go ride behind any equipment that they might have worked on or operated.

02Pilot
02Pilot SuperDork
12/13/19 6:12 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

You're better-informed than I. Sad that there's so little left of such a juggernaut as the NYC. At least a few of the old stations remain as they were. Hudson opened in 1874 and is still operating.

 

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