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NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/2/21 8:50 a.m.

In reply to Duke :

No it did not. They tended to look pretty ragged when they got older. It didn't help that D&H was financially feeble and wasn't spending a lot of money on washing and painting their equipment, or that their roster was Alco-heavy, which were heavy smokers. And then later on they started buying up a lot of secondhand Alco power from Long Island Rail Road and Lehigh Valley and Lehigh & Hudson River and used EMDs from Reading and Lehigh Valley, which resulted in a mess of different paint schemes floating around the system.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/2/21 11:11 a.m.
NickD said:

I just realized that the NYS&W unit in that lash-up is #4006, a GE B40-8, which (in)famously plastered a dump truck at a grade crossing while pulling an excursion during the 1988 NHRS convention.

Also, check out the cool NYS&W EMD F45. They acquired a couple from Burlington Northern, although they are sadly all off the NYS&W roster and scrapped now.

From what I've read, this event was pretty much representative of all of the "Garden State in '88" NRHS convention. The 10 day event nearly bankrupted the Tri-State chapter of the NRHS and pretty much ended the era of big week-long, multi-railroad conventions, as they have all been more sedate 2-day affairs from then on. Up to that point, there had been a trend of trying to outdo the previous year with bigger and more ambitious events, and when they tried to one-up the '87 convention in Roanoke (which had featured a multi-mile side-by-side run of N&W #611 with a passenger train and N&W #1218 with a coal train) it was basically a bridge too far.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/2/21 11:55 a.m.

Somebody once described the 1988 convention as "I spent a year in Jersey one week", which is a pretty good summary.

 

The event basically fell apart almost immediately, before it even started. They had planned 101 events for the 10-day event. Slow ticket sales for some trips led to four being canceled before the event even started (2 steam trips to Jim Thorpe and Reading, 2 diesel trips to the "Chemical Coast" and Long Island). Because of the sheer amount of trips, there were lots of scheduling conflicts but people weren't notified to the schedules in the flyers, so they often booked trips that conflicted with each other on the time table and then didn't realize it until they arrived. As trips ran late or were rescheduled, the conflicts got even worse. The sheer amount of events also spread the convention volunteers far too thin and had them going in a dozen different directions. They also tried using a computer system to order tickets, but this was 1988 so the computer system was not up to the task. The first problem was that they lagged about two weeks behind sending out trip confirmations to attendees. Thus many people arrived the first day and flooded the tiny room at the convention hotel where the computer person had set up to print out and correct tickets. and at one point there was a four hour wait on the registration line. What was worse were that some attendees found out that their first choice had been canceled, so they were in NJ with extra days to kill. Also, because it was slow to update, people were allowed to purchase far more first-class tickets than there were seats, so a lot of passengers got involuntary downgrades in service, and it distributed passengers unevenly, resulting in crammed cars in the front and rearward cars being completely empty. Several dealers that had multiple tables were assigned to tables in different parts of the same room, but cooler heads stepped in and shuffled the tables around. The speaker for the banquet dinner was the head of NJ Transit and he got up and mumbled something for a total of 5 minutes and then sat down, and that was his speech.

The weather was hot and humid, and due to tight scheduling, passenger cars rarely had their water tanks for the A/C system refilled, bathrooms weren't always emptied, the catered bag lunches were of unusually terrible quality and there was insufficient amounts for all passengers, and the excursions were referred to as "death marches" for their 8-12 hour lengths, all resulting in lots of very uncomfortable and unhappy passengers. Also, almost no photo runbys were planned, so people didn't get a chance to detrain and stretch their legs and photograph the train going by. The NRHS chapter blamed Conrail, but Conrail was not against such things at the time.

The very first trip was behind the Morristown & Erie's big red Alco Centuries and that trip went well. It was pretty much the only one that could be said of. It took passengers over to Conrail's yard in Selkirk where they got an excellent tour of the yard and shops. 

The NYS&W's two circle trips to Campbell Hall via NYS&W and then back to NY via NJT ran into issues. The first one got held up at Maybrook yard due to crew change confusion, which then resulted in it getting into Passaic during the height of the New Jersey commuter rush, so it got stabbed in the hole for a few hours to wait for things to clear up before it got back. Then the second one was where their weeks-old GE Dash-8 punted a Euclid gravel truck and had to turn back early just past the old L&HR yard in Warwick with F45 #3636 in the lead.

Nickel Plate #765 was supposed to be the guest of honor and was going to be run light in from Fort Wayne. Fans were excited to photograph it running in, but it ended up getting stranded in Binghamton, NY with a tender load of bad coal. It showed up on the 8th day, being towed in behind Conrail SDs. Upon arrival at NJ, the #765 crew was shown the water hose they were supposed to fill the tender with: a 5/8" water hose. To put that in perspective, the usual method of watering the cars in those days was a 2 1/2" fire hose from a pumper or a hydrant to a 3-way splitter. Three inch-and-a-half lines fed from the splitter and were used to water the cars. If they had a week between trips, the garden hose would have done the trick. Maybe.

The first successful high-speed steam runby happened on the 8th! day of the convention during a #765 trip to Port Jervis. This trip had been advertised and sold as steam-powered in both directions, but ended up being steam-powered on the outbound journey only. There were no turning facilities at Port Jervis, so the M&E Alcos coupled to the cars and brought the train back east on the return and the Berkshire ended up getting towed back to NJ by NJT diesels.

The final day of the convention involved a #765 trip to Harrisburg from Bound Brook, NJ via Allentown. This was a 440-mile round trip at a Conrail-imposed 40mph speed limit (Conrail's steam speed limit may have had something to do with when GTW #4070 disassembled it's running gear on Horseshoe Curve in 1977 and then the train went into emergency and split into three parts due to the rolling junkyard of coaches). Do the math, and then add in 4 hours for servicing stops, and that's an ugly schedule. The #765 crew repeatedly warned the convention planning staff that that was way too long a trip and repeatedly tried to talk them out of it, but their advice fell on deaf ears.

This trip was designed to be a connection to the westbound Amtrak Broadway Limited for those convention attendees returning home via Amtrak. But it was never communicated to Conrail by convention staff that they needed #765 towed from where it finished the night before to Bound Brook, so Conrail just left it where it was. Everyone got ready to go to Harrisburg the next day, but the engine was nowhere to be found. Conrail eventually dispatched a crew to tow it to Bound Brook but the train left hours late and only got and later as it progressed, as it tripped every hotbox detector along the way. It got so far behind schedule that the the trip was terminated in Reading instead. Unfortunately this stranded about 25 people who were counting on getting to Harrisburg before the Broadway's departure time. Apparently one chapter member shelled out $500 of his own money for 6 taxis to get those passengers to Harrisburg. Cutting short the trip also presented a pricing issue, as this trip was sold at a higher price due to its Harrisburg destination, but in the end it mirrored a previous #765 trip to Reading. People felt short-changed as this trip via Allentown cost more than the previous Reading trip which took a longer and more scenic route to Reading via Philly. This trip has come to be referred to as the "Readingsburg Trip."

The general consensus was the events which were hosted primarily by the railroads (items like NJT's Meadowlands Shop tour or Conrail's Selkirk tour, NJT and PATH offering inexpensive day passes to tour their entire system, the cross-honoring of passes between the commuter operations, etc) were flawless, while those events coordinated by the local chapters were disasters. The actions of NJT, PATH, LIRR, Reading Blue Mountain & Northern (they were running trips out of Reading and Temple behind #2102 and #425 and providing areas to service #765), Conrail, M&E and NYS&W were what held things together, while the rail buffs unfortunately came off as a pack of bumbling idiots. It also did serious damage to future attempts at hosting events in that area. Ross Rowland attempted to run C&O #614 out of Port Jervis a couple years later on the NJT and said that the response from NJT members who remembered '88 was a violent and vehement "NO!" until he convinced them he had his E36 M3 together. Conrail also became very reluctant to operating steam excursions.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/2/21 3:17 p.m.

NKP #765 being prepared for one of the trips to Temple, PA where passengers would transfer over to riding behind Reading #2102 on the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern. Look at that sea of Conrail blue in the background, just as much an anachronism these days as a Nickel Plate Berkshire.

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society said the '88 NRHS Convention is still the single worst event they've ever gone to, having operated over 300 excursions. They did learn one important lesson though, which was to always handle all the logistics and don't leave them in other hands. Trip length, trip destination, any deadhead moves, fuel and water provisions, everything. Don't leave it in the event organizers hands, or you end up with stuff like being told to water the tender with a 5/8" garden hose, or a 15 hour roundtrip at 40mph.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/3/21 8:51 a.m.

Steamtown also had an instance where people who had no clue what it took to run a railroad were the ones planning the event and bit off more than they could chew. It was ultimately pulled out of the fire by crews who knew what they were doing.

In November of '97, someone came up with the idea of running two trips from Analomink, PA over the Delaware-Lackawanna's ex-DL&W mainline into Steamtown at Scranton using Steamtown equipment, about a 45 mile trip one way. The plan was that the train would bring people into Scranton in the morning, they would detrain and have a couple hours to check out Steamtown or the Scranton mall, then ride back to Analomink, where they would drop them off and pick up a second group of people and repeat the process.

It was a pretty ambitious schedule and one that basically counted on everything going perfectly. Not a good way to plan an event. Also, for whatever reason, they only had Canadian National #3254 operating, so they couldn't run two trains or doublehead. The morning of, #3254's sander decided to stop functioning and couldn't be easily coerced back into operation. And then it started raining. Between the rain and fallen leaves, the train stalled on a grade and they could not get it moving again. Delaware-Lackawanna was contacted and they sent a pair of their big Alcos to the rescue but they had to wait for an hour or two for them to arrive. In the meantime the toilets filled up on the passenger cars.

By the time the train got moving again and arrived in Scranton, it was basically time to turn around and head back to Analomink and they still had to service, water and fuel the big CN Mike and drain the tanks on the passenger cars. As one person recalls, the passengers handled it pretty much in stride, very few asked for refunds and they were fascinated watching the Steamtown crew make a mad dash to get the train ready. Once they were ready, they stormed back out of Scranton, got to Analomink without further incident, turned around and hauled ass back to Scranton with the second group. Because they were so far behind schedule , they again pretty much had to turn around as soon as they arrived. One of the firemen jokingly started to file down the nut on the end of the throttle brace to give the engineer more room to pull the throttle on the trip out of town. And then they went tearing out of Scranton, running #3254 for all she was worth into the driving rain. Since Steamtown never runs at night, none of the DL&W and CNJ coaches had operating interior lights, so the lighting was provided by a bunch of battery-operated lanterns that someone grabbed and hung from the luggage racks. 

They ended up returning to Scranton to park #3254 some 20 hours after they left that morning. Steamtown never tried to run a double trip like that again.

LS_BC8
LS_BC8 New Reader
3/3/21 12:06 p.m.

In  July ? of 1992 I went for what was supposed to be a steam excursion from Asheville to Knoxville and return. The Southern 4501 rolled in to Asheville the previous night with the front truck bearings cooked. The next day we left with diesels (some people got mad and just left). The scenery was beautiful along the French Broad River, but the train had to stop for every freight that was encountered. We were running about 2 hours late. Got to Morristown, TN, some fellow in a white shirt detrained and started storming across the ballast (the ride home proved he must have been important). Finally got into Knoxville 2 1/2 hours late....guess what, a 17 car train doesn't fit in the stub ended station at Knoxville. We detrained out in the yard. We were given 45 minutes to find something to eat and get back on the train. Got back on the train and headed for Asheville. On the ride back we stopped for nothing. The six axle coach behind us squealed through the curves. We came to Newport, TN where the tracks run through downtown ans never slowed down. Arrived back in Asheville only twenty minutes late.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/3/21 2:41 p.m.

In reply to LS_BC8 :

I've heard of a similar story on a Norfolk Southern overnight trip with N&W #611 from Lexington, KY to Chattanooga in '89. They got to Danville, KY in no time and made a crew change, and that's when the fun began. At the first hotbox detector outside of Danville they got the message, "HOTBOX AXLE 3 4 WEST SIDE." The pilot engineers informs the dispatcher, "we weren't sure if the detector said axle 3 and 4 or axle 34 so we're going to stop and check it out." They made about a 20 minute stop, found nothing and take back off, until they to the next detector and it says the same thing, and the pilot engineer reports the same thing. This section of NS had a detector every 10 miles. You can see where this is going... 10 miles, stop, 10 miles, stop, 10 miles, stop... After about 5 stops and running about 2 hours late, the Road Foreman of Engineers of the division got up in the engine during lunch at Oneida.

Speaking of that lunch, the passengers were forced to stay on board while the engine was serviced. This wouldn't be so bad but there was no run-by and everyone was starting to get a little grumpy from all the sitting. The lunch was simple boxed lunches provided by a local caterer and they were reportedly just awful. The lunches were so bad that people were talking about them 3 or 4 years later.

The trip Oneida with the RFE on the seatbox and got nothing but green lights all the way to Chattanooga, only stopping to change crews in Oakdale and made up about 45 minutes of lost time. Then they go to back down the wye at Chittenango and stop 1000 feet short of the statio. The rail in the wye had turned over and the last 2 driver wheels were in the dirt. After about 10 minutes they made the decision to let the passengers off and walk to the busses. 

The next day everyone finds out the #611 wouldn't be pulling the train back to Lexington, due to wanting to check it over after the derailment. Instead NS sent two nondescript GP38s who  proceeded to absolutely fly up the CNO&TP "Rathole Division". They were clocked at running 60+ in a few places and got to Lexington so early that the busses to take people to the parking lot hadn't arrived yet.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/4/21 6:29 a.m.

There seem to be a lot of cool stories from the Southern/Norfolk & Western/Norfolk Southern excursions.

NS used to host an annual 2-day trip from Alexandria, Virginia to Roanoke, which were sponsored by the groups around the DC area. This trip was either '84 or '86. (Not '85, as that trip was with 4501 down the Shenandoah Valley Line) and was #611 to Petersburg via RF&P and Seaboard and then to Roanoke via N&W AND Virginian. This was before the Dismal Swamp derailment and the resulting speed restrictions, so they would really haul ass with #611, 60-75mph or faster. They were coming into a station crowded with smiling excited people, tickets in hand and the train is not slowing down and the person recounting the story said that as they passed the crowds you could see the expressions on their faces changing from "Wow, here she comes! This is great"  to "Hey! They're not stopping!" They sailed right on by all those dropping jaws, and about a mile down the track before they applied the brakes and stop. Somehow the #611 crew didn't know it was a passenger stop. So, they back up to the station, load "em up, and blast out of town. Again.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/4/21 9:11 a.m.

In '89 NS ran a trip from Erie, PA to Buffalo, NY over the Conrail ex-NYC Water Level Route and NS's ex-Nickel Plate main with #611. Graham Claytor, survivor of the USS Indianapolis incident, former president of Southern Railway and founder of Southern's steam program, Secretary Of The Navy under Carter, head of Amtrak, and brother to Robert Claytor (president of N&W, then NS and founder of the NS steam program) was at the throttle. This is also before the Great Dismal Swamp derailment and he has the throttle way out. They're blowing past Conrail TrailVans on parallel tracks on the Water Level Route left and right. They get on the Nickel Plate line and he's still just clicking off the miles. Then the crew gets a radio call that they blew past the photo runby point. Graham Claytor brings the train to a stop, radios in that he is going to make a reverse move four miles back down the single-line ex-NKP line to unload passengers, make a photo runby and then reverse again to pickup passengers. If it was anyone but the Claytors, they would have just scratched the runby opp, and if it was anyone but the Claytors they would have been told to pound salt by the traffic dispatchers, but the Clayors were a class act. So they made a 20mph reverse move and gave passengers their runby opp and then headed out again.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
3/4/21 10:42 a.m.

I found this searching for the music, but there is a lot for railfans to unpack in the video (45 minutes +/-):

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/4/21 11:33 a.m.

A trip that could have been a fiasco, but wasn't, involved an unusual "circle" trip out of Alexandria, VA, in either '87. The NS took the excursion train with A Class 2-6-6-4 #1218 to Front Royal, VA where they then switched to diesels and took it north on the N&W to Shenandoah Junction. There the train, locomotives and all, was turned over to CSX The return trip was over the old B&O main line, around D.C., and back to Potomac Yards, where the NS yard crew was to take back over and take the train back to Alexandria station.



The evening before the trip CSX called and informed the organizers that the Potomac River was flooding and they could not guarantee that they would be able to take the train. They had to contact the chief dispatcher at 3 am to find out if the railroad was open. The trip did run and CSX was a class act, despite having only one track open and MoW gangs out in force. The conductor and brakeman were graybeards who had been B&O veterans and dusted off their old B&O passenger uniform and showed up in the full regalia. When they got back to Potomac Yard, the Norfolk Southern boys were nowhere to be found, so after some delay, the B&O guys got back on the train and took it the last mile or two into Alexandria station, despite not being qualified on the territory.

Photos of the CSX leg of this trip are pretty much nonexistent because all the chasers decided to follow #1218 running light back to Alexandria. While #1218 is considered an excursion star, it's interesting that it had a pretty short career, from '87-'91.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/5/21 12:00 p.m.

An amusing/odd excursion mishap involved Reading T-1 #2102 on a trip from Temple to Jim Thorpe in '87. Upon arrival in Allentown yard the locomotive was uncoupled and taken to a wye track in Bethlehem on the the Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England (Bethlehem Steel's railroad) This was done so the locomotive could face north the correct way while going to Jim Thorpe.. The operator at Bethlehem basically forgot them on a siding for an hour or two and then had an "Oh E36 M3" moment and remembered them and sent them on their way. Since they had had the engine steamed up for the whole time, they now needed water sooner than expected, so someone put out a call to a volunteer fire company who brought their tanker truck to meet them at the tracks. They met up, topped off #2102's tender and were on their way. What they didn't realize was that the fire company's water tank had an additive mixed in to make "slippery water": it reduces the surface tension of water to make it pump faster and not work the pumps as hard. It also raises the boiling point of the water and when it does boil, it makes foam. #2102 made it a few miles down the track before it turned into an 809,000lb bubble bath. It finally came to a rest just short of the Pennsylvania Turnpike NE extension bridge when there wasn't even enough steam pressure to run the compressors to keep the brakes off. Conrail ended up having to dispatch some diesels to come rescue them, and then they decided to use #2102's cylinders to pump out boiler while it was being towed, which put a lot of drag on the train and really strained the Conrail diesels. Supposedly the PB&NE operator who forgot about #2102 was fired after the incident.

#2102 also had another fueling incident on a trip from Kent to Greeneville, about 10 years earlier in '77. They made it to the B&LE roundhouse at Greeneville, turned the #2102 and then, for whatever reason did not take on coal. As one person who was there said, as an eleven year old even he could look in the tender and see the coal bunker was half full and realize that math did not add up. They got almost back to Ravenna Arsenal and the train slowed down and came to a stop. Yep, they ran out of coal. Conrail had just done a bunch of track maintenance and used an old tie replacement machine which chopped the ties in half before pulling them out from under the rail. The crew was running down the track, picking up chunks of ties and chucking them in the firebox and tender to try and get home, but they couldn't even get enough pressure up to pump the brakes off. A Conrail TrailVan train came up behind them, and they ended up cutting off the engines from the train and shoved them the rest of the way to Kent. A couple weeks after that there was another doubleheaded trip with #2102 and GTW #4070 where someone forgot to contract a bucket loader to be onsite and they had to fill the tenders with a 5-gallon bucket brigade. And during that trip was when GTW #4070's valve gear came apart on Horseshoe Curve.

Donebrokeit
Donebrokeit UltraDork
3/5/21 12:17 p.m.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/5/21 4:46 p.m.

A CP train hit a tractor trailer load of eggs today. That's a hell of an omelette

slowbird
slowbird UltraDork
3/5/21 5:18 p.m.

Someone must really have egg on their face after that incident.

Nick, I just found an interesting vid on the Lackawanna cutoff & current plans to revive it into a high-speed rail corridor. 
 

 

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
3/6/21 9:10 a.m.
slowbird said:

Someone must really have egg on their face after that incident.

Looks like the train turned that truck over easy.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/6/21 10:15 a.m.
kazoospec said:
slowbird said:

Someone must really have egg on their face after that incident.

Looks like the train turned that truck over easy.

I'm sad it wasn't a Canadian National locomotive, then I could have made a joke about a Grand Trunk Western omelet.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/6/21 1:41 p.m.

Its too bad that NYS&W gentrified their roster, because for a long time they ran some pretty bizarre lashups. They ended up buying a pair of ex-Burlington Northern EMD F45s (SD45s with a cowl body), some ex-SP SD40T-2 "Tunnel Motors" and then, after sending back leased SD70MACs and GE Dash-8s, they bought a bunch of ex-Quebec Cartier Mining Montreal Locomotive Works M636s. I think that may be the only time that SD70s and Dash-8s were replaced with old Alco/MLWs. I also think that makes NYS&W the only railroad to ever roster F45s, SD45s, SD40T-2s and M636s simultaneously. The F45s were mostly hangar queens and were cut up for scrap, the SD45s were sent on their way to Montana Rail Link, the Tunnel Motors are still kicking around I think, and the M636s were pretty well used-up when they got them and were quickly sold to Western New York & Pennsylvania, who has retired and scrapped many of them.

 

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/6/21 7:31 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/6/21 9:20 p.m.

One of NYS&W's Russian Decapods

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/7/21 1:53 a.m.

There is an interesting Stillwell combination passenger coach/RPO from the Erie tucked in right behind Russian Decapod #2485 in this photo of a mixed train

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/7/21 8:21 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/7/21 8:22 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/7/21 8:22 a.m.

When it was owned by the Erie, the Erie dumped a bunch of these engines on the Susie-Q. After NYS&W became independent they continued to operate them, either under lease or outright purchase, as well as a couple ex-Erie 4-6-2s. 

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