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NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/10/21 8:06 a.m.
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to NickD :

Damn, 189 years? That's incredible!

And all because the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad (what became PRR's, and then Amtrak's, Keystone Corridor) refused to build a 4.5 mile spur from Leaman Place into Strasburg. The Susquehanna Canal was going to be constructed and funnel most traffic into Baltimore instead of Philadelphia, and now the P&CRR was going to miss Strasburg, leaving the city concerned that they would lose their livelihood. A group of Strasburg businessman petitioned the Pennsylvania governor to allow construction of a railroad to interchange with the P&C at Paradise, PA, and the Strasburg Rail Road (yes, railroad is officially split into two words in the company name, much like Long Island Rail Road) was born. There was a planned extension to Quarryville, PA, which would have added about another 10 miles. The charter was granted in 1866 and surveying was completed but the 1867 economic downturn killed off the extension.

As of today, Strasburg Rail Road carries more passengers, hauls more freight, generates more revenue and owns more equipment than it ever did. It takes no government grants or money, uses zero volunteer employees in its workforce, and still turns a profit.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/10/21 8:54 a.m.

As far as anyone is aware (the 1832-1860 period's history is pretty murky), the only new locomotive ever purchased by Strasburg Rail Road was SRC #1, a 20-ton diesel mechanical purchased in 1926. Everything else was purchased used.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/10/21 9:58 a.m.

The only steam locomotive to arrive on Strasburg Rail Road in its modern tourist guise under its own power was Strasburg #4/Reading #1187, the little Camelback 0-4-0 purchased from E&G Brooke Iron Company in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania in 1962. It was run light from Birdsboro to Paradise, with an unscheduled stop in Lancaster when it broke a leaf spring and bent the running board.

Strasburg #4 was also one of the shorter-lived locomotives. It was purchased in '62, and retired by '67. It was extremely poor-steaming and also didn't have sufficient boiler capacity. Even in an era where Strasburg's train lengths were 3 or 4 cars, compared to the 8-10 of today, and a trip of only 4.5 miles, the #4 would have to make several stops to let steam pressure build back up. By the time its flue time expired, Strasburg had acquired Great Western of Colorado 2-10-0 #90 and leased PRR 4-4-0 #1223, and so the #4/#1187 was viewed as unnecessary.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/10/21 2:17 p.m.

The only one of Strasburg's regular roster (that's excluding RDG #1187, PRR #7002 and PRR #1223, because they were out of service before I was born) that I have not seen in operation is Canadian National #89. I saw Strasburg #31/Canadian National #7312 back around 2001 or 2002 when I went with my parents and sister down to Strasburg. I actually have some really blurry, poorly lit photos of it taken with a disposable camera that I came across this year during a cleanout. That same trip where I rode behind #31 was when I sat in the cab of Strasburg/Great Western of Colorado #90, and then in fall of 2019 I rode behind it, and then last year I got to operate it. When I was down to operate #90 last summer, they were running Norfolk & Western #475 on their regular trains that day, so I got to see it in action that day as well.

#89 is rather unique in that it is the only engine to have been part of both Strasburg and Steamtown's active rosters. The little Mogul was actually a favorite of Nelson Blount's and he was frequently found at the throttle of the engine. After his death in '68, #89 was sold to Strasburg in 1972. At that point, Steamtown had four operational Canadian Pacific 4-6-2s (#1246, #1278, #1293, #2317) plus an NKP Berkshire (#759), so the little 2-6-0 was likely viewed as surplus. It was run under its own power most of the way down to Strasburg, but they happened to stop for the night at Penn Central's Buttonwood yard. Which was when Hurricane Agnes hit and flooded the Buttonwood Yard. #89 spent several days completely submerged in water, and although it was undamaged, it was towed cold the rest of the way to Strasburg and was gone through before being steamed up again.

LS_BC8
LS_BC8 New Reader
6/11/21 9:09 a.m.

I rode behind 89 at Bellows Falls and behind 89 at Strasburg. At the time the boiler of the 475 was laying out with a sign that said "Don't ask when".

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/11/21 10:23 a.m.

In reply to LS_BC8 :

I've read that #475 was in pretty horrendous condition when they got it. And the other engine they were looking at simultaneously was in even worse condition, somehow. Strasburg was eyeballing either N&W #475 or Crab Orchard & Egyptian #17, both at Boone Scenic Valley Railroad. They determined that restoring the CO&E 2-8-0 would pretty much be a case of jacking up the bell and building a whole new locomotive underneath it, so they went with #475. When Boone Scenic Valley wanted to get into operating a steam locomotive, it was cheaper and easier to import a JS class Mikado from China than restore the CO&E #17 that they already owned.

The other really rough one at Strasburg is Canadian Pacific #972. It was owned by George Hart's Rail Tours Inc and was at Strasburg for repairs when RTI when out of business. Since Strasburg had time and money invested in the repairs that they hadn't been paid for, the decision was made to hand ownership over to Strasburg in compensation. Strasburg had some plan to make it into a faux PRR G5 and cut the firebox and rear boiler course off to build a Belpaire boiler segment and then that was work stopped. They have enough engines now that they don't really need another, and #972 is rumored to need every nut, bolt, washer, rivet and cotter pin replaced, its just a thorougly used up engine.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/11/21 3:03 p.m.

The aborted operational restoration that I'm bummed about is former Nacional de Mexico #3028. It was one of the NdeM's "pocket Northerns", which they actually called a Niágara. Yeah, they used the NYC's name but with a tilde. They were some of the only new steam locomotives purchased by the NdeM (a lot of American stuff ended up down there, like Flagler-era FEC Mountains, USRA Mikados, the Norfolk Southern light Berkshires) and were built by Alco. They were a modern-looking engine, and bulk big in appearances, but were light for a 4-8-4 and were pretty much go-anywhere engines. They were also oddly modern and antiquated at the same time, with stuff like cast engine beds, Nathan non-lifting injectors, roller bearing drivers, thermic syphons, Type E superheater, lateral motion device on lead drivers, but then dome-mounted throttles, no mechanical lubrication, no feedwater heater. 

A bunch of them sat around in scrapyards well into the '60s (Some were still present in scrapyards into the 1990s!) and #3028 was acquired by a preservation group in '66 and moved back to the US. She was being stored at the D&H's Colonie shops, indoors and out of sight, until 1994, then was moved to the New Hope & Ivyland. The NH&I was going to restore it to operation and run it on their tracks, taking advantage of her relatively small size and light axle loadings. But the group that owned it seems to have never had the money to get work done and last I had heard, they had defaulted on the storage fees, and it had maybe passed through the hands of a few different groups who similarly never paid up. There was also talk of moving it up to Schenectady, NY for an Alco museum, although that mostly seemed to be talking, no real progress. So, she sits in the NHI deadline, looking pretty forlorn and waiting for some sort of change in fortunes.

TheMagicRatchet
TheMagicRatchet New Reader
6/11/21 5:09 p.m.

Is that engine restorable at this point?

 

Lou Manglass

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/11/21 8:21 p.m.

In reply to TheMagicRatchet :

The fact that it lived a relatively short life in a warm arid climate, then spent 30 years stored indoors probably helps its case. I believe all the jewelry, like the whistle, bell, headlight, builder's plate, are all tucked away and stored at the NH&I shops. 

The running gear, I have no clue on the condition of. Considering the hardscrabble, low-buck nature of the NdeM, it might have some severe wear or questionable repairs. I know one NH&I employee said the firebox had some "intriguing" repair work done to it. The boiler, no clue. If they had poor quality water or untreated water and didn't blow the boiler down enough, that's hard on them.

I think the biggest issue to it is the legal status. Not sure how true this is, but I heard that between all the various groups that have owned it and defaulted on it, something like $700,000 in back storage fees and repair work is owed to the NH&I. That would be in addition to whatever the agreed purchase price is. 

Could it be restored? Its not that bad, honestly. I've seen bigger basket cases. Florida East Coast #148 was a mistreated, rusty pile of parts strewn across the Colorado landscape that US Sugar did an amazing restoration on last year. That was about the worst condition candidate for a restoration you could pick. Even when it ran in the '70s and '80s, it was grossly underpowered from all the steam leaks and had wheel flanges worn so thin that it was notorious for picking switches. It was dragged several miles to Traverse City for display with the wheels locked up, had cab and tender sides so rusty you could poke holes through them with a finger, was pretty picked over by vandals, and then dismantled and left to die. Rio Grande Southern #20 was also a complete catastrophe. It had suffered numerous accidents and severe lack of maintenance, plus bubble gum and baling twine repairs at the RGS shops. When they hydrotested the boiler at the start of the resto, it was so thin that the boiler plates started ballooning under pressure. The connecting rod journals were worn right out into ovals. Now its an operating engine.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/12/21 7:44 a.m.

On the subject of U.S. Sugar, they have just purchased another steam locomotive to operate on their Sugar Express operations. They have purchased Atlantic Coast Line #1504, a USRA Light Pacific, from the city of Jacksonville and will be moving it to Clewiston for a return to operational status. Rumor is that this is a zero-mileage engine, that ACL fully overhauled it before donation. Of course, being outside without a roof over its head for a couple decades has resulted in some degradation, although it had a pretty good cosmetic refresh s couple years ago.

LS_BC8
LS_BC8 New Reader
6/12/21 8:46 a.m.

I read somewhere that when Canadian Pacific went to rebuild 2816 (purchased from Steamtown), Doyle McCormick commented that the boiler looked like a sewer pipe. 

LS_BC8
LS_BC8 New Reader
6/12/21 9:05 a.m.
NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/12/21 10:11 a.m.

In reply to LS_BC8 :

Union Pacific had a Harriman-era 4-6-0 stored at Cheyenne, #1243, that they looked at restoring to operation in 1990 for the engine's centennial, as well as Wyoming and Idaho's centennial. As a preliminary check, they filled the boiler up and water proceeded to pour out of every seem and rivet. They ended up just loading it on a flatcar and towing it around Wyoming and Idaho with #844. It has since been moved to a museum in Omaha and they also have determined if it were to ever operate again, a whole new boiler is required 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/13/21 5:50 p.m.

So, today was a nice day out, so I decided to head to Little Falls, NY and try to find the historical marker for the 1940 Gulf Curve wreck of the Lake Shore Limited. I found it, and, wow, you have to know its there to find it. Its tucked off in the grass along Route 5, in the weeds, on a boulder.

While trying to find the marker, which was just listed as "on the corner of Route 5 and River Road", I stumbled across something even better though. I found the roadbed that was the original track alignment of the NYC line, the actual Gulf Curve. After the derailment, the NYC wanted to realign the track and get rid of the curve and the related speed reduction (this was actually the second derailment at that curve), and finally realigned the track in '45 and got rid of the sharp curve. I had just assumed that the original roadbed had been covered up during the construction or obliterated during the 75+ years since. Well, rather than screw up passenger traffic by diverting it over on the West Shore, the NYC instead built the realignment alongside and then crossed over the top of it with a bridge, and tore up the rails afterwards. Surprisingly, the NYC, Penn Central, Conrail or CSX has never filled in under the bridge. I heard the rails start singing and then the sound of an engine and managed to snap CSX #977 on a westbound autorack train crossing the original line on the new line. 

 

I was shocked to find the remains of a telltale on the west side of the duckunder. Its been 75+ years and still this artifact remains. This would have had long segments of light chain hanging on it so that if a brakeman was on top of the train and wasn't looking ahead, the chains would smack him on the head and shoulders and tell him to get down before the bridge took him off the tops of the cars. There presumably would have been one on the east side as well, but it has either fallen down or been removed.

And finally, I found the active bridge on the CSX main is still lettered for New York Central. I would have to believe that this was repainted shortly before the Penn Central merger.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/13/21 6:45 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

Wow, that's incredible!

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/14/21 8:21 a.m.

So, I thought that was the original track alignment, but turns out I was wrong. From a Facebook comment "That's not the original alignment, that underpass and railbed was built as part of the Gulf Curve Cutoff to service the industry's on the south side, from the north." Did some digging on this and found out what that was. The NYC main line through Little Falls was four tracks wide, with local freight on the northern two tracks, and passenger traffic on the southern two tracks. Long-distance express freight was handled across the Mohawk River on the West Shore Line. The New York Central had customers that were on the north shore of the Mohawk, on the south side of the main line. Rather than jockey local freight traffic across four lines, two of them being passenger service, they built a cutoff that came off the northernmost line, then crossed under the mainline at that bridge with the telltale, and continued up to the freight customers. At some point, likely after passenger service was cut back or even entirely discontinued and the mainline was trimmed back to two tracks, the cutoff was torn up, and the spur was just hooked directly to the southern track of the mainline. Since then, the spur has been removed entirely, although the ties and some of the rail are still there.

Of the original Gulf Curve alignment "There isn't much left of the original alignment in the area, a lot of it was blasted away but it was a tight reverse curve that hugged the rock wall all the way from NY-235 into town where the passenger station is. The railroad actually had to blast a new channel for the river to run further south because the area where the mainline is today partially would have been in the river."

These photos show the original Gulf Curve from both angles, and you can see how sharp it was. It was the sharpest curve on the NYC mainline and had been the site of one accident already in 1901. Its certainly not a curve you would want to try and enter at 70mph, like what happened in the 1940 crash. Now, the little single track line climbing up out of Little Falls off to the side was the Little Falls & Dolgeville Railroad, and yesterday I noticed between River Road and Route 5 there was an obviously man-made stone wall climbing up out of Little Falls that looked like it could have been a roadbed at some point. I would bet money that this was likely the old LF&D roadbed.

I also learned from my father that my great-uncle (his mother's brother) was supposed to have been on the Lake Shore Limited the day of the Gulf Curve Wreck, but he missed the train, to his good fortune.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/14/21 8:45 a.m.

You know, considering it was the site of an accident that took the lives of 31 people, its odd that there are no reports of ghosts in that area related to the crash.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/14/21 12:20 p.m.

The opposite of what comes to mind when one thinks of the New York Central, a 2-6-6-2 Mallet winding its way through hilly West Virginia coal country.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/14/21 3:32 p.m.

New York Central #1823 crossing Genesee Street in Utica, NY on the West Shore Line.

The West Shore was a fascinating line. It traced its lineage back to the Saratoga & Hudson River Railroad created in 1864 during the railroad fever that gripped the US. Through a series of mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and reorganizations, it eventually became the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railroad, which ran from New York City to Buffalo. The West Shore came from the fact that it ran north out of New York City along the west shore of the Hudson River, as opposed to the New York Central's routing along the east shore of the Hudson. It's route and destinations pretty much mirrored each other and the NYWS&B and NYC were often within eyesight of each other, such as at Little Falls, NY, where they ran on either side of the Mohawk. This formed a threat to the NYC, and when a plan was formed to use the NYWS&B with the Nickel Plate, Milwaukee Road, Northern Pacific, and Oregon Navigation Company to form a San Francisco-New York cross country link, the New York Central would not stand for it. William Henry Vanderbilt, eldest son of "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, purchased the Nickel Plate to deny them the Buffalo-Chicago segment, and then went on to drive the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railroad into bankruptcy.

The Pennsylvania Railroad realized that the NYWS&B would make a great addition to their system as it would give them access to New York Central-dominated markets. After the PRR purchased the NYWS&B, New York Central realized what was about to happen and began construction of the South Pennsylvania Railroad, which would go deep into southern Pennsylvania, the PRR's home territory. J.P Morgan then stepped in, realizing that continuing down this path would be disastrous to both companies, and came up with an agreement where the New York Central would purchase the West Shore from the PRR, and the PRR would purchase the South Pennsylvania from the NYC. The New York, West Shore & Buffalo was renamed to the West Shore Railroad under the NYC and was used to haul long-distance express freight (it had shorter routes in several areas) and free up the main line for passenger and local traffic, while the incomplete South Pennsylvania Railroad would become the route of the Pennsylvania Turnpike during the Great Depression.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/14/21 3:58 p.m.

Streamlined NYC Hudsons meet a Chicago's Englewood Station. The #5447 is looking a bit worse for the wear, with segments of her streamlining removed and a non-streamlined centipede tender swapped on.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/14/21 4:24 p.m.

Woohoo! Big Boy 4014 is going to be in Nola on 8/21. Looking forward to seeing it in person. 

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
6/14/21 6:26 p.m.

Took Kazookid2 out railfanning today.  Managed to grab a pic of this old girl working the yard in Battle Creek, MI.  

 

 

In a semi-related topic, Kazookid2 wants to try to purchase a radio to try to pick up railroad radio traffic while we're out.  Anybody know a decent one that doesn't break the bank?  (Say, sub $100)

TheMagicRatchet
TheMagicRatchet New Reader
6/14/21 7:25 p.m.

In reply to kazoospec :

Depends on your area, but much RR traffic is still narrowband FM. There is also some digital (NXDN). If your local traffic is FM any basic scanner that receives VHF high band (152-174 MHz) will do the job as the RR voice frequencies are clustered around 160 MHz. The best place to research frequencies and modes is probably {radioreference.com}. Search out the FCC licenses of the railroads in you area and you will know what you need. I don't know of a scanner that meets your criteria and receives NXDN.

Lou Manglass

TheMagicRatchet
TheMagicRatchet New Reader
6/14/21 7:32 p.m.

P.S. check out {railroadradio.net}. They stream audio from many different lines across the country.

Lou Manglass 

Sidewayze
Sidewayze Reader
6/15/21 12:04 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

 

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