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NickD MegaDork
8/23/21 8:19 p.m.

So, today was my trip on the Reading & Northern's RDC, from Reading to Girardsville, chartered by the Society of Industrial Archaeology and the National Museum of Industrial History.

Arriving at the R&N's Reading Outer Station (not to be confused with the Reading's original long-gone Reading Outer Station), you are greeted with R&N #225. This is an ex-CPR D-10 4-6-0, #1098, that was run by George Hart when he had the charter to run trips out of Jim Thorpe. When Hart when bankrupt, the #1098 was essentially abandoned at Jim Thorpe and the R&N ended up owning it. It is supposedly flat worn-out, with a leaky boiler and tires bolted to the wheels, and so its just a display piece.

The RDC on duty were the #9167 and #9168. The #9167 is ex-NYC/PC/MNCR/NYSW/SRNJ, while the #9168 was originally built for Boston & Maine. Despite being the same model, there were differences. The #9168 had pilot plows that drops down between the rails, with notches for the rails, while #9167's were more homegrown and rudimentary. The #9167's seatbacks were bead-rolled stainless steel, while the #9168's were upholstered. I chose to ride the #9167 because of both the New York Central and New York, Susquehanna & Western connections.

The ex-NS executive F-Units were also on site for display, along with a couple MP15DCs and some SD-50Ms (the SD-50M was Union Pacific's name for their upgrade program designed to fix the SD50s many issues).

Also, a view of the engineer's compartment on the RDC


NickD MegaDork
8/23/21 8:32 p.m.

Leaving Reading, we hustled right along at 45mph on the way to Port Clinton. At Port Clinton we stopped for a visit to R&N's steam shops, where work is ongoing on Reading T-1 #2101.

NickD MegaDork
8/23/21 8:51 p.m.

Leaving Port Clinton, it was on to Tamaqua. The route took us through the site of the old Atlas Powder Company, where they manufactured dynamite and blasting caps. Then, as we were approaching Tamaqua, things got a little exciting. We were passing a row of stored coal cars and felt the brakes apply. My first thought was they were adjusting speed for the curve but then it became apparent this was a much harder application than normal. We came to a stop and everyone got up and looked out the front door and saw this.

Two trains had gone this way earlier that morning without incident, so this happened shortly before our train. An R&N crew sawed it off and we were on our way.

Tamaqua had a couple railroad items on display. They included this narrow gauge critter from the Atlas Powder Company

As well as this Pennsylvania Power & Light fireless 0-6-0.

We visited Hegarty Blacksmith, which was operated by the Hegarty family from 1848-1973. We also got access to the unusual Tamaqua Tunnel Railroad. Built by an ex-SEPTA employee, this is a 2-foot gauge railroad that goes through the guy's backyard and under his house. It uses electric lokies from New Jersey Zinc, set up to run on batteries and carts from a pigment plant in Easton, PA. Future plans include getting the catenary functional to use the pantographs on the lokies.

NickD MegaDork
8/23/21 9:02 p.m.

We diverted off the main line and headed up the branch to Girardsville. Along the way we stopped at Buck Mountain Tunnel and the RDC did some photo runbys. The #9167 is a heavy smoker.

At Girardsville, we disembarked and hiked to the Hibernian House where John Kehoe was arrested and (perhaps falsely) accused of being the ringleader of the Molly Maguires. I drank a Guinness for my Irish ancestors. Seemed the right thing, even if I hate Guinness.

Then it was back on the RDC and back to Reading, with no stops. Myself and a few others got in the rear cab of #9167 for the stretch from Port Clinton to Reading and watched as the speedometer wound out to 50mph from Leesport to Reading, bouncing and floating and trailing smoke the whole way. A lot of fun.

NickD MegaDork
8/24/21 5:13 p.m.


Trains Magazine also had a nice write-up on the trip. I didn't realize they had someone aboard

slowbird UltraDork
8/24/21 7:05 p.m.

Sounds like a fun trip.

I was driving back to PA from Summit Point Raceway when I spotted this Plymouth out in front of an industrial plant of some sort.

NickD MegaDork
8/25/21 10:13 a.m.

Since everyone has been posting Big Boy photos and my route home took me through Scranton, I also made a stop at Steamtown to see freshly restored #4012, the only Big Boy on the east coast. Rumor is that #4012 is actually more historically correct in appearance than the #4014. I have also heard that the cosmetic restoration was into the seven digits, and part of me has to think "How much closer B&M #3713 be to operating if they spent this money on that instead?"

When Nelson Blount contacted UP about purchasing steam locomotives, UP actually offered him a Big Boy and a 3900 Challenger. He turned the Challenger down, not having room for both and finding the Big Boy more historically important. Too bad because now there are eight preserved Big Boys but only two preserved Challengers, and if he had accepted both, it would have been the only place you could see them both side by side.

RevRico UltimaDork
8/25/21 10:15 a.m.

saw this somewhere else and thought you guys might appreciate the land zepplin

NickD MegaDork
8/25/21 11:55 a.m.

Reading FP7s #903 and #902 and T-1 #2124 at Steamtown. #2124 is in the Reading Iron Horse Rambles paint scheme

NickD MegaDork
8/25/21 12:04 p.m.

Steamtown also had NKP #759 outside the roundhouse. Made sure to get some shots, because that is very rare.  Usually she is in the roundhouse and due to being only a couple feet shy of not fitting in there, it is difficult to get photos. I would have liked to seen GTW #6039, my favorite engine in their collection, outdoors as well but it was still in the roundhouse.

NickD MegaDork
8/25/21 12:09 p.m.

Rahway Valley #15 posed in the yard. This was one of Nelson Blunts early purchases and was primary power at Bellows Falls for years at Green Mountain/Steamtown USA. In 1973, it had a flue burst and scald engineer Andy Barbera (he survived, fortunately) and that was the last time it operated. Because it operated near Scranton in the Rahway Valley and at least once was overhauled by the DL&W at the Scranton shops, this has long been a frontrunner to return to service

LS_BC8 New Reader
8/25/21 12:45 p.m.

There was a comment on a previous page that 759 was to heavy to run on the D-L tracks. Well the weight of those 6-axle Alcos that Delaware Lackawanna runs , per unit they are close in weight to the 759, they run those units grouped in pairs an quads.


UP 4012 and N&W 1218 were tail to tail, I believe, in Bellows Falls, VT.

NickD MegaDork
8/25/21 1:05 p.m.

In reply to LS_BC8 :

I don't know about weight (she was definitely too heavy for the Rutland tracks in Bellows Falls), but I know the NKP #765 crew said the ex-DL&W facilities just do not work well with the size of an NKP Berkshire. Turning it on the turntable required removing all the safety railing around it and a very good engineer to spot it in the center and balance it. To fit it in the roundhouse stall, they just about had to butt the bell against the catwalk in the roundhouse and even then only had inches to spare to close the door out back. The curvature on the track to the coal tipple and water tower had to be greased every time to prevent derailing or rolling the rail. The #765 guys said that when they spent a month or two at Steamtown a few years back, it quickly became apparent why Steamtown decided not to restore #759.

NickD MegaDork
8/26/21 10:03 a.m.

Some other little bits from my trip: 

Was autocrossing at Watkins Glen on Sunday before the drive to Reading, and beat an R32 Skyline GTS-T with my Toyota Yaris. He was only 0.08 faster raw, and then I beat him but like a second after PAX.

On the drive from Watkins Glen to Reading, I learned I would be driving through Centralia, PA. That's the town where the coal mine under the city caught fire and they had to abandon it. It also served as the inspiration for Silent Hill. I of course had to make a stop and check it out. Sadly, they've demolished all of the houses so now its just a grid of roads to nowhere, which is somewhat less creepy. Also, it was rainy so I couldn't see the smoke that reportedly comes up out of cracks in the ground.

Once I was in Reading I grabbed dinner at an excellent Mexican restaurant called Norte Sur. I had shrimp ceviche for the first time, and discovered I could probably eat about 10 pounds of that stuff in one sitting if no one stopped me. Highly recommend the place, the empanadas were some of the best I've ever had.

Reading also has a Japanese Pagoda on a hilltop. It started construction as a luxury hotel before WWII. Construction halted during WWII, and then obviously after WWII, no one was too fond of the Japanese and so it never opened. It sat abandoned, with a motion to demolish it in 1960 that never passed and then in 1970 it was saved by a group and restored.


NickD MegaDork
8/26/21 11:57 a.m.
LS_BC8 said:

UP 4012 and N&W 1218 were tail to tail, I believe, in Bellows Falls, VT.

Nelson Blount definitely deserves big credit for saving #1218 and I don't think a lot of people realize his part in saving it. 

N&W, despite championing the steam locomotive for so long, did not do much in the way of preservation. A big part of that was due to a change in management, as Stuart Saunders ran it around the time it dieselized. Saunders, who would later become infamous for running Alfred Perlmann out of Penn Central and then crashing Penn Central into the ground, wanted the steam engines off the property ASAP. He scrapped them just as fast as he could and leased diesels from the RF&P, ACL, and others to fill in the gaps until their own diesels arrived. The 0-8-0, #244, which was the last N&W steam locomotive built at Roanoke was scrapped, only one J survived, no K Mountains survived, no Y6bs survived, etc.

Three Norfolk & Western Class A 2-6-6-4s, #1202, #1218, and #1230, were sold to Union Carbide for steam generation at their Charleston plant. Their tenders were set aside on a siding (Union Carbide actually wanted to scrap them, but an employee talked them into holding onto them), and they were set up cab-to-cab. The fire grates were removed and the engines converted to oil burning, and the controls were all linked so that the oil nozzle and boiler injectors for all three engines could be operated from the cab of one by a single crew. A lot of the cab fittings and jewelry and steam delivery piping were removed. The As were really only used when the plant boiler was down for maintenance, or during cold snaps where additional capacity was required.

They were used in this capacity from 1959 to 1964, at which point Union Carbide decided to retire them. Nelson Blount got word of these rare engines' survival and their upcoming fate and began making phone calls to try and save them. Unfortunately by the time he got ahold of Union Carbide management, crews had already started cutting into the three engines. The scrapping was halted and Blount was able to purchase the #1218, which was the most complete, and the scrapping crews actually helped take components off of the other two to make #1218 as complete as possible (allegedly the front engine on #1218 is actually from the #1230). Blount had #1218 moved to Bellows Falls and cleaned it up for display, but really had no intentions of holding onto it. Instead, after just a couple years, he loaned it to Roanoke, where it spent many years on display before Steamtown finally worked out a trade where the VMT got #1218 and Steamtown in return got several operational diesels, including the NKP GP9 that they still use to this day.

68TR250 HalfDork
8/26/21 7:14 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

The Reading Pagoda, oh yeah, I remember it well! 

It was the scene of The Duryea Hill Climb.  It has been going for years and still is.  When I was in high school, late 60's early 70's I used to go watch the hill climb.  The hill climb went up the mountain and went passed the Pagoda. I spent a lot of time at the curve in the attached image.

It was also a great spot for back seat activities at night.  Best spot was at the fire tower.   I'll never say who I was with!



NickD MegaDork
8/27/21 9:27 a.m.

In reply to 68TR250 :

Funny, driving that road I thought it would make a terrific location for a hillclimb. Guess my instincts were correct. The Pagoda also seems to still be a very popular hangout. There were signs for No Loitering, No Smoking, and No Loud Music Or Noises. All were being broken, but I will say that at least everyone seemed respectful to the property. Nobody was trespassing or vandalizing or littering, so I guess some loud music is okay.

NickD MegaDork
8/28/21 8:58 p.m.

I find it weird that R&N is so heavy on EMD SD50s, considering the SD50 was a complete dog. They were the unit that ultimately handed the #1 spot over to GE.

NickD MegaDork
8/28/21 10:25 p.m.

The SD50 had been EMD's attempt to make up for the SD45. The 3600hp SD45 had been a groundbreaker when it came out, a rare instance of EMD building a high-horsepower locomotive before their competitors. To hit that horsepower number, EMD had stretched the 645-series architecture to a V20. But the 20-cylinder design suffered from crankshaft failures due to both torsional flex on the crankshaft and the block flexing. The SD45 also had a reputation as a fuel hog, and at low speeds it didn't offer anymore pulling power than the 3000hp SD40. While the engine failures were fixed with an updated block and crank, the SD45 was always viewed with a wary eye, and was the first real crack in EMD's armor.

After the success of the SD40, and its variants, EMD tried to regroup and offer another 3000+HP unit. That was the SD50, which generated 3500hp from a V16 645. To make the extra power with less cylinders, EMD bumped the engine speed up. The higher HP-per-cylinder and higher RPMs resulted in issues with cylinder head sealing, and numerous crankshaft failures and turbocharger failures, the electrical system were a bit of a cobbled-together mess using early microprocessors to control all the relays from a Dash-2 electrical system, and the rudimentary traction control that used a radar gun under the pilot pointed at the ground was prone to failure. There were also complaints of poor ride quality and other reliability gremlins EMD also offered a 4-axle GP50 (they had wisely never built a GP45) which was even better at polishing the rails when the traction control failed.

The 50-series EMDs sold poorly (492 SD-50s and 278 GP50s to the vanilla SD45's 1260) , had poor reputations, and many of them had their engines downrated to the SD40's 3000hp spec (like CSX's SD50-2). EMD released fix kits that addressed some of the shortcomings, but the damage was done and after the 50-series a lot of railroads instead went to GE and purchased Dash-8 locomotives. While 38-series, 39-series and 40-series hang around on many Class 1s, most have retired their 50-series and most shortline/regionals avoid the 50s. Reading & Northern is an oddball in that they own 10 of them and they are still all rated at 3500hp.

NickD MegaDork
8/29/21 8:23 p.m.

just four years after the launch of the 50-series and its failure to impress, EMD regrouped and launched the 60-series as a hope of regaining consumer confidence and their chunk of the market share.

The SD60 and GP60 were both rated at 3800hp. But rather than the 16-645, they used the new 16-cylinder 710 engine. The 645 was an overbore of the 567 engine, and the 710 was a stroked version of the 645. The extra 65ci per cylinder allowed it to generate the horsepower without the raised RPM of the 50-series. Numerous design upgrades were also added throughout the engine, like a better cylinder head "crab" design for better sealing.

New and improved microprocessor controls and a revamped electrical system resulted in a unit that was less prone to electrical issues, and easier to maintain, eliminating literal hundreds of circuits and dozens of relays. And the new D87B traction motors bumped tractive effort to just shy of 100,000lbs.

Early testing by C&NW found the SD60 to be 3% more fuel-efficient, while pulling 16% more. And they also proved to be much more reliable.

Offered in a handful of variants including the vanilla SD60 and GP60, the isolated-cab SD60I, the wide-cab SD60M and GP60M, the cables booster GP60B and the Canadian cowl-bodied SD60F, production hit 1144 6-axle units and 380 4-axle units. While it didn't match the dizzying sales numbers of the 40-series (EMD sold 4000+ of the SD40-2 alone) it was a strong rebound. It also strongly trounced the GE C39-8/B39-8 in sales, although the updated B40-8/C40-8 sold about equal. 

The GP60 would also be the last new EMD Geeps built. After declining sales, they committed full to the Special Duties, retiring the General Purpose line.

NickD MegaDork
8/30/21 2:13 p.m.

Boy, Canadian Pacific is really getting their feathers ruffled about mergers lately. First they try to buy Kansas City Southern and then get outbid by CN, which they are now protesting, saying that the territory overlap between CN and KCS would result in a monopoly in those areas. Now, CP is pitching a fit about the proposed CSX merger with Pan Am. 

Currently the vast majority of CP’s traffic to and from New England runs via Mechanicville, N.Y. over the former B&M main line that is now part of the Pan Am Southern joint venture between Pan Am Railways and Norfolk Southern. CSX, already the dominant freight railroad in New England, plans on taking Pan Am's stake in the Pan Am Southern, and a new Genesee & Wyoming subsidiary, the Berkshire & Eastern, would become the neutral operator of the Pan Am Southern. NS would continue to route a pair of general merchandise trains, over the Pan Am Southern to and from East Deerfield Yard, but its daily pair of intermodal and automotive trains to and from Ayer would shift to new trackage rights over CSX’s parallel former Boston & Albany route via Worcester, Mass.

The diversion of NS intermodal traffic to CSX’s former Boston & Albany would reduce NS’s incentive to maintain the Hoosac Tunnel route, while CSX over the long term would route its single-line traffic away from Pan Am Southern onto the ex-Boston & Albany, which would eliminate or significantly diminish the viability of the B&M main line. Post-merger, traffic on the line would fall by about a third due to the diversion of NS intermodal and auto trains and the shift of CSX-Pan Am Railways carload traffic to CSX’s former Boston & Albany line. This loss of traffic means that there is a chance that Pan Am Southern’s owners would not restore service if there were another collapse in the Hoosac Tunnel like the one that occurred in 2020, which would effectively deny CP access to New England.

CP is also questioning if Berkshire & Eastern could be a truly neutral carrier due to G&W’s ownership of neighboring lines in New England, including New England Central, Providence & Worcester, and Saint Lawrence & Atlantic. They fear that G&W would waylay CP's trains and prioritize shipments to their other shortlines that they own in the area.

CP is asking the STB for the following conditions for the merger:

— Require that CSX and G&W keep open all Pan Am Southern gateways on the Hoosac Tunnel route.

— Require Pan Am Southern to maintain the former B&M main line at or above pre-merger levels.

— Require that Pan Am Southern maintain current service levels, including frequency, transit times, and consistency.

— That the STB monitor the impact of the merger on the B&M and maintain the ability to impose additional conditions to “protect the viability of the route.”

NickD MegaDork
8/30/21 3:57 p.m.

I'm sure there are those who would be glad to see the Hoosac Tunnel close. "The Great Bore" has always had an ill reputation, and its other nickname is "The Bloody Pit". Constructed between 1851 and 1873, the 4.5 mile long tunnel killed 196 workers during its construction. One of the first applications of nitroglycerin, there were numerous accidents. Allegedly, during the first test of nitroglycerin at the dig site on the afternoon of March 20, 1865, explosive experts Ned Brinkman, Billy Nash, and Ringo Kelley planted a charge of nitro and ran toward a safety bunker. Brinkman and Nash never made it. Kelley prematurely set off the charge, burying his coworkers alive under tons of rock.Soon after the accident, Kelley disappeared. He was not seen again until March 30, 1866. His body was found two miles inside the tunnel in the exact spot where Brinkman and Nash had died, having been strangled to death. There were no suspects, and the murder was never solved but the workman rumored that the spirits of Brinkman and Nash had murdered him.

In October of 1868, there was an explosion in the central shaft that was being dug straight down to serve as a ventilation shaft once the tunnel was complete. With pumps disabled, the shaft began to fill with water, with 13 miners still at the bottom. A miner was lowered down in a bucket to attempt to rescue them, but was overcome with smoke and fumes and reported there was no way anyone could have survived. Afterwards, workers told strange tales of vague shapes and muffled wails near the water-filled pit, the lost miners were rumored to be seen carrying picks and shovels through a shroud of mist and snow at the mountaintop. The ghostly apparitions would appear briefly, then vanish, leaving no footprints in the snow, giving no answers to the miners' calls. A year later, the central shaft was accessed and a makeshift raft was found floating on the top of the water with the remains of the thirteen miners. They had survived the explosion and built a raft, only to be asphyxiated by the fumes. After the discovery, workers reported the strange apparitions vanished.

The tunnel was also plagued with strange noises, mysterious lights, vanishing tools, and other unexplained phenomena. On October 16, 1874, Frank Webster, a local hunter, vanished. Three days later, a search party found him stumbling along the banks of the Deerfield River in a state of shock. Webster said that strange voices had ordered him into the Hoosac Tunnel, and once inside he saw ghostly figures wandering about. Suddenly, something seized his rifle from his hands and beat him over the head with it. When the searchers found the hunter he had no weapon with him and he couldn't recall leaving the tunnel.

In the fall of 1875, Harlan Mulvaney, a fire tender, was driving a wagonload of firewood into the tunnel late one night. Suddenly Mulvaney turned his team around, whipped the horses across their flanks, and ran out of the tunnel.A couple of days later, workmen found the team and wagon in woods three miles from the tunnel but Mulvaney was never seen or heard from again.

Joseph lmpoco, a former employee of the Boston and Maine Railroad, believes there may be some truth to this legend. He went to work for the railroad at the age of eighteen and claimed the tunnel ghosts saved his life. In an interview that appeared in The Berkshire Sampler of October 30, 1977, Impoco told reporter Eileen Kuperschmid that he was chipping ice from the tracks one day when he heard a voice say, "Run, Joe, run!" When he turned around there was a train approaching and he just managed to get clear before he was run over. Looking around, there was no one around to have called his name.

Six weeks later, lmpoco was using an iron crowbar to free freight cars stuck on icy tracks. Someone shouted, "Joe! Joe! Drop it. Joe!" He dropped the bar and it was instantly struck and smashed against the tunnel wall by eleven thousand volts of electricity from a short-circuited overhead power line. Later, while removing trees from the tunnel entrance, lmpoco was nearly crushed when an enormous oak fell in his direction. He outran the falling tree,  and said afterwards he head a strange, unearthly laugh.  Joseph Impoco quit his job and moved away shortly afterwards.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/30/21 11:32 p.m.

Well that's a cute little loco. 


NickD MegaDork
8/31/21 12:46 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

That's one of the 600mm gauge trench locomotives. No, they didn't run in the trench. They ran on rapidly-constructed panel track from the French railroad mainlines to the trenches to deliver supplies and ammunition. The equipment was all designed to be very light, so it could be moved easily from location to location, as well as be rerailed easily, since the track wasn't particularly smooth. Unfortunately, a steam engine does a great job at broadcasting its location to airplane crews and artillery spotters, and most of them were destroyed.

NickD MegaDork
8/31/21 3:42 p.m.

Looking up Hoosac Tunnel, I stumbled across this rarity. There is scant mention of the fact that Boston & Maine ran electric service near Hoosac Tunnel with several Baldwin-Westinghouse-built boxcab electrics. How far before and after the tunnel was electrified and the history of these machines seems to be largely lost to history. I hadn't heard of such a thing until I stumbled across a photo or two. I've never really seen any mention anywhere. Considering that there are three of them assisting a steam locomotive, it seems safe to assume that A) they weren't any sort of 4000hp monsters and B) it was likely just a helper district, not worth the time and effort of cutting a steam locomotive out of the consist. 

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