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NickD MegaDork
4/10/23 12:59 p.m.

Saturday, the Adirondack Railroad was running their Easter trains from Holland Patent to Remsen and back at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. The good thing about their Easter trips is they're running back and forth multiple times per day, unlike usual where they make one northbound and one southbound trip. They make pretty good speed on their trips, so sometimes they can be hard to chase, so the Easter trips give you more chances. That being said, I wasn't actually really hung up on going and trying to get photos. Lately they've just been running their M420W, #3573, which isn't that photogenic when running forward, and even less photogenic when running long hood forward. The other thing was that my Yaris needed a wheel bearing replaced before I leave for PA this Friday, and it's a press-in wheel bearing, so I need access to the shop at work, which opens at 9am on Saturdays. I went down to work, got the old bearing pressed out, had the new bearing pressed in, and had bolted the knuckle to the car by 11:30, and was thinking "Oh, I can totally get changed, grab my camera, and get to Holland Patent to catch the noon northbound." Then, I went to bolt the caliper bracket on and discovered that in the process of pressing the old bearing out, I had tweaked one of the caliper bracket mounting tabs, and spent the next 30 minutes trying to carefully heat the knuckle without cooking the new bearing or setting the axle boot or ball joint boot on fire, and then carefully smacking it with a hammer to get it back into alignment without breaking the ear off. I got it done, but by that point, it shot any hopes of catching the noon northbound. I ran home, changed clothes, grabbed an apple and bottle of water for "lunch", tossed my camera in the car and cannonballed north to Barneveld to wait it out for the southbound run.

Well, to my surprise, they were running the Easter trains in push-pull configuration, with the #3573 pulling it northbound, but new kid on the block, C424 #2400, was pulling southbound. I've only seen the #2400 running once, and it was cut in the middle of power lashup, so I was happy to get photos of it leading. It wears the new livery of the Adirondack Railroad, which is this rather D&H-inspired grey, dark green and yellow.

And the #3573 riding along at the back. 

This is the 2pm train headed north at Holland Patent, crossing Wood Road. Last year I tried getting photos of the Easter trains here, and every time, my phone camera refused to get a non-blurry image. So this was my shot at vindication with a real camera, and I actually succeeded this time.

And the #2400 in tow. The issue I discovered with this location, is it kinda screws you out of northbound shots. To get out of here, you either go one direction, where you have to turn left onto a 4-lane highway (you get stuck at the traffic light forever) or you go the other way, on a road that takes you back the wrong direction, before making a right turn to head the right direction. I tried going the second way, and got to the second spot I wanted to get a photo at, Sand Road, just to see the nose of the #2400 vanishing off into the woods.

I did catch them arriving into Remsen though. I can't wait until #3573 gets run through the paint shop (and I think that it's next) because the crusty CN livery with the dark green patched nose (which wasn't done by them, but by a previous owner) is pretty shabby.

And the #2400.

Sitting at Remsen Depot. The #2400 was purchased by the Adirondack last fall, because they needed more horsepower and they were planning on retiring the F7A and the FP10 that they had. It was originally purchased by the Green Bay & Western, and then ended up on the Minnesota Commercial Railroad before it's move east. It's a pretty early build C424, referred to as a Phase I. The big giveaways are the numberboards that stick out past the body at the rear, the battery boxes fore and aft of the cab, and the single air reservoir per side. Later C424s had the notched rear numberboards, the battery boxes were under left rear walkway, and both air reservoirs were on the right side. There's some other nitpicky details as well, but those are the easy ones to pick out.

Then I went just south of the depot to try and catch it passing this waterfall. I've tried getting this shot before, but with my phone camera, and that lost all resolution once you attempted any sort of zoom. No such issue with a real camera. 

Then caught them speeding alongside of Sand Road

They stopped at Holland Patent to unload the passengers, where I caught this profile shot of the #2400's cab, which highlights an interesting design feature of the Alco Century series cab. While EMD and GE preferred to have the cab face and windshields flat with angled numberboards above the windshield, Alco chose to make the entire cab front a V shape, with flush-mounted numberboards. Alco also liked to add the little rows of classification lights (red, white, green) over the numberboards.

Then, with all trips done for the day, they deadheaded south to Utica, and I caught them along the way in Marcy. I didn't follow them to Utica, because I needed to get home and get dinner and had something going on that evening.


NickD MegaDork
4/10/23 3:36 p.m.

I was surprised to see this press release from Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and the Colebrookdale Railroad 

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (“TVRM”) and the Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust are pleased to announce a partnership that will return to Pennsylvania a historic steam passenger locomotive. Locomotive 5288, a 4-6-2 Pacific-type locomotive built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1919, will be moved to the Colebrookdale in the next few weeks for eventual restoration. It will be displayed later this year near the railroad’s Boyertown, Pennsylvania, station.

“Over the past few years TVRM carefully reviewed the current status and future possibilities for operation of the locomotive” said Tim Andrews, TVRM President. After being an outdoor display since arriving in 2001, the TVRM board determined that the Colebrookdale could provide 5288 a broader range of options for the future. “The probable multi-million dollar restoration cost of the locomotive did not make sense for us in light of the limited operating options and higher priorities to see the rest of the TVRM collection protected from the elements. This in no way diminishes TVRM’s commitment and dedication to the preservation and operation of vintage steam locomotives, particularly those with regional significance, for the education and enjoyment of the public,” added Andrews.

“We are absolutely overjoyed to welcome the 5288 as a star in the Colebrookdale’s growing stable of steam locomotives,” said Nathaniel Guest, Executive Director of the nonprofit Colebrookdale Railroad Preservation Trust. “We portray that halcyon era of passenger railroading that took place in the first decades of the Twentieth Century. The noble lines of 5288 absolutely capture the look of that period,” said Guest. “She will be a fine stablemate for Grand Trunk 5030 and LS&I 18,” he said.
Steam Locomotive 5288 was built for the Grand Trunk Railway and was later owned and operated by the Canadian National until being sold to Nelson Blount in 1961. It became part of the Steamtown Foundation in 1969. It was transferred to the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1995 before coming to TVRM in 2001.

In the short span of just four years, Colebrookdale has gone from owning zero steam locomotives to owning three, although LS&I #18 is the only one physically on the property and undergoing work. I just hope that they don't overextend themselves in the process. Part of me thinks that the acquisition of #5288 might be them hedging their bet on the status of GTW #5030. The #5030 has sat outside in a park at Jackson, Michigan for years, with little in the way of care or protection or vandalism (it even still wears it's boiler jacketing and potentially has asbestos lagging underneath) and will likely need a ton of work to get operational again, and then shortly after announcing that it would be moved to PA, the locals started pitching a fit about losing "their locomotive," the classic ol' "You can't take this engine that we've neglected for decades, it means too much to us" mentality that has sank many a restoration.

It's a loss for the TVRM, because even if it was far removed from home territory, CN #5288 was the only passenger steam locomotive in the TVRM collection and the CN J-7 Pacific had a passing resemblance to Southern Railway's Ps-4 Pacifics that operated through Chattanooga. Robert Soule actually had purchased the locomotive from Steamtown with the hopes of kitbashing it into a close approximation of a Southern Ps-4, but when Soule died a couple years later, the plan died with him. They also robbed the stoker off of it for Southern #4501 when she was getting her revival in the 2000s, and other than that it's mostly been neglected. According to those who have been up close and personal with the #5288, the tender body is pretty shot, but otherwise it was at one time considered to be in very good condition mechanically, having few miles after its last overhaul. While at Steamtown USA in Vermont it was considered to be a candidate for the Vermont bicentennial steam train, but Canadian Pacific #2317 won out, only to never see that service.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
4/10/23 11:08 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

That waterfall photo is print worthy IMO.  I've seen lots of photographic art over the year, and that photo really stands out.  You may want to share that one with the operators; they might have uses for it.  Thanks for sharing your adventure! 

NickD MegaDork
4/11/23 11:18 a.m.

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum moved CN #5288 from it's display spot at their Grand Junction property over to their main shops using their Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Geep, to start preparing #5288 for the move north to Boyerstown, PA. Someone was lamenting that, with #5288's departure, there are also no longer any steam locomotives on display at Grand Junction. The #4501 and #630 are operational and are based out of the main facilities at Chattanooga, TVRM/USATC #610 is on display at the main facilities, and K&T #10 is stored out of site at Chattanooga as well. They had a Central of Georgia 4-4-0 at Grand Junction, but that was moved to the Erlanger Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga, TN as a display piece on long-term loan. The #5288 is a nice looking locomotive, although the tender seems a tad short for the rest of it.

NickD MegaDork
4/11/23 11:53 a.m.
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) said:

Thanks for sharing your adventure! 

Oh, get ready for a real adventure this weekend. I'm headed down to Pennsylvania for a charter trip on the Reading & Northern RDCs that includes a "Special opportunity with Jersey Central steam locomotive #113" and "numerous photo stops" on Saturday. But Friday, I'm headed down to spend a day over at Strasburg getting some photos of their steam locomotives (I'm hoping I'll finally get to see #89 in action) and Sunday I'm going for a ride over on the Colebrookdale. Oh, there may also be some hands-on throttle time with an early Geep somewhere in there.

NickD MegaDork
4/11/23 12:46 p.m.

On the subject of steam locomotives moving, Norfolk & Western #611 is going to be leaving Strasburg Rail Road for parts unknown this summer. Virginia Museum of Transportation and Strasburg Rail Road Company are offering limited-time-only “farewell” events this May featuring the "Queen of Steam". These events are to be held over Memorial Day weekend and will be "the locomotive’s only public events in Pennsylvania this year" (guess that kills everyone's hopes of an appearance over at the R&N). The schedule of events includes At-The-Throttle-Experiences (May 19 and 26), and excursion rides (May 20-21 & May 27-29). I'm curious where it will actually be off to next. A lot of people are concerned that it is just going back to Roanoke to gather dust, but others are hypothesizing that it might be going to run on the Buckingham Branch Railroad in Virginia. Buckingham Branch operates 275 miles of trackage in Virginia, over which local freight, overhead CSX Transportation trains, and Amtrak’s triweekly Cardinal operate. Last year, Buckingham Branch also got into the scenic passenger train operation, operating from Staunton, VA to Goshen, Va., and return, passing through the state’s Shenandoah Valley nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains.

NickD MegaDork
4/11/23 12:58 p.m.

Also, another big announcement, on May 13th, Cass Scenic Railroad will be running their very first trip from Cass to Durbin, the first time that this has been possible in almost forty years. This inaugural package includes a steam-doubleheader by Cass' gear-drive locomotives, a special gift, photo runby opportunity and lunch. Tickets are $109 and are on sale at: https://mountainrailwv.com/tour/greenbrierexpressinauguralspecial/?fbclid=IwAR0aAopkfOx6pfujoD6E5RO0kdfsNAi1dS7P8TorFEYNEh-If6CzFCAVth0. Pretty bold choice of them to have the trip on Mother's Day weekend.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
4/11/23 9:47 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

I really enjoyed the Cass scenic RR as a kid.  I bet the run on the old Greenbrier branch will be awesome!  I have the very hard to find book on the Greenbrier.  I would lend it out if you'd like.

NickD MegaDork
4/13/23 9:21 a.m.

Saw this photo on the Adirondack Railroad Facebook fan group and it cracked me up. I think it's the gentleman all the way to the left that makes me laugh the hardest.

volvoclearinghouse UltimaDork
4/14/23 8:57 a.m.

Well, Brightline had a fun day Wednesday...



02Pilot PowerDork
4/14/23 9:09 a.m.

Caught this lineup when I was in Santa Fe a few weeks ago. NM Railrunner alongside the Sky Railway tourist train equipment. Unfortunately, the historic depot is undergoing renovation, so it was covered in scaffolding and not worth photos.

NickD MegaDork
4/14/23 5:27 p.m.
volvoclearinghouse said:

Well, Brightline had a fun day Wednesday...



Brightline has had a lot of those. Florida Man struggles with the concept of railroads, apparently. The best part is how, every time they have a grade crossing accident, Jalopnik tries to frame it like the trains are to blame. It's pretty easy to avoid getting hit by trains, as a whole.

NickD MegaDork
4/14/23 5:29 p.m.
02Pilot said:

Caught this lineup when I was in Santa Fe a few weeks ago. NM Railrunner alongside the Sky Railway tourist train equipment. Unfortunately, the historic depot is undergoing renovation, so it was covered in scaffolding and not worth photos.

Sky Rail is the former Santa Fe Southern. The name and livery are hints that it was bought by none other than George R.R. Martin. The man decided to buy and revive a defunct short-line as a way of getting out of writing that last book.

NickD MegaDork
4/14/23 9:19 p.m.

Well, Paradise, PA once again proved to be aptly named. Today was a warm, breezy, cloudless day in the 80s in PA. I woke up at 4:30am, hit the road at 5am, and made it to Strasburg Rail Road by about 10:45. Since its still kind of early in the season (they just switched to 7 days a week operation) and it was a weekday, they were only running one locomotive. During peak days, they'll have two trains running, with one leaving Strasburg as the other is headed back east from Leaman Place, meeting at the passing siding. I was hoping for either #89, because I've never seen it operate, or #90, because it's my favorite on the roster since I sat in the cab as a kid, but it was N&W 4-8-0 #475 that was fired up today.. Oh well, we got nice weather and a new camera, let's see what we can get.

Taken from the cemetery at Carpenter's Crossing, where Black Horse Road crosses the railroad line. There's a slight grade up from Leaman Place to here.

Approacing the Esbenshade Road crossing. No, this isn't edited or filtered, it was really this green out.

Passing by in front of the Red Caboose Motel on Paradise Lane.

A row of the cabooses that you can stay in at the Red Caboose. While a little scabrous on the outside, the insides are actually fairly nicely appointed and they're in the process of blasting and repainting and patching a lot of them.

These were also taken at Esbenshade Road but from a slightly different angle. I ended up photographing the 11am, 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm trains. 

While waiting at the Black Horse Road crossing to get a video of them doing the "Ghost Whistle" I heard a horn, instead of a whistle. Their ex-NYC SW8 was moving some freight cars down to the Leaman Place interchange.

Climbing up from Leaman Place. In these close-up photos, you can see the scars from where they welded the smokebox door back together after it's incident with the excavator last fall.

Headed back by the Red Caboose Motel, taken from the other side of the tracks.

I didn't have time to go in, but I did see N&W #611 at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. She's been on display there over the winter.

NickD MegaDork
4/14/23 9:27 p.m.
NickD MegaDork
4/14/23 9:55 p.m.

I left Strasburg at 4pm and then made the drive over to Colebrookdale Railroad's depot in Boyerstown, PA. While buying my tickets for their regular trip on Sunday, I noticed that they offered an "Engineer for the Day" experience. Okay, a day may be overstating it, it's an hour. But, I figured, hey, why not? I've operated two steam locomotives but not a diesel (kinda bass-ackwards) and they have that snazzy ex-PRR/ex-PC GP9 that was rebuilt into a GP10 for Conrail by ICG and is still a high-nose. I arrived at 5:40ish, and was admittedly disappointed to see a scruffy GP38-2 in patched out Norfolk Southern paint idling away. I walked over, introduced myself to the engineer, a friendly gentleman whose name escaped me, and we headed over to Colebrookdale #5128. As we came around the end of the passenger cars, I could see that it was still equipped with a high hood, and climbing up into the cab revealed that it was still set up to run long hood forward as well. The #5128 was originally built for the Southern, and apparently NS never got around to reconfiguring it. 

Unlike when I ran the steam locomotives at Strasburg, where the engineer handled the brakes and kept a close eye on everything and we only went about a half mile up the tracks and back, the engineer explained what everything was and said "Okay, it's downhill headed this way, keep the speed under 15mph and let's head out." We didn't go all the way down the line, but we went quite a ways. Headed out was a juggling act of working the independent brake and the throttle to keep the speed down but not come to a complete stop, and remembering to smack the alerter button. Modern diesels are equipped with a system where if there isn't a throttle or brake adjustment after so much time, they begin a countdown. First it flashes a light at you, then if you ignore that, it starts making a beeping noise, then further inattentiveness causes it to emit a solid tone, and then if you don't take action, it dumps the emergency brakes. It's a safety system similar to a dead man's brake, where if the engineer is indisposed, it shuts down the locomotive. Coming back was uphill the whole way (should be a great show once they get their steam locomotive up and running) and I rarely touched the brake, I just controlled my speed by going between Idle, Run 1, and Run 2. The only time I really used the brakes on the way back was when the locomotive would get into a bad oscillation. According to the engineer, there's something wrong with either the trucks on the #5128, where it tends to get rocking back and forth much worse than the GP10 and the only way to get it to stop is to slow way down. I'll also say this, I get why LHF operation went away, you can't see much when running that way, although they had added a camera on the top of the hood. Running short hood forward, the high hood really wasn't that detrimental to vision, but the controls were kind of behind me, and the alerter light was just at the very edge of my peripheral vision.

Once we got back to Boyerstown, I was congratulated on my handling of the locomotive. We stopped short of the passenger cars, and he asked if I wanted to play brakeman. We dropped down and he showed me how to do a check on the couplers and pins, and taught me the hand signals, and then I waved him in, we hooked the locomotive up to the cars and did a quick pull test. Very cool experience.

ShawnG MegaDork
4/14/23 10:32 p.m.

Thought I would mention.

The CN Rail main line runs about half a mile from my front porch.

Nothing interesting goes by, mostly freight and a Via passenger train daily.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
4/15/23 3:16 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

Sounds like fun!

NickD MegaDork
4/15/23 8:09 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah, it was really great. It kind of shocked me how hands-off they were and how much freedom they allowed. The Colebrookdale is all jointed rail, and their roadbed is a little wavy, due to ground composition and water running down from hillsides, and in combination with the aforementioned truck issues, I got into an absolutely gut-wrenching rocking motion at one point. It was pretty violent, and I was legitimately thinking I was about to put the thing on the dirt. I jammed the throttle down to Idle and really poured on the independent brake and got it under control, but I was sweating it for a moment. I must've handled it pretty well, because the engineer didn't say anything.

I feel bad that I didn't get the engineer's name, because he was a very nice guy. Not a lifelong railroader either, interestingly. He had worked his entire career at Boeing and had retired from there. He then started volunteering at Colebrookdale as a car host, and then got tired of that. He said that it was just brutal sometimes, like during the Christmas season when they were running four Santa trains a day, and people can be frustrating to deal with. I said "It's not the kids, it's the parents, right?" and he just smiled. So he moved over to the operating end of things, spent some time as a brakeman/conductor, and then eventually worked his way up to engineer three years ago. I poked around on the subject of LS&I 2-8-0 #18, and he said "We're just as excited to get it operating as everyone else is. Of course, we don't have any guys trained to operate steam, so we got a little bit of a learning curve there."

I also learned why photos of the Colebrookdale aren't exactly common. Man, that line is remote. We hit a single grade crossing, and there was two bridges over roads, but a lot of it was out in the middle of nowhere. If you want to photograph that line, you're going to have to hike.

NickD MegaDork
4/15/23 9:45 p.m.

So, today was the charter trip using Reading & Northern's RDCs and heading up the old Philadelphia & Reading main line and then branching off to the Mine Hill and Schuylkill branches. R&N does run passenger trips from Reading or Port Clinton up to Pottsville on the old P&R and Schuykill branches, but the run up to Minersville and Tremont are rare mileage. There was also promised photo runbys and an experience with CNJ 0-6-0 #113 at Minersville. 

Not far out Port Clinton, we stopped near the abandoned bridge from te defunct PRR Schuykill Branch. There were five railroads operating in Schuykill County, and PRR was the last to arrive. This was PRR's attempt to get in on the Pennsylvania anthracite market, but as a result to their late arrival, they had the worst route, a lot of bridges and fills and tunnels. The eastern end is all pretty much gone, converted to a trail, but a lot of it is still visible at least.

From there, we headed up to Schuylkill Haven and went through Pottsville, which was still the Reading mainline. We went to what was a wye in Port Carbon, near the Yuengling brewery and the railroad heads under Route 209. One leg of the wye is out of service, and the other leg does not ever see passenger service, so this is unusual to see. Headed onto the first leg of the wye, which heads under Route 209 and into the brewery.

Coming out from under Route 209 and onto the second leg of the wye. That road bridge looks like it could use some love. Interestingly, two of the three legs of the wye are also on bridges.

Heading out onto the bridge on the second leg of the wye. A little hard to see but in the center of the middle arch is a keystone with a 1912 date engraved in it.

They then backed up, threw the switch and came back onto the first leg and everyone boarded again. They then backed down to Schuylkill Haven, and then headed up to Minersville, PA, which was originally the 1828 Mine Hill & Schuylkill Haven Railroad. The line actually continues up past the Minersville Depot to the Reading Anthracite Colliery and to New St. Nicholas. There had been hope we could go up to the Reading Anthracite Colliery by the organizers, but that wasn't possible. Along the way w passed by the remnants of a bridge of PRR's Minersville Branch, also abandoned, and then we came back to Minersville depot and detrained. The Railway Restoration Project 113 had CNJ #113, a massive 0-6-0 that is one of two surviving CNJ steam locomotives and the only active one, steamed up and was allowing folks to climb up and tour the cab and blow the whistle. It was interesting to listen and hear those who knew how to "quill" the whistle and those who just yanked the cord with no finesse. I was surprised to learn that the guy who lead the project and did the bulk of the work is actually legally blind. Definitely an awesome piece of machinery, and I need to get down there and see it actually hauling trains sometimes.

We got back aboard and backed down to Westwood Junction, and then headed along the Tremont Extension of the Mine Hill & Schuylkill Haven Railroad, built in 1845, to Tremont. Wow, that was remote territory, and it's pretty tough going. It's hilly and curvy and since it's a freight-only line, it's not terribly smooth. We got rocking and rolling pretty good at times. We then stopped at the former Tremont depot, which is now a private residence. The line through Tremont is interesting in that it's nearly street-running, there are two roads immediately on either side of it.

Headed back out of Tremont. Originally they had advertised it as going further to Good Springs, but there are some 3%+ grades on the line past Tremont and R&N staff did not feel comfortable with the RDCs' ability to traverse those grades. From what someone said, they tried it once in the '90s and had issues with the RDCs overheating.

On the way back, they made an announcement that we were 20 minutes ahead of schedule, which I think might be a first-ever for a railfan excursion, and so said we were going to stop at the junction at Schuylkill Haven and give us another photo opportunity. They would position the RDCs so that we could get photos of it coming off the Mine Hill Branch, and then toss the switch and back up so that we could get photos of it on the line to Pottsville.


Then it was back to Port Clinton. On the last leg back, it started downpouring, fortunately waiting until the day was done.


NickD MegaDork
4/16/23 7:02 p.m.

So, today was back to Boyerstown to ride the Colebrookdale Railroad. They have a beautiful recreation of the original depot. Tiny little thing, but ornate.

They have a neat garden patio area in between the tracks that sometimes functions as a farmer's market. Today they had a small mobile bar serving fancy cocktails. I had an intriguing drink that included vodka, carrot juice, apple juice and ginger beer while I waited. They also had their stunning Brill doodlebug on display.

I had purchased a lounge car seat and so rode in their gorgeous Maine Central lounge car. Gold chandeliers, stained glass in the clerestories, wrought iron chairs, wood inlays in the ceiling, you name it. Even the vestibuls had these stained glass domes in the roof to allow light into the vestibule. I've never seen anything like it. Absolutely gorgeous car.

We also passed through their dining car to reach the lounge, which was also equally well-appointed.

As for the actual ride, it's a nice trip, the scenery is pretty neat, although it is distinctly better on one side of the car than the other. Guess which side I picked when reserving tickets? I appreciated the fact that the lounge and parlor cars do not allow anyone under 16 to ride in them (no screaming infants here!). That GP38-2 must have some serious issues with it's trucks, because the ride was nowheres near as rocky in the passenger cars. In fact, it was quite smooth, in terms of rolling motion, although you had the typical bang-bang-bang of jointed rail. They lead the train down with the locomotive on the front and then, lacking a runaround track, they shove back upgrade to Boyertown.

That GP38-2 was actually what was working today, so sadly I didn't get a photo of their GP10

With that, I headed back to NY. I look forward to visiting the Colebrookdale again once they get a steam engine going. I hope that once they do, they use a diesel on the tail end to coast downgrade and then use the locomotive to pull the train, headlight-first, back up the grade. Having it lead downgrade and then having the diesel tow it back would be disappointing.

NickD MegaDork
4/18/23 3:18 p.m.

I had yesterday off, in case I had any travel issues, so I decided to drive out to Utica to catch some action on the NYS&W Utica Branch and maybe some MA&N action. 

This time of year, the NYS&W has extra grain traffic to the elevator at Sangerfield, and so they lease motive power from CSX, who is part owner of the NYS&W, to assist with getting trains up the grade through Chadwicks. That extra power was CSX GP38-2 #2514, paired with NYS&W GP40 #3040, hauling about 12 covered hopper cars. Sadly, they weren't servicing the F.X. Matt brewery, so I still have yet to see them backing down inside the brewery, but they do have to head up the middle of Schuyler Street no matter where they go.

Swinging over towards Schuyler Street, this was part of the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Utica branch, which went south through Chadwicks, Sangerfield, and Sherburne and met their line that went northwest to Syracuse at Chenango Forks. The green building on the post to the left of the tracks is the original DL&W crossing guard tower from the '50s. 

You can see how all the cars have scooted off to the side to make room for the train to come through.

The engineer is sticking his head out to make sure they're going to clear the truck and trailer parked along the side of the road.

Just a normal Monday-Friday in Utica, NY. The downside to trying to get NYS&W UT-1 headed up Schuyler Street is that it is in a bad neighborhood. None of Utica is that great, the city is in a state of post-industrial collapse after all it's manufacturing left in the '80s, and Schuyler Street is really rough. I'm standing on the sidewalk with my camera tucked under my jacket, A) to keep it out of the rain and B) to keep someone from seeing it and trying to yoink it, and then there is a cop that drives by and I'm worrying they're thinking I'm either up to no good, standing around on a sidewalk on Schuyler Street in the rain, or that they're gonna see the camera under my jacket and thinks it's a gun. Fortunately, I got out of there without an trouble.

No flashing red End Of Train Device here, just a flag stuck in the coupler.

Headed through New York Mills and they've got a roll on now, I could hear the engineer grabbing notches as he hammered through. Ahead of them is Paris Hill, a 1.8% grade that was the steepest grade on the DL&W and was a helper district in the steam era. 

I wanted to catch them passing the old DL&W depot at Chadwicks, NY, but this segment of the line is in excellent condition and they really haul through here, so I couldn't get ahead of them. It's a pity that they service so few customers on this line, because it could handle the traffic. From what most say, that's mostly NYS&W's fault: they don't actively pursue customers on the Utica Branch. Since Walter Rich's death in 2007, the NYSW has never really been the same, it's become much more corporate and sanitized and has a mentality that aligns more with the Class Is. I've heard a lot of people say they wish NYSW would just sell the branch to either Finger Lakes Railroad or Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern, because either of them would do much better by the customer.

I did catch them at Clayville, where they thread up through the village. There's a couple ungated crossings and a fairly sharp turn, so they reduce speed pretty heavily, but then hit the bulk of Paris Hill and really have to dig in. That barn that butts directly up to the tracks is interesting. I wonder if it was served by the railroad directly at one point.


They were really giving it their all through here.

I didn't follow them any further south to Sangerfield. I didn't have any locations pinned in the GPS to shoot them, I didn't feel like driving all the way down to Sangerfield, and I wanted to see if I could catch the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern making their Monday run back to Rome. So, I turned and went back to Utica.

I got back to Utica and looked down at the east end of the yard that MA&N uses, and I could see M420W #2042 was idling with it's headlight on and a couple company trucks parked around the yard. My fear was that they had already run west to Rome and that the #2042 was just being used to switch the yard, since I could only see one of their three C425s outside the engine house. I hung around and watched a pair of CSX freights roll through, waiting to see if there was anymore MA&N activity. I wish I had had my camera ready, because one CSX freight that went through had three ancient two-bottom hoppers in it, two lettered for Southern and one lettered for N&W, all bunched together. Those hoppers would have to be 41 years old minimum.

I had just walked out to my car to grab a bottle of water and a quick bite to eat, when I heard the distinct raspy clatter of an Alco product and just caught a glimpse of the #2042 rolling through the yard behind the parked Adirondack Railroad equipment. As it approached the switch to leave the yard and head out onto the CSX mainline, an absolutely massive eastbound freight came rolling through, and I worried I wouldn't be able to get a shot of MA&N #2042 leaving Utica., made even worse by the fact that unlike most CSX freights through Utica, which don't even slow a bit, this one came to a crawl. Fortunately it got clear just in time. This angle also shows a unique BC Rail feature, the quad ditch lights that are cross-aimed. BCRail had a lot of sharp curves in mountainous territory and had a lot of issues with washouts and rockslides, and so they equipped their motive power with four ditch lights, with the two on the left angled towards the right, and the two on the right angled towards the left, to help see around curves.

A flat car of steel plates for American Alloy, and five tank cars headed to the Sovena olive oil plant. That oilve oil plant is their main customer on the Rome end of the line and there's a steady flow of tank cars to and from it two or three days a week. Sadly, there must no longer be a contract between them and Worthington Industries (formerly Rome Strip Steel), so they don't run over the unique dual-use bridge on Railroad Street.

Alcos on the CSX mainline! I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the only place in the United States you can catch Alcos routinely operating over CSX rails. While the line north through Holland Patent, Remsen, Boonville and Lyons Falls is directly connected to their yard in Utica, the bit in Rome is completely isolated from their system, so they have trackage rights over the old New York Central Water Level Route to Rome, NY. I guess CSX would rather put up with this weird arrangement than have to service the couple carloads in Rome.

The big problem with the run over the old New York Central is that the Central, in their quest for speed and safety, eliminated most of the grade crossings along the way, so it's hard to get any shots, because most of it is highway bridges that you can't walk over. So I met back up with them in Rome. They cut out the flat car and took the tank cars up to the Sovena plant. This photo is from Ellingsworth road, a weird remnant from the Griffiss Air Force Base days that has no houses or businesses on it and the two ends have been cut off by later construction.

They then went over and did a bunch of switching at the Sovena plant. I was hoping to get them coming out of the base, but they were over their a long time and I had some other stuff to do, so I eventually called it quits for the day.

NickD MegaDork
4/19/23 9:48 a.m.

Photographer/videographer Jay Winn, who lives in New Hartford, NY, actually had an amusing tale about riding the DL&W/E-L Utica Branch. At the time, Erie-Lackawanna had two symbol freights, BU-19 (Binghamton-Utica, Northbound) and BU-11 (Binghamton-Utica, Southbound), with BU-11 nicknamed "The Bull" due to how it looked when written up on the duty board. A buddy of Winn's had gotten permission to rid "The Bull" from Utica down to Binghamton, and asked him if he wanted to go as well. Winn said he was interested, but would have to pass, since they would end up in Binghamton at night with no ride home and he had to work the next day, but his friend then explained that Erie-Lackawanna was trying a program where they had BU-19 and BU-11 meeting at Chenango Forks, and the crews would swap trains, with the crew off the northbound run going back south to Binghamton, and the southbound crew taking the other train back north to Utica. It let the crews sleep in their home beds and the E-L didn't have to pay to bunk the crews someplace, and in the case of this trip, Winn could just swap over to the BU-19 and go back to Utica that night.

So he agreed to go along, and that evening they went down to the Utica yard and got aboard their train. Power was a mix of EMD road switchers and they had a pretty healthy train. They got outside of Utica city limits, and the engineer put it up in Notch 8 to get momentum built up for Paris Hill. As they passed a grade crossing, someone yelled up to them to warn them that there was a car stopped on the next crossing. The engineer simply replied "Well, they better get it moved. I'm not slowing down before Paris Hill." Fortunately it was gone by the time they reached the next grade crossing, so there was neither a collision nor a stop and attempt to get going again before the hill. Winn said the rest of the trip was pleasant, if uneventful.

At Chenango Forks, they met the northbound train, and while his buddy stayed on the BU-11 to go south to Binghamton, Winn and the crew swapped over to BU-19 to go back to Utica. He recalled being pleasantly surprised that the power for BU-19 was a solid set of RS-3s, a rarity at that late date. What he was less pleasantly surprised to learn was that while the southbound run had been an express run down, the northbound run was going to stop at all the customers along the way and stop and set out and switch cars. He said the northbound trip dragged on all night and he's thinking about the fact that he still has to go to work the next day.

Finally around 1:30am, they come creeping into Utica and they're headed down Schuyler Street, and there's a car parked too close to the tracks to get by. He said the engineer grabs the horn cord and pulls it down and they sit there for about 5-10 minutes at 1:30 in the morning, horn blasting away. Finally a drunk came stumbling out of a bar, sheepishly hopped in the offending car and drove away and they were able to proceed into Utica yard.

NickD MegaDork
4/19/23 1:32 p.m.

On the subject of rides that turned out to be not as good as hoped, I picked up a back issue copy of The Bee Line, which is the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society's magazine, on Reading passenger service while riding the R&N charter (the one conductor sells back issues on their trips). It was all anecdotes from Burt Pennypacker recounting riding and railfanning the Reading during the thirties and forties. A friend and him were trying to ride as much rare mileage on the Reading as they could, and while poring over the timetables, they saw that there was passenger service over the Colebrookdale Branch and it was a genuine mixed train.

So, they hopped aboard a passenger train out of Reading and rode it to Pottstown (not Pottsville, or Pittston, or Pitcairn, it gets very confusing in that area), which was were the Colebrookdale Branch met the mainline. They went into the station and bought a ticket for the full length of the Colebrookdale Branch and back, which surprised the Pottstown agent, since he couldn't remember the last time he had had anyone buy a ticket for any sort of mileage up the Colebrookdale Branch, let alone the whole length of it. Sure enough, it was an honest to God mixed train, with an old L-7s Camelback 4-6-0, a combine, and a couple mixed freight cars.

They left Pottstown and were marveling at the fact that they were traveling rare mileage as the only passengers on a mixed train pulled by a Camelback. As they got to the grade, the conductor informed them that they would have to double the hill. So the  brakeman cranked down the rear of the train, they cut off the combine and front couple freight cars and the Camelback took them up the hill and put them off in a siding and then went back down the hill for the rest of the train. They then proceeded to wait for some 40 minutes before the locomotive came back up by with the second half of the train and proceeded by them. After some more waiting, they asked the conductor about how much longer it would be and he replied "Oh, the crew has gone up to go get lunch, and they'll probably switch out cars at customers, and then they'll come back for us." The timetable said they were supposed to arrive in Boyertown at 1:20pm but they were well past that and quickly coming to realize that the timetable was more of a suggestion than anything to be strictly adhered to. They also had the realization that they were likely going to miss their connection back from Pottstown to Reading, and were wondering if all the sitting around was worth being able to claim the rare mileage.

Finally, much later the locomotive returned and grabbed their combine and the other freight cars and continued on up the branch, picking up a couple of schoolboys as the only other passengers, who were riding the last mile or two. They got to the end of the branch, turned the engine and then headed back to Pottstown, several hours behind the timetable, and caught their connection back to Reading with only minutes to spare.

NickD MegaDork
4/20/23 11:07 a.m.

Want to ride the Reading & Northern this summer? Well, here's your chance. They posted an outline of some of their trips this year, including RDC trips to Pottsville and more Iron Horse Rambles with 4-8-4 #2102.

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