Monthly Archives: August 2013

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Ditcher #6

Another piece of unusual equipment rostered by the SNY is maintenance-of-way ditcher #6. This steam-powered crane would have been used for any number of purposes on a pre-WWII railroad. The main purpose, of course, would be in keeping the drainage ditches along the track open and free of debris. The key to solid roadbed and track is drainage, drainage, and more drainage, and this would have been a never-ending unglamorous task for the section crews of the SNY. The narrow Pleasant Stream and Schrader Creek valleys would have been prone to flooding in the years after the mountainsides had been clearcut, and the mountains themselves are drained by innumerable “runs” and small streams, both named and unnamed.

In addition, a shovel-crane would have been used for a vast number of other tasks along the right-of-way in an era before the widespread use of tracked bulldozers and other heavy construction equipment, particularly given the absence of roads at that time. Even primitive roads were nearly non-existent into the region served by the SNY, at least until the Civilian Conservation Corps built them during the Depression, often using old pre-existing logging railroad rights-of-way.


Above is a plan diagram of the American Rail Road ditcher, presumably purchased new by the SNY in 1910.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Note the unusual flat car dedicated to transporting the ditcher, which moves back and forth on the car on rails mounted to the deck.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Here we see ditcher #6 at work along the right-of-way, lifting and moving ties or cribbing. Hard to tell, but there may be a washed-out bridge or culvert in the background.

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

Finally, a rare color shot, giving a good 3/4 end view of the ditcher and flatcar. Location is Towanda, with the highway bridge across the north branch of the Susquehanna River in the background. The flatcar seems to be painted a light greyish color, while the ditcher itself is a shade of boxcar or caboose red. This will make an interesting model-building project someday, perhaps by starting with the IHC Barnhart log-loader as a basis. The flatcar would probably have to be scratchbuilt. I have no information as to the disposition of #6 after the 1942 abandonment.



SNY Boxcar

boxcar-1A one-of-a-kind piece of SNY rolling stock is this unique boxcar, listed on the October, 1940 ORER as a “wrecking car, maintenance of way”. In this late-1930’s or early 1940’s view, the car is clearly marked “MW”, or maintenance of way, and is long out of revenue service. 35 years earlier, however, the car was numbered with four other similar cars (302-305) as being in revenue service, per a 1905 ORER.

I inquired about the origin of this car on the Steam Era Freight Car group on Yahoo, and received a number of very detailed responses about the possible provenance of this car, prior to SNY ownership. The most completely researched response was from Mr. Eric Lombard, who believes this car is most likely a former Philadelphia and Reading class XMk boxcar. The XMk class numbered some 4000 cars, and had an inside length of 36’0″, inside width of 8’6″, and inside height of 8’0″. More information, including drawings and builders’ photos, can be found in “Philadelphia & Reading Freight Cars 1900-1914, Freight Cars Journal Monograph #36, by Eric Neubauer. (Unfortunately out of print.) The car rides on Theilsen archbar trucks, and was built either by Standard Steel Car or ACF sometime between July 1905 and January 1908. Original door on the SNY car has been replaced by a Youngstown steel door, and additional steps and grabirons placed to allow easier access to the interior of the car for MoW service.

F&C sells a similar, but later, XMp class car as a resin kit:

I may have to obtain one of these kits as a stand-in for SNY #303. Someday…

UPDATE 5/7/16: Ray Breyer has composed a series of .PDF files summarizing the up-coming release of 36-foot double-sheathed boxcars from Accurail: Accurail Prototype Data Sheets

In the 1700 Series data sheet is a notation that S&NY #303 was former Reading XMk 2784, built 11/21/07 and sold to the S&NY 3/9/36 for $200. This information can also be found in the .PDF related to the XMk series compiled by John W. Hall at The Reading Modeler, p. 113.