Category Archives: Locomotives

Wordless Wednesday #4

S. Van Gorder photo, Author's Collection

S. Van Gorder photo, Author’s Collection

Wordless Wednesday #3

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Wordless Wednesday #1

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Christmas, 1941

Christmas Day, 1941. The War, until 3 weeks ago, was someplace else and happening to other people. Now, it is here; and scarcely any family, any person, will be unaffected. The nation’s railroads will bear an incredibly heavy burden transporting the men, machines, and materiel necessary to fight and win a global two-ocean war. The only tools available to manage this vast, complex enterprise are the telephone/telegraph, kerosene lanterns, the Rulebook, the Timetable, and the discipline and skill of experienced railroad men.

The PRR Williamsport Division dispatcher has probably had anything but a quiet Christmas. Burgeoning wartime traffic is indifferent to the holidays, and the mostly single-track Elmira Branch is “dark territory”, meaning trains are run under timetable and train-order authority, rather than centrally-controlled signals. Add in extra trackage-rights trains off the SNY, and the southern end of the Branch is quite busy on this Christmas afternoon:

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Trout Run, Pennsylvania is a small community tucked into the Lycoming Creek valley north of Williamsport. At Trout Run, the north central Pennsylvania mountains start to close in, glowering over the progressively narrowing Lycoming Creek valley. The valley walls are steep, and evening sets in quickly on  winter afternoons. According to weather records from the airport at Montoursville, PA., on December 25, 1941 the temperature was in the mid to low 30’s. The temp had been dropping over the previous days from a high of 55 on December 23.

We can imagine moving from the warmth of the Trout Run depot out onto the platform next to the tracks, cinders crunching softly underfoot. It would be very nearly dark, the deep twilight punctuated here and there by glimmers of oil lamps in the nearby homes and farmsteads, and the glow of the kerosene lights illuminating the railroad switchstands and the depot train-order board. No signs of people about in the darkening yards and fields, it is Christmas Day after all, and folks are snugly indoors enjoying their holiday meal while pushing thoughts of the War aside for a few hours. We might turn up our collar against the cold wind gusting down the narrow valley, and strain our ears for a distant whistle echoing off the high mountainsides…

Railroad men remain on duty, though, and 13 miles to the south, the Williamsport Division dispatcher dictates an order to the towerman at Newberry Junction:

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

TRAIN ORDER 433

DEC 25 1941

TO: (C)onductor and (E)ngineer ENGINES PRR 4633 AND SNY 115 AT NEWBERRY

TRAIN NO. 852 SNY ENGINE 119 MEET EXTRAS 4633 AND SNY 115 WEST AT TROUT RUN

NO. 852 SNY ENGINE 119 TAKE SIDING

EXTRA 4623 EAST MEET EXTRAS 4633  AND SNY 115 WEST AT BERGAN

EXTRA 4623 EAST TAKE SIDING

MADE COMPLETE 429PM

From this faded piece of tissue paper, we can see that in the space of an hour or so just at dark, 4 trains will pass the Trout Run station. The first is probably the last one mentioned in the train order, PRR Extra 4623 East. PRR engine 4623 was an I1sa 2-10-0 locomotive, and likely leads a “diker” hauling a solid train of coal hoppers north to Elmira. Per J.W. Orr’s book “Set Up Running”, the PRR men on the division referred to these coal trains originating from the mines near Altoona and Tyrone as “dikers”, as they took the northbound(railroad timetable east) route up the Elmira Branch over the dike along Lycoming Creek at Newberry, rather than heading east and south to Harrisburg and Enola yard. Extra 4623 East will thunder by Trout Run without stopping, the locomotive digging in to the increasing grade; en route to a meet at Bergan tower near the SNY yard at Marsh Hill with PRR Extra 4633 West and Extra SNY 115 West. PRR Extra 4623 East will be followed shortly by SNY #119 running as scheduled PRR train No. 852, heading north (railroad timetable east) up the Branch to Marsh Hill.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

A few minutes later, train 852 will take the siding at Trout Run, and wait for two westbound trains coming down the Branch. The first, PRR Extra 4633 West, is lead by PRR engine #4633, an I1sa 2-10-0 locomotive, likely a train of empty hoppers headed back to the mines around Tyrone, PA. The second is an SNY extra train lead by #115, headed for the SNY yard at Newberry, probably mixed freight for interchange to the Reading and NYC. These westbound extras will first meet the aforementioned Extra 4623 East at Bergan, before heading in turn down the Branch for their subsequent meets with No. 852 at Trout Run.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

A lot of information from a scrap of paper, yet the railroads relied on these scraps to move trains efficiently and safely. Even more importantly, men’s lives depended on their accurate interpretation and timely obedience.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

How lucky such a small scrap would survive all these years, and allow us to open a small window into the past…

 

Fall

Haven’t been able to add much to the site for the past couple of months due to other commitments, but I’ve been waiting for the weather to change to something more appropriate before I added these two photos. That time is upon us, so here they are:

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

The original photo is not the best quality, especially as regards to sharpness; but a little tweaking in Photoshop helps a little.

I believe rail historians tend to (unconsciously) think of the past as being in “black and white”, since nearly all of the images from the steam era especially, are in that format. For this reason, color images from that era are incredibly valuable, since they make the past seem more “real” and immediate somehow. Doubly so for an obscure railroad line like the SNY. Even though the image itself is technically limited, it is still quite evocative. We can imagine a crisp fall day, with the leaves near their peak, just enough of a dry chill in the atmosphere to allow the steam from the engines to condense around them to show how alive they are. The war in Europe still seems quite far away, and finishing up the fall harvest and hunting season are more immediate concerns in this rural corner of Pennsylvania. For now, we can sit in the warm sun and watch #114 work to put together a Newberry-bound freight. In a minute or so the engine and cars will back down on the helper engine and the rest of the train in the distance, lace up the air hoses, test the brakes, and storm past us downriver.

This photo is a goldmine for the modeler. First, we can see the variety of roof heights, weathering patterns, and overall coloration of the pre-war boxcars behind the engine. The first car is a truss-rod boxcar, perhaps Great Northern; the second is clearly a PRR X29. The others are too small in the image to identify. Second, we can note the coloration of the roadbed and ballast, and the surrounding vegetation. Last is the locomotive, where we can see in great detail the condition of the paint and the weathering patterns on the smoke box and pilot.

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

This photo is really unsharp, but still has a lot of atmosphere, and useful information for the modeler. The train seems to be literally hanging over the edge of the hill behind the engine, and we can get a hint of the grades the SNY had to contend with. We can see the condition of the SNY roadbed, and see the variety of colors of the weathered ties. The telegraph poles are only “sort-of” straight, and are weathered to an interesting grey color. Golden-rod is in flower, but is kept away from the roadbed along with the other weeds by the acidity of the ash and cinders, and probably spraying by herbicides that are banned today.

In either event, the engine must really be pounding away trying to get this tonnage over the hill, so let’s stand back a bit and watch him go by…

 

 

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.

Ditcher_Diagram-1

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.

 

 

Combination Car #206

Part of the fascination of shortline railroads is that they often rostered “unique” one-off or homebuilt equipment. The Susquehanna & New York Railroad was no different in this regard. Among the SNY’s unique equipment is baggage-passenger car #206, a car with a very singular, and tragic, history.

In 1925-26, the SNY was the testing ground for an experimental type of gas-powered mechanically-driven passenger and baggage motor-car built by the Smalley Rail Car Company, of Davenport Iowa. By the early 1920’s, railroads were already losing passengers, and money, to new-fangled automobiles like the Model-T Ford. Railroads sought to save money by using motor-cars, rather than dedicated steam locomotive powered trains, on lightly-patronized branchlines. Motor cars could be run with just 2 or 3 crew members, rather than a complete crew of 5 that a regular train would require; and gasoline engines had improved to the point where operating and maintenance savings could be realized over the operational costs of labor- and maintenance-intensive steam engines.

The SNY, probably hoping such savings could be applied to their bottom line, took delivery of the Smalley car in 1925:

"New Gasoline Rail Car Developed", Railway Age Vol. 79, No. 26. Dec 26, 1925. pp.1181-1185

“New Gasoline Rail Car Developed”, Railway Age Vol. 79, No. 26. Dec 26, 1925. pp.1181-1185

Smalley Rail Car article PDF

(Article PDF courtesy Charlie Marvin)

The motor-car was tested for a time on the SNY, with adjustments being made as necessary by the inventor, a Mr. Smalley. One day, while awaiting orders at Marsh Hill, Mr. Smalley climbed onto the roof of the car to make some inspection or adjustment to the exhaust. Unfortunately, he was subsequently knocked or fell from the car, and died of his injuries.

The SNY was later given the car, sans motors, as compensation for removing and shipping the gasoline engines back to Davenport. The SNY then numbered the car as combination baggage and passenger car 206, and used it as a standard car in regular service. The (former) motor-car is not listed on the 1926 ORER, but is listed on the 1938 and 1940 ORER with that number.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Here is the car in regular passenger/baggage service at the Lehigh Valley station in Towanda. Note the front of the car when it was motorized is now the rear, with marker lights hung.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

This is a view of the interior of the car, occupied by (presumably) a crew member who does seem to appreciate being photographed. The car had a capacity of 50 passengers and a 19’8″ long baggage compartment. The region served by the SNY being so sparsely populated, I doubt the car ever carried more than a handful of passengers at any one time during its entire career.

Photo Courtesy of Charlie Marvin

Photo Courtesy of Charlie Marvin

Above is an excellent view of #206 provided by Charlie Marvin, taken at Newberry, PA July 5th, 1941. The large building in the distance (which still exists) is a portion of the Armour Leather Company complex in West Williamsport, PA.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Finally, another photo of #206 in service, here trailing ten-wheeler 119 at Towanda. The Lehigh Valley station is in the background, and to the left is the stone former LV enginehouse.

After the demise of the SNY in 1942, #206 was sold to the Live Oak, Perry & Gulf, a shortline railroad in Florida. I have no information as to the car’s disposition after that.

Update 11/22/2016: Link to an excellent description of #206 during it’s time of service on the LOP&G, including a couple of photos (scroll down a bit on the page): LOP&G #206.

SNY #119

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

Quick scan from a negative purchased on Ebay. I am not sure of the location of this shot, and I have never seen another photo with a different view of the interesting stone building and chimney behind the locomotive.

Engine #119 was a 1921 product of the Baldwin Locomotive works, purchased used from the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad (H&BTM #35)  in 1934. The locomotive was later sold in 1947 to the Clarion River Railway after the abandonment of the S&NY. Reportedly too heavy for the rails on the Clarion River, the 119 languished on a siding near Hallton, PA until being cut up in 1952.

Looks like a warm day in the photo, maybe summer or early fall. The trees are fully leafed out, and the engineer has the cab door open for a little relief from the heat coming off the locomotive backhead. The boiler safety valve is lifting; note the high plume of white steam next to the whistle. Would have made quite a racket! First car behind the locomotive appears to be a PRR GLa twin hopper, for what it is worth.

Masten Loop bridge

The last bridge project I have for now is the deck girder bridge at the apex of the “Masten Loop”. This was a long, looping curve on a grade east of the sawmill town of Masten, PA by which the S&NY crossed from one side of Pleasant Stream to another while gaining altitude out of the Pleasant Stream valley. From there, the route looped back toward Masten before turning northeast to reach the summit of the grade between Ellenton and Wheelerville, PA.

1944 USGS topo map, 1927 Survey, Canton quadrangle

1944 USGS topo map, 1927 Survey, Canton quadrangle

I do not know the actual degree of curvature of the loop, however according to 1925 S&NY employee timetable No. 43, Special Instruction 23c.,”speed of trains around Loop Curve north of Masten is restricted to 12 miles per hour.”

 

Below is a postcard view of the bridge over Pleasant Stream near the apex of the Loop, shortly after construction in 1906:

Postcard view of Loop Curve near Masten, PA ca. 1906

Postcard view of Loop Curve near Masten, PA ca. 1906

Compare the pristine abutments in the above view with the crumbling remains visible through the saplings in 2000:

Photo by author

Photo by author

The rebar “cage” is presumably to prevent chunks of disintegrating concrete from falling onto the dirt road below. Note someone has built a camp directly on the old roadbed. I wonder if they are ever awakened in the dead of night by phantom trains blasting from out of the past through the kitchen, ghostly whistles shrieking….

The Masten Loop Curve and bridge is a major scenic “Layout Design Element” (LDE) on my model version of the S&NY, and conveniently located at a turnback curve at the end of a benchwork peninsula. Model railroaders often bemoan the difficulty of disguising these peninsular turnbacks ( I believe Tony Koester tongue-in-cheek referred to a common solution  as “Mandatory Trestle over Cliché Creek), however in this case the real thing IS the solution.

 

Photo by author

Photo by author

Here is the site for the model bridge at the apex of Loop Curve.

Since the bridge is on a grade (never again!) I wanted to ensure good alignment between the roadbed ends and the bridge deck. I used a technique I found online where the bridge itself is built over an aluminum channel that is anchored, in this case by epoxy, to the roadbed at either end. As it turned out, I ended up with a small vertical curve at the right-hand side of the bridge. Hopefully this will not prove to be a major problem in operation, as redoing the bridge would involve major surgery.

Photo by author

Photo by author

Here the channel with the Micro Engineering deck girder bridge sides in place for a test fit.

Photo by author

Photo by author

The abutments were scratchbuilt from thin poplar and styrene. There is a niche for someone to produce a line of concrete abutments tailored for the various Micro Engineering bridges. Chooch Enterprises has a limited number, but they are mostly not suitable.

Photo by author

Photo by author

The abutments were sanded and primed, then coated in vinyl spackle and the impressions of the wood formers simulated by drawing a styrene “comb” across the spackle. The spackle was allowed to dry, then sanded enough to allow just a faint hint to remain. Following this, they were painted a concrete color and weathered.

Photo by author

Photo by author

Photo by author

Photo by author

The finished product.

Scenery has yet to be installed, but the fascia has been put in place. I tried to create a semi-“Bellina-drop”  with the fascia panels as view-blocks to limit viewers from getting a look at an entire train as it climbs around the Loop. Hopefully this will subconsciously add to the impression of the railroad struggling to work its way through the narrow mountain valleys, and make the run seem longer to operating crews.

 

Photo by author

Photo by author

 

Time will tell if this is a success.

 

SNY #115 at Towanda

Photographer Unknown; Author's Collection

Photographer Unknown; Author’s Collection

 

S&NY Railroad #115 at Towanda

For the first “real” post on the site, I offer this shot of SNY # 115 at the Towanda engine service facilities. Photo probably circa 1940-42. Color film would have been expensive and rare during the Depression, and scarce during WWII. The railroad was torn up in mid-1942, so the picture has to be prior to that date. Perhaps when word got around about the pending abandonment, the photographer decided to expend a few precious color frames on the  S&NY?

Color photos from the steam era are precious to the railroad modeler, as we can get a better idea of the weathering patterns on steam locomotives and structures; the color of the ground, ties, and rails; and maybe get a better overall “feel” of the atmosphere of the time. We tend to subconsciously think of the past as black-and-white, since most of the old photos are such, but that is not true.

Note the locomotive is not “black”; but  infinite variations of gray and brown.