Category Archives: Locomotives

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.