CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Monday, July 3, 2017

Arcade and Attica Railroad - 50th anniversary

This past weekend my wife and I went to Arcade, NY, to celebrate the Arcade and Attica Railroad's 100th anniversary. This is a railroad that is near and dear to my heart. It has been a part of me for at least 30 years. When I was younger, my family used to come to ride the train every year. In the past fifteen or so years, I haven't been able to make it back as much but I try to ride it when I can. However, as a shareholder of the company, I also usually attend their annual meetings so sometimes I am back for that occasion too.

Originally a three-foot narrow gauge railroad in the late 1800s, it went through a series of corporate changes (and a widening of the gauge) until 1917, when it formally became the Arcade and Attica Railroad. Primarily a freight hauler, in 1962 the railroad decided to reacquire some steam locomotives and began running excursions using ex-DL&W "Boonton" coaches and combination cars. Those combine are, that from what I understand are pretty rare. The A&A still uses the same coaches to this day, which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

So successful was the conversion from steam to diesel power in 1941 that General Electric famously featured the A&A in their promotional material for their 44-tonner engines. In 1988, and the A&A decided that it didn't make sense to keep two steam engines running for excursion trains so ten-wheeler #14 (former E&LS RR) was holed up in the engine house and consolidation #18 (former Boyne City Railroad) became the primary motive power for the passenger trains. They have four centercab diesels: two 44-ton engines (#110, 111); one 65-tonner (#112), plus an 80-tonner (#113) that was recently purchased. Though two aren't used anymore, it is still a large stable for such a short railroad. Their primary freight hauled is agricultural products for the area farms, usually in covered hoppers and tank cars. 

I have been riding and photographing the line for years, even though it hasn't changed all that much. By now, I pretty much know all the good photo opportunities. Rarely do the train consists change either (I would love to see a boxcar in the mix sometime) and the steam engine always faces the same direction. However, after rebuilding of the wye train arrangement in Arcade recently the railroad decided to turn the train engine around for a couple of weekends. One was their official 100th anniversary celebrations during Memorial Day weekend (sadly, I was in Maine), and this July weekend was the other. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

My wife and I decided to take pictures of the first train of the day, and ride the second. It was raining off and on during the first trip, and I questioned our logic. But, a decision is a decision so away we went. There had been a lot of rain over the past week and various areas were flooded, making some pictures challenging and others impossible. But, we made the best of it and my wife has really turned into a great helper for me. She will have the camera ready for when I jump out of the car, or point out good places to shoot from. She has connections to the railroad too, as her grandmother lived a couple of houses down from the enginehouse. 

I rode the second trip and spent nearly the entire time in the open-air gondola. It was the same car that I rode in 31 years ago, and just as loud! My wife had to cover her ears for every road crossing.  I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of people have ridden in that same gondola and watched the steam engine at work? It used to be open at the top and you would get covered with water and coal bits that came up the stack. That reminds me of the time we rode it as a date ten years ago and she wore a lovely white sweater... oops! The roof also provides some shade from the hot July summers. Besides my lovely wife, fireman Dean managed to sneak into our picture!

Everyone has a "dream house" that they would like to live in. Some picture castles, or mega-mansions with huge swimming pools or built in movie theaters. My dream house has always been a little place in Arcade, with a railroad that cut across its driveway. It doesn't look like a dream house, but the idea of seeing a train every day always made me smile. The large parking lot next to the house belongs to the Arcade Fire Department, so I imagine the homeowners get to hear a lot of loud noises between the trains and the fire alarms. The steam engines burn wood while in town to cut down on the black smoke from making the houses and laundry dirty, which is a nice gesture.

The picture on the right shows me riding the train in 1986 on #14, resplendent in solid black with yellow trim. You can see the wooden steps just behind the fireman, which were used to allow passengers to walk through the cab and get a tour of it. They recently brought that back, which is pretty awesome.

All in all, it was good to be back.  I also got to talk to my friends down there and meet up with people I knew only from online chat rooms and such. This little railroad is one of the most important things in my life. It is impossible to be in a bad mood when riding the train. It is my favorite place that I have ever been to. Even as I step off the coaches I fondly look forward to the next chance to ride it. A big "thank you" to Brad, Dean, Pat, Brian, Matt, and the rest of the gang at the A&A! 

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