CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Shay in Croghan, NY (2014)

Most of this week will find me up at a rustic cabin in Chaumont, NY, which is in the Thousand Island's region of the state. I go there once a year with a group of guys to play non-stop board games. Some games last 12 hours or more, and sometimes we might play several dozen shorter games. I frequently car pool with a friend who is a closet model railroader. He owns model trains, likes to go to train shows, has a basement, and belongs to the Union Pacific society... but doesn't have a layout! (He has kids, and would rather have a workshop, and wants a game room). 

There are times during the drive up when we parallel railroad tracks. On the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern line I will frequently see endless strings of covered hoppers being stored. However, there isn't much to see on the (former?) Lowville and Beaver River RR line. Except a shay. 

A shay? In upstate New York? Yup, and right out in the open for anyone to see. In 2014, my friend and I detoured on the way through Croghan, NY, which is about ten miles northeast of Lowville and about 30-40 miles east of Watertown.

What's the shay doing there? According to the Railway Historical Society of Northern New York's website, the L&BRRR is owned by the Genesee Valley Transportation group of shortlines based in Batavia, NY. The shay, which belong to a Livingston Lansing, was donated to the RHSNY upon his death. Though the website mentions that an enginehouse was built for it, it has been outside for many years now.

Per the same website, the RHSNNY owns the Depot and plans to operate limited passenger service out of Croghan along the Lowville and Beaver River Railroad, one of the oldest operating shortlines in America. A vast collection of North Country railroad memorabilia and artifacts is on display at their museum.

Here is the interesting side of the shay. I have seen several 1/8 scale models operate, and even wrote an extensive article in a live steam magazine about them. I have several different sets of plans for them too, should I sometime decide to build one.

This is what the inside of the cab looked like.

To give perspective of how easy it is to access and photograph the engine, an apartment complex is shown in the background on the left. How cool would it be to live with a shay right outside your window?

The rear of the shay, with the sandbunkers on the back of the water tank.

Also on display was a snow plow. 

I have no idea if this engine will ever run again, but likely not in its current location. As a shay that presumably operated in New York State at one time (and that likely makes it the last one surviving) something should be done to preserve it for the future instead of letting it sit outside in the elements.

Recent online satellite pictures show that the engine and plow have been moved a little (it looks like the shay was pulled out and then backed in front of the plow, though I don't know why). As an aside, there was an article online about a start-up tourist train that was proposing to be based on Lowville. I wish them well.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

D&H train on Cohoes Bridge (1984)

Here is a shot from my collection of the D&H bridge in Cohoes, dated 4/07/1984. I actually had plans last year to try and take a picture of a current CP train on the bridge in the same position that this train was in, but it was a horrible failure. From what I can tell, the entire consist is Boston & Maine engines (including the lead engine, which appears to be a former all-black Penn Central patch out?) 

Perhaps this fall I can get back and try it again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Staying at the Bridgeview Bed and Breakfast

Typically on my birthday I do something train related, and this year I hoped to spend the weekend at the Bridgeview Bed and Breakfast which is located just outside of Harrisburg, PA. It is situated literally where it is surrounded on several sides by busy railroad tracks, and overlooks the Susquehanna River (and a railroad bridge crossing it). I first became aware of this BNB after seeing an advertisement for it in a Trains magazine my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas. I tried to reserve one of their "best rooms" (the ones with the best views of the bridge) for Memorial Day but they were booked solid. However, I noticed that my wife's birthday fell on a Saturday in June and she always wanted to go back to Hershey Park, PA. So, a trip here seemed like it would allow us both to have a good time. Of course, I didn't mention where we were staying until the day before the trip.

We only had the weekend but I took Friday off from work, so we would have plenty of time on the drive down to explore other places too. Most importantly, I didn't want this to become a "railroad-themed" trip and wanted to do things my wife would enjoy too. Upon arriving at the BNB, I heard a train and immediately ran to the deck to take some pictures. As you can see, they have a lovely (this picture only shows 1/3 of the deck) porch to watch the trains and the Susquehanna River.

Sadly, it was rainy on Friday and Saturday evenings, causing me to watch the trains from inside for the most part. Some odd cloud and weather led to interesting pictures though.

As was shown on the satellite map above, the tracks surround the BNB on several sides. And they are very close. Observe the NS train passing on the other side of the building. It is partially hidden in the trees.

The name of the program escapes me, but there were television screens inside and out showing in real time the locations of trains approaching the bridge on a schematic display board. The red lines are where actual trains are, and the green lines show train routes that have been cleared. The Bridgeview BNB is in the very center of this map. 

Considering I was away for most of Friday and Saturday evenings, and also left around 10AM on Sunday morning, I estimate I saw at least 20 trains. There were many more I heard while lying in bed getting ready to sleep. None kept me up during the night. 

By the end, I didn't bother running to the window. It was cool to see so many, but most were Norfolk Southern and looked the same after a while. Two Amtrak trains pass during the mid-day but aside from that it is mostly NS. 

In all, it was a fun trip. I also fit in miniature golf, a day trip to HersheyPark which included a live-steam train ride and their water park (great on a 96-degree day), a visit to a restored Japanese house and garden, the Philadelphia Zoo, a Philly cheesesteak, a train store, and more. All in one weekend. I can't wait to go back!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Roundhouse "Lady Anne" gauge 1 live steamer

I have a passion for British steam locomotives, especially narrow-gauge ones. They are short, chunky, and frequently colorful. Roundhouse Engineering has been making 1/19 scale live steam locomotives since 1982, and the "Lady Anne" model was right there at the beginning. I have wanted one for many years... at least 15 if my old catalogs are any evidence of this.

After some very poor results with an Accucraft Ruby kit, I decided I had enough messing around and ordered a proper Lady Anne from Roundhouse during the summer of 2019. By the way, "Lady Anne" is the name of the model and as my wife's name includes "Anne" I am keeping it named as is. My engine was ordered in maroon, a color that is probably their most recognized for this model, though I custom ordered mine with a gloss black smokebox. This is how they used to come from the factory, but lately the smokeboxes are painted matte black and I wanted mine to match the model I dreamed about for years. The dome is also painted maroon to match the body but I recently ordered a plain, brass dome which is what they used to come with. 

I haven't been up to the Adirondack Live Steamers lately due to my illness and the pandemic, but this past weekend was Family Day and I thought it was a great time to try her out. They are already tested extensively at the factory upon assembly, but I had never run one before so I was a little apprehensive. I shouldn't have been. She performed well, though I frequently had the gas burner too high and produced wasteful amounts of steam. I will need to learn how to fire her properly, which likely means turning the gas burner down really low once pressure is up. My train consisted of three modified New Bright train set cars and one LGB car. Proper coaches are likely a winter project for next year.

She took two years from order placement to delivery, and along the way there was a mistake but it was easily corrected. And now I am very pleased with her.

I also took my Boston & Maine "Bluebird" engine for a spin (featured in the Jan/Feb issue of Live Steam & Outdoor Railroading magazine) and she ran really well. 

Overall, it was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Rome & Fort Bull Railroad (1980s)

Pop Quiz: name a two-foot gauge steam railroad that operated in upstate New York within the past 20 years? If any of you answered the Rome and Fort Bull Railroad, you would have been correct! It was a park ride that operated in the old Erie Canal Village in Rome, NY. I went there once or twice when visiting my grandparents who lived in Utica, and distinctly remember the train. It was an actual live steam locomotive, not a gas-powered engine dressed up to look like a steamer, and the track plan featured a straight run with return loops at each end. The pictures are from 1987 and 1988.

Based on internet research, it appears that in the last fifteen or so years of operation it had a 2-6-2 steamer, an 0-4-0 steamer, a Chance brand CP Huntington steam-profile diesel engine, and then an actual Plymouth diesel engine pull the train. 

This is a picture of me (the tall one with my blonde hair) and my brother when we rode the train in September 1987. Is it any wonder that I am still fascinated by both steam trains in general, and 2-foot gauge trains in particular?

Here is a better shot of the engine, now with my sister included. It is named the "Edward J. Nolan", and information found at a link below indicate that he built the engine originally in 15" gauge for his private track. 

If the chassis was rebuilt into a 24" gauge ride that would explain why the recycled drive and bogie wheels are so tiny compared to the rest of the engine. It almost looks toyish.

Ironically, in the picture below my brother seems more excited than I am to be on the train, but if you look closely I appear to be studying the couplers connecting the cars on the train. I have always loved staring at train details such as this and find it relaxing. 

Here is a nice shot showing the water tower. I imagine that they actually used it to fill the tender with water.

Here is a satellite image of the site, and the red lines I added are where the tracks ran. It was quite a nice set-up. As a kid I remember thinking that the switches were likely sprung on the return loops.

This last picture is from a 1970s-era postcard, and note that the cars don't have roofs.

Sadly, the Erie Canal Village has been shut down for many years and the whereabouts of the train itself are unknown. There are attempts to bring back the site as a historic place to visit, but the train tracks were pulled up and the trains taken away. However, this online board thread has some information regarding the whereabouts of the train equipment. Hopefully, someday... somewhere... they will operate again.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

D&H Geep #573 in Portland, ME

I haven't done much modeling lately because I have been working on a new kitchen floor for the wife. It has taken away a lot of my free time, and the summer heat (which I hate... give me snow any day) kills my desire to do anything but crash on the couch and read train books. 

But, I still run into neat pictures and here is one from July 03, 1984 in South Portland, Maine. It has D&H high-nose GP-7 #573, one of the very few first-generation geeps actually painted or lettered for the D&H. More information about her can be found here and here.  

Look at all the steam and/or smoke the engine is putting out. I don't think those are clouds in the background, but I might be wrong. Anyway, coupled with a B&M Geep it is making good progress with a mixed freight. And look at the condition of that track on the left of the mainline!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July! As promised last year, I am posting pictures of my favorite steam locomotive painted up for our nation's bicentennial scheme in 1976. The Arcade and Attica Railroad decided to spruce (?) up Baldwin #14 with highlights in red, white and blue. Of course, there was the already-standard orange lettering on the tender sides.

Note the color of the handrail on the smokebox front, the blue coupler cut lever ends, the red foot steps on the pilot, and the blue and white lining on the boiler side walks. 

The tender coupler cut levers and steps were also painted, too. The blue isn't as visible in the picture below, but the handles are indeed blue.

Quite colorful, though it didn't last very long. I think by 1977 #14 had been repainted into more "traditional" (at least for the A&A) colors. Perhaps that is a good thing. Still, I love that this little railroad decided to participate in the bicentennial hoopla.

And here is #14 in my personal favorite scheme- black and yellow. Most people don't think of it as attractive, but since that was how I saw it as a child that is what my memories are of. Here she is in 1986: