CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Rohr Turboliners at Super Steel in Schenectady (2005)

Picture yourself as young adult in graduate school in a city away from your hometown for the very first time, with a working car and a map. That was exactly the situation I was in when I moved to Albany in 2004 for law school. After weathering through the first winter, I decided to do some train spotting in the spring. On April 22, 2005, I bought a paper road map at a gas station and saw several different rail lines that were worth exploring. 

As I described in an earlier post, I had ventured to the south side of Rotterdam Junction to check out what I thought was a still-operational West Shore Line. Unfortunately, it was abandoned by CSX in 2003 and was in the process of being torn up around in 2004, so when I arrived there wasn't anything to see. I was staring at a paper map showing a train line, but there were no train tracks! The excellent "Gino's Rail Page" has several links to pictures of the line, known as the Cushing Branch, including some taken in 2003. By then, the line sure looked dead.

I could hear active trains, though, and later discovered they were from the CSX tracks across the river. I recently railfanned there a couple of months ago, and had a great time.

Anyway, after an afternoon of seeing no trains and getting pretty confused I was pretty dejected and was slowly driving back to my apartment. I realized I had drunk a lot of water all afternoon and it suddenly wanted out. So, I pulled over on what I thought was an old country road and walked through some tall grass to take care of the situation. Imagine my surprise when I discovered old rusting Amtrak Rohr Turboliners sitting around!

I didn't know anything about it at the time, but later learned about New York State's failed attempt to rebuild these trainsets at what was called Super Steel in Schenectady, NY. The project was a fiasco for many reasons, costing the state $65 million without much to show for it. A close friend worked at NYSDOT and actually had the role of inventorying what was going on during the process. 

The failed Amtrak rebuild project is so filled with tension that even today on the popular Railroad.net forum threads about the Rohr Turboliner are locked and rarely opened to add new information. A lot of people have a lot of strong opinions about them, and the project in general.

Only a few years after these pictures were taken, Super Steel closed in late 2008 and the Turboliner era came to a close. It is my understanding that some of the Turboliner train cars were scrapped and others were reclaimed by Amtrak and used for police officer training (!).

Looking at these pictures is bittersweet for me. On one hand, I loved seeing these trains as a kid. But, these pictures show trains in various stages (covered in tarps, repaired/welded and in primer, and in old paint schemes) and it is a shame it never worked out. One of the lawsuits resulting from this was handled by several colleagues at work, and they had interesting stories to tell. But in the end, I will miss these trains. 

Thankfully, I will be able to recreate the good memories I have of them in the future, as I have one of the HO scale Rapido models on order and did so within an hour of being announced. 

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