CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Adirondack Live Steamers 40th Anniversary Meet

The Adirondack Live Steamers in Saratoga Springs, NY, recently celebrated their 40th anniversary. The event slipped away from me, despite the fact that in 2013 I had an article published in Live Steam and Outdoor Railroading magazine in 2009 about the 25th anniversary meet in 2008. In any event, I sadly cannot make it up to ALS as much as I used to but Sarah and Harrison joined me for a Saturday afternoon there. 

There were more steam engines operational than any event I can think of, in part because a huge group of people from the Montreal Live Steamers joined us for the weekend. Two engines I was very happy to see was a three-truck shay engine designed by the Kozo which was featured in an article I wrote for Live Steam magazine in 2011, and Charlie Chermak's magnificent Chessie pacific engine which the largest reason I fell in love with the live steam hobby as a boy.

In no particular order, here are some pictures I took.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Layout redesign

Change has come to the D&H Colonie Main layout.

For a long time now I have been dissatisfied with my layout. It ran good, and it looked good, but I rarely operated on it. There was too much junk from scenery construction on part of it, and that made it unenjoyable to look at. Plus, as I have mentioned previously, my heart just isn't in HO at the moment. It started before Harrison came along, but now that we have so much fun playing with his Brio and Thomas trains I really want a small O scale layout that we can run together. My wife says I am jumping the gun (he is only 17 months old), but as our basement is currently configured there really isn't a good place for an O scale layout. 

And, I haven't wanted to work on my layout because I feel like I am throwing money at a project that will ultimately get torn down. One saving grace, though, was that I had enough with scenery already completed to make a serious run at the MMR scenery certificate.

So, I was stuck. I had a plan from an old Model Railroader special issue from the 1980s for a 4x8 Lionel train layout board that could fold up and roll around, and that seemed like a good idea for us. But even that wouldn't fit in my layout area with the HO benchwork in place. So something had to give. And in a fit of stupidity calculated reasoning, I came up with a plan.

The fourth side of my layout featuring Mohawk Paper isn't designed well. In reality, I would probably have rebuilt it before adding scenery. But it is the farthest area of my layout from construction and would get worked on last. So, I disconnected the benchwork and the wiring and in about 30 minutes I had removed 1/4 of the layout. But that wasn't all. My plan was to rotate everything that remained 90-degees which would create a much open floor space... where even a small Lionel layout could go.

Most decisions I think on for a long time. Sometimes too long a time. Not here. When I explained it to my wife after the fact, she was in disbelief. Even she admitted "You love working on track and scenery, and they are done", but she also countered "you finally got it running, and you never get your layouts that far". I probably should have discussed it with her. She could have talked some sense into me. But oh well. (By the way, the removed layout sections are in the garage at least temporarily though the L-girder benchwork that supported them is now in small pieces).

Then I went to sleep. It wasn't a great stopping point, as I didn't sleep well wondering if I could pull off my plan. But I didn't have regrets, which was a good thing. I woke up early the next morning and disassembled the remainder some more. Next, slid things around until the layout just barely turned 90-degrees. I had literally a half-inch inch of clearance by a support column (otherwise, I would have had to separate the scenery-finished sections which I was loathe to do). My says I overbuild stuff, which is true, though model magazines over-promote benchwork that overkill for most layouts. Either way, my layout wiring with the wing nuts and hockey pucks made for quick disassembly, reassembly, and leveling. I had it all back together in its new configuration in about an hou. My back and leg muscles are sore now though. At 40+ this hurts... what will it be like at 60?

My layout is now a purely switching layout, but I don't ever operate it anyway. The "staging yard" is a scenic example of a railyard being torn up, two of the sidings in North Menands aren't useful for operations anyway (one has building clearance issues, the other never received a freight car in the time period I model), etc. This is a layout to let me build stuff, which I enjoy more than operating. 

So, the future is open for something new. I am looking forward to building a small layout for Harrison that we can share. And, I still have one section of my layout (Keis and Norlite) that I can work on to scratch my buildnig itch. Who knows... in a couple of years maybe I will keep my HO layout and expand it further after all? 

Friday, September 1, 2023

Favorite Engines - G.E. 44-tonners

My favorite engine of all time is the General Electric 44-tonner. Not only were they ubiquitous on shortline railroads, but they are also just plain cute. The fact that my favorite railroad had two of them (plus two other, larger G.E. centercab switchers) means that my love for them is pretty much an obsession. Though they generally look alike, there are many differences over their long production run. The September 1978 issue of Model Railroader magazine has scale drawings, though the best resource is Extra 2200 South magazine (issues 51 and 52). Can you believe that only 386 total engines were built? Yet so many survive today!

The Arcade and Attica Railroad purchased two of them, #110 (in 1941) and #111 (in 1947). They ran for decades and both are still on the property, and #111 is occasionally still is used in revenue service! Below is a shot from August 18, 1990 showing the two 44-tonners (the black/orange engines) and one 65-tonner. Engine #110 is on the very left, and #111 is on the very right.

This is engine #111 taken on August 10, 1976. I prefer this paint scheme because it is what I remember as a kid. However, in 2001, the A&A has reverted back to the older "retro" scheme on all of its engines. 

This is close to what they looked like when originally delivered from G.E., though this shot is from May 26, 2008 when it had just been repainted for display. It is a sharp paint scheme.

The purchase of the first diesel was so impactful on the A&A that it allowed the mechanical department to retire all of its steam engines. The financial savings from this allowed the railroad to carry through some lean years. General Electric heard about this and even featured A&A #110 in one of their advertisement campaigns!

The diesel locommotives came with reliable Caterpillar diesel engines, and Caterpillar also decided to feature A&A #110 in their advertisement too!

The very last 44-tonner ordered from G.E. was sent to the Dansville and Mt. Morris Railroad in western New York. The line is also near and dear to me because my wife is from Mt. Morris and I have spent a bit of time railfanning it. Now it is now part of the Genessee & Wyoming system. In fact, it was their first railroad aquisition way back when. Anyway, D&MM's engine #1 was ordered from the factory in 1956 and it served on the D&MM until 1986, when it was sold to the Bay Colony Railroad. This shot shows her sometime in the 1970s. Note the unusual headlight housing on the end.

However, the railroad also purchased another 44-tonner engine used from the Bath and Hammondsport Railroad. This became D&MM #2, and it is shown here on May 29, 1980. In this shot it has yellow painted handrails, but earlier pictures have them painted black. It was finally scrapped in 2012. An excellent website on the D&MM can be found here.

Being from Rochester, I have an interest in all western NY railroads. Another 44-tonner owner was owned by the Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad (which I featured on my blog previously). This shortline was formed in 1964 and the 44-tonner were used for excursion trains as well as freight movement. This shot was taken July 1973 and was photographed by Alco legend and shortline guru George Hockaday. I purchased the slide online once I saw who the photographer was because I am friends with his son Warren.

Here is an undated shot of Maine Central 44-tonner #15, painted in the sharp red and black "Minuteman" scheme which was also used by the Boston and Maine Railroad when they shared corporate ownership. Note the marker lights on the front corners (but not the rear ones!)

One final engine, Adirondack Scenic Railroad #105, was previously featured on my blog here.

As you can see, even in the small geographical area of western New York State there were many 44-tonners roaming about. They might not have been large but they did they jobs well and they certainly helped keep freight lines profitable. Thankfully, you can still see a few running today if you know where to look.