Tom Thumb Damaged Aboard Flatbed Truck
The locomotive Tom Thumb was damaged on June 10. It was aboard a flatbed truck en route to Leakin Park in Baltimore for a display when it struck an overhead bridge. The Tom Thumb, a 1927 replica of Peter Cooper's 1829 experimental steam locomotive, is owned by the B&O Railroad Museum. An assessment is being made of the extent of damage, but the engine is probably repairable.
Conrail's NS Tower in Ohio Closes
Conrail's NS Tower in Lima, Ohio, closed June 8. This had been an electro-mechanical interlocking with switches moved using armstrong levers and pipelines. Lima is now designated as an automatic interlocking, called "NS Interlocking." [Reported by Russell Heine]
CSXT Buys Minority Interest in Paducah & Louisville
CSXT is purchasing a minority interest in the Paducah & Louisville Railway in Kentucky, formerly a part of the Illinois Central. PAL operates 307 route miles, has 86 locomotives, 1316 freight cars, and 300 employees. CSXT will hold three of the seven seats on the board. Present local management will continue to operate the railroad.
CSXT Plans Major Track Work Between Louisville and Nashville
A major track curfew for maintenance work is slated to be in effect on CSXT's Main Line Subdivision between Louisville and Nashville from July 10 to September 8. It will involve five different maintenance of way gangs working at once. Six of the 17 daily merchandise trains operating between Louisville and Nashville are planned to reroute over alternate CSXT routes or foreign roads.
As of June 25, CSXT had renumbered 10 locomotives for use in dedicated maintenance of way service. They are painted bright orange with black lettering. Recent renumberings include GP38 units 2100 and 2120 (renumbered 9650 and 9651), and GP40 unit 6582 (renumbered 9700).
Burlington Northern Offers Buyout to Employees Over 50
Burlington Northern is offering a buyout program to employees age 50 and over who have been with the railroad for at least 10 years. As many as 400 employees may be eligible.
Allen Weaver Dies
Veteran Western Maryland Railway conductor Allen Weaver died on June 10. He was 60.
EnterTRAINment Line Ceases Operations
The EnterTRAINment Line has been forced to cease operations, at least temporarily, due to non-payment of charges to the Maryland Midland.
"RAILFAN" Car Gets Honored
[Reported by Allen Brougham] . . . The 1976 Ford Club Wagon owned by Raymond Saunders of Alexandria, Virginia, is renowned for its license plate with the word "RAILFAN," a fact that was noted recently in a national magazine. Now it has been noted through another arena.... a stadium! It happened on June 13 at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, Maryland. It was in the middle of the sixth inning of a Carolina League game between the Frederick Keys and the Lynchburg (Virginia) Hillcats when the public address announcer asked the owner of the car with Virginia tags R-A-I-L-F-A-N to report to.... Uh-oh! Thoughts of the worst sort can cross one's mind in such an instance. Could his car have been hit by a foul ball? (It had already suffered a cracked windshield from a flying something earlier in the day.) What could have happened to it now? Generally, only the most loathsome of calamities warrant a public announcement about a car during a professional ball game.... "Your car has been voted the 'Dirtiest Car in the Parking Lot!' " continued the announcer as he asked the owner to come and claim his "prize." Those who know Ray will attest that his car (more aptly called a truck) has seen a few miles - over 200,000, in fact - and it does have some rust spots and lacks a set of hubcaps. So it may not be the peach of cars ... but it's "utilitarian," as those who know Ray can further attest. It has seen yeoman service in the carting of picnic supplies at the many outings Ray has coordinated for railfanning groups over the years. What it may lack in beauty, then, is more than made up by "love." Moreover, "It really wasn't that dirty!" said Ray of the honor his vehicle was thus bestowed. But he accepted his prize, nevertheless. The prize: Two free washes, courtesy of a Frederick car wash.
The Initials a Name Make
Gary and Bonnie Taylor of Sanford, Florida, are now the proud parents of a baby boy whom they had named Charles Samuel years before the stork arrived. But Bonnie, a crew van driver for CSXT and also a railfan, came upon a further idea to make the lad's name more complete. By inserting an X, his initials would honor a certain railroad. Thus it is for Charles Samuel Xavier Taylor.... initials CSXT.
Boyce N&W Depot Site of Picnic
The historic former N&W combination depot at Boyce, Virginia, was the site of a picnic and slide show on May 27, jointly attended by members of the Cherry Run Railroad Club and the Winchester Chapter NRHS. Approximately 30 people attended. The picnic was staged on the lawn opposite the tracks from the station. Eva Kibler, postmaster of Boyce and owner of the lawn, spoke of life and times serving in the depot during earlier years when the post office was housed there. The slide show, which followed the picnic and continued until 1:30 the following morning, was held in the main waiting room of the station. Members took turns with their own slide or tape presentations in 15-minute segments. The building is now owned by the Winchester Chapter, which uses it as a clubhouse. The Boyce depot dates from 1913 when it was built to replace a smaller structure. It was built by the town of Boyce at a cost of $17,575. While it served the railroad, which also owned the land, the building itself has never been owned by the railroad. Its most recent use prior to its acquisition by the Winchester Chapter was as a restaurant. A grant is pending from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act for repairs to the building, estimated in the range of $100,000. A provision of the grant is that 20 percent of the funding must be raised by the chapter, with ISTEA matching the remaining 80 percent.
Safety Caboose Painted for B&O Museum
[By Dwight Jones] . . . A caboose restoration project has been completed for the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. B&O caboose 903842 had been stored in "Bad Order" status in Columbus, Ohio. I had selected it some time ago as a potential donation candidate, and had stenciled it accordingly. Museum officials worked with CSX to secure donation of the car, and restoration started late last year.
The purpose of the project was to complete a B&O caboose for museum display that would be a good representative of the safety cabooses of the Chessie years. There had been 23 safety cabooses - 12 from the B&O, 7 from the C&O, and 4 from the WM. Each of the cabs was painted a particular color and carried a safety message on its side. For this project, one side was painted purple, as had been original safety cab 3718, and the opposite side was painted light blue, as had been original safety cab 3035. Therefore, we were able to replicate two of the original B&O cars on a single caboose. I am particularly pleased that we were able to duplicate the original schemes closely. Both of the original cars were repainted while in their safety caboose colors, and there were variations that were introduced on the repainted versions. Our car duplicates the original scheme. You may have a color shot of the repainted version which has certain variations from our car and the original scheme.
The effort was a project of the Affiliation for Baltimore & Ohio System Historical Research (AB&OSHR), and this year marks the 10th year of our caboose painting projects. This was the first restoration where we also completely restored the interior. Broken parts were repaired or replaced, a power wash company cleaned the inside, and a complete repainting was accomplished. B&O 903842 originally had been built in 1975 by the International Car Company of Kenton, Ohio. It came from the first group of cabooses to be delivered to the railroad wearing Chessie System paint. This particular caboose had never been repainted by the railroad, remaining in its original paint scheme 20 years after it was built.
We would like to thank Dick Argo, Cliff Clemonts, Ron and Pete Jedlicka, Jack Brown, and John Baker for their efforts, mostly with the mechanical improvements and repairs to the cab. As usual, we received excellent cooperation from the local CSX officers in Columbus, including senior trainmaster John Riddle, road trainmaster Pete Burris, and terminal trainmaster Mike Hensley. This is the fifth caboose we have painted here in Columbus at the local yard, and the ninth caboose project that we have worked on for the B&O Museum. After the cab was completed, we installed plywood signs on the roof of the car. They were 16 inches high and ran the full length of both sides. One side said "Visit The B&O RR Museum - Where Cabooses Still Roam!" The opposite side read "See You At The World Famous B&O RR Museum - Baltimore." The signs were removed at Baltimore before the cab was placed on display. The car arrived at the B&O Museum on June 1.
A Ride on the Walkersville Southern
[By Pat Stakem] . . . The Walkersville Southern (WS) is a small railroad with large aspirations. It is headquartered in the small town of Walkersville, some ten minutes north of Frederick, Maryland. The WS runs on ex-PRR trackage that used to extend into Frederick. The WS serves an animal feed plant in Walkersville, but is dependent on the Maryland Midland interchange to the north. The major problem to the south is the missing bridge across the Monocacy River, a victim of Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. The good news is that funding to restore the bridge has been arranged, and the pillars are in good shape. The steel, washed off the foundations, is also reusable, saving some capital expense. Being a dead end line currently has its advantages, though, and the WS is a popular place for track car runs. The motive power for the WS is an 18-ton Plymouth gasoline-powered switcher (road number 1), and the passenger excursion equipment is a very well constructed converted flat (road number 11), with benches, and a PA system. All of the motive power and rolling stock are painted in WS colors, with the line's logo. Walkersville station is used for ticket and souvenir selling. The WS is actively involved in trackwork, and is upgrading their track towards the bridge. Currently, the passenger train can go about 1.5 miles south. The train then returns backing to the station. By the end of this year, they hope to reach the bridge. When the bridge is reopened, a major event, the run to Frederick can be completed.
The ride is inexpensive, and ample free parking is available. My dog appreciated the fact that she was allowed to ride as well. A good time was had by the whole family. The conductor chatted with the passengers, and pointed out points of interest, such as the old lime kiln, Fountain Rock Park, and Catoctin Mountain views. (The autumn trips should be fabulous.) She wanted to know where people were from, and how they heard about the ride. On our train, the inaugural season run, the passengers were split between locals and out-of-town rail fans. For a small enterprise such as the WS, support from the locals is critical.
One concern voiced was that the right-of-way was now posted 'No Trespassing,' a necessary condition for safety. For those whose houses adjoin the track, for many years the abandoned right-of-way provided a nice hiking trail and convenient shortcuts. The WS is trying to build community support by arranging trips for school children. As with a long litany of small towns, there is little reason to visit Walkersville unless you know someone living there. The tourist train will change that, and can provide a commuter service to larger towns such as Frederick. Tourism brings both good and bad. Hopefully, the people of Walkersville, working with the railroad, will balance these issues to their mutual benefit. I wish to WS well, and encourage railfans to keep their eye on this little line with big ambitions.
Two Towers for the Tonawandas
[By Thomas K. Kraemer] . . . May 26, 1911, was a usual spring morning in Lockport, New York, as motorman William Bradley eased his "fruit car" motor from the International Railway Company's carbarn and down to the freight yard. His call for the day was to distribute crossties along the line south of Tonawanda for the track department to install later that week. He coupled up to a pair of flat cars piled high with ties and pulled out of the city with conductor E. J. Martaugh and track supervisor Thomas Nealson on board. Their train headed south on the double-tracked Lockport line at a reasonable pace, running extra between regularly scheduled passenger trolleys and other IRC freights. After crossing the small wooden trestle over Bull Creek, they met a Lockport-bound trolley that had just finished picking up passengers at Hoffman's Station in Wheatfield. Bradley slowed his train as he approached the single-truss span over Sawyer's Creek and rang the bell for the Martinsville depot. Erie Avenue was to their left, named after the railroad that built the line some 20 years previous. After two more miles had passed, they pulled up to the crossing with the Buffalo and Lockport line of the New York Central. There they had to wait for a Lockport-bound freight and the mid-day local passenger train heading for Buffalo. Soon the way was clear, so Bradley brought his train across the diamonds and onto one of the sidings just south of Payne Avenue in the city of North Tonawanda. After holding for a few other trains to clear on the Niagara Falls line, they pulled around the south leg of the wye and headed for Tonawanda. At Oliver Street, they crossed the Central's Buffalo and Lockport line again at grade where a small flagman's tower stood. The occupant of the tower permitted trains to pass at his discretion based on timetables and a simple telegraph system. If a train was approaching on the Erie/IRC, he would look to see if the way was clear, and let it pass. As time progressed, however, the number and length of trains were increasing. The flagman's job was becoming very difficult. The crossing was becoming very dangerous. Bradley pulled the bell cord as Tom Nealson waved to the people waiting on the platform of the North Tonawanda passenger depot to their right. Soon the motor began to strain as it pulled the loaded flat cars up the grade to the bridge over the Erie Canal. They crossed the bridge at about five miles per hour. Across the bridge, the track was down grade through Gastown into Tonawanda. At the center of this short, but steep, grade was the crossing of the Canandaigua line of the New York Central, which was also used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Ahead, at that crossing, Bradley could see the approach of a northbound Lehigh Valley passenger train heading for Niagara Falls. Bradley applied the air brakes - but his train did not slow down. His crew quickly set the hand brake, but the momentum of the two cars of ties pushed the light motor along. Realizing that a collision was unavoidable, the three crew members jumped from the train and let it go. The runaway struck the second Lehigh Valley day coach squarely and cut it from its train. The coach then turned completely over and tumbled into the ditch to the west of the tracks. The engine of the trolley freight was smashed to kindling. Thirteen people were aboard the coach, which lay resting on its top.
The crew of the freight train ran down to the scene where many people were scurrying about, trying to rescue the injured - and figure out what happened. Two homes on East Avenue in Gastown served as temporary hospitals until ambulances and doctors arrived. Later on, William Bradley was interviewed by a news reporter and stated: "The passenger train had the right-of-way. I tried to stop my train with the air brake. The brakes failed to work. We had two heavily loaded flat cars behind the motor car and the impetus was too great that the brakes on the first car had no effect whatever." The accident occurred at 1:30 PM. By 2 o'clock, the Erie, Central and International Railway's wrecking crews had joined forces to clear the wreckage. It took them until midnight.
Very shortly after the wreck, the three railroads held a meeting in Buffalo concerning the dangerous "cross-overs" (as they were called). The immediate solution was to build a new tower with derailing switches at the site in Gastown. The announcement about the new tower to the public came only two days after the wreck. The meetings continued, and it became realized that the same dangerous conditions existed on the other side of the bridge in North Tonawanda. A runaway on that side would have much more potential to be disastrous because the tracks not only crossed - they crossed in the middle of Oliver Street! Thus it was decided that the railroads would build two new towers; the "Oliver Street" having top priority. The Central and Erie engineers went to work designing what would become towers "Erie 2" and "Erie 3." By August 9, 1911, $35,000 worth of materials had arrived at Oliver Street, including materials for a temporary "signal bridge" that would keep trains moving while the construction of the new tower took place. Meanwhile, the IRC installed a two-piece frog at the location. The railroad boasted that this was the first two-piece crossing in the Tonawandas.
Two days later the May Hotel on Christiana Street caught fire shortly before 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Both the Sweeny Hose Company and the Columbia Hook and Ladder Company responded. As the Sweeny truck rambled toward the Oliver Street crossing, the flagman heard the clatter and rushed out to halt the approaching New York Central "Rochester Express" coming in from Lockport, and clear the pedestrians and railroad workers from the crossing. The engineer of the Express saw the flag and made an emergency brake application. The lengthy express ground to a stop, just before striking the fire truck. The Columbia truck was along seconds after. The flagman, still trying to gain control of the situation, was busy clearing the crossing and failed to notice a Buffalo-bound IRC trolley approaching from the north. Seeing no red flag against him, the motorman ran his trolley through the crossing, grazing the Columbia fire truck upon which Chief Cage was riding. Now the chief was as hot as the fire he was responding to! He was quoted, "I will take up the matter at once with the proper railroad authorities to see that the fire regulation is complied with. It is the duty of the flagman at a crossing to use the red flag on any train or trolley when a fire truck approaches a crossing. My firemen claim that our trucks repeatedly encounter trouble at the crossing on Oliver Street. The fire companies have the right-of-way over train or trolley and unless better protection is afforded to the firemen responding to a fire call, steps will be taken to impress upon the railroad employees the necessity for complying with city ordinances!" About one month later, it was announced that the new signal tower would have "automatic gates" for Oliver Street. (At that time, "automatic" meant that they would be controlled by the tower operator.) By September 13, 1911, a temporary signal station was in operation on the south side of the Central tracks. The flagman's tower would soon be demolished. The new tower would be the most modern in western New York, and would be completely controlled by electricity. Over in Gastown, derailing switches were installed near the crossing there. These derails were tested quite unexpectedly on the afternoon of November 16th by an Erie 2-8-0 (#1052) while backing down off the gas works switch track. Before the engine could be stopped, the coal tender left the track, slid down the embankment and fell into the same deep ditch the Lehigh Valley coach was knocked into months prior. The Erie wrecking crew came in from Buffalo and cleaned up the mess before dark.
The construction work was in progress. On December 13, an article appearing in the Evening News pertaining to the towers: "...the two towers are under construction by the Federal Signal Company and are rapidly nearing completion. The towers are being built as a result of the railroad wreck at the Gastown crossing last spring in which a Lehigh Valley passenger train was smashed into by a trolley freight on the International railroad and several persons were seriously injured. The machines in the towers will be the most modern and will be electrically controlled throughout. They will govern the movement of both the trolley and the steam trains and will eliminate the possibility of wrecks on two of the most dangerous grade crossings in Western New York. The tower at the Oliver Street crossing is built of brick with the latest style electric machine to be installed. It will cost $45,000. The Gastown tower is built of wood, similar to others hereabouts and will cost $40,000." The machine at Oliver Street (Erie 2) was a prototype of the Federal Signal Company's experimental all-electric interlocking system introduced that year, and the machine at Gastown (Erie 3) had the standard Federal "armstrong" lever system. Winter had set in, and it was a severe one at that. Through January of 1912, the railroads were experiencing many difficulties in their operation. Trains and trolleys were running behind schedule, and the construction of the towers had slowed considerably. On January 17th, the New York Central issued a notice to the public stating that the flagman at the Oliver Street crossing would soon be abolished due to the new tower commencing service. Gates were to take his place, and "they must be obeyed by the public as if a flagman was present." By February 10th, the tower at Oliver Street was completed. Electricians were busy installing the interlocking machine and wayside signals.
The new tower was almost ready to be placed into service on March 5th, but division superintendent T. W. Evans and division engineer Thomas McDonald of the NYC ordered the removal of a switch near the tower. The switch was located right "in" the sidewalk on Oliver Street, and since the points would be controlled automatically, there would be considerable danger to the public using the crossing. The switch was moved five feet to the west of the crossing. The displacement of the switch entailed much expense as the interlocking had to be readjusted as well. The contract deadline of March 15th was closing in on the Federal Signal Company as they hurried to complete the job. March 15th arrived, and the tower was ready for service. Successful tests were made on the 15th through the 18th, and on March 19th the Evening News printed: "The new signal tower at the junction of the Erie, Central and International lines at Oliver Street, which with its appurtenances cost about $60,000, was placed in service this morning. The tower is equipped throughout with electric working apparatus and the operation of the system is rapid and easy. The targets [spectacles] on the new semaphores operate reversely [upper quadrant] from those on the old style [lower quadrant] signal poles. The signal lamps are lighted by electricity." And so it was. "Erie 2" was in service at Oliver Street. The opening of "Erie 3" came soon after and provided many years of service until its closing in the 1960's.
In 1964, Erie 2 was involved in a fire that damaged the wooden second floor. Unfortunately, the unique interlocking machine was removed because of it. The New York Central promptly rebuilt the second floor almost identically to the original, so the tower's appearance remains unchanged. In the process of the rebuilding, the tower was converted into an automatic interlocking plant with no operator on duty, but signalmen still used the building up through the 1980's as a base for C&S operations. Today, the welfare of Erie 2 is in the hands of the Niagara Frontier Chapter NRHS, which acquired the building from Conrail in 1990. The chapter has plans to restore the building, though so far it has received little attention. Time and weather are taking their toll on the 84-year-old building, and what happens in the near future will ultimately determine its fate.
Those wishing to contact the Niagara Frontier Chapter may do so by writing them at P.O. Box 298, Getzville, New York 14068-0298.