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Rochester Area S Gaugers Newsletter

December 1998


Trip Report – The East Broad Top Railroad and the Rockhill Trolley Museum – August 21-23, 1998

by Mike Shea

The trip from Greece to Mt. Union covered some 275 miles at took about 6 hours. We went directly south through Hornell and straight on into Pennsylvania. From the border the route is a series of twisting forest roads, until one we finally emerges at Lock Haven and US-220 and I-80. There is an alternate route swinging to the east and involving US-15, but it is longer, more heavily traveled, and lacks much of the ambiance of the more direct forest route. For instance, one would completely miss seeing the Amish folk traveling along the roadside south of Canisteo by horse and buggy, a barn and much of a hillside a few miles inside Pennsylvania almost totally covered with shinny hubcaps, and deer, wild turkey and other wildlife watching the passing vehicles from the side of the road.

We stayed at the Motel 22 Motor Inn on US-22, about 3 miles north of Mt. Union. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a better place. The single bed in our two-bed room was nothing more that a plywood box with a thin foam pad on top masquerading as a mattress. The plumbing system was state-of-the-art–for 1950. Showers were an adventure, as someone washing their hands or flushing the toilet [cont’d on pg. 2]

Recent Monthly Meetings

September–The September monthly meeting and annual gathering was hosted by Roger Delthony. Thanks, Roger! A number of business items were discussed, and high on the list of imiportant topics was improving the quality of the scenery to be found on our modules. Although most have basic scenery, the general consensus was that all could use improvement; we offer little in the way of visual interest on most of the modules for the show-going public. Mike Holland has since been searching for sturdy trees so that we can engage in some S scale forestry. Ted Larson reported finding some deciduous-tree kits at the November Syracuse train show as well. It was decided that we should acquire some tent poles to use for hoisting our banner to make it visible at shows; Rick Israelson acquired these before the Batavia show at the beginning of November. Ted Larson brought a box of various kits he has obtained.

November–Harry Butler hosted the November monthly meeting, where he displayed a small (4’ x 8’) Christmas layout set up on plywood covered with indoor/outdoor carpet, which he acquired from McCrory’s, and which contains a small amusement park using the relevant pieces from the Ertl County Fair set. Attendees each received an S-scale Ertl figure from the abundance that Harry bought in bulk at the Ertl factory outlet store in Dyersville, Iowa, during his cross-country trip last May. Roger brought along the very impressive S Helper Service Christmas caboose. Topics of discussion included the new Hobby Surplus Sales catalog and DCC.

Product News

American Models now stocks a line of S-scale figures, some of which can be seen above, in a photo from the AM website at http:\\www.americanmodels.com. Milwaukee Road and New Haven schemes have been added for the AM Pacific. Their new 1999 catalog also reports that the former Lindberg tank kits (including the Patton available with their flatcar) are available separately.

Pacific Rail Shops (PO Box 867, Coos Bay, Oregon 97420-0201, 541-267-6664) is having another sale, as Ted Larson reports:

FALL CLEARANCE Sale - through Feb. 15

There are several 50 foot (single and double door) cars available for $10 (less trucks). There are several 1937 40 foot boxcars available at $20 (less trucks). At this price, strip them and decorate them using commercial decals, or use them for your private road.

Merchants Despatch reefer available in December; $40. Swift red reefer available in January; $40. PFE reefer available in January; $40.

Blackstone Valley Railway (PO Box 345, Tomah WI. 54660-0345, 608 372-7467) offers a sizeable range of S-scale timber bridge kits, and the company’s website at http://www.blackstonevalleyry.com/index.htm provides photos of some. Particularly interesting to this writer is the coal dealership delivery trestle, but the designs include deck and through truss bridges as well as trestles.

Alder Models (Box 1537, Deep River, Ontario, Canada, K0J 1P0, 613-584-3149) sells both dummy and working switchstands in a variety of scales; the S-scale versions are based on CN and CP prototypes but are probable suitable for many other railroads. Dummy stands are $15 for six; working models are $7 each. Visit their website: http://www.intranet.ca/~aldermodels/index.html

EBT, continued from page 1

4 units away would easily and instantly change our water temperature by 20 degrees. And the swimming pool was well on its way to being declared a wildlife refuge, with about 3 feet of ugly green water in the bottom. On the plus side, our room was clean and in excellent repair, the bathroom was recently renovated and was immaculate, and the air conditioner and television both performed up to spec.

Mt. Union itself was a fantastic little town. We found a great pizza place on US-22, about 100 yards east of where US-522 branches off to the south. The local McDonald’s was clean and efficient – very important when you’re traveling with an 8 year-old. And the folks at St. Catherine of Sienna Church couldn’t have been more hospitable to a couple of strangers. All in all, we probably dealt with 15 or 20 people during our brief stay in Mt. Union and none of them could have been any nicer.

On Saturday morning we ate breakfast at the Mt. Union McDonald’s and headed south for the 12-mile trip to Orbisonia. Coming out of Mt. Union on US-522 one sees 3 foot and dual-gauge tracks plainly visible on the left (east) side of the road. For the most part the tracks are extremely rusty and the ties are rotten, but the line is still in place! It’s interesting to note that some road improvements are taking place along this stretch and that the railroad’s right-of-way is being preserved. We even saw a freshly poured concrete dual-gauge grade crossing spanning an industrial driveway leading off US-522. Sights like those make it hard to believe that this part of the line hasn’t seen a train in over 40 years.

Once in Orbisonia it’s virtually impossible to miss the turn to the EBT station – just hang a right at the only traffic light in town. Crossing Black Log Creek brings one into the town of Rockhill Furnace and the EBT station is just a few hundred feet further along on the right.

Driving up to this place is like stepping back into time. The main yards, roundhouse, offices and shops are all on the south side of the road and they all look pretty much as they did over forty years ago. There is even a string of 3-bay hoppers just waiting to be hauled off to the mines. I doubt whether there are many museum operations in this country that can match the effect of this one.

We arrived about 10:00 am (for an 11:00 am departure) and found engine 14, a 1912 vintage Baldwin Mikado, already fired up, out of the roundhouse and turned, but still sitting on the turntable. We got a few photos here before the crew took her to the south end of the yard to top off her tender with coal and water. She soon was back, crossing Meadow Street so that she could back up to her consist, couple up, and pump up the air. After a few minutes she once again whistled her way across Meadow Street and proudly pulled up in front of the station.

The consist this weekend was made up of three open air cars (flat cars with railings and seats), a fourth open air car (this one with a roof), a regular passenger car, a caboose and, finally, the Orbisonia, which was the railroad’s official, plush business car. During the weekend we rode every car but for the first three. (It was sunny and quite hot, and I’ve had some previous experience with steam engines, soot and cinders. One can carry this "romance of the rails" thing too far. I’ll take a car with a roof, thank you.)

I think I have trained my granddaughter well. Jessica’s first wish (mine too, but I didn’t tell her) was to ride the caboose and that’s just what we did. When the conductor shouted "All Aboard!" we were on the caboose and up in the cupola in about 30 seconds. All the windows opened (by sliding sideways) so it wasn’t hot up there at all. And once we got underway the breeze was fantastic.

The trip itself takes about an hour, running some 3 or 4 miles north to Colgate Grove, where the entire train is turned on a wye (the third track once led to an old clay pit), spends about 10 minutes in a layover/photo op session, and then heads back to town. At Rockhill Furnace it swings wide of the station, crosses Meadow Street, once again is turned on a wye (this time the third track lies on the old grade of the Shade Gap branch), and finally pulls up in front of the station, once again pointing north.

The layover at Colgate Grove can extend to two hours or more, as the EBT promotes this as a picnic area. It has a shelter, picnic tables, playground equipment and a "comfort station" - but no running water. One is free to ride out on either the first or second train, bringing along a cooler, etc., and then take a later train back to the station.

Our lunch, however, was from a little stand set up right in the EBT’s parking lot and was eaten at one of the picnic tables they provide under an old oak tree. The sausage, hot dogs and fries were just delicious and quite reasonably priced. But the best item on the menu was the ice cold, homemade lemonade. Yours truly had seconds on that item.

After a stop in the gift shop we walked across Meadow Street and visited the Rockhill Trolley Museum. We enjoyed a one mile ride down the Shade Gap branch and back again in a meticulously restored round-sided Brill trolley, one of only 6 such models they ever produced (so the motorman said). The trolley stops a couple of times, once at the end of the line and again at the site of the steam engine house of the old Iron Works complex while the motorman gives a brief and interesting description of trolley and furnace operations. At least I thought they were brief and interesting. My granddaughter thought the talks were boring and too long. She much prefers the train rides, where all the lecturing comes in over speakers in each car, while the train is underway.

We rode the train three times in two days. Our last trip, on Sunday morning, was as "First Class" passengers aboard the business car Orbisonia. Sitting right at the rear of the train and watching the tracks slowly disappear behind us, I was able to glimpse something of what rail travel must have been like sixty or more years ago.

Jessica was somewhat surprised that the caboose was not the last car on the train. (But she wasn’t bothered at all by the fact that there was a caboose on a passenger train. More education is needed on this point, I think.) So on this last ride she asked the conductor the reason. With something of a twinkle in his eye her told he that she could get a better answer from one of the two gentlemen riding in the front of the car. So we went forward, caught their eye, and she asked her question. She was told, quite politely and in more detail than she could possible have appreciated, the role of a business car on a railroad and that most railroads, this one included, had a rule stating that such a car always was last in the consist. When we returned to the rear of the car the conductor told her that the man who answered her question was the owner of the railroad! It seems that whenever Joe Kovalchick is in the area he manages to get an "inspection" trip in. Jessica’s only comment was, "I’ll bet they don’t make him buy a ticket!"

Fares are pretty reasonable. Adults ride the EBT for $9.00 per trip, while children twelve and under pay $6.00. Extra fare for either the caboose or the Orbisonia business car is just $1.00 per ticket. The Rockhill Trolley Museum charges only $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for kids, and there your ticket is good for the entire day!

Upcoming Events

  • January 17, 1999 – TTOS meet in Blasdell at the McKinley Park Inn; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Admission: $3.

    January 24, 1999 – TTCS meet in Utica at Union Station; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Admission: $4.

    February 7, 1999 – TTOS meet in Rochester at Logan’s Party House; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Admission: $3.

    March 7, 1999 – Toy Train Fair at Edgerton Community Center; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Admission: $3.

    April 11, 1999 – Batavia train show (our next show); 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

  • Weekly Work Sessions

    Weekly work sessions are continuing at Mike Shea’s house, and we have made a great deal of progress on switches for Mike Holland’s modules. Other work has been done as well; Steve Coughlin has brought things to work on some evenings. Attendance has been fairly high, and if you haven’t been able to come but your schedule permits, do try to stop by in the new year. High attendance reduces the workload on any individual and allows people to swap off between construction activity and conversation or individual projects.

    Web Sightings

    If you are interested in local railroading, you should stop by the Rochester-area railfan site at http://rochester.railfan.net/. There’s also a local railfan discussion group, which can be accessed by visiting the onelist site at http://www.onelist.com/. You can likewise subscribe to the Sn2 list here, or to several different prototype railroad discussion lists.

    Recent visits to the NMRA site have yielded some Web addresses of manufacturers of S scale products. A few examples are provided below:

    Arttista Accessories – This figure manufacturer now can be found online, at: http://www.quickpage.com/a/arttista/.

    S scale figures can also be found at the Fun & Games site: http://members.xoom.com/fun_games/list.htm.

    BHI – This company is developing a line of S scale structure kits, including foundations to go under Design Preservation wall sections. Check their list of forthcoming products at: http://www.discoverynet.com/~bhi/index.html.

     

    A Closing Word

    If you have any comments or items for inclusion in the newsletter, please let me know at hgbutler@frontiernet.net or by calling 716-663-0895. We intend to increase our schedule to bimonthly in 1999 and will need plenty of material. Until then, Happy Holidays!

    –Harry Butler

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