The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
LION IN OUR MIDST
Ask any traction enthusiast who William D. Middleton was, and the response would be one of immediate recognition. As a student of trolley history and an avid fan, Middleton contributed to our knowledge of and interest in that history through 20 books, over 700 magazine and newspaper articles, and countless award-winning photographs. That he passed away in nearby Livonia, New York two years ago saddened us at the New York Museum of Transportation, all the more so to think that this renowned devotee of trolley history was so close yet perhaps had never met us.
A recent conversation with Middleton’s son, Bill, helped us get to know his father well. Happily, we learned that the two had enjoyed many visits to NYMT, too.
Middleton was born in Davenport, Iowa, March 25, 1928, the second of six children. His father was a doctor, as was his grandfather, who was Chief Surgeon on the Rock Island Railroad, and later became dean of the College of Medicine at the State University of Iowa. It may have been this distant connection to railroading that piqued Middleton’s interest in the steel wheel on the steel rail, but more likely it was the interurban trolleys of the Clinton, Davenport & Muscatine line that ran right past his uncle’s house. Either way, the bug bit at an early age and it never let go.
Davenport, Iowa’s Second Street in this 1917 post card view features trolley cars that no doubt appealed to Middleton.
And as many rail enthusiasts know, “big things that move” all qualify for attention. When he was still in his teens, Middleton got an early taste of life overseas when he booked himself on a “cow boat”—a freighter hauling cattle to Greece. His mother, who was a successful writer of short stories, wrote an article about Middleton’s trip. Incidentally, one of her works was selected for the Martha Foley “Best American Short Stories 1955” (in the company of such notables as John Cheever and Eudora Welty), and it seems likely that Middleton’s talent and interest in writing came in part from his mother.
Middleton attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and graduated in 1950 with a Civil Engineering degree and a commitment to the U.S. Navy as one of the first recruits in the post-World War II ROTC program. This led to a career in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps that took him to all parts of the world, never staying longer than three years in any one place.
Bill tells us that his dad’s work with the Navy started in the Seabees and led to facilities management at Navy bases in Viet Nam, Morocco, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and several stateside locales. In fact, Bill was born in the city of Gulcek where his dad was on loan to the Turkish navy. Middleton used to joke with his son saying, “You’re really a Turk”, and for years the boy worried that he was adopted!
Retirement from the Navy came in 1979 as he finished his service at the Marine Corps Air Station at Iwakuni, Japan, whereupon he joined the University of Virginia as Vice President in charge of the physical plant. After his second career retirement in 1993, Middleton kept moving, first consulting for the World Bank, then joining Eva Klein & Associates for that firm’s work in education planning and consulting. Bill proudly points to his father’s work in this company with the university system in North Carolina where there were serious long-term inequities between the traditionally African-American schools and the rest of the system. His work convinced the state legislature to support a billion dollar program to rectify the situation and improve educational opportunities there.
Bill feels his father “missed his calling”, and should have been a teacher, since the man was so devoted to the research and accumulation of information on rail history as well as sharing it through his writing. “One of my most enduring memories”, says Bill, “is of dad’s typewriter clacking away.” Among the products of that clacking are books well known to traction fans: “The Interurban Era”, “Time of the Trolley”, “North Shore”, and the definitive biography of Frank J. Sprague, co-authored with Bill and published in 2009. Middleton’s last book, “On Railways Far Away”, was published posthumously with the editing done by Bill. The book is a fitting retrospective on a lifetime of pursuing trains, told in 200 of his favorite photographs with the stories that accompany them.
Railfanning with his father holds many wonderful memories for Bill. It began when he was only three or four years old when the latest family move had them living in California. “Train chasing” was his father’s term for it, and as would be expected Middleton had the routes all planned out, somehow knowing in advance where the best photo spots would be and when the trains would be coming. Bill recalls these long weekend adventures as great fun, hurrying to keep up with a train for one more shot, sometimes waiting for hours for just the right lighting. He remembers that Donald Duke, founder of Golden West Books, sometimes accompanied them on these jaunts. Bill has boxes of his own photos from these trips, made first with a Kodak Brownie camera, then graduating to more sophisticated equipment.
He was railfanning with one of the big names in the hobby, but Bill stresses it was more for the thrill of doing something with his dad and he wasn’t really conscious of his dad’s fame. When Bill was about ten years old, he was with his father at Seashore Trolley Museum, and while Middleton was giving a talk or participating in a convocation, young Bill was enjoying trolley rides. Conversing with a college student who was the motorman on one of his runs, he mentioned who his father was. “Your dad is the William D. Middleton?!” was the startled response. Bill wasn’t sure who was more taken aback at this point…himself or the college student.
As the years passed, Bill and his father remained close and from time to time went out together in pursuit of trains. Upstate New York was a frequent location, as Bill had settled here as a professor of archaeology at Rochester Institute of Technology. He remembers his father’s fascination with the Erie Railroad viaduct over the Genesee River at Letchworth Park. They went there and waited, and waited, but their patience was rewarded with three trains in rapid succession. It made their day, and Bill intends to do an article about the experience…the article he knows his father would want to write.
Father and son: Two William D. Middletons share a moment for the camera, probably looking forward to more railfanning.
Rest assured that NYMT was part of any visit to the area by Middleton. The first time he came and rode the museum trolley ride, he described his memories of riding the Philadelphia and Western Strafford cars. Bill says his father had a great recall for details of the various trolley lines and the equipment on each. We know a few fans like that, but there can be extremes: Bill says Middleton knew a man who spent his entire working career on the North Shore line and if you gave him a train number and date, he could recite the names of the motorman and conductor!
Sadly, Middleton was plagued with health issues for much of his later years. In 2003 after surgery for a leaky heart valve, a clotting event led to a minor stroke. However, this didn’t curtail his active public speaking career, and his careful attention to detail carried him through what could have been difficult situations. Bill recalls a rail photo convention where his father spoke for an hour, clearly and with only one minor slip-up identifying the location of a photo (which went right past the audience anyway).
Taking care of his wife, Dorothy, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for ten years took a toll on him. And when he contracted cancer of the bone marrow—multiple myeloma—it led to very fragile bones and associated severe pain. After Dorothy’s death in 2009, Middleton took a Thanksgiving trip to Seattle that year to visit his younger son, Nicholas, but had a fall there. It was clear that Middleton could no longer live on his own. Bill says that while the family was living in Korea, he learned that filial piety— reverence for one’s parents and ancestors—is a very important part of the Confucian culture there. Often elaborate shrines are built in memory of departed family members. Bill says he must have taken that to heart, as he cleaned out the family home in Charlottesville, Virginia, and brought his father to Livonia to live with him.
We’re grateful to Bill for taking the time to share with us these stories of life with William D. Middleton. Bill himself is a published author of numerous technical articles pertaining to his studies and research in the field of archaeology, in addition to the books he worked on with his dad. His teaching career at one point led him to use data from the annual publications of the Association of American Railroads in a quantitative reasoning course to guide students in overcoming fear of math. He co-authored sections of the “Encyclopedia of American Railroads” on the Pullman Works and on a Statistical Abstract of the Railroads of North America. His career in archaeology gives him a broad perspective on human society and the impact of technology. From this he has a strong opinion that rail transportation will have to make a comeback for the sake of the world’s environment and the eventual end of fossil fuel supplies.
While that day may come, we at NYMT do what we can to enlighten our visitors through our exhibits and trolley rides. We revere people like William D. Middleton who appreciated and saved through writings and photography all that has gone before us, providing the facts and anecdotes that bring history to life.
On his last visit to NYMT, Middleton was too frail to make the transfer to the diesel train, so he chose to limit his ride to the trolley. He died on July 10, 2011, and it is heartwarming beyond expression to think that his last trolley ride was made possible through the humble efforts of our volunteers, doing all we can to recreate the “interurban era” Middleton loved so well.
Many generous donors of artifacts pertaining to transportation history found their way to our museum in the past few months, and our cup runneth over (and so doth our archive room!).
Numerous donations came in the form of railroad and trolley books, VHS tapes and DVDs. Per our policy, any duplicates not needed for our library go into the gift shop inventory to benefit the museum. These items alone totaled over 170. A die-cast model of an 1892 Froelich tractor has already found a place in our vehicle model display cases. A complete 40-year set of “Traction and Models” magazine contained in 3-ring binders arrived. These magazines often include useful articles and details about prototype trolley lines.
A Florida resident found us and during a trip to our area delivered a collection of items dating to as early as 1902, including railroad lanterns, timetables, magazines, Pullman towels, and four interesting little cylinders marked “Real Cloth Towel and Soap Hygienically Sealed, Individual Service Co., Easton, PA”. A little research reveals that this company was a 1913 venture of the Individual Drinking Cup Company whose paper “Health Kup” was later renamed the Dixie Cup. Individual Service was formed to vend soap, towels, deodorizers, sanitary napkins, etc., and a likely clientele would have been overnight coach passengers on trains.
A soft, cotton towel and a bar of Colgate “Crystal Cocoa Castile” soap, all in a sealed 2-inch cardboard cylinder.
More railroad lanterns arrived, as well as some rubber stamps, an 1851 Erie Rail Road Company bond, and a large assortment of model railroad magazines and catalogues. Some handbooks for Electromotive diesels, General Railway Signal Company signals, and Westinghouse Air Brakes also came in.
A local family donated an interesting collection of railroad and trolley conductor’s uniform buttons. There seems to be an interest in collecting just about anything you can name, and from the various designs on these buttons, we can understand. Of the 292 buttons received, 30 pertain to trolley lines, and there were three complete uniform sets (sleeve buttons and the larger jacket buttons).
Railroad and trolley line cap badges are another hot item in the collecting world, and we received several. Two badges came from the interurban line that once connected Rochester and Syracuse with classy, high-speed cars. A pair (one for Conductor, the other for Motorman) are marked for R.S.& E. R.R. Co. (Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern). A simpler badge is marked R&S (Rochester & Suburban). The R&S was a 1900 combination of the Rochester & Irondequoit Railroad and the Rochester & Lake Ontario Railway; the R&S in turn became part of the Rochester Railway Company in 1905. Alexander MacLean’s conductor’s ticket box on the Rochester, Lockport & Buffalo interurban line—with a photo of the man beside his car—illuminate another detail of days gone by.
Alexander MacLean worked on the New York Central’s Falls Road but was attracted to the Rochester, Lockport & Buffalo interurban as the “new idea”. When the Depression hit and the line ceased operation, he found himself out of a job.
NYMT Collection, courtesy of Jane and Lewis Gracey
50th and 75th anniversary commemorative books from General Railway Signal Company provide a good overview of that local firm’s history. Along with the books and other rail memorabilia were two GRS souvenir items.
Fifty years of “Motor Coach Age” magazine contain a history of buses as well as valuable information about the trolley lines that often preceded them. In the area of original source material, several pages of employee records from the Lehigh Valley Railroad, in the 1920s and in 1957, provide valuable research material.
The museum has a growing collection of early maps which are invaluable research resources. Added recently are Cram’s Superior Map of NYS, 1911; Asher & Adams Atlas Map of Western New York State; and seven plat books ranging from 1902 to 1936 covering Rochester and the counties of Monroe, Cayuga and Wyoming.
Poring over plat maps can be addictive, as they provide such details as streetcar lines, size and construction material for all structures, former street names, and many other features useful in research…or for just spending an hour or two discovering our past.
Two more nice additions to our auto display area were a model ambulance lettered for the Rush Fire Department, and a 1950s-vintage Japanese tin toy electric locomotive. N-scale trains for the Hojack swing bridge exhibit, and seven HO-gauge train sets were among donations in miniature. There was also the partially finished N-scale layout intended to depict the combined NYMT-RGVRRM facility and rail line.
A resident of nearby Scottsville contacted us about something that he picked up from the former owner of his house, and asked if we would like to have it. Indeed we did. A 96-page book draft entitled “Elmira’s Trolley Cars”, by James Sheehe, contains information and photos covering the history of that city’s trolleys from 1890 to 1939. The draft was created many years ago, so the text includes first-hand details from the author’s personal experiences as well as rosters and route descriptions.
Finally, another word about Bill Chapin who passed away last April. Bill was a life-long rail enthusiast who pursued his interest through train trips, photography, model railroading, and collecting toy trains. Every nook and cranny in Bill’s basement was filled with these toy trains…a truly enormous collection. Bill generously bequeathed the entirety of these toy trains to the Train Collectors Association, an organization dedicated to preserving the history of toy, “tin plate” trains.
But, there was much more in Bill’s basement that wouldn’t be going to the TCA folks, and something had to be done so that Bill’s daughter, Wendy Kulp, could prepare the house for sale. She generously arranged donation of the rest of Bill’s items to NYMT and to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Jim Dierks and Rand Warner, accompanied by Bob Nesbitt, Vern Squire, Kevin Griffith and Jerry Doerr, collected and hauled many loads from the basement for inclusion in the museums’ archives and the NYMT model railroad. Our thanks go to Wendy for her generosity.
What was in Bill’s basement? Photo albums, separate prints, organized files of negatives, 8mm movies, railroad rule books (Bill worked for the New York Central as a tower operator for several years), transit transfers, tickets, timetables, and numerous books and magazines.
Two years’ worth of Rochester Railways Track Reports were among the items. These are original engineering blueprints detailing the streetcar lines in the city. Also included were a switch lantern (with a tag indicating it came from the Rochester Subway); two Official Guides to the Railways (1938 and 1948); a horse car or early trolley passenger signal bell; a dozen large, framed photos; and a New York Central tower annunciator bell.
From Bill’s railroad modeling, and numerous visits to model train meets, our own model railroad guys found HO gauge trolleys, rolling stock, track, parts and structures that they can use. There were also three O-scale model interurban cars.
Rand and Jim spent several days carting these donated items off, but also enjoying Bill’s “museum” of toy trains. On display shelves, in cabinets, and overhead on narrow planks nested on either side of each joist, toy trains of all types and vintages were poised. Streamlined passenger trains, humble freights, the very old and the relatively new…they were all there. At one point, Rand picked up an open gondola car and discovered that its payload was two Rochester & Eastern cap badges! The guys could almost hear Bill chuckling over his little trick, hiding these valuable and locally important relics for only the most diligent to find.
At the end of moving day, the van returning to Pennsylvania had more than 250(!) cartons filled with toy trains destined to the TCA museum. But before they left, a Lionel 254 electric locomotive with two Pullman cars and an observation car were held back, with Wendy’s approval, to become part of a memorial display for Bill in the model railroad room at NYMT.
The 1920s standard gauge train typifies the design and craftsmanship that popularized toy trains in the first half of the twentieth century. It will be a fitting remembrance of Bill.
Dear Friend of the New York Museum of Transportation:
year of exciting progress is drawing to a close, as the word
continues to spread about the only trolley ride in New York State.
Major track improvements, an exciting new exhibit, continuing growth
in birthday parties, and on-going service to the public are just
some of the things we can look back on with pride of accomplishment
in 2013. Work is underway to extend our trolley wire to the south,
and there will be a new enhancement to our trolley fleet to look
forward to in the year to come as well. It all happens through
support from members like you—your membership dollars,
additional donations, and valuable encouragement. Please take a
moment right now to renew your membership with us, and consider
raising to a higher level of membership and adding an extra donation
to support our many worthy projects.
too: The key to continued growth of our museum is in the
active participation of volunteers—people like yourself—who
come from our membership ranks. If you haven't yet discovered the
fun of working on a restoration project, creating an exhibit,
selling tickets, archiving, or operating a trolley or a track car,
2014 is the year for you to get involved! As can be seen from the
many exciting activities described in this issue, our volunteer
opportunities are expanding in number and scope, and there surely is
something for every interest, time constraint, and skill level.
Remember too: The key to continued growth of our museum is in the active participation of volunteers—people like yourself—who come from our membership ranks. If you haven't yet discovered the fun of working on a restoration project, creating an exhibit, selling tickets, archiving, or operating a trolley or a track car, 2014 is the year for you to get involved! As can be seen from the many exciting activities described in this issue, our volunteer opportunities are expanding in number and scope, and there surely is something for every interest, time constraint, and skill level.
The gift of your time is a valuable contribution. Now more than ever, we need you to help keep the museum open to the public. Call us at 533-1113 and we’ll take it from there!
Thank you for the support and encouragement you have provided during this past year. It's a valuable expression of confidence in the vision we've established for the museum and the work we're doing to make that vision a reality. Please help us continue to grow, by selecting a generous level for your 2014 membership and by becoming an active participant in our exciting progress.
Theodore H. Strang, Jr., President
P.S. Remember, your membership contribution is tax-deductible to the full extent of the law and entitles you to a 10% discount in our gift shop, a collectible museum souvenir gift, and four quarterly issues of HEADEND. Family level memberships and above entitle you to free family visits to the museum.
POST CARD REVELATIONS
Just about anything in our modern world is eligible for the collecting hobby. Toy trains, postage stamps, and Andy Warhol prints come to mind. Certainly there are post card collectors, too, to enjoy all the scenes of “yesteryear” that illuminate our past and record little nuggets of history. There are collectors who specialize in post cards of buildings, cards about trains or ships, cards that show early Native Americans, and just about any category imaginable.
A couple of recent post card donations to the museum add to the information that post cards can bear. In a time when train travel was just about the only option, we find a card specifically designed to serve folks planning a visit by train:
The card is postmarked Washington, D.C. on July 2, 1911 and is addressed to friends in Wyoming, New York. The quaint poem endears the visitor to the intended host, and the heading provides a place to write train arrival information. Note the confidence in the U.S. Postal Service: a card mailed hundreds of miles away, two days before the morning arrival date.
A 9:00 a.m. arrival in Rochester from Washington suggests the visitor would be traveling via the Pennsylvania’s overnight train through Harrisburg to Canandaigua, NY, connecting there to a New York Central Auburn Road train for continuation to Rochester. How convenient…departure after dinner from the nation’s capitol and arrival in the Flower City first thing in the morning on the next day. And we glean all that from a simple post card.
The other card, from November, 1907, has a nice, early view of the Court Street bridge over the Genesee River in downtown Rochester. We see a Rochester & Eastern interurban car setting out on a trip to Geneva, meeting an example of personal transportation of the day. The newsy card is from West Webster, NY, bringing family in Livonia Center, NY up to date on Uncle Henry, Aunt Kate, Velma, Myrtle and Eva…pretty much a text message or blog post of a hundred years ago.
Post cards are just one example of the kinds of things the museum archive holds, preserving details of the past that otherwise might be lost to history.
ROCHESTER STREETCARS......................... No. 68 in a series
by Charles R. Lowe
Our photo has defied ROCHESTER STREETCARS for many years. You can see it, for example, in Bill Gordon’s Ninety Four Years of Rochester Railways (volume 2, page 45) where it is noted that this car has just arrived at Rochester’s St. Paul Street Shops from Utica. A real photo version, though, has been elusive until this version showed up in one of the late Bill Chapin’s scrapbooks. How fortunate we are that Bill preserved this photo for us to enjoy now.
It is interesting that Gordon noted that this car made the journey under its own power, indicating it and the other 9 cars from Utica made the journey via the Rochester and Syracuse Railroad. These trips probably occurred in November or December of 1927 during early morning hours so as to not interfere with regular R&S runs.
Car 336 had been part of the 310–336 (even numbers only; 14 cars total) series of center entrance center exit cars. These had been rebuilt about 1916 from single-end railroad roof 14-bench open cars built by Brill in 1902 for use in Utica.
Once the City of Rochester finally agreed, in late 1927, to have New York State Railways operate its new Subway, ten cars of the 310-series were selected to form a fleet of Subway cars. Cars 310, 320, 322 and 330 remained in Utica. As remodeled, the Rochester Subway cars received a roof-mounted headlight, a new pilot (replacing the city fenders used in Utica) and new paint. All were numbered into a new series, numbers 2000–2018 (even), with 336 becoming car 2006.
The 2000s entered Subway service between January and April of 1928, and provided nearly all local passenger service on the Subway from 1928 to 1937. Once the Dewey surface-Subway operation began, 2000s were used on those runs as well. In late 1937, another fleet of Utica cars, the twelve 46–68 (even) cars, were brought to Rochester and brought into Subway service in August and September of 1938. At this time, the 2000s were relegated to rush hour runs or the Dewey surface-Subway operation, and a few of the 2000s were scrapped. Car 336/2006 survived the end of surface streetcar operations and remained in rush hour use until two-man operation ended in 1949. Being center entrance cars, the 2000s could not be changed to one-man cars and thus were withdrawn from service. One of 2006’s last passenger duties, along with the other surviving 2000 car, car 2010, was to carry National Railway Historical Society members in town for the 1949 National Convention when they toured the Subway.
After 1949, car 2006 remained in a service of sorts by being a heated crew room at the Subway car house. It burned to its trucks in 1952 because of an overloaded electric heater. The trucks, though, survived to the end of Subway passenger service and were scrapped along with the last remaining passenger cars in late 1956.
We’re always interested to find out what juicy nuggets of transportation history lie in the background of our Spotlight victims, and can almost always dredge up an uncle who worked on the railroad or a short line that ran behind Grandma’s house. When we asked the lady in the Spotlight this time, about all she could come up with was a grandfather who worked for Otis Elevator. Well, that is transportation, but in fact there’s a much more direct connection, and we’ll tell you about it. Read on, as you meet Carol Farren.
Born in Toms River, New Jersey in 1963, Carol fondly recalls early life on the river inlet where she and her older brother had “their own private sand box”. Home wasn’t far from Seaside Heights, NJ, which got hit hard last year by hurricane Sandy. Childhood fun on the inlet didn’t last, as her father was transferred to Philadelphia when she was five years old (Dad worked in sales for Yale forklifts…hey, that’s transportation).
Carol does a great job at the ticket desk!
Although the family moved around a bit, they stayed in the Levittown, PA area where Carol attended middle and high school. Both Mom and Dad were involved in drum and bugle corps activities—Dad on drums and Mom in the role of “guidon” (bearing a guidon, or pointed pennant). The folks had met when they were teenagers, in different corps, and since it was such a big part of their lives, it’s no surprise that both Carol and her brother were soon involved too.
Carol started when she was nine years old, carrying the U.S. flag in the honor guard with the Bracken Cavaliers, the oldest junior drum and bugle corps in the country. In high school, Carol joined the school marching band in the color guard spinning flags and rifles. After graduation, she continued with the Crossman D&BC in Philadelphia.
Carol explains that corps activity is very time consuming. Camps start in October to prepare for the next year’s season, and through fall and winter the group meets once a month. In April, May and June it’s an every-weekend commitment, and once school is out there’s a heavy load of daily practice sessions and tours. There were 128 young people in the Crossman outfit then (it’s 150 today), and as one of the “top 12”, they toured all over the country for competitions every other night. Members come from all over the country, and some will move in for the summer with local members.
It takes real commitment to be a part of a drum and bugle corps, not only for the grueling travel regimen, but also the precision performances that these groups are famous for. Here in Rochester, the drum and bugle corps story is a familiar one. Numerous national championships have been held here, and names like the Patriots, the Crusaders, and Empire Statesmen are well known locally—and around the country too.
We’re glad Carol pursued this interesting hobby, as that’s how she met her husband, Dave. We’ll have more to say about Dave in another issue, as he’s an NYMT volunteer too, and a highly qualified trolley operator. Besides their continued involvement in drum and bugle corps—currently the “alumni” league Railly Raiders, of Willow Grove, PA—Carol and Dave volunteer at Absecon Light House in Atlantic City. The 1856 brick structure is 171 feet tall, and the Farrens handle gift shop sales and climb the 228 steps to the top where they great the hardy visitors who make it all the way up. Carol and Dave were married at the lighthouse on December 8, 2012, and just this past October finally had a chance to take their honeymoon—a train trip to the west coast, that of course included riding the PCC streetcars in San Diego, California.
When not volunteering, Carol’s day job is with Bell Tuxedo Warehouse where she’s in charge of accessories. The company serves local formal wear rental shops but also ships all over the country. Canes, hats, zoot suits…you name it, Carol can get it for you.
We’re happy to say that the drum and bugle corps thing is what brought both Carol and Dave into volunteering at NYMT. They had come to Rochester for one of the championship events and decided to visit us that weekend. Dave loves P&W cars like our 161 and 168 and used to run them on SEPTA; Carol is experienced in gift shop work and is great with people, greeting our visitors and smoothly handling the complexities of the ticket desk. The two of them come as a complete set, with Carol holding forth in the shop and Dave on the trolley crew. Two for the price of one…it doesn’t get any better than that!
SWING BRIDGE EXHIBIT DONE
Over a year ago, CSX Transportation announced availability of funds for an exhibit to house the steam engine and other items from the Hojack swing bridge that was due to be taken down in late 2012. NYMT’s proposal was selected and on the day after Christmas last year, the components were delivered, just minutes before a huge snowstorm. That delivery marked the beginning of several months of good work by many museum volunteers, and we’re proud to say the exhibit was completed on time (to the day—October 31) and 12 cents under budget. It’s finished and looks great.
The 1905 Lidgerwood steam engine rests in a re-creation of the bridge’s control cabin, surrounded by other apparatus, several explanatory panels, and a working model of the bridge.
While not a lot usually gets accomplished in the cold winter months, there were two important tasks that had to happen. First, the space intended for the exhibit had to be cleared, and thanks to a tremendous effort by a host of museum and RGVRRM people, spring arrived with a pristine location in which to work.
What also arrived, however, was evidence of a bad roof leak over the exhibit area, which led to many weeks of effort not originally in the schedule or the budget. With the installation of an internal gutter system, previously detailed in these pages, work began in earnest.
The Thursday team of Don Quant, John Ross, Bob Pearce and Jim Dierks expanded over the summer to include Bob Passino, Ralph Dressler and Jim Moe. As we’ve often commented at the museum, each one of these volunteers brought a talent, tool, experience or other contribution that was at one time or another during the work exactly what was needed. It always seems to work out that way!
A major challenge for the team was the uneven floor in what we all know was built as a milking parlor to serve the Industrial School at Industry. Walls of the exhibit were built using 2 x 4s and plywood paneling, but leveling and anchoring it all with steps, curbs and drainage crowns in the floor turned out to be time consuming and challenging beyond expectation.
Dick Holbert and Jim Johnson joined the action, taking care of all the electric work. We needed power for the overhead “warehouse” lights, the lighting for the photo scene outside the pair of windows, and for the visitor-interactive operating model of the bridge. And it all had to be easy to turn on and off when opening and closing the museum. From substations to home-style electrical wiring, these guys can do it.
With Jim Johnson (standing) and Dick Holbert in charge of the electrical work on the exhibit, we were assured of an A-1 job.
A unique feature of the exhibit is the working model of the swing bridge. Credit Bob Pearce for taking Jim’s sketches, a lazy susan device, and some general arm waving and pulling it all off without breaking a sweat. The space available for this part of the exhibit neatly fits an N-scale model of the bridge, with the river and a waiting New York Central freight train included.
With the push of a button, visitors will get a chance to rotate the bridge into position for the freight train, or to clear river traffic.
We’ll have more to say about the Hojack swing bridge and its history in our next issue, including an interview with the last operator of the bridge. Public announcement will be in the spring to coincide with the start of our busy ride season. Our exhibit is about all that remains of the swing bridge, and the hope is that it will tell the bridge’s story for future generations to come.
SHOP REPORT by Charles Lowe
Northern Texas Traction 409: On October 19, Charlie Robinson and Charlie Lowe inspected the tarp on the trucks for 409. The tarp remains in good condition, and a few extra ropes were tied to hold it in place for another winter.
Overhead: The RGVRRM construction crew, Scott Gleason and Dan Waterstraat, have been busy setting poles and ground anchors south of Midway. By the time you read this, they will have set 11 poles and 8 ground anchors. Next summer, the poles will be ready for bracket arms which have already been prepared.
Philadelphia and Western 161 and 168: Bob Achilles painted the last of the windows where new glass had been installed in the bulkheads on 161, and then trimmed away excess paint on the glass. On October 31, Glass Elegance installed three pieces of safety glass in the cab side windows of 168, and delivered the first piece of replacement glass for the bulkhead windows. Bob will be seeking a quantity discount on the passenger compartment side windows to finally change out the dark and scratched smoked acrylic material.
Hojack Swing Bridge Steam Engine: The swing bridge’s builder plate was repaired by Bob Passino’s brother, Gary, then repainted and bolted in place on the exhibit. This exhibit is now complete and ready to be enjoyed by visitors. Plans are being made for a public announcement to coincide with spring ride season opening.
Track: A load of 20 tons of ballast was slung in place along the loop track just north (railroad south) of the NYMT loading area on September 4, 2013. Newly-built boards were used to prevent ballast from covering grass areas along the track.
Ballast fed by conveyor from the 10-wheeler (out of the picture on the right) is kept neat and off the lawn by the boards.
This ballast will lock this section of track in place so it will no longer “float” outward on the curve when warm weather heats up the rails. Jay and Todd Consadine built the boards; Jay, Bob Achilles, Rich Fischpera, and Rick Holahan handled the delivery and clean up. This project was one of several agreed upon for the museums to accomplish during this year by Railroad Commissioners Dave Scheiderich and Charlie Lowe.
A preliminary design for an additional siding was approved by the Board. This track will ultimately enter the car house between Philadelphia Rapid Transit snow sweeper C-130 and Northern Texas Traction 409 to provide additional indoor track space. Our railroad contractor has been engaged to build the necessary switch and outdoor portion of the track, and while work will commence this fall it is likely that it will not be finished until next spring. A door and indoor track will be added later.
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and photographer - Jim Dierks