URHS Open House Recap – September 2013

From the point of view of one of the many dedicated URHS volunteers, I can say that the 2013 URHS Transportation Heritage Festival was just as successful as we had all hoped it would be. The event brought just shy of 2000 people to see our collection at Boonton yard and helped the URHS to raise over $5000. From much of the testimony I received, we had exceeded expectations of the quality and improvement of our exhibits. We had 5 of our best pieces of cosmetic restoration on display: NJDOT E8 4253, CNJ GP7 1524, “Reading” F7 284, and PRR GG1 4877. In addition to those, we had Bill McKelvey’s newly restored GE 45 tonner on display, as well as GG1 4879, which is currently being worked on by Star Trak in the shop. The hit of the day however, was the visiting Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive 1074. The replica Lackawanna paint scheme contrasted beautifully next to the GG1’s Brunswick Green, and the two made for a great photo opportunity. It also provided visitors an exceptionally rare opportunity to see a heritage locomotive up close and personal.

Openhouse-2013-CNJ1524-NJDOT4253In addition to our visiting locomotive, we were lucky enough to have a visit from Tri State Chapter’s Lackwanna caboose. It was delivered behind 1074 and was left open for tours throughout the day. Also open for tours were our CNJ GP7 and our “display train,” an idea that was brought to the open house by the VRA’s own Frank Ball. This was a hit among guests as they had the opportunity to see inside the PRR coach and baggage car, the NJT 1 (Blue Comet’s “DeVico”) and the cab and engine room of Reading 284—a rare opportunity for most guests.

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On the night before the open house, we held a night photo session in Boonton yard with the five displayed locomotives.This was well attended, and we sold out the 30 tickets well before the event. This shoot gave us the opportunity replicate a scene the DL&W’s Phoebe Snow (played by the VRA’s Carolyn Hoffman), which made a headline in Railfan & Railroad magazine. The photo shoot, and the open house to follow also provided for a two-page spread in Railpace as well as many submissions to Railpictues.net.

After countless hours of hard work, I was relieved to stop and relax on the day of the event to enjoy our hard work and listen to what visitors had to say. The most common comment I received was praise to the hard work of our volunteers. This trend also continued in comments online after the event. Many were wowed, not by just the appearance of our exhibits, but the improvement over years past. The fact that we, as an organization, received such high praise from such a typically critical audience is something that we can all be proud of. Our hard work, and our correspondence online before the even helped to grow our reach far beyond where it had been months earlier. The event, the buildup beforehand, and the sharing of guests’ experiences afterwards helped to garner support that will be very valuable to the URHS. We hope to continue the Transportation Heritage Festival as an annual event and we hope to continue to continue the trend of improvement and growing support well in to the future.

URHS of NJ Report – Spring 2014

The URHS has decided to take on a number of projects that will certainly make a big splash in the railfan world. The first is the moving of the last remaining U34CH from where it has been stored in Passaic NJ to the restoration yard at Boonton. The engine began life at Erie Lackawanna 3372 and ended its day to day service life at NJT 4172. The engine will be evaluated for possible return to service although this time in excursion service. If you would like to donate to help restore the engine you can visit www.urhs.org and click on the donate button.

URHS-report-spring-14-Reading284The other big project for the spring is to get Reading F-7, #284 ready to be moved to Spencer NC and the Streamliners at Spencer event being planned for May 29 th through June 1 st by the NC Transportation Museum. For more information you can visit: http://www.nctrans.org/Events/Streamliners-at-Spencer-%281%29.aspx

The URHS will also begin selling T-shirts depicting EL 3372 and Reading 284, plus we will be reissuing their very popular PRR 4877 GG-1 shirt that sold out in one day at last year NJ Transportation Heritage Festival. In the future they will be releasing a brand new shirt featuring the NYC Hickory Creek. Watch the URHS web site or www.vratrips.org for links to order any of these shirts.

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Future plans for this summer call for the repainting of NYC 4083 back into its unique NYC Century Green colors. This is one of only 3 engines ever to wear that color scheme and is the only remaining one of those 3 to exist. Once this engine is completed it will certainly be one of the most talked about engines in the rail preservation world and will be sure to draw lots of people to see it at the next Heritage Festival.

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Speaking of that, the next NJ Transportation Heritage Festival is scheduled to be held on September 21 st and will feature not only the 4083, but also the other restored equipment in Boonton and maybe a surprise visitor. Add to that the antique trucks, buses, military equipment, fire trucks and numerous historic presentations by area rd historians and the 3 annual Heritage Festival is sure to be a hit.

Plans are in the works to run the Hickory Creek and NYC 43 on more public excursions with the feature trip being planned to go to the Train Expo 2014 in Owosso Michigan in late June. For more info about the event visit: http://michigansteamtrain.com/expo-2014/ Other trips will likely be day trips to Albany and maybe even Washington DC. Please watch the regular web and social media site for more details as they become available.

URHS-report-spring-14-DLW-3453-traileredThe last bit of big news is the donation of DLW 3453 to the Walkersville Southern in Maryland. The 3453 is a 1912 club car that the URHS got from NJT with intentions to at least cosmetically restore it. Years of sitting out and the lack on restoration funds had taken its toll on the car and so when the WS asked if they could acquire the car and restore it to operating service the decision was made to donate the car to them. It was loaded on a trailer and bogey and left Boonton Yard on Friday February 7 th .It was quite a sight watching the car roll on rubber tires up Morris Ave on its way to its new home and will be an even better site when we see it operating once again, this time in Maryland and in a dinner train consist.

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I cannot wait to buy my ticket. Visit www.wsrr.org for more on the WSRR and its operations.

URHS & WSRR Save Lackawanna History: MU 3453 Hits the Road

Article & Photographs by Kevin Phalon

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On the frigid Friday morning of February 7, 2014, Delaware, Lackawanna & Western MU 3453 spent its last day in New Jersey. After a full day of painstaking work trading its steel wheels for rubber tires, this rare 1912 parlor car was ready to hit the road to be delivered to the Walkersville Southern Railroad in Maryland.

The 3453 is one of the only two Lackawanna MU Parlor Cars left in existence. Built in 1912 as Lackawanna club cars, they were converted to MU trailers in the 1930s for operation on the DL&W’s electrified Morristown Line. After spending almost the entirety of its career in New Jersey, it is natural for one to ask why the car might be leaving.

To many, this car may look like scrap metal. To the URHS, it looked like a restoration project that was completely out of financial reach. To Walkersville Southern, it looked like exactly what they were looking for. Walkersville Southern Railroad is a 7-mile non-profit excursion railroad located in central Maryland. Because that the railroad is not physically connected to the national rail network, the WSRR has become quite adept at delivering rail cars and locomotives by road.

In addition to their weekend excursions and special events, WSRR operates a dinner train, which has become a hit with riders. In order to expand this service their only option was to add more equipment, and that need launched the search that led them to the United Railroad Historical Society of NJ.

Lackawanna-3454-Bay-Street-Montclair-8-19-84-Rich-TaylorAmong the dozens of historic railcars in Boonton Yard were the Lackawanna MUs. Both cars had been subject to years of neglect and deterioration. A tap on the side sill of the cars caused rust to rain down much like the very water that cause the damage in the first place. Stairs, doors, and windows were missing, but what was left allowed the dedicated Walkersville volunteers to view what it had in store. Inside, their car’s high ceilings still echoed sounds of its glory days, while the items strewn about the floor showed evidence of an overwhelming restoration project that had long been forgotten. Broken glass dotted the dusty carpet just below the intricate inlaid wood, which had once made the walls and interior so luxurious in the first half of the century.

photo_4Many years earlier, the URHS was given a quote to restore the car that was far out of financial reach for the organization, and would offer little return on the investment. That unfortunately put the cars at the end of a long list of projects, leaving their future in limbo. For one of those two cars however, luck was about to change. After a tour of the cars, WSRR chose 3453 as the car they would like to acquire. In the interest of historic preservation, the URHS agree to donate the car to Walkersville Southern, with the agreement that it would be restored at their railroad and put in to operation. With the agreement in place, it was Walkersville Southern’s obligation to get the car out of the yard, and down to their railroad in Maryland.

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This was no simple task, but it was one for which the WSRR could not be more prepared. The railroad hired Daily Express, a heavy haul trucking company that specializes in many types of over-sized loads. In the past, they had moved six other cars for the railroad, even one move for which a road needed to be built to reach its location. On moving day, they brought two tractor-trailers: one to move everything from the frame up, and the other to haul the wheel sets from underneath. Their slogan is “We have a different notion of OVERSIZED,” and they proved it.

On moving day, step one was to attach one end of the car to the tractor-trailer. Inside the URHS restoration shop, one wheel set was removed, and the front end of the trailer was backed underneath. The car was then secured to a rotating plate and was able to pivot back and forth like a typical tractor-trailer. This portion of the move went smoothly but once the car was moved outside, that good fortune changed.

photo_1The scheduled move date happened to be during a harsh winter snowstorm. During the course of the day, the storm dumped about 8 inches of snow and freezing rain on the cars and on the volunteers. Moving the 18-wheeler on the ice meant hauling it from ahead or behind with a truck, tractor, and even a locomotive! With the car in place, a 150-ton crane from Hegarty Crane service lifted the rear end of the car off of its second wheel set and onto the rear set of tires, or the “bogie.” The first wheel set was then lifted up over the fence and placed onto the second trailer. Trouble reared its ugly head when it came time to move the second wheel set. With the car in the way, the crane could not reach the wheels sitting on the rails. With the help of a tractor and forklift, the wheels were derailed, and rolled to where they could be lifted up 20 feet, over the car, and onto the trailer. The two wheel sets were then secured by the driver from Daily Express and sent off to Maryland. Several hours of towing and shoving well into darkness finally got the now asphalt-bound MU out of the gate and ready for shipment.

photo_2Several days later, the MU was readied during for its final day in New Jersey. Daily Express, along with two escort cars, arrived at Boonton Yard in the early morning to prepare the car to leave. Through the generosity of the URHS and the determination of Walkersville Southern Railroad, hours of gruelling work and skilled labor had led to this day, which could only be considered a win for rail preservation. Together, the URHS and WSRR ensured that this car not only survived over 100 years, but that it was also given another 100 years. While the car might only hold dust and broken glass now, it will someday hold dozens of passengers enjoying a four-course dinner, riding through the Maryland countryside. That is an achievement that all parties involved can be proud of, and the URHS is honored to have been a part of it.

This story is far from over. Find the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey and the Walkersville Southern Railroad and Museum on facebook to keep track of the progress!