Pete Stabovitz

Editor Pete Stabovitz

1995  Train Notes From Vacation

1.   These are notes about trains and railroading that I observed during our trip into Maryland, Virginia, etc. during a few days in October 1995.

2.  Traveling from Frederick to Thurmont, Md, I did not see any remnants of the abandoned Hagerstown & Frederick (Potomac Edison) Railroad that I rode on in 1951.  It was electric then, with streetcar type passenger cars.  There was an “out of service” track and I thought it may have been the H&F, but looking on the Maryland map, it appeared that it was the MMID running from Frederick to Thurmont.  At Thurmont the Cozy Inn Restaurant had a caboose as a part of their building. One end of the caboose was inside the building.

3.  At Elliott City, MD, the B&O Railroad museum was closed that day.  It is located in the old B&O Station. The rail on the mainline was 132#, dated 1986, so there is a fair amount of traffic on that line.  There is a caboose on a track by the museum and is a part of it.

4.  One day we visited the Union Station at Washington, DC.  It was quite an elaborate structure, and it has Amtrak and Metro trains and Subway directly in the station. It also has many interesting shops and is nicely appointed.  One of the interesting shops was a model train and railroad item shop.  It had every kind and gauge of model train you can imaginable.  I bought an interesting book on the complete history of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad (W & OD) that ran near Washington. I rode on the second to last passenger run in 1951 of the W & OD. It even showed the last power cars to run, one of which I rode.  Also, when I was at Union Station, I remembered my days in 1950-1952 that I belonged to the Model Train club, that had a layout in the third floor of the Union Station.  I use to have some HO equipment and ran it on that layout.  It brought back memories.

5.  We took an excursion run on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad from Cumberland Maryland to Frostburg, October 15th.  It was uphill all the way to Frostburg,  The Loco was a 2-8-0 #734 called the “Mountain Thunder.” There were 14 cars that day, so they had two diesel helpers on the rear.  I found out that 734 can only handle 9 cars by itself.  The run was beautiful with a lot of mountain splendor,  There were tunnels , a lot of sharp curves, where you could see the entire train.  At Frostburg, the old mainline had been cut off and a tunnel closed, so they could not go beyond Frostburg.  There was 132# rail the section I saw.  The old station at Frostburg was refurbished and made into a restaurant and gift shop. There were some dining cars, also, as a part of the restaurant. A turntable had been added to the end of the line just beyond the station to turn 734 for the return trip.  They did turn 734, but they could not couple it on the other end of the train, as the run-around track was not long enough.  The two diesels brought us back into Cumberland.  We didn’t see 734 when we got back.  In a little while, 734 comes backing in.  This was because the afternoon excursion was to leave shortly, and apparently they did not have time to turn it at Cumberland. The 2 diesels cut off some cars so that the afternoon run was only 9.  One of the diesels, #2175 was painted red and had big in big lettering on the side “REDSKINS” and a football helmet.  Much of the WMSR cars had the Redskins helmet painted on them.  They must have been Redskins fans!  The other diesel was blue.  At the Cumberland station was parked an older diesel labeled Western Maryland #191, apparently as a static display. You could get into the cab.  There was also a newly painted caboose CRR #1072 on the siding at Cumberland, open to visitors.  A part of the consist consisted of five “New Georgia” passenger cars.  they said they had just bought them from New Georgia.  This must be an indication that the New Georgia in Atlanta is not doing too well.  Some of the other cars were labeled PPCX with no identification identification.

6.  While eating supper at the motel in Cumberland, we were close to the railroad and could watch the rains go by.  One of the trains had two Conrail and one old L&N diesels.  The L&N diesel appeared to be in its original colors before going to CSX.  There were numerous cars of the Winchester and Western (which I talk about later) and some Aberdeen & Rockfish cars.

7.  While traveling from Cumberland Md, to Winchester, Va., we came upon a railroad at Romney, WVa. There was a sign labeled “Potomac Eagle.” It appeared the track was active, but we did not see a train. There was no rolling stock there.  Only a trailer and small building.  See the GSMR note below. There was a couple of Potomac eagle cars on the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad.  That might be an indication the Potomac Eagle is closed.  Looking on one map, it indicated “Southern Branch Valley Railroad.” Later one other map I have indicated it as B&O.  It must have been an excursion run.  I do not have any other particulars.

8.  On the way to Winchester Va., we stopped at Gore, Va (about 18 miles west of Winchester) to see the Winchester & Western railroad shop and equipment. This being late on Sunday afternoon no one was around.  I visited the W&W at Gore in 1951.  They had the same small shop, one old MA&PA big boiler steam engine out of service and one new diesel in the shop.  At that timer the W&W just ran from Gore to Winchester and around Winchester.  Today there must be a large industry utilizing a lot of covered hopper cars.  As I previously mentioned, I saw several on a train out of Cumberland Maryland.  At gore there were 13 Covered hopper cars on a siding.  There were two diesels 798 and 709 there as well.  There was one green Diesel, #3136 that was being worked on out in the open.  It had its hoods off, engine heads off and engine parts on the ground and tarps covering the engine blocks.  it looked like the shop is too small to do the work in,.  On a “Bone Yard” track, was a weed grown diesel 351.  this might have been the one I saw in 1951.  The track continued beyond the shop further toward Gore.  I don’t know what was beyond there.  On a Maryland map, the old Conrail line from Winchester VA, to Hagerstown Md is now labeled “Winchester & Western.”  They must have acquired that line, hence more activity.  the 1979 Official Railway Equipment Register listed the W&W as a Class 3 line haul railroad, 18 miles of track, 1 diesel electric locomotive, 25 box cars.

9.  On September 16th, I took an excursion on the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad run from Bryson City NC to Nantahala and return.  this was a very nice trip, one of the best I have been on.  At Bryson City I was talking to a rail fan from Pennsylvania who had traveled on many excursions.  He said the GMSR had the best operation of any he had seen.  Our train that day was pulled by diesel #711, a very pretty engine.  GMSR seems to use a number of bright colors, and nice looking.  Our consist had two cabooses on it, up front. These can be rented for groups of 15 people.  One was a yellow D&RGS #01490.  The other was a red Pittsburg & West Virginia #839.  Parked on the siding at Bryson City was a yellow Chessie System caboose #3763.  A number of the cars were open cars that were converted baggage cars.  we rode on a coach the “Graham County.”  There was at least one coach, possibly two, labeled “Potomac Eagle”  See my note #7 above.  There was an Atlantic Coast Line stainless steel club car 257, as well as several GSMR coaches for a total of 14.  The GSMR runs on the old Southern Railway Murphy branch from Murphy NC. to Dillsboro.  They apparently do connect with the Southern at Sylva as they said they handled 800 freight cars last year. They also said they handled 170,000 passengers and expected to hit 200,000 this year.  We had about 40 this run.  This run was a “Whitewater Rafting” run.  We carried rafters up beyond Nantahala at a siding where the engine would run around.  The rafters met a bus there and took them to their rafts, then they would go back to Nantahala by raft.  We saw many rafters as the train followed the river and we also saw a large portion of the Fontana Lake.  It had been lowered for the winter, so we saw old building foundations and bridge abutments that were a part of the Murphy branch before the rerouting to build the lake.  The speed on the run was about 20 MPH, with speed reduction on many curves.  The sharpest curve is at MP78.  Fontana Lake is at MP73, and is a total of 31 miles long. The run around track is at MP 78.  Some of the rail we saw was 85#, 1912.  We had an interesting thing to occur on this run that would not occur on any other run.  After engine 711 “ran around” and started the return run, we stopped at Nantahala for about 1 1/2 hrs to eat and watch the rafters.  lo and Behold when we stopped at Nantahala #711 was nose to nose with #1702, their steam engine.  It was hauling an Asheville Chapter NRHS train special to Andrews.  Of course it could not get by at Nantahala.  our train unloaded, and backed all the way (about 8 miles) to the siding where the engine had “Run around.” Then the steam followed.  After a while our 711 comes back with our train.  This gave us a chance to see #1702 in action, and what they have to do on a meet.  There is a former station called Almond.  The station is now a house.  Nearby was an estate of a former Southern Railway executive.  We saw remnants of the house.  After the run, we went to Dillsboro and saw the equipment there.  We also visited the large model railroad museum there.  John Seebeck was off that day, so I did not get a chance to see him.  The ticket office, gift shop etc at Dillsboro are cabooses on the head end, and box cars converted that there is a generator in that caboose to supply power to the cars.  While at Dillsboro, we saw people preparing the dinner train that leaves from Dillsboro.  It had the same generator in a caboose arrangement for power.

That’s enough for now!!


1996  Tioga  Train  Trip

Our 1996 trip involving railroading was a little different this year.  We visited our friends near Washington, DC and took a trip into the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, near Wellsboro, PA and then an excursion ride on the Tioga Central Railroad in October.  At the canyon, we took a horse drawn “covered wagon” ride on the road bed of the former double tracked NYC/Conrail system.  The rails have only been up about 8 years.  It would have been a beautiful run on a steam excursion train in the canyon.  The roadbed became a part of the “Rails to Trails” program, hence the horse drawn wagon.  I later asked why they didn’t try for an excursion train in the canyon.  They said that the notice that the tracks were going to come out came out in the paper one day and the very next day the equipment was moving in to take up the tracks.  There was no time to partition.

The canyon is approximately 10 miles from Wellsboro, and the track was taken up from before the canyon to Wellsboro Jct. about 3 miles north of Wellsboro.  The track is still in  and operating between Wellsboro and Corning RR for freight purposes.  The Tioga Central operates passenger excursion service on the W&C track from Wellsboro Jct to Hammond Lake (approx 12 miles).  Since there is no run around at Hammond Lake, and they are not allowed to back a passenger train any distance, they had a diesel locomotive on each end, one for each direction operation.

When we got to Hammond Lake and the engineer was shutting down that diesel, I was in the last car and he heard me say that I was a member of NRHS and a railfan.  He told me to come with him and I could ride back in the cab of the lead engine!  As he was going through the train, he explained that all of the people operating the TC were volunteers, and the money they took in was for operating and maintenance expenses, there were no salaries!

The TC has 5 engines, 3 currently operable.  They said it would take them quite a while and some money to get the other two running, but they were trying.  The other man in the cab was a retired electrician, and he was doing most of their electrical work.  They had about 8 cars on the train and one passenger car stationary at Wellsboro Jct (where Conrail use to tie in) as their ticket office and headquarters.  It was an interesting trip in the cab, especially watching  how he manipulated both dynamic braking and throttle to give good speed control and smooth slow down in the required areas.  He brought the train into the junction and came to almost a stop on the dynamic brakes, and he used the air only for the final few feet of stop.  This was interesting.

*  January 1997

Myrtle  Beach  Depot  Restoration

       I attended  the ceremonies for the Grand Reopening of the Myrtle Beach Train Depot on May 6th.  I had been to the area in the early and mid 1990’s and it looks quite a bit better now.  There was a beer distributor’s warehouse in front of the station, causing the station to be hard to see from the road.  The station itself had been used as a beer warehouse.  That area is now a beautiful park with three flag poles, the tall center one from the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.  The station now looks good and can be seen from several streets that come together in that area.The Carolina Southern had a passenger train there for people to ride after the ceremonies.  On the westbound end was engine #100, then coach #1885, L. L. Crawford, coach #1903, S. A. Beasley. then an unnumbered air conditioned club car., then engine #950.  This gives an engine on each end, so that an engine is in the lead for each direction of travel.  The rides were up to the bridge and back, about 2 miles in each direction.  On the club car and engines, was the CS logo, which had “Est. 1886.”

The station was built in 1937, and it has now been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It has been beautifully restored, but there are no chairs or benches in the waiting room area.  The Grand Strand Western “N” gauge model railroad was set up in the freight area.  The brick walkway had “named” bricks which people could purchase.  Mr. Jack Thompson was the head of the “All Aboard” Committee.  One interesting note was the uncovering of the station sign.  The sign had been removed and Mr. Thompson found it in some store and had it reinstalled.  It was covered with a black cloth with two blue ribbons to pull.  Well, when they went to uncover it, two men pulled the ribbons.  The ribbons came down but the cloth did not.  One of the dignitaries put his little girl on his shoulders and she reached for a corner of the cloth and pulled it down, uncovering the sign.  Great!  Has this ever been done before?

Congratulations to Mr. Thompson, who pulled this off and got Myrtle Beach “back on track.”  He said that Myrtle Beach is one of few resort cities without scheduled rail passenger service.  He mentioned  Amtrak.  According to my 1996 rail map, the nearest Amtrak connection would be Dillon, SC.  It would be quite an accomplishment to get Amtrak into Myrtle Beach.