Steamy Encore on the AC&J

Rain and cloudy skies didn't stop Viscose Company No. 6 from putting on a good show on the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson on July 11. This image was made near the baseball field complex on the north side of Jefferson. (Photograph by Barbara Cormell)

Rain and cloudy skies didn't stop Viscose Company No. 6 from putting on a good show on the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad on July 11. This image was made near the baseball field complex on the north side of Jefferson. (Photograph by Barbara Cormell)

There is something about a steam locomotive. Hundreds of people turned out on July 11-12, 2009, to help the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad celebrate its 25th anniversary by riding one of the seven public trips pushed and pulled by Viscose Company tank engine No. 6.

The O-4-0T, owned by Scott Symans of Dunkirk, New York, was making its second appearance on the AC&J. In 2008, about 900 people rode behind the 30-ton locomotive. Judging by the crowds on Sunday, there were close to that many turning out this year, although rainy weather on Saturday may have dimmed the interest of some.  

Built by Baldwin in November 1925 for a Viginia rayon manufacturing company, No. 6 did yard work for decades before being retired in the 1950s. Symans rescued No. 6 from a scrap yard and spent more than two years restoring it.

No. 6 arrived in Jefferson aboard a truck trailer specially designed to carry it. The locomotive makes about six appearances a year.

Akron Railroad Club member Jeff Troutman was the fireman on many of the runs that No. 6 made, four on Saturday and three on Sunday.

The first Saturday trip was drenched by a thunderstorm, but there was plenty of sunshine for the Sunday trips as people of all ages rode the train over former New York Central System rails.

No. 6 wasn’t designed to pull passenger trains and it was limited to traveling just 4.5 miles north of Jefferson to Morgan Road. That was done, Troutman explained, because there is a grade north of there and the crews feared that No. 6 might run out of water before it could return to Jefferson.

The operating procedure was for No. 6 to push the train northward out of Jefferson and pull it back on the return. Passengers could peak into the cab of the locomotive from the vestibule of the first coach. What they saw was the engine rocking and rolling, and one hard working, but happy, crew.

Between runs, the locomotive was cut away from the train — which consisted of three coaches and a baggage car — and taken to a spot just south of East Jefferson Street, where it received water from a nearby fire hydrant. A small front end loader restocked the coal bunker. The engine holds about 1,200 gallons of water.

In addition to the steam locomotive, the AC&J also had on display an S-2 diesel locomotive and two cabooses. All three were open to the public.

Symans has purchased a second Baldwin steam engine that he is in the process of restoring. Perhaps it will eventually make an appearance on the AC&J. He has a section of 90 feet of track at his New York home, but told the Ashtabula Star Beacon that he doesn’t get to run No. 6 himself very much, relying instead on experienced railroaders.

For the AC&J trips, the railroad’s co-owner Bob Callahan told the Star Beacon that he lined up crew members who had steam engine experience. Troutman previously worked on Grand Trunk Western No. 4070 when it was pulling trains for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in the 1980s.

Troutman has written an article about his experiences firing No. 6. Titled “A Celebration and Fresh Popcorn,” it can be found on the ARRC blog as part of the “Trackside Tales” pages.

No. 6 will be making an appearance July 23-26, 2009,  at the steam festival in Owosso, Michigan.

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