Posts Tagged ‘Friends of the 261’

Steam Saturday: Chasing the CM&StP 261 Ferry Move in June 1996

October 31, 2020
Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 steams out of Orchard Park, New York, on June 16, 1996. The tracks here have since been ripped out.

In 1995 Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul 4-8-4 No. 261 left its home in Minnesota and ventured east to help Steamtown National Historic Site celebrate its grand opening.

The Northern-type locomotive built by Alco in July 1944 had been restored to operating condition in 1993 by a group known as the Friends of the 261.

I was on hand when the 261 participated in the parade of steam locomotives held during the grand opening festivities on July 1.

Later that day, the 261 pulled an excursion train from Scranton to Pocono Summit filled with attendees of that year’s convention of the National Railway Historical Society.

The convention actually was held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and we had ridden chartered buses north that morning to board a diesel-powered excursion to Steamtown.

The 261 remained behind in Steamtown for the next year, participating in excursions and other events.

But by June 1996 it was time for the steamer to head home to Minnesota.

I got a telephone call from my friend Bill Stephens, who at the time was living in a suburb of Buffalo, New York, asking if I’d be interested in riding the 261 ferry move from Orchard Park, another Buffalo suburb, to New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Bill was a correspondent for Trains and may have been covering the locomotive’s ferry move for the magazine.

He also invited some other friends to ride along. All we had to do was make a donation to the Friends of the 261 group.

Arranging this outing was complicated because the ferry move was one-way. This meant having to position our vehicles so that we had transportation to and from the train.

On the Friday before the ferry move, I met up with Bill in New Castle at the CSX yard office.

He parked his vehicle there and I then drove him to a motel in Buffalo where the four of us were staying.

The next morning we drove to the former Baltimore & Ohio station in Orchard Park to board the train.

There was a crowd of people on hand train because, well, steam locomotives attract crowds.

Some local officials were having an event to publicize their efforts to acquire the ex-B&O track through Orchard Park for use as a commuter rail service to be known as the Niagara Line. That concept, though, never panned out.

The train arrived and we swung aboard the tool car to get settled. We would spend much of our time in that car because the doors of the former baggage car were open during the trip and that was the place to be to make photographs and listen to the locomotive work.

We were on Buffalo & Pittsburgh tracks to West Eidenau, Pennsylvania, where the train got onto CSX.

It is hard to believe it today, but the 261 ferry move spent a lot of time on CSX going to and from Scranton, including traveling across Ohio and Indiana.

On the rear of the train was an open platform office car carrying a Missouri-Kansas-Texas drumhead.

My memory is that Trains had written about car 403 not long before the ferry move and featured it on the cover.

I spent part of the trip sitting or standing on the 403’s platform. In theory I wasn’t supposed to be in the 403 because I wasn’t a guest of the owner.

But he tolerated me being there, at least for awhile. After the train made a service stop, he approached me and when he began by saying, “well, friend . . .” I knew I had worn out my welcome.

We had brought with us some food items purchased from a Tops grocery store on Friday night. Yet somewhere in Pennsylvania someone ordered pizza to be delivered to the train. That turned out to be dinner for everyone.

There were not many passengers and I don’t remember talking with many of them although I might have.

Someone in our group said one of the passengers was Tom Nemeth, the editor of Railpace.

It was apparent throughout the day that railfan photographers were out in force following us.

It was sunny and the train didn’t move all that fast so I presume it was easy to chase.

In looking at my photographs, I found an image of some small town where our passage interrupted a parade on a downtown street.

We also made a stop at a town in New York at which there was a large crowd at a former B&O depot.

We knew the ferry move would make for a long day, but it turned out to be much longer than I had expected. Even someone who enjoys riding trains is ready to get off at some point.

Darkness came, the chasing photographers went home and I was sitting in a coach seat trying to catch some sleep.

We spent quite a bit of time in Butler, Pennsylvania, during the night. I believe we were waiting for a CSX pilot crew.

I remember seeing a train pass by overhead in the dark on a bridge as we sat in Butler.

One of Bill’s friends got down from the train, walked up to the locomotive and climbed up into the cab. He sat in the engineer’s seat for a while and, he said, began dozing off.

In retrospect I wished I had taken the time to visit the cab, too.

By the time we reached New Castle it was around 4 a.m. We had reserved motel rooms there and needless to say I was dead tired.

I shared a room with Bill’s friend Edmund who had traveled from Washington, D.C., to ride the ferry move.

Not only were we tired, we were covered in cinders and soot. Edmund stood in the bathtub and shook all of the cinders off. He then washed them down the drain.

It never felt so good to take a shower than it did after this trip.

The ferry move left Sunday morning to travel through Northeast Ohio on the CSX New Castle Subdivision.

But I was heading back to Buffalo to retrieve my car and return to Cleveland.

* * * * *

Over the years I’ve experienced a number of tie backs to that June 1996 day.

About eight years after it occurred I was sitting in Dave McKay’s living room on a Saturday night looking at slides of images that I might use in a book I was working on.

Dave had grabbed various boxes of images he thought I might find interesting.

Onto the screen popped photographs Dave had made of that 261 ferry move.

“I was on that train,” I said out loud. Dave had not known that.

He rattled off the names of other Northeast Ohio railfans who had been chasing the ferry move as well.

It was interesting to see that day’s trip from “the ground.”

Fast forward another 11 years and more photographs of the 261 ferry move surfaced when I was working on my second Akron Railroads book.

These images, though, had not been made in New York or Pennsylvania, but in Akron.

I number of people I had met through the Akron Railroad Club were standing near the tracks by the former Akron Union Depot when the 261 made a service stop.

In early July 2017 I traveled with Marty Surdyk and Ed Ribinskas to Arcade, New York, to photograph the Arcade & Attica steam train.

We stopped in Springville, New York, to photograph a passenger station and the right of way of an abandoned rail line turned into a trail.

This placed looked familiar. Marty said it had once been the B&O line out of Buffalo.

Then it clicked. This was the station at which we had stopped during the June 1996 261 ferry move.

I looked at my slides later and found an image I made of that station from the tool car. I had been there before.

About two weeks ago Ed emailed me some photographs of the 1996 ferry move. He thought he remembered my showing photographs of it during an ARRC program years ago and my having ridden it.

I didn’t remember doing that and a check of my past ARRC programs didn’t turn up any indication that I had.

Maybe Ed remembered a story I had written about that stop in Springview I had made on that trip to the Arcade & Attica.

Whatever the case, it prompted me to write this memory of my time riding the 261 ferry move. It is the last time I’ve ridden behind the 261.

I’ve seen it once since then, a fleeting glimpe through the windows of a Metra commuter train in Chicago.

And that visit to Steamtown in 1995 remains the only time I’ve been there, too.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photographs by Ed Ribinskas

At Beaver Siding, New York. The tracks gone here, too.
At Ellicottville, New York. The next image was made there also.
This and the next image were made at Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania.
At Akron Union Depot on June 16, 1996
Steaming out of Akron.
The chase ended in Willard.

Steam Saturday: Heading Back to Minnesota

August 1, 2020

Back in the middle 1990s Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 spent an extended visit to the East.

It participated in the grand opening ceremony at Steamtown National Historic Site in July 1995 and then stuck around for another year before heading back home to Minnesota.

The return trip covered the CSX New Castle Subdivision and included a service stop in Akron.

No. 261 is shown on June 16, 1996 in Warwick. The locomotive is owned by the Minneapolis-based Friends of the 261.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Difference of 21 Years in Springville

July 8, 2017

Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific No. 261 journeyed eastward in 1995 far beyond the historic region served by the company that purchased the Northern Type locomotive from Alco in 1944.

Many in Northeast Ohio were trackside on what today is the CSX New Castle Subdivision when the 4-8-4 locomotive went east on a ferry move to help celebrate the opening of Steamtown National Historic Site on July 1, 1995.

The engine remained in the east for nearly a year before venturing back to Minnesota in June 1996.

I knew a guy who had an “in” with Steve Sandberg of the Friends of the 261 group. For a “donation,” a group of people were allowed the ride the ferry move from Orchard Park, New York, to New Castle, Pennsylvania, on June 15, 1996.

Much of the route followed a former Baltimore & Ohio line that linked Pittsburgh and Buffalo, New York.

Originally, the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway, the railroad in 1996 was owned by the Buffalo & Pittsburgh, a property of Genesee & Wyoming.

I don’t remember the details, but a portion of the ferry run out of Orchard Park was used to publicize an effort at the time to launch rail commuter service in Buffalo.

The group placed its emblem on the drumhead of a former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) business car that brought up the rear of the train.

Members of the group promoting the commuter rail service rode south a way, maybe to Springville, New York.

My slides show that I briefly disembarked in Springville, which is 20.6 rail miles from Orchard Park.

A large crowd of people gathered at the Springville depot, suggesting that the visit of the steam locomotive must have received widespread publicity. It was my first visit to Springville and I remember little about it.

Just over 21 years later, I made a second visit to Springville. Marty Surdyk, Ed Ribinskas and I were traveling traveling in Marty’s Jeep Patriot on New York Route 39 to Arcade, New York, to chase Arcade & Attica 2-8-0 No. 18.

The B&O station in Springville still stands, but the B&O tracks are gone. The tracks have been gone since at least 2012 and probably longer.

On our way back toward Ohio, we stopped in Springville to photograph the depot, which was built by the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway in 1910 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

A July 1955 issue of The Official Guide of the Railways in my collection shows the last scheduled B&O passenger trains were Nos. 251 and 252, which operated on daylight schedules in both directions between Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

These were coaches only train that used the same Buffalo station as the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western at the foot of Main Street. They carried a great deal of head-end business.

No. 251 was scheduled to stop southbound at 11:30 a.m. while No. 252 came through northbound at 6:11 p.m.

The top image above was made from the crew car that accompanied the 261. It shows the station from the same approximate angle as the image I made last weekend (shown in the lower photograph) from ground level standing a little farther back from the depot.

The tracks have been replaced by a trail that has picnic tables on the former platform, which is not as prominent as it had been 21 years earlier.

The depot has been restored and is well maintained. It is now the home of the Spring Creek Pharmacy, which wasn’t open during our visit.

I found during an online search search an article from the Buffalo Courier Express that the last trips of B&O Nos. 251 and 252 occurred on Oct. 15, 1955, and ended 72 years of passenger service on the line.

The trains were steam powered to the end, pulled by the last two steam locomotives still active in the Niagara Frontier.

The Courier Express article said the B&O lost $247,000 on the trains in the previous year. Engineer Robert C. Sharnock ran No. 251 to Salamanca and took No. 252 back to Buffalo on their last trips. He had worked for the railroad for 51 years.

It may be that that ferry move of Milwaukee Road No. 261 was the last passenger train to ever pass by, let alone stop, at the Springville depot.

If so it means the last passenger train, like the last scheduled train to stop in Springville 61 years earlier, were both steam powered.

Ex-Milwaukee Road Cars to Ride Original Route

March 15, 2015

Two former Milwaukee Road passenger cars will operate in May in a charter trip sponsored by Friends of the 261 on the rear of an Amtrak train

The “Windy City Express” from St. Paul to Chicago will depart St. Paul, Minn., on May 21 on the eastbound Empire Builder en route to Chicago.

The consist will include former Milwaukee Road Skytop parlor lounge observation Cedar Rapids, Milwaukee Road Super Dome No. 53, and ex-Union Pacific baggage car No. 2450.

All three cars are painted in Milwaukee Road’s original orange and maroon passenger car colors.

It will be the first trip to Chicago for the Cedar Rapids since it was restored in 2014 to its as-built appearance.

The equipment will return to St. Paul on May 24, giving passengers the opportunity to ride the Milwaukee Road cars on their original route.

Both the Skytop and Super Dome were part of the consist of the Twin Cities Hiawathas, which operated between Chicago and Minneapolis.

Restoration work of the Cedar Rapids included new wood, carpeting, reupholstered seats, and new linoleum to bring the car back to its original appearance. The car was built in 1948 by the Milwaukee Road at its Milwaukee Shops.

Round trip tickets are $359 with one-way fares available at $189. The group, which operates Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261, is also offering ticket/hotel options available. Fares include food and drinks on the train. For more information go to www.261.com.