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Date: 04/01/20 06:27
The Way it was
Author: co614

I received a letter recently from an old friend who helped me back in 1966 when we started the mainline steam excursions first on my Dad's railroad ( CRRofNJ) and then on PC,EL, LV, PRSL and others. 

  He reminded me that our first 2 excursions on the CNJ in October 1966 were run on a handshake agreement ( literally) between myself and Jack Craddock the VP-Ops. The light under her own power moves of Steamtowns G-5 # 127 to get her from Vermont to Jersey City were also done on handshakes. 

   Hard to imagine in today's world where the attorneys rule everything and the simplest moves require voluminous documents, complicated insurance riders, endless meetings, emails and CYA sessions, that there was a time not that long ago when a mans word was his bond. Gosh  do I miss that !!!

   Ross Rowland 

Date: 04/01/20 07:12
Re: The Way it was
Author: wcamp1472

Remember, Ross, those days were
when “your word was your bond”...

The old ethics were such that the ‘bond’ was presumed inviolable.
Parties to the bond agreement treasured their Commitments as
as absolute... do or die... before
Betraying the Trust,,,

I remember a cold February night,
-1968- on Penobscot mountain, Pennsylvania.. when your ‘word' scrambled the 50 Frank Martz
busses to trackside- to ferry our excursion customers safely home & when KFC delivered
1,000 Chicken dinners in the cold dark night...
All the businesses agreed based solely on your ‘bond’..   
Double-header,  “Steam in the Snow..” bitter cold, too!

127 & 'Scoopdejour'  kept the train snug and warm...as crews worked to re-rail the lead loco.
( On the lead loco, Strasburg Rail Road #90's tender truck derailed...)

During that incident, all of this was accomplished via verbal commitments made over a
trackside-neighbor’s ‘land-line’ phone...

That would be hard to replicate
In today’s world...


Posted from iPhone

Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 04/01/20 13:26 by wcamp1472.

Date: 04/01/20 08:50
Re: The Way it was
Author: tomstp

Man, if that isn't the truth, every word of it.

Date: 04/01/20 14:09
Re: The Way it was
Author: PlyWoody

I was on that train and got home 1 hour before I had class.  The tender had arch bar trucks and a bolt broke.  It was only out there with a ICC waiver, but I bet that was the last time arch-bar trucks got a waiver from the Feds.  Last time 90 left home.

Date: 04/01/20 14:50
Re: The Way it was
Author: ironmtn

tomstp Wrote:
> Man, if that isn't the truth, every word of it.

Amen. Thank you, Ross and Wes, for reminding us, despite the absence of so much from the ensuing years that is good and useful today, that in many ways that former world was indeed a better world. May at least some it return to us again.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/01/20 14:50 by ironmtn.

Date: 04/01/20 15:43
Re: The Way it was
Author: wcamp1472

The cause of the derailment was a concealed crack in the tender's lead truck's 
'spring plank' , that failed ....probably aggravated by the sub-freezing 
tempeartures and age..... the crack had been hidden from view..so who knows it's age?

(  'Spring planks' were used on early trucks.  The spring plank is a wide, flat
steel 'channel' that runs  parallel to the truck bolster .... it extends onto the truck 
frames, under the nests of coil springs.  When the spring plank failed, it allowed the
truck side frames to slightly separate, leading the wheels to drop off the rails.)

A factor in the difficulty in rerailing was the fact that the affected side was right up
against  vertical 'cut' of the mountain ....it made for a really tight working space against
the cut wall, along with the bitter cold and wind.

After the front truck was reassembled, minus the spring plank, the #90 proceeded,
ahead of the 127 & train ( by several hours) to Bethlehem Engine terminal and the roundhouse.  
Repairs were easily made with the use of the drop table, and the full facilities.

Obviously both trucks were fully inspected and 'qualified' before the following 
weekend's trip.  The first trip sold out immediately, so Ross arranged for a duplicate trip
on the next weekend.   That trip proceeded without incident; again, it was bitter cold,
but the daylight hours were warmed by a bright sun.

So we ran two weekend trips, double-headed, back to back weekends, that
February.   There were several technical firsts, on that trip, that we applied to
all subsequent fan trip trains.

We deeply appreciated how quickly the Strasburg RR folks helped 
with providing the #90 --- so we had two locos for the trips.  
Their folks bent-over backwards to make those trips two of the BEST we
had operated, up to that point.  The CNJ RR folks, from the top officers on down
to the crews and roundhouse forces ---all worked hard to make those trips a 
wonderful success.

It started-off the year of 1968 with a BANG...ending with the restoration of
the NKP 759, the 2-day, 759, round- trip to Niagara Falls, and two extended round trips 
over the N&W.... from the great shop facilities of Roanoke, Virginia..
( I get worn-out just thinking about all that we did in that year of 1968 !!)

Wes Camp

( When I visit Strasburg, to this day, I go up to #90 to renew my friendship with it and 
remember what a superb pair the #90 and 1278 made in hauling those trains from 
Elizabethport, NJ to Wilkes-Barre, Pa. & return..  #90 was added-on at Bethlehem
for help over the mountain to Wilkes-Barre and return...  I have a glorious color enlargement
--- 11x14--- of a shot carefully composed by Victor Hand of morning photo-runby, in a brilliant
winter sun..
Thank you, Victor !!! ).

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 04/01/20 17:07 by wcamp1472.

Date: 04/01/20 16:37
Re: The Way it was
Author: PlyWoody

Thank you Wes for the detail correction to my memory as can not ever remember that buses took us back to the E port origin.  A Steamtown train derailing in the Delaware Water Gap was when a broken bolt dropped rigging and derailed the lead tender truck and then the first several cars.  I've posted in past of being in the trailing vestibule of 1st car when that car derailed and I yelled "we're on the ground" and Ranger in lead end of coach jumped up and pulled the air.  He likely had already felt the riding on the ties. That saved us half a train still on the rails which we squeezed into for the run back to Scranton. 

Date: 04/01/20 17:54
Re: The Way it was
Author: wcamp1472

The use of busses for the trip home was optional....
many who bought train tickets, wanted their money's  worth.

Luckily, it was the first HICO trio that we had a P/A ( public address )
sytem throughout the train, every car. That helped so effectively was we 
loaded the busses -- according to final pick-up points, earlier that day,
( we had multiple stops where we had picked-up passengers early that Saturday..)

The P/A  system allowed for orderly disembarkment , bus-by-bus ...
Ross used the P/A system to inform all the passengers what was going-on.
about the meals on the way and the bus arrangements --- for the trips home..
The P/A system was a real life-saver in our situation. 

The second improvement was clever...
Lighting for the CNJ coaches:...

The CNJ commuter coaches came from the 1930s.... they were equipped with electric 
lights down the center of the roofs' interiors.  The steam-era Camel-backs, and other
passenger locos were fitted with large, 32-volt DC  turbo-generators up on the tender 
water decks.  It was the early version of today's head-end  lighting...
The cars were all connected , front to rear of the train, by roof mounted , 2-wire, jumpers.

Our excursion trains used mostly the CNJ. coaches, with a sprinkling of non-CNJ coaches.
For this trip, we concentrated the coaches in one portion of the train... the center cars,
probably 12 to 14 coaches. The middle car of that bunch , was a baggage car for
selling souvenirs, snacks, etc.

Don Smith had rented a diesel generator that put out 110-volts, A/C... 
Don had a crew go through each CNJ coach, and replace the 32-volt incandescent
bulbs with the 110 volt bulbs, IIRC, they were 25-watts each.

It was an ingenious solution...the other cars had their own battery/ generator systems.  
So, what "really saved" us in the 'emergency' was the continuous, reliable  lighting 
and the P/A system.  With the P/A, Ross was able to keep the passengers co tinualky
informed as to what had happened, communicated often, got the KFC meals distributed ,
and made for orderly disembarkment & boarding of the busses, by originating station.

Ross had made it clear that passengers COULD remain with the train, and ride with us back to 
Raritan, NJ coach yard.  Those die-hards that chose to stay had to "rough-it" , until we had the
"railroad" to return to Raritan.  
We probably had about 2-dozen ticket holders who rode the completetrip...all the way on the train..

We had plenty of lights, heat and eats... so it could have been a true fun adventure..
About 4 AM, I finally got to pass-out ---  I went to the Canadian Rocky Mountsin observation car.
It was a CP coach, divided into 3 sections, a firmer coach, the center 1/3 was a glass-enclosed,
heated section equipped with bench seats, on each end of the glassed-in section was entirely open,
no windows, but equipped with safety railings ..  

I 'crashed' on the warm floor of the heated section...and quickly fell asleep... The crews were
still hard at work re-railing the tender when I passed out in warm, but dark Rocky Mountain car.

When I awoke, it was early morning, we were rolling along, about 40-per, 1278 and the train
rolling through the Lehigh River Gorge...  it was a bitter cold morning, with w train....

more coming..


to proof, yet..

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/04/20 05:29 by wcamp1472.

Date: 04/02/20 08:58
Re: The Way it was
Author: Trainhand

I don't know iif ethics is a a part of the MBA curriculum or not. Dealing with the business majors who were officers on the rr I worked on, they were not covered in undergraduate studies. I still try to let my word be my honor in everyday dealings. It was good that the trip was salvaged by a man of his word. My father used to say don't lie,because if you do you will have to tell another lie to cover up that one and eventuall you will get your lies confused and caught.

Date: 04/02/20 09:18
Re: The Way it was
Author: kenN

My grandfather did all his business with a handshake.  He said to me "If a man doesn't honor his word, he wouldn't honor his contract either."

Date: 04/02/20 15:23
Re: The Way it was
Author: Txhighballer

A Class One railroad "loaned" me a locomotive for a bout a week once. All on a handshake. He just said take care of it and put it back on the interchange track when you're done. Can't do that now!!!!

Date: 04/03/20 10:32
Re: The Way it was
Author: Rdg170

I rode the following weekend. Trip went off without a hitch, though I still recall them shutting off the heat to the train when we were going up Hampton hill behind the 127. My shot from the photo runby.

Doug Rowland
Philadelphia, PA

Date: 04/03/20 10:53
Re: The Way it was
Author: wcamp1472


You've captured the essence and importance of the photo run-bys.
Very good lighting, composition and historical perspective..

The run-bys were important part if HICO trips ---- because the paying public 
rarely gets to see the locos... So, the off-train events were the highlights...

Again, the open-window, CNJ  coaches made riding these trains really 
a lot more rewarding ---- for the majority of our customers.

I like the crowd and how they contribute to the 'story' of the picture .
Week two was a blast !!

Wes C.


Date: 04/03/20 21:19
Re: The Way it was
Author: jbwest

Some FWIW pix from those days.  I was a California boy going to school in Philadelphia and knew little of the eastern railfanning world, but somehow managed to chase these two trips.  It was really cool to see the 90, since only a few years before I had chased it on the Great Western.  With regard to paper work, when I was in the rail finance business it was interesting to contrast paper work betrween here and Europe.  In the U.S. our lawyers insisted on long winded multipage documents, in Europe we did it on half a page.  But I get the impression that Europe has caught up with us.


Date: 04/04/20 05:03
Re: The Way it was
Author: wcamp1472

Picture 1, above, looks to be the trip to Cape May, NJ....looks like PRR/PRSL  coaches in the train.

( The car behind the engine is the ex-CPRR,  " Rocky Mountain" observation car [ owned by George Hart] 
  which is the car I had talked about earlier --- during a cold night incident , Steam in the Snow trip---
you can see the glass-window, center section which has the steam heat pipes😁)

I enjoy these pictures from the past.   #90 sure was the STAR of the the winter trips....
The Strasburg R R crew did a magnificent job in quickly saving the advertised
Double-Headed Steam In the Snow trips.... 

The tickets for those two trips sold-out almost immediately .... so, when events changed
the availability oh Hart's 1286 & 1238, Ross 'scrambled'  ( all-the-while working his day-job ---
Commodities Trader, Wall Street)  and in 2-weeks we had two steamers all arranged. 

He coordinated with Steamtown, Green Mountain RR, the D&H, the CNJ, Strasburg R R,
PCC RR.  All these 'connections' were arranged in lightning speed.. 

There were a lot of verbal, multi-party,  commitments made and actions taken by all RRs  concerned ---
all 'came through' because Ross was admired, by the railriad managers, for honoring all his
earlier contractural arrangements.  They admired his 'projects' and also they did not want to be
caught as the 'obstructionist'  if trips carrying 2,000 paid-ticket holders had to be cancelled..

A Railway Age Magazine editorial , at the time of the Niagara Falls trip, praised what Ross
was able to accomplish, they admonished other RR managers to solve their day- to-day
problems with the gusto that Ross ran his trips.

Ross was a Master Wall Street commodities trader ( silver/copper -- later gold-- and other metals)
and the $$$monetary value of his daily Trading business ( all by auction-like, verbal, 'open- outcry') 
was worth $millions in individual transactions ( trades). ---- hundreds of trades,  by the day.
So, by comparison, the RR commitments he made were way-less risk, than a single Silver or Gold
commodity contract ...all conducted by hand signals and verbal cues... 

He led a high-pressure lifestyle, and was most relaxed when at the throttle of his beloved steamers,
screaming down the Main Lines of America's Railroads....wide-open and pleasing all the admirers,
----- in the coaches and trackside. Those of us lucky enough to have been under his leadership
have stored thousands of memories ----- from grime and hard work, to Glorious Trips. 
Now, never to be repeated ....  

When, in 1967,  I had asked to volunteer as an engine-wiper...
I never imagined what lay ahead, when Ross said 'yes'...


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/04/20 10:49 by wcamp1472.

Date: 04/04/20 14:48
Re: The Way it was
Author: Rdg170

Wes, that is indeed the Cape May trip and I was in that first car most of the way back to Camden. The 127 performed Really well.

Doug Rowland
Philadelphia, PA

Date: 04/04/20 15:31
Re: The Way it was
Author: wcamp1472


Ross REALLY "let her-rip"....west of Winslow Jct...
127 performed like a K4...ran white hot, all the way to Camden...

Prior to that trip, Rail photographer Don Wood, had shunned the HICO
trips.  Author John Rehor had helped and worked to coordinate burgeoning
relationships with the N&W, and others...invited Wood to join on a chase..

Rehor had convinced Wood to join him in casing this trip....
Ross loaned the two, Ross's red '66 Cadillac convertible to chase the 
Cape May trip..

Following the high speed return to Camden, we left all highway "chase traffic"
in tthe dust , leaving Winslow Junction ...  

After we had arrived at the storage yard where we built the train, --- after about
20 minutes the red Cadillac came speeding. into the area.....  both jumped out of the car,
and ran up to us as giddy as two kids on their FIRST chase...  They were thrilled at 
the show and the feelings of long ago -- chasing fast steam..in the 50s..

Wood soon joined the HICO Board of Directors. 
Wood joined HICO just before Ross had arranged with the N&W to
lease the Conneaut roundhouse, and begin to return the NKP 759 to service..
in the summer of '68.....

Ross had advertised and selling,  the Niagara Falls trip ,  pulled by 759...still resting in Vermont.
We hadn't even 'qualified' the engine, at that point.

Wood and I became good friends ...



Date: 04/07/20 05:42
Re: The Way it was
Author: ironmtn

Great stories, Wes -- many thanks. The kind of energy, skill and commitment that Ross showed, and the response that he received from railroaders, guys like you who worked with him, notable railfans like Don Wood and John Rehor, and from the rest of us in the rank-and-file of the hobby, all show that it was indeed was indeed a former world....a better world.

In these difficult times right now, it is wonderful and edifying to recall and remember such events. And when we are on the other side of this current pandemic, we will remember and honor people in the scientific and medical communities who are working right now with the same kind of determination and passion. Hobbies and personal enthusiasms can be microcosms of larger, grander aspirations that serve much greater communities and needs. They teach us, in a laboratory as it were, the skills we need to do larger, greater things. That's why such works as the HICO excursions aren't just wonderful nostalgia. They are examples of the kinds of qualities of getting the job done with commitment and passion that are needed for any good work to succeed. Right now, we can all use a lot of that. Thanks again for the stories that give a small glimpse from the past into how it can be done.

Muskegon, Michigan

Date: 04/07/20 06:12
Re: The Way it was
Author: cjvrr

Thank you for sharing the stories.

What lit the fire for Ross?   Was it his Dad working for the CNJ?

Date: 04/07/20 16:22
Re: The Way it was
Author: TrackGuy


Yes...if you can find it, you should pick up the Mark I video/DVD about Ross. It's really worth it.


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