Hotel Roanoke to Reopen this Month
The historic Hotel Roanoke is slated to reopen April 3 following extensive renovation. The hotel, formerly owned by Norfolk Southern, closed over five years ago.
NS, VRE Discuss Alexandria/Manassas Line Sale Proposal
Norfolk Southern and Virginia Railway Express are discussing a proposal for VRE to purchase the NS line between Alexandria and Manassas.
Richmond Considers Transportation Center for Main Street Station
City officials in Richmond, Virginia, are considering a proposal to revitalize Main Street Station for use as a transportation center to include Amtrak train service.
"Vermonter" Name of New Amtrak Train
Amtrak's new daylight train to serve the state of Vermont (55 & 56) will be called the "Vermonter." The train replaces the overnight Montrealer, but a bus connection between St. Albans and Montreal will serve the new train. The Vermonter will actually be an extension of a Northeast Corridor Springfield line train. Meanwhile, Amtrak's Adirondack (68 & 69) will become a through train between Washington and Montreal. New schedules are effective April 2.
Union Pacific Board Approves CNW Acquisition
Union Pacific's board has approved the company's $1.2-billion acquisition of Chicago & North Western. On March 23 it began a tender offer of $35 per CNW share. The offer expires April 19.
Carroll Tower Memories
[By William E. Loechel] . . . . . The writer's father, the late William Loechel, also known as the "Dutchman," was a B&O telegrapher serving most of his career at Carroll Tower in Baltimore.
The magnificent and awesome grip of memory so often takes me back to the many days and nights I spent "helping" my father in Carroll Tower. I was perhaps 12 years old when my visits started. My usual position was to sit in the creaky swivel chair that sat between the chimney and the long desk - just under the octagonal clock. I'd draw pictures or read until there was a chance to "help" by throwing levers. I recall that #20 and #16 took every bit of thrust or pull I could muster - often being in a horizontal position at the completion of the pull. Number 28 was easy, as were many of the others. The telegraphic messages were always a mystery to me, even though I had learned the Morse code. I was told that a telegrapher's message was almost like individual handwriting.
Anyway, I'd fill kerosene lanterns, or go downstairs to wait for a switcher engine where a man would hand down a five gallon jug of water which I would then carry up to the office and invert on the water cooler. The biggest thrill I suppose came when a light could be seen a mile away on an eastbound track...then closer...often rumbling past the tower just five feet away so that the vintage building shook. The frightening noise was then followed by the rhythmic pulses of the clickity-clack of a long line of freight cars...then to fade into the distance heading east.
I often had the scary privilege of holding a looped bamboo stick with a message clasped to it for a fireman to hook his arm through as the train went by. This meant standing just a bit away from the ends of the crosstie and hoping the catcher's arm was aimed at the loop.
For a while there was a cat who'd wait for my father on night duty, cross the tracks with him, then curl up in the sumptuous warmth of the tower and sleep. But this cat was fascinated by the telegraph key. Had he learned how to open it, he could have baffled someone with the "message" he often tried to send.
On a bright summer day, I'd fly my model airplanes from the 20-foot height of the porch.
From that tower I was given a ride on a switcher engine to Bailey's Roundhouse where I met Mr. Wilbur Galloway, who let me climb on the old engines I had seen at the 1927 Fair of the Iron Horse, and to roam the roundhouse long before it became a museum.
On another occasion I was given a ride on a steam engine from the tower to Clifton Park, where I then walked home. Not many youngsters can recall such a thrill.
Years later some very special gifts from the tower came to me by the following happy accident: Married and living in Bethesda, Maryland, my family visited Baltimore several times a year. Although I'd often suggest we stop and visit the tower on the way home, none of the family shared the enthusiasm. But one day I stood my ground and stopped, climbed the stairs and went in. There was Charlie Fair, looking just as I had remembered him, and he remembered me. And he had a present for me...knowing I'd be back for a visit some day. (Had I visited one day earlier he would not have been there, and had I come one day later he would have begun his vacation.) The gifts were the key and sounder my father had used during his many years there. What a treasure!
It is said that when one is young, thoughts are on romance. At 72, I must still be young, as my "love affair" with Carroll Tower still goes on.
Sketch of Carroll Tower drawn by the writer as a Christmas gift for his father a number of years ago
- Names from the Past:
- [Recalled by the writer from his visits to Carroll Tower as a boy]
- John (Smitty) Smith - maintenance crew chief
- Algernon Coman - telegrapher
- Charlie Fair - telegrapher
- Dave Reese - telegrapher
- Bill Founds - maintenance crew
- Young Smitty - son of John
- Wilbur Galloway - custodian, Baileys
- Hudson - trackman
- Hoke (?) Jacobs - telegrapher
- Dyson - railroad detective
The Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum
Its name is a mouthful - there's no doubt about that! But it spells out exactly where and what it is, and it proudly stands as a living monument to that beginning chapter in American railroading - the oldest station and very first terminus. Situated at the western end of the B&O's first 13 miles of track, the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum shares importance - if not the size - with the famed B&O Railroad Museum at the eastern end. The two museums are good friends, though are not affiliated, and the true aficionado of railroad history should certainly plan to visit both. Housed in the original 1830 granite agency building next to the tracks, the museum's rooms have been carefully recreated to depict the lives of those who built and served the railroad in its earliest days. Exhibits are changed periodically throughout the year to add variety and encourage repeat visits. Interestingly, in its beginning, passengers did not get to use this building. Instead, they used the hotel across the street, accessing the railroad by way of a footbridge. Andrew Jackson boarded a train here in 1833, thus becoming the first president to ride a train. Adjacent to the agency building is the 1885 freight house which now houses the museum's HO-scale diorama layout modeling the original 13 miles of B&O track. The layout is the creation of the Mount Clare Division of the National Model Railroad Association.
Ellicott City was known as Ellicott's Mills when the railroad was built.
A visit to the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum should be planned for a leisurely day allowing additional time to explore the many shops, galleries and historical sites in the downtown area. Indeed, there is enough to see and do in Ellicott City to more than fill a single day. The museum, which was opened as such in 1972, is operated by Historic Ellicott City, Inc., a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Ellicott City. For further information call 410-461-1944.
CSXT AC-Locomotive Performance Findings
It has been determined that typically two CW44AC units can replace three Dash-8 units on a 90-car coal train. This is the finding explained in a CSXT report made available last month to its locomotive engineers. Other combinations are being used, but this is the most common. The extensive testing that was done with the three pre-production units demonstrated that two AC units have the capability to handle these trains, but some reliability problems have caused some trains to stall on critical grades, according to the report. CSXT and General Electric service personnel have been riding trains with AC locomotives in areas where these problems have been experienced. A common complaint about the AC locomotives is that they move the trains slower. When two 4400-horsepower units replace three 4000-horsepower units, there is a 27% reduction in total horsepower, and lower train speeds, slower acceleration and lower balance speeds on ruling grades can be expected. A study of train records over a one-month period comparing both type of consists (two AC units vs. three Dash-8 units) revealed no difference in run times because there were unrelated delays for train meets, track work, etc. But delays due to stalling did result in increased run times when these failures occurred. CSXT's fleet of CW44AC locomotives continue to be used mostly on coal trains operating from Tennessee and Kentucky. As of March 26, CSXT's roster included 80 of the CW44AC units: 1, 3 through 5, 7 through 30, 32, 35 through 84, and 9105.
East Broad Top Railroad to Operate in 1995
Coalition Selling Special Tickets to Help Meet Costs and Fund Future Development
MARCH 2, 1995. [By Phil Padgett - Friends of the East Broad Top Special Bulletin]... The East Broad Top Railroad will operate its narrow-gauge steam trains in 1995, starting June 3 and including the EBT's Fall Spectacular October 7 and 8. The railroad will operate a Saturday and Sunday schedule with trains at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. through the end of August. A decision on operation in September is pending. Central to the decision to operate again in 1995 is the commitment from a local coalition to help meet the EBT's operating costs, that have threatened to bring permanent closing of the 1873 railroad, while establishing a vehicle for individuals to contribute the EBT's future development. The East Broad Top Development Fund, established by the Huntingdon County Heritage Commission with support of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission and other groups including Friends of the East Broad Top, is selling $10 commemorative tickets in advance of the start of 1995 operation by the EBT as a way to offset $75,000 of the railroad's operating costs. Funds raised in excess of that amount will be banked for future development of the railroad. All monies from purchase of special tickets go to keeping the EBT operating and supporting its restoration. Administrative costs of the fund are being met with cash and in-kind contributions from groups in the coalition. For its part, Friends of the EBT has committed to purchase up to $1,000 in advertising for commemorative ticket sales and is providing 10,000 envelopes. Purchasers may use the commemorative ticket to ride the EBT with the balance over the railroad's regular fare going into the EBT Development Fund, or retain the special ticket unused as a collectible, in which case the entire $10 purchase price goes into the fund. The East Broad Top ended its 1994 season on the verge of closing forever because of operating losses that no longer can be sustained by the private owner, yet tantalizingly close to a $30-million rescue for full restoration by the state of Pennsylvania. Acting on what is seen as a critical community development issue, the coalition's intent is that the EBT Development Fund will serve as a bridge until the state funds are appropriated, as well as a vehicle for private contributions in any amount to help match the state. In parallel with operation of the Development Fund, a team of public agencies, private groups, and consulting firms is working to obtain release of the funding from Harrisburg this year. Friends of the EBT is providing data and actively participating on the team in multiple ways. The 33-mile East Broad Top is a National Historic Landmark, classified as endangered, and widely regarded by historians as a national treasure. Commemorative tickets may be purchased by writing to EBT Development Fund, c/o Huntingdon County Heritage Commission, P.O. Box 374, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania 16652, or by calling 814-643-5091.
Rex - An Update
[By Allen Brougham] . . . A number of readers have inquired on the status of my recently-added family member. His plight was reported just one year ago, describing his appearance at Miller Tower during a snowstorm and his choosing to stick around. He wore no collar. After a month-long effort to locate his owner through photo-posters displayed at convenience stores, an effort which was unsuccessful, I decided to take him home. In hindsight, it might be argued just who adopted whom, but with his friendly disposition the conclusion is probably a tossup. It's been a year now, and I'm happy to report that Rex has "made his place," and I long ago rescinded any thought of handing him over to the Animal Rescue League. But he still has a few behavioral problems. An old notebook of my great grandfather, and a wedding day prayer book of my aunt and late uncle are two objects that met their demise through the chewing talents of Rex and his shiny teeth! Consequently, I now avoid letting him into the house without supervision, and he makes his home on my screened-in back porch. I bought him a dog house (complete with mattress), but on bitter cold nights I do let him in to sleep in my room. Of his bountiful appetite, his weight increased from 40 pounds all the way up to 52 pounds, at which point he started to resemble the Goodyear blimp. The vet prescribed a diet, and now he's back down to about 46 pounds. Once or twice a day he and his adopted sister Penny take me for a walk around the neighborhood. I describe it as a "hunt," as that's what both think they're doing. Indeed, total bedlam results when a rabbit comes into view. But I guess I'm not trying hard enough to catch any! I keep the dogs firmly on a leash, and the bunny population in my neighborhood has not suffered! Interestingly, Rex does not get too excited when he sees a squirrel. Long ago he learned that squirrels can climb trees ... and he can't! Coincidentally, I later learned that my effort to find his original owner might not have really been in vain. After I took him home and then went back to all the convenience stores to retrieve my posters, one storekeeper told me of a couple of locals who had been in the store and seemed to recognize his picture. "Yep, that's him!" said one to the laughter of the other. Neither made any attempt to claim him.
A Change of Pace
[By Allen Brougham] . . . Going on 25 years with the railroad, I've firmly established second-shift (3pm-11pm) as my favorite. Indeed, they've been my regular hours for most of two decades. I especially like the freedom of sleeping in the morning until I'm good and ready to get up. No alarm clocks for me! But on rare occurrences I have been called into service on the other shifts. Such as it was the evening of March 6 - my day off - when I got a call that I was desperately needed to fill a third-shift vacancy at the tower. It was late, about 9pm, and it usually takes me two hours and ten minutes to make the trip. But on this occasion I put my Tracker into gear and made the run in just one hour and 50 minutes. Don't ask me how fast I drove - but it wasn't exactly 55. Anyway, safely in place, I proceeded to experience the nocturnal bliss of 11pm to 7am., my first stint on these hours since coming to Miller, and my first stint on these hours anywhere in about four years. But what a treat! Nearly half the trains of a 24-hour period run at this time, and the feeling is one of being productive. The crisp night air was followed by the rising of the sun - where I had only seen the moon before - then the experience of going home to the rays of daylight instead of darkness. My biological clock was put to the test on this one, and when I got home I was ready for bed. But Rex and Penny had other ideas! They have biological clocks, too! "Oh, no, you can't go to sleep until we've had our hunt!" said the two in unison. So to our morning hunt we went. (No bunnies were caught, though, as usual.) Well, it didn't take long for history to repeat itself. The same thing happened the following night - duty 11pm to 7am - and then again two more nights the following week. It was fun! The dogs accepted the change in stride, too, and we all sort of got accustomed to it. But our respective biological clocks got put to the test in another sort of way a couple of days after that.... when I went in for the annual rules class. That started at 8am.