The Wilmington Chapter NRHS Official Newsletter
|VOLUME 23 NO. 7||NOVEMBER 2001|
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JULY MEETING NOTES
The normal monthly meeting opened with the minutes by Secretary Dan Frederick which were approved as corrected as was Treasurer Ralph Steven's report. Ralph also read a letter that the Chapter received from the Salvation Army thanking us for our $25 contribution following the events of September 11. There was no National Director's report as Tom Posatko was enroute to the Board of Directors meeting. Dan Frederick read some interesting notes from the Railfan website including the fact that Rail America is to acquire States Rail. StatesRails includes the Kiamichi RR in OK, AK, TX; the San Jaoquin Valley Rwy. in CA, the Alabama & Gulf Coast Rwy. which operates from AL to FL; the Arizona Eastern Rwy. in AZ; and the Lahaina, Kaanapali & Pacific RR. RailAmerica is the world's largest short line and regional railroad operator. Dan also reported that NS ended street running in Erie, PA on October 12, 2001 and that New Jersey Transit was to take over operation of AMTRAK's Clocker Service by 2004.
President Phil Snyder thanked Pete Cramer, Ralph Stevens, and Bill Russell for their help on Transportation Day. Pete reported that he had heard that Mantua and Champ Decals were going out of business. We also heard that the November Model Railroad Open House lists are available at local hobby stores. There was no official report from the Election Committee.
After the break, we were treated to another fine slide show by Ken Berg; this one entitled Great Lakes Central. We saw views of Chicago in 1989 and 1993, an Amtrak F59PHC, and a Burlington E5. We heard about his EJ&E Railroad Police chauffeur. There was Luddington, MI in 1994 with all of the tracks removed, but not all of the rolling stock (they were just sitting on the ground!). We saw railroad equipment at the Green Bay and Duluth Museums along with views of Proctor and Two Harbors, MN. Also represented were Toledo, Astibula [Hewlett Bucket Unloader], and Erie, PA. We saw BNSF, NS, CSX, DM&IR, UP, and SP motive power. And then we got to see his personal railfanning trip to Bergen and Voss, Norway! Everyone enjoyed the show.
NOTICE: IN CASE OF BAD
If our normal "THIRD THURSDAY" NRHS meeting is canceled due to inclement weather, it will be postponed and held on the FOURTH THURSDAY. If it must again be canceled, it will NOT be rescheduled. We will simply wait for the next month's normal "third Thursday" meeting. If the weather looks bad or is predicted to be bad, you may telephone the Claymont Community Center to see if it will be open that evening for our meeting.
Notices, announcements, schedules, etc. are provided here as a service to the members. The Chapter has no affiliation with any commercial operation, museum, or tourist line.
The Griff Teller art work display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in/at Strasburg, Lancaster County, Pa. will continue through the end of December 2001.
The High Line - A City Divided, A City United; The Construction of Elmira's Railroad Elevations, 1932 - 1937 an exhibit at the Crossroads Gallery in the New York State Museum until Feb. 24, 2002.
The next Wilmington Chapter Trip will be on Sunday, December 2, 2001. There is a web page set up for the trip at http://www.daylightimages.com/redarrow.html
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2001
- RED ARROW WORK TROLLEY TRIP.
The Wilmington Chapter will sponsor a trip over SEPTA's Red Arrow Division covering both the Sharon Hill and Media lines. Passengers will ride in a Kawasaki streetcar, but following our car will be a Red Arrow work car (which originally ran on the Ben Franklin Bridge line). Passengers will have ample opportunity to photograph the work car in a rare daylight appearance at numerous quality photo stops. The trip will depart SEPTA's 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby at 10:00 a.m. and return at approximately 3:00 p.m. Fare for the trip is $35. Tickets are available from Wilmington Chapter NRHS, c/o Steve Barry, 117 High Street, Newton, NJ 07860. We can accept MasterCard and Visa for on-line ticketing at www.daylightimages.com/redarrow.html . For more information contact Steve Barry at 973/383-3355 weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
August 18 - 26, 2002
2002 NRHS Convention
Williams, Arizona (near Grand Canyon) with inbound and outbound steam powered trains planned from Los Angeles. Host Chapter(s) - Grand Canyon Chapter Web Site = www.canyonrails2002.com
ENGINEHOUSE FIRES, By Richard E. Hall
This copyrighted article was written for the "Transfer Table", the newsletter of the Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society by Chapter Member Richard E. Hall © Richard E. Hall 2000
Many of the engine houses built by the railroads in the 1800's were of wood construction which made them vulnerable to fire. Quite often such fires not only destroyed the enginehouse building, but they were often devastating to the railroads equipment. This is a tale of two such fires, with some brief mention of others, that were both devastating, but quite a contrast as to what was destroyed. One destroyed a small single stall enginehouse, the other destroyed a large Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad roundhouse. The small, one stall enginehouse was on the old Philadelphia & Baltimore Central Railroad, and it was located in a most unlikely place. Few people even know that there had ever been an engine house on the P&BCRR in Rising Sun, Maryland. This incident occurred long before the P&BC became the Central Division of the PW&B.
That is no more an unlikely location for an engine house than the ones that the P&BC had at Elk View, or Chadds Ford, although the latter one was located there for a different reason. The enginehouse was built at Rising Sun because that was the end of the line for operations until construction of the line was completed to Rowlandville and Octoraro. In the same manner, there had been an enginehouse at Elk View until the trestle was completed across the Big Elk Creek Valley and the tracks completed to Oxford where there was an enginehouse, and later a roundhouse until the 1930's. At one time there had been a train scheduled to terminate at Chadds Ford, so an enginehouse was built, even though the train had to dead head to Kennett Square, where the P&BC's first enginehouse was located, the next day.
The P&BC's enginehouse and turntable at Rising Sun would have been removed after the railroad reached Octoraro Station anyway, but it didn't last that long. On a Saturday night in May 1867, it was totally destroyed by a fire that also damaged one of the P&BC's four locomotive's. That locomotive was named the "Octoraro" and was said to be the road's best locomotive. The damage to the locomotive was reported as being very severe. At a minimum, the wooden cab and deck would have been burned, as well as the wooden pilot and pilot beam. Locomotive tenders still had wooden frames in that era, and the lighter metal sheets of the tender cistern would likely have been warped from the heat of the fire. It was reported that the fire was so large that the glow of the flames in the night sky could be seen from Oxford.
The name is unknown for the man that the P&BC had hired as the night watchman and locomotive tender at the Rising Sun enginehouse. He was to service the locomotive for the next day's run and to tend to the locomotive's fire and water overnight. It was reported that on a Saturday evening in May, 1867, his children had gone to the engine house with him. The man had gone outside the engine house for a time, while the children had remained inside playing, then they went outside and joined their father. If they knew that there was a fire, they did not report it.
But there is one point about that story as was reported in the newspapers that raises questions. The enginehouse fire is reported to have occurred between 12 and 3 AM, so why were the man's children playing at the enginehouse at that hour? Could the man have fallen asleep for a while and used that story as a cover-up? There has been nothing found to suggest that, but there is reason to wonder about it.
It was never determined exactly how the fire had started. Some thought that the stove might have set fire to the building, but why would the stove have been needed in May? Other people thought that the children had accidentally started the fire, then went outside. The wood burning locomotives of that era were notorious for throwing sparks, even some of those fitted with spark arresters, and many enginehouse fires were started by sparks coming from the locomotives themselves. By the time that the fire was discovered, it was too late to save the enginehouse, or the nearly new locomotive in it. The loss of the Rising Sun enginehouse was estimated to be about $2,500.00.
I have been unable to pinpoint the exact location of that long gone and forgotten P&BC enginehouse. I have been looking for well over thirty five years for a map that might show it's location, but no luck to date. From something that I remember from back in the 1930's, I may have a clue to where it was, but it was only a clue, and now "progress" has since obliterated that clue with paving.
The PW&B suffered other losses from enginehouse fires over the years. On May 13, 1859, fire had destroyed the PW&B enginehouse, blacksmith shop and machine shop in Baltimore. They were replaced with new buildings using iron for the roof and the remainder of the building of "fireproof construction". It was noted the wooden doors were an exception to all of the material used building the roundhouse being fireproof. The machine shop in Wilmington also burnt in October of that same year.
Although not an enginehouse, a fire at the Lamokin enginehouse and shops in May 1872, completely destroyed the P&BC wood shed and several cords of sawed wood for locomotive fuel. It also destroyed a PW&B "house car" and a Reading Co. coal car. Other nearby cars were pulled to safety before the fire reached them. Two men sleeping in the PW&B house car were nearly overcome by smoke, but did manage to escape. That fire did not reach the roundhouse and shop buildings. The newspaper described the fire as "the work of incendiarism", but it was thought that parties could be identified.
There would have been another engine house fire to tell about here had it not been for the prompt action of one Wm. Pierson, an employee of the Philadelphia & Baltimore Central in Oxford. In June of 1874, a spark from a locomotive set fire to the roof of the P&BC enginehouse in Oxford. It was reported that the quick action taken by Mr. Pierson prevented the fire from gaining any headway, otherwise that enginehouse would have been destroyed. That was the old enginehouse, not the new Oxford roundhouse built in 1906. It is not known if it may have been the case here, but many old wooden engine houses had a walkway on the roof with fire barrels full of water and fire buckets.
By contrast, the second fire being mentioned here was much larger, destroying the Wilmington roundhouse of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. That fire occurred on a Monday, and the newspaper report was dated May 13, 1871. That was a 21 stall roundhouse, with two stalls used for a boiler shop, that had been built in 1862. The fire did not start on the railroads property, but in a business located next to it, on Water Street at French Street. That was a kindling wood factory located in a coal yard, one of the businesses owned by Mr. George W. Bush, who was a prominent Wilmington business man of that era.
Small bundles of kindling wood was an important commodity in the 1800's, available in most of the corner grocery stores that were located throughout the city. It was also sold door to door from huckster wagons. Some bundled kindling wood was produced locally, but most of it that was sold in this area was a byproduct of the Pennsylvania lumber industry and came from some of the many saw mills of north central Pennsylvania.
Most of the kindling wood was cut and bundled in special plants at the saw mills, then shipped to the cities. The kindling wood was cut, stacked and wire bound in small, neat bundles. It has been estimated that there were more than a billion such bundles of kindling wood produced as a byproduct of the Pennsylvania lumber industry. Of all those many bundles produced, only one bundle of kindling wood from those mills is known to exist today. It is still as it was when originally bundled by the mill. It has been reported as being in the collection of the St. Mary's And Benzinger Township Historical Society Museum, in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Bush's kindling wood plant was an exception, he had a plant that cut and bundled the kindling from local wood. It was part of his large coal yard operation. Mr. Bush had a large coal yard on French St. between Water St. and the Christiana River. There was a large warehouse on the end of the lot next to the river for Mr. Bush's line of freight boats sailing the Delaware River, sailing mostly to Philadelphia. The George W. Bush coal yard and warehouse took up much of the block between King St. and French St. and between Water St. and the river.
The Bush coal yard and warehouse were originally served only by the PW&B until the Wilmington & Western was built. When the W&W built their line in to the new station at Market & Water Streets, the W&W track was extended on Water St. to reach the Bush coal yard and warehouse. Just a few yards before it reached French St., the W&W track curved sharply and paralleled the PW&B track through Bush's coal yard, ending at the warehouse. At one time, George W. Bush had owned the entire block between French and King Streets, but the PW&BRR later purchased the King St. side of the block. It is not clear on old maps, but French St. may not have been open between Water St. and the river.
The kindling wood yard owned by Mr. George W. Bush was located in the French and Water St. coal yard, across from the PW&B station and adjacent to the railroads shop buildings. The old newspaper reports stated that while the railroad shop workmen were at lunch, flames were seen coming through the fence between the kindling wood yard and the oil house of the railroad shops. There were over 50 barrels of coal oil stored outside the oil house and the flames quickly reached the oil barrels and spread to the two story oil house building. The two story oil house was also used for storing patterns which were destroyed, along with the brick building. The brick oil house and pattern storage building had been built in 1862, when the new roundhouse was built. Although firemen arrived on the scene quickly, the flames spread to the roundhouse before any of the 14 locomotives were removed. One of them was new, it had not yet been placed in service.
The firemen were able to get behind the roundhouse and after an hour's effort, were able to confine the fire to the roundhouse and save the large machine shop buildings. The fire was especially smoky, understandable considering that it involved the oil house and the 50 barrels of coal oil. It was reported in the newspaper that the large column of black smoke rising above the city created a lot of excitement. One report stated that the smoke from the fire was visible from as far away as Elkton. All railroad traffic on the main line tracks was delayed because of the fire hoses laying across the tracks. The railroads loss could not be determined exactly, but was estimated at over $70,000.00, of which about $45,000.00 was covered by insurance. Much of that loss was based on the amount of damage to the locomotives. Of the 14 locomotives in the roundhouse, eight were severely damaged and would require major repairs, six others had their wood work destroyed, cabs, pilots, running boards and tender frames. In addition, the metal in many of the tenders was warped. The new locomotive in the roundhouse was valued at $16,000.00. Mr. Bush lost about $3,000.00 on the kindling wood plant building and the machinery in it. All of Mr. Bush's loss was covered by insurance.
The PW&B rebuilt the roundhouse, but it was already too small and was becoming outdated. The roundhouse had originally been built in 1850, the blacksmith shop in 1853 and the machine shop in 1854. The roundhouse had been rebuilt and improved in 1862. The 22 stall roundhouse and shops were directly across the tracks from the passenger station and the area around the railroad shops was becoming entirely too congested for efficiency. There was no room for expansion, which was needed. The coal bridge for loading the locomotive tenders was located across the main tracks three blocks east of the shops, requiring extra moves for the locomotives.
The PW&B had already acquired some land east of the existing locomotive shops and had erected new and larger car shops between 3rd. and 4th. streets. In 1875, they built a new and larger 34 stall roundhouse with three lead tracks to the turntable and a fourth through the end stall from the other side. In addition, there were eight outside storage tracks and three spurs parallel to the main tracks. After the new roundhouse was built, the PW&B continued to use the old roundhouse at French and Water Streets.
Even those new facilities were neither large enough nor entirely satisfactory and plans were soon being made to replace both of the Wilmington roundhouses and shops. In 1887, the PW&B purchased a large tract of land located just outside of the city, but progress came slowly. Some preliminary work was finally started there in 1901 and in 1903 they built the shops that we know. That was a preliminary part of another large project, necessary before the main part of that project could be started. But that is another big story in itself.
© 2000 R.E.Hall
Thursday Nov. 15, 2001 7 PM Chapter Meeting program by Kermit Geary program not known at this time.
Sunday Dec. 2, 2001 10 AM Chapter Trip Red Arrow Work Trolley Trip
Sunday Dec. 9, 2001 5 PM Holiday Dinner in lieu of normal monthly meeting program by Steve Barry
Thursday Jan. 2002 7 PM Chapter Meeting program by Bruce Barry program not known at this time
Thursday Feb. 2002 7 PM Chapter Meeting program by Ernie Barry program not known at this time
Thursday March 2002 7 PM Chapter Meeting program by Dan Frederick program not known at this time
The Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) meets at 7:00 PM on the third Thursday of each month [except August & December] in the Darley Room at the Claymont Community Center on Green Street in Claymont, Delaware. Visitors are always welcome. Admission to regular meetings is free. Check out our >>NEW Website <<<, thanks to Russ Fox at: http://www.WilmingtonNRHS.com
The Transfer Table
The Transfer Table is published six to ten times per year as the newsletter of the Wilmington Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Items in this publication do not represent the official position of either Officers or Members of the Wilmington Chapter or the Editor of this publication.
Permission to reprint articles and news items appearing herein is granted to NRHS Chapters and other newsletters provided appropriate credit is given. Contributions are always welcome and should be sent to the editor at SD40GMA@aol.com or send to: P.O. Box 1136, Hockessin, DE 19707-5136. Deadline for entries is the 25th of the month.
President Phil Snyder
Vice President & Historian Ron Cleaves
Treasurer Ralph Stevens, Jr.
Secretary Dan Frederick
National Director Tom Posatko
Editor Greg Ajamian
Public Relations Frank Ferguson, Jr.
Event Photographer Bruce Barry
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