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Topics - Steve Klare

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Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad / Farmington Yard Today
« on: October 11, 2018, 03:33:46 PM »
So what is Farmington Yard like today?

When I was 20 years old, I went up to Franklin County for the first time and I did some exploring: I went to all of the major towns on SR&RL and found all of the yards and stations I could.

Farmington was great: being that the Maine Central was still there it was very easy to still imagine it as the SR&RL junction. Access was very good: I walked up into the old transfer yard and the raised grades needed for the SR&RL's  lower floor heights were still obvious.  I found a line of really shredded looking old ties off in the weeds. I kept a small piece: it smelled of cedar. I whittled it down to On2 size, brought it home and made a tie in my own SR&RL.

My timing turned out to be very good: the next summer when I went back, the Maine Central was gone.

A couple of years later a Spring flood took down the Maine Central's steel bridge over the Sandy River.

I became very involved in the museum line for several years, but usually bypassed Farmington and headed direct to Phillips.

Since then they've built a movie theater (Narrow Gauge Cinemas) on the former yard. I think they moved the station house too.

It's nice of them to honor the SR&RL this way, but  have the changes obliterated it as a historic site?

Is access as good as it once was?

Massachusetts' Two Footers / A Two Foot Memory
« on: July 18, 2018, 12:43:46 PM »
I have family near New Bedford, Mass. When  I was seven years old my family did a great vacation up near them.

It was a great week. I got to hang out with my cousins, we visited my Mom's aunt and uncle in Fair Haven and while we were at their house, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and we watched it on their ancient TV. We visited the Battleship Massachusetts and I got my very first ride in a narrow gauge train over at Edaville.

-just maybe this experience would cost me thousands twenty years down the road!

The real point of my story is we stayed at a campground near Rochester. It was a great week, there was a pond there with frogs, I got to see my Dad light a campfire with wet wood using gasoline (he wasn't a patient man...,) and there was this really unique trailer on one of the campsites.

Even to a first grader (going into second), it was obvious that this was meant to look like a caboose. It was red, it had a cupola and end platforms. To an SR&RL fan, almost 50 years later,  it's even more obvious that it was meant to look like an SR&RL long caboose!

Given the proximity I'd say somebody with a pretty respectable tie-in to Edaville built this thing so they could stay close by in style!

Has anybody out there ever seen it?

If I was a modern 7 year old, I probably would have snapped a picture with my Cell, but for me that finally came nine years later on 35mm at East Broad Top.

Of course we know that the SR&RL was pulled up (mainly) in 1936, but we should also know that nobody's perfect. It's hard to imagine they got every inch of track, everywhere. Many railroads have disused spurs that become disconnected from the main. It's hard to imagine the scrappers always being motivated enough to wade through the brush and around the trees and away from the flatcar with the ramp and winch to get a couple more lengths of rail when they have a bunch on the flatcars already and they just want to get back to town and have dinner.

Back in my Sandy River Railroad Park days. Mack Paige told me of a find they made while out prospecting. They used to go off looking for useful stuff long forgotten. Once they recovered a couple of sets of freight car wheels from Toothaker Pond, for example.

On this one day, they were looking around in the woods near Madrid Village.  Mack was walking through the leaf litter on the ground when all of a sudden he stumbled over something very solid, he had a feeling about it so he fished around with his toe about two feet further along and it happened again! He dug down and found two rails. The spikes were still there, but the ties were long gone. This "track" stretched at least a hundred feet, sort of in gauge except where the trees had made it otherwise.

They thought about trying to salvage it, but they were a long way from the road and this would be a hard carry. In the end they decided the best thing was to just leave it in place: a tiny remnant of the SR&RL.

I've heard stories of other "track" and even "switches" over on the F&M in what was once a logging yard .

Of course these are nothing compared to the fantasies that sometimes pop up of someone throwing open a shed door and finding an intact Baldwin practically ready for steam, but is interesting to think how many overlooked scraps of the SR&RL may be left today.

Other Narrow Gauge / Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway
« on: August 16, 2013, 10:25:28 PM »
Here's a really interesting one.

The Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway was a genuine 30" gauge railway (just for you "n30" fans out there) in Staffordshire in the UK. Pretty little line with beautiful engines. It would make a great model, actually.

What's unique about it is they used tranporter wagons European Style to move small standard gauge freight cars to customers along the 8 mile route. (Not practiced anywhere else in Great Britain). As a result there were isolated standard gauge sidings scattered along way.

What's even better to me, as a fan of old films of narrow gauge trains is there's a YouTube video of them doing it!

I've been curious for a long time about the SR&RL coat of arms, the one that has the motto "The Scenic Route" in it.

I don't recall ever seeing on a document that existed during the time the Sandy River was still in business, and a part of me wonders if HT Crittenden himself created it for "The Maine Scenic Route" when he first published it in the 1960s.

Can anyone here document it earlier?

Bridgton & Saco River Railway / First Trip to Bridgton
« on: July 18, 2011, 02:13:02 PM »
After years of visying Phillips and Sheepscot I am a month away from my fist trip to B&SR country.

I have a couple of questions:

How accessible is Bridgton Junction? Is there a lot left to find there?

How is Hancock Pond?

Any really good spots along the ROW worth seeing?

We are camping on Long Lake and I already have an understanding with my wife that while I usually go along with her when she goes off shopping, this time is different.

If the timing is good, I will come over to WW&F too!

Other Narrow Gauge / Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
« on: April 29, 2010, 10:40:22 AM »
The RH&D is a unique line in England's south. It is 15 inch gauge and powered by what are basically miniatures of standard gauge express engines. There are a number of lines in the world that fit this description, but what is special here is it is licensed by the British Ministry of Transport as a public railway, so it is not considered a "ride" or a "model", it is a railroad. It is often called the narrowest narrow gauge railway in the world (with some qualifiers....).

This line was built by two British race car drivers in 1927, and it is built for speed. It has almost 14 miles of right of way, most of it double tracked.

The engines stand roughly shoulder height on a full grown man. Many of the steam engines are classic British designs, but others look very American.  All are coal fired, and the driver has to shovel for himself. Most of the engines on the line fall into two classes: Pacifics and Mountains. The  4-8-2s are the only ones ever to operate in Great Britain. The 0-4-0 that was used to build the line was found in a junkyard in the 1970s and restored. Even on this line she’s considered tiny so she gets out only on lighter days and special occasions.

The cars are mostly double trucked and single seat wide with side doors. Trainsets are usually in matching colors and often operate around ten cars long.

Of course there is a lot of tourist and railfan traffic, but the line has a contract to bring children to school and there is also some local commuter traffic. These are usually pulled by one of their diesel mechanicals. There has been some limited freight service, mostly from quarrying. The line was taken over by the Military during WW2 and used to carry pipe for a fuel pipeline built under the Channel following D-day. There was also a small armored train carrying an anti-aircraft gun which locals swear took down an enemy plane at least once.  

I have never been to England and only seen this line in films. When I go there I will be sure to go see it for myself!

Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad / Pony Plows on the SR&RL
« on: May 17, 2009, 12:36:20 PM »
I was watching the Moody/Martin film of the SR&RL the other day and during the winter sequence I noticed that every engine except #24 had a pony plow. This included #17 (old, pilot truckless Forney),  9 and 10 (technically passenger engines designed for speed, not tractive force) and #18 (lighter, older prairie).

Of all the engines to be out in the drifts with a bare pilot, there was #24: bigger, heavier, newer, more powerful: on the surface of it the best plow horse of the bunch.

-it just doesn't make sense!

Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen #23 with a pony plow either.

It makes me wonder if there was something about the SR&RL pony plow design that just didn't hold up to the tractive abilities of the biggest engines and once they crumpled a couple they gave up and kept the big guys reserved for shoving a wedge plow instead.

-any thoughts?

Other Narrow Gauge / Sakhalin Island Narrow Gauge
« on: November 07, 2008, 11:02:38 PM »
Just a little Story:

In 2002 my wife and I decided we wanted to adopt a baby. We did a lot of research and decided that the best thing would be to adopt from Russia (there's a lot of detail left out along the let's leave it at that. It's trying to be a railroad story after all!)

So in late January, 2003 we got a notification from our adoption councilor that our paperwork was fine and we had Aeroflot tickets for early February. We had about a half hour debate over the best way to put it off until June or July, but slowly realized that if we were really serious about this then a little thing like a Russian Winter shouldn't stop us.

So now we have just gotten off a plane on Sakhalin Island, Russia. We are 2/3 of the way around the world on the western shore of the Pacific and 15 Hours ahead of Eastern Standard (jet lag like you can't even imagine...).  We are off the coast of Siberia and it is 10 degrees F and there are 5 feet of snow basically everywhere. It really is about 10 feet, but they say it crunches down under its own weight. It is not exactly tropical.

So we are rattling away from the airport in a minivan when what do I see but railroad tracks, but not just any railroad tracks, but obvious narrow gauge. (!)

So I find myself in Railfan's Hell: there is an entire narrow gauge railroad out there, but I can't break away from the adoption group. I don't have my own wheels, and the Sakhalin Islanders aren't used to having foreigners poking around their railroad and might just arrest me!

Turns out the Sakhalin Railroad was built as a 42" gauge line when the island was part of Japan. When the Soviets booted them out at the end of WWII, they kept it that way up to present days, including captured Japanese steam well into the 1970s. They say there is a museum near where we were, but I never saw even a rivet of it!

Much like when I saw the Maine Central tracks in Farmington in the summer of 1982, it was a one time thing: there is a project underway right now to convert the system over to Russian Standard Gauge (5'), so if we ever go back it won't be the same.

The little boy we brought home to be our son (10 months then, six years now) loves trains. Like a kid born in Narrow Gauge Country should, his first train ride anywhere was from Sanders to Phillips on the SR&RL and the second was the round trip from Sheepscot on the WW&F (no Alna Center yet).

We have a loop of LGB in the yard, and talk about some HO in the basement. Maybe even an On2 revival some other time.

Being a railfan is great. Passing it on to a son is better!

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