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Messages - Richard "Steam" Symmes

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Volunteers / Re: A few stories ...
« on: June 14, 2011, 10:38:58 AM »
Great story!  Many people today have no idea what folks went through back in the 30s and 40s.  We're so used to having everything we want "right now", that it would be difficult to do without as people did then.  Growing up in the 40s and early 50s, I experienced some of what your riders described.  My dad still saved balls of string, foil wrappers from candy bars, and he even spent hours retrieving bent nails from a nearby construction project and straightening them with a hammer to use for himself. In a way, I think that simple life was better for people. It taught them self reliance, thrift, and the value of things. I'm glad I experienced it.


It may open, but I see no chance for the place ever to come back to what we remember. As someone stated, people aren't into that sort of thing in large enough numbers to make it pay. The old 5-1/2 mile ride was enough so that you felt you had gone somewhere. The present 2 mile ride at 5 mph is not going to excite too many kids.  Basically it became an updated version of the old Pleasure Island, and they couldn't make a go of that place even back in the day... nor at Freedomland in NY either. Trying to pump new life into what's left of Edaville is like water torture. Better they euthanize it now and be done with it.  The condos and McMansions will take over sooner or later so let's spare ourselves any more agony of watching it die by stages. 


Volunteers / Re: Restroom Construction
« on: June 03, 2011, 10:26:15 PM »
One of the best rest rooms I've seen at an attraction is the "River Bank" at Clark's Trading Post. It fits their "Main Street" like a glove, and the tongue-in-cheek humor of the signage in the windows is very good.  Inside is always spotless, like the rest of their facility. That's very important no matter what design you pick... it has to be super clean at all times.

Richard Symmes

This may be stretching it a bit, but I've heard that there's only a couple of hundred pounds of original metal in the famous Civil War locomotive "General".  It has been rebuilt so many times over the decades that it barely even resembles its as-built appearance.

In the 1960s it was made operational and toured the country under its own power for a couple of years.  There's a great picture of it steaming over New York's Hell Gate Bridge with a much later vintage "Jim Crow" combine in tow!

Now it's "put up" for good, but what has really been preserved?  Its old rival, the "Texas" I believe is still on display someplace in Atlanta or vicinity.  I don't believe it was ever made operational again.

Many vintage aircraft are made to fly again. Some are extremely rare and in my opinion should not be flown due to the chance of destroying them. Others exist still in the dozens. Obviously there's nothing like experiencing a machine in operation vs standing cold and dead in a museum. But all the consequences must be taken into account with each example. What are the odds, and what is the best choice for preservation?  Replicas may indeed be the way to go. The "new" German ME-262 jet fighter is a great example of the latter.


John, I have no quibble with anything you said, but how much is enough, or too much to have to spend for a questionable benefit?  Phillips is so far "off the beaten path" that real steam or imitation probably isn't going to make much difference in the overall draw to the place by the "public".

I point to the MEC 501 "restoration" project at North Conway as another debacle.  All those years, decades even, spent raising money in dribs and drabs, and no real plan. Failure was almost an assured outcome. People have been dead for years who gave money to that and other projects and they will never see them completed. Many more will follow.  Good intentions are not enough. 

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from giving money, volunteering their labor, or anything else to forward the cause of restoration of steam or any other part of railroad history. All I'm trying to point out is that many of these "projects" are long on enthusiasm and short on a real plan, both in what is going to be required, and how to finance it. And someone competent must monitor it every step of the way.


At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, I would have to question just how deep into this thing the SR&RL folks are getting themselves.  This seems to be a classic "tar baby" (sorry PC folk!) with no end in sight.  It seems a lot like the Boston & Maine 3713 and/or Flying Yankee restorations....where the work goes on and on and on, along with pleas for more and more and more money, without ever seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

As my "steam" ID suggests, I'm all for getting steam running and have donated many dollars in the past to various restoration projects. I'm getting leary though of these "black hole" projects which seem to have been ill-conceived with respect to how much they were going to cost in real terms, not pie in the sky.  At $47,000+ I think the folks at Phillips are already in way over their heads.  Many of us could elect to dump in hundreds and thousands more, but will that even be enough?  Who knows?

I think a thorough re-evaluation ought to be done by a competent independent source before another dime is committed to this project.  I'm absolutely sure that everyone connected with this is well meaning, but at the same time I think an objective, non-partisan viewpoint needs to be sought and a breathing spell taken before plunging deeper into this.


Bridgton & Saco River Railway / Re: B&SR mile post
« on: March 21, 2011, 09:18:08 PM »
I am no longer associated with the Beverly Historical Society & Museum and its Walker Collection. Dave Fletcher is the new Walker curator and I'll ask him if he would photograph the mile post from both sides and and place images of it here.  At the time that I gave it to the Walker Collection in 1984 it seemed like the best place to preserve it. Anyone can go in there and look at it and it's safe from deterioration. I don't regret that decision.


Bridgton & Saco River Railway / B&SR mile post
« on: March 20, 2011, 08:05:57 PM »
Back in 1961, a friend of mine had a camp up near Bridgton which we used to visit in the summer. I was 20 at the time and had only recently discovered the Maine 2 Footers via Moody's book. So naturally we did some exploring in the area.  In spot south of Bridgton there was a stretch of old roadbed right next to the highway. It was sand ballast with nearly all the ties still in place. We got out and walked some of it. In doing so we discovered a wooden mile post still standing beside the roadbed.  The paint was gone but you could still make out letters/numbers "embossed" on the wood. One side had BJ 15 and the other had H 6. My friend had a pickup truck so we came back with it and dug out the post and loaded it in the truck. This was broad daylight, in plain view, no houses around but the highway only 20 feet away. 

I took the post home and "planted" it in my yard, painted it white with black letters, and there it stood for 20 years.  When we sold the property after my parents had passed on, I dug it up and cut off the bottom which had pretty serious rot issues.  Then I donated it to the Walker Transportation Collection at the Beverly Historical Society & Museum, where it remains today. 

They also have an SR&RL mile marker which is a square wooden post with a metal sign mounted on the top with the miles indicated from up around Dead River. It was picked up over 30 years ago and was badly deteriorated.

It was a great day at Clark's Saturday. Not too many people, bright sun, but kinda cold and windy!

The Lombard ran very well. Everyone got a ride or rides. Anyone who wanted to attempt steering had a chance to try that. The only drawback of the operation was that there was no place to turn around, so it was strictly a back and forth operation. Lombards will back up, but they don't like it very much. Steering one while backing is pretty tricky, expecially trying to stay on the road.  You can't see behind at all, and must rely on someone walking alongside to call out instructions. 

The steering is about as responsive as the Titanic's was!  You turn and you wait and wait for something to happen. Finally she begins to come around, so then you over-compensate and you begin heading back toward the puckerbrush!  Lots of fun, but we all made out okay. Even 8 year old Adam Fletcher got a shot at it and loved the experience. He's a budding artist, and while warming up in the car, he drew a pencil sketch of the Lombard which came out pretty well. 

By mid afternoon the shallow snow cover was getting pretty slushy and the going got tougher, so it was decided to put up.  By then the crowd had pretty well thinned out to just the diehards.   

It was a great time and we owe a big thank you to all involved in the operation.

Richard Symmes

Museum Discussion / Re: Rotarys, Flangers, and Plows! (Oh My!)
« on: March 08, 2011, 07:42:06 PM »
I remember seeing a homebuilt "snow blower" tried on the Mt. Washington Cog Rwy. back a dozen or so years ago when they experimented with being open in the winter for skiers. I don't know how well it worked, but video of it looked impressive. Seems to me it was mounted on some sort of flatcar.  Anyone know what became of it?  I've seen similar rigs close to home used for clearing sidewalks, etc., usually mounted on some sort of tracked vehicle.

Back in the 1960s or so, the Long Island Railroad had a rotary plow, but I don't know if they ever used it. I recall seeing photos of it, possibly at their shops, in the summer. There may have been other eastern roads with them, but that's the only one I can think of offhand.

Richard Symmes

General Discussion / Re: Eagle Lake & West Branch *PICS*
« on: March 08, 2011, 09:36:09 AM »
Thanks Terry,

I guess we may never know all the answers to these mysteries. But you sure have more of them than anyone else I've known.  Have you considered publishing a book on the EL&WB? If not, I wish you would, as I'm sure do many other people.

Thanks for sharing all your knowledge.

Richard Symmes

General Discussion / Re: Eagle Lake & West Branch *PICS*
« on: March 07, 2011, 12:15:45 PM »
So, short of levitation by space aliens in the Allagash woods, how did #1 end up where it is if there were no doors on the enginehouse on that side?  What are the most popular theories?  Enquiring minds want to know!

Richard Symmes

Several large scale live steam models of the SR&RL 24 exist in various places around the world. I've seen videos of one in England which is about 2-1/2""=1' scale. It's extremely well done and if no people are in the scene, you'd think you're looking at the real deal! It runs on 7-1/4" gauge track which normally is used for 1-1/2" scale trains. So building one in any scale is possible, all it takes is money!

General Discussion / Re: Eagle Lake & West Branch *PICS*
« on: February 26, 2011, 01:41:19 PM »
Terry Harper, it's been a long while since we talked about the EL&WB.  I would dearly love a print of engine #2 standing by the well on the wye track which you posted here.  That's only the second photo of one of the engines in operation there that I've ever seen.

Please let me know how to arrange to get a print of that.  My snail mail address is:
Richard W. Symmes
16 Frankwood Ave.
Beverly, MA 01915

email me at:

Thanks for sharing all this terrific material.

Richard Symmes

Maine Narrow Gauge RR Co. & Museum / Re: B&SR 7
« on: December 02, 2008, 02:16:47 PM »
Glad to see #7 will be worked on at Alna. More folks will get to see it there. As General Electric's old slogan used to go:
"Progress is our most important product".

Richard Symmes

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