Author Topic: Recovering the Early History of the Museum  (Read 2820 times)

Ed Lecuyer

  • Administrator
  • Superintendent
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,591
    • View Profile
    • wwfry.org
Recovering the Early History of the Museum
« on: December 13, 2008, 05:08:21 PM »
MODERATORS NOTE:
Recovering the Early History of the Museum has been converted from the pre-July 2008 WW&F Discussion Forum.
Some formatting may have been removed or modified from the original postings that appear quoted in this topic.
Information contained within this post may be superseded by more recent postings and conversations.

James Patten wrote:
Quote
Bruce brought up a good point when he mentioned remembering the "good old days" of the museum.

Something I've thought about for a long time is creating a comprehensive history of the early museum, both before and right after incorporation of the "Sheepscot Valley Railroaders".  With Harry gone, and Clarissa going, the chance to get a direct point of view of the very early efforts is slipping away.

For instance - did you know that Frank Menair and Harry made a serious effort in the 1970s to rebuild the railroad?  Jason told me that once, I assume he heard it from Harry, but the details of it are very sketchy.

So what happened between Harry's purchase of right of way in 1985, and the museum's incorporation in 1989?  The incorporation didn't just happen in a vacuum.  Something had to be going on (probably at Sheepscot as well as in other people's minds) in the intervening years.

I realize there's a history of sorts written by Larson Powell in the reprinted "Two Feet to Tidewater" but I feel it doesn't tell the whole story.  Granted, 99% of people that visit the museum won't care about any back-room deals or politics or anything like that, but it would be good to preserve that knowledge should we ever write a "WW&F Railway Museum: The First 50 Years" book.

Joe Fox replied:
Quote
Funny thing you said something about a book being all about the museum. I have been thinking about the same exact thing, and then having it sold in the gift shop. However, like you said James, you need some back ground information on how it was first started, what made Harry want to rebuild the railroad, etc. I think that most of the volunteers, including myself would enjoy learning things like the begginings of the museum. Any information that you can get, please let me know about it, so that I can include it in the power point.
Here's a good question for you, how much money do you think Harry had saved up, so that he could start rebuilding the railroad?

Joe

James Patten replied:
Quote
I know Harry paid $40,000 in 1985 for the assets of railroad from the Winter Foundation (or Winter Scientifiic Institutes or whatever it was).  That included all the right-of-way property they still owned (approximately 60% of it) of the WW&F and, interestingly enough, some property in New Sharon on the FS&K.

Joe Fox replied:
Quote
That's a lot of money. I am glad though, that he started the reconstruction for the railroad, and that there are several of us that continue to expand Harry's dream.

Joe

Bruce Wilson replied:
Quote
James,

It might help to sit in with the directors of the Wiscasset & Quebec Railroad Co. and ask about the early days. Several have been involved since the inception. Edgar Mead was an early supporter of this project as well and I wonder if any of his correspondence with Harry might prove helpful.

If Harry's correspondence becomes available to the museum, I am sure that the museum's archival committee would work to make helpful facts known for such a writing of the museum's history.

I have a complete set of the museum's newsletters dating from the first Sheepscot Valley Railroaders mailings, to present.

James Patten replied:
Quote
I have the complete set of newsletters as well, Bruce (at least I think it's complete, there's a few missing month pairs that may be because of not publishing).  But, as we all know, the newsletters tell a tiny fraction of the story.  For instance - what really happened to make the deal buying those locomotivees from Eddie Gilbert fall through?  We see them mentioned once with pictures, but no mention of them ever again (not even a "the deal has fallen through" notice).

Bruce Wilson replied:
Quote
James,

The purchase of the two locomotives from Beaver Brook Transportation Museum was called off primarily because of the need to prepare the engines for trucking at a time when the Gilbert's were readying their museum for Christmas operations...their busiest time of year.

Volunteers from the W.W. & F. Railway Museum were invited to Beaver Brook to tour the museum and the Gilbert's gave us a nice lunch as well. We did some jacking and blocking of the 20 ton Whitcomb engine and put rail under the Plymouth diesel as well.

The Whitcomb had spent many years at Edaville in outside storage. At some point, Beaver Brook bought the unit and took it to New Hampshire. It's Hercules engine had siezed at Edaville because of a leaky head gasket and I was advised by an engine rebuilding firm in Norwell, MA that to rebuild that power plant would be very costly. Parts were difficult to find as well.

Later the W.W. & F. learned of the Carpenter Steel diesels and purchased the (now) W.W. & F. No. 52.

Jack Flagg of Cranrail Corp. (Edaville Railroad) then purchased the two engines at Beaver Brook. Jack removed the Hercules engine and original transmission and swapped in a turbo-charged Cummins diesel and manual-shift truck transmission.

In 1999, I operated this repowered Whitcomb over the 5 1/2 mile circuit at Edaville. The machine was a bear to operate and no one wanted to be assigned to this engine for a day. The cab was low as originally this machine had been built to operate in a mill setting with tight clearances. Every time I'd roll the engine over a rail joint, the left side of my head would hit the cab window frame. As I had hearing protectors (ear muff style) on, it was only a minor inconvenience for the first few trips, but then that constant banging as the four wheel machine hunted and plowed its way around, grew to be a real annoyance. And then there was the crazy gear shift. No one knew the shift pattern and the shift lever had a 90 degree bend in it as it came horizontally through the cab firewall from the engine compartment. It was and is a mystery box o' gears...

Because of the weight of the train and the slack action running in and out constantly, one had to find high gear immediately after beginning departure from Edaville station. Too early a shift would bring wheel spin, too late a shift would mean lugging the engine, slipping the clutch and having the weight of the train drag you to a stop.

The curves and grades at Edaville required some careful planning as you ran a train. The crowds and time frame dictated that things move orderly.

I do recall one evening when I missed a gear in that machine and ended up leaving the station in something that felt like an over-drive. I made a 24 minute trip around the 5 1/2 miles and absolutely rocketed through the park's main entrance gates at Cranberry Junction. I came into the station on the hind end of the just departing train.

After that first season, Jack totally rebuilt the cab of that Whitcomb. She was given a higher roof and new glass, and a beautiful paint job. Today, the engine is used only as a yard switcher. The critter is a beast beyond all comprehension however and the way she hunts, plows and rams her way through curves would not be good on the rails at Sheepscot, nor popular with your engineers.

Be very happy this rig never made it to Sheepscot...

A visitor to Edaville once asked me what it was like to run that engine. After a full day in her cab, I felt as though I had been punched in the head, kicked in the back and rolled down a hill in a steel drum full of rocks continuously for ten hours.

Vern made one trip in the cab with me and I'm trying to remember what he said after we both got out and regained our hearing (the machine had straight pipe for an exhaust and chain drive). I think he said ..."oh, my!"

(lol) more info than you wanted I'm sure James...

Allan Fisher replied:
Quote
James - Harry paid $4,000 for the ROW from the Winter Foundation.

I have  a copy of a letter Harry wrote  on his word processor that states this number.

I know a lot of figures have been bandied about - $8,000, $ 12,000, $40,000 - but at the time he bought the ROW (1985)  , the tax liability for the Winter Foundation annually was about $400 from the five towns charging taxes. (Alna, Whitefield, Windsor, China & Windsor) Harry quickly found a way to get out of the China taxes by letting the snowmobilers use the ROW , and sold off  two station lots in I believe Windsor, and China) He also sold couple of lots over the years in Whitefield for a total of $5000, but retained in the deeds an easement right for the narrow gauge if it were to ever operate there again.

Stewart Rhine replied:
Quote
James,  I remember the story of Harry and Frank Menair making plans to rebuild the complete WW&F.  I was talking to Frank about the rebuilding of the Memphis Streetcar lines which I had ridden.  He told me that there were a number of rights of way that were not truly abandoned. He said that he looked into rebuilding the WW&F and that most would have been rebuilt except for the Route 1 crossing in Wiscasset.  He said that would have been the biggest problem for the state and Feds so he wanted to rebuild the trestle to within 50 feet of the bridge and set a box car out near the end with a promotional sign on both sides.

I spent a lot more time with Harry but I never remembered to ask him about this plan.  Have you (or JML) ever heard of it?

Joe Fox replied:
Quote
I think it would be great to at least recreate the line from the southern 218 railroad crossing to Head Tide.

Joe

John McNamara replied:
Quote
I agree with Joe. While there has always been a dream to return to Wiscasset, we do not own any land in that town, there are two or three houses on the ROW, etc. The desire to get there is driven by two factors: 1) it's where the railroad originally terminated, and 2) it's where the tourists are.

However, there continues to be talk of a Wiscasset bypass that would cross Route 218 near Clark's Point Road, which is a rather short distance from where the railroad crossed 218. This project may bring the tourists closer to us. While the project will probably demolish the houses that are on the ROW, there are still a number of problems: 1) we don't own any land near there, 2) the widening of 218 left only about one foot of ROW, and 3) it's unclear there will be an interchange there (but I'm betting there will).

Joe Fox replied:
Quote
I think that if the railroad were to go into Wiscasset, then we might end up with some of the same problems that the Maine Eastern has. The tourist revenue would probably go up because the museum would be right next to a state road. That is one reason why I look foward to reaching 218, is the fact that more passengers might ride the train. However, then we should put a little ticket office up there were tickets can be sold, and have two trains run and meet each other at Alna Center. Then somebody said how do you know if somebody only got a round trip ticket to Alna Center and return? Well, there ticket should be punched, or have a sticker on it or something so that the conductor knows what is going on.

Joe

Stewart Rhine replied:
Quote
James, I forgot to ask. Regarding the early days of the museum, have you talked to John Christopher?  I know he worked with Harry when the Sheepscot Valley Railroaders was formed.

James Patten replied:
Quote
I have not talked with John Christopher, or with anyone initially involved with the W&Q or SVR/WW&F.

Allan Fisher replied:
Quote
I have already submitted an article for the next newsletter that tells the story of the first two or three years of the museum extracted from letter from long time member Don Perham, who helped Harry put the concrete ties in Bay 1 and built the first section of the enginehouse. It mentions two or three of the original working volunteers (including Don Martin (deceased), Harry Percival, and Dave Hart - who is still alive and kicking - and claims not to remember anything specific about the early days. Les Fossel was also involved early on  and I will work to get his recollections on paper this summer.

Art Ray & Starr Edgerton, John Christopher and Rick Bourdon were all involved as officers early on and need to be interviewed. Of course -   photos from that period are a great memory jogger. And Ken Maguire was Vice President in the 2nd and third year of the museum.

You are all invited to do interviews to get their recollections down on paper so that we can puclish in the newsletter. (and some day in a Book)

James Patten replied:
Quote
I talked with Dave Hart at Victorian Christmas about getting together with him at some point to talk about the early days of the museum.  He was willing to do it.

Is anyone interested in going with me to his house to interview him?  I drive by his house every day to work so I know where he lives.  We should have some form of recording media with us.

Bruce Wilson replied:
Quote
James,

I would be interested in meeting with you and Dave, to discuss the early history of the museum. Please advise...

Bruce
Ed Lecuyer
Moderator, WW&F Forum