Notes on Meetings of 2015-2013
for May Meeting
|| The May meeting of the Cornell
Railroad Historical Society featured another train movie
this one of a different era and quite a different story. Danger
Lights is a film from the early 1930s and uses the melodramatic
kind of storytelling that was popular at the time. Of most interest
to railfans and historians, however, is the setting. Much of
the film was shot along the Milwaukee Road main line across
Montana, a line that has been abandoned in large parts.
The movie was released in 1930, in both a regular and a wide-screen
format, but that wide scope version only showed in two theaters.
The widescreen version appears to be lost. Louis Wollheim, who
stars, went to Cornell University, and had his nose broken while
playing football. He often ended upplaying "heavies"
but in this film he is a good guy.
Our normal-screen version was shown at the May 12 meeting at
The History Center in downtown Ithaca. It had lots of steam
action, authentic railroading of the 1920s and a race across
the prairies near the ending.
Meeting Viewed One Long Train
||Our April 14, 2015 meeting presented
the movie "Silver Streak" made in 1976. It starred
GeneWilder, Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh and other familiar
actors. Lots of train action, a plot that combines romance,
comedy, disaster, mystery and more, but it does last more than
2 hours. Oh, well. It was still fun.
Returned for March Meeting with More Slides and Stories of
the LV In Dryden and Freeville
||Dan Armitage, who became a friend
and casual co-worker with crews on the LV in Freeville, starting
as a kid, came back with more amusing and instructive stories
of how and why the railroad operated on the former Auburn Division.
Meeting was on March 10 at The History Center, downtown Ithaca.
Meeting on Cold and Slushy Night: Railroads of Western New
York and Pennsylvania and Some Show and Tell
|Thanks to the difficult winter weather we have
been having (e.g. cold, very cold, snow, bad roads, not to mention
half our members seem sick of something, perhaps winter) we
had a mild turnout of only about eight for our February 10 meeting.
Still, we welcomed Ian Mackenzie, author of the new book "Railroads
Remembered a History of Railroads in Western New York and
Pennsylvania". Mr. Mackenzie spoke on the contents of his
work and brought forth a number of intriguing facts and points
of the history of railroads, especially in these parts. For
example, John Roebling, noted for engineering the Brooklyn Bridge,
originally made wire rope to be used in the planes built for
the canal railroads of Pennsylvania. Following the talk, Bruce
Tracy showed some rare Lehigh Valley items, including a "Conductor's
Box" as well as a switch-cleaning tool. Dan Armitage explained
how engineers in the diesel era had special tools to make their
jobs easier. Bob Travis had some rare old Lionel and tinplate
train catalogs. Gene Endres brought some route guides from the
Meeting With Frank Barry: His Early Adventures Chasing Steam
|Our meeting on January 13, 2015
at The History Center had guest speaker, Frank Barry, noted
photographer and chronicler of the last days of steam in North
America telling of his early efforts to see operating steam
locomotives in Germany and then in Mexico. It was in Mexico
that he met his wife, Barbara, and began to really tell the
story of the final steam operations in all of North America.
Since that time, Frank has also traveled as far as Patagonia
and East Africa, taking excellent black-and-white photographs.
For many of these he has been honored by the Center for Railroad
Photography and Art.
Former Cornell Railroad
Historical Society President John Marcham Died
|| John Marcham, former president
of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society died in Ithaca in
December. John was a real railroad enthusiast, a good friend
and a top-class editor. He oversaw the production and printing
of several notable rail books put out in association with The
History Center [museum] in Ithaca. Among them were: Lehigh
Valley Memories, The Gangly Country Cousin, Ups and Downs of
a Rural Line [history of the Elmira, Cortland and Northern].
John also edited, revised and updated, with additional photographs
and maps, A History of Railroads in Tompkins County.
Over the years, John ran his own newspaper, was an editor at
the Ithaca Journal and then at the Cornell University
Press. He was involved in many activities around Ithaca, and
always gave generously of his time and treasure to many projects.
John was an avid modeler, especially in the somewhat rare S-scale
We will miss him very much.
Meeting Brings the Excitement of Our Annual Auction
||At our December meeting, persuasive
auctioneer Steve Peck sold a variety of rail-interest items.
Some came from hidden attics and basements, others were flown
in especially from secure vaults in the mountains of Colorado
and Outer Mongolia. This was everyone's chance to acquire things
they never thought they would need, or to finally buy items
they had desired all their life. The CRHS Auction happened on
December 9, 2014 at The History Center in downtown Ithaca.
Taibi Took Us on a Trip from His New Book on "The
D&H - Oneonta to Binghamton" at Our November
|The November meeting of the Cornell Railroad
Historical Society convened on November 11, 2014 at 7 PM
at The History Center in downtown Ithaca. John Taibi, noted
central New York rail author talked about his new book in
the Roads, Rivers and Rails series from Depot Square Publishing.
The Delaware and Hudson's Susquehanna Division Heritage
Trail; Volume 2: Oneonta to Binghamton. Taibi personalized
his story of the D&H and its connection to all of the
towns served between the "City of the Hills" (Oneonta)
and the "Parlor City" (Binghamton) in the form
of a drive along the railroad. The book contains more than
600 first-generation color, sepia, and black & white
illustrations - from vintage stereoviews and post cards
to color photographs of current owner Canadian Pacific Rail
sharing the steel ribbons with Norfolk Southern. John proved
an exciting and engaging speaker and we excitedly await
his next visit, probably about the next work he is researching:
the Adirondack Railway.
Return to the Bath and Hammondsport
||The October meeting of the
Cornell Railroad Historical Society welcomed back Greg Dickinson,
our member/expert on all things rail equipment and history.
Greg has been photographing the resurrected Bath and Hammondsport
in its new incarnation serving the Steuben County Industrial
Development Area and other industries along the line north
and south of Bath. He showed us slides taken a few years
ago of operations on the B&H, including what must have
been the final freight run from Rheims and the last remaining
wineries on the line. It was just one freight car, but he
caught the turn on a beautiful fall day, just appropriate
for our October meeting.
Peck Toured Our Chapter Over the Alaska Railroad in September
|At the September 8, 2014 meeting of the
Cornell Railroad Historical Society, our vice-president
Steve Peck spoke and showed a video of his trip along the
Alaska Railroad in June. Peck spent part of the month working
on the construction of a fishing camp north of the Arctc
Circle, and then returned to Fairbanks and took the train
south to Seward. He also had a stop-off in Denali National
Park, but did not go into that in detail. His video, shot
on the train, showed many aspects of the trip and gave our
members a good idea of what the trip was like. Some will
be booking for next summer shortly!
Meeting Scheduled for August
|The Cornell Railroad Historical Society will not be
having a meeting in the month of August. This is our usual
time to relax and recuperate from the labors of the past
year. Like our esteemed Congress, we repair to various hideouts
to raise money, talk to friends who know nothing about trains,
and prepare for the coming busy fall season. In reality,
we usually cannot convince anyone to come and present a
program in August, so some members merely head for the nearest
railroad line to see what's passing by.
Picnic Meeting Held in Fine Weather
|On a bright, relatively mellow
and sunny morning of July 12 in Weedsport, New York, the
Cornell Railroad Historical Society gathered for their annual
picnic. The spot is an overpass of the CSX main line across
central New York. Members arrived shortly before 11:00 AM,
and already spotted a couple of trains before the official
start time. A gas gril was set up, and picnic foods put
out around noon. One unusual train was a welded rail train
heading west at fairly slow speed. It stopped with the Fred
end in view, apparently waiting before the crossovers west
of Town Line Road, so that other freights could get around
it. Once it moved on west, there was a lull, allowing time
for the linch. Later operations saw the eastbound Lateshore
Limited, running some 3 hours behind time, and the westbound
Empire Service, just about spot on time. The group later
adjourned to the Town Line Road crossing, and enjoyed several
more freights passing.
eastbound freight rolls past the Town Line Road crossing,
while CRHS members (behind crossing gates) catch the action.
picnic attendees line the Oakland Road overpass to catch
a westbound CSX manifest. (Photo: Endres)
10 Meeting: Greg Dickinson Explains It All
We had hoped that John Taibi, noted rail author with
many books to his credit on the railroads of the central
New York region, would visit the Cornell Railroad Historical
Society for our June meeting. He has recently released
his second volume in the Roads, Rivers and Rails series
on the Delaware and Hudson. These books, sumptuously printed
Square Publishing of Ohio, cover the history and operations
of the D&H from Oneonta to Binghamton. Unfortunately,
due to editorial confusion and absence from the meeting,
we instead had Greg Dickinson, our member noted for his
detailed knowledge of operations in and around Elmira,
giving a presentation with numerous photos on the railroads
in that area. Greg, as usual, did a great job in providing
information no one else has such a grasp on.
Meeting Viewed Photos of the Current Bath and Hammondsport
||Our May meeting, held at the
History Center on May13, was conducted by Steve Peck and
Greg Dickinson. They showed photos of the current short
line, Bat and Hammondsport, which operates a portion of
the old Lackawanna line between Bath and Cohocton. The original
line ran from Hammondsport, on Keuka Lake, to Bath, connecting
with the Erie and the Lackawanna. THAT was the "Champagne
Trail" but with the demise of the wineries, much of
the line's business evaporated, like the bubbles in a glass
of champagne. We did get to see a video of current operations,
and Greg also showed some somewhat related slides, since
his main presentation was inadvertently left behind.
Date Was Set for April Meeting: APRIL 1
|In cooperation with our host
venue, The History Center of Ithaca, New York, the April
2014 meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society
was held on April 1 instead of our usual second Tuesday.
We enjoyed a new video on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The
date change was to allow the museum time to mount their
ambitious new display on the creation of the Moog Synthesizer
in Trumansburg, NY: "Switched On"
Hard Coal Roads What Went Wrong?
|For the March 11, 2014 meeting of the Cornell
Railroad Historical Society, we viewed a new video on the
"Anthracite Roads" the coal-hauling railroads
operating out of the area of Pennsylvania where the rocklike,
hot-burning fuel was mined. The Lehigh Valley, Reading,
Erie, Lackawanna, Delaware & Hudson, as well as short
lines like the Lehigh and Hudson River and Lehigh and New
England were made wealthy by their coal business and then
were impoverished when that business disappeared. It was
a well-photographed and colorful look at the trains on these
lines, though the analysis of how things went bad was on
the thin side.
Photographer Frank Barry Returned in February
| The February 11, 2014 meeting
of the Cornell Railroad Historical Societywelcomed back
Frank Barry, who is working on a book of photographs of
his marvelous work following steam in Mexico during the
1950s. Barry was able to document the last days of steam
on the federally-owned Mexican railroads during that time.
His unique pictures have been honored by the Center for
Railroad Photography and Art, and his stories of how he
came to obtain the images make for fascinating story-telling.
It was a special evening of rarely seen pictures and stories
of the little railroads that were hardly noted in their
day and are virtually forgotten now. Frank managed to catch
the last mainline operations of steam in Mexico on the oddly
double-track but separated line between Mexico City and
Meeting:How Central New York Was Populated by Rail
||In the January 14, 2014 meeting
our editor and historian Gene Endres presented his Powerpoint
program on how people arrived in central New York via the
railroads. The presentation included a thumbnail history
of railroads and steam locomotion, and contained several
startling revelations from the US Department of Commerce
about how little the population of rural New York counties
changed over the railroad era. The meeting was on January
14 at The History Center in downtown Ithaca.
Auction in December 2013
|The December meeting of the
Cornell Railroad Historical Society had our annual auction.
Members contributed items of a railroad nature and Steve
Peck acted as auctioneer. There were the usual remarks from
the audience, some humorous or enlightening. It was a fun
event and helped raise money for our chapter. We especially
thank John Marcham who contributed a number of valuable
books that brought high bids.
|Norman Rockwell auctioneer
Convention and Varied
Show and Tell
||The November meeting of the
Cornell Railroad Historical Society featureed a report by
Dave Flinn NRHS Global Director on his experiences at the
annual NRHS Convention in Alaska. Following that we had
the chance to share objects, pictures, videos, stories and
other railroad-related objects for a "Show and Tell"
session. Greg Dickinson had a number of railroad lanterns,
some quite rare. John Marcham showed a rare book. Bruce
Tracy one of his usual mysterious rail objects.
Meeting Featured Historian John Taibi
||Noted local rail historian
John Taibi presented his program on the Oneida Electric
Railway, which ran from Utica to Syracuse. The first road
operating with under-running third rail electricity in New
York State, this line had many unique features. Taibi's
talk demonstrated many of them, and was filled with intriguing
and humorous anecdotes. Taibi is offering his 280+-page
book on CD as a PDF file for just $20. It will be a departure
from previous books, but, as Taibi notes, "It would
cost over $80 as a printed volume."
Palmer Brought the Black Diamond to Cornell Railroad Historical
Society in September
For the September meeting of the Cornell Railroad
Historical Society, historian Richard Palmer covered the
history of the "Black Diamond Express"
of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Once known as "the
most beautiful train in the world", it ran from New
York to Buffalo and Niagara Falls from 1896 until 1959.
His topic was a story in pictures of the Lehigh Valley's
famous train that operated for about 63 years. Richard
has written a book entitled "The
Handsomest Train in the World" which was
published by the Sayre Historical Society. He provided
detailed commentary along with his CD slide program.
Picnic Successful at Weedsport
|Cornell Railroad Historical
Society July Picnic was held on July 13, 2013 at the Oakland
Road overpass just north of Weedsport, NY. Members supplied
food, cameras, good times. Weather supplied some clouds,
some heat, general good weather. The CSX Corporation main
line gave us a number of trains and opportunities for good
photography. After some grilled foods and salads, we also
adjourned to the Town Line crossing for more train warching.
(Photo at Town Line Road by David Flinn)
Page revised by Gene Endres, February