With summer comes longer days and here at the T1 Trust, we aren’t wasting any of our extra daylight! We have exciting news, progress on parts as well as more from Wes Camp to share so get comfortable and enjoy the latest T1 Trail Blazer.
As many of you know, the bronze keystone number plate was the first part of 5550 that we produced. This beautiful piece will not only help to identify 5550 but will travel with her wherever she goes. To help light the way, we are proud to reveal the headlight. Built from original PRR T1 blueprints by Gary Bensman, the headlight to adorn 5550 may now be sponsored in the Trust's Fundraising Center. The name of the headlight sponsor will appear on The T1 Trust website and a handsome donation certificate will be issued. As an enduring expression of gratitude, the Trust will also have the name of the headlight donor engraved onto the headlight casing.
Just as exciting as the headlight is the announcement of our first major corporate sponsor, Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation of Waltham, MA. SolidWorks has donated six software licenses to the Trust valued at an estimated $20,000. This software is crucial to helping us transfer original T1 drawings and blueprints into modern, computer-rendered images. What’s more, the sponsorship agreement calls for co-marketing between SolidWorks and The T1 Trust. We’re honored to welcome SolidWorks aboard and grateful for their confidence in The T1 Trust.
SolidWorks’ generosity leads us neatly in to a brief description of the progress the Trust’s CAD Team is making on rendering parts in 3D.
Detail of partial crosshead assembly from back engine, showing 19-3/4"piston, piston rod, nut, spacer, plug, crossheads, and crosshead shoe (assembled left, exploded view right).
Detail of No.2 Axle assembly, showing axle housing, #2 main driving wheel assembly (wheel center, counterweight, tire, and main crankpin), frame shoes, and Spring Saddle wear plates (assembled left, exploded view right).
Detail of No.2 Axle subassembly, showing upper and lower axle housings with liners, housing bolts, main axle and roller bearings (assembled left, exploded view right).
Last fall, the T1 Trust was fortunate enough to interview Wes Camp for a feature in the Trail Blazer newsletter. Mr. Camp was very gracious and provided us with so many great stories and so much material that it would never have fit in a single issue of the newsletter. In the Fall 2014 issue, we published the first part of the interview with Mr. Camp in which he told of us his early days and how he came to be involved with railroads and steam locomotives. Now we present Part Two of that interview which delves into Mr. Camp’s time working with Ross Rowland and The High Iron Company in the mid-to-late 1960s.
Q: How did you meet Ross Rowland and what was it like working with him at the High Iron Company?
A: A young guy, self-made leader and self-made man named Ross Rowland went to the Reading, down to the headquarters there at the end of 1964 and asked if there was any chance that the railroad planned on reviving the Reading Rambles. The Reading said, “Are you crazy? Are you nuts? We did that for five years, we wore out the old guys, Ben Kantner ain’t around, nobody knows anything. No, we’re never doing that again.”
So Ross took that as a cue. Okay, here’s an opportunity. Ross’s father, Ross Rowland Sr., had been a Vice President on the Jersey Central Railroad so Ross said, “Hey can you get me in touch with the guy who’s the head of the Jersey Central? I’ve got a proposal for him.” So Ross went to meet this guy, President of the Jersey Central and essentially the guy said, “Yeah if you want to run excursions, we can do that. But, you have to A, pay for the insurance and B, you gotta staff and run the trains because I don’t have the people to do it.” And so the insurance back at that time was a fairly small amount, not like it is today. So Ross started with a group of volunteers, an outfit called The High Iron Company and they ran two trips with one of the Canadian G5 Pacifics, a sister of the two that [George] Hart had and these were owned by Nelson Blount who founded and started Steamtown up in Vermont. And so Ross arranged the financial lease with Steamtown to use their locomotive to run two trips on the Jersey [Central] and so that started out The High Iron Company. But Ross and Blount had an understanding that Blount made his money in Rambling Excursion with the 1278 which was the sister to Hart’s engine, the 1286. Blount didn’t like four-digit numbers and he liked three-digit numbers for a steam engine so he shortened it by making that G5 number 127. So Ross in ’65 laid out a schedule of running over the Jersey Central who had agreed to run the thing on, at that time, an unheard of five schedules in May, June, July and August of 1966 but he didn’t have an engine. He came down to York [Pennsylvania] to meet George Hart and talk with them about using the 1286 up in New Jersey and that’s where Ross and I met.
What happened then was I had taken a full-time job on the Ma and Pa Railroad as a diesel fireman although you’d never fire a diesel, I didn’t know anything but I also worked for Hart on the weekends and we did a lot of steam engine maintenance and that kind of thing. I believe it was in December or January before the ’65 season in when Ross came down by train to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to meet the guy who was working with George Hart, the owner of the engine. And so they agreed on a money figure and made the document for Ross to lease those two engines from hart, 1238 and 1286 but so far the 1238 had never been run since it made it into the country but Hart agreed to get it running.
Ross and I met and he was interested in what a young guy was doing working down there. And I said, “I was wondering what a young guy like you was doing running excursions” since he was my age. We were 24 or 25 at the time. So anyway, Ross was a master organizer and leader and when Hart essentially sent the engine north to New Jersey, I called Ross as I was still down in York and said, “Do you need help with running the 1286?” And he said, “Sure. Come on up and bring your work clothes.” There was a bunch of us met up there, ran the five trips and caught a lot of people’s attention. We developed an audience of happy people who easily and quickly bought every ticket that we put out there for sale and most of the trains we held about a thousand people and made the expenses that way. That was in 1967 and at the end of that year, we had scheduled a steam in the snow excursion from Newark, New Jersey to Allentown and Bethlehem, then up into the mountains of Pennsylvania and into the heart of coal country to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The trip was a Sunday trip that was supposed to leave Newark at 8 AM and arrive in Wilkes-Barre in the mid-afternoon and turn around to head back down the mountains to get back into New Jersey early in the evening.
And before we got to do that, typical Ross Rowland he always advertised his stuff before he had his stuff so we advertised and sold the tickets but a funny thing happened along the way that wasn’t really funny…it was serious. The City of Reading had a steam power plant in town that provided steam for commercial purposes, for buildings and even a hospital in town and its boilers were condemned by the state inspector in early January of 1968. So the city called up their steam guy that they knew who happened to be Ben Kantner and said, “Can you get us two steam engines down like you used to do in the old days?” Because in the old days, they’d borrow an engine from the Reading to keep the steam plant going. I got a call from Ross on Saturday night around ten o’clock and he said, “Get over to the roundhouse in New Jersey. We’re taking the steam engines down to Reading because they got a steam power plant failure and there’s a hospital in town and we’re gonna save the world.” Again, a bunch of us got over there and Ross arranged to borrow an open-platform business car as a dormitory so we went down to Reading and put the two engines back-to-back. The town hired a welder and they connected up about a quarter mile of pipe from the siding where the engines were all the way up to where the steam plant was and tied the pipe into the city. Pretty soon we had two coal-fired steam locomotives shooting steam at about 75 pounds of pressure into the city. The challenge there was we couldn’t move the engines because they were connected to the pipe and the engines were fired by current or retired Reading firemen who knew how to fire a steam engine but again with the coal building up and the ashes building up, it was only about four hours before we had no where to dump the ashes. So the High Iron guys, myself included, we grabbed shovels and our job was shoveling the ashes out from under the engine and there was no pan or anything, it just fell on the ground. We had about a foot of space for ash space so we had to keep digging the ashes out of there and we did this for about a week to ten days until they got the boiler plant for the city fired up and returned to service. So we did that and thought we’d take the engines and go back to Jersey and get ready for the trip coming up in just a few weeks but Kantner, Hart’s boiler man said, “No, the engine’s ain’t going back to Jersey. They’ve been ragged out down here and we’re gonna take these back to York.” So Ross had sold the tickets but had no engines and we had to do something for the trips that we had. Ross called up his friend in Steamtown, Nelson Blount, and said, “Hey! Nelson, I need the 1278. What can you do?” Nelson asked, “When do you need it?” and Ross said, “February.” So Nelson agreed to get it running and all we’d have to do was send somebody up to get it and we could have it.
Then Ross called a young fella over at Strasburg named Lynn Modinger and they had just taken ownership of the Great Western Sugar Beet #90 which still around today was a light Baldwin Decapod (2-10-0) and so those were the two engines we ran the trip with. Of course the rail fans went crazy. The two engines we had, we didn’t have and the two engines we got exceeded their wildest dreams so one of the things in the old days was you use a freight engine for a helper. So ’68 started out with the #90 and the #127 and we ran two fabulous trips. After they ran, in May of ’68 we ran a round trip from Philadelphia down to Cape May on the Jersey Shore with the 127 because we kept it that spring and we pulled something like twenty passenger cars across South Jersey and pinned everybody’s ears back with that. Then Ross asked me, “Do you think it would be possible to restore the Nickel Plate #759 Berkshire this year?” I said I didn’t know but it sounded like a good idea to me so we went up, me and another guy Hank Weber to Steamtown and investigated the Nickel Plate engine. We looked at the paperwork from the Nickel Plate Railroad and it had been re-flued, re-tubed and given a five-year boiler inspection in August of 1958 and had never been put back into service so that was what we called a zero-mileage engine. We wrote in those days what was left of the ICC in Washington and said, “Here’s the documents and the papers on the 759. Would you come up and do an inspection and see if you can give us an extension on the flues and tubes?” The ICC wrote back and said they would do it but we would have to pay transportation expenses and for the inspection which would be $100. We said ‘Okay’ and with that we towed the 759 from Steamtown out to Conneaut, Ohio which still had a roundhouse and the reason we went there was the author John Reedmore had written a book on the Nickel Plate and he essentially knew the vice-president of law for the N&W, a guy by the name of Bob Claytor. Claytor drafted up a lease agreement for the land and the roundhouse and that’s how the 759 got back to Conneaut. We took the jacket and lagging off and got the boiler stripped of all the insulation so the ICC people would be satisfied that they were looking at the boiler. We put the hydrostatic test on it and all that stuff.
Conneaut is where we ran into Doyle and Joe Karal who was the Nickel Plate’s boilermaker and a man from the same mold as Ben Kantner except that Karal was from Yugoslavia, he wasn’t German in the way that old Ben Kantner was. But anyway, Doyle at that time was a youngster hardly more than 22 or 23, fresh out of the navy and a very eager worker and Joe Karal was a genius at welding. What really made everything click for the 759 was when the ICC inspectors came out to Ohio to inspect the engine, the only people I had around the engine were the retired Nickel Plate roundhouse foreman, Joe Karal, and two boiler inspectors from the ICC, one of whom was an old Pennsy guy and the other was a New York Central boiler guy. When you get three boiler inspectors together, shit doesn’t stop. But anyway, Joe Karal was a terrific politician and sweet-talked those other two boilermakers who were used to older engines, they weren’t used to the up-to-date stuff the Nickel Plate had. Out of that we got a one-year extension from the ICC saying we could take and run the engine. So we arrived there in July and on August 17th, 1968 we had a fire on the grates and we were fired up and steam testing. We then ran a Nickel Plate trip from Conneaut to Buffalo and back and brought it to New Jersey because Ross again had sold tickets without having an engine. He sold tickets for a run from Grand Central Station up to Niagara Falls and back on the New York Central mainline with a Nickel Plate engine. But again, people couldn’t believe it.
We had a great trip. Bob and Graham Claytor brought their respective business cars and they were coupled right behind the eninge. And sure enough, we were up at the old steam terminal at Harmon, New York which was the end of the New York Central’s electric section of the Hudson Division. We left and stormed all the way up, had a couple of run-bys along the Hudson River and out across the Mohawk. We arrived in Niagara Falls at night and we were a little bit late but they had to turn the engine and turn the train all during that night. The engine and the train were being handled by a New York Central diesel switcher and the engineer was terrible at it. He had the presidents of two railroads trying to sleep and he was banging the cars around like they were coal cars. But anyway, we came back and completed that trip after which Bob Claytor invited us to Roanoke [Virginia] to run two steam trips from Roanoke over the N&W railroad.
After the N&W trips, we went to take the engine back to Conneaut for the winter, blow the engine out and store it in the roundhouse which had the windows broken out and no heat. Ross said to me, “Okay, Wes. I need the engine ready for May because we’re going out to Ogden, Utah for the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the driving of the golden spike.” And I said, “Gee, I’m glad you told me.” Because he had talked about it with Claytor when he was down there for the trips. At that time the N&W went all the way to Kansas City because of the mergers and so Claytor said, “If you want to do it, I’ll arrange it.” So we arranged.
We started the trip out of Grand Central in New York and the Penn Central was still its own company and hadn’t been [federally] taken over but it was still being run into the ground. Once we got to Buffalo we got back over to the N&W all the way out to Kansas City. The challenge we had with the Golden Spike Train was that we had ordered coal to be shipped to all of the points where we needed to take on coal. The problem was the coal was half-slate and so we had very little heat out of it but a lot of rock that turned into white dust that soon filled the firebox with ashes. It became a marathon of stopping every hundred miles, shaking the grates and washing the ash pan out and taking off again. At the time that we said “Yes”, we didn’t know we were going to have bad coal and we chased that bad coal all the way to Kansas City and back. The Union Pacific said, “The Nickel Plate  may be a fine engine but we’re the UP and you’re not going run your engine over our railroad. We go really fast and that engine won’t go fast enough so you’ll have to park it in Kansas City.” So the rest of the train, the UP hauled from Kansas City to Salt Lake and Ogden for the Golden Spike.
Half the crew stayed back in Kansas City with the 759 to wash it, do some boiler work and get it cleaned up because we were coming back in five days to take it back east. #
That concludes Part Two of the Wes Camp interview. Stay tuned for more.
The T1 Trust was invited by the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society to participate in that group's annual meeting held from April 30 to May 3, 2015 in State College, Pennsylvania. The T1 Trust presented two lectures and staffed an information booth at the conference. The headlight for 5550 was revealed at the meeting, and important announcements were made concerning the progress of the 5550 CAD model, corporate sponsorship, and new opportunities for donors who wish to support the project.
The T1 Trust’s Chairman, Brad Noble lectures at the PRRT&HS Annual Meeting
The T1 Trust's Representatives at the PRRT&HS Annual Meeting (L to R) Gary Bensman, Brad Noble, Jason Johnson, Scott McGill, and Wes Camp
The Trust has recently released a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of the wooden pattern needed to cast all eight drivers. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/t1trust/lets-get-rolling As part of the Kickstarter campaign the Trust is offering full sized bronze 5550 Keystones to project backers. The T1 Trust invites you to click on the link above to learn how you can own a piece of Railroad History.
This is for a great cause, to bring back the T1, and these number plates may well become the most prized of all T1 Keystones. There is a promotional video for The T1 Trust on the Kickstarter site which is definitely worth watching, this great overview is narrated by Rich Melvin of OGR Publishing.
There are many other exciting rewards on Kickstarter ranging from $10 to $10,000. “The Ultimate Railfan” package includes a 5550 Keystone combined with the opportunity to be one of the first people to run the T1 when complete.
5550 is destined to become a Thoroughbred of Steam and in a nod to horse racing parlance “The Box Trifecta” package offers up a very special bronze keystone. This keystone will adorn the prow of the T1 for the World Record Run and return to its owner afterwards becoming a truly priceless piece of railroad history.
Whether it is a coffee cup you are after or a Keystone Number Plate, don’t miss out. Visit Kickstarter today and support The T1 Trust.