All Aboard for History

The boys and I were supposed to be camping this week in the Adirondacks. However due to an unforeseen circumstance we had to cancel our trip. This past Sunday I had asked Max if there was anything he would like to do for a day trip. After a few minutes of deep thought Max responded “Steamtown”. I was totally caught off guard but thrilled just to spend time together.

We left late morning Monday timing a lunch stop at the Waffle House in Clarks Summit before we got to Steamtown. The Waffle House is my new addiction as the hash brown bowls are so good. Even better the prices are inexpensive as well.

After lunch Max and I would finish our trip arriving at Steamtown shortly after. It was a beautiful day in Scranton as we toured the grounds, took a short train ride around the facility and wondered through the roundhouse looking at several of the locomotives currently under repair. Max just like his mother has a passion for history. I myself love history but I am more of a photographic history person. One of the highlights for me was being able to walk through a RPO “Railway Post Office”. America’s mail used to move mostly by rail and I have always been fascinated by the process. Max and I sat and watched a short film about life aboard an RPO which I really enjoyed. “Before tweets, texts and emails, people communicated using written correspondence – letters, postcards and such. The U.S. Post Office Department – now the US Postal Service – employed thousands to collect, sort and deliver these letters, along with newspapers, magazines and small parcels. The Railway Mail Service was a significant mail transportation service in the U.S. during the time period from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century. The RMS, or its successor, the Postal Transportation Service (PTS), carried the vast majority of letters and packages mailed in the U.S. from the 1890s until the 1960s.”

During our adventure we learned that Steamtown and the Nation Park Service have plans to restore to operating condition the largest steam locomotive in the collection, a Union Pacific “Big Boy”. This behemoth weighs 1,200,000 pounds, is 132 feet long and produces 6,000 horsepower. Currently the Union Pacific Railroad is restoring one to full operating condition at their Cheyenne, WY facility with plans to run it in 2019. Max was all about a road trip in 2019 to see this beauty storming the rails once again.

We finished out our afternoon at the museum store, had our National Park passport stamped, picked up a few souvenirs and headed for home. Super fun afternoon spending time with my son.

Here is just a brief history of Steamtown:

Steamtown was originally founded in 1964 by millionaire Nelson F. Blount. Blount established a non-profit organization, the Steamtown Foundation, to operate Steamtown, USA a steam railroad museum and excursion business in Bellows Falls, VT. In 1984, the foundation moved Steamtown to Scranton, conceived of as urban redevelopment and funded in part by the city. But the museum failed to attract the expected 200,000 to 400,000 annual visitors, and within two years was facing bankruptcy.

In 1986, the U.S. House of Representatives, at the urging of Scranton native Representative Joseph M. McDade, approved $8 million to begin turning the museum into a National Historic Site. By 1995, the National Park Service had acquired Steamtown, USA.

My new food addiction “Hash brown bowls” at the Waffle House. Clarks Summit, PA © Joe Geronimo
Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton PA. © Joe Geronimo
Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo
Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo
Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo
Max and I taking the short train ride around Steamtown and Scranton. © Joe Geronimo
Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 #759 in the roundhouse at Steamtown. © Joe Geronimo
Louisville & Nashville RPO #1100 at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo
Reading Railroad #903 & #902 stand guard outside of the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA. © Joe Geronimo
Union Pacific “Big Boy” Steamtown National Historic Site. © Joe Geronimo. The trend toward size and power culminated in the 1.2 million pound, 6,200 horsepower 4-8-8-4 “Big Boy.”
The “Big Boys” were built for power. They did the work of three smaller engines, pulling 120-car, 3800 ton freight trains at forty miles per hour in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.
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Photo of the Week:

Steamtown's "Ice Harvest" train accelerates out of Scranton, PA on January 17th 2009.
Steamtown’s “Ice Harvest” train accelerates out of Scranton, PA on January 17th 2009 by Brian Plant.

This week’s “Photo of the Week” comes from Brian Plant of Syracuse, NY. On January 19th 2009 Brian captured the essence of American history as Steamtown’s “Ice Harvest” train accelerates out of Scranton Pennsylvania taking its passengers to Tobyhanna, PA where the Ice Harvest Festival was taking place at Mill Pond #2.

Stop on over to see Brian’s Flickr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/98250884@N06

Frank Chetko, Photographer Endicott Johnson Shoe Manufacturing Circa 1950

Frank Chetko, 78, of 2177 Lagoon Dr., Dunedin, FL, formerly of 118 Glenwood Ave., Binghamton, NY, went to be with his Lord, Wednesday, August 19, 1987, at his daughter’s home in Johnson City, NY. He was predeceased by his wife, Anna, in 1985. He is survived by a son and daughter-in-law, Charles and Nancy Chetko, Bridgeport, CT.; two daughters and sons-in-law, Shirley and William Merrall, Dunedin, FL, Roxanne and Paul P. Misata, Johnson City; seven grandchildren; four great grandchildren; a sister, Mary Pigos, Binghamton; also several nieces and nephews. He was a photographer for the Binghamton Sun, the Endicott Johnson Corporation and retired from SUNY-Binghamton. He was a charter member of the National Press Photographer’s Assoc. He was a 50-year member of the Sokol USA and the Honorary Chairman of the Public Relations Department Sokol USA. He was a past president and member of Lodge 36 Sokol USA. He was a member of the Czechoslovakian American Society in St. Petersburg, FL. He was a navy veteran of World War II, a member of the First Ward American Legion, and the DAV Chapter 60. He was an avid athlete, playing baseball for the Triplets, playing semi-professional football and basketball.

http://www.frankchetko.kwikfold.com/index.html

Binghamton Clinton St. Store
Binghamton Clinton St. Store
Factory on Helen Drive, Johnson City,NY, built 1921, named for the successful conclusion of WW I housed West End and Women's Fine McKay operations with a capacity of 22,000 pairs of shoes daily. Bob Blakeslee worked in cutting room of West End in 1951.
Factory on Helen Drive, Johnson City,NY, built 1921, named for the successful conclusion of WW I housed West End and Women’s Fine McKay operations with a capacity of 22,000 pairs of shoes daily. Bob Blakeslee worked in cutting room of West End in 1951.
EJ Security Annex in Endicott,NY. with light-colored IBM facilities in the background.
EJ Security Annex in Endicott,NY. with light-colored IBM facilities in the background.
Endicott Oak Hill Ave. Plant
Endicott Oak Hill Ave. Plant
Infants Factory on Corliss Avenue, Johnson City, NY, built 1916, called the Pioneer Annex by locals. The first two floors were used to produce shipping cartons for the company.
Infants Factory on Corliss Avenue, Johnson City, NY, built 1916, called the Pioneer Annex by locals. The first two floors were used to produce shipping cartons for the company.
C.F.J. Factory (Boys,Youths,& Men's McKay Operations) adjacent to Lester Avenue,J.C., NY built in 1913, named for C.Fred Johnson, brother of George F.Johnson producing up to 24,000 pairs of shoes daily. Cafeteria with porch serving up 2,000 meals intially at 15¢ each, 35¢ in 1951. Victory Factory on left.
C.F.J. Factory (Boys,Youths,& Men’s McKay Operations) adjacent to Lester Avenue,J.C., NY built in 1913, named for C.Fred Johnson, brother of George F.Johnson producing up to 24,000 pairs of shoes daily. Cafeteria with porch serving up 2,000 meals intially at 15¢ each, 35¢ in 1951. Victory Factory on left.
EJ factory complex in Endicott,NY
EJ factory complex in Endicott,NY
EJ Workers Public Market, adjacent to C.F.J. Park, Johnson City, NY, built in 1934 for $120,000 with 40,000 square feet, 200 vendor stalls, and air conditioning replacing the original market, open to everyone 3 days a week. The official name was "John S. Patterson Market", named for the private caterer George F. Johnson paid to start the original market in 1917. The market closed sometime in the mid-50's and was converted to the Zing Factory for manufacturing.
EJ Workers Public Market, adjacent to C.F.J. Park, Johnson City, NY, built in 1934 for $120,000 with 40,000 square feet, 200 vendor stalls, and air conditioning replacing the original market, open to everyone 3 days a week. The official name was “John S. Patterson Market”, named for the private caterer George F. Johnson paid to start the original market in 1917. The market closed sometime in the mid-50’s and was converted to the Zing Factory for manufacturing.
Ranger/Paracord Factory adjacent to C.F.J. Park in Johnson City built in 1944 to produce footwear for the military. Locals referred to the new (and old) Paracord plant as the "rubber mill." C.F.J. Park swimming pool at left of picture. The Pagoda Pump-house can be seen at the left of the photo is the only preserved structure from this entire factory complex which covered about 30 acres. The Gannett printing facility now occupies this site.
Ranger/Paracord Factory adjacent to C.F.J. Park in Johnson City built in 1944 to produce footwear for the military. Locals referred to the new (and old) Paracord plant as the “rubber mill.” C.F.J. Park swimming pool at left of picture. The Pagoda Pump-house can be seen at the left of the photo is the only preserved structure from this entire factory complex which covered about 30 acres. The Gannett printing facility now occupies this site.
Looking West along Lackawanna tracks at Willow Street,Johnson City.Sunrise Factory in center completed in 1929 named to suggest a new day coming in the nation. Sunrise produced the all-rubber boots and overshoes for EJ with a walkway across the tracks to the Jigger Factory at right built in 1926, taking its name from the rubber-soled canvas-topped footwear called "Jiggers. Both factories initially used a common labor force of some 400 employees. In the summer,Sunrise workers produced foot-wear for winter use; in the winter, the same workers moved to the Jigger factory and produced footwear for summer use. Jigger was demolished in February 2012. Light factory at the left was the Fair Play Caramel Company.
Looking West along Lackawanna tracks at Willow Street,Johnson City.Sunrise Factory in center completed in 1929 named to suggest a new day coming in the nation. Sunrise produced the all-rubber boots and overshoes for EJ with a walkway across the tracks to the Jigger Factory at right built in 1926, taking its name from the rubber-soled canvas-topped footwear called “Jiggers. Both factories initially used a common labor force of some 400 employees. In the summer,Sunrise workers produced foot-wear for winter use; in the winter, the same workers moved to the Jigger factory and produced footwear for summer use. Jigger was demolished in February 2012. Light factory at the left was the Fair Play Caramel Company.
Sunrise Factory looking west. All Sports Factory on left partially obscured by smoke from train engine.
Sunrise Factory looking west. All Sports Factory on left partially obscured by smoke from train engine.
C.F.J. Annex (center) in Johnson City, housing the heeling, lining and trimming departments built in 1921.
C.F.J. Annex (center) in Johnson City, housing the heeling, lining and trimming departments built in 1921.
"All Sports Factory" in foreground at Lackawanna Railroad crossing at Baldwin Street, JC, NY built in 1923. Originally called South End Factory, then the Welt Factory. Ice skates and cleated athletic shoes were the most popular products. The Sunrise Factory can be seen on the left.
“All Sports Factory” in foreground at Lackawanna Railroad crossing at Baldwin Street, JC, NY built in 1923. Originally called South End Factory, then the Welt Factory. Ice skates and cleated athletic shoes were the most popular products. The Sunrise Factory can be seen on the left.
Pioneer factory complex at the corner of Willow Street and Corliss Avenue, looking west on Corliss Avenue occupied an entire block. The original factory had a 225 horsepower Corliss steam engine to supply power.
Pioneer factory complex at the corner of Willow Street and Corliss Avenue, looking west on Corliss Avenue occupied an entire block. The original factory had a 225 horsepower Corliss steam engine to supply power.
Endicott Johnson Complex on North Street, Endicott, NY
Endicott Johnson Complex on North Street, Endicott, NY
Nurses Home in Johnson City provided housing for 85 nurses and student nurses at Wilson Memorial Hospital (in background). The facility was given by C. Fred Johnson in memory of his wife.
Nurses Home in Johnson City provided housing for 85 nurses and student nurses at Wilson Memorial Hospital (in background). The facility was given by C. Fred Johnson in memory of his wife.
Chas. S. Wilson Memorial Hospital Annex on Clinton Street, Binghamton, NY
Chas. S. Wilson Memorial Hospital Annex on Clinton Street, Binghamton, NY
Fire Prevention Station No.1 on Avenue B in Johnson City,NY
Fire Prevention Station No.1 on Avenue B in Johnson City,NY
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Any information about the locations of the photographs,
Frank Chetko, or EJ would be appreciated.
Captions by Bob Blakeslee who worked at EJ in the fifties are appreciated.
More of Frank’s photographs are available.

Contact Dennis Dunda (607) 722-4377

Visit http://www.kwikfold.com for trade show displays, photography,
and web site creation.

“Snow trains” to the slopes may be making a comeback

By T.D. Thornton | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

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It’s taken more than half a century, but the notion of traveling to ski country by train is starting to shift from archaic to retro chic.

“Snow trains” were once the backbone of New England skiing, when rail service from metropolitan areas was responsible for the sport’s initial popularity. Then a decades-long shift to vehicle dependence triggered a widespread phaseout.

But now, in isolated pockets of the Northeast, riding the rails is reemerging as a desirable, even practical, option for hitting the slopes. With a twinge of nostalgia and renewed focus on energy-efficient commuting, could limited train service to ski resorts come back into vogue?

“I think people are trying to do the right thing with travel in terms of being more green,” said Bonnie MacPherson, director of public relations at Okemo Mountain Resort. “In fact, part of our master plan includes the potential for a railroad station here.”

It’s difficult not to have trains on the brain at Okemo, where one ski run includes a bridge that spans active Green Mountain Railroad tracks. “We’re unique in that you can actually ski over a moving train here,” MacPherson said. “It bisects the property two times a day.”

At present, those tracks are strictly for freight cars. But Okemo has benefited from a shuttle bus that started operating this winter to meet the Ethan Allen Express from New York when it makes its Vermont stop 25 miles away in Rutland. MacPherson said the free shuttle is subsidized by local businesses, and makes a loop that includes lodging, restaurant, and bar stops.

“That was sort of the missing link for us,” MacPherson said. “Rutland is kind of halfway between us and Killington, and I know Killington has always done really well [by courting rail passengers from New York]. Before the shuttle, our customers were kind of on their own with transportation out and back. The ridership is definitely increasing.”

America’s first dedicated snow train debuted on Jan. 11, 1931, when the Boston & Maine Railroad’s “Sunday Winter Snow Sports Train” took 197 passengers from North Station to Warner, N.H. By the end of the season, the railroad had ferried 8,000 day-trippers into the hills.

A branch to Conway, N.H., was added in 1932, and lines from New York, New Haven, and Hartford implemented service to other northern outposts. In 1935, the first run from New York to the Berkshires carried 500 skiers and twice as many onlookers; the snow trains were so popular that non-skiing passengers clambered aboard just for the novelty of it.

A front-page Globe headline on Feb. 22, 1936, boomed “250,000 Going Into The Hills” and warned that “there was such a crush between 4 and 4:30 p.m. at North Station yesterday that commuters had hard work getting to their trains.” The platform was an impenetrable mass of skis and poles, as “thousands of sports fans jammed two 12-car snow trains until all standing room was gone.”

Each week a network of northerners telegraphed snow reports so railroad officials could customize snow train schedules that ran in all the Boston papers on Thursdays. Trains started rolling north on Friday nights ($4.35 round trip), and B&M even hired onboard instructors to give tips to newcomers. If you didn’t own boots or skis you could rent them for a buck per pair in a converted baggage car ($1.25 if you splurged on metal instead of leather bindings).

World War II drained enthusiasm from ski train excursions, and poor snow years in 1948 and ’49 led to prolonged decline. B&M ended snow train service on the Conway branch in 1950, and as the interstate system expanded, New England’s new wave of ski resorts opened closer to major highways.

The fuel crisis of 1973 sparked a mini-revival of snow trains out of New York (including one called the Schaefer Beer Wagon, designed like a rustic barn and advertised as a “nonstop party to Vermont”). But the rail beds had so badly deteriorated that the trip took an hour longer than it did in the 1940s, and ridership plummeted.

In 1993, Sunday River purchased a private train and ran it between Portland and Bethel, Maine, banking on a future link from Boston to Portland. Sunday River operated the service for four years and lost a reported $750,000 while waiting for the connection; it would have needed to hang on for another four years to see the Downeaster Line finally become a reality in 2001.

Currently, railroads to the west and north of New England are reporting strong ridership with snow train experiments. In upstate New York this winter, Saratoga & North Creek Railway expanded to twice-daily weekend snow train service, offering onboard ski and snowboard handling, plus packages that include a lift ticket to Gore Mountain. In Quebec, a weekend ski train makes stops at a number of resorts in the Charlevoix region of the province.

Boston skiers can take the commuter rail from North Station to Fitchburg on Saturdays and Sundays, where Wachusett meets them with a free shuttle to the mountain, approximately 20 minutes away.

“The ski train was something that we had for years, but only in the past five years has it become popular,” said David Crowley, general manager at Wachusett. “Just this past weekend, we had 40 people ride the train.”

Crowley said the intriguing thing is that out of those 40 customers, a dozen decided to book lodging at Wachusett Village Inn for an extra day of skiing before taking the Sunday train out. “It was kind of spontaneous,” he said. “They weren’t people who had booked beforehand. I think we’re probably going to put together some sort of package.”

In the Granite State, a nonprofit organization called the New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association has floated an initiative to bring back “passenger opportunities along Route 16 in the Conway area.”

In Vermont, MacPherson said Okemo’s master plan that includes a slopeside train station “is not something that we would be able to spearhead alone” without public or private assistance.

“It would be fun to bring back the old ski trains,” MacPherson said. “Now with gas prices what they are, [train service] would have to be comparable in terms of cost and convenience, and would have to work to people’s schedules.”

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