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Steamtown's Grand Opening Day:

July 1, 1995

A News From The Northeast Special Report

by Paul R. Tupaczewski
Article and Photos 1995
(paultup@interactive.net or ptupaczewski@attmail.com)

NOTE: Click on the word Photo while reading the story to see the corresponding image.

Complete Photo List With Full Descriptions At Bottom Of Page.


Saturday, July 1, 1995 was the culmination of almost a decade of work by many dedicated volunteers to set up one of the premier steam locomotive museums in the world. Judging by the thousands of visitors pouring into the Lackawanna Valley of northeastern Pennsylvania, it seems that they've succeeded in a most glorious fashion. Steamtown National Historic Site officially opened for business that day, with a level of pomp and circumstance not seen in the northeastern United States in quite some time.

Early morning fears of bad weather were soon driven away, as the sun broke out in places, and the weather remained dry (yet very humid!) for most of the day. The early morning visitors were treated to a line-up of four active steam locomotives at the west end of the yard. Sitting shoulder to shoulder were (from north to south): Steamtown's Canadian National 2-8-2 no. 3254, Susquehanna 2-8-2 no. 142, recently-relettered Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern 4-6-2 no. 425, and the most impressive locomotive at the festival (in terms of sheer size), Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 no. 261. (Photo) (Photo) Crowds were awed by the sight of four simmering steamers... in 1995, no less! (Photo) The Milwaukee 261 crew members all proudly wore red "Trains Magazine" caps (the 261's water car also carried a small "Trains Magazine" sticker on its sides); Kalmbach Publishing reportedly funded a portion of the move of the locomotive from Minnesota to Pennsylvania.

Steamtown's other "big" steam locomotive, Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 no. 2317, headed up an excursion of Susquehanna passenger cars, with a surprised visitor tucked in behind the steamer - newly-painted NYS&W E9 no. 2400! The E-unit was along to provide HEP power for some of the cars, as well as to give the steamer a boost up the stiff grade to Moscow on the former DL&W main to the east. (Photo) The classy maroon train made a nice sight behind the Pacific as it barked out of town. (Photo)

Meanwhile, Steamtown's other active steam locomotive, Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-6-0 shop switcher no. 26, posed on the new turntable for all to admire and photograph. (Photo) The new interpretive museum displays, housed in what would have been the original roundhouse stalls (long since demolished, but rebuilt by the National Park Service, complete with "DL&W" cornerstones), are very well done and interesting and entertaining as well. The only original part of the DL&W enginehouse that was left standing was restored to its original condition, and is used to service the active steam locomotives. A catwalk lets visitors safely walk around the engines being tended to, and on this day, Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 no. 759 was sitting quietly inside one of the stalls. Reportedly, this locomotive will be Steamtown's next restoration project. (Another possible restoration is a Boston & Maine Pacific, and Steamtown is working with the Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Chapter NRHS on this project) Sitting outside the Steamtown restoration shops were NYS&W GP38 no. 2012, sitting back-to-back with Conrail GP38 7868 and its Operation Lifesaver caboose, for the diesel-minded fans. (Photo)

Steamtown has also been busily restoring many other pieces of history at the site. The former oil house was refurbished, with one half being turned into a gift shop, and the other half restored to its original oil house interior. Elsewhere in the yard, three beautifully restored Lackawanna coaches sat, resplendent in their "correct" olive green paint. Other noteworthy items in the yard included a pair of PRR X26C boxcars, restored to correct PRR lettering; a Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad wedge plow (Photo); a CNJ steam crane and boom car; and the Milwaukee no. 261's beautifully-painted tool car. Canadian Pacific (D&H's parent) had also provided two of its "museum" display baggage cars, which had a treat for modern railfans - artist's renderings of their forthcoming AC44CW diesels from General Electric!

Around Noon, the early morning excursion carefully returned with the no. 2317 running backwards pulling the train to the platform. The NYS&W E9 now played the role of "observation car," and was conveniently out in the open for photographers to shoot. (Photo): (Photo) After unloading, the train quickly made its way east again to the first passing siding. It was to meet a special excursion being run from Pocono Summit for the NRHS Convention (being held in Lancaster). Delaware-Lackawanna power was scheduled to handle the run, but what appeared coming down the grade into the Steamtown facility surprised more than a few people. (Photo) In the distance, a "ghost" of sorts - two Erie Lackawanna units spliced by a Delaware & Hudson "lightning stripe" unit! (Photo) As the train neared, it became evident what was going on: The two "EL" units were Delaware-Lackawanna C425's, repainted into the EL scheme (but with D-L lettering) and even renumbered into their original EL numbers, 2452 and 2461. (Photo) The "D&H" unit is a Delaware-Lackawanna RS36, repainted into D&H paint and its D&H number, 5019, but with D-L lettering as well. In fact, the road went so far as to create a new shield with "The D&L" replacing "The D&H" to complete the image. (Photo) Needless to say, all three units made quite a sight.

As the NRHS special arrived, President's Clinton's official band, a Marine Corps band from Fort Lejeune, NC, played for the crowds. (Photo) The festive atmosphere quickly set people into the right frame of mind for the 1 PM "Parade of Steam." The locomotives were maneuvered carefully into place for the parade. (Photo) Then, the crowds lined up on either side of the yard, and watched as the six active steam locomotives paraded by. Steamtown's 0-6-0, with a special sign mounted to its pilot, burst through a red-white-and-blue banner to start the parade (Photo), as Smithsonian transportation curator Bill Withuhn narrated the event from the pilot of Steamtown's Union Pacific "Big Boy" no. 4012. (Photo) Following the 0-6-0 were (in order) CP no. 2317 (Photo) : (Photo), CN 3254 (Photo), NYS&W 142 (Photo), Milwaukee 261 (Photo), and RBM&N 425 (Photo). The last two engines provided quite a show as they put out great quantities of smoke and cinders (much to the dismay of some wearing white clothing!)

After the parade, everyone made their way toward the enginehouse, where the Marine Band played some more until the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Speeches began shortly after 2 PM, just as dark clouds and rolling thunder in the hills to the north and west of Scranton put a few jitters into the event. Surprisingly, the sun stayed on the podium area, while the clouds skirted the city during the entire ceremony. Speeches were made by several dignitaries. (Photo) Finally, at around 3 PM, Congressman Joseph McDade and the NPS head cut the ribbon to officially open Steamtown to the public.

Shortly after the speech, the rain began to pour down, but it did not dampen the spirits of all involved. The rain let up after a short period of time, then the big excursion was set into place. Milwaukee no. 261 led the excursion consist, which was to run all the way out to Pocono Summit on the DL&W line east out of the city - no diesel helpers this time! The big engine began the trip sitting on a grade, and began to violently spin its wheels. After grabbing the rail, the mammoth locomotive reasserted itself and steadily and loudly barked out of town in one of the most memorable departures perhaps ever witnessed at the site. (Photo) The rain began again as the Delaware-Lackawanna diesels cautiously made their way to the eastern end of the park to wait for the excursion to return.

At approximately 5:00, the NYS&W excursion consist backed down from its passing siding to allow its Syracuse-bound passengers to board (the previous day, the NYS&W ran an excursion from Syracuse to Scranton, with its passengers staying overnight at the University of Scranton dormitories). Tacked onto the head-end of the train was (in order) NYS&W 2-8-2 no. 142, NYS&W GP38 no. 2012, and NYS&W E9 no. 2400, perhaps gaining the award for "strangest lashup of the year." (Photo) The train then began to back town to the wye at the west end of the yard to get onto the D&H's line for its northbound trip. (Photo) As the train backed around the wye, one of the trucks of the E9 derailed going over the tight radius curve of the switch. It took crews an hour to rerail the truck, and another hour-and-a-half for the D&H to come out and inspect the track. It was decided, reluctantly, to cut off the steam locomotive (it limited the train's speed to 40 MPH), and run at track speed (60 MPH) with the diesels. So at 8:30 PM, 3-1/2 hours beyond the scheduled departure time, the train stormed up the D&H, making very good time in what was quickly becoming a very violent thunderstorm. (Photo) The Syracuse-bound passengers would not be home until the wee-hours of the morning. It made a interesting sight rolling through the fog and mist later that evening. (Photo)The 142 followed the train up the line running solo, trailing by several miles.

Notably missing from the festivities were the other two planned steam locomotives. The Lowville & Beaver River Railroad Shay, which did make it down from its northern New York location, was flagged by the FRA for a number of minor defects, and sat at the Delaware-Lackawanna enginehouse for the whole day awaiting repair. The L&BR is a member of the Genesee Valley Transportation family, operators of the D-L; hence, the engine being brought down to the D-L engine facility. Also missing was the Pere Marquette 2-8-4 no. 1225; it seems that the engine couldn't clear the dwarf signals in the new CN tunnel to Sarnia, Ontario. The engine was to double-head with the Milwaukee no. 261 across Canada, and this excursion was to defray much of the costs of moving the engine. Since the trip wasn't going to happen, the engine's keepers reportedly (and reluctantly) decided not to make the expensive trek east.

This would be a good time to make an observation about trespassing. It seems that people had free reign to go virtually ANYWHERE during this event! The yard was open to all to walk through, and though thoughts of massive government liability insurance come to mind, everyone behaved themselves and no apparent problems were noted. The NPS and Steamtown Volunteers Association are to be thanked for allowing everyone to "have a look around," and hopefully this policy of openness will continue beyond the grand opening festivities. Hopefully visitors will be respectful of the equipment and behave responsibly as well.

The National Park Service and the Steamtown Volunteers Association are to be commended for the superb job they did at the site, and for the excellent treatment afforded the visitors. This author strongly recommends a trip to Scranton to see all the superb offerings. Steamtown is indeed a world-class museum now, and the area has much to offer for the family. The adjacent mall, as well as other historic sites in the region (notably the Lackawanna Coal Mine tour), can provide days of interest.

Well done, Steamtown - WELL DONE!


Photo List:

All photos taken July 1, 1995 and are copyright by Paul R. Tupaczewski

Pictures may be freely redistributed for non-commercial use.

(Photo) - NYS&W GP38 2012 and Conrail GP38 7898 sit back-to-back with Conrail's Operation Lifesaver caboose in front of the Steamtown restoration shops (former Lackawanna diesel shops).

(Photo) - The NRHS excursion stops at the Steamtown unloading platform, led by three Delaware-Lackawanna Alco diesels.

(Photo) - The NRHS excursion drops down the steep grade into the Steamtown yard, being led by three freshly-painted Delaware-Lackawanna Alco diesels.

(Photo) - A close-up rear 3/4 view of Delaware-Lackawanna C425 no. 2461, ex-EL 2461, and restored to its original EL colors with D-L lettering. Note the "EL-style" DL logo on the rear of the unit, as well as the LV-style diamond toward the rear of the hood.

(Photo) - A close-up front 3/4 view of Delaware-Lackawanna RS36 no. 5019, ex-D&H 5019, and restored to its original D&H colors with D-L lettering. Note the "D&H-style" D-L logo and the fresh new paint!

(Photo) - A view of the Delaware-Lackawanna snow plow in a very colorful and complex paint scheme, featuring no fewer than six colors! The plow is resting at the Steamtown yard.

(Photo) - Delaware-Lackawanna C425 no. 2452 rests after arriving at Steamtown, while the Marine Corps band from Fort Lejeune, NC plays on.

(Photo) - Nice telephoto head-on view of NYS&W E9 no. 2400 with the hills of the Lackawanna Valley in the background.

(Photo) - "The Susquehanna Streamliner" sits by the Mall at Steamtown. NYS&W E9 no. 2400 leads a large consist of NYS&W passenger equipment, including dome car no. 509.

(Photo) - Steamtown's Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-6-0 no. 26, wearing a commemorative sign on its pilot, bursts through the red-white-and-blue ribbon to begin the "Parade of Steam."

(Photo) - Steamtown's Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 no. 2317 is second in line in the Grand Opening "Parade of Steam."

(Photo) - The railroaders dressed in traditional garb, as well as the classic Canadian Pacific "beaver shield," combine to make an image that brings back memories of the past for Steamtown visitors, as CP no. 2317 rolls by in the "Parade of Steam."

(Photo) - Steamtown's Canadian National 2-8-2 no. 3254 confidently strides along in the "Parade of Steam."

(Photo) - Susquehanna's Chinese-built 2-8-2 no. 142 provides some interesting variety as it makes its way through the crowds during Steamtown's "Parade of Steam."

(Photo) - Now THAT'S more like it! Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 no. 261 lets the smoke loose as it puts on a spectacular show for visitors at Steamtown's "Parade of Steam."

(Photo) - Last but not least, and certainly making an attempt to emulate the Milwaukee Road 261 that it's following, Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern 4-6-2 no. 425 chugs onto the scene to wrap up the "Parade of Steam" at Steamtown's Grand Opening. Note the unique blue paint scheme, and the relettered tender; it has worn "Blue Mountain & Reading" lettering in years past.

(Photo) - Smithsonian Institution transportation curator Bill Withuhn (at microphone) narrated the "Parade of Steam" from the front of Steamtown's "Big Boy" no. 4012; celebrated Congressman (and Steamtown savior) Joseph McDade is to the left of Withuhn.

(Photo) - Congressman Joseph McDade is the final speaker during the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Steamtown's Grand Opening. Other notables in the crowd included NYS&W President & CEO Walter Rich (in blue shirt at left).

(Photo) - What a sight! Three steaming locomotives cautiously make their way back to the west end of the Steamtown yard to ready themselves for the "Parade of Steam." From left to right: NYS&W 142, Milwaukee 261, and CN 3254.

(Photo) - Steamtown's Baldwin 0-6-0 no. 26 takes a spin on the newly-restored turntable. The National Park Service has lovingly restored the entire roundhouse complex, as can be seen in this photograph.

(Photo) - Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 no. 2317 leads NYS&W E9 no. 2400 and a train full of happy passengers east out of the Steamtown yard, passing the old Lackawanna concrete tower at the yard's end.

(Photo) - The proud crew of Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 no. 261 take time out to pose with "their baby" at Steamtown's Grand Opening. The red caps all read "Trains Magazine." Just look at that shine!

(Photo) - The all-weather cab of Milwaukee Road no. 261 provides a classic photo, with a nattily-attired gentleman at the throttle. Check out that derby!

(Photo) - The crowds at the event were tremendous, and some of this is in evidence here, during the lineup of steam for photographers. Looking out onto the crowds are (left to right) Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern no. 425, Susquehanna no. 142, and Canadian National no. 3254.

(Photo) - The "Steam/Diesel Limited" poses at Steamtown. Canadian National no. 2317 leads NYS&W E9 no. 2400 and a long string of passenger cars. Note the grade leaving the yard; Lackawanna and Erie Lackawanna trains struggled leaving town in either direction!

(Photo) - The final excursion of the day leaves the yard, as Milwaukee Road no. 261 storms out of town with photographers recording the event on film for posterity. The locomotive single-handedly took the train up the steep grade without any problems, except for an initial wheelslip. The Mall at Steamtown is seen to the right.

(Photo) - As the end of the day neared, the NYS&W excursion to Syracuse backed out of the yard. The steam-new diesel-old diesel combination sure turned many heads this day!

(Photo) - The "Lashup of the Year." NYS&W 2-8-2 no. 142 leads NYS&W GP38 no. 2012 and NYS&W E9 no. 2400 back around the wye at the west end of the Steamtown yard. Three different paint schemes, three different eras! About a minute later, the E9 was to foul up the excursion by derailing its big A-1-A truck on a switch.

(Photo) - Making up for lost time, the crew of the NYS&W passenger extra has both units in Run 8 as they assault the hill to Clarks Summit on the former Lackawanna (note the old DL&W signal bridge in the background, with the new CP Rail System "Safety First" sign). The train roars by in a cloud of carbon smoke at a smooth 50 MPH while climbing the 1% grade and trying to outrun the thunderstorm overhead.

(Photo) - Perhaps the most dramatic image of the day was this final view of the NYS&W passenger extra rolling off the west end of the famed Nicholson Viaduct, which itself is enveloped in wisps of fog. As the final light of day (this is 8:45 PM, photo taken at 1/60 second at f4) illuminates the train, the happy passengers slowly begin to relax and sleep; many won't arrive home until well after 2 AM.