Just after 1:00 AM January 19th, the Providence and Worcester's local freight from New Haven delivered ex-Green Mountain RS-1 number 400 to the Danbury Railway Museum's yard next to Union Station. Ten days after the locomotive left Bellows Falls, Vermont, about two dozen members waited anxiously at the museum gate for the big event. What should have been a four-day trip behind local freights of the New England Central and The P&W turned into a 10-day odyssey thanks to the previous week's record snowfall.
When the NECR and the P&W agreed to provide transportation, they stipulated that the museum would have to provide a rider on the idling locomotive at all times. Metro-North engineer and museum member Warren Hagenkotter volunteered to use some vacation days to begin the ride. Late in the evening of Monday, January 8, just as Mother Nature was finishing dumping two feet of snow on the Danbury area, the NECR local freight to Palmer, Massachusetts, picked up the museum's locomotive and headed south.
Part of the route the locomotive traveled included this interesting tunnel under the main square in the center of Bellows Falls, Vermont.
It handed off the RS-1 to another NECR local in Palmer the next morning. By Tuesday evening the 400 was in the yard in New London, and it was there that Hagenkotter spent his second night sleeping in the RS-1. The P&W picked up the locomotive on Wednesday and took it north to Plainfield, Connecticut, where it spent the night. On Thursday, another P&W local brought the museum's locomotive to New Haven, from whence it would be delivered to Danbury by still another local freight.
When Metro-North agreed to let the 400 move on its tracks to South Norwalk and then north to Danbury, it did so on the condition that it pass an inspection by Metro-North personnel before being moved. The chaos created by the blizzard of the 8th meant that Metro-North had more pressing matters to attend to than inspecting a museum's almost 50-year-old locomotive, and no date could be given when they might get to it. Warren Hagenkotter had to get back to work, and the museum had agreed to keep someone on board the RS-1 at all times!
The call went out for volunteers willing to spend a day or night babysitting a locomotive. The response was immediate and enthusiastic. Over a dozen members spent seven days and nights living on the 400. But this was not a day at the beach.
The Belle Dock section of New Haven, where the 400 waited, is an industrial district with no diverting views during the day and absolutely no people around at night. Several members tried to sleep sitting in the engineer's chair, and several others tried to sleep on the floor on cushions brought from home. No one emerged looking well-rested.
An idling locomotive is a very noisy place, making listening to the radio difficult. It also vibrates, making reading tough. But being railfans, the museum members who took a turn minding the 400 loved every minute of it. Museum member Mike Salata said, "Spending a night on a running engine for the first time in my life was anything but boring. Anything to do with the railroad is exciting."
Finally, on Thursday the 18th, Metro-North inspected and passed the 400. Word spread on the museum grapevine that that night's P&W local would be leaving New Haven with the locomotive in its consist.
Yardmaster Ed Blackman had rounded up a crew of about a dozen members after Wednesday night's general membership meeting to shovel out enough tradck to allow the 400 to enter museum property. Their good work allowed an uneventful arrival.
With motive power and coaches on hand, the museum plans to increase the number of trips it runs this summer.
A further Web page has information on the museum's purchase of this RS-1, some background on RS-1s in general and number 400 in particular, and more pictures.
Many museum members appeared in the yard with cameras on Saturday, January 20, as number 400 switched the museum's coaches from track to track. More photos will be posted here as soon as photo finishing and digitizing are complete.
The photos on this page were taken at Belle Dock by DRM member Ira Steinberg.
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