Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and the Restoration of Engine 1309
Of all the weird plot spins in the story of steam’s final years, among my favorites is the Chesapeake & Ohio’s choice in 1948 to get 2-6-6-2s from Baldwin to support its procedures in West Virginia coal nation.
Consider that for a moment. That year, many American railways were buying huge amounts of new diesels from Electro-Motive, Alco, and also various other makers. Steam was plainly on the way out, no matter just how well a New York Central poppet-valve Niagara or Norfolk & Western Y6b may carry out.
Regardless of the trend of background, C&O remained in a jam as well as required power swiftly. It served the mines with a large roster of Mallet substances, some greater than 35 years of ages, as well as they were wearing quickly. Rather of opting for more of its modern 4-8-4 Greenbriers, 2-8-4 Kanawhas, or 2-6-6-6 Alleghenies, C&O stuck with a standard engine layout that dated back to its H-1 2-6-6-2 of 1910.
What arose was an order for 25 2-6-6-2s in what was the brand-new H-6 class. The order was quickly reduced to 10 engines after labor discontent in Pocahontas country depressed mine manufacturing. Those final Mallets, delivered in 1949 and also numbered 1300– 1309, would certainly be the last steam engines Baldwin would ever before build for a North American railway.
The tale of these engines has currency due to the fact that teams are tough at the office bringing H-6 No. 1309 back to life for procedure on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (WMSR). Based at Cumberland, Md., with a shop at nearby Ridgeley, W.Va., the vacationer line acquired the 2-6-6-2 in 2014 after the locomotive spent years at the B&O Railway Gallery in Baltimore. New as they were, the last C&O heavy steam engines never ever obtained adequate upkeep, extending the list of work needed to bring 1309 back to life.
The work in the WMSR shop has been taking place for months currently, led by specialist Gary Bensman as well as his Diversified Rail Services firm. The unexpected troubles are seriously pinching the railway’s funds, and also contributions are actively being sought.
The prospect of 1309 in steam stays exciting. The H-6 class had a lot alike with earlier 2-6-6-2s on C&O, yet the 1300s additionally had improvements you ‘d anticipate from postwar engines, including roller bearings and also improved lubrication. Out-of-date though they were on paper, they nonetheless were magnificent makers, in compound mode supplying as high as 77,900 pounds of tractive effort with their two collections of six 56-inch motorists.
As heavy steam chronicler Ed King puts it, “These were excellent engines, not possessing any type of superlatives in dimension or weight, yet they made a superb basic layout also much better.”
Ed is a Norfolk & Western partial, however he acknowledges that N&W’s rival C&O truly had something with its 2-6-6-2s. “N&W borrowed among the H-2s for testing in 1911, and it ran circles around N&W’s Y1 2-8-8-2, which was of moderate dimension,” Ed told me. “N&W acquired 15 matches of the H-2 in 1912 and also accumulated the globe’s second biggest fleet, 190 engines, by 1918. These engines got N&W via World War I.” Quite a recommendation, that.
Back to the H-6s of 1949: The brand-new engines invested their short occupations working out of the Peach Creek incurable on the Logan area. At first, the H-6s provided the C&O all the reliable power it asked for, however also new Mallets couldn’t ward off the myriads of GP7s C&O started buying in 1950 and also ’51; some of the 1309were retired as early as 1952, not even 4 years of ages. All were passed 1957, with the 1308 eventually mosting likely to a park in Huntington, W.Va., as well as the 1309 to the B&O Gallery. The 1308 is possessed and maintained by the Collis P. Huntington Phase, NRHS.
One could imagine what a spectacle the 1309 will certainly develop when it’s back in service. For a tip of that, I sought advice from an expert, the late Eugene Huddleston, the dean of C&O chroniclers and co-author of C&O Power, published by Al Staufer in 1965. Gene was a long time teacher at Michigan State and died in 2011 at age 80.
Gene’s book has plenty of truths and also numbers and also photographs, but it likewise contains vibrant accounts of his encounters with C&O steam. He recalls a visit to Logan in 1952, when he set up a meet the Scarlet Shifter, a regular train functioning the Island Creek Mine No. 27, a place thus far southern on the C&O it might be thought about N&W region. He captured a bus out of Logan and arrived in time to locate 2 H-6s taking water at a new wood storage tank; images from that day show the lead engine was 1309.
Photos of Clubs just tiptoeing about would not do, so Huddleston handled to get a ride out of town with an electrician who was leaving the mine. The motorist dropped him off regarding midway up the three-mile quality out of Scarlet. Gene takes it from there:
” Quickly the doubleheader slowly canted right into the curve, and also with never ever a slip, twenty-four vehicle drivers under 2 big central heating boilers generated sight and also audio which photo or tape record could never justify. Countless days considering that, the roar of twenty-four diesel cyndrical tubes has actually recoiled from the mountainside as two 2400 h.p. Alco roadway switchers in numerous procedure have actually duplicated the performance, however never ever once more will certainly this apotheosis of the vapor engine in action happen.”
“Apotheosis” is a pretty loaded word, yet I don’t doubt Genetics’s memory one bit. I make sure those two 1309relatively torn apart the Island Creek valley that great day. It’s something we all can look forward to repeating soon when, and not if, the Western Maryland Scenic has the 1309 back in battling trim. It ought to be quite a show!
Directions to Rice Tire, Cumberland MD from Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
Directions from Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to General George Washington’s Headquarters.