With camera hung around my neck, and camera bag slung over my shoulder, I probably looked like ‘Joe Tourist’. I headed straight to the UP 4012 big boy to capture a few frames with the camera. I then anteed-up the six dollar (most reasonable I thought) admission fee and with much anticipation I was off to enjoy the simple pleasure of gathering information concerning the art and science of railroading. I am suddenly transformed into a ten year-old child again, gleefully eager to take in all that this place had to offer! I had departed my ‘normal world’ of work objectives, and target dates. I was transformed into an almost surreal existence, so eager to take it all in.
One of the benefits of choosing a Friday in late January to visit was the fact that there were no crowds to be encountered. I would estimate that there were a dozen vehicles in the parking lot. I was unencumbered as I made my way through the museum’s roundhouse. It was wonderfully quiet, and I could allow myself as much time as I deemed necessary to absorb all that each ‘stop’ offered as I made my way along my ‘journey of learning’.
I hold a certain fascination for the workings of a steam locomotive they are magical inventions. It is easily argued that they provided their fair share in the shaping of the culture and the economy of our great country. They are a marvelous combination of the various components of mechanical engineering- the lever, the inclined plane, let alone the thermodynamic aspects of saturated and superheated steam. Yet, with all of the cold pragmatics of mechanical theory, they remain a wondrous, magical art form; a living thing, a tribute to man’s ingenuity and inventiveness. There is something deep within me that wishes to have been around during the heyday of steam- but that can only remain a wish. I must be satisfied with the fact that a paltry few of these mechanical marvels still remained in service when I was growing up in the 1950’s. Having said that, I found the presentation of the streamer with is cut-outs (exposing its innards) to be pleasingly informative and I spent much time gazing and absorbing. It provided me with a better understanding of (and appreciation for) the working ‘soul’ of a steam locomotive. While I found the museum to be well-populated with informative exhibits, this one most captured the interest and imagination of this visitor.
Not to be overlooked in the museum’s lobby is the pictorial, animated display of the history of railroading in the Lackawanna Valley (I spent the better part of an hour there). Certainly the choice of the roundhouse as the platform for the museum adds to the flavor and effectiveness of its presentation. My overall impression of the facility is that is a ‘must-see’ for any railroading fancier or for one who simply maintains a casual interest. It will provide hours (or days) of pleasure and knowledge.
A Guided Tour of the Shop
So onto the primary reason for my visit to Steamtown, that being the PRR 1361 K4s. I inquired at the information desk as to one’s ability to see the 1361 in the ‘shop’. I was informed that the museum offered guided tours of its ‘working’ portion, including the 1361. I expressed my desire to participate in such a tour, and was told to be present in the lobby at 2 p.m. I managed to work my way around the roundhouse scheduling just enough time to ensure my return to the lobby at the appointed hour. The tour consisted of Park Ranger Bill McCarthy (our tour guide), four other individuals, and myself. This proved to be a nicely-sized group, a size that provided the time for plenty of interaction between Bill and his tour group. One of my tour-mates had traveled from Idaho specifically to ‘take-in’ railroading museums (including Steamtown and the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum). Bill commented that the shop staff currently had four major restoration projects with the 1361 effort being at the top of their priority list. Other projects included an Erie Lackawanna steamer owned and operated by Steamtown, and a heavy passenger car owned by a Florida concern.
|Page 1||Page 2||Page 4||Photos||Home|