Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

The Dog Tired Tour, Part 3

We resume our tour in Boston, having brought plenty of spare change (and at this time one of the lines did collect an additional fare at the far end) so I did not risk the fate of “Poor Charlie” and have to “ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston.”   For the westward part of the journey, I bought another $75 ticket, from Boston to Los Angeles, at the Greyhound station next to the “T” Riverside terminal.  I left Newton (where Riverside is located) at 8:50 a.m. and arrived in New Haven CT at about 11:40 a.m. Covering three states in less than two hours is a strange experience to native Californians.  

At New Haven, I checked in at their YMCA (see a pattern here?), then caught the local transit bus “F” line to Branford, home of what is now called the Shore Line Trolley Museum.  The bus followed the same route as the streetcar line that was abandoned in 1948, and even had the same route designation.  At Branford, I was welcomed as a fellow streetcar preservation worker when I showed my Orange Empire membership card and one of the members showed me around.  A volunteer motorman said, “We don’t have any PE Red Cars.  Would a North Shore interurban be OK?”  It sure would, and we took a ride in a car that, with a bit of customizing, could become an imitation PE 1200-class car.  Then I got to run a Montreal Tramways car, which was somewhat like the LA Railway streetcars back home.  I was tempted to visit the New Haven Railroad station and watch the transition from electric to diesel on Amtrak trains from New York to Boston, but it was hot, and my feet were still not the happiest feet around.

I must apologize for the lack of photos-- the slides from westbound part of the tour have disappeared into the abyss of Igor’s room.

Next morning, I was back on the bus, heading for New York City.  At the great Port Authority Bus Terminal (one of those places that only a hard-core bus nut would go to voluntarily) I changed buses for a local to Jersey City, where I boarded a PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) train for Hoboken.  The YMCA in Hoboken is near the end of a main street that goes to the former Lackawanna RR station, which was (and is) the terminal for several suburban rail lines, both diesel and electric.

 The electric lines have the distinction of having Thomas Edison operate the first train of the new electric service in Sept. 1930; he operated the train for about a mile, presumably under the watchful eye of a Lackawanna motorman.  This was Mr. Edison’s last public appearance.  Up until a complete rebuilding of the electrical system in the 1980s, the Lackawanna ran on Edison’s preferred direct current at 3000 volts. 

 I had sent away to New Jersey for timetables, so could plan some rides.  The most interesting line was the Gladstone Branch, which had a lot of single-track running and was almost like an interurban.  Just getting from the Y to the Lackawanna station was an adventure; apparently there were local bus operators who owned their own buses and were subsidized by the City of Hoboken or some other government entity.  The coaches included one “old look” GMC (what my daughters called a “round” bus) that had an unusual device for letting the driver know when there was enough air pressure to operate the brakes.  It was a swinging metal target that hung in front of the driver’s face.  Only when there was sufficient air pressure in the main reservoir could he move it out of his line of vision and have the pressure-controlled latch hold it aside. 

My only previous experience in New York was in 1951, when my mother, grandmother, brother and I stayed overnight at the Paramount Hotel on 46th St. between trains when traveling from LA to Boston. Now was my chance to at least get a taste of the largest rapid transit system in North America, and one of the five largest in the world.  I took the IRT 5 train to the end of the line at Dyre Avenue, where traces of the long-vanished New York, Westchester & Boston electric railway were still evident, even though this line had been abandoned in 1937.  While heading uptown on the outer segment of the 5 line, I noticed where a building had collapsed and bricks had fallen in a large heap on the sidewalk. Welcome to the Bronx!  Later, I complied with Duke Ellington’s admonition to “Take the A Train” and rode this IND line to Brooklyn, where I visited the Subway Museum, which is located in an inactive subway station.

I would have loved to stay in the New York metropolitan area longer, but it was time to move on, so I took the PATH train to Newark Penn Station, where Amtrak, PATH and NJ Transit trains had the upper level, Greyhound buses loaded at street level, and down in the basement were the PCC streetcars of the Newark Subway line, all that was left of a once vast network of Public Service of New Jersey trolley lines.  When the venerable PCCs were finally replaced by light-rail cars about 15 years ago, some of them went way out west to new careers in San Francisco on the Municipal Railway “F” Line.  

The trip from Newark to Philadelphia took about two hours, leaving some afternoon sunlight for filming and riding the Red Arrow trolley lines on the west side of Philly.  When it got too dark for photos, I headed back downtown for the next leg of my journey.  I was all ready to board a bus for Pittsburgh, when the driver told me my ticket was on the wrong form.  So I went upstairs and showed it to a ticket clerk. Apparently the agent in Newton, Mass gave me an incorrect ticket.  The clerk in Philly showed it to his supervisor, who said, “He’s paid his money-- issue him the right form with reference to the original ticket.”   Then he said to the other clerk, “Call downstairs and make sure the bus doesn’t leave without him.”  At times it seemed like some Greyhound stations had personnel who know how to take care of business and others who would have trouble learning the route if they were elevator operators.  This crew took care of me in fine fashion and in the interests of full disclosure, all three were African-American. 

This anomaly settled, I went down to the waiting bus and was soon on the way to Steel City.  This would be the fourth and last time that I had saved on lodging by taking an overnight bus between eastern and western Pennsylvania.  It was early AM that I landed in Pittsburgh, where I spent the morning riding and checking out the local streetcars, many of which had colorful custom paint jobs, and one of which was tricked out like an old river steamboat.  Around noon, it was back on the bus and off to Columbus, where I bunked down at the YMCA.  Note that this was over a year before the Village People record their song about this institution.  On the way, the bus passed through Wheeling WV, my first visit to the state made famous by John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.”  I was hoping to have an official “set foot” moment, but I had a window seat near the back of a crowded bus, so I stayed put.  It would not be until 2007 that I would actually set foot in the Mountain State, and that was just to refuel the motorhome. Some day I hope to go back and ride the Cass Scenic Railroad, but it appears to be way out in the boonies (which WV has in abundance), and may be a challenge to reach in a 30-foot Lazy Daze.

Next morning I caught the local bus to the end of the line near Worthington, home of Ohio Railway Museum.  We passed the campus of Ohio State University, which felt like enemy territory because the Buckeyes had been the Big Ten team in four recent Rose Bowl games, and in their most recent appearance, had been soundly defeated by the UCLA Bruins. (my mother’s alma mater).  The “you’re not in LA County anymore” atmosphere was reinforced by the number of Cincinnati Reds bumper stickers on the local motor vehicles.  

At the end of the bus line, I found a phone booth and called the museum.  One of the members was kind enough to come and give me a ride the rest of way to ORM.  I was lucky enough to visit the museum at nearly its height of development.  A few years after this visit, dissention among the members and friction with the neighbors, brought a near-death experience to a museum that was founded back in the 1940s.  In 1977 they still had their Norfolk & Western 4-6-2 steam locomotive running, although it was retired to static display a year later.  When I saw it run at ORM, they had to help it with an electric locomotive.  

One of the challenges of railway museums is to get the cars and locomotives under cover, especially in harsh climates, but even in California.  Back in the 1960s and '70s, many groups found that the cheapest way to build shelters was to erect pole barns.  They use second-hand utility poles holding up wooden trusses, which provide a base for framing that supports corrugated metal roofing.  Add more metal roofing on the side, and you have something that volunteer workers can built and install.  But more recently, pole barns have fallen out of favor.  Museums that were once out in the country are now governed by city building codes.  At least one museum found that pole barns have a finite lifespan, and have had to rebuild the areas around the poles.  With better financial resources, museum organizations call a company that specializes in steel building kits.  Trucks deliver the framing members and sheet metal, and a trained crew of assemblers puts the whole structure together. Ohio hasn’t got that far yet, in fact they were known for a ramshackle barn made of salvaged lumber.  It sheltered several cars when I was there in 1977, but was gone next time I visited in 2007. 

Among the cars running that day were a Columbus city streetcar that had been rebuilt from a stripped body (we electric railway preservationists often call these “chicken coops,” even if they were not used as abodes for domestic fowl), a pair of Chicago rapid transit cars and the N&W steam train. 

 An interesting aspect of the Chicago “L” cars was that they were 4441 and 4449.  During this same period, Southern Pacific “Daylight” steam locomotive 4449 was touring the US with the American Freedom Train.  SP 4449 had been rescued from static display in a park in Portland, Oregon and restored to operation in 1975, and was the subject of cubic yards of photographs and miles of movie film.  The host of an informal railfan group that I attended fairly regularly finally put an “embargo” on 4449 photos at our weekly slide and movie shows, so when I showed movies from this tour, I said, “Here are some 4449 shots that are different.”  When I visited ORM again in 2007, 4449 was still there, but in deplorable condition (and for sale) and apparently 4441 has been scrapped.

 I don’t have any slides scanned from the Ohio Ry. Museum visit, but here are some similar cars running at Illinois Ry. Museum.  Back in 1985, I got to run a two car train of these relics of the 1920s at IRM.

 After spending the day at ORM, I got a ride back to downtown Columbus, where a preserved old school movie theatre was presenting a pipe organ concert.  Very tempting, but the bus left at 8:30 p.m., and it was time to mosey on.  Around midnight, we stopped in Indianapolis, where, for many years, Greyhound buses used the former interurban station, which was the largest such station in North America.  Alas, it had been dismantled about nine years earlier, so I was too late for that bit of traction history.  I dozed off, traveling on a section of I-70 that I would see in daylight in 30 years, and at 5:45 a.m. got off in St. Louis.  If I’d had more time and money, I would have stopped there long enough to visit the Museum of Transportation, but it would be the next century before I would see this collection of rail relics.  

 While waiting for the next westward bus to be called, I noticed a group of men in work clothes, with grips (satchels), and - the big clue - railroad lanterns.  They were a Conrail crew who had brought their train into St. Louis and needed a ride back to Ohio.  Back in the old days, there would have been several passenger trains that they could have “deadheaded” back to their home yard on, but these were hard times for the railroad biz.  They looked rather uncomfortable.

 From here on, I would be following Route 66 all the way to San Bernardino, although by this time, it was I-44, I-40 and I-5.  We rolled across Missouri, stopping in Springfield for lunch after a brief stop in Lebanon MO, which became part of our cross-country RV trips in 2007 and 2011.  Lebanon has a huge antique mall with just about every imaginable relic and tchotchke from the past and a big candy store, so it’s a good place for a break in an RV trip.  Not sure if this treasure trove was in business as far back as 1977.  Going through Springfield, I spotted a Frisco Railroad office building; apparently this city was the operational center of what is now part of BNSF.  We left the “Show Me” state and headed into Oklahoma. 

  Some Greyhound runs detour into the southeast corner of Kansas, following the shortest segment of Historic Route 66 (we did that in our Lazy Daze), but our bus went straight on to Tulsa. Nowadays, when I enter the Central Time Zone, I say I’m “Living on Tulsa Time” in honor of one of my favorite Eric Clapton songs; but it wouldn’t be released until 1979.  At Tulsa, we had a dinner break, but the bus station eatery was not very inspiring, so a couple of us wandered down the street to a storefront taco joint.  That was it--we munched and got back to the station to continue our journey, watching carefully to avoid getting our feet caught when they rolled up the sidewalk.  Urbanists like to use the word “vibrant” to describe a city or neighborhood that’s lively and interesting.  Whatever the antonym for “vibrant” is could be applied to that part of Tulsa.  After a stop in Oklahoma City for a rest stop, plus a side trip to the Greyhound garage for a headlight replacement, we kept heading westward, arriving in Amarillo, Texas around 3 a.m.  The Amarillo bus station at 3 a.m. had an “abandon hope all ye who enter here” vibe, but at least I had a ticket out of there.

 In my case it wasn’t “Amarillo by Morning” but Albuquerque by 8:05 a.m.  I planned to spend a few hours in ABQ because if I just got back on the bus after grabbing a bite to eat, I’d arrive in El Monte around 3 a.m. or LA shortly thereafter.  Not a happy thought!  So I had breakfast in a storefront diner.  I forgot what I ate, but remember that its spiciness told me I was in the Southwest, amigos!  Then I went over to the Santa Fe roundhouse, and got permission from the foreman to visit their locomotive collection.  On his office wall was a “Days of Steam” calendar from Orange Empire, so I complimented him on his good taste in calendars.  And he said, “knowing where you’re from, I probably don’t have to remind you to look at the locomotives from ground level.”  Star of the show (at least from my point of view was ATSF 2394, the diesel I had run one night in San Bernardino.

  

Santa Fe 2394, built around 1942, seen in the San Bernardino Shops in 1970.  Moved to Albuquerque sometime in the 1970s, moved to California State RR Museum in 1986.  Story takes a grim turn here—2394 and some other Santa Fe diesels were stored in an unsecured area and were severely damaged by non-ferrous metal thieves (there should be a special place in Hell for these scumbags!).  To this day, many Santa Fe fans look upon the Sacramento facility with scorn.

But the sad fate was still in the future, and I boarded the next bus to California around 1:45p.m.   An interesting stop just across the line into Arizona was Fort Courage, a mock frontier fort that was also a meal stop.  It was still open in 2007 when we were returning from our first RV trip to New England, but according to recent reports it’s been closed for some time now.  As night fell, I settled in for my last night snoozing on a bus, probably waking up around San Bernardino or Riverside.  The last day of the tour saw our coach heading west on the San Bernardino Freeway, finally pulling off at El Monte around 7 a.m.  Here I would change to an RTD 491 bus up Santa Anita Avenue and make the short walk back to my truck.  This had been one of those, “I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t do it again for all the proverbial tea in China” adventures.

Thank God and Greyhound, I was home.

After making it safely home, I took this timetable book out to Orange Empire Railway Museum, where I loaned it to another electric railway fan who had more time than money that summer.

Next month, we'll get off the bus and "dig those tunes like they should be dug", with some musical commentary.  Until then, stay stoked, and keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down.

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