New York Central’s rare electric locomotives are still under threat

The New York Central’s two electric locomotives were badly damaged, but historically irreplaceable, in April 2021 near a former power plant site south of Albany. Two diesel and four cars are to be scrapped. Jose Alves

GLENMONT, NY — Red tape, a gas pipeline utility and a lawsuit have combined to delay and further threaten the rescue of two historic New York Central electric locomotives stranded for three decades along the Hudson River south of Albany.

The Danbury Railway Museum in Danbury, Connecticut, has been working for nearly a year to remove the units from a power plant site where they are interfering with plans to build a factory to make towers for offshore wind turbines [see “Museum works to save two rare New York Central electric locomotives,” Trains News Wire, March 18, 2022]. This $350 million project is six months behind schedule and $200 million over budget, so the pressure to clear the area by relocating the locomotives has become intense.

According to project leader Stan Madyda, this week the museum will study the feasibility and cost of laying plate rails to clear the area for a road. Otherwise, the remaining option is to rent four Sidewinder hoists at a cost of $150,000-$225,000 to move the engines just 200 yards to a temporary staging area before they can be shipped 120 miles to Danbury.

“We’re running out of time,” Madyda said. “Every time we think we have a solution on our side, something else blocks us. The power station agreed to allow truck access through the property pending a technical study. [It] came back that there is a high pressure [natural] Gas line buried 30 feet under property not owned by the power plant, but there are objections to anything going over the gas line with coating. Our trucking company said it should be fine, however [the gas line owner] wanted one [costly temporary] Bridge.

“It’s the perfect storm of things working against us.”

Once restored, but now badly damaged, the locomotives are – NYC Class S-1 (2-D-2 configuration) unit #100, built 1904, and Class T-3a (B-B+BB configuration) unit #100 278, built in 1926 — weigh 113 tons and 146 tons, respectively. The dumping of fly ash aggravated the swampy ground conditions on what was formerly called Beacon Island and is no longer a separate landmass. The railway bridge that once provided access has been washed out, leaving the locomotives stuck and the truck being the only alternative for hauling away.

“We’ll try to the end,” said Madyda. “We’re just approaching the deadline.”

Legal steps led to delays

The site reopened last week after an eight-month delay caused by a homeowner’s lawsuit filed in March. It halted all work investigating the public health impact of disrupting the 2 million tons of toxic fly ash being dumped from the PSEG Power New York LLC (formerly Niagara Mohawk) power plant. Built as a coal-fired power plant, the plant was later converted to natural gas.

Sepia photo of an electric locomotive with a passenger train
The S-1 Electric that the museum is trying to save is the prototype for the model that started electrification in the New York City area. Danbury Railway Museum Collection

The museum, Madyda said, received an “exception letter” from the city, allowing the group to bring in tracked vehicles. Only vehicles with rubber tires were permitted during the pause in the lawsuit.

“There’s a staging area on site where we can store the locomotives for 60 days or so,” he said, “then they can be craned onto our trucking company’s trailers and taken out. There is a new access road with a 6% incline, but our trucking company says it should be fine.”

If the Sidewinder option was the only solution, he added, the company that owns it said the move would likely damage the locomotives and the company would seek a liability waiver.

These NYC units are among the last of their kind. Both were built by a consortium of American Locomotive Co. of Schenectady, NY, and General Electric Co. No. 100, built as No. 6000, served as the prototype of a 47-unit fleet that enabled NYC’s 600-volt DC third-rail electrification program, including the 1913 opening of the Grand Central Terminal complex. No. 278 is a of 36 locomotives and the sole survivor of a second generation of units on electrified commuter and freight lines in New York City.

to scrap diesel

Madyda said scrapping of two diesel units, NYC Alco RS-3 No. 8254, later Amtrak 126, and NYC General Electric U25B No. 2510, along with four passenger cars, which are also at the site, is scheduled to begin next week. Formula Auto Salvage of Great Barrington, Mass., agreed to disassemble the six pieces in exchange for the scrap metal being retained, at no cost to the museum. “It was the only option that made it work for her,” Madyda said.

The construction of the wind turbine factory is being carried out by the Port of Albany with an American-Canadian-Danish consortium, Marmen-Welcon LLC; a Belgian steel construction company, Smulders; and a Norwegian energy company, Equinor ASA. The wind turbines will be erected off Long Island.

Black and white photo of a boxcab style electric locomotive
T-3 locomotive #278 at Harmon, NY, 1953. Collection of the Danbury Railway Museum

In a statement released by Museum President Jose Alves and Madyda, the group further explained their plight: “Where the historic locomotives currently stand is the new access road from River Road [State Route 144] to end on Beacon Island. The consultants need to clear this area of ​​all vehicles and rail infrastructure in order to construct the new access road and begin preparing the ground for the construction of one of the buildings. Of the 80 hectares of land being developed, our locomotives are located right where the earliest stages of construction must take place.

“At this point, the cost of this project has escalated to the point where existing donations simply cannot cover it, especially when the consultancy will also charge us for unknown storage fees. Funding this project through the use of the museum’s surplus places the future of our organization in great financial uncertainty. The primary responsibility of our board is to keep our museum financially viable, and after we and many other organizations have lost money during the pandemic, that task has not been easy.

“Although we didn’t create the situation that got the locomotives where they are now, a small group of strong-willed volunteers and a lot of money and resources have already been expended to undo past mistakes. We want these locomotives saved, if not by us then so be it. Donations will continue to be accepted on our website.”

You will find more on this topic in December 2021 Spotlight News Article by John McIntyre.