Like all of us, we at The T1 Trust are very much looking forward to putting 2020 behind us but not without recognizing what we’ve achieved this year and despite all the challenges this year has thrown us, you have helped make it possible.
5550 Fundraising Challenge
In September, a Trust supporter came forward and challenged The Trust’s followers to raise $50,000 by the end of the year and if we do, those donations will be matched, dollar for dollar. As of this writing, we have raised $43,966.67 and are so very close to making our goal.
This money will be used to finish the remainder of the massive boiler’s exterior and what is left over from that will go to start work on the frame. We will continue to raise money to complete both projects, but this fundraising effort will make for a fantastic jumping-off point. Tell your friends and family and always remember that every little bit helps.
Further Frame Shots
To show a bit more of what we can achieve with your continued support, here are some new CAD drawings of the T1’s frame from JAKTool. It’s amazing when you think that this was originally designed using nothing more than paper, pencils and slide rules.
An Interview with Ross Rowland
An enthusiast of steam for most of his life and active in steam preservation since 1966, Mr. Rowland has been a T1 Trust supporter since almost the beginning. He was gracious enough to take some time to talk to us, tell us about his experiences with steam locomotives and give his opinion on 5550 and The T1 Trust.
T1 Trust: Why don’t you go ahead and get us going by introducing yourself?
Ross Rowland: My name is Ross Rowland. I am a lifelong steam enthusiast, and I’ve been involved in all kinds of steam locomotive railroad projects since 1966 to the present day, and I’m glad to talk to you.
T1 Trust: It’s my pleasure. Why don’t you get us started by describing your childhood, where you grew up and what you parents did, things like that?
RR: I grew up in Albany, New York and my father was a lifelong railroad employee working for the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey. He was stationed in Albany, New York as a traveling freight agent when I was born in 1940 and we stayed there until 1945. Starting in 1943 at age three, my uncle, who was a dentist in Albany, and his wife every Saturday came and picked me up and took me down to the Albany Union Station of the New York Central Railroad, took me up on the platform and we would spend an hour or two, fifty-two weeks a year, watching the New York Central passenger fleet come and go. And being as it was in the middle of World War II, you can imagine how busy it was and the trains were all steam powered, of course. So, that’s where I fell in love with steam, and I was so desirous of being that guy up in the steam engine that got the privilege of blowing the whistle and pulling the throttle, that I determined then that someday I wanted to be that guy. It took a few years, but a few years but it happened.
My dad’s railroad moved him back to the headquarters in New York, and he and mom bought a home in Cranford, New Jersey, about 17 miles west of Manhattan. I soon discovered that our home was only a five-minute bicycle ride from the Cranford Roundhouse of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, my dad’s railroad, and in that roundhouse, they serviced and kept the Camelback and Pacific steam engines that pulled the commuter trains into New York City, Monday through Friday. To make a long story short, I became a mascot there and spent every waking minute I could get there hanging around the roundhouse, and the men taught me how to clean fires, fire a locomotive and do other things. By the time I was about 10 years old, in 1950, especially on bad weather days, they would send me out to the yard to get a locomotive and bring it in and put it on the turntable and put it in the roundhouse to save them getting wet in the rain or sleet. And as you can imagine, I loved it, because you know as a 10-year-old kid, I was actually running steam engines, even though it was just in the yard to the turntable.
By 1966, I was working on Wall Street as a young commodity futures broker, making some decent money and wanted to go railroading. So, I was able to convince my dad’s railroad to let us lease a specific locomotive from Nelson Blount, up at Steamtown in Vermont, and run it down to New Jersey and use New Jersey Central Railroad of New Jersey commuter cars on the weekend when they didn’t need them for commuters. We ran a series of excursions out of Jersey City up to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania using Nelson Blount’s Pacific locomotive number 127, and the trips were very successful. Those trips led to a series of High Iron Company excursions from 1966 to 1973, that totaled about forty-four excursions carrying about 40,000 people. But the most ambitious of them was the Golden Spike Centennial Limited, which we put together in 1969 to help draw national public attention to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Golden Spike, which occurred on May 10th, 1969.
So, we put a blue and gold train together, 15 cars long, pulled it with Nickel Plate Road #759, which I had leased from Steamtown and restored in Conneaut, Ohio, and we ran that special train from Grand Central Terminal in New York City to Salt Lake City, Utah and back. We stopped each night at a pre-selected town and invited the local citizens to come down and go through the steam engine with portable aluminum stairs we carried with us, and then go through… The first three cars in the train were converted baggage cars into display cars showing American railroading’s past, present and future, and then let them walk through the passenger train because many Americans then and today never saw a passenger train.
The Associated Press rode that trip with us and estimated that more than a million people came out to do that, and it was that reaction to that trip that sparked the idea in my brain, that seven years later when we celebrated our 200th birthday as a nation, we should do the same thing, and that was the birth of the American Freedom Train idea. We put a 501(c)(3) foundation together, and I was able to get five great companies: General Motors, Kraft Foods, Pepsi-Cola, Prudential Insurance, and Atlantic Richfield Energy Company to each pitch in six million bucks as co-sponsors, and that gave us the money to build the train and President Nixon helped us get the artifacts. But the thing that made the Freedom Train such a hit with America was the secret sauce, if you will, was on the ten display cars in the train we were able to borrow 512 original artifacts from 285 museums across America.
T1 Trust: Wow.
RR: Those artifacts helped tell the story of our two-hundred-year history and they were all originals, no facsimiles, and some of them were priceless, like George Washington’s copy of the Constitution with his own handwriting in the margins from the National Archives. We also had the Louisiana Purchase, a huge document with a great big white seal on it that memorialized our purchase of about a third of what’s now the lower 48 states, Judy Garland’s dress from the Wizard of Oz, Bob Lanier’s size 23 sneakers from the NBA, the World Series trophy, the Super Bowl trophy, the Stanley Cup, etcetera, etcetera. They were 512 must-see things, and that’s why it was a sell-out hit with the American people and it was the only national bicentennial project that worked, it was the only one that came off the drawing boards and actually succeeded, which I was sort of proud of. In total, 7.6 million Americans bought a ticket to go through the display, four million school kids and 3.6 million adults, and we pulled the entire 25,000-mile journey with steam.
Two locomotives shared most of the honors, ex-Reading locomotive 2101, which we redecorated as AFT Number 1 for the Freedom Train journey, and Southern Pacific Daylight 4449. Those two engines pulled the majority of the miles and then Texas and Pacific 610 did a little bit of it in Texas. And it worked, it was a big success, and my fondest hope for the project was that the kids that went through it would come out the other end with some greater appreciation of what the previous generations had gone through to put this country together. I talked to thousands of kids as they came out the exit and can testify that we achieved that goal in spades without a question.
T1 Trust: So, what did you do after the American Freedom Train was all finished?
RR: Let’s see…right after the Freedom Train, the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, started in 1827, celebrated its 150th birthday as America’s oldest railroad in 1977 and we helped them put together a special birthday celebration train, basically an excursion train, which toured the entire Chessie System, from Miami, Florida in the South to Detroit, Michigan in the North. And we ran in 1977-78, we ran 46 excursions for them, which carried about 45,000 people, and it was a big success using the 2101.
Then in the winter of 1978-1979, the locomotive was being stored in the Stevens, Kentucky Roundhouse of the Chessie System, CSX today, and the place caught on fire and the coal in the tender of the locomotive caught on fire and it warped all the external steel pretty badly. So anyway, long story short, we made a deal with the chairman of the Chessie System, Hays Watkins, that we would fix up that locomotive cosmetically like it looked on the Freedom Train and donate it to the B&O Museum, and in turn, they would donate the Chesapeake & Ohio #614, the last American-built mainline passenger steam engine, having been built by Lima in 1948, all roller bearing, very modern state-of-the-art locomotive. They threw in $100,000, and I would throw in the rest of what it took to restore it to service. So, we did that and moved it to Hagerstown, Maryland where we leased some stalls in the Western Maryland Roundhouse there, and over a period of a year and a couple of months, we rebuilt it at a total cost of a $1 million dollars in 1980, which would be about $3 million today.
T1 Trust: Could you tell us a little bit of your time with 614 and how that tied in with the ACE 3000 project?
RR: We pulled a series of special steam trips for CSX Chessie System with 614, drawing national attention to Operation Lifesaver, the Grade Crossing Safety Project to increase public awareness of the danger of trying to race a train at a grade crossing. Then in 1985, we used the 614 as a test engine for a month-long series of tests in West Virginia where we pulled loaded coal trains eastbound from Huntington, West Virginia to Hinton, West Virginia, 150 miles roughly, and empty trains on the following day. The loaded trains were on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the empty trains were Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, back from Hinton to Huntington. The loaded trains worked on average 50 cars long and carried about 5000 tons of coal while the empty trains were 110 cars long, empty coal hoppers. The purpose of the test program was to give the design engineers from the Foster Wheeler Corporation, the data that they needed to make their final design decisions on a prototype, computer-controlled coal fired locomotive that we were proposing to build for the railroads of America, so they could get off [foreign] oil, and get back on coal.
My partners in that project were the Burlington Northern Railroad, and the CSX, then called Chessie System railroad, and the Foster Wheeler Corporation through a company I founded in 1980, called ACE, short for American Coal Enterprises. And we ran the 614 as a test engine, loaded with sensors and other data collecting mechanisms that were wired to the computer readout car right behind the locomotive so the engineers got all kinds of data that they needed. We were just on the cusp of building the prototype and the world price of oil went from $32 a barrel to $9 a barrel, and all the financial incentives to the railroads and the major partners went away so they left the project and that killed it.
T1 Trust: It really makes you wonder what might have been…
RR: And then in 1996 we made a deal with the state of New Jersey, to run a series of excursions with the 614 from Hoboken, New Jersey to Port Jervis, New York which is about a hundred-mile trip. The reason we went to Port Jervis was that there was an old Erie Railroad turntable there, large enough to turn the 614 on to go back to Hoboken. The purpose of the program, in partnership with the state of New Jersey, was to draw state support for the creation of a New Jersey State Heritage Museum, a transportation heritage museum to celebrate the transportation heritage of the state, including rail, marine, highway and air. We did that program very successfully for three years between 1996 and 1998. We ran a total of twenty-four excursions with the 614, and a full 24-car long excursion trains using mostly commuter cars, at track speed (79 mph / 127 km/h) and carried about 23,000 people with no problems. The engine did exactly what it was built to do, pulled a heavy passenger train at high speed and it worked out wonderfully. And then in in 2000, we took her out of service because I went to British Columbia, Canada to start a new tourist railroad up there called the Pacific Wilderness Railroad.
Because of that, we put the 614 in storage and it stayed there until 2011 when, at the request of the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Norfolk Southern moved the engine for us from Pennsylvania where we had it in storage, to Roanoke, Virginia. There she joined the N&W 611 for a celebration of thoroughbreds for the 611’s 50th birthday and she  stayed there a year or so before Norfolk Southern moved her to the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society Heritage Park in Clifton Forge, Virginia, which is where the locomotive is now on public display. And that’s the thumbnail history.
T1 Trust: That’s quite the life experience.
RR: Oh, and I forgot to mention, starting back in 1966, with the High Iron trips up through the New Jersey Transit trips, my greatest reward in all those projects was being able to be the hogger, the locomotive engineer on many of those excursions. That was my real payoff.
T1 Trust: It’s every little boy’s dream to be able to do that, I think.
RR: Absolutely. And I love it just as much today as I ever did. I keep my Federal Railroad engineers license current every December and I’m blessed to be the engineer on some of the Santa trains that we run on my partner’s railroad, the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where I run Baldwin consolidation number 40 on the head end of the Santa Claus trains and that keeps my FRA license current, and I love that too. I mean, it’s a little engine compared to 614, and it’s 20 mile an hour instead of 80. But hey, it’s still steam.
T1 Trust: Gotta take it where you can get it.
RR: That’s it. That’s it.
T1 Trust: So, how did you first learn about the T1 Trust?
RR: I read about it in a magazine and it turned out that one of your key guys, I think your chief mechanical guy, was in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where I was at that time. I was then working on building a private luxury train for the new owner of the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. And your guy, whose name I can’t remember now, was in the same town and I read a magazine article and I reached out and he and I had lunch, and that’s how I first knew about it.
T1 Trust: Was it Scott McGill?
RR: I think that’s right. Yeah, Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Yeah, sounds right.
T1 Trust: So, what were your initial thoughts on the Trust?
RR: My initial thoughts were that it was an interesting project and I was hoping it would succeed. I donated a few dollars to it within my modest ability financially. I was hoping I’d live long enough to see it run and maybe even hope I’d live long enough to maybe get a chance to be the engineer on it someday, that’s what I thought.
T1 Trust: Well, if people keep people being as generous as they’ve been, I don’t see why that can’t happen, it’s…
RR: Well, we’ll see, I mean I’m 80-years-old. So, who knows how much longer I’ll be around, but that’s up to the Lord, not me.
T1 Trust: Well, we’re rooting for you at least, [chuckle] for what it’s worth.
RR: Thank you, thank you. I think it’s a great project. I mean if I’d had my druthers with the Pennsy T1… If somebody said, “Ross, here’s a magic wand, it’s good for one wish, you can use this wand to make one wish come true of any steam locomotive from America’s past that you want built new, an exact replica of that class of engine, what would it have been?” And my truthful answer would’ve been a New York Central Niagara, that’s what I would have chosen.
T1 Trust: Well, I won’t criticize you for that. They were amazing machines.
RR: Yes, yes. But I mean the T1 is a fascinating machine.
T1 Trust: It certainly is.
RR: I’ve done a good bit of reading on them and all the controversy about how slippery they were or weren’t and how a good engineer could run them without any slippage problems at all, and how a bad engineer couldn’t overcome it. I can believe that because all the engineers I’ve worked with over the years, some have been really good locomotive engineers, and some have been lousy, and I can see how a lousy one would not be able to address that slippage.
T1 Trust: I think the biggest issue that faced the T1 is that once Pennsylvania electrified their mainline between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, they had a surplus of K4s.
T1 Trust: Once that occurred, and then you ran into The Great Depression, there was no need for them to order any new steam locomotives, and so those K4s were the standard for the longest time and the crews got used to how they ran.
T1 Trust: When you compare the K4s to the T1, and it’s a bit like taking somebody who’s driven a Toyota Corolla for the last 30 years and dropping them into a brand-new Corvette.
RR: Yeah, sort of. Yeah, that’s a good analogy, yeah.
T1 Trust: So, let’s see here. With regard to the Trust’s overall activities and trajectory, what do you think has been the most helpful that we’ve undertaken so far?
RR: I think that the methodology you’ve chosen to build different prominent parts of the locomotive with the money as it comes in to show people it’s real and that the money’s being used for real, physical progress, I think that’s a very intelligent, very smart, and very effective way to go. And I think that the more you go, the more momentum you’ll get, in my opinion.
T1 Trust: That’s what we’re shooting for.
RR: Yeah, yeah.
T1 Trust: What do you think are the greatest challenges that the Trust faces and how best might they be overcome?
RR: I think that the fundamental challenge is to stay the course, be patient, stay committed and stay aggressive in your fundraising and how you use the money to keep building the engine out. So, patience, I guess and stamina, stamina, that’s the word I was searching for. Work hard on having the stamina to stay the course, ’cause we’ve got a good way to go yet.
T1 Trust: Yes, we do. We’ve come a long way though.
RR: Yes, sir. A long way, absolutely.
T1 Trust: So, final question, what do you believe is the Trust’s greatest asset?
RR: I think the Trust’s greatest asset is the fact that most people who like trains and like steam engines particularly, are fascinated by the possibility of seeing a state-of-the-art machine that almost none of them have ever witnessed in real life, come back to life and run again, especially at speed, and that’s a tantalizing enough prize to get enough of them, hopefully, to part with enough of their dollars to make it real.
T1 Trust: I would definitely agree.
RR: Yep, that’s the way I see it.
T1 Trust: Alrighty. Well, I want to thank you very much for your time. Do you have any questions for me? I can do the best to answer them.
RR: No, I don’t, thank you, but it’s a pleasure speaking with you.
T1 Trust: Likewise.
RR: And feel free to email me or call me if you have any follow-up questions or anything else I can do to help you.
T1 Trust: Alright, Mr. Rowland, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
RR: My pleasure. Nice meeting you on the phone, I hope to see you on the footplate.
T1 Trust: It’d be my honor.
RR: Thank you, sir. Bye, bye.
T1 Trust: Take care. Bye, bye.