GLENMONT – Overlooking two cranes lifting the cab of a piece of history was an emotional moment to the men who saved two of the first electric locomotives ever made.
“I wasn’t sure this day was going to come,” Glenmont resident and train enthusiast Paul Marsh said to Stan Madyda. “I can remember so many days working in the weeds and muck down there and I won’t miss the critters under there either.”
For over 20 years the two Alco/GE all-electric locomotive sat until Marsh, a retired owner of a local bus company, Richard Vanderbilt, a retired Bethlehem police officer and rail historian, Dave Pickett, and Madyda, the project’s manager for the Danbury Railway Museum, were determined to get them where they belonged, a museum.
“Today is the day, there have been so many starts and stops, but they are finally moving,” Madyda said.
The original S-1 prototype for the 1904 electric locomotive project and the only remaining T-motor electric locomotive were taken apart on Thursday, Nov. 2, and loaded onto special flatbed trailers designed for heavy loads by Flach Cranes with precision orchestration. Combined the two locomotives weigh more than 513,000 pounds.
Once the Dagen trucking company obtains permits to transport, the pieces will make their way to Danbury Conn. to the museum to be restored.
The Mohawk and Hudson Chapter of the National Historic Railway Society, based in Albany acquired the locomotives over the years and stored them in various locations across the Capital District. Many of the local railroads, especially the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, provided facilities to store and restore the historic machines. The NHRS chapter displayed and showed the S-1, to teach people about the area’s rich rail history and the deep impact it had worldwide.
“In the 1980s the S-1 was stored at the Altamont Fairgrounds inside a building and was on display for the public to see,” said Richard Vanderbilt, president of Mohawk and Hudson Chapter of NRHS.“I used to sit in the conductor’s seat and explain the history and function of the locomotive. It was a real showpiece and snapshot of history.”
“The first time I saw the S-motor it did not look like this and there was a cranky guy telling us all about it,” Joked Marsh, referring to Vanderbilt. “He was probably one of the only guys who actually traveled on both of these locomotives.”
Marsh and Madyda also reflected on how transformational these locomotives were to transportation, not just in the United States, but worldwide.
“When you consider that in 1903, Henry Ford, just started his assembly lines, so there were no cars and there were no airplanes and these machines could travel over 75 MPH pulling cars,” Marsh said. “These were about the fastest things going at that time.”
Stuck on the Island
The two locomotives were stored at the PSEG power station for about five years until, in 1998, for reasons unknown the plant moved them out to Beacon Island on an old rail spur that connected to the Port of Albany via a bridge over the Normanskill.
During upgrades to the power plant in the early 2000’s they covered the tracks that lead back to the plant and in 2015 the bridge collapsed that connected the spur to the port. Up until last year, there were a total of four locomotives and four passenger cars sat rusting on the old tracks. Two diesel locomotives and all the cars were scrapped to make way for cleanup and redevelopment of the property to make way for a future wind tower manufacturing facility.
“I have to call Henry and let him know our progress, he has been the guy who helped push this along,” Madyda said, referring to Henry Posner III. Posner saw the historical value of the two electrics right away and offered financial and logistical help in getting the locomotives to Danbury. The museum raised money through its supporters to fund the move, but it was Posner’s consistent commitment to cover any bumps along the way that gave the team confidence to move forward.
Madyda gave the phone update while standing on the hill.
“Its going to be great to have these available to the next generation. There have been many times over the years that we thought it was the end of the road for these. Not any more,” he said.
To see the trains and learn more about them visit spotlightnews.com and search “trains.”
This story was updated on November 9 to add more historic photos and video and add credit to Flach Crane of Selkirk, who carefully moved the locomotives.