A Message from the President[Webmaster's note: This column appeared in the September 2017 issue of the society's newsletter magazine, the Cannonball.]
The 2017 Fair Week and Museum Open House is now behind us. I want to thank all of the officers and volunteers who participated in making the week the success that it was: John Muchler, Bob Sanders, Lee Gridley, Martha Roberts, Russ Allen, Dana Guinnip, Michael Connor, Larry Kilmer, Bob Husted, Craig Braack, Joe Leo, Kathy Garrison, James Feldbauer and our newest and youngest member: Mason Fleischman.
If I were to sum up this year’s fair (as far as our museum is concerned), I would describe it as one of more depth, if less breadth. By this I mean that the total number of visitors appeared to be down from previous years, however, for those who did visit us, they dwelled longer, asked more questions, heard more stories in great detail and left with a much greater appreciation for the railroad, its history and our society.
One theme that again was apparent this year was an increased awareness of the PS&N from a genealogical perspective. We averaged one or more visitors each day that had a grandfather or great uncle that had worked for the railroad. For many, this was their first contact with concrete information about the railroad. As John and I had pointed out the last two years, we believe easier access to genealogical information on sites such as Ancestry.com is probably a factor driving this increased interest in family histories.
John Muchler, our treasurer and museum curator, spent much of the spring and early summer setting up the museum for Fair Week. I had requested John to consider moving some artifacts around the museum with the idea of grouping like items in the same location. Some of my suggestions included moving all employee and “person related” items to the station waiting room, moving all “paper” items to the station freight room, moving the large “tools” to the caboose and consolidating the lanterns and small tools in the coach. These were merely suggestions; I left the actual implementation completely to John.
When all was done, Coach No. 278 turned out having the most change: the mannequin with the conductor’s uniform was moved to the station and one of the old display cases that was set on saw horses was retired. This permitted the remaining cases to me moved further towards the Clara end of the coach and the standing photo flip board to be moved to other side of the remaining display case. This also permitted the power packs for the model layout to be moved from behind the end door to the other end of the layout in the center of the coach.
These subtle but important changes made a significant impact on the flow of visitors through the coach. The new placement of the displays meant that visitors were more spaced out within the coach; whereas in the past, they tended to congregate near the photo flip board and telegraph display, causing a bottleneck. Similarly, by moving the power packs for the model layout, the end door of the coach near the tender was left open the entire time and John and Mason were now stationed in the center of the coach, not at the tender end. Again, this was a subtle change, but its impact to our visitors was important. Many of the questions regarding the Shawmut tend to happen near the display cases and the two pairs of original coach seats. By having our docents grouped closer to these conversations, we had more people within earshot to handle these questions.
PS&NRRHS Members Participated
DUBOIS, PA—Ken Clark, President of the PS&NRRHS and member Michael Connor were presenters at the first ever Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad Symposium. The symposium was held on August 4 and 5 and was hosted by the DuBois Area Historical Society. In addition to the presentations, Treasurer and Curator John Muchler manned two display tables of historical items from our museum, plus a third table of items for sale.
at B&S Symposium
Michael Connor gave three presentations: one dealing with the Goodyear Empire (which consisted of lumbering, coal mines, coke plants, railroads, a steel mill, ore lakers (ships), ore mining, office buildings and mansions), one discussing the ill-fated extension from Wellsville into Buffalo, and one dealing with the corporate evolution of the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad/Railway.
Ken Clark gave a presentation on the haulage agreement that took place between the B&S and the PS&N. In 1910, in an attempt to bypass the switchbacks south of Galeton, the B&S contracted to have the PS&N haul all of its coal and coke traffic from Weedville, PA to Belvidere, NY, the two locations where both railroads conntected.
Local historian and DAHS member Laura Lynn Yohe gave a presentation regarding her personal family history. Her paternal grandparents were both telegraph operators at Medix Run, PA (located on Bennetts Branch between Weedville and Driftwood). Her grandfather worked for the PRR and her grandmother for the B&S.
Laura described what it was like to work as a telegrapher in a remote outpost in north central Pennsylvania, especially the challenges of being a woman telegrapher in a male-dominated environment. Laura’s presentation was based on letters, diaries and personal stories told to her directly by her grandmother.
After her presentation, Ken Clark approached Laura and asked if she had ever seen a working telegraph or whether she had even used one herself. With her answer being in the negative, Ken worked with other DAHS members to secretly bring in and set up the interactive telegraph display that is a part of our museum display in Coach No. 278. The telegraph display was added as an ad-hoc presentation after the last scheduled presentation on Saturday.
Laura was delighted to see and hear what had been such a great part of her grand-parents’ lives. She was eager and pleased at seeing an empty Prince Albert tobacco tin placed in the telegraph sounder. She had read about the Prince Albert tin in doing her research, but never understood how it was used or its purpose until seeing our museum display, in person.
PS&N Expired 70 Years Ago in April
[Webmaster's note: This column appeared in the March 2017 issue of the society's newsletter magazine, the Cannonball.]
This year, 2017, and specifically April the first, will mark the 70th anniversary of the demise of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern. I think it's safe to say that most everyone reading this is aware that the Shawmut entered financial troubles after only a mere five years of existence; it then spent the remaining 42 years in court-administered receivership.
The last two years of operations, from the end of WWII onward, were the times of greatest change for the Shawmut. Things started to move quickly and the speed toward the very end accelerated.
Above—Dr. Betty Hayes, company doctor for the Shawmut Mining Company, would be the one who would put events into motion that would eventually end the Shawmut.
|In August 1945, the sole “company doctor,” Betty Hayes, started investigating the sanitary conditions at the company-owned mining villages of Force, Byrnedale, and Hollywood, Pennsylvania. The conditions were so bad that the water had to be boiled before drinking and sewage overflowed into the streets causing mud bogs. The doctor confronted the Shawmut Mining Company officials with these deplorable conditions. The officials replied that there was nothing that they could do, especially since the mines would be worked out and abandoned in only five or six years. We know now that this was not the case, as some mines lasted well into the 1950s and 1960s.
The receiver, John D. Dickson, and some of the officials at the mining company viewed Hayes as an agitator and dismissed her. They locked her out of her company-owned house, even though she was paying rent to live there. An Elk County Sherriff’s Deputy was posted at the door. Her personal be- longings including her medical books, instruments and supplies were locked inside. The miners went
This strike was catastrophic to the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern. You may recall that the mining companies were subsidiaries of the railroad. The mines had been marginally profitable for their entire existence and there were many times where funds were shifted from the mining companies to the railroad to shore up its finances. The strike, however, caused a double blow to the railroad. Revenues from the sale of coal
were impacted, obviously. But the railroad’s main source of revenue, its raison d’être, was hauling the coal from these mines to customers, primarily in|
New York State. Without coal to haul, the railroad’s finances started to hemorrhage. And without revenue from the sale of coal, there was nothing to shore up the railroad.
With the help of Dr. Hayes, the issue came before Federal Judge Guy K. Bard, who had jurisdiction over the receiver and who then ordered an investigation. Receiver Dickson, an attorney from Wellsville, was removed. He had been the receiver since 1923.
In late November 1945, the court appointed two new receivers: Thomas C. Buchanan and Robert C. Sproul Jr. Judge Bard instructed them to investigate the situation involving the miners, the strike and the overall financial health of the Shawmut operations. However, taking the extreme
Above—Federal Judge Guy K. Bard, for the western district of Pennsylvania would oversee the final disposition of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern and all its subsidiaries. (United Press photo, PS&NRRHS archives.)
he also instructed the new receivers to “Wrap things up, quickly!”
What the new receivers found was a company that was about $30 million in the red. There wasn’t money on hand to meet their first payroll. There weren’t even enough serviceable locomotives on the property to operate the entire length of the line.
Faced with the reality that there was no way to save the railroad and with the court's blessing, the PS&N Railroad and the wholly-owned Kersey Railroad Company were sold at an auction presided over by Judge Bard on March 4, 1947. When the final gavel struck, the winner (for $1,505,000) was Harry W. Findley, a scrap dealer, of Carnegie, Pennsylvania. The last train of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad ran on April 1, 1947, at which time the Class I common carrier ceased to exist.
Findley created the Shawmut Railroad Supply Corporation to take ownership of the property and to execute its dismantling. The scrapping was done by two crews. Engine No. 72 worked the southern end, working from Tyler and Brandy Camp north to St. Marys and from Farmers Valley south to St. Marys. No. 72 was scrapped in St. Marys. Engine No. 71 worked the northern end, working from Wayland south and from Coryville north to Olean. It is unclear where No. 71 was scrapped. The Portville newspaper reported that No. 71 was to be hauled to St. Marys by the PRR for scrapping, but there is no record of this. It may have been scrapped in Olean.
I specifically selected photos for this column showing the scrapping operation. Although we might think of these pictures as being of the Shawmut, technically the PS&N no longer existed when they were taken. As you gaze at them pondering the fate of the PS&N, keep in mind that you are looking at equipment owned and operated by the Shawmut Railroad Supply Corporation.
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