A Message from the President[Webmaster's note: This column appeared in the January 2017 issue of the society's newsletter magazine, the Cannonball.]
Well a new year is upon us. I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season. With this issue of the Cannonball, we begin volume 37 of the publication. This is a reminder that we are entering the 37th year of our society. I am still amazed at what this society has accomplished in that time.
As I was putting this column together, it occurred to me to look at where the PS&N was in its 37th year of existence. That would be 1936. The worst part of the Depression was just getting over, but the Shawmut was stuck in the doldrums.
By 1936, the Shawmut was on its third receiver: John Dickson of Wellsville; he took that position in 1923 upon the death of Henry Hastings. Cash was short and age was taking its toll of both the track and equipment.
In my opinion, the bellwether event of 1936 was the discontinuance of passenger service. In that year, fewer than 1,000 passengers were carried over the entire system. The Shawmut petitioned the respective Corporation Commissions in both New York and Pennsylvania for discontinuance of the remaining passenger trains. Since 1925, passenger service had been provided by the two Brill Model 75 rail cars affectionately know as Hoodlebugs.
It was ironic that part of Dickson’s arguments before the Commissions was that the communities impacted by the loss of Shawmut passenger service were adequately served by local bus lines. Yet for the prior 10 years, Dickson had fought hard to prohibit, or at least limit, the franchises of these very same bus companies. What was once a threat to a source of revenue had become a salvation to stem a loss.
One of the Hoodlebugs, No. 91, was immediately put up for sale. It was sold to a railroad in Havana, Cuba and left for the tropics from the Port of Hoboken, New Jersey. This sale was made in cash; something that Dickson desperately needed to pay back-taxes, overdue interline (per diem) car rentals, overdue boxcar lease payments, etc. This must have been a tough decision for Dickson as an equipment dealer had offered a nice swap deal. In exchange for the 91, the dealer would supply enough new trucks to replace the obsolete archbar trucks that currently existed on the Shawmut’s hopper car fleet. Archbar trucks were bolted together; the bolts tended to loosen over time, leading to derailments. There was a looming deadline coming up in 1940 that would prevent the Shawmut from using these cars in interchange. But the need for cash was greater, so the 91 was sold for cash and engines Nos. 15, 16, 17, 52, 54, 56 and 65 were sold for scrap.
Mail and express service continued until 1942, by carrying mail in cabooses and express in a boxcar ahead of the caboose. The B&W movie on out video page shows express being unloaded from such a boxcar at the Angelica depot from a southbound train.