Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Today's Train of Thought- Rocket's Red Glare, July 4, 2012

According to Kamblach Publishing's American Shortline Railway Guide, northern Delaware's Wilmington & Western operates freight service over their 10-mile line in northern Delaware with brick and lumber making up most of the traffic. Of course, that was the 1996 edition- the last time they bothered publishing one on paper.

The guide also mentions that the W&W also hosts year round excursions powered by steam, diesel or a restored Pennsylvania 'Doodlebug'- a quick check of their website confirms that they still do. In fact, I'm guessing the excusrions are their bread and butter.

Built in 1873, the Wilmington & Western and its line through northern Delaware's Red Clay Valley was absorbed by the Baltimore & Ohio about a decade later. It remained in the B&O fold for nearly a century until CSX predecessor Chessie System sold the remnants of line off to Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc. who had been leasing the line for weekend excursions since the laet 1960s. The line has seen its share of adversity since 1999, getting struck by floods from Hurricane Floyd in '99 and Tropical Storm Henri in '03. The latter wiped out a number of bridges along the line, shortening the W&W from 10 miles to less than 2. However, by June 2007, the W&W had managed to re-open the entire line.

In addition to a pair of 1940-built EMD SW1s, the W&W also features a trio of steam locomotives; an 0-6-0 Baldwin switcher, an ALCo 4-4-0 American and a Canadian Locomotive Works 2-6-0 Mogul.

Built in 1907, the little Baldwin switcher saw service with the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic Railroad, the US Army, and Virginia's Blue Ridge Railway before going on static display at the nearby Avondale, PA Railroad Center before being donated to the W&W in 1997 with the stipulation that she be restored to working order. Renumbered by the W&W to #58 and dubbed the 'Veteran's Locomotive' after her Army service, the little Baldwin switcher was steaming up and down the Red Clay valley in about a year's time.

Here, contributor Christopher Blaszczyk caught the #58 cooling down at Hockessin, DEafter spending July 4, 2010 hauling passengers on the W&W. Onlookers in the background can be seen watching fireworks that, from this angle, look like they were launched out of the #58's smokestack.

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