Railway Preservation News

Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association
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Author:  Rick Rowlands [ Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:36 am ]
Post subject:  Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

About 5 miles from Youngstown Steel Heritage on the other side of Youngstown is the Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association. Most of you probably haven't heard of it, which is understandable since its been largely moribund for the past several years. They have a 2 acre site in what was once a Republic Steel parking lot, fortunately with active rail access.

The MVRHA was started in 1985 by Jim Marter, George Seil and Rich Melvin largely as a means to sponsor a 765 trip from Struthers to Pittsburgh over the P&LE. I was on that trip when I was 12 years old. In 1988 the MVRHA acquired their first equipment, two 125 ton bottle type hot metal cars and a slag car from LTV Steel. These cars were placed on a rented siding in an industrial park in Struthers. Two years later a couple of ex EL troop sleepers arrived from Conrail, then a PRR N5c and a PRR RPO car. It was about that time that I joined up. Additional equipment continued to trickle in piecemeal resulting in a rather eclectic collection of mostly industrial rolling stock.

When I formed YSH a few years later I went off on my own. The MVRHA soldiered on looking for a site for their permanent home. Several opportunities presented themselves, including the option of purchasing half of P&LE's Gateway Hump yard for $35,000, but they were passed up for one reason or another. Finally in 2006 they did acquire their site on Poland Avenue and in 2007 several more pieces of equipment including two P&LE cabooses, P&LE boxcar, fireless cooker, Davenport diesel mechanical and a GE off center cab 65 tonner were moved to this site. Not much has happened on site since 2007.

That started to change a little over a month ago when I became active in the group again. The main objective of the MVRHA at this time is to consolidate all of their equipment onto their property. The first step includes laying about 800 feet of track and at least one turnout to handle all of the equipment, moving the equipment on site onto these tracks and then bringing the equipment in Struthers over to the museum.

My first step was to get their Davenport operating again. Fortunately its been repowered with a Cummins, and within a couple of hours had it running again. Then hydraulic lines began to fail, so I replaced about a half dozen lines and flushed out the oil reservoir. The radiator has a few holes in the bottom and that has been temporarily fixed. The air system needs some attention as several lines are either rotted away totally or have pin holes. The air system is important for other reasons as well, because this loco will also serve as out air compressor for running a pneumatic spiker.

They have enough track materials on hand for most of the track that we have to lay. They also have a Case 1537 skid steer which is operable. Well it was barely operable. It took a couple of days of fixing things on it before getting it to the point where it will run for longer than 5 minutes before breaking something.

Tomorrow will be the first track laying session since 2007. To supplement the skid steer I brought my backhoe over from YSH, and hopefully we can get a couple hundred feet of track down and at least tacked together, since the Davenport isn't ready to make air for the spiker yet.

Once we get some track down and we are ready to move the equipment another issue is ahead of us. The fireless is stuck and will not roll. I'm hoping that its just stuck crossheads and not a case of stuck roller bearing main journals like I had with J&L 58. I really don't want to spend a month tearing this thing completely down to get it to roll!

Meanwhile over at the Struthers site we will get started preparing the equipment that can go by rail to be accepted by the short line, and start trucking the pieces that would never be acceptable to go on its own wheels. All of the equipment is on a siding that at one time had ties but no longer does. Just two strings of 85 lb. rail in dirt is pretty much what we have to work with. So the Davenport will at some point be trucked to this location and used to drag each piece out one at a time and placed on a much better track. Those two hot metal cars are the furthest down the siding and will be the hardest to get out.

I will keep this thread updated with our progress as we undertake these various projects. Its good to be working with this organization again. The history of railroading in the Youngstown area is amazing, and deserves a facility where we can tell that story. We are going to make it happen!

File comment: The lineup of equipment at Castlo Industrial Park in Struthers.
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File comment: Initial track plan, which includes realigning the first curve.
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File comment: Looking north standing on top of P&LE caboose 506.
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Author:  Rick Rowlands [ Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

BTW if you wonder why my name here is "Hot Metal", its largely because those two hot metal cars got me interested in the history of the steel industry way back when I was 16 years old.

Author:  John T [ Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

I have had to move cars off of bad track before. A good long cable is your best tool. If the hand brakes work on the cars have someone on them. If not, have several people on each side with 2x4s or 2x6s ready to stop the cars.

Author:  David H. Hamley [ Fri Aug 19, 2016 11:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

Glad to see that one of Carbon Limestone's pair of 60 ton off-center-cab GEs got saved. I thought both had been scrapped for parts. Is this the one that was operational in later years or the hangar queen? I'd be nice to hear one of those Cooper-Bessemer in-line eights running again. (Or is it a six?)

Author:  Rick Rowlands [ Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

This one was acquired from American Steel Foundry in Alliance, OH. I do not know where it came from before there.

Author:  Rick Rowlands [ Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

Saturday was a good day for the MVRHA as this was the first new trackage laid at the museum site in several years. About 100 feet of track that was originally laid without tie plates was rebuilt with tie plates, several rotted ties replaced and a short stick of rail replaced with a longer stick so that the joints would be staggered instead of across from each other. Three full lengths of rail were also added to extend the track. We would have done more but for the fact that the air supply from the Davenport is not yet available, relegating us all to hand spiking.

The track is being laid in a straight line but will be pushed over into a curve with any skewed ties straightened up. Then about 300 feet of straight track to put down.

File comment: MVRHA president Joe Vasko, Phil Raynes and Steve Berish hard at work. VP Mike McCleery and Secretary Carl Jacobson are out of the photo, with me taking the picture.
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Author:  Phil Raynes [ Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

It was an interesting day's work! I am used to working on 3' gauge track, often in the shade, with 56 lb. rail, and 5"x7"x6' ties. Working blazing 90 degree sunshine with full standard gauge ties & 110+ lb. rail and no pre-drilling the holes for the spikes certainly put this old man to the test! Still, it was a good day, much was accomplished, & new friends were made! Thanks for the invitation, Rick!

Author:  Rick Rowlands [ Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

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This past weekend our volunteer track crew added another four lengths of rail to Track 1. We are almost to the point where we can start moving the string of equipment northward over the new trackage.

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The MVRHA has three pieces in the collection from the P&LE, two cabooses and a boxcar. Spongebob Squaretruck was recently changed from Conrail to P&LE and it looks rather striking next to the 506.

Author:  Richard Glueck [ Mon Jul 03, 2017 9:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

Rick, this is an impressive save in the telling of the nation's "smokestack" era of industry. Nice coverage, good labor force.

Author:  John T [ Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

Congratulations Rick. And now for something (almost) completely different. Ladle car at the Burden Iron Works Museum Troy, NY.

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Author:  kevin kohls [ Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

You are a fantastic wonder ! I wish that I could do what you do ! I would really love to see a Baldwin diesel come back to Ohio; there isn't one in the entire state. And a locomotive crane would be real nice, we just lost OHIO LOCOMOTIVE CRANE here in Bucyrus after 108 years. Still sad about that.

Keep up the great work !

Kevin K

Author:  Bobharbison [ Tue Jul 04, 2017 3:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

including the option of purchasing half of P&LE's Gateway Hump yard for $35,000,

That sounds like a real bargain. What was the reason for passing that up, if you know? Lack of funds, or was there some problem with the site?

Author:  Rick Rowlands [ Tue Jul 04, 2017 4:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

I am sure there was probably some environmental contamination from decades of use as a rail yard, but that is just a guess. A local company did buy it, stripped the slag from the bowl and made a small fortune selling aggregates. As for why the organization did not buy it, I think it was a bit too daunting for them at the time.

And I was only about 21 or 22 years old at the time so that was well before I was doing the sort of stuff I'm doing now.

Author:  murph [ Tue Jul 04, 2017 4:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

Rick, you continue to amaze us. We've seen the 58 progress, the work you do with other tourist railroads/museums, and now this (and you find time to move other peoples locomotives). Is there some sort of historic railroading bucket list that you're working to complete?

Speaking of the 58, what's the latest on it?

Author:  Rick Rowlands [ Tue Jul 04, 2017 6:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mahoning Valley Railroad Heritage Association

The MVRHA work is taking priority right now since they have a deadline for moving ten cars to their site and as of yet do not have track to put them on.

On the J&LNG the Brookville regauging and repowering is progressing. The wheels are pressed off the axles and ready to go to the machine shop. We have a running Ford 302 and transmission ready to be mounted on new supports. On the 58 itself I just purchased about 8,000 lbs. for steel plate for the rear platform. Those plates need to be drilled, tapped and welded together.

The fleet of Alco switchers also needs some attention this summer, which I will shoehorn in as I can. Never a dull moment around here!

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