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Steam Scene

In 1989 Ron and Marie Brown hosted their first steamup at their home in the tiny hamlet of Newark Valley, N.Y. Their original ground-level garden railway was called the “Silo Falls Railway.” In Spring 1998, Ron — the founder of Steam in the Garden — elevated the railway onto an aluminum frame for ease of steaming.

Twenty-six years later, and despite Ron’s passing in 2010, the annual event continues each August. That first railway is now surrounded by the lush garden that defined the original right-of-way for the old “Silo Falls” and provides a picture-perfect backdrop for the Paradise East Railway’s annual event.

Overview of Paradise East Railway. Photos by Scott E. McDonald.

About 30 live steamers from all over the northeastern United States (and southeastern Canada) attended the steamup, held Aug. 14-16. Tom Bowdler of Rochester, N.Y., also provided his portable layout to give the attendees a total of four main lines on which to operate. Tom has provided his portable layout for many years prior as an adjunct to the steamup and this year had his newest incarnation available.

Tom Bowdler checks the level as he sets up his new portable track.

Tom’s previous portable layout have been chronicled in Steam in the Garden (see September/October 2004, No. 77 and May/June 2006, No. 87). This year he unveiled his latest acquisition of an aluminum frame with composite aluminum decking acquired from Triple R Services of Mount Holly, N.J. One foot longer and wider than his previous layout, setup was quick and easy with the first steamer running its course in less than an hour after Tom backed his car into the yard.

Walter Stolt’s backwoods project engine.

We had some interesting mods of locomotives, scratch builds and kit bashes make their appearances at the steamup. One of the subjects of fuel that comes up in steamup conversations from time to time is about the use of wood stove pellets as a propellant. I have read at various online forums the different attempts to make this fuel a viable source, most met with a rejection of the idea.

Carl Berg and his LBSC 0-gauge ‘Sir Morris de Crowley.’

Carl Berg of Attica, N.Y., brought an LBSC design, “Sir Morris de Cowley,” an 0-scale locomotive that he acquired and has been refurbishing. When he received the locomotive, the throttle was seized in the boiler manifold and required several weeks of soaking in spirits before Carl was able to remove it without damaging the boiler.

Once that was accomplished, it was a matter of finding and fixing steam leaks. The locomotive was originally designed for coal firing, so the grate was there ready to receive the pellets. As Carl brought the locomotive into steam, he was able to get enough pressure to complete 2½ full laps of the railway before exhausting his steam supply. Happy with the results, Carl will now start working on the next phase of his project to see how he can provide a pellet resupply into the fire box.

Peter Thornton’s rail-motor modification based on a ‘Dora.’

Modifying the Accucraft “Dora” is a great starting point for projects and two were at Newark Valley.

Jeff Young of Mississauga, Ontario, had “Baldrick,” as reported in Steam in the Garden’s most recent Diamondhead article (May/June 2015, No. 139), while Peter Thornton of Annapolis, Md., showed his mod with an Aristo-Craft passenger car that now fits over the “Dora” to make a rail motor. Pete is still working out some bugs of the heat concentration inside the plastic model, which can be overcome if you stick to very wide radius curves so as to keep the side of the boiler away from the plastic body.

Harvey Campbell’s Mamod Tractor rail-truck conversion.

Harvey Campbell delighted the attendees with his much-modified Mamod tractor conversion into a rail truck. Looking as though it is on the verge of being a 7/8ths-scale rail vehicle, Harvey is gearing up (pun intended since it is chain driven) for the 2016 election year with his favorite cartoon characters from the 1940s-1960s comic strip “Pogo” by Walt Kelly. Sporting banners along the side of the truck announcing “Pogo for President” in the famous “I Go Pogo” style of the comic, the bed of the truck was filled with Pogo character figures out for a ride to the next election whistle stop.

Carl Berg’s single-truck Heisler.

Another interesting locomotive that was making its rounds on Tom’s small layout was Carl’s One-Truck Heisler (see Steam in the Garden, January/February 2004, No. 74). This tiny geared locomotive put on quite a show with its ability to haul a goodly rake of rolling stock for its diminutive size. Another other Carl special is his O-gauge “Commodore Vanderbilt” that will make the circuit of the mainline track in about 30 seconds. And that was the speed record for the weekend.

It was another wonderful weekend for the steamup record books, and Marie Brown’s hospitality is always a pleasure. Thanks Marie for having us over for a great weekend and here’s to many more!

Rob Kuhlman checks the first few feet of his Larry Herget scratch built.   Maxitrak tractor makes the rounds of the grounds.