Camelback cameo

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  • Member since
    November, 2005
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Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 2:47 PM

Excerpt from Asbury Park Press, July 4, 1954

Last 'Camelback’ Locomotive Makes Farewell Run Sunday

This is Old 774, the nation's last camelback locomotive in active service, en route to West Point in April for a movie chore.

The Old 774 will leave Jersey City next Sunday on what may be its last trip…Old 744 will haul an eight-car special from Jersey City to Bay Head and back. The trip is sponsored for rail fans by the North Jersey Chapter of National Railway Historical Society…At Matawan the train will switch from Jersey Central tracks to New York & Long Branch tracks for a run to Freehold, which hasn't seen a Jersey Central passenger train since April 25, 1953…

Old 774 gave way to a diesel in April when it hauled its last commuter cars from Cranford to Jersey City.

The wheezing "Mother Hubbard" was all spruced up a week later for a run to West Point and two days of hobnobbing with John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and Tyrone Power in Columbia Pictures' film history of the Military Academy, "The Long Gray Line.”

The camelback locomotive got its name from the position of the cab forward of the firebox and astride the boiler. The first anthracite engines were fired with huge chunks of coal and took the obvious name of "lump burners." The chunks were carefully screened from the small pieces, the "culm" which were thrown away. John E. Wooten, general manager of the Reading Railroad, set out 12 years after the Civil War to develop an engine that would efficiently burn the economical "culm." His problem was mainly in getting enough air to burn the anthracite, since fireboxes, then didn't have enough grate area. He devised a bigger firebox, built right out to the clearance limits on either side, and the "culm" burned perfectly. But there was a slight catch. The firebox was so wide the engineer couldn't see around it. So Wooten put the cab astride the boiler, producing the camelback, one of the most popular locomotives types of all times.

Nearly all of New Jersey's coal carriers welcomed the camelbacks, and used them consistently until it became cheaper to haul in soft coal for the fireboxes. In 1918 the camelback was ruled out on the grounds it was unsafe to have the engineer up ahead in the cab and the fireman back behind the firebox. However, railroads were permitted to keep in operation those they had. And the Jersey Central kept them in road use extensively between Jersey City and Bay Head until 1946 when they were replaced by diesel locomotives.

A Jersey Central spokesman said company officials haven't decided what they're going to do with Old 774. It may wind up in the "boneyard." That's the area in Elizabethport yard where worn out locomotives await the scrap-cutter's torch. Or it may follow the Jersey Central's Old 592 Atlantic-type camelback locomotive, into the Baltimore & Ohio's transportation museum at Baltimore. Either way, the Jersey Central spokesman and George R. Eggers of Woodside, N.Y., secretary of the North Jersey Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, figure this will be Old 774's last run.

The chapter heralds the trip as a "farewell salute” to the iron horse. Mr. Eggers says some 500 rail fans who will take the trip will "be ready at the drop of a semaphore to shoot anything railroad."

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,260 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 7:44 PM

Did some looking for some NYO&W camels, and came up with this...

Not as much in there as I'd like, but interesting just the same.

Since there's no camels operation nowadays, here's as close as we can get, a video featuring the inimitable Bob Keller from "Trains" sister publication "Classic Toy Trains."  Bob's got a familial connection to camelback locomotives, which he tells us all about.




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