Remembering the Rutland - Previous Editorials
An Appreciation of Edwill H. Brown
Originally published in February 2002
My story starts nearly thirty-five years ago. I had gone up to Hartford, CT to visit the Hobby Center on Pearl St. It was easily the best place in this area to go for model train supplies. While there, I picked up a copy of a newly published railroad book, and started to leaf through the pages. That book was The Rutland Road, and I knew right there that I would be buying it.
As I continued to browse through the pages, an older gentleman asked me where I was from. It turned out that we were both from the same small town about forty miles away. He gave me a card that identified himself as Edwill Brown. The card had an image of a Rutland locomotive on it. Mr. Brown wrote his telephone number on the back, and said call sometime. Well I was young enough to be cautious of any stranger, even one interested in trains, so I did not call.
For the next several years my interest in the Rutland grew. One day I happened to notice a photo credit in one of the Rutland books in the name of Edwill Brown. My mind flashed back to that day in the hobby shop. What did I do with that card? I keep most everything, but finding anything can be a problem. A few days later, there it is, mixed in a box with leftover parts from an old Hobbytown RS3 kit, that had become my first Rutland model.
Hey, I'm older now, more outgoing, so I pick up the phone to call this person from my past. The number is out of service! Well, I reason, he probably wasn't that Edwill Brown anyway. More years go by, and more photo credits to an Ed Brown, to an Edwill Brown, to an E.H Brown, and I have really got to get in touch with this guy.
One day, while getting a haircut, the barber says to me, "Your interested in trains aren't you?"
"Yes I am, why do you ask?"
He answers, "You should talk to Ed Brown."
I almost lost an ear when he said that! I ask, "What do you know about Ed Brown?"
He answers, "Oh he comes in here for a haircut, and I hear him yakking about trains."
I ask, "How can I get in touch with this man?"
The barber tells me that he believes he is friendly with the man who owns the florist shop next door. As soon as my ears were low enough, I scooted over to talk with this florist. Johnny Dombrowski was his name, and trains are his passion, too.
What a great day I was having! Johnny starts talking B&O and I start talking Rutland and he says, "You have got to get together with Ed Brown." Well he arranged a meeting and a few days later I started a friendship with one of the best friends I and the Rutland have ever had.
Yes, he was the Edwill Brown of Rutland photography fame.
More than a decade has past since that reunion. I still enjoy getting together with Ed for a cup of coffee, and some Rutland dreams come true. You see, for many years, Ed has collected memorabilia from our beloved Rutland. Things like the front number plate from the 90, the 80, and the 81. The headlight off the 83 and also the bell from the 80. There are class lights from ten wheelers, and lots of builders plates from many classes of Rutland steam including the 110, the 106, the 83, and many others that I can't recall at the moment. Also, there's the builders plate off the 203 in the original paint.
I can't walk around his basement train room without bumping my head on the multitudes of Rutland lanterns hanging from the rafters. There's a spike mallet standing in the corner with RUT RR stamped on it, and some of those unusual wood handled devises used for getting train orders up to a passing train crew.
Are you getting the picture of this place in your mind?
It's the photos, which cover the walls, that keep grabbing my attention. Big pictures, measuring maybe 18" x 24" I'd guess. The ones I have been looking at for all these years and ones I've never seen before.
And the stories of the pictures that Ed relates make the visit even more of a treat. Once, while riding with his father, they saw smoke in the distance, and knew it was a train. His dad pulled the car over, and young Ed, with box camera in hand, went running to get up on the bridge over the tracks. He got the shot, and you can see his father's car in the right background of that photo. It happens to be the picture on page 156 of Jim Shaughnessy's The Rutland Road.
When we get together Ed is always so very enthusiastic and informative. Somehow I wish I could give back to him as equally as he has given to me. So many questions he has answered, so many small treasures he has given. Friendship is what this is really all about, since that day in a Hartford hobby shop long ago. Ed really enjoys the comradery of the Rutland community. If you have the chance to talk with him at a convention or a train show, do it! I promise you Edwill Brown is as Rutland as anyone can be.
Thanks Ed for all the good times.
"Thank You, Mister Peterson"
Boston and Maine - Forest River and Mountain is the title of the latest book by Robert Willoughby Jones. It is another "classic in the making" from R.W. Jones featuring beautiful color and black & white photography, pleasing layouts, historical sketches, and insightful recollections by employees and fans of a northern New England institution - the B&M Railroad.
Before I was a fan of the Rutland - before I even knew there was a Rutland - I loved the B&M. I grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire where, as a kid during the 1950s and 60s, I often awoke in the middle of the night to the distant roar of EMD prime movers two miles away straining to move a train of tonnage to White River Junction. Inevitably the wail of horns could be heard as they bisected the streets of Nashua along the Merrimack River. I remember the anticipation I felt any time I approached any of the dozens of B&M grade crossings in town, hoping that the black and yellow crossing gates would start down or a flagman would appear, red flag in hand, leading a B&M switcher across a busy street. My first cab ride was on a maroon and gold B&M SW1 as it made its daily trek from Nashua out along the pastoral Hillsboro Branch. This journey to branchline paradise was arranged by my friend and neighbor, the late Eddie Moquin, who was a lifelong B&M engineer and a railroadman if ever there was one.
I mention all of this because it helps to explain why Robert W. Jones' books mean so much me. My memories of the B&M are in color and the photographers and writers who have contributed to Robert's books allow me to recall a childhood that is otherwise difficult to remember in detail. I am indebted to them all for taking the time to record their thoughts and images and for making them available for the rest of us to enjoy. And I thank one contributor in particular. His name is Rodney H. Peterson. He contributed what I consider the Holy Grail of color images: a Rutland L-1 Mountain in its short-lived green livery.
On the hot, sunny Sunday of August 31, 1947 Mr. Peterson ventured over to Burlington, Vermont from his home in Winooski. In the Burlington yards the Central Vermont Railway had just delivered the World of Mirth Carnival train to the Rutland. The train was on its way from Essex Junction to the Rutland Fairgrounds. A Rutland 2-8-2 Mikado (the book's caption is wrong according to Mr. Peterson) was already on the train waiting for its helper.
Walking south Mr. Peterson found the helper engine and its crew waiting in the afternoon sun for a backup motion. It was one of the new 90-class Mountains, the pride of every employee, the pride of the Rutland. Although he generally used black and white film, today Mr. Peterson was trying his luck with color slide film. He had loaded his camera with Kodachrome 10, a slow film to be sure, but this was a stationary subject in a bright setting, so why not? Carefully checking his settings, Mr. Peterson raised his camera to record the scene. White flags are displayed. The engineer leans confidently on the armrest watching as his portrait is recorded. He is the epitome of pride and professionalism, impeccably dressed in bright white coveralls, a blue hogger's cap and heavy work gloves. He represents everything that is good and admirable about the Rutland, about railroading. What kid wouldn't look up to him? What kid of any age wouldn't want to be him?
For twenty-odd years I've been a fan of the Rutland and for most of that time I have heard the lament that we don't have a color photograph of a Rutland Green Hornet. People have argued (and no doubt will continue to argue) about what shade of green they were, about what was green and what was black, about the lettering and the trim. I have sometimes wondered if the Rutland Mountains were ever really green at all! And then Robert W. Jones' book arrived. Personally I am not too concerned about the exact shade of green; that debate will never be resolved. For me the revelations in this one photograph go beyond the fact that the L-1's tender frame was black, beyond the black running gear, beyond the yellow walkway stripe. The story this photograph tells transcends the fact that it is a colorful portait of a unique locomotive. Mr. Peterson's image opened a window that had been nailed shut for all these years. Suddenly I understand why the Rutland's Green Hornets created such a buzz when they arrived, why they were the talk of the Champlain Valley and beyond. They were BEAUTIFUL. They were ELEGANT. They were a splash of color where black was the rule. They spoke of optimism and hope at a time when only recently everything about the world had been bleak and depressing.
Robert Willoughby Jones recently commented, "I thought the photo was not as sharp and as intense as we all would have liked. Nontheless it's the only one I have ever seen so I think we should be grateful for that. And I am deeply indebted to Mr. Peterson." I would like to use this opportunity to express my own debt of thanks to Rodney H. Peterson. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Mr. Peterson.
"A Flood of Memories"
Today, I received a box of old pictures. Amongst them was an envelope of
some pictures I took back in 1955. Included was a picture I took from inside the cab of a
Rutland RS3. I thought you might like to see it.
One of the speakers at the convention was the president of the Rutland. I, as a very young kid, thought I was in the presence of God! And, I guess I told him so. He promised to send me some material if I would give him my home address. Of course I did.
We were taken by the Cental Vermont on a steam-powered excursion trip. The pictures I took include a bridge on a lake, so I assume it was Rouses Point.
It rained the entire time I was there, although it bothered me not the least. The rains finally succeeded in washing out a portion of the CV main, leaving us all stranded in Burlington. Well, not stranded, but I certainly was not about to ride home on a BUS! Fortunately, I had relatives up in Richford that were willing to come get me and allow me to stay for a few days. Soon, we got word that the trains were being re-routed via the RUTLAND, so I got ready to go home. Of course, I had to tell the conductor all about my trip, including meeting his president and all. At one of the station stops, he came and got me and led me to the engine where I was instructed to board. I was to ride the head end for most of the trip. I don't remember the names of most of the stations, but I remember being told to notice the direction of the flow of the streams, and soon noticed they had changed as we had crossed from one water shed to another. I saw beaver dams and deer. I remember that those Alco's had the greatest sounding horns, unlike the blat horns I was used to on the New Haven. Finally, I had to return to the coach as my train was handed over to the B&M.
A few months later, I received a rather large box of paper items. There were blueprints for several steam locomotives, buildings, including several stations, there were timetables, maps, oh, just tons of stuff. The most prized was a letter giving me blanket permission to go anywhere on the railroad property I wanted!
Later that year I managed to talk my mother into driving me to Rutland, where we visited the main offices. When I showed the letter I was treated like royalty! We wandered around the yards, got a tour of the company car which was there, and just generally enjoyed the visit. I took a lot of pictures.
You'll notice that I stated I lived near Hartford, CT. In the fall of 1955, everything, and I mean everything, we owned went down the river during the floods of that year. So, I can't prove any of this. I don't need to though; I have the memories.
How I wish I still had that box of material to donate to an historical society! That
box was one of the things I most regretted losing. I wish I had paid more attention to
station names. I wish I could have afforded another roll of film. I wish a lot of things
but, I have the memories I have and I have this picture. Somehow, this roll of film missed
being carried away by the flood waters we experienced that fall. I'm just so glad I have
Don't Shoot the Messenger
During a recent visit to one of my favorite hobby shops, my conversation with the owner eventually arrived at the subject of the recently released (and recently sold out) Kadee Rutland PS-1 box cars. I immediately sensed a bit of anger directed at me due to the fact that the PS-1 Forum within these pages had generated so much controversy, much of it perceived as being negative in nature. It made me realize that my own sense of what Remembeing the Rutland is all about can be quite different than someone else's.
I never intended nor intend for this web site to be a platform for "product bashing" or "personality bashing." As soon as I sense even the slightest hint of either, that will be it for that individual. (RtR is not a public service; I pay for it out-of-pocket and it is stricly a labor of love). My intention is to moderate a lively and civilized discussion in the hope that better knowledge, and therefore better models of Rutland prototypes, will follow. If we can't agree to disagree then maybe it is time to forget the whole thing.
You may have noticed that with the exception of the Rutland Modelers News and Scuttlebutt and editorials such as this, I generally tend to keep my opinions to myself. Do not interpret this to mean that I don't have an opinion on most subjects. Of course I do. Interpret this to mean that I prefer to let everyone have their say without the fear of me adding a "yes, of course" or "what a pinhead you are" to their opinion. I respect everyone to have an opinion and to have a different opinion than mine.
You will also notice that I rarely, if ever, use two words when writing about the Rutland: "never" and "always." These two words are the kiss of death because as soon as you use one of them someone else will prove you wrong...or at least determine to try to.
So just for the record, here are a few of my opinions:
The Rutland Lives On!
Originally uploaded in June of 1999
I recently spent a warm, sunny Sunday visiting the city of Rutland, Vermont. I am here to tell you that the Rutland Railroad is alive and well. Although it is now known as the Vermont Rail System, the Yankee determination and pride that made the Rutland so special can be witnessed every day as if the Rutland never left.
There was a switcher drilling Rutland Yard in the morning, making up freight trains destined for all directions from the Rutland "hub." That same switcher, its morning duties complete, left Rutland with an afternoon local to Florence. There are daily passenger trains rolling into Rutland and stopping at a new, attractive railroad station because the people of Vermont willed it to be. There are brightly-colored, well-maintained locomotives that bear testimony to the pride and skill of the people who maintain and run them. It is as if "the strike" never occurred.
As I headed south towards home that afternoon, I stopped at the Route 103 grade crossing near East Clarendon to witness the sound and spectacle of three VRS locomotives straining to move tonnage up to Mount Holly and Summit. Wow! I am smiling now remembering it. Later at home, I pulled out my most precious video: "Green Mountain Railroading on the Rutland," which is an old Blackhawk movie shot with live sound in 1951 and 1952 by Fred McLeod. There in the first scene is brand-new Alco #201 assisting Mountain #92 around that same twisting curve and over that same grade crossing. Thanks to the people of Vermont and the Vermont Rail System, the struggle up to Summit continues today. May it ever be so.
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