Train Photography by R. Wallace Wilson
Oneida Public Library, Oneida, NY
A snapshot of trains and train history in this exhibit
Please note that I am not a railroad historian and the information presented here is for lightly descriptive purposes, often paraphrased from other sources. Much of what I present is gathered from my travels or searching the internet. Good books and good lectures are available at this library and from local historical societies. Train nostalgia continues to grow in popularity and there are many opportunities across the country to see or ride vintage trains. Welcome aboard!
Union Station, Utica, NY
This historic Union Station was opened for the New York Central (NYC) Railroad on May 24, 1914, and became a union station in late 1915 when the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad and the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad moved their services to the facility. This was the third Utica station built. Today, rail passengers use the restored station. Originally, passengers crossed to either platform under the tracks, but today access is via an enclosed aerial walkway.
The Utica & Schenectady Railroad built the first station in 1836, and it quickly became a way station on the route west as other railroads came through. These railroads were combined in 1853 to form the New York Central.
In 1855, when the Utica and Black River began running north-south trains, Utica was the transfer point for tourists travelling to Trenton Falls. This line is now the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern and carries the Adirondack Scenic Railroad excursion tours out of Utica. (Current information regarding the Adirondack Scenic Railway excursions can be found on their website: https://www.adirondackrr.com.)
In 1869, the New York Central opened another station, converted from two buildings with open-air platforms between the waiting room and the restaurant. The station often flooded.
Between 1901 and 1907 a channel was dug for the Mohawk River a half-mile to the north, and part of the old riverbed became the Barge Canal harbor.
The 1914 New York Central station was designed by architects Allen H. Stem and Alfred Fellheimer of New York City. They are also known for their design of New York City’s Grand Central Station. In Utica, they created a $1 million structure in the Beaux Arts style. One is readily impressed by the station’s exterior, but the main attraction is the marble columned interior whose vaulted ceiling rises 35 feet at its peak. The columns are made of concrete and steel and are faced with Botticino marble. The floor is made of durable terrazzo. Grey Vermont and Knoxville marbles are used on the interior wall facings and ticket windows.
Steam Engine No. 6721, Utica, NY:
The steam engine at Utica’s Union Station was built in 1913 by ALCO.
In 2015, a 13 year old accidentally unlocked the break on a rail car which caused a front end crash with the steam engine which in turn smashed its rear into the Union Station building. The Susquehanna and Western Freight car travelled one mile before hitting the old steam engine.
ALCO, builder of the steam engines in Utica, Arcade and Union Pacific’s 4014: American Locomotive Company was formed in 1901 by the merger of Schenectady Locomotive Engine Manufactory of Schenectady, NY with seven smaller locomotive manufacturers. The American Locomotive Automobile Company subsidiary designed and manufactured automobiles under the Alco brand from 1905 to 1913 and produced nuclear energy from 1954 to 1962. The company changed its name to Alco Products, incorporated in 1955 and went out of business in 1969.
Arcade & Attica Railway
Arcade, NY offers an operational railway (ARA Shortline) with excursion passenger trains running on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during their run season. Passengers can enjoy a 14-mile round trip ride from Arcade to Curriers, NY in restored 1920’s era passenger coaches and an open gondola, pulled by its historic steam engine (when operational) or diesel locomotives.
The railroad originally connected Arcade with Attica, NY, however the right of way from North Java to Attica was abandoned in 1947 due to flooding on the Tonawanda Creek.
The rail depot offers refreshments and souvenirs for sale. There are historic displays of train memorabilia and photographs. (Be sure to sign the guest book!)
The No. 18 was built by ALCO in 1920. Their other steam engine, a Baldwin No. 14 is not operational and is in storage. (The Fillmore & Western Railway’s Baldwin No. 14 is operational, running in California.)
I learned on my recent visit to Arcade that some people complain about “the soot.” Although I have never ridden on the Nol. 18, in all of my rides on the No. 14 Baldwin in California, I did not walk away dirty. These trains send out black smoke as well as white steam.
Check A&A’s website for events and train ride schedules. They feature events such as Christmas trains, murder mystery trains and Civil War re-enactments. No. 18 is down for the 2019 season.
Status of the No.18 locomotive:
At the close of the 2001 passenger excursion season, No.18 went into the A&A's workshops for a complete teardown and overhaul to bring it into compliance with the new 49 C.F.R. Part 230, the Federal Railroad Administration's new regulations on steam locomotive inspection and maintenance. Originally expected to last until halfway through the 2002 passenger season, the teardown revealed much work that needed to be completed to bring the locomotive into compliance with the new safety regulations. In 2008, No. 18 finally emerged from the shops after a 6-year-long rebuilding program. By 2018, the locomotive was again in need of repair and put into the shop to have its condition assessed. In March of 2019 it was announced that its condition was worse than anticipated, and it would be out of service through the 2019 season. Repairs include replacement of the firebox, and once completed will allow continued operation.
Fillmore & Western Railway, Fillmore, CA
FWRR is a privately owned railway which is located in Ventura County, California. The railway runs excursions between Fillmore and Santa Paula or Fillmore and Piru. FWRR’s rolling stock has been used in many movie productions such as “Water For Elephants,” “Throw Mama From the Train,” and “Seabiscuit.” The trains have been used in television shows such as “CSI” and “Criminal Minds.” The town, itself, has been used for many movie productions. Fillmore is a pristine and idyllic small town setting with a train depot, classically styled city hall, little vintage movie theatre and a large clock in the town square. The hardware store retains its creaky wooden floors, wooden drawers and storefront windows reminiscent of the old days when people shopped downtown.
The track is a standard gauge railroad constructed in 1887 by Southern Pacific Railroad through the Santa Clara River Valley in Ventura County. This line was originally part of the Southern Pacific's main line between San Francisco and Los Angeles before a shorter route was built through the Santa Susana Mountains in 1904.
The No. 14 Baldwin was manufactured by The Baldwin Locomotive Works, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of trains from 1825 to 1956. For decades, the company was the world's largest producer of steam locomotives, but struggled to compete as demand switched to diesel engines. Baldwin produced the last of its 70,000-plus locomotives in 1956 and went out of business in 1972.
The Fillmore No. 14 steam engine is operational as an excursion locomotive and runs on a regular basis. It is well maintained and briefly out of service from time to time. It was operational on rail lines until the 1960s and was purchased by FWRR from Dodge City Railroad, Dodge City, Kansas. The owner of the FWRR told his wife of his purchase when she was in the shower and could barely hear him. He has since spent a lot of money restoring the locomotive to its original glory and the engine, of course, is named after his wife.
FWRR vintage rolling stock travel the 12-mile route mainly from Fillmore to Santa Paula on weekends and for special or holiday events which are regularly offered. Refer to the FWRR schedule at https://www.fwry.com/
At Santa Paula, the weekend trains stop for a period of time so that passengers can explore the town or grab a bite to eat.
Steve McQueen spent much of his time in Santa Paula, taking flight lessons out of the SP airport and hung out at the Mupu Grill on Main Street. They say that he would arrive fifteen minutes early for his flying lessons so that he could spend time with his fans.
The New York & Lake Erie (NYLE) is a class III railroad operating in Western New York. The NYLE was formed in 1978 to operate a portion of former Erie track that Conrail no longer wanted. NYLE was used as the setting for railroad scenes in the 1987 film “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” and the railroad tracks and depot in South Dayton, along with other portions of the village, were featured in the 1983 Robert Redford movie "The Natural."
Due to the flooding of the Cattaraugus Creek in 2009 and the subsequent damage the flooding did to the railway, passenger service on the New York & Lake Erie Railroad was suspended until late 2012. At Gowanda, there is a graveyard of older trains at the station which appears to be abandoned, but the facebook page recently posted their May 2019 Mother’s Day excursion.
Information regarding their Western NY train rides can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/wnytrainrides/
The Train Museum at Pomona, CA, was the home of Union Pacific’s Steam Engine No. 4014, also known as “Big Boy.” Built in November 1941 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) of Schenectady, NY, Engine No. 4014 is the only operating Big Boy of the eight that remain in existence. In 2014, “Big Boy” was pulled out of the museum and sent to Wyoming for restoration. In its day, No. 4014 and the 24 other Big Boys routinely pulled trains of up to 4,200 tons. No. 4014 completed its last revenue service in 1959. All of the Big Boys were retired in 1962. At the time of this writing, in 2019, the restoration is complete and after nearly 60 years, Big Boy is on tour with UP’s No. 84 steam engine, celebrating the 150 year anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. Follow the two trains on Union Pacific’s facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/UPSteamClub/
The museum at Pomona offers other vintage trains. Visit Pomona museum’s website: http://www.railgiants.org/
(I have photos of Big Boy before the restoration on my website.)
28 Moons, LLC
R. Wallace Wilson
email: [email protected]
(not a text number/ voice only – voice mail msg )
Renee Wilson (nee Renee Akana) grew up in Oneida, NY. In 1963, her step father, Paavo Siivonen, a fireman, was killed when he was riding in a firetruck that swerved on to the tracks to avoid hitting another car. As was the case for many in this small city, Renee and her brother heard about the accident on the radio as they were doing their homework and decided to walk down the tracks. Earlier in life, as a toddler, she witnessed a woman’s car get hit by a train on Main Street and never forgot it. In 1965, the train tracks were moved out of the city. She lives in the house on E. Railroad Street that was given to her mother and step father as a wedding gift.
Renee studied art at Oneida High School with amazing instructors, Eugene Palma and Patricia Zeke. She went on to study art and photography at Santa Monica College in California. She has also been trained by a professional photographer who photographed models and movie stars. His teaching approach led her to things she didn’t learn in school and with a firm push, told her to “figure it out.” As a painter, she studied formally, but also liked tackling things on her own, which has been her best way of learning.
Renee lived in Los Angeles, California for 45 years, moving back to Oneida in 2014. Living a very good life in California, never farther than four miles away from the beach and as close as two blocks from the water’s edge, it would be difficult to overlook that Renee didn’t miss her home in the West. However, moving back to Oneida seemed like the right thing to do later in her life.
Train photography is one of many subjects she embraces, but better experiences with trains outweighed more difficult memories. Train photography happened to be an unavoidable journey. In college, Renee teamed up with her good friend, Roger, who turned out to be a rail fan. Every weekend, they would hit the road for parts unknown, sidelined by train chasing stops along the way. She also chased trains with photo journalist and fellow photography artist, Robert Crum of Fillmore. (Bob writes a photography column for the Fillmore Gazette and covers their major small town events.)
SHOWS, EVENTS, AWARDS:
(Check website for upcoming events, announcements and shows)
Prints are available for sale as matted prints in various sizes.
A variety of other train prints not included in the exhibit can be found on the website www.28moons.com. Sales are directly through the artist.
A selection of photography note cards and prints are currently for sale at the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute store on the second floor of the museum.
Gallery wraps (canvas) and metal prints are also available.