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March 21, 2013

PA Exhibit Features Local Reading Railroad Artifacts


Reading Eagle

Reading, PA (AP) In the late 1950s, years after being largely replaced by diesel engines, steam locomotives made a brief comeback on the Reading Railroad.

Hissing and bellowing smoke, vintage engines that had once pulled coal cars hauled passengers on excursions into coal country, the Lehigh Valley and even Gettysburg. Iron Horse Rambles, as they were known, were wildly popular between 1959 and 1964.

``They made Life magazine and the movies,'' said Dale W. Woodland, a Reading Railroad historian. ``People came from all over, including foreign countries, to ride the Reading.''

The last hurrah of the Reading steam engines is revisited in a new exhibit that opened recently at the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum in Hamburg.

``Members Treasures,'' which features Reading Railroad artifacts from several Berks County collections, runs through Nov. 17.

Woodland, exhibit curator, tapped the collections of members of the Reading Co. Technical & Historical Society, several of whom worked for the Reading.

Train at Reading Rail Road Museum

From an original diamond-shaped ``Reading Lines'' logo that adorned the front of the streamlined Crusader locomotive to conductors' pocket watches, the exhibit recalls an era when passengers could board in Reading for destinations like Philadelphia, Jersey City and Williamsport.

``The Reading was like the spokes of a wagon wheel,'' said Woodland, who has written four books about the railroad. ``Reading was the center, with lines going outward.''

In 1957, Woodland noted, the Reading moved 35,000 Boy Scouts for a jamboree in Valley Forge. It also ran special trains from Valley Forge to Philadelphia.

``That a railroad could move that many people is a testament to its efficiency,'' said Woodland, a retired Montgomery County teacher.

Entering the exhibit gallery, visitors are treated to an Iron Horse Ramble display from the collection of Steve Gilbert of Robesonia. One of the trains, No. 2124, it notes, appeared in the Hollywood version of John O'Hara's ``From the Terrace,'' starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

The Reading's forward thinking is dramatized by a painting of the Crusader, which in 1937 was the first streamlined locomotive in the eastern United States. The painting, done by Dan Reed of Hamburg, depicts the Crusader streaming past a 1934 LaSalle roadster.

Bill Cauff Jr., a Reading collector, preserved conductors' pocket watches and a bronze safety plaque awarded to employees of the East Penn Junction in 1956.

John A. Funk, a West Reading railroad devotee, has a ``pig whistle'' in his collection. The pig whistle was mounted on a caboose as a warning device when the train was backing up, Woodland said.

Don Davis, another West Reading collector, built miniature HO scale models of a Reading freight train hauling auto frames from the Dana Corp. Parish plant in Reading _ once a familiar sight to motorists passing the plant's yards.

Founded in 1838 to haul coal from Schuylkill County anthracite fields, the Reading was taken over by Conrail in 1976. During its 138-year reign, the Reading also carried freight, arms for the Civil War and passengers in suburban Philadelphia.

In turn, Conrail was absorbed in 1999 by Norfolk Southern and CSX. Norfolk got most of what was the Reading and part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. CSX absorbed much of the former New York Central lines.

Rite Of Spring Gives Right Of Way To Jersey Salamanders


The Star-Ledger of Newark

East Brunswick, NJ (AP) It’s just after sunset, the sky is a darkening blue. The woods are quiet with only the sounds of crickets chirping to disturb the dusk. It’s warm and wet.

The mood is just right for salamanders.

Every spring, a little bit of nature plays out before us as salamanders exit the forest and make their way to pools to find their mate.

In East Brunswick, the annual rite of passage has become a community event. Streets are closed so as not to imperil the salamanders’ crossing and dozens come out to help nature take its course.

When you’re only 3 inches long, crossing the street is a life-threatening trek, so to help the salamanders along, East Brunswick, in cooperation with South Brunswick, has closed Beekman Road, between Church Lane in East Brunswick and Davidson’s Mill Road in South Brunswick, for 11 years, saving hundreds of amphibian lives and giving people who come from all over central New Jersey a chance to safely watch nature in action.

``It was an amazing night, so many salamanders and so many people,’’ David Moskowitz, president of the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission, told The Star-Ledger of Newark after the migration on Tuesday evening. ``Reports from the road suggest there were hundreds crossing through the night and there must have been well over 100 people there’’ to watch.

A Jefferson salamander

Arnold Horowitz, an East Brunswick resident, brought his11-year-old son Billy after seeing information about the salamander migration on Facebook.

``Before tonight, I thought it was a joke,’’ Horowitz said. ``Not anymore.’’

Billy thought salamanders ``are cool.’’

Michelle Eden, a Spotswood resident, had her 6-year-old granddaughters with her on Beekman Road.
``I’ve always wanted to see them crossing, but I never got the chance,’’ Eden said. ``I decided today, I was going. This is the first time I’ve walked the road.’’

Closing the road can be the difference between a healthy mating season and roadkill, Moskowitz said.

``It’s evident we’re getting a lot more egg masses in the pools than before we began closing Beekman Road,’’ he said. ``We’re also getting a lot of young female salamanders crossing.’’

He said last year there were even egg masses in vernal pools that haven’t been used in years.

Salamanders spend most of the year in forests, but they must find standing water to mate and hatch eggs after the first warm spring rains begin.

McKenzie Hall, a biologist with The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, runs a program in northern and parts of central New Jersey, deploying volunteers to areas where the amphibians are known to migrate and help them cross roads.

``Most of those areas don’t have road closures because many are out in the country where there are fewer options for detours,’’ she explained. ``We will shuttle them across the road as part of the rescue.’’ On a typical crossing, some sites could have 100 to 200 amphibians crossing an hour, Hall said. They include spotted and Jefferson salamanders and peep and wood frogs.

Hall said her volunteers are working at six sites, two in Passaic, two in Sussex and two in Warren counties. She said volunteers used to close roads at the sites, but stopped about six or seven years ago because the detours might take motorists to another amphibian crossing.

After their time in the pool, the salamanders cross back into the forest, but Moskowitz and Hall said that journey isn’t as perilous because they go back individually, not all at once.

It takes the eggs a month to two months to hatch and another month before the babies grow into adults and go into the forest.

Moskowitz said the pools in East Brunswick are deeper and none of them dried out before the salamanders could hatch.

``So many vernal pools have been lost in New Jersey to farming and development,’’ he said. ``That’s why it’s so important to protect what we have.’’

Restoration Of Last Wooden Whaler Nears Completion


The Day of New London

Mystic, CT (AP) After five years and almost $7 million of work, Mystic Seaport will relaunch the restored whaling ship Charles W. Morgan at a July 21 ceremony that will feature documentary filmmaker Ric Burns as the keynote speaker.

The launch will come on the 172nd anniversary of the day the vessel was launched in New Bedford, Mass.

Work on the ship, which is the world’s last surviving wooden whaling ship, will then continue with shipwrights, riggers and other craftsmen preparing it for an eight-week voyage to ports across New England in the summer of 2014.

While the shipyard’s construction of the schooner Amistad in the 1990s was a ``once in a lifetime opportunity to build a vessel with cultural significance,’’ longtime shipyard director Quentin Snediker said the Morgan project is more important to him because of his interest in historic preservation.

``This is a major project—from the size of it, the institution’s commitment, the historic integrity and the resources that have been made available to us to do the job,’’ he said on a recent day, while standing alongside the ship, which is protected by a massive, 50-foot-high plastic enclosure.

The Morgan in 2008, going in for restoration

With about 90 days left to the launch, he said the project is on schedule with 32 full-time employees along with volunteers now working on it. The ship, which has remained open throughout the restoration, will continue to host visitors during the final work.

Snediker said that highly skilled shipwrights and riggers have come from around the country to work on the restoration.

``This is not just a chance to preserve the ship but to preserve these skills for the future,’’ he said. ``This is a chance to pass them on to people young enough to be our kids.’’

The majority of the restoration has centered around the need to replace some of the framing below the waterline that has deteriorated. The interior planking had to be removed to reach the framing and some of it replaced as well. Exterior planking was also replaced with the last plank slated to be installed next month. The work is expected to preserve the 113-foot-long ship for the next 30 years.

Since the work began in November 2008, each piece of wood that has been removed and replaced has been meticulously documented with photographs, laser scanning and X-rays.

When the project is complete, the Morgan will still have between 15 and 18 percent of its original wood.

Pointing to the keel at the bottom of the ship, Snediker noted that it is the same piece of wood installed in 1841.

While much of oak for the project has come from trees downed by hurricanes in the south, some of it has come from wood the Navy originally collected to repair and build ships in the 19th century.

The Morgan in her original state

Two years ago, Snediker received a call from a construction company working in the historic Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. While digging, the company had unearthed large pieces of white oak and live oak. A company employee recognized them as being made for wooden ships and the company called the Seaport to see if it was interested in them. The timbers were excavated and sent to the museum after years of preservation in the salty mud.

``They were gathered by the Navy’s master shipbuilders who wanted the best materials available,’’ Snediker said.

Standing in the captain’s quarters, Snediker pointed out a one-ton beam the shipyard fashioned out of the wood to create the transom timber, a critical structural element that ties portions of the stern together.

He said a scientist who examined the wood determined that it began growing in the late 16th century and was cut down in northern Ohio between 1863 and 1868. During that time the Morgan was making voyages in the Pacific ranging from Tahiti to the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia.

After the ship is launched, the focus will turn to the rigging. In addition, modern elements will be added for the 2014 voyage such as life boats, electronic navigation, a generator and a firefighting system. Much of that will be hidden from public view to preserve the ship’s historic integrity and then removed after the voyage.

Seaport spokesman Dan McFadden said the Morgan will first travel to New London where it will spend three weeks. Part of the time it will have ballast added for stability. That work cannot be done at the Seaport because the Mystic River is not deep enough for the fully ballasted ship to traverse without hitting the bottom. The ship will also take shakedown cruises out of New London because of its easy access to deep water.

The visit to New Bedford where the Morgan was built will take place on July 4, 2014. In Provincetown, the ship will take whale-watching trips.

``That will show how our relationship with whales have changed,’’ McFadden said.

The trip through the Cape Cod Canal will coincide with the waterway’s 100th anniversary celebration. While in Boston the Morgan will tie up next to the USS Constitution.

The Morgan will return to New London to have the ballast removed and then head back to the Seaport in early September. The museum has raised $4.5 million of the $7 million needed for the project.


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