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Wilmington & Western Railroad Trip 7/19/2013

by Chris Guenzler

Dave and I arrived at the Wilmington & Western Railroad parking lot and sitting in front of the station was Pennsylvania Railroad Doodlebug 4662 "The Paul Revere". I started taking my pictures.

Here are views of the unique piece of railroading history.

A Brief History

The Wilmington & Western Railroad was chartered in 1867 to move goods between the mills along the Red Clay Creek and the Port of Wilmington, and officially opened for freight and passenger service on October 19, 1872. Three passenger trains and a mixed freight train operated six days a week on nearly 20 miles of track between downtown Wilmington, Delaware and Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Much of the line ran through the Red Clay Valley, bustling in the late 19th Century with farms, small villages and water-powered mills. Excessive construction debts and poor management caused the line to fall into foreclosure in 1877, just a few years after opening. New owners reorganized the line as the Delaware Western Railroad, which became highly profitable moving Kaolin Clay, vulcanized fiber materials, snuff, iron and coal to and from the many mills that lined the route.

In the 1880s, the line was purchased by the Baltimore & Philadelphia Railroad, a subsidiary of the Baltimore & Ohio. Purchase of the line by the B&P provided the Baltimore & Ohio with an access route to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad for passengers and freight traveling between Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. The line became known as the "Landenberg Branch" by the B&O and was, for a time, its most profitable branch line.

When a resort opened along the railroad in the late 1880s at Brandywine Springs, the passenger business flourished as people from around the region came to the park to escape the summer heat. They came to enjoy the fun house, pony rides, carousel, live entertainment and delicious food. The park closed in 1923 and the passenger business ended on September 28, 1930, a victim of the Great Depression. Shortly thereafter, the Pennsylvania Railroad discontinued its connecting service to Landenberg. With trucks and automobiles gaining in popularity, the Landenberg Branch saw a sharp decrease in freight traffic and the line was shortened to Southwood, Delaware in the early 1940s. After the demolition of the large Broad Run Trestle and growth of residential development after World War II, the line was shortened to Hockessin, Delaware in the late 1950's.

In the mid-1960's, Historic Red Clay Valley Incorporated was formed and began leasing the tracks from the B&O on weekends beginning in 1966, operating steam-powered tourist trains between Greenbank Station and Mt. Cuba, located mid-way between Greenbank and Hockessin. In the mid-1970's, the line's new owner, The Chessie System, determined that the line had become a financial burden and filed for abandonment of the Landenberg Branch. With the line due to be demolished, fundraising began by HRCV. In August 1982, the remaining 10.2 miles of the Landenberg Branch were purchased by HRCV.

For three days in September 1999, Hurricane Floyd pounded the East Coast, destroying two of our wooden bridges spanning the Red Clay Creek, damaging 11 others and causing numerous washouts along the line. A year later, volunteers and contractors had repaired most of the line between Greenbank and Hockessin, and on November 25, 2000, the first revenue train made its way westbound to Mt. Cuba. The Wilmington & Western had overcome a major natural disaster in just 18 months, but the railroad would soon discover that Mother Nature had more in store.

On September 15, 2003 (one day short of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Floyd), the remnants of Tropical Storm Henri stalled over southern Chester County in Pennsylvania and produced record amounts of water in the Red Clay Creek. The rushing waters tore through the Red Clay Valley, destroyed six of our historic bridges and reduced our railroad from 10 miles to two. We persevered (and continued to operate on the remaining section of track) while we rebuilt the bridges to withstand future flooding.

On June 30, 2007, our Royal Blue coaches, behind a gleaming locomotive 98, triumphantly entered Hockessin for the first time in almost four years - the Wilmington & Western was reborn! Today, our railroad continues to operate regular steam- and diesel-powered tourist trains on our full 10 miles of track between Greenbank and Hockessin. In recent years, our railroad has become a popular site for weddings, birthdays, family reunions and a variety of other events. Our Board of Directors, staff and volunteers contribute countless hours of work each year into making the railroad the successful enterprise it is today, and they do it so that future generations will have a living awareness of the history, industry and beauty of the Red Clay Valley.

Pennsylvania Railroad Doodlebug 4662 "The Paul Revere"

Motor car 4662 was built by Pullman Standard, outfitted by Brill, and outshopped on April 29, 1929. The car is self-propelled and features both passenger seating and baggage storage. Cars such as this were usually referred to as "Doodlebugs" by railroaders and they saw service on lightly-used branch lines where it was not economical to operate a full-length train. The car was originally powered by two Winton 175hp gasoline engines, but was rebuilt in the winter of 1942-43 with two Cummins HBIS-6 175hp diesel engines.

She was retired from service in April 1959 and was later purchased by the National Capital Trolley Museum. The 4662 never operated at the NCTM and was stored outside in North Baltimore where it was heavily vandalized. Historic Red Clay Valley Incorporated, purchased the car in March 1967 and brought her back in service in December 1979. In 1989, HRCV received a grant from Revere Copper and Brass to restore 4662 and she received new diesel engines, draft gear and brake system improvements, as well as interior renovations. The car was dedicated as "The Paul Revere" on June 7, 1990, in honor of the Revere Foundation's generous gift, and she is the only Pennsylvania Railroad doodlebug in regular operation. 4662 features a modern bathroom, a 110-volt electrical system for air-conditioning and heating, a seating capacity of 60 passengers and a small baggage area. "The Paul Revere" is assigned to our "Ride-To-Dine" dinner trains and is also perfect for small charters.

A look around the grounds.

The Market Street Branch GRS Model 2A semaphore which belonged to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. At some point prior to the end of World War II, it was installed on the Market Street Branch and used to signal permission to proceed for trains leaving the West Yard for Elsmere Junction. In the late 1980's, it ceased working due to neglect, and in the early 1990's its supporting pole collapsed. It was damaged by the fall and lay immersed in the water and mud of the trackside drainage ditch for at least a year. It was never replaced by CSX, the current owner and operator of trains on the Market Street Branch.

Former Historic Red Clay Valley Incorporated member David Jensen rescued the semaphore mechanism, spectacle and blade. After some restoration work, he placed them in his yard. In 2006, he donated them to HRCV and they were moved to the Wilmington & Western's yard in Marshallton. In 2010, the rusty mechanism was noticed by Mark Sylvester, who offered to carry out a full restoration. Completed in 2011, it was first displayed and operated at that year's HRCV Annual Meeting and Banquet. The decision was later made to put the signal back in operation at Greenbank Station, replacing the existing color light signal.

A handcar trailer car under cover.

Our Trip

After these pictures we were allowed to board the Doodlebug.

My ticket for this trip.

We left Greenbank Station and headed to the Mt. Cuba Picnic Grove.

Crossing Red Clay Creek for the first time.

We headed out into the forest on a very hot and humid afternoon but our route was mostly in the shade.

Our second crossing of Red Clay Creek.

A forward view looking along the Doodlebug.

You will see Red Clay Creek through the trees along most of the trip.

A forward view looking along 4662.

The train making its way across Red Clay Creek a the third time.

Passing over a small unnamed road.

Crossing Centre Road.

Our fourth time crossing Red Clay Creek.

The Doodlebug's fifth passage over Red Clay Creek.

Passing the Wooddale Covered Bridge built in 2007-08 to replace the original 1850 one that was destroyed Tropical Storm Henri.

Rounding a curve.

There are a few open locations in the forest.

Taking another curve.

The sixth time we traversed Red Clay Creek.

The Doodlebug passed Mt. Cuba Picnic Grove where we would stop on the way back from Ashland.

The train journeyed across the now very familiar Red Clay Creek for a seventh time.

Approaching another curve on this trip.

Our passage over Red Clay Creek for the eighth and final time.

We arrived at our turnback location of Ashland. The crew invited me into the front so I could photograph the line all the way back to the Greenback Station.

Crossing Red Clay Creek on the return over Bridge 11A, the Ashland truss bridge which is the only iron bridge on the railroad.

The Doodlebug took all these curves.

Tangent track is rare on this railroad.

More curves were along our route.

Passing through a rock cut.

We went by Milepost 55.

Yet another journey across Red Clay Creek.

Curving into the forest.

We returned to the Mt. Cuba Picnic Grounds where we all detrained.

Four views of Doodlebug 4662.

Scenes of Red Clay Creek, a 12.7-mile-long tributary of White Clay Creek, running through southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, from the picnic grounds. I sat at a picnic bench and after 18 minutes, it was time to leave.

Departing the Mt. Cuba Picnic Grounds.

The train rounded this curve.

We journeyed across Red Clay Creek.

Red Clay Creek.

The Doodlebug took these curves.

Passing by Milepost 50 and crossing this road.

Rounding yet another curve.

Fallen trees are always a problem and Super Storm Sandy knocked down plenty along this route.

More curves were traversed on this trip.

Passing Milepost 45.

A Do Not Spray Zone.

A triple crossbuck crossing.

The train rounded another curve.

We passed Milepost 40.

A pair of curves.

Interior view of Doodlebug 4662.

Approaching another of the many curves.

I had not realized there were so many curves on this railroad.

The Doodlebug ran by the Wooddale Covered Bridge.

We returned through the rock cut.

Our next crossing of Red Clay Creek.

Going over Centre Road.

Heading back into the forest along our route.

Curves abound on the Wilmington and Western.

We arrived at a switch.

Our journey across this bridge over Red Clay Creek.

Another of the plethora of curves.

The Doodlebug made its way down this straight piece of track.

We had now reached Milepost 25.

More of those curves.

Another section of straight track.

Just like that, five miles had passed; now we were at Milepost 20.

The train ran along Red Clay Creek.

Impressive tree roots.

The penultimate crossing of Red Clay Creek.

Taking another curve.

Proceeding to the next curve.

Doodlebug 4662 makes its way along a short piece of straight track.

Milepost 15.

We came upon a trespasser on the last crossing of Red Clay Creek.

After he cleared, the Doodlebug crossed Red Clay Creek for the final time of this trip.

We arrived back into the Greenbank Station and I thanked my train crew for the excellent trip aboard Wilmington & Western Doodlebug 4662.

The Trip to Miffinville

Dave put Summit, New Jersey into his Garman GPS and it gave us a time of over 45 minutes. We left the Wilmington & Western station and headed to US Highway 1 but stopped when we saw something that we wanted a picture of.

Pennsylvania Railroad 0-6-0 60 built by the railroad in 1903. In 1952, it was sold to Cemline Corporation in Hamarville, Pennsylvania then in 1982, was donated to Historic Red Clay Valley, Incorporated.

Avondale Railroad Centre caboose 88, ex. Octoraro Railway 88, exx. Anthracite Railway 88, exxx. Montour Railroad 39, exxxx. Union Pacific 25163, nee Union Pacific 3863, built by Pullman in 1944.

The Baltimore and Ohio Hockessin station. We then got on US Highway 1 and were making good time until we reached the road to take us to Interstate 95 where we found a five-mile long traffic jam and we watched our time disappear. It became so bad that our second possible train that we could have ridden became impossible to get to. I told Dave to forego trying to get to the New Jersey Transit station in Summit and we headed to Miffinville instead. We finally reached Interstate 95 which we took to Interstate 475, which became Pennsylvania Toll Road 475. That took us up to Interstate 80 to Miffinville. Before going to the hotel, we drove to Berwick to find the station but had no luck so returned to Miffinville and after getting dinner at Arby's for me, checked into the Super 8 for the night.