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The "Lackawanna Limited Special"

September 13th, 1984 - by: Vickie Twarog

To kick-off "Railroads on Parade", a special excursion train was run through the Lackawanna Plant on Thursday, September 13th, 1984. Included on board were our WNYRHS Board of Trustees, executives of Bethlehem Steel and the participating railroads, the press, local dignitaries and NRHS members who participated in volunteer work over the past year. To our knowledge, this passenger train was the first, only and last to ever to transverse the entire plant.

Three toots of the horn and the conductor calling out "All Aboard for Woodlawn, Blasdell and Lackawanna," so began our journey on the Society's very own "Lackawanna Limited."

As promised by President Ron Dukarm, Thursday September 13, was a truly memorable day. You might say we had a chance to strut our stuff and we did so in great style. The "Lackawanna Limited" consisted of the "Francis McGrath" and the "Marie McGrath," both 1st class cars, two coaches and a caboose, all of which were pulled by a South Buffalo locomotive.

Thanks to the efforts of volunteer workers, all the cars looked well maintained and very presentable as well as functional. of course, everyone loves a caboose and ours had a steady flow of traffic.

We departed promptly at 2:00 pm from the Bethlehem Steel south office building. The passengers included press from the various media, dignitaries from government and business and last but certainly not least, a number of enthusiastic society members.

The only uninvited guest was the rain but even a downpour couldn't dampen our spirits. I had the pleasure of riding in the Francis McGrath parlor car. This is a unique car in that it provides individual seating on swivel chairs enabling the rider to receive an excellent view on both sides of the railway. It is a spacious car with built-in elegance and unquestionably a treat to ride. I was told this particular car was once a congressional car servicing our country's leaders and it is easy to see why.

The ride through the plant was an education in itself. For anyone who was never in the plant, it was a real eye-opener. The size of this facility is awesome. I had the good fortune of sitting next to fellow members Paul Heintz and Dave Nowakowski who are both well acquainted with the plant and were very informative. We discussed how this once bustling empire, now silenced, seemed like a graveyard or a closed down amusement park. Needless to say, it generates an eerie sensation and I am sure most of us had our private thoughts and memories of this fallen giant.

When we reached Lackawanna, our train stopped for 25 minutes allowing us to view part of our "Railroads on Parade" exhibit. Those of us who were able to walk between the raindrops tried to catch a quick look at some of the exhibit cars. However, mother nature treated us to her own fireworks display which hastened our return to the shelter of our train.

It should be noted on this special trip we were wined, dined and entertained in first class fashion. The champagne was bubbly, the large selection of fresh fruit delicious, the entertainment was superb and the hospitality excellent. yes, there was entertainment. A folk singer and a barber shop quartet, were literally, "music to our ears."

Our trip ended at approximately 4:00 pm. the "Lackawanna Limited" had made and become a part of history as did all who shared in the adventure. It was indeed a privilege and honor.

Three toots of the horn to all the volunteer workers who made the dream become a reality. Through their hard work and dedication, the WNYRHS has truly arrived and now it's "Full steam ahead!"

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