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From Newspaper Archives

Source: Coudersport Area Newspaper                                            Date: January, 1951                  

C. & P.A. Sends Last 'Iron Horse' to Scrap

During the month of January, 1951 the last of the Coudersport and Port Allegany Railroad’s steam engines was on the way to the scrap pile.  It’s scrapping was seen as a milestone in the history of the carrier by General Manager O. P. Smith, who compiled and wrote the following sketch, using minutes of directors’ meetings as source material.  Although the photograph has been added, the writing has been left intact as originally written in 1951.

On January 20 the Coudersport and Port Allegany Railroad forwarded its steam locomotive No. 15 into the Pittsburgh area, where it will become scrap steel.  Other locomotives have also become scrap – this being the eventual end of all engines, no matter how well they may have performed their duties.


The significant part of the scraping of Engine No. 15 is that it is the last of the steam locomotives that have been operated by the railroad.  In December, 1950, the road received diesel-electric unit D-2 which supplements unit D-1 and gives the road all diesel power.


A history of the locomotives is also the history of the railroad itself.  Constructed on 1882 as a narrow gauge (three feet wide) from Port Allegany to Coudersport, it served the area well through the succeeding years. 


Engine No. 1 was purchased from The Olean, Bradford & Warren Railroad.  Engine No. 2 was purchased new from the Brooks Locomotive Works, Dunkirk, N.Y.  As was customary in that day, locomotives were often given names in addition to their road numbers.  Hence we find engine No. 2 bearing the name of Francis H. Root, an original director and served as such; also as a member of the executive committee until 1892.  These two engines were the motive power of the road until 1889.


The intervening years produced hardships and good times as is alike true of any period in history.  The railroad records show that the year 1887 was a poor revenue year due to strikes in various sections of the county.  Even as now, the weather interfered.  However, while we today are apprehensive of floods, in 1887 the reverse was true.  It is noted that there was insufficient water in the streams from March to November to float logs, which hindered sawmill operation. 


In 1887 locomotive No. 3 was added, being secured from the N. N. Y. & P. Railroad.  The three engines were on hand at the time the road was changed to standard gauge (4 feet, 8 ½ inches, which history tells us was the track of the old Roman chariots) in 1889.


An interesting phase of the narrow gauge operations was the method used in handling freight cars with the Pennsylvania Railroad (then the W. N. Y. & P.) at Port Allegany.  When the road was first placed in service, shipments were loaded in the narrow gauge cars and moved to Port Allegany.  There the loads were transferred by hand into the standard gauge cars.  This was not only an expensive process, but increased the element of damage to the goods. 

In 1883 the railroad purchased several pairs of special trucks, known as Rumsey transfer trucks.  This was a car truck of narrow gauge width, but capable of supporting a standard gauge freight car body.  The body was lifted off its own trucks, and placed on the narrow gauge ones, and moved to destination.  It proved a very satisfactory arrangement, at greatly reduced cost.


But the owners of the road had visions of expansion, and we find that 1888 produced plans for extending the line eastward to Ulysses.  At the time there were others also considering expansion, and we note the following from the report of July of that year:  “In my judgment the opportune time is now; the field is clear and it may not be in six months.  Schemes are aplenty.  Some of them will ripen into actual railroad building, to the great detriment of your railroad.”


2-8-0 Steam Engine #15

C & PA Steam Engine #15


It was also thought that the line from Port Allegany to Coudersport should be made standard gauge concurrently with any extension of the line.  Such action was approved, but it was some time before the actual extension was begun.


While the matter of extension was being considered, an offer to purchase the road was made by a New York syndicate.  A deposit had been made, which was forfeited when the sale was not consummated.  A little while later another offer was made, which was rejected by the owners.


The line to Ulysses was completed in 1895 and business increased rapidly.  But, there was not always clear sailing, and revenues in 1903-04 had declined so much that remarks were appended to the record, explaining the decline.  The tile works had burned; the window glass plant was closed one month; the clothes pin factory closed for six months.


At the time of change to standard gauge, two locomotives were obtained, the numbers again being one and two.  Engine No. 3 was purchased in 1891.  These units served until 1906, when Engine No. 4 was added.  Engine No. 5 was purchased, new in 1907, while No. 6 appeared on the road in 1911.  No. 6 was a passenger type engine, and was so used for many years.  She only passed under the cutting torch late in 1950.


During the intervening years the road had its good and bad times.  A very severe blow came on January 26, 1923, when about ten o’clock at night the engine house was discovered on fire.  Engines 1, 4, 5 and 6 were all badly damaged, No. 3 escaping damage.         


Repairs were made to engines 1, 5 and 6, which continued in service until engine No. 15 was purchased in June 1940.  The number that had been assigned the locomotive by the road from whom purchase was made was retained by the C. & P. A. Railroad.  Engine No. 1 was given in the transaction.  In August 1946, diesel-electric unit D-1 was purchased.  This proved to be a very profitable investment.  This unit did practically continuous duty from that time on.  In December, 1950 unit No. D-2 was added.  This released engine No. 15 entirely, and she went the way of all engines. 


Said Mr. Smith:

“As short line railroads go, a life of nearly seventy years is remarkable, and this community has been, indeed, fortunate in having had continuous operation for that time.  Despite the disturbing signs that have appeared on the horizon in recent months, your railroad is prepared to carry on in rendering service to this area to an even greater degree than has been given in the past.  Those who have gone before – both men and engines – did their work well, and their performance remains a challenge as well as an inspiration.  We salute their achievements.”


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