Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Take a good look......"

"The steam locomotive is the nearest thing to a living machine that mankind has ever invented." - Nigel Harris

After too many hurdles to count, it appears that our plans to ship Locomotive #35 to the Steam Operations Corp. in Alabama for its restoration, are finally about to be realized.  #35 was built at the Pennsylvania RR's Juniata Works in 1928, and was the last steam engine to operate on the LIRR - being retired in 1955.

Nigel Harris, the Managing Editor of the British magazine RAIL, writes, "I've never met anyone who, once bitten by the steam engine bug, ever gets it out of his system."  So my tale begins.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh.  The house that my parents bought in 1948 overlooked, in the distance, the Ohio River.  Train tracks bordered both banks, and from my bedroom window I could make out the images of freight trains on their journeys.  On quiet nights, I could hear the plaintive wail of the steam locomotive's whistle - a sound now heard only in film noir classics of the '40s

My father, who shared my love of trains, would sometimes take me on his day off, to the Gimbel's Department Store warehouse rail yards.  On one of these visits, in the mid 1950s, he pointed to a large and impressive steam locomotive and said, "take a good look, because pretty soon they'll all be gone."  When he saw my reaction, and the tear that was welling up in my 9 year old eyes, he quickly told me a fatherly fib - assuring me that "maybe they ALL won't be gone."

Well they are gone.  Five years ago I learned of the OBRM's effort to restore the historic station, and Locomotive #35, and I saw a chance to rekindle my passion for trains and railroading.  I hoped that my 30 plus years a fundraising and communications executive could be put to use to help the Museum achieve its goals and objectives.

It has been my privilege to work alongside President John Specce and the rest of the Museum's volunteer leadership.  We've made some significant progress, but much remains to be done.  The good news is that the goal of a fully functioning Oyster Bay Railroad Museum is now more than ever,
clearly within sight.  However, also now more than ever, we need your generous support and that of others to help hasten the day.

It's been my pleasure to get to know and work with many of you, and I will always cherish the friends and colleagues that came into my life via the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum.  I will be moving on to other projects, but as Nigel Harris said, "once bitten by the steam engine bug....."

Have wonderful summer!

Bill Bell