My Personal Reflections while growing up around the
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway

updated Nov.27, 2001
The first time I ever came in contact with the HVSRy was May 1972 when visiting with my cousin Keith who lived in Longstreath (North of  Nelsonville Ohio).  He was leaving to go work on a railroad track !   I decided to "check this out"  too.   Keith introduced me to the gang.  They were digging out ties in the middle of  Longstreath curve, for replacement later.

I recall at some point Ted Goodman ask me to bring him a claw bar (used to pull spikes).  The 4' long steal bar was very heavy for me. I was 13 years old then.  As I recall I simply drug it along the ground to him.

Well that one day of  volunteering for trackwork got me a letter from Ted thanking me for my work and informing me that I was a Charter Member of the new HVSRy.  I had to ask my mom what a Charter Member meant.  That same letter also included a ticket for one free train ride!

It was August 1972 before I ever came back.  Then one day I saw locomotive #33 coming into Longstreath.  It was HUGE !  They stopped the train and I talked to them about a ride.  Ted said they were half way through the last trip and would be returning to Nelsonville.   He said that the train was stored at Longstreath so I could return on the that ferry trip.

While returning on the ferry trip I was seated near Ted and Jerry Ballard.  They were talking about needing someone to handle the concession sales on the train.  I spoke up and mentioned that I could do it,  if  my parents said it was OK.   Myself and several other kids sold pop, pretzels and chips on the Train for the rest of the year.  I was introduced to John Sayre who had a general store nearby in Buchtel.  John was my contact for supplies and the person I turned the cash into.

I still recall one evening I was having trouble counting the cash.  John dropped by and ask me how we had done for the day.  I said that I'd counted the cash three times and gotten a different amount each time.   I suggested to John that one amount was probably correct because it was close to the another amount.  I still recall the lesson.  John said "Dave there's only one amount of money there".

Well the HVSRy only ran until late October (maybe it was early November).  When that time rolled around my concessions job was over.  Ted worked on the trackcrew.   Jerry Ballard worked on the locomotive, but didn't like have a  kid around all that moving equipment.  Since I liked Ted, I started doing trackwork that winter.

Over the years, as I continued to work on the track.  At some point I began to realize that the school bullies were no longer harassing me.  All this physical trackwork had a side benefit !  They actually said  hello and kept walking.

In the early years we were all learning how to run a Tourist railway.  As I reflect back on them, these were the fun years.  Everyone was learning and therefore making a few mistakes.  Folks didn't  get mad because they knew that they might be "in your shoes" at some point.   Many of us had never worked for a railroad before and many of our solutions to problems proved it.

In the early years I always heard "This year will make or break the railway" , at the start of the tourist season.

In the early years some of  the railroad's meetings were held at the C&O's  roundhouse in Columbus.  As a kid it was great!   After one meeting the roundhouse foreman, Bob Mishler, took his son Tim (about 2 years younger than me) and the other kids into the shop area.  We climbed aboard a EMD unit that was in for electrical work.  As we stood around in the cab Bob began to open the throttle.  I recall that the locomotive vibrated alot and was very noisy.  Outside, I remember seeing yellow colored cabooses and blue diesels with yellow noses ( probably GE models).

One time they were moving #33 back into her Parsons Yard roundhouse stall from a nearby stall where her pony truck had just been reinserted from repairs ( ie. 33 was temporally an 0-8-0 ).  The cold steam engine with her tender would not fit on the turntable with the  GP9 shop goat, once the pony truck had been replaced.  The solution was to move #33 in two pieces.   #33's  drawbar was chained to the knuckle of the GP9.  As the steam engine was being pushed into her stall (without tender)  the shop holster stopped the GP9 suddenly and the chain broke, permitting #33 to roll forward.  We all thought it would roll through the end of the roundhouse!  #33 stopped about five feet from the outside wall.  As I recall there was about a 20 foot wide walkway beyond where the stall's rail stopped.  #33 had rolled up onto this concrete which slowed its roll.  It did add some longer flange marks through the concrete.

One time we took #33 and two coaches down to Oak Hill Ohio for their town's Centennial.  We left Nelsonville for Logan.  At the Logan's Oldtown yard we went South on the Pomeroy Sub-Division (aka pumpkin vine) as far as Dundas ( South of  McArthur) and transferred onto the B&O for just a few miles to Hamden.  At Hamden we would get onto a B&O branchline to Jackson.  The trips would run from Jackson, South to Oak Hill.

Driving along the tracks South of McArthur, I recall seeing Bob Mishler being beaten against #33 cab wall  (he was the engineer) from the bucking steam engine  because of the rough track and the speed the lead diesel was going.  Apparently the diesel's crew was having some fun with him.  Bob's arm and shoulder had to be black and blue after that.

Once the B&O gave us permission to cross their mainline at Dundas they radioed the headend diesel to let #33 shove the C&O train uphill around the curve.  It was a spectacular sight!   The exhaust of the steam engine shot high into the sky!  Fireman Dale Sayers (also my High School shop teacher) told me the floor inside the firebox was as white as a new T-shirt.  He said the coals seemed to float above the grates!

We spent the night at Hamden on the B&O siding.  #33 had broken a few of her grates ( the floor in the firebox) so someone had driven back to Nelsonville to get replacements.  However he returned with the wrong ones, so Jerry and Charlie Frankie drove back late at night to get the right ones.  Larry Malone and I stayed with the steam engine and 2 coaches.  We talked awhile in the cab and finally I got tired and went back into the coaches to sleep.  (We use to lift off the backs of  2 seats and lay them sideways across the bench portion of the seat to make a bed.)  I was just starting to fall to sleep when another train coupled into us and woke me.   My first though was that they did not know we were there and had back onto us.  Who knew where we might be come morning.   I heard the slack stretch out but we didn't go anywhere.  Soon a grumbling brakeman walked by my window with lantern in hand.  I got dressed and walked up to our engine.  By then the brakeman had ask Larry to removed our handbrake; chains thrown around both sides of  a driver (driver = the large wheels that power a steam engine).  Larry was not qualified as an engineer and was struggling with what position to place the brake levers in for the diesel to provide the train air (they had shut down #33's air pumps earlier).  Well, eventually they drug us off the siding and pushed us onto another track that paralleled the siding.  Soon Jerry and Charlie returned with the grates.  Now was the dangerous work!  The fire had been let die over the damaged grates.  Jerry threw a board down on the hot coals and crawled into the firebox to replace the grates!  They had to patched over some of the area with old tie plates and an angle bar.  So with the show now over, I returned to my improvised bed.  By now it was the early morning hours.  In about an hour a freight train pulled onto the siding.  You got one guess where the spotted the diesels for the night.  Right beside where I was still trying to sleep!

After this special charter trip the HVSRy had to find someone to cast new grates and a manifacturer of  arch bricks (overhead in the firebox).

Hollywood needed a steam engine in 1975 for a movie being made in Mansfield Ohio, at the old prison.  Unfortunately, I had to go to school and couldn't tag along this time.  I understand Ross Ballard is briefly seen in the movie.  Ross got a thrill when he shook hands with several stars including James Kahn.  Enroute to the filming location #33 had a minor derailment when going around a transfer track.

Later the movie company reneged on paying all the money they had agreed to.  We soon learned that these special charters usually cost more than they ever made.

The first HVSRy Engine House was built in late 1975.  Following the close of the Operating Season, all hands turned out for trackwork.  In February 1976 the #2 stall's track was ready for #33 to move indoors.  All that remained was getting it in there, which proved to be quite a challenge!
All Winter long a small fire had to been maintained in the engine's firebox to keep the outdoor boiler from freezing.  Ross Ballard did the bulk of the "baby-sitting" but many of  us worked rotations all Winter to keep the fire burning.  Well the day finally came when we'd began to raise boiler pressure and bring #33 inside the new engine house.  Remember, at that time #33 was the only locomotive the HVSRy had; no diesels.
As that day unfolded Jerry realized that the bottom of the air pump had frozen and a large chunk of  metal had broken out.  He spent allot of  his day working on that problem.  Frankly, he did a good job of  filing and brazing in the repair.  As I reflect back on this, I think a day might have  passed and we were now working through Sunday.
The other big problem was no draft !   As the hours ticked by, we were not able to raise boiler pressure very much.  The problem turned out to be the suet from months of  small fires had plugged the boiler tubes (which already have superheater units partially plugging them).  We opened the smoke box door in the front and tried to ram a improvised cleaning rod  down flue pipes but it was hard going. Darkness had came and still very little boiler pressure.  We felt if we could just get one good chug out of  her, allot of the suet would clear.  Finally around midnight we got just enough steam to move the engine a little.  I don't think we even bothered to turn the air pump on for the brakes.  To add to our misery it began to rain too.  Well he really "open up" the engine.  The theory was right, one good big chug of  the pistons did it!  Yes a huge volume of  suet launched high into the pouring rain and returned as black mud, landing all over us.  We were miserable but happy to get this over this hurdle.  No thought was given to gradually raising boiler pressure now.  We were wet, tired and had to go the work (or College for me) in just a few hours.  At about 160 pounds we started switching the equipment into the pre-arranged order.   Bill Powers oversaw the switching on the ground.  We were actually "kicking" (uncoupling the moving car before the switch and letting its momentum take it through the switch and down the track = rough couplings) passenger coaches during switching !   At some point during the switching I looked at my watch; it was about 2:00am.