Photos by Richard Schumacher
While typing out the title of this article with all its acronyms I was reminded of that great scene from Good Morning Vietnam where Robin Williams goes on a two minute diatribe using almost nothing but acronyms. But alas I digress, on with the article.
On September 30, 2017 members of the Gateway Division of the NMRA and the St. Louis Chapter of the NRHS reached across the vast and polarizing isle of railroad related interest camps, put away our differences and embarked on a joint adventure. A day of railroad-related activities at the Iron Spike Railroad Museum in Washington, Missouri and at the Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern Railroad near St. James, Missouri. A tip of the Conductor’s Cap to Ron Gawedzinski, (NMRA Outside Event Coordinator and NRHA member), Rick Sprung (St. Louis Chapter NRHS Trip Director) and David Huelsing (St. Louis Chapter NRHS President). For several months prior to the trip they invested, I am sure, considerable time and effort to ensure comfortable transportation, snacks and pre-arranged reservations at both locations. The effort paid off by allowing all fifty-plus participants to focus solely on the fun at hand.
The Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern thru-way bus connection departed Kirkwood about 8 a.m. that Saturday from the parking lot in front of the Walmart in the Kirkwood Commons Shopping Center near Lindbergh & I-44. As we headed west toward our first stop at the Iron Spike Interactive Train Museum in Washington, Missouri we were treated to donuts. The Museum, which is located at the intersection of Highways 100 & A was a leisurely 45 minute drive from our origination point.
View of portions of two of the museum layouts (HO in front, N in distance). Click the photo to view 68 more photos of the model railroads at the Iron Spike Model Train Museum in Washington, Missouri.
Upon our arrival at the Iron Spike Museum we were greeted by Don Burhaus and Claire Saucier, the driving forces behind the Museum. Both Don and Claire are retired from the US Navy. Thus they stressed their free entrance policy to all present and past military members. However, it is my personal opinion that Susie the Chihuahua is the glue that holds the place together. Selflessly greeting, licking and sniffing all who pass the door and then enduring the even greater sacrifice of hopping onto so many laps to be petted. It was evident the toll this takes on her by the little nap area she had right inside the first office by the front door.
For detailed information about the Museum, its hours, its mission, and volunteer opportunities you can visit their website at https://www.ironspike.org/about-us. The Museum is located inside an old car dealership, utilizing the showroom for several smaller set ups and the Museum’s artifacts. The old service bays have been put to use for the re-construction and integration of several large layouts donated to the Museum. Large scale, HO, and N are all represented. In a separate back room area (I think the old parts department) they have an operating European overhead catenary trolley system and town.
Some of the many features to be found in this unique combination of DC and DCC layouts across the multiple scales included a plethora of standard scenery and structures represented by large expanses of mountain territory, stations, roads, fields, houses, and farms. It also included some unique scenes such as a cranberry bog and a sawdust burning power plant based on a prototype operation in Northern California. A key element to this museum is their desire to be interactive. This is accomplished through a unique feature where they allow visitors to run trains. They are set up to run five trains on the HO pike. What’s more, they allow you to bring your own equipment or they are happy to let you use the Museum’s.
The entire display is still very much a work in progress by the volunteers, which number in the 60 range with an active core of about 10-12. Sometimes the volunteers find themselves working in less than favorable environmental conditions. As of the date of our visit there was no climate control in the old service bay areas, thus making the working conditions in the extremes of summer and winter very prototypical. Perhaps this realism of prototype weather conditions is a little too real, so raising enough money to add AC and heat to the service bay/layout room area is one of the Museum’s top priorities.
Both Don and Clair are very optimistic about what the future holds for the Museum and are happy to report that they are two years ahead of their five-year plan. They say they are on the way to raising the money for the HV/AC and have plans for additional square footage under roof. They report an average weekend attendance of about 130 visitors. They also report that they have had guests from 43 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as nine countries including New Zealand. After about an hour in the veritable wonderland of all things model railroading we loaded back on the bus and headed for the next stop just outside Steelville, Missouri: The Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern Railroad.
801 in front of the combined station and dispatcher’s tower. Click this photo to view 85 more photos of the beautiful Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern.
For those of you familiar with the WF&P in Glenco, Missouri, the Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern is a similar type of operation but on a much grander scale. In no way am I inferring that the WF&P is inferior, just using a well known and loved example as a benchmark. That grander scale is exemplified by the Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern being a 15” gauge railway vs. the WF&P’s 12” gauge. The Arborway, T.T. & NW boasts five miles of track, diesel and steam power, a ruling grade of 2%, prototypical dispatching and signaling. For all the history and details go to their web site http://www.arborwayrailroad.com. Another major difference of the Arboway from the WF&P is the Arborway is only open to the public one day a year. While they may not be as accessible as the WF&P they make up for it in what they offer.
Upon arrival the vastness of this “hobby” operation becomes apparent quite quickly. A large metal building houses their workshops and indoor storage area which contains a machine shop and stores area that many shortline railroads would be jealous of. This is separate facility from the station with its dispatcher’s tower, the roundhouse, and the car barn. We made our way off the bus to a table set up to receive visitors. After signing the obligatory waiver we received an orange wrist band from the group of very friendly volunteers. While this was going on we noticed the activity of the trains on the double main line pulling up to the station to unload and load passengers reminiscent of a busy municipal commuter operation. The volunteers at the table gave us a quick rundown of activities that awaited us. We were free to tour the station and climb up the tower and even look over the dispatcher’s shoulder. We were also able to view the items in their small museum including a video and a book of pictures showing the construction of the railroad. Right after arrival and check in we strolled down to the aforementioned shop which had been cleared out and filled with picnic tables. They provided quite a nice lunch of hamburgers, bratwursts, and hot dogs with all the fixings.
Of course the main reason we attended was to ride the trains. After we finished lunch we made our way to the station area. Live steamer Northern #801, a 4-8-4, was just pulling in when we arrived so we loaded into a car and went for a ride. Leaving the station we started to descend immediately and passed through Deer Ridge Tunnel at approximately 100 yards in length. Continuing downgrade we swept left through Wood Valley Wye, made several grade crossings, ran through 1,000 foot long Ozark Mountain Tunnel and went past Hidden Pond on our way down to the Meramec Loop. After bottoming out at Meramec loop we passed through Miller Wye and retraced our route back upgrade past Hidden Lake, the grade crossings and through Ozark Mountain Tunnel again. Downgrade through the tunnel was not bad with respect to the hot flue gasses from #801, but on the ride upgrade it did get a little stuffy. Out of Ozark tunnel and back at Wood Valley Wye for a second time, we swept left again, which sent us on past Tower 10, Ridge Road Wye and Bell Lake. Then back to the station. I think we got in three enjoyable round trips.
In addition to the main line, they also had a small self-propelled trolley that held about ten passengers. It left from just across from the station platform. At a very leisurely speed it cut across the infield property toward the round house and car barn, looped around cedar pond, crossed itself, went past tower 10 paralleling the main line along the opposite side of Bell Lake and then finally peeled away and headed back through a spring switch to its starting point.
Overall it was a fantastic experience. However for a few of us there was an added bonus. As we milled around the station killing time before the bus left up pulled a trailer from Whiskey River Railroad’s Merrick Locomotive Works in Wisconsin. On that trailer was the running gear of a future 2-12-2 steam locomotive to be delivered to the Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern sometime in the future (they guessed about 2 years). It was in town to be pulled around the tracks to make sure that it would track correctly. This running gear consisted of the main frame, springs, drivers, equalizing mechanisms, pilot, trailing truck and a few associated appurtenances. It was enlightening and fascinating to see a steam engine’s frame at that stage of construction and from angles you normally don’t get to see. It was also educational to listen to Dave Roeder talk about the setup of the running gear with the builder given his experiences with the Frisco 1522.
Once we had sufficiently ogled over the frame, we loaded back onto the bus. As the bus started home more snacks and water were made available by the trip crew. After that, no doubt aided by the beautiful early fall day with its warm sunshine and cool air, a quiet began to fall over the bus as many of the participants (both young and old) caught short naps on the way home. It is true, having fun is hard work. We arrived back at the rally point about 5 p.m. and all headed our separate ways. It appeared a good time was had by all. That’ll do.
“We regret to announce that all operations on the Arborway, T.T. & Northwestern Railroad are suspended until further notice. The Woods family, owner of Woodsvalley Farm in Crawford County, Missouri, have made the difficult decision to sell the 2,000-acre farm, home of the ATT&NW.
Ideally, Judy and the family would like to make a deal with a buyer interested in keeping the railroad intact. For that and other reasons, it was decided to close the railroad, secure the rolling stock and property, and put the entire Woodsvalley Farm up for sale. This is expected to be a time-consuming and wide-ranging process, and we will keep the Friends of the Railroad informed, and hopefully, with good news to share sometime in the future.
Until then, please savor the good times we had on the ATT&NW through the many pictures and videos shared on-line and elsewhere. Remember the words of Dr. Seuss: ‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.‘”