I know people who devote time and effort to railroad history. They’re out at the museum doing unglamorous tasks, like scraping and repainting the rolling stock, or cataloging old paperwork. I am not one of those people. I like to leaf through old books on winter evenings, and read online stories of railroading’s past, and take bike rides along abandoned rights-of-way on sunny autumn afternoons. Last weekend, I spent time with people who actually work at historical things.
We gathered at a conference devoted to the history of the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad, which went bankrupt in 1910, and was merged into the Baltimore & Ohio in 1932. It was a fascinating railroad, built on profits from northern Pennsylvania logging operations, with dreams of becoming a coal and steel empire. Not many people outside the region have heard of it. In 1956, the B&O sold a surviving portion, which became the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton. The WAG had been the subject of conferences held in 2005 and 2009, both of which I attended. This conference served as a reunion of sorts; there were a lot of familiar faces in the room.
The presentations were a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t expected so much new material. Like I said, they work at this, and it showed. There was a virtual tour of the southern end of the railroad, which didn’t receive much attention in the one book written about the B&S. There were presentations on the lumbering and coal-mining industries that provided much of the traffic. There was a discussion of the B&S’s short-lived haulage agreement with another troubled railroad, the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern. There were photos, and lots of them.
The conference organizers provided tables around the edge of the room, for people with artifacts, models, literature, and photos to display. I brought my Gopher Valley Central along, but didn’t really run it much. The track was in need of cleaning, and I preferred to spend my time chatting. No matter. I have plenty of other opportunities to run trains for people.
I came away from the conference knowing a lot more about one of my favorite railroads. Will any of this find its way into my modelling activities? Maybe. But I like having that broader context to work in.