Fulfillment of a DreaM

     saturday, November 16, 1991 was not exactly a day made for Kodachrome, being, at least in Lowville, NY, a gray-brown wintry sort of North Country day with snowflakes in the air. But this was perhaps fitting, because the knowledge that there wouldn’t be any prize photographs encouraged the recording and sharpening of mental images of the event taking place. The event was the fulfillment of member Liv Lansing’s dream, as two truck Shay No. 8 was fired up for the first time since he purchased her in Arkansas nearly three years ago.
     It was 9:30 in the morning as I drove into the Lowville & Beaver River yard, and there she was already steaming, pulled out of the white and green engine house and halfway onto the L&BR’s Armstrong turntable. Never mind that her drive shaft was disconnected, the steam pipe to her cylinders not in place, and she was only built up to partial pressure – Number 8 looked every bit the operational steam locomotive, while the sounds of her boiler, air pump, and later in the day, her whistle and bell, were music to this steam fan’s ears.
     There wasn’t much going on yet at this hour. A few of the locals dropped in to check out the new entity in their midst. It gave me a good chance to get close to Number 8 and look her over. It’s not that easy to get on familiar terms with a living, breathing Shay, since there are probably no more than 20 operational examples in the US and Canada, and these tend to be clustered in places like Cass, WV or California. There are some who might prefer the high-wheeled, symmetrical, tall-boilered form of a conventional steam locomotive, and who might dismiss the Shay geared locomotive as an ugly duckling. To me, the Shay has a beauty which all have a purpose in allowing springs from its functionality. The low drivers, off-center boiler, balloon stack and bevel geared drive shaft all have a purpose in allowing the Shay to achieve its mission of operating in the woods over curved, uneven, lightweight rails.
     As the time got towards 11:00 am, there was a stir of activity in the yard as people began arriving. This first steamup was going to be commemorated in style. Olivia Shoemaker and Ed Schnabl of Boonville & Adirondack Enterprises were there, followed by Liv Lansing himself. Many of those responsible for the rebirth of Number 8, including Norm Jensen, Ed Hayes and Doug Ellison of Rome Locomotive Works arrived, and Peter Gores and David Monteverde of the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern. The Lowville Yard eventually became filled with people intent on observing and becoming part of this happy event. And, as they filed up the ladder into the cab, young and old alike, they took turns, Liv himself, included, on the bell and whistle cords. If the Shay’s whistle could sound like that under reduced pressure, you ought to hear her under a full head of steam.
     The formal festivities began at 1:00 pm on board a two car train standing a couple tracks over from the engine house. Although it wasn’t possible on this day for Number 8 to head the train (L&BR 44-tonner No. 1950 instead did the honors) the Shay made her contribution by providing steam heat to the coaches in the yard. Given the sunless sky and frigid temperatures, the warmth was really appreciated by all who climbed aboard for the round trip to Croghan. But first it was time for a presentation by Liv Lansing, of the first stock certificate issued by the Lowville & Beaver River RR in 1904. Then there were a few works from Liv, who acknowledged that the road from Arkansas to upstate New York had been bumpy, but with evident pride, he remarked that there would be many good things ahead for his locomotive.
     To the accompaniment of much bell-clanging and whistle-blowing from Number 8, the little 44-tonner strained to move our train out of the Lowville Yard. When we were under way, the celebration on board included all sorts of hors d’oeuvres, sandwiches, quiche, cheese, egg rolls, cocktail shrimp, with a specially labeled white wine to wash it down (the label featuring a silhouette of Shay Number 8), and a couple of strolling musicians on guitar and harmonica competing with the stack noise from 1950.
     When our train pulled into Croghan, the leaden skies of Lowville, as if by a miracle, had given way to bright sunshine. While you might explain this phenomenon by the capricious wind patterns over the Tug Hill Plateau, I prefer to regard it as an omen of the bright future of Liv Lansing’s reborn Shay.

                                                                                          jvw

                                                                  

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