Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2008 Spring Camporee - Thomaston, CT

For the 2008 Muscoot District Spring Camporee, not only did we travel out of district, we traveled out of state! About 150 Scouts from New York and Connecticut made the journey to Thomaston to visit the Railroad Museum of New England and take a ride on the scenic Naugatuck Railroad. Railroading was the theme for the weekend event (May 3-4), developed by Otto Vondrak, a volunteer at both RMNE and the Westchester-Putnam Council BSA. Planning for the event started back in January, and required careful coordination between RMNE and the BSA. Since this event was to take place out of our district (and out of state!), the Scouts needed to find a suitable place to camp. The Housatonic Council BSA offered the use of Strang Reservation in Goshen, Connecticut. As word spread of the special event, other troops outside our district asked to be a part of it, including a troop from Manitoga District, and one from Housatonic Council. Three activity groups were formed– “Hudson Line,” “Harlem Line,” and “New Haven Line” – to manage the large number of Scouts planned to attend. These groups moved to various areas of the museum throughout the day, visiting Thomaston Station, Thomaston Shop, and Chase Yard. Scouts were treated to a rare behind-the scenes tour of the Naugatuck Railroad, starting at Thomaston Station. Here, the Scouts were given an introduction to railroad operations and signal methods. The Scouts were then brought outside to the display track, where the functions of various freight cars were explained to them. Next, the Scouts participated in a community service project, helping RMNE volunteers cut brush to expand the parking area at the station.

Following the events at Thomaston Station, Scouts boarded a special shuttle train that took them a few miles south to the new Thomaston Shop and Yard (TSY). Museum volunteers were eager to show off the newly-completed facility, as the Scouts would be the first tour group ever to visit. The highlight of the tour was New Haven 529, an Alco RS-3 built in August 1950, parked over the inspection pit. Hood doors were removed so Scouts could see the prime mover and other engine assemblies. Museum volunteers explained the basics of how diesel-electric locomotives work. Scouts were then allowed to tour the locomotive and enjoyed a chance to sit in the engineer’s seat. At the far end of the shop, Scouts toured a coach in the midst of restoration work. RMNE Volunteers explained the work and the process that goes into rebuilding a 1920s vintage coach, which in many ways is like restoring a house. As an added attraction, a Boston & Maine caboose was open for tours as well. This modern steel caboose was a hit with the boys, and everyone took a turn enjoying the view from the cupola. Volunteers explained how cabooses were phased out and replaced by EOTs and FREDs.

All too soon, the shuttle train arrived to bring the Scouts south to Chase Yard, located in the Waterville section of Waterbury. Scouts were escorted through Chase Yard to see some of the equipment in long-term storage and awaiting restoration. Of particular interest to the Scouts was former Canadian Pacific steam locomotive 1246. This steam engine, along with several other pieces, was recently moved from storage on the Valley Railroad at Saybrook, CT. Museum volunteers explained the historical significance of the pieces in storage, and how they plan to restore more pieces in the future.

At the end of the day, the Scouts boarded the shuttle train for the trip back to Thomaston Station. On board the train, messages of safety were stressed to the Scouts, as volunteers explained the mission of Operation Lifesaver. Thanks to the hospitality of RMNE volunteers, everyone had a wonderful experience. For many Scouts, this was their first up-close experience with trains and the world of railroading. They learned it takes many people and different kinds of tools to keep the railroad running. As a result, many were able to complete the requirements for the Railroading merit badge. Some of the “big kids” (the parents) suggested that they would visit again during the regular operating season. Hopefully, this event will spark a new generation of railroad enthusiasts! A special thanks to the Railroad Museum of New England and its subsidiary Naugatuck Railroad, and to all of the active volunteers for going the extra mile to host this significant event. Thanks to the Housatonic Council BSA for use of Strang Reservation, and to the Westchester-Putnam Council for supporting this very special day on the railroad.

All Photos ©2008 Thomas J. Nanos, used with permission.

Troops assembled at Thomaston Station for a welcoming message and their location assignments.

The shuttle train arrives at Thomaston Station.

Museum volunteer Andy Kromer explains how diesel-electric locomotives work.

Museum volunteer Howard Pincus explains locomotive technology to the Scouts.

Scouts tour a heavyweight steel coach from the 1920s currently undergoing restoration at the shop.

Scouts tour the Boston & Maine caboose at Thomaston Shop.

Scouts tour the equipment on display at Thomaston Shop.

Scouts tour the equipment on display at Thomaston Shop.

Scouts inspect the brake wheel on the Boston & Maine caboose.

A New Haven FL9 and a Boston & Maine caboose dwarf two young Scouts at Thomaston Shop.

Katonah Troop 1 Assistant Scoutmaster Otto Vondrak passes out information that will help Scouts earn their Railroading merit badge. Otto is a volunteer at RMNE as well.

Katonah Troop 1 poses at Thomaston Station at the end of the day.