Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We were workin' on the railroad...

On February 28th, Troop 1 Katonah took a trip to Thomaston, Connecticut, and visited the Railroad Museum of New England. When we arrived in Connecticut we first stopped at Camp Mattatuck, a Boy Scout camp where we stayed overnight in a nice cabin. Once we dropped off our gear we then made our way over to the train museum. Once there, we split up into two groups.

My group took part in the train switching activity first. What we did was have half of us ride in the cab of the locomotive, and watch how the engineer controlled the locomotive. Then, with the assistance of the conductor and brakeman, we learned how they uncouple from the coach cars, switch tracks, run around to the other end, switch tracks again, and then reconnect the train. Meanwhile, the rest of our group were on the back of the locomotive giving the hand signals to make all of this possible.

Once we were done with this activity, we switched with the other half of our troop and learned what they were doing. Outside of the station, we learned about the different parts of the track and its construction. We each got to take turns dragging the railroad ties with a pair of tongs. Then we each took turns using a maul to drive the spikes through the tie plate and into the wooden tie itself. After that, our guide Brent Bette showed us all the different types of cars on display at the station. We got to go on, and inside some of the cars, one of which was a giant wedge snow plow built in the 1930s. Then we got together with the other half of our troop to take a group photo on an restored flatcar from the New Haven railroad.

Next, we all got onto the train and made our way to the next stop, which was the repair shop. When we got there, we split up into two groups again. My group took the tour outside the shop first. It was very interesting, because we got to see a few different kinds of locomotives, including a diesel-electric locomotive and a steam locomotive. After that part of the tour, we all took a lunch break. Among the three patrols, hamburgers and hot dogs and grilled chicken were served (thanks to Mr. Kristensen and Otto for cooking) feeding everybody from the troop and even some of the museum volunteers. Within an hour, all of the food was gone.

After we were done with lunch, the two groups switched places, and my group took the tour inside the shop. It was really cool being inside the shop, because we got to see all the cars that were being refurbished. We actually got to walk down into the inspection pit and see under a locomotive! We also got to see a coach that was being completely redone, and another car that was getting its wheels replaced. Another cool thing was the big diesel engine that was out of the locomotive, which runs off sixteen cylinders (not like your average car). The cylinders were rusted out due to water damage, but the museum volunteers were working to fix that.

After we were done at the shop, we got back on the train and made our way to Jericho Bridge where we did our service project which involved cutting down what seemed like a few acres worth of bamboo, bushes, and trees. That was really fun. We did that for a little more than an hour, until the sun dipped down behind the hills. We gathered for one more group photo around our train, happy that we completed the project. The railroad president was there working with us, and thanked all of us for our hard work, and invited us to visit during their regular season any time.

Finally we made our way back to the camp where we cooked dinner. After we ate we gathered around the wood stove to relax and tell jokes. The cabin was very nice. It had about fifteen bunks (which were all filled) and it had a nice kitchen area with tables, counters, and cabinets. We woke up at 7:00 am and we had breakfast and then left around 11:00 for the trip back to New York. It was a very fun trip, and it was cool to see places that are not normally open to the public. I hope we can do something like that again.
--Kyle W., Troop Historian

Photo by Howard Pincus