By Justin Franz
GLENMONT, N.Y. — A pair of historic and rare New York Central electric locomotives stranded at a power plant near Albany, N.Y., will be heading to a new home in Connecticut in the coming weeks. The Danbury Railway Museum acquired the two vintage electric locomotives — S-1 6000, built by Alco/GE in 1904, and T-3a 278, built in 1926 — back in 2013, but has been unable to move them. Now the owner of the land says the rare locomotives need to go. Stan Matyda, a board member of the museum, said that the move is expected to cost upwards of $160,000 and that it was expected to begin in the coming days.
Matyda tells Railfan & Railroad that there are a number of access issues with the site where the locomotives are currently stored, including soft ground and limited road access. The museum is working with RJ Corman to break the electrics apart — the S-motor will be broken into two pieces and the T-motor will be split into three — so that they can be trucked to their new home. The work of disassembling the locomotives was expected to begin this week.
The S-1 was the only of its kind ever built and was the prototype that all of the NYC’s future electric locomotives were built on, including the T-3a. T-3a 278 is the sole survivor of 36 such locomotives built between 1913 and 1926. The T-3a electrics were among the Central’s most powerful and hauled everything from commuter trains to the 20th Century Limited. Once larger and more powerful locomotives were acquired, the S-motors found a new role as switchers working in the subterranean depths of Grand Central Terminal, with some surviving in active service until 1981. Only a handful of electric locomotives survived into the Penn Central era, replaced by dual-mode FL9s absorbed from the New Haven fleet. T-motor 278 found a new home assigned to the wire train in Sunnyside Yard in Queens (since the T-motor could draw power from the third rail in the tunnels while the overhead wire was repaired).
The odd non-revenue assignments proved to be the only way these historic electric locomotives were saved. The S-motor and T-motor were acquired by Mohawk & Hudson Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in the 1980s and given a cosmetic restoration and placed on display at the local fairgrounds. In 1988, they were hauled back to Grand Central Terminal to be used in a scene in the 1988 film “The House on Carroll Street,” starring Kelly McGillis and Jeff Daniels. After that, they were returned to M&H Chapter and moved to their present location in Glenmont. In the decades since, the Chapter was no longer able to care for the increasingly isolated units located on private property. While they have been heavily vandalized over the years, but they remain good candidates for cosmetic restoration.
There are a number of other pieces of historic equipment on the site, including an Alco RS-3 and General Electric U25B. The future of those two is unclear as the land they sit on will soon be redeveloped.
Those interested in making a donation can visit DanburyRail.org/electrics.