By Justin Franz and Otto Vondrak
After years of dodging the scrapper’s torch, two rare New York Central electrics have been loaded onto trailers for a ride to their new home in Connecticut. On Friday morning, the Danbury Railway Museum announced that NYC S-1 6000 and T-3a 278 were about to be moved from the site of an old power plant near Albany, N.Y., where they have been stored for 36 years.
“They will be shipped to the Danbury Railway Museum soon where upon arrival work will continue on returning them to an appearance that would make the New York Central Railroad Proud,” museum officials told Railfan & Railroad.
The move east will be the cumulation of years of work to save the at-risk artifacts and one that has never been a sure thing.
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 the 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 the power plant in Glenmont (near Albany). 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, they remain good candidates for cosmetic restoration.
The effort to save the two electrics has become a decade-long saga, one beset with challenges for the non-profit Danbury group. Among those challenges was the location of the motors, which were cut off from the rail network and surrounded by infrastructure that hindered their movement. The electrics were joined by a number of other pieces of equipment, including a rare U25B, but it and others were sacrificed to try and save the even rarer electrics.
As the land the electrics were sitting on began to be redeveloped a few years ago, it appeared the end was near for the motors. But thanks to a frantic fundraising effort and a series of temporary moves, the museum was able to get the motors out of the way, at least momentarily.
Officials have not provided a set schedule for the move or information about when they will be unloaded, but it’s likely to be in the coming days. The motors are currently on private property.
People interested in donating to the effort to restore the motors can visit DanburyRail.org/Donate.