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2016 Schuylkill River Sojourn


Railway Restoration Project 113 maintains the largest 0-6-0 in the land.  The crew of Central Railroad of New Jersey #113 took the engine out to stretch her legs on Friday, the 3rd of June, helping to mark the start in Schuylkill Haven of the 18th annual Schuylkill River Sojourn.  During the Sojourn, canoeists and kayakers take seven days to paddle the 112 miles downstream to Philadelphia, celebrating the river's history and natural beauty.  (Just for comparison, Reading RDCs made the trip in 2 hours and 4 minutes in 1964, with ten intermediate stops.)  What better way to make a memorable send-off than to have a live anthracite-burning locomotive at the park where the boaters gather, a locomotive that they can climb aboard and whose whistle they can blow.  Thus 113's attendance has become a tradition at the event.


Before the engine went south at 2 p.m. or so, after holding clear of three Reading & Northern freights (one from the coal loadout just north of Minersville, one from the Tremont branch, and one from Pottsville), the crew also made a round-trip to Mar-Lin, two miles below Minersville, with a special passenger, five-year-old Thomas Wagner: One of her biggest fans, Thomas had told his parents that he did not want birthday presents this year, but people should put the money they would have spent into a donation to Project 113 -- well, to "Big Buddy", as he calls the engine.  Inspired by this, his family ended up collecting almost $500!  You can read the Pottsville Republican Herald's story about the event here.


In these photos by Thomas's father, John, you can see the boy's joy.


We at Project 113 feel deeply grateful to the entire Wagner family for their steadfast support.

The Sojourners gather in Schuylkill Haven at Island Park, which has a large pavilion and baseball, softball, and soccer fields; the river flows around the north and east sides of the area, while the former Reading right-of-way runs southeast-northwest behind the backstops, making the park an "island" cut off from the rest of the borough.


Late in the afternoon, the engine simmered on the main line, a feather of steam from the turbogenerator, and happy visitors taking turns pulling on the whistle cord.  Surrounding the engine, the dedicated and indefatigable people who keep 113 up and running: Bob Kimmel, the project's leader, stood next to the drivers, talking with 30-year Reading & Northern engineer Christopher Bost (a railroad employee has to run the engine when out on the road); Krista Hertz, Bob's sister and the one responsible for merchandise sales (and so much more), took a break from the t-shirt table and sat on the tender footboard; high-school student Chris Hohman had the oil can in use around the running gear, assisted by Brian Wowak; another high-schooler, Evan Getsky, trimmed the coal pile.  In the cab, John Oross and Mike Fenstermaker kept watch on the fire and the water level, assisted by Mike's son, Shaine.  Tyler Fenderson, Jim Garraway, and Bernie Perch had also come along; and Bob's and Kris's mother joined the group this day, as she has for decades: Her husband, Bob Sr., had volunteered on the Wanamakers, Kempton & Southern starting in the 1960s, and Bob Jr. got his first cab experience there at age 3 or 4 -- just like Thomas Wagner!

Alongside the engine as the sun dropped low, Bob Kimmel and Chris Bost talked about running and maintaining steam; between them they have more than 80 years of experience.


Even big kids like to try their hands at blowing the whistle: Check out that smile on Krista Hertz!

Video of the south- and northbound legs, ©2016 Brian Wowak

#113 heads north towards sunset, ©2016 Carson Shappell

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