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(erielack) The Best EL Fantrip?

I was wondering who else on this list rode that RRE fantrip from Hoboken to 
Binghampton on June 9, 1968?  I still think that was the best fantrip of all 
time -- certainly the best one I ever rode.  You see various photos of it in 
the picture books because of the PA's.  The trip will be remembered if 
nothing else as the swan song for the PA's on the east end and on a 
passenger train (although they may have pinch-hit for the E8s on the Lake 
Cities after that date, at least west of Marion).

But I personally think it was also the last great EL fantrip.  I know that 
there were still several steam trips after that with the 759 and 2102 / "D&H 
302", but those were steam trips.  Not the same thing, in my book.  The June 
9 trip was the last of the many fantrips that the EL ran in the early and 
mid-1960s which allowed people to experience the EL as a working railroad 
and as a gracious passenger host.  The EL was especially gracious that day, 
rolling out the thru-line coaches and a dining car, in addition to the 
requisite baggage car with open doors (and waist-high wooden slats across 
the doors).

I was 15 years old at the time and went with my cousin.  My father drove us 
to Hoboken, and we got there just before the 9 am departure (but as with all 
fantrips, it left a bit late).  We managed to get the last two seats in a 
1300-series ex-DLW coach.  Our window was a little bit fogged, but so what.  
We weren't going to be there too much anyway, not with that baggage car and 
all the dutch doors.  Obviously the crew made zero attempt to keep the fans 
out of them.  (And in return, the fans didn't do anything stupid as to get 
themselves hurt -- those were the days).

My notes say that we passed Croxton around 9:30, and that I saw the 404 
turning the pigs on the Greenwood Lake loop. Nice, because the 404 was the 
first engine -- and at the time, probably the only engine -- I rode in.  Our 
power was the 861, 863 and 833; interestingly, within a year or so I would 
get a short ride in the 833 in Hoboken.  Anyway, I recall proceeding over 
the Bergen County Line and up the NY Division smoothly, and that we didn't 
see any eastbound freights or pass any westbounds.  We ran via the Main Line 
thru Middletown, so maybe a freight was working at MQ (on the Graham Line).  
I noted seeing the 371 in Middletown.  Then came a brief crew change stop in 
Port Jervis at noon.  Saw the 437 and 446, but didn't note any big power.

Onward up the Delaware Division; but again, it was pretty quiet.  We stopped 
for a photo run-by in Narrowsburg, then proceeded up the river.  I remember 
someone in the baggage car pointing out the old O&W bridge near Hancock.  I 
also vaguely remember that we stopped at what must have once been a 
passenger flag stop, as there was a crude platform made of raised earth and 
cinders, and a typical Erie passenger station sign tacked on the side of 
someone's house! I forget where that was -- may have been near Lordsville.

Finally, at Gulf Summit we passed an eastbound freight, behind the 2509 and 
2510 at 2 pm.  Must have been a short train to go over the hill with only 2 
U-boats.  Then we got to Lanesboro and stopped for a run-by over Starucca.   
I believe that we were back on the train and underway at 2:45 when another 
eastbound came by, led by the 3607, followed by a GP35 and F3B, with two F3 
pushers.  It was about 4 pm when we got to Binghampton.

Ah, to be young and to be in Binghampton for the first time on a splendid 
June afternoon. While our power was running around the train, we saw the 
3631 and 3632 going west with a freight; I'm not sure where it came from, as 
we were up by the station(s).  The 406 and 364 were in the yard by QD.  
Also, the 3628 and 2521 were doubling a train together in the yard.  I 
recall seeing some D&H U30C's in the distance.  Just as we were about to get 
back on, an eastbound stopped near the Erie station, with the 2558 and 3608.

It was after 5 by the time we got going.  I remember fast running through 
New Milford and Hop Bottom.  We stopped for a few minutes on Tunkhannock but 
no one got out; too late for anymore run-bys.   Then a quick crew stop in 
Scranton; again, no one got out.  My notes say that the 1200 and 1223 were 
at the service area, along with 3 other 1200s.  Then we climbed up into the 
Poconos.  I seem to recall my cousin and I being in the coach during that, 
munching on our ham sandwiches for supper (unfortunately we didn't have the 
cash back then for luxuries like dinner in the diner).  We hadn't seen any 
signs of a freight since Binghampton, and wouldn't again that evening.

It was summer sunset around 8pm at Slateford, and for some reason we had to 
stop (maybe PN-98 was making a move to Portland? just a guess).  Cuz and I 
got back to a dutch door to take in the Water Gap.  The other fans were 
tiring, and as the E8 and PA's led us over the Delaware, we had the door to 
ourselves.  The pastoral sights from along the Cut-Off at twilight were 
quite nice.  Somewhere east of Blairstown, we saw someone leaning out of the 
dining car door with a big, overstuffed plastic bag.  They proceeded to hurl 
the bag from the 60 mph+ train, causing it to break up and scatter various 
refuse all across the landscape.  We both got a laugh about the EL's 
sensitive way of treating the countryside.  Anyway, too soon we passed Port 
Morris and came to a halt in Dover as to let some fans connect to an M&E 
local. It was 9pm, and the w/b Lake Cities was also pulling in with the 824 
and 830.

It was dark and the trip would soon be over, but we needed just a little bit 
more fun, so we stayed in the dutch door past Denville, finally giving up in 
Boonton.  Just for variety, we decided to sit in a different coach for the 
remainder of the trip, so we picked out some unoccupied seats in an ex-Erie 
1000 coach.  I recall that the 1000 had a rougher ride than the DLW 1300 car 
we started in, despite the heavier weight and 6-wheel trucks.  Someone was 
laughing at us because our faces were black with Alco soot.  I went into the 
lounge outside the bathroom and looked at my face in the mirror, and started 
laughing myself.  Soon we were past Great Notch, plodding along at around 40 
down thru Montclair and Bloomfield.  I recall seeing the lights in the cabin 
at DB Draw, and then arriving in Hoboken at around 10, about 90 minutes 
late.  My parents met us and were a little disjointed as they were waiting 
there for over an hour (and the following day was still a school day).  But 
they settled down when we told them what a great time we had.  As we started 
walking toward Observer Highway I saw the MU local from Dover pull in; even 
though we went over the Boonton Line without any stops, we didn't beat the 
MU via Summit and Newark by much.

I've been on good fantrips since then but -- was never and ain't never gonna 
be another one like that!

PS, a few days later I was taking engine numbers on my way to school, and I 
recorded this:  June 13, 1968, train 1156, near BJ tower (Rutherford NJ), 
engine 857.  I do remember it being a PA.  I had heard that the EL sent the 
861 and 863 east from Marion with some other PA's on a freight, so maybe the 
857 was in that group and was hanging around waiting to go back to Marion.  
So the NY Div people decided to put it on some commuter runs for the last 
time (it was June, no need for steam).  Except, that is, for that later 
incident when they used the D&H PAs on the NJ&NY for a day or two.

Jim Gerofsky

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