Sidetracked #14068

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The Story

I heard about this old GG1 electric locomotive through an online abandoned railroad page and that began a small quest to find it. These old engines are vintage Pennsylvania Railroad and it doesn’t take much to raise my interest in anything PRR. The grapevine said it was sitting in rural New York somewhere and the search began by pulling some clues together and asking around. No exact location came of it, so I used some modern sleuthing: the overhead satellite view of Google Earth. I had a general location, so I followed the tracks online from above that radiated out eastward from Binghamton NY. Eventually, I saw the tops of two of these old electric locomotives along a mainline south of Cooperstown. It turned out the place is actually a railroad museum being put together so slowly that it might as well be abandoned.

It was well into early February before there was a chance to run the 300 miles up into rural New York to make some GG1 images. Winter is mostly overcast there just as it is here, so I waited until the weather report was for fair weather and sun. Driving up the day before was decided for to be able to use low angled morning light the next day. It was bitterly cold and dark coming out of the motel early that morning in New York; a quick check of the cell phone said minus 20! As proof, note all the heavy hoar frost on the shrubs and bushes in the picture. At least the day was dead still and the wind wasn’t blowing. Nevertheless, talk about one crisp and biting day!

I began shooting about eight o’clock and photographed this locomotive and several other pieces of railroad equipment around the site. This particular GG1 picture was made in seven separate vertical images that were later joined together to make a panorama. Not surprisingly in that deep cold, after about two hours I couldn’t feel my legs below the knees from walking around in the fourteen inches of snow. It was time to quit. This GG1 locomotive episode was the closest I’ve ever come to having frostbite. Not surprisingly, that exposure ended up as a painful thawing out on the way home with the truck heater going full blast.

Because it will never run again, what you see in this image is actually the world’s biggest paperweight. Those electric pantographs are down for good. Nonetheless, this GG1 electric locomotive is also a great looking hunk of railroad junk with all the faded rusty colors contrasted against the snow. You can see some heritage on this machine too. There is a large faded PC on the side representing its time with the Penn Central Railroad, and there are two small CR markings for Conrail that came after. I walked around the locomotive after the picture was taken and found no evidence of the PRR. It was the Pennsylvania Railroad who designed, built, and used these powerful pulling machines starting the 1930s.

There is another non-panorama single frame view of this locomotive as Sidetracked #14112 …same name, different stock number. Some other railroad equipment that was sitting nearby are shown in the rather unique Spook Junction #14093 and Deadline #14107. Are steam engines your thing? Have a look at Black Gold #14845 and other steam railroading images.

About the PRR GG1 electric locomotives:

There were 138 of these GG1 electric locomotive engines built by the Pennsylvania Railroad back in the thirties and forties, and many ran up into the late 1970s finishing out their work lives with Amtrak or Conrail. This particular locomotive, PRR 4917, was built at the Altoona Shops in early 1942. Each one likely ran millions of miles through its service life. I’ve read the average was five million miles and one of this engine’s sisters retired with an astounding eight million miles. Unfortunately, the GG1 was finally sidelined when their immense cast metal frames showed hairline cracks and Conrail wanted out of running electric freight locomotives. Several still exist today in museums in various conditions. Some are fully cosmetically restored but none will ever run again. Learn more about the classic GG1 electric locomotives at the American Rails website.

Location: Cooperstown Junction, Otsego County, New York. Image and text © Andrew Dierks

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