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Back in 1906, before the coming of the third rail and the MP-54 MU cars, the Long Island Railroad depended heavily on these specialized 0-4-2 tank engines from Forney. Small, agile and bi-directional, these have long been popular in commuter, suburban service and even on the Elevated lines in major cities such as New York City and Chicago.
Small tank engines like these were produced in the hundreds and have labored in relative obscurity in the shadows of the big cities. Their equippage is minimal- note the slide valves and link-and-pin couplers. Note, too, the truss rodded open platform commuter coach coupled behind.
This is something of a twilight scene: increasing loads, higher wages and smoke abatement laws are spurring the growth of electric traction for urban and suburban service. Already the LIRR is laying the first tentative batch of third rail, and third rail is already in use on several urban lines. By the time the Kaiser's War begins, the teeming ranks of these little smoke pots will be decimated.
A rugged G5s Ten Wheeler built to the Pennsylvania Railroad pattern makes time with a commuter local near Glen Head in western Long Island in the early 50s. These remarkable 4-6-0s, which date from the 1920s, are in their last days. Unlike most roads, however, the Long Island Railroad is confronted with the rising tide of dieselization rather than the more melancholy wave of train discontinuances. We can take comfort in knowing that this run still exists, even if the equipment shown here sits on the scrap line.
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North East Rails © Clint Chamberlin.