Jim Foster’s PRSLHS Page
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Jim Foster’s collection of his father Harry Foster’s photography was prominently featured in the Summer 1990 edition of the PRR T&HS magazine “The Keystone” of the PRSL in Wildwood NJ. This issue has become a must have for the PRSL Fan.
We are extremely happy to have Jim as one of our members. Here he shares his memories of the PRSL in Wildwood in the 1950s. Additions to the page will be made when possible.
CHASING TRAINS ON NEW JERSEY AVENUE
For those other than immediate family members, I would like to recount another of many eccentric family activities and the history behind it. Yes, I said “family” activities, as these summer Wildwood short car trips usually included Dad, Jim, and all the girls in the ‘51 Nash.
To understand the whys and wherefores, a little background on how a railroad interest came to the Foster family. Although most probably think the railroad diversion was solely Jim’s hobby, it actually was an extension of something dad developed, probably right after the war. One of his many “Renaissance Man” activities, it included a permanent HO gauge layout in our basement at Cliveden Street, extensive toy trains on the floor at Christmas, railfan excursions on the Reading starting in the late 40’s, and a large photograph collection taken by dad himself from 1946 through the early 1950s. I can lay the blame for my interest gone to extremes squarely on dad’s shoulders as I accompanied him on many occasions early on.
The modernization of the railroad industry after the war brought the end to steam locomotive operations as fast as the diesels could be built. Although Philadelphia was one of the first areas of the country to modernize with electric trains in the 1930s, the local exceptions were the trains to seashore destinations that operated with the oldest equipment the railroads owned. Essentially these were three month a year railroads where passenger service was concerned, with exclusively vacation travelers. The seashore trains from Philadelphia to south and north Jersey resort towns were the very last scheduled steam passenger operations east of the Mississippi and almost the last in the United States.
After buying Wildwood in 1952 and knowing these trains were only going to last a couple more seasons, dad and I collaborated on watching and photographing them in their final hours. The Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines track entered Wildwood over a drawbridge through West Wildwood and the main station was at Oak and New Jersey Avenues, actually built on a sharp curve. After dropping passengers, and sometimes a Railway Express car at that station, the train then turned onto New Jersey Avenue trolley car style and made a trip to the end of the island in the center of the street, stopping at two more stations en route.
We would drive to Oak Avenue, wait for the train, often some photography, and they load into the car, and pace the locomotive for a couple mile trip to the storage yards next to Sunset Lake. Naturally, I would have “shotgun” and the girls would take turns at the back window of the Nash. Escaping steam, water droplets and cinders all a part of the “railroad experience”. We drove close enough you could reach out and touch the moving locomotive rods on the 80 inch driving wheels. Mom was never with us!
With my bicycle, I would make morning trips to station to meet the 11:35 from Phila, which always included at least one baggage car to be switched off, and layover that might be 20 minutes or more. The train actually had to wait for red lights and pedestrians to switch on and off the street. ( OSHA would have loved this one!) Getting to know the crew on the locomotive I was sometimes a “guest” in the cab while the switching move was made. The finale to these “boy and machine” events came on Labor Day weekend 1955 when the train arrived with 18 cars and about 20 minutes late. As the train screeched to a stop and quickly uncoupled the first baggage care the Fireman yelled to me “Give your bike to the baggage man” Waiting at the open baggage door, he took it from me, apparently pre-arranged, but I had no advance notice.
When the locomotive returned, they put me in the cab at the Fireman’s seat, for the rest of the trip to the other stations, the coal dock and the servicing yards. My bike was there for the return trip. Engineer MacIntyre and Fireman Williams told me that they put that plan together at the last minute, for after the Labor Day weekend; direct trains from Philly were discontinued until next year. They had been told that week that the steamers would not return the following year and they wanted me to be part of the “last ride”.
© Jim Foster 12-30-07
3 Reading G3s at Cold Spring Harbor – 1955
I gave this one the title “RAILROAD!” 1946 OR 1947 Photo of the huge Erie Avenue locomotive and freight yard in Philadelphia.
T-1 4-8-4 in the foreground is quite new. Note camelback switchers. Not a diesel in sight.
A cery rare shot of Reading G3 locomotive leaving PRR North Philadelphia station with the first day of summer service to Ocean City, Wildwood and Cape May. Steam at this point was summer only on train that split its consist at Tuckahoe and Wildwood Junction. Nabisco factory is in the background. As you know PRR and RDG shared equipment and assignments, but RDG power was never routinely assigned to Philadelphia trains until this last summer season of regular steam service. When we set up for this shot we expected a K-4.
Engineer MacIntyre and fireman Williams with yours truly and 217 at Cold Spring Harbor after cab ride and coaling and watering of the loco.
What a GREAT SHOT!
Wildwood Junction 1954 or 1955. E-6 has brought up cars from Cape May and took short siding next to which waiting crews cleared land and built numerous bird-houses on high poles. K-4 from Wildwood has backed down and picked up cars and is now bound for Tuckahoe and Philadelphia.
This was taken from West Wildwood station which was only a small shed. Train is northbound and smoke was pre-arranged with crew.
West Wildwood Bridge with train bound for Oak Avenue.
Same train on different day. Most all G-3 shots are 1955, but I did see 210 there the year before.
During 1954 and 1955 I recorded 7 of the 10 G-3s on that assignment. Missing were 212, 215, and 219.
K-4 5435 at Cold Spring Harbor during coaling operation.
H-9 3597 at Millville with PRSL caboose
© PRSLHS 2021
Resuscitated from a 20 year nap on 1-25-07