|B&M Rail Yard, North Walpole, NH|
Mr. Blount bought the narrow gauge Edaville Railroad in South Carver, MA in 1955. His first standard gauge locomotive was the Boston & Maine 1455. As he began to collect other standard gauge steam locomotives, it became apparent that he would need a location serviced by standard gauge tracks. So, in 1960 Mr. Blount purchased a Boston & Maine rail yard in North Walpole, NH and moved all of his equipment there. [photo] [Google Maps view Steamtown U.S.A. location in Walpole, NH]
In 1964 Nelson Blount obtained Rutland trackage rights between North Walpole, NH and Westmoreland, NH. Once again, Mr. Blount moved his steam collection from the Boston and Maine rail yard in North Walpole, NH to a new site roughly two miles north in Bellows Falls, VT. This latest location was at the former site of a proposed Rutland yard in Riverside, just north of North Walpole and Bellows Falls, VT. Tracks fanning out from a turntable provided an excellent place to display his collection of steam locomotives. Over the years, excursion trains were run out of four different locations: Sunapee, NH, Keene, NH, North Walpole, NH, and Bellows Valls, VT. For a more complete description of Steamtown U.S.A.'s early history, see this page. [Google Maps view of Steamtown U.S.A. location at Riverside, Bellows Falls, VT]
Tragedy struck in 1967 when Nelson Blount was killed when his private plane crashed into a tree in Marlborough, NH. Nelson was only 49. This event took a lot of steam out of Steamtown U.S.A. Most of the operational steam locomotives were either sold or fell into disrepair. Then, in 1970, Vermont passed air quality regulations which prohibited steam operations. Diesel locomotives were then used on Steamtown U.S.A. excursions and ridership fell dramatically. Despite the air quality regulations, the Steamtown Foundation again began operating with a steam locomotive. By 1983, Steamtown U.S.A. again had many (six) operating steam locomotives.
Despite the resurrection of steam locomotives, Steamtown U.S.A. was in financial trouble. It was determined that the main problem was its location -- isolated from any major population center. In 1984, Steamtown U.S.A. was moved to Scranton, PA. Still losing money, the Steamtown Foundation went bankrupt in 1986. Congress created the Steamtown National Historic Site and the National Park Service acquired the collection. [Google Maps view of Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA]
If it were not for Mr. Nelson Blount amassing the incredible collection of steam locomotives he did, we would not have many of the operating locomotives and museums we do have today.
|Russ White Photo|
|Russ White Photo|
|Carl H Sturner Photo|
I had a opportunity to ride behind her at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in 1997. That day I believe we had at least 8 BR standard coaches and she hauled them like a trooper only slipped a couple of times. When this loco ran in the states it was notorious for slipping and could barely pull two coaches. When operated at Scranton it was always run with the "pup" (their SW9). The folks in Britain I talked to indicated all they did was re-profile the drivers, but I would think the spring rigging must have been adjusted as well. The Repton is a great steamer and I was happy to see here back in her native habitat.