Kroemer Avenue Car Move
As told by our Vice President Gerard Jewels
Want to know how Twin Forks pulled off moving three railroad cars? This is the in depth story of how we did it!
It all started with a dream. A dream to save, to preserve, to own three cars. The Three cars had been sitting still, silent for over thirty years. Two Cabooses and a boxcar were sitting, now practically abandoned awaiting their certain fate of scrap. The two ex Missouri Pacific Cabooses, 13388 and 13456, and former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie boxcar 25624 were destined for scrap.
It was said that saving these cabooses was "impossible." But our goal was, and still is, to have a more diverse collection. We wanted to show what railroad history is outside of Long Island. After inspecting these cars, it was determined that these three were actually in better shape than most people had thought and that it would be a shame if these three were lost to history. In May of 2019, we contacted the land owner, Frank Fisher, about the three cars and told him that we were interested in saving them. After some negotiating, he agreed to donate the three cars to us.
ABOVE: When the three cars were first donated to us, this is what they looked like. The Boxcar is behind that big tree in front of the caboose. They hadn't moved an inch since at least 1988.
Finally, in August of 2019, the three cars were ours, but they weren't out of danger just yet. Frank wanted them out and thus began a long journey to move the "Kroemer cars" away from where they were at 48 Kroemer Avenue.
Our first step was locking them up, which was pretty easy, We put up latches that we had, and purchased a few locks for the two cabooses. At this point, the boxcar was still attached to the building, so we didn't have to worry about that yet.
In early 2020, we were trying to figure out where to put these cars. Many ideas were thrown around at the time. One idea was to talk to the Long Island Rail Road about swinging the three onto the main track and sending them to Riverhead Yard. Another idea was to put them on flat cars and bring them to the yard as well. We determined however, that these ideas were all impractical because the railroad would never touch these cars, I mean, they haven't moved in over thirty years so why should they? Also, we were told that the town and the railroad did not want any more cars in Riverhead Yard and that these cars would not fit in the yard.
Then someone mentioned trucking them to Calverton. Calverton, New York has a scenic 3 mile long spur that comes off of the Long Island Rail Roads main line that is owned by the Town of Riverhead. Our thinking at the time was why not get a head start and move these three there, after all, our goal is to eventually run trains there. There's a section of the spur (the very end of it actually) that hasn't had any freight service on it since it was built in 2010, so why not send them there? Adam had been working on building a relationship with the New York and Atlantic (The local freight railroad that was the designated operator of the spur) and inquired about sending them there and possibly operating an excursion train on said spur. To our surprise, New York and Atlantic said that they thought that was a wonderful idea and that they would see what they could do.
ABOVE: This is the Calverton Spur.
In July of 2020, Twin Forks' President Adam Brower and I met with James Bonner, the president of the New York and Atlantic to discuss our plans for Calverton and the Cabooses. He told us that he was in full support of us moving the cabooses and our plans, but unfortunately, we could not move the cabooses there. The section of track that we were thinking of moving the three cars to was actually owned by a business and they did not want those cars there. So it was back to the drawing board. After more ideas were thrown around, we came to the conclusion that Riverhead Yard was the only place these cars could go, but where could we fit all three cars? Acting on a hunch, I went out to the yard and measured in front of some cars that are already in the yard. Turned out, They would infact fit there!
ABOVE: This is where it was determined they would fit, with plenty of room to spare!
So now, we knew where to put them, but now how to get them there. Keep in mind, that while all of this was happening, Mr. Fisher was looking to get town permits to redevelop his land. He wants these cars out as soon as possible.
In late July/early August, we contacted several crane companies about moving the three cars. Upon doing research, Adam found a company called Long Island Crane. He got in contact with the owner, Brad, and they come up with a reasonable price for the cranes, now to find a trucking company. Brad came up with a plan to actually rotate the cars on their sides and send them on a lowboy trailer, though they would be over-height and would require permits.
Back at Kroemer Avenue, we made an extraordinary effort to move the cars down the siding away from the building that Frank wanted to demolish. A new member had joined our organization; Dan. Dan said that he was very happy that these three were finally being saved, and that he was interested in helping us out. He would be instrumental in moving these three cars down the siding.
The first order of business was to clear the track of brush. This track hadn't been maintained since these cars had arrived in the late 1980's. There was plenty of trees to cut and parts of the siding to dig out. Our volunteers got right to work digging and clearing brush, both on the track and on the cars!
ABOVE: Here Ronnie is digging out the flangeways while Cameron clears out brush. We wanted to clear out as much as we possibly can!
Below: Everyone was digging and clearing! Kelly and Jason joined in the fun to clear the track for the cars!
ABOVE: In order to move the cars, we also had to clear the trees that were literally growing through them! Ronnie and Jason are clearing those trees!
Below: At some point, dirt had been thrown against one of the trucks of 13388 and that had to be cleared to! Cameron is digging out the truck that was partially buried.
ABOVE: By the time we were ready to move the cars down, Mr. Fisher had already torn down one of the buildings on the property. Unfortunately, the rubble was piled against the track. Luckily not all of it fouled the track, but some of it had to be moved. Dan came in with his SUV and determined it was feasible to just drag it, so that's just what we did!
With the digging and clearing complete, it was time to move the two cabooses. 13456 was the southernmost caboose, so that would be the first one to move. First thing we had to do was open the journal boxes and oil the bearings. We took a paint brush and some oil, filled the boxes, and spread the oil around the axles. After doing that to both 13388 and 13456, we tried uncoupling the cars. Unfortunately, one of the knuckles wouldn't open. After several attempts, and at least one whole can of PV Blaster, we took the knuckle pin out and messed with it a bit. Once it was opened enough, we gave moving it a shot. I got the car mover and started. She wasn't budging, so everyone got behind and pushed. Then, the car started moving away from us, slowly. We could not believe it! After the coupler was clear, we put the pin back in and continued to move it.
ABOVE: The first few inches caught on film! We could not believe how easy it was moving after that initial few inches!
Below: We all took turns moving it. It was Ronnies turn to move it.
ABOVE: By the end of the day, this is how far we moved 13456. This was the first time they had been uncoupled since their arrival!
During the week, Dan and another volunteer, George, would come out and move 13456 farther. they also ended up preparing 13388 for its move down the siding as well. By the next weekend, 13388 was ready for its trip down the siding. Dan hooked up his SUV and off she went!
ABOVE: 13388 on the move down the siding. The crash you hear is one of the steps hitting some of the concrete rubble that 13456 cleared perfectly.
With 13388 and 13456 now moved, it was time to detach the boxcar from the building. It had a small enclosed "Bridge" going from the building to the inside of the car that needed to be removed. Dan jumped right in to take it down! We started with one of the side walls so we can get inside the car. Then, it was on to the roof. Within an hour, the boxcar had been detached from the building!
ABOVE: Dan swiftly took down that first wall!
Below: Then off to the roof! Dan taking down the support beams that attached the roof to the car and Gerard watches.
ABOVE: If Dans expression doesn't summarize what had been going on over the past week, I'm not sure what would.
Below: With the Boxcar now moved away from the building, we were finally able to rest easy, for now.
Once the boxcar was detached, it was time to move it. Lucky for us, the boxcar had roller bearings, so it was a little easier to move with the car mover. Again, we all took turns moving it. Finally, we determined that it was far enough from the building that Frank could demolish it if he wanted to. Frank was happy and they were able to stay(For now).
ABOVE: This is where they sat once we were done moving them away from the building.
In September of 2020, Adam was talking with the Long Island Rail Road and asked how to go about moving these three cars to Riverhead Yard. The railroad told us that we would need a license agreement to do this and explained the process. They would put together a license agreement and it would have to be signed by all of the departments, then it would have to go to the Corporate MTA offices and they would have to sign off on it. So in early September, that process was started. By mid November, after a few small road blocks were cleared, we had gotten the required signatures from the railroad, and the license agreement was sent off to the MTA for approval. Over the next several months, negotiations would go back and forth between the MTA, the Railroad and Twin Forks for this license agreement.
Finally, on July 13th 2021, our License Agreement is approved by the MTA. Now work began to move the three cars. All of the logistical problems had to be worked out. One big logistical issue was how we were going to move them by truck. We really did not want to have to put them on their sides, especially the boxcar with all of its shelving. Luckily though, that particular problem had been solved. In June of 2020, our former president, Rich Gorddard had an idea. He was watching a video of the Railroad Museum of New England moving some of their cars by truck and noticed a road Dolly they were using. The Dolly went in place of the cars trucks on one end, and a wrecker would go on the other end and attach to it. This would save us time, money and would prevent us from having to put the cars on their sides. This would also lower the cars enough so that they are within height limits.
Rich got in contact with the museums president and he said to come up and take a look at it, and we did just that. After checking out their eclectic collection, we went over to the yard where they were keeping it. It was in rough shape(It hadn't been used in over 10 years). They said after a little work, it can be used. So they wrote up a contract, and they allowed us to use it. At the same time, we got in contact with Rapid Recovery and they said that they'd be willing to do the move for us and rebuild the Dolly.
ABOVE: This is the Dolly we used. Here it is when we went to look at it. It looked tired, but it still had life left in it.
In the meantime, Adam and I were working with the Long Island Rail Road to figure out the logistics on their end. They required a 200 Ton crane in their yard along with a watchman to look out for trains. In September, 2021 I met with several officials from the railroad, as well as Brad from Long Island Crane in Riverhead yard to figure out exactly how we would do this. The officials on the railroad all said "I think we can do this!" That was best thing I'd heard in a very long time!
In very early November, 2021 I get the text message that I was regretting, but knew would come soon. Frank said that they had to go. These three cars were the last things standing in his way of getting his building permits. After working with the railroad for so long and having everything come so close, it would have been such a shame to lose them now! We went to the railroad and told them the distressing news. The railroad practically bent over backwards to make this happen. They felt the same way we did! After a few more things were ironed out the big day came. The Following photographs are of the cars last full day at Kroemer Avenue. The sun was setting on the chapter of their lives when they would be sitting and rotting.
The sight at 48 Kroemer Avenue of the morning of November 18th was surreal. Sitting in front of 13456 was a crane, something that many people thought would never happen, and I simply could not believe. After snapping some photos, it was time to get to work.
We Couldn’t have asked for a better day, 65 Degrees, Sunny and very little wind! With all the parties in place the big move commenced. The straps were attached to 13456 and up she went!
The use of the dolly came with a learning curve. None of us had ever used it before, but the men from both Rapid Recovery and Long Island Crane worked together and figured out how to use it and by mid day, the first caboose went down onto the Dolly and was on its way.
It was a strange sight seeing a caboose traveling down the street. The looks it was getting from other drivers and pedestrians was certainly priceless. Once they arrived in Riverhead, they backed down the driveway and got ready to start the unloading process. Before unloading started, the railroad watchman and some officials held a job briefing. They told us what the plan is when a train is approaching and that the Twin Forks' volunteers where there to prevent anyone from going near the move. I then went to tell the volunteers what their duties were while Adam and myself assisted with the move. After the job briefing was complete, setup and lifting commenced. While they were setting up to lift the caboose, there was a loud crash, and the railroad employees started running toward the railroad crossing. I went to the other side of the caboose, and to my horror, one of the gates had been knocked down and was lying in the railroad tracks. The cabooses' trucks hadn't arrived yet so I immediately thought that the truck carrying them hit the railroad gates! Just then, the truck arrived. It turned out that it was a completely isolated incident! So the truck pulled in and they unloaded the trucks.
With the trucks in place, it was time to unload the caboose itself.
The caboose had to spun 180 degrees. When I spoke to Brad, he said "No problem!" and that's just what they did! They made it look so easy! After spinning it, they set it down nice and easy in its trucks...
...And the first caboose was done!
Now it was 13388s turn to come to Riverhead yard. This caboose would go much faster than the first one because they knew exactly what they needed to do.
Not long after it was lifted, it was ready to roll!
After arrival, The trucks were unloaded. The red "X" on the journal lid indicates what end of the truck faces the end of the car.
This was the first train that these two cabooses saw together at their new home! With both cabooses done, it was time to move on to the boxcar. The boxcars underframe was different than that of the two cabooses so that was another learning experience for the crew of Long Island Crane and Rapid Recovery, but it was a challenge they easily overcame.
With the boxcar finally chained up, it was ready to go!
By the time the Boxcar showed up, it was getting dark so we had to wait for the next day to continue. They put the boxcar in position for the next day.
The next day, unloading of the boxcar started. The trucks were quickly unloaded, then the boxcar itself. It was a bit colder that day and pretty windy, but it was nothing that Long Island Crane couldn't handle!
And Done! They are now safe and sound in Riverhead yard awaiting their turn to be restored! Our plan it to put at least one one back into its as-rebuilt condition.
It was a stressful two years, but in the end, it was all worth it! We successfully saved these three historic cars that many people said were "impossible" to save! We have so many people to thank for this! Too many to list! Some that stand out however are the crews from Rapid Recovery and Long Island Crane for their professionalism and know-how. Various people from the Long Island Rail Road and the MTA for going out of their way to make this move happen. The Railroad Museum of New England for lending us their Dolly and making this move over $10k cheaper than it would have been without their help and Frank Fisher for donating the three cars and being beyond patient with us while we put everything together to get this move done! If it weren't for everyone involved we seriously doubt that these cars could have been saved! Thank you everyone!
If you have any questions about these cars, want to see photos of them, or would like to come see them, feel free to shoot us an email at TwinForksNRHS@Gmail.com.