The International Steam Pages

The Huckleberry RR January 2019

James Waite has been on another whistle stop trip, this one covers the following venues:

Here are a few photos from a photo charter at the Huckleberry RR in Michigan. This is a 3ft gauge line about 4 miles long, built on the trackbed of an old standard gauge branch of the Pere Marquette RR near Flint. It's based at Crossroads Village, a museum of old buildings moved from other places in this part of Michigan which is run by the local authority. The whole place is delightful and not at all commercialised There are balloon loops at both ends and these feature just about the only curves on the line as otherwise it is mostly or entirely straight. The first two photos are at the northeastern loop and the third at the southwestern one. The two working locomotives are D&RGW "Mudhen" 2-8-2 no 464 (Baldwin 21796/1903), the sister of no 463 on the Cumbres & Toltec, and Alaska RR 4-6-0 no 152 (Baldwin 53296/1920).

The Alaska RR is a government-owned standard gauge line and its predecessor the Alaskan Engineering Commission bought out the 3ft gauge Tanana Valley RR in 1917 in order to use its route into Fairbanks for the new line. They built a long temporary extension to the south to assist in construction work. The Alaska RR's main line from Seward was completed to Fairbanks and opened in 1923 but they continued to work the old narrow gauge main line from Fairbanks northwards to Chatanika until 1930. Before the state takeover the Tanana Valley owned only four locomotives, no 1, a Porter 0-4-0ST which came second hand from a railway in the Yukon, no 50, a 4-4-0 and no 51, a 2-6-0 which both came from the White Pass & Yukon and no 52, another 2-6-0 which came from the Rio Grande. The Alaskan Engineering Commission bought two more locomotives, no 151, a 2-8-0 which came from a logging line in Washington state and this 4-6-0 which was the only new locomotive ever to run on the railway.

After the closure the 4-6-0 was mothballed until WW2 when it moved to Skagway on the White Pass line to help with the war effort but, reputedly, wasn't offloaded from its ship as it was obviously too small. It eventually moved on to a scrap dealer in California but was rescued for preservation. It has just been restored to working order after being out of use for the past 10 years. No 464 is about to be withdrawn for heavy overhaul so this was a good opportunity to see the two locomotives running together.

The Huckleberry line has been running for more than 50 years and was able to obtain some very interesting coaches including several from the Yucatan railways in Mexico, two from the D&RGW and one from the Rio Grande Southern. Unfortunately it paints them yellow, not quite as bright a shade as the coaches at the Durango & Silverton but still rather unphotogenic, so I tried views in which the colour wouldn't be too noticeable. The final photo also includes 2-8-0 no 4 (Baldwin 24306/1904) from the 3ft gauge FC Potosí y Rio Verde in central Mexico, which is plinthed midway along the line as a part of a logging train exhibit. It's a very pretty locomotive but is not in good shape!

Tanana Valley no 1, the little Porter 0-4-0ST, is also preserved and now runs on a circuit of track around a park in Fairbanks. It's rather ironic that this little line's first and last locomotives have both survived in working order. We were very lucky with the weather, especially as there was heavy snow further west and the following day was very murky, but it was bitterly cold as you can tell from the frozen creek in the fourth photo!



152 and 4

Rob Dickinson