The PRR T1 Trust

Winter 2015 - 2016

Everyone at The T1 Trust would like to wish you and yours a Happy New Year and we hope your holiday season was festive, relaxing and restful. Despite the wild and unseasonable weather nationwide, The Trust, its members and supporters have been hard at work.


2015 - A Year in Review

Wheel PatternThanks to our supporters, 2015 was a great year for The T1 Trust and our cause! By far and away, our greatest achievement was the success of our summer Kickstarter campaign that had a goal of raising $20,000 for the construction of the Boxpok driving wheel patterns. Thanks to the generosity of 160 donors, we were able to raise $22,577 in less than a month. Liberty Pattern & Mold of Youngstown, Ohio completed the patterns and sent them off to Beaver Valley Alloy in Monaca, Pennsylvania for casting.

The T1 Trust was invited by the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society to participate in that group's annual meeting held from April 30 to May 3, 2015 in State College, Pennsylvania. The T1 Trust presented two lectures and staffed an information booth at the conference. The headlight for 5550 was revealed at the meeting, and important announcements were made concerning the progress of the 5550 CAD model, corporate sponsorship and new opportunities for donors who wish to support the project.

Built from original PRR T1 blueprints by Gary Bensman, the headlight to adorn 5550 may now be sponsored in the Trust's Fundraising Center. The name of the headlight sponsor will appear on The T1 Trust website and a handsome donation certificate will be issued. As an enduring expression of gratitude, the Trust will also have the name of the headlight donor engraved onto the headlight casing.

The question most asked to the T1 Trust is, "Where will it run when complete?". We are pleased to announce that the Trust has received three letters of invitation to operate on various railroad lines around the country. We have received formal letters from Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA, the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, MI and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Independence, OH. All three organizations have a long track record of handling mainline steam locomotives and can easily support the T1 locomotive operation when complete.

Over the past 2 months The T1 Trust has extracted 359 blueprints from the PA State Archives. This brings the total number of blueprints available for sponsorship to 875. We invite you to take a look at the drawings by clicking here and choose a few to sponsor.


Part Spotlight – Prow Hinge (Part #C436543)

Trust Member Gary Bensman has been hard at work fabricating the prow hinges for the front of the 5550. These hinges enable the prow to swing away from the smokebox extension on the front of the locomotive to facilitate servicing and will be critical to the completed locomotive.

Front Prow Hinge


The T1 Trust Brings Back an Extinct Class of Steel

The T1 Trust is one step closer to casting the first Boxpok driver to be produced in nearly 70 years. Through archival detective work, The T1 Trust was able to identify the chemical and material properties for General Steel Castings' Nickel Steel. However the annealing process remained a trade secret and a mystery, until now.

Working with Beaver Valley Alloy and a national materials testing laboratory, The T1 Trust has used 21st Century technology to successfully replicate General Steel Castings' Nickel Steel. When it comes to cast steel, the alloy or chemical composition is only half of the story. The final physical properties of cast steel are established by a process known as annealing. When annealing a part, it is heated in its entirety to a certain temperature and then allowed to cool. The T1 Trust has had a test pour the heritage alloy made and samples of this pour were annealed using different protocols. These samples were subjected to vigorous testing for elongation, tensile strength, hardness and the like which allowed the Trust to determine which annealing protocol best met the physical properties required. In bringing back this extinct class of steel, the Trust is one step closer to its ultimate goal, a fully operational T1 locomotive.

In additional good news, the purchase order has been made and the Trust is now waiting for Beaver Valley to pour the first driver.


Interview with Wes Camp – Part 3

In late 2014, Wes Camp was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to speak with the Trust. He provided so much great material that not all of it would fit into one issue his interview has been broken up into segments for inclusion in the newsletter.

Q: How did you start your career as a professional railroader?

A: After I left Ross and the Freedom Train [and went] back to Roanoke, the N&W had merged and taken over several railroads including the D&H and they put in a guy by the name of Bruce Sterzing as president of the D&H. And he was my point of contact when we were running the trips on the N&W down in Roanoke. So he called me up and asked me if I’d take a job as an assistant master mechanic with the D&H up in Albany, New York and since I was out of work, I said sure. I’d just gotten married so I took the job and got to run the [Alco] PA’s and the Baldwin Sharks and all that other unbelievable stuff. Sterzing went on to the Rock Island Railroad and there was an assistant master mechanic in Little Rock that took a promotion to run the FRA’s test loop in Pueblo, Colorado. Sterzing invited me down to Little Rock from Albany, paid all my expenses and I got a pay raise of $10,000 a year which put me up to $28,000. I said sure so we moved to Little Rock and that’s how I got into professional railroading.

Q: What attracted you to the T1 Trust's project to build 5550?

A: The reason I’m excited about the T1 is that it’s a fantastic dream to be able to pull off and Ross’s deals were fantastic dreams and there isn’t anything in the way of an excursion that Ross could dream up that didn’t happen. He asked me, “Do you think we could run a Berk[shire]?” You know, at that time, Pacifics and that stuff was about it. But he out-thought me and he was a genius at being able to give inspiration to other people who said, “Gee, you really think that could happen?” In dreaming big, you can accomplish big things because what will happen is, you’ll attract people who are lead by big thoughts and ideas who tend to come out of nowhere. If you start out with the T1 project and begin to get it going, you’ll have no idea of who you’ll inspire and the strange things that will all come together that will make the idea and the concept possible. But you need in the beginning to get a group of young guys to say ‘This is where we’re going’ and the same way Kennedy said, “In this decade we choose to go to the moon”. At that time (1960) we were still running propeller airplanes and the B52s and other jets were fairly new. But he said we were going to the moon and the whole country caught on to [the idea] and solved the problems and pretty soon, in 1969, we went the moon and the High Iron Company went to Salt Lake City with a steam engine.

Q: How does your experience as a Master Mechanic for three different railroads influence your thinking about the 5550 project?

A: Good question! During my experience on the railroads as Master Mechanic, almost all the railroads I worked for were downsizing and reshaping their traffic and their business. The D&H was thrown in the middle of the Conrail disaster and what I mean by disaster was that all of a sudden Congress took on the ownership of the Pennsylvania and the New York Central and all the other railroads of the east that were owed millions of dollars of freight charges by the Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania said, “We don’t have any money…we ain’t paying you” and that bankrupted all the other little railroads, the Lehigh and Hudson River, the Reading, Jersey Central, the New Haven and the Boston and Maine. I mean every railroad in the east went under except for the D&H which was owned by the N&W. Part of the law at that time said that Conrail was created to promote and encourage competition in rail in the northeast but all the railroads had gone under so there wasn’t any competition except for this little line that went from the middle of Pennsylvania up into New York state. So to promote competition, the FRA who was running Conrail at the time essentially gave the D&H access to Buffalo, New York free over the Penn Central tracks so they could get their own freight traffic back from Cleveland [Ohio] and they also gave the D&H free access all the way to Potomac Yards at Washington, DC so they could get their own traffic from the other railroads that came in from the south. They threw immense trackage rights at the D&H that was not equipped with enough motive power to meet the new traffic levels so the FRA stepped in and financed twenty-five brand new EMD GP39-2s as well as brand new engines from the absorbed Lehigh Valley and Lackawanna Railroads.

What I learned was that the mechanical departments that I ran on the D&H and the Rock Island were run by old guys and old foreman who were going back to their tools and I was a young guy, a young leader. They taught me so much because they’d been in railroading for so many years that there really wasn’t anything new in it from the mechanical side. They had freight interchange, you had car inspection, locomotive maintenance and derailments and the Master Mechanics, their job in the world was to become the person who cleans up derailments and on the Rock Island we had a lot of derailments. But these guys were all cut from the same cloth that old Ben Kantner was and Joe Carrol, really good old timers and they were just hanging on by a thread. Essentially wherever I went we were working with the old guys who were left and they told me how to solve problems, how lead people and inspire them and how to pull the teams together so that as a young leader, I didn’t insult them. But a lot of that training I picked up from having been a student of Ben Kantner many years before. So the thinking with the 5550 project is how it’s going to help is essentially that we won’t be building the engine. We’re going to hire people and have the engine built so it’s going to be the casting people, boilermakers, and other people who will fabricate many things in many different places. The secret of doing that is essentially being able to work with teams in these different places that are all eager to do the job but just need guidance as they go along and come up with different challenges. But the boilers in today’s world of manufacturing are very low pressure compared with the pressures they used to deal with and the challenge of doing the boiler and the firebox for the capability of the companies that are out there is very easy for them to do. They could probably have the boiler fully fabricated in under a week. There isn’t really a challenge to it, it’ll be all welded and that kind of thing there but there’s gonna be individual challenges that they’ll have to solve. The team of the people that build the T1 are going to have to be able to solve those challenges as they come up, either by getting together with the people who are doing the manufacturing and have them lay out what the problems are and then together figure out a solution. “Can your manufacturing process do this? Or can it do that?” There’s also going to be the regulations side and so at each of the facilities that are going to be producing these products, we’re going to need teams of people that can work with the factories and solve their problems and some of those problems are going to have to be solved with a fat check. You just never know when you’re going to get another surprise where the only solution is more money.

Q: What do you see as the Trust's greatest assets?

A: The greatest of the Trust are going to be to grasp the capabilities for manufacturing that we have in this country whether it’s casting the frame or perfecting the poppet valve arrangement or solving the problems of fuel and electronics. Our terrific asset is the present state of the art of manufacturing in this country and we have outfits like Air Products Company up in New York and Pennsylvania that roll boilers and pressure vessels for refineries and they deal with thousands of pounds of pressure, not 250 or 300 pounds. The question that we have there is, ‘Can we truly tap into that?’ Another asset we have is the Master Mechanic and CMO’s job up in Reading. We have terrific computer and modeling capabilities and today’s technology is a tremendous asset. If we want to build a locomotive that we want to have fun with, it’s going to have to be 21st-Century in electronic capability. It has to have total connectivity but also it’s got to have the safety equipment that the FRA demands in the form of positive train control which is essentially cell towers and satellites knowing the positions and speeds of all trains on the railroads. We have to be able to be in the position to capture that stuff and feed it by telemetry to all the other trains that are out there. We don’t want to be the only train on the railroad that A. doesn’t have signals and B. doesn’t have communication and we have a lot of space in the tender of the locomotive to put a whole data center.

Another asset is the ‘gee-whiz’ admiration from the younger people running billion-dollar Internet companies and we want to be able to wow people with the young and the enthusiastic people who run the T1 Trust. We want them to know that we not only have the capability electronically but we’ve got the best piece of motive power on the railroad, bar none. Now, what will happen is as this thing gets legs and begins to go on is that people will come in and join and they have their own stuff going on in their lives so they’ll be around for two or three years. But the project itself will attract them to it and they’ll be forever connected with it just like the American Freedom Train guys in that a lot of them came in and were only around for a few months but it changed their lives and how they relate to people forever. And so we’re beginning a project and it’s going to be a core group of three or four people who are in it from start to finish but you’re also extremely thankful for the people who have specific skills who come in and say, “I can help with this.” You’re going to come across unimaginable things. You have no idea of what you’ll find but because the idea is attractive, somebody’s going to say, “I know Jay Leno.” And he’s got steam cars and you never know, he might be able to take us to people and pretty soon you’ll be able to crank open these computer and Internet billionaires who can throw millions of dollars at you like confetti.

The other thing is the ability to dream big enough and Ross [Rowland] was always and still is a big dreamer. He has different ideas but the whole Freedom Train was a dream of his and I guess the other classic one was Walt Disney. He had great dreams that gave us DisneyLand and DisneyWorld and he saw the potential in that before anybody else did. It’s unleashing those dreams but also giving those dreams legs and the biggest problem we have to solve is the money problem and in my opinion, the money problem is that the people who write the checks want to know that what they give is going to be used for the project, well accounted for and that people won’t be taking advantage of their generosity.

Stay tuned for more from Mr. Camp in future issues of the ‘Trail Blazer’.


Member Support

T1 TattooIn December, we received notice from Founder’s Club member Ben Custer about his new T1 Trust tattoo. We were honored and curious and asked for more information, Ben was more than willing to oblige. Here is a photo of the tattoo along with the story behind it.

“A few weeks before my father passed away, my cousin came to say his goodbyes. I was privileged to sit with them as they had their conversation. My cousin asked, "What do you think is waiting for you on the other side?" Without hesitation, my father replied "The T1" (the steam engine featured in the design).

The T1 was a bit of a unicorn when it came to steam engines. It was designed by the same guy responsible for the design of the coke bottle, the Shell logo and a few Studebakers and if we are being honest, it looks like a train batman would drive. Beyond its unique looks - it was also unicorn-ish because it was a train my dad always wanted for his collection but never got one.

The engine is controversial, reputed to being pushed to the outer limits of its performance and hitting top speeds in excess of 120 MPH, having excessive wheel slip due to its power and frequent break downs. Some say it was poor design. Others say it was abusive use. Either way the Pennsylvania railroad eventually scrapped all 52 of their T1 engines.

A few months after his passing the Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust formed. The "Trust" is a non-profit organization formed with the sole purpose of rebuilding a T1. The are countless cool engines in need restoration and even more that are completely gone, but they chose the T1, the very same engine my father said awaited him at the other side of his passing. I was shocked, stunned and stoked to learn of the Trust and their plan and eager to help them in their mission.  

I created some shirts for William and I with the design a few years ago and really liked how they turned out. So much that it became the missing piece for my tattoo journey. When I turned 40, I got the design tattooed on my inner left forearm with the word TRUST on the part of my arm closest to my heart. It is also equally oriented to myself and to others which is appropriate has this connects me to so many people. Trains are part of our family. My father and uncle and their father before them used trains as a form of bonding. They didn't have extraordinary means, but trains were there for all to enjoy (at least watching them). It is part of what it means to be a son and a father. And now I wear it proudly on my arm for life.   

Now you can be a part of the story, get a T-shirt designed by yours truly and support an important cause.”



Thanks to Ben for taking the time to share his story, his love of the T1 and how he proudly displays his love for our cause. You can buy a shirt and support the Trust by going to