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Ain't it funny how time slips away?

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With apologies to Willie Nelson, greetings fellow N Scalers! I have been all over the place these last few weeks between working, rail fanning, and even some model building. In addition, I am supposed to get out and walk some as part of my recovery process following surgery. What I haven't had time for was blogging. So I'll do my best to make it up to you this week.

Pam and I were looking for someplace where we could walk indoors, as the weather had been uncooperative that week, and she reminded me of an article she had seen about the Plymouth Cordage Company. For those unfamiliar, which I assume is most of you, I'll just say that for many years Plymouth Cordage produced most of the high quality rope in the world! Hundreds of immigrants came to Plymouth at the end of the 19th century, invited by relatives, and assured of good jobs. They were not disappointed! Most came from Europe, mainly Italy, fewer from Germany, Poland and Ireland, and they settled in to good paying jobs, lived in houses rented (at fair rents) from the company, and assimilated into American life. The complex, called Cordage Park today was comprised of several large brick buildings, with long corridors where the rope could roll off a braiding machine and then stretch out literally thousands of feet! The rope was treaded chemically, wrapped up on spools, and shipped, either by rail or by sea to waiting customers all over the world. The ship building industry, other maritime concerns as well as American construction companies working to satisfy the growing demand for exploding city populations made up most of Cordage's customer base. If you go back through my blog you'll see an entry or two about the Plymouth & Middleboro Railroad, AKA The Darby Line. Plymouth Cordage Company was their biggest customer. Now I've told you all that to tell you this: Plymouth Cordage has it's own, in-house railroad! It was mostly underground and it zipped through a maze of tunnels hauling the finished coils of rope to the waterfront, where it could be loaded onto cargo ships at the company's own private pier. This wasn't just any railroad though. The long tunnels would have made coal fired locomotives impractical so the company came up with the idea of charging the engines up with compressed air and then treating them just like a steam engine. The resulting conveyance made a peculiar racket, but it was efficient, fume free, and cheaper than electricity. Here are all that remains of that railroad today: Two locomotives. I don't know how many they had, but they still have these two.

And this one:

Happily, YouTube has a couple of videos of restored versions of these engines in operation.

I am told that the Cordage Museum has some photos of the old tunnels with trains operating in them, but they have very limited hours of operation and access to those pictures is pretty limited. I am told that I can look at them, and maybe even reproduce them here in the future, after I fill out some forms and swear not to damage them. Sadly, those tunnels have all been filled in, as seepage of surface water following rain, and ocean water caused by high tides and storm surges, had made them dangerous, not only inside, but also on the ground above. For the safety of all concerned, they were collapsed and filled. It makes those pictures all the more fascinating to me. Stay tuned.
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