Charm we come!

Last Sunday a few of us decided to do a little excursion to "Charm City", also commonly known as Baltimore. Few people know that there is a small gem in the western part of the city: Leakin Park. This green space is part of a roughly 1200 acre oasis, surrounded by urban Baltimore: Gwynn Falls Leakin Park. 

Amidst all this greenery is the actual raison d'être for the 45 minute trip from DC: the Chesapeake and Allegheny Live Steamers (CALS), which itself is part of the Chesapeake and Allegheny Steam Preservation Society. CALS is a group of railway enthusiasts who like to run 1/8th scale (generally) trains. Club members own the individual locomotives and bring them to Leakin Park to run every second Sunday of the month, from April through November. During those days the public is invited to take a look and also ride on the trains.

The work shop and club house of the "Chesapeake & Allegheny Steam Preservation Society (Photo by Ralf Meier)

To call them model trains would not do them justice. The majority of the CALS locomotives run on the 3400 feet of double tracked mainline of 7 1/2 inch gauge. Most of them are "real" steam engines, with the occasional diesel locomotive thrown in. 

CALS Track Layout

In the photograph above the heavier grey line is the double tracked "main line". The building on the left is the Chesapeake & Allegheny Steam Preservation Society Shop. The structure on the upper right is the "station" for passenger pick up.

Locomotives run the gamut from little, dimunitive industrial switchers, to a 1000 pound scale model of a modern CSX Transportation GE Dash-9 diesel electric locomotive. 

Of course the main attraction always seem to be the steam locomotives! There is just something about the smell, the hissing and fussiness of steam engines. Somehow they seem to be alive. All of the steam engines running on Sunday use real coal as fuel to produce the steam, not propane or oil.

Since the umbrella group is dedicated to the preservation of anything propelled with steam, not just steam railroad locomotives, an occasional steam tractor is fired up. So it was last Sunday. It took the (presumably happy) owner the better part of two hours to build up enough steam to trundle down the dirt path for a couple of hundred feet. 

A scale steam tractor being readied by the owner (Photo by Ralf Meier)

All the track at Leakin Park is aluminum, fastened to recycled plastic/resin ties. As I mentioned previously, the "main line" track gauge is 7 1/2 inches. For aficionados of smaller gauges there are a few hundred feet of 4 1/2 inch and 3 1/2 inch gauge track, most of it elevated. 

The elevated 4 1/2 and 3 1/2 inch gauge dual track (Photo by Ralf Meier)

"Planet", a 4 1/2 inch gauge small industrial diesel switch engine (Photo by Ralf Meier)

Last Sunday's event was well attended. The line of visitors waiting at the station for a ride was quite long. The rides are free, however donations are happily accepted.

"Passengers" waiting at the station (Photo by Ralf Meier)A few last minute adjustments on the "Atlantic" type 4-4-2 steam locomotive before leaving the station (Photo by Ralf Meier)"Wendy", a British built 2-4-0, modeled after a 2 feet gauge locomotive type used in quarries. (Photo by Ralf Meier)One of the scratch built riding coaches (Photo by Ralf Meier)Diesel locomotives were also being used. Among them was a scale model of an EMD SD-35 in Western Maryland Railroad colors. 

A scale SD 35 diesel locomotive (Photo by Ralf Meier)

There was also a GE Dash-9 diesel making the rounds. The body had been taken off by the owner, because of a problem with the electric fuses blowing constantly. In any case, I found it fascinating to be able to see the innards of one of these engines.

A somewhat naked Dash-9 (Photo by Ralf Meier)

Here is the aforementioned Dash-9 in a more recognizable form:


Among the locomotives was also an interesting dual cab battery electric unit. It's a bit of a "free lance" job and the person running it told me that it is losely modeled after some engines in use during the 1960's and 70's around Richmond, California:

(Photo by Ralf Meier)

A bit of a traffic jam at the station. Note the train in the far background. (Photo by Ralf Meier)

A train waiting for clear track ahead (Photo by Ralf Meier)

Not a bad way to spend a few hours on a Sunday! Here is the running schedule: 


Lastly, a short video of the event: