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Trip Report – ATT & NW Friends Weekend

The ATT&NW – an Introduction

The Arborway, TT and Northwestern, or ATT&NW, is a Grand Scale railroad that runs on 15 inch gauge track through spectacular Ozark surroundings near the town of Steelville, Missouri. It’s one of the newest and most remarkable miniature railroads in North America.

The inspiration for the ATT&NW came around the year 2000 from St. Louis businessman John R. Woods. John had a life-long passion for railroading, and had the idea to create a distinct and authentic gathering place for family, friends, and business associates. John’s mother, affectionately known as Tee Tee (the TT in ATT&NW), was also instrumental in making many of the choices for designs and colors for the structures.

A portion of the site where the railroad has been constructed, known as Chaumiere Farms, had been in Tee Tee’s family since the 1920‘s. Together with adjacent land purchased by John Woods, which became known as Woodsvalley Farm, makes up the 2500 or so acres of rolling Ozark terrain hosting this engineering marvel.

John visited other miniature railroads to find people and companies who could build the infrastructure and equipment needed for his vision. After years of planning, modern engineering and earth-moving created more than three and a half miles of single and double track main-line on a 2% up or down grade, with two tunnels on the site’s rolling terrain.

Structures include a three story depot, a ten stall roundhouse, a 40 foot turntable, a four-track car barn, and a maintenance building featuring a machine shop with an open-pit track and overhead crane.

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#801 in the ATT&NW Roundhouse

The locomotives and rolling stock are a mixture of new pieces custom-made for ATT&NW, and equipment built for the former Bell Gardens in Valley Center, California. The Bell Gardens Railroad was a 15 inch gauge miniature railroad built by Taco Bell founder Glen Bell, and included a wide variety of diesel locomotives, rolling stock, and a battery operated trolley with two trailers. John Woods bought the entire Bell Gardens Railroad and moved it to Missouri.

Much of the design work for the railroad was handled by Merrick Light Railway Equipment Works in Marshall, WI.  Merrick also constructed two of the locomotives for ATT&NW; steam 4-8-4 #801  and diesel SW-1200 #17, as well as several pieces of rolling stock that make up the railroad’s work train. Details about all of ATT&NW’s locomotives and rolling stock are available here.

Tee Tee passed away in June, 2007 at the age of 95.

John Woods died accidentally in October, 2008, only a few years after seeing his dream railroad become operational. Family and friends who knew John Woods speak of him almost reverently, and make me wish I had the opportunity to have met him.

The Woods family has kept the railroad intact as a non-profit organization which is under the care of a board of directors. Decisions continue to be made about the future operations of ATT&NW.

ATT&NW Friends Weekend

The ATT&NW is not open to the general public, but it’s possible to become a member of the Friends by visiting the website  and completing an application  form. Members of the  Friends have the opportunity to volunteer on the ATT&NW and can learn to operate the equipment.

The big event each year is the annual Friends Weekend when all the locomotives and rolling stock seem to be on the line, and our site-visit to record a program about the ATT&NW was during one of these annual gatherings. Jan and I were honored to be invited to attend and record footage for a program about the event and the railroad. The weekend features trains operating well into the night, along with music, food and much more.

A schedule was sent to us, along with the passcode for the electric gate to let ourselves in. Following the directions, we found our way to this very special place.

Upon arrival we were welcomed, given a tour of the shop building, and introduced to many of the volunteers who were getting everything ready for the weekend. Next we followed other volunteers by car to River Road Crossing where a crew was engaged in installing a “new” Griswold flashing signal. Griswold signals are somewhat common in the Midwest and are unique in the way the “STOP” sign pivots toward the vehicle roadway when the lights are activated, then pivots back after the train has cleared. Once installed, the signal will be operated by solar power.

The next morning we arrived early to get to the beautifully designed roundhouse to see #801 coming to life. The roundhouse is built “to scale”. Even the bricks, which look normal until you get close to them, are smaller than regular bricks. The attention to detail here reminded us of another Missouri train fan, Walt Disney. He would feel right at home here.

Inside, some of the tracks are embedded in the floor and others are above an area with a sunken floor. This allows getting under the locomotives for servicing and also working at a more comfortable level for normal maintenance and polishing. Speaking of polishing, 801 has lots of shiny surfaces that love to be rubbed.

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Fred Vergenz polishes #801 inside the roundhouse

 

Soon 801 was steamed up and moved outside onto the turntable. After some adjustments, she was off to get fueled, then backed to the car barn for her consist.

Meanwhile, one of the diesels moved two tank cars to get filled with water. These cars were spotted on a siding to provide water for the four visiting “Cagney” locomotives, which had come from Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Wasatch Railroad Contractors and from Eden Springs Park in Benton Harbor, Michigan for the event. The Cagneys operated on the “Inner Loop” section of the railroad.

Pretty soon it seemed like everything was moving. Shiny 801 and a number of diesels were hauling trains over the three and a half miles of track. The Cagneys and some small diesels were busy on the Inner Loop. We enjoyed our first ride behind 801, which also gave us a nice overview of the line. The rest of the morning and afternoon we were mostly on foot as we wandered around the railroad getting video footage.

Jan and I were armed with cameras. I carried two video cameras with tripods and Jan had another tripod-mounted video camera plus the SLR camera. Ed Taylor, who I had met at the Whiskey River Railway in July was also here with his GoPro camera, which he mounted mostly on locomotives. Ed was kind enough to allow us to use some of his amazing footage for our ATT&NW Friends Weekend DVD.

Late in the afternoon we noticed people were gathering to watch the races. Races? We soon found out that two of the Cagneys were going to race 801 along the double track section on the east side of Bell Lake. The Cagneys each had one car with riders on the west track and 801 had its long train filled with lots of riders, so it seemed like the Cagney in the front might pull it off. Slowly the three locomotives gained speed and sure enough, the Cagney won.

A rematch was quickly planned, and chief engineer Alex Beams took control of 801. This time 801 took the lead and passed over the finish line well ahead of the diminutive Cagneys. Great fun!

A large feast was in store for dinner and another chance to meet new people. After dinner some photos from past events were shared, along with remembrances of John Woods and Tee Tee. The Ozark Alliance provided music from their Steam Powered Bluegrass CD. The family band performed a nice mix of old and new railroad songs along with traditional gospel and bluegrass.

By now it was dark, and 801 and the Cagneys were still busy hauling passengers on a beautiful moonlit evening. What a great way to end a fabulous day!

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Two of the Cagneys race past an ATT&NW signal on Sunday morning – Yard Goat Images Photo

Sunday morning there was a race between two of the Cagneys, which was great fun and provided us with wonderful opportunities to record it from several different vantage points. The day brought a larger crowd to the railroad with many local families being invited to enjoy the day. That kept the trains full and rolling all day, and we were happy to have so much activity to record.

As the crowds gradually drifted away in the late afternoon, a suggestion was made to run two trains side by side on the double track from Miller Wye to the single track approaching Ozark Mountain Tunnel. A plan was quickly hatched to have a “photo train” pulled by battery powered “diesel” 216,  which was quieter than the conventional diesels. The photo train would run alongside 801’s regular train filled with unsuspecting passengers. Jan and I positioned ourselves on the photo train. Ed Taylor had his GoPro camera on a long pole which he could raise above or in front of 801’s train. Ed’s son, Tim, also shot video on this fun trip, and some of his work also made it into our program.

Soon we were on our way. The photo train moved in front, alongside, or slightly behind 801 to give everyone a chance to get different views of the fast-paced spectacle. The main problem was the shininess of 801’s tender, making us all appear to be reflected in a mirror. As we approached the switch where the tracks converge to one, we were all smiles! It’s a very fun segment of our program, with video from 4 cameras!

And then…. it was over.

We said goodbye to all the new friends we had made on this wonderful weekend, and headed home.

We were impressed not only with the railroad and variety of equipment, but for the emotional attachment the volunteers seem to have for this magical place. Many of the participants travel from far and wide to attend the Friends Weekend each year. We hope we might come for another one of these events in the years ahead.

We’re grateful to the Arborway, TT & Northwestern for allowing us to create our program and to share with you our wonderful experiences of the Friends Weekend!

See the ATT&NW

Our DVD is called ATT&NW Friends Weekend. You can watch a preview here.

You can order a copy on our secure website, www.yardgoatimages.com. You may also be interested in another DVD, Grand Scale Steam: Three Miniature Railways. The DVDs are available separately or as a money-saving Combo.

Ordering our DVDs helps support us in creating new programs like these .

Thanks, Steve Mitchell

www.yardgoatimages.com

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DVD Cover – ATT&NW Friends Weekend

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