Reading Noel's line about the Butler Day Express jogged a few things in my memory....and also a few questions. I know that the BDE ran on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eves....anyone remember what the fourth holiday was? I'm thinking it may have been Good Friday but I'm not sure.
I rode the last Christmas Eve BDE in 1965. My grandfather and father had both worked for the Susquehanna and my Dad was able to arrange a ride with one of the passenger conductors, Frank (Ponzee) Ponzerella. His assigned train was the second one to leave Butler in the morning (the "big" train, with two coaches instead of one) . I was put up in the RS-1 with engineer Dave Harvey for the trip to the Susquehanna Transfer. After discharging the passengers we did a back up deadhead move back to the yard in Little Ferry. Several of the crew members in passenger service kept old clunker cars in Little Ferry so they would have a way to get around during the all-day layover, so "Ponzee" his brakeman (Donald "Duck" Vleit) and I rode to a local restaurant for a good breakfast. After breakfast we returned to the Little Ferry yard where there was an unused coach that the crews used to sit around in during the day, playing cards (knock rummy) and passing time. About noon, we went back to the train for the back up move to return to the Transfer. The BDE left around 1PM and was back in Butler shortly after 2PM . The best part of the whole day was the time spent in the old coach in Little Ferry, just listening to the crews swap stories.....All three of the conductors (Ray Sampson, Ponzee, and Karl Vleit) were old employees of the WB&E who had come east to work after the WB&E was abandoned, and they had house trailers in a small trailer park in Butler, just west of the Excelsior Mills crossing where they stayed during the week, and the went home to Pa. for the weekends.
For those of you who have a copy of Paul Turpaczewski's NYS&W in Color, There is a picture on the bottom of page 64 taken ( by George Berriso, who I met and railfanned with several years later) the same day I rode the BDE. It's special for two reasons....it shows all 3 of the GP-18's on the Sparta Turn (a rare happening.....most trains had only 2 locos), and, the cars and engine from the BDE parked for the holiday, one of the rare times the passenger equipment could be seen during daylight on a weekday in Butler over the winter.
Another unique thing about that day was that it was a Friday, and every Friday night during the winter a crew would deadhead west to Butler on the last passenger train to MU the 3 RS-1's together and take them to Little Ferry to eliminate having a hostler on duty in Butler for the weekend.
43 years later, I can still remember that day like it was yesterday.
Hard work is never easy