I had Miss Phoebe on my mind as I crossed the Peace Bridge into Buffalo, N.Y., on October 3, 1982; day one of a five-day exploration of former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western lines between Buffalo and the banks of the Hudson in Hoboken, N.J. The trip was one of several I made specifically to fulfill a commitment to produce a two-part "What's left of the Lackawanna" feature for Trains magazine. I was on a mission for Morgan, with my sights set on Greigsville and Dansville Hill, and Binghamton, and Alford, and Scranton, and Summit; I didn't expect to do much more in Buffalo than get out of town.
At least that was the plan until I intercepted a radio conversation between the Buffalo Terminal Dispatcher and the "Kenmore coal." The latter was struggling up the old Buffalo Creek Railroad with 78 cars and 12,000 tons of B&O coal in the charge of a pair of lame GP35s. The train was down to a crawl and a stall was inevitable. The DS instructed the Kenmore to stop short of the junction at Tower 49 and await an Extra Yard called to assist.
I found the train stopped on the Howard Street overpass, with Penn Central-black GP35s 2279 and 2278 cooling their wheels after a gruelling few miles. The pending drama was worth delaying my eastbound progress for at least a while.
Help, in the form of U23Cs 6702 and 6703, arrived after about 20 minutes. Jumper cables and air hoses were connected, brakes tested, and in no time, YBEX-41 was on the move.
The big GEs were doing the lion's share of the work, and they let the world know it as they muscled the 78-car train into motion, threaded the plant across the four-track Water Level Route Main, past Tower 49 and onto the Belt Line by Central Terminal. For locomotives that had spent most of their lives doing mundane yard work, shoving train after train over the Frontier Yard hump, the rescue mission was a rare chance to strut their stuff.
And strut they did! I'd have missed it all if not for that intercepted conversation.