THE FOUNDING AND BEGINNING YEARS
When, where and how was ADIRONDACK LIVE STEAMERS, INC. founded and organized is a question which the author has investigated at length. As to when – the year 1983 seems the most appropriate date/year to peg for it was in that year that Don Buesing, at his residence, gathered a few like minded individuals together and they organized into a “club” of sorts. From whom did Don Buesing get his interest in railroading? Could it be from his dad, Henry Buesing, who was a retired employee of the old ERIE Railroad in Jersey City, NJ, and more particularly on the tugboats and ferry of that railroad connecting with New York City? We do know that Don Buesing appeared to be the first leader of this organization. An undated newspaper clipping (but, apparently sometime in 1983) reveals that Don Buesing and Tom Rhodes, at a meeting of the Milton Town Board asked the Board if they could use the three acres of recreational land, set aside by the Rowlands Hollow developer, to install a small scale railroad for recreational purposes. The idea seemed to be favorably received. The then Town attorney was to look into the idea. Apparently, nothing came of this because Buesing and Rhodes determined (wisely) that this endeavor might turn into an amusement park and also would be subject to stringent controls by the Town, which would be the landlord.
Apparently, the quest then proceeded as to where to locate the club operations. Three sites in the capitol district were considered but the location in the Town of Wilton off Loudon Road (a portion of the Henry and Alice Buesing farm) was selected. It appeared to provide the best location as it was convenient to major arteries of highway transportation, was secluded affording privacy for members and their invitees only, was topographically interesting so that any layout would not resemble an HO gauge tabletop endeavor, and yet was close to eating and overnight facilities for travelers and visitors, especially for projected meets.
The first roster of record, dated April 30, 1983, lists 26 members. Very early in its organization, a constitution was adopted on June 6, 1983, with its first amendment adopted October 23, 1983. Apparently, the first meetings were at homes of members, followed at later dates by meetings on site, in the open, and exposed to the elements. On November 10, 1983, officers were elected. Don Buesing was elected President and Tom Rhodes was elected as Secretary/Treasurer. Pending conveyance of property to the club, the Buesings gave permission for club members to work, hold meetings and do the business of the club on premises in 1983-4. On April 4, 1984, Don Buesing, as President, signed the Certificate of Incorporation of ADIRONDACK LIVE STEAMERS, INC. (hereinafter referred to as ALS). During 1983-4 rights of way were cleared, graded and prepared for track installation. Sites for prospective structure locations were also prepared. Also, beginning in these early years and many years thereafter, Tom Rhodes submitted plans and sketches for track layouts, buildings, bridges and other structures.
Of interest is the story relating to the background and history of the oldest building on site. This is the former D & H crossing shanty that was purchased from the D & H by Frank DeSantis on November 24, 1958. The shanty had been located at the Main Street crossing in Delanson, NY and moved by Frank to the club site in late February or early March 1984. Sometime later, it was placed alongside the main line of ALS at the bottom of the grade downhill from the station house (which was built at a later date). It was during this period of time that initial surveys were made so that a deed description could be drawn in the deed of conveyance from Henry and Alice Buesing to ALS dated September 12, 1985. This conveyance was gratuitous to ALS and enabled ALS to say that it had a home. It represented an area 900 ft. x 300 ft. The deed was recorded in the office of the Clerk of Saratoga County on September 20, 1985 in Book 1096 of Deeds at Page 350 thereof. ALS now was on record to the rest of the world that it was a bonafide corporation owning its own land and was “in business”, with assets of its own. The downside was that it now was subject to property and school taxes with few members to provide a pool of money from which the taxes, improvements and installations to the property could be paid. Hard times were ahead but ALS was up to the challenge, as we will later see.
George Rateau, a member of ALS, on October 13, 1984 loaned ALS the sum of $5,000.00 at 5% annual interest for a period of 20 years, with $250.00 of principal being repaid per year on December 31st of each year (with deferred interest) and subject to the debt being cancelled upon the demise of the lender.
By November 1984, membership was up to 35. (A ledger of membership over the years is provided in Appendix A) In December the new logo (which was approved in November) was announced. It is currently located, in very large scale, on the front wall of the stationhouse, in the club colors of green, yellow, and white, (although buildings appear to have taken on yellow color with brown trim). The 1985 officers were elected as follows: Don Buesing, President; Cliff Scott, Vice President; Tom Rhodes, Secretary/Treasurer. Directors, in addition to the above, were Frank DeSantis and Ray Dwyer. (A listing of officers and directors by year is located in Appendix B)
In 1985 the first budget was adopted in the amount of $5,605.00. Regular issues of the ALS newsletter, “Whistles in the Woods”, commenced in January 1985. 1985 also saw the laying of previously prepared track panels in a prepared right of way, as well as the placement of trackage from George Rateau, generally in the location between where the steaming bays and stationhouse are situated. The latter was built under supervision of Frank DeSantis.
Also during 1985, the Deer Run Trestle, designed by Tom Rhodes, was built in “kit form” by Don Buesing and assembled and installed on site by Tom Rhodes and Frank DeSantis. Ray Dwyer was instrumental in preparing and installing the concrete floor for the stationhouse. These men, and a few others, were doing the start up work on ALS premises and pleas for more help were gradually answered. Meanwhile, during 1984-5, Tom Rhodes and Don Buesing were basically the producers of “Whistles in the Woods”, the periodical newsletter of ALS. Records of ALS reveal a “labor dispute” among those showing up to do the work of laying track panels. Evidently, the dispute was resolved at a special meeting of members on site, and the “strike” was over. Track laying was resumed using the approved methods. ALS was going through the first of growing pains that belabor it to this day. By November 1985, 60 feet of track were laid and operable. Additionally, 600 feet of right of way were rough graded and an additional 300 feet were finish graded. Marcel Zucchino made space available for manufacturing track panels at his ENCORE business location. This resulted in the manufacture of many track panels. This generosity by Marcel extended for a number of years.
Throughout 1984-5 numerous members contributed supplies, materials and cash. During this time period, hundreds of ties were treated by the immersion in tank method. This was before the days of affordable pressure treated lumber. Marcel Zucchino made space available at ENCORE for track panel construction into 1986. The budget for 1986, in the amount of $3,657.17, was approved. It appears that an average of 8 or 9 regular members were present for the various member meetings in 1985-6. Throughout 1985-6, heavy duty Niagara Mohawk Power installation was planned. In the March issue ofWhistles in the Woods, it was noted that, due to bad weather, only 8 showed up for a membership meeting and that it was difficult to get panel supplies moved from the site to ENCORE where assembling work was to begin but, that nevertheless, despite 2 feet of snow, 6 panels were completed. Not only had the winter of ‘85-6 been tough, but so was the summer of ’86. On August 7th, a cloudburst caused 8 inches of rain to fall in 8 hours. The entire area between the Buesing driveway and ALS flooded. This resulted in Hank’s Creek overflowing its embankment and washing out the culvert under the access road in a 20-foot wide swath of water. An area 6’ x 20’ of the access road washed away. Approximately 300 feet of track, laid that year before the storm, stood up well under the onslaught. No drainage ditches nor drain pipes showed any damage after the over capacity test. Apparently, this construction had been well done. Additionally, a tool shed and framing for the station had been completed by summer 1986.
Throughout 1986-7, substantial cash contributions were made to ALS to enable purchase of rail in those years. Although names of contributors are not readily available, it must be realized that such contributions and purchases were not part of the regular budget process. In short, the extensive track-laying program could not have been possible if it were not for these contributions and loans. This procedure continued throughout the ‘80’s and into the ‘90’s although to a lessening effect as membership increase over the years enabled greater cash flow from dues receipts.
Bad weather in the fall of 1987 further delayed completion of the main loop. The wettest September ever recorded followed by 5 inches of snow on the right of way the first Sunday in October 1987 didn’t help matters any. With snow on the ground, Niagara Mohawk completed the installation of electric service in October 1987. Finally at 2:00 p.m. on November 14, 1987, completion of the main loop was marked by an impressive ceremony. Present were founders Don Buesing and Tom Rhodes as well as Hank and Alice Buesing, donors of the first property acquisition of ALS. Also in attendance were Frank DeSantis, Cliff Scott, Cliff Scott Jr., Don Dittman, Stan Cardish, Bob and Adelaide Thompson with their two sons, Robbie and Jason, Marcel Zucchino, Bruce Rauch, Ray Dwyer, Herman Ulrich, Bill Ott, and George Rateau. All the members in attendance were those, who with others, had worked so hard in this endeavor. A description in greater detail of the golden spike ceremony is detailed in the November 1987 issue of Whistles in the Woods. Immediately after the driving of the “golden” spike, two locomotives touched pilots, a 2-6-0 Mogul built and operated by Stan Cardish and a 4-4-0 American built and operated by Frank DeSantis. In September 1987, George Rateau’s Diesel ran on ALS track, the first engine of any type to so run. 1987 saw 22 Regular, 23 Associate, and 2 Junior members.
Thus ended the beginning of ALS. In five years (1983-1987) ALS was founded, organized into a corporation, acquired property in its own right. Right of way was cleared, designed, laid out, and track installed, so that a true main line was completed. Structures, including buildings, were moved or constructed, bridges designed and built, crossings placed, construction of access roads and supply lanes achieved and utilities installed. Last, but not least, an organization to run this whole thing efficiently and safely was begun. Now, to EXPAND!