The True History of the Albion, Pawtuxet, & Galilee Railroad

I live in Providence, Rhode Island, a city which once produced many fine locomotives, and I decided that the variety of New England railroading had many intriguing possibilities. It was not hard to make the next choice, settling on the 1870s and '80s as the era of my mythical Albion, Pawtuxet, & Galilee Railroad, since I spend most of my professional life working with Victorian literature and art.

In fact, it is probably no mere coincidence that the honorable Augustus Melmotte, founder and managing director of the AP&G, shares the name of a swindling railroad stock-promoter in one of Trollope's novels, or that Dan Doyce, Chief of Maintenance and the shops at Albion, bears the same name as a fellow from one of Dickens' creations. But the chief reason I chose this era in railroading appears in the locomotives and rolling stock.

As a glance at the 1888 edition of the Car Builder's Dictionary reveals, freight and passenger stock of earlier times had far smaller wheel bases than rolling stock common since the turn-of-the-century. To the builder of a model like this means that sharp curves and a great deal of action can be packed into a minimum of space without having to work in smaller scales or in narrow gauge.

Perhaps the smallest of such old-time freight stock were the four-wheeled coal jimmies, which had a 7' wheelbase and a total length (less couplers) of little more than 14'. A comparison of a Walther's MKT modern gondola with one of these once common coal cars (see photo) shows how much smaller these earlier coal haulers were than those found in the last four or five decades. Since almost all model railroaders accumulate far more cars than they have space to run, such small rolling stock is a particular blessing. Long strings of these little cars look very impressive and individual cars are easy to store in the yards and on sidings.

A look at one day on the Albion, Pawtuxet & Galilee will show some of the variety of cars and locomotives available to those interested in thus stepping back in time. (Stepping back even farther in time, our official photographer has glimpsed a day in July 1866, when the AP&G still relied on wood-burners. A brightly painted Mantua General with extra detailing backs up to the Managing Director's private car on Nooseneck trestle, after which the link-and-pin couplers are connected and the revered Melmotte is drawn back to town and a filet mignon dinner).

At 9 a.m. on August 3, 1878, the AP&G's number 3, a 4-6-0, pulls up to the sandhouse, having already coaled up. Assembling a train, which is reproduced in HO with a collection of rebuilt and superdefailed

Mantua and AHM cars, the similarly detailed and rebuilt Tyco Dixie Belle heads south to Pawtuxet, easing across Nooseneck trestle an hour later. Meanwhile the Albion yards show a great deal of busy activity: a work train comprised of scratchbuilt cars waits in the yard for a loco to take it to work on the P. J. Macktez Mill siding, which needs repair, while a photographer's car, a Red Ball/Wabash Valley product, gets ready to take the official pictures of Melmotte and the Board of Directors.

While this activity takes place AP&G #9, a rebuilt Mantua 0-4-0 with a scratchbuilt brass cab and new domes, prods two limestone- bearing flats across Ashton trestle on the way to the Albion limestone crushing plant.

A few miles outside Galilee, the fishing port which is the southern terminus of the line, the old General, now converted to coal, takes on water at the small engine yard built adjacent to farmer Turbey's land. The AP&G has yet to fence in the yard and the cows seem to be graz- ing dangerously near! The coaling facility is a simple crane and bucket adapted from an English kit made by Mike's Models, but there's no need for a grandiose structure in such-a small operation,

While the General is getting ready for the trip north to Albion, a hori- zontal boilered Climax A from the Glanville Lumber Co., which shares trackage rights with the AP&G heads south across Nooseneck trestle. A few hours later the General heads north with two four-wheel coal cars from the AP&G and one larger hopper from the rather more prosperous New York Central lines. At precisely 2:34 p.m. northbound freight #1 arrives back at the Albion yards.

The AP&G's Weedsprayer Car

Back in August 1881 Farmer Turbey's cow took a mind to step on the Albion, Pawtuxet, and Galilee mainline just as number four chugged along, pulling the weekly inspection train. Augustus Melmotte, founder and director of the perpetually insolvent AP&G, was munching upon a filet mignon in his private car (you can tell this is ancient history) when he heard a squeeeeallbumpcrunch, felt himself thrown against his red-plush director's chair, and found his prize port all over his shirt.

Not liking this state of affairs one bit, Melmotte climbed down from the Inspection Car and stalked up to the front of the train, cursing the whole way. Old Meagles, the engineer, listened calmly to the boss' words for a while, and then after slowly wiping his face with a red bandana, answered, "Beggin' yer pardon, Sir, but it was weeds, an' as I told you last week, weeds is dangerous, Sir. They make the train slip and skid, Sir, and if it weren't for them weeds we'd never of knocked into Turbey's best milk cow there.

"Now, I know you don't like your meal all over the inspection car, Sir, and I hear you tell me that wine costs a pretty penhny and you don't want it on yer shirt, Sir, but if you'd adone somethin' about them weeds the way I asked you to last week, Sir, you wouldn' a had that steak sauce on your shirt and that wine runnin' into your shoes, Sir."

Now Melmotte is a pretty reasonable man, at least for a managing director, and so he took in all that Meagles had to say. When the inspection train pulled into the Albion yards with Farmer Turney's prize milk cow tied to-the cowcatcher, Melmotte strode over to the shops to see Dan Doyce who was in charge of all the building, fixing, and improvising of rolling stock on the AP&G.

Well, Dan told him that he'd seen weed burners, weed cutters, weed mashers, and all sorts of strange weed destroyers, but for his money he thought a weed-sprayer was best. Since he already had an old flat car with some wooden vats on top they'd once built to put out brush fires, he thought they could do something wity that machine as a start.

In two weeks the boys at the machine shop had refurbished the tanks, added the necessary pipes and other hardware, and slapped on a coat of the AP&G proud yellow and red paint.

The AP&G's Pile-driver Barge

Back in the early months of 1882 Augustus Melmotte, founder and managing director of the perpetually insolvent AP&G, decided that he had to beg, borrow, or steal a pile-driver from somewhere. Melmotte's credit rating being what it was, he couldn't borrow one, and no one within two hundred miles was going to lend him the cash for one, either. And his moral character being what it was, no one with a pile-driver would let him within a hundred feet of a suitable wood basher.

Ever since Melmotte's inspection car had run down farmer Turbey's prize cow, that irascible man of the soil refused to sell the Albion, Paw- tuxet and Galilee a badly needed strip of right-of-way, and without that strip of land Melmotte knew his track layers would need to build a few trestles, taking a harder, more expensive route down near the coast. Having been unable to borrow or steal a solution to his problems, Melmotte went down to Daniel Doyce, who was in charge of the AP&G shops. "Doyce," he said, "the work at our own shops is so far superior to that available anywhere else, I think it best that you and your boys make us a pile-driver so we can begin building those trestles." "We're broke again, boss?" asked Doyce.

When it came time to plan the various harbors and rivers on the Albion, Pawtuxet, and Galilee, I knew that a bit of handsome, realistic detail like this pile-driver would create some fine visual interest for my pike. A few years ago Fine Scale Miniatures of Massachusetts produced an excellent model of such a barge, but they were not only all gone from my local hobby-store when I arrived but my chief financial officer, my wife, that is, pointed out that certainly a man of my skill could make one for far less. "We're broke again, dear?" I asked, reaching down into the stripwood to see what could be done.

Those of you who also face stingy boards of directors — or who just en- joy some simple scratchbuilding — might want to follow the way the AP&G assembled its barge and tender. Remember, though, all workshops are individual and ornery, so feel free to add, subtract, and otherwise change the rig. The Fine Scale Miniature kit had enclosed its diesel driven rig in a handsome cabin structure, but I wanted to use steam and I also wanted my details more visible. Traveling up and down the Rhode Island and Connecticut coast, I have observed many such barges, often now in a state of disrepair, and they all seem to be "scratchbuilt one-of-a- kinds," so follow the prototype and

The P. J. Macktez Textile Mill

As Chief Historian as well as present General Manager of the Albion, Pawtuxet & Galilee RR., I've long known that when Augustus Melmotte, its founder, first proposed to build the line, the P. J. Macktez Woolen Mill played a crucial role in his plans. According to my (admittedly fictional) history, this textile mill, which provided the chief source of employment and tax revenue for the northern Rhode Island town of Albion, had found the river and nearby canal inefficient for transportation. The canny Melmotte knew that he had himself a major on-line industry capable of generating a steady supply of cash, and so he set about obtaining land for trackage linking Albion with the New Haven line. How the worthy Melmotte, whose statues still dot the Rhode Island countryside, gained the funds of widows and orphans to finance his progressive scheme is another tale — and so is the explanation of how he came to extend his short line to the fishing town of Galilee in South County. Here I'd like to concentrate on the mill that began the whole saga of the Albion, Pawtuxet & Galilee.

Melmotte's Statue and Glanville Park

Back in March 1875 the elders of the town of Albion, R. I., were at it hammer and tongs when Augustus Melmotte, director of the Albion Pawtuxet & Galilee RR., displayed his characteristic statesmanship and settled the whole affair. One faction, led by old Henchard, insisted that since the hundredth anniversary of the War for Independence was drawing near, the town should erect a statue of some Revolutionary War hero. The other group, led by John Podsnap and George Rouncewell, argued, "It's all well and good to build statues to the memory of the founding fathers, and surely there's nobody as respects these old gentlemen as much as we do, but let's put the town on record about how much we owe the Union soldiers who so gallantly de- fended Rhode Island from them Southern rebels!"

Now, this fight had gone on so long that factions were forming in the ladies' tea circle, the local benevolent association, and the smoke-filled councilmen's room at town Hall off the main square. Things, as I say, were threatening to get out of hand and disrupt civic peace when Augustus Melmotte, founder, chief stockholder, and director of the AP&G, grabbed the gavel and rose to speak at the meeting in the mayor's office that day back in 1875.

'Gentlemen," he said, "It strikes me that someone must take the lead here, someone with a strong hand, or this town will be in an uproar. Compromise is the essence of good government, gentlemen, and I say you must both compromise something which I'm sure you'll find easy to do when you hear my suggestion."

Admitting that he felt deeply moved by the two groups' devotion to the past, Melmotte urged that they look to the present: "After all, gentlemen, although no one would dare say that I do not reverence the great history of our town, I am more interested in the present; and therefore I suggest that, since we have decided to erect a statue, we erect one to that man who has brought industry to Albion, who has enabled us all to enjoy low taxes, and who has been happy to employ so many of you: Augustus Melmotte. If you find such a conciliatory suggestion unacceptable," he concluded, "I can always build the planned textile mill to Providence and defer that announced expansion of the engine yards."

Matters, as one might guess, were soon decided. Within a few months the lawn in front of Town Hall found itself graced by a bronze of Melmotte.

The town records of Albion, one of the terminals on my Albion, Pawtuxet & Galilee RR., show that back in August 1877 the councilmen, who were usually wrangling with one another, got together for a change to make some town improve- ments. It turned out that one Joseph Glanville, owner of the J&M Hobby empire, had donated some land to the town so that the worthy citizens of Albion could have a park. He'd been to Boston, it seems, and after a pleasant afternoon lolling on the commons while his Missus purchased some of the newest frocks, he thought how his hometown needed a similar patch of green benches and shade trees: you know, the kind of place where one can walk with the wife, listen to a little band music, and just watch the summer go by. He had a bit of land not far from the train station that wasn't much good for development since it perched on a cliff and he didn't have the funds tu build a road to it.

So on August 25, 1877, he called a meeting of his fellow councilmen and presented the town with his land. Fortunately, Augustus Melmotte, who always wanted things named after him in this town, was in a conciliatory, compromising mood. He was willing, he said, to have the town develop Mr. Glanville's generous gift and even call it henceforth Glanville Park — as long, that is, as his fellow councilmen would promise to have thut statue of him erected in the park. Those of you who have followed the saga of the Albion, Pawtuxet & Galilee know how Melmotte earlier had had the town build a statue in his honor, but once the majestic monument was finished it turned out there was not an appropriate place to put it, so it had languished for a year in Farmer Turbey's barn. Now at last Melmotte's image could tower over Albion!

The Glanville Lumber Company

All serious students of (mythical) Rhode Island railroad history of course know that the perpetually-impoverished Albion, Pawtuxet & Galillee Railroad chugged and coughed its way from the textile mills in the northern part of the state to the fishing port of Galillee in the south. Many even know that its founder, the Hon. Augustus Melmotte (1826-1903), survived his shady beginnings in England and went on to have a bronze statue of himself erected by the elders of Albion, Rhode Island. But few know that Melmotte once had a competing line to reckon with. As archivist and company historian, I have plumbed the dark corners of Rhode Island history for more information about this late nineteenth-century rail empire and its colorful founder and longtime chairman of the board. While rummaging through some dusty, spider-web ridden cartons in an old barn, I discovered that Joseph Glanville, founder of the East Providence hobby empire who built the park named after him, had once been Melmotte's rival railroad baron.

Purchasing a few second-hand logging locomotives, including a horizontal-boilered Climax A, Glanville set out to lay track, construct a small sawmill, and develop several lumbering sites. Glanville, whose harvesting the local basswood forests has since become legendary, at some time in his road's existence apparently established connections with Melmotte's AP&G. Unfortunately, the records are still quite unclear, and all one can presently determine is that by 1900, Joe shared some trackage with the Albion Pawtuxet & Galilee, and in this way he managed to get his lumber both to the New Haven linkup owned by Melmotte's line and to the two ports, Pawtuxet and Galillee, on the AP&G.

Miniature Worlds

Last modified 11 October 2008