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Car makes tracks

June 23, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A caravan of about 20 orange, red and yellow railroad track cars made their way through Washington County on Saturday as part of a scenic trip from Winchester, Va., to Martinsburg, W.Va., made by members of the North American Railcar Operators Association.

The 900-pound railcars are remnants of a time in railroad history when the small but powerful cars were used to transport mechanics maintaining the tracks, said NARCOA member John Kemmet of Hagerstown.

The railcars were replaced in the 1980s by trucks equipped with rail wheels and a group of railcar enthusiasts began buying up the old vehicles, Kemmet said during a stop at the tracks near William Gower & Son Feed Mill in Williamsport on Saturday afternoon.

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A long-time train lover, Kemmet said he owns two railcars -one for summer, another for winter. He dressed up his summer car with U.S. flags and a bouquet of silk flowers for this weekend's 60-mile trip.

"It's a lot of fun. It brings people together. One lady brings fudge," he said.

Breakdowns are inevitable since the railcars are antiques and trips are long but the other drivers are patient, Kemmet said.

The two- or three-seat railcars operate on 18 hp motors and can go about 40 mph but speed is not important on the group's rail excursions, Kemmet said.

"The longer it takes the better; nobody wants to go home," said Hagerstown attorney Wiley Rutledge, who rode along in Kemmet's railcar Saturday.

Rutledge said he became interested in railcars after stopping in at Kemmet's Long Meadow service station and seeing a picture of them a few years ago.

The men struck up a conversation about the cars and have been friends ever since, Rutledge said. They've gone on rail trips throughout the country and plan to ride to Canada.

Rutledge said the railcars provide a view of the country you can't see anywhere else.

"The scenery is beautiful and the people are wonderful," he said.

The railcar's miniature proportions and bright colors attract attention as they travel and people often line the tracks to wave and shout hello, he said.

During the convoy's stop in Williamsport, they were hosted by Pam and Jimmy Black who live two houses down from the feed mill. The couple provided cookies and drinks for the hot and hungry railcar riders.

"This is a new adventure for us," Jimmy Black said.

The couple got involved with the group after Pam Black struck up a conversation with a member of NARCOA while shopping at Gower & Son Feed Mill.

Black said she had never heard or seen a railcar before Saturday.

"This is a lot of fun for us," she said.

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