Tom Marshall left the Friends of Auburn Heights with a rich history of the Auburn Valley Railroad as detailed in his weekly writings beginning in early 2001.
In 2006, Tom told us about his father, Clarence, buying castings in 1941 from Little Engines to construct a ¾-inch-scale 4-8-4 locomotive and tender. That locomotive, a ¾-inch-scale live steam model carrying a Lackawanna livery, is displayed in the museum. Having completed the construction of this locomotive in 1945, Clarence literally redoubled his efforts for his next project by purchasing the castings for a Little Engines 1½-inch-scale 4-8-4 locomotive and tender. As one of the first of a handful of machinists to purchase the castings in 1950, Tom tells us his father spent more than 7,500 hours constructing AVRR locomotive 401.
With 401 nearing completion, in March 1950 Clarence and Tom worked with Everett Hollingsworth to layout the original AVRR right-of-way around the Marshall Steam Museum and Auburn Heights Mansion. It was a simple, single loop of track following existing contours of the property. Tom writes that after constructing several passenger cars, the Auburn Valley Railroad debuted with the first passenger trains operating on T. Clarence Marshall’s 75th birthday, celebrated on August 5, 1960.
While the August 5, 1960, date represents the first time the AVRR carried passengers, anyone familiar with steam knows test runs are a necessity, especially for steam locomotives and automobiles that have never run or are returning to service from a rebuild. When did AVRR #401 make its first of several test runs on the newly laid tracks of the AVRR?
Searching Tom’s writings, we are unable to find mention of when AVRR 401 first ran on the then simpler track route around Auburn Heights. Tom does share that track-laying started at the turntable, a simple wooden truss back in those days, and proceeded around the property. Tom further writes that with 401 fired up on the turntable, he could make short test runs between a trestle that was still under construction behind the museum and the area of the present pond.
We recently stumbled upon an article in an archived copy of Steam Automobile magazine (Volume 2, Number 4, Summer 1960) that documents what we believe is the first running of AVRR 401 on the completed Auburn Heights track loop around the property, approximately two months after track layout and construction started!