You may or may not be aware, but Meridian houses a very crucial and important piece of railroad history in the historic Highland Park. The M&B 116 (formerly SNY 116) has a story to tell and we are learning more and more about this locomotive every single day.
As we are currently in the process of preparing the Railways Express Agency building for Railfest 2021, we have unearthed information and photos of the 116 that we had never seen before. With these photo there was a very heartfelt letter written to the City of Meridian Parks & Recreation Department. The letter read:
City of Meridian Parks and Recreation Department
Dear Mr. Naylor,
I was very glad to receive your email concerning Meridian & Bigbee steam locomotive #116, relieved to know that so far she has escaped the cutting torch.
I drove through Meridian in October of '89. If I had known about #116 , I definitely would have detoured to see and photograph her. It was a couple years later that I learned that the #116 was on display.
You probably know that the #116 was purchased new from Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1916 by the Susquehanna & New York Railroad. THe S&NY began operation in 1903. A shortline railroad of 43.5 miles, from Towanda, PA to Marsh Hill, PA. The rails were removed in 1942.
I hope you have a copy of the "Story of the Susquehanna & New York", a slim booklet by Edward L. Kaseman. The third edition was published in 1979 by Lycoming Printing Company of Williamsport, PA. The black and white pictures i'm including are taken from that book.
Ellenton, Pennyslvania, a small town along the S&NY is my hometown. My parents were born there also. Since the railroad was discontinued it has become even smaller. My father almost certainly rode behind #116 and maybe I did too. My family moved from Ellerton shortly after I was born, eventually settling in Altoona, PA. (Distinctly a railroad town). By the time I graduated from high school in '44 I was very familiar with steam locomotives. Five years later I was working as a design engineer at Lima Locomotive Works during the last years that steam locomotives were produced in Lima.
Despite moving away my family kept close ties with Ellenton. I spent almost all of my school vacation weeks very near Ellenton. I watched as the rails were removed in front of the station. We built our cabin on a hundred acres of wilderness about four miles east of Ellenton. When my dad retired, he bought a home nearby.
#116 is a tangible link to my personal past. I hope you will be able to located her in a shelter. Probably rust and vandalism have already taken a toll.
Thank you very much,
Arthur R. Lamb"
We were all blown away by this letter. Although we are aware that the history the #116 has here in Mississippi, she is also rich in history from the other side of the country in Pennsylvania. These stories are our "why". We feel that everyone's story is of importance and together we can ensure that those stories stay alive. It is no secret that we desperately want to protect the #116 before she deteriorates beyond repair.We can ensure you that as soon as our museum has an official 'home', we will then turn our eyes to making a plan with city officials to protect this piece of history. #FriendsOfThe116
Enjoy these photos of the #116 before she joined us here in Meridian, Mississippi.
In 1916 the 116 rolled out of the Baldwin Locomotive Works and astonished everyone along the S. & N. Y. as it was the first locomotive to be equipped with an electric headlight. (Baldwin Locomotive Works photo)
This derailment occurred at mile post 13, August 26, 1931. The 116 was pushing a boxcar ahead of the pilot, the boxcar climbed the rails and the 116 followed.
Mother Nature took a final swing at the S. & N. Y. the winter before it was abandoned, by dumping over a foot of snow on the territory on February 15th, 1942. Shown is engine #116 and work train just south of Barclay Station.
When the S. & N. Y. was abandoned and it's equipment sold, engine #116 went to Mississippi where she found a new home on the Meridian & Bigbee River Railroad. While the M. & B. B. R. retained the same number (116) they made a few modifications and applied a new coat of paint. (Top photo S. A. Van Gorder -- lower photo Linwood Moody Collection)