Robert G. Hutchison of Hawley has loved trains all his life. After railroad service in the US Army, he came to the Birthplace of the American Railroad, Honesdale, and helped establish the Stourbridge Line excursions, still popular after 30 years.


 Robert G. Hutchison of Hawley has loved trains all his life. After railroad service in the US Army, he came to the Birthplace of the American Railroad, Honesdale, and helped establish the Stourbridge Line excursions, still popular after 30 years.
The Brooklyn, NY native grew up with his grandfather’s stories as a brake man on the Erie Railroad. Robert’s father’s father was working on the brakes when he was struck down and injured by a passing locomotive. This was before Workers’ Compensation insurance.
Interested in the railroad life, Hutchison enlisted in the Army railroad service in 1956. “I was hoping my recruiter was honest,” he said. Training was done on the B&O Railroad in the mountains of West Virginia.
The military would use trains to run ammo to the front line and take the wounded back in hospital cars. Although the Korean War was over, Hutchison was trained and ready in case the service was needed. He was sent to France where he was served as Division Manager for a year and a half, connecting US Army bases there.
After leaving the service in 1959, he worked for the stock market and was an insurance investigator. He wanted to get back to Railroading. One day in 1977 while visiting Wayne County, he introduced himself to Bob Bennett, who was the engineer for the Stourbridge Railroad Company. At the time, Stourbridge Railroad was only running freight, and was under the New York Susquehanna & Western RR.
They talked together about the possibility of having a passenger train excursion, in honor of the coming 150th anniversary of the Stourbridge Lion locomotive, which operated in Honesdale in 1829. A huge anniversary celebration was being planned for September 1979.
He said they talked to the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, which embraced the idea. They made use of a steam locomotive owned by the (now) late George Hart, and rented several passenger cars from Jim Thorpe. For a while the Chamber leased vintage passenger cars, and later bought their own from New Jersey Transit. They were electric cars and Hutchison assisted in removing the motors from them at the yard in Lackawaxen. The Chamber continued the excursions with a New York S&W Alcoa RS3 locomotive.
Hutchison recalled when, in1985, the Chamber decided to buy their own locomotive. Frank Larkin picked out the vintage 1948 General Motors BL2 54 diesel.  Hutchison had the privilege to accompany the BL2, down from Maine where it had operated on the Bangor & Aroostok Railroad. The locomotive, still in use today, had to be towed to Honesdale on track by a round-about way through Canada. This was to avoid certain places where there may have been mischief due to a railroad strike.
Odd as it sounds, he said that the rules were that when purchasing a locomotive, the buyer was not permitted to start it up. The records were supposed to suffice. When the BL2 was finally in Honesdale, the crew started it up. He admitted it was a relief to see it in operation. He has fond memories of operating the BL2, saying it is a good locomotive.
 After 15 years, in 1992, Hutchison left Stourbridge and took a job with Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton. At Steamtown, he was a supervisory steam locomotive engineer.
Recalling his years with the ever successful Chamber excursions, Hutchison complimented the Chamber for having the vision to start it and keep it going. He also lauded the present efforts of the Stourbridge Railroad Company, which is revamping the line for freight and may eventually expand tourist excursion service.
Among his favorite memories is the time he and his wife-to-be Ann Marie were aboard the Stourbridge Line locomotive, when he proposed to her before they returned. She said “yes” and they have been married 20 years.
Another time, he recalled coming to Honesdale at the Christmas season for one of the Santa excursions. “I was feeling like Scrooge,” he said, when he arrived. Then he helped Ab Rutherford as Santa, who had a huge leather sleigh bell, get into the locomotive. There were hundreds of kids who started yelling “Santa!” Said Hutchison, “it lifted my spirits.”
Having retired four years ago, he commented it is hard just to ride as a passenger. “I want to be up in the locomotive,” he said.  He has since applied to be a relief engineer for the Stourbridge Line.