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Stryker track pans kept steam trains running

Stryker Track Pans
     For about 60 years, during the heyday of steam locomotives, Stryker was the site of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern/New York Central railroads’ “track pans” that allowed steam locomotives to scoop up needed water without stopping, shaving valuable time from railroad timetables.
     Late local historian Paul Van Gundy wrote: “A track pan is situated midway between rails and is sometimes nearly half a mile long. It is built of rolled steel plates eight inches deep and 19 inches wide, with the top of the pan one inch below the top of the rail. It must be located on level track. Markers are provided, which indicate to engine crews the exact place to drop and raise the scoop through which some 5,000 gallons of water can be slammed into the tender while the train is traveling at 40 to 50 miles per hour.”
     The Stryker track pans were installed as early as 1890 at the Tiffin River west of town. In 1910, the track pans were moved about a mile east of Stryker, where a new pumping and heating plant was constructed.
Water that was splashed out of the pans by passing locomotives during freezing weather created a safety problem; section crews were often forced to remove ice near the rails to prevent accidents.
      As the New York Central switched from steam to diesel locomotives, track pans became obsolete. The Stryker track pans operated for the last time on or about March 1, 1954.
     This circa 1907 photograph shows a steam locomotive picking up water on the fly from the Tiffin River track pans. This vintage image is from the Bowling Green State University’s Center for Archival Collections.

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