St. Maarten PLAYER DEVELOPMENT
Player Development is an all-volunteer free reading and
homework after school program for at risk and special needs children
on the Island of St. Maarten
Our logo is a train engine.
first started reading Thomas the Tank engine so
the logo had to be a train. A little research led to the GG1. It was
one of the most innovative and long lasting engines made in the United
States. Trains are a fun way Player Development encourages the
children to work hard, learn and then play.
The little ones start out reading Thomas the Tank engine. When they
finish a book, they get to play with one of the four trains sets we
have. Set one is a wooden Thomas that can be pushed around the track
but also has a battery. As the reading level improves so does the
quality and size of the train set. Set two is just an oval with a hand
car with two railroaders pumping away to get to work. Set three is a
double track O gauge set. We model the Long Island railroad passenger
service but can sneak in a freight train if we pretend it is evening
The last set is HO. There we have both steam engines and some
diesel power. From the beginning, trains played a big part in
encouraging the children to work. Originally, we thought of Thomas as
our logo, but it is copyrighted. We did some research and found the
GG1. A unique engine. Streamlined, first without rivets, and electric.
Best of all it was a double ender so could change direction easily.
The story we found said the engineers were working on building
submarines. They were worried that after the war they would be out of
a job, so they designed the GG1 in 1939. The war would not end till
1945. Now that is some advanced planning. Thus, we decided the GG1
should be our logo. We also had a suggestion of a baseball with
crossed bat and pencil. You guessed it, the train won easily.
We are fortunate that tourist have become friends and help us.
Conductor Steve, yes a real conductor on the LIRR has taught the
children all about ticket punching, making announcements and some
safety rules on trains.
Now when the children play trains, they have a dispatcher who uses
a walkie-talkie to tell the engineer when he can proceed to the next
stop. Then the conductor makes the announcement, closes the car doors
and off they go. He is also the webmaster for the Oyster Bay Railroad
Museum Facebook page. He lets the children write train stories and he
posts one a week. The stories have to be well researched and about the
Long Island Rail Road.
We have Big Roger a modeler from Pennsylvania. He brings kits to
the island and shows the children how to assemble them. He taught the
children they could name their own railroad and helped design the P &
D Railroad Logo and came up with the slogan Home of the Great Salt
Pond Route. Mr. Don from Canada use to be in the railroad maintenance
He has visited several times and talked with the children about
speeders and high rail trucks. Those are tracks that have both metal
train wheels and rubber wheels. Using hydraulics to raise and lower
the wheels the truck can drive on the road or the tracks. Forklift
Gary is a volunteer at the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum. He drives the
forklift to help set up outside displays. He sends us videos on the
equipment there and how it was used. The children have raised more
than $6,000 to help restore the museum's steam engine 35.
Pilot John was a U.S. Navy pilot who landed on aircraft carriers.
He was also a manager of a race car team. He does not know a lot
about trains, but he reads a lot of magazines and sends us cool
stories about trains.
Ms. Debbie and her husband Barry live in New Hampshire. She sends us
information about their mountain climbing cog railroad. Mr. Joey is a
model railroader and a professional photographer. He is teaching the
children long distance through the internet how to take pictures of
the model trains and make them look real. He is also the editor of the
Mainline Train Magazine and has encouraged the children to do research
and write about Bangor and Aroostook Trains from Maine.
More recently we have met Steven Lynch of Trains are fun website.
We found the site by doing research on the LIRR. Now we have become
friends. He has put up this Player Development Web Page and asked the
children to write stories to fill it.
Player Development is a committee under the
Little League Baseball Association. Character, Courage and Loyalty is
the motto of the Little League and thus the foundation of this
program. We aim to provide a safe and fun learning environment outside
school hours for kids in need.
Coach Tom’s efforts, which began in 2002 as a
high-performance team, focus on pulling children off the streets and
providing them with a safe environment where they can have fun and
learn basic life lessons. In 2012 PD changed direction and put more
emphasis on the education and behavior. We had members certified to
teach Aggression Replacement Training and we began working directly
with the Court and SJIS to help get the children in the biggest need
off the streets.
St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation donated an old office to
be used as the reading area. One of the first set of
books we received was Thomas the Tank Engine. Thus a train set
St. Maarten Railroad (SMRR)
The SMRR started in
1928 as a freight carrier for harvested salt from the Great Salt Pond
to the Philipsburg and Marigot Ports for export shipment worldwide.
The railroad was bankrupt in 1967 when salt harvesting stopped on the
northern French side. The Dutch side had previously ceased operations
Player Development sits on top of the old SMRR rail yard. We are in
the process of restoring some of the yard, as the tracks were never
ripped up just covered with sand from the harbor dredging project.
Once the track is uncovered, we want to restart the salt water
evaporating plant and have the school vocational program run the salt
production. They would be able to sell salt to the tourists and run
their own export business.
Research can be fun! by Isaiah The
Kids Herald 9/21/2022
Long Island Rail Road first to offer piggy backs
by Malik, age 15
have probably seen someone carrying another person on their back.
Sometimes this is called riding piggyback. But if you think about
it…why? Can you imagine a farmer carrying his pig to market on his
back? Me neither. I wanted to know why we call it piggyback, so
I did some research. It turns out that way back in the 1600s carrying
someone on your back was called pick pack. Over time the words slowly
got changed to piggyback. No one seems to know why.
In the old days, in 1885, the Long Island Rail Road used to run a
farmer’s train. Horse drawn wagons hauled goods to market, including
live animals like pigs. Everything got put onto the train for
transportation to the cities. The goods were held in boxes still in
the wagon and were loaded onto the railroad flat cars. The horses were
put in the boxcars, and the farmers got to ride in a passenger cars.
When they unloaded the train at the city, they would put the wagons,
goods and horses back together to continue on to the market.
The farmer chose to pay the railroad $4 to put his wooden cart on the
train so he could get to the market in as little as two- and one-half
hours. Otherwise, it would take the farmer and his horse nearly two
days to reach the market. Back in the early days of the Long Island
Rail Road, there were no bridges for the trains to get off the island.
So, starting in 1880, train cars were loaded on barges and floated
across to track connections. It would not be until 1917 when the Hells
Gate bridge opened that Long Island trains could connect with the
mainland without having to be shipped over on a boat.
all leads us back to the railroad’s use of the term piggyback, for
when the back half of a big truck, trailer carrying a container, is
placed right on the train’s flat car. It would later be called TOFC,
for Trailer on Flatcar. But most people still call it piggyback.
Nowadays, the railroads put whole containers on flat cars. They even
have longer cars with a well in the center, so the first car sits
lower almost right on top of the track. This allows the railroad to
stack a second container on top of the other and still pass through
tunnels and under bridges.
It is easy to load and unload containers if a crane is available. But
there are some drop off points that do not have a crane, so the
container is left on the trailer and the trailer and container are
loaded on the flat car. Some shippers choose to leave the container
attached to the trailer even when the final destination has a crane.
It is faster and thus cheaper to lift both the trailer and container
at one time, place it on the ground, then have a truck connect to the
pair and drive off.
LIRR was the first railroad to offer piggyback transportation, but now
they only transport people, they are out of the freight business. In
1997 they arranged for the New York & Atlantic Railway to carry their
freight, using the tracks owned by LIRR. By the early 1900s the
farmer’s train no longer hauled horses with wagons. The service
switched over to boxcars. Yet the term piggyback remains.
I know one thing for sure, if I ever called my sister a piggy, I would
be in big trouble with Mom and I would not get dinner!
Long Island Rail Road helps prevent fatal accidents
by Malik, age 15
Every three hours someone is hit by a train in the United States. It
does not matter if you are in a car or walking too close to the
tracks, the result is severe injury or death. According to the Federal
Railroad Administration there were 236 fatalities and 662 injuries on
and around railroad tracks in 2021.
as that sounds it used to be worse. In 1972 there were 12,000
collisions at highway-rail crossings. Fifty years ago, the state
of Idaho started Operation Lifesaver. Just 12 months of
educating people about train crossings and the dangers associated with
being near train tracks led to a 43 percent decrease in accidents.
Soon more states began the Operation Lifesaver. By 1986 the safety
program had expanded national wide.
Lifesaver has been committed to preventing collisions, injuries and
fatalities on and around railroad tracks and highway-rail grade
crossings, with the support of public education programs in states
across the U.S.,” according to their website
Founded in the
west, Operation Lifesaver placed a lot of importance on safety at the
crossings. Public service advertisements told people they should not
try to beat the closing gates or drive around them trying to avoid
long trains. Waits of 20 minutes or more are common. The
adverts tell people that although the trains may appear to be going
slowly, they are usually moving up to 50 miles per hour and that it
takes a train nearly a mile to stop.
In 1989, LIRR
initiated the Together Railroads and Communities Keeping Safe (TRACKS)
program, along with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
"The TRACKS program provides
customized training to schools, camps, day cares, libraries, and
community groups, stressing the importance of safety at grade
crossings and on our platforms and trains." Not surprisingly, the
TRACKS program is geared toward children, educating them to stay away
from the red flashing lights and signal bells of a railroad crossing.
It offers age appropriate information on how to travel safely using
the system; and the hazards that exist on or near the tracks, this is
according to their website,
The main differences between the trains out west and on Long Island
are speed and people. The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest
commuter railroad in North America, It moves about 301,000 customers
each weekday on 735 daily trains. The New York and Atlantic
Railway handles rail freight on the Long Island Rail Road. The freight
line averages just six trains each night. In general, passenger trains
are much shorter than freight trains and can reach speeds of 100 miles
per hour. That means the wait time for drivers sitting at crossing
gates is usually much shorter.
The LIRR also has posted Emergency
Notification Signs at crossings. The signs tell drivers if their
vehicle gets stuck on the train tracks at a crossing, they should get
out of the car and call the number on the sign. They should give the
locator number to the operator. The locator number tells the railroad
exactly which crossing is blocked, so the train engineers in the area
can start to slow down the train. This way they can avoid a
tragic accident before it occurs.
The LIRR and the MTA offer train
safety coloring books and videos. In addition, the LIRR gives to free
talks to students, usually involving the Metro Man Mascot (a silver
looking robot). Toy manufactures have even
involved with track safety making toy trains reminding children
to be extra careful around train tracks. One toy LIRR boxcar has
printing that says: Stop, Look and Listen!
It has flashing red lights on a railroad crossing sign along with the
railroads yellow Dashing Dan logo. One last piece of caution.
Realize the train is wider than the track it rides on. In fact. the
train can overhang the track by as much as three feet. So do not
walk on the tracks or even near them, or else you might be one of the
people hit and hurt by a train every three hours.
NEW LOGO - NEW IMAGE by Isaiah, age 23
Maine Line Magazine - Winter 2022
Editor: Joseph T. “Joey” Kelley
Railroad Blue is the Strongest Color
Malik, age 15
is a strong color. It is so strong it can stop a speeding car. It can
even stop a freight train that is miles long. But,
Blue is stronger and more powerful. Red can stop a train. But Blue
prevents the train from even being started!
Traffic lights first appeared in the United States around 1920. Nearly
90 years before the traffic light, Railroads already saw the need for
signals to safely control traffic. They devised a flag system to
direct engineers when to stop or move the trains. It took a few years
for the signals we know and use today to become standardized. Red
means stop. Yellow means caution and Green means go. But blue means do
not touch a thing.
term 'flag' was carried forward even after the signals became lights
for night use. The railroads were not satisfied with red means stop
and green go. They needed more. “Railroading is a very dangerous job
and people are hurt or killed every year in simple accidents. Some of
the worst used to come from fellow employees moving trains while
people were working on them,” explained Steven Torborg a Conductor on
the Long Island Rail Road who frequently visits St. Maarten.
Basically, there are two times workers go between cars. Workers have
to add cars to or take off cars from a train. This is called coupling
or uncoupling and is done with an engineer on the train who knows
workers are between the cars. The
second and potentially more dangerous situation is when work needs to
be done on a train before the engineer arrives.
It was clear a sign was needed to
tell the arriving engineer someone is working on or under the train.
Blue was the assigned color for the flag.
“Virtually every railroad in the United
States uses blue signals, though the designs vary,” said Conductor
Steve. First came the Blue flag. But of course, the Carman needed a
place to hang it.
Other signals included lanterns and then flashlights for night use.
Some railroads used a piece of plastic on a metal rod that could be
clipped to the track out in front of the engine. There were fold up
and down blue barriers, like those used on St. Maarten for reserve
added safety plastic blue signals were made and left inside the engine
on the start-up controls. Today the carman has a blue ID badge that
they can take off and place on the engine control panel, so the
engineer not only knows someone is working on the train,
but exactly who is on under or between the cars.
Railroad motto is Safety is of the first importance in the discharge
of duty," said Conductor Steve. That
is why Blue is the strongest color on the railroad.
M7 interior cab with Employee
blue flag ID: "DO NOT OPERATE - MY LIFE IS ON THE LINE"
Circus train Blue Flag at Garden City Secondary,
Quentin-Roosevelt Blvd. - View NW 5/23/2017 Photo/Archive: Marc
The Not So Red Caboose by Malik, age 15:
Diamonds Can Be Dangerous
by Collis, age 12:
Trains with Three Rails Which came first: 3-rail toy
trains or the LIRR? by Roger, Age 11:
Steam engines were the power for early trains. They
burned coal, oil or even wood in the locomotive's firebox to boil
water to make steam. The steam would build up so much pressure that it
was enough to get the wheels to turn and the trains to move along the
tracks. Steam engines made a lot of smoke and dust, so everything
around and on the train ended up dirty. In those days there were two
tracks, and many train tracks are still two rails.
But, when trains evolved into a new source of power – electricity –
they tried different ways to get the electricity to the train. The
Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) was one of the first roads in the United
States to switch to electric. Ideas for how to get the electricity to
the train engine included above-ground wires, although many people
thought that the above-ground lines looked ugly. Plus, the wires were
prone to breakage in high winds, and especially during winter ice
So in 1905, when the LIRR replaced dusty, dirty steam engines with
modern, clean electric locomotives, they decided to use a three rail
system. The two tracks already laid down were one side of the electric
connection and the other electrical line went to a third rail placed
outside the pre-existing ones. This was done in part so the rail could
be covered to avoid accidental short circuits or electrocutions.
Some of us kids at Player Development think the LIRR got the idea of a
third rail from model trains. Yes, believe it or not, toy trains were
electrified before real trains.
Model trains, made from wood, and later metal, started appearing in
1860. By 1891 train sets were being manufactured and sold. The
first sets required the child to just push or pull the train around on
the tracks. Next came toy trains that the child could turn a crank and
wind them up, then let them run on their own, until they wound down
and had to be cranked up again. Electrical toy trains were first
designed in 1896, but these still used a two rail system. In 1901 the
Lionel Train company came out with their first electric train sets.
Some early train makers experimented with and liked third rail
operations. A few manufacturers actually had the third rail outside
the main rail and used a “shoe” pick up similar to the ones used by
the LIRR. But the familiar 3-rail O-gauge train sets were sold as sets
starting in 1906.
That means Lionel had to be working on 3-rail system
at the same time that the LIRR was switching to electric. Of course,
we do not know if the designers at LIRR ever played with the toy
electric trains. The Lionel train set has the third rail in the center
of the two tracks with a special roller pick up on the bottom of the
trains. The wheels making contact on the outer two rails complete the
circuit. So we cannot tell who had the idea of a three rail system
first but we are sure glad they did because these are like the ones we
have here on St. Maarten at Player Development. They are fun to drive
around the track and imagine you are an engineer driving a real train.
Making new toys look antique By Roger,
Imaging taking a brand-new toy , perhaps a
shiny red sports car, out of the box and getting it dirty right away,
on purpose. Your mom might get a little made. Maybe not let you bring
the toy in the house. Yet that is what model railroaders do. They buy
new trains, and make them look old sometimes even before they put them
on a track and run them around a bit.
process of making a train or anything look old is called weathering.
There are many ways to do this but today I am going to talk about
using chalk. At Player Development, the after-school program at
the Little League Ballpark on St. Maarten that helps kids do better in
school, we have five train sets.
You need to know railroads try to keep the
passenger trains looking good. They have wash stations that the cars
pass through, so they shine. So we weather just the freight
You start with chalk. We use brown and
black. Rub the chalk on some 400-grit sandpaper. We do this over a
small plastic bowl. The chalk is turned into a fine dust. Next
get a small soft bristle paint brush. Dab it into the pile of chalk
then dab it on the car. Note we take the car shell off the chaise so
as not to get the wheels dirty. On one end of a boxcar there is
a wheel on it. It looks like a steering wheel but it is really a
brake. Any way it is the back of the car. Once you dab the chalk on
the car paying close attention to the ribs of the car you will put
more chalk on the brush and lightly start at the front and draw the
brush to the back of the car.
left, and Collis busy weathering the freight cars!
represents the effect of wind on the moving car. Also weather the roof
and ends of the car. Once the car is weathered, set it down and
look it over. If you are not happy with the weathering get a damp
cloth, wipe the car clean, let it dry and try again. If it came out
good, get a can of Dull-Coat , and gentle spray the car. Start far
back and mist the car. You do not want the spray to blow the car
clean. Once the car is coated let dry. Put the shell back on the
wheels and run the old looker on your layout. This weathering
technique can be used on all kinds of models to make them look more
I Have a Toy Railroad Bus By Roger, age 11:
LIRR Road n' Rail bus stop at The Daily Herald
newspaper building on the SMRR
Dashing Dan and Dottie going strong in 2023
By Roger, age 11:
Happy Birthday to the Long Island Rail Road! It will turn 189 in
April. That is like three or four lifetimes! The ‘road’ was
chartered in 1883. It is so old that the word ‘railroad’ had not been
invented yet. That is why the LIRR has Rail Road in its name as two
words. The LIRR has changed hands a few times since then. The
Pennsylvania Railroad (yes, one word) bought LIRR in 1900 and sold it
in 1965. That’s when the ownership went to the New York Metropolitan
Transit Authority. The symbol that the train sported, its logo,
changed over the years. Under the Pennsylvanian keystone for more than
six decades, then to just the letters ‘LIRR’ and next the letters
‘MTA’ and eventually settling on a circle with the letters ‘MTA’ and
‘Long Island Rail Road’ beneath it.
The biggest change was in power. From coal burning steam engines to
diesel and now third rail electric cars, the LIRR has kept up with the
times and modernized. One thing that commuters and railroad
modelers held onto was the Dashing Dan. Yes, a little fellow with a
briefcase, an umbrella and a funny, I am told fedora, hat can be found
everywhere, despite being retired in 1968. Dan was first introduced to
LIRR employees in their magazine in 1957. He started out in black and
white but by 1958 he had blue business suit on a yellow background. He
is shown running to the left and holding his hat as he runs. Over the
years his direction changed and now he is running right. Also at some
point his shirt was colored white.
image of Dashing Dan, with the words Home of the Dashing Commuter,
appeared on LIRR paperwork, timetables and even on engines and
passenger cars. In 1963 Dashing Dan got a friend. Yes, a lady
commuter, joined the dash. She was introduced in the company
newsletter in 1962 and has seen regally on yellow decals by 1963. She
is known as Dashing Dottie.
I always wondered why the pair was running. Was it because the train
was leaving a station early? One commuter told me it was the trains
are often late and the commuters have to jump off and run to work so
they are not late. Dan was also spotted out of his suit. He rode the
weekend trains and sported a feather in his hat and was surrounded by
the words, “The Route of the Weekend Chief.”
We have not found a decal of Dottie on the weekend. The pair
retired unceremoniously in 1968. But due to the Covid pandemic, they
were brought back into service. They once again appeared on stickers
and signs in 2020 with the mission to help public health keep safe.
Yes, Dan and Dottie were seen sporting masks to encourage passengers
to mask up. While the pair are not as visible on the railroad in
2023, they are all over E-bay. You can buy Dan hats, shirts, money
clips, belt buckles and even license plates. We even found decals with
railroad spelled as on word and small decals for use on O and even
smaller for HO scale model trains.
Dan is now at the old age of 76 and Dottie, oh I will not tell the
lady’s age, but still the pair are going strong and who knows if the
LIRR will call the Dashers out of retirement again.
Happy Birthday LIRR.
Dashing Dottie - 1963
“The Route of the Weekend Chief.” - 1963
"The Route of Dash the Robot?"
Have you ever seen a steering wheel on a railroad
boxcar? By Roger, age 11
answer is no, but there is something that looks like a steering
wheel. The metal wheel on a boxcar is actually a manual brake.
Years ago the engine was stopped by decreasing the power to the
locomotive's wheels and applying a brake. However the brakes were
not strong enough to stop the whole train. So the train was slowed
and stopped manually with independent brake system on each car.
A brake wheel was placed near the top of the boxcars. Also, on the
top of the boxcars were wooden walkways. This allowed rail crew to
walk or run across one car and jump to next car and apply brakes
particularly when the train was going to go down a hill or going
to stop at a station in town. The roof walks were only 18 to 24
There are still brake wheels are on modern boxcars. But they are
no longer used for slowing the train, just to keep the boxcar from
moving while it is in storage. These days the trains must
have an automatic brake system, whenever they are on the tracks
and being pulled. So when the engineer applies the brakes, each
car in the consist (that is railroad talk) brakes are applied on
each car of the entire train.
According to my good friend Steven Lynch, who runs a railroad
the Federal Railway
Administration mandated that beginning in 1966 no new cars could
be built with roof walks. He explained that climbing up on a
moving train, especially if it was wet and slippery, was super
dangerous. It happened a lot that people fell and got hurt. Even
so, change was slow. The idea to remove the walks was first
submitted in 1964. However, it was not until 1968 that the
American Association of Railroads legislated the removal of roof
walks. The last of the roof walks were to be gone by 1979.
I think its cool that the steering-wheel-looking brake system
still appears on box cars. The brake wheels have been placed lower
down so the manual brake can be applied and released from ground
level as the cars are being connected or disconnected from a
train. Not surprisingly, the brake system has continued to
improve. Trains are now being equipped with sensors, both in front
and in back that applies the brakes if something is blocking the
track... like another train. Also, electric brake systems are
replacing air brakes, as compressed air can leak out and cause
So next time you see a boxcar look for the brake wheel and ask
your friend if he thinks he could steer a train from there and
then just laugh and say no that is just a brake! 10/03/2023
Romans Helped Bring Railroad Trains To The United
States - By Roger, age 11:
Big Boy versus Hudson - By Roger, age 11: