Rensselaer Magazine
Feature Articles At Rensselaer President's View Reader Mail Staying Connected Alumni News One Last Thing
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Reader Mail

Maximizing Molecularium Movie

My father, Barry Blumel ’76, receives your alumni magazine. In your March 2009 edition, we read about the IMAX film, Molecules to the MAX, that was developed by Rensselaer [“Stealth Education”]. My 4-year-old son was very excited about it. He is asking if it can come to our science center’s IMAX theater—the Detroit Science Center here in Detroit, Mich. We’ve been visiting the center with our son for two years and have become members there. He loves the science films shown in the planetarium and IMAX theater there.

Would you have any contact information for the film’s distributors that we could provide to Detroit Science Center? We’d be happy to pass it along to them in hopes of having them show the film.

Carol Bowes
Livonia, Mich.

Editor’s note: Spread the word! The distributor of the film is SK Films,

Article on Track!

Thank you for the article in the December issue honoring Jim Shaughnessy, truly one of railroading’s premier photographers [“Chasing Trains”]. The article also revived memories of my time at RPI.

In the fall of 1938, as an entering freshman of the class of 1942, I soon made the acquaintance of several other students who were also interested in railroads. We learned that RPI owned a miniature steam locomotive, of a 4-4-0 wheel arrangement and I believe either an 8- or 9-inch track gauge, that reputedly was a gift from the Burden family connected with the Burden Iron Works in South Troy. Subsequent fund-raising from both students and alumni enabled us to build an oval track layout on the west side of 15th Street just south of the freshman dormitories.

At an opening ceremony, probably in 1940, a young Jim Shaughnessy attended with his father, and the Troy Record carried a photo of him seated in one of the Rensselaer Central’s open gondola cars as he purchased a bond as part of the fund-raising effort. I assume that the rails, cars, and locomotive became part of a scrap drive during the ensuing war years.

Some of the other students connected with the operation included Charles Culp ’39, Guy Stillman ’41, and Harold Crouch ’43. Both Harold Crouch and myself had railroading careers with the New York Central and its later successors, Penn Central and Conrail. The Rochester, N.Y., Democrat and Chronicle recently carried an obituary indicating that Harold Crouch died on March 27, 2009, at age 89, that he was a 1942 graduate of RPI, a member of Sigma Xi, and known to his friends as “Mr. Steam Locomotive.”

William Becker ’42
Mt. Dora, Fla.

More Harkness Memories

The December article on Ned Harkness (“Memories of Ned”) brought up my own recollection of the legendary coach. I was part of an all-night poker game in Dorm “D” in early March 1960, as a huge blizzard paralyzed the Northeast. The conversation had turned to the imminent season-ender between RPI and BU in Boston, which would decide who would go to the ECAC tournament. Another player bet Dick Mateosian and me that we could not get there in time, and we took the bet.

In the morning, we set out through high drifts and horizontal snow for Boston. Buses—the only vehicles to be seen—were skidding through Troy intersections, but, bundled in sweaters and red RPI jackets, we managed to get to the Albany Greyhound terminal, walk across the bridge to Rensselaer, and put out our thumbs at the Mass Pike entrance.

We quickly got a ride with a hearse, complete with a coffin and two Irish undertakers in formal garb, transporting their customer back to Boston for burial. The ’Pike was two ruts in each direction, marked by numerous vehicles in the ditch. We made it to the old Boston Arena in plenty of time, bought tickets, and called our friend in Troy to inform him he had already lost the bet.

At the arena, we met the father of a classmate, who offered to put us up for the night; we had it made!

The game was hard-fought and ended regulation time in a tie, which meant a sudden-death overtime. Action seesawed, then BU got the puck but crossed the RPI blue line offside. A ref raised his arm to blow the play dead, but the alert BU defenseman let go a slapshot that went in. The goal should have been disallowed, but the ref quickly pulled his arm down and skated off the ice. Harkness went ballistic, but to no avail.

Our host took us to his beautiful home in Newton Center and in the morning—clear and cold—drove us out to the Mass Pike, where we again hopefully stuck out our thumbs. Soon a big Greyhound passed, stopped, and opened its doors. Out popped Ned Harkness himself, who called to us.

“Did you guys hitchhike here just to see us play?” he asked. “Yes, Coach,” we responded. “Well, you crazy guys deserve to go home in style. Get on the bus.” And we rode back to Troy with the team, eventually to be deposited on 15th Street, right below our dorm.

Garry Shapiro '63
Los Gatos, Calif.

We’d love to hear from you! To provide space for as many letters as possible, we often must edit them for length. Please address correspondence to: Rensselaer Magazine, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, e-mail to alum.mag, or call (518) 276-6531.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.