Jimmy McHugh’s interest in steam railroading and how he along with others, saved a bankrupt short line railroad from the scrappers torch, and turned it into a successful business.
In 1966 Jimmy McHugh began assisting the newly formed steam-powered New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, located in southeastern Pennsylvania. In early July 1966, just a few days after start-up their 4-6-0 steam locomotive #1533 derailed at a switch due to an engineer operating at excessive speed. This caused severe damage to the #1533 that twisted the frame, bent
the driving rods, and the damaged the lead truck assembly. Jimmy McHugh was contracted to provide a crane and equipment so the #1533 could be repaired. Jimmy also became the NH&I’s official “Wreckmaster” in July 1966.
The original owners of the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad quickly overspent the company’s funds and also had a large unsustainable payroll which resulted in the New Hope & Ivyland declaring bankruptcy in June 1970. The railroad’s worn-out 4-6-0 steam locomotive #1533 was unreliable and only operated sporadically, so an old ALCO RS-1 diesel locomotive was acquired to supplement motive power when required.
The first US Bankruptcy Court appointed trustee R. Guthrie, who hired himself and his wife’s to the railroad’s payroll. Under the leadership of trustee Guthrie, the New Hope & Ivyland continued to fall into disrepair as the right of way and equipment received little maintenance and the struggling railroad continued to sink further into debt.
By late 1972 the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad was close to becoming a thing of the past and being scrapped. A local railroad enthusiast Kenneth Andrews was appointed by the US Bankruptcy Court as the second trustee and generously agreed to only be paid one dollar a year for his services.
Kenneth Andrews knew that businessman Jimmy McHugh was also a railroad and trolley enthusiast. So he asked Jimmy to volunteer and assist him with operating the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad. Kenneth Andrews and Jimmy McHugh, along with the Bucks County Industrial Development Corporation, then developed a plan of reorganization to save the New Hope & Ivyland that was accepted by the US Bankruptcy Court.
In December 1973 the McHugh’s purchased their first diesel locomotives from the closed Copper Range Railroad in Michigan, and Baldwin 1000hp switchers #100 & #101 arrive at New Hope, PA in January 1974. In April 1974 the McHugh family under, the McHugh Bros. Heavy Hauling company, officially became the designated operator of the NH&I railroad and Jimmy McHugh was named president. The efforts of Kenneth Andrews, Jimmy McHugh, and Bucks County Industrial Development Corporation, during 1973 truly is what saved the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad from extinction and becoming only a faded memory.
The determination of Jimmy McHugh to have a rebirth of the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad included the restoration of a 1925 Baldwin 2-8-0 steam locomotive and to have it back in operation to celebrate the McHugh’s officially becoming the new operator of the railroad. On October 18, 1974, with much fanfare, steam locomotive #40 was return back to service at the NH&I. The McHugh Bros. employees and New Hope & Ivyland volunteer’s, took on the task to restored a second steam locomotive during 1976. The US Army 0-6-0 #9 required a major restoration that included replacing the worn-out wheels and the #9 was returned back to service in August 1976. After 5 years under the sound leadership of Jimmy McHugh the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad was released from bankruptcy in June of 1979. The leadership of Jimmy McHugh, the McHugh Bros. employees, and the dedicated volunteers turned the fate of the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad around allowing it to continue in operation.
At the young age of 6, JC McHugh could always be found alongside his father at the railroad on the weekends. By the mid 1970’s JC began working part time for the McHugh family business to learn the intricacies of the various McHugh operations and in 1979 he became a full time employee. JC’s skills and duties at that time included him to be a certified crane an union operating engineer, heavy haul truck driver, and steam / diesel locomotive engineer. Then in 1980 JC also became superintendent of the McHugh Bros. / NH&I operation, and his duties included: leasing locomotives and locomotive cranes, along with providing on-site repair service of these units to short lines, industrial plants with rail operations, and railroad contractors. The McHugh Bros. / NH&I operation from 1974 expanded to include: 10 diesel electric locomotives, 500 new box cars, 8 flatcars, 4 gondola cars, a side dump car, 1 tank car, and over 200 pieces of MOW equipment.
During 1982 Robert C. McHugh and Emmerson Clark passed away and Gerald J. McHugh became president of the McHugh Bros. companies. Unfortunately, Gerald J. Edward L. and Adelaide McHugh did not have the same passion for the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad. In 1983 a new railroad, the Shore Fast Line, was started with a partner company and Jimmy McHugh was also president of that New Jersey railroad. The McHugh half interest of the SFL operation was sold in the spring of 1985, and JC McHugh and another McHugh family member were trustees of that corporation.
During August of 1985 the majority of stockholders at the McHugh Bros. companies made a decision to exit operating the New Hope & Ivyland and associated businesses of locomotive / railroad equipment repair and leasing. Jimmy along with JC McHugh, and another McHugh family member then decided to purchase those operations from the McHugh Bros. Company and they also began to move forward to execute the purchase from Bucks County Industrial Development Corporation per the McHugh Bros. lease purchase agreement. However, negotiations for the sale of those operations were later terminated.
Jimmy and JC McHugh by late November 1985 believed that the new business plan put into effect by the other stockholders at the McHugh Bros. companies would not be successful, so they both resigned from the firm. Jimmy McHugh went to work for the United Crane & Shovel Company in New Jersey and JC McHugh started the new McHugh Locomotive & Equipment business.
A change of the management occurred at the McHugh Bros. companies in December 1985 that had Edward L. McHugh as president of the New Hope & Ivyland. It was not long thereafter that the railroad began to decline again and in June of 1989 when the NH&I lease expired with Bucks County Industrial Development Corporation, the McHugh Bros. Company did not have the funds available to purchase the railroad. Bucks County Industrial Development Corporation then leased the railroad for a year to another operator until the railroad was sold to a new owner in 1990. The McHugh Bros. companies that included: Heavy Hauling, Crane Rentals, Equipment Corp., under the leadership of the remaining stockholders: Edward L., Gerald J., Adelaide McHugh, and William McNulty, ceased operation in 1987.