Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Show Serendipity

I'm fortunate that I live only a little more than an hour away from one of the biggest - if not THE biggest - train shows in North America: the Big E Train Show (aka "Springfield" aka Amherst RR Show, etc.)  About 25 thousand folks show up over the course of the weekend and anybody who's anybody in the hobby is usually there.

With four huge buildings filled to capacity with railroad stuff, it can be pretty overwhelming and I'm usually totally fried by late afternoon Saturday.  I haven't gone back for the Sunday in many years - just can't take the overload. %^)  I go with all sorts of things in my head - and sometimes on a list - to get, but then when it comes time to get them, I usually figure - "well, I don't really need that yet..."  Consequently, I don't usually buy all that much model railroad stuff at Springfield, though the deals are always pretty great.  I do, however, usually come back with at least a couple of books.

And this year, I came back with a priceless (to me) photo - though I didn't buy it.

It was toward the end of the day when I happened past a table manned by a guy I recognized from past NHRHTA Reunions.  WilliamM grew up in Wethersfield and had shared some photos with me in the past and, as we were chatting, he mentioned he'd just purchased a few photos I might be interested in.  Most of them were old, 1970s vintage snapshots of things I had better photos of - the Wethersfield station, etc.  But one photo hit me like a bolt of lightning ...

It may not look like much to you, but this is the office/scalehouse for the Valley Coal Company in the south end of Wethersfield.  I'm modeling Valley Coal on my layout and this is the only photo I've ever seen of this building.  I only have one other photo of Valley Coal, and it only shows a corner of the roof.  So this was quite a find indeed!  Can't wait to show it to John & Max (unless they just saw it now...)

William graciously allowed me to borrow the photo to scan, and I returned it to him immediately with my thanks and a question....  Could he check his photos for any pics of the Ballantine Beer Distributor? :^)  I figure even a photo from the late 1990s (from before it was torn down) will be more than we have now.  Hey - you never know....

In other news, I finally found a copy of the March 1961 issue of Trains magazine.  I admittedly haven't been searching super hard for it - just casually.  But I happened across it and got it for a buck.  Why was it important?  Well, there's a feature article in there about the White Train (aka the Ghost Train) that used to fly up the Air Line through Middletown back in the (18)90s.  Very cool.

I also picked up copy #53 of Philip R. Hastings' photo book on the B&M that I'd been keeping my eye out for for years (it's long out-of-print).  There are SO many evocative and model-genic photos in there that it almost (almost) makes me want to change my prototype.  But The Valley Line has some of the same features as those photogenic B&M branches, so I think I'll be able to scratch that itch just fine with what I have.

Finally, other than a few other various/sundry minor items, I picked up the final three issues of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (R&LHS) Bulletins I'd been wanting to get for my collection - issues from way back in the 1940s - one featuring the Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington, one on the many railroads in the City of New Haven, and one on the Hardwick & Woodbury.  They're pretty rare and I was lucky to run across Alden Dreyer who had them - though not at the show (heh, they're so rare they didn't even get to the show...)

Just another little bit of serendipity.

The long, exhausting, wonderful day was capped off by our now-annual dinner in the Parlor Car of the Steaming Tender Restaurant, accompanied by the sights and sounds of long freight trains on the old B&A line and the New England Central switching cars on the other side.

All in all, a wonderful day.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Fun - Canadian Rockies Railroading

This isn't Valley Line related, but fun nevertheless.  Considering we're getting some Arctic Cold down from Canada this week, I thought it perfectly appropriate to share this video.  It's well worth the 20 or so minutes it'll take to view (maybe during your lunch break?)

LOTS of snow here, but most importantly, one of the best-produced railroad videos I've seen - including a great description of the Timetable/Train Order process as well as stunning views of the Canadian Rockies.  Considering how cold it is outside, I'm especially glad I'm not a section hand (though the prospect of being snowed-in, a cozy woodstove-heated station, and a pile of books is pretty attractive)!



With all the social media input of Facebook, blogs and such, I'm afraid I don't remember where I first saw this link to this video, but to whoever shared it - and especially to the folks at The National Film Board of Canada - Thank You!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Goff Brook Bridge(s)

Over the holidays, I decided to take a break from working on the Ballantines area.  I've hit a bit of a dead-end in my research and until I can come up with a good mock-up of the beer warehouse, I'm stuck.  With regard to the area immediately north - namely, the Rt. 15 overpass - I have a different problem: I'm pretty sure what it looked like (AAMOF, I don't think it's changed much at all since 1947) and have plenty of current-day pictures, but my modeling skills aren't up to the task of replicating it.  Just south of Ballantine's, on the other side of Jordan Lane, is Wethersfield Lumber Co. - another site I haven't any pictures of and even less info than Ballantines.

So I turned my focus to the other end of town and the other end of this section of layout: Goff Brook Bridge.  It's not technically part of Wethersfield being located just over the line in Rocky Hill, but it's closer to Wethersfield on my layout and is on the Wethersfield "side" of the peninsula.  And - bonus - it's a scenic highlight.  Unfortunately, this is the only photo I have of it from the time I'm modeling (used for yesterday's Wordless Wednesday):

#356 on southbound local freight crossing Goff Brook, c. 1943.  Photo by John Wallace
This photo was evocative enough for me to want to add this scene to my layout and - another bonus - it's even from the exact perspective that I need - looking northwest.  This is the scene you'll see from the aisle.  It's a great photograph for atmosphere/scenery/scene, but not so great for modeling the bridge.  Thankfully, the bridge hasn't changed that much and can still be seen today:

Goff Brook Bridge looking southeast, Nov. 23, 2010.  Photo by me, shot from the road bridge..
According to John's recollections, back in 1947 the bridge was black (not red) and it had a guardrail and guard timbers (no longer present today).  The bridge itself is a pretty nondescript steel deck girder, but check out those abutments!  These "stone wall" abutments are typical of the Valley line and pretty distinctive.  I certainly haven't seen them anywhere else on the New Haven, so they're a "must model."

While modeling the bridge is a must, other than John's photo I wasn't sure how to go about modeling the rest of the scene.  While field trips are certainly a benefit of modeling something local, a LOT has changed over the years.  For one thing, there are Way Too Many Trees compared to 65 years ago. But when it comes to the non-scenery elements of a scene, railroad valuation maps are priceless. Railroads used these maps of their right of way for real estate valuation purposes - but for our modeling purposes,they're great for showing the track arrangement and the area around the track. Just be careful about relying too heavily on them - most of them date from just after WW 1 and things may have changed significantly by your chosen era.

Fortunately, the University of Connecticut has the val maps for the New Haven (here -http://magic.lib.uconn.edu/mash_up/nynhhrr_index.html), and here's the map of the Goff Brook area:

New Haven Railroad Valuation Map showing Goff Brook area c. 1915
Note the major elements of the scene: the railroad bridge, the road bridge (Middlesex Turnpike), dam, ice pond, ice house.
This photo was taken from the turnpike grade crossing, looking north, about 10 years after the map.  You can see the ice house in the left distance.  Note the guardrails.  John recalls they were still there in the late 1940s.

Here a shot of the old dam area, taken from the road bridge.  It's much more overgrown, and can't even be seen in the summer.  In fact, despite the fact I've ridden my bike past here dozens of times over the years, I just saw it "in person" a few weeks ago.

And here's the current road bridge, shot from the railroad bridge, looking west/northwest.  Unfortunately for my purposes, it was recently redone.  But I'm told that the abutments, if not original, are nearly identical to what was there.  I only need to figure out what a typical early 20th century road bridge of this length would look like.

And that's where I'm stuck at - like a lot of this project - trying to figure out a reasonable representation of a bridge (or building) that existed in 1947, without the benefit of a contemporaneous photo to work from.  Of course, any help/advice/suggestions are always welcome.

Fortunately, while I'm at a loss as to what the road bridge looked like in '47, I have enough to go on for the railroad bridge.  And with a little help from my friends (namely, Pieter & Roman), I have a pretty good model to use.  Just have to get the scene together, and that means I need to figure out what to do about the road bridge.

And so it goes.

It's been a busy few weeks since New Year's as we start to ramp up at work.  This post was actually started the last day of last year, but I'm hoping - really hoping - I can post at least a little more often in the coming days.  And I'll certainly have some stuff to report, between a special operating session in New Jersey this weekend and the BigE show in Springfield next weekend.  So, plenty to talk about - just need the time to write it up.  Stay tuned!

Wordless Wednesday #13

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wordless Wednesday #12

Not the Valley Local (but w/#163 on the point, probably the Naugatuck Local)
Date, location, and photographer unknown

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

Wow, it's been a really amazing 3 months since I started this record of my Valley Line project.  I've learned a lot - and discovered a lot more that I need to learn.  But such detective work is really fun and rewarding - especially when you guys get involved. By the way, speaking of that, if for some reason you're not able to leave a comment, you can always contact me via email (under "About Me" on the left side of the page). Valley/AirLine info & feedback is always welcome no matter how it gets to me,

There's a lot coming up, so be sure to stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014