Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #107

Rare view of Saybrook Junction from the town water tower, over top of trolley worker housing. It shows the freight house next to the mainline (before it was moved), the station platform along the Valley Line side (line to Fenwick), and the Catholic church next to the tracks, before it was removed (the cemetery is still there today) 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Visitors from the North

The Missus wanted to be up in the den last night, so that gave me a chance to finish up these cars, courtesy True Line Trains. Just need some weathering...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Starting to take shape (again)

After some unexpected plumbing issues (then again, are they ever expected?), I'm finally getting Back to the Basement this afternoon and back to work on the new east end of Old Saybrook and the new throat & approaches to New London / Boston staging.

Hope you're able to get to work on your railroad this weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fun With Research - Old Saybrook Operations, Trains, and Locomotives

If you've read anything on this site so far, you discovered pretty quickly that I'm a sucker for research. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that I want to recreate in miniature this whole lower Connecticut River Valley region as it was in the late 1940s (at least as much as practicable), I'd probably be content with doing research for its own sake.

But as a prototype modeler, research is a means - albeit a fun means - to an end. The modeling provides the catalyst, and most of the reason, for the research. And, in the case of my latest Saybrook/Staging Saga, the research provided, and continues to provide, the catalyst and reason for all the track changes. What started as an idle curiosity while I was doing some incidental research, quickly blossomed to a full-blown dissection of railroad operations in the Saybrook area. I'd already done some pretty comprehensive research on my main focus - Valley Line freight operations - so segueing to Saybrook operations generally was an inevitable evolution.

Before you can have all this fun though, you have to have some primary research material. Fortunately, I've been collecting this information for a while now . . .

Binders full of NHRR prototype information

If you aspire to model a prototype, here's a list of the basic, primary source material you should have in your library:

  • Railroad rulebooks (includes critical operating rules)
  • Passenger Timetables (includes general, public info on passenger trains)

  • Employee Timetables (includes more detailed information on passenger trains)
  • Freight & Package Schedules (public info on freight trains)

  • Arranged Freight Service books (the employee version, showing detailed info on freight trains and service)
  • Engine Assignment Books (I'm still looking for a New Haven one from September, 1947)
  • Misc
Under that last "category" would be anything else produced by the railroad that provides information on how it operated. In my case, a real treasure is a report the railroad did in April 20, 1948 showing what every locomotive did that particular day.

While this material can be hard to find - and sometimes expensive when you find it - you could do what I've most often done: purchase the original (no matter what the price), photocopy it, and resell the original to recoup funds for the next purchase. I'm a lot more comfortable thumbing through (and sometimes marking up) copies rather than originals. YMMV

So, what's all this have to do with my Saybrook/Staging Saga? Well, I "hit the books" (see end of post for sources used**) and discovered some really cool information about what a typical "day" would look like on my version of Old Saybrook - not only what trains there were, but what actual locomotives were used(!)

Since my "main actors" are the locals, they'll dictate the period of time I'll operate in Old Saybrook (there's no way I'm going to run a full day of 71 trains!). Originally, I thought I could get by with 3 passenger trains and one through freight, in addition to the two Shore Line locals. I could still do that in a pinch, I suppose. But making the track changes in Saybrook and in the two staging yards should allow me to do the following very interesting schedule.

The activity I model in Old Saybrook would start shortly after noon, with an eastbound passenger train:
  • 12:10 - Train #12, the eastbound "Bay State" (NY-Boston), powered by DER-1s (Alco DL-109) #0716 & 0717 towing a parlor car, grill car, and coaches passes through without stopping.
  • 12:14 - PDX-2, the New London to Cedar Hill Shore Line local, powered by DEY-5 (Alco S-2) #0604, arrives from the east.
  • 12:20 - Train #182, the eastbound "William Penn" (Phila-Boston), powered by DER-1 #0728 tows a parlor car, dining car and coaches, and passes through without stopping.
  • 12:26 - Train #11, the westbound "Bay State" (Boston-NY), powered by DER-1s #0739 & 0740 has a parlor car, a dining car (instead of grill car) and coaches, and passes through without stopping.
  • 12:35 - PDX-2, having done its switching, including dropping cars for PDX-1, and received its orders, heads north up the Valley Line to East Haddam.
  • 12:40 - PDX-1, the Cedar Hill to New London Shore Line local, powered by DEY-5 #0612 arrives from the west.
  • 1:10 - PDX-1, having done its switching a leaving cars for PDX-2, departs, continuing eastbound.
  • 1:17 - Train #188, the eastbound "Pilgrim" (Phila-Boston), powered by DER-1 #0743 and hauling a parlor car, dining car, and coaches, arrives, makes a station stop, and continues east.
  • 1:32 - Train #13, the westbound "42nd Street Express" (Boston-NY), powered by DER-1 #0733 and hauling a parlor car, dining car, and coaches, arrives, makes a station stop, and continues west (depending on the timing, both 188 and 13 could be at the station at the same time).
  • 2:07 - Train #14, the eastbound "Bostonian" (NY-Boston), powered by DER-1 #0744 and hauling a parlor, grill, and coaches, passes through without stopping.
  • 2:30 - FGB-2, hauling through freight from the PRR and the car floats at Bay Ridge, NY to Boston, and powered by DER-1s #0722 & 0731, passes through eastbound.
  • 2:43 - Train #177, the westbound "Senator" (Boston-D.C.), powered by DER-1s #0742 & 0735 and hauling parlors, dining cars, and coaches (likely PRR equipment), arrives, makes a station stop, and continues west.
  • 3:05 - Train #22, the eastbound "Yankee Clipper" (NY-Boston), powered by I-5 4-6-4 #1405 and hauling parlor cars, a dining car, a grill car, and coaches (alas, no longer all-parlors) highballs through town.
  • 3:22 - Train #23, the westbound "Yankee Clipper" (Boston-NY), powered by DER-1s #0711 & 0752 and hauling parlor cars, a dining car, a grill car, and coaches highballs through town.
  • 3:40 - PDX-2 arrives back in Old Saybrook from the Valley Line.
  • 4:10 - PDX-2, having finished its switching, departs Saybrook, westbound.
  • 4:17 - Train #174, the eastbound "Colonial" (D.C.-Boston), powered by DER-1s #0755 & 0748 and hauling parlors, a dining car, and coaches (likely PRR equipment), arrives, makes a station stop, and continues east.
Thus, endeth the session.


Couple of cool things to note:
  • A very busy 4 hour period on a typical weekday in Old Saybrook. But considering there were 71 trains in a 24hr period, this level of activity isn't too surprising.
  • 10 passenger trains (3 of which make station stops), 1 long through freight, and 2 local freights that swap cars and do local switching.
  • LOTS of DL-109s! To be truly prototypical, I'll need 14 different numbers (heh - maybe each loco could have a different number on each side - then I'd only need 7!). Of course, the engine numbers are all based on one particular day (4/20/1948). Substitutions regularly (and will) occur(red)
  • One steamer: I-5 #1405, on the Yankee Clipper, no less! (could have been pinch-hitting on 4/20/48)
  • Speaking of the Clipper - they pass through Old Saybrook within 17 minutes of each other
  • One long through freight, powered by DL-109s
  • PRR equipment (both the Senator and the Colonial make an appearance)
  • I really need an Engine Assignment Book from before 1948 (preferably Sept. 1946 or 1947). As I noted here, steam was alive and well for a few years after WWII, then quickly declined very fast (all diesel on the Shore Line by spring of 1948).
Hmmm.... I may need even MORE staging than I thought . . .

**Primary sources of NHRR data aggregated:
  • Arranged Freight Train Service Book No. 76, September 29, 1946
  • Arranged Freight Train Service Book No. 79, April 25, 1948
  • Employee Timetable No. 164, September 28, 1947
  • Public Timetable, September 28, 1947
  • "Locomotive Utilization - Tuesday, April 20, 1948"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wordy Wednesday - Second Time Saga in Saybrook/Staging

(I've received some positive feedback lately on my "Wordless Wednesday" explanations, and I'll continue to do those in the weeks ahead. But this week, we'll change tack totally and have a decidedly un-wordless Wednesday...)

While the initial reason for building this layout was to replicate the operations of the New Haven Railroad's "Valley Local" along the Connecticut River (informed heavily by the memories of one John Wallace), I'd always intended for the layout to try and represent railroad operations in the CT Valley generally along the entire line from Hartford to Old Saybrook.

But as my research continues to enrich my understanding of how the railroad operated in this area, my focus has - um - "evolved." There was evidence of this evolution from the earliest days of the layout - e.g. I'd always planned to have the Air Line come in to Middletown, just as it does in Wallace's descriptions of the Valley Local. The Air Line plays an important - though only a bit - part in the Local's operation. And so it does on my layout as well.

Old Saybrook has evolved a bit, well, differently. I'd always intended to have the "Saybrook Scene" greet visitors as they come down the basement stairs.  Since I live in Old Saybrook, including the station area is especially appropriate - but only as a backdrop to the Valley Local. Heck, at first this scene wasn't even going to be operational.

By the time I broke ground for Old Saybrook though, I'd already decided "it'd be a good idea" to make the Saybrook Scene at least workable - again, only as a minor bit player - and have the south end Valley local (a.k.a. PDX-2, the Shoreline Local from New London) come from "somewhere." So I built some staging.

Ain't it purdy?

The Shoreline local would start here and head up the Valley Line. The other tracks would be for "generic Shoreline trains" that would run around a "generic" dogbone loop through the Saybrook Scene.

So far, so good.

But then I did some more research and discovered that there were 71(!) trains through Saybrook in a typical day. And a funny thing happened: I started to actually care about those trains. The more I learned about them, the more I realized I wouldn't be content just having them being "generic" trains. I certainly couldn't represent all 71 of them, but I could at least have them come from the correct direction (eastbounds coming from the west and vice versa).

The final nails in the coffin of my complacency were my friends Randy and Tom who did a little impromptu ops session in Saybrook to see how the locals would interact. And while it was nice that the (mostly) prototype track layout in Saybrook operated (mostly) prototypically, "a few changes" were recommended. Worse, it became quickly apparent that the "generic" staging arrangement I had would have to be totally rethought and redone.

So, last Friday - when I thought I would push north to Essex, Randy and I instead ripped up most of the mainline in Old Saybrook and just-about-all of the "East End" (New London) staging.

The pictures tell (most of) the sad story...

ProTip: If you're modeling a prototype railroad and want it to operate prototypically, do your best to have your track arrangement follow the prototype - even if you don't (yet) understand what all the tracks do. In my defense, I'd only intended for this area to be "generic" bit-player support for the rest of the layout. But now that I really want to operate it according to the prototype, my track arrangement has to follow suit.

In the case of Saybrook itself, we had to swap the two crossovers so their orientation would reverse and we had to add an additional crossover to allow eastbound trains to get to the proper tracks. That required almost all of the mainline track to be removed, reconfigured, and replaced.

One consolation (other than the much-more-prototypical layout and operations): I finally got around to gluing down all the tracks behind the station (using my soon-to-be-patented weighting method).

The staging yard is undergoing even more extensive surgery - the entire throat has to be reconfigured. Again, since it was just supposed to be "generic" staging "from the east," it just fed the westbound mainline tracks assuming the westbounds would become eastbounds as they went around the west loop of the dogbone and came back through the scene.

Now, the yard will be able to feed - and receive - from both east and west. And it will be a full and equal complement to the "west end" staging yard I just finished.

Speaking of which...

 It really is finished - Pete came over Monday and wired it all up while I was working in Saybrook and (the other) staging and trying to repair all the damage that had been done on Friday get back to where I can operate again - this time, much more prototypically.

So this is the condition of the east end staging as of now. Still LOTS of work to be done. Suffice it to say that it won't be ready to operate by this Friday as I'd hoped. But, in the long run, it'll be worth it. And I only have to do this once, well, er, um, twice - right?

Saybrook is in much better shape. I finished redoing all of the trackwork Randy had started (a real pain considering all the precision required in locating turnouts and holes for turnout motor actuating rods), but I still need to rewire everything and reinstall turnout motors (Tortoise now, rather than MicroMark). And since I doubt all this (re)construction will have made it magically disappear, I still expect I'll have to address the shorting issue once everything's back together.

So, why take a perfectly good, large section of a layout and redo it? Well, if you're a prototype modeler you're not going to be completely happy if that section isn't as prototypical as possible - and operates as prototypically as possible. Besides, the real railroads change track arrangements all the time as business and needs evolve. So why shouldn't we?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tool Tip Tuesday: Dremel Flex Shaft (and finishing the Saybrook/Essex Liftout)

I haven't done much with the liftout "north" of the Saybrook wye since last August (except for one little "Stolen Hour" last November), but with the push north to Essex imminent - and bridging this gap critical to continuing track northward - I really needed to finally get'er done.

So, in my now-typical fashion, I put in the liftout, clamped it down, and laid track right across the gaps - nailing and gluing to keep the track secure once it's cut.

But how to cut it? I have a couple of choices, both made by Dremel.

One is their 4.8v MiniMite cordless mototool. I used that to cut the rails on the dropdown, but it got really slow as it ran out of juice (and it tends to run out of juice pretty quickly these days). It does have the benefit of being at-hand and there's no cord getting in your way.

The other tool is a FlexShaft attachment connected to a full-feature corded moto-tool, with a foot pedal speed adjustment.

They both use the abrasive cut-off wheel attachment.

I'd had to lay the turnout at the north end of the wye right up to the edge of the benchwork. So I thought it best to add rail joiners, solder the joint for stability (in addition to the nails and glue you see here), and then cut the rails (and, incidentally in this case, the joiners/solder too). I used the MiniMite for this job and it did ok. But I wasn't happy with how much of the solder it ground away and how wide a gap it made - due primarily to the fact it was so slow and I had to Wait SO Long for it to cut through. You can try your best to hold it perfectly still as you cut down, but having to wait so long, you're still apt to let the disk drift. And as you do, you remove more material side-to-side.
It did an adequate job though - but I may try to fill in that gap a bit later.

Also, even though the MiniMite is relatively small, it still doesn't let you hold the cutoff disk perpendicular to the rails for the smallest cut.

I made the second pair of cuts using the flex shaft - and you can (hopefully) see how much better a job it did. Not only was it fast (and safe given the speed control using the foot pedal), but I could put the shaft parallel to the rails and the cutoff wheel perpendicular to the rails. This all resulted in a much better cut.

The only downside to using this set-up was having to disconnect everything from where it was at my bench upstairs. But, even then, it took me only a few minutes. Not as convenient as having the MiniMite at-hand, but I did a much better job as a result.

So the lift out between the Saybrook Wye and Essex is finally finished and track laying can continue to Essex - just in time for what I hope to be my first operating session in over a year on Feb. 19th!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Coming & Going: Photo Serendipity & Stockcars for Brickyards

A little while back, a friend sent along the photo above - not having seen this week's Wordless Wednesday. But as you can see, it just so happens to be the "going away"companion photo to WW#105 - what a find!

So, yes, there were at least two stockcars behind the 517. Can't really tell if they're loaded or not, but assuming they're heading towards the packing plant, they are.

But if these cars are actually empty, it could be that this train will continue south past the quadrant switch, back up the Valley Line, cross the diamond, and head northwest toward the brickyards of East Berlin. I've heard that a common load for otherwise idle stockcars is brick, of all things. . . .

Can anybody else share some thoughts/speculations on this little storyboard?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A few more words about Wordless Wednesday #106

We have here the Airline Local passing eastbound under Main Street, Middletown, CT. You can just make out the back side of O'Rourke's diner (favorite lunchtime stop for Valley and Airline crews) which had "just" been built in 1941.

Best guess as to the date of this photo is that it's about 10 years later - c. 1951. Alco RS-3 #517 is the class engine for the New Haven's DERS-2c class and was delivered in 1950. And according to NHRR records, it would be assigned to the Cedar Hill (New Haven) to Old Saybrook local by April 27, 1952.

The local has at least one (or is it two?) stock cars in tow, and it's heading down the southwest quadrant track most likely on its way to the Middletown Meat Packing Co. about a mile or so south of town. Meat "on the hoof" is something that was fairly common on the Airline and Valley Lines, due to the big packing plant here. And I even heard somewhere that Middlefield, CT (about a dozen or so miles west of here on the Airline) had one of the biggest cattle auction venues in the region at one time. But stock cars on the New Haven were pretty rare, generally.

The Airline Local is still a 6-day-a-week job these days, and depending on which day this is, it'll be headed for East Berlin, Colchester, or even Chestnut Hill (outside of Willimantic) after it gets done with its work in Middletown.

While I won't be going this late on my railroad (despite accusations - and admissions - of Era Creep), it's always neat to see an Alco on the lines I'm modeling. Having a rare stock car in tow (not to mention an old-time view of my favorite restaurant) is just a bonus.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Drop Down (finally) Drops

As I mentioned, getting the drop down to actually drop down was next on my list of things to do.

Thankfully, I'd already done the prep work (click here for how I built it). The roadbed had been glued across the joint and cut along the joint the next day (after the glue had thoroughly set). Next I nailed three track nails on each side of the cut/joint and then added beads of Aileen's Tacky Glue to really weld everything in place.

Since those were such thick beads of glue, they took a couple days to dry thoroughly. Next I just had to cut the rails with a cut-off disk in my Dremel. But then the snow hit and the power went out.

So after our power came back on and I got all the snow shoveled, I got right to it. Took me about 15 minutes, mostly because I was using a VERY low torque cordless Dremel Mity Mite. I kept having to back it off and take another teensy bite, trying to be careful not to move the disk fore/aft too much and thereby widen the gap in the rail too much.

But since the only thing holding the drop down up were the rails (and, of course, the hook & eye), once the rails were cut (as well as the plastic webs underneath the rails - check with an Xacto), it worked just as I'd planned.

At about this time, I got called to dinner. We listened to Casey, Crime Photographer while we ate our pizza . . .

. . .then retired to the den to do some modeling while warmed by our little RR shanty stove. Despite the power outage (and my aching back from shoveling concrete wet snow), it's turning out to be a pretty great weekend.

A few MORE words about Wordless Wednesday #105

Heh - talk about going from "Wordless" to wordy. . . But John has some additional information to share about this week's WW that's too good not to share.

So, take it away John!
There was usually no need to wait at E. Haddam unless the first train to arrive was to receive a "hot" car from the second. The Shore Line local received the lion's share of this exchange and often was the reason for the Valley local running down to E. Haddam on other than Tues., Thurs., & Saturday. 
In my experience we would run to E. Haddam as well as Berlin on Mondays which created a long day for the crew. Cars from the B&M and NYC exchanged in Springfield were usually preblocked for Hartford and Ceder Hill. Hartford, being a smaller operation, could handle these cars faster than Cedar Hill and usually make the morning run of the Valley Local faster than they could if they were sent to New Haven. 
However, as traffic declined in the late '40s the Hartford yard activity began shifting to Cedar Hill. An example of this was the discontinuation of the through trains between Maybrook and Hartford. The cessation of the Hartford/Boston freights after the 1955 flood ended significant classsification activities at Hartford. I know the hump operation at Hartford was closed at some point during these years but I don't know exactly when. 
I think your records show that the Valley Local was cut back to 3 days per week in 1949 which was probably why Bill Beaupre bid a Springfield passenger job. He loved the Valley job and I doubt very much that he would have left it unless it became a financial necessity. 
Certainly on my list of things to do, especially now that layout construction is winding down, is to get a much better understanding of how the locals interacted with each other, how the cars were handled, etc. Fortunately, I have a few RR-produced booklets that give (at least part of) the official plan of operations, but there are plans and then there's reality. And nothing beats the memory of one who was actually there to tell you how things actually worked.

So thank you John - this information goes a long way toward filling in some of the knowledge gaps the RR paperwork leaves behind.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Drop Down That Doesn't Yet Drop Down

Lost power this afternoon and it's still out. No worries though since I have a generator - but I have to get to the circuit breaker box first. . .

Cutting the rails for the drop down in the new staging yard was actually next on the list - but just a wee bit too late.  Oooops!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A few words about Wordless Wednesday #105

A very good friend, whose judgement I trust implicitly, mentioned that it'd be nice to add "at least" a few words to my Wordless Wednesday posts - "A pic is only worth 992 words" after all. I admit, when I see such posts on other blogs, I hope for at least some basic caption info - and I'll try and do that a bit more in the future (except, of course, for "Name That Location" photos where I need your help). And I'll let you in on a little tip - the labels at the bottom of the post usually contain some important information as well.

But this photo definitely merits some additional attention. Perhaps not as many words as this post, but a few more words nevertheless. . .

This Kent Cochrane photo shows DEY-5 (S-2) #0604 northbound at East Haddam, CT probably c. 1949. It's one of the two Shoreline locals: In those days, there was one from New London and one from New Haven and they typically swapped cars in Old Saybrook. Depending on the year, one or the other would head up the Valley Line to exchange cars with the Valley Local which operated south from Hartford to this point. That's what the 0604 is doing here - coming in on the siding to drop cars. In this case, two PRR boxcars.  Could be that it's just sitting there waiting for the Valley Local - there's no crew in the cab keeping watch.

The old passenger station used to be located on the right (west) side of the tracks, but it's gone now. But the house in the background remains - the railroad used it as the first station here before they got theirs built. The house is still there today, owned by an employee of today's Valley Railroad.

The sheds on the left, as well as the freight house (mostly hidden by the engine) are still there too. In fact, all that's really changed since this photo was taken about 67 years ago is the freight train itself. There's no longer freight services on this portion of the line and the DEY-5 - and I daresay the cars and caboose - are long gone.

But the track is in better condition now than ever - and sees more passenger trains than ever too. Route 82 in the background is busier, but you can stand in this spot today and it won't take much effort at all to imagine the 0604 burbling through here once again.

Wordless Wednesday #105

Northward to East Haddam!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Springfield part deux)

I'm not exactly sure what year it started, but "a few years ago" Randy and I were sitting at the Steaming Tender restaurant after spending a particularly successful day at the Springfield show when we got a bright idea (egged on, in no small measure, by Bill - IIRC). The Steaming Tender has a beautiful dining room, set in the old waiting room of the Palmer, MA railroad station. Designed by renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the building itself is a wonder and the owners have done an amazing job restoring it. The food is pretty amazing too.

But, as you would imagine, a railroad-themed restaurant, in a magnificent railroad station, situated next to not one, but TWO major railroad lines, would be quite a draw for folks attending the show. And it is - so much in fact that I think the wait to get in was originally somewhere between one and two hours.

So, sitting there, enjoying our after-dinner beverages it occurred to us: The Steaming Tender has an ex-New Haven Railroad parlor car next to the restaurant that is used for "special parties." Well, we figured we'd qualify as a "special" party at least, so we plopped down a deposit that night, reserving the car for the next year. And we've had it firmly in hand ever since.

As wonderful as it is to be able to sit in a much quieter environment, surrounded by such lavish beauty, it's especially nice to know we have reserved seating - and there's no wait. Best of all though, we get to invite anywhere from 25-30 of our best friends to join us. YOU try getting a table that large! "Party of 30 - table 4." Not. You can freely move around and visit with all your buddies. The car is fully staffed and drinks and food are brought right to the car. I don't mind admitting it's a pretty sweet setup,

But like I said, the best part of all is being able to really spend some quality time with folks you probably only get to see once a year - and you don't have to worry about catching them during the show itself. Here are some quick pics of the "special parties" that showed up to the party this year...

(You'll only get this if you listen to the "A Modeler's Life" podcast)