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"


  1. When you start getting into your motive power, I would highly recommend looking to esu loksound for your DL-109s. They have a specific alco 539T prime mover for these locomotives. Also, for your steam locomotives, I would reccomend tcs wow sound steam. Using these decoders in your locomotives should make things a lot more realistic and fun during an op session (it's more fun to blow the horn at crossings than to run in silence!).


    1. Hi Brett and thanks for stopping by! I'm so sorry I somehow missed this comment when you posted it and hope by some chance you'll see my reply. Thanks very much for the ESU recommendation - I'll definitely do that! I heard the DL-109 soundfiles on their website and they're AMAZING! I'm interested in your TCS/WOW sound recommendation for the steam - could you elaborate? Do those decoders have operational braking by any chance? Thanks again for stopping by - hope you're enjoying the blog. Best, Chris