Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday Fun - The Maybrook Gateway

One of the pleasures of this hobby is collecting, and of all the things we can collect - whether locomotives, cars, kits, or whatever - my favorite, by far, is books. I've spent almost 40 years collecting railroad books, with a special focus (not surprisingly) on New England railroad subjects. And I don't mind admitting that I probably have every book related to the New Haven Railroad.

At least I thought I did.

But a couple of weeks ago, my buddy Randy started texting me about a particular book he got and how much great information it had on freight traffic to & from the New Haven through its Maybrook Gateway. Smugly, I mentioned that I probably had it already and went over to my bookcase to retrieve it.

Heh - suffice it to say, the Maybrook book I had was not the book Randy was so excited about and when I saw the cover, I realized that this was one of those rare New Haven books that somehow got past me.

Until now . . .

Thanks to the wonders of the internet (and to the chagrin of many second-hand book dealers, I'm afraid), I was able to find a copy of this book in less than 10 minutes online (and I've since learned that it's actually still available as a print-on-demand). I vaguely remembered coming across this book at one of the train show some years ago, but wasn't super impressed with the number of photos, so figured I'd pick it up "sometime."

Turns out the photos are really not the point of this book (though it turns out they're just fine - and include many that have never been published before) - it is an absolutely fascinating read and tells you everything you need to know about how freight traffic was diverted from the congestion and car floats of NYC and funneled through Maybrook, NY and across the famed Poughkeepsie Bridge into Southern New England.

I suppose it's technically a "New Haven RR" book since Maybrook yard was really a NHRR yard - and the Maybrook Line across the bridge and into New England was definitely New Haven. But the author goes into a lot of detail about all the railroads that connected to the New Haven at Maybrook, and tells the story of how the traffic developed and moved through this all-important, and sadly long-gone, gateway.

The book opens with a lament, heard all too often among politicians and transportation advocates these days that "it would be so nice if there was a way to get rail freight across the Hudson and into southern New England without having to go all the way up to Albany or having to enlarge the tunnels under Manhattan." Well, such a route actually used to exist and "The Maybrook Gateway" by Peter Brill tells the fascinating story of its rise and unfortunate fall.

If you're a fan of the New Haven - or the Erie, O&W, L&NE, or L&HR - you'll definitely want to add this book to your collection.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Throwback Thursday - Cape Cod Train

This Throwback Thursday is either "just a little back" or "waaaaay back", depending on your perspective. 

In one sense, it was just last week - last Friday, August 21st to be exact - that The Missus and I took a day trip out to Cape Cod (first time out of state this year!). And it just so happened that while we were headed through Sandwich, MA - after just having come across the canal - we heard a train horn and were able to catch the Cape Cod Central's morning excursion heading back east to Hyannis.

In another sense though, this post goes back to 26 years ago last Friday when I proposed to The Miss (who later became The Missus) aboard that same train - but that time, it was a dinner train and was heading westbound along the Cape Cod Canal at sunset.

Strange coincidence that we happened to see the train last Friday - we don't usually, and actually wasn't seeking it out (it didn't even occur to me that it'd be running, with COVID and all, and especially it not even being a weekend). But getting away for a day to where it all started over a quarter-century earlier, and then actually seeing the train as well, was pretty cool.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Modeling Monday - More on the Dividend House

After having some fun setting up an ops session and actually doing some solo operating, it was time to get back to the Dividend house.

Once the sides of the modified porch support were dry, I added a couple of scrap pieces of square styrene to provide additional gluing surface (having first cut down the ledger board to fit width-wise).

I used a square to hold things square while the glue dried.

Next, I added the legs to the porch and the porch roof - again, using my 1-2-3 blocks to keep things square (I'm really liking these - thanks again for the tip Craig!)

During another "spare" 15 minutes on a different evening, I removed paint from gluing surfaces - using a sanding block for the edges of the walls and a blade to scrape away from the bracing.

The one step in structure assembly that I think is both the easiest (in concept) and the hardest (in execution) is actually gluing the walls together and keeping them square while doing it (and keeping the parts nice and tight to each other all the while).

I've tried magnetic gluing jigs, squares, and just holding them with my bare hands in a way that "looks right" while the glue cured. This time, I opted for a square.

While that was drying, I cut down the porch roof.

I'd marked the width based on an even overhang around the porch roof support. Before actually gluing the roof, I'll paint and weather the roof support as well as the porch itself.

Heh - in addition to all the other methods I mentioned above, and in lieu of just using my hands (which would have grown tired) I decided to use this handy clamp to keep the lower corners snug on these walls. The other corners were nice and tight, but these needed some extra persuasion, and time.
As harrowing as gluing the walls together can be sometimes, it's also the one step in the process where you really get the joy of seeing how it's all going to look. Allofasudden, you go from essentially 2-dimensional pieces to an actual 3-d structure. And I think this one is going to work out nicely.

So that's all the modeling progress to report for this past week. In addition, I decided to set-aside my steam decoder conversion project (for reasons I may get into later), got a cool new book on the New Haven's famed Maybrook Line, and even got to go on a little day trip (first one of 2020!) where I happened across an ex-NH unit in operation!

But all that will have to wait until next time - and until then, I hope you're able to get to some modeling too!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday Solo Session - The Airline Local, Part 1

If not having regular ops sessions is one of the lemons of life lately, then being able to operate your own layout is definitely the lemonade. After all the setup required for one of my typical sessions, it's all over in a bit over 3 hours during one evening. Reminds me of a holiday dinner: the eating only takes a small fraction of the prep and cooking.

But setting up a session for myself actually results in at least four sessions, one per local freight, or even five, if you count a session to just run all the Shore Line trains per the timetable. It's like the Crock Pot of operations: Do a lot of prep work once, operate all week (or month, depending how fast you eat operate).

So, having done all the set up, I decided to operate the Airline Local first. Follow along to see how all the preparation breathes life into the layout . . .
By the time we get to Somerset, the local has already pulled 4 cars from the back track and spotted them on the main. The empty gon was from behind the coal tower, the empty flat came from the smelter works, and one of the boxcars is being pulled from the barrel factory. The other boxcar has to be respotted at the factory, but the other three cars will go back to Cedar Hill yard, where the local originated

The first three cars in the local's train are all destined for Somerset and are being used here to pull the empty hopper from Derwin Coal.

The rest of the train is left on the main.

The empty hopper and the two boxcars are placed temporarily on the siding. The hopper will need to be respotted near Derwin's, since it's not slated to be picked up yet, and the boxcars will be spotted at the bulk track.

First though, the loaded hopper needs to be spotted . . .

. . . then the cars can be picked up from the siding to be moved over to the bulk track.

UGH! In keeping with the spirit of branchline railroading, the empty hopper obliged by splitting the switch and derailing.

Once re-railed, the cars could finally be spotted.

The local uses the siding to store cars which will be picked up on the way back to Cedar Hill later in the day. Now that the siding is empty, they can move this cut over.

First though, they need to respot the DLW car at the barrel factory. Had to climb up on a boxcar roof to get this shot!

Then it's back to get the pickups put over on the siding for later in the day.

Backing down the siding to spot the Cedar Hill-bound cars.

With the Somerset switching done, the local pins on to the rest of its train and pumps up the air prior to departure for Mill Hollow and Middletown.

While waiting, the conductor reviews his paperwork: Wheel report on the left shows delivery of 3 cars to Somerset and still have 6 to take to Middletown for HDX-7/The Valley Local. The Somerset switchlist on the right (which the crew picked up from the bill box when they got to town) shows the 3 cars picked up and spotted on the siding. They'll get those on their way back to Cedar Hill this evening.

Once the air is up and the brakes tested, they whistle off.

Here's the local coming into Mill Hollow . . .

. . . but a check of the bill box show that there's no work here today. And there are no cars in the train for Mill Hollow either, so they continue on to Middletown.

Airline local passing under Main Street, Middletown. The back of O'Rourke's Diner can be seen right next to the overpass.

The Airline local just drops off cars for Middletown and picks up any Airline/Cedar Hill-destined cars. It leaves the switching in town to the Valley Local. Here we see the Airline local backing into the yard to drop off its cars.

Leaving just one crewmember for point protection, the rest of the gang drops off the caboose to wait for the engine . . .

Once the cut of cars is spotted on Yard Track 2, the conductor takes his paperwork to the yard office and the rest of the crew join the engineer and fireman in the cab.

Lots of work being left for the Valley Local: There was already a switchlist there, showing what cars in town are ready for pickup. There are also 2 empties going back to Hartford Yard, and a couple of cars left from yesterday's Airline local that need to be delivered to towns between Middletown and Hartford. And then there's today's cars - 6 of'em on the list our conductor is leaving in the office.

Once the conductor joins the rest of the crew in the engine, the hogger pulls out the throttle and runs south, light, to get some water for the tank . . .

. . . and some lunch for a hungry crew. O'Rourke's Diner is a convenient walk from the water spout - just up a flight of stairs. Hot coffee and a corned beef sandwich will hit the spot nicely on this clear, crisp October day.
While the engine and crew are filling up and waiting for Valley Local to arrive, we'll hop in our souped-up, flathead 8 powered roadster and see if we can catch another one of the local freights in the area. It's 1948, so no highways, but the roads aren't busy and with the top - and the pedal - down, we should be able to see a lot more railroading before the day is done. Hope you can stay along for the ride!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Friday Fun: Ops Session Setup

I've said before that it's ironic that layout owners seldom operate their own layouts, often playing host for operating sessions instead. Seems the only time we really get to participate in any way (other than by acting as dispatcher, trainmaster, or troubleshooter) is through a "pre-ops ops session" - aka ops session setup - where you get to act as freight agent, yard clerk, and transportation manager all at the same time.

Now though, with so many ops sessions on hiatus for the duration, many layout owners are taking this opportunity to scratch the operating itch by - gasp! - actually operating what they've built, all by themselves. And while I've been enjoying (and not enjoying) doing some modeling and making more progress on the layout where & when I can lately, my favorite aspect of the hobby - right after research - is operations.

Before you can operate though, you have to get things set up. The links above provide an overview, but I thought it'd be fun to document my process in a bit more detail here.

I start by consulting my Ops Session Checklist which lists all the steps required:

Remember, you can always click on the image for a larger view.
The first step is to grab a bunch of blank switchlists and go to each town to record the cars, their location, and where they're headed. Since the New Haven was basically a large terminal railroad, most of the cars going out are empties.

Here we are in Saybrook where we record 4 cars - 2 tanks & 2 boxcars - all headed back west to Cedar Hill yard in New Haven.

Another example: Wethersfield, where there's a car on the bulk track, in front of Gra-Rock and a boxcar at the house track. Both of these cars are also bound for Cedar Hill yard, but since Wethersfield is served only by the Valley Local (HDX-7) and it doesn't go to Cedar Hill, these cars will have to be transferred to HDX-12 (the Airline Local) in Middletown for further forwarding. They're headed ultimately to Oak Point and off the property to the PRR.

Once I've recorded the cars in each of the towns, the next step is to tell the spreadsheet what spots are occupied. Keeping with our Wethersfield example, I've entered an "X" in two spots which stand for a boxcar at the Wethersfield bulk track and a boxcar at the Wethersfield house track.

As I'm noting ("X"-ing) what cars are where, the spreadsheet is determining which cars are to be picked up, which cars are to be left alone, and what industries/spots need cars (and what type of car they need). In the photo above, you can see that one of the boxcars at Hartford Rayon won't be picked up during this session.

I then just go back and erase those cars from the switchlists.

I build my four local freights with the cars in the "Deliver" column of the spreadsheet.

  • HDX-7 originates in Hartford Yard and serves Wethersfield, Rocky Hill/Dividend, Cromwell, Middletown, East Haddam (where it exchanges cars with PDX-2), and East Berlin. It then returns to Hartford.
  • HDX-12 originates in Cedar Hill Yard and serves the towns of Somerset and Mill Hollow and also leave cars for - and picks up cars from - HDX-7 in Middletown. It then returns to Cedar Hill.
  • PDX-1 (the Shore Line Local) originates in Cedar Hill, switches Old Saybrook (leaving westbound cars for - and picking up eastbound cars from - PDX-2), and terminates at Fort Yard in New London.
  • PDX-2 (the Haddam Local) originates in Fort Yard, swaps cars with PDX-1 in Old Saybrook, and serves Essex, Deep River, and East Haddam - where it exchanges cars with HDX-7. It then heads back down the branch to Saybrook and continues west to Cedar Hill, where it terminates.

The cars to be delivered go into the trains that serve the towns the cars are going to. But there are exceptions. For example, based on what I know about my prototype's operations, I know that most of the traffic coming into Middletown comes via the Air Line Local (HDX-12). So you see noted above that two boxcars are destined for the Middletown house tracks via HDX-12. So even though HDX-7 serves Middletown, these cars being delivered will be placed in HDX-12's consist for delivery.

I keep track of the number of cars in each local - but note that HDX-7 and PDX-1 each got one car added . . .

Like the Middletown example above, you see in this photo that the hopper of coal consigned to the Essex Bulk Track is coming via PDX-1. Coal tends to come from the south (so through Cedar Hill yard) and not from the east (Fort Yard/New London) nor the north (Hartford Yard). So the best routing for coal to Essex is for PDX-1 to bring it from Cedar Hill and transfer it to PDX-2 at Old Saybrook. I also have a load of utility poles going to Deep River, but they're coming from the north - through Hartford Yard and down the Valley on HDX-7 to East Haddam, where they'll be transferred to PDX-2 for their final delivery.

Fun, eh? Actually, using your prototype research to imagine all this traffic is pretty fun. And we haven't even started the ops session yet!

Here are the component parts of HDX-7's paperwork to illustrate further. On the left, you see the note about the poles. On the right you see HDX-7's wheel report, which is a listing of all the cars in its train to be delivered (gleaned from the spreadsheet), blocked according to town. The last entry is the last car in the train - a gondola load of poles. Also, since this car will be left for a subsequent local freight for delivery to the final destination, I've completed a waybill that will be left with the car in East Haddam. The waybill replaces the old (and unprototypical) "Car Transfer Form" I'd been using to accomplish the same purpose (providing paperwork to go with the car which instructs the subsequent local what to do with the car).

And here is HDX-7 staged and ready to go . . . 11 cars . . .

plus the gondola makes a total of 12 cars in its train.

Then just "rinse & repeat" for the other locals:

  1. See the spreadsheet for what types of cars need to be delivered and where.
  2. Create trains with those cars.
  3. Note swapping between trains as required.

Here's the Airline Local (HDX-12) staged with 9 cars from Cedar Hill yard for delivery - a whopping 6 of which will be transferred to HDX-7 in Middltown. Per the prototype, the Airline local just drops and picks up cars in Middletown and the Valley Local does all the switching. I didn't bother writing up waybills for the 6 transfer cars since HDX-12 will be able to just leave this list with the cars.

Here's PDX-1 staged at "Cedar Hill" staging, track 2. There are only 4 cars on its wheel report, including that hopper of coal for PDX-2 to deliver to Essex (and its associated waybill). The remaining cars in the train are ostensibly destined for Fort Yard having been picked up from towns between New Haven and New London.

Finally, here's PDX-2 staged in Fort Yard/New London. Seven cars, all being delivered to towns it serves, so no transfers (or waybills).

So there you have it! I'm all set up for another session (actually, if you paid attention to the Ops Session Checklist above, you'll note that I also had to stage 7 Shore Line trains, but those are easy and outside the scope of this post). Writing it all down, my process may seem more complicated and time-consuming than it is.

Or maybe I just enjoy playing the role of freight agent - drinking my coffee and listening to big band music as I imagine all the different freight traffic coming into, and leaving, the Connecticut River Valley during the late 1940s.

It's that type of immersion that really starts to transport you to a different time and place and is where prototype modeling shines the most. Ops session setup - especially what I go through - may be a bit overboard but it's enjoyable in its way. And it literally sets the stage for my favorite part of the hobby - actually operating all these local freights and doing the "retail railroading" that was an everyday part of the Mighty New Haven.