Monday, September 28, 2020

More on Cycle Trains....

As I've been doing some research lately (on the NHRR's J-1 class Mikados, in case you have any info to share ;^) I came across the following article from the May 2, 1936 issue of Railway Age magazine which covers the New Haven's cycle trains shortly after the first one ran.

Hope you enjoy this additional little journey down Memory Lane . . .

Monday Memory - On the New Haven RR, 79 Years Ago Today . . . Cycle Trains

(Ok - so this post has nothing to do with the Valley Line, and I post it on this day every year, but I include it because it gives me a chance to combine my two primary passions: the New Haven Railroad & bicycling.  It's also an absolutely wonderful window into the past - a veritable time machine, a trip down Memory Lane despite the fact that you're viewing it on a computer or tablet. So, turn back the pages of history and get a little glimpse of what life was like in New England on the New Haven Railroad on the eve of World War II, exactly 79 years ago today . . .click to cue the music) 

September 28, 1941 was a Sunday. An early autumn day in Southern New England, clear and mild.

World War II had been raging in Europe for exactly two years this month.  The German army had advanced into the Soviet Union over the summer and was riding high on the success of having already conquered most of Western Europe.  France had just been split into German-occupied and Vichy zones the previous month.

It wasn't learned until much later that at some point in the days leading up to September 28, 1941, there was an important meeting concerning Nazi Germany's capacity to develop nuclear weapons.  We thought the atomic age didn't start until four years later.

We didn't yet have to "Remember Pearl Harbor."

On this particular Sunday, the Japanese were celebrating the 10 year anniversary of occupying China's northeast territory of Manchuria.  At some point during that same day, perhaps as some sign of heaven's outrage at such an audacious celebration, the sun was blacked out during a total eclipse visible in most of China - from just northeast of the Black Sea to the Pacific ocean.

Just three weeks earlier, the Japanese government assured President Roosevelt that it had "no imperialist designs on any foreign nation."

Britain had survived the Blitz, which ended the previous May - the same month Glenn Miller first recorded "Chattanooga Choo Choo" which was featured in a hit movie starring Sonja Henie.  "Blue Champagne" by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra was the #1 song of the land on September 28, but the Henie movie, "Sun Valley Serenade," was released to theaters exactly a month earlier.  By then "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was already a top ten on the Hit Parade, well on its way to becoming the first gold record ever the following February.  It was the nation's #1 hit by that December.

Bobby-soxers fed the voracious appetite of juke boxes across the country one nickle at a time and made Frank Sinatra the top male vocalist that year.

Families had probably gone to church that Sunday morning in Connecticut, though some navy yard workers may have slept in having worked so hard to launch the Gato Class submarine USS Greenling (SS-213) at the Electric Boat Co., in Groton the previous Saturday.  Some were still marking the 3 year anniversary of the Great New England Hurricane that devastated the Connecticut coast and rendered Hollywood screen siren Katherine Hepburn temporarily homeless, having to rebuild her family's home in Old Saybrook.

But there was no sign of bad weather on this day, and at least a few folks took advantage of the beautiful Sunday afternoon to go for a bike ride and have a picnic - all courtesy of the New Haven Railroad.

There aren't many left that remember the "Hobby Trains" run by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (aka the "New Haven") during the late 1930s and early 1940s.  In an effort to boost ridership, the New Haven took advantage of the fact that their railroad connected the Great Metropolis of New York with New England.  There were camp trains in the summer and ski trains in the winter.  Photography specials in the spring and all year 'round.  But what better time for a Bike Train than Autumn and what better place than the Berkshire Hills?

Thanks to a discovery of raw film footage by the NHRHTA, we can go back to that Sunday almost eight decades ago and enjoy the sights of a pre-war bike ride.  You'll have to pedal your single-speed cruiser over a bunch of rolling hills before you get to eat.  Don't worry if you have to walk up some of them - and ladies, be sure to mind your skirts that they don't get caught in the spokes.  There are no "rest stops" as we think of on 21st century rides - bits of orange and Powerbars - but an entire spread complete with potato salad, Boston baked beans, chicken and watermelon awaits us.

So give your Schwinn, Columbia or Raleigh to the porter to put in the baggage car, give the conductor your ticket, and enjoy the trip.  The train is about to arrive at the station . . .

For more about the cycle trains - and all the other "Hobby Trains" the New Haven Railroad ran - be sure to check out the comprehensive article by Marc Fratassio in Volume 40, Issue 2 of the NHRHTA's Shoreliner magazine.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A Few Words about Wordless Wednesday #334: 3016 at Saybrook


You may have heard me mention that I'm doing some research on the New Haven RR's class J-1 2-8-2 Mikados in preparation for an article in the NHRHTA's Shoreliner magazine. Like most NHRR fans, I'm pretty familiar with the J-1, especially since one of them was brought off the scrap line for a movie starring Doris Day (which, incidentally, was also mostly filmed along the Valley Line). Alas! that locomotive - the #3016 - was the last remaining New Haven steam locomotive and it was scrapped shortly after the movie wrapped up.

You may have also heard me mention that I'm planning to model two of the J-1s: one as power for the Airline local (#3022), and one as power for one of the Shore Line locals. I haven't/hadn't decided which one to do, though my 1948 era limits me to two numbers: 3013 and 3016 (long story - it has to do with tender size - and I'm not going to take you down that rabbit hole, at least not yet :^). 

Now, all things being equal, I'm a bit of a contrarian and since most NH modelers that model the J-1 choose to model the 3016 (for the sentimental reasons above), I figured I'd model the 3013.

Then this image popped up during my research. Actually, I literally had just randomly grabbed it out of a sleeve to test a transparency scanner I'd just installed. I didn't even bother looking at what was written on the slide - all I figured is that it was a J-1.

Imagine my surprise when this image filled my screen! The setting looked oddly familiar - and then I looked at the writing on the slide: "NH 3016 Saybrook 1948"


It's a New Haven J-1

In color

In a town I model

During the year I model

The photo is even taken from the "other" side of the tracks (a fairly uncommon perspective) - which also happens to be how my model of this area is oriented.

So what number do you think I'm gonna model now?! :^)

* * *

It's often easy, especially after you've been working on a layout for a while, to figure you know just about everything there is to know about your prototype and have probably seen all the photos of the area you're modeling that you're gonna see. So when a photo of your area, in your era, which also includes something you're planning on modeling, pops up that you've never seen before . . . . well, that's definitely something special - and about as close to treasure as you get in this hobby.

Thanks to Jack Swanberg for loaning me his J-1 images (which included this slide) and thanks to all of you for accompanying me on this crazy journey - though I suspect more than a few of you can relate . . .

Monday, September 21, 2020

Monday Memory - On the New Haven, 82 Years Ago Today . . .The Great New England Hurricane

September 21, 1938 marks a somber - and for the New Haven Railroad, a devastating - event in history.

Making landfall that dayThe Great New England Hurricane was - and remains - the most powerful and deadly storm to hit New England in at least 300 years. It killed an estimated 682 people, damaged or destroyed 57,000 homes and cost an estimated $5.6 billion in 2019 dollars. Even as late as 1951, you could still see damaged trees and buildings.

The New Haven's Shore Line route was hit especially hard. . .

But the railroad - despite being in receivership after having gone into bankruptcy a few years earlier - restored its many washed-out lines in record time. The little booklet above tells the story:
"On September 21st, 1938, with flood waters already threatening major washouts at important points along the New Haven Railroad where the tracks paralleled or crossed the swollen torrents of New England's rivers...suddenly, just before dark, in the teeth of a howling southwest gale which increased momentarily to hurricane proportions, a steadily rising tide which in some places rose twenty feet in as many minutes, swept inland along the New England coast-line across the Shore Line Route of the New Haven Railroad...carrying on its crest hundreds of boats, ships, cottages, buildings, and wreckage. Communications by rail, wire, and telephone with many devastated areas was completely cut off. No one realized as yet what a staggering blow had been dealt by this combined hurricane - tidal wave - flood throughout the length and breadth of southern New England. But the next morning revealed a grim picture of death and desolation. Where fast freights and through passenger trains, including the crack Shore Line Limiteds had sped in rapid succession between New York and New England points carrying passengers, mail, express, and the vital necessities of miles of silent track hung at crazy angles over yawning chasms in a hopeless tangle of power lines, signal towers, houses, boats, and thousands of tons of debris. Further inland at Hartford, Springfield, Norwich, Willimantic, and Putnam the hurricane had left its toll of felled trees and communication systems, crumbled freight sheds and roofless factories...and to add to the chaos, the raging rivers from the north broke through dams and temporary dikes, washing out railroad bridges and miles of track...rendering useless the strategic points through which Shore Line trains might have been re-routed. The vital life-line between New England and points south and west had been effectually severed. It had to be restored without delay. Thousands of men were needed for the Herculean task of rebuilding a railroad. The summoning of trackmen, engineers, skilled repair crews, and laborers had to be carried out without the help of modern communications systems. In an incredibly short time an army of 5,000 men were at work...toiling 24 hours a day in 3 shifts...many of them eating and sleeping in work trains and Pullman cars on the job..."
For more photos, be sure to check out this site.

Those of us living in New England a few years back went through "Superstorm Sandy" and got a taste of what The Great New England Hurricane might have been like. But, as it turns out, it was a pretty small taste - as bad as Sandy was, it didn't come anywhere close. Check out this site for an eye-opening comparison of the two storms.

There are fewer and fewer folks that have first-hand memories of that fateful day over 80 years ago, but thanks to the extensive coverage the storm received - not to mention the wonders of the internet that allow all that coverage to be easily saved and shared - the heroic efforts of the employees of the New Haven Railroad, including those on the Valley Line and most especially along the Shore Line, will never be forgotten.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Short Sunday Solo Session: Eastbound Shore Line Local (PDX-1)

I'm discovering that there's nothing quite like the relaxation and pleasant diversion you get from just operating a local freight train. Lots of others got to this party before me, but - driven by the lack of formal op sessions - I've just recently arrived at this realization, having operated the outbound leg of the Airline Local just a few weeks ago. As I mentioned back then, my session setup resulted in a nice full crock pot of operations that I could feed off of for a while. And so, having hopped back in the roadster, I headed down to Saybrook Junction to see if I could catch the eastbound local freight. . .

Luckily, we got there just as it was nosing into the balloon track/Track 6 . . .

PDX-1 (Providence Division Local No. 1) is the eastbound local that works all the trailing point switches between Cedar Hill Yard (New Haven) and Fort Yard (New London). Since it needs to stay out of the way of the busy Shore Line traffic, it doesn't bother with facing point industries - taking cars consigned to those spots all the way to Saybrook where they're left for the westbound local (PDX-2) to take care of.

PDX-1 continues east on Track 6 behind the station.

According to the paperwork, the local has 3 boxcars to leave on the Saybrook bulk track (what the NHRR calls a team track), and one hopper of coal to leave for PDX-2 to take up the Valley Line to Essex.

We also check in with the Saybrook agent who gives us the paperwork for the cars in town that need to be dealt with. We see that the two tank cars (at Chapman's) and the two boxcars (currently on the bulk track) are going back west to Cedar Hill yard, so we'll move those over to Track 5 for later pickup by PDX-2.

The two waybills are for loaded hoppers that are already on Track 5 for the westbound local to take up the Valley Line.

The crew's first move is to pin off the 3 cars consigned to the Saybrook bulk track and use those as a handle to pull the cars off Tracks 8 (bulk track) and 10 (Chapman's/house track).

They clear the bulk track by putting all four cars headed back to Cedar Hill onto Track 10 temporarily . . .

. . . and then spot the three drops on the bulk track.

Next, they pick up the cars from Track 10 . . .

And move back over to Track 6 to pick up the load of coal destined for Essex via PDX-2.

Down at the east end of Track 6, the local has to wait for permission to get on the main and have the switch aligned . . .

. . . and then they have a stressful - and fast - move to get out of Track 6 and back down through the crossovers onto Track 5 before another Shore Line train is due through.

Once clear of the mainline tracks, the crew can take its time spotting the cars for PDX-2. The two loaded hoppers that were already there, as well as today's hopper delivery, are all at the west end of this cut of cars - positioned perfectly for PDX-2 to pick them up and take them up the branch later. The remaining 4 cars (two tanks, two boxcars) will remain on Track 5 until PDX-2 comes back down off the branch and picks them up to continue west to Cedar Hill.

PDX-1's crew leaves the paperwork for these cars for PDX-2 (above) and, once the main is clear again, they run light (and quickly) back across the main tracks to pick up the rest of their train that's been sitting on Track 6 (the balloon track behind the station).

Once coupled up and the brakes are tested, it's time to continue east to Fort Yard, New London, and home.

As you can see, there's only one actual town (Saybrook) for PDX-1 to switch on my layout - all the rest of the traffic (cars from towns west of Saybrook, and cars for towns east of Saybrook) is simulated by being included in the train, but those cars aren't actually switched. They just go from staging to staging.

But hopefully you can see how immersive even switching one town can be - especially when that one town also happens to be on a mainline that saw over 70 trains a day! There can be a lot of waiting for permission to foul the main - and then a lot of scurrying when that permission is finally granted and switches are thrown for you. And while we didn't see all that mainline traffic today, rest assured it's there during a formal session. And with a 4:1 fast clock, you've got to keep your wits about you - just like on the prototype.

Now that the eastbound local has left town, we need to check our watches and decide if we want to wait for the westbound local to appear, or head back up the Valley to catch up with the Airline Local - or maybe we'll even get a glimpse of the famed Valley Local!

Thankfully, the flathead '8 is purring nicely and ready for whenever we finally make a decision . . . Ah, the "problem" of having so many great trains to chase during the Autumn of 1948 . . .

Friday, September 11, 2020

Friday Fun: DERS-2b, New Tools, New Project

Went over to Randy's place last night to help on his layout and caught these images of his just-completed RS-2 (New Haven class DERS-2b):

You may recall I did an article showing how I detailed a factory-painted Proto 1000 loco to match NHRR #510, but that's basically where Randy started and then he went WAY beyond what I did, adding a lot of additional detail. Be sure to check out his build thread for how he created this amazing model.

In other news....

One of the running-jokes among folks that visit for open houses and op sessions is that first-timers often go to our neighbor's house first, instead of our house. Makes some sense - not only is the neighbor's house right next to the tracks, but there's a big RR crossing sign attached to the outside wall. So it's an easy mistake to make. Fortunately, the neighbor is a friendly sort - and a bit of a 'buff as well - so he just points folks in the right direction - just the next house over.

Well, the neighbor is moving and downsizing so that RR crossing sign is now in my basement. AND just the other day he came by to give me these:

His father had hired out on the New Haven and he had these laying around for years. I don't know what they're for (I think the long one might be a joint bar wrench), but they're both clearly (and not-so-clearly) marked "NYNH&H" so they'll make fine additions to the display with my RR stove and scoop!

Click on the links above for more about these items...

I injured my thumb while helping out Bill with his new layout build last week, so I haven't been doing any modeling lately. But I've started gathering material and doing research for what I hope will be a feature article in the NHRHTA's Shoreliner magazine. As I turned my focus to modeling the Airline Local's steam power - specifically class J-1 #3022 - I was surprised to discover that the J-1 had never been covered in the Shoreliner. So, I figured since I was gathering research/info for my modeling project anyway, I might as well do an article too.

So that's what I've been spending my hobby time on lately.... but once I can hold things again, I have a decoder install to do and a house to finish . . . So stay tuned - and here's hoping you're able to get to your layouts and workbenches soon too - Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Friday Fun - Labor Day Weekend, 1948

It was 72 years ago this weekend - the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, I'm told - when an 8 year old little boy went down to the Old Saybrook station platform to watch trains. The sun was going down - it'd be totally set within a few minutes - and in the gathering dusk a dull roar like thunder could be heard . . .

Looking eastward down the tracks, toward the gathering darkness, the sound seemed to get closer and he could just start to make out what looked like a plume of smoke - or maybe it was two? That didn't make sense. Almost all of the trains on the Shore Line were dieselized now, but, as loud as a pair of back-to-back DL-109s are, they sure don't sound like this . . .

But it was the glimmer on the rails, lighting up the curve in the far distance, that was the first giveaway that a train was for-sure coming. Of course, the little boy knew a train was due. He'd been into trains for as long as he could remember and he knew how to read a timetable.

He knew that the approaching train had just crossed the Connecticut River and was accelerating hard off the bridge. It sure sounded like it - and the distinctive bark meant this train had to have a steam locomotive on the point. And with it being a little past 7pm, that meant it had to be The Merchant's Limited.

But was it early? The Merchants wasn't due through Saybrook until 7:17 . . . but just then, the train came blasting around the distant curve - exhaust roaring and headlight blazing! Before he could fully comprehend it all, The Advance Merchants Limited flew by at 65 miles an hour behind not one, but TWO! I-4 Pacifics with 23 heavyweight parlor cars on their tail.

In the rush of the passing train, little John Pryke could just make out the glow of two fireboxes and just as quickly as it had come, it was gone again with the tail sign receding quickly toward the sunset.

As the dust settled and the thunder of the Merchants' passing began to fade, the impression of the sight seared itself into the little boy's memory, and sparked a passion for the New Haven Railroad that would last the rest of his life and spur him into recreating this memory in miniature, someday.

* * * * * * * *

I try to relate this story at or at least near the anniversary of this event, which is all - mostly - verified as true. Especially since it not only inspired John to a life-long love of the New Haven RR, but - indirectly - influenced my choice not only of prototype, but of era and locale. John often mentioned visiting his grandparents in Old Saybrook and going with them down to the station to watch the trains go by. And he remembers seeing the double-headed, steam-powered Advance Merchant's Limited the Friday evening of Labor Day Weekend, 1948. It was this event, more than anything else, that he always pointed to as the inspiration for getting into model railroading and trying to recreate the New Haven in HO scale.

In fact, all of John's layouts - all featured at one time or another in books or the pages of Model Railroader - were firmly set in space and time: Southern New England's New Haven Railroad was the space, and the time could only ever be "September, 1948."

Now, almost seven years after his passing, I'm closer than ever to being able to recreate this memory in miniature. I have the Old Saybrook station scene as a highlight on my layout and, while I don't mind varying my chosen era within the narrow confines of "1947-1949," for all intents and purposes I'm modeling the Autumn of 1948.

I think - and hope - John would be proud the effort. And I know he'd get a kick out of seeing a little HO scale version of his 8 year old self on the Saybrook station platform, waiting for another train to go by . . .

* This post originally appeared 9/27/2018, 70 years to the month since the event took place. I've reposted it not only to commemorate such an important time in John's life, but to remind myself that preserving these memories is one of the reasons for embarking on this project in the first place.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Wordless Wednesday #331 - Whatcha Think's Going On Here?

Hint: Pictured is a DCC system, a metronome, a variety of mathematical calculations, and a steam locomotive on rollers . . .