View a February 11, 1928 RAILWAY AGE article on Cedar Hill Yard: “How a complex yard problem has been solved”
Thanks to Ron High for scanning the report and to Bob Helwig for processing the files
Cedar Hill was built between 1910 and 1920. The roundhouses were built in 1911. The Shore Line Receiving Yard, New York/Maybrook Receiving Yard, the two humps, Eastbound Classification Yard, and Westbound Classification Yard were built in 1918. The Montowese Tie Plant was built in 1922. The LCL warehouse and terminal were built around 1930.
There is a lot of information about Cedar Hill in
If they started construction 1910, planning must have been around 1909. That puts the beginnings of Cedar Hill firmly in the Mellen era, along with his other major projects. Cedar Hill became in the 1920’s the keystone of the whole New Haven Railroad freight operation. It seems to have started out as a more local facility, then grown into that larger role. Or was the idea of making it the center part of the original intention?
Driving north out of New Haven on either U.S. Route 5 or on Interstate 91, Cedar Hill Yards cannot be overlooked. While hardly as busy as it once was, the area is still formidable and immense. In trying to find out more of the history of the yards, I found a 1939 booklet published by the New Haven Railroad.
The Cedar Hill Yards were part of the New Haven Terminal which consisted of 25 yards and switching districts and provided a classification facility to serve the several routes which converged there. Cedar Hill Territory had 14 yards with a capacity for 15,000 cars. The territory covered 880 acres, extended 7.1 miles from New Haven to the most northerly point, was approximately 1.5 miles wide, and had 154 miles of track.
The lazy, graceful pattern of the Quinnipiac River, with its bordering marshes, made the design of Cedar Hill a rare study in space utilization. The yards’ busiest was during World War II when a record 9,415 cars were handled.
Some things don’t change – there are four main tracks east and west of New Haven Station with ten tracks serving the station, excluding stub end tracks at both ends. Leaving New Haven Station, the tracks proceed through a cut. The Canal Line and tracks to the dock area left the main in this area (Signal Station 78).
At Blatchley Avenue Bridge, the tracks start to spread out to: (1) northbound main to Hartford and Springfield; (2) Shore Line to Providence and Boston; (3) Air Line to Middletown ( formerly to Willimantic and Boston); (4) the various yards and facilities of Cedar Hill. Note at this point the trackage is still electrified. Cedar Hill was the engine change point from electric to steam (and later diesel). By the 1940’s, Cedar Hill was almost unique in the variety of power it dispatched over three divisions – steam power, streamlined electric motors and brand new ALCO-GE diesels. To further complicate things, several bodies of water roam through the area – primarily the Quinnipiac River.
The eastbound and westbound classification yards were “hump” or gravity yards. Cars were pushed up the incline, uncoupled and a sufficient grade provided to carry the lightest car to the lower end of the yard. Retarders protected every route. When originally constructed, they were operated with car riders and speeder cars to return riders to the hump. Catenary wire was strung to the summit of the hump, thus permitting the electric motors to handle hump assignments when traffic required.I will now attempt to describe the various sections (as they existed in 1939) in roughly the order encountered (from south to north):
Air Line Junction (Signal Station 80)
2.20 miles from New Haven marks the southern point of Cedar Hill.
Shore Line Junction (Signal Station 81)
This track was grade-separated and passed over the Air Line track, the lead to the New York and Maybrook Receiving, and the thoroughfare track to the Shore Line Departure Yard.
NY and Maybrook Departure
This yard marked the northern boundary of the New Haven Terminal prior to the construction of the Cedar Hill Yards. This yard contained a 44 stall engine house, a 30 stall engine house, machine shop, inspection pits and pantograph inspection platforms. A circle track behind the engine houses permitted electric locomotives to drop off trains in the receiving yard and proceed to the departure yard without interference with other yard movements. Electric freight motors were serviced here while electric passenger locomotives were serviced west of the New Haven station. The yard had 25 electrified tracks holding 1360 cars. 800 tons of coal per day were required for the 100 to 110 engines serviced daily.
Before reaching the hump, a track was provided for setting out cars containing explosives (which could not be humped). This yard had 46 tracks and could accommodate 1300 cars. There were seven repair tracks and a mill building. A stock pen handled live stock that had to be fed and rested according to the law.
Shore Line Receiving
This yard had 6 tracks and could hold 100 cars.
NY and Maybrook Receiving
This unit consisted of nine tracks, each of 110 car capacity. There were intermediate crossovers and seven tracks were electrified. Final plans called for 14 tracks, all electrified, but the installation of car retarders made this unnecessary. Part of the yard served as a relief departure yard.
Shore Line Departure
This yard was located between the east hump and the L.C.L. (Less than Car Load) transfer. It handled trains for New London, Providence, Boston, Fall River, Newport, Worster and Portland, Maine. Heavy eastbound tonnage drags required assistance from the rear.
The four L.C.L. transfer platforms were 1200 feet long. Three were 30 feet wide and one 20 feet wide. Three bridges permitted quick movement between platforms. The 16 tracks had a capacity of 448 cars. Empty box cars were placed on tracks in the center of the house with loads on the outside. A crane spanned four tracks in order to handle shipments such as boilers and tanks in open top cars. 13 yard and storage tracks facilitated handling. Cars were made for 176 destinations.
The five tracks in this yard held 100 cars.
Air Line Receiving
This yard was near the Southbound Receiving and the L.C.L. Transfer.
North & Eastbound Classification
This yard had 51 tracks – all double ended. Five tracks were used for light car repair. There were four 70 foot towers, with eight 1000-watt floodlights for night illumination. The classification tracks were in groups of five with six retarders protecting every route. Three control towers operated the switches and retarders. A tunnel under this yard allowed travel to the west side of the yard.
A wye track allowed engines arriving from Hartford, New Britain and Springfield to be watered, turn and pick up a north-bound train in less than an hour. A coal storage area near this yard had a capacity of 100,000 tons. There was a fifty car capacity trestle with four supporting tracks.
A lead from the Eastbound Classification Yard led to the Material Yard and Reclamation Plant. The 11 tracks handled such track material as anti-rail creepers, joints, tie plates, bumping posts, and switch stands. Scrap material was also handled here.
The plant of the American Creosoting Company was built in 1921-22 to treat and preserve ties. It was built because of a blight of chestnut trees which were the principal source of ties. While chestnut would last eight to ten years, untreated mixed oak only lasted three to four years. Treated ties lasted twenty years. The source of supply was woodlots contiguous to the lines of the road. The plant was equipped to hold one million ties. Before shaping, ties must be seasoned six months to a year.Treatment was by the Lowry process which injects a large initial amount of oil and then withdraws as much as possible by a quick, high vacuum. The final retention is about 2-1/2 gallons of oil per tie.
North Haven Junction
The track from the Northbound Departure Yard joined the Hartford Main Line at this point.
METHODS OF OPERATION
Switching power was assigned based on information received as to how many trains were enroute. The hump yardmaster informed the switchtender at the appropriate receiving yard as to the tracks to be used. After the train arrived, the locomotive was detached, waybills were delivered and the engine, with its caboose, sent to the departure yard or to tie up. Trains were then inspected with defective cars going to the repair track. Waybills went by pneumatic tube to the central office to be entered on a teletype. The humping list was then sent simultaneously to all towers.
Humping engines, in days of steam, were of the three cylinder type with 60,000 pound tractive effort. They pushed the train to the hump where the hump conductor governed its movement by fixed signals (red – stop; yellow – hump slow; green – proceed to the hump). Cars were uncoupled and switched in accordance with the switch list by the tower operators. An air whistle signalled to the hump engines.
The switches and retarders were electro-pneumatic. Track circuits prevented operation of a switch between trucks of a car. Rerailing devices at the ends of the car retarders rerailed any car if a wheel was lifted by the retarder. Indicators in the towers showed the position of the switches (ladder, diverging tracks or fouled) and the locations of the cars. A loud speaker circuit connected the hump yardmaster, yard conductor, towermen and the skatemen (yard brakemen who set “skates” to stop cars on clear tracks). Loud speakers could be heard clearly anywhere in the yard.
I recently paid a visit to New Haven. Cedar Hill is sort of abandoned. The southern part stores Amtrak MOW equipment, and has daily activity, especially with the trackwork currently happening on the Shore Line. They are mostly replacing wood ties with concrete at this point. There is also a substantial lumber transloading facility on part of the southern yard. And yes, there is still the coal bunker. The northern part of the yard (other side of the New Haven landfill) is still used by Conrail, albeit the traffic is fairly light. The Connecticut Central interchanges with Conrail several times a week. The P&W stores its equipment on the Belle Dock industrial line which can be seen from the Forbes (Rt.1) Ave. bridge.
View a February 11, 1928 RAILWAY AGE article on Cedar Hill Yard: “How a complex yard problem has been solved”
Thanks to Ron High for scanning the report and to Bob Helwig for processing the files
Old and new Pictures of Cedar Hill Yard
Railroads around Bristol
The local came out of Waterbury and serviced the Bristol area, sometimes running to Plainville to swap cars with one of the other locals. I would think the local would have used Bristol as its “mini- classification yard” since that’s where most of the industry was.
The major industries I can remember, starting on the west side of Bristol, are: 1) the huge GM New Departure plant. (still there, but different owner, I think) It had a significant number of tracks entering from the east end. The NH passed on a fill to the north. There were fuel storage tanks on the north side of the tracks. 2) Sessions Foundry, unfortunately gone. Large facility; had tracks all around it, including an engine house for their own swithcher. 3) Ingraham Clock Co., gone. 4) New Departure downtown plant. Portion on north side of tracks was there last I knew, may have had an industrial switcher. There was an enclosed passage way over the tracks to the south side and on down hill to the plant in the center of town, 5)lumber yard, a bunch of small trackside rail users , team tracks freight house, passenger station and othe small misc. industries. 6) Sessions Trunk Hardware, still there, different owner definitely cool building, one of the more ornate. 7) Crown Heating Oil (I think) on low side of tracks to south, overhead horizontal tanks. Connecticut Yankee (?) gas works. Small building still there, gas holders gone. Walthers has a great kit for a large gas holder that could be used here. 9) Britol Brass. This is cool! The plant is mostly still there on the north side of and down lower than the tracks. Two tracks came off the NH and ran down each side of a long main building. These tracks were elevated on 20 foot high concrete bents. The end of the near track was used for bulk coal delivery. 10) Hildreth Press, new plant built ’41 or ’42, still there. Had two tracks, one for heating plant and other for shipping and receiving. 11) Spring plant, forgot name, still there, interesting track arrangement, used swithchback in days of double track, rearranged after single tracked. 12) Paint plant, still there, not used rail service for quite some time, one story buildings look to be Civil War vintage, definitely had a siding. Forrestville station, still there, used by a surveyor, in good condition, still cool. 13) Sessions Clock Co., 2-sty brick building still there unique building in a sort of yard area where there were a few other customers. South wall of building curved to allow siding around it. 14) another clock company or something, don’t remember name. It’s on the other side of Pequabuck River (small). They had buildings for shipping on RR side. Blue green long storage building was still there. Half was not secure for wood, I believe, the other end has secured sections for items of value.
More About Cedar Hill
|Planning for the yard started in 1916|
|The “Subway” was the extension into the East Cut. It was electrified and led to the N.Y. and Maybrook Receiving Yard — the receiving yard for the Eastbound Hump. The Subway track is no longer in place|
| There were numerous switchtenders at Cedar Hill
Westbound departure yard (Rock Street)
engine house leads
puzzle switches: movements off the pit for the engine house and movements out of the engine house
highgrade switchman: let the freights off the shoreline down into westbound receiving
Old Yard switchman: controlled all the switches going up into the East hump yard, up the Airline main and the lower connection switch off the shoreline
East bound classification yard
Westbound departure yard
Westbound classification yard
downtown passenger yard
Water Street yard
|New Haven’s TOFC (trailer on flat car) facility was a ramp at Water Street. The trailer platform was located on the Airline main between the Old Yard and the East bound classification yard. There were two loading tracks that held about 10 or 11 trailer flats each.|
When was Cedar Hill Closed?
West Hump was closed by the New Haven during the 1960s, however, it was briefly reopened during the early Penn Central era to relieve snow related congestion at Selkirk.
The West Hump at Cedar Hill was shut down in the late 1950’s when the bridge linking the West Class Yard with the Westbound Departure Yard burned. Around 1960, the NHRR decided that the absense of the West Hump and related facilities delayed too many trains and fouled up the place so badly that the bridge had to be replaced and so it was. Cedar Hill was then in full operation with both humps etc until the early days of the Penn Central when the West Hump, West Class and the New York/Maybrook (westbound) departure yard were all closed down.
NH / NYC Interchange at Pittsfield
New York Freight on the New Haven
Starting with New York which takes in Oak Point, Hunts Point, Harlem River and the rest of the Bronx:
Coal, oil, building materials, perishables (food etc), potatoes, Railway Express (some in freight and some in passenger), L.C.L. freight, wire, scrap, literage, lumber, stone, subway cars, steel, poles,mixed freight and interchange.
On the line east;
Mamaroneck – mixed freight, Woodlawn Lumber,
Mount Vernon – mixed freight,
Portchester – R.B. & W. bolt works, life savers for corn syrup and mollasses;
Greenwich – Arnold Bakery – flour,
Cos Cob – westbound side – mixed freight, eastbound side company coal,
Old Greenwich – Electrolux,
Stamford – mixed freight, Glenbrook mostly on the N.C.B. – mixed freight,
Springdale – lumber and mixed freight;
New Canaan – lumber and building materials;
Darien – Rings End Lumber – lumber (one of two remaining customers between Bridgeport and New York),
South Norwalk including Dock and Wilson Point – lumber, oil and mixed freight,
Westport – mixed freight,
Fairfield – lumber and mixed freight,
Bridgeport – west of SS-55 (Burr Road) – Jenkins Valves, McKessons, Handy and Harman, Bullard – pipe and valves, chemicals and drugs, electrical equipment and parts, machines and tools. Bridgeport – Hole track in Railroad Avenue – lumber, building materials, oil and mixed freight, Bridgeport – Lower Yard – lumber, coal and mixed freight,
North Bridgeport (Old Berkshire) brass products, sand and mixed freight,
East Bridgeport – yard – mixed freight. Stratford – building materials, lumber, food stuffs and coal.
Between Devon and New Haven – a little of everything, a few customers still active on this stretch.
Two van trains a night out of Harlem River four or five nights a week also back from Boston.
No auto racks, the only auto racks on the New Haven Railroad ran from Maybrook to Readville via Danbury, Waterbury, Hartford, Willimantic Plainfield, Putnam to Readville. The loaded cars would not clear through New Haven even in those days. The empty cars could and did go through New Haven in regular freight trains back to Maybrook.
Locals ran out of Oak Point, New Rochelle, Stamford, South Norwalk, Bridgeport and New Haven.
There is no “brrreeeport” in Connecticut, but there are plenty of towns that are served by freight railroads.
Comparison of Cedar Hill to Other Railroad Yards
Some other yards (current and past) we will cover (biggest first) are:
Rice Yard (CSX, Waycross Georgia)
State of Texas (Union Pacific)
Conway (Pennsylvania, then PC, then Conrail) in Pittsburgh; in 1974 humped 3000 cars westbound and 2400 eastbound
Queensgate (NS, CSX, Conrail) in Cincinnati
Elkhart (was Conrail’s busiest)
Decoursey (Louisville & Nashville) Cincinnati; double hump, now closed
Potomac (RF&P, SOU, PRR) across river from Washington DC now closed
Spencer (Norfolk Southern) in Linwood, NC is 4.4 miles long, extending from Lee to Duke.
Chicago River & Indiana Railroad controlled access to the Chicago Union Stock Yards district
Both Cedar Hill and Selkirk originally built in the 1920’s era. The Cedar Hill Yards were built as part of the New Haven Terminal which consisted of 25 yards and switching districts and provided a classification facility to serve the several routes which converged there. Cedar Hill Territory had 14 yards with a capacity for 15,000 cars. The territory covered 880 acres, extended 7.1 miles from New Haven to the most northerly point, was approximately 1.5 miles wide, and had 154 miles of track.
Selkirk was built to replace the congested West Albany Yard and to take advantage of the new Castleton Cutoff and bridge.
In the 1950’s era, Selkirk was greatly modernized while Cedar Hill was not. A lot of it had to do with respective traffic levels and finances of the NY Central and the New Haven. Some of the decision to modernize might have been due to the leadership of the two railroads. NY Central was run by an “operations” person: Al Perlman, while New Haven was run by a “finance and legal” person: George Alpert.
Selkirk’s role was much more simple than Cedar Hill. Selkirk handled trains for three destinations: Boston, New York City, and Buffalo/Chicago. Cedar Hill was much more complex. It handled trains Eastbound on the Shoreline to Boston, Westbound to New York City AND Maybrook, PLUS Northbound to Hartford/Springfield, PLUS the Airline.
Cedar Hill, it was big but it was old and at least by the Penn Central and Conrail period, it was obselete as well. It took two humps to do what Selkirk was and is able to do with one and three retarder towers for each hump so it took way more manpower to run this yard too. There were also a minimum of 5 or 6 switch tenders around the Clock at Cedar Hill, Selkirk has none and things moved safer, better and much faster.
The Peoria Union Stock Yards was once the nation’s seventh-largest such facility. It was served by the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway. The decline of livestock traffic began as soon as two-lane highways were being built by and during the 1920’s but a rapid decline in rail shipments occurred in the years following the Second World War. There seems to have been a large amount of livestock traffic interchanged via the Peoria Gateway; some via P&PU’s East Peoria Yard, and some via direct connections between the steam roads.
Rensselaer Yard and Enginehouse were the main passenger operations site for Albany during the “days of steam.” I don’t know by number which classified repairs to locomotives were performed at Rensselaer and which (higher numbers) went to West Albany, but I know that much of the passenger engine maintenance for Lines East was performed at Rensselaer. That ended in the early 1950’s, with the demise of steam, when the equivalent diesel work went to Harmon.
Rensselaer Yard served as the coach yard for Albany, and an even more important function was classifying mail and express traffic. It was the junction for the Hudson, Mohawk, and River Divisions and B&A, as well as traffic to the D&H at Albany and the B&M and Rutland via Troy.
That switching was done at Rensselaer, and the “goats” transferred some of the cuts to Albany Station and back to be put on or taken off the passenger trains that stopped there. A lot of it moved in Mail and Express trains that only stopped or terminated at Rensselaer. Most of those used the Livingston Avenue (Freight) Bridge and bypassed Albany Station.
By 1959, Rensselaer still had 24-hour towers 98, 99, 100, 101 and D, but most of the yard operation had been moved over to Albany proper, handled by the station switchers.
Delaware & Hudson
Some of the D&H yards remaining are Albany (Kenwood), Schenectady area (Mohawk), Taylor, Binghampton. Couple others more or less inactive are Mechanicsville and Oneonta which is just a kind of big siding for CP.
Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard
Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska, is the largest railroad classification yard in the world. It was named in honor of former Union Pacific President Edd H. Bailey. If the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers were to play here, they’d have enough room for 2,800 football fields. This massive yard covers 2,850 acres, reaching a total length of eight miles, well beyond the borders of North Platte, a community of 25,000 citizens. Put end-to-end, Bailey Yard’s 315 miles of track would reach from North Platte in western Nebraska east past Omaha on the Iowa border along the Missouri River. Every 24 hours, Bailey Yard handles 10,000 railroad cars. Of those, 3,000 are sorted daily in the yard’s eastward and westward yards, nicknamed “hump” yards. Using a mound cresting 34 feet for eastbound trains and 20.1 feet for those heading west, these two hump yards allow four cars a minute to roll gently into any of 114 “bowl” tracks where they become part of trains headed for dozens of destinations. Together, these two yards have 18 receiving and 16 departure tracks.
New Haven’s Cedar Hill Yard
When Cedar Hill Railyard in New Haven,CT.was built it was 880 acres,154 Miles of track,& could hold 15,000 railcars. Are the new railyards built now just as large or larger?Cedar Hill was big but it was not a really modern yard by today’s standards. Three separate retarder towers all had to be manned when-ever they were humping cars and this was on two different humps if bothhumps were operating. The tracks ran around rivers and waterways, the tracks in the departure yards were too short for modern trains, the yard was very labor intensive and it took too many people in order to operate this facility. Last, the biggest reason that the yard is pretty much not used today is because New Haven is no longer used for through freight trains. The freight bound for New England is mostly off CSX through themodern facility at Selkirk and via the B & A which connects with the former New Haven at a number of locations. Many modern freight cars today can’t even get into Cedar Hill due to clearance restrictions, low bridges, overhead wires and tunnels are the biggest problems. During the New Haven Railroad days and into the Penn Central period as well, New Haven and Cedar Hill was a huge freight hub for southern New England. Today it is a stub end terminal from Springfield with a lesser operation via the P & W from Worcester via Norwich. Years ago there were 20 or more yard jobs on each shift, today there are around 3 jobs left in the whole terminal.
RailwayStation.com has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.
What are the various kinds of railroad yards?
freight station and team track yards for the purpose of loading and unloading freight
freight classification yards for the purpose of breaking up and making up trains
storage yards for the storage of freight and passenger cars and locomotives not in use or awaiting repairs
service yards for cleaning, provisioning and preparing passenger train cars for the next run.
Locomotive and car repair shops also have yards for outdoor repair work.
What is a “hump” in a freight yard?
In many large freight yards certain tracks an constructed at steep grades to enable cars to be released and shunted by gravity into various track for reclassification. The cars are pushed to the highest elevation of the track, or “hump”, and released one at a time or in groups and sent rolling down the incline. The “hump” track branches into many classification tracks. By remote control, towerman switches each car into its proper track.
What are car retarders?
In some freight classification yards, gravity and sorting tracks are equipped with electrically (pneumatically controlled snubbing devices, known as “car retarders,” which enable a man located in a tower to slow down or stop the car by the movement of a lever. The car retarder is fitted with a set of movable brake “shoes,” located along each side of and parallel with each rail. When applied by the tower man, these “shoes” act as brakes against the rims of the turning car wheels, retarding the speed of the car or bringing it to a halt, as desired. These devices obviate the necessity of brakemen riding the released cars and increase the safety, efficiency and speed of yard operations.
New England is full of history.
Cedar Hill Map (Lower) 1950
Cedar Hill Map (Upper) 1954
View of Cedar Hill Yard from hump.
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