The Ride To Choate

choate

Edgar T. Mead recently published a fantastic article in the NRHS BULLETIN on a train trip from New York City to Choate School which is located in Wallingford, CT. I’d like to update his trip into the 1980’s and bring out what we have lost or gained over 50 years.

Unless the student of today wants to find alternate transportation from New Haven to Wallingford, he/she (Choate is now Choate-Rosemary Hall and is coed) cannot leave Grand Central Terminal, but must instead depart Penn Station on AMTRAK’s Springfield Service.

The EP-2 boxcab electric has been replaced by an AEM-7 which is the standard in the Northeast Corridor. The “American Flyer” coaches have been replaced by Amfleet coaches.

Although we don’t go that route, Grand Central to New Rochelle has changed too. The S-1 electric switchers came very close to remaining in the picture as the last one didn’t exit the property until the 1980’s.

NY,Westchester & Boston right-of-way between New Rochelle and Port Chester becomes less visible as time marches on. Also less visible are industries like the Abendroth Foundry. As a matter of fact, most signs of the electrification which one covered all of the sidings are rapidly fading. Even the sidings themselves are fading as the character of the territory becomes less commercial and more residential and service-oriented.

Stamford, with its office towers and new station, would be unrecognizable to someone not having seen it in 50 years. However, long lines of M-2 “Cosmopolitan” cars are lined up waiting for Monday just like the old M-Us did. Today’s wire train can be spotted sometimes at Stamford and is hauled by a GE. It includes the “Washboard Electrics” of 1954.

Bridgeport is still an important stop. The “Blue Goose” which used to run to Waterbury has been replaced with a Budd Rail Diesel Car. Sometimes even that is replaced with a bus. Signs of trolley lines and steam dinkies are obliterated.

The Maybrook line is now only a memory since the Poughkeepsie bridge has burned and the Derby-Shelton bridge has fallen in the river. The truth of the matter is that CONRAIL has other routes available. Freight in general is a ghost of its former self while the passenger business is a growth industry between New Haven and New York.

An engine change at New Haven is still the order of the day for AMTRAK. No more I-4. Instead a single F40 can handle the consist. The dug-away cut through New Haven (old Farmington Canal) still exists. The Connecticut Company is bus not street car. There is no sandwich vendor meeting trains a New Haven, however a respectable donut shop exists inside the station.

Smoking cars still exist on AMTRAK but not so on Metro-North. The solid example which Choate set 50 years ago is now applied to New Haven, Westchester and Long Island commuters.

The changes that have occurred on the mainline are nothing compared to what has happened on the branch lines. The annual football junket to Kent School would be in a lot of trouble because of the sorry state of the Housatonic branch between New Milford and Kent. To begin with, the excursion would have to go south to Norwalk first as the route through Devon Junction is out of service at the Derby bridge Perhaps it would be simpler to go through Pittsfield? Maybe they could just take a bus or watch the game on TV?

Cedar Hill yard still exists (sort of). One old roundhouse still stands as well as a coal tower. The yard is filled with coal hoppers, many still marked for Erie-Lackawanna. Also stored in the yard are the “Roger Williams” RDCs.

Wallingford still looks like it did fifty years ago. The station looks like it should be on a postcard.

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UPDATE TO THE 1988 ARTICLE

Rooting through old magazines on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I came to an old NRHS Bulletin (Volume 52 # 5 1987) and saw an article by Edgar T. Mead on a train trip from New York City to Choate School which is located in Wallingford, CT which he made in 1937. In 1988, I wrote an article about what we had lost or gained over 50 years. I then decided to update this for changes over the last 10 years as well as over the last 60.

Stamford, with its office towers and new station, would be unrecognizable to someone not having seen it in 50 years. However, long lines of M-2 “Cosmopolitan” cars are lined up waiting for Monday just like the old M-Us did. Today’s wire train can be spotted sometimes at Stamford and is hauled by a GE. It includes the “Washboard Electrics” of 1954.

Bridgeport is still an important stop. The “Blue Goose” which used to run to Waterbury has been replaced with a Budd Rail Diesel Car. Sometimes even that is replaced with a bus. Signs of trolley lines and steam dinkies are obliterated.

The Maybrook line is now only a memory since the Poughkeepsie bridge has burned and the Derby-Shelton bridge has fallen in the river. The truth of the matter is that CONRAIL has other routes available. Freight in general is a ghost of its former self while the passenger business is a growth industry between New Haven and New York.

An engine change at New Haven is still the order of the day for AMTRAK. No more I-4. Instead a single F40 can handle the consist. The dug-away cut through New Haven (old Farmington Canal) still exists. The Connecticut Company is bus not street car. There is no sandwich vendor meeting trains a New Haven, however a respectable donut shop exists inside the station.

Smoking cars still exist on AMTRAK but not so on Metro-North. The solid example which Choate set 50 years ago is now applied to New Haven, Westchester and Long Island commuters.

The changes that have occurred on the mainline are nothing compared to what has happened on the branch lines. The annual football junket to Kent School would be in a lot of trouble because of the sorry state of the Housatonic branch between New Milford and Kent. To begin with, the excursion would have to go south to Norwalk first as the route through Devon Junction is out of service at the Derby bridge Perhaps it would be simpler to go through Pittsfield? Maybe they could just take a bus or watch the game on TV?

Cedar Hill yard still exists (sort of). One old roundhouse still stands as well as a coal tower. The yard is filled with coal hoppers, many still marked for Erie-Lackawanna. Also stored in the yard are the “Roger Williams” RDCs.

Wallingford still looks like it did fifty years ago. The station looks like it should be on a postcard.

**********

WCBS NewsRadio 880 Talks about Springfield-New Haven

Lots of media coverage of the proposed commuter service between Springfield and New Haven. We can’t cover all these stories, but one of the most comprehensive appeared July 29, 2006 By STEPHANIE REITZ

She talked about a Hartford resident takes Amtrak to work most days. He leaves his car in Hartford and takes a 46-minute train ride to the New Haven station, just a quick walk from his job at the city’s education department. Connecticut is counting on dedicated rail riders like this one, who pays $252 for his monthly Amtrak pass; as plans progress to offer weekday commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, Mass., for the first time in more than 35 years.

The General Assembly included $146 million for the project in a recent $2.3 billion transportation package, a move seen by rail enthusiasts as a good first step.

Connecticut officials and their western Massachusetts counterparts believe the commuter line could ease highway congestion and create jobs by boosting the region’s economic development.

It’s 64 miles from Springfield to New Haven, and can take longer than an hour to make the trek down Interstate 91.

Commuter rail service linked central Connecticut with New York and Springfield for decades, but it ended more than 35 years ago with the demise of the former New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

No firm start dates have been set, although state leaders are aiming for sometime in 2011. They envision trains running every 30 minutes during rush hour, with about 2,400 daily riders by 2025.

Trains would stop at stations in New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield, Mass. New stations would be built in North Haven, Newington and Enfield.

A shuttle bus would connect the Windsor Locks station with Bradley International Airport.

State officials say the start date depends on environmental impact studies, the location of new stations, and how long it will take to add a second set of tracks on about 18 miles of single-track stretches.

The state would spend about $300 million for equipment, stations and other capital items. The line would cost about $10 million a year to run. Connecticut can move forward with a 55-mile stretch of commuter line between New Haven and Enfield even if Massachusetts lawmakers do not fund their part of the project.

But the line faces other hurdles. In addition to adding tracks in some areas, the state would have to create schedules that don’t conflict with the Amtrak and freight trains already using the line. Also unknown is whether homeowners near the commuter line will be comfortable with more trains. The environmental studies under way are expected to offer more detail on noise and other factors. Residents will have a chance to weigh in at public comment sessions are held next spring or summer.

In its earliest stages, fares are expected to cover about 11 cents of every $1 spent to operate the line. The remaining 89 cents or $8.9 million yearly would come from state coffers. By comparison, Connecticut’s subsidy for Metro-North’s New Haven Line the nation’s busiest commuter line, with 120,000 trips daily is about 30 cents for every dollar spent. The remaining 70 cents is covered by passenger fares.

See the Connecticut State WebSite about the new commuter service and see what Massachusetts thinks about the plan.

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Overview of Freight in the Danbury / New Milford Area

OVERVIEW OF REGION’S THREE FREIGHT LINES

The first rail line in the area was built during the 1840’s, connecting Bridgeport with New Milford via Newtown and Brookfield. It was intended to tap the agricultural and mineral wealth of Litchfield County.

The second rail link was the north-south Danbury to Norwalk connection of 1852. Had Danbury remained without this rail link with the coast, where goods could be transferred to trains or boats to nearby New York City, its early industrial development would have been much less intense.

A third rail line began operating east-west in 1881. Entering from New York State into Danbury, the Maybrook Line was constructed easterly into Brookfield, then overlapped with a segment of the older Bridgeport-New Milford Line until southern Newtown, where it left that line and proceeded easterly into Monroe and on across the Housatonic River to Derby, CT.

These rail routes were the interstate expressways for freight in their day, the major carriers of passengers as well. While in modern times their early influence over growth has been largely superseded by motorized trucking, rail access is still vital for some manufacturing and warehousing.

HVCEO seeks to promote healthy growth of rail freight usage in the Region. The first step is for the public to be familiar with the three active rail lines in the Region today, as follows:

The DANBURY BRANCH RAIL LINE is single track and operates south to north from the City of Norwalk, into Wilton, then crosses into this Region where it passes thru Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel and Danbury. This Line provides the Region’s only passenger service via stations in Danbury, Bethel, Redding and Ridgefield, the schedules for which preclude much freight activity.

The entire Danbury Branch Line between Norwalk and Danbury is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Clearance on the line is 16 feet, precluding the use of modern doublestack freight cars.

The MAYBROOK RAIL LINE originates to the west in Beacon, NY and is single tracked easterly to the Danbury Line, then double tracked easterly to Berkshire Junction at the Danbury-Brookfield Line. Although unlabeled as such, the east-west rail route on this map is the Maybrook Line. There is significant rail freight activity on this line, as will be outlined in detail below.

The Maybrook Line is owned by the Housatonic Railroad Company from the New York-Connecticut border on the west easterly thru Greater Danbury to Derby Junction. But the Housatonic also has freight rights from owner MTA westerly on the Maybrook Line to Beacon, N.Y.

Proceeding easterly from Brookfield, the Maybrook Line continues single tracked through the Botsford section of southern Newtown, then southeast through the descent down the Housatonic River Valley to Derby Junction. From Derby connections are made to New Haven.

From the state line west to Beacon, N.Y., MTA Metro-North Railroad purchased the Maybrook Line in 1995 to avoid its being abandoned. This New York State portion of the Maybrook is also referred to as the Beacon Line. Clearance on the line is 19 feet.

The BERKSHIRE RAIL LINE runs north-south thru New Milford, Brookfield and Danbury. It originates at the forking of lines at Berkshire Junction, on the Danbury-Brookfield Line near the intersection of Route 7 and I-84 and the entrance to Berkshire Corporate Park.

The Berkshire Line is also owned by the Housatonic Railroad Company between Danbury and central New Milford, and by Conn DOT from central New Milford north to the Massachusetts State Line. The Housatonic Railroad then owns the line from the Massachusetts border north to Pittsfield, Mass. Clearance on the line is 17 feet, 10 inches.

 

OTHER PERSPECTIVES ON RAIL FREIGHT

CONN DOT PERSPECTIVE

The text below provides an interesting statewide overview and is reproduced in part from Conn DOT planning documents.

It is generally known that the freight transportation industry in the United States has undergone dramatic changes in the last twenty years. Developments in “containerization”, shifts in the manufacturing industry to “just-in-time” delivery; the deregulation of rail, trucking and aviation industries, and the development of new trading patterns in a global economy have led to consolidation and restructuring of freight transportation modes.

The development of expressways such as I-84 and I-95, the trend toward larger and heavier trucks, more time-sensitive shipping requirements, increasing competition, and railroad branch line reductions have contributed to the trucking industry attracting a large market share of goods movements. But, while the number of truck trips is increasing, the length of such trips is decreasing.

On the national scene many shippers are using more cost-effective rail, air or water transport for the long-haul portion of freight delivery, with trucking firms supplying the pick up and delivery portion of trips rather than supplying end-to-end service. Thus truck/intermodal traffic has increased dramatically in recent years and should continue to increase.

But according to Conn DOT, in Connecticut, because of its small geographic area and its close proximity to some of the nation’s largest ports, intermodal rail facilities and airports, can expect to continue to see primarily the truck portions of intermodal freight trips.

The Conn DOT perspective is that trucking is and in the foreseeable future will continue to be, the backbone of goods movement in Connecticut. For 1995 it was estimated that truck shipments accounted for at least 12 million tons of interstate freight movement (that is at least one origin or destination outside of the State) and an even greater volume of intrastate and local distribution activity. This represents, at a minimum, 60 to 70 percent of all goods movement (by volume) in the state, in comparison with rail and waterborne movement which represent less than thirty percent.

Rail Freight service in Connecticut is provided by CSX, Providence & Worcester Railroad Company, Housatonic Railroad Company, Springfield Terminal, Connecticut Southern Railroad, Branford Steam Railroad, New England Central Railroad, the Central New England Railroad and the Naugatuck Railroad.

According to Conn DOT, most rail shipments entering Connecticut fall within a limited range of bulk commodities such as crushed stone, lumber, rolled paper, steel, chemicals, and waste products. The manufacturing and distribution companies who currently receive these goods by rail accept significantly longer shipment times than would be required for truck shipment of their low-value, non-time-sensitive raw materials and products.

Shipments from the west are generally routed via Selkirk, NY, then pass through the Oak Point Yard in New York City, or the West Springfield, Massachusetts Yard, before reaching much of the state’s rail network.

In recent years, annual rail shipments originating or terminating within the state have amounted to 50,000 carloads carrying about three to four million tons (see Conn DOT’s 1996 Rail Plan Update for details).

The following factors affect or have affected the volume of freight transported in Connecticut by rail:

The dearth of Hudson River rail crossings makes through shipping of freight impractical for many commodities and products;

The strong competitive position of the trucking industry due to the short distances involved in movement into and through our small state;

The state increasingly is oriented to business and service activities which do not generate large volumes of freight;

Cutbacks in defense spending have reduced output in this key industrial sector, and

There is intense passenger rail activity along the mainline and branch lines which limits the availability of freight service.

Also, it remains Conn DOT’s position that the introduction of competitive rail freight access to southern New England is necessary to correct a historic competitive imbalance created by the longstanding regional dominance of a single Class 1 carrier. Not only would competitive access by one or more Class 1 carriers improve and increase local rail freight service, it would follow that such improvements would result in reduced truck traffic and improved air quality in the I-95 Corridor.

The weakening and dilution of the State’s industrial base, and the shortening and tightening of the product stream, have lead to fundamental changes in the way goods are manufactured, shipped and received. Rarely do plants receive rail cars full of materials to be converted into finished products, with all phases of manufacturing and assembly taking place under one roof.

Rather, manufacturing is dispersed over several locations with any one plant having a limited role. And the changes in materials management, specifically, just-in-time delivery, mean that sites are getting smaller, more frequent deliveries of materials, and are doing the same with their outbound shipments.

And, importantly, one of the major container ports in the world, and one of the largest intermodal rail yards in the country are located in northeastern New Jersey, within one hundred miles of central Connecticut. A major intermodal yard with connections to the west is located just over the State line in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

The close proximity of these facilities to business and industries in Connecticut and the fact that Connecticut does not have a direct freight connection to the western and southern United States (the main rail line for New England is the Boston to Albany Line that runs through southern Massachusetts, within ten miles of our border) results in a significant percentage of the goods originating in or destined for Connecticut being handled at these intermodal facilities and transported to or from Connecticut locations by truck.

 

NEW RAIL STUDY SHOWS RAIL EASING COMMUTING WOES

An American Association of Railroads sponsored study by the widely respected Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) shows sharp reductions in travel time and a healthier environment if freight moved off the highways and onto railroads.

For example, the study showed that shifting up to 25 percent of the freight currently moving on the highway to rail by the year 2020 would gain Chicago commuters up to 73 hours/year of additional family and personal time. That same shift would reduce Chicago’s fuel consumption by up to 189 gallons per capita per year and lower air pollution emissions by as much as 93,900 tons each year.

The study showed similar results for the cities of Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Nashville, New Orleans, St. Louis and Washington. The study can be found at http://www.tomorrowsrailroads.org Said the study’s author, Wendell Cox, “the study shows that freight rail is a significant part of the solution to our gridlock problems. By taking freight off the roads and putting it on rail, we can reduce the amount of traffic clogging local highways. Of course if we do the opposite …we’ll see congestion as far as the eye can see.”

 

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New Haven RR’s Grand Central Operations

Through the latter 1950s – maybe early 1960s the New Haven serviced some trains at Mott Haven. Specifically Merchants, State of Maine, Owl would be brought by New York Central switcher for servicing/storage at Mott Haven.

Other trains turned at Grand Central Terminal. Some via look track others had the seats flipped. The motor usually would sit at the bumper until another motor took the train east – then the motor at the bumper would go to 49th St. or onto another east bound.

Cars could be watered and the batteries could be put on charge if necessary but not much else was done in New York. They would be swept out and occasionally washed by a mechanical washer on one side.

Engines at 49th Street would be watered, steam generators would be prepared and filled with water for the outbound trip and the brakes would be tested. There was no facilities for fuel for either the FL-9’s or the electric motors and no sand available either.

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newhavenelectric

Articles on Railroads in Connecticut and New England

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The New Haven Railroad and Grand Central Terminal

The issue of running New Haven trains to Grand Central Terminal is addressed over the years in several agreements.

Paying for use of the tracks from Woodlawn to New York City and cost of terminal date back to 1848, modifications in 1856, 1861, possibly 1872. When electrification was started, and the present new GCT was being built, there were serious negotiations between the NH and NY Central over costs. In 1908 the New Haven was paying $0.12 for long range passengers and $0.0433 for commuters. In 1910 it was $0.0394 per commuter. In 1910 the NH was paying two different charges: (1) a per capita passenger charge for using NY Central track Woodlawn to NY City; and (2) a terminal charge for Grand Central, everything south of 57th st. This was based on proportion of New Haven locomotives and cars to the total number entering Grand Central. The New Haven arranged this so that its payments would be reduced if it diverted some of its traffic to Harlem River (the NY, Westchester & Boston project, and the Harlem-Portchester branch) or via the proposed (Hell Gate) bridge to Penn Station. The NH was also supposed to share in the income from development of the railroad land around Grand Central, using those profits to reduce its terminal charges.

Still, it was a lot of money. In 1910, the NH paid the NYC $1,131,000 to use the Grand Central route. I don’t know how those rates might have been modified in the 1920’s or 1930’s. Usage of Grand Central rose drastically. In 1945 it was 10,984,806 suburban passengers. Charles Mellen complained in 1910 it cost the NH 17.3 cents for each passenger into GCT. From short range commuter towns like Mt. Vernon, the line lost money.

When NY state agreed with Penn Central in 1969 to take over ownership of the NH line Woodlawn to Portchester, the agreement provided specifically for this issue. NY would rent track Woodlawn to GCT for $1.00 per year, but would continue to pay a “Harlem toll” of $2.900,000 for the cost of operating trains Woodlawn to GCT.

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newhavenwrecker

Is a Tool Train a Wreck Train?

The “Big Hook” on the New Haven was referred to as the “Tool Train”.

Penn Central used the work Wreck. What a surprise. On the New Haven Railroad trains were never wrecked they DERAILED, Collided or overturned but never WRECKED.

A “Big Hook” served the New Haven under steam on Penn Central at least until 1975 when it was utilized at a 12 car derailment north of Windsor, Connecticut. It also had been used in 1970 at a Branford, Connecticut derailment.

At the inception of Penn Central, a New Haven Big Hook was immediately hijacked and shipped to Altoona, Pennsylvania. The New Haven had three 230-ton cranes and the mighty Pennsylvania had nothing that big.

Now, the better track and the emergence of contract wreck clean-up outfits like “Hulcher’s Vultures” had reduced the need for the big hooks, although Guilford maintains a “wreck train” of sorts with a hook, which still sees occasional use.

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nhrr-wiretrain

New Haven Wire Trains

New Haven 1907-1913 era construction trains had one or more hacks, baggage or coach cars with built up roofwalks, platform cars with adjustable height, reel cars with the wire. With a lot of replacement of equipment, successor wire trains continued to look much the same down to the end, and beyond the end of the New Haven.

In steam days, a 2-6-0 was usually the power for the wire train. The 2-6-0 used would be an oil burner since the high-tension dep’t was not too thrilled with all the sulphur deposits on the trolley. In diesel times, the train usually had an Alco S-1 or S-2, or an EMD SW1200.

In the 1950’s there were two wire trains and it is likely that there were never more than two wire trains. One was based in Bridgeport and the other at New Rochelle. The Bridgeport wire train was abolished as a regular assignment sometime in the 1950’s and the train was moved to New Haven and called and used on a as needed basis after that. It survived right up until the end in 1969. The New Rochelle wire train survived until Penn-Central and was moved from New Rochelle to Stamford.

The train consisted of five cars: a generator car for electricity, a tool car with tools and equipment, a wire storage car for wire, a tower car with a platform that was raised with air from the engine and finally the wire train coach/caboose which was a copper clad coach from many years back then replaced with an old converted parlor car complete with the six wheel trucks. The “crew car” had a portion for the wire crew(s) with lockers etc, a stove and refrig., a desk for the foreman complete with a couple of telephones which could be plugged in when the train was on the stand and a two way radio with Cos Cob. The train crew section again had a stove, lockers, two tables for paper work and a brake valve to use mostly when being pushed. It also had a headlight and a whistle.

The wire train was one of the first on the New Haven Railroad operations where two way radio was in use, between the foreman and the load dispatcher at Cos Cob.

Routine work consisted of inspections, replacing insulators and hangers, lubrication of the draw bridges and interlockings and other reported items. When emergencies occurred with the lines, the wire train got all green signals to get to the trouble spot and if it was bad, the crews at shift change would be deadheaded to the trouble spot and the train would remain at the location.

In the mid-60s, the New Rochelle wire train ran with an Alco S-1 on its east end, and an ex heavyweight parlor car on its west end. The six-wheel parlor rode very, very nice, and the conductor’s “throne” was a huge leather overstuffed chair. The car was equipped with a Golden Glow headlight (from some steam engine) and a brass whistle (from an old MUT or EP-1?). It made sense having the wire train located at New Rochelle since from there it could easily cover the territory down the Harlem River Branch, the main line down to Woodlawn, or the main line up to Stamford. Since the main line between Stamford and Woodlawn saw the heaviest electric usage, this was the area that needed the most attention In addition to the converted passenger/ baggage cars, the tower car, the reel car, there was an additional small structure on flat car which was on the train in NH days. It supported a small trolley pole used to apply graphite grease to the wire for lubrication.

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