Thursday, December 24, 2020

Operations - It's in the Details

I've been chatting with Ronald J Hall, one of the editors (along with Robert Wuchert, Jr) of three volumes of Memories of the New Haven, published in 1985-6. These are excellent books, that collect a series of stories and information from such sources as Along the Line, which was a New Haven Railroad periodical. 

The entire series of Along the Line is available online at UCONN digital collections here as I've mentioned before.

Anyway, he's been sending a number of articles he's transcribed or scanned, and this is one of them. 

While the story itself is great, I'm always looking for sources from the era that clarify things, particularly about operations. Any publication by the railroad itself is a great option. And there was one particular paragraph that jumped out at me in this article that is extremely useful for Chris and I as we further refine our operations (and not just because it was in New Britain):

"Our first stop was New Britain where nine cars were left.  A message was handed to the engineer before we pulled out.  By a message is meant a written order telling what to do at the next stop.  This one informed the engineer to pick up three cars at Plainville."

It may not seem like much, but remember that we are modeling an era prior to radios and cell phones. Work at each town won't necessarily be known when a train leaves the yard for a run. We know that they often receive such instructions when they reach town. But this confirms that they also receive orders as they are known, as I suspected.

As should be obvious, my approach to modeling is wholistic. Part of what I'm modeling is Operations, and like your scenery, structures, locomotives and rolling stock, it's often the little details that make the difference. This provides something of interest while operating, it highlights that this is pre-radio railroading, and serves as another tidbit of information that crews can learn about operations on the prototype simply by operating on your layout. 

This isn't the only detail that I found useful in this simple story of a reporter going for a cab ride, but I'll let you find what is of interest to you. Part of my goal is for experience of operating my layout to evoke the actual experience of operating on the prototype, and articles like this help me understand better how they operated back then.




 By Clarkson S. Barnes

A wave of the hand.  Two blasts from the whistle.  A slow chug, chug and the long train is off.

The scene is the Hartford freight yard on a Saturday morning not so long ago.  The time is 6:45 and the train is BO-5 a through freight from Boston to Maybrook, N.Y.

All of this is not so remarkable in itself.  The same scene takes place every morning at practically the same time.  But on this particular morning there were two passengers on board to whom the wave of the hand and blasts of the whistle meant a great deal.

One of these passengers was Leslie H. Tyler, special representative of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.  The other was the writer of this article.

Probably every boy or girl, sometime or other, has had the desire to ride in an engine, to ring the bell, to blow the whistle, to feed the fire and more than all of these, to hold the throttle.

With what longing eyes did we watch a locomotive as it started out from the station or gaze in open-mouthed wonder as a long train passed swiftly by at some crossing.  “Oh gee, if only I could be up there some time and really make her go,” we used to say.

Leaving Hartford Station

The wish to ride in a locomotive always stayed with me though perhaps the boyish glamour disappeared along with other youthful fancies.  Nevertheless, one person on BO-5 felt as though something pretty big were about to happen when the huge locomotive got under way that Saturday morning.

Slowly she pulled her train of 45 cars off the siding and onto the main line.  Through the tunnel under Main Street she chugged with smoke pouring into the cab.  Then the Hartford station was passed and BO-5 was on her way for sure.

The engine gathered speed once she hit the straight-away and soon was rolling along at a fair rate.  The engineer, Bill Barber and Fireman Bill Dow, were real railroad men.

Mr. Barber has been in the service of the New Haven road for 39 years.  It happened that the day of the trip was his 62nd birthday.

Our first stop was New Britain where nine cars were left.  A message was handed to the engineer before we pulled out.  By a message is meant a written order telling what to do at the next stop.  This one informed the engineer to pick up three cars at Plainville.

One of the Big Engines

Our engine was 3550, one of the ten largest locomotives on the New Haven system.  This is the regular engine for BO-5 and consequently both engineer and fireman are well acquainted with her and could sing her praises.

The automatic stoker saves the fireman from shoveling except at times when wants to place coal in certain places in the fire box.  A water heater near the front of the engine heats the water so that warm water rather than cold passes into the boiler.  So many valves and pressure gauges stare you in the face that the cab looks more like a Chinese puzzle than anything else to one un-accustomed to its intricacies.  Bill Dow, however, had no trouble manipulating the valves.

The symbols BO-5 refer to the starting point and destination of the train.  B refers to Boston and O is the symbol for Maybrook.  Such symbols are used on the all through freights on the New Haven.  The way the initials are placed shows the direction of the train.  Thus the corresponding train to BO-5 is OB-6.

When we left Plainville, I began to get real excited.  We were nearing Bristol, but in what a different way than generally.  I screwed up my courage and asked Bill Barber whether I might blow the whistle. “Sure,” he said. “Go ahead.”

How To Blow The Whistle

I reached over and started to pull down the lever, thinking the whistle would blow directly.  No sound.  Then I pulled a little more.  This time there was more of a squeak than a whistle.  “Pull,” yelled Bill.  Meanwhile the others in the cab were having a great laugh.  Finally I managed to get a good hold and pulled down with all my might, two longs and two shorts.  The next two crossings I used both hands and went at it with a vengeance.  There was no difficulty in hearing the whistle this time.

Soon we pulled into Bristol. I jumped off at the station and waited there while the engine crew switched 11 cars for the local yards. When the engine backed down I hopped on again and in a few minutes we left dear old Bristol far behind.

Waterbury was our next stop.  On the outskirts a collie ran out beside the train.  Bill said that this dog greets their train every day and runs along beside them, barking in great glee.  Here we left our whole train except the hack and one freight car.  “Hack” is railroad vernacular for caboose.  Mr. Tyler who had been riding in the caboose came up to the engine along with our Conductor George Whalley, brakeman, Mark Bourgeois, and flagman Ted Wiemer.

We left Waterbury at just 10 o’clock with a load of 2,785 tons, 75 cars.  We had a “double” out of Waterbury, that is to say two engines.  The second engine, 3105 was in the middle of the train.  The rea-son was the big grade out of Waterbury.

Single Track For A Ways

The road is single track all the way to Hawleyville and curves so much that only now and then could we catch sight of the “hack.”  The scenery is very pretty along this stretch of the route.  Soon after crossing the Housatonic at Sandy Hook we passed through a short narrow tunnel.  Bill told us to be sure to hold our handkerchiefs.  It’s a good thing for the heat and smoke were terrific.  If that tunnel were any long, we would have been stifled for sure.

Before going into the main line at Hawleyville, Mark had to call up the station agent to see whether it was all right to throw the switches.  Nothing was coming so we were given the right of way.  At Hawleyville we set off 23 cars of crushed stone.  3105 also left us here, returning to Waterbury dead-head.

After leaving Hawleyville the fire for the first and only time on the trip went low.  It took some clever manipulation and constant shoveling on Bill’s part to bring her back.  Soon, we were off to Danbury.  Here Mr. Tyler and I had our dinner while the crew did some switching.  These railroad men have no time to take off for food.  Their eating has to done along the line whenever they can see a chance to grab a bite.

Soon after leaving Danbury, we passed the Fair Grounds.  Not far from here Bill showed me where he hit an auto truck and shunted it into a little creek.  We crossed into New York State before long.  One of New York City’s huge reservoirs lies near the tracks.

We Take A Message On The Fly

By the time we reached Brewster our train was rolling along at a good clip.  Here, a message was handed to us on the fly.  To do this, the brakeman leans out from the cab and crooks his arm.  The message is attached to a three cornered stick which the station agent holds.  The brakeman catches the stick on his arm, takes off the message and throws the stick to the ground to be used next time, the whole transaction being done in the twinkling of an eye.

Not far from Brewster, Bill pointed out to us where a powder car blew up in a wreck last year, killing four men.  Houses were shattered and tress blown over.  Some of the damage has not yet been repaired.

Whaley Lake is a beautiful spot.  The track goes along beside it for nearly a mile.  About five miles further one of the most magnificent views of the whole journey was revealed.  Suddenly we emerged from a pass in the hills and could see spread out before us the whole panorama of Dutchess County with its beautiful farm lands, sparkling brooks, gently sloping hills and in the distance the majestic Catskills.  It was an entrancing moment.

We rolled downhill practically ten miles to our next stop.  Hopewell Junction, were we got coal and water and did about half an hour’s work.  We waited at Hopewell for 3227 and 3221 to pass us going west.  The orders for this procedure we received at Brewster.

We stayed for nearly an hour, from 2 until quarter of 3, so Les and I had a chance to stretch our legs.  3227 was directly in back of us.  In fact it had to stop when we took the siding.  We started to do our switching before 3221 showed up so this train also had a short wait on our account.

It wasn’t long after 3221 left us before we were on our way again.  Soon we reached Poughkeepsie. “Over there lies Vasser College,” said Bill Dow.  I evinced much interest.  “Vasser College?” I reiterated.  “Yes,” he said, “and it’s some school too.  Girls go there from all over the world.  We catch sight of some of them now and then.”

The Majestic Hudson

The big Poughkeepsie Bridge over the Hudson River soon loomed into view.  This bridge is 212 feet above mean high water mark and it surely looked it from the cab of the engine.  The bridge is single track.  We barely crawled.  The maximum speed over the bridge is 12 miles an hour.  Far below were the tracks of the New York Central, the streets of Poughkeepsie, the waterfront and the boats on the river.

The Great Moment Arrives

For just a few minutes Bill Barber allowed me to sit in his seat with my hand on the throttle, though he stayed right alongside, taking no chances.  I was finally driving an engine.  I could hardly believe my eyes but there I was, sure enough.  It was a straight stretch of track and the train was running nearly forty when I took her.  My left hand was on the throttle and my right on the sill of the cab.  I tried to appear as much like an engineer as possible.

When we came to a crossing, I blew the whistle and didn’t have to ask how this time.  Bill also showed me how to ring the bell.  This is not done by pulling a cord, but instead a little valve is turned which causes an air pump to push the bell up and down.  The bell rings constantly until the valve is shut off.

Bill resumed his seat as we came to a gradual downgrade and before long BO-5 was rolling along at fifty.  “Have to ease her off a bit,” yelled Bill.  This is done by pushing in the throttle.  You can’t do it all at once, but rather notch by notch.  It requires a good bit of elbow grease to move the throttle.

Gradually Bill pushed the throttle way back.  The train coasted under her own momentum for a number of miles, just as easily as a little go-cart coasts down the street.  It was great to look around and see the huge train of seventy-five cars all following so easily after the engine and knowing that for the time being, it was “your” train.

There is a big grade for a short distance after we cross the bridge, then it is practically a straight route 40 miles to Maybrook.  The country on the west side of the Hudson is much different from that on the east side.  The land is rolling with now and then an occasional hill.  It is all fruit growing country.  Vineyards stretch along for miles and there are numerous orchards of apple and peach trees.  The fruit growers in this section join together to form “Fruit-growers Co-operative Associations,” thus being able to obtain better prices for their products.  Bill Dow stated that this was one section where farmers made some money.

The End Of The Run

“We’re coming into Maybrook now,” said Bill a little later.  I thanked Bill for the big treat he had given me and told him that one of my lifelong ambitions had been attained.

Looking down the track I could see the huge freight yards of the Maybrook terminal.  We stopped before we reached the sidings so as to find out on what track to pull in.  Seven was the one we were told to take and slowly Bill pulled BO-5 onto the track.  The long train had reached her destination.  Soon the cars would be sent over the hump and distributed, later to be made into trains for the other railroads out of Maybrook.

After she had left her train, 3550 started for the roundhouse.  Her day’s work was done.  It was just 5 o’clock and according to Bill, we had made good time.

It was the end of the road and my train ride was over.  It was a real trip and there was much to be learned beside just the fun.  It taught me more about the railroad than I had ever known before.  How intricate are its workings and what a number of details there are to be looked after.  Think of all the towns and cities along the way that are served each day by this one train, and then consider all the trains on the system, and you can see how closely linked the railroad is with our daily life.

I became acquainted with the railroad men as I had never done before and they were as fine a bunch as I had ever met.  It was an experience that will never be forgotten.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

More layout modifications

 When I removed the backdrop over the east-end helix, it provided an opportunity to include East Main St. on the layout. I was pretty happy to be able to do that, since one interesting aspect of New Britain are the large number of crossings at grade. For a long time it had looked like only Main and Elm Streets would be on the layout, eliminating that aspect.

This would, however, require a turnout in the middle of the street. Not a big deal, I've done it before, but when I looked at it more closely, I found that moving a single turnout eliminated this issue.

This required some of the modifications I make on the Microengineering turnouts to make them fit.

For this I removed all of the ties except one just beyond the frog. I also removed the throwbar that extended beyond the rail when switched toward the other track, plus the ends of a number of the ties, leaving just the portion with the tie plate/spikes to keep it in gauge. You can see that the other switch on the diverging route had the same modifications.

This allows me to move the points to this turnout to just past the frog of the mainline turnout. The spikes on the single tie I left in place will also ensure that the track stays in gauge.

This moves the points far enough out of where I'll be running East Main St. I used a spare piece of masonite as a guide.

Ballast will hide the partial ties and disguise the modifications. I also rearranged the industry tracks a bit since they needed to move too:

This will help separate the Hardware City Fuel tracks form the track for the City of New Britain storeyard, so that's a bonus. Now I just need to solder the straight rail to attach the two turnouts together, and add a strip of styrene to glue the other rail to the frog plus ensure there won't be a short. I don't solder joints on the track often, but it's essential for modifications like this to ensure smooth running and electrical conductivity.

Another bonus was that these two tracks were the only two still connected to the electrical bus in this section of the layout. Why is that a bonus? There is a location above the second desk where the bus, for some reason I don't recall, ran underneath a support beam when it clearly should have run above it. Since all of the other feeders need to be redone, this meant I could also pull the bus out to that point and route it properly. Of course, I could have just done that to start, but I was being lazy and using the feeders as an excuse not to do it. So the whole east side will get new feeders too.

In the photo can also see another turnout on the right sitting on top of Track 5. Right now there is a Walthers turnout as a (maybe permanent) stand-in, because the geometry needed couldn't be accomplished with the Microengineering turnouts (a curved switch with the outer radius at 24"). But, since this allows me to move East Main St. over at least 6 inches, the industry track can move too. Which means I will be able to use a Microengineering turnout there, which I greatly prefer.

You also may notice that that turnout on the westbound mainline for Track 5 is also a Walthers turnout. I am going to replace that with a handlaid turnout, and I'll do a detailed post and maybe a clinic on how I handlay turnouts, along with the installation of a Fast Tracks Diamond Line crossing.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Still More Commodities

The top four states of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and New Jersey accounted for 51% of rail traffic to CT.  Looking at states that shipped 5,000 to 9,999 cars, we find six states plus Canada that total another 23%, bringing us up to 74% of all commodities shipped to CT.

  • West Virginia - 8,825
  • Massachusetts - 8,575
  • Canada - 8,033
  • Illinois - 6,700
  • Vermont - 5,575
  • Maine - 5,400
  • Michigan - 5,275

The majority of the traffic from West Virginia is 305 Bituminous Coal (5,875).

No commodity from Massachusetts totals 1,000 or more cars. 329 Crushed Stone is 900 cars, and many of those may be from Lane's Quarry in Westfield. 

The largest blocks from Canada are 657 Newsprint Paper (2,400) and 411 Lumber, Shingles and Lath (2,400).

No commodity dominates Illinois.

In Vermont, 4,400 cars are of 773 Feed Animal and Poultry, NOS, or 79% of all of their shipments to CT.

Not surprisingly, the only commodity totaling 1,000 cars is 085 Potatoes, not sweet (1,375).

It's also not surprising to see that nearly half of Michigan's shipments (2,525) consist of 613 Automobiles, Passenger.

What this is starting to show is that once we get past the shipments of the largest states, it will probably be easier to go back to individual commodities. Looking at 613 Automobiles, Passenger we can easily determine where most of those loads will originate:

613 Automobile, Passenger (3,775)

  • 2,525 - Michigan (Chrysler, DeSoto, Dodge, Ford, GM, Hudson, Kaiser-Frazer, Packard)
  • 875 - Indiana (Crosley, in Marion and Richmond; Studebaker, in South Bend)
  • 300 - Wisconsin (Nash, in Kenosha)
  • 75 - Ohio (Chevrolet, in Norwood)

There is a Willys-Overland dealer in New Britain, and they would have received Jeeps, etc. from their California plant, highlighting a flaw in the 1% waybill study. However, since an operating session covers one day, it's reasonable to consider those an exception rather than a rule, and I can decide if/when to include such a shipment in a session. In fact, odds are that if automobiles are delivered during a session, it will be 1-2 carloads from Detroit, as would be expected.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Commodity Classifications

I noted in an earlier post here, that the railroads used various classifications for commodities for waybills as noted in the AAR Freight Commodity Classification book. These classifications were important, because they were required by the ICC to report quarterly and annually the movement of such commodities in carloads and tons. You'll find this data in all sorts of industry and government studies and reports.

Does this matter to model railroaders?

Well, not really. No.

Unless you want it to. Then yes.

What my non-committal answer is really saying is that it matters only if it matters to you.

In my case, since I enjoy the historical and research aspects of the hobby, combined with the fact that I am creating waybills for the operation of the railroad, I'd like to gather as much prototypical-type information as I can for that purpose. Since I haven't been able to find a stack of actual waybills for New Britain in my era, I'll need to create that data.

I have data from averaged from the 1950-1954 1% waybill study for commodity traffic originating and terminating in CT. These use commodity classifications, including a number assigned to that commodity. 

I have several freight classification books, like this tattered one is from October 25, 1943:

The first one I purchased was a Photo-Reduction Edition from October 1, 1934. This is more 'pocket sized' version, and you can see how much smaller it is than the full version:

I had these before I got the 1% waybill study data, and found I had trouble reconciling the data. In the 1934 version, the commodities don't have any numbers assigned to them. By 1943, each commodity was assigned a number, but they didn't match the numbers listed in the waybill study data.

Then I found a copy of the AAR Freight Commodity Classifications:

These commodities matched those listed in the 1% waybill study.

In the forward it notes that, "It cancels and supersedes the R.A.O.A. Commodity Classification, 1928 Edition. 

You'll note that the bottom of the AAR Freight Classification also notes that it's published by the Accounting Division of the AAR. It divides commodities into seven major categories:
I. Products of Agriculture (C.L.)
II. Animals and Products (C.L.)
III. Products of Mines (C.L.)
IV. Products of Forests (C.L.)
V. Manufactures and Miscellaneous (C.L.)
VI. Forwarder Traffic (C.L.)
VII. All L.C.L Freight
These are divided into a total of 262 classes for reporting purposes. As I noted, when doing your research these are the commodity classes that you'll find in reports. I find them interesting from the standpoint that you can see what was shipped by rail frequently enough to warrant being identified in a classification. Here's the list:

It appears that the Consolidated Freight Classification books serve a different purpose. There are a number of rules relating to bills of lading, and also with the manufacture of shipping containers (bags, boxes, etc.) where a manufacturer can stamp an identification on their packaging that it conforms to the Consolidated Freight Classifications. I think that these, in conjunction with the freight tariff books, were used by the freight agents for calculating shipping prices. They also note that bills of lading should conform to the descriptions. The bill of lading/freight bill/waybill on a railroad was usually a multipart form so it was typed up only once. 

The Accounting Department would have had to reconcile the detailed commodity information on the waybills and condense it down to the AAR classifications for the government reporting purposes. 

Combined, they are useful in better understanding the various reports and data from the era, and will be useful in creating waybills. One option is to use these AAR commodity classes as is. It would be easy enough to compile a spreadsheet of the ones needed for a given layout, and use that to generate waybills. Although not prototypical, it would be more than enough for a model railroad, and most layouts need only a small number of them.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

More about Commodities

Still digging into the 1% waybill study, this time by state. As always, we are dealing with the average number of cars between 1950 and 1954, with 1% of all waybills providing the data. 

Let's start with states that originated more than 10,000 cars to CT annually:

  • Pennsylvania 53,475
  • New York 33,050
  • Ohio 11,850
  • New Jersey 11,600

These four states account for more than 50% of all rail shipments to CT of 214,825 cars. Note that this doesn't mean that 50%+ of all loads to New Britain will match this mix. It's possible that they may be over- or under-represented in a single city, but lets dig a little deeper.

Pennsylvania Commodities shipped to CT

Starting at the highest level, here are the numbers:

  • 920 Products of Mines - 27,175
  • 940 Manufactures and Misc. - 25,925
  • 900 Products of Agriculture - 225
  • 930 Products of Forests - 125
  • 910 Animals and Products of Animals - 25

So, no surprises here with 305 Bituminous Coal (15,700) and 303 Anthracite (10,900) accounting for almost all of the products of mines. The remaining 575 cars are split among 323 Clay and Bentonite (25), 327 Gravel and Sand (50), 329 Stone, Crushed (150),  339 Asphalt (75), and 399 Products of Mines NOS (275).

Manufactures and Misc, covers a wide range of commodities, including 583 Manufacturerd I and S (3,900) and 633 Cement, Portland (7,425), the two largest blocks. 

The very small quantities of Products of Agriculture, Forests, and Animals are such a small percentage of each of them, it's not likely I'll need to worry about them unless there's a specific known movement.

New York Commodities shipped to CT

  • 940 Manufacturers and Misc. - 27,825
  • 900 Products of Agriculture - 2,700
  • 920 Products of Mines - 1,725
  • 910 Animals and Products of Animals - 425
  • 930 Products of Forests - 375

The largest parts of the first category is 773 Feed, Animal and Poultry, NOS (9,525), 655 Scrap Paper and Rags (2,150), 583 Manufactured Iron and Steel (1,625), 763 Food Products NOS (1,000). The largest commodity of agriculture is 015 Flour Wheat (1,350). Of the 1,725 cars of 920 Products of Mines, 1,275 of them are of 341 Salt.

Ohio Commodities shipped to CT

940 Manufactures and Misc. (10,575)

This accounts for almost 90% of the traffic from Ohio. 583 Manufactured Iron and Steel (1,975) is the only commodity from Ohio that is more than 1,000 cars annually. 

New Jersey Commodities shipped to CT

Of the 11,600 cars, 9,800 are 940 Manufactures and Misc., and 1,350 cars of 920 Products of Mines. However, none of this is coal. Instead it's 900 cars of 325 Sand, 200 cars of 327 Gravel and Sand, NOS., and 200 cars of 343 Phosphate Rock.

Of the 940 Manufactures and Misc., 1,450 cars are Food Products, NOS, and 1,275 cars of 559 Copper Ingot, Etc., with the rest made up of smaller quantities of dozens of commodities.

What about other states?

I'll dig more into the other states in a later post. But I want to look at one of the commodities here a little more. 920 Products of Mines totaled 41,350 cars, of which these four states only account for 73% of it. We've already seen that 305 Bituminous Coal is the largest commodity delivered to CT. So where is the rest of it coming from?

  • Kentucky - 75
  • Maryland - 150
  • West Virginia - 5,875

This accounts for another 15% of the total, or nearly 90% of 920 Products of Mines.

There's also 1,025 carloads from CT, which would have come by water. Around 1950 some 60% of bituminous came via water, so it would appear the bulk of that stayed where it was delivered.

All of the anthracite comes from Pennsylvania, of course.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

YN-3 in Simsbury

 Bob Belletzkie, creator/curator/maintainer of the excellent Tyler City Station site that covers CT railroad stations in great detail, came across this photo:

What a pleasant surprise! This is, of course, YN-3 in Simsbury, c1948-51. The freight house is still there, now as Plan B Burger Bar. (Excellent burgers, too!)

Bob thinks he may have seen a couple other photos from the same sequence, but can't seem to find them right now. So there may be more to come...


Interesting NYC box car, too. Unfortunately the photo is too blurry to make out the Lot number. The NYC had two major and one minor class of early steel box cars.

The first group was 6,500 steel auto cars built in 1916. They were later modified into single door box cars starting in 1937. The rebuilt cars are available as resin kits from Westerfield.

There were also 9,500 double sheathed auto cars built in 1916. Many of these were rebuilt 1935-7 into steel auto or box cars. One group of the rebuilt box cars was released in resin by Sunshine.

The NYC also built nearly 30,000 cars to a design produced, but never built, by the USRA. They were as numerous as the Pennsy X29 box cars in this era. These cars were built through the '20s. These cars are also available as resin kits from Westerfield, or in plastic from BLI. The Westerfield models cover the life of the cars, with BLI good for a smaller group.

In addition to these cars, there were also 4,000 auto cars built to this design. These are available from Westerfield.

Which car is this, though? 

The rebuilt double sheathed cars have a side sill that is narrower than the car body itself, like many rebuilds. This isn't evident in this photo.

The 1916-built steel cars have a stiffener below the side sill that runs from bolster to bolster, so that can't be it either. The best I can tell, they also had ladders instead of individual grab irons.

So the USRA design cars would make sense, especially since there were so many of them. The side sill looks like a match, and the (blurry) build date looks like it's from the '20s. But those cars only had 6 grab irons, not the 7 in the photo.

That leaves us with the USRA design auto cars. The 40'7" IL is also visible and matches this group (but not all of the other possibilities). These are lots 417-B, 418-B, and 419-B. 

Although, another look and now I think the blurry lot number might be 414-B. In that case it would be in the 101000-101999 series of box cars, built in 1920 to the basic USRA steel box car design, but with slightly larger dimensions. There isn't an existing model that matches, as it's 1" longer and 6" taller than the other cars built to that general design. This makes some sense since it was built before the 1923 ARA recommended practice (basically the X29 design), since the NYC cars built after that time generally conformed to the ARA recommended dimensions.

Another thing of note is the 5-pointed star under the herald on NYC box cars indicates it is used in grain service. Many of these cars were converted to box cars. They were assigned lots 659-B, 696-B and 718-B. Lot 659-B is available as Westerfield 7951. Note that the model has ladders instead of grab irons. I don't know if any of the double door cars would be in grain service, nor how many of the cars received ladders. I also don't know what industry in Simsbury would have received grain, or if the cars stenciled for grain service were used only in that service.


The northern part of the Canal Line job is interesting during the postwar period. As I noted in this post, YN-3/NY-4 was eliminated by September 1953. Since this was the "Canal Local," what trains worked the job after that date?

Alternate schedules actually started before that time. In Spring of '52 the job was moved to originate in Hartford as YA-1/AY-2 (with 'A' being the symbol for Hartford, and 'Y' Holyoke). By fall of '52, it was back to originating in New Haven.

In fall of '53 it was handled by NX-28 which was a local that originated in Plainville and operated to Westfield.

But by spring of '54 YN-3/NY-2 was reinstated.

In fall of '56, the through train is NY-2/YN-1, and the local traffic is handled by NX-25. That's the Cedar Hill - Meriden - New Britain local, and operates to Plainville, plus Collinsville and Westfield as needed. 

By fall of '57 NX-28 is now a Hartford to Westfield local, but by fall of the next year NX-28 is gone and Canal Line north freight is being handled by NX-25 again.

In spring of '62 traffic to Simsbury is handled by the (lower) Canal Local, NX-18 at this time, which also handles Collinsville on alternate days. This is the case through at least spring of '65, the latest freight schedule I have.

In this post with several train orders I indicated that I thought the two orders from 1968 were likely for the Holyoke freight. With this new info, I think it was NX-25, or the New Britain local.

Thursday, December 3, 2020


When going through the 1% Waybill study (average 1950-54) for commodities shipped to CT, I decided to look at the most common commodities to research for waybills. The top four items were pretty predictable:

  • 305 Bituminous Coal (21,800)
  • 411 Lumber, Shingles, and Lath (12,650)
  • 633 Cement Porland (12,200)
  • 301 Anthracite Coal (10,900)

Of those, I wanted to get a better understanding of 411 Lumber Shingles Lath, but where do you find such information?

The AAR Freight Commodity Classification book, of course. I have one from 1947.

I don't know how often they were updated/reissued. It turns out that the category is rather large:

411. Lumber Shingles, and Lath

  • Billets, wooden
  • Blanks, handle, wooden
  • Blocks, bowling pin, wooden
  • Blocks, hub, wooden
  • Blocks, last, wooden
  • Blocks, match, wooden
  • Blocks or blocking, wooden, noibn (not otherwise indexed by name)
  • Blocks, paving, wooden
  • Blocks, spool, wooden
  • Casket or coffin stock, wooden, noibn
  • Cross arms, wooden
  • Dimension stick, wooden, noibn
  • Dowels, wooden, rough or rough turned
  • Flooring, parquet, wooden
  • Flooring squares, wooden
  • Flooring, wooden, noibn
  • Insulator pins, wooden
  • Lath, wooden
  • Lumber, native wood, Canadian wood, or Mexican pine, noibn
  • Pickets, fence, wooden
  • Planks, wooden
  • Shingles, wooden
  • Staves, flume, wooden
  • Staves, pipe, wooden
  • Staves, silo, wooden
  • Staves, tank, wooden
  • Timber noibn

Obviously shipments to the lumber yards will consist of a lot of these, but I also note the Blanks, handle, wooden entry, as that's probably a pretty common load to the Stanley plants.

The rest of the top 19 commodities shipped to CT by rail (all average 2,000 or more carloads/year):

  • 583 Manufactured I and S (Iron and Steel) (10,425)
  • 215 Meats, Fresh, NOS (not otherwise specified) (7,392)
  • 773 Feed A and P, NOS (Animal and Poultry) (6,150)
  • 763 Food Products, NOS (6,150)
  • 655 Scrap Paper and Rags (4,192)
  • 507 Refined Petroleum, NOS (4,150)
  • 613 Automobiles, Passenger (3,775)
  • 015 Flour, Wheat (3,150)
  • 527 Chemicals, NOS (3,050)
  • 657 Newsprint Paper (3,025)
  • 697 Glass Bottles and Jars (2,800)
  • 797 Waste Materials, NOS (2,408)
  • 213 Swine, DD (Double Deck) (2,300)
  • 559 Copper Ingot, Etc. (2,250)
  • 563 Lead, Zinc Bar, Etc. (2,058)

There were a couple of surprises there. 655 Scrap Paper and Rags? What's that? Apparently it's rag pulp, scrap or waste paper, pulpboard, fibreboard, scrap or waste rags. So I'm wondering where all of that is going in the state to rank ninth with an average of over 4,000 cars annually.

It also surprised me that the 17th most common commodity on the New Haven was swine. In a discussion on the NHRHTA forum about stock car traffic on the NH, the general opinion is that such traffic was quite low. But several destinations were noted as the discussion continued. In my case, stock cars would probably only be on the OA trains (Maybrook to Hartford) destined for Copaco in Bloomfield, Hartford, or the slaughterhouse in Middletown.

797 Waste Materials, NOS is a long list of commodities, broken abrasive wheels, alundum refuse, apple waste, to glue scraps, haircloth clippings, jute refuse, non-edible meat refuse, rubber shavings. Just about anything. Once again, where was this being delivered in CT to warrant nearly 2,500 cars?