Monday, August 30, 2021

Options for New Haven Switching Layouts

There have been several folks recently looking for help identifying a location for a small urban New Haven layout. While it is relatively easy to find a location that is interesting to model based on industries and scenery, what I think is often missed is operational interest.

DEY-4 (GE 44-tonner) 0806 Builders Photo
It's a switcher that makes a small switching layout possible.

My first layout was based on Bill Schneider's who modeled two towns along the O&W. The local freight would work each town, and another crew could run the various through freights and passenger trains. It was a very fun layout to operate, and kept us busy for several hours at a time.

I picked Windsor Locks and Thompsonville, with the CT River bridge between the two for my first attempt. Looking back, it would have operated similarly. The local crew would switch out the two towns, with loads of long passenger trains and a couple of freights passing through while they did. But there wasn't nearly as much industry to work along the way as there was on Bill's and, more importantly, with a single level I couldn't possibly create enough staging for the frequent long passenger trains on the Springfield line. So I looked elsewhere.

I lucked out when I picked New Britain. This isn't the only way to build a small layout, or even a small switching layout, but I think there are some key factors that make New Britain a perfect city for this type of  design. And I'm pretty sure there are other similar locations on the New Haven.

Small Switching Layout Features

1. Operations are localized. This is the biggest factor that I think makes this layout work well. New Britain has two locally assigned switchers, and Stanley Works has another. This is perfect for a small switching layout, since it keeps three crews operating on the layout for an entire session. 

Compare this to a single town without locally assigned switchers. Through trains come into the layout, may drop off or pick up some cars or, if passenger, make a station stop. Then they continue back off the layout. A local freight comes in at some point, and does all the switching in town, and then the session is over. Sure, it probably comes back through town later in the day, but that could be hours later.

An alternative is a locale where multiple trains meet. Middletown on the Valley Line, or Plainville on the Highland Line are like this. Several trains come into town. One of them does the local switching, but all of them exchange some cars before heading back off layout. Plainville also has some through freights and passenger service, which would keep the crews that don't handle the local work busy for the session.

2. It's not on a major mainline. There are many locations that have locally assigned switchers and small yards. Ansonia and Meriden are two that come to mind. But the mainline traffic is extensive. Sure, Chris has proven that it can be done in a small space. With New Britain on a branch line, though, traffic is not only more manageable, but the passenger trains are shorter too.

3. Variety of industries. There are very large ones, and lots of smaller ones. The only types of cars that aren't likely to show up in New Britain are stock cars. 

4. There's a good blend of traffic. There's daytime freights and passenger service. The freights provide work during the session, dropping off more cars in the morning, then picking them up in the afternoon/evening. So the crews break down and build cuts of cars like they would at a major classification yard, but without needing all that real estate.

5. It's at a junction. This provides some operational interest, but also more connections to the rest of the world. Yes, it complicates design and staging a bit. This isn't essential, but it's a nice addition. A junction that interchanges with another road would be even more interesting.  

These factors all work very well for a small industrial layout, and ensure that there are plenty of operations for a reasonably sized crew.

Because it's a single city/town, I can build it closer to scale. On a layout where New Britain is just one of several towns on a main line, it would have to be heavily compressed. Chris picked the right kind of branch line to model for a focus on a local freight. He only had to make significant compromises in Middletown, and even then it feels and operates like it should. The other towns are all small, but they were on the prototype too. But for a location that is large enough to warrant locally assigned switchers, reducing the layout allows me to better model all of the railroad activity in the area.

It can also be economical because you often won't need as many locomotives. In fact, if I chose to model only 1953, all I would need are three switchers and a few RDCs.

Where to Start

Research, of course. There are several documents that are helpful in identifying where a good amount of operations is to be found, and then narrow it down to areas that are more manageable to model.

  • Employee Timetables. There's a page that conveniently lists all of the locations on the New Haven that have yard limits. It also provides all of the passenger schedules so we can see what's going to be running through the layout.
  • Freight Schedules. We can also look at where local freights originate and work. This provides additional operational interest, as the crews can assemble outbound trains, and breakdown inbound ones. It also provides the through train schedules. Julian Erceg has an excellent site that includes a number of New Haven ones.
  • Engine Assignment Books. We can look at where switchers are assigned. Not all yards have locally assigned switchers, but they provide session-long operations. These switchers handle all the switching within yard limits. Of the three, this is probably the most important starting point for this type of layout. Fortunately, Charlie Dunn posted all of the engine assignment books we've been able to dig up on the NHRHTA forum.

Small Towns on the NH with Locally Assigned Switchers

These are all small towns on the New Haven that aren't on a major mainline (Shoreline or Springfield Line) and have a locally assigned switcher in 1949.

  • Armory - 0975 - connects to B&A in Springfield
  • Danbury - 0942, 0954 - Joe Smith's blog covers Danbury extensively
  • Holyoke - 0950, 0957 - Interchange with B&M
  • New Britain - 0802, 0812
  • Norwich - 0814 - Interchange with CV
  • Putnam - 0804, 0969 - Shoreliner 28.1, 28.1, 33.3
  • Willimantic - 0940 - Interchange with CV
  • Woonsocket - 0801
  • Brockton - 0803 - Shoreliner 42.1, 42.2
  • South Braintree - 0922 - Shoreliner 36.4
  • Fall River - 0816 - Shoreliner 34.3
  • Taunton - 0815 - Shoreliner 30.3
Prior to dieselization, locations that received 44-tonners would most likely have had T-2-b (0-6-0) switchers, and some or all of the ones with S-1 switchers had Y-3 or Y-4 0-8-0 switchers. 
In addition, there are two industrial railroads that were independently operated subsidiaries of the New Haven. These are harder to model due to motive power prior to the dieselization dates given below.
  • Manufacturers Railroad (New Haven) - 0812 - Shoreliner 12.3, 38.3
  • Seaview Avenue Railroad (Bridgeport) - 0816 (1952), 0801 (1954) - Shoreliner 12.3
  • Union Freight Railroad (Boston) - 0600, 0601 (1954) - Shoreliner 34.1
John Pryke, of course, modeled the Union Freight on part of his layout. Union Freight had 44-tonners for a few years prior to the NH DEY-5 (S-2) locomotives. All of these could be modeled with the NH mainline entirely off-layout.

Another possibility that is geographically much smaller than its importance is Bay Ridge Yard in Brooklyn. There's lots of street running, and the car float operation from the Pennsylvania Railroad in Greenville. Car floats, of course, make a perfect visible staging yard for a layout. This is covered along with all of the NYC freight operations in Shoreliner 33.2 and 33.3.

Like New Britain, these all have enough traffic to warrant a switcher, and sometimes more, with plenty of operations that occur in a relatively small geographical area. Other than New Britain, I haven't done a whole lot of research on most of these locations. Another enterprising New Haven modeler can take up that task!

I would love to see prototypically accurate models of any of these locations. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Layout Design/Construction - Skirting Take II

 For some time I've had some banquet table skirting along the base of the layout, below staging. This was a very affordable option, with 14' costing about $20-$25 at Amazon. It is primarily made 28" tall or so, or the height of a table. It can be purchased elsewhere in taller lengths, but for significantly more money.

Because this wasn't tall enough, I added hinged fascias from Masonite, so I could access the top shelf in the storage and this worked well enough. But I've always found getting to stuff below the skirting a bit annoying. I planned on cutting it in strategic places to make it easier, but that would also require some sewing work as well. I covered this in more detail in this post.

I'm not sure why I didn't think of this myself, but Dale told me about a Paul Dolkos article about making removable beadboard sections. Doh! It's brilliant. And simple.

Some masonite, cheap beadboard and moldings, wood glue and spray paint, and voila!

They are form fit, and can easily be removed when I need access to the shelves.

I'll stain the legs that support the upper section. You can see that it sticks up above the level of the staging tracks by several inches, also preventing things from falling. It really finishes up the room beautifully, and carries the design of the agent's desk around the room now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Mather Box Cars

As I continue working through my freight car notes, here's another model worth having.

It should be no secret by now that I love interesting freight cars. Single sheathed cars are one of my favorites in general. The Mather single sheathed box car certainly fits that category.

I find this one of the most unlikely models to have been released as injection-molded plastic. Life-Like produced the stock car first, in single- and double-deck versions, and the roof and underframe could be shared with this model. I've always found it difficult to find the box car model, but the stock car is one of the easiest models to find, with way too many having been produced. I still find NOS for $5/kit for the stock cars. The execution is excellent for both, though. Red Caboose produced a model of the Mather reefers.

Only the uncoupling levers and air hoses are missing from the model.
Note the unusual Klasing horizontal power hand brake.

Underbody detail is good, including brackets for the reservoirs, instead of just a mounting post.

Richard Hendrickson covered the Mather box cars in Railmodel Journal in August, 2003.

The reason this box car is such an odd choice for an injection-molded model is that it existed in very small quantities, and mostly on very small roads. How few? It covers a prototype that totaled fewer than 1,000 cars, for about a half-dozen roads, mostly very small roads.

The prototype was built in several different heights. Sunshine produced resin kits in four of those heights: 7'8" interior height, 8'5" IH, 9'11" IH, and 10'3" IH. The Proto 2000 (now Walthers) model is of the shortest, the 7'8" IH. Unlike many articles in RMJ, there is no full roster provided, and the article doesn't cover the different heights. I'm sure that a big selling point for the model was the chrome yellow paint scheme of a couple of roads, particularly the Muncie & Western (MWR), with the iconic mason jar stenciled on the door, and "The Ball Line" slogan. However, all of their cars were nearly a foot or more than two feet taller than the model, so it's a stand-in if you're picky (like me).

The iconic "The Ball Line" scheme.

Because these cars were leased, the roads that rostered them varied over the years, which makes it difficult to develop a complete roster. This may be why one wasn't included in the magazine. These are all the cars I could identify in 1950.

Although they existed in small quantities, they did show up across the country. They are a distinct design, one of the few accurate single sheathed box cars in plastic. It doesn't hurt that several have unique paint schemes. I think it's definitely worth owning a few, so they can show up periodically in ops sessions, but it's not always the same one.

1950 Roster

The colorful paint schemes on some of these cars and short stature make these cars stand out.

Wichita Northwestern, another road that leased cars earlier than my era, was also painted in the catchy chrome yellow, but not all had the unusual paint schemes of these four roads. The remaining cars had box car red bodies with white lettering.

7'8" IH - Proto 2000/Walthers, Sunshine 7.1-7.7

  • ACY 1250-1299 (50)  ~11% of box cars (all Mather), ~8% of total roster.
  • C&EI 400-400 (100) 8% of their box car roster, 2% of total roster.
  • CIM 8000-8454 (453) 100% of their box car roster, 20% of total roster.
  • IN 2000-2099 (99) 41% of box car roster, 40% of total roster.
  • MRS 7500-7599 (24) 50% of box car and total roster. 
  • PH&D 1006-1522 (11) (7'10"IH) 100% of roster.
In the article Richard notes the East St. Louis Junction had 32 cars in 1947 (its entire fleet). In the 1943 ORER, cars 5000-5099 (15) were 7'6"IH. They are listed in the 1950 ORER, but have no freight cars.

PS&N was another road that leased them, but the railroad ceased operations in 1947.

So the model is accurate for 737 cars in 1950, and not many more even in earlier eras. But other than MWR and TC, it covers all of the roads that were significant owners of the car. Two other classes are much larger on ACY, but at least you can represent a part of their Mather fleet accurately.

8'5" IH - Sunshine 6.1-6.4

  • ACY 1100-1199, 2000-2149 (242) 52% of box car roster, 36% of total roster.
  • MWR 1201-1275 (25) 50% of entire roster.
  • TC 7751-7850 (96)(8'6"IH) 50% of box cars, 10% of total roster.
Nearly a foot taller. If I were to pick up a Sunshine kit or two to supplement the P2k model, it might be this version.

The other half of the TC box car roster were also unusual as 1937 AAR Standard box cars with Pullman Standard carbuilders' ends and a flat panel roof. I should have picked up the resin model when Smoky Mountain Model Works and later Wright Trak still had them. Hopefully Southbound Modelworks will re-release them.

9'11" IH - Sunshine 103.1-103.3

  • ACY 1200-1220 (21) 5% of box car roster, 3% of total roster.
  • MWR 1276-1300 (25) 50% of entire roster.
More than 2 feet taller. Fewer than 50 cars, but for both of these roads, the only box cars they owned were Mather.

10'3" IH - Sunshine 102.4-103.10

  • ACY 3001-3149 (149) 32% of box car roster, 22% of total roster.
  • GM&O 7500-7524 (25) 0.4% of box cars, 0.2% of entire roster. 
  • MRS 80000-8024 (25) 100% of roster.
These are the most noticeably different from the P2k model being more than 2-1/2 feet(!) taller.

The unique Mather roof, also used on their stock cars and reefers.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Railmodel Journal Index

Railmodel Journal was, in my opinion, one of the best railroad modeling magazines published. 

The primary interest for me are the Freight Cars of the '50s series of articles, a feature in most issues. These focused on a specific model and the prototypes that match it and are great articles by a who's who of prototype modeling pioneers. While many of these articles have been expanded upon in other publications (such as Railway Prototype Cyclopedia), they are still full of useful information and are the best place to start to identify the accuracy of models released through 2008 when RMJ ceased publication. I note plastic models that have been released since. I only mention other resin kits if the article is about a kitbash, since the resin kit would be the easier (and often more accurate) option.

This is simply a re-organized and reformatted list primarily copied from the RMJ site which can be accessed at the Internet Archive. Like the RMJ site, you can search this page with the search function in your browser. I've only included HO scale info (because that's what I compiled), and only those articles that cover prototype info and specific models. 

I list individual entries by road name, provided that info was in RMJ's index. 

All of these articles are available at Train Life online for free. I've listed them in the following format:

Prototype. Model. Author. Issue.


  • 40-foot all-steel box cars. Accurail/Des Plaines/Sylvan. Swain. 10/00, 1, 3/01.
  • 1937 AAR box cars. IMWX. Hendrickson. 7/94.
  • 1937 AAR ACF box cars. IMWX/Red Caboose. Hawkins/Wider/Long, 7/91.
  • 1937 AAR ACF box cars. IMWX/Red Caboose. Hendrickson. 11/92.
  • 1937 AAR ACF double-door box cars. Red Caboose. Hendrickson. 1/98.
  • 1937 AAR wood-side box cars with 5/4 Dreadnaught ends. Athearn/Sunshine. Lofton. 2/94.
  • 1941 Modified AAR box cars. Athearn/Intermountain/Sunshine. Hawkins, 8, 10, 12 /96, 3/97.
  • 1944 AAR box cars. C&BT. Hawkins/Wider/Long. 10, 11/89, 2, 7, 10, 11/90, 6/92.
  • 1944 AAR box cars. C&BT. Hendrickson. 12/89.
  • 1944 AAR box cars. Branchline/C&BT. Hawkins. 10, 11/99, 1/00.
  • 1944 AAR box cars. Kitbash. Accurail/McKean. Hawkins. 4/94.
  • 1944 AAR single- and double-door box cars. Branchline. Hawkins. 11/99, 1/00.
  • 1944 AAR double-door box cars. C&BT. Hawkins 6/92.
  • 1944 AAR double-door box cars. C&BT. Hawkins/Wider/Long. 1/90.
  • 1944 welded double-door box car. Kitbash. Accurail. 4/94.
    • The term "Interim" applied to the ends in these articles is a misnomer. Improved Dreadnaught End was the manufacturer's (SREM) trademarked name, no "interim."
  • 1955-1961 AAR box car. Branchline/Red Caboose. Hawkins. 7/99.
  • ATSF 1890-1900 era box and stock cars. 12/02
  • ATSF 1944 AAR box cars. C&BT. Hendrickson. 9/89.
  • ATSF Bx-11/12/13 box cars. Westerfield. Hendrickson. 5/95.
  • B&O M-26 single-door box car clones Red Caboose/Westerfield. Hendrickson. 6/98, 11, 12/01.
  • C&O 1937 AAR Rebuilt 40-foot box cars. Pitzer. 5/96.
  • CN 1-1/2-door single-sheathed 40-foot box car. Accurail. Hendrickson. 4/93.
  • CN 1916-1917 40-foot single-sheathed box cars from Accurail/Sunshine. Hendrickson. 2/93.
  • CN 1929 40-foot single-sheathed box cars. Steam Shack. Swain. 6/94.
  • CN 40' box cars. Kitbash. C&BT/Intermountain/McKean. Swain. 12/92, 3/93.
  • CNJ 40-foot single-sheathed box cars. Accurail/Tichy. Roseman, 2/03.
  • CNJ box cars. Red Caboose/Walthers. Roseman. 11/02.
  • DT&I X29 box car clones. Red Caboose/Westerfield. Hendrickson. 6/98, 11, 12/01.
  • GN 12-panel box cars. Intermountain. Buck. 10/98.
  • GTW 1-1/2-door single-sheathed 40-foot box car. Accurail. Hendrickson. 4/93.
  • ITC 1944 AAR box cars. Kitbash. C&BT. Hawkins. 2/91.
  • LS&I PS-1 box cars. Accurail. Switzer. 9/03.
  • Mather box car. Proto 2000. Hendrickson, 8/03
  • M&StL 6-foot door car kitbash. Intermountain. Freeman. 1/02.
  • MILW 40' roof-hatch box cars. MDC. Rydarowicz. 6/01.
  • MILW rib-side box cars. Rib Side Models. Hendrickson. 12/04
  • MP AAR box cars. Branchline. Freeman. 2/03.
  • NKP X29 box car clones. Red Caboose/Westerfield. Hendrickson. 6/98, 11, 12/01.
  • NYC USRA single-sheathed box car. Tichy. Switzer. 6/02.
    • Forthcoming Rapido car.
  • PRR X26C box cars. Athearn/Sunshine. Lofton/Meacham. 8/92.
    • F&C and forthcoming Rapido cars.
  • PRR X28 1-1/2-door box cars. Intermountain. Roseman. 8/04.
  • PRR X29 box cars. Red Caboose/Sunshine/Walthers. Lofton, 9/93, Hendrickson. 8/97.
  • PRR X29B box cars. Front Range. Davis. 3/91.
  • PRR X29B box cars. C&BT/Sunshine. Lofton. 1/94.
  • PRR X29G box cars. Kitbash. Details West. Bley. 2/91.
  • PRR X43 box cars. C&BT. Davis. 9/91.PRR X31 round-roof box cars. Burg. 3/95.
  • PRR X37 1937 AAR box car. Athearn. LaRue. 9/90.
  • PRR X37B double-door box car kitbash. Athearn/Front Range. LaRue. 11/92.
  • PRR X54 box cars. Kitbash. Details West. Bley. 1/91.
  • Pullman Standard "PS-0" box cars. Intermountain/Red Caboose. Rydarowicz. 3/01.
  • Pullman Standard PS-1 box cars. Accurail/Cannonball/Con-Cor/Intermountain/Kadee/McKean/Model Power/Walthers. 6/89, 3/93, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11/93, 1, 6, 11, 12/94, 5, 6, 7, 12/97.
  • SOO PS-1 box car. McKean. Holbrook. 12/90.
  • Linde 40' box/tank cars. McKean. Rydarowicz. 7/93.
  • T&P box cars. Intermountain. Freeman. 9/01.
  • UP B-50-24, -27 box cars. Trix. Hendrickson. 6/03.
  • USRA 40-foot double-sheathed box cars. Ertl/Westerfield. Hendrickson 5/98.
    • Rapido model
  • USRA rebuilt single-sheathed box cars. Tichy. Lofton and Hendrickson. 4, 5, 6/92, 7/93
  • W&LE X29 box car clones. Red Caboose/Westerfield. Hendrickson. 6/98, 11, 12/01.
  • WAB 1944 AAR box cars. C&BT. Hawkins. 5/91.
  • War Emergency single-sheathed box cars. Sunshine. Culotta, 4/03.


  • 1941 AAR 50' box cars. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 4/98.
  • 1941 AAR 50' double-door box cars. Athearn/Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 10/95, 3, 9/96.
  • 1944 AAR 50' box cars. Branchline. 8/89, 3, 4, 6, 9/90, 10/92.
  • 50' composite box cars. MDC/Westerfield. Burg/Hendrickson. 7, 10, 11/89,
  • 50' single-sheathed box cars. MDC/Walthers/Westerfield. Hendrickson. 7/95, 7/96.
  • GAEX 50' single-door "DF" box cars. Branchline/C&BT (Kitbash). 3, 4, 9/90, 4/91, 2/92.
  • GN 50' single-sheathed box cars. Westerfield. Nehrich. 7/95.
  • NP 50' double-door box cars. Kitbash. Details West. Pitzer. 3/00.
  • PRR 50' single door box cars. Details West. Davis. 4/91.
  • PRR X31B 50' round-roof box cars. Bowser. Davis. 8/91.
  • PRR X32, 33 50' double-door box cars. Bowser. Burg. 2/96.
  • Pullman Standard 50' "PS-0" box cars. Intermountain/Red Caboose. Rydarowicz. 3/01.
  • Pullman Standard 50' PS-1 double-door box cars. Intermountain. Hawkins. 6, 7/95, 1/96.
  • Pullman Standard 50' PS-1 single-door box cars. Intermountain. Hawkins. 12/95.


  • ACF two-bay covered hoppers. Bowser/ECW/Kato. Hawkins/Wider/Long. 4, 8, 10, 12/91.
  • ACF two-bay covered hoppers. Bowser/ECW/Kato. Eager. 3, 5/94.
  • ACF two-bay covered hoppers. Bowser/ECW/Kato. Hendrickson. 9/97.
  • ACF two-bay covered hoppers. Bowser/ECW/Kato. Mende. 3/94.
  • ACF two-bay covered hoppers. Kitbash. Con-Cor. Charles. 8/90.
    • Intermountain model.
  • Airslide covered hoppers. Con-Cor/ECW/Walthers. 12/90, 2/91, 10/92.
  • PRR H21D covered hopper. Kitbash. Westerfield. Bossler. 2/04.
  • PRR H34 PS-2 covered hopper. Atlas/MDC. Burg. 12/93, 1/94.
  • Pullman Standard PS-2 covered hoppers. Atlas/MDC. Gher. 7/90.
  • Pullman Standard PS-2 covered hoppers. Atlas/MDC. Hawkins. 4, 6, 9, 11/95.
  • Pullman Standard PS-2 covered hoppers. Kadee. Hawkins. 12/03.


  • AAR 50', 50-ton flat cars. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 6, 8/99.
  • A&WP pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • ACL pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • ATSF pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • B&O 50' piggyback (TOFC) flats and trailers. Kitbash. Athearn. 10/89.
  • Bethlehem 75' piggyback (TOFC) flat cars. Walthers. Vaughan. 4/90.
  • C&G pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • CSXT pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • GA pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • GM&O pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • GSI Commonwealth 53' flat cars. Walthers. Eager. 12/92.
  • Midwest pulpwood flat cars. Holbrook. 10/89, 1, 5/90, 9/91.
  • MP pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • NKP 42-foot piggyback flat cars. Kitbash. Athearn. Rydarowicz. 7/98.
  • Northeastern pulpwood and wood chip cars. Lancaster. 8/97.
  • Pulpwood flat car. Kitbash. Walthers. Schleicher. 4/94.
  • PRR F30 piggyback flat cars. Walthers. Rydarowicz. 9/04.
  • PRR F30A 40-foot flat cars. Bowser. Hendrickson. 4/99.
    • Forthcoming Rapido model.
  • RF&P pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.
  • SAL 40'/50' pulpwood flat cars. Kitbash. Athearn. Denton. 10/93.
  • Tichy 40' flat cars. Hendrickson. 6/93.
  • USRA-design 42' flat cars. Red Caboose. Hendrickson. 1/97.
  • WofA pulpwood flat cars. Coates. 9/93.


  • 40' General Service (GS) gondolas. Detail Associates/Red Caboose. Hendrickson. 3/00.
  • 50' War Emergency gondolas. Tichy. Hendrickson. 5, 6/02.
  • C&O 100-ton gondolas. Kitbash. Athearn. Westerfield. 12/89.
  • CN 141000-142749 48-foot gondolas. Westerfield. Swain. 9/96.
  • CNW 43' gondolas. Model Power/Tyco. Preussler. 10/03.
  • EJ&E 50' gondola. AHM. Nehrich. 10/94.
  • Erie-Lackawanna 52-foot gondola. Proto 2000. Sanicky. 9/98.
  • Greenville-design 52-foot mill gondolas. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 11/96.
  • PRR G-31 54' gondola. Con-Cor. Bley. 12/90.
  • PRR Gs gondolas. Bowser. Hendrickson. 4/99.
  • USRA 41'6" 50-ton composite gondolas. Intermountain/Proto 1000. Hendrickson. 2/00.
  • USRA 46' mill gondolas. Westerfield/Walthers. Hendrickson. 7/02.


  • AAR 50-ton offset twin hoppers. Athearn/Atlas. Hawkins. 3/98.
    • Intermountain and Kadee models.
  • AAR 70-ton offset-side triple hoppers. Con-Cor/Stewart. Hendrickson. 4, 8/95, 5/96.
  • AAR Emergency 50-Ton composite hoppers. Athearn/Proto 2000. Hawkins. 12/00, 4/01.
  • ACF three-bay hoppers. MDC/Roundhouse. Hawkins. 12/91, 2/94.
  • B&O fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Nehrich. 2/92.
  • B&O W-1 hoppers. Kitbash. Bowser. Roseman. 11/00.
  • Berwind USRA 55-ton twin hoppers. Accurail/Life-Like/Tichy/Westerfield. 7/89.
    • Also MTH, acquired by Scaletrains.
  • C&O fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. 4/93.
  • C&S USRA 55-ton twin hoppers. Accurail/Life-Like/Tichy/Westerfield. 7/89.
    • Also MTH, acquired by Scaletrains.
  • CN H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • CNJ/CRP fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Nehrich. 2/92.
  • CNJ/CRP fishbelly hoppers. Kitbash. Stewart. Mende. 6/94.
  • CR H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • D&H fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Nehrich. 2/92.
  • DRGW H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • E-L H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • LV 34' offset-side hoppers. Kitbash. Athearn/Atlas. Roseman. 10/02.
  • LV fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Nehrich. 2/92.
  • MILW H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • N&W fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Nehrich. 2/92.
  • P&LE H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • PC H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • PRR GLa hoppers. Bowser/Westerfield. Burg. 2/02.
    • Forthcoming Rapido model.
  • PRR H21 hoppers. Bowser. Burg. 5/93.
  • PRR H22A hoppers. Bowser. Burg. 5/94.
  • PRR H31 hoppers. Athearn. Bley. 7/91.
  • PRR H35, 37 hoppers. Stewart. Burg.1/96.
  • PRR H39 triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • RDG fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Nehrich. 2/92.
  • RDG fishbelly hoppers. Kitbash. Stewart. Mende. 6/94.
  • RDG War Emergency hoppers. Kitbash. Roseman. 4/02.
    • F&C.
  • Roger-Hart 70-ton Convertible Ballast Cars. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 1/04.
  • Roger-Hart Selective ballast. Challenger/Hi-Tech. Hendrickson. 8/01, 3/02.
    • Atlas.
  • USRA twin hopper. Accurail. Hendrickson. 5/95.
    • Also Tichy and MTH, acquired by Scaletrains.
  • WM fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Nehrich. 2/92.
  • WM fishbelly hoppers. Stewart. Pitzer. 6/94.
  • WM H-39 clone triple hoppers. Stewart. Eager. 4/93.
  • WM Channel-side two-bay hoppers. Stewart. Hawkins. 5/97.


  • ART reefers. Intermountain. Hawkins. 2/01.
  • ART steel reefers. Intermountain/Walthers. Rydarowicz. 7/00.
  • ART, MDT, PFE combination-door reefers. Intermountain/Walthers. Rydarowicz. 8/00.
  • BREX reefers. Accurail. Wagner. 6/99.
  • MDC and Red Caboose reefers. Hendrickson. 2, 10/96, 7/97.
  • MDT reefers. Kitbash. Intermountain. Rydarwicz. 5/99.
  • NP reefers. Intermountain. Hawkins. 9/00.
  • PFE R-40-10 reefers. Intermountain. Hawkins. 2/01.
  • PFE R-40-23 reefers. Intermountain. Hendrickson. 10/94.
  • PFE R-40-23 reefers. Intermountain. Hendrickson. 3/95.
  • PFE R-40-23 reefers. Intermountain. Kohlmann. 9/98.
  • PFE R-40-25 reefers. Intermountain. Hawkins. 9/00.
  • PFE wood reefers. Red Caboose/Tichy/Westerfield. Hendrickson. 4/97.
  • SFRD Rr-5 through Rr-11 reefers. Sunshine. Hendrickson. 1/92.
  • SFRD Rr-19 through Rr-32 reefers. C&BT. Hendrickson.11/94.
  • SFRD Rr-19 through Rr-32 reefers. Upgrade. C&BT. Hendrickson. 11/94.
  • SFRD Rr-19 through Rr-32 reefers. Intermountain. Hendrickson. 12/96.
  • Swift reefers. MDC/Sunshine/Tichy. Lofton, 2/93.
  • URTX reefers. Branchline Trains. Hawkins 5/00.
  • URTX reefers. Kitbash. Mantua/Red Caboose. Rydarowicz. 9/01.
  • URTX reefers. Tichy/Westerfield. Westerfield. 6/89, 7/92.


  • ATSF sk-Q through Sk-U stock cars. Intermountain. Hendrickson. 8/04
  • CGW stock car. Proto 2000. Probst. 5/01.
  • Mather double-deck stock cars. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 5/97.
  • Mather single-deck stock cars. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 2/97.
  • NP stock cars. Central Valley Model Works. Hendrickson. 9/91.
  • Swift stock cars. Lofton. 2/93.


  • 6,000-gallon insulated high-pressure tank cars. Trix. Hendrickson. 9/04.
  • ACF ICC-103W 10,000-gallon welded tank cars. Red Caboose. Hendrickson. 4/96.
  • AFC Type 21 8,000 gallon tank cars. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 2/98.
  • ACF Type 21 10,000 gallon tank cars. Proto 2000. Hendrickson. 1/00.
  • ACF Type 27 8,000-gallon tank cars. Intermountain. Hendrickson. 10/97.
  • ACF Type 27 10,000-gallon tank cars. Intermountain. Hendrickson/ 7/97.
  • GATC 10,000 and 12,500-gallon tank cars. Kitbash. Athearn. Hendrickson. 8/96.
  • ICC 105, 11,000 gallon tank cars. Atlas. Hendrickson. 7/03.
  • Linde 40-foot box/tank cars. McKean. Ryczkowski. 7/93.
  • LPG 40-foot tank cars. Athearn. 9/89.
  • SOO Pickle tank car. Scratchbuiling. Leider. 2/02.
  • Skelgas LP tank car. Kitbash. Athearn. Hodina. 7/89.
  • Tichy HO scale small-dome tank car. Hendrickson. 10/90, 4/91.


  • Prototype brake wheels c1930-1960. Hawkins. 9/96.
  • HO scale freight trucks. Hendrickson.2, 4/90, 12/93, 2/95.
    • Richard also published a much more current document online available here.


  • Authentic railroad color chips. Box car red. Floquil/SMP/Scalecoat. Hawkins/Wider/Long. 8/89, 6/90
  • B&O box car colors. Hawkins/Wider/Long. 8/89.
  • PRR Freight car red. LaRue/Gutowski/McGuire/PRRT&HS. 11/90.
  • Repack data markings. Switzer. 9/90.
  • Reweigh, station, weight and service stencils, placards and truck details. Hendrickson.6/97.
  • Weathering freight cars to match the steam era. Hendrickson. 12/95.
  • Weathering Kadee box cars. Switzer. 8/01.
  • Weathering tank cars. Schleicher. 5/97.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Procrastinating Forward

In role playing games there's a (somewhat controversial) concept known as "fail forward." That is, when you are running a game, and the players fail to accomplish something, you should still provide forward progress to the narrative/story.

I've always been a procrastinator. That is, I'm often busy, but not necessarily busy doing what I should be doing. I have a difficult time sitting around doing nothing, such as lying out at the pool or beach when we're on vacation. 

Lately this has been an issue because I haven't been getting much sleep. We don't have any nurses for Emily right now, which means we use baby monitor so we can sleep. I find it very difficult to fall asleep with the sound of her equipment (or her singing at 2:00 am), and I usually have to go downstairs at least a couple of times a night to respond to an alarm, which generally means she has disconnected something.

Anyway, it's all too easy to sit down where Laura is watching TV and not do much. In this case, it's less about being "lazy" and more about a lack of mental capacity and motivation. Young parents will know what I'm talking about....

Instead, I try to head down to the basement, put on some music, and look for something that will catch my interest enough to work on something. 

I consider this "procrastinating forward." I'm not making progress on the projects I'm "supposed" to be working on, but I am making some sort of progress. This is what caught my attention last night. 

I had purchased several undecorated reefers when Rapido did their first run, with the idea that I'd modify them into Armour and/or Swift prototypes. Bill had told me that there were only a few modifications to be made (I believe the Swift one might be a closer match). Last year I purchased a completed Sunshine model of an Armour Reefer by somebody thinning their herd, and decided to compare that to the Rapido car.

The most obvious detail that needs to be modified is the visible side sill, below the wood sheathing, but above the tabs that attach the sill to the underframe components.

There's a small steel strap that is the attachment of the ladder that needs to be removed, since it will have grab irons.

And there's the door. The GARX reefer has a taller door, but it's the bottom portion that's different. There's no kick plate below the door. This also affects the location of the hinges, which are also slightly different.

The roof is pretty straightforward. Just the hatch rests to remove. If you look closely, you'll notice the Rapido car is two roof boards longer than the Sunshine model. However, since resin can shrink when pulled from the mold, I don't know yet if they were actually different dimensions.

Not too much on the ends either. Another couple of ladder attachment straps, and a steel strap across the end of the car.

I started on the roof. I have a number of tools for scraping off details, along with the usual knives, etc. I've never been that good at this process, but this time I decided to use a straight edge razor blade. Something that Bill Welch said was his preferred method.

When there is enough space (that is, no other details to avoid) it works very well. Since you're putting pressure where the blade is cutting, the corners are far enough away that they don't dig into the car body. More importantly, with a long cutting surface, you can attack the detail properly - by slicing it. 

Cooks will be able to tell you that the best way to use a knife is to let the blade do the work. Sharp edges like these work best when slicing, drawing the sharp edge along what you need to cut. When we use the No. 17 blade (or similar tool) approach, it is more like a chisel, and trying to wedge the blade under the part. I find this much harder to gauge the amount of force needed. Which means it slips a lot, gouges the side, etc.

To take of the side sills, I started with a scalpel to mark the line, following the raised edge of the bottom of the side sheathing. (I still managed to gouge one of the sides). I then used a scribing tool to take more material out. This has a "v" shaped blade that cuts and clears the cut, instead of spreading the cut like a scalpel or knife does. You can see the little squigglies it makes while doing so (those might work well in a scrap load. Hmmm...). This clears a lot of material quickly, and then I can go back and use the scalpel to finish it off.

You can get this one from UMM-USA. I use it a lot. Because it's much thicker than a scalpel blade, it's not flexible. So I use the straight cutting portion to scrape things that need to be cleaned of flash, etc.

Overall not too bad. Using the scriber for the board lines made it relatively easy to match the other grooves.

This was as much a practice of these skills as it is working to complete a project. This isn't really even on my radar in terms of importance to complete right now. Note that I didn't even check prototype photos yet. Since I have a Sunshine model on the layout, I figured matching that would at least look consistent. Looking at prototype photos, it looks like I'll have to modify the door eventually. With door hardware available (Grandt Line, which is still easy to find) and everything else as scribed wood, it would be just as easy to scratch build this body. I'll try to modify the door first, but may try scratchbuilding one eventually as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

USRA Single Sheathed Box Cars - Coda

I did an overview of the USRA single sheathed box cars here. But it appears Rapido has been sneaky and added another car that I haven't seen discussed much in the usual places yet.

CP 230000 as built in 1920

CP received 3,500 single sheathed box cars in 1920 and 1921 that very closely followed the USRA design. The major differences were the 7/8 Murphy ends, and they had grain hoppers in the floor. Like many other Canadian single sheathed cars they also had grain clips (Rapido calls these siding clips) to help keep the lowest boards from bowing out when loaded with grain.

Rapido's model is accurate for cars from the mid-30s after the grain hoppers were removed, along with receiving Ajax handbrakes and AB brake appliances.

Tichy and Westerfield also have this variation available, and the same commentary applies as before. Both of them can be built with the grain hoppers. I should also point out that Tichy also makes a cement car modification, with hatches in the roof and floor that matches a D&H prototype. Until the Rapido cars are released I can't tell how easy it would be to use the Tichy parts to modify them.

Yes, I've already ordered one...

Monday, August 16, 2021

Two More Flat Cars

More projects I started quite a while ago. These are two interesting models that are only available as kits, produced decades apart, but are both very accurate models of their prototypes. This post has been sitting in my drafts for well over a year, but as I've been reorganizing things in the basement, I've pulled these cars to add to the growing number of flat cars to finish...

Owl Mountain Models

The first is the Owl Mountain Models SP F-50-10/12 (Kit #2003).

A very well designed model, mostly styrene except the brake wheel (yet to be added), sill steps, and roping staples which are cast brass. The car is well weighted beneath a thin piece of styrene, and the brake appliances and crossties are designed to take this loss of depth into account. While there are holes drilled for piping between the AB valve and the center sill, it's very close to the false floor/bottom of the side sills and won't be easily visible from the side, so I've decided not to add them at this time. 

I still need to add uncoupling levers, the brake wheel, and then paint and decal it. 

My only tips on constructing the model is to read the instructions carefully - it instructs you to not glue the center portion (over the weights) of the center sill until you install the crossties. I had already done that, so the crossties are slightly short. However, there are spacers that connect the two halves of the side sill together, and at least the lower ones would not reach each other had I done that and spread the center sill to accommodate them.

Also, the picture wasn't entirely clear on which slots on the underframe to use to install the center sill. It's the inner two slots, although in the instructions it appears to be the outer ones.

There's little point in me detailing the process more, since Jason Hill has covered the model and it's uses many times over on his blog here, here, and here, among others. (Jason is the designer and producer of this excellent model, so he knows it inside and out).

Central Valley Model Works

The second is a Central Valley Model Works NP flat car. The kit is very well detailed and well designed, but does not include a weight, or any accommodation for one. The brake gear is quite complete, if largely one-dimensional since it's all molded into the underframe. That's OK, though, because it's also completely invisible when on the track due to the deep fishbelly side sills. This is probably the only real "issue" with the model.

This is a really unique looking flat car, apparently constructed using old box car underframes c1931. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any additional information about these cars online. While a great number of plans are on the NPRHA website, this isn't one of them. I really like the deep fishbelly side sill, which angle slightly inward, and the uneven stake pocket arrangement.

The instructions were a bit vague, and it took some work to understand the placement of the triangular gussets. The gussets themselves don't always line up properly with the slots on the side sill and the crossbearers and crossties if you install them square, although that might have just been me. Again, not really a problem since it's only visible if you turn the car over.

Wire grab irons are provided with the kit, with two short and 4 long straight grabs, but it wasn't clear where they should be installed.

What I needed to find was a better picture of the arrangement of the end - grab irons, uncoupling levers, etc. Craig Bass has a great site of railroad photos he has taken from the '70s to today, and happened to have come across one of these cars. Both of these photos are extremely helpful.

This photo shows the B-end arrangement, with simple uncoupling lever and drop grab irons on the right of the end. I can't make out the one on the left side, nor can I determine where the retainer valve is. Despite this photo being from the '70s(?) or later is the condition of the deck. It's worn, but it's not falling apart.

The other end is similar, but even more interesting is that the grab iron at the right end of the side is a hybrid drop/straight grab iron. Also note the release rod extended out of the side right about at the middle of the car.

There's another photo taken by John Hill in 1976, and it is still in use, although perhaps in MOW service. It's clear that both grab irons are drop grabs in this photo.

Here's the half-drop grab.

Fabricating it was pretty easy.
I started with a straight bend at the end of a piece of .010" phosphor bronze wire:

After measuring it next to another grab iron I marked it with a Sharpie
and bent it on a perpendicular plane to make the vertical ("drop") portion:

Then I bent it parallel with the original leg:

The height of the vertical leg was eyeballed, after a while you get a feel for what looks right.

The model looks great, and is a bargain too. Two cars for $12.95, so I gave one to Chris to build.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Oddity in Foresville

 In a recent post I included this photo and mentioned that something looked a bit odd:

Two RDCs at Forestville in September 1956 (McNamara).

When I first saw the photo I thought it was Forestville. And sure enough, that's the notation on the photo as well. But when I looked closer, I questioned that, as something just doesn't look right. (You'd have to know Forestville to spot it.)

It looks like the station has moved. 


Here's a birds-eye view of Forestville today:

The current location of the station is No. 1, on the west side of Central St. 

In the photo of the RDCs, the track (labeled No. 2) is between Tom McNamara (the photographer) and the station. The signs and lettering on the RDCs proves the photo is not reversed. In addition to the curve in the street, you can see the hip-roofed building (No. 3) in the background. Furthermore, if the photo was from the other direction, the Pequabuck River would be right in front of the station. 

The station in Tom's photo looks like it's located where I've labeled No. 4 (on the east side of Central St). Tom was standing at the corner of Central St. (you can see the top of the stop sign). 

Forestville is a neighborhood in Bristol that borders Plainville. In addition to the passenger station it's a village that is known for its clocks. Both the Sessions Clock Co, and E.N. Welch Manufacturing were to the east of the passenger station, adjacent to the Freight House.

I've oriented all of these maps and photos so they'll match Tom's photo. The train is westbound, so westbound (Waterbury) is to the right, Plainville to the left (east).

On the valuation map from 1915 it looks the station is on the west side of Central St (where the station is today), but only a gateman's house on the east side where the station is in the photo. 


Yep, on the 1884 Sanborn map it's to the west of Central St. which is also where it is in both a 1952 and 1965 aerial photos:

Another clue? The sign for Bristol Paint Factory. Although I can't find a listing for a company with that name in the 1956 City Directory, I do find Bristol Lacquer and Chemical Co. Their address? 

29 Church Ave. Which is right at the corner of Church Ave and Central St. and would be to the right of Tom when he took the picture.

However, the relationship of some of the buildings beyond the station don't look quite right to my eye. The hip-roofed building isn't quite in the correct location. 

There's another clue.

There's a detour sign at the corner.

Could this be a temporary bridge while they rebuild/repair the Central St. bridge? If so, Tom would be standing at the corner of Academy St. and Church Ave. 

The proof is another building. At the very edge of the photo is a building with a sign that ends in "nny's." Sure enough, Johnny's Restaurant was at 164 Central St. It was just south of the railroad tracks, on the east side of Central St. (and the station was on the west side of Central St.) and just prior to the bridge.

Was the Central St. bridge damaged or washed out by the 1955 floods? 

It certainly was. Here's a photo looking down Central St, with Johnny's on the left, and the station off the picture to the right.

Dorothy McBrien, August 1955

You can see the grade crossing and Johnny's. The river is usually just past Johnny's. 

There's a picture by George Cowles over at the Bristol Press showing the remains of the bridge.

Sometime after the flood, the temporary bridge was built and still in use in September, 1956 when the picture was taken by Tom.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Operations - The Crew Knows

As a follow-up to Bart's recollections and the very interesting and useful information that most of the time the crew knows where the cars belong, here's some more information from Dale along the same line. Actually, some very interesting information for more modern modelers. All photos by Dale Kritzky.

Even on the prototype, couplers may not match up. As long as it works...

Car Routing

One day when they got to Hartford, in the cut of cars was a CN box car. Dale initially said it wasn't theirs. They don't get CN box cars. The engineer checked the paperwork and said it was theirs. OK, Dale said, then it's not for (Home) Depot. They don't get CN box cars.

But his engineer said it must be, so they took it up and delivered it to Home Depot. A couple of days later, Home Depot told them it wasn't their car. As it turned out, it was for Hartford Lumber, an industry right at the junction, and one they have rarely had to spot a car.

When Dale had told me this, it confirmed that (most of ) the crew can often tell where a car is destined by the road/type of car. But there was something even more intriguing to me.

The Rules and Reality May Differ

But wait. Why was the engineer telling the conductor where the cars go? Or more specifically, why was the engineer handling the paperwork?

It's a great example of how the crew will find what works best rather than just following the standards or the rules. Since the CNZR is usually a two-person crew, the engineer had told the office that it was stupid that Dale (the conductor) had to manage the paperwork, and record the time when each car was spotted or picked up, etc.

While Dale is the conductor, he's also the brakeman, fireman, and everything except the engineer. As a result, it's much more efficient for the engineer to be recording the necessary information on the paperwork while he's sitting there waiting for Dale to throw the iron, or set/release handbrakes, etc. So that's how they do it.

In my era, the conductor wouldn't be busy on the ground, since there would be a head-end brakeman and a rear brakeman to be on the ground. There's more leeway on a shortline railroad where everybody does a bit of everything. I've heard many similar stories from railroaders on larger roads as well.

The saga of the CN box car continues. After they were informed it wasn't for Home Depot, they had to take it back down to Hartford Lumber. As I mentioned, they rarely had to spot a car there. In the meantime, a shipping container had been shoved back against a chain link fence, which was pushed too close to the rail. So the car peeled away several yards of fence, which then needed to be cut out so they could spot the car.

Misrouted Cars

There was a day when I had stopped by and there was another car that was a bit of a problem. The day was busy, and there were more cars than fit on the runaround in Hartford. This presented its own problem, and I'll explain how the resolved it in a moment.

The reason there was too many cars is because Pan Am had made a mistake a couple of days before. The CNZR crew had left a car for CSOR, but Pan Am had picked it up. So on this morning, Pan Am, after realizing their mistake, had brought it back.

So because of this extra car, they had to determine how to deal with the fact that they essentially had no runaround. One option was to shove a car or two up the Hartford Lumber track. That would provide enough space for a runaround. But it also added a number of extra moves.

Instead, they decided to operated in a push-pull configuration. First I should point out that they planned out these moves before they even got on the locomotive for the day. When they went to pull the cars from Home Depot, they left one locomotive on the main, pulled the cars, and then had a locomotive on either end of the train.

This meant that when they got to Hartford, they could run the locomotive with the cut of outbound cars down one side of the runaround and hold. Then they uncoupled the rear locomotive and used that to pull the cut of cars that fouled the other end of the runaround. That allowed the lead locomotive to escape from the other end of the runaround, after they added the extra car to the cut of outbound cars.

Bad Order Cars

On another day, there was a box car that had a broken bell crank, which meant that you can't set the handbrake. Dale told called his office and CSOR and told them that he wouldn't accept the car until it was repaired. They wanted him to accept it and have it unloaded first, but he still refused and they had to fix it first.

After the repair.

Here's the applicable rules from the 1943 New Haven Rule Book, under the section for Freight Conductors:

826. They must not handle a car which is found to be overloaded or improperly loaded or not in condition to run safely and report cars in such condition to the superintendent promptly.

827. They must, when bad order cars are set out of the train, report the fact to the superintendent promptly, advising nature of defect, where waybill or manifest was left and note on waybill or manifest the point at which car was left. 

This could be done on the model as well. I've seen some ops sessions that use cards to identify bad order cars for whatever reason. But on the prototype a cut of cars is walked to check for defects, set/release handbrakes, test the brakes, etc. On the model, the conductor should also be checking the train. If defects are found, issues with the coupler, damage to the handbrake, or things like broken sill steps, could be flagged as a bad order car and either refused or set out to be repaired. This would be useful for the layout owner, because they'll know which cars have broken parts

Empowering Your Crews

I enjoy this sort of operation since it provides some interest and work aside from just dropping off and picking up cars. It's more immersive, and also better models how the prototype actually operates. More importantly, it makes your crews a more integral part of the operations, and empowers them to make decisions and do the job like the real crews. Yes, there are rules to follow, and often a dispatcher or yardmaster who must provide permission to do the work. But once permission is granted, it's the crews that determine how to actually do their work.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Operations - Local Freights and Freight Houses

I've been meaning to put this post together for a while after asking more questions of Bart Hollis, former head end brakeman on the Highland Line at the end of the New Haven (he hired out in 1968 in East Hartford Yard, then moved to the Highland after 6 months, so really at the end...)

He worked NX-17 (Waterbury to Plainville) and has been able to confirm much of the research Chris and I have done. There were some surprises as well, but they make sense. 

The Work of the Local Freight

Bart says the conductor received, "a list of the cars in the train with instructions as to where they were to be spotted." 

He also says he doesn't quite remember, but thinks they were given the waybills too, but then indicates the waybills would be delivered to the agents in Bristol and Plainville, so they must have had them.

This would be a the Consist/Wheel Report that we've seen in earlier posts. From Hartford, Maybrook, Cedar Hill and others these would be printed via Teletype. From Waterbury it would still be a handwritten report. This lists all the cars in the train in order, from engine to caboose, and their destinations. In other words, for a local freight it tells you everything you need to know about the cars in your train.

As we know from other research, the waybills would travel with the conductor, and this confirms that they would be given to an Agent once delivered. That is, they don't go to the industry (since they are railroad documents).

I expect that if the Yardmaster knows of any cars to be picked up they would also tell the conductor at that point. 

Bart then provides a town-by-town description of the work:

"The first siding was at Terryville. There was a passing siding on the south side of the track which was only used if we had to double the hill. There was also a trailing point switch that went to the north side that went into the woods and ended. I was told it went to a clock factory years ago. There was a trailing point switch that had a short track that ended on a trestle and only once did we spot a loaded car of coal there."

DERS-1 (DL-109) 0733 entering the east portal of Terryville Tunnel. Tom McNamara
You can see Terryville station and the passing siding in the distance.

"The next switch was the passing siding at Bristol. Off the siding was the house track. When I first started we would occasionally get a car for the house. There was also a track that went just beyond the station that was used as a team track. There was an agent at Bristol by the name of Coffee (I forget his first name). If we had a car for Bristol, he would tell us exactly where it went and if there was one to pick up he would tell us the road and number. I don't know if the conductor got any paperwork, though."

Bristol 1948

There are a couple of interesting things here. First is that they received an occasional car to spot on the house track. More on that in a moment.

The second bit of info, of course, is that the Agent in Bristol told them what work they had. In a small town, this very well may have been a verbal exchange, although for a pickup the waybill would still be given to the conductor. 

"The next break in the rail was Bristol Brass. It was a facing point switch, so we had to work that place on the return. The Bristol agent was responsible for it and so the same instructions came from him."

They received their work while in town, but would work it on the way back.

"The next break was at Hildreth Press. A printing company. This was a trailing point switch that had another track off it. Again, it was handled by Bristol. This place had four spots. They would get a load of paper cars and we had to store them on the passing siding at the Bristol station. I remember as many as twenty loaded cars consigned to Hildreth Press."

By this era, with no passenger trains scheduled on the Highland Line, there were no passing sidings remaining. That is, the track was there, but they weren't designated in the Employee Time Table as a Siding. The Rule Book only defines two types of track:

  • Main Track: A track extending through yards and between stations, upon which trains are operated by time-table or train order, or both, or the use of which is governed by block signals.
  • Siding: A track auxiliary to the main track for meeting or passing trains.
There are three other related definitions:
  • Single Track: A main track upon which trains are operated in both directions.
  • Two or More Tracks: Two or more main tracks, upon any of which the current of traffic may be in either specified direction.
  • Yard: A system of tracks within defined limits provided for making up of trains, storing of cars, and other purposes, over which movements not authorized by time-table, or by train order, may be made, subject to prescribed signals and rules, or special instructions.

In other words, the Main Track(s) refer only to tracks that are controlled by time table, train order, signals, or later forms of control.

A Siding was a track that was specifically identified in the Employee Time Table for the purpose of meeting or passing trains.

Yards only exist between Yard Limit Signs (a type of fixed signal) and do not require train orders for movements on those tracks. We know that additional rules govern the use of the Main Track within Yard Limits.

So what are the other tracks? They aren't listed in the definitions, but they are referred to in other rules ("Sidings and other tracks to the right of the main track" for example). In the Engine Restrictions section of the ETT we can see a number of examples, such as house track, bulk track, brick yard tracks, industrial tracks, run  around track, plus many identified by name, such as A.H. Hayes Fuel Co. track. They are also frequently referred to by track number.

 (Model) railroaders often call them sidings or spurs. When working with real railroaders, they tend to refer to them by name (Depot box car track, Depot flat car track, etc.) so there's no question which track they are referring to.

Anyway at this point the former Sidings in Terryville, Bristol, and Forestville are now used by the crew as needed, which is exactly what Bart describes. In my era, these were still in use as Sidings, and they would have had to inform the Dispatcher if they were to leave a cut of cars on any of them.

"Next was Wallace Barnes. Again, a trailing point switch. They received covered gondolas loaded with steel coils. Once more, handled by Bristol.

Two RDCs at Forestville in September 1956 (McNamara).

Eagle-eyed readers who know Forestville might notice something odd about this picture...

"Then came Plainville." 

Three trains at Plainville, 1948 (Cochrane).
I-1 1001 with a passenger train at Plainville station on the eastbound main.
DEY-5 (S-2) 0604 with YN-3 coming down the east leg of the wye onto Track No. 5.
Between them, you can just see the caboose of the Bristol local on the westbound main.
That's known as HDX-3 in 1948, but NX-17 in 1968.

There was an operator and an agent there. The agent's name was Ed Coffee, brother to the Bristol agent. Almost all of the loads bound for Plainville came via NX-25 out of Hartford. Occasionally we would be asked to spot one or more of them and once in a while we would pull a load back to Waterbury. I remember a few times we would take a car from Plainville north on the Canal Line to a lumber yard and/or a cement place. Not often. Then, a few times we took a car south on the Canal Line to either a lumber yard or a car of casting sand to a forge. I believe these place were within Plainville Yard Limits as I don't remember ever getting orders to go there."

I love the fact that the two agents on the line were brothers. But this also confirms that the Agent would assign work as needed to the crews that were available where there were multiple trains.

What about the lack of paperwork? I asked whether the orders were verbal or written, and his reply was very informative (and hinted in the notes above):

"For the most part, we could tell by the type of car and the road which one went where."

He also clarified, "As I remember, the only time we got a list was a hand written note with the road and number for Hildreth Press. The rest of the cars were obvious."

Another question I had is whether an industry would tell them to pull a car, or if they had to get permission from the Agent.

 "If the consignee asked us to pull a car, we would as a service to the customer."

This makes sense, although they would still need to get a waybill from the Agent before the car could move on the railroad. Because the Agents along the line would know the work (or the crew calls ahead), I suspect this would be relatively rare. But if they were pulling a car from an industry that is prior to reaching the station, then they would get the waybills from the Agent at that point. 

So while the New Haven had forms for switching at yards, and must have had something for the road too, the reality is that these sort of working documents (that didn't have to be saved for recordkeeping purposes) weren't needed as much for regular crews. They knew their industries, and how they would work them. In the era Chris and I are modeling, there are more industries, and they would be receiving more house cars. So the paperwork would still be important, although the crews will still be able to pick out the obvious cars. They would also use chalk marks to identify specific cars.

Operating a Local Freight 

From a model railroad operating viewpoint, while you may want to know what your work will be ahead of time, most of us won't know a model railroad as well as a crew that works it 5 days a week. After a quick glance to see if there's something unusual, I think the key is to approach it one town at a time.

The train should be blocked by town, as on the prototype. Prior to leaving one station (town), the conductor should already be looking at what work will be done at the next town. Identify the end of the cut, then start by identifying which industries will be served, and an efficient order on how to serve them. 

You don't have to worry about the specific cars at this point, just the industries and the order to serve them. It doesn't matter which order the cars are in the block at this point, because you'll simply cut the train just behind the car that is being dropped at a given industry.

The train may pass some industries on the way into a town. If there are cars to drop, then the train can stop on the way. To determine if there are cars to pick up, then can get that info from the prior station, or the industry can give it to them there. In either case, they can pull the cars, and pick up the waybills from the Agent prior to leaving town.

It's also not uncommon for a Siding or track to be near the center of a town. That is, the local freight would come to the station, pull into the siding to clear the Main, then go get their work from the Agent. They would leave their train on the siding and go back to work any industries in that town that they already passed. It wouldn't be uncommon to work both sides of town before putting their train back together and continuing to the next one.

For a layout owner, I would recommend providing some information for pickups at the start of a run, and the rest would be communicated along the way. When the train arrives in town, the conductor should have already planned out how they will work the industries, and usually they will get their additional work from the Agent (it could simply be a box with a card).

Don't be afraid to spend a few minutes finalizing your planned moves in that town. Again, I think the focus should be on how you'll work the industry itself, don't pay attention to specifically which cars. Then when you go to switch each industry you can look at the cars in the train and determine where to make your cut. 

Freight House Traffic

Chris and I had been told that some freight houses (such as Rocky Hill) were served by truck in our era. Combined with sources like the ETT which lists what stations are open for Train Orders, came to the conclusion that there wasn't an Agent at many of those towns. This is related not only to traffic at the freight house, but also how the crew receives work.

The funny thing is, I believe I've had the answer for several years now, and just didn't realize it. As I've been digging through paperwork, I missed a subtle but important point. The Freight Car and Package Car schedules list scheduled L.C.L cars to the freight houses. I originally thought any remaining traffic to the freight house essentially used it as a bulk/team track. I now think that's incorrect.

I think the freight house could still receive cars, or be used to load cars, they just weren't scheduled. These freight houses were on scheduled truck service from freight houses that received scheduled service, but traffic that wasn't part of those scheduled cars would have still gone direct to the freight house in that town.

Of course, even if the freight house only received from trucks (which I now know is incorrect), they would still have a Freight Agent, and that agent would still be the point of contact for local industries and the place where crews would receive their work. For example, by the 1966 ETT Bristol was not open for Day Train Orders (only Plainville). On the Valley it was Wethersfield and Middletown.

But industry work isn't a  Train Order. That is, they aren't orders that give them permission to occupy the Main Track. Train Orders aren't required to occupy an industry track. So whether or not a station is a Day Train Order station doesn't tell us whether there is a Freight Agent on duty, and Bart's recollections prove that.

So how can we tell?

Well, indirectly any freight house that has scheduled service by rail or truck must have a Freight Agent. That Agent would provide the local work for the crew. But there's also a publication that specifically identifies every station with an Agent.

Official List of Open and Prepay Stations

Open and Prepay Stations for 1949

Issued annually, this book lists every freight station in the North American Rail System, including Canada, Mexico and even Alaska (although from what I understand it wasn't directly connected to the rest of the rail system). Hawaii is not listed, although Cuba (!) is.

Like all such books, entries may have numerous notes.

The first note (designated by an asterisk) states: No Agent. Freight charges to this station must be prepaid. Except as otherwise provided, to order (or negotiable) bills of lading must not be issued to a station where there is no freight agent. In other words, every active freight house is listed, and it identified which ones have an Agent and which do not.

So for Chris' benefit (and to satisfy my curiosity), here's the Valley Line in 1949:

Essex, Deep River, Chester, East Haddam and Moodus, Higganum, Cromwell, Rocky Hill, and Wethersfield are all Open. South Wethersfield is Prepay (no Agent) and there are several notes that apply:

1. Carload freight only. (South Wethersfield)

76. A very long note: Shipments for the following points, except "Shippers' Order Notify," when consigned to the persons or firms named, may be forwarded "Collect," unless shipments are of such nature that the governing "Classification" requires prepayment: Shipments for all other consignees must be prepaid. There are then several pages of Stations and Consignees to which this applies. For South Wethersfield it only applies to B. O. Pelton. (South Wethersfield)

126. Nearest less than carload delivery for this station shown is: Chester > Deep River; South Wethersfield > Wethersfield. This rule likely always accompanies Rule 1 to inform shippers where to route L.C.L for that station. (Chester and South Wethersfield) 

1560. Carloads only, except that less than carload shipments in lots of 4,000 pounds or more will be handled from or to industries having private sidings. (Chester)

So my earlier interpretation was wrong. The freight houses in our era are still active, if low volume.