CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Railfanning Mechanicville Yard

If you clicked this post thinking there would be some really good pictures of Mechanicville Yard "back in the day," I am afraid you will be very disappointed...

I have a friend who lives near Mechanicville, and I frequently visit him to play board games. On the way, I sometimes stop near the junction of the old B&M and D&H to hang out by XO Tower and watch for trains. That got me thinking about the good (and bad) times I have spent up there, and I thought I would post some pictures from various railfan trips. But first, a brief confession...

October 08, 2007
I have not always been a fan of the D&H. Growing up in Rochester, I knew nothing about it except that it had a classy lightning stripe paint scheme on its engines. I only became interested in 2010 when I started to plan a G scale switching layout based on the D&H. But, I like to railfan, and in 2005 I decided to explore the legendary Mechanicville Yard that I had heard other local railroaders talking about. Not knowing where it was, I bought a paper map of the area and saw a giant yard printed on it. One day I drove up and expected to see long strings of freight cars and a busy engine terminal. I didn't realize the yard was gone, consolidated and closed by Guilford years before.

October 08, 2007
I went back with some regularity just to record what was left, including the old Boston & Maine engine terminal buildings, the run down station across from the yard, and XO Tower. Such a sad condition it was in. By 2007, it was boarded up, partially vandalized, and surrounded by grass. It provided a shady place to put a camping chair down on the ground and watch for trains (which seemed to be never) but the area was dead and the glory days were long done. I guess it was a lucky break that the tower wasn't completely torn down and the area bulldozed. So many other railroad structures had met their end that way.

April 17, 2016
But, a funny thing happened. Norfolk Southern announced their "Patriot Corridor" plan and rebuilt part of the old yard to make it an intermodal facility. They previously had a facility in Kenwood Yard for containers, and for a period of time single stack COFC trains would ply the Colonie Main. But, NS was going to move their operations point north to Mechanicville. Announced in 2008, it was rebuilt into a sprawling facility with five paved tracks to allow for COFC cars to be loaded and unloaded, and another two shorter tracks for autorack loading or unloading. It officially opened in January 2012. Unfortunately, you can still only see a portion of the north/eastern part of the yard from public areas.

August 14, 2012
At the same time (and perhaps because of the additional tax revenue from the railroad), Mechanicville became interested in preserving its railroad history. Part of that involved restoring XO Tower. At least externally, it was slowly repaired and the lower part of the building was converted for use as a town board room. I have heard that the upstairs is being planned for use by a train club, but I don't know more that at this time. The area behind the building was paved, making it possible to drive right up to the tower and sit in a nice A/C car while waiting for the trains (which seemed to come a little bit more frequently).

August 11, 2015
Trainspotting here is always hit or miss, though. In the dozen or so times I have come to watch trains, I have probably seen at most 15 trains, including the scheduled C.P. Holiday Train. There isn't a lot of action up here. But, I have caught the Pan Am (formerly Guilford, formerly MEC) Executive (OCS) train before I knew or cared that such a thing existed. I have captured one of the few remaining Heritage "Lightning stripe" engines (#7304) going past the tower, and it took me by such a surprise that the picture posted is the only decent one of the six I shot. I have seen Pan Am locals in solid blue engines running long-hood forward, and solid consists of CP red engines. Those were good days.

August 11, 2015 ("the rain shot")
I have had bad days too. Summer days where you sit for hours in the heat and never see a train. Or worse, the one day it was so hot I left my car windows rolled down and crossed the tracks to where the former B&M swung north. I saw NS was leaving with an autorack train and thought taking a picture with XO Tower behind it would be cool. After crossing the road and setting up, I got stuck waiting for over 25 minutes with the outgoing autorack train stalled and blocking the crossing. I couldn't get back to my car, the summer humidity led to rain, and I got drenched waiting for the train to clear with no good place to find shelter. Worse, some books I had lying on my car seat were destroyed.

April 17, 2016
But, this place has railroad roots that run deep. I don't plan to model it on my layout, but when if I ever have a staging yard on the north end of my layout it will represent Mechanicville. I am also hoping to find one of the discontinued CH&R Structures Unlimited kits for it. And, come summer (or any season actually) you can bet that I will be foolish to head up with a book, a camera, and some water with the hopes of catching a train.

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