CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Railfanning the Batten Kill Railroad (2012)

There are very few days (sadly) when I can just grab a camera and a map and go chase trains. Most of the time it is usually in the form of railfanning, where I park in a location and watch trains go by all day. Exactly ten years ago on August 14, 2012, it was a pleasant day and I decided to take off from work and chase the Batten Kill Railroad. They are a shortline in upstate New York that began operating on October 22, 1982 over some old D&H branchlines. Motive power used to be only a pair of Alco RS3s, but lately they have been using Alco switchers and RS36 engines too. For Alco lovers, it is a wonderful line to explore. But, they don't run every day so in preparation for my trip I called them the week prior and confirmed that they were operating on the 14th. 

The BKRR interchanges with Pan Am (formerly Guilford and B&M before that) in Eagle Bridge, NY. It then runs north through Cambridge and Shushan to Greenwich Junction, where it splits west to Greenwich where their engine house is. Along the way to Greenwich is their largest customer, Cargill.

While GPS devices and smartphone existed in 2012, I didn't own either so I planned out my trip by taking online map images of every place I planned to drive to and cutting/pasting them into a computer document that I could print out. This took a long time but it ensured I wouldn't get lost. I started my day by driving to their headquarters at Greenwich. It was well maintained and a person in the office was very friendly to me.

Parked outside was a well-painted flanger, which is useful for combatting heavy New York snow.

The yard at Greenwich looked mostly unused, and the paper mill farther on down the line had closed. Sometimes the yard has been used for car storage. It is my understanding that currently the track into the yard is currently terminated at a bridge just east of the depot awaiting some reconstruction.

I then headed east to Cargill where there are several customers. Cargill uses covered hoppers, and there is also pulpwood loading area and occasional car storage here. Evidence of the pulpwood business was all over the ground on the day I visited.

The road power for the day, Alco RS3 #4116 (formerly D&H #4116, built in 1952), was stored here overnight. They don't take it down to the enginehouse unless they need to. Engine #4116 has worn several paint schemes over the years. Take a look online here to see some of the lettering variations. She was fired up and started switching the feed plant. 

Various covered hoppers were shuttled around, and I stayed out of the way and let the crew do their work. 

The train was finally ready to depart so it pulled onto the mainline with the engine on the western end. Odd, I thought, since the train had to eventually end up east and south of here.

Then, the engine performed a shove move and backed the train to the wye track arrangement at Greenwich Junction. The conductor had to hold on the entire way. That can't be fun in the winter.

The train backed through the wye, of which two legs were intersected by a state highway.

Then, the train pulled forward on the third wye track and finally the engine was in front facing south.

Greenwich Junction has another customer too, as well as some storage tracks. 

With the "railroady work" out of the way, much of the middle portion of the chase involved photographing the train through rural New York. While I waited at one road crossing for the train to arrive, I took a picture of the beautiful Rexleigh Bridge.

This was an attempt to be "artsy" and frame the covered bridge and train and road crossing together in one image.

At the train approached Shushan I took a shot of the engine and one of the last remaining diamond railroad crossing signs in existence. It was in rough shape. I actually got another shot of the engine at the crossing but it was too blurry to be posted. A nearby hotel was famous for creating pie a la mode (pie and ice cream). Yum!

South of Shushan the train rolled through nice countryside. Parts of the day were overcast but it never rained. I was thankful for my maps to help show me where to go.

The train never really went fast so it was enjoyable to photograph it trundling along.

I took a picture at Cambridge showing the train in front of the old D&H passenger station.

At times, the train would just pop out of the foliage and I had to shoot pictures quickly.

Another pretty shot. Who would have thought that an Alco would still be running sixty years later in 2012 (or 10 years later as I write this)!

Here is my "look down" shot of the train approaching Eagle Bridge. This location is quite popular for railfans to shoot.

The train crossed several bridges along the way, but at each one my camera went off a second too late and the engine was hidden by a tree instead of being squarely in the center of the shot. Grrr.

Arriving at the final destination of Eagle Bridge, the crew prepared to drop the cars on the Pan Am interchange track.

The cut of cars were split at a road crossing and left on the interchange track. Bill Tabor, owner of the BKRR, came over and we talked for a bit and he hoped that I had enjoyed chasing the train that day. I had and thanked him for his assistance.

Sadly, no Pan Am train arrived while I was there. 

On the way home I drove along Route I-67 and came across the old Boston and Maine switch tower that controlled where the B&M's branch split off their east/west mainline and headed south (left in the picture) to Troy, NY. It is now on private property so I didn't go exploring.

The Batten Kill Railroad continues on to this day. Their Facebook page always has lots of great pictures of the line, and a devoted set of individuals contribute to the threads. 

As a final note, something about the BKRR and its colorful Alco engines resonated with me. So much so that as I sat around and started working on this blog post in late 2021 I decided I wanted a model of the train for my own collection. Stay tuned to see how that turned out.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

D&H train working hard (1984)

Here is a nice shot showing a D&H train hard at work on August 1984. Location unknown. There is a caboose directly behind the four engines which seems to be unusual as I doubt the D&H used four pusher engines. This was well after the Beldon Tunnel "switchback" operations too, so I don't know the story on this. It also looks like there are a few TOFC flatcars about a half-dozen cars after the engines. 



Sunday, August 7, 2022

The crash of ol' #5004 (1978)

D&H RS11 #5004 was a distinctive engine. As noted previously, it had started off as one of six high-nose RS11 engines purchased from Alco in 1961. History of the class can be found here. However, #5004 was damaged in an accident in 1973 and received a chop nose, which can be seen in the photo below taken at Rouses Point on August 07, 1978. I recently learned a bit more about the actual circumstances that led up to the incident.

As told by Bill Bibbe, long-time D&H conductor, he was working in Mechanicville Yard in 1973. The crew was putting together a train and were moving a cut of cars. B&M train PB100 was also in the yard, and it was cleared by the yardmaster to depart. However, the D&H yard crew weren't informed of this and they continued to switch cars. Unfortunately, by the time the D&H crew saw the B&M train leaving they couldn't stop. Bill was riding on the footboard of #5004 and saw the crash coming. He kicked the angle cock to dump the air and apply the brakes. It didn't stop them and they slid into the side of some piggyback cars.

After that incident, the engine was repaired at Colonie. They took the damaged hi-nose, cut it down, and remounted it on the engine. Note: this is different from how D&H #410 was repaired... it received an entirely new hood nose from the N&W as shown here. The #5004 soldiered on for the D&H through the late 1980s. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

D&H and C&O light engine move (1985)

Take a look at this shot near Oneonta dated August 04, 1985. Led by Chessie engine #4175, there are ten additional engines trailing! No idea where they were coming from or going, but it is pretty neat. This type of light-engine move was pretty common with Conrail during the 1980s, and I saw a lot of it while rainfanning as a kid.

Also note the ballast on the tracks. It looks like someone dumped a pile of Woodland Scenics' ballast and didn't both to completely clean it off the ties. From the looks of things, perhaps the MOW crew laid down fresh ballast here.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Refinements to "Big Red Barn" and "Sinclair Gas Station" structures

Last summer I submitted my twelve scratchbuilt structures for judging. Three earned enough points (87.5) to receive a merit award, and I was told that another two were "very close". I took this news a bit poor, which wasn't the correct response in the situation. However, at the time I was pretty frustrated so I set the models aside and worked on other things. Recently, though, I decided to see if I could upgrade two of the models to help push them over 87.5 point threshold.

Sinclair Gas Station

The only issue with my Sinclair Gas Station model was the over-size pumps. I had scratchbuilt them for fun and when I did it I used tubing sizes I had on hand during the pandemic without much thought as to whether they were 1:87 scale or not. The result was pumps that were closer to S scale (1:64). And, it turns out one of my judges had a father who previously owned a Sinclair gas station, so he was very familiar with the prototypes! 

I was told the pumps weren't required to be part of my model because they were separate exterior details, so at the time of judging I asked if I could just rip them off the base and then have it pass. Instead, it was suggested that I replace them. There are several HO scale commercial castings for Sinclair gas pumps that would be suitable, but I wanted to build them myself. 

So, after scaling some online pictures I purchased the correct sized styrene shapes and built them again. I also selected a slightly different style of pump. As you can see, the difference in size between the old and new pumps is striking. And the judges were correct... the smaller pumps look much better now. 

Big Red Barn

My Big Red Barn project was a bit more challenging. One judge in particular took specific offense to my oversize white trim on the doors and front. I had based my model on a commercial HO scale kit of a barn and never considered that the kit manufacturer didn't properly scale the white trim. And since I thought it looked good so I built it like that. The judges suggested I remove the white trim and rebuild the front wall and doors using thinner scale lumber but my method of construction wouldn't have made that feasible. So, instead I searched the internet for examples of red barns with oversize white trim. And I found some.

The next issue was the fence. Like the gas pumps, it wasn't needed for my model and its original three-board height was so tall that the HO scale horses couldn't stick their heads over it. I had built it without plans and it looked nice, but they were right. Thankfully, it was easy to remove the top horizontal board with a pair of flush cutting pliers. Surprisingly, the rest of the fence stayed intact without breaking. I then touched up the bare wood with some white paint and weathering.

I had also mounted some of the lower windows onto my barn upside down. I never noticed that the castings had a tiny window ledges molded in, so I wasn't careful when I glued them in to make sure the ledge was at the bottom. So, I carefully took a chisel blade and removed the ledges on all of the windows so that they were consistent in style and orientation.

Finally, to earn extra points I added some new scratchbuilt details. I built a hayloft winch with pulley assembly above the hayloft door under the roof eaves; I added a cow water trough and outside plumbing spigots complete with hose; and I fabricated a hay wagon. Everything came out of my scrapbox.

They are just small minor details, but they did add up.

Thankfully, these two models now had enough points to earn merit awards and now I only have one more structure to build. And I plan to add plenty of details to make sure it passes on the first try!

I was also told that it is very difficult to judge structures based on contemporary prototype buildings, because they just don't have enough details. What I really think is that judges like to see peeling paint, worn shingles, loose boards, lots of cans and barrels, and other such things that are found on depression-era layouts. Think George Sellios and Fine Scale Miniature kits. Fair enough. But for those of us modeling more modern times, it is an uphill battle. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

CP train crossing Mohawk River in Glenville (1991)

Here is a shot of a D&H train led by #7312 with six other engines in various paint schemes crossing the bridge in Glenville, NY on July 28, 1991. Mohawk Yard is just to the right of the train, and Schenectady and the old Alco plant is just on the left.

Compare this shot with the one I posted here. Same bridge... same perspective... same excessive numbers and paint schemes on the locomotives. The only thing that changed was the owner / operator of the line.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

D&H special passenger train in Cohoes (1991)

The caption on the slide reads: "Albany County Democratic Party Executives". It was taken in Cohoes (the church in the background is an obvious giveaway) on July 06, 1991. I know nothing else about it, though the GP38-2 #7307 sure looks nice and clean. I can't tell where the coaches came from, but their blue window stripes are unusual. I aren't leased Amtrak Phase IV coaches because that paint scheme was introduced in 1993. Whose executive train is that?

For some similar pictures taken about 30 years later, see this previous post.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

D&H #451 in Mechanicville (1985)

This shot of Alco C424 #451 sitting in Mechanicville yard was taken in July 1985. There are several interesting things about it. First, it looks like the engine is sitting on a track radiating from an old turntable, which would be just off to the right. If so, I am surprised that the D&H still had a working turntable in 1985. 

Second, note the ties buried in the ground at the end of the track to presumably hold the engines on. I have seen that done before, but never painted orange. Maybe it is so that they can be seen after a snowfall, or by vehicles driving on what looks like a service road at the edge of the tracks. And some ties are broken (or rotted) off.

Third, on the left is a yellow-painted MOW snow melting machine. The funnel pointing down would direct super-hot air onto switch points and other areas that were jammed up with ice. If this is one of the machines that had a jet engine providing the heat source, it would also be extremely loud.

Fourth, in the back right is a solid blue boxcar. At first I thought it was one of the uncommon all-blue D&H MOW boxcars, but now I think it is probably just a faded B&M boxcar. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

#5015 at Cooperstown Junction (1984)

Occasionally I find myself driving through Cooperstown Junction, NY, where the D&H"s Cooperstown branch split off and headed north. The D&H sold the line in 1970 to the Delaware Otsego Corporation, and they operated it until 1996 when it was then sold to the current owner- the Leatherstocking Chapter of the NRHS (Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad). I last rode the line in 2014. 

The photograph above was taken July 17, 1984 and shows a D&H local on the mainline heading railroad north towards Albany from Binghamton. The branch joined along the right in a wye formation. The picture looks like it was taken from the cab of whatever engine the C&CV was using, probably RS2 #100 (formerly D&H #100) which is shown below on September 03, 1979.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

D&H #5015 crew performing roll-by inspection (1983)

The crew of engine #5015 are performing a roll-by inspection for the D&H freight train led by #7616 about to pass them on this July 12, 1983 day in Nescopeck, PA. 

Note that the #5015 appears to be leading a M.O.W. train, and I believe that is a ballast cleaning car behind it. I have other images of this train somewhere in my collection but can't locate them.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Alco dead line at Binghamton (1987)

Here is a sad shot. The "deadline" at Binghamton Yard taken exactly thirty-five years ago today on July 07, 1987. 

From front to back, it shows engines #5018, #5017, #5023, #506, #5005, #5016, #5004, #5003, #5002, #5001. Alcos from the RS11, RS36, and RS3m locomotive classes are represented. By this time, Guilford was running almost entirely EMD and GE engines and these were surplus (and likely worn out anyway). 

Thankfully, not all of them were scrapped. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July!

In the sprit of the holiday, here are some pictures of Adirondack Scenic Railroad #105, a G.E. 44-tonner. I took them in Utica on March 26, 2005. 

I love 44-tonners in general, and this paint scheme is pretty cool. The engine came to the A.S.R. painted in red, white, and blue and they only patch-applied their emblems on the cab sides. My research didn't reveal who owned the engine when it was painted R/W/B.

Per this website, the engine was later acquired by the Southern Railroad of New Jersey in the spring of 2005 and subsequently repainted into its original NYO&W gray and yellow scheme. I was very lucky to get these pictures. Pictures of the NYO&W repainting process can be seen here.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Sperry hi-rail truck down the street

My wife and I were recently driving to the supermarket and passed a hotel about a quarter-mile down the road from our house. Imagine my surprise when I saw this parked in the lot. I have seen Sperry railcars, which are used for testing track, but I haven't ever seen a hi-rail truck before.

My wife said to go back and take pictures, but I wanted to get to the supermarket first (it was a family trip, after all). On the way back, though, I swung by and took these shots. The sun was setting, but I still got a couple. 

The huge extension from the front of the chassis was really unusual looking, and I don't know what was inside of it. It reminded me of a large beverage cooler.

The rear had a porch area, which I didn't climb on. 

I looked inside the windows but didn't think I could get any suitable pictures so nothing much to report there.

The driver's side had a lot of valve and such, none of which I could figure out.

All in all, though, it was a neat discovery. It's track and tie season, so it could have been working anywhere in the area. There is a budget hotel around the corner from this one and I frequently see CSX vehicles parked there. But this was an upscale hotel, so Sperry must have had money to spend. 

Here is a link to a completely different Herzog track machine I saw in 2012