CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

D&H #506 and N.R.L. GP38 #4810 (1989)

Here is a shot of an unusual engine. Obviously, the RS3m in the background is #506. However, the engine it is coupled to is GP38 #4810, a National Railway Leasing unit. This shot, taken in August of 1989, shows the two engines switching in Binghamton. They are working for the NYS&W, the appointed operator of the D&H during its bankruptcy during the late 1980s. 

It is a time period that generally doesn't interest me, but it was host to a variety of colorful locomotives.

Friday, August 26, 2022

D&H fuel tank car #35999

I originally purchased these slides because I thought they were of the rare red D&H molasses tank cars. Instead, they are both of company service fuel tank car #35999. The first shot was taken in Colonie Yard in August 1975, and the second one is dated December 1978. 

I am surprised that the D&H didn't use a real tank car for this, but instead appears to have mounted an old tank car body on a flat car frame. Maybe that is because the D&H never actually owned any tank cars (aside from the aforementioned molasses ones).

I don't know if it lasted into the Guilford era, but I have seen pictures showing old MEC tank cars by that time. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

D&H #7608 with "leaking" boxcar (1982)

This shot from August 1982 captures D&H GP39-2 #7608 leading a freight train at Eagle Bridge, NY, (home of the interchange with the Batten Kill Railroad). What really caught my attention was the first car. We have all modeled boxcars with open doors revealing some detailing inside... perhaps a full or partial load, or maybe the remains of a previous load... but how many of us have modeled a boxcar "exploding" with a load of cardboard refuse falling out the side? It would make an eye-catching model, and if you used thin Kraft paper then it wouldn't harm or damage any passing trains that might brush against it.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Modeling BKRR RS3 #605 in O scale

After spending a day in 2012 chasing the Batten Kill Railroad I knew there was something special about it. It is the only local shortline and its colorful Alco roster and picturesque setting reminded me of my favorite local shortline near where I grew up. 

During the start of the pandemic in June 2020 I visited the BKRR again. While there, I ran into engine #605 which has been out-of-service for a while with a damaged turbo generator. I have never seen it in operation, which is a shame, but I was still able to take some pictures.  

Note that part of the front pilot is missing. I don't know if this was sacrificed to keep their other Alco RS3 #4116 going or not, but it looked sad. However, the rest of the paint scheme has held up remarkably well for almost 40 years. 

It was at this time that I realized that I wanted a model of this engine.

Everything about it was neat, from the classification lamps to the numberboards, and the four-color scheme with silver stripes and trim was really sharp. So, I filed it away in my future "to do" pile.

Fast forward about eighteen months, and I had joined a local O scale club. I didn't have a layout, but wanted to start collecting "scale" (1:48) trains which run on three-rail track. And having worked with a local custom painter before on an RS11 project, I knew this could be my chance to have a model of #605.

It was built by Alco in Schenectady in November 1950 and assigned a works number of #78369. It was purchased by the Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad as their #10, and they later sold it in 1972 to the St. James and Lamoille County Railroad as their #203. In 1976, it was sold to the Vermont Railway and renumbered #605, and finally in 1984 it was acquired by the BKRR who kept the engine number. Below is a shot from December 1984 showing both of the BKRR engines.

I then looked at various O gauge Alco RS3 engines. Several models are made by Lionel and MTH but they either aren't scale (true 1:48 proportion) or had molded on grab irons and other details that weren't very good. I didn't want to get super involved with the project by shaving off and replacing things. So, I went with a Williams by Bachmann engine, which used old K-line tooling. The tooling had separately applied wire grab irons and other free-standing details and it looked great. Only a few items would need changing. I picked up a new engine decorated for the Seaboard System (they didn't sell undecorated models) from Trainworld at a great price.

While this was happening, I was also researching decals. I didn't want to deal with custom decals, and if I couldn't find a set commercially available I would give up on the project. I reached out to Highball Graphics and discovered that their LO-236 set is perfect for BKRR #605. It was promptly ordered.

Changes to the locomotive model that I considered "mandatory" included adding classification lights and number boards at the corners, relocating the three-trumpet horn* to its proper location, and blanking off some of the middle cab windows. The classification lamps came from Precision Scale Company (#4248), as did the clear jewels that went inside them (#48329). They also provided the three-chime Alco air horn (#56191). I didn't bother filling in the cab windows with styrene and putty but instead just asked the painter to spray right over them. That resulted in them looking like they had been blanked out with steel plate.

*A note about the horn: I found a lot of pictures online showing various locations and types of horns on #605 over the years, including a single-trumpet horn mounted on the side of the short hood, the multi-chime horn mounted in front of the cab on the long hood (and later on the top of the cab) and Hancock 4700 air horns mounted on both ends of the hoods. Look at the pictures above of #605 from 2020 and you will see the gray horns at the very ends. They sound like steam engine whistles, so perhaps the BKRR added them to enhance the experience for the passengeres? They weren't mounted on the engine in May of 1984 (the time stamp for my model), so I didn't need to add them.

My painter works out of Milepost Hobbies, a great train store in upstate New York. This was not his first BKRR engine, and he knew exactly what he was doing. Still, I thought it helpful to write down everything I wanted and include pictures and directions so that there wouldn't be any misunderstandings. He scratchbuilt the corner number boards for me and he also replaced the single-beam headlight castings on the ends of the hoods with horizontal dual-beam castings. I didn't even know he was going to do that, but they look awesome.

The painting is exquisite and the colors really pop. I admit that this could be considered a gaudy paint scheme, but I love it. Those yellow diagonal stripes along the walkways really take it to the next level. And, because I am modeling the engine as it was freshly painted in 1984, I don't even need to weather it! (Though if you look at the pictures taken in 2020 above, it really hasn't weathered too much over the years).

While I was researching engine #605 I came across references to the "Rambler" passenger excursion train. The image below is from a postcard dated 1984. I modeled my engine to match the appearance in the picture, and it also inspired me to try and model the entire train. But that is still in the works!

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.