Edgar T. Mead recently published a fantastic article in the NRHS BULLETIN on a train trip from New York City to Choate School which is located in Wallingford, CT. I’d like to update his trip into the 1980’s and bring out what we have lost or gained over 50 years.
Unless the student of today wants to find alternate transportation from New Haven to Wallingford, he/she (Choate is now Choate-Rosemary Hall and is coed) cannot leave Grand Central Terminal, but must instead depart Penn Station on AMTRAK’s Springfield Service.
The EP-2 boxcab electric has been replaced by an AEM-7 which is the standard in the Northeast Corridor. The “American Flyer” coaches have been replaced by Amfleet coaches.
Although we don’t go that route, Grand Central to New Rochelle has changed too. The S-1 electric switchers came very close to remaining in the picture as the last one didn’t exit the property until the 1980’s.
NY,Westchester & Boston right-of-way between New Rochelle and Port Chester becomes less visible as time marches on. Also less visible are industries like the Abendroth Foundry. As a matter of fact, most signs of the electrification which one covered all of the sidings are rapidly fading. Even the sidings themselves are fading as the character of the territory becomes less commercial and more residential and service-oriented.
Stamford, with its office towers and new station, would be unrecognizable to someone not having seen it in 50 years. However, long lines of M-2 “Cosmopolitan” cars are lined up waiting for Monday just like the old M-Us did. Today’s wire train can be spotted sometimes at Stamford and is hauled by a GE. It includes the “Washboard Electrics” of 1954.
Bridgeport is still an important stop. The “Blue Goose” which used to run to Waterbury has been replaced with a Budd Rail Diesel Car. Sometimes even that is replaced with a bus. Signs of trolley lines and steam dinkies are obliterated.
The Maybrook line is now only a memory since the Poughkeepsie bridge has burned and the Derby-Shelton bridge has fallen in the river. The truth of the matter is that CONRAIL has other routes available. Freight in general is a ghost of its former self while the passenger business is a growth industry between New Haven and New York.
An engine change at New Haven is still the order of the day for AMTRAK. No more I-4. Instead a single F40 can handle the consist. The dug-away cut through New Haven (old Farmington Canal) still exists. The Connecticut Company is bus not street car. There is no sandwich vendor meeting trains a New Haven, however a respectable donut shop exists inside the station.
Smoking cars still exist on AMTRAK but not so on Metro-North. The solid example which Choate set 50 years ago is now applied to New Haven, Westchester and Long Island commuters.
The changes that have occurred on the mainline are nothing compared to what has happened on the branch lines. The annual football junket to Kent School would be in a lot of trouble because of the sorry state of the Housatonic branch between New Milford and Kent. To begin with, the excursion would have to go south to Norwalk first as the route through Devon Junction is out of service at the Derby bridge Perhaps it would be simpler to go through Pittsfield? Maybe they could just take a bus or watch the game on TV?
Cedar Hill yard still exists (sort of). One old roundhouse still stands as well as a coal tower. The yard is filled with coal hoppers, many still marked for Erie-Lackawanna. Also stored in the yard are the “Roger Williams” RDCs.
Wallingford still looks like it did fifty years ago. The station looks like it should be on a postcard.
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In 1966 REA Express was operating a system primarily engaged in the expeditious transportation of express packages, less-than-carlot, and carlot shipments requiring special handling. REA Express also provided a world-wide shipping service through contracts with air carriers, acted as an ocean freight forwarder to many countries of the world, and provided local truck express service in some large cities of the United States. A subsidiary company of REA Express leased truck trailers to railroads, forwarders, and shippers for the use in trailer-on-flat car service. Such miscellaneous services as pick-up-and-delivery services for railroads, custom brokerage on import traffic, sale of traveler’s checks and money orders, and collection of C. O. D. charges were also performed. REA Express conducted its business through 8,200 offices and used in its operations 137,000 miles of railroad, 132,000 miles of air lines, 79,000 miles of motor carrier lines, and 6,600 of water lines. The company employed 30,000 persons and operated a fleet of 12,000 trucks. The company handled some 66,000,000 shipment annually. (Association of American Railroads)
-with all those assets and experience, even though rail shipping was in decline, REA dominated the private package business. It was already into trucks, had name recognition, a customer base etc. -why did it finally fail? Why didn’t it follow the trends and morph into something successful like UPS and FED EX?
We have a lot of information on the Railway Express Agency, later known as REA Express and also have significant background information available that will help you understand why REA Express failed.
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From the Belleville News-Democrat via California Rail News
“We’re getting close to finishing the project,” said Scott Speegle, the Passenger Rail communications manager for IDOT.
Work this year includes upgrades at 21 rail crossings between Granite City and Shipman, Speegle said.
Upgrades include putting in four quad gates to prevent cars from weaving through crossings when a train is approaching. Signaling upgrades, increased fencing and pedestrian gates, if necessary, also are planned. Most of the work is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, Speegle said.
The crossings will be temporarily closed while upgrades are taking place.
What has not received much press are efforts to throw a money wrench to raise passenger speeds in the Midwest by the UP. Where it controls the rails that used government funding for track improvements to reduce running times for passenger trains, the UP is trying to block the use of new High Speed “Charger” locomotives. Among the issues UP is claiming is the the Chargers don’t meet current FRA regulations. One thing the UP is claiming is that since the Charger uses LED lights, it can’t be used on American railroads since FRA regulations says nothing about LED lights.