MOTOR CARS TO DIESELS (MOSTLY GE)

In 1847 the Great Eastern Counties Railroad of England tried a 7-passenger steam-powered car. Like every railcar, its objective was to provide service cheaper than could be done with a regular train. Steam cars were used until around 1920. Compressed air cars were tried in the late 1870’s. Their range limited them to short runs. Battery-powered cars first appeared in 1880. Originally, they were also limited to short range, but eventually could cover 100 miles or more.

The gasoline (or alcohol or kerosene or whatever) engine was first built in the late 1880’s. The big hit was, of course, the automobile, but in 1890, the Patton Motor Car Co. demonstrated a gasoline-electric railcar. Others such as the Hydro Carbon Company of Chicago built gas-mechanicals without much impact. The McKeen Motor Car Company grew out of Union Pacific’s dislike of high branchline passenger costs. It was started in 1904, spun off from the UP in 1908, and folded in 1920. By 1913, 138 had been built. These pointy-nosed cars didn’t last because the power plant and drive equipment were not insulated very well from the rough tracks which usually comprised branchlines.

In 1904, the General Electric Company’s Railway Engineering Department recognized the potential of the gas-electric car. Henri G. Chatain, A. F. Batchelder and E. D. Priest were given some space in the Schenectady Works to begin development seriously. At that time, J. R. Lovejoy was the department general manager, William B. Potter was the chief engineer, and John G. Barry was the assistant manager.

Barry eventually headed the department and went on to become an industry leader through offices he held in the American Electric Railway Association. Potter was a veteran of electric traction. Beginning with the West End Railway in Boston, he worked on installation of systems in Albany, Utica and Saratoga. He invented the series-parallel controller used on most electric railways. His more than 130 patents included railroad control equipment, electric braking and switching equipment. He developed the otheograph used for recording the wheel action of various types of rolling stock. He participated in some of the major electrifications such as Milwaukee, Great Northern, Paris-Orleans and London Underground.

The best engine for their specifications was built by Wolseley of Great Britain. The Delaware & Hudson lent GE a Barney & Smith combine for experimenting. An ALCO motor truck was added on the front. Two 75 h.p. traction motors and a 600-volt generator were added. Once the huge engine was added, the baggage compartment was filled and the car weighed 68 tons. A trial run from Schenectady to Saratoga showed D&H 1000 (sometimes referred to as GE No. 1) could go 40 mph.

The designers, now joined by William Everett Ver Planck, decided their next car needed: light weight, greater power, single end control, and a more dependable engine. The engine was the most difficult to accomplish. In 1906, a Gas Engine Department was formed. A new V8 was developed that required an explosive charge to start. It weighed 3,900 pounds as opposed to the 7-ton Wolseley. GE No. 2 was an all-steel from Wason Mfg. Co. of Springfield, MA. The final weight was less than half that of car no. 1. This car trialed on the Lehigh Valley; Chicago Great Western; Dan Patch Lines; and the D&H. It was extensively damaged by hitting a locomotive on the Rapid City, Black Hills & Western. Car 2 was later sold to the Dan Patch Lines where it was destroyed in a 1914 fire.

A third GE demonstrator was built which incorporated even more improvements such as a 125 h.p. engine with compressed air starter. Car 3 eventually traveled 50,000 miles in demonstration service.

An attempt was made in 1909 to break into the street railway business. New York’s Third Avenue Railway Company had several “horse-powered” lines. Not wanting the expense of electrification, they had a “bake off” between the GE car and a battery powered one. The battery won.

By 1909, orders were coming in. Southern; Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh; Frisco; and Dan Patch Lines. Many improvements were made by Hermann Lemp. In 1910-11, the Gas Engine Department moved to a new plant in Erie, PA.

Before production ceased in 1917, almost 100 motorcars were built. Several were oddballs. One for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie was only 42 feet long (as opposed to 70-foot normal). It was designed to pull a trailer. One was built as a line car for the New York, Westchester & Boston. It was the only GE (except no. 1) without a Wason body. Some cars built for southern railroads had two doors – to comply with “Jim Crow” laws.

Operating costs ranged from 12 to 17 cents/mile. Cost of the cars was between $20,000 and $30,000. They usually ran with a crew of two (not withstanding labor agreements requiring more). Don’t forget though gasoline only cost 7 cents/gallon.

In the 1920’s, GE worked with Ingersoll-Rand on switch engines.

There was some degree of internal dissension within GE. Many would rather have sold all-electric. Little did they realize that non-electric would almost end electric.

GE’s history was wrapped around electric traction. In 1884, Frank J. Sprague, convinced that a street car could be powered by electricity from overhead cables, built a street railway in Richmond VA. By 1888, 40 cars were in operation. The Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company joined the Edison General Electric Company in 1890.

Elihu Thomson and Edwin J. Houston, two science teachers from Philadelphia, formed a company in Lynn MA that also built streetcars. Their company merged into the Edison General Electric in 1892 to form today’s General Electric Company. One of their employees was Charles Van Depoele, a woodcarver whose trolley-pole proved practical for overhead electric operation.

By 1908, General Electric completed the electrification of Grand Central Terminal. Although this installation used direct current, Charles Proteus Steinmetz, GE’s “wizard of electricity”, developed methods of designing alternating current machinery that would assure the future of GE in electric propulsion.

A big competitor was Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company. Beginning in the 1920’s, they built the electrical gear for some diesel-battery cars. Most of these were for Canadian National. New Haven’s Comet of 1925 was an example of a 6-cylinder, 400 h.p. unit (run as a three-car articulate). Boston & Maine got a V-12 about the same time. Between 1928 and 1937 they built several locomotives with Baldwin.

In 1930 General Electric built 34 three-power oil-electric box cab switchers (class DES3) for the New York Central. These were used mostly in the New York harbor area because of their light weight and fire safety aspects. They used battery power for traction. The batteries could be charged through either third-rail contact shoes or a 300 h.p. diesel engine.

The Electro-Motive Company came into being in 1922 in a little shop in Cleveland, Ohio. It got into the railroad business by making gas-electric motor cars using carbodies from St. Louis Car, electrical gear from GE and engines from Winton. In 1930 both EMC and Winton became subsidiaries of General Motors. By 1934, a new factory was underway in La Grange and streamliners were produced for Union Pacific (“City of Salina”) and Burlington (“Zephyr”).

In 1938 a steam-electric locomotive was built for the Union Pacific. Later on, gas turbine locomotives would also be tried.

In 1945 Fairbanks-Morse entered the locomotive business but it didn’t have a plant. GE built 111 locomotives for them before they struck out on their own.

The success of Budd’s RDC prompted GE to draw up plans for a diesel-electric railcar with underslung engines. GE argued that an electric transmission would enable its car to out-accelerate RDC’s and to pull trailers.

In 1960, GE announced its intention to enter the road diesel market with a 2500 h.p. four-motor hood called a U25B (Universal line, 2500 h.p., B trucks). Growth and the overtaking of EMD was accomplished by making good on low fuel consumption, high reliability, attractive financing and favorable trade-in allowances. Over the last 29 years there were some rough spots.

You Are Now In “Alice’s Restaurant” Territory

Arlo Guthrie’s church was extensively used in his 1968 film Alice’s Restaurant, which became kind of a hippie-era cult classic. It may still show up on some cable station now and then. According to Arlo’s version of the story, which he tells in his long narrative song of the same name, it’s supposed to be true.

The film has one brief scene, of New Haven train #138 at Stockbridge.

Berkshire historians know that there never was an “Alice’s Restaurant” — not by that name anyway! Its most recent reincarnation was as Theresa’s; used to be known as The Back Door.

Old photos show as many as five tracks across from the church. This is where the State Line branch went off the main line. All freight and passenger business was done here. The lines paralled up to Rising or Dalys, where the branch went off to State Line. There is a large block of marble where the station was and I have always wondered if it was part of the foundation? Last Passenger train to State Line was a “Mixed Train”.

Alice Brock’s “The Back Door” was in “downtown” Stockbridge, at the rear of an alley. That’s the establishment spoken of in the song, and briefly featured in the film, which was all shot on location.

As a result of Arlo’s song and film, Alice sort of got “discovered” and opened a considerably larger and far more upscale establishment up on Rt. 183 across from Tanglewood, called “Alice’s at Avaloch” (which, by the way, Arlo was a business partner in). Last time we were in that territory that place was called “The Apple Tree Inn.” I don’t know what it is today. Last I knew, over 15 years ago, Alice had moved all the way across Massachusetts to P’town. Don’t know if she was still in the restaurant business there!

Arlo and his “brood” are still active in the area. His Guthrie Center at the old church is doing a lot of community-oriented stuff today. As far as I know, they handle their garbage in more conventional ways nowadays!

He himself lives on a farm in Washington, MA. His home in Sebastian, FL got pretty much wiped out in the hurricanes of a couple of years ago.

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Cedar Hill Was Old And Huge, But It Did The Job

Cedar Hill was built between 1910 and 1920. The roundhouses were built in 1911. The Shore Line Receiving Yard, New York/Maybrook Receiving Yard, the two humps, Eastbound Classification Yard, and Westbound Classification Yard were built in 1918. The Montowese Tie Plant was built in 1922. The LCL warehouse and terminal were built around 1930.

If they started construction 1910, planning must have been around 1909. That puts the beginnings of Cedar Hill firmly in the Mellen era, along with his other major projects. Cedar Hill became in the 1920’s the keystone of the whole New Haven Railroad freight operation. It seems to have started out as a more local facility, then grown into that larger role. Or was the idea of making it the center part of the original intention?

The Cedar Hill Yards were part of the New Haven Terminal which consisted of 25 yards and switching districts and provided a classification facility to serve the several routes which converged there. Cedar Hill Territory had 14 yards with a capacity for 15,000 cars. The territory covered 880 acres, extended 7.1 miles from New Haven to the most northerly point, was approximately 1.5 miles wide, and had 154 miles of track.

The lazy, graceful pattern of the Quinnipiac River, with its bordering marshes, made the design of Cedar Hill a rare study in space utilization. The yards’ busiest was during World War II when a record 9,415 cars were handled.

At Blatchley Avenue Bridge, the tracks start to spread out to: (1) northbound main to Hartford and Springfield; (2) Shore Line to Providence and Boston; (3) Air Line to Middletown ( formerly to Willimantic and Boston); (4) the various yards and facilities of Cedar Hill. Note at this point the trackage is still electrified. Cedar Hill was the engine change point from electric to steam (and later diesel). By the 1940’s, Cedar Hill was almost unique in the variety of power it dispatched over three divisions – steam power, streamlined electric motors and brand new ALCO-GE diesels. To further complicate things, several bodies of water roam through the area – primarily the Quinnipiac River.

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Yes You CAN Take A TrainTo Cape Cod!

One of the most interesting locations that railroads have been built to is Cape Cod. The road that operated to CapeCod was part of the New York, New Haven & Hartford.

The railroad era came to Cape Cod in 1848 when a road was built from Middleboro on the mainland to Sandwich on the Cape. It was built primarily to serve the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. The Cape Cod Railroad extended itself to Hyannis in 1854 and after the Civil War the Cape Cod Central Railroad went on to Orleans and Wellfleet.

Passenger service became important by the end of the 19th Century as the Cape became a resort area.

The late 1950’s saw a sharp decline in passenger travel as automobiles became more popular (the Bourne and Sagamore bridges to Cape Cod were no where as overloaded as they are today).

Tracks from Eastham to Provincetown were removed in 1960 and then cut back to South Dennis in 1966. Much of this line is a bike path.

No, you couldn’t take a train to Cape Cod for quite a while, but see 2013 story: Cape Cod is Finally Going to Town

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WELCOME TO THE HISTORIC KINGSTON, RI RAILROAD STATION 1875

Amtrak Regional Trains to Boston -New York -Washington -Newport News -Richmond

Kingston Station is open daily 6am to 10:45pm for all 18 trains ~ Parking is Free

Read more about Kingston Station, Rhode Island.

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The Essex Steam Train Ride

Living in Connecticut, I had no excuse NOT to visit the Valley Railroad in Essex. Even living in upstate New York, it is a place not to miss. The big feature of the Valley Railroad is the steam train ride.

The train runs from Essex to above Deep River and then backs to Deep River where boat passengers get on and off. The former branch line runs from Old Saybrook on Long Island Sound to Middletown (you guessed it – in the middle of the state).

The train ride is not the only attraction. Essex is also the location of the Connecticut Valley Railroad Museum.

The Connecticut Valley Railroad Association was established in 1968 to operate trains powered by steam over the New Haven Railroad. It is a non-profit organization which works closely with the for-profit Valley Railroad Company which owns the abandoned New Haven Valley Branch along the Connecticut River. The museum is an all-volunteer effort while the VRR concentrates on running the steam trains (a very expensive proposition). The museum’s aim is to provide a successful interpretation of the history of New England railroading that will be the equal of the state-supported museums in Pennsylvania and California.

The original steam locomotive on the Valley was #97, a coal-fired 2-8-0 “Consolidation” built by Alco’s Cooke Works in 1923. The first owner was the Birmingham and Southeastern (an Alabama shortline). Stored from the 1950’s until 1964, #97 worked a while for the Vermont Railway before going to the steam department of the Connecticut Electric Railway. After the takeover of the former New Haven by the Penn Central, which tended to discourage steam excursions, the locomotive sat in Danbury for almost a year before being shipped to the VRR.

#40 is a 2-8-2 “Mikado” built by Alco’s Brooks Works in 1920. It was a “boomer” and worked for railroads all around the country. Purchased by the VRR in 1977, #40 is a favorite of engine crews even if not quite as economical to operate as #97. #40 is currently being overhauled.

There are several other steam locomotives on the VRR which are currently unserviceable or static displays: #3 is an 0-4-0 Fireless built by Porter in 1930. #10 is an 0-4-0 Saddle Tank built by Baldwin in 1934. This locomotive is being restored to service with funding by donations of beverage containers (for “bottle bill” refunds). #103 is a 12-6-2 “Prairie” built by Baldwin in 1925 and last run in 1975. #148 is a 4-6-2 “Pacific” built by Alco’s Richmond Works in 1920 for Florida East Coast’s passenger service. #148 switched for a sugar refinery before going to the New Hope & Ivyland. Destined for the Adirondack Railway, it finally ended up on the VRR and is stored unserviceable.

The sole electric is #300, an EF-4 3300 HP electric road freight locomotive built by GE in 1956. It was owned originally by the Virginian Railway but picked up almost new for $20,000 when the Norfolk & Western took over. When CONRAIL ceased electric freight operations in 1979, #300 became surplus. It is the sole survivor of the once-huge New Haven fleet of 125 electrics.

Numerous diesels are on the property. As you enter the parking lot, E9A #4096 is displayed in a classic New York Central “lightning stripe” color scheme. Built in 1963 for the Union Pacific, it hauled the last Union Pacific passenger run before AMTRAK. It then went to work for AMTRAK. It hauled the last Auto Train in 1981. #0401 is an FA-1 1500 HP road freight diesel built for the New Haven by Alco in 1947. There is an RS-1, 2 SW-1s, 2 RS-3s, 2 44 ton GEs, a U25B (last locomotive built for the New Haven) and an 80 ton GE owned by the Army and used by a local Army Reserve unit.

There are four self-propelled rail cars: a 1930 Brill, two 1954 Pullman M.U.s, and a 1931 Brill rail detector car (ex New York Central).

There are 33 items of passenger rolling stock. They have come from as many sources. Typical is the “Wallingford”, a parlor car built by Pullman in 1927 for the New Haven. It ran on many New Haven limiteds. Originally a 36 seat car, it was rebuilt in 1937 to a seat-parlor lounge. In 1952 it was sold to the Kansas City Southern and in the early 1960’s to the Reader Railroad in Arkansas. Several cars are in the museum or otherwise being used (office cars, storage, etc) by virtue of not being scrapped as they were in work train service at the time railroads were wholesale scrapping passenger equipment. Much of this equipment was donated by the Schiavone Scrap Yard in New Haven.

There are 18 pieces of freight equipment and 7 cabooses owned by the museum or privately owned and stored on the property.

Work equipment includes air operated side dump cars once operated by the Hartford Electric Light Company. There is a locomotive crane, snow plow and derrick car.

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