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John (Jack) Kreeger, Editor          Volume 11, Number 1  April 2003
Published by the Connecticut Eastern Chapter of the N.R.H.S., Inc

Train Show

Our annual Spring train show will be held at Windham High School, 355 High Street, Willimantic, CT on April 13 from 10:00AM - 3:00PM. Admission is $4.00 for adults, $ 3.00 for seniors (62 yrs+), and children (under 12) are free.

The show will have numerous dealers selling G-O-S-HO-N scale rolling stock, resin buildings in all scales, tin & metal signs, books & magazines, RR patches, New Haven RR "T" shirts, sweatshirts & hats, DCC controls, detail parts in all scales, postcards, timetables, HO brass signals, custom painted New Haven equipment, RR stocks & bonds, RR watches, electrified signs in all scales, and laser cut wood kits in 0 -S-HO-N.

There will also be operating layouts of various scales and hourly raffles.

We will need help at the high school at 5:00PM on Friday, April 11 to set-up tables and at 7:00AM on Sunday to help vendors bring in their wares.

Calendar of Events

Apr 6 Business Meeting
Apr 13 CERM Spring train show
Apr 20 Membership Meeting.
Entertainment: Slides by Tom Nanos, "Modern Railroading in Southern New England"
May 4 Business Meeting
May 17 Boy Scout troop visit to Museum
May 18 Membership Meeting
May 24 Museum opens for 2003 season
May 26 Museum open for Memorial Day

What's New at the Museum

Village Area:
Work to extend electricity to the Groton Freight House has started and the window on the West end of the freight house is being restored.

Five windows have been installed on the North side.

Rolling Stock:
The stainless steel passenger cars are being cleaned out. No more mold!

New Haven FL-9 locomotive 2023 and Metro North SPV (self-propelled vehicle) 293 arrived at the Museum on February 7.

Winter Notes

Recently, a burned aerosol can was found inside the Willimantic Section House coal stove. Members working at the museum are reminded that we believe in "Safety First".

Members are also reminded that the museum is not a dump. Anyone who has an item to donate should contact the Acquisitions Committee (Bill Nickerson 860-749-1853 or Bill Robinson 860-456-4903) before leaving items at the museum.

Treasurer's Summary - February

By Jeff Laverty

Income for February totaled $4,382.65 and came primarily from membership renewals, individual contributions, and a roundhouse window contribution.

Expenses amounted to $2,442.16 and consisted primarily of fees for moving the FL-9 and SPV to the museum and purchase of inscribed pavers for the roundhouse.

As of February 28, cash on hand totaled $24,094.46

A Couple of Hours at Selkirk Yard

Article and Photo by Jack Kreeger

Saturday, March 8, 2003, dawned as a cool sunlight morning. It was cool but we were promised temperatures in the fifties later that afternoon. Tom Nanos and I met at Bob LaMay’s house at 0730 for a day of planned events centered on a tour of Amtrak’s Maintenance Facility at Rensselaer, New York. The facility lies on the east shore of the Hudson River directly across from Albany. A side trip to Selkirk Yard took place prior to arriving at Rensselaer. Tom Nanos drove while Bob rode shotgun and I lounged in the back seat enjoying the ride and the passing sights.

We arrived at the Selkirk Yard just south of Albany at about 0945. After parking well off the road on the south approach to “Ben’s Bridge”, we walked up the hill onto the bridge. The sight that opens up from the bridge is broad in scope and a very busy scene, even for a Saturday. The veteran Selkirk observers will tell you there was not much going on, but all you had to do was just stand there and observe. The locomotive service area contained CSX and transient motive power and was bustling. There must have been ten to twelve locomotives of various vintage and heritage sitting there at the sand towers being serviced for their next assignment. At the engine house we saw a constant parade of locomotives in and out which were being looked at for various problems. Be it periodic maintenance or a dead power plant this facility is equipped and manned to handle anything encountered.

While the above is played out all around you there are loco movements out to the test track, ready track and some going directly to an out bound train yard. At the same time trains are arriving and their locomotives are sent to the engine house for service and or repair. Cars are set off on various inbound classification tracks to await the making up of other trains. The engine house itself is huge. I had a tour of it a few years back and you can only imagine the size of it and the scope of work done there. You cannot take in all that goes on there, periodic maintenance, light repairs, heavy repairs, rebuilds, and crash repair. You name it, from changing a light bulb to changing a power plant.

The primary and best-known purpose of Selkirk Yard is making up trains. This yard is immense. And it sets in a long wide valley. What you can see from the bridge is about a half mile wide and as far as you can see in either direction both west (incoming yard) and east (outbound yard). This is about three miles to three and a half miles east and west. East side yard is about ten tracks wide feeding down into one track that goes up to the hump. This yard could be wider out beyond where you can see.

Simply put, the hump is just a steep hill for those who don’t know what it is. For those who are more familiar than I, these are just my observations and you may view it differently. The cars are picked up in the inbound yard by a hump switcher. These are usually two heavy road switchers in tandem. That day we saw a cow-calf combination and a pair Geeps handling the day’s assignments. After locomotives are coupled to the cars to be humped, the power pushes the train at about a fast walk. As the cars reach the apex of the hump there is a man on the ground that has a large digital readout board in front of him. This board tells him the number of the car to pull the pin on. Usually the road name or abbreviation and the last three digits of the car’s serial number appears on a list of cars from the manifest of the inbound train.

This is then read through track-side electronic readers and fed to computers in the hump office. A few years ago when on a tour of Selkirk, I was able to spend a morning in the hump tower. The day I was there the day shift was made up of a supervisor, two clerks and the hump conductor that over saw the whole operation from up over the head of the man on the ground pulling the pin.

The other side of the hump is where the out-bound trains are made up. After the pin is pulled the car or cars travel down the incline using gravity and cars are directed to their destination through a series of switches that direct the cars to the proper track on which the train is being made up. Retarders control the speed of the car or cars by applying pressure to the inside of the wheel flanges as the car passes over it on its way to the make up track. The ideal speed for coupling to the other cars in the line is I believe between five and eight mph. This speed is calculated by the computer and considers other factors in doing all it does to assure a good couple and minimal breakage of coupler knuckles. At Selkirk, I was told they allow no more than three cars at a time coupled together to traverse the hump, because of the speed, weight and the incline of the hump itself. The yard was built in an era of forty foot cars with limits a lot less than today’s modern fifty, sixty and seventy foot cars with increased weight limits.

For auto racks, TOFC, COFC, and single and double stack unit type trains, there are by-pass tracks on both sides of the yard. This allows trains with sensitive cargo to avoid the trauma of going over the hump, and therefore expensive insurance claims.

While there we witnessed a crew change on a double stack unit train passing through. This train could have been going to north Jersey or New York via the west side of the Hudson River or east to Springfield, Worcester or Boston and then points beyond. The train stopped at a signal just before passing under “Ben’s Bridge”, it was met by a crew taxi and swapped crews there. The incoming crew was taken to layover quarters to lay over for their next trip west. Meanwhile as the crew change was taking place, a taxi drove beside the train looking for anything out of the ordinary. Finding none, the train continued east with a minimum of delay.

Selkirk is also a dispatching point for CSX from Boston in the east to a point somewhere I believe in Ohio. Again I was able to witness this operation while on the Selkirk tour. The day I was there was a Saturday and not very busy. The main dispatch room is built in a horseshoe shape, around a raised platform where supervisors sit with a clear view of all boards. Each dispatcher has his or her own enclosed workspace and limited contact with the surrounding environment. Each dispatcher follows; I believe no more than two trains at any one time. They are constantly checking for train location, track conditions, slow orders, and any other condition that can pop up in the length of time that they follow their trains. They have a board up on the wall that they follow their train on. There are various colored lights that appear and disappear as the train progresses through the dispatch territory. If you ever have the chance to take a tour of Selkirk, by all means take advantage of it. While there please keep in mind that CSX isn’t friendly toward rail fans, especially those who trespass. Personnel at all locations I visited during our tour of Selkirk were friendly and couldn’t do enough for us.

The tour was arranged and okayed in advance by CSX brass, so be aware that a self-guided tour without advance planning could find CSX personnel just the opposite in nature. While at Selkirk, stay off CSX property to avoid meeting a security guard. During our two hour stay we noticed a constant flow of both security and employee vehicles over the bridge. So you are being observed by someone all the time you are there. Good rules for rail fanning are to never encroach on private property and if asked to move your vehicle, do it without question.

We stayed at Selkirk for almost two hours. The remainder of the day was spent at Rensselaer, New York, site of the Amtrak’s Maintenance Facility. This report is a combination of a tour of Selkirk I had while attending a convention at Albany and the visit on Saturday March 8, 2003.

The next scheduled meeting of the
Connecticut Eastern Chapter,
National Railway Historical Society
will be at Windham Community Memorial Hospital
112 Mansfield Ave., Willimantic, CT
on Sunday, April 20 at 7:00 PM.

Please note: The monthly business meeting will be held at the
same location on the first Sunday of the month.
All members are welcome to attend.
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