Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A New Facelift

This blog appearance wasn't altered since the original "defacto" blogger design was selected back in 2010 and I feel it no longer fits what I'm trying to do with this layout.

As much as content is important, the container can tell us a lot about the author's attitude and can set the mood perfectly. When creating the Connors Branch blog graphic design, I found out Blogger was much more versatile than I first thought. Certainly less than WordPress, but still workable.

Since I've been reading old Erie Railroad Magazine (ERM) issues lately, I thought it would be a good idea to redesign the blog as if it was an old 1950s publication. I didn't had to search very far since the first page of ERM was graced by a gorgeous illustration of a pair of speeding steam and diesel locomotives. It was only a matter of changing the title and keeping the fonts as close as possible to the original ones.

I certainly hope the new appearance will please the regular readers. In the near future, some additional sections such as "About The Author" and "First Time Here?" will be added quite similarly to what can be found on the Connors Branch blog.

To be noted, all broken image links from my Photobucket account have been repaired. Pictures are now directly hosted on Blogger.

Finally, I also started to acquire better rolling stock for the layout with the goal of ultimately replacing every blue box kits with more prototypical cars with state of the art details. This is another proof a layout is never finished, which is a good thing.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

In Search of... Erie Railroad Magazine February 1952 Issue

The title being quite obvious, I'm looking for Erie Railroad Magazine's February 1952 issue which had a detailed article about Harlem Station property and operation. Many websites and later articles about the Erie 149th Street Terminal refer to this article, but while trying to figure out the tenants, it has become quite obvious each author has its own interpretation of the facts. To be blunt, there are a lot of discrepancies and available historical photographs paint a slightly different pictures.

So, I need some help to locate a printed or scanned version of that precious article since it is directly related to the layout era.

One of the main reason I need the article is to locate precisely Harlem Station tenants so I can devise a somewhat accurate way to operate the layout.

My target era would be 1952 or 1955 though I prefer 1952 since the thawing shed was still standing and the Erie Railroad Magazine gives a lot of information about that specific year.

Tentative location of tenants

If you have any information about the tenants, let me know. As far as I can tell, I've been able to locate the following tenants precisely:

-Bay Transportation trucks were generally found near the freight house, particular on the north side near 150th Street.

-Eastern Carloading trucks can be seen on the south side of the freighthouse.

-Victory Coal trucks are located near Eastern Carloading. More on Victory Coal later.

-The crane company used the concrete ramp and the west siding under the gantry crane (booms were transported on gondolas). Some people identified the crane company as Gerosa, but I wasn't able to positively find evidence of that name on pictures.

-Consumer's Coal used to be located on the siding located near the apron and carfloat. It isn't clear if they also were the company that used the siding near the thawing shed but that could be possible.

-Jerome Fuel was located on Consumer's Coal siding but near the turnout according to a mid-1950s photo showing their office shed under construction. However, according to Erie Railroad Magazine, they were already a tenant.Unfortunately, I don't know where they were located back in 1952 and 1951 statistics state it was the largest customer served at Harlem Station!

-Gassman Coal was located exactly where Consumer's Coal was. The change visibly happened at the same time Jerome Fuel became a tenant. It should also be noted that some New York City documents online indicate Gassman Coal used to sell Victory Coal. Thus, could it be Gassman was already a tenant and relocated at Consumer's Coal spot later?

-Mirandi (or Miranda) Coal was a tenant in 1952 but I can't locate it on photographs. However, I know the short siding on the pier handled coal hoppers and a small office and scale house stood there. Unfortunately, no sign is visible on pictures, but that would be a likely spot.

-Adolf Gobel is also indicated as a future tenant but it's hard to know where it was located. However, almost every reefer cars are spotted in front of the freight house.

-National Carloading was also another tenant, but I don't know their exact spot. They could have used another siding located east of the freighthouse. As a matter of fact, it seems boxcars used to be spotted on the eastern side of Harlem station while hoppers, flatcars and gondolas were handled on the western side.

-Finally, Harlem Station also dealt with wine. Some pictures of Harlem River show carfloat with Chateau Martin reefers, thus I guess it was the same kind of traffic that was handled at Harlem Station. However, I have absolutely no idea if the cars were spot sensitive or not.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Thawing Coal Shed and Customers

A lingering mystery about Harlem Station is the coal shed that used to stand near the loading ramp. This narrow and long structure would be quite easy to model, but photographic and graphical evidences clashes.

The thawing coal shed can be seen on the right side.
1951, Track Planning for Realistic Operation, 2nd edition, John Armstrong
Kalmbach Publishing

According to some maps (in fact, most of them), the coal shed – often identified by railfans as a thawing coal shed – was built on top of a track. It would mean coal hoppers we pushed under the structure. Photographs also show there was indeed two tracks leading to the ramps thought only one is visible on the Harlem River side of the shed.

My biggest concern is about the shed itself. If a track was under it, how the building structure was made. The pictures let me believe there was some kind of raised floor on each sides of the track, but it would make little sense to have one.... How would such a building be put in use?

Feel free to comment with your favorite theory, or to clarify my understanding of that neat structure in Harlem. I’m pretty sure someone got some knowledge of similar coal shed covering a track. Edit: While information abound about modern thawing sheds, older ones are less documented. According to several sources, the heating process was done by torching or with steam pipes. We can already exclude the later since Harlem Station didn't had any sizeable boiler room that could have supplied enough steam (except if something comes up).

By the way, as I’m planning to develop the operation concept for the layout, I’m searching for customers that used to be served by Erie’s Harlem Station back in the 1950s, more exactly in 1952. I already have on hand a list of names, but except for a few obvious ones in pictures (Gassman Coal, Jerome Fuel), but others are harder to locate since they didn’t have billboard on the property. Among them are, tentatively, Mirandi Coal (?), Victory Coal, Consumer’s Coal, Bay Transportation, National Carloading, Eastern Trucking and a company dealing with construction equipment (cranes in particular). Any glimpse of information would be appreciated. I have no knowledge about Erie’s archives, but under normal circumstances, papers and scale drawings of the property should survive with indications about tenants and their location.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Quick Update and Future Developments

Well, probably many readers wonder what happened to Harlem Station since last year. In fact, very little and it was never operated in a decent manner since last summer. However, as this blog can testify, this is often a summer project and I'm actually in the process of makign some room in my basement to start working again on this great little layouts.

Among the many tasks to accomplish in the future are some rolling stock upgrade (weight, wheels and couplers) and improving the boxcab performance (LokSound Full Throttle if possible, maybe try the Proto Throttle). Also, a few structures still need to be scratchbuilt and a scenery can be improved a lot. But all that is hardware and cake icing, it doesn't account that much to operation.

As we found out during our few operation sessions, this layout as a lot of potential, but can become a real nightmare to stage. There is something alway weird in deciding yourself which cars to pick up or set out. For this reason, I've studied last winter how to create switchlist with JMRI. Creating automated switchlist would boost greatly the impression you are handling freight at a busy terminal and make my life much easier.

Until then, we will have to figure out a way to split the layout in two halves again as originally designed. It will require cutting the tracks near the split joint and loosening some scenic material.

Meanwhile, I added a new link to Ralph Heiss' Lehigh Valley Harbor Terminal Railway blog in the recommended website list. Ralph has been a long time reader of my blog and our interest in railways somewhat overlap.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

About The Author

I can't recall when trains entered my life. It seems they were already part of my life even when I was three years old and pestering my father to show me his Life-Like trainset. Combined with my passion with transportation, industrial settings, modelism and building, it became a life long obsession that permitted me to discover many new horizons.

Since 2007, I've started an informal club with friends Louis-Marie Huot and Jérôme Langlois-Lavoie in which we try to capture our childhood memories of Canadian National (or Canadien National as we say here in Québec) in Québec City area during the mid-80s.

I have also a limited yet enduring interest in Canadian Pacific decaying rural branchline network in Southern Quebec during the 70s and 80s, probably fuelled by the attractive Multimark era and Alco/MLW locomotives.

I also have an interest for interurban traction railways such as Quebec Railway Light & Power Company and have tried numerous time to model a steam era layout for many years. The Connors Branch is the answer to that obsession.

A barn I designed for my brother's farm.

I practice architecture on an everyday basis since 2007 with a focus on heritage buildings including academic studies of New France colonial architecture and its later developments. This passion lead me to purchase my grand-father's house built in 1875 and to restore it as it was at the turn of the century. I've also decicated my master grade paper on railways and their influence on Canadian urban and regional development. As you can see, my different passions are well linked together!

Among my other interests are astronomy, science, archeology, scale figure building and Japanese vinyl records collecting... and many others I probably forget!

Feel free to contact me via comments. It's always a pleasure to discuss this fascinating hobby with other enthusiasts!

Best regards,

Matthieu Lachance