"In the field" railroad history adventures...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Danbury Railroad Museum

Due to my numerous web postings on railroad history, I was contacted by the Danbury Railroad Museum for a tour and chat with a few of the active members.  The weather was still cool but sunny and my visit was excellent. What an amazing array of railroad cars, indoors exhibits and most importantly - congenial kindred spirits passionately dedicated to preserving an often forgotten (and misguided) era of our heritage.

The museum occupies the former Danbury Railroad Station as well as a good sized railroad yard brimming with a wide variety of rolling stock and engines.

Of course, historical maps detailing the regions railroad lines graced walls of the former station and I was enthralled!

My Tour Guides

My "tour guides" were: Pete (a retired engineer and avid storyteller), Phil (a multimedia specialist AND a knowledgeable mechanic for the many of the locomotives), John (an active tour guide at the museum) and  Bob Boothe who initially contacted and invited me on this tour (he is building the steam locomotive shown below).

As mentioned, behind the museum is a yard full of trains: passenger cars, diesel locomotives, cabooses, both a Sperry car and a Sperry bus, and to top it off: a glistening steam engine. I was overwhelmed - it was a gold mine!!!

Most of the cars and locomotives are open and visitors are encouraged to get inside and learn and explore. I was double lucky to have four super knowledgable guides to give an amazing in-depth, hands-on adventure through it all!

Budd Car

One of our first stops was a refurbished Budd Car repainted in the exact NH colors. Pete used to drive this and we saw the cab and heard stories on the folks he knew personally on his runs.

B&M Steam Locomotive

Next was Bob's "baby" an amazing Mogul B&M steam engine. He took me right inside the cab and explained the inner workings of this amazing machine. Back in the glory days of steam, the trains ran a lot faster and these steam engine could really fly!


The next stop were a couple of cabooses (did someone say "cabeese? :-) ) and it was really cool just to sit up top and see the view.  Bob graciously snapped of photo of me grinning.

GM Diesel

Next we ventured inside a big diesel and saw close up the engine and electrical system. We sat in the cab and listened to Pete tell his stories of exactly what is was like to drive this monster locally back in the day... He had a million fascinating vignettes from yesteryear. I--of course--had a million questions and the discourse was enlightening and entertaining for sure!

Yard Abundance

As mentioned, the yard was chock full of a wide array of trains. Most of it was well documented with signs, etc.
The crane was huge--but think about it--it's job was to pull up train cars after a wreck--that would have to be a big bruiser!!
Every car had a story to tell and to have the foursome chatting around me was a thrill.
 Sperry bus
 There is even a working forge on the grounds where blacksmithing occurs.

Mail Car

But I saved the best for last. This restored mail car was unbelievable. A long time before the "conquest" of car and planes, railroads provided speedy and efficient service delivering mail all across the country. Mail bags were simply placed on a hook and snapped up by the train whizzing by then sorted enroute within a mail car just like this.

I captured Bob explaining this in a short video. The bits about guns and a stray dog are great!

What's Next?

I will be assisting the organization with interactive presentations and my extensive digital experience. Stay tuned >> interactive history maps are "a comin'" :-)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Retracing the Kaydeross Railroad (Part Four)

I was back upstate for Presidents Day and convinced my friend Gary to join me for the continued trek up the Kaydeross River, exploring and documenting the old mills that were part of the Kaydeross Railroad. Sadly Gino could not join us for this trek.

Although I don't like to "repeat myself" and revisit the same spots twice - we did return to a few spots Gino and I had already visited back in December but the snow gave each spot a refreshingly different ambiance.

Pioneer Mill

First stop was the eerie (to me) Pioneer Mill. I noticed a foundation on the south side of the road I missed last time. In addition, a walk back over the creek gave a couple of new perspectives on the remaining ruins previously wandered thru and photographed.

Heisler Road Bridge

We next revisited the Heisler Road Bridge and this time wandered a bit north on the ROW. It quickly became overgrow and harder to discern where the track went amid the overgrowth and plethora of fallen trees.

Private Trolley Stop 

Our next location was a much more productive stop at George West's private trolley stop in Rock City Falls. It was a fairly easy trudge through the thick undergrowth and we were quickly rewarded with close up views of the stop and the ROW embankment that ran right next to the stone "hut."As the last photo indicates, the slate roof was already starting to deteriorate. It certainly is a shame that this has been neglected and not on "the list" of historic structures needing an historic sign and preservation...

 Theere was an old foundation nearby which probably was another house back then...

The Empire Mill

Our next stop was not visited on my last trip with Gino: The Empire Mill. There are numerous photos of this site on the web - many on a sunny beautiful day  (see Google Image Search - Empire Mill Rock City Falls NY) but my main interest was to get behind the mill and check out the old coal trestle.

 The Coal Trestle is visible from across the river...
Remnants of the Coal Trestle

 Eagle Mill
A return vist to Eagle Mill did provide a clearer view in the snow. Further across the creek were more ruins and it was tempting to try and cross the river on the ice but it really wasn't solid enough. Normally at this time of year,  crossing on the ice would have been possible but this winter has been abnormally warmer on the average so it would have been foolish to attempt it (sigh).

Axe Mill (Ballston Pulp & Paper)

On our revisit to the Axe Mill, we noticed a lawn chair and teepee (not in the photo) near the ruins across the river. Apparently some hearty souls were braving the cold and winter camping!

Sulphite Mill

Lastly, our trip to the Sulphite Mill was rewarding because (as mentioned) the ambiance was completely different with everything being blanketed by snow.

Its kind of hard to visualize in this puny picture but as we hiked back up the hill, the Planing Mill, looming high up on the hillside above us, felt like a medieval watchtower, ominously perched to guard against invading forces! :-)

We finished off the trek with Burgers and Beer at the Factory. 

The Factory, being another former mil superbly "refurbished" as a restaurant was the perfect spot to reconnect once again with the modern world.:-)