New England Memories

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New England Memories
Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, February 2, 2012 5:20 AM

Two items in the Spring 2012 issue prompt this long entry, the New England fantrips entry in the Photo Section, and Smoldering Embers in The Way it Was

My first exposure to NE railroading was at the age of 3-1/2, a summer trip to a location near Harford, the going was in a friends auto, but the return was via NYNH&H from Hartford.  Standing on the platform I was frightened by the uncoming steamer, and Mom or Dad thought to bring me right up to the locomotive as it stopped and have me touch the main or side rod, to overcome my fear.  Possibliy that touch is what made me a railfan.  I do remember the dissapointment at not seeing the locomotive, probalby an I-4 Pacific, at the head end when we debarked at Grand Central since at 3-2/3 the juice jack probvalby looked just like one more coach.

At age 5-1/2, Mom, Dad, and I visited my sisters who were counselors at a summer camp at Hebron, NH, north of Plymouth on Newfound Lake, and my older cousin Lester, at the brother boys camp.  We took the Boston night boat both ways and had dinner on the boat as well as beds.  Then the B&M in wood open platform coaches got us between North Station and Plymouth.  I recall seeing the Union Railroads saddle-tnake steamers on Atlantic Avenue from the taxis' windows.  On the return, I insisted on sitting in the last seat in the last coach, so I could stand facing the rear door window, but then was dissapointed when at Manchaster or Nashua an express freight car was coupled on behind the train.  That was summer, 1937.

The next year, I was enrolled as "Midgit" at the boys camp.  First time away from my parents, and a lower brith in a section sleeper . The two camps joinlty chartered four 12&1 heavyweights GCT Concord on the "State of Maine, " where they were added to the regular sleeper making the run. I was crying, until I went to sleep, but when I woke up, we were going in the opposite direction, reversal at Lowel where the sleepers for Concord were dropped by the SOM and picked up by a Boston - White River or Wells River train.   This procedurre continue up through the summer of 1943.  Dad always gave me a quarter to give the porter.   I started to consider the train trips the best part of the summer vacation, beating even swimming and canoeing, which I enjoyed immensely.   Charted school buses were used between the camp and Concord station.

In 1944 a shortage of Pullmans took us off the State of Maine and into regular standard coaches on the "Day Express," which differed in routing from the "State" in that it went up the direct line Worcester - Groton (New London) instead of via Providence.   I enjoyed the train trips even more.   I recall seeing my first  glimps of the Cofeen feedwater heater equpped B&M Birkshere's with their beetlebrow look.c  And B&A Hudsons in Worcester.   The grey interiior of the New Haven standard coaches with blue plush seats and the thing red and blue stripes at the bottom of the clerastory is a good viaula image in my memory today.

The next year there were more changes.  The camp moved from Newfound Lake near Hebron, NH, to another lake north of Center Barnstead.  And there wasn't any space even on the Day Express for us.   So going it was Shore Line in the standard NH coaches to South Station, the Cambrdige tunnel train (now the Red Line) to Summer-Winter-Wshington (now Downtown Crossing) and the Wshington-Street Tunnel-Main Line Elevated (now Orange Line) to North Station.  Then regular B&M cars on a train to Concord.  What surprised me most on that trip was that the end doors on Boston rapid transit trains were open in the summer for better ventilation, and a grill for safety covered the door opeing on the front and rear cars (possiblyi all the end doors, someone can provide this additional information,)  The camp authorities did not like this route because of the possibility of a camper being lost with the Boston three-location transfer.  So the return that summer was first behind a 2-6-0, in ex-PRR P-54's (shorty, with owl windows for future electrification) coaches to Clairmont Junction over what became the Concord and Clairmont and covered in the photo-section fantrip.    At Clairmont Junction we waited for an boarded the very long and well-occupied Day White Mountains Express from Fabian, NH through to Grand Central.  I saw the two Springfield Terminal combine electric cars and reallyi wished that I could stop off and ride the (age 13), and I never did have that chance.

At that camp, that summer, my dentist arranged for continual dental work with a Concord, NH, dentist requirign five trips between the camp and Concord.  I ended up making the round trip from the camp to Concord only once by bus completely both ways. On four trips I rode the combination everything Suncook Valley car on its switchback run between Concord and Pittsfield and then the bus the rest of the way to the camp, my second solo railfanning effort.  (The first when I rode DC streetcars causing a Columbia Grammer School teacher a lot of wrath on a school trip to Washington, B&O both ways, the previous Spring.)   I had a ball on that train, but never did get to ride the steam locomotive there.   The last trip I almost did not get to ride, since the combine was at the B&M Billrica shop for overhaul and the replacement was a regular B&M wood baggage car.  But I argued and said the fold-down longitudinal wood bench was perfectliy adequate, and they let me ride.

After the war, another camp in New Hampshire saw me back on the State of Maine sleeper each wasy one summer.  Then came two years at a summer camp near Harrison Maine (of two-foot gauge Bridgeton and Harrison fame).  The first summer I rode with the group on the Shore Line to Boston, then B&M both ways to Portland and chartered buses to and from the camp.  We generally rode heavyweight parlors on the New Haven and regular coaches on the B&M.   The second year, high school graduation prevented me from leaving with the group, and I had to play catch-up by overnight in a lower berth on the State of Maine to Portland, meeting there with a group that had a chartered sleeper all the way from St. Louis. and then their chartered bus to the camp.  On the return a photographed a Type 5 on the City Point streetcar line outside NorthStation (rode the line many times later), and remember we had an I-5 Hudson on the end leaving Boston.   The coaches then were already the new 8600 postwar cars but the parlors were still heavywiegfhts.

Of course while at MIT I had lots of rail riding.   I rode the Narragansset Pier, in the converted school bus between Kingston and the Pier, and my companion was fellow student Frank Fairbanks.   I made a special trip to Providence and back just to ride the articulated Comet, and with Gerre Dyar rode it from Boston to Hartford.  Then continued to NY.   Most NY-Boston trips were coach, rarely did I sprint for a parlor seat or an overnight.   My work at Elerctro-Motive during the summer of 1952, and my SB Thesis on locomotive regulator controls gave me the status of a B&M employee and an engine pass.  At the same time I had a parf-time job as designer at Mystic Transformers in Winchester and used a combination of bike and B&M for the commute to and from MIT/

I was on the round-the-mountains trip described in the article.  Why only diesel photos?  How about the two Moguls emerging from one of the two covered bridges?  And the beautiful ex-Lackawanna Pacific?

Later on, while workiing for Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, and doing much business for them in NYC, I repeated the "The Way ti Was - Embers" experience many times, usually in reverse, going to NY on the Owl and returning on the Merchants, sometime even in a parlor seat.   Not only was the ride smooth, but the cars clean, and the dining car food excellent.   Credit Bill Goodman, the Passenger VP and the pride and care of the New Haven employees.  The author should have mentioned the dining car.   (Other NH trains had just the grill cars, and th e experience was not quite as elegant but the food still good,)  

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