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Trains Through Old Saybrook, 1947

One of the best parts of prototype modeling, IMO, is the fun research projects that it presents.  And while research often highlights how much we have to compromise to fit the prototype into our space (and budget) - e.g. the more you know, the more you know you have to choose what to do without - sometimes research will help you be true to prototype with little, or no, compromise at all.*

Case in point: Modeling Old Saybrook at the south end of the Valley Line - and its dense traffic.  Follow along as I show you how I reduced a daily schedule of 71 trains down to just 4 - much easier to model, and all perfectly prototypical.

Data from Employee Timetable and Arranged Freight Service Book, entered into Excel and sorted by time-of-day.

I finally finished compiling a list of all the trains that would have gone through Old Saybrook on a typical day in 1947 (see above pic - that's just the first page).  As I mentioned in my last post, not counting the two Shoreline Locals I plan to model (PDX-2 New London-Cedar Hill, which serves the lower end of the Valley Line, and PDX-1 Cedar Hill-New London, which exchanges cars with PDX-2 in Old Saybrook), there are a staggering 23 through freight trains and 48 passenger trains during a typical day.

Yikes!

Now, unless I want to model a full 24-hour period (which, considering my main focus - local freights on the Valley Line - operated during the day, is unlikely) I can confine Saybrook traffic to the daylight hours only. 

How do I determine what the "daylight hours" were during October, 1947?  Google, as it often turns out, is your friend. I threw in a quick search and came up with this website which told me just what I needed to know.  During that month, daylight ranged from 5:54a-5:36p at the beginning of the month to 6:24a-4:55p at the end of the month.  So, as you can see from the pic above, I sectioned-off the trains that would have operated during the day.

That little exercise made things a LOT more manageable for freight traffic and a little more manageable for passenger trains.  Turns out, there are only 3 daytime through freights:
  • Boston-Cedar Hill train 9 (BN-9), westbound through Old Saybrook at 7:10 am
  • Boston-Cedar Hill train 3 (BN-3), westbound through Old Saybrook at 8:40 am
  • FGB-2, eastbound through Old Saybrook at 2:30 pm
The remaining 20(!) through freights operated at night.

But there are still 20 daytime passenger trains through Saybrook, from westbound train #401 at 6:40 am to the eastbound Puritan (train #20) at 5:10 pm.  Interestingly, the mid-afternoon features an especially impressive show of famous New Haven Railroad name trains during a short period:
  • 2:43 westbound Senator
  • 3:05 eastbound Yankee Clipper
  • 3:22 westbound Yankee Clipper
  • 4:17 eastbound Colonial
Check out the pic above for a full listing of daytime trains.  That's still a lot of trains.

From a practical standpoint, there's no way I have the space or the equipment (or time or money) to model all of these trains.  The three through freights would be great to have - they had either a DER-1s (DL-109s) or an R-3 4-8-2 on the point, and of course included any freight car you can imagine.  The Yankee ClipperSenator and Colonial all have very distinct consists so should probably be modeled, but the other passenger trains could be represented more generically - maybe even with just a couple "typical" trains running around and around to simulate the high level of traffic.  

On the other hand, I could just concentrate on representing the trains that would be going by when the two Shoreline Locals are in town exchanging cars - that would still keep things hoppin'!  Assuming the locals met sometime in the early afternoon (based on PDX-2's 12:30 on-call time at New London), I'd only need to model the Pilgrim (1:17p), 42nd Street Express (1:32), and Bostonian(2:07).  Only downside is that I'd only get to see one through freight (FGB-2 at 2:30).

That's just 4 shoreline trains, in addition to the two Shoreline Locals - so much more manageable than trying to model 71 trains.  And I don't have to worry about "night" lighting!

We have to selectively compress so many things on a model railroad, from the Right of Way, to track layout, to structures.  But with the right research - and a little luck - you can model one of the busiest stretches of railroad in the country with just four trains.


(originally posted to the blog July 12, 2014)
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