Saturday 19 November 2011

A Day Railfanning the White River Division

A Railfan's Diary...
This is how your day railfanning on the White River Division might unfold if you were to follow the rails around my layout. A typical day in 1958 would begin in White River Junction around the coal tower checking out what power is around before heading to the station. Today as you arrive you note B&M #1264 has just uncoupling from CV #4928 under the tower and is now running back to the station on the next track over. You watch as the B&M engineer notches the throttle and almost instantly the Alco blows a cloud of smoke out of the exhaust stack as it motors away. The B&M does the shuffling of power as need be. Leaving the engine facility you note the string of milk cars waiting to be picked up off to your right. In the background you can hear that distinctive sound once again and you can see another plume of  smoke which spells more Alco's in town.
Early morning action at the Central Vermont coal tower.
 At White River Junction station you arrive and find Central Vermont RS-3, #3901 almost out of sight lifting the milk cars you saw near the coal tower. These are empties destined for St. Albans. A short time later #3901 arrives with the milk car it had lift along with a CNR baggage car which is spotted for loading at the station platform on the B&M trackage. The CV milk train is put together while you watch and snap a few photos of the train and the station crew loading the baggage car. Your time at the station is cut short as you realize at the other end of the yard the through CV freight is leaving and your plans for the day is to catch it as many times as you can along the line. This can be difficult as the track speed is fast, so you hope it will be making a few stops en route. Off you go trying to beat it to the crossing at West Barre, Vermont.

The CNR baggage car is being loaded on the B&M trackage for lifting later in the day.

Looks like the milk  train is all set to go. Central Vermont RS-3 #3901 is handling the milk traffic to St. Albans today.
West Barre depot is in the Connecticut River valley and not that far down the line from White River Junction. You arrive at the station as most of the train has already passing by. But your in luck as the train slows down for the conductor to picking up the paper work for the lift and set off at Bellows Crossing. You quickly bail out of your car and snap a few photos looking down the track from the crossing at the caboose and station activities. A CNR caboose is being used on the through job today. CV switching at Bellows Crossing is done before arriving in town. This means lists have to be forwarded to West Barre for picking up by train crews. The operator-agent is thankful for this chore as it keeps his job on. There is no siding in town any more but a section crew is still stationed here in the shanty across the track from the station. There are still  a few passengers arriving and departing West Barre with one train each way stopping daily.

Action at West Barre, Vermont can at times seem very busy. But if you don't arrive early enough you will miss it all. It normally all happens in a matter of a few action packed  minutes.
 Bellows Crossing can be a busy railroad town. In years gone by trains would do a little dance, interchanging cars and switching industries in town, all the while trying to stay out of each others way.You can see the Central Vermont, Rutland Ry. and Boston and Maine Ry. in town and on occasion all at the same time.  Today you arrive just as the B&M Montreal bound passenger train is pulling up to the station. On the lead is a pair of F2's wearing that boldly different  blue and white McGinnis scheme. You look down the track and see the CV is doing it's work. You have time to cross the diamond and get a great shot of the passenger train as it departs town. A Kodachrome moment for sure. You head back to the station to get a shot of the Central Vermont regular freight. This is the first time you have gotten a look at the head end and find today leading is Canadian National power. Alco power again, and for the third time today. CNR has send down  a pair of FA-1's, #9403-9407 for use on the regular freight.

The Montreal bound Boston and Maine passenger train arrives at Bellows Crossing slowing down for a station stop.
Bellows Crossing has some great locations one can  position themselves to capture a Kodachrome moment. Having left Boston earlier in the morning, the freshly painted McGinnis scheme F-2's haul a long consist of express, Pullmans and coaches out of town. The  passengers will be having dinner tonight in Montreal.
CNR 9403-9407 handles the regular freight today. This is not a normal stop for a through train but today cars need to be set off. The reefers are always handled on the head end. When switching the reefers are held while doing the work.
Summit station is near by so you decide that on the way to Westminster Center to make a stop. The water tank had not been used since steam was retired. The section shanty is still in use. You get out and take a couple of photos from each side of the structures. The station has been gone for years and no side tracks are in use any more. Well you decide it is time to boot don't want to miss the action at Westminster Center. The Central Vermont local should be there by now.

A quick stop at Summit to photograph the unused water tower. Its days are numbered.
The local mixed train still makes a stop daily at Summit, but not to take on water. One of the local farmers has an arrangement to have his milk picked up at the crossing. There once was a milk platform here  across from the water tank, but after it burned it never was replaced.

Westminster Center is a junction location guarded by a ball signal. The location is out of the way with no station but a make shift sectionman-operator shanty. The only industry is the Borden's creamery and the spur to the marble quarry that is serviced by the Rutland Ry. Your in luck as you arrive, the CV regular freight is held up at the ball signal while the Central Vermont local does it's moves to the creamery. Geeps are normally used on the local and today #4549 is the power. The creamery is pulled and spotted while the freight looks on. It does not take long and the local departs. Once the ball signal is reset the regular freight is on the move again. You decide to give up on chasing the freight and take a look at the Rutland Ry. marble operations not far away. The Rutland use Alcos also and why not watch the display of smoke and noise once again.

At Westminster Center the CV local is about to clear the regular freight and spot a milk car at the Borden's creamery on the spur.
Now that the local is clear the operator sets the ball signal for the through freight to continue. It's not very often that the local holds up the regular freight, but with milk being time sensitive and a connection has to be made at White River Junction with the B&M train to Boston there is no time to spare.

The Marble Spur is not all that long. The Rutland Ry has already cut off the caboose near the section shanty at the end of the causeway. RS-1 #405 has run up to the switch and is backing down the spur to pickup the loaded flats and gondolas of marble blocks and chips. This is good business for the spur since the only other customer these days is the Borden's creamery but it is switched by the CV. It is a lengthy operation so you get your photos and head off for supper.

You arrive at the far side of the causeway and catch this shot with your telephoto lens. The reflection is kind of neat and the fisherman are in just the right spot to include them in your shot. The Rutland caboose is cut off back at the section mans shanty and at the end of the causeway. The RS-1 is running up to the spur switch to lift the loaded marble cars. The quarry is actually just behind the trees in this scene but the creamery is also on the spur making for a long run up and back to service this industry.
Rutland #405 has coupled to the marble loaded flats as you look down the spur.

Once supper is over it is dark but you decide to swing by Westminster Center one more time and check things out. To your surprise there is a B&M freight with a pair of F7's on the head end sitting at the order board You see a headlights in the clear on the other side of the ball signal. The operator is setting the ball so the B&M can proceed towards Boston. You decide to leave your headlights on and see if you can get a shot of the F units. It might just work with the other engines headlight still on and shining down the track. The F's headlight is on also. Click you have your shot and it will be a couple of weeks before they are developed. Boy are you amazed with what you caught on film that night when the slides do arrive...the best Kodak moment of the day.

You have arrived back at Westminster Center after dinner to find the chanting of EMD 567's idling away. Your headlights help to light up the scene as do the B&M F7's headlight and lights from another set of power by the ball signal. You are quick to setup your tripod and snap the last shot of the day.
 When you get home you pull out your slides from a similar trip taken a few years earlier...that would have been in 1952. You think about how thing have changed in a few years. On your last railfan trip you caught mainly steam at the sites you visited today. There seems to be a lot more trackage in the old  slides plus a better choice of  trains to view and chase at the junction points....a slide show from that old trip will have to wait for another day or at least till you get your slide projector bulb replaced...George Dutka


  1. What a great discovery- this layout + blog is a treasure for the New England modeller. Wonderfully done George. Is it ever open to viewing?

    1. Just drop me an e-mail if in the London, Ontario area. The layout is available to view from the end of October till early April when I head to the lake most days...George