Sunday, February 24, 2013


As I've written about before, after swearing I'd never pay over $50 for a railroad picture book, I've ended up buying the Morning Sun offerings at a fairly good clip.

My latest two acquisitions are a good example.   I think the Electrified Railroad Lines out of Grand Central isn't a recent publication, but I noticed it in a Walther's sales flyer and ordered one from my local train store, Sattlers.   Riding these trains into Grand Central Terminal (Grand Central Station is a Post Office) throughout my childhood, it was a walk down memory lane type book.  I grew up on the Harlem Line of the New York Central System, and later Penn Central.  The electrified zone ended about five miles south of my hometown, so growing up I mostly saw FL-9 General Electric Dual Service engines.  These F-unit looking engines used their diesel engines north of North White Plains, and then used pickup shoes for running on DC third rail electric the rest of the way into Grand Central. Some of these FL-9s wore a black and white Penn Central scheme, but most were either blue with a yellow PC logo or some were blue and white.   I think this paint scheme was unique to my area.  Plenty of photos of these locos in the book.

New York Central's electrified zone north of the city was under running third rail.  This was very unique and was used for railroad worker safety and also to prevent weather issues that you had with your standard top running third rail.    Instead of a wooden guard over the powered third rail, with under running pick-up shoes, the third rail was encased with a wood guard on three sides, with only the bottom of the rail exposed - a much safer system.   The only flaw to the system is that these shoes broke off on occasion - more than once I was stranded on a train, waiting for a diesel to come and pull the train home.

 While in my teens, the electrified zone was extended northward all the way to Brewster.  The now Metro-North Railroad did a thorough education program with the local schools on the dangers of the third rail, however, recent graduate of our high school perished when he came in contact with the underside of the rail somehow.  Shortly after the electrification I had a pretty harsh argument with a friend while walking along the tracks - he didn't believe me about the high-current 700v DC third rail and was jumping up and down on the insulated cover - I was so angry I almost said "touch it and see what happens" but wisely walked away from the tracks and he followed.   The electric trains were also harder to hear coming, without the distant tell-tale diesel rumbling.

For whatever reason, the New York Central electrified commuter zone trains always seemed a more elegant way to travel than the Pennsy lines south into New Jersey.  The trains were cleaner inside and out and I guess the pastoral scenery of Westchester County in comparison to industrial New Jersey, made a difference.   Maybe it was the bar car in the rush hour trains, or the bar carts on the platforms.    Even in recent times there is a noticeable difference.  It might be the conductors on the trains - those on New Jersey Transit always seem to be grumpy and have a "we don't give a shit" attitude.   Metro North conductors seem to care much more.  The station announcements are clear and crisp (NJTransit's aren't even I'm sure in English or maybe they are using soup cans with strings as a microphone)   Metro North conductors also have a low tolerance for bad behavior and won't hesitate to enforce the rules - NJT conductors ignore problem passengers.   Talk loud on a cell phone - leave your bag on an empty seat next to you in a crowded train - watch out on Metro North.   A final element of the elegance of the New York Central lines - Grand Central Terminal.  Even during the hight of the crime ridden 70's and 80's, the station was still awe inspiring every time you got off or on a train.  Penn Station on the other hand feels like you are getting off and walking into someones filthy basement.  It's cleaner now, but still feels like a basement, with a shopping mall in it.

For you Pennsy fans - there are actually GG-1s in this book.  New Haven used third rail out of Grand Central and then switched over to overhead AC once on their home rails.  Some GG-1s ran in that territory.   New York Central electric locomotives also had catenaries - but almost miniature versions of the Pennsy's     They were used for getting the engines over the large 3rd rail gaps at yard ladders without stalling - the MU trains obviously were long enough that they didn't need these.  The old Lionel versions of the NYC Electrics had these little catenaries and many people mistake their toy like appearance.

While picking up the electric railroad book, I saw the Steel Mill Railroad 4 book on the counter at the train store.   I had resolved to stop at book 3 as I sort of felt buying it would be like paying to go see Rocky 4.   The back cover picture of a J&L Plant caught my eye and I gave in.  I have to say I enjoyed the photographs quite a bit - more plant shots and less of your standard railfan locomotive pictures.   Some different facilities than I had seen before and some good information to go along with the photos. I only have two minor complaints - there were a half dozen or so photos of non-ferrous metals plants - not really "steel mill railroads", and a fair number of the photos were credited to a  Dr. so-and-so.  Was the Dr. prefix really necessary?   I'm sure a number of the other photographers did significant things in their work lives  - shouldn't they be accorded some title prior to their names too designating this?    Just a pet peeve of mine, especially given that their are some characters in the online steel mill community throwing around the "Dr." thing a bit.  Dr. from Cracker Jack University maybe, but I have one of those too.

I also recently bought the PRSL Vol II, which is interesting because it deals with the railroad past of my  current south Jersey home, and also the Appalachian Coal Mine Vol I     Not really something that I intend to model or research more, but it was very interesting learning about and seeing how coal was moved out of the mountains.    These books are so far, well made.  An important consideration, since I buy books to read, not to put a cover on and place on the shelf so I can sell for a $10 profit five years from now when it's out of print.

No comments: