Last weekend I made my way to Essex, Connecticut, the home of the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. I made the trip for two reasons: to take a ride on the train and to see Amtrak’s Exhibit Train; a rolling, 510-foot museum of Amtrak’s history. This rolling museum includes two Amtrak locomotives, 3 display coaches, sleeper car and a café car converted to an exhibit store. The coaches date back to the early to mid-1950s; they display Amtrak’s timeline in history and their memorabilia. The 2014 tour is wrapping up, so before it’s gone, check out Amtrak’s Exhibit Train website for more dates.
One of my favorite places to go railfanning is the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. This year they are celebrating their 75th anniversary. On Saturday, July 5th they had their annual “Founders Day” Trolley parade showing off its extensive collection. Leading the parade was the Biddeford & Saco Line No. 31 the museum’s first trolley. The parade was narrated by long time member Scott Hopper, giving detailed history about each trolley. The museum also reintroduced the Montreal “Golden Chariot” No 2, observation car, this car had underwent some much needed restoration. Below are a few of the many photos taken on that day, you can see all of them on the official Train Aficionado Fickr page.
Danbury, CT – Danbury Railway Museum is like most railroad museum, started by a few passionate railfans and railroad historians. The group took over the 6 acre abandoned railroad yard and the historic Union Station back in the early 1990’s. This group of individuals has grown into a 500 plus member organization.
Danbury Rail Yard
One of the key features of the yard is its 95 foot long turnable, build in 1917 by the New Haven Railroad. There was a nine-stall roundhouse unfortunately that is gone do to a fire some years back. The yard has nearly a dozen storage tracks displaying nearly 70 pieces of railroad equipment. Narrated tours by one of the many volunteers are available if you would like one . You can also take a 30 minute “Yard Local” train ride around the yard.
Union Station was built in 1903 by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. During the railroads peak nearly 125 trains would stop here. Today only a handful of Metro-North trains service this area. The Station was featured in the 1950 Alfred Hitchcock Film “Strangers on a Train”. In 2005 the station along with the only motorized turntable in the state of Connecticut became listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Today the station serves as the indoor portion of the Danbury Railway Museum and gift shop.
Strangers On A Train Trailer 
The Danbury Branch
This branch was build in the mid 1800’s by Danbury and Norwalk Railroad. In its hayday the branch was primarily for passenger service. One could take a trip to New York City via the New York & New Haven Line (now known as the Northeast Corridor). Passengers could also go points north via the Housatonic line. Passenger service is still around but not as frequent heading to New York City (Metro-North). Freight service is still around as well, handled by the Providence & Worcester Railroad.
The Danbury Railway Museum gives you an opportunity to see railroad history up close and even ride some of the historical rolling stock. One of the most popular railcars on display is the U.S. Railway Post Office Car built in 1910 by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and they are passionate about preserving railroad history. The museum is open year around, but only offering “Yard Local” rides from April to November.
120 White St, Danbury, CT 06810
Yard Ops 160.755
- Sunday, June 22, 2014 just before mid-night
- Amtrak Train #132 – Washington DC to Boston, MA
- On board 180 passengers/crew no one injured
- Train came to stop at Mile Post 201 (Mansfield, MA) after hitting SUV on the right of way.
- 3 passengers in the SUV killed
- Police are investigating how the SUV got on the right of way
Read full news story
Exclusive Scanner Audio
Scanner audio is from the Train Aficionado “Southeastern New England Railroads Scanner Feed”.
You will hear Amtrak Train #132 calling to dispatch. You can also hear Southbound MBTA Train #2817 just before Mansfield Station. [Gaps between audio edited for time]
Video updates throughout the day:
Monday, June 23, 2014
Press Conference On Fatal Amtrak Crash In Mansfield – Mid Morning
Video Credit to WBZ TV Boston
Amtrak Train Hits Vehicle In Mansfield, Killing 3 – NOON
Video Credit to WBZ TV Boston
3 Dead After Amtrak Train Hits Vehicle On Tracks In Mansfield – 5 PM
Video Credit to WBZ TV Boston
Did you know:
About every 3 hours, a person or a vehicle is hit by a train – Operation Lifesaver
Back in 1972 Operation Lifesaver was formed, to educate people about being safe around railroad tracks. Please check out their latest campaign “See Tracks? Think Train! bellow. I was able to find some pretty neat safety videos made by railroads and transit systems, even one dating back to 1959.
“See Tracks? Think Train!”
Union Pacific Railroad
The Last Clear Chance – 1959 Railroad Grade Crossing Safety Film
Long Island Railroad
MTA (New York)
“Kevin and the Train” – Subway Platform Safety PSA
Dumb Ways To Die
Metro (Los Angeles)
Rail Safety Animation Program
Utah Transit Authority
Willimantic is a small town in the heart of Eastern Connecticut known as the “Thread City”. In the early 1800’s there were six cotton factories, making Willimantic the largest thread producer in the world.
In the mid 1800s, Willimantic became the junction for many New England railroads. It also became a station stop for the high-speed “White Train” passenger rail service between Boston and New York in the early 1890s. In the early 20th century, one could see up to 50 trains making their way through Willimantic daily.
Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
Willimantic is home of the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. This museum sits on the historical “Columbia Junction”, which is a part of the “Air Line” Route running between Boston and New York. This portion of the route was built by the New Haven, Middletown, and Willimantic Railroad in 1873, running 25 miles between Willimantic and Portland, CT. This line was abandoned back in 1965.
A few weekends ago, myself and some friends stopped by the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. This museum is entirely operated by volunteers, and has came a long way since 1991. They reconstructed the 6 bay Columbia Junction Roundhouse on to its original foundation. The original turntable was scraped and removed around the end of 1930s, but the museum bought a replacement turntable from Edaville Railroad in South Carver, MA, in 1994. This 60-foot Armstrong Turntable can be operated by two people. Volunteers are also laying down track reforming Columbia Junction Yard and laying some track on the original “Air Line” right of way. Over the years the museums display has grown; with some displays bought or donated. The museum currently has locomotives, freight equipment, passenger coaches, cabooses, and railroad-related buildings on display.
During our visit, we were able to learn about Columbia Junction and its role in Willimantic history. Visitors can take a short train ride on a portion of the historical Air Line right-of-way; there is a lot to see and the volunteers are exceptionally knowledgeable about the equipment, buildings, and the local railroad history. I would recommend visiting the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. I know we will be back!
Visiting the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
55 Bridge St, Willimantic, CT 06226
Open Saturdays & Sundays
10:00am to 4:00pm
First Weekend in May through the Last Weekend of October
Today, you would only see a few freight trains traveling through Willimantic. The New England Central Railroad and Providence & Worcester Railroad often exchange freight here. The railroad yard is located in downtown between Riverside Dr and Pleasant St.; where you can get a great birds-eye view of the yard on the Willimantic Footbridge.
Great Place to Eat!
After visiting Museum, we made a stop at the Aero Diner, located on 361 Boston Post Road and North Windham, CT. This diner was built in 1958 by the Bramson Engineering Co. If you’re a fan of Diners make sure you plan a stop here. The food was great and they have amazing thick milkshakes.
If you have ever traveled throughout northern New England, you may have heard of this small Vermont village called White River Junction (WRJ). This small community is at the major interchange for Interstates I-91 and I-89. But this isn’t why this community is called White River “Junction”. In the mid 1800 this small village became the hub for five railroads; awarding the town its name.
Those original five railroads include:
The Connecticut River Railroad - Red
The Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad – Brown
The Northern New Hampshire Railroad – Green
The Vermont Central – Red
The Woodstock Railroad – Yellow
At one point, this railroad community had nearly 50 passenger trains traveling through it daily. Once the interstate highway systems took shape, passenger travel on the railroads declined significantly. Today this village isn’t booming with railroad activity as it was in its heyday.
Passenger Service is still alive and well in Vermont with Amtrak’s Vermonter. This train provides service between Washington, DC and St Albans, VT. The Vermonter travels nearly 200 miles along historic rail lines in Vermont, including the Vermont Central Rail Line which runs north between East Northfield, VT through White River Junction before making a northeasterly turn to Burlington; a total of 174 miles. Then in Burlington, it heads down the Vermont & Canada Line to St Albans, VT; a total of 20 miles. These lines were built back in the mid 1800s.
The Vermonter travels over 600 miles with 30 stops between Washington, DC and St. Albans, VT. The train has one northbound and one southbound daily trip. The Northbound stops at White River Junction at 11:16AM and the southbound at 6:29PM.
New England Central Railroad
NECR handles freight service; this railroads reaches far north at the St Albans VT and as far south as Western Mass and Central Connecticut. NECR shares the same historical routes as Amtrak’s Vermonter.
Vermont Rail System
This is the primary freight service for the state of Vermont. This rail system bring freight in and out of White River Junction via the Connecticut & Passumpsic River Rail Line. This line runs north between White River Junction and Newport, VT; a total of 104 miles.
Green Mountain Railroad
The “White River Flyer” is a scenic railroad that takes riders on a 2 ½ hour round trip ride to Montshire, VT via the Connecticut & Passumpsic River Rail Line. The Flyer operates in the summer and fall months only.
Some of the forgotten rail lines
Woodstock Line – (The Woodstock Railroad)
This branch was built in the mid 1800’s; running 13 ½ miles southwest from White River Junction to Woodstock, VT. One of the challenging parts in building this line was crossing the Quechee Gorge. The first bridge constructed was a wooden bridge, but later in 1911 this bridge was replace by an arched truss bridge. For almost 60 years, this line provided freight and passenger services in and out of Woodstock. In 1933, the railroad was dismantled and most of the right-of-way became what its known today to be Route 4. The Quechee Gorge Bridge was converted from a rail to a highway bridge. Most people wouldn’t even know this was an old railroad bridge, unless they see the road side sign telling the history of the bridge.
Northern Line – (The Northern New Hampshire Railroad)
This line was also build in the mid 1800’s, running 70 miles southeast from White River Junction to Concord, NH. Less than five miles of the right-of-way is still in use between White River Junction and West Lebanon, NH. This area is handle by Claremont Concord Railroad; this short line railroad provides freight service to its customers in the West Lebanon area. They operate out of the Westboro Yard in West Lebanon, NH. While I explored this line, I was able to see the Westboro Yard and the roundhouse. Some local railroad historians want to save the roundhouse along with the neighboring structures but unfortunately it would cost millions to do so. As for the Lebanon portion, a “rails-to-trails” group is working to convert this abandoned right of way into a rail trail.
All railroads traveling through White River Junction Communicate on 160.7700 MHz.
Opening Day at Seashore
My wife Jodie, Watson (our 8 month old puppy) and I made our way north to Maine for our wedding anniversary weekend. She surprised me with a visit to one of my favorite places, the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. Not only were we going on a trolley ride, we were going do some hiking on the Smith Preserve which is part of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust Trails. In 2013 the museum partnered up with the trust, giving the riders an opportunity to ride and hike. The trust created the “Trolley Trail” to link up the two organizations. Also last year the museum became a dog friendly facility, after a successful dog day event.
Trip out to Talbott Park
We boarded the Boston Elevated Railway Trolley 5821 at the Visitor Center and made our way Talbott park. At Talbott Park we deboard the trolley and made our way to the trail system via the Atlantic Shore Line Railway right-of-way. The Museum currently owns 5 miles of this historical right-of-way and operates on nearly two miles of it. This was my first time exploring the right of way beyond Talbott Park. The tracks end just after Talbott Park and the roadbed becomes a gravel trail in the forest. The Smith Preserve Trail Entrance is a little over a 1/4 of a mile on the left.
Once in Smith Preserve you can explore the 10 miles of recreational trails in this 1,100 acre wildlife habitat. The Trails are clearly marked and maps are located at each trail junction. We were able to explore Trolley Trail and most of the Steele Trail. When we have more time we want do this again.
If you’re going to visit the museum and do some hiking you need to let them know at the visitor center. They will give you an additional ticket and schedule for deboarding and boarding at Talbott Park. There is no additional cost to do the hiking your museum admission fee covers everything. Trolleys normally run every 45 minutes.
By the way…
The Seashore Trolley Museum is celebrating it’s 75th year of preserving mass transit history. The museum has tons of events planned. I hope to attend the “Seashore Trolley Dog Day“, “Founder’s Day Trolley Parade“, and Members Day to just name a few. Stay tuned for more blog entries and photos!
160.5000 Yard Ops
People are always asking me, “What’s the best scanner for rail-fanning?” Almost any scanner will do from the simple $100 unit to the $500 plus units. A scanner gives you a behind the scenes look inside railroading. If your using the scanner for both public safety and rail-fanning you will need to do your research on http://www.radioreference.com to see if your public safety is using analog or digital, conventional or trunking. These things play a huge roll on selecting a scanner.
If you’re getting a scanner just for rail-fanning a basic scanner will do. Most railroads are analog conventional (non-digital and non-trunking). These scanners are simple to program and they don’t hurt your wallet. I would recommend one of the two Uniden portable scanners BC75XLT and the BC125AT.
My favorite of the two scanners is the BC125AT. This scanner is simple to program, but it has some of the great features from the higher end scanners. Which include alpha tag display, PL Tone programmable, one touch service search, and close call.
With each frequency you program you can assign a name to the channel. Example:
|Amtrak Road|160.9200| this makes it easy to see who’s talking, no need to remember who is on what frequency.
PL Tone (Private Line)
What is PL Tone? These are programmed to block out other user’s or inference, when programmed you will only hear the user on that Frequency and PL tone. Most railroads don’t use PL tones they are CSQ which means no PL Tone.
These are pre-set searches for Maine, Civil Air, CB Radio and so on. The service search I use the most is the Railroad search. This is a huge help when looking for new frequencies. The scanner will scan up and down the listed frequencies assigned for railroad use.
When the scanner is in Close Call mode it will instantly tune into signal nearby. This is a great way to find railroad frequencies nearby. I will use this feature when I’m at a Railroad Museum if I’m not having any luck with the Railroad Service search.
The BC125AT can be programmed by the keypad or by software. Programming through the keypad is pretty simple, but getting the Alpha Tags can be a bit of a bear, you need to scroll through the alphabet. Normally I don’t’ worry about the Alpha Tag, I can always add that later with software. When it comes to computer based programming, you can use the free Uniden software or the more advanced BuTel ARC125 software. With the BuTel ARC125 software you can import Railroad frequencies from http://www.radioreference.com (with subscription). With the software you can edit, add, and remove things from your programming with a few key strokes.
Train Aficionado Railroad Frequency Database
With your help we can make an online source with the most detailed information for rail fanning with a scanner. Our Frequency Database will include the following: freight, passenger, rapid transit, trolley and railroad related museums. - Read more and help us with our database
In the box
- BC125AT Scanner
- Wideband Rubber Duck Antenna
- Programming USB Cable
- Two Rechargeable AA Batteries
- Wrist Strap
- Belt Clip
You can power the scanner using either rechargeable or alkaline batteries. Using the programming USB cable, you would connect an optional USB AC (wall) or DC (mobile) power adapter (5V 1A). Very much like the power adapters you use for your smartphone.
What other things should I buy with my BC125AT Scanner? A carrying case is always a good thing to protect your scanner from bumps and scratches. Something with belt loop or clip that stays secure to your waist. The stock antenna does a a pretty good job, but you may want to get a VHF antenna tuned 150-160Mhz. A tuned antenna will improve reception.
Uniden BC125AT Rail-Fan Package
Please check out this great Rail-fan package from Scanner Master –
“Uniden BC125AT Rail-Fan Package (w/Railroad Guide)”
The package comes with the following:
- Uniden BC125AT Portable Scanner
- Leather Case with easy off/on the belt
- AC and DC Power Adapters
- VHF Professional Antenna (Tuned for Railroad Band)
- FREE Scanning the Railroads Guide
& your local State Railroad Frequencies
Farewell to Engine No. 4
On Saturday, March 29, 2014 my friends Dan, Jameson and I made our way up to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum in Portland, ME to say farewell to Engine No. 4. This 0-4-4 Forney locomotive was built by Vulcan Iron Works in 1918. This steam locomotive’s 15-year federal boiler certificate will expire this spring, what does this mean? Once this certificate expires; the locomotive boiler needs to be rebuilt or replaced before it can operate again.
History of Maine Engine No. 4
What is a narrow gauge railroad? A railroad using a track gauge narrower than the standerd gauge of 4 foot 8 1/2 inches, this is the width between the rails. In the early days of railroading the gauge varied by country and sometimes by railroad. Here in the USA what we call standard gauge was very popular along with some other variations. A few railroads such as Maine’s Bridgton and Saco River Railroad and Monson Railroad liked the 2 foot gauge. The B&SR Railroad had passenger and freight service between Bridgton to Harrison, ME a total of 33 miles. As for the Monson Railroad it serviced Maine’s Slate Mines. This is where you would find Engine No. 4 traveling along 6 1/4 mile Monson, ME route.
Engine No. 4 was a part of the Monson Railroad until the early 1940’s. The railroad was dismantled in late 1944, and the equipment was shipped to a used equipment yard in Rochester, NY. A few years later Engine 4 returned to New England to be restored. A man named Ellis D Atwood not only bought Engine 4 he also bought Engine 3 which is also a 0-4-4 Forney locomotive along with some rolling stock cars.
Once the equipment was restored Atwood put the locomotives and rolling stock to work on his 1,800 acre cranberry plantation in South Carver, Massachusetts. People started asking Mr. Atwood if they could ride on his railroad, he saw a new opportunity. He then created the historic amusement park called Edaville Railroad. Passengers enjoyed a 5 ½ mile loop [map] around the plantation passing Atwood’s cranberry bogs, Reservoirs, and a small railroad yard with a turntable.
As a child living only 15 minutes away from this historical railroad amusement park, I visited quite often with my dad. I remember being in awe seeing the steam locomotives and coaches. I could spend the whole day taking rides around the 5 ½ mile loop. Sometimes getting off the train at the Atwood Reservoir stop, where the view was picturesque, and you could spend the afternoon fishing. I remember one Sunday, my dad and I was able to ride up on one of those 0-4-4 Forney steam locomotives. It was an amazing experience to be right upfront. During Christmas time I would often visit Edaville for there Festival of lights. Along the trip round the plantation there were small staged villages and thousands of twinkling lights. This was Edaville’s most popular event.
In 1991 the Atwood Family stopped operation of the Edaville Railroad and put the railroad up for sale. Shortly after that in 1992 most of the equipment was sold to a group in Portland, ME which formed what is now known as Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. Most of the rolling stock and locomotives 3,4, and 8 were trucked up to Portland. On moving day people near and far lined Route 58 in South Carver, Massachusetts, my dad and I was one of those people. We watched as the parade of equipment passed, us we tried to snap as many photos as we could. Like myself so many people have childhood memories of Edaville Railroad and wanted to witness this, end of an era.
Every now and then my Dad and I would stop over to see if anything was going on at Edaville. There were a lot of rumors about reopening the railroad under new ownership. Although, the Maine group bought most of the equipment there were still some rolling stock still there, including engine number 7. When we stopped by we would see an empty parking lot with grass growing in the seams of the pavement. The track was still there, but grass was growing through the ballast. A few times dad and I walked the whole right of way, we would think about all the great times we had there. While we were there we couldn’t get over how many cars would pull into the parking lot in hopes to spend the day at Edaville, only to find the park shut down. The few people we spoke to said they wanted to bring their kids to the park, because they enjoyed it so much when they were children.
A few groups tried to restart the railroad, including Edaville Entertainment Group and South Carver Rail. South Carver Rail lead by former Edaville Railroad employees, gave it a go, they even refurbished engine #7 and borrowed engine #3 from Maine. Sadly both attempts failed. Engine #3 was returned back to Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum and this also became the new home of Baldwin Locomotive Works #7. Currently #7 is undergoing a boiler overhaul, in Portland. In 2005 John Delli Priscolli brought up the Atwood property and the remaining equipment. Most of the original buildings have been replaced and the theme park has gotten a facelift. Also the railroad right-of-way has been reconfigured to a 2 mile loop. Currently they only operate diesel locomotives.
Meanwhile, back in Portland, Maine the old Edaville Railroad rolling stock and locomotives were given new life on a 1 ½ mile right of away that runs along downtown Portland Casco Bay waterfront. This is where you would see ex Edaville #1 a 1949 General Electric Diesel locomotive and until recently Vulcan Iron Works #4 in action. Along with taking a ride you can visit the museum and learn about the history of Narrow Gauge Railroads in Maine. My dad and I would often visit during our summer time trips to Maine. It’s hard to believe it been over 20 years in operation now. The museum is currently in the process of moving its operation from downtown Portland to Gray, Maine. Trains would then operate on the old Portland-Lewiston Interurban right-of-way along Route100. The space would double for the railroad, offices, restoration shops, and museum. Plans also include a roundhouse for the locomotives with a turnable. The group hopes to be up and running in Gray, ME by 2016.
Dan, Jameson (Dan’s son) and I spent the day at the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum. I’ve been here a few times, they were visiting the museum for the first time. With our cameras in hand we started snapping shots of Engine #4 in action. We boarded the 4pm ride and hand a few opportunities to deboard the train to take photos. We were able to take photos of the locomotive doing the runaround just before the Old Back Cove Grand Trunk Railroad Bridge and pass by along the beach part of the right of way. I was also able to eavesdrop in on railroad operations on my scanner 160.245 PL 82.5
Then later that evening we boarded the train again for a night shoot. We made our way back to Old Back Cove Grand Trunk Railroad Bridge where they set up Engine #4 and staged freight equipment on the runaround track. This was my first time doing a night shoot. I got to say I learned a lot.
I hope to see engine #4 chugging along the tracks again. I’m very thankful to have seen it given new life not once but twice. It could have been pulled a part and scraped in that used equipment yard in New York, but it was saved. Then it was saved again by group of rail fans in Maine. Thanks to a few that love trains for making this huge effort, so future generations can fall in love with them as well!
160.245 PL 82.5