Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Danbury Connecticut

Why Model Danbury?

Danbury in the mid 1950's was a small industrial city with a population of about 35,000, defiantly not one of those lovely little hamlets in the Housatonic river valley that were the inspiration to model the Berkshire Line as described in the blog welcome header. After a relocation to the northwestern part of Danbury in the mid 70's was the first time I encountered the station and rail yard in downtown Danbury. At that time railroad property no longer belonged to the New Haven Railroad, it was a rundown and a grungy looking mess with seemingly no modeling interest to me and certainly no bucolic scenery to recreate in miniature. Regrettably I never would have considered it for a modeling project back then, so why is it now the center point of this Berkshire inspired layout?

A Busy Crossroad and Terminal

Danbury was the location that the north-south New Haven Railroad Berkshire Line and the railroads major east-west Maybrook freight line intersect. A small freight classification yard and engine terminal were maintained there. Danbury was also the northern terminus of the New Haven electrification lines. The passenger and freight traffic thru and radiating from/to Danbury was considerable.

Scheduled on the north-south Berkshire line were four daily passenger trains between New York City and Pittsfield MA, two in each direction, all making the electric/diesel engine change at Danbury. Two morning commuter trains to New York City originated in Danbury and returned in the evening as did shuttle service trains between Danbury and South Norwalk CT. Commuter consists originating from Danbury were broken down after the evening return and stored over night at the yard, then reassembled for morning runs to NYC.  Scheduled freight service at Danbury consisted of two each originating and terminating symbol freights and two local freight turns running as extras.

The Maybrook Line was the railroads freight gateway to and from the west. Scheduled symbol freight trains traversed the line bidirectionally between the railroads large interchange yard on the west side of the Hudson River at Maybrook New York and the railroads major classification yard at Cedar Hill in New Haven CT, all these freight trains passing thru Danbury daily. Several of the freights picked up/dropped off cars in and around Danbury.

Having been unsatisfied with my prior Berkshire layout because of limited operation due to poor choices made in the selection of prototype locations, the number one priority of this layout is to have numerous prototypical operational possibilities built in.

The integral operations between the Maybrook and Berkshire lines, the freight yard, engine terminal and also being the northern electrification terminus, Danbury offers plenty of operation for this mid sized layout and could not be overlooked. Therefore, Danbury has become the hub of the layout as it was on the prototype Berkshire Line.

Modeling Danbury

Danbury may not have the bucolic scenery of the rest of the Berkshire Line to model. Instead it does offer the challenging pleasure of researching, then scratch building many "signature" structures and the electrification catenary necessary to convincingly model the area of the passenger station and yard.

The aerial photo below has been cropped to show the part Danbury yard that there is room for on the layout. All the "signature" structures to be modeled are shown. Panning the bar on the bottom to the right will show the entire photo.

The cropped drawing below of the Danbury loop and yard also shows most of the area that can be modeled on the layout. The entire yard is too large and will not fit the available layout space, the area selected for modeling does include most of the "signature" features of Danbury rail yard/terminal.   On the prototype the curved loop tracks that go past the station building make a complete 180 degree turn and head in the opposite direction encompassing the yard, these tracks lead south to a junction with the New Haven Shoreline at South Norwalk CT, then compass west on the Shoreline to New York City. A future post will show how the loop tracks were dealt with on the layout.

At present the primary focus of my modeling efforts will be to complete the Danbury station and yard diorama. As stated in the last post most tracks are in and many of the "signature" structures have been modeled and are in place on the layout. A review of these structures will be the subject of future posts. Several more structures will need to be built, most notably the large freight house, this model will be about 4 feet long.

The below photo shows the Statius of the yard at present. Four structures are currently under construction, signal station 198, the oil pump house, steel sand tower and motor service platform. These can be spotted in the drawing above and will be located where the stand-in brass sand tower is in the photo, the structures will also be the subject of future posts.


  1. Looks like Danbury yard and station are coming along nicely! To me one of the most prominent features of Danbury was Leahys and the oil tanks. All the shots I took of the Maybrook line had those tanks in the background.

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  3. Jim, True that the oil tanks and Leahy's were in most photos, must have been a favorite spot for taking them. The Barns and signal bridge appear in may photos too. The station is usually obscured by equipment that was the actual subject of the picture being taken, including the very few that I took when living in Danbury. Finding good photos of the freight house and the other buildings needed for the layout are difficult and some near impossible. If I only took more pictures back then!
    Regards, Joe