Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Classy Hi-Rail Vehicle

During the tenure of New Haven railroad president Patrick B. McGinnis the railroad purchased a 7 passenger Cadillac limousine for shorter duration inspection trips when the use of a business car and locomotive were unnecessary.

This 1954 model year Cadillac was fitted with a center headlight, rear marker lights and retractable rail wheel bogies at the railroads Readville shops.

Pat's Caddy

Registered in Connecticut with state issued vanity plates "NHRR" at first, Patrick B. McGinnis later had the plates changed to his initials "PBM".

          Charles Gunn Photos

I have read in the era of declining revenues this limousine had become an embarrassment to the railroad and was sold.


To my knowledge there is no correct 1/87 model for a 1954 cadillac limousine, therefore my modeling attempt can only mimic the prototype.

Praline' (now Busch) Cadillacs were used as a starting point. These 1/87 models are 1950 Cadillacs that are close but lack two design features that were standard on the 1954 model year, a wraparound windshield and front bumper bullets as below. The wraparound windshield became standard in 54. The bumper bullets were added to the front bumpers on 1951 Cadillacs increased in size yearly and were most prominent on the 54-57 model years. These bumper bullets are also known in automotive lore as "Dagmars" *.

2 = 1

Two production Praline' Cadillac models were combined to imitate the stretched body of a limousine, a hearse and a series 62 coupe sedan. Today Busch markets these as a 1952 model year but are actually a 1950.

The front 2/3 of the hearse and the rear 1/3 of the coupe were spliced together to form the limousine style body. The joints were backed up on the inside with .005" styrene. Similarly the rear quarter windows were backed up then filled with a light weight catalyzed automotive glazing compound leaving only the center window.

The chassis of both vehicles were cut at the same separation lines as the body, then glued together matching the length and wheelbase of the limousine.

The rail wheels were made from the chrome headlight moldings that originally came attached to the model, styrene flanges were fabricated and glued to the backside to represent rail wheels. A styrene axle keeps the wheels in gauge.

Two brass rods are attached to the axle, these rods then pass thru corresponding holes drilled in the bottom of the limousine chassis at both ends but are not permanently attached so the rods can move in or out to raise or lower the wheel bogies to make contact with the rails or not. 

Below is the completed model. Antenna, spotlight, half opened drivers and vent window add some detail interest. As all vehicle models on the layout most chrome plating is covered over with silver paint and the overall color finish is semi-gloss for consistency and to eliminate an out of scale shiny look when placed on the layout.

Roof mounted marker lights, A/C intake vents, bumper exhaust portals, and Pat's "PBM" vanity plate bring up the rear.

A note about the license plates, the only pictures I have seen of the limo have the small silver and black Connecticut plates that were issued thru 1956. Blue and white now standard size plates were issued for all Connecticut autos beginning in 1957 so these modeled plates are one year off for my modeling era.

MV lenses replace the headlight moldings that became the rail wheels, lenses also are attached to the fog lights, spot light and one for the railroad added center headlight. Front and rear bumpers have slots cut in them as the prototype to clear the rail wheel bogies when in the up position. No attempt was made to add the Dagmar* bumper bullets or wraparound windshield, the shame of it all.

Below the rail bogies are in the up position

Rail bogies are in the down position with limo on the rails at the Canal street crossing to Danbury yard. Looks quite regal!


Cadillac front bumper bullets of the 50's became known as "Dagmars", this term comes from the attributes of a TV personality of the same era. Reportedly she was amused by the tribute.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Signal Station 199

Finished Model

Below are several photos of the finished models of Signal Station 199 interlocking tower and accompanying coal shed. Both structures have a light coat of preliminary weathering to be finished when the structure is blended into the Berkshire junction diorama.

These two photos show the rear of the structures, this is the side that will face the operators aisle.

Below is the rear and east facing sides.

The rear and west facing sides.

The next two photos are of the track side of the structures. This is the side of SS-199 that usually appears in photos of the prototype, but unfortunately will be difficult to see once the structures are placed on the layout.

The east and track sides.

The west and track sides.

This is a seperate photo of the base plate with retaining wall that will prototypically entegrate the structures into the track grade embankment.

The final photo shows where SS-199 will be placed into the layout.

Much terrain and scenery work along with other details will finish the Berkshire junction diorama in the coming months.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Signal Station Interior

Signal station 199 interlocking tower will be the only modeled structure group located within the Berkshire junction diorama of the layout.  When in place this stand alone structure will be at at eye level where a viewer will be able to look into the operators room, adding basic interior details based on the prototype would be a visual enhancement.

The 1959 photo below with operator Jack Lynch on duty offers an idea what may be seen thru the windows and to model.

              J.W. Swanberg photo, Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by Permission

A Rudimentary Interior

The most prominent feature to model would be the interlocking machine levers. In the prototype photo these levers have different colors. Not knowing what these various colors indicate I learned by asking on the NHRHTA forum that...

yellow = approach
red = signal
blue = lock
black = switch
gray = spare

LASERkit #388, a 13 lever interlocking machine kit was built to place in the tower. The actual number of levers that were there in the late 50's can not be seen in the prototype photo or the complete lever color sequence. The levers below were colored painted as best as could be determined by the photo and the number of levers in the kit.

A basic desk, electric box and shelves have been built into the corner and the interlocking machine installed into the floor. A chair and operator figure has been added since the photo was taken.

Simple interior lighting will be added to the tower once it is in place on the layout.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Signal Station 199

The Interlocking Tower at Berkshire Junction

The interlocking tower, signal station 199, at Berkshire was erected in 1924. This was the second tower structure that once stood at this junction replacing the original that had been demolished by a Boston to Maybrook NY freight that derailed at the junction. This tower was manned 24/7 until 1960 when movements at the junction were then controlled by a CTC dispatcher located in New Haven CT, the structure was razed the following year.

The low height of this structure in relation to the track provided the tower operators an eye level view of the passing trains making it appear to be a single story tower in most photographs taken at the junction. The photo below of the west and track side of the tower is an example of this. The smaller structure just to the west of the tower in this photo is believed to be a storage shed for coal to heat the tower.

These two rare photos of the rear of the tower show the actual height of this structure as it was built into the side of the track grade embankment. The west and rear sides below.

The east and rear sides below.

The rear of the tower is the side that will face the operators isle in the layout room. Building a model of this tower to any degree of accuracy would be impossible without these photos of the rear of the structure. A sincere thank you to J. W. Swanberg for graciously sharing the three photos above from his collection!

The photo below is the east side of the tower.

Modeling signal station 199

Researching this tower provided no elevation plans or dimensions, therefore sizing a model from these photographs is speculative. Windows and doors that "looked about right" from Tichy Train Group are used, the model will be sized from these components comparing their size in relation to the proportions of the prototype structure in photos.

Below the Tichy windows and doors are fitted into the four sides made from .040" styrene clapboard siding sheets and various sized strips.

The roof is held square while gluing between a straightedge and two combination square heads, the roof panels are made with plan .040" styrene.

Fitting the sides together with flooring and a foundation.

The rear and west sides below. The stair stringers are from Central Valley #1602 steps & ladder package .

Rear and east sides.

The west and track sides below. The track side will be unseen once the tower is placed into the layout.

Below is the coal shed under construction.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Signals for Berkshire Junction

Signals at the Junction

The Berkshire junction portion of the layout is much compressed from the prototype, although reduced in size modeling the junction prototypically will still require some signals that were typical to the Maybrook line in the modeled era. Besides filling a visual purpose these working model signals will also aid when operating the layout.

The Pittsfield MA to Grand Central Terminal passenger train below is on the Berkshire line about to cross over onto the westbound Maybrook line at Berkshire junction. The interlocking signal in this photo is one of the two types of signals that will be modeled. Also of note in this photo is the brown signal station structure in the distance that will eventually be included in the modeled scene.

          Casey Cavanaugh photo, Copyright NHRHTA Inc. Reproduced by Permission

The photo below shows a three light automatic block signal that were the standard on the Maybrook line. This particular signal was at Botsford CT 24.2 miles west of New haven CT, although not at Berkshire junction this photo was used for reference when modeling the second type of signal to be included in this portion of the layout.

                                                         NHRHTA Inc. Collection, Reproduced by Permission

Below is a New Haven Railroad track diagram showing trackage between the east end of Danbury yard at the bottom and Berkshire junction at the top.

Although this diagram is after the modeling era when CTC was installed it indicates the locations of the signals to be modeled circled in red. The top two are the junction interlocking signals and the automatic block signal E 36.7 just below will be the three signals modeled in the junction diorama.

The green lines on this diagram indicate the limits of the 33 feet of modeled track that is unseen from the operator isles between the Danbury and Berkshire junction dioramas on the layout. This unseen trackage is protected by the automatic block signal E 36.7 at Berkshire junction and signal E 34.8 at the east end of Danbury yard circled in red at the bottom of the diagram. On the layout these two operating signals will indicate occupancy of this trackage between the two dioramas.

The four signals described are shown below during construction. The tall one with the dummy mast is block signal E 34.8 and will be located on the Danbury diorama. The short one will be block signal E 36.7 and the other two will be the interlocking signals, these three will be located on the Berkshire junction diorama.

These signals are constructed from K&S brass tubing, the plastic signal targets, LEDs and other plastic bits are from Oregon Rail Supply. The plastic single targets and service platforms are in place at the time of this photo because they are captive between two soldered brass parts on the interlocking signal masts.

The notches visible in the signal masts are for the wiring of the LEDs.

This westward facing photo shows the three Berkshire junction signals in place and operating in the diorama. The interlocking signals indicate the alignment of the Berkshire line switch to the west bound Maybrook main and the alignment of the crossover between the eastbound and westbound Maybrook mains. The automatic block signal in the distance indicates the occupancy of the trackage between the Berkshire junction and Danbury dioramas.

Indicated in red is where the signal station 199 structure will be placed, building this model will be the next project for this diorama.

This is a close up of signal E 36.7, the number on this signal indicates that it is located 36.7 miles east of Hopewell Junction NY on the Maybrook line.

None of these signals are an exact replica of the prototype but will serve a purpose on the layout well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Moving North

Danbury Connecticut

The Danbury Connecticut diorama of the layout is fully operational and nearing completion in this westward facing photo below. The remaining projects to do here are the details and weathering that are the fun things to be added as the layout matures.

The eastward facing photo below shows near the same level of completion. Remaining to model are two small buildings and a diesel refueling rack that were located in the far east end of the yard just beyond the sand storage bin. These remaining structures that existed during the layout era are still being researched for modeling, while research continues layout construction will move north on the Berkshire Line to the next layout diorama at Berkshire Junction.

Moving North

Berkshire Junction is the location where the New Haven RR Berkshire Line branches in a northerly direction from the east/west New Haven RR Maybrook freight line. This junction point is 3 miles compass north of Danbury station, but for accuracy is considered eastward in New Haven RR timetables. The map below shows the location of the junction in relation to Danbury.

This junction is also the location of this blog's namesake Signal Station 199 where the blog header photo below was taken by Leroy Beaujon in the late 1940's. Signal station 199 interlocking tower and accompanying coal shed will be modeled, the larger structures of Stearns Lime Co in the background would be in the operators isle and therefore not modeled within this diorama.

           Leroy Beaujon photo

Brief History

The 3 miles of trackage between Danbury and Berkshire junction dates back to 1868, this was originally a portion of the New York, Housatonic & Northern Railroad Company a proposed alternate route to New York branching from the existing 1840 Housatonic Railroad at Brookfield Connecticut.

The 5 1/4 mile portion of the NY,H & N from Brookfield Junction to Danbury was the only portion of the road completed. The railroad acquired and graded an additional 23 miles south from Danbury into Westchester county New York but this portion was never finished. The Housatonic Railroad purchased the finished portion in the 1870's.

Below is an original stock certificate gifted from a relative that was a descendant of the certificates bearer. Assumption being these 3 shares of the NY,H & N were in lieu of land granted to the railroad in South Salem, NY that was graded but unfinished.

The east/west New York & New England Railroad was built thru Danbury during 1881, this railroad joined a common grade with the original NY,H & N right of way at 3 miles north of Danbury where these two railroads then ran parallel from that location into Danbury but did not connect with each other.

By 1895 both the New York & New England and Housatonic railroads were part of the New Haven Railroad, under New Haven ownership Berkshire Junction was established in 1908 at this location 3 miles north of Danbury. 

Berkshire Junction

Steam era Pittsfield MA to New York train #141 is about to leave the Berkshire Line and cross over onto the west bound Maybrook Line at Berkshire Junction for the remaining 3 miles to Danbury station. The Maybrook Line gains elevation from the junction and curves to the east just above the RPO car in this photo. Also of note are the backsides of the junction interlocking signals controlled from the operator at SS-199.

           Thomas J McNamara photo

This recent photo taken at approximately the same location shows Stearns siding that was hidden behind the train in the above photo. Stearns siding was a location where Maybrook freight trains would drop or pick up cars for the Berkshire Line during the modeling era, these movements are included in the operational scheme of the layout.

The Maybrook Line is down to a single track in this photo, this was done beyond the modeling era during 1961 when the line was switched from automatic block signals to a CTC system by the New Haven RR. The destinations captions in the photo refer to the lines when this was the NH RR. Both these lines are presently operated by the Housatonic Railroad Company

In this 1957 photo taken at Berkshire Junction the Danbury to Stateline MA symbol freight RI-2 with cars for interchange with the Boston & Albany at Stateline MA crosses over from the east bound Maybrook to the west bound Maybrook, then will cross over onto the Berkshire Line at a switch just beyond the lead RS-3. In the distance some or all of the cars sitting on Stearns siding may be picked up also for interchange with the Boston & Albany.

            Peter C. McLachlan photo

This recent photo of Berkshire Junction faces south toward Danbury. This is again the track configuration at the junction after the New Haven RR installed CTC in 1961. After CTC installation the double trackage in this photo continued for 5 miles thru Danbury to the west side of the city ending at the fairgrounds, this double trackage segment remained automatic block signaled. The Berkshire Line in the lower right was manual block controlled from Berkshire Junction to the lines northern terminals.

Signal Station 199 was no longer in use after CTC was installed and the structures were removed. It appears there is a retaining wall between the conifer tree and the track in this photo, I believe this is where SS-199 once stood.

The Berkshire Junction Diorama

There is 18 feet in length and 2 feet in width for this diorama on the peninsula portion of the layout.

This photo below taken during early layout construction faces compass north at Berkshire Junction. The crossover between the eastbound and westbound Maybrook tracks is in the foreground as in the above 1957 prototype photo, the switch to the Berkshire Line is just beyond. A caboose and boxcars sit on Stearns siding.

As the prototype, the double track Maybrook Line starts to gain elevation at the junction then curves to the right. The Maybrook will then disappear off stage thru a backdrop into the helix beyond, climb 3 turns to a return loop staging yard on the opposite side of the layout peninsula.

The Berkshire Line will also enter this helix but go down 1 1/2 turns to the next northern diorama on the map New Milford CT, this is also on the opposite side of the peninsula where the orange handle clamp is in this photo. 

Since the above photo was taken a masonite fascia and backdrop have been installed along with an extruded foam board "sky" covering the benchwork above.

The first step to bring this diorama to completion will be to build, wire and install the signals that were at the junction during the era of the layout.