Category Archives: Paperwork

Talky Tuesday #94

Businesses run on paper. Railroads are no different, and the S&NY had its share. “WW #136 is a surviving example of one of the numerous forms the railroad used to keep track of things, in this case “foreign road” cars belonging to railroads other than the S&NY. According to the car usage rules at the time, foreign cars still on non-home rails at a certain time (usually midnight) required the non-home railroad to pay a usage fee (demurrage) to the owning railroad. This slip of paper allowed the S&NY to keep track of which cars belonging to other railroads were on S&NY property, and when the S&NY would have start paying that fee to the owning railroads.

Wordless Wednesday #136

Author’s Collection

Wordless Wednesday #100

Author’s Collection

OP Sessions #14 & #15

Op Session #14 was held Sunday afternoon, 20 November 2016. Since the holidays were upcoming, I tried to add a little seasonal “flavor” to mix things up a little for my regular crew. After 13 sessions, these guys were starting to more or les settle into a routine during the sessions and I don’t want the sessions to get stale.

To that end, the (model) S&NY scheduled a “Holiday Shoppers Special”  to carry passengers from the rural areas served by the railroad to the “big city” of Williamsport.

Management posted a message notifying all employees of the special train:

The special was run as a second section to through freight train No. 5 westbound and return as a second section to through freight No. 8. I thought this would be the best solution, since neither #5 nor #8 had any scheduled stops enroute, and are second class trains. If the special had run as an extra train, it would need multiple orders giving it priority over other trains in order to stay on time.

Also, I doubt many model railroads run trains as sections, so I thought this would be a good timetable and train order exercise for my crew guys.

The special still needed running orders, though:

The signals engine #112 would display in real-life 80 years ago would be green flags by day and green marker lamps by night. The engineer of #112 leading train No.8 would call the attention of any trains he meets to these signals by blowing one long and two short blasts of the whistle. If no acknowledgement from the other train, No.8 would have to stop and determine why.

Since all my locomotives are sound-equipped, the crew running the special was able to comply with this requirement, and the other train could reply properly.  I didn’t actually make any HO-scale green flags, so the engineer simply said “green flags” to the other engineer. All in good fun!

Here, #112 leading Train 22 meets the special at Wheelerville:

We were a little short of engineers for the session, so the coal extra had no helper crew. The extra engineer misread the timetable and thought he could safely double the hill from Marsh Hill to Wheelerville. Fortunately, he realized the error before any real harm was done, and was able to duck into the station track at Wheelerville to clear both No.5 and No.22, who were scheduled to meet each other at Wheelerville:

No major glitches during the session, other than occasional signal loss from one throttle at the far end of the layout at Towanda. Eventually a second receiver may have to be installed in that room if the problem recurs.


Session #15 was held on a very snowy evening on Saturday 10 December. I wanted to open this session to a few local operators, but the weather conspired against that, and only two could make it. The only change I made to this session was the motorcar normally used on Trains 2 and 3 was replaced by 4-4-0 #105 due to heavy holiday express traffic. I pulled a couple of express cars out of storage and added them to the railroad for No.2 to pick up. The motorcar lacks the guts to haul more than one milk car up the grade to Wheelerville, and the 105 barely made it with a consist of a brass combine, milk can car and two express boxcars.

The coal extras were annulled, and the through freights and local were the only trains run. Here, both work Newberry yard sorting out heavy interchange traffic off the NYC and RDG:

Cooperation pays off, and Newberry is empty a few minutes later as No.24 departs:

Short clip of the action at Newberry here.

Minor glitches included recurrent derailment of one truck on an older Stewart RDG hopper. The Stewart trucks are not the best, and I may try reaming out the journals before replacing the truck.

Otherwise, another rewarding session.


Op Session #5 3/21/15

Op session # 5 was held Saturday evening 3/21/15. We had 4 crew members attend, which was enough to give everyone a throttle, with your truly as informal dispatcher. (And question answerer / trouble-shooter)

The railroad ran better than I had hoped given that the last session was last November. The extremely cold winter and corresponding dry conditions caused the track to buckle in several spots that had never been an issue before, but I was able to cut new gaps and drop new feeders in the week prior to the session. The only major problems were a switch where I had completely forgotten to attach the feeders from the points to the main track bus, and a Tortoise with a suspected internal malfunction that caused a non-repairable short circuit at an important crossover in Newberry yard. Luckily, this problem occurred very late in the session and did not have a major impact aside from a 10-15 minute halt to operations while we tried to fix it.

While I did have paperwork ready to support formal TT&TO ops, the small number of operators resulted in a fairly relaxed session, so we ran under “verbal train orders” for lack of a better term.




Another small issue was that there were only 4 locomotives available as “home road” power. One engine, a re-motored PFM Ma&Pa 2-8-0 with a WOW steam decoder, developed a bind that I could not solve prior to the session. Don M. was able to bring several smaller steam engines to serve as temporary “leased power”, so all was well. It was neat to see a little 4-4-0 with a 2-6-0 pusher (both sound-equipped) working hard to get a 12 car train of loaded coal hoppers over the mountain.

Don M. works Newberry yard

Don M. works Newberry yard

No. 4 and No. 21 meet at Wheelerville.

No. 4 and No. 21 meet at Wheelerville.

No. 4 at Wheelerville

No. 4 at Wheelerville

Leased Bessemer 4-4-0 leads westbound empties at Wheelerville.

Leased Bessemer 4-4-0 leads westbound empties at Wheelerville.

All-in-all, a very satisfying evening, hopefully to be repeated in the near future.

Christmas, 1941

Christmas Day, 1941. The War, until 3 weeks ago, was someplace else and happening to other people. Now, it is here; and scarcely any family, any person, will be unaffected. The nation’s railroads will bear an incredibly heavy burden transporting the men, machines, and materiel necessary to fight and win a global two-ocean war. The only tools available to manage this vast, complex enterprise are the telephone/telegraph, kerosene lanterns, the Rulebook, the Timetable, and the discipline and skill of experienced railroad men.

The PRR Williamsport Division dispatcher has probably had anything but a quiet Christmas. Burgeoning wartime traffic is indifferent to the holidays, and the mostly single-track Elmira Branch is “dark territory”, meaning trains are run under timetable and train-order authority, rather than centrally-controlled signals. Add in extra trackage-rights trains off the SNY, and the southern end of the Branch is quite busy on this Christmas afternoon:

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Trout Run, Pennsylvania is a small community tucked into the Lycoming Creek valley north of Williamsport. At Trout Run, the north central Pennsylvania mountains start to close in, glowering over the progressively narrowing Lycoming Creek valley. The valley walls are steep, and evening sets in quickly on  winter afternoons. According to weather records from the airport at Montoursville, PA., on December 25, 1941 the temperature was in the mid to low 30’s. The temp had been dropping over the previous days from a high of 55 on December 23.

We can imagine moving from the warmth of the Trout Run depot out onto the platform next to the tracks, cinders crunching softly underfoot. It would be very nearly dark, the deep twilight punctuated here and there by glimmers of oil lamps in the nearby homes and farmsteads, and the glow of the kerosene lights illuminating the railroad switchstands and the depot train-order board. No signs of people about in the darkening yards and fields, it is Christmas Day after all, and folks are snugly indoors enjoying their holiday meal while pushing thoughts of the War aside for a few hours. We might turn up our collar against the cold wind gusting down the narrow valley, and strain our ears for a distant whistle echoing off the high mountainsides…

Railroad men remain on duty, though, and 13 miles to the south, the Williamsport Division dispatcher dictates an order to the towerman at Newberry Junction:

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection


DEC 25 1941

TO: (C)onductor and (E)ngineer ENGINES PRR 4633 AND SNY 115 AT NEWBERRY






From this faded piece of tissue paper, we can see that in the space of an hour or so just at dark, 4 trains will pass the Trout Run station. The first is probably the last one mentioned in the train order, PRR Extra 4623 East. PRR engine 4623 was an I1sa 2-10-0 locomotive, and likely leads a “diker” hauling a solid train of coal hoppers north to Elmira. Per J.W. Orr’s book “Set Up Running”, the PRR men on the division referred to these coal trains originating from the mines near Altoona and Tyrone as “dikers”, as they took the northbound(railroad timetable east) route up the Elmira Branch over the dike along Lycoming Creek at Newberry, rather than heading east and south to Harrisburg and Enola yard. Extra 4623 East will thunder by Trout Run without stopping, the locomotive digging in to the increasing grade; en route to a meet at Bergan tower near the SNY yard at Marsh Hill with PRR Extra 4633 West and Extra SNY 115 West. PRR Extra 4623 East will be followed shortly by SNY #119 running as scheduled PRR train No. 852, heading north (railroad timetable east) up the Branch to Marsh Hill.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

A few minutes later, train 852 will take the siding at Trout Run, and wait for two westbound trains coming down the Branch. The first, PRR Extra 4633 West, is lead by PRR engine #4633, an I1sa 2-10-0 locomotive, likely a train of empty hoppers headed back to the mines around Tyrone, PA. The second is an SNY extra train lead by #115, headed for the SNY yard at Newberry, probably mixed freight for interchange to the Reading and NYC. These westbound extras will first meet the aforementioned Extra 4623 East at Bergan, before heading in turn down the Branch for their subsequent meets with No. 852 at Trout Run.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

A lot of information from a scrap of paper, yet the railroads relied on these scraps to move trains efficiently and safely. Even more importantly, men’s lives depended on their accurate interpretation and timely obedience.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

How lucky such a small scrap would survive all these years, and allow us to open a small window into the past…


Crew Instructions 1937

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

This is an extremely interesting, and rare, bit of railroad history. Typed on a piece of scrap paper by possibly the dispatcher, or Towanda station agent, the above document provides a window into the daily workings of the SNY crews. If we dissect this document we can glean a great deal of information regarding the operations of the railroad, by inference and linking with other bits of information from other sources.

First, the note is addressed to the (C)onductor and (E)ngineer of the train designated by the SNY as “the fast freight”. According to SNY  employee timetable No. 47, in effect 12:01 A.M. Sunday October 14, 1934; scheduled timetable freight train #20 is a Second Class train due to leave Towanda Washington St. station (telegraph call letters “WN”) at 8:00 A.M., arriving Marsh Hill, PA (“MH”) 11:16 AM. From other sources, it seems the SNY had arranged freight service between the Reading Railroad at Newberry, PA and the Lehigh Valley at Towanda, PA. Train #21 was #20’s counterpart in the opposite direction, leaving Marsh Hill at 12:30 PM arriving at Towanda at 3:50 PM. I am not sure why neither train connected through to Newberry, unless trains to Newberry, having to run via trackage rights over the PRR Elmira Branch, were all run as extras.

What follows are instructions on what cars at Towanda need to be switched to what customers. The “gas house” refers to a coal gas plant in Towanda. This appears on a Sanborn insurance map as late as 1927, I was not aware it might have been in operation at this late date. I have included the gas house spur on my model railroad and it is good to know I am still in the realm of possibility here. Also of note is that coal is being delivered in a Pennsylvania gondola, not a hopper car.

It seems that the local Sinclair oil franchise was doing quite a bit of business at this time. We can infer that Sinclair did not have their own spur, rather they used a track in the small SNY yard at Towanda to unload petroleum products, presumably into their own trucks for local delivery. Again, a useful tidbit for model railroad operations.

The railroad also has some “company” cars in service, in this instance a carload of ties for Mr. Landmesser to unload. I presume he is the track gang foreman in Towanda. Even though this is the Depression and the railroad is not in the best financial shape, routine track maintenance with tie replacement must continue.

The next line details handling of cars interchanged from the Lehigh Valley Railroad. I presume “DD’s” are loads, and “Mty’s” are of course empty cars. All 15 cars will go south/west to “JN” (Newberry/West Williamsport) on this trip.

There are 3 empty Reading (the Reading Railroad was known as the Philadelphia and Reading until the early 30’s, hence the reference to “P&R”) boxcars in the train, one of which will be dropped at Cold Spring  (a siding in the middle of nowhere up in the mountains) to be loaded.

Two loaded coal hoppers are at Marsh Hill for “North Penn” however I do not know anything at this point about that consignee.

Another car of ties is at MH, and will need to be moved to “switch 35” if the track foreman has unloaded what he needs. I am unsure of the location of “switch 35”.

No.’s 5 and 6 refer to the First Class passenger trains that ran each way between Marsh Hill and Towanda. By the late 1930’s these were run as mixed trains, with both freight and passenger cars.

There is also work at the coaling tower at Marsh Hill; an empty needs to be pulled off and a loaded hopper put up on the track to supply the tipple with coal for the locomotives. In this instance No. 5 refers to track 5 in the Marsh Hill yard.

Mr. Holt (the agent at West Williamsport?) says Southern Railway boxcar 119606 needs to be interchanged with the Reading Railroad. This would need to be done before midnight, to prevent the SNY from accruing per diem charges. These rules were to prevent railroads from hoarding or delaying other railroads cars, thus expediting service and car turn-around.

The last paragraph details work to be done up the branch to Ralston, PA. By the late 30’s there was a small coal mine up the branch which would supply a few cars of coal per week. I think most of it was used by the SNY for their locomotives. Some may have gone to local coal dealers as well. It also seems there is still wood being cut up in the mountains near Cold Spring. Not sure if this was hardwood or pulpwood, maybe for the Westvaco paper mill in Williamsport? By this late date most of the old-growth hemlock was long since cut.

So, from this humble document we can gain much information that is of extreme interest to a model railroader attempting to re-create “how things were done” some 80-odd years ago. How miraculous this piece of paper should survive all these years. Copies were probably typed up daily, and used the next day to help start a fire in the caboose stove. Maybe the next day, Wednesday, September 8, 1937 was a warm day, and the crew didn’t need a fire in the stove…