Marsh Hill Junction

Pursuant to a recent discussion on the PRR Elmira Branch Yahoo group regarding Bergan tower, and the junction of the S&NY with the Elmira Branch, I offer these scans:

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

First is this northward winter view of the PRR operator at Bergan tower “hooping up” train orders to the rear brakeman or conductor of a southbound SNY freight. In the background we see the PRR bridge over Pleasant Stream, and the roof of the SNY depot at Marsh Hill junction. The SNY train would have come out from the SNY yard to the right, on “our” side of the depot, entering the Elmira Branch at the junction switch at the far end of the bridge.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

This view looks in the opposite direction southward, and of course was taken in a much warmer season. A northward bound SNY freight is leaving the Elmira branch onto home rails and will enter Marsh Hill yard in a moment. The SNY station is behind the viewer, and the PRR Bergan tower is on the south side of the bridge, hidden behind SNY #115.

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

Next, we have a very nice view from the PRR Pleasant Stream bridge looking northward at the SNY Marsh Hill station. We can see the SNY track curving off to the right to the Marsh Hill yard. The low target lamps appear to be controlled remotely from Bergan tower via the wooden rail-side relay cases seen in the second photo above, and hidden by the left side of the bridge in this view. In the distance we can see the position-light signals controlling a passing siding on the south end of the bridge, which extends southward from Bergan tower.

Update 8/7/2014: Northward-looking view of Bergan tower, PRR Lycoming Creek bridge, Marsh Hill junction, and S&NY Marsh Hill station in the distance. Photo courtesy Mr. Jim Anderson.

Photo Courtesy Jim Anderson

Photo Courtesy Jim Anderson

PSU - Penn Pilot

PSU – Penn Pilot

Last is an aerial view of the Marsh Hill area circa 1938. The SNY Marsh Hill station is in the lower middle, above the Pleasant Stream bridge hidden by the nearby trees. A shadow cast by a structure in the lower center south of the bridge I believe is the location of Bergan tower. The SNY Marsh Hill yard curves off to the right, while the PRR Elmira Branch runs generally north-south along the meandering Lycoming Creek.

Today, this area is private ground and is fairly heavily wooded. One would be hard-pressed to find any traces of either railroad that once crossed this bridge, and even the bridge itself is long gone.

 

 

SNY #119

Author's Collection

Author’s Collection

Quick scan from a negative purchased on Ebay. I am not sure of the location of this shot, and I have never seen another photo with a different view of the interesting stone building and chimney behind the locomotive.

Engine #119 was a 1921 product of the Baldwin Locomotive works, purchased used from the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad (H&BTM #35)  in 1934. The locomotive was later sold in 1947 to the Clarion River Railway after the abandonment of the S&NY. Reportedly too heavy for the rails on the Clarion River, the 119 languished on a siding near Hallton, PA until being cut up in 1952.

Looks like a warm day in the photo, maybe summer or early fall. The trees are fully leafed out, and the engineer has the cab door open for a little relief from the heat coming off the locomotive backhead. The boiler safety valve is lifting; note the high plume of white steam next to the whistle. Would have made quite a racket! First car behind the locomotive appears to be a PRR GLa twin hopper, for what it is worth.

Masten Loop bridge

The last bridge project I have for now is the deck girder bridge at the apex of the “Masten Loop”. This was a long, looping curve on a grade east of the sawmill town of Masten, PA by which the S&NY crossed from one side of Pleasant Stream to another while gaining altitude out of the Pleasant Stream valley. From there, the route looped back toward Masten before turning northeast to reach the summit of the grade between Ellenton and Wheelerville, PA.

1944 USGS topo map, 1927 Survey, Canton quadrangle

1944 USGS topo map, 1927 Survey, Canton quadrangle

I do not know the actual degree of curvature of the loop, however according to 1925 S&NY employee timetable No. 43, Special Instruction 23c.,”speed of trains around Loop Curve north of Masten is restricted to 12 miles per hour.”

 

Below is a postcard view of the bridge over Pleasant Stream near the apex of the Loop, shortly after construction in 1906:

Postcard view of Loop Curve near Masten, PA ca. 1906

Postcard view of Loop Curve near Masten, PA ca. 1906

Compare the pristine abutments in the above view with the crumbling remains visible through the saplings in 2000:

Photo by author

Photo by author

The rebar “cage” is presumably to prevent chunks of disintegrating concrete from falling onto the dirt road below. Note someone has built a camp directly on the old roadbed. I wonder if they are ever awakened in the dead of night by phantom trains blasting from out of the past through the kitchen, ghostly whistles shrieking….

The Masten Loop Curve and bridge is a major scenic “Layout Design Element” (LDE) on my model version of the S&NY, and conveniently located at a turnback curve at the end of a benchwork peninsula. Model railroaders often bemoan the difficulty of disguising these peninsular turnbacks ( I believe Tony Koester tongue-in-cheek referred to a common solution  as “Mandatory Trestle over Cliché Creek), however in this case the real thing IS the solution.

 

Photo by author

Photo by author

Here is the site for the model bridge at the apex of Loop Curve.

Since the bridge is on a grade (never again!) I wanted to ensure good alignment between the roadbed ends and the bridge deck. I used a technique I found online where the bridge itself is built over an aluminum channel that is anchored, in this case by epoxy, to the roadbed at either end. As it turned out, I ended up with a small vertical curve at the right-hand side of the bridge. Hopefully this will not prove to be a major problem in operation, as redoing the bridge would involve major surgery.

Photo by author

Photo by author

Here the channel with the Micro Engineering deck girder bridge sides in place for a test fit.

Photo by author

Photo by author

The abutments were scratchbuilt from thin poplar and styrene. There is a niche for someone to produce a line of concrete abutments tailored for the various Micro Engineering bridges. Chooch Enterprises has a limited number, but they are mostly not suitable.

Photo by author

Photo by author

The abutments were sanded and primed, then coated in vinyl spackle and the impressions of the wood formers simulated by drawing a styrene “comb” across the spackle. The spackle was allowed to dry, then sanded enough to allow just a faint hint to remain. Following this, they were painted a concrete color and weathered.

Photo by author

Photo by author

Photo by author

Photo by author

The finished product.

Scenery has yet to be installed, but the fascia has been put in place. I tried to create a semi-“Bellina-drop”  with the fascia panels as view-blocks to limit viewers from getting a look at an entire train as it climbs around the Loop. Hopefully this will subconsciously add to the impression of the railroad struggling to work its way through the narrow mountain valleys, and make the run seem longer to operating crews.

 

Photo by author

Photo by author

 

Time will tell if this is a success.

 

Carbon Run Bridge

While we are on the subject of bridges, I’ll make a brief mention of another bridge project, this one the SNY bridge over Carbon Run just east of Laquin, PA. Below is a topographic map of the area from 1945. Note the S&NY railroad is not there, but the roadbed follows the course of the unimproved road ( and IS the road in places) seen on the map. When I visited this area in 2000, the State game lands and township roads were in many places on top of the old SNY roadbed. Since the recent flooding in this area, this may no longer hold true, and the old R-O-W may have been obliterated in places.

USGS Map 1945. Powell Quadrangle

USGS Map 1945. Powell Quadrangle

Below is a photo of the Carbon Run bridge from my field trip in 2000:

 

Photo by Author

I had room for a representative model of the bridge at the east end of the model version of Laquin:

 

Photo by Author

Photo by Author

 

The model version is a stock Walthers through-girder bridge on scratchbuilt abutments, and is quite a bit larger than the real bridge. However, the goal is an operational model railroad, and in this instance a reasonable stand-in was put in place, rather than take the time attempting to scratchbuild a more accurate model. I hope this will be a reasaonable compromise once scenery is in place.

 

 

 

Mystery Bridge

High_Bridge_Sm-1

Bill Caloroso- Cal’s Classics

Bill Caloroso - Cal's Classics

Bill Caloroso – Cal’s Classics

I am not sure of the exact location of this bridge along the SNY right-of-way. I have seen “High Bridge” mentioned in some sources, but I am not sure if this is the referenced bridge. I have traced the RoW with the aerial photos from the late 1930’s on the PSU Penn Pilot website, but the resolution is not adequate to resolve the details of any particular bridge.

Author's photos

Photo by Author

Bridge_Abutments-2

Photo by Author

In December of 2000, I shot these photos of abandoned bridge abutments along Pleasant Stream between Marsh Hill and Masten. This could be the location of the bridge; hard to tell since the surrounding vegetation has changed so much. Also, there is no higher vantage point on the west/north side of Pleasant Stream to duplicate the angle of view in the original photo, unless it was shot from the other side of the creek. There was major flooding along Pleasant Stream in the fall of 2011, washing out road bridges and greatly altering the landscape of the narrow valley. I attempted to repeat the trip in the fall of 2012, but the road was still in such bad shape (I was driving the family’s Honda Odyssey van, not my 4wd truck) I was forced to turn around and head back to Marsh Hill after covering only about 2 miles. Consequently, I have no idea if these crumbling abutments still exist.

Photo by Author

Photos by Author

Photo by Author

These photos illustrate my feeble attempt at representing this bridge on my model version of the SNY. It was kitbashed using an Atlas Warren truss deck bridge, Micro Engineering bridge bents, and a Micro Engineering deck girder bridge. The concrete abutments and pier are scratchbuilt from wood and styrene. Unfortunately, I realized too late the real bridge used a Pratt-type deck for the longest portion, not a Warren like the Atlas model, and the overall proportions of the model are pretty off, compared with the prototype. Nonetheless, my goal was a “good enough” representative structure, not an exact replica. The main goal is an operational (model) railroad, not a museum diorama, so the bridge was put in place, some scenery forms roughed-in so the fascia could be applied to the benchwork, and I moved on to the next project.

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…

SNY #115 at Towanda

Photographer Unknown; Author's Collection

Photographer Unknown; Author’s Collection

 

S&NY Railroad #115 at Towanda

For the first “real” post on the site, I offer this shot of SNY # 115 at the Towanda engine service facilities. Photo probably circa 1940-42. Color film would have been expensive and rare during the Depression, and scarce during WWII. The railroad was torn up in mid-1942, so the picture has to be prior to that date. Perhaps when word got around about the pending abandonment, the photographer decided to expend a few precious color frames on the  S&NY?

Color photos from the steam era are precious to the railroad modeler, as we can get a better idea of the weathering patterns on steam locomotives and structures; the color of the ground, ties, and rails; and maybe get a better overall “feel” of the atmosphere of the time. We tend to subconsciously think of the past as black-and-white, since most of the old photos are such, but that is not true.

Note the locomotive is not “black”; but  infinite variations of gray and brown.