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Conrail Boston Line

Discussion in 'Route Suggestions & Proposals' started by JGRudnick, Jul 20, 2020.

  1. JGRudnick

    JGRudnick Well-Known Member

    Jul 2, 2019
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    On April 1, 1976, Conrail was created out of what remained of nearly bankrupt railroad's in the eastern US. Conrail, Norfolk Southern, and CSX became the big 3 railroad's of the east. For over 2 decades, Conrail operated all over the northeastern United States. Conrail's Boston Line ran between Selkirk, NY and Boston, MA along the ex Boston & Albany Railroad's mainline. After the 1999 Conrail split, CSX took control of the line and uses it to this day.

    The Boston Line was well known for its tough operating conditions. Trains had to surmount three summits on the 200-mile line. The most difficult was Washington Hill, located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts between Pittsfield and Springfield. The ruling grade is 1.67 percent. While it is not as steep as other grades in the country, the difficulty comes from the combination of steep gradients and numerous sharp curves that follow a sinuous profile up and down the mountains.

    Freight trains could roll along at respectable speeds on the more level and straight sections, but would grind to a crawl reaching speeds no more than 15 mph on a dry day. Milepost 129 (measured from Boston) was the most unforgiving section of line. Many trains stalled, knuckles broken, and drawbars pulled. Traditionally, helpers were assigned to heavy mainline freights at Chester. They would shove the train up the grade at cut off at the summit at Hinsdale, or continue on to Pittsfield. This minimized the chance of trains stalling or couplers failing. In 1982, in an effort to sreamline operations, Conrail mandated that trains needed to be sufficiently powered at Boston or Selkirk, eliminating the Washington Hill helpers. In early 1984, Conrail began operating cabooseless freight on the Boston Line.
    (A trio of C30-7As lead a trailer train over the summit at Hinsdale, MA)

    In 1984, Conrail took delivery of 50 General Electric C30-7As, a version of the C30-7 that focused more on efficiency, high tractive effort, and medium-speed applications. The perfect locomotive for the Boston Line. The C30-7A combined the successful 6-motor design with a high-horsepower, fuel-efficient 12-cylinder FDL engine. Shortly after, Conrail took delivery of 10 GE C32-8s, pre-production units that were a precursor to the successful DASH 8 line. Like the C30-7A, the C32-8 used a 12-cylinder FDL engine, making the two units near cousins, save the body styles and some technological upgrades. These were the only two 12-cylinder locomotives GE sold in the United States.
    (A trailer train led by a C30-7A, a C32-8, and another C30-7A)

    While other locomotive types could be found on the line, they would come and go, unlike the C30-7As and C32-8s, which you could regularly see the same units hauling freight through the Berkshires. Both locomotive types were operated in solid sets of three, but eventually the two types could be found working together on the same train. After elimination of the helpers, the units were operated in sets of 4.
    (A convenient large puddle which always forms at this spot, offers an opportunity for a reflective shot of a quartet of C30-7As leading an auto-carrier train to the summit of Washington Hill)

    After the Conrail split, the C30-7As were split between CSX and Norfolk Southern, and soon found themselves in Enola, PA awaiting disposition. CSX, which took control of the Boston Line, Soon put its powerful AC6000CWs to work hauling heavy freight trains over the route.

    (A CSX AC6000CW leads a train along the ex Boston & Albany at East Brookfield, MA)

    Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited began operating an Albany to Boston section in 1975, running over Conrail's Boston Line (trains 448 eastbound and 449 westbound), however it would not make any stops within the section in the proposal. During this time period, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited was led by a single EMD F40PH in Phase III livery.
    Date: 12/25/1982
    (Amtrak train 448 heads toward Boston, MA. By 1984, the Phase II livery was a part of Amtrak's history)

    This route could be modeled in two seperate periods. The best years to model this route would be 1985 on, when Conrail ran the C30-7As (also built for Missouri Pacific and Burlington Northern) and the C32-8s (Only Conrail possessed these units). Helpers would not be featured, as they were gone after 1982. Cabooses still lingered on the line for years to come.
    (A pair of C30-7As and a C32-8 lead a general merchandise train into Bancroft, MA. The date is 9/14/1985)

    The years prior to 1982 could be used as there would still be helpers and cabooses on the line, but the unique C30-7As and C32-8s couldn't be used.

    Therefore, I propose the former option, place the route after 1984, when the C30-7As and the C32-8s were working together, between Selkirk, NY and Springfield, MA, a length of about 100 miles. This would include the large railyard in Selkirk, NY, the Springfield yard, and the infamous Washinton Hill. Locomotives would be the GE C30-7A and C32-8. Both were painted in the Conrail "can opener" logo and on the rare ocassion, be seen in the "Conrail Quality" livery. Rolling stock must include auto-carriers, trailer flatcars, boxcars, covered hoppers, tank cars, and Conrail three-bay coal hoppers. Many kinds of cabooses could be found on the Boston line, including all three main styles: cupola, bay window, and transfer cabooses.
    (A pair of C30-7As, a C32-8, and an SD40-2 lead a general merchandise train)
    (An N12 caboose brings up the rear of the general merchandise train seen above. Date: 9/20/1985)

    (An N5C caboose brings up the rear of this ballsat train in Hinsdale, MA in September of 1984)

    (A N6A transfer caboose brings up the rear of this ballast train at Bancroft, MA

    (A C30-7A leads a C32-8 and a second C30-7A to begin the climb out of Pittsfield, MA up the western slope of Washington Hill)

    (A pair of C30-7As and a C32-8 lead an auto-carrier train at Washington, MA)

    (An auto-carrier train led by a pair of aging C30-7As is rolling eastward around mile 89.6 in North Wilbraham, MA. on Aug. 15, 1998. This is the location of a "transition" of the single main from the old track 1 to old track 2, in the eastward direction, one of several such "transitions" Conrail made during the single-tracking of the Boston & Albany. This was done to access sections of continuous welded rail, since the line still had some sections of jointed stick rail.)

    (Conrail C30-7A in "Conrail Quality" livery)

    (Conrail C30-7A in "Can Opener" livery awaiting next assignment in Cresson, PA)

    Info from Locomotive by Brian Solomon (https://www.amazon.com/Locomotive-Brian-Solomon/dp/0785826807)
    Photos from Brian Solomon and Conrail Historical Society (http://conrailphotos.thecrhs.org/OnLocationWithConrail/BostonLine)
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2020
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