D&H Helper districts

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D&H Helper districts

Postby Allegheny » Mon Jan 26, 2009 3:11 pm

I grew up in Richmondville and recall as a kid in the 1970's the pushers on Richmondville Hill. I would like to know when regular helper service came to an end on Richmondville Hill, as well as Belden Hill and any other helper districts on the line. Seems like I have read that occasionally pushers may still be used coming east (north actually) out of Binghamton, but not on a regular basis. I remember when Richmondville Hill was still double tracked and witnessed several trains passing on the mountain at Richmondville. Seems like the pushers were usually GE's from what I can recall. I had taken photos back then with an old black & white camera, but in the many moves that I have experienced in my youth they have disappeared long ago. I also believe that helpers used to hang out in Cobleskill waiting for a train to push over the hill. Any memories from others will be appreciated.

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Re: D&H Helper districts

Postby amtrakhogger » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:04 pm

From what I have read about is the D&H basically eliminated pushers by either limiting train size or adding extra power on the head end on moves over Belden Hill (and Richmondville Hill.) I visited the Binghamton area several times in the early 1990's after CP took over and never saw any pusher moves over Belden Hill so dedicated pusher service probably ended sometime in 1980's.
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Re: D&H Helper districts

Postby Allegheny » Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:58 am

1980's sounds about right. I have read an occasional thread about helpers being dispached from Binghamton, but that was probably due to a train with issues having difficulty getting over Belden Hill. My parents live near the line in Richmondville and told me they saw some CP pushers on the rear of a train once, but I believe they heard on the scanner that these units were from a following train that were cut off to help the train over Richmondville hill because one of the engines was ailing. I've heard of this happening on other railroads as well from time to time. While visiting my parents I have seen some southbound trains really down on their knees, but no pushers. I'm sure the crew has a sigh of relief when they reach the summit. The northbound trains on the downhill run are usually cruising along at 45 or so. Anyone railfanning this area should beware, as with the curves and hills the trains can sneak up on you in a hurry, so stay off the right of way! Crews will report you to the police as well, and I have heard of college students in Cobleskill being arrested for being on the tracks. Besides, how good of a photo can you take standing 5 feet from the tracks? Personally, I like bridge overpasses and hillsides above the tracks where I get more of the train and don't need to worry about being run over. Route 7 overpass at the summit is an excellent shot, and you can often see another train waiting in the siding. Be safe and enjoy the action.

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Re: D&H Helper districts

Postby march hare » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:16 pm

I was a pretty active railfan on Richmondville prior to getting a grownup job and departing for Denver in 1979. Pushers were becoming less common at that time, but were still pretty easy to find, especially on trains like RW-6 (the paper train).

They got cut on in a wide variety of places--Mohawk most commonly, but also at Delanson, Cobleskill, etc. Even saw one get cut on at Howes Cave once, despite the steepness of the grade there, it had to be one of the toughest places to get going again. Cutoff was normally right at the summit, where CPF526 is today, sometimes on the fly. Power could be anything--C628s, RS3s, GEs. Even caught the PAs once in April 1973 (they'd been on sesquicentennial display train duty in Cobleskill). The Sharks pushed for a few days in the spring of 1975. Frustrating!! It was finals week at SUNY Cobleskill, I was in the library and could see them going by, but couldn't spare the time to go shoot them. By the time my exam was over, they had broken down and returned to Mohawk.

I moved back to the east coast in 1986, in the Guilford era. Still would see helpers occasionally, but much less commonly. Oddly, I caught several northbound coal trains that year w/helpers, which I think came all the way up from Binghamton. Also shot one southbound during the NYSW period that stalled and got shoved by a following train--a nuclear cask extra!

I've only seen rear end helpers twice since the CP takeover. Both were stalls, pushed by power that cut off of a following train. I wonder whether the single tracking made it harder to use rear end helpers--it's a lot tougher to dispatch the light power down the hill when there's no double track. Of course, the overall decrease in the number of trains and tonnage probably contributed as well.
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Re: D&H Helper districts

Postby Allegheny » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:27 pm

Thanks, March Hare! Lot's of good, interesting info. I remember both GE and Alco helpers, mostly 6 axle units as you would expect. The sharks must have been cool to see as pushers! As far as traffic on the line today, it varies considerably. My parents tell me at times it is quite heavy, but it never fails that when I go to visit, there are few trains during daylight. There often are 2 or 3 first thing in the morning, usually because of one that has been in the hole at Richmondville Summit and comes back through shortly after a southbound. Then you might wait for hours for another, and sometimes nearly a whole day will go by with none at all. CP seems to send them in bunches, because there are a few times where traffic will be heavy for a while. I have seen 3 or 4 right on each others heels. Sounds like your were around about when I was. I was an avid railfan as a kid, until other interests as a teenager took its place. I then was reborn in the early 90's when I got my kid a trainset. Thanks again for the info.

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