What if?

Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.

Re: What if?

Postby TCurtin » Mon Feb 03, 2014 4:34 pm

If the New Haven did survive it would probably essentially be a small-time freight carrier equal to the sum of all the short lines (i.e., Housatonic, P&W, the Springfield line portion of New England southern -- or is it called Connecticut Southern? --- the Naugatuck and Highland Line portions of Pan Am, Massachusetts Coastal, Pioneer Valley, Central New England. Did I miss any?) that are operating ex-New Haven routes today. You'd have Amtrak and the various commuter authorities operating all the passenger service exactly as you see it today.
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Re: What if?

Postby NH2060 » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:18 pm

TCurtin wrote:the Springfield line portion of New England southern -- or is it called Connecticut Southern? ---

Connecticut Southern (CSOR) is what you're thinking of. New England Southern (NEGS) is based out of Concord, NH.
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Re: What if?

Postby fredmcain » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:53 pm

This is something that I've given some thought to and I don't see how the New Haven could've survived on it's own in just about any circumstances. However, that said there were mistakes made, many of them by our gubment.

I know that there are a lot of people who would disagree, but I believe that the negative effects that were supposedly caused by Patrick McGinnis have been blown way out of proportion. I'm not even sure he hurt the road that much - in fact he might have even HELPED it by making people realize that commuter rail operations would have to be subsidized. But the government took too long to do this.

Had commuter subsidies been forth coming sooner, perhaps the road could've lasted longer. The other thing was that the Penn Central (PA + NYC) merger was a complete and total disaster. Had the Pennsy and NYC never merged then perhaps an end-to-end merger might've made sense with E-L. But as the New Haven slid further and further into disrepair no one was interested in it. That gets me back to those subsidies.

Another way it might've been saved is if there had been some kind of a coalition of the states of NY, Conn, RI and Mass put together that would've taken over the whole thing - passenger and freight service. But back in the day, the powers that be saw the PC as the only way to "save" the New Haven. But the PC takeover of NH did nothing except hasten PC's decline and NH's demise.

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Re: What if?

Postby Otto Vondrak » Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:19 pm

Ridgefielder wrote:So basically in the long run the New Haven without the Mellen-era expansions would have been like the Reading or the Lackawanna. They might have avoided the pre-WW2 bankruptcies but would likely have collapsed in the 1970's anyway under the pressure of de-industrialization and a money-losing commuter network. That a fair summary?


If I may offer an observation... If you notice what portions of the former New Haven have remained intact for freight business, you'll see they are all very short runs. Look at the map of the modern Providence & Worcester, the modern Housatonic, and the modern Central New England, the Connecticut Southern, the Bay Colony, the Mass Coastal... No one needs to go to all of the places where the New Haven once ran. Business is strong for those who have picked up the pieces, but you'll note they are only operating one or two lines and keep their expenses down. You'll also note that none of them operate any kind of passenger service. That was the nail in the coffin for the New Haven. Even if they could have shed some more of their redundant branches, the unsubsidized Boston and New York commuter services did them in. If I could go out on a limb, I'd say the strongest successor to the New Haven is the modern P&W, they've managed to grow their business and maintain a steady investment back into the railroad.

Someone one asked me if the New Haven could have pulled off its own reorganization like the Boston & Maine did in the 1970s. Even if the NH was able to shed its unprofitable branch lines and hand off the commuter trains to the state agencies at an earlier date, you would still have one thing you couldn't change, and that's the territory served. The B&M is located to the north of the NH system, and serves a vastly different part of New England with few urban centers. By contrast, the NH operated through some of the most dense urban corridors in the country, and many of them could no longer support the kind of freight traffic the railroad would need to survive. Yes, the B&M has its share of shuttled mill towns and abandoned freight yards, but nothing on the scale of former NH territory.

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Re: What if?

Postby Otto Vondrak » Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:34 pm

fredmcain wrote:I know that there are a lot of people who would disagree, but I believe that the negative effects that were supposedly caused by Patrick McGinnis have been blown way out of proportion. I'm not even sure he hurt the road that much - in fact he might have even HELPED it by making people realize that commuter rail operations would have to be subsidized. But the government took too long to do this.


Count me in that camp. McGinnis was an investor looking to milk whatever value he cold get out of an old New England railroad property. In their weakened state, the NH and B&M were easy targets. As far as the "government waiting too long" to subsidize commuter trains, you have to realize that the neighboring New York Central was doing a pretty good job thawing out New York State and getting some limited subsidies or purchases of new equipment. The New Haven did not have a good relationship with the government agencies, and it wasn't until much later that some subsidy finally came their way.

But back in the day, the powers that be saw the PC as the only way to "save" the New Haven. But the PC takeover of NH did nothing except hasten PC's decline and NH's demise.


I don't think that is quite accurate. From what I understand, the ICC made merger with the New Haven a condition of the Penn Central merger only to get their case off the books. No one wanted to "save" the New Haven, only make it go away.

The New Haven was bankrupt with no hope of reorganization. No investors were stepping forward, no banks would give them credit. If the New Haven had indeed shut down and was not included in Penn Central, it would have had an adverse affect on transportation infrastructure throughout the northeast. I'm sure the ICC would have come up with some sort of "directed order" to keep the New Haven running even while its bankruptcy case wound through the courts, a process that would have taken years and clogged up the courts and ICC dockets for decades. I imagine that eventually there would have been court-ordered sales of New Haven lines to various bidders not unlike how the Rock Island was divvied up after it shut down 1980. My thought is that the ICC wanted to clear the whole New Haven mess off their desks, and the easiest way was to fold it into the Penn Central and pretend like the problem was solved.

In fact, on paper, the problem was "solved," as Penn Central acquired the railroad and agreed to pay off the estate of the New Haven with cash and stock. The idea was that NH would get a lump payment form PC, pay off its creditors, and quietly effect an orderly shut down of the old company. What is some entertaining reading are the Annual Reports of the New Haven Railroad from the 1970s (yes, seventies) where they have hauled Penn Central into court for non-payment and continued to negotiate with its creditors.

Fun stuff, this business of railroading.

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Re: What if?

Postby Noel Weaver » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:21 pm

I have said this before but again McGinnis and Alpert made the failure of the New Haven occur sooner than it probably would have otherwise occurred if neither of them had ever come on the scene. I don't think any person, group or company could have saved the New Haven in the long run. Government takeover of the passenger services helped a lot but the railroad itself was a terminal case with the huge losses of major freight customers. Some of the railroads that operation over portions of the old New Haven today are not doing all that well either. The Housatonic is operating on a shoestring and is mis-managed as well. I don't know how the Boston and Maine/Springfield Terminal/Pan Am Southern has managed to keep their Connecticut operations running either although today there is some signs of significant growth in this business that might help at least a portion of this operation; I sure hope so. Although Western Connecticut might be the hardest hit, all over Southern New England the areas that the New Haven served and served well in the 40's and 50's today lack just about everything that kept the New Haven going back in those days. Many significant cities in Connecticut and Massachusetts that had through symbol freight trains in 1957 for example today have a once or twice a week local freight with one engine and a very small number of cars. Most of the business did not switch to trucks but rather it just closed up or moved elsewhere. McGinnis wasn't the only railroad executive to push for government support of commuter services but on this he was right as were the executives of the New York Central and the other railroads that were operating commuter trains at huge losses. The governments were participating in a huge rip off of the railroads in this respect. Finally they woke up but it was too late for survival of the New Haven when it happened.
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Re: What if?

Postby FLRailFan1 » Sat May 17, 2014 8:08 am

As much as you think the New Haven wouldn't exist today, I'm going to put some blame on others, too. The others are the business owners, unions, the politicians and the voters. They all helped with the demise of the New Haven. The business owners bent over for the unions (and yes, unions were good in the olden days), the unions wanted things, the politicians gave unions and voters things they want and of course, the voters wanted things 'free', which means someone got to pay for it (see ObamaCare), so businesses moved to Right to Work states or overseas. The politicians wanted highways, so they helped with the killing.
Yes, mismanagement kill the New Haven, so we all had a hand in it. Maybe you wouldn't see as much heavy industries in the Naugatuck valley, because of global trade and technological advances (PVC pipes instead of copper pipes). I think the NH would be around. Think about some of the industries we had that relocated and some that are still around in Connecticut, like Faria Gauges (a marine instrument company in Uncasville). We lost some industries but if voters get smart, we won't lose companies to other states.
Now if Congress didn't tell the NYC and PRR to take the NH, I think it could make it through to Conrail with 3 main routes the Midland from Hartford to Providence, the Canal Route from Granby to Cheshire and Maybrook. I'd say the Midland would be part of the P & W (with rights for the G & W), the Canal would be a short line (as part of the CNEZ) and Maybrook a bit shorter interchanging at Beacon with NS and CP.
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Re: What if?

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sat May 17, 2014 10:36 am

The impending crisis of the New Haven Railroad was pretty obvious by 1958 or 1959. In fact the reason Patrick McGinnis gave for leaving in 1956 was that the financial situation was becoming hopeless. He didn't believe it would be possible to avoid an eventual bankruptcy. Everybody knew what the problem was: a marginally profitable passenger service, high taxes, miles of lightly-trafficked branch lines, short road freight hauls and extensive and expensive terminal operations. Short of picking up the railroad and moving it someplace else, no one knew what to do about it. One railroad industry person said that everything that was wrong with railroading was wrong with the New Haven...in spades!

Because the New York-Boston passenger service was seen as essential for the region, the four states (New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) banded together in about 1960 to provide tax relief and operating assistance. In fact there was a serious proposal to form a transportation agency to provide ongoing financial assistance for the New Haven's intercity passenger service. In the meantime the four states offered a plan to cut taxes on the New Haven to the tune of about $5 or $6 million per year. The president of the New Haven at that time, George Alpert, also wanted cash assistance or a subsidy. It's been a while since I researched all of this, but as I remember, the tax measures were passed, and doubtless helped, but there was never enough political support to make a cash subsidy possible. However, New York's Governor Nelson Rockefeller and, to a lesser degree, Governor John Dempsey in Connecticut, continued to fight for some form of assistance. Eventually this led to the formation of the NY MTA and the Connecticut Transportation Authority and a state-takeover of the New York City commuter service.
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Re: What if?

Postby FLRailFan1 » Wed May 28, 2014 4:36 pm

I wonder if the Stagers Act (I think that is the name that helped create short lines) was around in the 60s, I wonder if some of the abandoned lines (Colchester RR, the Airline from Portland to East Hampton, and the Botsford to Stepney line) would be run by short lines today. (On my model railroad layout, the Airline is owned by ConnecticutCentral (yes, the real company that P&W bought) and it ships tank cars of witch hazel, junk cars and scrap metal and dinghies outbound and lumber, fiberglass materials, plastic pellets and general freight inbound. Colchester Branch RR - my model layout to Colchester - has lumber inbound and general freight and scrap metal/ junk cars outbound. I have S & S Worldwide (the wood game company), a wood shed manufacturer, food processor and a boat manufacturer in an industrial park.
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Re: What if?

Postby TomNelligan » Wed May 28, 2014 8:59 pm

FLRailFan1 wrote:I wonder if some of the abandoned lines (Colchester RR, the Airline from Portland to East Hampton, and the Botsford to Stepney line) would be run by short lines today.


Given the near-complete absence of freight business on the lines you list even 50 years ago when the NH abandoned them, the answer is no. By the time they were abandoned the biggest action they saw was the grass growing between the rails. I believe that Portland-Amston-Colchester saw just one train a week by the early 1960s, Amston-Willimantic had been out of service for several years, and Stepney had no regular service. Even a shortline needs paying customers.
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Re: What if?

Postby FLRailFan1 » Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:57 pm

TomNelligan wrote:
FLRailFan1 wrote:I wonder if some of the abandoned lines (Colchester RR, the Airline from Portland to East Hampton, and the Botsford to Stepney line) would be run by short lines today.


Given the near-complete absence of freight business on the lines you list even 50 years ago when the NH abandoned them, the answer is no. By the time they were abandoned the biggest action they saw was the grass growing between the rails. I believe that Portland-Amston-Colchester saw just one train a week by the early 1960s, Amston-Willimantic had been out of service for several years, and Stepney had no regular service. Even a shortline needs paying customers.



Yes, I guess that is why I love my model railroad layout. My fictional NH is a nice railroad that services industrial parks. Connecticut in my model is a business friendly state ( and some of the traditional industries are still in business--)
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