• A few NYC historical questions

  • Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.
Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by Blillpers
I'm attempting to recreate the old NYC mainline, namely the GCT-Albany section, in a train simulator (OpenRails). I'm trying to create the line as it were in the postwar years of the late 1940s/early 50s, so that both steam and diesel locos can be used. However, it's pretty hard to find period correct information online. In the train sim, I can have aerial photos from Google Earth as a base, and lay down the tracks on top of them. I've laid the tracks all the way from GCT to Poughkeepsie so far. However, while the line propably still follows the same right-of-way today for the most part, the number of tracks and the stations must have changed a lot. I'm using some historic aerial photos I've found online, but they are from the mid 60s, and usually pretty blurry.

For starters, how much of the line were 4-tracks back in the day? As far as I know, parts of the line were reduced to double track starting in the early 60s when automatic block signalling came into use (and traffic levels started to drop?). As far as I've been able to tell, it was a continious 4 tracks as far north as Peekskill. From there on there is a number of banks and bridges that seems to be to narrow to support 4 tracks, but it's very hard to tell on the old aerial photos. Also, it's very hard to find any photos older than from the mid-60s and by then the line may already have been reduced to 2 tracks. So, if anyone knows anything about this, it would be very useful for me. Detailed track plans for the larger stations would also be great, I've not found much online however. Maybe there are some books that have them?

What were the signalling like back then? Had ABS been introduced anywhere yet? Were it mostly color light signals, or did semaphores still remain?

Were speed limits used, or where the engineers allowed to run as fast as they deemed safe? If not I'll just set the limits according to track curvature, but it's always nice to get it right.

What were the track like on the mainline? Had concrete tie been introduced yet, or were it all wooden? Were the rails jointed or had continuous welded rails been introduced?

What were the platform heights like? On the photos I've found from the larger stations, they seem to be higher than modern low-level platforms but still not full height. Were low-level platforms used on minor stations and halts?

Thanks in advance, and sorry if there are some stupid questons, I don't have much historical knowledge about US railroads, but I've been a fan of the NYC RR since my first time in the US when I rode on Amtrak's Lake Shore back in 2016, and I really enjoyed the scenic line up the Hudson, so I've wanted to bring it to the train simulator for quite some time! :-D
  by edbear
Hudson Division Timetable #55, June 7, 1942
Croton on Hudson to Signal Station 37 (MP 40.10 East of Peekskill) - four tracks
Signal Station 37 to Signal Station 43 (MP 47.43 East of Garrison) - two tracks
Signal Station 43 to Signal Station 71 Barrytown - four tracks
Signal Station 71 to Signal Station 98 Rensselaer - two tracks
Automatic Block Signals, probably semaphores in some locations, searchlights in others
Automatic Train Stop in effect Croton-on-Hudson to Rensselaer (and beyond on Mohawk Div)
Speed limit, passenger trains 60 Croton-on-Hudson to Cold Spring MP 51.83, 75 mph beyond
Maximum freight speed 55 mph, some restrictions based on weight of train
Low level platforms, wooden ties
For period information find books by S. Kip Farrington. Railroading from the Head End, Railroading from the Rear End, Railroads at War, Railroads of Today. Col. Farrington worked with railroad public relations departments and told the readers how the railroads operated. They are illustrated with contemporary photos and information on railroad operations. (There are chapters on other railroads too). There might be more than one NYC chapter in a particular book. They are plentiful and cheap.

Wood ties, concrete was just about unknown in the USA at the time. Low level station platforms
  by Blillpers
Thanks, that's very informative!

I was pretty sure about the ties, they were highly experimental over here during that period as well, not becoming anywhere near common until the early/mid 70s. :-)
  by Blillpers
A few more:

- What exactly was a "Signal Station"? Is that a specific NYC term, as I can't find anything when I Google it? Were each signal station staffed and controlled a section of the line (like a UK/European signal box)?

- Were the automatic block signalling set up in the normal direction only, or could trains run on the "wrong" main track if necessary?
  by shlustig
"Signal Station" was an NYC term for a manned interlocking, but was not used exclusively throughout the NYC System.

The Automatic Block Signal system was generally set up for with the current of traffic (Rule 251) while moves against the current of traffic were governed by Manual Block rules. However, there were some locations at which a track could have ABS signals for both directions under Rule 261. The Signal Stations at each end of such trackage had traffic levers which would set the signal system for the desired direction of travel. An example of such a location would be Tower U at GCT to NK on the Park Ave. Viaduct; also NK to MO (Mott Haven) where all 4 tracks were equipped with bi-directional signalling.

Hope this helps.
  by edbear
I think a Signal Station would be a Signal Box in Britain. There was reverse running on the #1 track from Croton-on-Hudson to Signal Station #43, about 13.5 miles. Looking towards New York, Grand Central from the left tracks were numbered 3-1-2-4.
  by jamoldover
For additional detail (although it's a little older than the time period you're looking at modeling) I would suggest looking at the NYC valuation maps for the line. There's a set (from 1920) available through the NMRO's web site (https://www.nmro.org/products.htm - I think it's Track Charts Volume 7. You might also be able to get copies of ones updated to a later date through the NYC Historical Society (https://nycshs.org/)

Note - I have no affiliation with either group, but I've purchased things from both.

With regard to signals, while the set of signal department diagrams I have does have a clearance diagram for high semaphore signals (dated 1938), all of the diagrams from 1951 on are for color light signals only - either the single-light GRS type SA (searchlight type with small targets) or the GRS type G (tri-light type). There wouldn't have been any semaphores left by that time on the main line.