A Lehigh and Hudson River Railway Scrapbook

The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway

"A Day In The Life..."

In 1961, my father, George Feldner, spent the better part of a day accompanying the Warwick yard drill crew performing their daily duties. He had talked to officials of the L&HR, and interviewed the crew he was spending the day with. The following is the result of that day's effort.

I was 14 at the time, and accompanied him for the day. It wasn't a very long trip to the yards - we lived a half-block away from the Elm Street crossing, and, by local streets, just around the corner from the yards, shops, and the 'Club 94'.

A couple of footnotes:

This account was written before the L&HR bought their Alco C-420's, and just after the Erie and Delaware Lackawanna & Western merger, creating the Erie-Lackawanna.

An early result of the merger was a loss of the Port Morris traffic, shortly after this was written. With the merger the DL&W, via the Erie connection to Maybrook, didn't need the L&HR for access any longer. In a way, the loss of the Port Morris traffic was the 'beginning of the end' for the Lehigh and Hudson River Ry.

If It had been a "normal" day, the Warwick drill crew would have been at their task of sorting westbound cars soon after they reported on duty at 11 a.m. But like all normal days, this one started with a problem; no engine. An engine failure had side-lined the unit that should have gone to work, With two other units of the thirteen Alco road switchers that move the traffic for the Lehigh and Hudson River in for inspections, the crew would have to wait for a unit that could be pulled off a westbound run coming in from Maybrook.

While we waited for the engine to come in, we made ourselves comfortable in the yard office, designated on the end door as 'Club 94'. The name Itself led to a story; retired caboose number 94 serves as the yard office, parked at the end of the scale track. Before It served Its years as a caboose, it had been a busy milk car on this road that was a pioneer in the milkhauling business. I also had some time to learn a little about the routine of the office from affable James Bellarosa, the yard clerk, and to get acquainted with the crew whose work I would be observing. There was Jack Rader, the yard conductor, whose spryness and sharp wit gave no hint of his 49 years of service; the two brakemen, Johnny Houston and Lew Brown, formerly New Haven men; Frank Conklin and Bailey Paffenroth, engineer and fireman respectively.

The background of this switching operation had been sketched for me in an earlier conversation with Superintendent Paul W, Early. Prior to January, 1959, classification of westbound movements had been done at Maybrook by the New Haven, under contract. Since the Lehigh Is principally a bridge route serving as a funnel for freight into New England, receiving its eastbound traffic from the Erie-Lackawanna at Port Morris, N, J., the CNJ at Allentown and the Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley at Phillipsburg, N, J. and destined almost entirely for the New Haven, there is only a negligible amount of handling of these movements, However, the reverse movement westbound necessitates blocking the majority of the cars received from the New Haven. When the official decision was made to handle this work at Warwick, it called for some revision of the Warwick yard. The east throat was raised to give a slight descending grade and seveval tracks were added in the readily available space. From the remarks of both President Harold J. Quinlan and Superintendent Early, the results have more than justified the operating change*

While we were talking In the yard office, No. 32, from Port Morris, rolled in, stopping long enough to change crews and was off to Maybrook with her cars from the Nickel Plate, Erie-Lackawanna and Wabash for the New Haven. Following close behind 32 was EO-2, another story that Is on the lips of Lehigh men from President Quinlan down, This is the return train for the new pride of the line, the JET-1, Initiated May 15, 1961. The JET-1 starts out on the New Haven from Boston, Providence and New Haven as the "Yankee Jet'; the Lehigh picks it up at Maybrook and wheels it down the line in two and a half houvs, to turn it over to the Pennsy for a second morning delivery In Chicago. She is all forwarder traffic and piggybacks, a real "hot-shot", and treated as such by everyone connected with her on this road.

While EO-2 changed crews and dropped off some local cars, one of the east end shuttles headed in on track 3 with 58 cars for our crew to shuffle. As soon as the shuttle cleared the main E0-2 took off for Maybrook.

At 12:45 No. 31 headed Into the yard from Maybrook, holding the main. She brought no work for the yard, since she had been classified at Maybrook for direct delivery to the Erie-Lackawanna at Port Morris. But before leaving, the lead engine, No. 6, was replaced by No. 10 from the earlier shuttle, and gave us the engine we needed.

With the departure of 31 and the missing essential present,the crew was ready to pitch into their day's work. Before the shuttle had arrived from Maybrook, the yard clerk had received a tentative listing of the consist from the main office. As the train had rolled into the yeard, Bellarosa stood at the throat copying the reporting marks of the cars rolling by, and the rear brakeman had passed him the waybills as the hack rolled by. Back In "Club 94" he quickly went to work identifying the road to which each car would be consigned alongside Its number on his list. This task finished, he pulled out a drill slip and went into a huddle with Rader. The first consideration was the condition of the yard; track 2 held a string of cars for the east end local which wouldn't be due out until eleven, while track 7 held some locals and empties for line deliveries. Since the 58 cars which had come in were already blocked with 32 for the CNJ and 26 for the E-L, the moves were simple. The 26 were cut off and shoved in track 4, while the CNJ cars were left in 3, Since the next shuttle wasn't expected until almost two, this gave the crew enough time to cut four empty box-cars that had been ordered for industries along the line and would go out on the westbound ("Andover") local around 11:30. These were set in 7 with the other local cars.

At 1.50 the next shuttle from Maybrook headed in on track 1 with 85 cars; this was over the capacity of the track so the crew doubled 15 cars back into track 5. Now the work was to begin In earnest and the tempo would increase, This string was not preblocked and contained cars headed for the Lehigh Valley, B&O, Pennsylvania and the CNJ, and time became a factor. The crew for OA-1, the Central States Despatch for Allentown, was already called for 3:40 and it was up to Rader and his crew to see that she was ready to roll on time. Not only did this require blocking by road, but the blocks also had to be in specified order; Valley loads for Buffalo and beyond on the head end, followed by loads for the B&0 to Cumberland and beyond, and filled out with loads and empties for the CNJ.

While two carmen were bleeding the air from the train, Bellarosa and Rader were setting up the first drill slip. The conductor decided to put the B&O's on 2, on top of the east end local cars, the Pennsy's on 7, and the Valley cars on 6, while the CNJ's would go with those already in 3. By this time the drill slip was ready for the fifteen cars in track 5. The slip listed the car number, its destination by road, and the track in which it would go. The last column was repeated twice more. Rader cut the list apart; the left side listing the car numbers went to the "pin man", Houston, who would make the cuts. He kept one of the duplicated lists for himself as switchman, and gave the other to Brown, who would be the "field man". Meanwhile the engine crew had brought the 15 cars up to the lead from track 5.

As the men went at their task another phase of modern railroading evidenced itself; Rader carried with him a portable radio as he stationed himself alongside the lead. The Lehigh has been completely radio-equipped since 1957 and the installation showed one side of its versatility. The engine was east of the Elm Street crossing, out of sight of the field crew, but passing of hand signals was unnecessary. Rader merely opened his transmittter and called the engineer with a simple "Give her a shot." As soon as his practiced eye judged the speed to be sufficient, and as Houston pulled the pin on the cut, a simple "Hold it' stopped the rest of the string and the first cut of seven cars rolled toward track 2, followed In quick succession by a cut of two for 3, another two for 7, and three for track 6. As the first cut rolled into each track Brown caught them and set the handbrakes when they reached the end of the roll; in effect it made a bumper for each successive cut that was to come in each track.

By the time the first string was out of the way, Bellarosa had the drill list ready for the 17 cars ahead of the caboose; the only change in the pattern would be that one out of six cars for the CNJ would go in track 1 since they would be held for OA-3. So it went, until all 85 cars had been distributed where Rader wanted them, and the only thing left with the engine was the caboose. This went on the caboose track after pulling out caboose No. 10, which was assigned to OA-1. No. 10 was dropped in track 3 behind the CNJ cut that was to go out on the train. The B&O cut was moved from track 5 to track 2, behind the Lehigh Valley string. The crew then went down the main to the west end of the yard, pulled the cars from 2 and put them in track 3. As soon as the coupling was made on the last move the carmen moved out to couple the airhoses, inspect the cars and start pumping up the train line from the air hose connection in the yard. At 3:15, Rader called the office to report OA-1 ready to roll on track 3 with 17 loads and 43 empties.

The remainder of the cars that had come in from Maybrook were classified by road destination to be put in OA-3, due out about 9 p.m. About four o'clock Rader called the dispatcher to get a line on AO-4, coming up from Allentown. She had been delayed by mechanical trouble and was to meet OA-1 at Vernon, N.J. With this information, he knew that he had time to do his local work in Warwick. There was a B&0 box to be spotted at the freight house, four empties to be pulled from the two house tracks and a load to be transferred from the house track to the lumber yard on the opposite side of the main. Back at the yard at 4:30, the crew rearranged the consist for the east end local, to provide the required separation between a couple of cars labeled "Dangerous" and "Explosive."

AO-4 pulled up at the west end of the yard at 4:50. The engines were cut off there to allow them to come up the engine house lead and drop off the troublesome unit. While this was going on the yard crew was keeping busy picking up an empty covered hopper from a feed-store track and getting another empty from a transit-mix plant behind the shops. Both cars were stored in track 3 for OA-3.

As AO-4 cleared the yards with her 74 cars for Maybrook, the return on No. 31 showed up with eleven cars. These were to be turned over to the E-L at Greycourt, so they went in on the east end local on track 2, That completed the work on that train and she would be ready for her crew later In the evening with 22 cars for Greycourt and 15 for Maybrook.

Now came a quiet spell, since the rest of the work for the day would have to await the return shuttle from AO-4; the crew took advantage of the lull to dig into the welcome lunch pails, while the clerk worked on his consist sheet for OA-1. It was an intriguing cross-section of American railroading and industry to note the contents and destinations of the loads; waste paper to Niagara Falls, cat food to Buffalo, felt to Erie, brass to Los Angeles, liquor to Portland, Oregon, razor blades to Chicago, paper to Shelby, Ohio, and Hungington, W, Va,, books to Millbrae, California.

The last shuttle showed at 6.55 with 60 cars, These would go to either OA-3 or the "Andover local," On this operation, Rader used track 5 for the CNJ'S, 6 for the Lehigh Valley and Erie-Lackawanna's in 4. The cars for OA-3 had their own order again, with the Lehigh Valleys at the head end, followed by Pennsylvania and CNJ's in that order. The local would carry empties at the head end for spotting at lineside industries, followed by E-L cars for Port Morris.

When the classification had been completed the caboose was put in track 5 and the crew moved again to the west end of the yard. Since the Allentown train was too long for any one track, the Valley and Pennsy cars were put in track 3. It was dark now and the electric switch stand lights twinkled at us as we finished assembing the local on track 4.

We headed back to the main office, where I said good night to the trainmen as they went in to report off duty as Conklin and Leinweber took the engine back to the house. As I left the yard, all was quiet except for the chuckle of OA-3's engines as they awaited departure time; the caboose for the Jet stood lonely on the east end of track 1. Another day was completed for the Warwick drill crew, performing their vital work for an important little link in our transportation network.

Used with the permission of the author.