Jack Shall

About Jack Shall

I've been a model railroader and railfan for well over 50 years now. My interests lie in the steam era and the early diesel era. My modeling has been in HO, but I do have a closet interest in Fn3 :-) It's been a number of years since I've done any layout construction, and the new Louisiana Central pike under construction is by far my most ambitious effort. Follow along with me on this new adventure of the Louisiana Central.

LCRR Status Update

A little news concerning the Louisiana Central Railroad: most of you know that my small city suffered a horrific flood back in August of 2016. My home and train building took on about 15″ or so of flood water. My house reconstruction has been long completed, but not so the train building. The carpet, millwork, sheetrock, insulation and cabinets have been removed, and the building has been dried out and sprayed for mildew. But other than roughing in for another 10 or so electrical outlets (might as well take advantage of the opportunity), no restoration work has been done. Truth is, I have really dreaded doing all of the work that will be required, and I’m just “burned out” with construction.

But the urge to resume construction of the Louisiana Central itself is still there, and is perhaps even stronger. As a result, I have taken the first step toward that end.

I had determined long ago that the first order of business was to completely clear the building of everything with the exception of the layout itself. I learned what an enemy drywall installation (and the incredible dust it produces) can be during the house construction. Therefore, everything that isn’t screwed down must be packed away and moved into storage. The building had become a huge warehouse during my home reconstruction. And it took quite awhile to empty it of all the boxes of “stuff” that was stored within. Indeed, there are a handful of household items still out there. And I have been working at removing these things for the past year!

But now it was time to box up all of the railroad stuff. And to that end, I finally got a start several weeks ago. My goal is to get out there several times a week and fill a few boxes, moving them to my garage for storage. I’m making progress, and have packed and stored quite a bit. To be sure there is much left to do, but I can see the progress, and that is encouraging me to persist.

Of course the layout itself can’t be removed. My plan is to try encapsulating it (as well as I can) with the plastic sheets that painters use for that purpose. Fortunately there are no structures or scenery yet (just track and bare benchwork), so I don’t have to worry too much about damage. My biggest concerns are the Tortoise switch machines and the wiring junctions at the various terminal blocks. I’m going to try wrapping the switch motors with plastic wrap, and perhaps also tape this over those wiring junctions. There are also three electrical backboards filled with circuit boards and wiring. I think I can completely encase them in plastic as well.

Once all of this is done, I’ll start the process of re-insulating the lower walls, and then hanging the sheetrock. The latter will be tricky, as I have to work behind the layout legs and bracing. I may be able to temporarily remove the bracing though since all screws are accessible from the outside.

And that’s where things stand at the Louisiana Central.


The Susquehanna

And now for something completely different: For today’s offering I thought I’d take a little break from the weekly posts featuring Jack Delano images.

In 1980 Carstens Publications produced the book titled Susquehanna – New York, Susquehanna & Western RR. Shown here is the cover for that book, a beautiful photograph by the late Hal Carstens. I always loved this cover shot, and thought I’d investigate it a bit more. The book explains the scene inside the cover, and also has another shot taken on a different day, along with a bit more of the story.

It’s May of 1956 and the NYS&W (known locally as the Suzie Q) was running this short passenger train headed up by an Alco RS1 locomotive. The train has paused at the Crystal Lake depot in New Jersey, having come from Butler. The road’s fleet had formerly been painted in an elegant gray and maroon, but eventually adapted this austere silver scheme with black lettering and handrails. The combine is an ex-Erie Stillwell type painted to match their new Budd cars.

NYS&W Passenger Train - Crystal Lake, NJ

Crystal Lake was a resort area, and the building seen to the right of the station was the Crystal Lake Inn. It accommodated picnickers and bathers who would ride the Susquehanna from Patterson. Crystal Lake was man made, and it disappeared during the mid 1950s when the dam containing it finally collapsed. The station itself survived until the mid 1960s.

There are several interesting details in the scene, including the coal bin next to the depot, and the wig-wag grade crossing signals. Of note is Carsten’s automobile, a Studebaker Commander wearing the old Susquehanna colors, which the book says he wished he still owned.

White River Productions acquired the assets of Carstens Publications several years ago. I’ve noted that they are still offering this book for sale.


Departing Chicago on the B&O

A Baltimore and Ohio passenger train is seen departing Union Station in Chicago. It will travel via the Alton Road to St. Louis.

It’s a cold wintry night in January of 1943, and evidence of snowfall coming through the roof ventilation openings is seen on the tracks and platforms. Note the illuminated and raised platform between the tracks, the rest of the structure being rather dark and foreboding.

Photo by Jack Delano

B&O Passenger Train Departing

The Conductor’s Desk

For me, the caboose has always been one of the most interesting places to explore in railroading. Until generally the last decade or so of their usage on freight trains, a caboose was typically assigned to a specific conductor.  As such, they were often “accessorized” and decorated at the whim of the conductor, sometimes with help from his brakeman. Photographer Jack Delano captured this caboose image in January, 1943.

The scene is inside an Indiana Harbor Belt caboose, featuring the conductor’s work desk.  It’s a splendid study of the workspace that’s used by the boss of the train.  There are the usual railroad supplied appurtenances such as the oil lamp, the rack that holds rule books, timetables and other paperwork, and the wall mounted gauge which displays the train line air pressure.  Then there are the personal touches such as the pin-up photos, a thermometer, a couple cartoons, and even some photographs of (perhaps) the conductor’s pet dog.  Note the pencil holder tacked to the book rack, and the blackout applied to part of the lamp shade.  I wish we could tilt up the desk surface to reveal what is stored in its compartment. It’s one of those photos that begs to be studied, and doing so reveals a wealth of interesting detail.

IHB Caboose Conductor's Desk

Inside a “New” Cab

George Bertino is at the controls in the cab of his diesel freight locomotive ready to pull out of the AT&SF yard in Winslow, Arizona. Judging by the year of the photo, and the wear and tear in the cab, this is likely an EMD model FT locomotive.

Mr. Bertino is apparently a veteran of steam locomotives as evidenced by his dress in traditional overalls. Note the sleeve protectors, not usually necessary in this new environment.

This scene was captured by Jack Delano in March of 1943.

Cab of ATSF Freight Diesel

The Emporia Junction Tower

We’re heading back east now, with California far behind in the distance . . . indeed, we’re well into Kansas. Our Santa Fe train is passing by the AT&SF’s Emporia Junction tower located a bit east of the yard in Emporia, Kansas. The track crossing our main belongs to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway (the Katy). This photograph is taken just inside of a wye, of which the northern extension is the start of the line up to Topeka. If one looks closely, the east leg of the wye can be barely discerned just past the signal bridge. The date is March of 1943.

Photo by Jack Delano

AT&SF Emporia Junction Tower

The Section Gang

The railroad infrastructure is a very maintenance intensive operation in itself. In the days before the mechanization that we see now, this work was done by manual labor. Track and bridge maintenance was a daily chore on railroads, and the track was divided into sections, each under the responsibility of a section gang, that is, a group of workers charged with maintaining their assigned area of track.

Jack Delano was traveling out west in March of 1943, where he documented some of the sights along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. In this image we see an Indian section gang aligning the track in the Santa Fe’s yard in Needles, California. More than a dozen workers are struggling to coax the track into it’s proper alignment. Imagine doing this kind of back-breaking work each day!

In the Hole

During his visit to New Mexico in March of 1943, Jack Delano captured this view of AT&SF locomotive #5000 heading up a westbound “extra” freight train. She sits in the siding at Ricardo, New Mexico with her train, waiting patiently for an opposing eastbound train. Note the crew members on the opposite side of the mainline. They will inspect the eastbound train as it passes. The engineer will do the same from the fireman’s perch up in the cab of the 5000.

The 5000 was a 2-10-4 Texas type locomotive built by Baldwin in 1930. Nicknamed the “Madame Queen”, she was the prototype for, and remains unique to it’s class. She still exists, and is on display in Amarillo, Texas.

AT&SF Freight Train, Ricardo, NM

Repairs to CN&W #2808

In December of 1943 Chicago and Northwestern 2-8-4 steam locomotive #2808 was found in the shops undergoing repairs. The Berkshire was of the class J-4, and was built by Brooks in August of 1927. She was scrapped in 1950.

Railroads employed a huge force of shop workers to keep the iron horses in running order. When a locomotive entered the shop, it became a beehive of activity to repair and adjust the locomotive so it could be placed back in service as quickly as possible.

Photo by Jack Delano

C&NW Locomotive #2808 Under Repair

Comparing the Time

In March of 1943, during his visit to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Jack Delano photographed conductor George E. Burton and engineer J.W. Edwards comparing time before pulling out of Corwith Yard in Chicago for their run to Chillicothe, Illinois. Accurate time is vital for train operations, and the conductor will synchronize his watch with an “official” clock prior to a run. The crew members will verify that their watches are matching his watch as well.

Comparing the Time

The Yardmaster’s Office

It’s a cold winter’s afternoon in December of 1942. Though it’s only 3:32 p.m., it looks pretty dark and dreary outside. We’re in the Yardmaster’s office located in the Chicago and North Western’s North Proviso receiving yard in Chicago, Illinois. It’s obvious we’re well into the war effort with all the photos and posters on the wall. There are a couple telephones: a typical “split style” desk phone (modified to hang the desk phone back on the wall), and one of those even newer desk phones at the Yardmaster’s right hand. The old stove is keeping those coffee cans on it’s top warm and dry.

Photos like this are fascinating to study, as there is usually a wealth of detail to discern, some of which enables the viewer to better understand the time at which the image was captured.

Photo by Jack Delano

C&NW Yardmaster's Office, Chicago, Ill

Lining the Route

Jack Delano visited the AT&SF interlocking tower at Isleta, New Mexico in March of 1943. Shown here is the tower operator lining the route for an approaching train. Each of those levers controls the route through a track switch and it’s attendant signal in the maze of trackwork below. The board above him shows the track diagram of everything under his control.

At left one can see just a bit of a wall mounted telephone, and below that the wye shaped pole used to pass orders to a train crew. At right the ladder for servicing the train order signal can be seen through the window.

Lining the Route, ATSF Interlocking