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

Watching the Train

During his visit on Conductor Burton’s caboose in March of 1943, Jack Delano photographed the rear brakeman, Walter V. Dew, watching the train from the cupola. We’re on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad between Chicago and Chillicothe, Illinois.

The Westinghouse train line air pressure gauge is reading 74 pounds. Note the modified King Edward cigar box on the cupola bulkhead above the gauge, containing what appears to be C&NW timetables. A couple more cigar boxes aside the cupola seats have been provided to hold various other paperwork.

Walter Dew, Brakeman, AT&SF Railroad