Bob Murphy's New Haven Railroad

Bob Murphy's New Haven Railroad Photo Gallery

Above: A New Haven freight heads south through Plainfield, CT, on Bob Murphy's New Haven Railroad. Photo Credit: Jim Spavins

Above: An overview of Worcester yard on the layout. Photo Credit: Jim Spavins

Below: A New Haven freight heads north into Putnam past the power plant. Photo Credit: Jim Spavins

Above: Trains are lined up to depart Putnam as a southbound rolls by the yard. Photo Credit: Jim Spavins

Below: A freight heads south through Webster on its way to Putnam, CT. Photo Credit: Jim Spavins

Article By: Bob Murphy

My New Haven Railroad is a model of my past. My father was a conductor and a trainmaster for the New Haven. One of my earliest memories is going with my father to the Wallingford Center Street crossing tower to pick up his check. There was no direct deposit back in those days. My father also took me along with him when he when to work on the Airline (The New Haven line that went from New Haven to Middletown) We left early in the morning and came back late at night. I can remember switching the New Haven Trap Rock plant (as it was called then) in East Wallingford, the Middletown yard, and the CL&P coal fired power plant in Middletown. It was quite a day. (I was only 5 or 6 at the time). He also took me with him when he was a trainmaster in Cedar Hill, Waterbury and Bridgeport. His territory included the Waterbury Branch and part of the Maybrook Line.

My layout captures many of these memories. It measures 25 X 32 feet, has two large yards, a Boston and Maine interchange, a branch line and features custom painted New Haven equipment. The New haven ran substantial length trains on its Maybrook, Shoreline and Hartford lines so I also wanted the ability to run trains of 25 to 30 cars.

Although the track plan changed several times over the last 8 years, I maintained certain design features that was important to me.

Contrary to what the experts advise, I did not draw a formal track plan. I used a ¼ inch scale house foundation drawing to locate and size the major curves and yards. I then connected the curves with straight runs or s curves that looked good to me. I have always had the ability to see the railroad in my mind and build it with out the use of plans. If I came up with a better plan in my mind, I ripped up what I had built. This happened more than once and is probably was the reason the railroad is just reaching completion. I found that you really do not know if a track plan will work for you until you operate it.

Construction began in 1998 with lumber left over from our new house. As a result, the bench work is very sturdy and consists of mostly 2x4’s or larger sizes. The good lumber was used first so by the time the latter sections were built, the lumber consisted of 2x6’s which had been used for concrete forms. By the end, I had to break down and buy some lumber! Despite the questionable building materials and my questionable carpentry skills, the bench work has performed well, the track is still level and is not suffering from warping of the benchwork or other failures.

The trackwork and most of the switches are Atlas code 83 which I believe offers good realism and performance at a reasonable price. The roadbed is either homemade homasote or cork. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Mainline passing siding turnouts are powered by Rix or Atlas undertable switch machines. Yards and industrial sidings use caboose ground throws, surface mounted slide switches or under table mounted slide switches.

Train control is by a standard DC block system. Because of the single track mainline, the blocks can be logically located and therefore the DC block system is not an impediment to operation. I have two main line cabs with walk around memory throttles than allow operators to follow their trains. There are also 3 yard throttles; one for each of the two yards and one for the B&M interchange. Finally, there is memory walk around throttle for the branch line.

Each yard has a separate control panel and there is a centrally located mainline control panel. A dispatcher controls all mainline blocks and passing siding turnouts from this panel. All of the passing sidings have operating signals indicating the turnout position. The signals can be seen from the control panel so the dispatcher can see the turnout positions.

In all it takes 7 operators to run the entire railroad although I can run the mainline myself from the mainline control panel. The operating concept is for a train to be made up in one yard with one of the yard cabs, a mainline operator then takes the train out the yard with the mainline cab and travels the mainline to the other yard. While on the mainline, the dispatcher controls train movements with the block control and passing siding turnout position. A mainline operator can travel on the mainline until the train is routed into a passing siding with a red signal indicating a turnout is thrown against him. The system works quite well and is a lot of fun.

Not much operator training is required. Operators are told they can keep the train moving until they encounter a red signal. Despite this simple instruction, operators still run red signals. It is amazing that even when there is only one rule, it is still broken. Of course, this is all part of the fun.

The railroad has typical New England scenery with plenty of trees. Most of the hills are conversed with poly fill forests. I start with standard white ploy foam set in thinned wet latex paint. I then spray paint the poly fill black and while the paint is wet, I cover it with Woodland Scenic fine weeds. I then add a layer of course dark green turf. This system is inexpensive and fast. The trees are not very detailed but I achieved the affect of New England tree covered hills. I am working on adding more detailed weed trees to the foreground areas of the poly fill forests.

The scenery is mostly plaster and paper over a cardboard web support. I do not like the mess involved with mixing plaster and soaking towels so I came up with a different method. I cut up brown paper grocery bags and coat them with drywall compound. A 5 gallon pail costs about 15 dollars and the bags are free. Again inexpensive and fast. (Are you detecting a pattern yet?) The hardshell is not as strong as plaster cloth and it takes much longer to dry. I use plaster cloth in small more detailed areas.

Wiring is not my strong suit but what I installed works and has been very reliable. I pre-wired my control panels used standard 18-22 gauge wire. I then used 14 gauge wire to connect the control panel to the track blocks. Home Depot sells 500 foot spools of 14 gauge wire for less than $20. I went through 1 ½ spools for the entire layout. Because the wire is so large, I can use standard wire nuts to make the connections to the control panel and the track feeders. An added bonus is I can use a staple gun to attach the wire to the benchwork. Again inexpensive and fast.

There are approximately 40 New Haven engines on the layout. I have retired most of my Athearn engines in favor of Atlas, Proto and Walthers. The New Haven freights almost always mixed various engine types and so do I. I routinely run various mixes of Atlas RS11’s, modified GP7’s, RS3’s, Walters FA’s and Bachman FM’s and Proto FA1 dummies. Proto 2000 powered units are run in solid sets. I typically use 3 to 4 units on mainline through freights. Passenger service is provided with Proto PA’s, Atlas FP7’s faking as FL-9’s and Proto GP9’s. All of the passenger cars were built from E&B Valley American flyer kits. There is nothing worse than seeing a New Haven passenger train with Athearn stainless steel equipment.

The branchline was inspired by the Branford Steam Railroad located in Branford CT. It still runs today. Back in the 1960’s, the line used GE 44 tonners to haul trap rock from a quarry in North Branford to an interchange with the New Haven shoreline route and a barge operation at Stoney Creek. When I was 15, A friend and I drove our bikes to North Branford and talked our way into getting a ride in the cab. What struck me about the line was the short trains, sharp curves, steep grades and how it hug the hill sides above Route 80. My branchline was built with the similar features. There is an interchange yard capable of handling about 14 empty hoppers. A 44 tonner bring empties up a 4 % grade with 16” radius turns. Because of the small engine and steep grades, trains are limited to 4 cars. The engine drops the empties at the quarry and picks up 4 loaded hoppers for the return trip. The engine has to make 4 or so trips before all the loads are brought down to the interchange. The track arrangement at the interchange yard and the quarry are not “switching friendly” This was done on purpose to slow down the switching operations and make operators plan their moves.

Well that a summary of the railroad. I hope you enjoyed the visit.-Bob Murphy

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