Category Archives: New Haven Railroad

The “Beacon Line” In Miniature


Rolls of newsprint are loaded off the dock at the Smith Street rail yard in David Todd Magill’s basement display.

The Poughkeepsie Journal on January 2018 published a great article:

Engineer railroad lover rebuilds Poughkeepsie’s past – in miniature

As trains pass through the Poughkeepsie Train Station on their way to the next destination, their sonorous chimes echo across the city. For longtime residents of the area, the railroads that border the Hudson River are as integral to the Hudson Valley as the waterway itself.

It was the local locomotive industry that drew David Todd Magill to his model train passion. As a child growing up in Poughkeepsie, Magill first fell in love with trains at the age of 4.

Starting young: David Todd Magill is show in 1977 at the Smith Street yard in Poughkeepsie in this photo taken by his grandfather.

The railroad yard, where freight trains dropped off newsprint for the Poughkeepsie Journal, was just a short walk away from Magill’s grandparents’ house on that same street. During visits there, the railroad crew would let him sit in the train cars.

A model freight train on its way to Maybrook is shown heading into Poughkeepsie in David Todd Magill’s basement display.

“That was the first place I got a ride on a locomotive,” he said.

Around the time of that first ride, he received his first electric train set and began building model trains from kits. He stuck with the hobby throughout high school, often toting home supplies such as plywood and tracks.

A freight train is shown passing under Route 9W in Highland in David Todd Magill’s basement display.

After graduating Poughkeepsie High School in 1991, Magill got a job with the railroad, then known as Conrail, in 1992. It was due largely to his relationships with the staff at the Poughkeepsie Train Station, where he was a frequent visitor.

“When I got out of high school, they made sure I had a job,” he said.

Today, the Selkirk resident works as an engineer for Amtrak and looks forward to celebrating his 27th anniversary as a railroad employee in May. He enjoys his job so much that he incorporates his passion into his downtime as well.

A model freight train heads across the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge in David Todd Magill’s basement display.

For Magill, building model trains is more than just a hobby. It’s a family bonding experience, an opportunity to de-stress and an extension of the career he enjoys.

“It’s therapeutic,” he said.

Whether he’s jamming out to ’70s tunes while building sets or operating the line with friends, he relishes the tranquil beauty of his model world. Between operating mini trains at home and riding around on them for work, Magill is one happy camper.

“I don’t consider my job that I do work because I love what I do,” he said. “It makes getting up and going to work very easy.”

As a railroader for more than 25 years and a model train enthusiast for the majority of his life, Magill has discovered his personal happiness equation. Yet that does not mean he is content to rest on his laurels — he already has plans to expand his setup.

“I’m planning on doing a second level,” he said.

He hopes to include spots such as Hopewell Junction, Danbury and Clintondale, all of which were significant points on the Maybrook Line. Magill estimates the additions will take him another year or two to complete.

Regardless of how many tweaks he makes, Poughkeepsie and the railroad bridge will remain at the core of it.

“It’s my hometown,” he said.



Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard versus NewHaven’s Cedar Hill Yard

Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard

Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska, is the largest railroad classification yard in the world. It was named in honor of former Union Pacific President Edd H. Bailey. If the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers were to play here, they’d have enough room for 2,800 football fields. This massive yard covers 2,850 acres, reaching a total length of eight miles, well beyond the borders of North Platte, a community of 25,000 citizens. Put end-to-end, Bailey Yard’s 315 miles of track would reach from North Platte in western Nebraska east past Omaha on the Iowa border along the Missouri River. Every 24 hours, Bailey Yard handles 10,000 railroad cars. Of those, 3,000 are sorted daily in the yard’s eastward and westward yards, nicknamed “hump” yards. Using a mound cresting 34 feet for eastbound trains and 20.1 feet for those heading west, these two hump yards allow four cars a minute to roll gently into any of 114 “bowl” tracks where they become part of trains headed for dozens of destinations. Together, these two yards have 18 receiving and 16 departure tracks.

New Haven’s Cedar Hill Yard

When Cedar Hill Railyard in New Haven,CT.was built it was 880 acres,154 Miles of track,& could hold 15,000 railcars. Are the new railyards built now just as large or larger?Cedar Hill was big but it was not a really modern yard by today’s standards. Three separate retarder towers all had to be manned when-ever they were humping cars and this was on two different humps if bothhumps were operating. The tracks ran around rivers and waterways, the tracks in the departure yards were too short for modern trains, the yard was very labor intensive and it took too many people in order to operate this facility. Last, the biggest reason that the yard is pretty much not used today is because New Haven is no longer used for through freight trains. The freight bound for New England is mostly off CSX through themodern facility at Selkirk and via the B & A which connects with the former New Haven at a number of locations. Many modern freight cars today can’t even get into Cedar Hill due to clearance restrictions, low bridges, overhead wires and tunnels are the biggest problems. During the New Haven Railroad days and into the Penn Central period as well, New Haven and Cedar Hill was a huge freight hub for southern New England. Today it is a stub end terminal from Springfield with a lesser operation via the P & W from Worcester via Norwich. Years ago there were 20 or more yard jobs on each shift, today there are around 3 jobs left in the whole terminal

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Is a Tool Train a Wreck Train?

The “Big Hook” on the New Haven was referred to as the “Tool Train”.

Penn Central used the work Wreck. What a surprise. On the New Haven Railroad trains were never wrecked they DERAILED, Collided or overturned but never WRECKED.

A “Big Hook” served the New Haven under steam on Penn Central at least until 1975 when it was utilized at a 12 car derailment north of Windsor, Connecticut. It also had been used in 1970 at a Branford, Connecticut derailment.

At the inception of Penn Central, a New Haven Big Hook was immediately hijacked and shipped to Altoona, Pennsylvania. The New Haven had three 230-ton cranes and the mighty Pennsylvania had nothing that big.

Now, the better track and the emergence of contract wreck clean-up outfits like “Hulcher’s Vultures” had reduced the need for the big hooks, although Guilford maintains a “wreck train” of sorts with a hook, which still sees occasional use.

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Great Movie of New York Central and New Haven Trains in 1961


If you like trains in the New York City and Connecticut area, like New York Central Railroad, and/or like New Haven Railroad, like “old” (well, 1961 was not “old” for a lot of us; then you cannot miss this movie.


Above: New Haven electric locomotive on Park Avenue viaduct.


Above: New Haven MU train at Stamford (the station before the old station)


Above: New Haven “Washboard Electrics” at Stamford


Mail train (called M&E for mail and express) on the West Side Freight Line headed for the General Post Office on 8th Avenue. Motive Power is RS3’s. The old R Motors that used to haul these went to the South Shore.


Above is a NY Central “P Motor” at the 125th Street Station.. These were the BIG electrics that came from Cleveland when they took out power into/out of Cleveland Union Terminal. None of these were preserved.


Above is…

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