A Turn Of the Century Conductor Remembers: (Pine Plains and the Railroads)
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Vol. 4: Pine Plains and the Railroads

Bicentennial Publication

By: Lyndon A. Haight

§11 A Turn Of the Century Conductor Remembers

Nathan (Nate) Blodgett, a former conductor on the CNE, substantiates some of the history given here and adds a bit of color. Nate went to work for the Poughkeepsie and Eastern in October 1906, when he was twenty years old. Here is some of his story in his own words:

"At Boston Corners, the P&E connected with both the ONE and the Harlem Division of the New York Central. All of these used the same station, which no longer exists. The Harlem was on the east side of the station, the CNE on the west side. The P&E tracks were west of the ONE and there was a footbridge which ran between the CNE and the P&E. Joseph T. Lee, agent for the New York Central, was also agent for the P&E. Philip Roberts was agent for the CNE. Sometime after the P&E became part of the New Haven System, Lee was also their agent and Phil Roberts was night operator. While the P&E was operating, before being sold to the New Haven, it was owned by Russell Sage, the financier. The general offices were on Cottage Street, near Smith Street, in Poughkeepsie. Charles Hicks was Superintendent and George Smith was Master Mechanic. There was a wye a quarter of a mile west of the Boston Corners station, on the P&E, where a two-coach passenger train could turn. There was a building where a two-coach train and an engine could be backed in. for overnight storage, which put the engine directly under a stack in the roof. There was an underground pipeline with a hose which could be connected to the steam hose on the rear of the engine tank. This pipeline ran to a pumping house to operate a steam pump used to fill a storage tank from the nearby brook. The CNE had a water tank of their own just west of the station, but the NYC didn't have one and some nights their engines would come up and take on water at the P&E tank."


"My first month on the P&E was spent caring for the engine and duties connected with that job. Then there was an opening for a brakeman on the train that tied up at Boston Corners. A man named Purdy Miller, who lived in Ancram Lead Mines, later Ancramdale, who had been a P&E fireman, got the braking job and then arranged to swap jobs with me so we were both happy. We ran a two-car passenger train leaving Boston Corners at 7:15 A.M. and arrived in Poughkeepsie at 8:45A.M. Then leave Poughkeepsie at 10:50 AM. with five milk cars and a combination mail-express, baggage and passenger car for Boston Corners. The Milk cars were from New York City via the Hudson Division of the New York Central. One car was set off at Pleasant Valley, one at Beake's Dairy at Clinton Corners, two at Borden's at Pine Plains and one at Borden's at Ancram Lead Mines. We would return from Boston Corners with just the combine, handling mail, express and passengers. Had a mail clerk, George Fitchett and an American Express messenger, John Rose. Another crew, conductor George Lown, engineer Pat Delaney, ran a mixed train round trip between Poughkeepsie and Boston Corners and return. They handled the loaded milk cars back to Poughkeepsie for delivery to the New York Central. Our last trip left Poughkeepsie 4:00 P.M. with combine and coach for Boston Corners

"Weed Mine was on the CNE, not P&E. It was halfway between Boston Corners and Copake. It owned the mine at Ore Hill and the furnaces at East Canaan where the ore was smelted up and became pig iron. The Weed mine was not operated for 28 years and was pumped out, a spur track put in and the mine reopened. It was not really productive, two or three cars per week. Ore Hill produced about two cars of iron ore and Amenia one which was moved via the Harlem to Boston Corners for delivery at East Canaan over the CNE."


Nate gives a little insight on the freight service of the CNE. He writes:

"You refer to trains 34 or 35. These numbers were later changed to 194 and 195. I have run these trains. These trains were not fast freights but more of a pick-up. Westbound we did work at Tariffville, Simsbury, Winsted, Canaan, and Stissing Junction where we would set off cars for Beacon which would be picked up by the Beacon local. The tonnage ratings for F3 and F4 engines were 515 tons Hartford to Winsted, 375 tons Winsted to Norfolk, 565 tons Canaan to State Line and 900 tons State Line to Poughkeepsie Junction or, as it was later called, 88 110. For many years a pusher crew was maintained at Canaan and often they went to Simsbury to help westbounds, usually to State Line. This crew also often went to Poughkeepsie to help eastbounds to Norfolk Summit. The tonnage rating out of Maybrook was 1400 to Poughkeepsie, 1000 tons to Hopewell, 950 tons Poughkeepsie to Canaan, 500 tons Canaan to Summit and 1000 tons Summit to Hartford.

"I ran a job during World War I which was called the Northampton Extra. Danbury and Waterbury yards were so congested that this stuff was diverted over the CNE, Maybrook to Simsbury. I had engines 112 and 114, F3's, Engineers Billy Shove and Ike 'Baldy' Wilcox. We would have 1500 tons out of Maybrook which would be a three-engine train out of Canaan, so the pusher Engineer Harry Dodge would push us to the Summit. We would set the whole train off at Simsbury for a NHRR crew to take to Northampton, Massachusetts, and we would go to Hartford with just the engine and caboose. Westbound we would run light Hartford to Simsbury where we would pick up 35 empties for Maybrook, fill to 50 cars at Canaan and go on to Maybrook. 194 and 195 was a three-crew job. We went to Hartford to Maybrook one night and Maybrook to Hartford the next night, then had a night off as the third crew would take a round trip. I don't recall having a pusher west out of Highland, but we did have them east a lot. We would come out of Maybrook with 1400 tons and cut to 1000 if going to Hopewell single or fill to 1900 and get a pusher out of Poughkeepsie. Mainline eastbounds would cut to 950 tons single or fill to 1800 double, Highland to Canaan; 500 single or 1000 double, Canaan to Summit.

"There was a turntable at Highland so engines were turned. Hopewell yard was the terminal for the Highland Division of the New Haven and there were several switchers working there as well as pushers for eastbound trains. The CNE had four regular crews working west out of there, as well as the extras turning there. We had a wye for turning our engines. The old ND&C used to be from State Line to Fishkill Landing, later Beacon, through Millerton, over Winchell Mountain, through Pine Plains, Stissing Junction, Millbrook, and Hopewell Jct. There was a wye at State Line one leg leading into Millerton, another through Mt. Riga to Boston Corners and on west. At one time the Bull Moose would bring a train to State Line. (Note: Bull Moose engines were not allowed east of State Line because of their weight.) An extra crew in Canaan, the Roustabout, would deliver westbounds to State Line and move the eastbounds from there, as they could, as their rating was less than the Moose. There was a siding at State Line where a train could be set off and picked up.

"When I first went to Maybrook, there were two flat classification setups, east and west. Then the two humps were built. There were 92 miles of sidetracks and 14 yard engines working there. For many years the CNE cabooses were four-wheelers but in my later years we had some double truck cabooses. I had one on the Northampton Extra for a while and also on 194 and 195.

"One thing I nearly overlooked. After a time the Hopewell branch was rebuilt and the grades at Manchester Bridge and Didell east of Brigg's sidings were cut down so that F3's or F4's could handle 1400 tons Maybrook to Hopewell. In order to make the grade between Poughkeepsie and Poughkeepsie Junction a signal was installed at the east end of Poughkeepsie Bridge and a phone booth 400 feet on the bridge where the conductor would ask Poughkeepsie Operator for clearance. The operator had to be positive track was clear through the yard before clearing the signal so that the train could come off the bridge at top speed in order to get up grade to the junction (SS 110).

"The P&E between Ancram Lead Mines and Boston Corners was used by all through freight service because the grade was not as heavy as between Copake and Boston Corners. The local freights between Canaan and Maybrook used the route through Copake, Ancram, and Silvernails to Pine Plains Junction, then over the P&E. The latter did not have a right of way between Pine Plains Junction and Stissing Junction. They ran over the ND&C. Silvernails was the junction for the Rhinecliff Branch which connected with the New York Central at Rhinecliff."

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The Ancram Station about 1926 (V04-41.GIF)

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