Author Topic: Hazard Powder Company  (Read 15331 times)

Dave Buczkowski

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Hazard Powder Company
« on: February 25, 2010, 12:22:19 AM »
Hi All;
Some of you may recognize my avatar as Col. Augustus G. Hazard, the late founder of the Hazard Powder Company in Hazardville, CT were I grew up. (As an aside, his claim to fame was selling gunpowder to both sides during the Civil War - a true capitalist and war profiteer) As a boy I spent many a day searching the ruins of the various buildings that comprised the complex in Powder Hollow where the Scantic River provided water power through a series of dams. All the dams had been breached by a flood long before I went exploring. Anyway, among the overgrowth was what I remember were a series of canals that I assumed helped power the widely located buildings. They were far apart because every so often one would explode. in fact, the workers had to use wooden soles on their shoes. Thinking back, there could have been a right of away along the canals.
What I never remember seeing were any remains or evidence of a railroad which made sense because of the topography. I never came across anything in my research as a child. So I was more than surprised to discover that there was not only a railway but it was narrow gauge! I found this photo on the web: http://www.cthistoryonline.org/cdm-cho/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/cho&CISOPTR=3662&CISOBOX=1&REC=1. Sorry, it's been a long time since I posted a photo or link so I hope you don't have to cut and paste. I'm not sure what gauge it is.
I'm curious as to any motive power that may have existed. I seriously doubt steam was used because of the fire (and explosion) hazards (no pun intended). The works closed prior to 1910 so diesel wasn't an option. Perhaps battery or animal power was used. At any rate, it would have been only an industrial railroad serving the various works buildings as the grade out was too steep for a railroad to climb out at least in for more than a few miles. There could have been a few miles connecting the widely separated buildings.
Unfortunately much of the area along the river was graded over or disturbed for the installation of a sewer main sometime after the early 1970's so the terrain I once knew has radically been changed. What wasn't disturbed would still be much the same as the area was never developed.
A local businessman, now deceased, had a huge collection of Hazard Powder Company records, photos and memorabilia. I'm hoping it was donated to the local historical society after his death. I hope to follow up with them to see what I can learn.
Dave

John McNamara

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2010, 02:21:32 AM »
I took a look at some of the USGS topo maps available on the UNH site, and neither the 30-minute map surveyed in 1888/1890 nor the 15-minute map surveyed in 1892 show any railroad in Hazardville. There was a New York and New England line that went through nearby Scitico, however. "White Train" anyone?

-John

Dave Buczkowski

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2010, 03:07:13 PM »
John;
The tracks through Scitico were standard gauge and I think are now CV. They served a few factories in the area including Manchester Cement. I wrangled a caboose ride as a kid. The line had fallen into disuse south of what is now Hazard Avenue (are you noticing a theme) when I left to seek my fortune. A few years ago the state poured a lot of money into rebuilding much if not the entire length of the branch. I don't know if its used at all.
As an aside, Connecticut Company trolleys ran up Hazard Avenue. When the road was resurfaced in the 1960's the tracks were still there underneath the asphalt.
I don't get the "White Train" reference.
Dave

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2010, 07:41:53 PM »
Dave,  You should speak to my father in law about the HPC railroad.  As you may know, he grew up in Stafford, CT not far from Hazardville and has been in the area all his life.  He probably knows about the line and may have explored the grounds.  I think his interest in railroads began sometime in the 1950's so he may have gotten over there before your trip.

Stewart

John McNamara

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2010, 10:59:30 PM »
I don't get the "White Train" reference.
Dave
The New York and New England ran a train from Boston to New York in the late 1880s that made the trip in six hours flat. It did this by running on a route called "the airline" that went diagonally across Connecticut. The locomotives gathered their water nonstop using track pans, believed to be their first use in this country. This was actually a pair of trains, one of which left New York at 3 PM and one of which left Boston at 3 PM. The unusual feature was that all of the equipment was painted white, and the interior was decorated in white and gold. Needless to say, there was quite a problem to keep the train clean, and it only lasted in this incarnation for a few years. Reviewing a map of its route, I doubt that it went through Scitico, but the old maps do show the line through that town as being a New York and New England line, which is what got me thinking about the "White Train".
John

Bill Reidy

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2010, 12:36:45 AM »
Dave,

Have you ever heard about the "Flying Dude?"  It was another nineteenth/early twentieth century train.  It ran through my home town.

- Bill
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Bill Sample

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2010, 02:14:02 AM »
Dave, I grew up in Longmeadow MA and had an uncle, Fred DeBell, that lived on S Maple St, just up the hill from the Scantic.  I vaguely remember some of the ruins down there and remember that my uncle or father told me they were from Col Hazard's Powder Works.  I remember a wee bit pre '55 flood and that seem to have swept some of the ruins away along with any remaining dams, also almost washed the S Maple St. bridge away.  A road that went due east from there also was permanently closed sometime after - and maybe due to - the flood.  Always found it interesting how the Colonel's name was related to his working conditions.
Never know of the railroad until you mentioned it.  Guess these utility railroads were almost all over the place, cities and rural areas, serving factories and quarries, and a good many were narrow gauge.

Keith Taylor

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2010, 10:31:54 PM »
Hi All;
 I'm curious as to any motive power that may have existed. I seriously doubt steam was used because of the fire (and explosion) hazards (no pun intended).

Dave...actually they very well may have had steam locomotives! The Apache Powder Co and Dupont and Hercules Powder Co. all used "fireless" steam locomotives. These were not just "thermos bottles" but they actually generate steam. The pressure vessel is filled with heated water and steam, and as the pressure drops, but the temperatures remain high, water boils and turns into steam. We tend to think that water boils at 212º F, but that is at atmospheric pressure. So if the water can be kept at a relatively high temperature, as the steam is used.....more water will boil off into steam allowing a locomotive to run for hours on a single charge from the powerhouses large steam boilers.
http://www.over-land.com/st_apache.html
Keith

Dave Buczkowski

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2010, 09:12:39 PM »
Thanks all for your comments and suggestions. I thought to ask my father today who grew up in Enfield. He had never been down there (he was too busy walking uphill both ways 15 miles to school as a child) but he has a friend on the Historical Society that he will chat with. I also sent an email to the EHS.
Stewart, I'll talk to Don next time I see him.
HWMNBN, I never hear of the Flying Dude although I had a few friends who that name might have fit. Or is this a figment of your fertile imagination?
Keith, your theory has a lot of merit. I'm hoping my inquiries will bear fruit. I'll report as I learn more.
Dave

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2010, 10:25:16 PM »
No fireless engines, here, I fear. Dave said the works shut down prior to 1910, but the fireless steam locomotive wasn't developed until 1923, according to another website.

Dave Buczkowski

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2010, 12:48:00 AM »
I have since received an initial response from the Historical Society. There wasn't any motive power other than humans and animals. I can't cut and paste from my Blackberry so I'll post the response tomorrow. I expect some photos later in the week.
Dave

Dave Buczkowski

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2010, 04:20:38 PM »
Here's the response I received from Mike Miller of the EHS:

I'm not sure what qualifies as a narrow gauge railway, but there were tracks that ran between at least some of the mill buildings for some period of time.  I wish I could be more specific, but we just don't have the details.  There were no locomotives, and the carts were small and had two axles, wooden bodies and did not connect together.  We have a photo showing a cart being pushed by people and also have information that they were also pulled by mules, donkeys, or horses.  The rails were very light weight and perhaps two feet apart.  We have a reconstructed cart at the Old Town Hall museum that has the original wheels and axles that were recovered from Powder Hollow, along with two pieces of the rail.  The wooden part is a recreation based upon photos.  I can measure the width for you.  I will also see what photos I can get for you.  It may take a few days.
 
Tradition has it that the rails were removed after that lightning hit the rails, travelled along them, and caused multiple mill buildings to explode.  How true that may be is a future research project.

 
It must have been an exciting day when that lightening hit. It looks like it was more of an above ground mine railway. Oh well, this would have been a exciting find for me.
Dave

Mike Fox

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2010, 12:36:29 PM »
Still very interesting.
Mike
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Mike the Choochoo Nix

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2010, 01:42:05 AM »
I was thinking about this plant railroad this week. Are there Sanborn Insurance  maps for the powder company? Most of those show railroad tracks. Even though they had no locomotives it might make a nice prototype for a mini layout using modelers license to use a small critter for motive power.
Mike Nix
Mike Nix

Dave Buczkowski

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Re: Hazard Powder Company
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2010, 08:40:09 PM »
Mike;
I'm not sure if there were Sanborn maps although I would think so. I seem to remember reading somewhere that they were available on the web.
Anyway, here is the latest response from Mike Miller of the Enfield Historical Society. I don't have my password to upload them to Village photos so I'll have to attach the photos in a subsequent posting.
Dave
I found a few pictures of the Hazard Powder Company railway in Charlie Comparetto's book on Powder Hollow.  narrow 1.jpg shows the track running right up to a door.  narrow 2.jpg shows one of the hand carts on the tracks right in front of a building.  The cart is loaded with press cakes, basically big blocks of black powder that will need to be crushed down to the proper grain size.  narrow 3.jpg has two photos.  One of the larger horse-drawn carts appears to be backed up to a door or dock (there is a better view of the large horse-drawn carts in narrow 4.jpg).  The bottom photo has the track running into one of the buildings.  Just visible to the right is a smaller cart.  Narrow 4.jpg has a great photo of a large horse-drawn cart at top.  The lower photo shows some of the tracks.  I don't know what the wooden frame is for.  Narrow 5.jpg has a photo of a hand cart at top, again loaded with press cakes.  The building at bottom has two sets of tracks running directly inside it.