W.W.&F. Discussion Forum

The Maine Narrow Gauges (Historic & Preserved) => Monson Railroad => The Monson Blog => Topic started by: Roger Whitney on November 17, 2011, 01:28:08 PM

Title: Coaling at the Junction
Post by: Roger Whitney on November 17, 2011, 01:28:08 PM

   Opposite  page 148 in the Moody book, there is a picture of the train crew shoveling coal from a gondola on the B&A transfer track into the tank top of  Vulcan# 4.  This is a great action picture and was taken in the later years when Moody visited the road.
   But it wasn’t always that way.   In the earlier years of the railroad, maybe around 1900 when the road converted to coal, a coal shed was built at the south end of the Junction yard.  This structure was 30 feet 8” x 30feet 5”  and was used for storing/transferring coal.
   On the west (B&A) side of the building, standard gauge gondolas of
coal were spotted next to the shed for unloading.  Coal was then unloaded off the gondola cars and into bins in the floor of the shed, and eventually into wheel barrows, all by hand shoveling. Inside there was a series of inclines gradual enough where a loaded (or partially loaded) wheel barrow could be pushed up to the level of the tank tops of the locomotives.  It took  a lot of pushing to do this and it was all hand labor! On the east side of the building there was a dormer which was the end of the incline.  A piece of sheet metal or wooden ramp was placed between the shed and the tank top. The wheel barrow was upended and the coal was sluced down onto the loco tank top. In Gary Kohler’s new Pictoral History of the Monson on pages 28 and 29 there are several pictures of this structure including one of the wheelbarrow being dumped.
   Construction consisted of normal post and beam framing with outside horizontal boards being the only siding. All the pictures I have don’t show any evidence of additional siding such as shingles or clapboards. The B&A side had large hinged “doors” which folded up when transferring coal.  An access door on the east side (Monson) was provided for the engine crews.
   So which was easier?  Shoveling frozen coal from the gondola to the tank top, or shoveling dry coal into a barrow, wheeling up an incline and dumping it.  Certainly in the winter, with Monson in Maine’s snow belt, it must have been hard to shovel frozen coal from a gondola which had been exposed to the weather.  Maybe the crews got fed up with this and built the shed.
Title: Re: Coaling at the Junction
Post by: James Patten on November 17, 2011, 03:59:46 PM
One would think the B&A would want their gondola back before it was empty, or perhaps it would need to moved so that other transloading could take place and then be left on the far end of the yard when the engine crews needed it.  Did the junction have a standard gauge switcher assigned to it?
Title: Re: Coaling at the Junction
Post by: Cliff Olson on November 17, 2011, 05:56:59 PM
The standard gauge switching at Monson Jct. was done by the freight or mixed Derby-Greenville turnarounds.

There probably was not enough switching to be done at the Junction for a gondola on the transfer track to constitute much of a problem.  Also, because of the crossover between the main line and the transfer track, the gondola would have been totally out of the way if it had been located at the coal shed.  The fact that the crew was unloading the gondola directly into the engine when the coal shed was available probably indicates which method they thought was easier (at least in the summer).
I don't know about the status of demurrage charges pre-1943, but the same issue would apply to the steel MEC gondola from which polishing sand was being unloaded in another Moody photo.  
Title: Re: Coaling at the Junction
Post by: Stewart "Start" Rhine on November 17, 2011, 05:58:41 PM
If the B&A charged the Monson per diem for the gondola they wouldn't care how long it stayed at the Jct.  To avoid further charges, Monson management would want the car released as soon as it was empty.

Title: Re: Coaling at the Junction
Post by: Cliff Olson on November 17, 2011, 06:22:03 PM
If I'm not mistaken, the Monson, as the consignee of the goods, would be responsible for demurrage charges if the gondola were not unloaded in the time allowed, and the B&A would have to pay per diem charges to the railroad that owned the gondola for each day that it was on the B&A.

Perhaps the Monson crew unloaded the rest of the gondola onto Monson flat cars after taking care of the engine.  There is at least one photo of a flat car partially loaded with coal at the Monson station.
Title: Re: Coaling at the Junction
Post by: Jeff Acock on November 21, 2011, 12:03:52 AM
Freight transfer at narrow/standard gauge interchange points has long been a subject of interest to me, and has received relatively little attention in the railfan press.  George W. Hilton, in his masterful American Narrow Gauge Railroads has pointed out that freight transfer was one of the most significant cost items for narrow gauges, and ultimately may have been responsible for the demise of many lines.  Surprisingly, the railroads gave little thought to transfer, preferring to hire large numbers of cheap labor when it would have been fairly easy to mechanize much of the work.  Even the large Colorado narrow gauges persisted in shovel transfer of bulk commodities at some points (Denver, Alamosa e.g.) until the end of operations when a simple gravity trestle could have saved countless man-hours of labor.

Robert C. Jones in Two Feet to the Quarries references  a letter of H.E. Morrill in which he mentions having "been able to supply the quarries with coal [and] have hauled all the local freight", and a picture on p 82 of the same book shows a carload of coal being unloaded at one of the quarries (interestingly, only one car is shown when it ordinarily took three ng cars to handle one sg carload....assuming coal was purchased in carload lots one wonders where the rest of it is).  In any event, inbound coal for the quarry boilers must have been a significant part of the Monson's traffic.  For a time, the road had as many as fifteen employees, and at least some of these must have been employed as freight handlers.  Yet the railroad never took the basic labor-saving step of constructing a transfer trestle for coal and polishing sand.

In re. Cliff Olson's point about demurrage charges, I seem to recall reading somewhere (maybe the Images of Rail book) that the Monson may have had a long-term lease on one of the B&A's gondolas so that it could be spotted at the junction for as-needed coal supply without incurring extra charges.

Roger, thanks for keeping this blog up.  As a 2-footer fan living a continent away from Maine, I don't have much input to offer, but be assurred that I look foreward eagerly to your weekly postings.
Jeff Acock,
Adrian OR

Title: Re: Coaling at the Junction
Post by: Roger Whitney on November 21, 2011, 09:08:01 AM
Thanks Jeff for your input!  Freight transfer always has  been a problem for the two footers.  Probably the reason why no transfer facilities were built is that when the railroad was built, they did it on a shoestring budget.  The first trip was done with PRACTICALLY no ballast!  Also at that time, 1883, labor was cheap.  I don't think the officials ever thought that there would be enough business to justify anything more.  It may not of even crossed their minds.  After all "this is the way it is done" at the time.  The other two footers didn't have much in the way of mechanized transfer with the possible exception of the coal transfer on the docks of the WW&F in Wiscasset.
I'll make this one a future blog after some research.