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Messages - Jeff Acock

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The Monson Blog / Re: The Monson After Passenger Service
« on: April 15, 2012, 07:00:30 PM »
Is there documentation that the Monson ceased to be a common carrier after 1938?  While not unhead-of this would be an unusual step for a railroad to take, as it was still interchanging traffic with the BAR and relinquishing common carriage would mean the loss of joint rates.

It was not unusual for short connecting railroads like the Monson to be reduced in their later years to carrying only the traffic of their owners, thereby becoming de facto private carriers while still remaining common carriers at law.  George W. Hilton called these roads nominal common carriers.

  A rather extreme example would be the Sumpter Valley Railway in Oregon which abandoned its 60-mile mainline in 1947 but retained 1.5 miles of dual-gauge switching trackage to connect a large mill of the Oregon Lumber Co. (which owned the railroad) with the Union Pacific.  This tiny remnant lasted until 1961, switching standard gauge cars into the mill with a narrow gauge locomotive, and remained a common carrier at law.  The reason, of course, was that by travelling that 1.5 miles over SVRy track every carload entering or leaving the mill was elgible for origination or termination fees and joint rates with the Union Pacific or other roads it ran on.

It's obvious that the "common carrier at law" designation was not something that a railroad was eager to give up even though it had ceased to serve any general transport function.  The Jones book lists a slate of officers during the Monson's final years, which indicates that it was still seperately incorporated.  Along with the record of the company's petition to retain common carriage by truck after the railroad's final abandonment this suggests that the Monson probably remained a common carrier throughout its existance.

Bridgton & Saco River Railway / Re: B&SR Question Two
« on: February 10, 2012, 11:12:05 PM »
I am far from an expert on braking systems, so take the following for what it's worth....
To my knowledge, there really wasn't an "automatic" vacuum system to correspond with the more common straight or automatic air brakes.  The Eames vacuum brake (the most common type) operated comparably to a "straight air" system.  It was a simple and cheap technology, which is why so many narrow gauges used it.  Briefly, steam under pressure was ejected through a venturi connected to the train's brake line creating a vacuum in the line which acted on a diaphragm on each car (usually the engine as well).  The diaphragm was connected to the brake linkage, and acted by pulling on the linkage rather than pushing as the Westinghouse system did.

The chief advantage to the Eames brake, aside from low cost & simplicity, was that brakes were instantly available any time steam was up.  There was no lag time between brake applications as with air brakes where the air reservoirs must be refilled after release before brakes can be re-applied.  The disadvantage was that there was no fail-safe feature.  A reduction in steam pressure, vacuum leakage in the line, friction on the brake rigging could all have a deletrious effect on stopping ability.  The system was not considered adequate for trains of more than ten cars.

Some later versions of the Eames brake placed the ejector nozzle in the smokebox, which might explain the apparent lack of a muffler.

If you happen to have a copy of Hilton's  American Narrow Gauge Railroads there is a fairly good description of the Eames system, with machine drawings, beginning on Page 187.

The Monson Blog / Re: Monson Railroad Lanterns: Shedding Some Light
« on: January 30, 2012, 04:38:16 PM »
Also can you tell us what other Railroads carry the designation MRR? We would like to research further.
Thank you again,
A couple of possibilities:

Monon Railroad
Monongahela Railway
Mid-Atlantic Railroad (this one actually had AAR reporting mark MRR)
Montour Railroad

None of these were in the New England region, however.

The Monson Blog / Re: Coaling at the Junction
« 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

Work and Events / Re: Albion Diesel request
« on: April 01, 2011, 08:52:55 PM »
The "Red Seal" engine was made by Continental.  Continental engines were used almost exclusively in one class of Plymouth....I want to say the HL series, but could be wrong.  I believe all the other series used other makes, although Continental may have been optional.

Continental engines were highly regarded as industrial power.  They were used extensively in farm equipment (esp. Massey-Harris and Co-op tractors), in Diamond T trucks, in Star cars, in Aeronca airplanes and lots of other things.  They were thought, in the farm community to be among the longest-lasting of all and a good many are still in service.  Interestingly, the Continental Engine Co. is still in existance, as a specialized manufacturer of aircraft engines.

A question posted to the Yahoo "Railcritters" group could probably get definitive information on the Albion Critter.

The economics of narrow gauge railroads makes for a fascinating study, especially the
question of "what if".  Speaking as one who has successfully "imagineered" a couple of
narrow gauge railroads that lasted into the 21st century.....(does that make me an
expert, or what?) there are some intriguing questions.

What if the SR&RL and WW&F had been able to survive the depression?  What if the B&H and
the Monson had not been subject to deferred maintenance and had been able to capitalize
on the boom in wartime traffic?  What if the KC had been extended to Augusta, to serve a
larger population base and compete on a level field with the rural trolley lines?  Or had
built to a connection with the WW&F so that coal could be transported directly from ships
at Wiscasset eliminating the expensive and time-consuming barge transfer at Randolph?

If the WW&F could have been built through to a connection to the SR&RL and the harbor at
Wiscasset developed to a large-scale shipping port could the resulting system have become
a seamless intermodal shipping facility moving farm and forest products for export,
bypassing both highways and standard-gauge railroads, with the only transfer the move
from rail to ship?  Can we imagine modern shipping containers riding on specially-built
2-foot gauge railcars?

Frank Winter appears to have had a similar idea when he purchased the "Hesperus" and
"Luther Little" along with the WW&F...inbound coal to the interior of the state, wood
products and produce outbound, a good effecient multi-modal system.  But the financial
stringency of the depression years stalled his ambitions and he died before he was able
to realize them.

George W. Hilton, in his economic history of narrow gauges points out that three major
factors mitigated against the survival of the narrow gauges.  1) The stagnation of
developement in narrow technology after about 1900.  2) The fact that many narrow gauges
were built to serve extractive industries which themselves had a finite lifespan. 
3) The necessity of transfer at points of interchange with standard-gauge roads. This was
exascerbated by the fact that little or no effort was ever made to reduce the labor-
intensiveness of freight transfer by mechanization or ergonomic studies.

Hilton also points out that the narrow gauges did have some apparent advantages; a
relatively low-capital initial investment with less sunken costs than a standard-gauge
railroad, the ability to survive on lower traffic volumes, lighter equipment and
lower speeds, enabling some flexibility in operating practices and crew
requirements that may not have been available to larger general-purpose railroads. 
Moreover, Hilton suggested that there appear to have been certain economies of scale that
favored 2-foot gauge railroads over 3-foot gauge, although he did not develope this
thesis.  There have been a handful of studies comparing 3-foot or 42-inch railroads to
standard-gauge lines, but to my knowledge no one has ever done an academic comparison of
2-foot gauge roads to the larger narrow gauges or to standard gauge or, for that matter
to truck transport.

So, while narrow-gauge railroads were usually not competetive as part of the general
railroad system, they could and did operate efficiently as specialized carriers or within
closed systems.  One of the best examples is the White Pass & Yukon which operated for
years as part of an intermodal system.  It did not connect with any other railroad, but
the company owned container ships, the railroad, trucks and airplanes, using each mode to
its best advantage.  It was both efficint and profitable until the on-line mines stopped
producing, then reopened as an intermodal passenger carrier (ship to railroad to bus) and
proved a great success at that also.

It would seem then, that if the Maine 2-footers could have connected to form an integral
system, farm/forest-to-seaport, and if they could have somehow survived the rail
stagnation of the 50's and 60's until, say, 1980 when the inherent inefficiencies and
limitations of highway transport  became obvious, and if they could have
developed narrow-gauge technology to current standards, there might be a large and
interesting 2-foot gauge system that survived and thrived into the 21st century.

Monson Railroad / Re: Monson RR Blog
« on: November 10, 2009, 12:51:50 PM »
Hi Roger,
I'd definitely be interested.  The Monson RR has long been a particular interest of mine.  Living in Oregon, -about as far away from 2-footer country as it's possible to get and still be in the same country- I have to rely on whatever information others can disseminate.  And there seems to be less info out there on the Monson than any of the others, except possibly the Kennebec Central.  There would seem to be a lot of directions to explore - remaining physical traces (ROW,etc.), industrial operations at the quarries, operational details of the railroad, come immediately to mind.

One particular avenue of exploration has always intrigued me..........A couple of the Monson's last employees, engineer Elwyn French and fireman/brakeman Albin Johnson appear in pictures to have been relatively young men when the railroad shut down.  One supposes they may have lived for years afterward.  Was any effort made to interview them, or to contact their families (if any) for any reminisces or artifacts?  Here in Oregon, where I volunteer with the Sumpter Valley RR restoration group, we have been fortunate that several of the old employees were alive until quite recently.  Every effort was made to trace them and today the museum has hours of fascinating taped interviews.  Interestingly, I posed this question some time back on the "Maine 2-footers" yahoo group and did not even recieve the courtesy of an answer.  That group seems to be all about models and no interest in actual history.

Anyway, good luck with your project.......I look foreward to reading your blog.  Is your book still in print and available?  I have The R.C. Jones volume and the Arcadia Press book, but no other print material on the Monson.

With best regards,
Jeff Acock
Adrian Oregon

The Original W&Q and WW&F: 1894-1933 / Union or Non-union?
« on: October 27, 2009, 04:01:52 PM »
Hello All,
I'll post this question here, since it pertains to the Maine 2-footers generally:
On which roads were employees represented by the railway brotherhoods?   I would assume, that the Monson RR was non-union, at least in the later years, since the operating employees performed a wide variety of duties; maintenance-of-way, freight handling, etc.  It also seems reasonable to assume that the SR&RL and B&SR were union roads, as they were under the control of Maine Central, but I have not been able to find any data to support this.  If they were organized, did union representation end when the railroads became independent under local ownership in the later years?  Was there some sort of general rule regarding length of line, number of employees, level of business, etc, that helped to determine which railroads were targeted by the operating unions for organization?

Thanks in advance.  Any input will be welcomed.  I will be posting a similar question on the Narrow Gauge Discussion Forum.  I am especially curious as to whether ownership by a class I seems to have been the  determining factor for being a union or non-union operation.  The question more generally goes to the operating efficiency of narrow gauge versus standard.
Jeff Acock
Adrian OR

General Discussion / Re: Who Am I? or, Let's Introduce Ourselves
« on: June 03, 2009, 06:32:46 PM »
Hello All,
I've just joined this forum, though I'll admit to having lurked here for awhile.  I'm a long-time reader & occasional poster to the Narrow Gauge Discussion Forum and am pleased to see several names here that I recognize from that group.  I have a particular interest in extra-narrow gauge railroading (18-30-inch gauge) to include industrial/mining rail, people movers, "primitive" railroads (animal-powered, incline railways, tram roads) and to a lesser extent, park trains.  And of course the New England two-footers.  Own a few books on the subject, notably MacDonald's "Images of Rail", Jones' "Two Feet to the Quarries" and my favorite reference, Hilton's "American Narrow Gauge Railroads".  Unfortunately, living in Oregon does not offer a lot of proximity to 2-ft. railroading;  My sole physical contact with the New England narrow gauges was a visit to Edaville about 1987 when I worked for a couple of years in the Boston area.  This New England sojourn had one added advantage - the state agency that employed me managed parks & historic sites in the Metro area, including the site of the remains of the Granite Railway thought by many to be America's first common carrier.  I had ample opportunity to explore the site and talk to several local historians & industrial archeologists who had researched the railway.

Oregon, of course isn't bereft of narrow-gauge content - I've been volunteering for more than 30 years at the Sumpter Valley Railway (the "other" narrow gauge) and have served in several positions for that group including heading up the effort to restore SVRy #100, a Whitcomb gas-mechanical switcher purchased new by the Sumpter Valley in 1929.

Professionally, I trained as an engineering draftsman (civil) but haven't worked in that field for a number of years, preferring to follow a career in forestry & agriculture.  Currently self-employed as a working farmer.

I've just posted a question to the Monson RR. forum to which I would appreciate any and all feedback.

Best regards;
Jeff Acock
Adrian Oregon

Monson Railroad / Freight Transfer @ Monson Jct.
« on: June 03, 2009, 05:24:34 PM »
I'm curious how transfer of large slate blocks was handled.  Pictures in Jones' "Two Feet to the Quarries" show only shovel transfer of sand & coal, and hand transfer (hand truck or dolly) of crated shingles.  None of the pictures of Monson Jct. yard show any kind of hoisting aparatus nor even a gravity trestle.  Nevertheless, page 44 of the Jones book shows a large unfinished slate block being loaded on a flat car at a quarry using a primitave derrick.  I can not make out any kind of rollers or blocking placed underneath the slab.  Admittedly this could have been an inter-plant movement (quarry to finishing shed or the like), but the book also references the manufacture of gravestones which must have been shipped via the Monson RR and would almost certainly have required some sort of mechanical aid to transfer especially during the later years when the railroad was said to be down to a 4-man staff.  For that matter, the Monson also handled some pulpwood logs, which would presumably be too large & heavy for hand loading.
So.......the question is does anyone have any thoughts or input as to how large-item transfer was handled?  Some sort of mobile derrick? ramps & rollers? jury-rigged block & tackle?

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