a hobo's song

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, or are a friend or know me via twitter/facebook, then you know I’m a railroad geek. I love trains, and I have delusions of actually building some kind of model railroad at some point. In fact, that’s one of my unofficial resolutions for the new year — do something model railroad related. Anything, just don’t keep saying I want to be a modeler. Start becoming one.

One of the things I love about living in Teaneck is that there’s both freight and commuter rail traffic happening in the area. Every morning, I look south as my bus passes over the CSX River Subdivision (the old Conrail River Line, and before that The West Shore) on Cedar Lane as I head to work, and then look to my right again as the bus swoops down under Route 46, passing the engine terminal for the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad in Ridgefield Park. It’s not uncommon to also see CSX and Norfolk Southern road units idling here along with SusieQ engines. Last month, I even saw an old Pennsy mail car and a Pennsy Pullman sitting on a siding at the engine terminal.

Once my bus hits the highway, it passes over the tracks one more time around the outskirts of the North Bergen yard (I think that’s it, based on looking at maps on Google), a smallish intermodal (containers) yard with some regular yard work including car carriers and regular freight.

It’s much more freight action than I ever got to see when I loved in the Bronx. There, all I ever had a glimpse of was twenty seconds of the CSX Oak Point Yard if I was lucky and my bus pulled into the far right lane so I could look down into the yard.

The local commuter lines run by Jersey Transit also offer up some fun spotting opportunities all over the county, as might be imagined given that it’s the only game in town if you want to take the train into Manhattan.

Another great thing is you can hear the engines at night in our neighborhood, both the freight diesels and the passenger trains with their horns. It’s not loud, but I find it rather nice. The freight line is about three quarters of a mile to the east, so it’s not so close that it’s annoying. Then again, after living for seventeen years on the LaGuardia flight path, it’s infinitely quieter.

Naturally, this makes me want to model a piece of the local rail system, given that I can view it first-hand and adapt it as I wish. For freight service, that means I could run a mix of CSX/NS/NYS&W, which is fine by me. Or, I could back-date to Conrail or Penn Central/New York Central days. Do I go diesel or steam or transition era? I love them all, so perhaps transition, so I can run both?

Or, I could make up my own railroad, basing it on these lines. I don’t know at this point, especially given that I’m not going to be building a basement empire. It’ll likely be a small switching layout at first, to learn the skills I need for a bigger layout with potentially continuously running trains on top of switching.

And then there’s the matter of scale. Do I want HO, as I like the size and feel of it, or do I go for N, which allows me to pack more railroad into a smaller space?

Decisions, decisions. But first, maybe a diorama with some track running through it, just to get things going. I have plans!

Here’s some footage from the NYS&W section of the line in Ridgefield Park.

5 Responses to Railroad Geekery, and Not the Musical Kind

  • The Tree says:

    Do add a post — just saw your revamped railroad page. As to HO vs. N, well…I don’t know at this point what form it’ll all take. I may even do an HO switching and an N looping thing for running with a bit of switching. Depends on how much space I can negotiate with Kim. :)

  • James Harr says:

    Hey Scott; our mutual friend Bob C. turned me on to your blog; great reading! It’s never too late to start enjoying model railroading. I like to model the Lackawanna ca. 1955 and the Erie Lackawanna ca. 1975. My 2 pennies worth is to think about HO scale as you will find by far the greatest variety of equipment etc. N has come a _very_long way and is also viable, it does depend on space constraints (and how well you can see:-). But I’ve seen some amazing shelf layouts in HO.

    Drop me a line and we’ll get you and Bob out here to my place to check out my layout. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have in the meantime. Have fun and Happy Modeling!

    James Harr
    Stella Scale Models

  • The Tree says:

    I’m still torn at the moment, James. I’m sure seeing a functioning layout will actually get me in the mindset for what I want to do. :)

    I’ll touch base soon about setting up a layout visit. :)