Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Visit to the Valley Line

The passenger and freight stations at Old Saybrook
In conjunction with the annual NHRHTA annual reunion in Essex, Connecticut, Chris Adams hosted an operating session on his HO scale New Haven Railroad, prototype-based layout. The layout replicates the New Haven's Valley Line from Hartford to Old Saybrook. Chris has done an amazing job at recreating the highly "modelable" Valley Line, with its freight-only operations circa the late 1940s and has interspersed a great train-watching venue at Old Saybrook. The southern terminus of the Valley Line was at Old Saybrook, where the sleepy freight-only stretch had to integrate with the multi-track chaos of the high-speed thoroughbreds speeding passenger trains up and down the Shoreline between Boston and New Haven and on to New York. For those of you wishing to know more, Chris is a prolific blogger at The Valley Local.
The first industries on the layout: Wethersfield Lumber and Ballantine's (beer) with "Hartford" in the distance
I was fortunate to receive an invitation to join the crew and reported for duty on Saturday at approximately 3:30 PM. If you do not have the pleasure of knowing Chris, there are two things to highlight: he is optimistic to a fault (and that cheery disposition can't help but rub off on those around him) and he is also hyper-organized. These organizational skills manifested themselves in the form of several aids that arrived via links and emails, including links to Crew Info and Conductor's Notes, both incredibly helpful tools. Chris makes it extremely easy to assimilate into the line and its operations. He even sent a "Crew Memo" for the date, October 7, 1948, that highlighted what was occurring on that actual date in history!
Valley Coal is another Wethersfield industry
I was tasked with manning RS-2 0510, a practically brand new locomotive, with conductor Jim Fellows on HDX-7, the Valley local (Hartford to Middletown). We gathered our paperwork and set out from Hartford with great enthusiasm. The Valley local handles switching of industries in Wethersfield, Rocky Hill/Dividend, and Cromwell on the way to Middletown. We ended up running to East Haddam/Deep River to drop cars for the train operating north from the opposite end of the line. Jim and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours switching the various industries.
The "Goff Brook Farmhouse"
I am in no position to be critical of anybody's layout, given that I have nothing to show myself in that arena! What I can do, however, is give praise where it is due. While Chris's layout is not yet complete, what is there is right on target. Operationally, there is nothing to report, which is exactly how things should be. The locomotive ran flawlessly, including excellent, realistic sound. All the cars tracked perfectly, no doubt due to the trackwork as well as attention to the cars themselves. There were no electrical issues. In a nutshell, things just ran... perfectly.
Drone's or bird's-eye view of Rocky Hill
The other element is the structures and scenery. This happens to be one area of layouts where I have rather strict standards as a viewer. To me (and this is my personal viewpoint) there is little more distracting than structures that look as if they are sitting on the layout rather than being part of the layout. Chris has skillfully integrated his structures into the layout. Additionally, there are many subtle details that create an overall sense of "scene". Look at the image of the Goff Brook Farmhouse. Note the coloration in the road, the grasses, underbrush, and trees. It takes skill and a good eye for detail and Chris has it (if you click the link in the caption of the photo, you can find out how Chris modeled the house.)
Alternate view of Rocky Hill
Thank you to Chris for hosting and to the other attendees for an extremely enjoyable several hours. I look forward to another opportunity to work the Valley.

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