• PRR Elmira Branch Sidings?

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by Fireman43
Trying to imagine how the coal traffic to and from Sodus Pt was moved and coordinated. In Bill Calarosso's book he mentioned at times 5-7 / 70 car NB trains were on the line. And all single track? Being somewhat familiar with the ROW having lived and worked at Sodus Pt at the north end ( '83 - '87 when Genesee closed the Malthouse) I don't see any lingering evidence ( via Sat map views) of any passing sidings.
I did catch the one siding pic in his book with a caption of " yard must be full" , and mentions of pushers setting out at Starkey.

But with the fruit trains, the quarry at Wallington and other loads coming and going , I'm curious about the coordination. And back then the train orders would have been all via paper?

  by Matt Langworthy
The Elmira Branch was dark territory, so the movements were done by paper before the advent of radios. Does anyone know if radios were commonly used by PRR on the Elmira Branch?
  by Fireman43
And I still can't get over traffic like those coal trains going thru the center of small towns such as Watkins Glen and their waterfront. - 24/7?
  by lvrr325
Even 7 trains a day could still be three hours apart.

Definitely a siding at Himrod Jct. as the current track kind of swaps alignments from one to the other there.

Was another one in Newark, still a small yard there although looks like it doesn't see much use.

I think the next one up above Newark was built by OMID.
  by scottychaos
Historic topo maps:

http://docs.unh.edu/nhtopos/Elmira.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Elmira - PRR southside yard, then PRR used Erie tracks to Horseheads (lots of yard trackage)
Horseheads - Siding alongside Holding Point. (1953 map)

Sidings north of Horseheads:
1. Siding between Millport and Montour Falls. (1901 map)
2. Siding at Montour Falls. (1901 map)
3. Yard and siding at Watkins Glen (1901 map)
4. Siding at Salt Point. (1901 map)
5. Siding at Glenora. (1902 map)
6. Siding at Starkey. (1902)
7. Siding/Yard at Himrod.
8. Siding at Milo Center (1902)
9. Siding/Yard at Penn Yan.
10. Siding south of Bellona. (1903)
11. Siding/Yard at Halls Corners. (1903)
12. Siding at Stanley. (1903)
13. Siding at Orleans (1903)
14. Siding/Yard at Newark.
15. Siding/Yard at Wallington. (1903)
16. Double-track from Wallington to Sodus Point. (1903)

Even though those are 1902 and 1903 maps, its likely that most, if not all, of those siding and yards remained into the 1950's.

  by clearblock
Matt Langworthy wrote:The Elmira Branch was dark territory, so the movements were done by paper before the advent of radios. Does anyone know if radios were commonly used by PRR on the Elmira Branch?
Himrod Junction was very active on the PRR frequency 160.800 in the mid 60's prior to and after the PC merger. I can't say about the earlier days but PRR was a very early adopter of radio technology with the Trainphone system in the 1940s and general use of VHF radios by about 1960.

In those days, paper train orders were probably still used for movement between the block limit stations even with radio available. Delivering train orders or other block authority by radio is a more recent innovation that I do not believe was common in the PRR or even early PC days.
  by BR&P
The siding north of Mud Creek at Newark was not built by OMID, it was there when the line started and did not appear to be recent construction. That would not have been much use in meeting long coal trains, IIRC it was about 50 carlengths long. Even talking shorter hoppers, you might fit 70 in there as a guess.
  by poppyl
The Starkey siding was a true passing siding that began just north of the old station where the line crested the grade out of Watkins and extended a good part of the way towards Himrod.

  by TrainDetainer
USGS topo maps are notoriously inaccurate for identifying railroad facilities. They should not be relied on for anything more than a general overview of railroad routes. Valuation maps are the most accurate, followed by insurance maps like Sanborn.

Scotty - the Holding Point in Horseheads was not a PRR facility and there was no siding there, only the Holding Point tracks. The Horseheads siding ran between Franklin St. and HO tower. The embankment through the swamp past the Holding Point was never wide enough for a siding although IIRC there was a short stub off the west lead near the Main, west of Wygant Road. There was a switch that connected the east end of the Holding Point trackage with the main near Westlake St., but it was only during the war and a few years afterward. Also, PRR through trains would not have used Erie facilities in Elmira for passing with Southport and Horseheads on either side (PRR did have a small yard off the Erie at 2nd Street but only for local freight business).

The newest Elmira Branch TT I have is #2 from 1942 and has the following info:
--There's no mention of radios but there is a rule (3501) regarding transmitting/receiving train orders by telephone.
--Manual Block between Newberry and Canandaigua/Sodus buthter were some train signals at key points other than Southport and the Erie section between GJ/HO and JF (by 1942 the GJ designation was dropped in favor of the Erie's HO. IDK if this had anything to do with Buffalo, but the GJ designation of course became the last interlocking on the Buffalo Line - south/east of the NYC/PC's CP-5 and old FW Tower on the Buffalo Creek).
--Train Dispatchers located in Stanley and Williamsport.
--A whole page of instructions for operating during war blackouts.
--M class locos were not permitted between HO and Canandaigua and there were plenty of engine restrictions on industry tracks.

1942 Siding locations w/MP from Williamsport (car count - probably 40' car lengths) and Yard locations (siding capacity in yard limits isn't listed except for Watkins):
Sodus Point Yard
Newark Yard
Canandaigua Yard
Stanley Yard
Bell 124.9 (49)
Penn Yan Yard
Shaw 119.4 (34)
Himrod Jct 112.8 (47)
Stark 109.5 (130)
Rock 103.1 (97)
Watkins Glen 97.4 (EB 43, WB 67)
Watkins Glen Yard
Falls 96.1 (93)
Port 88.0 (40)
Horseheads 81.1 (110)
Southport Yard
Fassett 67.2 (125)
Sned 59.5 (125)
Columbia X Roads 55.5 (56)
Dense 49.9 (106)
Cowley 45.6 (EB 54, WB 125)
Lowrey 39.6 (125)
Canton Yard
Leolyn 32.7 (133)
Roaring Branch 28.4 (142)
Max 25.4 (116)
Bergan 21.3 (125)
Trout Run 13.7 (100)
Cogan 8.8 (118)
Newberry 1.6 (100)
Williamsport Yard

In the 1911 Northern Central TT there were short sidings at nearly every town and only two were over 100 cars (Long Siding 129, Penbryn 156). Most were still listed in the 1924 TT. In the 1925 TT about 30% of the sidings were no longer listed and a few had been lengthened to hold longer trains, but only one was over 100 cars (Leolyn 133).
  by lvrr325
Just for comparison, sidings listed in a 1970 PC timetable -

BLS New - 115 cars (MP 16.3 north of Newark)
Watkins Glen, 99 cars
Falls, 88 cars
BLS Port, 38 cars (MP 8.1)
Horseheads, 99 cars
Sned, 112 cars
Troy, 50 cars
Crowley, 112 cars
Leolyn, 119 cars
BLS Max, 104 cars (MP 24.2)

Capacity was based on 50 foot cars. At this time the line was listed on one page but divided up into the Elmira Secondary through Southport Jct, the Watkins Glen Secondary through Himrod Jct, and the Sodus Bay Secondary from then on. Mileposts started over at 0 at HO and again at Stanley.
  by BR&P
lvrr325's post jogs my memory. I mentioned the siding north of Newark which would hold about 55 cars. He quotes the PC ETT showing a 115 car siding.

Mud Mills Road crosses the tracks north of the north end of the present siding. Now it seems I recall the roadbed for that siding extended north across the highway and for quite some distance north. Once the Sodus Point docks closed in 1967, they no longer needed the long siding and cut it back to simplify maintenance at the crossing.

It's only been almost 25 years since I was down there, can't imagine why I didn't remember that right away! :wink:
  by jr
Regarding method of operation:

On May 14, 1964, there was a head-on collision at Orleans NY, causing three deaths, several injuries, and the destruction of several diesels. The DOT Online Database has the accident report, which is useful in understanding the method of operation at that time.

It appears that between Elmira and Himrod Jct, they used paper orders and clearance cards. Between Himrod Jct and Sodus Pt, they used verbal communication from the operator at Himrod Jct, to set up meets at (unmanned) block stations. They specifically describe the use of "trainphone" equipment, rather than the VHF radios that were beginning to equip PRR locomotives at the time.

Due to some misunderstanding, the Engineer and Head Brakeman of the northbound apparently thought that they had permission to pass Stanley, which they evidently did not. Since they both died in the collision, the reason for this misunderstanding remains a mystery. The southbound crew and the operator at Himrod Jct were cleared of any wrongdoing.

  by thebigham
Great stuff in this thread! Thanks!
  by charlie6017
Thanks for posting that, Kevin -- this is awesome! 😎