• "Jay Winn: 75 Years A Railfan"

  • 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 ut-1
New Hartford resident Jay Winn's interest in railroading developed when his grandfather began taking him down to Utica's Union Station to watch the New York Central in the late 1940s. This led to a lifetime of railfanning, including making/repairing model trains, recording/collecting railroad sounds and selling thousands of CDs and authoring several railroad books.

I sat down with Jay recently and videoed him recounting many of his stories about the New York Central (including a coal train derailment which very nearly had disastrous consequences for the westbound New England States), Erie-Lackawanna, Delaware & Hudson (he designed the paint scheme for the D&H's Baldwin Sharks), New York, Ontario & Western and Walt Rich's Central New York RR (the ex-DL&W/E-L Richfield Springs branch). Also included, stories regarding B&M's Hoosac Tunnel, just over the NYS border in western Massachusetts.

Here's the link:


NOTE: Hyperlinks to various topics are included in the YouTube description in case you wish to jump to a particular subject(s).
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  by BR&P
Well, that was interesting, I watched from about 32:25 to about 50:00 or so. It's great to preserve memories of those guys and with video it's all the better. (I did something similar long ago with a former BR&P/B&O man, but had cassette tape only).

The man's story sounds pretty good in most parts, but a couple things don't quite add up. Describing the New England States incident, the dispatcher was reportedly talking to the coal train, and the freight announced he was in emergency. One would presume the passenger train would have monitored that transmission and at least questioned where this was happening. Also - there would be no need for the dispatcher to set the signals to red, if there was a derailed hopper across the adjacent track, the signals would have gone red by design on their own. How could the board still have showed clear signals for the passenger train when the track was all torn up by a derailment?

When the passenger train came into view of the freight, the freight crew would certainly have immediately advised him they were in emergncy and likely derailed. And something does not compute about the fusee - if the freight crew gave a washout and the passenger acknowledged it, why would they throw it in the cab? And why would the passenger crew not give a report to the DS once they stopped? Why did the head end crew of the freight not talk to the dispatcher?

It's a fun story, and I'm not saying none of it is true. But it does raise a lot of unanswered questions, and presents a lot of very unlikely circumstances.
  by NYCRRson
I watched that again about the near wreck of the New England States and the derailed coal train.

Was believable to me. Perhaps a few details got mangled a little bit.

1) The DS dropped the signals to RED in front of the NE States as soon as the coal train stated "we are in emergency" and the NE States Engineer dumped the air in response to the STOP signal imposed by the DS. The engineer of the NE States radioed; "What the heck you dropped my signal"

2) Everybody in the cab of the NE States was shook up real good and some of them appeared to have exited the cab in response to a red fusee entering the cab (more likely it flew in front of the cab windows, but it could have entered the cab).

3) The portable radios on the rear end of the passenger and freight trains got thrown around and broken.

4) It was pitch black outside and nobody understood completely what the heck just happened.

5) The engineer of the NE States was probably confused/shook up and the rest of the crew was injured or on the ground walking the train to check if the cars were on the rails or "cross lots", (brakeman was injured, fireman was walking the train ?). Calling the DS on the radio was probably a lower priority (the DS could tell from the lights on the board that the NE States was stopped).

6) Seems to me that the front end of a passenger train could pass a clear signal while beginning to pass a freight train that was just starting to derail and would not short out the rails the passenger train was occupying for several more seconds causing the next signal to drop to STOP.

I think the story is credible, but I doubt anybody could throw a fusee well enough to get through the open window of E unit going 60-70-79 mph, perhaps the freight train fireman was an ex-MLB pitcher ?

If only they had cell phones... Could have simply texted each other to sort out what happened.

Cheers, Kevin.
  by BR&P
1) The DS dropped the signals to RED in front of the NE States as soon as the coal train stated "we are in emergency" and the NE States Engineer dumped the air in response to the STOP signal imposed by the DS. The engineer of the NE States radioed; "What the heck you dropped my signal"
No. The coal train went into emergency because of the derailment. We can presume that because a hopper was completely across the other track, things were badly torn up. As soon as the track circuit was broken or was shorted, the signals would go red - before the coal train even told the dispatcher.

That must have been one terrible dispatcher. When a train says he's got problems, may be on the ground, and goes in emergency, the first thing any DS is going to do is protect whatever other traffic is nearby. It took the Chief Dispatcher coming in and asking where the NES was, to get the dispatcher to change signals to red? (my previous paragraph notwithstanding).

That must have been one terrible engineer on the NES. He had to have heard the coal train announce he was in emergency, sees the block go red, but doesn't put 2 and 2 together and think it might be because of the guy in emergency?

That must have been one terrible freight crew. They think they might be on the ground, the air dumps, a train is coming the other way, and they don't get on the radio to tell him?

I'm not buying any of the above.

If the brakeman from the coal train was on the ground, he would have heard the engines of the NES going to idle, and probably would have seen fire flying from the wheels as the brakes took hold (I'm presuming a short interval between the NES dumping it and passing the head of the coal train, as the DS allegedly had time to tell him "we think you have a wreck in front of you"). Why would it be necessary to throw the fusee in the window or even at the cab, risking injury to the crew, when he knows they already are doing all they can to stop?
3) The portable radios on the rear end of the passenger and freight trains got thrown around and broken.
The freight I could see, but how and why would the NES radios be "thrown around"? A passenger train going into emergency does slow down rapidly under most conditions, but there is no violence. What would have broken the radio?

The freight had communication with the DS when they announced they were in emergency. Why and how would they suddenly not respond? Presumably the DS called them several times before asking a couple railfans to go investigate. The freight would have had an engineer, fireman and brakeman. One of those, likely the engineer, would have stayed at the radio.

At the head of the NES, the railfans supposedly found the engineer in the cab. The engine had not collided with anything, the engineer - if he HAD jumped has now returned to the cab - is sitting there with a perfectly good radio, hearing the DS call over and over, and won't answer?

I could go on, but I think the point has been made. At any given time, ONE unusual or unlikely event might have deviated from normal, we've all seen freak things that are hard to believe. But there are SO many things there that just are NOT how real railroading works, both in the procedures of what employees would have done, and in physical actions and results. The odds of all these improbable factors all happening in one event are so long that I just can't accept that it happened as described

Time can play tricks with our memories over a lifetime. It's an entertaining story and it seems there is no way to dig up enough new information to explain what really happened.
  by NYCRRson
Well, I was not there, You where not there and the person retelling the events based on his memory of something that happened decades ago paints a plausible picture of the events that night.

I guess if you were the engineer on the NE States that night you would have stopped much sooner because you felt in your bones that a freight train on another track was going to derail in front of you, then you would have immediately called the DS and started pulling the coal cars out of the way and rebuilt the rails so the NE States could resume it's trip...

OK, if you say so...

Original story sounds plausible to me with a few embellishments added after decades of repeating the tale...

Cheers, Kevin.
  by BR&P
Set some air and slow down. I'm well aware that I wasn't there that night.

As you well know, rail employees are like brothers, and when trouble happens, their first thought is almost always protecting their fellows who may be in danger. Thus the dispatcher would immediately search his board for who might be affected by the derailment. The freight crew would be on the radio the moment they see a westbound headlight, advising whatever train it might be that they were in emergency. Quite likely as soon as the dust settled, the freight engineer would have been on the radio asking the passenger train if he got stopped in time. Train crews on both trains would stay in communication with the dispatcher instead of going silent. That's how it works, both by the rule book and because they KNOW the right thing to do is protect each other.

Can you show me where I'm wrong in my previous post? Do you think the DS didn't know enough to set signals red without the Chief saying something? Do you think the signals on Track 2 somehow stayed green even after the wreck tore up the track? Do you think the whole head end crew of the freight decided to leave the engine and walk back to see what happened, without even telling the DS there would be nobody in the engine? Do you think the passenger engineer just sat in the seat, and turned on the headlight for a railfan, instead of calling the DS, advising him they had made a safe stop but were staring at cars across Track 2?

The original story does NOT sound plausible to me, which is why I felt a need to say something. I don't claim to know it all but I do know that AS TOLD, it's too far away from how things actually work. I make no judgement whether it's a case of mistaken memories over 55 years, or selective embellishment, or outright fabrication. It's entertaining, and to some folks it may sound believable as told. If so, enjoy!