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Walking down the branch line

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Walking down the branch line

Wide angle of Northern line in Franklin NH with concrete retaining wall on right. This shot is taken a few paces north of the overpass and creek.

Greetings fellow Rail Junkies, Foamers and Modelers! As I write this, the birds are singing and the promise of warmer days is in the air. After the long winter and somewhat disappointing spring many of us have had, it's nice to feel the warm breeze of change in the air. That "Unofficial Start to Summer" known as Memorial Day is just a few weeks off, and for many of us Rail Heads, that means we can kick things up a notch. While my plans for Memorial weekend have not been been determined, the rest of my summer has.

Today's Blog entry is a kind of "cleaning out the maintenance shop", both in an allegorical and physical nature. Call it a "spring cleaning" for the Railroader. A few small topics that don't really justify a full entry, but must be said nonetheless. So consider today a day we explore the branch lines!

Wide angle view of the remains of the bridge that once spanned the Merrimack river. 71 years from this date (2011), since the tracks were removed, the landscape still bears witness to this right of way.

Back in February I told you about the Franklin Branch of the Northern then Boston & Lowell and finally the Boston & Maine. This small branch connected two lines, the Northern (west side) and the Concord & Montreal (east side). I explored this missing link in February and was happy to find the station as well as some relics in Franklin Falls, and one of the bridge abutments that once held the bridge that crossed the Merrimack. Easter weekend found me in New Hampshire once again and a determination to find the original Right Of Way. The weather was warm, the sun was out, and this time my Dad was along for one of my Rail Archeology adventures.

We arrived in Franklin Falls and walked around the old station and walked around the old relics of boxcars and other hardware. It was a bit easier to navigate the area with the all the snow gone. We walked the ROW south out of this yard, easy to do as the rail for both main and yard were still intact. Walking south however was a bit of a challenge as the landscape had changed considerably in the last 70 plus years. But a close study of the land soon put us on track, er pun, not intended.

Yes, this road was once a railroad. Once followed, it will take you right to the Franklin Falls Depot.

My Dad, knew approximately where the bridge once stood, so we drove down the road, heading south looking for the elusive ROW that was removed in 1940. We might have seen it at the same time, however I'll give my Dad the credit when he found a side road that had been used for 4X4's and ATV's. This road was too straight for New Hampshire. Come to think of it, the road we had been one was really level. Now that in itself is not a big deal if you hail from Indiana or Illinois, but in New Hampshire it is another thing. Roads are seldom as level as this one was. Then it occurred to us, we were on the former ROW! When a RR abandons it's ROW, the ROW goes back to the property owner. Yes, that is right, even if that railroad is going through Farmer Brown's field, the rail, ties, ballast and about 15 feet from the center out is the railroads. Originally set aside for the railroad by the U.S. Government, hence Right Of Way. When that ROW is given up, the original owner of the property is given back that stretch that once had rail traffic, and in this case, the State of New Hampshire. Why design a new road when someone else has done all the hard work? So next time your out and about researching your favorite railroad ghost, consider the above example. You may not need to employ the trusty 4X4, or mountain bike, but the family sedan might just work fine!

The state had barred any type of wheeled transportation by blocking the unused portion of the ROW with two large granite rocks. We continued our journey by foot and within a short time found what you see above. Now some people geek out over seeing Leonard Nimoy at a Star Trek Convention, or watching a NASCAR race in person but for me, I get my "Indiana Jones" geek on when I find such artifacts that others have forgotten about. The abutment on the east shore was all there and was in excellent condition. I was amazed at the craftsmanship that went into it, and I would bet a days lunch, the top of that abutment was still pretty level. I still have many pictures from that trip to upload, but if you want to see more, go to my Railimages link and select the album B&M in the Granite State. As I stated earlier, this little branch would make for a great shelf layout in either N or HO. Perhaps you will see more of this branch in model form latter.

At one time this PS-1 was adorned in B&M blue and black. The original logo had a white B and a black M.

Onward! Railroad Model Craftsman Editor Bill Schaumburg and I were talking the other day, and to us, it is much easier to model from the prototype than it is to freelance. This might explain the lack of scenery on my N scale B&M layout. When I tried to freelance back in 2004, my fictional Merrimack Valley RR had been purchased by the CN controlled JTW. Everything from rail lines of former B&M and equipment from former owners such as Burlington Northern to New England Southern was incorporated into my "master plan." After three years of fan fiction, I still had nothing but a day dream to show of it. My hats off to you modelers that can do this and do it well. I thought by modeling the B&M in NH during the late 1970's would be easier for me to complete. While the equipment is B&M, the buildings and landscape is New Hampshire looking, the track plan is pure fiction, with it's only purpose to navigate within the confines of 6 foot by 3 foot area. I'm real tempted to keep the loop and use the front to simulate Potter Place and use the natural terrain to act as a view block and keep the back of the layout as a staging area. It is so much more simple for me to copy than write science fiction.

A B&M overpass as it looks today in Franklin NH. Easy to use a reference for either a prototype style or freelanced based on an actual railroad model layout.

With all this said, this brings me to my final topic of the the day, doing something! As you know, I have moved to northern New Jersey to work for Carstens, specifically Flying Models magazine. This has required me to move what few earthly possessions I have, halfway across the country. The good news is I have a complete bedroom devoted to the model railroad! Ah, one of those few times in life when being alone is not a bad thing! The planes and the railfan Jeep coexist in the garage. The bad news is the unpacking, and organizing of said earthy possessions and placing them in the proper place. A bit OCD you say? Read my blog entry from a few years ago regarding workshop design and layout, A place for everything and everything in its place and you tell me. Yesterday I devoted an entire day sweeping, organizing and setting up the garage for the planes. It took all day because the garage can hold four full size cars. This also got all the model airplane stuff out of the second bedroom, now named "East Dearfield" for the primary use of model railroad. I'm hopping today to get East Dearfield set up so I can accomplish some N scale modeling including T-Trak, layout work and this years model to be displayed at Galesburg RR Days. I have spent a lot of time doing the research end of the B&M, now I would like to do some applied modeling. Jess the Railfan Jeep has a new top that needs to be put on, so that too is on my list of things to do, and yes, that is railroad related since she is the the Railfan Jeep and driving her to Illinois from New Jersey requires a top with windows one can safely see out of. Ah weekend plans, so full of ambition when one has the cup of coffee and the start of the day. I have a lot I want to get done, but judging on the amount of sleep I got last night, the fact that it is now almost noon on Sunday and the important fact that the coffee is gone, I doubt my accomplishments will equal my ambitions!

Thats it for this time, next time I hope to be showing you some T-Trak projects based on some local to New Jersey modelers prototypes as well as some CB&Q flatland stuff. Galesburg RR Days is right around the corner, so make your plans now. See my links section for more information and lodging. I plan on going out there and maybe reviving the airbrush seminars that I once did when I was employed with Testor and PM of Floquil. I also have plans to bring a new display model in N. I hope to start a thread about it soon. Do me a favor, bug me! I need to re-prioritize some things in my life and get what I love to do done! Your constant bugging me will help push me along.

Until next time....
High Greens!

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  1. chrispalmberg's Avatar
    Wow... my mom & sisters and I went to visit the Galesburg Railroad Days when I was about 9 or so. I hadn't thought about it in a couple decades. Other than remembering that BN & Amtrak both had a couple engines on site for tours, the only thing I can really remember is my mom buying all three of us matching green T-shirts with the Burlington Northern Fallen Flag family on it (i.e. logos from all of the roads absorbed to make the BN.)

    It was the outfit of choice (well, WE had no choice) whenever we went to a crowded location like a museum or zoo for about 2 years due to the high visibility and easy recognition factors, which apparently made things easier on Mom.
  2. Friscokie's Avatar
    It looks like you're having a great time exploring and documenting favorite rail history, Jim. Sure is beautiful country from what I see.
  3. Jim Wiggin's Avatar
    Thanks Chris, if your ever in the area you should really look at Galesburg. It has changed a lot and the upcomming RR Days show is a lot of fun, probably my favorite show.

    Friscokie, glad to see you pop in, sorry I have not reached you, I'll be in Illinois in June, maybe we can do lunch.


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