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RECENT THIRD THURSDAY PROGRAM MEETINGS

Recent Third Thursday program meetings may be viewed at any time on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.

This page lists Mass Bay RRE Third Thursday program presented in 2023 & 2024.
For programs presented in 2022, go to: MBRRE Past Meetings 2022
For programs presented in 2020 & 2021, go to: MBRRE Past Meetings 2020-2021


'A dispatcher's view of today's Boston & Maine'
Presented by Nathaniel Hurst, Train Dispatcher, Keolis Commuter Services

Pan Am trainNathaniel Hurst was raised in Westford, Mass, growing up about a mile from the Guilford/Pan Am Freight Main Line in a railroad family. His mother, Carol, worked 20 years in the industry, spending time at the Boston and Maine and Toledo Peoria & Western. His father, Rick Hurst, worked over 40 years on the railroad at the Boston Terminal, Conrail, Boston & Maine, Amtrak and MBCR.

Mr. Hurst hired out on the Springfield Terminal/Pan Am Railways in November of 2011 as a Train Dispatcher. He was promoted to Director of Train Operations in December, 2014. He left Pan Am in July 2016 to join Keolis Commuter Service, where he currently owns the 1st Trick Valley Dispatcher job at the Iron Horse Park Operations Control Center in North Billerica.

ABOVE: Pan Am Railways OI18W-20, an empty oil train from Irving Oil's refinery in St. John, New Brunswick, heads westbound on Pan Am's Freight Main Line in Andover, MA, passing the former Boston & Maine depot, now home to a private business, on October 21, 2012. The train is headed back to North Dakota to be loaded with more Bakken Crude. Nathaniel Hurst dispatched this train on Pan Am District 2 that morning, and gave the train permission over the Merrimack River Bridge in Haverhill before leaving work in time to take this photo.

Railroading brings together Nathaniel's many interests that include geography, travel, business and economics. Growing up with, and ultimately working in the industry, Mr. Hurst got to see and learn first hand how vital railroads are in our everyday lives, even though we might not realize it.

In his program Mr. Hurst explains what dispatching a railroad is like today and shows how the railroad ties in to our daily lives where we least expect it. The program covers Pan Am Railways, Pan Am Southern, CSX, MBTA Boston Commuter and Amtrak's Downeaster service.

This program was presented on April 18, 2024. Video of the program will be availble soon on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.


'How I Got Here, and Where I'm Taking the T'
Presented by Phillip Eng, General Manager & CEO, MBTA

Mass Bay RRE was excited to welcome Phillip Eng as our guest speaker for our 'Dinner in the Depot' in Malden this year. A Civil Engineer with nearly 40 years of transportation experience, including President of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Long Island Rail Road and Interim President of New York City Transit, Mr. Eng brings his abilities to spearhead challenging initiatives, modernize aging systems and prioritize safety to bear for the MBTA.

Phillip EngMr. Eng's talk will began with an overview of his career in public transportation and some of the factors that influenced his career path. He wenton to discuss the challenges currently facing the MBTA and some of the steps that he has taken and plans for the future to restore public confidence in the T as a reliable and desirable transportation option.

Mr. Eng joined the MTA in 2017 as the Chief Operating Officer, where he drove initiatives and focused on updating transportation systems through the use of innovative technologies, including developing new fare payment applications and piloting new signaling systems. As Acting President for New York City Transit, Mr. Eng led the early efforts of the Subway Action Plan – a comprehensive stabilization and modernization effort to address the challenges facing the New York City subway. During his tenure at the Long Island Rail Road, he initiated the Forward program – a set of strategic initiatives aimed at improving service reliability and enhancing rider experience.

Mr. Eng began his career in public service in 1983 as a Junior Engineer at the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) where he gained expertise in Structures, Bridge Inspection, Maintenance, and Design and Construction. During his tenure at NYSDOT, Mr. Eng held positions of increasing leadership culminating as Executive Deputy Commissioner, throughout which he played a vital role improving project delivery for significant projects such as the I-81 Environmental Impact Study, the Rochester Train Station, and the construction of the new Kosciuszko and Mario M. Cuomo bridges.

Phillip Eng earned his Bachelor of Engineering at Cooper Union and is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 2021 the American Society of Civil Engineers, Long Island Branch honored Mr. Eng with the Government Engineer of the Year award.

Mr. Eng's talk was followed by a very lively question-and-answer session. Don't miss it!

This program was presented on April 18, 2024. Video of the program will be availble soon on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.


Thursday, March 21, 8:00 PM, live-streamed via Zoom Webinar:

'On-line dating: 1931! The Development of the Snow Trains'
Presented by Dave Saums

Snow Train drumheadThis presentation was originally given for the Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society in 2016; it has since continued to grow as new materials have been tracked down. The program describes the very first snow train inaugurated by the B&M, from Boston's North Station to Warner, NH, on January 11, 1931. That was in the depths of the Great Depression, and this trial balloon proved to be overwhelmingly successful, creating a winter escape for city residents to enjoy all forms of winter sports. It put idle railroad commuter crews to work for an additional day per week on Sunday (as the normal workweek was six days), the equipment to work to generate a modest amount of revenues – and a great deal of very positive publicity for the railroad.

That very first trial turned into a full winter schedule of trips and the concept was immediately picked up by the New York Central, New Haven, and other New England and New York railroads – and then railroads across the northern Midwest states and the Pacific Northwest. "Snow trains" on the B&M worked hugely well to introduce Alpine skiing to the general public in Boston and New England – and these destination trips included barn dances, bonfires, skating, snowshoeing, theater productions, and more attractions!

Imagine being twenty-seven years old and living in Boston, and being able to walk to North Station, buy a ticket, and escape for a day to Littleton or North Conway or Plymouth! Spending time in the coaches meant being able to make new friends and, well, perhaps leading to a date – On-line dating, 1931!

Dave Saums grew up a few miles from the Bronx, on the New York Central's Harlem Division, in the Electrified Zone. In high school, his parents bought a house in a very small town in farm country, southeast of Albany – and with the Harlem Division station directly in front of the house. Instant railfan. Photographing railroads since 1969, he has also exhibited his photography in juried shows, exhibits, and galleries around New England, New York, and California, for more than thirty years, and has served on the board of directors for a large regional art association. Dave graduated from Clarkson University in St. Lawrence County, NY, with the Penn Central Syracuse-Massena-Montreal mainline directly in front of his fraternity house. After finishing graduate school, Dave had offers in marketing from Norfolk & Western in Roanoke and Conrail in Philadelphia, but instead took a marketing position in, of all places, Woodstock NY, for an electronics industry manufacturing company and continues to work in that industry today.

This program was presented on March 21, 2024. Video of the program will be availble soon on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.


'La Trochita: Patagonian Steam in 2023'
Presented by Bill Deen

La Trochita 2-8-2 no. 1In far southwest Argentina is a 250-mile, all-steam, 2½-foot gauge railroad still using its original equipment. Made famous internationally by Paul Theroux's 1979 book, The Old Patagonian Express, it is often called that. Locally, it is known affectionately as La Trochita (literally, "the small gauge"). Although freight service ended thirty years ago and regular operations are limited now to tourist trains on three widely separated segments, the entire main line that winds through the arid, sparsely populated Andes foothills is intact.
Right: La Trochita 2-8-2 No 1 (Baldwin, 1922) southbound between Leleque and Lepa, Argentina, November 8, 2023 (Bill Deen)

To commemorate the centennial of the start of its construction, Trains & Travel International ran a charter in November 2023 that sought to traverse its entirety. Mikados built in 1922 by Baldwin or Henschel pulled wooden coaches of the same vintage. Those on the tour enjoyed several days of spectacular steam action with snow-capped mountains as backdrops. That ended abruptly when the entire train derailed and tipped over at a remote location.

Bill's coverage of the narrow-gauge charter will be supplemented by a few views of the broad-gauge (5½-foot) Tren Patagonico that runs from the Andes to the Atlantic, and of rail-preservation efforts in Buenos Aires.

Bill DeenBill Deen is a retired chemical engineering professor who for many years has photographed steam in the US, Canada, and occasionally overseas. He is President of the Friends of Bedford Depot Park, a rail preservation group based in Bedford, Mass. His book detailing the history of the Boston and Maine's Lexington Branch, Minuteman Railroad, was published last year. He is also a model railroader, focusing on steam-era Pacific Northwest logging in HO scale.

This program was presented on February 15, 2024. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.


'An Inside look at Sperry Rail Service 1999-2000'
Presented by Bob Tegtmeier

PRR GG1Most railfans know the Sperry Rail Big Cars inspect the rails, but how is it done? What defects are they looking for? How many vehicles are there doing this? Bob Tegtmeier was lucky enough to be hired as the Sperry Quality Assurance Manager in 1999. Bob was able to ride the cars doing the inspections, help qualify new vehicles and learn about the Nondestructive test methods used to detect the multiple defects that can occur in the actual rail. And he took photos.

Bob's program gives an overview of Sperry Rail during 1999 and 2000, along with a bit of history and the structure of the company. All the detector vehicle types and test methods are reviewed along with the other services Sperry performed in the Danbury shop location. There are photos and explanations of what went on during the rail testing inspections, what was the output to the host railroad and what it was like working on Big Car and Hi Rail test vehicles.

The video concludes with a lively question-andanswer session that followed Bob's presentation

This program was presented on January 18, 2024. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.

 


'Pennsylvania Railroad Electrification - Keystone of High Speed'

PRR GG1Amtrak's Chris Jagodzinski gives us some historical background of today’s electrified Northeast Corridor, from the development of electric traction on the Pennsylvania Railroad (with some references to the New Haven) through the Metroliners, legacy Acela, and then new Acela, along with some technical details about catenary.

This program was presented on December 21, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.


 

 

 


'89 Years of Rare Mileage: Riding the Rails with the Railroad Enthusiasts'
Presented by Dave Brown

Claremont & ConcordMass Bay RRE President Dave Brown presents a deep dive into Mass Bay RRE's archives with a program of photos spanning nine decades of Railroad Enthusiasts excursions from the "first fan trip" in 1934 to the present day. The archive, an ongoing work-in-progress, is a digital collection of photographs, trip flyers, route maps and other artifacts donated by members and scrounged from internet sources. Contributions to the archive are welcomed!
RIGHT: Covered Bridges Ramble' on the Claremont & Concord Railway near Myrtle St. in Claremont, NH, June 12, 1971. (Photo by Art Bliss)

This program was presented on November 15, 2023.

 


'A Connecticut Summer: Visits To The Nutmeg State's Historic Train Museums'
Presented by Scott Ornstein

SoNo towerAlthough it is the country's third smallest state in terms of land size, Connecticut is home to no less than eleven historic train operations or museums.   A few have been around for decades and are staples on every railfan's itinerary, but are also popular with tourists in general.  Others are newer, and/or not as well known.  All of them, however, whether large or small, well known or not, long established or of a more recent vintage, are different, and each provides a unique aspect of railroad history in the state and region. Scott Ornstein, our guest speaker in October, takes us on an overview of the Nutmeg State’s heritage railroads and museums.
RIGHT: A docent explains the workings of the interlocking machine to visitors of the SoNo Switch Tower Museum in Norwalk, CT. The interlocking machine was used at what was once known as "Berk Tower," where the line once known as the "Berkshire Line" (now the Danbury Branch) joins the main New Haven Line at Norwalk.

Bracketed by Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiast train excursions at the beginning and end of this endeavor, Scott went to each of the (back then) eight operations or museums at least once during 2017. He documented the visits in a two-part series of articles which appeared in Railpace Newsmagazine the following year.  Scott will retrace his visits with commentary and photos, including some which did not appear in his article, and describe each of the facilities he visited and some of the observations that he noted. Scott will also briefly discuss three new locations which either opened or were identified after his story was published.

Scott OrnsteinScott Ornstein is a 30-year veteran of New York's Metro-North Railroad, from which he retired in March, 2020.  A lifelong railfan, he also had stints at Conrail and several management consulting firms.  Today, Scott continues his free-lance writing, currently contributing feature stories to Railpace and  Passenger Train Journal, the latter of which he also has a regular column, "Rush Hour Northeast", where he chronicles rail transit news in this part of the country.  Scott is Secretary and on the Board of Trustees of the Penn Central Railroad Historical Society, and also serves on the Board of Trustees and as a volunteer Car Host at the Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston, CT.  When not doing something involved with trains, he continues his quest to visit all 30 major league baseball stadiums, as well as each of the 50 state capitols.

This program was presented on October 19, 2023.


'When the Mail Traveled First Class on the 20th Century Limited'
Presented by Frank Scheer

NYC RPO ADThe 20th Century Limited, the New York Central's express all-Pullman train for first class passengers, included a Railway Post Office. None of those passengers --no matter how wealthy, prestigious, or famous-- could enter the Railway Post Office immediately behind the locomotive. First class mail was speedily distributed en route from New York and Boston to Chicago and western connections, as well as eastbound.

Mementoes of this superior mail service survive today as letter envelopes --called "covers"-- that were postmarked aboard trains 25 and 26. Examples are shown in this 45-minute presentation, as well as summarizing how Railway Postal Clerks performed their duties aboard the 20th Century Limited.
Right: A 1944 magazine advertisement depicting the New York & Chicago RPO on trains 25 & 26.

Frank Scheer has been curator of the Railway Mail Service Library since 1980. This archival library focuses solely on Railway and Highway Post Office services that operated in many countries.

Frank ScheerFrank has a B. A. Degree in Economics from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. His Masters and Doctoral degrees in transportation and logistics --now referred to as "supply chain management"-- were conferred by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His career included station agency and tower operator positions on the RF&P and C&O, N&W Assistant to Trainmaster, United States Railway Association's asset valuation case, railroad coal transportation contracting and hopper car leasing for Virginia Electric & Power Company, as well and freight traffic management and transportation services contracting for the U.S. Postal Service.

This program was presented on September 21, 2023.


Iowa Traction RailwayDan Howard presents: 'A Day on the Iowa Traction'

Dan's program will feature photos and videos from his recent visit to Mason City, Iowa, home to the Iowa Traction Railway Company, the last remaining electric traction freight railroad in the US.

Iowa Traction Railway (IATR), one of seven railroads owned and operated by Progressive Rail Inc., is an electric freight railroad that operates just over 10 miles of track between Mason City and Clear Lake in north central Iowa. In June of 2023, another heritage railroader joined Dan on a 15-day railfan trip that included a visit to see this railroad in action. It is fascinating to see these antique locomotives performing the routine jobs they were designed and built to do 100+ years ago.

This program was presented on August 17, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.


'Frank Sprague: Father of Electric Traction,' presented by Tom Laurenson

Frank SpragueTom Laurenson of the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Branford, CT brings us the story of Frank Sprague. He invented the modern trolley, developed the system of multiple control for trains, and played a major part of the development of NY's Grand Central Terminal. His contributions were especially important in promoting urban development by increasing the size cities could reasonably attain and by allowing greater concentration of business in commercial sections. A native of Milford, CT, he is surprisingly little known here.

Sprague's experience with electric elevators lead him to devise a multiple unit system of electric railway operation, which accelerated the development of electric traction. In the multiple-unit system, each car of the train carries electric traction motors. By means of relays energized by train-line wires, the engineer (or motorman) commands all of the traction motors in the train to act together. For lighter trains there is no need for locomotives, so every car in the train can generate revenue. Where locomotives are used, one person can control all of them.

From 1896 to 1900 Sprague served on the Commission for Terminal Electrification of the New York Central Railroad, including the Grand Central Station in New York City, where he designed a system of automatic train control to ensure compliance with trackside signals. He founded the Sprague Safety Control & Signal Corporation to develop and build this system.

This program was presented on July 20, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.

 


Train on Grand JunctionStories of the MBTA's Grand Junction Branch:
An Unknown Boston Transit Lifeline

Nathan Ives, producer of the YouTube channel "Boston By Rails," shows his favorite catches on the MBTA's Grand Junction Branch. Nathan covers the history and importance of the line to the MBTA commuter rail, and the interesting future the line holds. Photos of stone trains, vital equipment moves, and more.

This program was presented on June 15, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.

 


'Minuteman Railroad: Boston & Maine's Lexington Branch' presented by Bill Deen

Minuteman Railroad coverBased on his new book, Bill Deen's program traces the long and colorful history of the B&M's Lexington Branch. Operating northwest of Boston from 1846 to 1981, it began as a country short line, evolved into a double-track railroad with dozens of daily passenger trains, and reverted eventually to a quiet existence in which the train crews knew the remaining passengers by name and made sure none missed their stop.

The Branch's creation in the 1840s was a byproduct of an unlikely industry: the shipment of natural ice from Boston to tropical ports around the world. There was corporate intrigue. Begun as a local enterprise to link West Cambridge and Lexington with Boston, in the 1870s it became a pawn in contests among regional railroads. That decade also saw the arrival of the Billerica & Bedford Railroad, a pioneering two-foot narrow gauge line. During the B&B's brief but much-publicized life in 1877– 78, passengers transferred between it and the standard gauge Branch in Bedford.

That the Lexington Branch's services were once vital is unquestionable. In 1900, Arlington saw 60 steam trains daily, Lexington 44, and Bedford 28. Stiff competition arrived that year in the form of the parallel Lexington & Boston Street Railway. The Branch outlasted the trolleys by decades, but the automobile eventually was its undoing. Its right-of-way from West Cambridge to Bedford is used now by the popular Minuteman Bikeway.

This program was presented on May 18, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.

 

 

 


Joe Mato presents: 'Images of The Hartford and Connecticut Western Railroad'

West Winstead Engine HouseJoe Mato presents selections from his collection of images of The Hartford and Connecticut Western Railroad, which later became the Central New England Railroad before being absorbed into the New Haven system. The presentation will focus on how the railroad came to be, the people behind it, and the construction of the railroad when it first started. There will be pictures of locations and landmarks starting from Millerton, New York to the town of Winsted in Connecticut.

Joe Mato grew up in Danbury next to the Maybrook Line. His interest in the railroad started when he was 3 yrs old, but he never worked for the railroad and became a commercial airline pilot. Before he stopped flying, he started working at the Danbury Railway Museum and later he fired locomotives at the Valley RR and volunteered at Steamtown in Scranton.

In 2005, Joe and Bernie Rudberg started the CNE Bus Tours, showing people one segment of the CNE railroad at a time. Bernie died in 2016, but the tours continued on until Covid hit in 2020.

This program was presented on April 20, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel .

 


Rick Kfoury presents: 'The Boston & Maine's Public Relations Photography'

US Sugar locomotiveTaken mainly between 1944 and 1963, the B&M's Public Relations photographic collection portrays everything that the Boston & Maine wanted its employees, and the general public, to see. Special trains and events, new equipment and customers, infrastructure projects, elected presidents, employees - it's all covered, many taken by the B&M's official Public Relations photographer himself, George H. Hill. Some photos were staged, some were natural. All of them detail the Boston & Maine in the mid-twentieth century; a key moment in its history when optimism, pride, change, and storm clouds all brewed for the "Route of the Minuteman."

Rick Kfoury is a railroad author and historian, currently serving as the Vice President and the Newsletter Editor for the Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society. He has written four books on New England railroad history, and has strong interests regarding the Boston & Maine and shortline operations in New Hampshire. He also works seasonally as a brakeman and conductor for the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad.

This program was presented on March 16, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel.




'George Pullman, the Pullman Palace Car Company, the Pullman Porters and the Cars They Rode,' a photographic journey - presented by Laz Scangas

US Sugar locomotiveAfter spending the night sleeping in his seat on a train trip from Buffalo to Westfield, New York, George Pullman was inspired to design an improved passenger rail car. This car would contain sleeper berths for all its passengers. During the day, the upper berth was folded up overhead, similar to a present-day airliner's overhead luggage compartment. At night, the upper berth folded down and the two facing seats below it folded over to provide a relatively comfortable lower berth. Curtains provided privacy and there were washrooms at each end of the car for men and women.

In the spring of 1859, as the railroads were expanding their reach across America, Pullman convinced the Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Railroad to let him convert two old passenger cars into new and improved sleepers – the very first Pullman cars. These more comfortable, luxurious sleeping cars were an instant hit, affording wealthier passengers the amenities they were accustomed to at home and allowing middle-class travelers to enjoy a taste of the good life.

Pullman established his company in 1862 and built luxury sleeping cars, which featured carved wood details, carpeting, draperies, upholstered chairs, libraries, card tables and an unparalleled level of customer service. At its peak in the early 20th century, Pullman cars accommodated 26 million people a year, and in effect the Pullman Palace Car Company operated "the largest hotel in the world."

None of this success would have happened without the Pullman Porters. The first Pullman Porters began working aboard the sleeper cars around 1867 and quickly became a fixture of the company's sought-after traveling experience. Just as all of Pullman's specially trained conductors were white, Pullman recruited only black men, many of them from the former slave states in the South, to work as porters. Their job was to lug baggage, shine shoes, set up and clean the sleeping berths and serve passengers.

Laz Scangas is a practicing architect in the State of Vermont specializing in historic restoration. He has been involved in the restoration of the Central Vermont Station in Swanton, Vermont and the Central Vermont Station in Waterbury, Vermont. He is currently President of the Champlain Valley Chapter (Burlington, VT) of the NRHS

This program was presented on February 16, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel .

 


Bart Jennings: 'The Railroads of U.S. Sugar'

US Sugar locomotiveThe United States Sugar Corporation owns and operates two different railroad operations in the Lake Okeechobee area of South Florida. One is the South Central Florida Express, a shortline railroad that operates between Sebring and Fort Pierce, Florida, including track once owned by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and trackage leased from the Florida East Coast Railway. This route hauls tens of thousands of railcars annually for about two dozen shippers, plus even more carloads of sugarcane for U.S. Sugar.

The second railroad operation is a series of lines that directly serve the miles of sugarcane fields in the area. These private industrial lines make up the heart of the rail operations, and are often the mysterious element of any visit to the Clewiston area.

Bart JenningsBoth sets of lines can have dozens of daily train movements during the winter sugarcane harvest season. A large fleet of clean and modern diesel locomotives are used to move these trains, which often consist of some of the approximately 800 cane cars that are unique to the system. Construction of these lines started almost 100 years ago, but new rail lines are still being built and completed.

Bart Jennings has years of experience in the transportation industry. He has also worked as a professor of supply chain management, taught transportation operations, and teaches regulatory workshops for the railroad industry. For fun, he rides trains and researches transportation history. He is well-known in the ralfan community as the organizer of rare mileage excursions on short lines throughout the country. We will be presenting Bart's program from the Clewiston Museum in Clewiston, Florida, on the eve of three days of rare mileage excursions over the U.S. Sugar railroads.

This program was presented on January 19, 2023. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel .


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