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

Tracking the Light with Brian Solomon'

Mountaineer photo Brian SolomonWe were excited to welcome noted rail photographer and author, Trains Magazine columnist, and (now) Manager of Marketing & Events for the Conway Scenic Railroad Brian Solomon to the Pearl Street Restaurant for a compelling program showcasing Brian's photographic work from throughout his career. Brian describes in detail the trains and people depicted in each shot, and what it took to capture it. He also passes along a few tips for the budding rail photographer.

Brian Solomon's program was presented before a live audience on October 21, 2021. You can view the program on Mass Bay RRE's Facebook page.

John Sacerdote: 'Behind the Scenes at the ARS Railroad Hobby Show'

Railroad Hobby ShowEvery year, usually on the last weekend in January, the Amherst Railway Society holds its 'Railroad Hobby Show' at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield Massachusetts. Far and away the largest train show in the east, the Show now occupies four buildings, encompassing nearly a half-million square feet. That's over 10 acres of trains! More than 22,500 railfans and public attended the Show each of the past five years. Anyone who has been to the show knows that it is BIG. Harder to appreciate is the enormous level of detailed planning required to make the show happen.

John Sacerdote has been the Show Director for Railroad Hobby Show for the last 16 years, and is only the second Director since the Show's inception in 1991. In this entertaining and revealing program, John takes us behind the scenes during the weekend of the show, and explains in detail all that goes on during the year to get ready for the show in January. He also shares some amusing anecdotes about his experience as Show Director.

John Sacerdote's program was presented on September 16, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

Jeff Gabriel: 'Operating Major New England Railroads of the 1930's Virtually'

Train Dispatcher 3.5 is a train operation simulation program that allows the user to operate portions of actual railroads, including a somewhat simplified track layout, switches and signals, operating characteristics and train schedules as they are or were in the past.  By remotely clearing signals and throwing switches, the Train Dispatcher user simulates the major functions that the real-life train dispatcher faces daily.

Train Dispatcher Screen ShotLong-time Mass Bay RRE member Jeff Gabriel has a major interest in the history of New England railroads. He’s developed a historically quite accurate re-creation of trackage, routings and operations of the 1920’s – 1930’s era on some of our favorite railroads, including the Boston & Maine, Boston & Albany, New Haven, Maine Central, Central Vermont, and other New England railroads.

Jeff’s PowerPoint presentation demonstrates how he operates these railroads on his home computer, and how anyone can easily begin to do the same.  He starts off with an overview of the Train Dispatcher software and how it operates.  Then he does a guided tour of one of the territories he’s created, the Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg Division, from North Station in Boston west to Troy, NY, with the Conn River and Central Mass. lines and associated branches.  That is followed by a brief live operation shown on-screen.

Jeff GabrielUnlike 3D train simulation programs like Trainz that allow the user to create and operate photo-realistic models of train cars and locomotives, Train Dispatcher 3.5 is a Windows-based program that displays a depiction of a very large model board that would be found in a dispatcher’s office or perhaps an interlocking tower.  Although not being currently promoted or updated, the program is still readily available from the author’s company.  Jeff explains how to get it and how to get one or more of his modules.

Jeff Gabriel has been an RRE member for 20 years. He grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Middlebury College. He is a retired corporate financial manager, living in NJ with his wife, Linda. He travels often and explores the railroad history of New England and the Middle Atlantic States, with emphasis on passenger operations, stations and interlockings.

Jeff Gabriel's program was presented on August 19, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

David Horree: 'The P&W Through an Engineer's Lens'

P&W Ethanol ExtraAs an employee of the Providence and Worcester Railroad from 2002 to 2018, David Horree witnessed the changes the railroad went through. From moving coal from the Port of Providence to Bow and Mt. Tom power plant in conjunction with Guilford/Pan Am, the opening of the Motiva Ethanol facility in Providence, the ever present movements of stone & aggregates to the multiple Tilcon plants, the growth of the stone traffic to the Long Island market, and ultimately the sale of the company to Genesee and Wyoming, David saw and photographed it all. The majority of the program will show views from the "west end" of the railroad as that is where David worked the most, although there are scenes from the Worcester area as well. (Above: P&W ethanol extra at Noank, Connecticut.)

David Horree was employed by the Providence and Worcester as an engineer & conductor between 2002 and 2018. Besides images taken "on the job" (when that was still legal) he also photographed the railroad during off times. Although he no longer works for the P&W, David is still a working railroader, and continues to photograph P&W trains while off duty.

David Horree's program was presented on July 15, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

'Steaming Through the Archives: the Railroad Collection at UConn'
with Laura Smith

Dodd Archives at UConnThe Railroad History Collection at Archives & Special Collections of the University of Connecticut Library collects, preserves, stores and makes accessible the records and other items related to the history of the railroads of southern New England, particularly the New Haven Railroad. The collection measures well over 5000 linear feet and includes photographs, timetables, maps, annual reports, research files, administrative, real estate and financial records, publications and much more. The collection's purpose is to provide these unique sources for students, scholars, family historians, the media, enthusiasts and the general research community. (Right: The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.)

In the 1980s the successors of Penn Central disbursed its various predecessor railroads' corporate records to cultural heritage institutions that most suited the research needs of the collections. The records of the New Haven Railroad came to the University of Connecticut Library. Since that donation the railroad archives has grown to include almost 100 other collections of railroad documents dating from the 1830s to the present.

B&P RR Back Bay mapSince 2013 the UConn Archives has placed digital copies of many items in the collection online in its digital repository, which begins at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/. Of particular interest to railroad researchers is a set of railroad valuation maps, created in 1915 to account for the railroad's property, of the entire New Haven system; issues of the railroad's employee magazine Along the Line, and thousands of photographs showing stations, engines, cars, trains, and personnel. While what is available online is a drop in the bucket to the physical collection held in the archives, it is still a great way to get a feel for what resources are available for research. (Left: Boston & Providence RR valuation map - Boston Back Bay)

You can see a list of guides to the railroad collections at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/classifications/2.

Laura Smith has been an archivist in the UConn Archives, overseeing the Business, Railroad and Labor collections, since 1999. Her talk to Mass Bay RRE highlights many aspects of the collection and provides information about how to learn about and access the resources. She also provides some information on how to preserve your personal collection and how to work with an archives to donate your materials. She welcomes all inquiries about the collection; she can be contacted at laura.katz.smith@uconn.edu.

Laura Smith's program was presented on June 17, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

Alex Lu and Andrew Jennings: 'An Introduction to the Railway Culture of Japan and Taiwan'

Japanese locoAlex Lu and Andrew Jennings provide an introduction to the fascinating railways of the island nations of Japan and Taiwan. These railway systems are linked by history, and the railways are deeply imbedded into the culture. The railways are incredibly varied from some of the very busiest in the world to very light density and pastoral. The geographies of these inlands have led to railway engineering wonders, including the world's longest railway bridge and what is arguably the world's longest underseas railway tunnel. But the railways are much more than interesting equipment and operations, they have become important elements of these nations' cultures.

Alex Lu, ADD-Strategic Operating Initiatives and Field Administration for Metro-North Railroad, grew up near Taipei, and has worked for ScotRail, consultants, NYCTA, and Metro-North. Andrew Jennings, a semi-retired transportation consultant, worked for 20 years for various US railroads before turning to consulting. As a consultant he has worked on rail-related projects for 30 years on five continents.

Above: A Japanese electric locomotive sports the image of the anime character Doraemon, a cat robot from the 22nd century that is considered a cultural icon in Japan. (Andrew Jennings photo)

Alex Lu and Andrew Jennings' program was presented on May 20, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

Ben Clark: 'The Trials, Tribulations (and Occasional Triumphs) of a New Hampshire Shortline Railroader'

Ben Clark title slideBen Clark, President of the Hobo & Winnipesaukee Railroads, shared stories of growing up as part of one of New England's most well-known railroad families. His presentation covered a variety of topics, from a runaway train to service recovery efforts following washouts and other natural disasters on the Concord-Lincoln Line. Ben also discussed some preservation highlights regarding Clark's Trading Post and the White Mountain Central Railroad.

Ben remembers the days (and nights) of working alongside his grandfather at the North Stratford Railroad during the mid- to late 1980s. He gives an overview of some of the historical and contract restoration projects they have handled through the years. This very special and personal program is the first time Ben has shared images from his personal photo album with the public – truly a "one night only presentation!

Ben Clark's program was presented on April 15, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

Amtrak's Chris Jagodzinski: 'An Inside Look at the Next-Generation Acela'

New AcelaChris Jagodzinski, Assistant VP, Operations, at Amtrak has been heavily involved in the testing, preparation, and launch of the next generation of Acela trains, which are expected to enter revenue service in early 2022. At our March Third Thursday Zoom meeting, Chris gave us an inside look at what it takes to get the new Acela built, tested and approved for service. His presentation will help you understand what it takes to get fast trains running and how this is different than the legacy Acelas. (Right: Photo of the new Acela 21 at Bryn Mawr)

This program was presented on March 18, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.


Larry Mills: 'German Steam in the 1970s'

German Steam LocoLarry Mills photographed Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR - the rail system in East Germany) steam during his 1972-1973 military tour in Germany. He was stationed first in Hanau, 13 miles east of Frankfurt, and later in the city itself, and made very frequent trips on the systems there. There were over a thousand active steam engines at the time as the DB was electrifying all its main lines and only bought enough diesels for lines never to be electrified. (Right: DB 050 296-3 at Koblenz, 9-4-1972.)

One of the lines being done at the time was the Moselle Valley between Koblenz and Trier. During the 1950s when the DB wanted to put the wires up there the local area pressured for the funds to go for river navigation, so the railroad figured they could have all steam! That even included the Cochem Tunnel which was the nation's longest (half the length of the Hoosac Tunnel), which was just being electrified when he was there.

Larry thus covered mostly the areas east and southeast of Frankfurt; northeast of Frankfurt, and the Moselle which flows west from France into the Rhine south of Koln. He also caught steam in other places, and learned early on to keep his camera ready whenever out on the line and to quick at putting down the top part of the window for a quick shot, as steam engines could pop up anywhere!

Larry's show consists of views of steam in the Moselle Valley from Koblenz to Trier (which was then being electrified), Bebra (where DR steam took trains to Berlin and what was then the border), Aschafenberg and Wurzburg. There are also a few shots in the Mannheim and Heidelberg area, and also in Limberg.

Larry Mills has been an RRE member since 1982. He grew up in Brookline, graduated from Boston State College in 1970, and spent 3 years in the US Army. He served as an officer for the Federal Protective Service from 1979 to 2015, retiring as an Inspector.

This program was presented on February 18, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

Kate Jurow learns 'Firing on the Cumbres & Toltec'

Kate in loco cabCan a mild-mannered senior lady with back and knee issues shovel enough coal to keep a steam engine chugging up a 4 percent grade, at an altitude of over 10,000 feet? Find out as Kate Jurow describes her experience in Fireman School on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, a 4-day program for steam enthusiasts. (Right: Kate Jurow in the cab of S&TS 484.)

The Cumbres & Toltec, voted "Best Scenic Train Ride" by USA Today readers, runs 64 magnificent miles through the San Juan mountains of New Mexico and Colorado. Fireman and Engineer students in the program spend their days firing and running the Cumbres & Toltec's fleet of historic Mikado engines.

Kate described her experiences in the cab, caboose, gondola cars and classroom, using photos and videos. As only the second woman ever to take the course, she has a unique perspective on the program, and on the physical and mental challenges of firing a steam locomotive on a complex and demanding route.

This program was presented on January 21, 2021. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

Jean Fox presents an update on the South Coast Rail Project

Arriva trainThe South Coast Rail project will restore commuter rail service between Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford are the only major cities within 50 miles of Boston that do not currently have commuter rail access to Boston. After decades of false starts and planning, Phase 1 construction began earlier this year and has been proceeding in earnest through the summer and fall. Service to the region is expected to resume by the end of 2023.

Jean Fox, Director of Community Engagement for South Coast Rail, reviewed of the project's progress to date, and what we can look forward to in the coming months and years. As a bonus, Ryan Colohan, Chief Railroad Officer for the MBTA, showed photos of the late-October track collapse on the Mass Coastal RR in East Sandwich and the construction activity to restore the line to service.

This program was presented on November 19, 2020. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

Dan Howard explores 'The Short Lines of Western New York'

SoNo TowerMany of us were disappointed when the weekend of rare mileage excursions planned for summer 2020 on the Falls Road Railroad, the New York & Lake Erie Railroad, and the Arcade & Attica were cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Dan Howard's program let us to experience these short lines virtually. We started off with a rainy day mixed train on the Falls Road between Brockport & Lockport, a visit to the New York & Lake Erie, and the Arcade & Attica's steam train. We also poked around the Buffalo area for museum pieces in Hamburg and WN&P Alcos in the yard in Olean. To the east, we visited the Adirondack Scenic, including a May, 2011, rare mileage trip to Lyons Falls, and slipped across the NY/PA border for a look at the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad.

This program was presented on October 21, 2020. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

(Above: New York & Lake Erie passenger train at South Dayton, NY behind a pair of Alco FPA’s, on May 28, 2016.)

Derek Carter presents: 'UK Rails in 2017'

Arriva trainIn August of 2017 Derek Carter took a trip to the UK, starting in Manchester. In addition to taking in the constant activity at Manchester Piccadilly Station, he used that as the base for day trips to Blackpool, where he rode much of the historic tram line, Conwy, where the ruins of a medieval castle provide overhead views of trains passing through the world's only surviving tubular bridge, and Crewe, where the heavy action on the West Coast Main Line can be enjoyed from both the station platform and the balcony on the former signal box, now part of the Crew heritage Centre. (Right: An Arriva train departs Conwy and passes through an arch cut into the city's medieval wall when the line was built in 1847.)

This program was presented on September 17, 2020. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

'Railfanning with Matt Betzner'

Matt BetznerIn the decade, more or less, since Matt Betzner first joined the RRE, we've watched as his enthusiasm for the hobby has developed and matured. With Mass Bay, Matt has been a car host, a key member of our Show Crew, and a frequent contributor to Callboy and meeting programs. Matt's railroad interests are broad, encompassing train riding (he's been a Train Host on the Downeaster since 2011), modeling, virtual railroading and photography. Matt's photographic skills have developed considerably since he first offered photos for Callboy many years ago, and he's also accomplished at video editing and production.

611 & 382Matt's presentation took us to the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania, and checked out Norfolk Southern action at Rockville Bridge, CSX and Amtrak trains in Florida, then returned north to Cape Cod for Fs, the Cape Flyer and the trash train. Finally, Matt took us back to Strasburg for the N&W 611's visit in October of 2019.

Matt's program was presented on July 16, 2020. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.


The Shambhala Express: Train T 164 Shanghai to Lhasa, Tibet
Presented by Susanne Gänsicke

Piers in ChangtangA few years ago a work gig in Shanghai presented a rare opportunity for Susanne Gänsicketo make a side trip to Tibet, the roof of the world. The undertaking took a bit of fine footwork and strong nerves. (Right: Pilings of the train tracks are set deeply into permafrost in the Changtang.)

Train T 164 left Shanghai on an October evening. The 54-hour journey first took a path via Xian, and continued along the muddy Wei River, tributary to the Yellow River. Eventually the train turned south and after a second night, the sun rose in Golmund in Qinghai province. Through peaks, perhaps 6000 meter and higher, the train moved onto the vast and barren Tibetan plateau. Arriving in Lhasa, Susanne was met by two Tibetan guides who became her travel companions for the next seven days, venturing deeply into monasteries, fortresses, and the past of Tibet. The PowerPoint slide show revisits this voyage, telling from a layman's perspective the lessons of the railroad, and revealing a few of Tibet's mysteries.

Susanne Gänsicke is a conservator of archaeological artifacts. Originally trained in Germany, she came to the US more than thirty years ago, worked at the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and is currently Head of Antiquities Conservation at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles.

Susanne's's program was presented on Thursday, August 20, 2020. You can view the program on the Mass Bay RRE YouTube channel or on our Facebook page.

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Page updated on October 28, 2021