Archive for February, 2009

Why All the Documentation?

February 28, 2009

Here’s a scan of my Uncle’s examination card to certify his qualifications to work as a passenger conductor on the Cumberland Valley.  Note that this branch line is organized as a part of the Philadelphia Division.  Intimate knowledge of every detail of the right of way was required of passenger train crews.  The location of every switch, crossover, interlocking, signal, etc., was all part of a day’s work.  In the collection of his materials that my Uncle Paul gave to me, I have his mile-by-mile hand made drawings of the main line from Harrisburg through Philadelphia and on to New York.  I’ll scan and post these in the future.


Speaking of documentation, here’s some history of the line.  Unlike many diminished or forgotten branch lines, this branch of the PRR has a rich history and played an important role in Pennsylvania history.  It continues today as an important artery for Norfolk Southern.

Before merger with the Pennsy, the Cumberland Valley Railroad connected Chambersburg with Harrisburg.  The Franklin Railroad connected Chambersburg with Hagerstown.  Both were absorbed into the Pennsylvania Railroad.  According to an entry on Wikipedia, the CVRR was  officially purchased on June 2, 1919, but that the PRR had substantial control as early as 1859.

The CVRR connected with the Norfolk and Western at Hagerstown but also continued on a separate right-of-way to Martinsburg, West Virginia and Winchester, Virginia.  This line was freight-only, I believe, but may have hosted passenger traffic earlier in the twentieth century.  (If you know, let me know.)

The CVRR has a rich history.  The railroad and its Chambersburg facilities were attacked by Confederate cavalry in the days leading to the Battle of Gettysburg and another confederate raid occurred the next year in 1864.  Retired Defense Department intelligence operations specialist Paul J. Westhaeffer has written a history of the railroad.  His Web page summarizes his work and contains a map of the early configuration of railroads in the Cumberland Valley.  There’s a wealth of information at the links at the bottom of his page.

If your a model railroader and visit the area, there’s a club in Chambersburg you may want to see, the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club.

There’s a great summary of CVRR history at this link, including images of stock issues and the cover of a timetable courtesy of railroad author Dan Cupper.

Someone is intending to build a Web site about the Cumberland Valley Railroad.


Rules and Speeds

February 28, 2009

cumberland-valley-scanHere’s another document my Uncle used to study the rules and speed limits governing trains 645 and 638. This is equivalent to an employees timetable for this branch of the railroad. Note the speed limit through Shippensburg. The six miles per hour running was required because the railroad ran down through the middle of a street. Note the branch featured spring switches, something that would never be found on the main line. Today, one can drive on Interstate 81 between Harrisburg and Hagerstown in about fifty minutes. It’s interesting to think that passengers once settled for a slow speed ride through the night at an average speed about thirty miles per hour. I want to find out more about hand operated switches connected to block signals. Perhaps a knowledgeable operator can weigh in on that. Does it mean that a switch thrown by hand actually changes the aspect of the signal?

Public Timetable

February 21, 2009

I have to continue my search through many boxes to find my PRR timetables of Trains 645 and 638. In the meantime, here’s page 3 of the Norfolk and Western time table N0. 2 dated October 29, 1961. At this time, the Roanoke Sleeper  westbound to Harrisburg was on Train 3, the Penn Texas, New York to St. Louis.  Eastbound, the Roanoke to New York Sleeper connected to Train 30, the St. Louis  to New York The Spirit of St. Louis.