A Brief History of the Danbury Railway Museum

Page Three


Back at the yard, there was much work to be done. Removal of several switches by Metro-North left our yard with no connection to the outside world. We had to rearrange track within the yard to fix that. These days most track work is done by machines. But we have no track machines, so we resorted to the 19th century method, using hand tools to complete the work. Here a volunteer uses a spike puller to remove a spike.

Once the rail is no longer secured to the tie, the rail can be moved or a rotted tie replaced.

Sometimes muscle isn't enough and we have to resort to cutting with a torch.

Of course, when constructing track, spikes have to be driven into ties with a sledge hammer.

Although it looks like nothing but brute force, there is some fine art involved. The rails must be 4 feet 8½ inches apart if the train is to stay on the track. Here a volunteer uses a track gauge to check our work.

Sometimes we can get machinery to help with our work. This man found about our project from a friend who is a DRM member, and brought his backhoe to the yard for a day.

That 39-foot section of rail weighs about 1,300 pounds. It's a lot easier to move with a backhoe than by hand.

In the spring of 1996, our big track project was to restore access to one of the museum's priceless assets — our turntable.

Turntables were vital during the steam era. Steam engines are very difficult to run backward and therefore needed to be turned at the end of a run. Even into the diesel era, turntables were used in yards to allow access to various locations in tight spaces, such as the stalls of the Danbury engine house shown here in May, 1959.

But by the spring of 1995, the Danbury turntable had been out of service so long that some large trees were growing out of the turntable pit.

After the volunteers cut down the trees, the pit remained full of debris.

In the spring of 1996, a contractor was engaged to clean out the pit.

Now we have a clean turntable pit and restoration work can begin. Although it will be a long and expensive process, the Danbury turntable will turn again, and it will be a big attraction for the museum.

Meanwhile, restoration work was beginning on our rolling stock. The five Housatonic coaches needed to be repainted. These coaches had been built for the Reading Railroad of Pennsylvania by Bethlehem Steel between 1922 and 1925. But they had been renovated so many times that they no longer closely resembled their as-delivered appearance.

The two coaches closes to their original appearance were painted in a Reading livery.

The other three received Danbury Railway Museum lettering.

Our RDCs are thousands of man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars away from running on their own. But cosmetic restoration can make for terrific static displays. Here we see #47 waiting to leave Danbury for a run to Pittsfield, Mass., in September 1970.

This is what it looked like when delivered to us.

But with much scraping and a little painting by our volunteers . . .

. . . it's looking as it did in the late 1950s.

Here's how the #32 looked when it was delivered to us. Notice the blank letterboard, the blue paint, and the Metro-North logo. Even the number had been changed to #19.

When the plate on the letterboard was removed, lo and behold, the New Haven name was still there.

When the Metro-North logo was removed, the New York, New Haven & Hartford logo was still visible.

Some barkeeper's Friend and some elbow grease enabled the volunteers to restore a shine to the stainless steel.

Having a sign painter as a DRM member came in handy.

Notice also that the number 32 has been restored.

We're sure you'll agree she's well on her way to being a beautiful RDC once again.

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