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We'll Get You There

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Enjoy this article written by the late Bob Hughes, a WestConn Chapter member and former tower operator.

Being snowbound after the winter storms here in Rhode Island, I went back through my slides taken from Stamford Tower, where I worked as Signal Station Operator for the New Haven from June 1968 through 1974.

In January 1969, the weather forecasters had no super-computers or software programs to crunch the data and produce today’s highly accurate forecasts. Storms were predicted based on what was happening to the west, and so you just hoped for the best but prepared for the worst.

On this morning, the snow had just started when I left home well before dawn at 6:20 with enough time to get my two cups of coffee to go at Dunkin Donuts and be at work by 6:45 for my 7:00am start. Little flakes and a swirling wind meant this could well be a significant storm.

The morning rush hour trains from Stamford went smoothly, and it wasn’t until midday that the snow really started to come down. This is train 173 running from Boston to Washington, down the branch at New Rochelle, over the Hell Gate Bridge, into Penn Station and on to points south. The swirling snow makes it impossible to see the engine number on this EP-5 which is just slowing to take the crossover from track 1 over to 3 for the station stop, then back to track 1 to run express to New York. The train is on time, and the passengers are surely grateful to be warm and cozy inside the steam heated cars, perhaps enjoying another cup of coffee after their lunch in the dining car.

Outside in the snow, things are less comfortable. Traffic on I-95 in the left background is moving slowly in increasingly slippery conditions. The trackman knows the Stamford to Grand Central local train on track 8 with the bright headlight will be moving across the plant and closing in behind 173, assuming the switch can be reversed and is not clogged with snow after the train passes.

The two semaphores on tracks 2 & 4 are both displaying green, indicating the way ahead toward Boston is clear for at least two blocks. And finally, the manual block signal just above 173’s second car, is displaying Clear Block for the New Canaan dink to make another eight mile trip up the branch in the snow.

My relief arrived a few hours later, and I scurried home as the roads got worse, stopping at the mart for milk and eggs. The next morning we had 19 inches of dry powdery snow, but I managed to get in and back to work, helping people get where they wanted to go on the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. If you can make it down to the station, we’ll get you to the city. And we did

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