Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Model Railroad Once Housed in the Abandoned Pelham Manor Station on the New Haven Branch Line

For a number of years after the New Haven Branch Line stopped running passenger service in December 1937 at the beautiful little Pelham Manor Depot designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert, a model railroading club was permitted to use the empty station.  The Westchester Model Club, Inc. built a massive model railroading layout that even included a tiny replica of the very Pelham Manor Depot within which the Club was housed.  The Club lasted only a few years until 1953 when the Depot had to be demolished to make way for today's I-95.  

The Club and its model railroading layout attracted national attention.  I have written about the Club before.  See, e.g.:

Fri., Apr. 09, 2010:  The Closing of the "Eastern Railroad" of the Westchester Model Club, Inc. in the Pelham Manor Depot in 1953.

Tue., Oct. 13, 2009:  Film of the Westchester Model Club, Inc.'s Model Railroad in the Pelham Manor Depot Before its Demolition.

Tue., Apr. 21, 2009:  1950 Article Mentions Model Railroading Club That Used Pelham Manor Depot.

Above is a Fascinating Film of the Model Railroad Inside
the Pelham Manor Station as it is Being Operated by Club
Members in the Early 1950s Before the Station Was Closed
and Demolished.  Note that at the 0:35 Second Mark in the
Film, You Will See a Miniature Version of the Pelham
Manor Train Station in Which the Model Railroad is
Being Operated.

In 1938, shortly after the model railroading club opened, The Pelham Sun published an extensive article describing the layout of the model railroad and the way in which it was run.  That article provides entertaining insights into the nature of the club and sheds light on the way in which the station was used before it was demolished to clear the way for I-95.  The text of the article in its entirety appears immediately below, followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"Railroading In Pelham Manor, Halted By Popularity of W. & B., Is Revived With Success of The Eastern Lines
Model Railroad in Abandoned Station Recalls Days When Branch Line was Popular Means of Transportation; Model Club Stages Interesting Operation of Miniature Railroad.

Although railroad service at Pelham Manor station of the New Haven railroad was abandoned several years ago, it has again become an important point in railroading -- model railroading.  Many Pelhamites are not aware that Pelham Manor has a railroad station, but the old timers can tell you about the days when the handsome stone building situated at the southerly end of the Esplanade was an important center of transportation, days when the 'Branch Line' of the New Haven was the popular means of conveyance between New York City and the residential communities of City Island, Pelham Manor and New Rochelle.  Those were days when it was quicker for commuters from the financial district in New York City to sail up the East River on the steamer 'Shady Side' to 199th street and then use the Branch line, than it was to come to Pelham by elevated railway and the main line of the New Haven.

Why, on 'Games Day' at Travers Island it was necessary to have four ticket windows open at the Pelham Manor station in order to accommodate sportsmen clamoring for return tickets.

Until 1921 regular 20 minute service was maintained on the Branch Line.  Strangely enough it was that swift suburban line with the ambitious name 'New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad' that spelled the doom of the 'Branch Line' as a commuting service and with the increase in the popularity of the 'Westchester' the Pelham Manor station was closed.

The 'Westchester' gave up the ghost on December 31 [1937], but the ghost of the old Branch Line commuting service can be said to be rolling again with a 'High Ball' given by the Westchester Model Club, group of amateur model railroad builders who are now operating the most extensive system of model trains in the United States.  Their headquarters is the Pelham Manor station, and their activities live up to the oldest traditions of railroading.

Last Thursday night with a small local audience looking on, the members of the Westchester Model Club staged a two-hour operation of 'The Eastern Line' as their model railroad system is known.  Operating on exact schedule over a system of more than 1,500 feet of track, scale one-quarter inch to the foot, Limited Expresses, The Fast Mail, local accommodation trains and the Fast Freight operated over the Main Line Division following a schedule patterned after those of an actual railroad, much to the delight of the 22 adult members of the club who were operating it.

Promptly at 8:44 p.m., 'Number One Limited' pulled by a miniature duplicate of the Chesapeake & Ohio's newest streamlined engine, steamed out of the Western Terminal hauling its full complement of six Pullmans, diner and three coaches.  Out on the main line it was given a clear track for its five minute run through to the Eastern Terminal.

Shortly after 'Number One' left the Western Terminal, 'No. 202,' a local, left 'Jonesburg' station under power of an exact scale model of a new Erie locomotive and continued eastbound on the Branch Line making stops at 'Oil City,' 'Woodstock Junction,' where it picked up passengers from the 'Limited,' 'Tower TW,' and arrived at 'Western Terminal' at 8:48.  There it picked up Pullmans and diner and went out on the 'Main Line' as 'Limited No. Two' for the rest of the run to the 'Western Terminal.'  Freight service began at Cedar Yard at 9.15 p.m. with 'F-4E' pulling out with a line of fifteen cars, including box cars, gondolas, oil tanks and 'refers.'  At Tower TW, 'F-4E' was sidetracked to permit 'Number Four' to pass on the Main line.

Thus the operation continued following true railroad tradition with seven trains in motion on the system at the same time, details of operation being conducted under the supervision of Frank Phillips, advertising man, who was Dispatcher for the night, with Edward W. Shropshire commercial artist, acting as Superintendent of Operations.  Promptly at 9.57 the last westbound local arrived at 'Jonesburg' terminal on the Branch Line, and the members of the club gathered together to talk railroading, and to discuss improvements in the system until a late hour.

The New Haven railroad has donated the use of the station buidling to the Westchester Model Club, and the members of the club, numbering 60 have installed their system,, over a year and a half.  With the exception of the 'Mountain Division,' landscape effects and a model of the Pelham Manor station which will be used as the central terminal  at 'Jonesburg' the system is about completed.  On June 24, as a gesture of appreciation to the New Haven railroad, the club was host to officials of the line for the ceremony of 'driving the Golden Spike' signifying completion of the Main Division.  All the rolling stock used on the railroad has been built by club members.

The trains are powered by electricity taking the current from a third rail which parallels the entire system.  Although the track layout with its bridges, tunnels, union terminal, freight yard, turntable and Round House is amazing as one views it, a glimpse under the platforms on which the tracks are laid discloses an almost unbelievable electrical system, which is the key to the intricate operation.

Although regular meetings of the model club have been suspended for the Summer months, there are few nights when members of the club cannot be found working on their railroad, testing recent additions to the locomotive equipment, laying tracks on the Mountain Divisions, or working on a scale model of the famous 'Horseshoe Curve' of the Pennsylvania Railroad near Altoona, which will be an important part of the system.

The next public operation of the 'Eastern Lines' will be on Thursday, August 4 at 8.44 p.m.

Is there a smile on the face of the 'Ghost of Pelham Manor Station' as he thinks of his old friend the 'Ghost of the Westchester & Boston?'"

Source:  Railroading In Pelham Manor, Halted By Popularity of W. & B., Is Revived With Success of The Eastern Lines -- Model Railroad in Abandoned Station Recalls Days When Branch Line was Popular Means of Transportation; Model Club Stages Interesting Operation of Miniature Railroad, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1938, p. 10, cols. 2-3.

"Terminal scene on the Westchester Model Club railroad
at Pelham Manor, N. Y."  Source:  Walthers, W.K., Handbook
for Model Railroaders, p. 15 (Milwaukee, WI:  Kalmbach
Publishing Co., 1949, 5th Printing).  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

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