Railgrinder photos from White River Junction, Vermont, April 29, 1999.


The Connecticut Valley Model Railroad Club has its meetings near the yard and tracks in White River Junction.   This past meeting, the members were excited to find a railgrinder unit sitting at idle in the yard waiting to meet the Amtrak Vermonter so it could continue grinding rail through and south of town.  With the daylight beginning to fade, we all wandered down to take a look.  As luck would have it, I had my new digital camera with me.  As I'm just learning how to railfan and I'm even newer at taking photographs, I was happy to know my camera would give me instant feedback so I could get some decent shots!  I am pretty happy with the results, given the difficulty in contrast and the changing light sources.  But you can be the judge.  Here are 16 photographs that document the railgrinder's visit to White River Junction:

Some of the crew are hanging out at the lead unit.  Note the water cannon on the nose platform for preventing fires from the sparks.

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Here's a shot of the second unit. I'm wondering if it's powered like Alco's, look at the exhaust in idle!

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The tank car holds the water for the cannon on either end of this train. You can see the hoses leading up over that leased Geep.

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Here's a shot from the water car to the end unit.  Those two cars behind the Geep are dorm cars for the crew.  A Club member said they look like converted GO passenger cars from Montreal.  I didn't get a clean photo of them.   There's another tank car just before the rear unit.

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Here's the Vermonter going past the railgrinder unit. At night the Vermonter heads north.  Here it's running 45 minutes late due to some vandals overturning and abandoning an automobile on the tracks near Claremont.  After the Amtrak train is past, the railgrinder would move out to begin operations just south of here.  One of the crew said they would only be grinding on the curves.

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Here is the Vermonter heading past the end of the railgrinder on its way to Saint Albans. The sun is already behind the mountains, but there is plenty of light to shine on the rails.

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Here's a somewhat blurry closeup of the lead unit and the water cannon.   The train had begun to move just as I snapped this shot.

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Here's Kip Miller, a member of CVMRR, taking in the view as the train begins to move south.  All but the lead grinding unit can be seen in this shot.

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Here's a closeup of that Geep.  I'm not up on "new" diesels as I model the late 40's and early 50's.  If someone will email me with the identification of this unit, I'll gladly put the information up here (along with credit to the first person to tell me!).

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Here's the trailing unit.  Looks just like the lead unit, except the top headlights are not on. That's George Jones, another CVMRR member, to the side watching it go past.

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There's a better shot of George! I don't know the identity of the other gentleman. The grinder is just moving into downtown White River Junction.  The former Boston & Maine steam locomotive, #494, is just down the tracks, obscured by the railgrinder. I got a shot of the railgrinder and the steam locomotive, but the shot was too blurry to put up here.  I need a tripod :-) For info on the restoration of the 494, see the website by clicking on this link.

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I got a ride in John Roger's restored 1941 GMC pickup truck down to Nut Street Crossing, where I caught this shot of the railgrinder train!  John is our Club treasurer.

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As the sun was setting, John got me back in the pickup and headed down the road to a curve he knew where we could catch the grinder in action.  Here's a shot of the shower of sparks that the grinders threw out as they took the pits out of the top of the rail.  This pitting is caused by flat spots on wheels pounding the rail head.  If not ground, the pitting can become worse and create dangerous conditions. It also makes for a less than pleasant ride for Amtrak passengers, or so I'm told.

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Here's a closeup of those grinders in action.  Don't worry, I was on the side of the public road.  I just used the telephoto capability of the Nikon Coolpix 950.  Believe me, I was not ready to get hauled off for tresspassing.   Nor was I about to get too close to that shower of sparks!

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 The local fire departments had to come out and watch several brush fires started by the grinders' actions.  The grinder train did back up several times to allow the water cannons at each end a chance to soak any sparks, but northern New England has had a very dry spring and the ever-vigilant Fire Departments weren't taking any chances!  You can see why.  Here's a shot of the lead unit.

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And here's a last shot looking  towards the head of the train as it continues to grind its way south toward Windsor.  This is the last shot I got before it was too far from the road for good photos.  I went home just after this shot, happy to have caught a little piece of railroading on "film."  Of course the crew of this unit worked all through the night.  I wonder what it's like trying to sleep offshift while that unit is in action?

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From here you can go to:

The Connecticut Valley Model Railroad Club's website.

Dave Bott's Southern Railway History, Modeling and Railfan website

Dave Bott's Atlantic & Yadkin Railway website.

The Southeastern Model Railroaders Forum  website.



This website and all images associated with it are copyrighted by David M. Bott.

Last edited August 26, 1999.