The Naugatuck Olympics: The Grey Team and the Brown Team

The 2012 Summer Olympics opened Saturday, July 28 in London. Simultaneously, the Naugatuck Railroad put two teams on the ground at Torrington, Connecticut, to salvage a short spur track south of the Water Street crossing.

The Grey (Hair) Team included Howard Pincus, Foreman; Al Galanty, locomotive engineer; Tim Reed, crane operator; Walt Herrman, spare parts runner; Steve Butterworth, track (work) coach and news reporter.

The Brown (Hair) team included Matt Andel, train conductor; Matt Lawson; Toni Barbera, Tom Wallace, Alex Neisloss, and Winfield Greene, apprentice track (but not field) workers. Jason Hartmann and Tyler came off the bench and joined in the afternoon.

This reporter observed very real progress in bringing along the younger generation at the Naugatuck. Both Matt Andel and Matt Lawson have a few years’ experience in all sorts of jobs on our railroad, ranging from car host to conductor and from track builders to mechanics and coach roofers. Toni, Tom, and Alex count their experience in months, but bring plenty of curiosity and enthusiasm plus their youthful energy. Considerable credit goes to Matt Lawson for collecting Toni, Tom and Alex and driving from the Norwich, CT area to the Naugatuck Valley.  Winfield is a veteran of Mystic Seaport’s SABINO, Tim Reed introduced him to the possibilities of mechanical things on rails.

In Torrington, Franklin Products is west of the main track and south of the Water Street crossing. Their business is expanding, and they wanted to use space east of the main track. ConnDOT, which owns the rail line we use, agreed that Franklin could construct a private grade crossing and use land occupied by a 250-foot spur track east of the main track. The spur was laid with 80-lb. section rail that the Naugy can use for yard tracks at Volunteer Shop. After restoration, a pipe-connected derail on the spur will be displayed on the Thomaston station track.

Festivities started at 8:30 Saturday with Matt Andel and Al Galanty inspecting 2203 before heading to Thomaston to pick up the PTM 198 crane and Maine Central gondola. Meanwhile, “the kids” helped Steve check TC30 and load it with track tools plus the oxyacetylene cutting torch. TC30 and Matt Lawson’s truck drove on the highway to Torrington. Meanwhile, Howard met with CDOT’s grade-crossing engineer and representatives from Franklin Products to walk the site and finalize details of their plan.

The day’s first goal was obvious: Remove the rails and other materials from the spur so  Franklin Products can proceed with their expansion plan. The Naugy crew began by measuring the rails and marking them with their lengths and center points. Then it was muscle work, pulling spikes and removing the bolts from joint bars. Some bolts were so rusted, they spun loose in the holes and had to be cut with the torch. The freed rails were rolled toward the center of the track, exposing the tie plates. Those were picked up with a long packing hook, borrowed from the car knocker’s corner of the shop.

After 2203 arrived with the crane and gondola, we all put on hard hats. Then the rails, a ruined bumper post, the derail, the pipe connection hardware, the switch frog (previously removed, with a broken casting), guard rails, and crates of tie plates and scrap all went into the gon. We took an involuntary break in mid-afternoon when the sky opened up and poured rain. Nearly an inch collected in the spike bucket in an hour.

Next we moved north to the Torrington loading dock siding, intending to retrieve the resident New Haven gondola and bring it to Chase Yard. The switch needed digging out, and everyone learned what a track broom is for. The switchstand also required respiking. Walt cleared the weeds with his weed wacker, allowing a close inspection of the track. When we applied a track gauge, we found some just acceptable wide-gauge spots. After some reflection, Howard considered the hour (6 PM), the weather (still raining lightly), and the crew condition (wet and tired) and decided it was a good time to apply the lesson, “Bad things can happen late in the day.” The switch was relined and locked for the main, and 2203 headed south, providing a physical-characteristics session en route for Alex and Winfield.

The number of young volunteers gave the old guard the chance to teach and pass along skills and good work habits. Our “new” Naugatuck Railroad is already 15 years old; time marches on relentlessly. We are very fortunate to have some younger people who think our railroad is interesting to be around. And we are grateful for their help.

—Steve Butterworth

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