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New Haven RR Electrification

The first railroad to take the plunge into large scale main line electrification was the New Haven. They face the same problems north of New York City that the Pennsy faces to the south: fast, frequent traffic, numerous station stops - and smoke abatement laws.

Their gamble on electric power paid off big time: New Haven has become the second largest electrified railroad on the continent and - for its size - one of the largest passenger carriers. These are the motors that started it all.

The New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad is essentially a regional commuter carrier. Most of their passenger traffic is short haul around New York City, with the second largest concentration being out of South Station, Boston. They do, however, run a number of through intercity trains along the northern half of the Northeast Corridor (being the principal road north of New York City and into New England).

With the dawning century, their emphasis began to shift more and more toward these intercity trains. This shift was accelerated when they reached an agreement with the New York Central to use their new Grand Central Station. Now they had the ability to bring trains directly into the City and make connections to the NYC heading west.

As the century dawned, the New Haven found themselves in something of a technology crisis. In 1903, the State of New York passed a law requiring trains operating into New York City to be powered by something other than stream. At that time, the only "other than" available was electrification. So the New York Central began electrifying their terminal district on Manhattan Island, reaching across the Harlem River to Woodlawn Junction, where the New Haven went their own way.

Then there was the pending connection via the Hell Gate bridge to Penn Station. The City fathers had declared that only steel cars would be allowed into the terminal. This confronted the New Haven with the need to replace most of their wood rolling stock with steel.

There were also the potential savings in operating costs that electrification afforded (even then, the limited experience of other commuter services were showing what could be done here). Being in chronic poor economic health, these savings could not be ignored. Obviously, if new steel cars had to be bought, now was the time to decide whether to build them as electric MU cars.

For a time, the New Haven looked seriously at electrification of their major trunk line from New York City to Boston. Once completed, this would be the first ever serious long haul trunk line (even predating the third rail on the Long Island Railroad). The immediate problem, however, were the swarms of commuter runs. So the plan was adapted to start at Woodlawn Junction and build northeast, covering the commuter runs first, then pushing further on as funding would allow.

The Central's electrification (covered in a separate Topic) is a basic 600 volt DC third rail setup which was finding favor just then with several commuter and terminal operators in the general region. However, once clear of Manhattan, the New Haven elected to go with the still unproven 11,000 volt, 25 cycle overhead catenary.

In theory, high voltage AC has several advantages in the long haul. Aside from reduced line loss, the greater voltage gives a greater kick for hard acceleration and ample power could be purchased commercially and adapted with rotary converters. This would soon become the defacto standard for main line electric power in the East.

New Haven began pushing their own electrification (catenary) northeast toward Stamford, Connecticut. This 21 mile stretch of four track main was completed in 1907, and a power plant built at Cos Cob to supply electricity.


Cos Cob and other power supplies

The Cos Cob generating station of 1906 was constructed to power the original 21 mile line from Woodlawn to Stamford. At the time, it's 13,000 kilowatt generating capacity was ample for the commuter district. But as the overhead extended in all directions, demand soon outstripped supply.

In 1912, Cos Cob was rebuilt with 32,000 kilowatts of capacity and, in 1914, a more sophisticated power distribution system. This covered the extension from Stamford to New Haven, the Harlem trackage and some interurban trackage. Even with the improved 22,000 volt distribution line (feeding transformers at various points which in turn supply the 11,000 volt overhead) the far ends of the system have been suffering from line loss.

As horsepower has increased by nearly 300%, the financial condition of the New Haven, which had begun to deteriorate in 1907, has held back on power supply improvements. In 1915, the road began purchasing power from Consolidated Edison (of New York City). In 1926, two 5000 kilowatt frequency changers were added to use commercial 60 cycle power from the Connecticut Power & Light Company. This has helped the line loss in the eastern system. In 1927, the new Hell Gate trackage linked with the Long Island Railroad's power supply.

Nonetheless, almost from it's inception, the power grid has run near or at capacity with nothing in reserve other than what can be diverted on a short term basis from the commercial power sources.

New Haven's early decision to go with 11,000 volt AC received a shot in the arm when the Pennsylvania Railroad began its monumental Corridor electrification project. One result of this was that now the demand for 25 cycle AC was great enough to justify the utility companies buying dedicated generator capacity.

One thing that has helped preserve the New Haven electrification in later years is that Consolidated Edison has plenty of 25 cycle capacity that they are anxious to find customers for, so power at good rates is easy to find. In the late 60s, a financially strapped New Haven has found that it is more economical to keep using the existing overhead with second hand motive power than to dieselize.


Expanding the system

In the mean time, whatever shortages were developing in the power supply, the electrification was becoming a self fulfilling prophecy as the wires stretched ever outward. At first, the New Haven expanded rapidly to take full advantage of their investment. However, as their financial condition worsened and as the power supply problem became intractable, progress slowed and eventually came to a halt.


Unfortunately, the ambitious goal of electrifying to Boston, despite the long term economic advantage it offered, was simply too bold for a road in a perpetual state of near bankruptcy. The modest financial gains of the 20s gave way to financial crisis in the 30s. Construction petered out at the beginning of the Great Depression and, in October, 1935, the New Haven entered bankruptcy, effectively ending the journey to Boston.


First Generation motive power

For motive power, the New Haven started off with a series of box cab motors for freight (EF1) and passenger (EP1) duty. These were built by Baldwin / Westinghouse, the leading manufacturer of electric motive power of the day. To eliminate turning at the end of a run, all electrics have been built as double enders. To get around the compatibility problem, the New Haven adopted the practice of having both conventional pantographs and third rail pickup shoes. These later are used only about 10% of their total running time.

New Haven has an odd way of numbering their electrics: each number is preceded by an "Oh", which stands for "Other than steam". All their electrics are then numbered sequentially as they are built. Their classes are labeled "EF" for freight, "EY" for yard switchers or "EP", meaning "Electric Passenger" power.

Appropriately for the New Haven, their first electrics were the passenger EP1s. Built in 1905, these are some of the very first 11,000 volt AC electrics intended for long haul service.

The design is a basic box cab sitting on a pair of 4 wheel power trucks. The carbody has two control stations (with the distinctive New Haven arched cab windows) and access platforms on either end. A pair of scissors pantographs are mounted on the roof and third rail shoes on each truck.

The power train is of the gearless type similar to the Milwaukee bi-polars with the axles running through the motor armatures. Learning from experience on the B&O, this gearless drive has been modified so that the motor weight is carried on the truck frame. This reduces the unsprung weight on the axles, making for a smoother and safer ride at high speed. The drivers and motors extend up into the carbodies, so these trucks have only a limited pivoting range.

In practice, these box cabs turned out to be somewhat less than had been hoped. The EP1s, in particular, lack the power needed for high speed passenger service, so they were soon running in MUed pairs. They have also shown a dismaying tendency to slam back and forth while running at speed. Not long after their delivery, one of the EP1s derailed in a disastrous wreak and it proved necessary to add a pilot wheel to the outboard end of each truck. (The New York Central had a similar problem with their class "S" terminal motors.)

Still, with new pilot trucks and by operating them in pairs, they have proven successful (tinkering is to be expected in any new concept) and have remained in long haul service for a remarkably long time.


The EP1s began to retire in 1936. A few, including the original #01, remained in service through the Second World War. The last were retired in 1947. All 40 units were scrapped.


Shortly thereafter, they followed up with the first steel MU cars for commuter service. By far, the most common early New Haven passenger equipment are the 221 MU electric cars received in several batches prior to the Great War. These were built by Standard Steel Car Co and Osgood-Bradley in roughly equal numbers.

One curious feature about their first batch, shown above, is that they are open platform cars. A second batch in 1912 are identical except for small details. The third batch received in 1914 are very similar but with enclosed vestibules: setting the standard for future construction.

The design is basic, but well thought out. Based on a standard steel coach carbody with clerestory roof and concrete deck, it features 4 across seating with Motorman's booth at either end. Opposite the booth at the forward end is a single toilet. Baggage racks are mounted over the seats and the obligatory stretcher is stored in a holder in the clerestory.

Roof features include a pair of scissors pantographs, bi-directional lights and an odd sounding "trombone" horn. A couple of peculiar features of these cars are that the two pantographs are wired to a common bus that runs along the roof on insulated posts and that the car lighting has both 32 volt battery powered and 600 volt AC.

As built, these cars were designed to be bidirectional. It was soon realized that this is unnecessary in an MU combo if the rear car is turned to face backward (thus becoming the cab on the return trip). So it was not long before the rear operators booth and related roof top paraphernalia were removed. In place of the rear booth, two additional lengthwise seats were added increasing the car capacity to 76.

The MU cars have proven a resounding success and New Haven has ordered more as rapidly as their fragile finances will allow.


Second Generation motive power

By the end of the Great War, the electrified districts are becoming bottlenecked. With the completion of the Stamford and Hell Gate trackage, the demand for motive power is getting out of hand. Even with the wires in place, many long haul trains are still steam powered - partly because the power grid can't handle the load, but mainly because of a shortage of electric motive power. Moreover, the through connection to Penn Station is increasing the long haul traffic load, so more passenger road power is needed.

The 40 EP1s are adequate, but not impressive. The early box cabs showed that a B-B truck design leaves something to be desired. (It should be noted that, at that time, the available 4 wheel power trucks were beefed up trolley car trucks and a lot of what we now know about suspensions had yet to be discovered.) In any event their technology is already dated, so continuing the series will not do.

So when the New Haven began ordering additional power, they went with large modern electrics which recent experience has shown will be suitable for their long haul services. The principal builder of heavy electrics, Baldwin, has an arch-conservative world picture of what motive power should look like. Steam engineering is tried and true and is certainly Baldwin's strong suit, so when they were asked to develop a large passenger road motor, the result is interesting, but hardly surprising.

The basic concept of a box with motorized swivel wheel assemblies under it is a sound one. So Baldwin took the basic EP1 box cab pattern, stretched it out and added more drivers to each truck. If one pilot wheel is good, two is certainly better. So the power trucks each have two outboard wheelsets which make this effectively a pair of 2-6-2 Prairie types coupled back to back. This is not a conventional articulated in the steam sense. The two trucks are connected by a drawbar. Taking swift advantage of the breakthrough in electric motor design, these mount pairs of small motors on each axle and geared directly to the wheelsets.

This curious not-quite-mallet design rides more smoothly than the EP1s (being longer helps too) although the ungainly articulation has caused problems with binding. The articulation also runs drawbar stresses through the mainframes rather than the carbody, which lowers the height of the thrust line and allows the stresses to more closely follow the track.

Above the mainframes, the carbody is a functional box housing the transformer, air pumps, switching gear, train heat boiler and sand boxes. As large as the carbodies are, the transformer is so huge that the air tanks and cooling coils wound up on the roof. To avoid having to turn the units at terminals, they were built with dual cabs. A "front porch" platform bolted to the ends of the power trucks provide crew access.

The EP2 concept has proven successful and New Haven has taken several batches of them in the post WW-1 years. This basic pattern has set the standard by which all subsequent Hew Haven power is being built.


The major bugaboo with heavy electric power of all kinds is side to side nosing at high speeds. One thing that has been discovered in recent years is that symmetrical power chassis (such as a 2-6-2, for example) tend to track poorly while asymmetrical chassis (such as a 4-6-0) run far more smoothly. Thus, when New Haven needed additional power in the late 1920s, they decided to develop a new motor rather than continue the EP2 production.

This involved a change of supplier: Alco / General Electric winning out over the traditional Baldwin / Westinghouse team.What came out of Schenectady is perhaps the most handsome example of box cab electric motive power: the EP3a. The EP3a is essentially similar to its predecessor, having an articulated chassis (more conventionally pivoted in this case) upon which a box cab holds transformers, train heat boiler and dual cabs. The design is beefier, has a bit more horse power, but most importantly is capable of higher sustained speeds due to its greater overload capacity.

One minor note about these unit's nomenclature: the EP3a and EP3b are the same units; the -a and -b suffixes being added when they made some minor changes in the transformer cooling system. It was one of these locomotives - the Oh 351 - that the Pennsy tested and from which they developed their GG-1.


These units were withdrawn from service by 1955 because the New Haven could not afford the cost of routine repairs. In the management turmoil of the time, the decision was made to dismantle the electrified system except for the Stamford MU district. The EP2s and EP3s were stricken from the roster and scrapped shortly thereafter.


Retreat and Rebirth

More to come presently.


Third Generation motive power

More to come presently.


Milwaukee electrification - - B&O electrification - - PRR electrification -

New Haven Electrification -

- - The Fall River Line - - The Florida Trade


The "Comet" - - DL-109 diesel -

Boston - - Providence, RI - - Brockton, Mass

New London, CT - - Hartford, CT - - Bridgeport, CT - - Darien, CT

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North East Rails  Clint Chamberlin.
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