Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's In the Bag

Last week, visitors to the Essex Steam Train were startled to see a huge “bag” in the parking lot and wondered what it was doing there and what was inside.

The “bag” was actually a temporary containment structure to enable the sandblasting and painting of New York, New Haven & Hartford box car number 35386 owned by The Friends of the Valley Railroad..

Prior to the development of the Interstate highway system and the rise of the trucking industry, the box car was used by the railroads to haul many commodities. In addition to items that were boxed or crated, these cars were used for carrying lumber, grain and other non-perishable food stuffs. Specialized box cars were used to transport automobiles. At one time the New Haven owned box cars by the thousands. Today, less than a dozen survive. No. 35386 was last used by Amtrak as a storage shed at New London, Connecticut. When it was learned that the car was to be scrapped, The Friends purchased the car and quickly trucked it to Essex. Volunteers repaired the rusted car and made reproduction parts to replace lost or damaged ones.

Brian DeWolf, a local sandblasting and painting contractor was retained to refinish it. The “bag” is homemade, stitched together with numerous zippers to allow for entering. The “bag” was placed over the boxcar and then secured to the ground with stakes and ropes. Two large electric blowers are placed at the bottom and once turned on, inflate the “bag”, and create an enclosed work space. Once the box car was sandblasted, primed and painted (in a authentic New Haven paint scheme), the “bag” was floated off and folded up for storage. Once the “bag” was removed, the work area was cleaned up and the used sand disposed of.

Next month, the box car will be lettered and the moved to East Haddam for display adjacent to the former New Haven Freight Station.

J. David Conrad