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2015 NRHS Convention Train Trip to the Omya processing plant 6/19/2015

by Chris Guenzler

This morning I arose and went to the lobby and had breakfast with good friend Barry Christensen then stopped to get more Coca-Cola before driving to the Amtrak station to park the rental car for this trip.

The inside of the Rutland Amtrak station. First an NRHS member dropped off the new box of Convention trip guidebooks then Bart Jennings arrived and I gave him the box.

Here is Bart at the station.

Me at the station.

Our train went by the station with Vermont Railroad 311 on the north end and Vermont Railroad 301 on the other.

The train then reversed into the siding.

The special paint scheme on Vermont Railroad 311. With the buses abnormally running late from the Holiday Inn, I walked south and saw drones in the air for the first time in my life.

There is a drone in the sky. Steve Barry of Railfan Magazine was getting ready to launch his own drone.

Steve had a sucessful launching of his drone this morning in Rutland. I walked back to the station just as the buses arrived.

This trip would be a rare mileage trip from Rutland to the Omya processing plant on the remains of the original Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad near Florence, Vermont. My new mileage would be from Florence into the plant. After the NRHS trip safety meeting on the train, we boarded the passengers and soon took tickets and I distributed Omya Rocks to each passenger. This was only the second passenger train to operate on this line in modern times.

Clarendon & Pittsford Florence Branch History

This branch was a part of the original Clarendon & Pittsford, and the reason that it still exists is the large OMYA plant that still operates here. For those who track their mileage, this line can be a bit confusing as the C&P timetable and track charts show Florence, at the connection with the Vermont Railway, as milepost "0". These documents show that the mileposts increase from here. However, the FRA grade crossing database shows that the mileposts start at Florence Junction and increase as they head towards Florence.

On September 10, 1885, the Vermont Marble Company officially incorporated and organized the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad. Using a standard gauge line, the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad operated from Florence (at the north end) and Hollister Quarry White Pigment Corporation plant and Loveland Quarry to Proctor and Center Rutland, with a branch line operating to the Central Vermont Public Service Corporation generating plant in Rutland. Another line went from Center Rutland to West Rutland, making the total distance 15.70 miles. When the railroad was first designed, the main line, according to the Second Biennial Report of the Vermont Board of Railroad Commissioners, was ten miles long. From the Proctor quarries to Proctor was two and one half miles and from Proctor to Center Rutland and West Rutland was seven and one half miles with three miles of sidings.

In addition to the main line, however, there were eventually six and two tenths miles of switching track in the rail yards at Florence, Proctor, Center Rutland and West Rutland. In 1884 a survey was commissioned in order to extend the line from West Rutland through Center Rutland to connect with the Bennington and Rutland Railroad near the Fairgrounds in Rutland. The extension, only five miles long, was to break up the monopoly on marble and coal freight which the Delaware and Hudson Railroad skillfully controlled. The road was to have been known as the Rutland and Tidewater Railroad, but it never did materialize. Four years later, however, in 1888, the Vermont Marble Company did extend its line between Center Rutland and West Rutland and later continued the line to hook up with the Bennington and Rutland Railroad at the point designated in the Rutland and Tidewater survey.

This portion of the line paralleled Otter Creek until it reached St. Peter's Athletic Field, which it then skirted. It passed near Calvary Cemetery and crossed Meadow, Forest and Granger Streets before connecting with the Rutland and Bennington Railroad. This section was abandoned many years ago, with only a spur track surviving, which extends from what is now the Vermont Railway Bennington Division to Meadow, where it services an Exxon bulk plant operated by Walter Patch.

Without any doubt, the man most responsible for the organization and development of the Clarendon & Pittsford was Redfield Proctor, an industrial giant of his day. According to his biography in Men of Vermont, published in 1894, Redfield Proctor was born in Proctorsville, Vermont on June 1, 1831. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1851 and received his A.M. degree from the same school in 1854. He selected law as his profession and pursued preliminary studies at Albany Law School in New York. After graduation in 1859 he was admitted to the New York Bar and also at Woodstock, Vermont.

During a portion of the years 1860 and 1861 he practiced his profession in the office of his cousin, Judge Isaac Redfield, the eminent jurist, at Boston, Massachusetts.

Upon the outbreak of the rebellion in 1861, he immediately returned to Vermont and enlisted in the Third Vermont Regiment, was commissioned as lieutenant and quartermaster and went to the front. After several promotions he was advanced in October 1862, to colonelcy of the Fifteenth Vermont Volunteers and took part in the decisive engagement at Gettysburg's Cemetery Ridge during part of the second day's struggle.

Returning from the war he established himself in Rutland, entering into law partnership with Wheelock G. Veazey. Thrown into the conduct of business matters in settling affairs of a concern of which he had been appointed receiver, Colonel Proctor found that it was more to his taste to do things than to talk about them. The attraction that business life has for a man of pronounced executive ability soon caused him to withdraw from the active practice of law, and in 869 he became manager for the Sutherland Falls Marble Company. In 1880 the Sutherland Falls and Rutland Marble Companies were consolidated under the name of the Vermont Marble Company, with, by then, Governor Proctor as its president. Under his management this company grew and became the largest concern of its kind in the world.

The Second Biennial Report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners for June 20, 1888 to June 30, 1890, had high praise for construction of the road. "It is a well built road and in every way equipped for the heavy traffic required, which is mainly the marble of the great quarries it was made to reach." But ten years later, although the observation was still favorable, it was not as unequivocal as that of the Second Biennial Report. The Seventh Biennial Report of 1898-1900 said "The railroad is generally good but needs additional ballast at some points. The road is in good condition generally for the purpose for which it was constructed and is now operated." It was also pointed out that cattle guards were not present along this railroad. The year 1945 became quite significant for the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad. In that year the railroad disposed of its last steamer and acquired its first diesel locomotive. Locomotives Numbers 10 and 11 were diesel powered with 380 h.p. caterpillar engines built by Whitcomb. At that time it was reported that the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad was the first and only all diesel powered railroad in the country.

Number 3, the W. E. Higbee, an 0-4-2T Baldwin, was acquired in December 1890, five years after Number 1 had been acquired and Number 3 served 33 years, finally being retired in 1923. Number 3 was one of the locomotives longest in use in the company's history.

Number 4, the George C. Robinson, an 0-4-0 Baldwin, was acquired in May 1901. After 24 years with the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad, it was sold to the Boston and Maine Railroad in August, 1925, where it became their second Number 64 and was used on sharp curves at Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Number 5, the George H. Davis, a 2-6-0 Baldwin, was acquired in May 1902. Later, it was changed to an 0-6-0 and was equipped with Economy Valve Chests and a superheater. After 28 years of service it was sold to the Crystal River and San Juan Railroad Company in Colorado and became its Number 2 engine. When the Crystal River and San Juan Railroad Company was abandoned in 1941, the locomotive was sold to the Morse Brothers Machinery Company of Denver, Colorado.

Number 6, an 0-6-0 Baldwin named the B. F. Taylor, was acquired in December 1906. This engine was used as an 0-6-0 during much of its service on the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad. It was rebuilt to an 2-6-0 with Economy Valve Chests and a superheater when it was sold to the Crystal River and San Juan Railroad in 1936, after 30 years of service with the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad. After the demise of the Crystal River and San Juan, Number 6 also went to Morse Brothers in 1941.

Number 7, the C. I. Hunter, an 0-6-0 Baldwin, was acquired in February 1912. Like Number 3, Number 7 served the Clarendon & Pittsford for 33 years and was finally retired in 1945.

Number 8, an 0-6-0 Lima, was built in March 1918. It was an ex-American International Shipbuilding corporation's Number 1 (U.S. Emergency Fleet) and was purchased by the Clarendon & Pittsford from the Davis Equipment Company in April 1922. For 23 years, Number 8 served the Clarendon & Pittsford line, and then in 1945 it was retired.

Number 9, an 0-6-0 Schenectady, was acquired in December 1924, and worked the line for 22 years before being sold to the Rutland Railroad on March 29, 1946, for $500. It became Rutland's Number 107 and eventually was retired by that railroad in September 1953.

Twice, the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad came to the rescue of the Rutland Railroad: first, was the flood, and, second was the Railroad strike. In 1927, following the disastrous flood, the Rutland Railroad was put out of business for several weeks because of the great flood damage suffered by this road in many places along its lines, but particularly in the Proctor area. The Clarendon & Pittsford track was above the flood waters of the Otter Creek and, consequently, was spared the ravages of the flood which inundated the much more low lying Rutland Railroad whose track closely paralleled the river. The Clarendon Pittsford became a vital link during the stressful four week period when the Rutland was unable to operate and reconstruction was not yet completed. The destructiveness of the flood near the river was such that the water moved everything in its path. During the 1927 flood the Gorham Bridge was lifted off its foundation and carried downstream. Later it was towed back and replaced on the original end-foundations. The ruggedness of this bridge was a fine testimonial to its builder.

Normally, Rutland's Number 88 transported milk to the New York and Boston markets. On November 3, 1927, it was transporting 22 cars - 21 cars of milk and one combination baggage and passenger car for the train's crew. Number 88 was highballing through Proctor, already running late, when Engineer Hank La Parle noticed the order board was up. La Parle was ordered to take the siding south of Proctor Station to permit northbound Number 65, the Green Mountain Flyer, to pass. La Parle proceeded on orders and took Number 88 to the siding and waited. The Otter Creek continued to rise and began to edge its way over the rails. After a two hour wait on the siding, the Creek had spilled over its banks and water roaring over the rails. Finally, an order was given to La Parle to back Number 88 into Proctor Yard instead of trying to get to Boston.

After proceeding only a few feet the train suddenly encountered a washout. Three of the cars started to sway violently. The crew could only helplessly watch as three cars slowly settled lower and lower in the water, as there was no grade left under the ties.

Further north at Florence, Rutland's Number 26, a 2-8-0 Schenectady built freighter, was doing some switching at the Clarendon & Pittsford interchange, four miles north of Proctor. It was ordered to Proctor to assist, if possible, the stalled Number 88. When Number 26 arrived at Proctor, its headlight picked out two of 88's train crew hanging desperately to the rear-end coach. The water was sloshing high up and threatened to invade the firebox. The couplings of No. 26 and the rear-end coach of No. 88 touched for a brief moment. The shivering trainmen scrambled onto No. 26's pilot and back over the running boards to safety. Number 26 reversed its engine and snorted out back to safer ground.

But others were still left on Number 88. The engineer and the fireman were still at the head of the 22 car train. With each passing minute the water continued to rise, and now the water had blocked their escape to Number 26. The men were obliged to climb higher and higher to escape the water pouring through. Finally, they were forced to the outside on to the top of the cab, where they remained for several hours watching the water and cut off from all help.

Several hours later another rescue party was formed to bring the men back to safety. The engineer and the fireman looked on as the party attempted its rescue. The current was so strong that it drove the rescue party back. La Parle and the fireman watched powerless to help the rescue workers and powerless to get off. All they could do was hope that current would slow down or the water would abate. It was out of their hands. They could do nothing. Powerful Number 88 was powerless and so also was everyone connected with it. There was nothing to do but wait and hope.

After midnight another rescue crew finally made it to the engineer and the fireman. They were taken off Number 88. The water had risen to within 18 inches of the top of the cab. If it had risen two more feet, the engineer and the fireman might have been washed away. Water rose to the top of the Proctor Memorial bridge at the height of the flood of 1927.

Beginning on September 25, 1962, the Rutland Railroad was on strike. In August 1962, the Clarendon & Pittsford purchased Number 500, built by General Electric in 1951, from the Rutland Railroad, and also essential spare parts for $43,000. The purchase was necessary to keep up with the enormous amount of extra freight cars handled because of the Rutland strike.

The Clarendon & Pittsford stepped into the breach to help area shippers as much as possible. The Railroad's small scale operation was literally snowed under with business. Since the railroad strike started, Center Rutland, which was the rail interchange with the Delaware and Hudson, was a very busy freight terminal. Many of the shippers who normally used the Rutland came to the Clarendon & Pittsford team track in Center Rutland to load or unload materials. Although the Delaware and Hudson served some customers in Rutland, the Clarendon & Pittsford's little yard was always crammed with cars, and materials were being handled by trucks to and from city plants.

Middlebury College was one of the many Rutland Railroad customers inconvenienced by the strike. Upwards of 90 cars of coal per year were used by the college for heat. During the strike the coal was interchanged from the Delaware and Hudson to the Clarendon & Pittsford at Center Rutland and hauled to Florence where the coal was stored in a ten acre lot leased by the college and then trucked to Middlebury as needed. This delivery alone presented quite a chore for the three cars at a time to operate over the hill from Proctor.

The Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad did not carry United States mail, nor did it have regular passenger service. It carried its own employees to and from their places of work at Florence, West Rutland and Proctor until 1925 when the service was phased out due to the ever increasing numbers of employees who drove their own cars. It, nevertheless, was a remarkable railroad rich in history. The Clarendon & Pittsford lives on, not as a railroad unto itself, but now as a Division of the Vermont Railway. And today many people such as Bert Nelson continue the tradition. Bert is the son of long-time Clarendon & Pittsford engineer, Henry Nelson, and nephew of Clarendon & Pittsford conductor, Sigur Nelson. Bert is presently an engineer for the Vermont Railway Clarendon & Pittsford Division and has in his own right more than 33 years with the Clarendon & Pittsford.

Omya West

This is the Verpol Plant. OMYA is a privately-owned Swiss mining company. According to several sources, OMYA operates approximately 140 plants in more than 30 countries worldwide. In 1976, OMYA purchased the Vermont Marble Company and built the OMYA West plant, also known as Verpol. The plant is centrally located between significant deposits of marble in Middlebury, Salisbury, Brandon, Pittsford, South Wallingford, Danby and Dorset.

The Verpol Plant was the first North American plant for OMYA and began production in 1979. Since then, the plant has expanded several times to meet their demand used in the paper, paint and plastics industries. OMYA quarries marble, which then is ground, milled and purified to produce a finely ground calcium carbonate. Much of this product is shipped out in tank cars in a slurry form.

To the west are tracks used for product loading, known as the Load Track, Empty Track, and Dispersant Track. To the east are three tracks, known as Track 1 (Car Wash), Track 2 (Repair Track), and Track 3. Track 1 is the longest track at about 1220 feet long.

The Trip

The train left Rutland for Omya.

We ran by a cemetery in Rutland.

Passsing Rutland coach-smoker 551 built by Osgood-Bradley in 1913 which on display.

The train crossed East Creek in Rutland.

Two views looking ahead.

We were now at Center Rutland.

Looking back at the junction here.

Departing Center Rutland.

Heading out into the Vermont forest.

Crossing US Highway 4 grade crossing north of Center Rutland.

I have enjoyed all the plant life here in Vermont.

I also have enjoyed all the styles of barns this state has offered.

As always we are being photographed on all train movements in Vermont.

My car load of passengers on their one-way trip to Omya.

Green along the Vermont highways.

More train chasers as we continued north.

I like the homes along our routes in Vermont.

Many different kinds of trees can be seen in this state.

More interesting geology.

Another barn sits alone in a field.

We have been following Otter Creek since Center Rutland.

The Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor.

Heading back into the woods.

Scenes of the state of Vermont; it did rain overnight in Rutland.

Crossing Otter Creek once more.

We passed the MP 65 sign.

Arriving in Florence.

Two views of the Hammond Covered Bridge.

A local company in Florence. We pulled into the siding to have the engineer switch ends of the train and do his standing air test and stayed here longer to let the buses get ahead of us to get our next group of passengers to Omya and have a photo line set up to capture our train's arrival in Omya.

We then started towards Omya.

We ran by the Hammond Covered Bridge again.

We left the junction at Florence and I was on new rail mileage.

We first ran by this orchard.

Two views on our train ride to Omya.

The view ahead of our train.

Another photographer captures an image of our NRHS Convention train ride to Omya.

An Omya plant worker gets his picture of our train.

The grade is the steepest on the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad.

We came to the first switch as we neared the Omya Plant.

We ran by a switch going the opposite way of our train.

Crossing one of the roads leading into the Omya Plant.

Still climbing.

More switches to other tracks at Omya.

The Omya main plant came into view.

The last public grade crossing at Omya.

Looking back at our train.

Rolling the last mile into the Omya Plant.

We had plant workers watching our train arrival into Omya this late morning.

Another Omya plant worker just watches the train go by.

Two views of the Omya Plant complex.

There are railroad cars on several levels here.

Our train ran by the Omya Train Group 2 photo line as they caught us arriving. Group One would detrain and the smaller Group Two would now board their train for the trip to Rutland.

Views of the Omya Plant.

We left the Omya Plant after I had passed out those Omya Rocks to Group Two.

The eyes are still watching.

Omya covered hoppers.

An interesting marble building.

We soon returned back to mainline at Florence.

The Hammond Covered Bridge once more.

After the engineer switched ends of the train, we departed Florence.

This road takes you to the Gorham Covered Bridge also known as the Goodnough Covered Bridge.

The train passing the Center Rutland station.

The eyes on the cab car door has me in its reflection. The train arrived into Rutland, ending the NRHS Omya Trip.

The train back in Rutland. A special thank you to both the Vermont Railroad and Omya for letting us do this unique trip today.