Freight House

NYNH&H Freight House

Track side of the Freight House, date and photographer unknown.

New Britain Freight House

A railroad freight house handled less-than-carload (L.C.L) freight, much like shipping companies such as UPS do today. They also handled carload freight for industries that don't have their own industrial track.

Bulk tracks (often called team tracks) handle carload traffic for local industries as well. There are unloading platforms and usually a crane, but trucks can also just pull up to the door of the car and unload directly.

A common commodity in this era unloaded at the concrete platforms were automobiles. They were shipped in Automobile Cars, with double doors to be able to push the car in (by hand) or end doors so cars could be driven in. It doesn't appear that New Britain had an end door loading/unloading ramp.

The New Haven Railroad Freight House was 270' long and built in two sections. The northern section is of brick construction, with 8 loading doors for trucks. The second section, including the office, is of the New Haven Standard wood construction with 9 loading doors. I don't know which portion was built first.

While I don't have a date, I believe the freight house burned down some time in the '60s or '70s.

House and Bulk Tracks

Often adjacent a yard, as they are in New Britain, the house and bulk tracks are not part of the yard proper and are not used for classifying trains.

House Tracks

    • No. 32 - 715' (14 cars)

    • No. 34 - 775' (16 cars)

    • No. 36 - 845' (17 cars)

Bulk Tracks

    • No. 38 - 370' - Stanley Rule & Level

    • No. 40 - 535' (11 cars) - 15-ton hand-operated pillar crane

    • No. 42 - 608' (12 cars)

    • No. 44 - 548' (11 cars)

    • No. 46 - 747' (15 cars)

    • No. 48 - 962' (20 cars)

    • No. 50 - ~1,000' (20 cars) - concrete platform

New England Transportation Company

This was a wholly owned subsidiary of the New Haven Railroad, and the freight house served as its New Britain terminal. Inbound and outbound traffic was handled by NETCo route A-11 with stops in the morning and afternoon en route from Hartford to Bristol and return. These routes handled L.C.L traffic to/from small town freight houses that didn't receive enough traffic to warrant regular service.

Other Trucking Companies

The Railroad would also lease space in the freight house to other companies. For example, from 1946 (probably earlier) through 1948, Walker Trucking Co. has space (and presumably an office) at the freight house.

The original layout featured a long switch lead to get to the bulk tracks. This is from the 1915 valuation map.

The track with the small building across the tracks was the track scale for weighing freight cars.

This is the layout by my era. I don't know when the switchback was eliminated, but the railroad sold the southwestern section of the property. Note that the track scale is still present in 1952. The concrete platform for a crane is also noted, for a 15-ton hand (winch) operated pillar crane.

The concrete platform has moved, and there's a shadow on the map that shows there may have been another. None of them are end ramps (at the end of one of the tracks) for unloading automobiles from end door cars. Regardless, automobiles were a regular delivery to the bulk tracks in this era. Between 1950 and 1954 an average of 377,500 box cars of automobiles were delivered to CT. If that was divided equally among all stations on the New Haven Railroad, that would be 7 cars/day (including weekends).

A crop from the 1952 Sanborn map shows the general layout and construction of the structure.

The first Sanborn map to include the structure is 1909, and it is the same configuration as pictured here.

Post-New Haven

The railroad leased some of the freight house to other companies over the years. For example, Peter Paul Electronics Co. leased a 20' x 60' portion of the freight house in October 1966 for the purpose of warehousing electronics equipment. Several letters survive that show the railroad requesting the installation of a fire extinguisher by that company. While the freight house outlived the New Haven, it was partially destroyed by fire on August 17, 1969, including the portion leased by Peter Paul Electronics. In April 1970 the Penn Central submitted an application to the Public Utilities Commission to change the status from an agency freight station to a non-agency carload only station.

The north end, closest to the main track. Note the stairs extending from the railroad side platform, and the ramp along the wall.

The first 8 doors were of brick construction, with a firewall splitting the structure into two sections with 4 truck loading doors each.

The two-story wood office separated the brick and wood portions of the building.

The main part of the wooden section is a standard New Haven Railroad design dating to 1880-1900. The structure is based on a standard 20'6" width and the roof trusses are spaced at 10' intervals, with 1 "bay" being 30' wide. New Britain featured 9 such bays. The (much shorter) Essex, CT station is also of this design.

In addition to the standard freight house portion, there was a covered platform at the south end. The tracks in the foreground are the bulk tracks. The track closest to the building ran across Whiting St. to Stanley Rule & Level.

Freight House Traffic

In addition to the daily traffic generated by local industries, railroads had advertised L.C.L. freight to specific destinations. In some cases, these were daily (except Sunday), in others several times a week.

In a large freight house like this, there are several parallel tracks. Box cars are lined up next to each other so steel plates could be placed between the cars' doors, allowing crews to walk through one (or two) cars to load a third.

Here are the spotting locations for the era that I'm modeling. These are taken from Freight Train and Package Car Schedules, which were issued twice a year. They served as public freight timetables intended primarily for businesses and industries.

Transfers (such as Cedar Hill Transfer) are points where L.C.L. freight was unloaded, combined with other freight to the same destination and loaded into new cars.

September 10, 1946

September 27, 1948

September 15, 1949

September 24, 1950

September 27, 1951

While I don't have the September, 1951 Freight Train and Package Car Schedules, this Traingram (bulletin) indicates that traffic normally routed through the Cedar Hill freight house will be going through New Britain.

September 28, 1952

September 27, 1953

September 26, 1954