New Britain Yard

Highland Line > Station and Arcade - New Britain Yard

DEY-4 (GE 44-tonner) No. 0802 working the freight on Track No. 5 at New Britain Yard in 1949. Jim Karl photo.

The N&W box car is on Track No. 7, and the Morrell refrigerator car is on Track No. 15.

New Britain Yard

New Britain Yard proper is situated right in front of the station between Main and Elm Streets and bordered on the north by Commercial Street. In addition to Whiting St. Yard, this is used to work the local industries. This compact layout, with the station and yard is part of what drew me to model New Britain. It was reminiscent of the towns modeling buddy Bill had on his O&W layout, and looked very "railroady."


New Britain Yard, along with Whiting St. Yard, form the basis for operations in New Britain. Cuts of cars are dropped off overnight and/or during the day by passing freights. The switch crews utilize the yards to organize their work, and operate from them to spot and pick up cars from industries around the city.

Side tracks are numbered on the valuation maps that I have; yard tracks are not. Track No. 13 is numbered (as is Track No, 19 in Landers, Frary & Clark), which confirms they follow the standard track numbering convention.

Yard Tracks - from south to north

    • No. 7 - 862' (closest track to Track No. 5, and next to the line poles).

    • No. 9 - 878'

    • No. 11 - 687'

    • No. 13 - 1585' (includes Swift and Armour)

    • No. 15 - 1115'

    • No. 17 - 1024'

New Britain Yard Limits

Yard Limits in New Britain ran from just east of bridge no. 39.16 over Piper Brook to just west of bridge no. 42.13, which is where the railroad runs under Corbin Ave. The bridges are numbered based on their distance in miles from the junction with the Central Vermont in Willimantic, so the yard limits are just under 3 miles long (2.97 miles).

Inbound cuts of cars were dropped on sidings east and west of the yard proper, and outbound cuts were left for the through freights to pick up overnight.

Yard Limits

Although the tracks between Elm and Main Streets is the yard proper, on the railroad, a yard is defined by the Rule 93:

"The location of yard limits will be designated by time-table and indicated by yard limit boards. Unless otherwise provided, within yard limits the main track may be used, protecting against regular trains, not protecting against extra trains and engines. Extra trains and engines must move within yard limits at yard speed unless the main track is known to be clear by signal indication, in automatic block system territory."

Where Yard is defined as:

"A system of tracks within defined limits provided for the making up of trains, storing of cars and other purposes, over which movements not authorized by time-table, or by train order, may be made, subject to prescribed signals and rules, or special instructions.

Regular Train is defined as:

"A train authorized by a time-table schedule." Note that this is referring to the employee time table, not the public ones. Freight schedules are not published in the employee time table, and thus are an extra, not a regular train.

Yard Speed is defined as:

"A speed that will permit stopping within one-half the range of vision."

What does this mean, and how does it apply to the layout?

New Britain Yard Limits comprise the entire layout, as most of the city is within these limits. This allows the switching crews to operate with fewer restrictions.

  • Rule 92 applies to the main track. That is, it doesn't apply to any other tracks. Trains, locomotives, and cars can occupy other tracks at any time without protection and must always operate at Yard Speed.

  • In New Britain trains move based on the time table, train orders, and signals since it is in Automatic Block Signal territory.

    • Passenger trains are the only trains on the New Haven and operated based on the published time tables. They are the only Regular trains.

      • Rule 86 states that in Automatic Block Signal territory, the main track must be clear not less than 5 minutes before a regular train is due to leave the next station in the rear (Newington for westbound trains, Plainville for eastbound).

    • All freight trains are extras, but symbol freights do operate on published schedules, just not technically a time table. Regardless, crews are expected to ensure these freights are not delayed, but they do not have to protect against them if they are occupying the main track.

  • Any train or locomotive can occupy the main track without a train order, and without sending a flagger out to protect the train, except against regular (passenger) trains.

  • New Britain is in Automatic Block Signal territory. Like Rule 92, the signals apply only to main track traffic.

  • Crews must know the schedule of the regular trains and symbol freights and must operate at Yard Speed unless they are on the main track and signal aspects indicate their route is clear.

Thus, the switching crews can use the main track without sending a flagger out to protect their train, except for scheduled passenger trains.

I will have flagger figures for the crews to use if necessary to protect against the regular trains, but there shouldn't need for them if they are following the rules properly and clearing the main track 5 minutes before regular trains are scheduled to leave Newington or Plainville.

New Britain Yard in 1956. Note that tracks no. 15 and 17 have been removed along with most of track no. 13.