SNE: Titanic Of The Rails?

Southern New England Railroad Enters the World with a Great-Looking ALCO, a Clever Niche, an Eager Attitude, and an Ominous Historical Allusion.

07 August, Plainfield CT –  The newly-minted Southern New England Railroad borrows liberally from the ill-starred, pre-World War I Southern New England Railway , a Grand Trunk project to compete with the New Haven Railroad between Palmer MA and Providence. Everybody seemed to think it was a good idea, except J. Pierpont Morgan, the New Haven’s benefactor, and one of the richest monopolists in the world. Morgan engineered many setbacks for the SNE, but it was doomed by the death of its champion, GT president Charles Melville Hays, on the Titanic. Efforts continued right up to the depths of the Depression to build the railroad, but it never carried a car.

Southern New England Railroad’s tagline is “The Titanic Road,” so it’s clearly trading on its namesake’s legend. Like the Titanic, the Southern New England Railway endures in Eastern railroad circles as a compelling paradox — an avoidable tragedy driven by hybris, and yet for some reason, worthy of emulation.

There is not a lot to tell about the SNE at this time. The corporation was organized in January in Connecticut. SNER LLP own a rebuilt ALCO RS-36 #5012, built originally in 1962 as Atlantic & Danville #2, and acquired by SNE in November 2018 {snerr.us}. It is kept in a well-equipped shed in Connecticut. It is available for lease for short-haul freight or excursions {conversation with SNER General Manager David Coppola, 30.Aug.2019}

In our phone conversation, Coppola was gracious in saying what he could about the SNE, but held his cards close when it came to specifics; whether he was holding Aces or Jokers, I don’t know. But our conversation presented some major distinctions compared with other recent outta nowhere railroad enterprises: there were no grandiose promises, no gaudy press releases purporting partnerships with big-name industry or government entities, no new-fangled/old-trick capital schemes, no claims of revolutionary train-taming software that no one had ever thought of before, and no ownership claims on other peoples’ property.

SNE’s strategy is pretty simple. Precision Scheduled Railroading can leave a lot of loads stranded, or playing catch up. Having a “loose” locomotive around is a way to get your load moving. And excursion line power — often maintained and operated by volunteers — is not perfectly reliable. Thus, there should be enough demand to keep #5012 as busy as SNE’s managers’ day jobs will allow.