Custom Painted P-2000 units

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Empire Belt Railroad

Greetings All,

The Empire Belt Railroad is finally a reality! Readers of this blog may recall my writing of the Empire Belt Railroad working Empire City in prior posts. I always wanted to have my own personal railroad and as the N.Y.C.T.L. was being built I started to focus in on a short line or belt type RR. Wanting to keep it in the New York Central family I came up with the name Empire City Belt after NYC owned Indiana Harbor Belt and the Kankakee Belt. A few years ago I was conferring with 1:1 Sir Neal on this very subject and he suggested removing the word city and just go with Empire Belt. And just like that it became the Empire Belt RR. But the project stalled at this stage.

After some false starts and having the Empire Belt do the 'Chuck from Happy Days' disappearance I started to collect some rolling stock and motive power for the day, if it should ever arrive, that the E.B.R.R. would have it's own identity.

After about two years of uncertainty I finally ordered the decals from Rail Graphics. I have worked with their products in the past and found them to be of very high quality. But don't wait to long they are closing up shop in December 2017.

If you're going to have your own railroad then you'll probably want some type of history for it. Here's what I came up with; 


The Empire Belt was founded in 1907 and came into the New York Central fold in 1912. Ownership was split between the NYC, PRR and B&O and the NYC held the majority of stock. The Empire Belt was one of three Belt type railroads owned by the Central, the other two being the Indiana Harbor Belt and Kankakee Belt.

With the emergence of Empire City and the war years the need for around the clock switching of industries kept the E.B.R.R. coffers full and the stockholders happy. Equipment during this era was often handed down from the New York Central.

After World War II the Empire Belt saw the need for new freight cars as WWII pretty much ran the railroads and their equipment into the ground. So the E.B.R.R. began ordering boxcars, flat cars, hoppers and gondolas to service the shippers of Empire City and the surrounding area. These cars would have E.B.R.R. reporting marks and NYC heralds.  

During the 1950’s over regulation, declining passenger revenues, rising labor costs, air transport and the Eisenhower Interstate System cut a huge amount of freight and passenger traffic on the northeast roads resulting in fewer car loads for the Empire Belt. After a nasty shareholder fight the New York Central saw the last of the Vanderbilt stockholders moved out and Robert R. Young took control. He appointed Alfred E. Perlman as president and Perlman quickly changed the recent organizational set up. One of his first edicts was to cut new diesel orders in half.

The nation’s economy took a short lived upswing toward the latter 1950’s and the NYC’s earning improved. This rail traffic upswing had its backlashes though as the NYC now found consistently short of motive power. It was during this period that a group of concerned Empire City shippers formed the Empire City Shippers Association (E.C.S.A.) and sought to buy into the Empire Belt to ensure consistent rail freight transportation for their industries and warehouses. The first to sell was the B&O who had already entered into a mutually lucrative relationship with the Kings Port & Western that guaranteed them access to the Big City via West Mill and Selkirk.

During this same time the Pennsylvania RR faced similar financial woes going so far to later sell the air rights above Penn Station in New York to raise capital. The Empire City Shippers Association approached the PRR and purchased their shares of the Empire Belt.

On July 08, 1961 the Pennsylvania RR and New York Central RR formally announced to the ICC their intention to file for merger.

As the motive power shortage intensified the need for reliable power to perform the switching duties became paramount to the E.C.S.A. and they approached the New York Central with enough funding for a down payment to purchase a pair of brand new EMD GP30s. The E.C.S.A. and NYC entered into a mutually beneficial agreement; The E.C.S.A. would finance the engines and they would be lettered EMPIRE BELT and assigned to the Central’s North Side Yard. The GP30s would not be put into any power pools and would be maintained by the NYC at Terminal Yard.

It took until 1966 for the ICC to approve the merger. And the Penn Central Transportation Company was born on February 01, 1968. As a partially owned subsidiary of the New York Central the Empire Belt came under partial control of the PC. At this time the E.B.R.R. purchased two PRR GP9s for use at North Side Yard. During 1966 the Empire Belt began to renumber its motive power and rolling stock into the Penn Central numbering system as did the NYC and PRR.

In 1968 the Empire Belt RR was seeing dark clouds on the horizon with the pending forced inclusion of the New Haven RR into the Penn Central stable. The rocky start of the new Penn Central, the loss of trains and chronic power shortages led the E.B.R.R. to purchase two brand new GE U33C locomotives for inclusion in the PCs Power Pool A on a lease basis. The big GEs, affectionately known as U Boats were numbered into the PC receiving numbers 6574 and 6576 while bearing the new large EMPIRE BELT lettering. The new engines would be serviced at Selkirk with most of the rest of the PCs GE fleet.

The Empire Belt U Boats are painted and mostly lettered. They are awaiting their ACI labels that have been ordered.
An Accurail plug door boxcar is a close match for ex PRR 40' boxcar (RBL) 35000 - 300500 series at the top of the page. The E.B.R.R. cars will be numbered into the available 358000 series. I bought those little cups at Dollar Tree, 10 for $1.00.
Cutting decals for a modeling project is very time consuming. I like to cut enough for several cars at a time so the little cups come in very handy. I can mock up what I'm working on and then cut and store the decals for the cars included in the project. 
A pair of quad hoppers are almost ready to go. ACI labels to be placed next to the COTS label once the arrive. These cars are lettered into an available PC 416000 series
Some soon to be Empire Belt power dries after having their paint stripped and being washed. The 40' boxcar is ready for lettering. The 40' boxcar under frames are in the lower right. A U30B shell that is stubbornly clinging to some of its paint is in the lower left.
Right now I'm working on standardizing the Empire Belt paint schemes. I've been reading about the New York Central paint practices up to the merger and will follow that on certain cars like gondolas and flatcars and other cars painted prior to the jade green years. 

I'd like to extend a thank you to all of the readers of this blog who have taken the plunge into developing their own personal railroads. Your inspirations have finally made the Empire Belt a reality. Thank You!

That's it for now. I'll follow up with E.B.R.R. updates as they become available.

Thanks for reading!!


  1. Congratulations Sir John! Glad to see the Empire Belt coming to fruition! Those hopper cars look great, can't wait to see them finished!

    1. Thank you 1:1 Sir Neal!! I greatly appreciate all of your encouragement over the years to make the Empire Belt possible!

  2. A formal welcome to the Empire Belt from the Kings Port Division!!! The decals look great and the history of the Empire Belt is very well thought out. Nice work all around! I'm looking forward to seeing EB rolling stock on the rails!

  3. A huge welcome to the long awaited arrival of the Empire Belt.

    Both the color scheme and name seem like a perfect fit for the NYC and PC.

    Great narrative detailing the history of the line. Another nice job.

  4. Congratulations and welcome to the EBRR!!! Great back story and history surrounding the EBRR. Looks like you're off to a great start with the new power and rolling stock. Agree with E.E. both the scheme and name are a perfect fit for the PC and NYC!

    1. Thanks Brian! The E.B.R.R. has been two years in the making. It's nice to finally have pulled the trigger and get the project up off the ground.