Amtrak’s Thames River drawbridge progress and NR-1 1


OK, I know you Providence & Worcester railroad aficionados are all asking “what the hell is NR-1 – there’s a couple jobs that work the Norwich Branch out of Plainfield, CT, NR-2 and NR-3, but no NR-1 nowadays you idiot!” Well, don’t let your panties get in a bunch folks – the NR-1 is a US Navy nuclear research submarine that’s based at the US Navy Submarine Base in Groton, CT. And I caught a rare sight – the NR-1s support vessel, the MV Carolyn Chouest, was towing the submarine a couple hundred yards behind, instead of tucked up in her hull. Yeah, and I took a few photos of the continuing bridge work on the Thames River drawbridge replacement project to continue my documentation of that project’s progress. Looks like work is still moving along on the east tower. Oh, yeah, and I met a blog reader’s father while watching the Chouest and NR-1 head through the drawbridge. Small world indeed.

Well, I had limited time, so I was hoping for some luck in catching P&W train NR-2 coming south somewhere close – like the Nautilus. As I was heading north, I got my answer over the scanner – the Worcester dispatcher was reporting that NR-2 was south of the Jewett City detector with no defects. That meant they were about 30-40 minutes out – out of my window of opportunity. Oh, well. A quick turnaround, and I was headed back south – I figured I’d get a couple pictures of the progress on the Thames River drawbridge. So I headed for the spot just south of the bridge.

As I got there, the drawbridge was starting to open for river traffic. I got a couple shots of the work continuing on the east tower of the new lift span.

A closeer view of the continuing work on the east tower of the Amtrak Thames River bridge replacement project.
A closeer view of the continuing work on the east tower of the Amtrak Thames River bridge replacement project.
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View in the gallery

A wide view of the continuing work on the Thames River drawbridge
A wide view of the continuing work on the Thames River drawbridge
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View in the gallery

Not much progress from last week, but it does continue. Then something struck me – there were no boats waiting around to head through the drawbridge. Odd. And my mind went back a bit – a US Coast Guard helicopter went cruising up and down the Thames River as I was heading north. Maybe something else was coming in. Just then a US Coast Guard rigid hull inflatable patrol boat came tearing up the Thames, and intercepted a boat just in front of me, ordering them to stand clear of the channel. A look to the south gave me my answer – the MV Carolyn Chouest, which in and of itself is pretty neat – she’s the service vessel for the Navy’s NR-1 research submarine. But what made this sighting really neat, and rare, is that she was towing the NR-1 behind her – normally the sub is tucked away in a hold near the stern.

Here’s the pair, escorted by one of the Coast Guard boats, heading north

The MV Carolyn Chouest, with the nuclear research submarine NR-1 in tow, heads north in the Thames River towards her home berth at the US Navy Sub Base in Groton, escorted by a US Coast Guard patrol boat.
The MV Carolyn Chouest, with the nuclear research submarine NR-1 in tow, heads north in the Thames River towards her home berth at the US Navy Sub Base in Groton, escorted by a US Coast Guard patrol boat.
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A closer shot of the Coastie escort. Note the crew member on the bow manning the machine gun.

A Coast Guard escort patrols in advance of the MV Carolyn Chouest
A Coast Guard escort patrols in advance of the MV Carolyn Chouest
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A shot of the Chouest, NR-1, the Coast Guard escort, and the US Coast Guard’s tall ship Eagle

A quartet of ships - the Carolyn Chouest towing the NR-1, a Coast Guard escort, and the Coast Guard's Eagle in the background
A quartet of ships - the Carolyn Chouest towing the NR-1, a Coast Guard escort, and the Coast Guard's Eagle in the background
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Then a couple closer shots of each ship

The MV Carolyn Chouest
The MV Carolyn Chouest
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The NR-1 with Fort Trumbull in the background
The NR-1 with Fort Trumbull in the background
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A Coast Guard escort speeds up the Thames in advance of the MV Carolyn Chouest and NR-1
A Coast Guard escort speeds up the Thames in advance of the MV Carolyn Chouest and NR-1
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The NR-1 with New London harbor in the background
The NR-1 with New London harbor in the background
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The pair heading for the drawbridge

The MV Carolyn Couest heads north in the Thames River with the NR-1 in tow
The MV Carolyn Couest heads north in the Thames River with the NR-1 in tow
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A couple shots of the Chouest going towards the open drawbridge

The MV Carolyn Chouest heads for the open drawbridge, with the NR-1 in tow
The MV Carolyn Chouest heads for the open drawbridge, with the NR-1 in tow
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View in the gallery

The MV Carolyn Chouest heads for the open drawbridge, with the NR-1 in tow
The MV Carolyn Chouest heads for the open drawbridge, with the NR-1 in tow
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View in the gallery

And a couple shots of the NR-1, including a closeup of the sail & bow area

NR-1 with New London behind her
NR-1 with New London behind her
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Closeup of the NR-1s sail and bow area
Closeup of the NR-1s sail and bow area
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Finally a shot of the NR-1 heading through the drawbridge.

NR-1 heads through the open drawbridge
NR-1 heads through the open drawbridge
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View in the gallery

And the rear escort slowing for the no wake zone through the drawbridge

One of the Coast Guard escorts slows down to pass through the drawbridge
One of the Coast Guard escorts slows down to pass through the drawbridge
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View in the gallery

And all the while I was chatting with another gentleman that drove up as the Chouest got closer. Turns out he worked at EB for a number of years, and was telling me about how he and his son used to get rides on the caboose over in New London back when the CV was in existence. Then he mentioned how his son frequents a web site that posts pictures from down around the Groton area. A quick look at his name badge, and a light went off. I was talking with Mark Schenking’s father! Pretty damned small world! OK, most of you are asking who Mark is (well, except for Mark himself). First off he’s a regular reader here, but also he’s a pretty good railroad photographer. Check out some of his photos here and here.

And that was it for the day – time to head back to the office.

Thanks for looking!
Tom

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One thought on “Amtrak’s Thames River drawbridge progress and NR-1

  • Mark Schenking

    Hey Tom,

    Thanks for the plug. My father was telling me this today and i thought he was talking to you. Pretty cool. Keep up the good work. See you soon.

    Mark S.