Monday, December 28, 2015

Farrel Yard

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: A moment after it pulls away from the station platform in Ansonia, the northbound train on the Naugatuck line passes beneath the pedestrian bridge of Farrel Machine Company and enters the Farrel yard, where the bridge and buildings (all out of the picture on the left) are casting their shadows. The rear masonry stack marks the American Brass casting shop, where this series began, beside the river. The front masonry stack serves the old “dynamo room” and powerhouse (1911) of the Farrel Machine Company at its northern edge.

The previous two photographs in the series were taken from points on the track between the two bridges. The first faced north; the second faced south. Between those pictures and this lies the heart of the old Farrel Machine company. The two campuses taken together, Farrel and American Brass, are a unique, pre-flood survival, and local residents will be quick to remind visitors of the roles both played in WWII, but the truth is, they were important as far back as the Civil War.

Anyone with a bent for metal will be drawn to the sand elevator rising on the left, a corrugated tin giant with tin stairways and pipe-railings and balconies dangling treacherously from unreachable operation centers and offices high in the elevator tower. One can still trace the old track that ran below the elevator and into the long "coke and sand" storage shed. It first appears on the Ansonia maps in 1890, but the bridge from it doesn’t appear until 1895.

The bridge across the track is two stories high and enters the eastern sheds of Farrel near their midpoint. Half the length of the bridge is hidden in this picture. It continues an equal distance across the roofs of three rows of work sheds before reaching the giant foundry, perched a level higher on the hill. There, the sand was used to make molds for casting giant machine parts.The foundry was built between 1884 and 1890.  Once the old Ansonia Canal ran along the North Main Street edge of the Farrel Foundry, between the foundry and Main Street. 

Inside the three rows of sheds, a half dozen architectural styles, at least, tell of the incremental adaptations by which Farrel grew and changed. The first of these sheds appears on the 1900 map. At some point the pedestrian level of the bridge where it crossed the lower sheds was removed to allow for increased ceiling clearances in the sheds below. In another place an interior wall was once the fine masonry facade of the pre-1900 shed. 

Perhaps the most curious feature of the Farrel Yard is the rustic green, wooden structure that seems to upset the geometries of the place. It is not just a wall set a-kilter to shelter trains that once entered at the first opening; it is that a whole shed has been set at an angle that produces difficult to utilize corners where it bumps against the sheds of the  foundry section. A second large opening permits an old road to run beside the angled shed, as the road climbs the hill to Main Street. It’s not a surprise to discover much of this angled section and probably the green wooden facade were already in place on the 1884 map of Ansonia. These are the most ancient geometries that crept toward where the trains had been passing since 1849.