Archive | July 2013

Trains are only for boys?

Take your children to check out your local railroad –

This picture was taken in the summer of 2008, while we were back home for a visit.  My oldest daughter was only 2 years old then but she wanted to go see trains and, fortunately, White River Jct. was right down the road.

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It would be wrong to assume that only boys are interested in trains.  Young people are interested in the “big world” whether they are boys or girls.  I took a proactive approach to getting my daughters interested in trains from a young age.  It’s good for me because I can satisfy my interests while still spending time with my family and it is good for my girls because they get knowledge, time outside, and the daddy-daughter time they are always in need of.  Railfanning and model trains are a win-win in our family and they can be in yours too.  If you have young children, boys or girls, take them to see your hometown railroad, you just might build some life-long memories and spark an interest in a common hobby.

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Sunday Random Rail Shot

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Perhaps two of the most famous remaining pieces of B&M history, F7A 4266 and the North Conway Passenger Station.  I’ve been there on many occasions throughout the years and I never get tired of either.  If you get the chance to visit check out F7A 4268 as well.  While it is an un-powered hulk at this point, it is also a wonderful piece of B&M history and, in addition, differed from B&M’s other EMD F7s due to its more streamlined passenger pilot, having been an EMD demonstrator prior to serving the Boston and Maine.

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Of course no trip to North Conway would be complete without a jaunt down the road to visit Gorham, NH where B&M F7A 4265 now resides.

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A note to F-Unit fans:  B&M did own a fourth F7A numbered 4267 but it was severely damaged during an accident in a rock cut on Mascoma Lake, across from where I lived as a child, and was subsequently disposed of.

Cramming Action Into a Tight Space

Small Layout Industry: Caspian Woolen Mill –

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To begin with I think I should point out that my main layout is very small, 42X24 inches, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for industry (1).  It is somewhat based on Enfield, NH and one side features lake-side scenery and a rock cut, while the other side features the ersatz Enfield (which is thus far unnamed).  While most of the “town” is consumed with a passing siding at the passenger station and a spur for the freight depot and a feed store, the other part of town is occupied by Caspian Mills (an industry inspired by Baltic Mills which was a real woolen mill located in Enfield).

The problem was how to get some switching into an industry that had to be crammed into the interior space of what is basically a slightly expanded 180 deg. curve based on 9 ¾ in. radius Snap-Track.  Fortunately, the real mill not only received and generated various freight cars used for woolen production, but it also had a coal fired power plant that at one point also provided electric lighting for the town of Enfield.  I loved the idea of moving 34’ coal cars around, as I already had a good selection of those, but I also liked the fact that a power plant would allow me to switch something that wasn’t a 40’ or 50’ box car.  I had planned the mountains and other scenery around the buildings I wanted to have in town, but everything still ended up being very cramped so that prevented me from putting the power plant on its own spur.  Of course the only option left to me was to have the same spur serve the needs of the power plant and the mill’s woolen traffic.  While I am now limited to only one box car in or out of the mill at any given time, I can serve both requirements of the mill by moving the woolens and ensuring a good supply of power to the industry and town.

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Obviously, the mill isn’t finished and neither is this portion of my layout, but I think the idea is clear and I have done some operating to check for function.  Because there is only a passing siding and a spur on the other side of town (the spur is normally occupied by less than carload traffic to the depot) there aren’t a lot of places to stick the box car while the coal hopper is switched… normally this means occupying the main but that isn’t an issue since, with one operator and DC power, there is only one train being run at a time.

Although it isn’t optimum I think Caspian Mills strikes a good balance between my desire for a realistic industry, requiring more than one car type, providing sufficient switching opportunities, but still fitting inside of a very small space.  Hopefully, one day, I will have the room for a larger layout but for the time being it has been a fun challenge to cram as much railroading as I can onto such limited real estate.

(1) This layout is designed to be hooked up to a couple smaller switching layouts I have built and that does provide a bit of variety for operations but generally I do not have the space to hook them together so this one is a standalone acting as both a loop for my children to operate and a point to point for my operating needs.

Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #4

Atlas (Roco) Pullman Standard PS-3 Hopper–

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So this Atlas (Roco made) PS-3 hopper was kind of an easy choice to pick up when I spotted it on eBay a little while ago.  The PS-3 was a very popular style of open hopper that had a nominal 50 ton capacity in two bays (although apparently Pullman Standard used the designation “PS-3” for more than one pattern of open hopper).  Since we know what specific car this Atlas model is meant to represent, some of the normal research can be cut short.  The first thing we know (or are pretty certain of) is that the B&M didn’t own any PS-3 hoppers and that, even if they had, they wouldn’t have been “blue dipped”.  While the blue paint can’t seem to be avoided on early N scale B&M equipment, I think the model choice could have been.   The problem is that, in the early N scale world, there were only a handful of manufacturers making a handful of car models.  This narrow focus actually led several manufacturers to make the same, or very similar, rolling stock instead of branching out into different models within the same class or type.  In the case of the PS-3 both Roco and Mehano (of Yugoslavia) made models of this hopper, and then applied road names that probably should have never been on it (1).  B&M did have some two bay hoppers with capacities of around 50 tons, we find group 7000-7099 were ex-C&O 30 foot externally braced hoppers (these had 7 ribs and the PS-3 has 9).  In addition a second group 7100-7199 were AAR standard offset-side hoppers made by Bethlehem (Atlas has since released an excellent model of the twin offset-side hopper in N scale).  This Atlas PS-3 doesn’t fit the description, type, or road number series for either group of B&M two bay hoppers, this one is numbered 71717 which is a great deal higher than both prototype groups.  On roads where they were used the PS-3 was apparently common from the 1940s to the 1970s for carload traffic direct to the retailer.

I paid less than $10.00 to get this car delivered to my front door, it is in factory fresh condition in its original packaging (with insert), and so I can’t complain at all.  The paint is “blue dipped”, and so is every other B&M car from the early days of N scale, but the herald has a nice contrast with sharp separation between the blue and white, that feature kind of sets this car apart from its other early brethren.  I could certainly see a 1970s layout with a string of these being used to haul coal to a rural dealer or medium coal yard; they would look nice in a manifest freight behind a couple Atlas/Kato RS3s as well.

Regardless of how it could/should be used, I think this is a great little open hopper car.  Being based on a 50 ton prototype it is actually a bit smaller than all of the other early B&M open hoppers I have found (except the Minitrix “Old Time Hopper” which I will discuss at some future date) so it could be delivered to spurs with tight curves or to add cars to a train without adding a great deal of overall length, those can be very useful features on smaller layouts.  In the end this isn’t the most detailed car on Earth but it is clear enough that we can trace it to an actual prototype which is rare in the world of the early days of N scale.

Historical Information:

As detailed above, the B&M doesn’t appear to have owned any PS-3 hoppers in real life.  The PS-3 was a very common open hopper however and would be at home on most roads operating during the steam to diesel transition period and beyond.  What 50 ton, two bay, hoppers B&M did own were bought used from C&O or purchased from Bethlehem and were numbered way below this model.

(1) Atlas, Con-Cor, Walthers, and Eastern Seaboard Models all imported or sold the Roco car at one time or another.  AHM, MRC, Model Power, and Life-Like imported the Mehano version of this car.  I am unsure how many of those companies offered their PS-3 lettered for B&M but I am aware of at least one other, I believe marketed by Life-Like and therefore a Mehano version, that was offered in an older-style all black with white lettering B&M scheme – I am trying to track that one down here in the States even though, since I believe it to be 1980s production, it really doesn’t count as “vintage” in my book.  These days anything with original truck-mounted Rapido couplers gets Honorary Vintage status in my collection, at least on an unofficial level.

Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #3

Minitrix (Roco) 40’ Single Sheathed Box Car–

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Here it is, the other Minitrix B&M box car to bear the road number 70056.  You might recall that Minitrix also made a B&M PS-1 (-ish) 40 foot steel box car with the very same road number.  You might also recall that the road number 70056 belonged to a group of B&M ACF double sheathed box cars, not either of the two cars Minitrix applied that number to.  This car appears to be a model of some sort of USRA standardized car, which we might assume was rebuilt due to steel doors and roof.  However, B&M apparently bought its singled sheathed box cars during the 1930s and early 1940s so perhaps they would have been built this way from the very beginning.  Interestingly, many much more detailed modern N scale single sheathed cars are more or less similar to this primitive attempt in overall appearance.  What we can say is that it is not likely that the B&M ever “blue dipped” a single sheathed wood box car, and the road number would still not be correct for this type of car at any rate.

Though not certain, I would guess I probably paid less than $9.00 for this car delivered to my door, so this is another car that isn’t particularly rare.  Again, this car is “blue-dipped” and the B&M herald is all white.  Since I couldn’t locate any photos of a “blue dipped” single sheathed box car, I can’t really say whether heralds and markings are in the correct locations, although my guess would be that everything about this car is a complete fudge.  Like the Minitrix PS-1 style car, no North-Eastern railroad would be complete without 40’ single sheathed box cars so this car would have provided much needed rolling stock for operations back in the day.

Although the detail on this car is pretty poor by today’s standards I think it holds up well given the time it was made.  Along with the Atlas 40’ single sheathed car I discussed earlier, I think this car looks pretty good on a Rapido equipped train.

Historical Information:

As I mentioned earlier, this car appears to be some form of USRA clone.  B&M owned single sheathed cars with road numbers in the following groups: 71000-71953, 71975-71995 (1), and 72000-72999.

(1) The cars in this group were assigned to Mystic Terminal Company (MTC).

Railfan Adventures: The Maumee & Western

Maumee & Western: A retrospective on railfanning a failing shortline –

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The Maumee & Western Railroad (MAW) may have been the perfect example of a poorly run railroad that continued to operate despite its owner.  The MAW operated on a stretch of the former Wabash mainline between Woodburn, Indiana and Liberty Center, Ohio.  The line had previously been operated by Indiana Hi-Rail but by the end of the Maumee & Western most of the line was out of use or used for car storage.

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The little railroad ran short trains mostly between Defiance and Napoleon Ohio at track speeds of 5MPH and was widely known for its frequent, if normally minor, derailments.  Power was provided by second hand locomotives, primarily rebuilt EMD GP-10s and GP-7us.  Last year, after years of flailing about, the MAW folded and the line was taken over by Pioneer Railcorp which is based out of Michigan.  Pioneer has stated that the line, which was originally built through what was once the Black Swamp, would need significant repair and upgrade and they have apparently committed to making that happen.

My interest in this line began in the late 1990s with a visit to Defiance to see the famous Indiana Hi-Rail Alco Alligators (RSD-15).  At that time the property was in quite a state but it seemed like an interesting local road (about 45 min away at the time) that provided some contrast to the local giant Norfolk and Southern.

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Sadly, I only got out to Defiance once to visit the High-Rail before it disappeared into Fallen Flag status.  Still the line was soon being operated by the Maumee & Western and, as I ventured to Defiance at least a couple times a year, I always kept an eye out for MAW trains moving about.  Years passed and I eventually began making a family which kept me out of the railfanning game for a while.  Once my oldest daughter had reached an age that she began taking an interest in actual trains, I set up a daddy-daughter date to check out the MAW.

It was 0800 on 13 June 2011 when we pulled up at the Defiance yard of the Maumee & Western.  We were greeted by an even more run down property, no rail activity and GP-7u CNUR #5

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Finding nothing in particular to look at, we continued east to Napoleon in an attempt to catch the slow moving train which we believed to be pulled by GP-10 MAW #16.  We arrived in Napoleon empty handed and after exploring the area in search of switching activity we decided to call it a day by returning home via Woodburn, IN where we caught GP-7u CNUR #7 dead to the world.  Disappointed, we returned home without seeing any action on the MAW.

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Fast forward to 04 June 2012 and the opportunity presented its self for my daughter and I to take another shot at the MAW.  Again we arrived first thing in the morning (by MAW reckoning) and again we found no activity in the Defiance yard.  We headed east towards Napoleon via back roads, in search of the train, but only found box cars here and there along the right of way.  Some were at Jewell, some at Okolona, but none were moving east or west behind a locomotive (the MAW didn’t have much in the way of sidings so most cars were blocking the main).  Again we arrived at Napoleon empty handed and disappointed.

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We took the opportunity to poke around some maintenance of way (MOW) equipment parked near the Napoleon VFW hall and then decided to call it quits and head home via Highway 24.  On our way back we spotted MAW #16 parked just west of the Flory Rd. crossing.  A quick left hand turn and a jaunt back east and we found her, dead to the world, no cars or employees in sight… just an old run down locomotive parked on old run down track.

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We looked around a bit and the story became clear without anyone telling it… the train had derailed again, hence the box cars spread throughout the line, and #16 had been brought to the nearest far-side crossing so a car could pick up the crew and take them home.  The track around the locomotive looked deplorable even though it had recently been “fixed” and I was honestly surprised that the locomotive had made it as far away from Defiance as it did before the derailment occured, to think it was normally a 5 day a week run.  Our railfanning trip that day came to an end and we once again returned home without seeing anything happen on the MAW.  We never got to see the Maumee & Western actually move a train, by 2013 MAW had ceased to exist and Pioneer Railcorp had begun to repair the track and bring in reliable motive power.

The owner of the MAW simply did not want to invest the money needed to properly fix the roadbed, or track, and wasn’t interested in seeing anyone else try their hand at operating the line.  It simply slipped further and further away, every bit of maintenance the MAW made was just too little too late.

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Although it would have been nice to chase one the 5MPH MAW east-bounds I don’t regret taking the time to see what I could of the now dead shortline.  I had a lot of fun with my daughter during those trips and we anticipate a visit to the new Napoleon, Defiance & Western which now operates over what used to be the MAW.  Perhaps the ND&W can get the track up to snuff and start turning enough revenue to make a go of long term rehab of the line.  In the meantime, I look forward to future visits to Defiance with my children and encouraging their growing interest in all things rail road related.  May the MAW rust in peace.

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Vintage N Scale Rolling Stock

Atlas (Rivarossi) 40’ Single Sheathed Box Car–

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Yes, I know this isn’t a B&M car (or even from a North-Eastern road) but it sure is neat, at least in my book.  I found out about this car after I mistakenly stated that early N scale manufacturers only seemed to make locomotives and rolling stock for the major Class I players of the time.  An astute Trainboard member pointed to this car and a few others to show that, while limited, there was some interesting diversity in the early days; in fact this car is part of what is known as Atlas 1st Generation (1).  I knew I had to get a copy for my collection just for the sake of it.

The Chicago & Illinois Midland didn’t actually operate around Chicago but rather in the middle of the Illinois around the capital of Springfield, north to Peoria and, via Illinois Central trackage, to destinations south.  The railroad was originally a Class I generating most of its revenue from moving coal, but was later reclassified as a shortline and in 1996 it was bought by the large shortline operator Genesee & Wyoming.  I have never seen a picture of a Chicago & Illinois Midland car on the B&M, but I am willing to fudge things a bit to add some contrast in my freight consists.

At any rate this is an Atlas/Rivarossi 40 foot wood box car, sometimes called single sheathed, sometimes called outside braced.  Apparently these N scale models are pretty common and not very popular, largely due to detail (I guess).  I found this one on eBay this past week for about $8.00 shipped to my door, which I consider a reasonable enough price for something unique (if not particularly rare) from the early days.

Historical Information:

Chicago & Illinois Midland did in fact own 40 foot single sheathed box cars designed by the Mather Stock Car Company, however I couldn’t establish how many or any particular special features.  If this Atlas model were based on a Mather car then it would have had to have been through some sort of rebuilding process due to the riveted, corrugated, metal roof that was not found on the original Mather cars.  In addition it appears that the herald should be centered on the door, rather than on the body its self.

(1) Abbreviated as “A1G”, Atlas’ 1st generation of N scale production basically lasted until the late 1960s and early 1970s.  There is an excellent A1G website/resource to be found at: http://www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/