Archive | August 2013

Cramming Action Into a Tight Space

A Quick Explanation of my Layout –

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This is a shot I took early on during the construction of my modified loop based on Enfield, NH.  Nothing is specifically tied to the prototype but someone familiar with the path taken by the Northern Line through Enfield might recognize some features that are similar.  For instance, the body of water at the top and lower left is Mascoma Lake and the wider road running from the upper right to the lower right would be equivalent to Rte 4.  The scenery has changed quite a bit since this photo was taken and most turnouts have been equipped with Caboose Industries ground throws.

The layout is very small at around 26X41 inches.  Radii are typically 9 ¾ with some slightly tighter but still suited to 4-axle road power.  As can be seen there is a short passing siding in town that would allow passenger service to continue even when a local freight is on the siding.  My trains are generally pretty short and normally only have one to two more cars than needed for switching in town.  A turnout has been provided to give access to staging or the add-on modular-style layouts I have sitting around the house.  The long spur to the right serves Caspian Mills every session with inbound/outbound boxcars and occasionally coal for the power plant.  Caspian Mills is loosely based on the real life Baltic Mills but much, much smaller.  The spur to the left serves the B&M freight house and a small-time feed dealer.  The freight house gets routine traffic but the feed dealer only gets served once per week.  A small passenger station, which now resides toward the middle of the passing siding, is served at the beginning and end of each operating session.

Of course, as I have already written, I run occasional photo-freights, excursions, and there is every other operating session traffic from my free-lanced Lebanon & Northern, which hauls stone south to Boston (via Concord) and empties north to Lebanon and, via connections at White River Vermont, to quarries beyond.

I hope this adds to your understanding of my layout and day to day operations, perhaps it will even put a photo or story in context.

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Operations Department

Leased power looks interesting and could bail you out of a power shortage –

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Here’s the deal… while pulling a recent north-bound stone train the Lebanon & Northern’s only functioning locomotive, an old Bachmann F9, went all coffee grinder on me and rolled into town on its last leg.  This put a pretty serious dent in stone traffic and threatened to shut down the railroad permanently because none of my B&M equipment is compatible with the Lebanon & Northern’s rolling stock due to the older Rapido couplers.  That left me in a bit of bind because I needed to clear up the mainline so the routine B&M traffic could run.  Then a solution reached out and slapped me in the face… leased power.

Last week I was puttering around on the internet and I decided to visit one of those large east-coast online N scale retailers.  I didn’t see anything exciting for a while but I decided it might be worth checking their clearance items just to see what was available.  Among other things I discovered an offer for damaged Life-Like FA2 units (the old plastic frame ones) for $7.50 each.  I thought about it for a while but I decided I could use a few for projects or fixer-uppers so I ordered two of those and a couple clearanced Bev-Bel freight cars.  I’ll save details about the other items for another post but one of the locomotives I received was a pretty nice Life-Like FA2 Alco demonstrator unit.

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The only damage was a broken ladder on the left side, which was easily located in the jewel case and glued back on.  I have to tell you that I like factory demonstrator units and I think they add something interesting to look at on a layout.  This recent acquisition was the perfect solution to the power shortages on the Lebanon & Northern.  I added a couple drops of Labelle gear oil and sent her for a test run, all was well.

For the time being the Lebanon & Northern will be leasing the Alco demonstrator unit until the problems with their F9 (which was actually in the process of getting a new look) can be rectified.  If the F9 can’t be resurrected then I suppose the lease will last until a replacement unit can be procured.  You may never find yourself in the odd position of trying to track down a decent running Rapido equipped locomotive but the whole unique situation worked out for me because I was poking around on the right website at the right time.  Regardless, leased motive power can add something interesting to the look of an otherwise boring train, and it probably doesn’t hurt to have a few decent locomotives stowed away just in case anyway.  Try it out… I ended up ordering two more FA2s, I think it’s worth the shot.

Sunday Random Rail Shot

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This little critter is said to be the former Boston and Maine 16 Ton Plymouth #100.  What is known is that it last served with the Beebe River Draper Mills Plant.  Some sources identify this locomotive as a 10 tonner… with these smaller locomotives it is often hard to tell when only a few tons are involved because a tonnage rating might only be gained through adding ballast to an existing, lighter locomotive.

At any rate, it is a pretty interesting little locomotive and it sits out in the open at the entrance to a strip mall in Lincoln, NH.  If you are ever up that way you should stop by and check it out, sometimes the door is open so you can look around the interior, and it may very well have been the smallest diesel locomotive on the B&M roster.

Operations Department

Increasing traffic with trackage rights –

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I know my layout is small, but sometimes I just want to add a little flair beyond the routine locals, compressed passenger consists, and the occasional photo-freight.  I searched around for reasons to add more traffic but all I could really come up with was adding a through-freight which, in the end, would probably resemble the local with a little extra length and would be a pain put together since, due to space, I do not have a staging yard set up at this time.  I spent many hours pondering what I could do and then it hit me… why not grant trackage rights to my old freelance railroad.  That’s right; my first model railroad was a freelance.

The Lebanon & Northern was an oval with two spurs; one serving a stone quarry near Lyme, New Hampshire, the other serving a team-track in what was supposed to be Lebanon, New Hampshire.  In theory the railroad hauled crushed stone south from the Lyme area (via Thetford, Vermont), did a little less carload traffic on the team track in Lebanon, and then continued south to Claremont, NH.  It was set in the late 1980s – early 1990s and motive power was provided by a Bachmann F9 (A-A set but one was a dummy) and a Life-Like GP38-2, those were my first N scale locomotives and they still run.  Years went by and that layout was eventually disposed of but the locomotives and rolling stock (and some structures) were preserved.

Flash forward a few years in the real world and I now model the B&M in the 1950s-1960s time frame but my current layout is modeled after a portion of the Northern line.  It didn’t take much tweaking of the back story to come up with the Lebanon & Northern as a majority share owned subsidiary of the B&M operating on the Northern line but serving through freight stone business to Concord, NH.  The F9s could easily fit within my new time frame and all of this would give me a chance to bust out that Rapido equipped rolling stock to toss on a manifest heading in either direction.

My original Lebanon & Northern color scheme was light gray with yellow trim but I decided to repaint one of the F9s into a Vermont Green scheme with yellow/gold striping (similar to B&M).  The new look will be more “retro” and fit in better with the time period and older B&M equipment.  I had already repainted the GP38-2 into a modified McGinnis scheme using black, Vermont Green, and yellow… sadly I think GP38s are a little too modern for my current layout so I decided that the Lebanon & Northern had bought their GP38 after B&M folded in the 1980s, long after the time period modeled on my layout now.  Maintenance for the powered F9 is ongoing, 10 years without running takes a toll, but there is no clicking from the white gears so I am positive I can get a decent number of runs out of the old beast until I can find another locomotive to augment it with… perhaps a new Bachmann S4 or something.

Right now operations for the Lebanon and Northern consist of a stone train in either direction every other operating session.  Sometimes petroleum products are moved with the stone but mainly empty hoppers move north and a loaded train of crushed stone moves south to feed construction in the distant city of Boston.  I have a few covered hoppers I may eventually include for cement traffic but that isn’t a certainty yet.

It is still a pain to put this stuff on the track for the sake of adding something different to look at but my children were already running my Rapido equipped rolling stock behind various older locomotives, now it’s just an official part of my schedule.  If you are looking for a way to spice up a small layout, you might want to try sharing tracks with another local road (or even a freelance) it will expand your modeling opportunities and give you an excuse to spend more money and time gathering up appropriate rolling stock and information.

Sunday Random Rail Shot (Early Edition)

Yes, today I decided to do the Random Rail Shot a little early.  We attended the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Open House today and I thought, given that the open house has one more day this year, it might be a good idea to show you what it is all about.  Since this isn’t meant to be a full report (I don’t really do those), I will touch on the major items of interest.

Of course the highlight of the open house is the massive former Nickel Plate Road Berkshire 765.  This locomotive was restored by and is operated by the society.  Lately it has been spending its summers on the road doing promotion and morale work for Norfolk Southern.  NS and the historical society have a good working relationship and it is great to see a Class 1 railroad take such an active role in promoting and supporting private mainline steam.

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Speaking of Norfolk Southern, a few years ago they donated a former Nickel Plate SD9M to the society (NS 57, nee NKP 358).  Although progress has been slow, some work has done and it appears preservation of the carbody is underway.

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Caboose rides are a favorite of my family, and apparently everyone else as the line was long the whole time we were there.  The train was lengthened from 2011 and 2012, this year it included two historical NKP cabooses (cabeese?) pulled by the society’s former U.S. Army Davenport 44 tonner.

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This year the Louis Dreyfuss CF7 was parked on an inaccessible, and somewhat distant, storage track.  Last year it was available for cab walk-throughs and I feel that was an added attraction for the open house, so I was sad to see no open access to any of the on-site diesels.  Instead walk-throughs of a Mid America Car Leasing dome car were available.  The car was nice but it was difficult to get around in and the dome was normally occupied by people who didn’t understand the meaning of “look and leave”.  In other words they took advantage of the air conditioning and available seats to sort of move in and camp out.  Needless to say, my children didn’t get a chance to look around in the dome because we didn’t have all day to wait.

A nice touch, one that I always appreciate at least, is that the society allows people to wander around their shop and get a feel for the work they do there.  The tools of the trade, used to restore their historical equipment and keep it running, is in full view for visitors to see.  One would think that it wasn’t a safe place to be but they do a good job keeping things tidy, even curious children like mine are never in any real danger there.

Again, if you have the chance, head out to Edgerton Road, in New Haven Indiana, tomorrow and check out the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s Open House.  It is a great opportunity to spend time with your family learning about history and take a short ride on a real train (for a mere $4/ticket).

Check them out online at: http://fortwaynerailroad.org/

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Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #6

Minitrix (Roco) Old Timer Hopper Car–

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Minitrix marketed this car as part of its “Old Timer” series, it really doesn’t represent a car that was actually used by the B&M but apparently does resemble a Seley Composite hopper that had been rebuilt by the Delaware and Hudson.  B&M apparently didn’t own a hopper numbered 5061 and the Seley cars were originally built in the early 1900s and rebuilt by D&H in the 1920s-30s, this car is marked “Blt 6 62”.  One might wonder why a composite hopper would have been built in 1962 but I really have no idea, I guess it is possible that the same stamp was used on another more modern car that I haven’t managed to track down yet.

Condition on the example I obtained is excellent and it even came in the original plastic case.  I believe I paid around $12.00 delivered and these do not seem to be terribly rare.  Of course it has white lettering and blue dip paint; it is Minitrix after all.

I hear that the detailing of this car is pretty accurate compared with the prototype D&H cars, but I can’t speak to that with any certainty.  Having looked up some photos of the actual cars this does seem to be pretty close, especially for an early N scale car.  If you run vintage N scale it is worth picking one of these up, they aren’t very expensive, or hard to find, and they add a bit of interest to a consist of otherwise typical 40 foot box cars.

Historical Information:

For the time period represented, B&M doesn’t seem to have owned any cars like this one and certainly nothing built in 1962.   There may have been some composite cars owned in the early 1900s, and just not well publicized, but someone else would know better than me.

Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #5

Minitrix (Roco) 40’ Double Sheathed Box Car–

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I have already written about two N scale B&M box cars from Minitrix, one a PS-1 and the other a single sheathed, both represent 40 foot cars and both are numbered 70056.  Well… here is the deal; I poke around on eBay from time to time to see if I can find any early B&M N scale that I didn’t know existed and absolutely cannot live without.  One of those items that I stumbled across was yet another 40 foot box car from Minitrix numbered 70056, this time double sheathed.  A quick check of B&M’s roster reveals that this is actually a legitimate road number for a double sheathed box car.  Hurray!!!  A little deductive reasoning might suggest that this double sheathed car was actually the first B&M box car Minitrix offered, thus the correct car number, and the other two 40 footers were simply a way to reuse the ink stamp.  I can totally appreciate getting the extra mile out of tooling but the stamp used to “ink” these early N scale items is probably among the least expensive and most easily replaced items involved in the manufacturing process, especially when only one color is used.  So what we have is Minitrix (actually Roco) using the same stamp to mark several different box cars, seems like it would have been cheaper to buy stamps for multiple road numbers and apply those to the same box car model… that’s what manufacturers would do these days.  Can you say “Runner Pack”?

Considering condition alone, I paid too much for the example I obtained (along the lines of $15.00 delivered).  Every corner stirrup step is broken off and the wheel sets appear to be replacements from a Bachmann car however, in my defense, this was the only example of this car I could find and I haven’t found another since.  I don’t know how rare this one is but I did have to up my bid several times to win it… so someone else wanted this car too.  Needless to say, I will keep my eyes peeled for a better example but it seems I may have to be willing to pay a mint for it.

Detailing is along the lines of other early Minitrix freight cars… good enough for the time but not up to today’s standards.  If you can accept the white lettering on blue dip paint, then it will be at home displayed in any collection, or perhaps on a photo-freight.

Historical Information:

B&M owned 500 double sheathed 50 ton USRA box cars, numbered 70000-70499, made by American Car Foundry in 1919.  Apparently they would have been off the roster by the era I model, some lasted until around 1955, but I am not overly concerned… it looks good on a vintage manifest freight.