Friday, November 29, 2013

More Steam in the CT Valley - The Air Line in particular

"Long time" readers (heh, if you were around last month, you're already "long time") may recall my post on the End of Steam in the CT Valley wherein I do my best to analyze when diesels arrived in regular service on the Valley & Air Lines.  Based mostly on an Engine Assignment Book and photo evidence of a wrecked 3011 in Dividend, I concluded that the end of steam on the Valley must have been between December 21, 1948 (date of the wrecked 3011) and April 24, 1949 (date of the Engine Assignment Book, showing diesels already assigned).

The window for the end of steam on the Airline was/is a little tighter.  Based on a John Wallace photo from "winter 1949" and knowing that a diesel would be assigned by April 24, 1949 (again, based on the EAB), I concluded that the end of steam had to have been sometime between January/February and April.  Considering the (lack of) snow cover in John's photo, my best guess was March, 1949.

What continued to bother me though was my uncertainty about Leroy Beaujon's photo of 3022 in Canaan in the "Winter of 1949."  I didn't expect that the 3022 did any "traveling" so I concluded that it had been assigned to Canaan after it left the Air Line.  So I figured "Winter of 1949" must've meant "December 1949."

Well, looks like I was mistaken.  According to Tom Curtin (NHRHTA board member and one who's as particular as I am about such things), the 3022 did do some traveling - and got to Canaan much earlier than I thought.  Here's what he wrote (quoting with permission):

"Here’s an addition to your info. The 3022 did some traveling in 1948. It may or may not have been the last steam on the Air Line local but it surely was the most regularly used one near the end. That’s the clear evidence from both John Wallace’s and Kent Cochrane’s photos. I don’t know when it last ran there but I do believe steam ran later on the Air Line than on the Valley (perhaps only a couple of months later but definitely later).

"Lee Beaujon’s photo of 3022 on the Berkshire was taken about the same time, perhaps even the same day, as the derailment of 3011 on the Valley. The story is there was a bad storm on or about 12/20/48 (That’s the snow visible in the 3011 derailment photo) which caused some bad flooding along the Housatonic [River], and water on the tracks. The Berkshire [Line, which goes through Canaan] had been fully dieselized since early January 1948 (almost all RS-2s but an RS-1 did show up). The RS-2s couldn’t run with “wet feet” so to keep some kind of freight going there the RR sent 3022 over for a couple of weeks. That’s when Lee got his photo. Casey Cavanaugh who lived in Cornwall Bridge and was a high school student at the time has recollections of this event too.
"Now … since it is pretty sure that the Air Line was still in steam in the winter of 1949, what ran the Air Line local when 3022 was over on The Berkshire? Well, I have no idea but it could obviously have been another J OR perhaps a 3300 (R-1 4-8-2). A 3300 showed up on the Air Line too."
Hmmm.... Very interesting for sure.  (well, to me anyway).  Tom confirms that steam ran later on the Air line than the Valley line.  I'll have to see if I can find any photos of other J-class mikados working the Air Line toward the end, but we know from photos that 3300s also ran on the Air Line, and John Wallace's recollection was that this was especially true during "stone season."  There was a major trap rock quarry on the Air Line at Reed's Gap (Wallingford/Middlefield) and quarrying took place as long as the ground wasn't frozen and the rock wouldn't freeze in the cars.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this hobby is the research that's involved in modeling a prototype.  There's always some new information to uncover and you can have a lot of fun with all the historical detective work.  While this "breaking news" is best put in the form of a blog post, I'll be updating the "Steam on the CT Valley" page on the website as well (see under "Choosing an Era" in the lefthand column).  That way, this additional piece of the puzzle can be put in its place and provide an ever-clearer picture of what happened on this line almost 70 years ago.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday #5

Valley Local southbound at Rocky Hill with girders for the Baldwin Bridge, Summer 1947

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Train Time Tuesday - On Sunday (Tool Tips)

So I didn't have a chance to do much during this week's edition of Train Time Tuesday, but fortunately it was a nice, rainy Sunday (hence, no yardwork!) so I got to "pay it forward" on the layout front.  Here's what I did....

The "Dividend Hump" (aka "The Problem")
During my last operating session, the mainline through Dividend inexplicably decided to lift up a few scale feet(!).  I can only guess that the combination of heat in the basement (due to many operators?), too many soldered rail joints (more likely), and insufficient Aileen's Tacky Glue to hold everything down, created an HO scale "frost heave."  Fortunately, there were no derailments, but fixing this certainly became Top Priority.

The Solution
Also fortuantely, I had on-hand a cool "new" toy for my Dremel MotoTool: a 90-degree attachment!  I'd actually got this one Christmas a couple years ago, but since my Dremel is semi-permanently connected to a FlexShaft and mounted to my bench, I'm loathe to disconnect everything.  But the best way to remove the hump in the track is to provide sufficient expansion joints (just like the prototype, go figure).  So, to insure that my cuts would be as perpendicular as possible, I decided to give my new toy a workout.  Heh, it's not really necessary that the cuts be perpendicular, I s'pose, but it did give me a good excuse to try out the attachment.

The Result
I offset the cuts by about 6 inches, but I didn't install railjoiners. Do you think that was a mistake?  It's amazing how quickly and easily everything snugged back down once the rail had someplace to go.


Before I started my Train Time Tuesday Sunday, I went with the Missus to CVS and - as usual - I kept my eye out for model-railroad-adaptable items.  CVS isn't too much of a stretch as a source: I needed a dental mirror to be able to see in some tight spaces, and I figured CVS would be a decent place to check.

Jackpot! Model RR Tools from an unlikely place. Not sure how I can "repurpose" the tongue cleaner though.  Ewww!
Not only did I find the mirror I was looking for, but it came bundled with a couple of metal dental picks as well.  I remember reading someplace a long time ago that those picks are great for scoring styrene, but I had another use in mind - which I'll get to in a minute...

Model RR Tools?  Why, yes!
While I was looking for the mirror, I also discovered these funny looking "toothpicks" that have a bit of a serration(?) on one end.  The bag has, like, a BILLION of these little guys and I plan to try them out as cheap & disposable ACC/glue applicators.  I'll let you know how they work (unless any of you have beat me to this idea and can let ME know how they work out, while I have time to return them.  I don't really need funny looking toothpicks for anything else I can think of).


How you can prepare pre-weathered rail for soldering feeders
So, I have some pre-weathered Micro-Engineering rail and my soldered feeders came off during a recent ops session.  I suspected that the joint wasn't all that great since I didn't really get the weathering off the bottom of the rail.  Ok, I didn't even bother trying.  How do you do that?!  Well, I guess ideally I'd have some sort of tiny brass brush that I could fit under there.  But I discovered another way: Using my handy-dandy new dental mirror to see underneath the rail, I use one of the dental pics to scrape off the weathering.

Voila!  No weathering - and the beginnings of a perfect soldering joint!


Not related to my recent ops sessions, but something I noticed a few weeks back that bugs me no end: My backdrop seams cracked!  Ok, I made the rookie mistake of not TAPING the joints before adding the topping.  But I used "latex vinyl" topping, so I thought I'd be ok.

I wasn't.

Here's how the backdrop looked:

Masonite crack (tape those joints!)
Our previous house had plaster lathe walls, which we didn't discover until after taking down the wallpaper.  THEN we discovered why the paper was there: millions thousands of cracks in the wall!  I was able to cover most of them with putty & paint, but the corners were a different issue.

Figuring the corners were subject to the most stress, I decided to try using paintable latex caulk.  The corners still looked great when we moved.

Sooo...... I'm thinking the same thing may hold true here.  But first you have to create a place for the caulk to live.  Here, I widened the crack with an old can opener (the pointy triangle type):

Crack/joint widened with can opener
Then it was just a matter of shooting the caulk in the (widened) crack and smoothing it with my finger:

Crack/joint filled with paintable latex caulk
This particular caulk is "clear" but it starts out white.  It'll dry clear.  Like I said, I used my (moistened) finger to smooth it out.  That's all fine and dandy and works well - except that the caulk in the crack itself is a little concave.  I think I should have used a flat-edge putty knife.  No problem - I'll just apply another coat of caulk - and this time use a putty knife to smooth it.

Then it's (or should be) just a matter of painting.  The caulk should be stretchy enough to withstand any expansion/contraction.  I'll be sure to let you know how it works out.

So that's it for this edition of Train Time (Tuesday, Sunday, whatever).  I'm finally learning that making some time to do even what you might think are little projects sure does add up.  Some of these things I (hopefully) will never have to do again - and now they're done.  Pretty cool.  Hopefully my experience will inspire you to get to even just a few of those "little" jobs that have been nagging you.  If nothing else, hopefully the tool tips (isn't that dental mirror awesome?!) will have you looking at new and novel ways to use everyday items.  With the dearth of the LHS (local hobby shop), we need to find our tool sources anywhere we can!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Operating Session - 11/14/2013

The First Officially Official Valley Line Operating Session is now in the books.  After the shakedown session, I had a punch list of items to do, and I got to most of them during the last Train Time Tuesday.  I even cut a viewing hole in the right end of the Somerset module so operators can see when they're close to the end of the tail track (which is in a tunnel - ugh!).  I didn't get to power the points of the switch that's in the tunnel, but the operators did ok with it anyway.  It helped that Joseph was there - he's fairly tall, and the bamboo skewer/uncoupling tool was long enough to reach.

Nathan, Joseph & Roman on the Air Line Local switching Somerset.  Note hole cut in fascia on the right.
Ah, but I'm getting just a little ahead of myself.  You haven't met Joseph yet.  Actually, this session included THREE folks that were not only new operators, but had never even been to the house!  Roman & Nathan were able to come too.  To the extent that ops sessions are social events, this was a pretty cool development.  Bonus: all three of them are in their teens - it's very cool to know there are some young folks interested in the hobby and in operating.  Experienced operators & long-time Photo Library volunteers Dave and Tom also joined the festivities, operating the Valley Local.

Dave & Tom on the Valley Local switching Middletown.
I used the same paperwork as the shakedown session, but even though the switchlists and work was the same, this session timed out much differently.  I expect since 1/3 of the Air Line Local crew had never operated any layout before (kudos for his first time!), and I think that crew made an early tactical error switching the first town, the Air Line Local was very late to Middletown.  Consequently, they held up the Valley Local, much to the chagrin of the grizzled more-seasoned operators.
Youth won over experience though - the Valley Local had to wait.  I'll likely rewrite future paperwork to allow the Valley Local to leave Middletown when it's done with its work - at least on the days it doesn't go south to East Haddam (when it would need to wait for Air Line interchange cars for delivery to down-river customers).  The Air Line Local would still have to wait for the Valley Local since (on my layout at least) it turns at Middletown and would need to take New Haven and westbound cars back to Cedar Hill yard.
But that was a fairly minor glitch in the operation, which I suspect will also be mitigated by installing "O'Rourke's Diner" (i.e. a refreshment table) at the diamond in Middletown, just like the prototype!
Other than the scheduling this time around, the only other glitches were in trackwork.  Rocky Hill/Dividend continued to be the troublespot.  The south switch at Rocky Hill was (pretty much) fixed with the installation of a tension spring on the far side end-of-ties (I decided to keep turnout control consistent and not use a CI ground throw after all) and it operated fine during the session.  But the north switch at Rocky Hill was balky, not wanting to easily seat when lined for the main (thanks to Tom for pointing it out).  Fortunately, once I got a close look at it, I discovered that the throwrod/tie was rubbing/binding against one of the adjacent ties.  A little scraping with a #11 x-acto blade freed everything up and I'm happy to report that that switch is now operating flawlessly!
The only major glitch of the night was a newly-developed "Hump yard" at Dividend!

The "Hump" at Dividend

Another view of the "Hump" at Dividend, looking "north"
I don't know if there was an especially high amount of hot air (ahem) that evening, or what, but this track was fine as of Wednesday night when I last checked.  By Thursday night's operating session, the Valley Local crew had to run over a "frost heave."  Fortunately, the weight of the engine & cars packed everything down ok to allow operations, and nothing derailed.  Sending out a work train to fix this during the next Train Time Tuesday will be Priority Numero Uno.

Despite these relatively-minor items, I think it was a very successful session.  In addition to lancing the hump (ewww...), another few items were added to the punch list, including numbering the frog-polarity switches on the Air Line to correspond to the schematics (alleviating a lot of the confusion - and the resulting annoying buzzing when shorts occur!).  The list of "must do" items is, thankfully, dwindling, but I'm sure the next ops session will add some more....

That's ok though - with every session, the railroad is getting better and the better it gets, the more enjoyable it is to run!
Air Line Local at Mill Hollow, heading back to Cedar Hill Yard.
I plan to skip December as far as ops sessions go, to allow for the holidays and associated schedule.  But I also hope the time off will allow me to get to some other construction projects, including fixing the cracks in the backdrop, hopefully starting some scenery in Wethersfield, and maybe even (gasp!) extending the Valley Line south of Middletown to East Haddam!

Guess I'll have to see if Santa has any "extra time" in his bag of gifts that he can give me....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Train Time Tuesday (Worknight)

There's a lot of good advice out there that if you don't set aside some specific, regular time to work on a large project, you won't get as much done, if anything.  I'm nowhere near as disciplined as I'd like to be with time management, but at least when it comes to the Valley Local project I've set aside one evening per week as a regular worknight - call it "Train Time Tuesday."

Tonight's session was especially important since my next operating session is this Thursday and I still had a few "punch list" items to do.  So, right after dinner I headed to the basement.  When it comes to pre-ops-session worknights, it's best to prioritize operations-related items: dead tracks, inoperable turnouts, etc.  I'd staged the layout over the weekend & last Thursday before the guys came over for Photo Library night Randy temporarily fixed the south switch at Rocky Hill.  But I still had to power some sidings and fix a broken throttle.

Check Suitcase Connectors

During the shake-down ops session, the sidings at the slaughterhouse in Middletown and the tank track at Dividend had decided to go dead.  The feeders had come unsoldered at the slaughterhouse, so that was just a matter of re-soldering them.  But both of the wires at the tank track seemed fine - all tightly attached, but there was still no power getting to one rail, the one with the white feeder wire.  As the photo above shows, the culprit ended up being a loose (or at least not-tight-enough) suitcase connector.  I clipped a test light to the track and squeezed the connector with a pair of pliers until the light came on bright and steady (see it shining in the pic).   Lesson: Dead tracks don't always mean the feeders need to be resoldered.

Fixing & Improving Throttles

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my throttles took "shake down" literally and decided to take a header to the concrete floor during the last session.  Consequently, the antenna broke off - actually, the solder connecting the antenna connector to the PCB had broken.  So that connector needed to be resoldered and I figured while everything was apart anyway, I'd install a couple of lanyards to keep these throttles safe in the future.

So I picked up a package of lanyards & some small screw eyes and went to work.

Add caption
Four screws give you access to the inside - be careful since the two PCBs are connected with a wiring harness.

The PCBs are attached with double-sided foam tape so you can remove them with some care, though the smaller one is easier to remove (since the control knob isn't holding it in).  Bonus: the smaller one also has the antenna connector, which I needed to get to.  See above.

Here's a closeup of the antenna connector resoldered.  It ain't pretty, but at least I cleaned off the flux with denatured alcohol after this pic was taken.

Next, I installed the screw eyes by drilling a #43 hole in the bottom of the casing.  Be sure that the screw won't interfere with anything once it's screwed in.  Then attach the lanyard.  See above.

Now that that's done, all I have left to do before Thursday is re-print the switchlists and update the Bulletin Orders.  While we'll be doing the same session as last time, I noticed a couple typos.  Turns out having the wrong car number on a switchlist can be a problem.  Who knew?  Besides, I'm sure my operators will appreciate nice clean swithlists of their own.  The last session also highlighted a couple of close clearances that I'll have to note on an updated bulletin order.

But all in all, I'm in good shape for Thursday.  I know I'm not the first to say it, but I'm discovering how really true it is: having regular operating sessions really does motivate you to work on the layout.  If it wasn't for this coming Thursday, Train Time Tuesday would more likely have been TV Time Tuesday!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Modeling Monday: The "Punch List"

It's not that bad.  Really.
I guess you don't have to be into model railroad operations to know what a "punch list" is, but it wasn't until I starting reading about others' ops sessions that I started hearing that term regularly.  All it really is, at bottom, is a "to do" list.

However, unlike the usual to-do list, it's more retrospective than prospective.  Before an operating session, you have your traditional to-do list: all the things that need to be done to be sure your operating session runs as smoothly as possible.  You check the track & wiring, you check the locomotives & cars, you check your throttles, etc.  When you finish your to-do list, you're ready to roll, literally & figuratively.  By contrast, the model railroad punch list is also a list of items that need to be done, but here the "to-do-ness" doesn't become apparent until during or after your operating session.

But how do you even get a "punch list?"  Isn't everything operating wonderfully once you've finished your to-do list?  Ah, yes.  But one of the frustrations joys of operating sessions is that Mr. Murphy always attends, though he's never invited.  Inevitably, you either missed something or - more likely - something entirely new shows up that needs to be fixed.

My punch list includes fixing the south switch at Rocky Hill that suddently-and-without-warning decided to morph into a spring switch, resoldering feeders on the slaughterhouse and Dividend tank track sidings that inexplicably popped off sometime during the previous night, and fixing a throttle that decided to fall to the floor and break apart (though technically that's not Murphy's fault - I need to provide more security in the form of lanyards).  There are other items (see above photo), but you get the idea.

After reviewing my list(s), I'm beginning to think that maybe the distinction between to-do lists and a punch lists has less to do with their prospective versus retrospective nature, (um) respectively.  Perhaps a "punch list" is really nothing more than a list of all the reasons to give Mr. Murphy a hard punch in the nose.  Maybe then he won't be so eager to show up at my NEXT operating session...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NHRHTA Reunion Wrap-Up

Yesterday capped off a pretty busy week of railroad-related events, though I still haven't been able to get down to the basement since my last ops session.  Last Saturday, I spent the day in Troy, NY operating the NEB&W, last Sunday I stepped out of my comfort zone and did a presentation on railroads in Willimantic for the CT Eastern RR Museum, and yesterday I attended the 51st Annual Reunion for the New Haven Railroad Historical & Technical Association, wrapping the day up with a presentation on my favorite line.

Now I'm ready for a nap (ZZzzzzzz.....)  But before that, a quick recap on the Reunion....

The Spoils of Conquest (a.k.a. "what I got at the NHRHTA Reunion")
The show is always a great chance to catch up with folks you only see here once a year, and it was great that Jim, Mike, Ed, Bill, Joe, Laura & so many others were able to make it.  It's also a great opportunity to check out the vendors and see if there's anything you "can't live without."  The model railroad vendors have been dwindling in number the past few years, but my main targets of interest are usually the photos & books anyway (not surprising for a photo librarian I suppose).  I was able to score both volumes of the New Haven Railroad Facilities books from our very own NHRHTA table, at a pretty deep show discount, but I spent the majority of my time at the Bob's Photos tables.

If you're not aware of "Bob's Photos" and you have any interest in historic railroad pics, you really need to seek him out.  Unfortunately, he's not on the internet but he's at just about every major railroad show east of the Mississippi.  Even though NHRHTA has an extensive collection of its own, I'm always able to find at least one or two shots I never knew existed.

And often you find photos that are "must haves" that aren't even related to your main interest or research.  Case in point - Above is one of the photos I got yesterday, a bit out of character for what I usually go for: it's in color, there are lots of diesels around.  But check out that engine over on the right.  Yup, that's former Birmingham & Southeastern #97 that was used on many fantrips around Connecticut in the late 1960s.  What made this shot a "must" is that I fired & ran 97 in the late 80s/early 90s when it was in active service on the Essex Steam Train (nee Valley Railroad), and it's shown here on the New Haven railroad, in Hartford - where I currently work.  So, yeah, that had to end up in the pile.

What else did I get?  Well, suffice it to say that some of the photos were of Valley Line stations and I got some shots of J-1 mikados in unknown locations.  Many - if not all - of these pics will likely show up in future posts.

The model show was well attended, and actually could have used some more space.  I got some great feedback on the cars I brought, but I think the highlight for me had to be Joe Smith's scratchbuilt model of the station in Danbury.  He's doing for the Berkshire line what I hope to do for the Valley, but one of my regrets of the day is that I didn't get a photo of his work.

Another regret is that the model show conflicted with Bob Belletzkie's presentation on the New Haven & Derby RR.  Bob is an impressive railroad historian and wrote one of the first railroad histories I ever remember reading - about the NH&D.  He's done a lot of additional research on that RR in the last 30 years and I was really looking forward to hearing what he's learned.  Hopefully he'll be willing to give an encore presentation soon.

The only other regret was that - after being such a huge help in putting my presentation together - John Wallace wasn't able to join us.  I was really looking forward to his participation yesterday and the folks really missed out given his absence.  Attendance didn't suffer though - One benefit of choosing the 3pm (and last) presentation slot of the day was having no competition (the train show ends at 3), so a lot of folks showed up to see "A Day on the Valley Local."  A big reason for doing these presentations is getting additional information from the participants, and I learned some new things and got some ideas for additional research - all of which will show up here eventually.  So a huge THANK YOU to all of you that were able to attend and participate!

The day ended nicely with our usual banquet and slideshow and I even won a DVD in the raffle.  So all in all, a great way to end a very busy week.

Now that I have the Reunion and presentations behind me, it's time to get back down to the basement.  The last ops session produced a pretty long "punch list" of to-do items - and the next session is coming up later this week(!)  So I have to get to that.

But first, I need to get that nap...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Micro-Engineering Turnouts & Caboose Industries Ground Throws

I should've Googled first, but I just discovered CI ground throws & ME switches don't like each other. I need to repair-in-place an ME switch (over-center spring broke) and I tried to use a CI throw I had on-hand.
I'll either need to get a throw with less, um, "throw" (travel) or figure out a way to retrofit a new spring in an in-place turnout.  Or replace the turnout entirely (which I'd like to avoid).
Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Presentation: A Day on the Valley Local

Been a bit distracted from posting here lately due to working on this up-coming presentation, doing our best to recreate a typical local freight run down the Connecticut River Valley.

So if you happen to be anywhere near Stamford, CT this Saturday afternoon, stop by and say "hi!"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Layout Tour WrapUp - The "AirLine"

(This is the 4th & final part of the tour - Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here)

While the main focus of this project is the line from Hartford to Middletown (and eventually to Old Saybrook), the main "interchange" on the line was with the Air Line in Middletown.  On the prototype, the Air Line went from New Haven to Colchester, crossing the Valley Line at grade in Middletown before crossing over the Connecticut River.  Any cars destined for Valley Line towns from New Haven were dropped off by the Air Line Local and returns were picked up, so it's critical to Valley Line operations that at least part of the Air Line be included in my model.

You can see on the following map where the Air Line came in to Middletown:

Valley Line south to north (left to right), Air Line west to east (top to bottom)
The Air Line local would come into town, leave most of its train on the main, continue with its interchange cars southeast on the quad track, and then back into Middletown yard (off the map to the right).  After dropping off its cars, the locomotive would return to its train and continue east to Colchester.  On the way back, it would pick up New Haven bound cars by reversing the process and running around in the yard.

On my model, the "Air Line" is such in name only and functions only as a way to have active, prototypical interchange and to provide operators another local freight to operate.  The line itself ends at the CT river, so all Air Line locals are "turns" to Middletown & back.  But otherwise, I can replicate the prototype operations (just about) perfectly.

The railroad itself is a different matter, being totally freelanced on two seperate 2x8 modules:

Somerset module ("New Haven" staging off the left end)

Mill Hollow module - track to Middletown continues off the right & through the wall
Here's a recap of the trackplans for each of the towns/modules
The trackplan is totally freelanced and so are the towns & buildings, but the idea is to convey "generic New England" as much as possible.  The story of these modules merits its own post, but suffice it to say that all the buildings were salvaged from the 4x8 layout of an old friend who passed on.  The 4x8 was an operational nightmare (all brass snap-track, almost none of which worked) and I built the modules to have a better track plan and preserve his handiwork.  Bonus: the modules allow you to really get up close to what he built (just about all of the buildings have full interior detail).  He was definitely more of a craftsman modeler than an operator.

Somerset engine facility
Operationally, the Air Line Local starts in "New Haven" (a staging track off the left of the Somerset module).  If I want the job to extend a little longer, I stage the train itself on the staging track, but leave the engine in the engine service area.  Operators will then have to fully hostle their engine before they pick up their train and start their main work of the day.  There are a few industries to be switched, including a box factory, team track and coal company.  Interestingly, the engine service facility must also be served with company cars (coal & sand inbound; cinders & empty cars outbound).
"Portal Farm" at west end of Mill Hollow module - tunnel to the right
Once the local finishes its work in Somerset, it continues to Mill Hollow through a tunnel (and over a liftout that connects the two modules) and comes out just past a farm on the hilltop (seen/scene above).

West end of Mill Hollow - tunnel in the distance.
There's one main industrial track in Mill Hollow, but the industries have more car spotting locations than the track capacity available.  So switching in Mill Hollow sometimes requires the local to setout a car on the siding so it can be switched on the return trip.

Overview of "downtown" Mill Hollow.  Track continues off-module to the right and to Middletown.  Note Form 19 orders to be picked up by the local and track layout mounted on the fascia.
Once the local finishes in Mill Hollow, it continues to Middletown for interchange.
While it would be great to model the Air Line prototypically (and someday, I may), for now the modules are a great stand-in.  They contain the only really "completed" area of the railroad, and though all the structures are inherited, all the scenery is my doing (and my first attempt at scenery).  The modules not only provide a nice reminder of my friend's modeling legacy, but also the fact that, no matter your prototypical aspirations, model railroading is essentially a fun, creative activity - or at least it should be.  We should never get SO tied up in replicating the prototype that we forget that we are essentially creating a miniature world over which we have total control.  And that's pretty neat.
And that concludes our tour of the layout, at least as it currently exists.  As you can see in the overall trackplan, I will eventually continue my prototype modeling south from Middletown through East Haddam, Deep River, Essex and Old Saybrook.  But what I have already will keep me busy for now - and I still have to get to my punchlist of to-do items created by my sea trial ops session.
My first "official" operating session is in just a little over a week, so I need to get crackin'!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Modeling Monday: NEB&W Ops Session

Before I came across the New England Berkshire & Western, I was just a typical model railroader.  While there's certainly nothing wrong with creating your own fictional world and operating a fictional railroad within it, the NEB&W was my first exposure to prototype modeling.  While the NEB&W is technically "proto-freelancing" (it never actually existed IRL, but it's easy to forget that), this was the first place I saw actual real-life scenes being replicated in model form and operated just like the prototype.

So whenever I get a chance to visit - and especially to operate - this railroad, I jump on it.  It's one of the surest-fire ways to recharge my motivation and inspire my own proto-layout project.  Here are a few pics from the past weekend's ops session.  Whether you model New England railroads or not, I bet you'll see something that will get your modeling juices going....

Here's a good example of what they're doing - a nice bridge scene on the model...

And right below it, on the fascia, is a picture of the prototype scene (unfortunately, I forgot to note the location).  I used this same idea on my railroad.  Even - or especially - when you don't have scenery, it helps show visitors what you're planning.
While the NEB&W has been around since at least the 1970s, they're always up to something new.  Here's the start of their latest - a model of the Rutland's Addison Branch.  This is where the famous covered bridge will go.

The famous East Shoreham covered bridge - image taken from a great website dedicated to the Addison Branch.
Another under-construction scene on the new Addison Branch.

When you enter the layout room(s), this is the first scene that you see on the right.

A little further down the line from the previous scene.

Looking back up the line.  I'm only about 15 feet into the room at this point and already hitting modeling-inspiration-overload.

Chateauguay - the northern-most big city & yard on the railroad.  The "Oldensburn & Lake Richilieu" comes from the north and interchanges here.  Running the O&LR transfer job was my first task of the day.

Another view of Chateauguay - the O&LR track curves in front of Arendt Lumber.  The rest of the track is NEB&W territory.

Forgot the name of this town, but love the scene since it looks very similar to the CT River Valley area I'm modeling.

North Bennington, VT.

Prototype photo for comparison (taken from here)
Bartonsville - The (prototype) covered bridge in this scene was washed away in 2012, but recently rebuilt.

Comparison prototype photo, taken from the NEB&W Facebook Fanpage (which, if you're into prototype modeling, I highly recommend - you'll see lots of side-by-side comparisons between the prototype and what they're modeling.  Very inspirational!)
Rutland Yard

Scene inspired by the prototype Delaware & Hudson's line along Lake Champlain

Some fantastic bridge modeling in Green Isle
It was a long but fun-filled day.  We got through an entire 24hr operating day with, literally, dozens of trains, all run on a schedule governed by a 4:1 fastclock.  Randy deserves kudos for doing such a great job as dispatcher and it was great getting to spend some time with Bill, Pete, new-friend George and other old friends.