Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
Click image to link to my web site,

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Annual Open House - Nov. 19th

This year the layout will be open in November for the annual Model Railroad Open House schedule for the NJ/PA/DE/MD area. Along with a number of other NJ area layouts, I will be open on Saturday November 19th from 12 noon to 5pm.

The schedule and website has a changed a bit for this year. There are actually 2 separate web sites now, 1 for the DE/MD layouts and 1 for the NJ/PA layouts.The older link will only show you Delaware and Maryland layouts.

Here is the link to the web site for New Jersey and Pennsylvania layouts:

The format of the site is a bit different, I find it a bit difficult to understand as it really is a web site for PRR info with the model railroad open house schedule added in. But it is out there for everyone to enjoy, and I'm glad we do have volunteers to provide this info. Just click on the Schedule menu at the top to see the open house info.

Here is a direct link to the layouts open on the 19th of November in case you are planning to see other layouts in addition to mine:

Hopefully I'll see you then. Now back to the layout to get some more things completed before the open house!

(Note: As mentioned, for the DE and MD open houses, the old site of can be used)

Friday, October 07, 2016

Sept 2016 Op Session

Last week on Wednesday 9/28 I hosted the NEK Op Session #4. I invited 7 guys over to help put the layout through it's paces and see how things fared. The process is helping me determine the best way to sequence and run the trains that I have scheduled, and also provides insights into how I can better convey the operations I want to run on the layout to the operators. 

We got through almost the whole schedule and things ran pretty smooth. The track cleaning and CRC 2-26 treatment definitely was worth the effort as there were no electrical issues related to dirty track. A few things popped up with older turnouts not having power through the points, and a turnout that did not throw completely. These will be addressed before the next session.

It is always interesting to see how others run trains in different ways than I planned. And some things I just need to find a better way to convey to the operators. So some things are still a work in progress, but overall I think everyone had a good time.

Here are some pictures from the session.

Bruce got down to business in Morrisville breaking down train VM-2, the St. Albans to Morrisville LVRC train. The power is on the engine house track (the engine house is still to be built as you can see!)

Mark served as Yardmaster in St. Johnsbury, and he enjoyed the new method of throwing turnouts, using Touch Toggles (from Berrett Hill) on the panel in front of him.

Working with Mark as St. Johnsbury yard engineer was Joe. Joe handled locomotive movements with Mark working the waybills to get things figured out and keep an eye on the schedule. St. johns bury is the busiest spot on the layout, so how it runs dictates how the session progresses. Definitely a 2 person job!

Chris wore the right color shirt as he operated Canadian Pacific train 917 from Newport, He will have cars to drop and pickup, and then he will proceed to E. Deerfield MA. On the lead are a CP 424 and RS10 along with a B&M GP40-2.

John ran the LVRC MJ-2 train from Morrisville to St. Johnsbury. Here John is picking up a boxcar on the siding in Hardwick, and wondering how long he is allowed to block the road crossing.

I assigned a 2 man crew to the B&M train 4301, the White River Junction to Groveton turn. Here Bill and Chris handle the MEC interchange traffic at Whitefield. In front of Bill is another Touch Toggle panel for the 6 switches in this area.

Later in the run of B&M 4301, Bill and Chris arrived in Groveton to work the paper mill. Groveton has benefited with the addition of structures and scenery since he last op session when it was strictly plywood. A local switcher at Groveton assists in work of breaking down 4301 and getting it turned around and heading back south as BM 4302.

Phil was on hand to help out, and here is preparing to assemble the ballast extra from Hardwick to meet a Maine Central train of empties in St. Johnsbury. The ex-CR transfer caboose is new to the LVRC. Phil is about to pull the hoppers from the spur .
Phil has arrived in St. Johnsbury and is working to swap his loads with the MEC train of empties brought in by John. Here Phil has cut off his power, a Vermont Northern C420 and pulls forward. John is on the CP main with the MEC train. The yard crew looks on, waiting for this maneuver to finish so they can get back to work.

John ran the North Stratford to St. Johnsbury turn, MEC train TY-2/YT-1. Here John is using the passing siding at Crawford Notch to run around his train and prepare for the trek west to St. J.More trees arrived in Crawford recently, and the foreground buildings are part of the Whitefield scene.

Phil ran the MEC YQ-1/QY-2 turn from St. Johnsbury to Whitefield and back. Here is doing some work in East St. Johnsbury, dropping an empty pulpwood rack.

One last picture captures Phil working the Gilman paper mill switch job. This was a new assignment I added to handle spots and pickups ahead of train YQ-1. I had found that too much time was being taken by this train so adding another job alleviated the issue.
So at least this time I did remember to capture some pictures, which can be tough when everyone is caught up in the action. But slowly the kinks are getting worked out and the crew is better understanding the layout and the operations. Still more to do to as I keep learning from each session, but it will be fun to continue to refine things. 

Hopefully the next session will stay on track for mid-November.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Track Cleaning and CRC 2-26

I should have a number of new posts coming up. Things have been busy as I got the layout cleaned up and staged for an Op Session, which went off last night (9/28). I did manage to take some pictures this time, so look for that post soon. I also have some updates on the Groveton scene and a FOS scale structure that was fun to assemble. But for this post I wanted to mention what some of the guys in South Jersey have been doing for cleaning track.

For years I have been using alcohol in a track cleaning car to prepare the rails for an op session or open house. And I'd take the locomotives through an alcohol wheel cleaning session using a paper towel and running the loco to spin the wheels over it. Time consuming, and usually good for mainly that one time. Things would deteriorate slowly depending on how soon I ran things again, and in some cases which locos were involved. Some locos just seemed to need another cleaning right away after a session.

A few layouts in the area have taken to an extra step following this cleaning, and that involves applying CRC 2-26 to the rails and the loco wheels after they are cleaned. The reports have been very encouraging. One layout did this task a year and a half ago and has not touched the rail or wheels at all. He operates every month, and there are no electrical contact issues. It seems the CRC 2-26 helps prevent the oxidation that occurs and assists in allowing the electrical contact to be made between the rail and wheel. I'm sure there's more science to it, but for me, I'm just looking for a solution!

Here is the can of CRC-26. It is a smaller can I picked up at Home Depot. Some guys have a larger can. In front is the Homasote block I use to apply to the rails. After a little time it gets thoroughly saturated.

So, I had 2 of the regulars from the local operating crew in South Jersey stop by to assist me in doing the same for my layout.

Step 1 was making sure the rails were clean. In general my track is not too bad and is mainly just in need of a light cleaning to remove surface oxidation. We used regular rubber pencil erasers for this, to remove any oxidation without scratching the metal surface. I also have aWoodland scenics track cleaning block, and the white side is similarly soft like an eraser. Around Groveton it took a little more work as I was recently doing scenery work there. Here I used the reverse side of the Woodland Scenics track cleaner to remove glue and paint that accumulated, then finished with the smoother white side of the cleaner to finish.

This is the Woodland Scenics track cleaning block, shown here using the softer polishing side. In this section of Groveton, I had a bit more work to remove scenery residue that was not an issue throughout the rest of the layout.

Step 2 was to next apply the CRC-26. The method employed by the guys in the area is to spray a small amount of CRC 2-26 onto a Homasote block and drag it back and forth over a section of rails to put a light coating on top. Doing it you can feel how the resistance changes and generates a kind of polished feel.

Using the Homasote block with CRC 2-26 applied, lightly spreading it by going back and forth, with no real pressure.

No need to apply pressure as you are just putting a thin coating over he rails. I was able to do about 10 feet of track and then applied a little more CRC 2-26 to the block, then repeating on the next section of track. Basically it is just a feel. As long as the block still has 2-26 on it, and as long as you hit all the rail, you should be good.

Step 3 was to let this dry without running, at least over night. When you check the rail out you will see it is not bright and shiny but has a slight yellow, dull look to it. Nothing that looks odd, just not the same as perfectly scrubbed nickel silver before running  on it. This apparently is the coating of CRC 2-26 doing its thing in preventing oxidation.

Step 4 was to address the locos. Basically I used paper towels and alcohol while the engine was running to clean the wheels, letting them spin on the paper towel until the black buildup came off and the towel looked clean when the wheels were moved to a different area.

Step 5 was to apply some CRC 2-26 to another piece of paper towel and repeat the running over the paper towel to get a thin coat onto the wheels. Then let the loco wheels dry to allow the CRC 2-26 to set.

Maine Central RS-2 554 is getting an initial wheel cleaning by running over this paper towel soaked with alcohol. It helps to hold the loco and let the wheels spin. Adjust the paper towel as you go to ensure the wheels run clean. A similar technique is then used to apply the CRC 2-26 to the wheels.
One extra step I did as I restaged the layout was to run each freight car over a paper towel with alcohol. This took a while, but was the first time I cleaned any freight car wheels, so it seemed the right way to go considering I had address all the track and all the locos. No need to spread any crud over the nice clean rails!

So the proof will be in how things run I suppose. the cleaning took place in early September. As I restaged the layout, I ran some locos around and down into staging tracks, back and forth. No issues whatsoever. At the Op Session last night, there was not one instance a contact issue related to rail to wheel contact. The few issues we did have were specifically no power on the points of a turnout, and a section of a siding that was dead due to a failed solder joint on the track feeder. These were noted and will be addressed.

Of course this is a short timeframe, so we'll see how things go. I'll be restaging the layout in the coming weeks, and will also have an open house and another Op Session in November. There will be no track cleaning taking place, so it will be a good test to see how things work. But based on the numerous other layouts that are working successfully from this method, I'm confident in seeing good results.