Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Friday, March 17, 2017

NEK Track Schematic

One of the requests I had from previous operating sessions was a track schematic that operators could refer to to better understand the layout and where locations are in relation to each other. I put together a basic schematic in a drawing program that I can post around the layout.

Not all tracks are shown, but passing sidings are included along with the 2 main yard areas.
The dashed lines represent hidden staging areas.

Hopefully this will be easy to understand. The somewhat unusual part of my layout is the representation of multiple "mainlines" of different railroads.

The top line represents the Maine Central Mountain Division between Portland and St. Johnsbury. Included is the Boston & Maine line between White River Jct. and Groveton, crossing the MEC at Whitefield.

The middle line represents the Canadian Pacific between Newport and East Deerfield. The Maine Central joins in via the A connector. Meanwhile the Lamoille Valley joins in via the B connector.

The Lamoille Valley is on the bottom line and runs between St. Johnsbury and St. Albans. The Central Vermont line runs between Richford and St. Albans and crosses the Lamoille Valley at Sheldon Jct.

Not shown here is the connector between Sheldon Jct. and Lyndonville. This would be the shorter dashed line at the bottom right connecting in via a switch by Lyndonville on the middle line. this is not used in actual operations but only as a way to have a loop for open houses.

Likewise, the connection between Portland staging and E. Deerfield staging is not shown. Again this is strictly for creating a second loop for open house running and is not relevant to operations.

This should be another helpful addition to the various operator aids. I look forward to finding out how useful it is for the operators, and to see what feedback and suggestions they have.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Three Old Boxcars

A few years ago, while planning to do some airbrushing, I decided to plan ahead and paint a number of cars and locos even if I was not planning to work on them right away. I figured given the time spent setting up and airbrushing, followed by full cleanup, it would be best to maximize the units getting painted. As best as I can tell, that was over 6 years ago. Since then I have addressed a number of those projects, bit not all of them.

Part of the lot involved painting some undecorated Details West boxcars. These were the "yellow box" kits that included a few different 50' boxcar styles and included a more enhanced under frame than the standard Athearn "blue box" kits of the day. I've always liked these kits, and one of the things that really drove my early participation in model railroading was the desire to replicate cool 50' boxcars in the "Railbox" style as well as older outside sheathed cars like the DW models.

Recently I have been cleaning things up a bit and moving in progress projects to the recently acquired  IKEA drawer unit. and I came across 3 painted DW shells ready for decals and finishing. I decided to spend an evening dealing these cars while in the family room with my wife watching the Oscars on TV. Decaling is a pretty easy task to integrate into TV viewing,

I feel I have a lack of CONRAIL equipment in general on the layout, but it is really useful in conveying the time period as post 1976. This Champ decal set was in my collection for probably 40 years, so it is nice to finally see some usage. I was not going for 100% accuracy on this car number, but looking to capture the look of similar CR boxcars. I used quite a bit of chalk weathering on this car and I like the way it tones down the whites decals.

Another Champ decal set drove this car. I could not find much in the way of prototype pictures of 50' SAL boxcars and almost decided to skip this particular car, but I like the unusualness of an SAL car (in contrast to my overall roster) and the large logos. It probably is more appropriate for an older style car. I do plan to do a bit more with this car, repainting dimensional data and other things as you would see on an older car in the 1970s. For now it has a basic weathering coat done, but I will get more aggressive later.

Here is a prototype example that I plan to use to drive my additional weathering and detailing.

I had ordered a set of BAR boxcar decals from Highball Graphics in 2001(!). Since then some nice examples have been released in this scheme, but BAR cars were very prevalent so adding another still made sense. Again, not 100% accurate for the number series, but a good representation. This has black ends, and I added some basic weathering here as well, which again gave a nice effect to the lettering looking a bit faded.
It was fun doing these 3 cars and getting 3 projects off the back burner and ready for the rails. All 3 will probably see some more work, from weathering as I mentioned to replacing the stirrup steps on each corner.

Looking through my decals, I have probably a lot more things I planned to do that will probably not happen now. A lot of this has to do with the better quality freight cars that exist now versus when I actually acquired most of these decals. But there will always be that need for something different, and always a desire to go back and enjoy a simple paint and decal project.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Woodsville Terminal

In my last post I mentioned the Woodsville Terminal Railway Co. This was a fictional shortline created by Mike Confalone that he modeled before switching over to the Allagash (which has been covered very well by Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine in articles, e-Books and videos). The older WTRC was covered in Model Railroad Planning.

Decals were made for the Woodsville Terminal by Highball Graphics, part of their Freelance Railroads series. I picked up their set FL-1 for Woodsville Terminal boxcars as it offers a neat paint scheme that clearly identifies the location of the (fictional) railroad being in VT and NH.

Highball Graphics set FL-1
On my car I went with a more orangish color than what Mike and Neil Schofield used in the examples from the Highball Decals web site, This was so it would not blend in too easily with the large number of Maine Central cars I have.

WTRC 2601 looks real spiffy having just recently been placed into service. This is an Intermountain car I stripped the lettering off and repainted.
What is cool is the slogan actually mentions Northeast Kingdom. The font is similar but not the same as the Lamoille Valley. All in all a pretty neat looking car that looks right for my region and era.

I have some other WTRC equipment, purchased from Perkins Road Depot. These are wood chip hoppers with extended sides. These use custom decals otherwise not available.

I picked up this wood chip hopper from Dave of Perkins Road Depot while at the Springfield show this year. It joins 2 others purchased in the past, one black and one brown, 
In the past I have staged woodchip hoppers in Morrisville yard for the LVRC to deliver to the MEC and ultimately to the B&M for use at the Groveton paper mill. I assumed that the WTRC performed an interchange with the LVRC somewhere along the line and at the start of an op session, these hoppers were already in the yard.

Lately though I have been thinking about establishing a WTRC train to bring some cars into Morrisville during the session. I think it will add a neat little enhancement to the LVRC operations without too much of an impact. It will also give me the chance to look into some WTRC locomotive power, perhaps a re-lettered D&H unit, and maybe at some point an actual painted loco in the WTRC scheme, something I'm not sure Mike C. even had completed, but I'll have to find out.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Morrisville Turnouts Complete

I finished off the work on the installation of the 2 turnouts in Morrisville that will provide an additional passing siding (see previous post). After having the track in and wired, and after doing some test runs, I needed to get turnout controls in place. The rest of Morrisville has front edge mounted Caboose Industry ground throws, but doing the same would be nearly impossible given the existing track and scenery.

During an Op Session, last year before the new turnouts were installed, Bill Howard(in white) has the ground throw controls right at his finger tips along the front edge of Morrisville. One new turnout is where the caboose is, but on the second track from the right pictured. No way to to run a throw rod there now, so undercount control became necessary. The other turnout is about where the CV brown boxcar is next to the silo.

So I figured the best bet was to put in Tortoise machines. A benefit to automated control vs. manual throws is that whenever a turnout needs to be thrown, both need to throw in order to have a clear path. That meant I could simply have 1 control for the operator.

I had read somewhere a while back that mounting Tortoise machines on a longer piece of wood can assist in getting the throw adjusted. By lining up the machine's rod with the throw bar and then putting a single screw towards the rear of the piece of wood into the subroadbed above, you have the ability to slightly move the turnout left and right to get the throw just right. This avoids needing to keep removing screws and repositioning.

I found this this method worked great and I wish I had done it on the other installs I had where seeing the top and bottom at the same time is not possible. Of course having someone assist also can help, but much easier to just drive a couple wood screws then try to screw the actual machine in over your head!

This is pretty good picture of the method. I mounted the Tortoise to the thin birch plywood panel. Note - I needed a second piece  (in this case scrap poplar) to prevent the small screws from protruding through, but using one thicker piece would have worked as well. I positioned the throw rod up through the throw bar and kept the Tortoise edge even with the throw bar so there was no bend to the rod. I set the one screw at the far left, then tested the throw. Pivoting the the plywood allied for a minor adjustment to the left to right throw, and once I had it working well, I set the second screw closer to the Tortoise to lock it in place.
With that work out of the way, I mounted a single DPDT switch for the operator to throw both turnouts. Oddly enough, this is the only DPDT I have on the layout as all other controls are either DCC or touch panel. It was a simple matter of getting the right wires matched up to have both turnouts throw the proper direction, and power was provided by a leftover 9 volt wall wart power supply mounted in this area.

I found just the right spot for the DPDT switch. Inside the Morrisville shelf area I had this angled piece. I simply drilled a whole for the switch and mounted it. The good thing is that it is directly below where the turnouts are, and nothing protrudes off of the fascia or into the aisle way.
With that work completed, I test ran sone trains and threw the switches to make sure all was well. 

On a related note, I have been thinking about adding a new train to the Morrisville operations. I currently have some fictional Woodville Terminal cars in the yard representing a fictional connection to the Lamoille Valley with this short line that used to be part of Mike Confalone's layout. It gave me a way to logically get these custom painted/decaled cars onto the layout. I thought about instead of staging these cars, I establish a transfer train for the Woodsville Terminal to deliver cars first to Morrisville, and return with anything going back to the WTRC. 

I put together a small train that I can stage beyond Sheldon Jct. using CV power for now, and ran it up to Morrisville. Here is a quick video of me using that train to back through the new turnouts and test things out.

With the track changes now compete, it is time to prepare for and schedule the next Ops Session!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Springfield Report

I'm back from the big Springfield show, and as usual, it was a great time. I did not hear anything about attendance, but it seemed very crowded both days. It was great to see so many familiar faces and talk to those I see maybe once a year. It was also great to meet and talk to those of you who read the blog and enjoy it. I'm glad you are out there following along!

Here are some assorted pictures and commentary from the weekend.

In addition to manning the Free-mo layout and doing operations (more on that below), I did venture out to the show floors across 4 buildings. I did not take too many pictures from the manufacturer booths, but here is one form Rapido showing some of their cool upcoming offerings. 

Got information I needed about LokSound decoders at the ESU booth.

Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine brought along their TOMA project layout (The One Module Approach to building a layout). I also talked a bit with Joe Fugate about his current and future layout.

It will be nice to follow along as MRH shares details on building this layout in their on-line FREE magazine.

Great scenery on the TOMA layout, which is based on the Vermont Railway.

Outside, a live, operating steam locomotive was on hand. It was nice to smell and hear this running during the weekend.

As figure 8 layouts go, and especially those using 3 rail O scale, this one is admittedly pretty nice!

The Free-mo layout was very linear this year, extending 200 feet, and included over 2 scale miles of mainline,  with additional trackage on 3 branches. This view is from my module area, near, but not at one of the ends. It goes all the way down to the just visible banner.
This is the track plan of the layout. The photo above looks to the left, with my module on the branch at the bottom right.

The recently completed FOS Scale Liquor Depot kit installed on the module. Looks like the local PD is checking things out, talking to one of the road crew.
A  new module at its first show demonstrated a clearance issue with a double stack train. Actually somewhat prototypical for a late 80s/early 90s mainline before clearance improvements would require "filleting" the stacks onto separate cars. No problem, as the owner quickly added additional base material to the bridge and the train proceeded without incident!

The weekend included free running on the modules, as well as Op Session time. Trains were made up in select yards and then instructions and a switchlist was provided to each operator. I ran light Maine Central power over to the Cedar Hill yard to pick up my train, a turn that serviced my Woodstown Jct, as well as the nearby Boston Street. Here I am returning with my train coming off the loop that transitions from the mainline onto the branch I am working.

My switchlist. The yard operator fills in the reporting marks of the cars requested by the ModuOps software, and my job is to spot these cars at each industry, and pickup the same number of cars (if they are there) to return back to the yard. My troublesome MEC 564 seemed to work OK throughout the weekend.

I arrived at Woodstown Jct with my train. The Lamoille Valley RS3 is the local switcher which can assist with local switching. This can be done with a second local operator, or solo using the second throttle.

I pulled my train up and let the local switcher work the tail end of the train for the facing point sidings and any cars for the yard side of the mainline.

A railfan talks to one of the railroad employees at the old freight house which now serves as a headquarters building for the local railroad.

With the local switcher having pulled all cars off the train and spotted cars at local industries, my train is ready to depart. the passing siding holds cars that will return back to Cedar Hill yard - No need to take them with me on the turn, I'll get them on the way back. Additional cars for the junction and other industries for the yard side of the mainline will be switched by the local RS3 while I am up the mainline at Boston Street.
Switching at Boston Street includes some street trackage. I've spotted a few cars and will now run around my train to drop the coal hopper at the facing point industry on my way back to Woodstown Jct. Once there I'll add the cars from the passing siding to the covered hopper seen here and return back to Cedar Hill yard.

We set up the Free-mo layout Friday afternoon into the early evening. On Saturday we operated and answered many questions to model railroaders and the public. So by Saturday night we were plenty thirsty. Here is about 1/3 of the gang enjoying drinks and dinner at a nearby establishment. Having fun socializing is one of the great parts about the Springfield weekend.
Looking forward to next year!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Recent work, and Springfield!

A quick update on some things I have been working on. But also, this weekend, the big train show up in Springfield, Massachusetts will be happening, and I'll be on hand again with my Woodstown Junction Free-mo modules, setting up a big layout with the New England Free-mo guys. Hope to see you there!

I was able to get the 2 new turnouts situated in Morrisville in order to add the new run around. Of course one of them had the points centered directly under a subroadbed support, but luckily it was as simple as removing a couple screws to get the support out off the way. I'm glad I followed hat advice about drilling up into the subroadbed from below instead of down from above. A few pieces of track reconnected everything, and a few new feeders, and I was able to successfully test it out running a train back and forth. No Tortoise machines yet - that will have to wait until after the Springfield weekend.

All track is back in place, and the siding to Lamoille Grain company is ready to receive a few loaded grain cars. Next up will be adding the Tortoise machines and doing some testing before paint, ballast and scenery repairs.
A while back, over on Trevor Marshall's Port Rowan blog, Trevor wrote about rebuilding his workshop and using some Ikea furniture to build things out. I have used a few different Ikea products, including my workbench and chair, a couple of racks for paint bottles, as well as a metal cabinet that stores lots of supplies. Trevor made mention of an Ike drawer system called "Alex" and how someone he knows uses it for extra car storage (Trevor went with some different cabinet choices). I've started to suffer from having completed and in progress cars and locos in various places around the layout room, so I decided to investigate this as a solution. It turns out to be a great solution, and I was lucky enough to get an after holiday 15% off sale price too. These would work well for lots of different things, like styrene sheet and strip stock, but I'm glad to have the one just for my various rolling stock and locos.

The unit provides 5 shallow drawers (the 2 lower are a little deeper) that work great for holding rolling stock and locomotives. I did not try to max out the space, but it would seem easy to hold upwards of 100 pieces or more of rolling stock.

The whole unit is on casters too making it easy to roll out and around if needed. This storage freed up a number of other areas around and under the layout and nicely centralized everything related to cars and locos not currently on the layout, but already out of their manufacturer boxes.
One of the drawbacks of the way my staging yard came out is the limited visibility for operators to see their trains when they enter or exit the yard. It is not overly complicated or a long distance to travel, but almost all operators prefer to visually see their train at all times if possible.

I've often thought a mirror would help operators get a visual on their train, just to see that they are moving and at what speed. Turns out we had another Ikea item in storage, purchased many years ago, a simple 9 inch square mirror. I played around with one to see if it would work. What I like is that it is not a giant mirror but just enough to see the yard ladder when you stand in the right place. I think the operators will appreciate this addition.

I made a simple triangular shelf and an angled support for the mirror. I used just one screw on the support so I could make some minor adjustments. After it was up, I decided to add a front trim piece to give a better appearance to the shelf. This mirror handles the Maine Central track into Portland bound staging (Portland, Bartlett).

A second mirror is up at the CP/BM end of the staging yard.  This one was built the same way.
This picture demonstrates how standing in the proper location will provide a nice view of the staging yard, making it easy to see trains on the move.
I've been slowly progressing on the ET & HK Ide building. I completed adding the embossed paper to represent the metal panels, and completed the loading dock, overhang, and windows and doors. Up top the windows are covered over. In front of them will be the unloading chutes up to the conveyor. Two holes in the roof were added so these can pass through. Still plenty more to do, but getting there.

I decided to place the in progress structure in its proper spot on the layout between work sessions. As I do not have the road underpass (which would be where the CP Rail switcher is, over to the V&O boxcar), this structure is more representative than prototypically accurate. Still I am trying to capture as much of the look and feel as possible.
One final project, I installed a Soundtraxx SoundCar into a BAR boxcar. I really wanted to get this done before Springfield so I could take it up there to try it out.

All the components are installed, including the SoundCar module on the roof (so it can be operated with a magnet), a Current Keeper module to prevent sound drop outs, and a spare Railmaster speaker I had on hand that doesn't seem likely to fin fit into any of my locomotives. 
Initial playing around was pretty neat. The consist via magnet works great. I adjusted a few volume settings, so I look forward to running this on trains through Woodstown Junction and out on the big Free-mo mainline this weekend.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Maine Central 564 - Good and Bad

I wrapped up the majority of the work on my 1970s version of Maine Central EMD GP7 #564. This unit was painted in a simplified green scheme used on a few locomotives starting in the late 1960s. It contrasts nicely with the harvest gold units that comprised the bulk of the MEC locomotive fleet of the day.

MEC 564 leads a short ballast extra through the White Mountains of New Hampshire in 1973. NERAIL photo by Jim Wright. 

Ted Houghton's image from provides a well lit side view of 564.
My model uses an Atlas GP7. I actually painted and decaled it (Microscale) a few years ago, but it has sat waiting for completion as other projects took priority. I found a need to get another MEC loco on the layout, so I pulled this unit out for finishing.

Added details include the front hood mount bell, the side mounted air horn and a winterization hatch. There are a few other details I can add, including a speed recorder and the correct MU stands, bt not having these on hand, they will have to wait.

The Microscale set is not the best representation of this paint scheme however, as it is a little too yellowish, and it also lacks the ring around the Pine Tree herald.

MEC 564 idles in St. Johnsbury

One thing that stands out nice on this unit is the Harvest Gold painted pilots.

I used mainly powders for weathering providing a good covering of rust, dust and soot.
However, not all was good unfortunately. I previously posted a picture of this unit showing the iPhone 4 speaker situated above the Tsunami decoder. The sound is great and after a little programming and adjusting the EQ, it sounds really nice.

That is until it stops making sound, or starts playing random horn sounds. Seems something is not right with the decoder. I tried a factory reset, and get the same results. It runs fine for a while, but sooner or later the sound cuts out, or the whole decoder cuts out and the loco stops. It is possible I damaged something doing the install, although this would be the first bad install after a couple dozen.

So it seems the remedy will be to carefully pop the shell back off and replace the decoder. It is ashame as I had it nicely speed matched with the Atlas factory-painted Harvest Gold GP7 565 shown above. As this was the last of the sound decoders I had on hand, the question now will be whether to go to Tsunami 2, to LokSound, as I would like to give them a try. Guess I'll have something to pick up next weekend at the Springfield show!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Morrisville Turnout Work

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am adding a turnout in Morrisville at the suggestion of my operating crew. It will provide a second (and longer) runaround/passing track, as well as give access to the south side of the mainline from the eastern approach. In watching operations and trying some moves my self, I agreed the suggestion had merit.

My main concern with making this change though was how long would this take to get completed, and how long until I could schedule the next Op Session? One thing was certain though, nothing would get done unless I actually started the work!

With the required curved turnout in hand, I found I had a little time to get started with this the other night. I knew I would not finish this up in one session, but it seemed best to get started and chip away at the overall work.

I cut the rail with a Dremel tool, then pulled up the flex track. I cleaned up the surface of the Homasote roadbed. As there was no good subroadbed under the area that the new turnout would lead to, I cut out a section of scenery. This was only a piece of foam with some scenic material on top, so it wasn't too tough to remove.

Track on the LVRC mainline as well as the parallel grain siding has been removed, and a new hole  opened up to add subroadbed. Luckily a cross piece was right under this are to help support new subroadbed.
Using a scrap of 3/4" plywood, I traced out a subroadbed piece using the newly opened up hole. I clamped a support up from the cross piece below, and then leveled out the new piece. On the yard side, I had a small piece of support for the existing roadbed to tie into.

With a solid base I can now add sections of Homa-bed (2 pieces here were used to make sure the height was correct). this will support the new track off the curved turnout, as well as the track going back in for the grain elevator.
This took about 1 hour to get done, but was a crucial first step. Next time I can drop in the Homa-bed and get the turnout locations situated. Holes will be drilled for the Tortoise switch machines and I can cut new flex track pieces to tie it all together. After soldering the rail in and adding the track power feeder wires, I'll have done enough to support testing trains and restoring operations. This will be without turnout controls of course. Another session to get the Tortoise machines installed, wired and a control throw installed, and I'll be ready to schedule the next Op session. I wait until after a trial run with the next Op Session before starting repairs to the scenery.

I think the takeaway form this is to break down work that might seem daunting and time consuming into smaller sub projects that can be accomplished in smaller segments of time. It was unlikely I would find the multiple consecutive hours do this work completely in one shot. But tackling it in 3-4 sessions was very do-able.