Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

MER Hagerstown: Day 4

Sunday and time for a little more model and full size railroading before heading home. Checked our door prize tickets before leaving (I luckily picked up a couple of prizes). With time to spare before layouts opened up at 1pm, we headed south to Brunswick to see if any CSX trains were running. We did pretty well, getting 4 CSX trains and an Amtrak train in about 1 hours time. I shot video on these trains, but there were also 2 coal trains tied up, not running but hooked up to air. Perhaps these are staged coal trains to meet specific delivery requirements.

I programmed the GPS to hit 4 layouts in order on the way back east. This included an in-progress N scale layout by Steve King, plus a nicely completed Western Maryland layout (although oddly no trains were running) and a HUGE N&W layout. These were well worth the stops. After dropping off Anton, it was another 2 hours up I-95 and back home.

Another great NMRA convention weekend. As I always say, if you've never taken advantage of one of these conventions, you are really missing a great time. Try to get to the next one in your area. Next Fall should be a trip north to Burlington, Vermont for the NER convention. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

MER Hagerstown: Day 3

Up early, too early it seems with the rain making it very dark outside. But we need to get over to the convention hotel by 7:30 to leave for the EBT trip. This turned into a drive your self car pool trip, which as it turns out was better than a bus. As we headed north into Pennsylvania, the temperature continued to drop and soon the rain was snow. By the time we got to the EBT, there was 3 inches on the ground! First up was a ride on the standard gauge trolley line.

Then we headed back to the station and got some pics of the train before the 11am departure.

The train ride was very cold, with unheated cars. At least we were not in the open-air cars (some people were!). We headed out the picnic area and the wye. Originally we were to picnic here, but instead we ate in the car. But man, it was cold in there! We did get off to get some pictures of the train. Tough to get a good shot with all the people walking around, but I was real happy with this photo:
After the train got back it was into the car to get warm!! Had to run the car and sit there for about 10 minutes until it was safe to head back out. Next up was a tour of the shop buildings. Really interesting (and cold), looking into the machine shop that runs off of a central belt drive system, then over to the roundhouse to see all the locomotives, and finally into the paint booth building to see the rebuilding process on a combine. Lots of great info about how the railroad operated in the early 20th century and a chance to see some of the current behind the scenes activities of the tourist line.

With that, we were able to head back to the hotel. After some rest and dinner, we went back to the convention hotel to check out the after-banquet activities. The live auction was entertaining, although I did not find anything to bid on.

Friday, October 16, 2009

MER Hagerstown: Day 2

Friday and we have some time to figure out what to do. First up we catch a clinic on layout design by Lance Mindhiem. Well done and plenty of good points made. Wanting to get some railfanning in and seeing a break in the rain, we decided to head down to Harpers Ferry WV to catch some CSX action. This is neat place of course with tunnels and bridges, a double track mainline plus a restored station that gave us some shelter while we waited on the trains.

We did catch a train, a westbound empty autorack powered by one diesel, but that was it in the 2.5 hours we were there. This seemed very unusual for a weekday; perhaps the weather was playing a factor. I only got video of the train, so I'll include a shot of where the train was, showing the bridge and the tunnel looking eastward from the station.

With not much train action we decided to head back to the hotel to get ready for the night's op session. We drove to Blue Ridge Summit early in order to visit the nearby hobby shop, and then after catching some dinner went to Brian Wolfe's really nice Western Maryland layout. Although the layout is still in progress, there are plenty of finished scenes, and everything operated very well. I signed up for the York switcher job, which was a great little op session of its own. After the morning train departed I had all session to switch local industries, work the interchange, make up the next day's outbound train and then make up a local to head out on the line to switch some on-line customers. Lots of fun! Anton had his hands full working the Hagerstown yard. Here are some pics from the session:

This is yard at York, where I worked for the session.

This is some of the local industries outside York where I delivered cars. As you can see, very nice modeling. Very enjoyable to operate this area.

Here is the Hagerstown yard where there was lots of activity. This was in the next room over, with the track on the shelf to the left connecting the 2 rooms. Anton (center) has his hands full, not only with the yard work, but also battling his fellow yard operator to keep things running smooth. One night I was glad NOT to get the main yard job!

The session ended around 11:30 and we headed back to the hotel to try to get some sleep before the early wake Saturday morning for the EBT trip.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MER Hagerstown: Day 1

In Hagerstown for the Mid Eastern Region NMRA convention, the Western Maryland Transfer. I headed south on Thursday to meet up with my modeling buddy Anton. As he lives minutes away from the MB Klein hobby shop, I was obliged to stop in and find something I needed! After finally getting a chance to see Anton's layout in person (CP Rail/CN present day theme), we headed west into the mountains. Rain fell the whole time I drove south and continued as we drove west, something that would repeat all weekend as it turns out.

We arrived at the convention hotel with just enough time to register before heading out to an operating session that night. We saw plenty of NJ Division people in the hotel lobby, and also had familiar faces join us on the operating session. We drove out to Mike Shockey's Great Northern themed layout. This was a fairly large layout with most track in place, but not too much scenery yet. We had a good time operating for a few hours. Even though we managed to run into trouble in the session right away, we did get through all the trains and had things running OK by the end of the night. A good first night, and thanks to Mike for hosting (a Capital's fan, but I won't hold that against him!) [Sorry, did not get any pics this first day to post]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Layout construction for phase 3

Well, with some things behind me like the NMRA national, vacations and other summer stuff, I am getting back to working on the layout. Actually it has been a while since I have done any real layout construction. I kind of finished most benchwork and trackwork I needed to get in prior to the Philly national convention in 2006, and since then I have spent time focused on scenery, detailing, locos and freight cars since then. But the time has come to start getting the rest of the layout built with permanent benchwork and track replacing the temporary return loop I put in for the convention and open houses.

First task was taking apart the temporary benchwork and moving everything out of the way in order to have a clear area to work in. This means a few things had to move into the other layout area creating a (temporary) mess. This part was hard because I really enjoy the finished area, looking at the layout and running trains. But this will be just for a short while.

With the area cleared out I started building the permanent benchwork. I actually started at the far end near the workbench and the window because this is the spot I needed to have the Maine Central turn back to head into staging. So I worked with the curve I wanted to figure out how far out to bring the benchwork and still leave room for the workbench. Drawing on paper or the computer is one thing, but seeing some wood and and track in place really helps you make sure you are on the right path.

The benchwork moved along pretty quickly and I realized I should probably paint the walls the sky blue color, even though I may have backdrops brought forward in some areas. It would have been easier to do before the benchwork went in, but it wasn't too hard with only the basic L-girders and cross sections in place.

I built a section under the layout to store my Free-mo modules. Had I planned the modules before the layout was started I could have come up with a way to incorporate them perhaps. So they will only be for module events and can be worked on in the aisle or in the garage.

So work will continue, but I do have a deadline coming up. the layout will be open in November for the annual layout tour throughout NJ, PA, DE and MD. Check out for a full list. I will be open on the 8th and the 14th this year.

Friday, August 21, 2009

B&M "Un" Covered Bridge

While on vacation in New Hampshire this year, we did a hike along Snyder Brook to see some waterfalls. The trail starts along Rt. 2 a little west of Gorham. At the start it crosses the old B&M line to from Whitefield to Gorham that has since been converted to a rail trail. The hike was nice and the woods were cool with the tree cover and rushing stream nearby. As enjoyable as the hike was, I found something at the end of the hike that I really was glad to finally find.

As we came to the end of the trail, it was tough to find the exact way back to complete the loop. Following along the river we found a little trail that led back to the old rail bed. Once on the rail bed we turned left and I could not believe what I had found.

This is a railroad bridge I first read about in Model Railroader in August 1993. I was never able to figure out where it was exactly along Rt. 2 even when looking while driving. Although not far from the road, it is almost impossible to see through the foliage. But I did actually start building a model from the article, which included drawings and scratchbuilding instructions. I never quite finished it and it has been sitting in a box, partially constructed for about 10 years.

It was neat to finally find this bridge. Now it has inspired me to get that model finished and get it into the B&M portion of my layout. That is where benchwork is currently going in what I refer to as my third phase area. Here is where my construction of the model stopped:

Friday, July 10, 2009

HN2009: Day 5 - 7/10

Friday in Hartford and it is time for the National Train Show (and agreeing with Tony Koester that this should be the NMRA Train Show really). The first 3 hours are just for the NMRA attendees, so we all have a chance to walk the floor before it becomes crowded with the public. After the Digitrax forum last night, I checked out (and picked up) equipment to switch over to Duplex Radio. Nice to have Digitrax right there as they were able to update the software on the throttle right there at the show. I also picked up the Erie Cafe model from Stella Models that I want to use in Whitefield as cafe along main street.

I must say that there were not as many manufacturers and dealers as I thought there might be. Still plenty to see but not as much as I thought there might be. Nice to be able to talk to some of the people behind the manufacturing of the products we use. I was able to see preproduction models for the Rapido CP caboose coming later. These will look good on the CP freights on the layout! There were also some pretty good display layouts from various groups.

After about 5 hours of checking out the floor, I was ready to sit down, So I headed upstairs to catch the afternoon clinics. I decided to find out more about JMRI and DecoderPro. I really came in cold, even though I feel pretty comfortable with computers and DCC. I really knew nothing about JMRI and using it with DCC. Well, I must say I am really looking forward to trying out JMRI when I get back home. Some software on the computer, an interface to the Digitrax command station and I will be ready to go. The best thing is programming decoders via DecoderPro. It makes it real easy to make changes and save them to a Profile. This way you can make all the settings without worrying about actual CVs and hex values. Nice. And you can save the settings so you can easily reprogram to copy the same settings to another locomotive. Also lets you do Ops Mode programming and do locomotive speed matching. Also a nice demo showing the software in action and having it run on a Mac laptop, so I know it will work OK and not require a Windows machine.

This is one of the great things about conventions - coming home with some information to make your model railroading better and more enjoyable. Another great aspect is the people you meet. All week it was great to see familiar faces as well as meeting new people. People I see regularly at Division Meets, people I only see once a year at regional conventions and also new people I have met just this week. I look forward to seeing some of these new acquaintances at future conventions.

After another walk around the show floor and a little rest in the hotel room, I headed back for the evening clinics. I dropped in on the craftsman kits clinic. Next up I figured I would drop in on the Forced Perspective clinic along with a room full of other folks. Well, it seems the presenter was missing in action, so I ended up re-presenting my clinic on designing and building the layout. I hope it was a nice fill-in for the people in the room. I definitely got good mileage out the clinics this week!

That pretty much wraps up HN2009 this year. I will be heading home on Saturday. I would have to say this convention was a real success on many levels. The committee did a great job overall, the venue was first class and John McGloin is to really be commended for putting together and running a great track of clinics.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

HN2009: Day 4 - 7/9

Thursday at HN2009 is all about clinics with no other excursions planned. Plenty to chose from with 3 morning, 3 afternoon and 3 evening time slots with about 6 different clinics going on at any one time. Great job by the convention committee on what they have put together.

I attended a clinic on building an HOn30 module based on a Maine coastline scene. No, I am not planning another module diversion, but interesting to see some building and scenery techniques. The presenter, Sam Swanson, is from the Great Lakes area and is part of a modular group there. The influence of Hayden and Frary on their HOn30 articles from the 1970s continues, even outside of the New England area. Of interest was his use of Gator Foam for benchwork.

Next, I headed over to the large community area that was set up for breakfast and lunch to get some food. This was a great idea as it means you can eat locally between clinics and it also a good place to meet other people and have some conversations. I had Tony Koester join my table and I was able to find out a lot about the NMRA future plans, including the NMRA branding campaign, internet future directions, plans for the headquarters and the NMRA presence within the California State RR Museum.

The afternoon I volunteered to help oversee the clinic rooms, to help with any issues and help get rooms set up between sessions. After that I was able to drop in and catch Dave Frary's interesting clinic on building a museum display for the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Great layout he built and a neat time-lapse photo section showing the install into the museum.

Now, many people complain about the aging of the hobby and lack of newer modelers. I guess that is generally true, but I must say I do see a good number of younger folks here and also a good number of women modelers. Meeting both requirements I helped set up a room for a clinic entitles Model RRing for Women. The presenter was a young woman in her twenties who brought a complete layout in 2 sections, featuring a narrow gauge steam train with sound, operating on DCC! She is the modeler and her fiancee does not model. An interesting twist!

I attended a clinic on modeling rocks. This is from the guy that sells the rubber rock sections (not molds, actual ready to install rubber rocks. In addition to his product there was a lot of good tips for modeling rocks, cuts, debris and other scenery elements.

A little time to head out to get some dinner, than back for presenting my 2 clinics again tonight. After the first presentation, I had time to get in a clinic and I went to the Digitrax forum. I was able to learn about the new Duplex Radio products, what they do and what the new features are. I must say the room really ranged from experts to novices as far as DCC and Digitrax were concerned. I guess it was good for the newer people to get some questions answered, but unfortunately it stalled the presentation and I had to leave finally before the presentation ended in order to get back to my room for the final presentation I was giving.

A long day with lots of information gained and shared. But that is what it is all about!

HN2009: Day 3 - 7/8

Tuesday morning, up early to head to the Danbury Rail Museum, it is an hour or so bus ride before we arrive. The museum is located in the depot for Danbury. The track arrangement here is very interesting with the old yard that now houses the museum collection circled by a multi-track reversing loop. It is like something right off a model railroad really. There are also some unused tracks of the Housatonic that pass by the opposite side of the depot as well.

The museum collection is housed in a fenced in area on the old yard tracks. They opened up the gates for us and we had a guided tour of the equipment on site. Lots of interesting pieces on display, some very unique. I particularly enjoyed the MEC caboose #681 that we were able to walk through.

A Conn DOT commuter train came around the reverse loop for a crew change so I was able to get some pictures and video of the clean locomotive in a New Haven inspired paint scheme.

Pretty neat also was a refurbished PRR RPO. The inside was restored giving us a look at how the mail was handled and sorted aboard the train.

After looking around inside the depot we were taken on a short ride through the yard on a coach pulled by an SW unit. We headed out to the turntable, detrained and then took a spin on the turntable. Then it was back to the depot and onto the bus for the ride back to the convention center.

In the afternoon I checked out a few clinics before heading back to the hotel to recharge, get some dinner and get back to the convention center for the evening clinics. At 7pm I attended a slide presentation on the Bangor & Aroostock and Maine Central prototypes. Then it was time for my two clinics. First up was a look at the prototype railroads of Northern New England, followed by a look at my layout and the design process I used to incorporate 5 railroads onto 1 layout.

A note about the convention center - it is a great location for presenting clinics, but I do find the opening and closing of the rear door distracting and noisy. Before I started I propped the door open to prevent this distraction. It seemed to work out OK and there was not to much noise from the outside hallway. I guess there isn't too much you can do about people coming and going I suppose, but it would be nice if the doors worked in such a way to not be so noisy. A small nit I suppose. Otherwise the convention center is a good location, clean and modern. Very nice are the abundant displays with up-to-date information on clinics throughout as well as outside each clinic room.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

HN2009: Day 2 - 7/7

An early morning departure by bus takes us to Thomaston to the RR Museum of New England, home of the Naugatuck RR. A small collection of equipment is at the station along with our train, lead by an ex-P&W U23B with a New Haven logo applied. We board for a trip up to the runaround track in Waterville and then the locomotive switches ends and we head back to the station.

Next we ran back to the shops for a walking tour to see the rest of their equipment and their new shop building. Inside they are working on various pieces getting them back into running shape.

Out in the yard area, there are many pieces of rolling stock. Particularly interesting for me is the Maine Central boxcar in its rebuilt paint scheme. Very nice!

We got back to the convention center in the afternoon and I had time to catch a clinic before going to the Op Sig room for instructions on the night's operating session. The clinic I saw was on Phil Monat's layout, how he designed it and how he rebuilt it. A good introduction before I get to see the layout on Saturday.

After heading back to the hotel to get changed, I headed east to Rhode Island to operate on Don Irace's P&W modern day layout. What a neat layout and a great one to operate. I got the yard job at Worcester and this kept me busy all night. I was pretty much on my own but I did have a coach nearby to help out and explain things as they came up. It was a great time and well run by Don and his crew. Here is a look at the Worcester yard, with Fresh Ponds yard below (run by another operator.

One last picture: Here is a shot of the dispatching panel on Don's layout. He also uses a dispatcher in Georgia to control half the layout. Wow!

Time to head back to the hotel. Early call again tomorrow as we head out to Danbury for a look at the museum there.

Monday, July 06, 2009

HN2009: Arrival - 7/6

Just got up to Hartford, having driven up this morning. About a 4 hour drive, uneventful and not too much traffic. Great weather for a drive today. In fact the weather looks pretty good all week, continuing the great weather we had this past holiday weekend in Philly. I just got settled into my hotel room and now I am going to head over to the convention center to check in and see what is going on.

Arrived at the convention center, very nice building and great place for the NMRA. I immediately ran into a few Philly and NJ Division members. Before registering I had to get to the OpSig meeting area to coordinate driving to the layout I was assigned to for the evening. Turns out Jim Dalberg and Dick Foley, regulars who I operate with on a layout back home, were assigned to the same layout, so I was able to catch a ride with them. As the layout was located about 1-1/2 hours to the south, we needed to get on the road in order to have time to stop for dinner. I quickly picked up my registration packet and we were off.

The layout is called the Boston & Maine Central and the host is Franklin Lang. The layout is nice, featuring somewhat freelanced design but using prototype B&M and MEC equipment and locations. Wide aisles and a laid back operating scheme made it easy to quickly get into the session and have fun. Here are two pictures of the overall layout.

Franklin says he has only been building the layout for about 3 years and is just getting operations going on a regular basis. He is off to a great start. His layout is operated with a yard at each end and a center yard (where I was stationed). Of interest is his town of Relief, pictured below.

The session ended around 10pm, but we did have an hour and a half ride back. We nearly hit some bad traffic approaching Hartford, but using the GPS we got off and diverted around it. Then it was back to the hotel. So day one went quickly and I did not see too much of the convention or the clinics, contest room, etc. yet. Tomorrow is an early day with a trip to the RR Museum of New England and a ride on the Naugatuck RR.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

HN2009 National Convention

I also want to mention that I will be at the NMRA National Convention next week up in Hartford, CT. I will be giving a couple of clinics, but mainly I plan to enjoy all that the convention has to offer. I plan to post daily entries to this blog, so check back during the week to see what is going on up in Hartford.

Unbuilt Kits Stash takes a hit

The next big project up for the layout will be removing the temporary benchwork along the far wall to put in the permanent benchwork, track and staging yards. I have a plan in mind now for that area and I am ready to start building it. But right now was not the best time to dive into this work, for a few reasons. So I found I had some time and needed some model railroading projects to work on.

Recently I went through my entire freight car and locomotive collection and looked for items I do not plan to use to donate to the NJ Division raffle at our Meets. In doing so I also took a look at my stash of unbuilt freight car kits, weeded out the donations, and with the remaining I decided to go on a building spree to get some of these things built. It was basically a no cost activity. I already bought these kits and they are just waiting to get onto the layout. Here is a picture of the stack before I started:

Over the course of about 2 weeks I finished about a dozen of these cars and got them onto the layout. I also had to get the airbrush out for a customer's project so I took advantage of that to also weather these cars. Now I really need to get the rest of the layout built as St. Johnsbury is not big enough to hold all these cars now! Here is a few of them, from Athearn, Intermountain, Branchline, Red Caboose, even an old McKean kit for TOFC flatcars and a Robins Rails kit:

So if you are looking for something to do, but reluctant to spend some money right now, be sure to look over your unbuilt kit stash. Assembling some of these is fun and not too taxing on the skill set, so it makes a nice summertime modeling activity.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Calais Free-mo Module Project

Just a quick note that I am working on a set of Free-mo modules in the hopes of drumming up interest here in the greater NJ and PA area. I'll still work on the layout, but I do plan to get these modues up and running quickly. I'll be giving a clinic on them at the May Meet of the NJ Division. Here is a picture of what I plan to model with the modules - yes sticking with Maine Central, just moving (way) east into Maine at the end of the Calais branch.

For more on the activities of Free-mo in our area, visit the NJ Free-mo web page.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

LVRC Caboose 200 Arrives!

I got home on a snowy night this week and went to the mailbox. Inside was a brown box. I grabbed it and headed back up the snow covered driveway. Shoveling would have to wait. I hurried inside to get it open. There it was, the Intermountain model of Lamoille Valley's caboose #200. Wow! It looks great and seems to have all the proper lettering and logos, even the ones up on the cupola. Really nice!!

I'll have to add a little bit of weathering and paint the trucks and couplers and then it will be ready to leave Morrisville for its trip to St. Johnsbury behind train MJ-2!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Layout Fascia

One comment from a recent posting asked me to elaborate a little on my layout's fascia. In general I use quarter-inch Birch plywood from Home Depot, sold in 2 x 4 foot sections. I hand pick through it to get non-warped good looking pieces. One side is usually better than the other. The smaller size of these pieces actually makes it easier to work with although I need more supports added to the benchwork. I cut the pieces to size to fit the area and attach them with stainless steel screws with mounting washers. These give a real nice look to to the layout and I take care to mount them evenly to help promote a professional look. After the pieces are installed I stain them with Minwax Cherry gel stain. I top that with a few coats of water-based Minwax polyurethane applied with a foam brush, lightly sanding between coats. Pictured to the right is a new piece added in Lyndonville, a section just getting started.

On the end of the peninsula I set the wood for mounting on a curve and bent the plywood around to match. I think it gives a nice complimentary look top the curve of the tracks.

In some areas I am using pieces of 3/4" pine and also poplar. I selected pieces without knots. Some of these were used because they were leftover from a previous layout and I did not need more than the 6 inch height they provide. In other areas I used it to build out shelves, as evidenced here in St. Johnsbury. I recall seeing something similar on another layout years ago and thought it would be a good idea to provide some flat surfaces to put things while building, working and also during operating sessions. It has been one of the most commented on features of the layout from other modelers. It was not too hard to build but does require a little forethought to provide adequate benchwork support and clearance. Basically the shelf rests on the 1 x 2 cross pieces direclty on the L-girder, while risers wee used to support the actual yard (plywood base).

Under Morrisville, I did another long shelf like St. Johnsbury. In this picture you can see how the birch plywood simply butts up to the shelf section. It is all just built in place to fit and I add wood t the sides and behind the shelves to keep a good look to it. The shelves will be built in different areas mainly where switching activity will take place.

I have a not had any issues with the fascia and it cleans up real well if I spill some scenery material or glue on it. I know that this is a bit more effort than other styles of fascia (i.e. Masonite) but I like the look of wood and I think the Cherry color fits the theme of the layout, New England in the Fall.

As far as access, I have not built any doors or access panels in as of yet. Hidden track under the LVRC between Danville and Sheldon Jct. is basically accessed from underneath. But I may have to consider that a bit more as I get on to the areas with more hidden staging. The CV staging is probably OK because it is not close to the edge anyway. I may actually consider open areas below structures for some access. The Newport/Montreal staging is in place against the wall. If I build the fascia out far enough, i can ensure access from below and behind the fascia.

If there are any more questions, just add them in the comment section for this post.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Locomotive Projects

As mentioned earlier, I spent some time working on locomotive and car projects. This I guess was a natural follow up to all of the caboose work I did in the summer! I had some things I wanted to finish and get onto the layout for the openhouse, so I concentrated on getting these lingering projects completed.

First up I worked on the Lamoille Valley's tourist train by completing a pair of coaches and RS3 #7803. The coaches are by Hornby. I could only get them lettered so I used Solvaset to remove the lettering and then used a Microscale alphabet set to letter them. I was not sure what the LVRC used for numbers on their coaches, so I just used 1203 and 1204. These Hornby coaches are nicely detailed and with 4 wheel trucks and a shorter length they work well on the layout. They closely resemble the real coaches I have seen in pictures, although they are a little darker green than the prototypes.

To pull the train, I added 7803 to the roster. This followed the usual LVRC RS3 paint and decal process, although I decided to keep the weathering light and also paint the trucks silver. This seems to match the photos I have seen of tourist trains. I also added a Soundtraxx Alco DSD sound decoder to the locomotive, putting the mini oval speaker in the cab. It was a tight fit and I had to remove the weight over the rear truck as it interfered with the enclosure. But pulling two coaches is no problem for the unit. I am going to see if I can remove part of the weight and then reinstall it. It is nice to have some sound on the LVRC now!

I also completed a long in process locomotive project, a pair of B&M GP9s. These have a long story, starting about 7 years ago when I happened upon a pair of Front Range GP9 shells molded in blue. I immediately thought of B&M Geeps because of the blue plastic, so I bought both for $9 total. I had no idea how I was going to finish them however. Over the years I accumulated parts and such for the project but never really started it. One big obstacle was the frame, trucks and drive train. I thought maybe I could use an Atlas GP7 mechanism, but the shells did not fit. About 4 years ago I found a pair of Front Range GP9s on eBay. I quickly picked these up, although this gave me another set of shells with no frame (oh well!). With everything on hand I finally started the project, about 2 years ago.

This was very much a project like I used to do 20 years ago. Lots of Details Associates and Details West parts added. Drilling and installing wire grab irons, rebuilding the plows to better match the prototype. I'll spare you the blow by blow process as I doubt you'll be building B&M GP9s from Front Range models (why p2K has not done a B&M GP9 I cannot figure).

Of interest is that I equipped these with Lokpilot decoders and put a DSX sound-only decoder in one unit. This was a new experience. The Lokpilots are nice and run the motor quietly, not bad considering it is a 20 year old original can motor. I did have some problems programming 2 decoders in one loco. I had to use separate addresses and temporarily cut the sound decoder wire to program only the Lokpilot, but eventually I got it all working.

Another "neat" thing about this project was when, after I painted the shells and prepared for decaling I realized I only had one set of B&M Herald King decals. I was certain I had more, but no, just the one. What to do? By coincidence I had just recieved an e-mail from another modeler letting me know that HK was back in business. I called them up and ordered the same set I already had. Amazing! The new decal was exactly the same as the one I bought 25 years ago (although it cost 5 times more). This seemed to indicate to me that this project really deserved to get finished!

I must say this was much more complicated than using locomotives produced in the last 10 years or so. I think we (or at least me) have started to really take for granted the amount of details and the quality of locomotives produced now. They tend to really be ready to run and only need weathering to get them on the layout.

One other locomotive to note (there were a couple others, but they are still in progress: MEC 564, LVRC 7802). With the pending release of the Intermountain U18Bs (April it looks like as of now), I ended up with some undecorated Atlas U23Bs that now will not get converted to U18Bs. What to do? Well, looking through my decal collection, I have a few sets of Herald King Lehigh Valley locos. I always liked this scheme. I also get a chance to operate on a layout that includes some LV trains and routes. So I decided it would be fun to do something different and give me a loco that I could take to the other layout on occasion. LV 512 is the result. I am happy how it came out. I made the weathering heavy but the engine is not too beat up as some prototype photos show. I also added a GE sound unit to this. The speaker was a challenge, but I got a mini oval with enclosure into the cab. It is fun to operate and gives a different sound then the rest of my locos. I could probably theorize that the Lamoille Valley leased a Conrail ex-LV U23B for a short period to help keep trains running on my layout...