Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Monday, December 31, 2012

End of Year Updates

As 2012 draws to a close, I have some updates from work accomplished in December. It has been a busy month with travel and the holidays, but I have managed to find an hour here and there to get some stuff done.

First up was the trackwork in Morrisville. I soldered feeders for the frogs and dropped these to a central spot for attaching to Tam Valley Depot Frog Juicers. Next I installed the Caboose Industries sprung ground throws, which I had on hand from previous layouts and projects. I did not want these to be in the scene or for the operator to try and work their hands across yard tracks to reach them (imagine the throw at the right being reached if it was at the turnout and the yard tracks are full). So these were mounted along the front edge with music wire throw rods routed through brass tube (both from K&S). I have seen this occasionally on other layouts for hard to reach turnouts, and also on one local layout where they were all mounted along the front like this. Installs went pretty easy. Only hard part was routing tube under some track mounted directly to Homasote. In a couple spots I had to remove some plastic from the tie strip under the rail, and also make sure to insulate the brass rod to prevent a short circuit between the 2 rails (using electrical tape). But most places were easy as the track is up on foam roadbed.


The ground throws along the edge will be out of site and easy to reach. The brass tubes allow easy movement of the throw rod and will be hidden by scenery. I was asked about using under track controls, like a Blue Point or Bull Frog. First, I wanted to make use the ground throws I already had on hand. Second this spot really lended itself well to quickly and easily mounting them along the front edge. Third, I did not have much space to mount throw rod controls as I put a shelf section under this yard. The rods could probably still be fit in, but it would have been harder and more time consuming to do. So it came down to money (I already had what I needed), time (the ground throws go much quicker in this installation), and final appearance (the rod controls in this area would either not be recessed or not as easy to access for the operator).
Shelf under yard would have made it harder to install throw rod controls, and if recessed would have been harder to reach and operate.

With that complete it was on to Groveton. I completed assembly of the slide in bridge section in front of a closet which will allow the B&M track to cross from under Whitefield over to Groveton. It is wide enough to keep any derailing cars off the floor and also have a turnout here to extend the length of the passing siding and main. The bridge will simply slide into place and hit stops. I will add a piece of fascia to the front and some sort of lock to keep it from moving. Most of the time I do not need access to this closet, and never during an Op session.

I then tried out various track arrangements to get what I was looking for. The the train will need to arrive on the main (at right) and use the passing siding to place pulled cars. When done the loco will need to run around the train to leave. There is also a facing point turnout for woodchip unloading (car spotted there in far end of photo) as well as the passing siding being the interchange track for cars to and from the Grand Trunk. So a little thought ahead of time will be needed for an operator to switch this area. Not too difficult or unrealistic, just more to add to the fun. I removed all the track and installed the Homa-Bed roadbed. I could have used a solid piece of Homasote, but I like the idea that I can scenic the tracks as elevated better this way, plus I still have a good deal of Homa-Bed remaining to use, and no Homasote sections! So again, use what I have instead of buying something new.

I then started to lay the track, transitioning from the Code 100 hidden track to Code 83 and onto the bridge section. I used PC Board ties so I could run the rails right to the edges and keep them as secure as possible. Again, the bridge is not supposed to be moved around too often, but I wanted to make it as easy as possible with no special connector rails. I will need a single plug to power the rails on to shelf section though.

For the PC Boards, I installed flat drywall screws and filed the tops clean to accept solder. I ran the track right across the joint and then marked which ties needed to be removed, and then used latex caulk to lay the track. When dry I soldered the rails to the PC boards. I made up guard rails and soldered these in as well. When all done, I used a cut off disc in a Dremel tool to cut the rail. The result is rails that align perfectly.
Screws ready for PC Board to be soldered in place.

PC Boards installed, and gaps cut in copper to prevent short circuits between rails.

Track laid across joints with adhesive caulk and pinned in place.
Main rails and guard rails soldered in place, and rails cut.
Now it is on to the rest of the tracklaying in Groveton. I have enough track and all the turnouts, so this should continue to move along. Once the track is done, and wired, and the ground throws installed (I think this area also lends itself to this type of installation), I can paint the track here and in Morrisville. But I don't plan to do anymore scenery than that. I want to continue to focus on installing the rest of the track, so it will be on to Whitefield to connect the B&M to the diamond with the Maine Central, as well as installing the couple of sidings there.

I can then move onto the last local areas needing trackwork (besides the mainlines which are in place), Johnson, Sheldon Jct., Lyndonville, and North Stratford. But I do not have to get these done before holding an informal Ops Session, one to just get people acquainted with the layout and run a portion of the train schedule. My goal last summer was to do that during this winter, and with Morrisville and Groveton in place, I think that is feasible. So the goal will be sometime in February or March to do that. Here's hoping I can keep that New Year's Resolution!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Open House Pictures

The layout was opened for two days in November and I had about 80 total people come through, less than last year (when a newspaper article covered the open house), but still a good number with some new people and some regulars. As usual I always forget to take pictures while people are visiting. I just get busy talking to people while also keeping an eye on the running trains. But with the layout all cleaned up I did take some pictures after the last visitor left. For those that could not make it this year, these pictures will help convey the current state of building progress.

A view of Hardwick on the LVRC, but I don't think I have ever took a shot from this angle. Looking back east towards the quarry, the track heads back to St. Johnsbury. The grain elevator is the scene with the Central Vermont at Sheldon Jct. (the LVRC west of Hardwick, reversing back under itself).

Speaking of Sheldon Jct., here is the CV trackage there, with LVRC in the background. I still need to finalize this scene track-wise and then ballast, etc. The trees were done temporarily way back as I tried to figure out how I wanted the colors to look. I like the way it photographs. I probably will not change that until the rest of the layout scenery is well under way.

The LVRC arriving in St. Johnsbury yard. I put in some temporary telephone poles for the open house, but I would remove them for an Op session as they would surely be in the way. The foam scenery here makes it easy to just pop them in and out.
A look at the farm scene and Fisher Bridge along the LVRC. I tried a new angle here, so it should look familiar but somewhat different than previous pictures I have posted.

Now to some of the unfinished areas. For the first time, I mocked up some buildings in Lyndonville using structures I built for the module. This large flat area is great as a work space while working on other areas, but it was nice to start to get an idea in my mind how this scene will look and tie into the surrounding scenes. Buildings like the warehouse will help hide the CP track entering staging behind it (hard to see as it dips below the bare plywood). The CV engine is in CV staging for St. Albans and will be totally concealed from view.

For the open house I staged a B&M local on the isolated track representing the B&M line from Woodsville up to Groveton. (The bridge in the background is the MEC Mountain Division track). This B&M track is not yet connected to the diamond at Whitefield, and also does not yet cross a drop out section to get into Groveton. So even though it is wired, you cannot really run any trains on this line yet. But I wanted to convey what this track represents for visitors who ask. I found that I did not have a spare B&M engine 'hold' the cars on this grade, so I pulled out an old Athearn custom paint job I did circa 1984. I have no plans to operate this locomotive as it does not run very well (and is not DCC equipped), but it was fun to pull this out an look at it. Interesting to see how my modeling has improved over the years!

Nearby the B&M track I started to think about how I would represent some of the town structures in Whitefield. They have a modest 'downtown' block with some neat wood and brick buildings like these two shown here. Located near the front of the layout will allow a good look at these structures and their interiors. I just have to think about separating it from the MEC Crawford notch scene immediately to the left and above (never enough room to separate towns and areas on a model railroad). A road will cross the B&M here and wind up grade towards the backdrop.

Morrisville on the LVRC has all its track in place and is wired up, as mentioned in earlier posts. The goal now is to get the ground throws installed and wires to the frogs for powering. I plan to use Caboose Industries ground throws located along the front edge and frog juicers for the turnouts. This is the next "action area" I will focus on coming out of the open houses.

Groveton, NH is another area that will get major attention in the weeks ahead. For the open house I mocked up some track and structures to get a feel about how this scene and the paper mill will fit on the layout and how it will be operated. I am looking forward to getting track in here as I think it will be a great operating job for those that like switching. Above is the North Stratford, NH scene, where a MEC local will interchange with the green engine of the North Stratford Railway Company. That will probably be some of the last track I install on the layout given its isolated area and non-critical element in the Ops plan. But I will do the trackwork and scenery there before any scenery or structures go in Groveton.

One final picture, here is the double ended staging yard behind Whitefield and Crawford Notch, for the MEC and (at far end) CP trains. A lot of people were interested in how that was set up and what it looked like during the open house. As demonstrated here I can pop up behind the back drop to access all the tracks and turnouts in this area. The other parts and end will be accessed by a step stool and reaching over the backdrop. I can reach all areas in case there is an issue, but I hope to have "good" operators" who will not cause problems on the staging tracks :-)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Photos from NEFF RPM

I had a good time attending the Northeastern Fallen Flags Meet back in September. The event in Bridgewater, NJ occurs annually, and I hope to attend again in the future. I got to see a lot of great models and talk to lots of great people, some I knew and others for the first time.

I presented my clinic on Free-mo modular railroading and had my module set up in one corner of the large gym building. I did not get to attend any other clinics this time as I was busy talking to people and operating the module most of the day. Thanks to Geert Marien for helping man the module so I could get away for my clinic and to look at some of the great models on display. Here are some of my pictures.

My Woodstown Jct. module set up and operating for the day's event.

Geert Marien operates a train while some young model railroaders look on.

Lenny Harlos from Thoroughbred Models tests out one of his sound equipped custom weathered locomotives on the my module.
The date for next years event has not been set yet. Check the web site below for more info on the event as well as additional pictures.

Monday, October 29, 2012

October Timonium Pictures

Another fun time down at the train show in Timonium, MD, with the guys from Capitol Free-mo. I arrived early Saturday morni ng and most of the layout was already set up from Friday night. An obvious gap in the layout indicated where  I needed to put my modules. By 9am we had trains rolling on what I think might be the largest Free-mo layout we have assembled as a group. Here is a picture of my module fully set up within the layout. You can see the new interchange shelf I built in the foreground. I also have a clamp on shelf, which is actually left over L-girder benchwork! I plan to make a proper and painted clamp on shelf before the next show. It comes in real handy.

Woodstown Junction in the Capitol Free-mo layout.
Even though I bring a stool, my legs get mighty tired after two days of this show. As you can see the layout goes on a ways. in the distance is the Steel Mill modules of Jim Musser, as well as some interesting curved sections. Way off but unseen is a staging module Jim built just for this show. This made operations possible and we did run some car card and waybill ops on Saturday. The next picture is a reverse look at my modules. There is only one long module on the layout after mine, beyond the truss bridge, Boston Street, which will feature car ferry operations.Up front on the left you can see my in progress corn syrup plant. Once completed, this first section of the module set will be complete, minus a few more scenery details which can always be added.

I used a piece of styrene to represent a parking lot that helps conceal the gap between section 1 and section 2. Here you can see the basic piece with a little weathering. I need to add a guard rail, parking stops, and lines to finish it off, but it does a good job so far. The ice machine is from Nick & Nora, a neat little detail item. The 7up machine is just a photo printed and glued to a styrene block.The GP40-2W is by Atlas which I weathered. One of the reasons I decided to build the modules is so I could run some newer equipment like this that does not fit on the layout (circa 1980).

Speaking of hiding module joints, before the NEFF show, I took time to rebuild the ends that mate between sections 1 and 2 and also put in alignment pins from C&L Finescale. this helped get a better flush finish so I could run the scenery to edge better, and also allows for easier set up and alignment. With that done I want to work on securing my rail ends to PC tie boards and run them to the end to eliminate the fitter rails. Heer is is a look at the new ends.

New birch plywood added to the end and alignment pin hardware installed.

This is the hardware I used, ordered from England.
One other interesting note from the Timonium show. One member is on a work assignment in Afghanistan but was able to construct a module there using available materials and some shipped in scenery and track. He boxed up the module to send back home and when he got back he brought it to the show. Just goes to show you that if there is a will to do some model railroading, there is a way!

I took video of the layout from my iCar and you can check that out on YouTube:

Capitol Free-mo Layout, October 2012 -

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Free-mo at NE Fallen Flags RPM, Bridgewater, NJ

This weekend I will be up in Bridgewater, NJ for the annual Northeastern Fallen Flags Prototype Modelers Meet. It is Saturday, September 29th from 9am to 6pm. Check out the web site below for more info.

This will be my first time attending this event. I was asked to bring my Free-mo module and also give my Intro to Free-mo clinic.Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 10, 2012

November Open House Dates

The annual model railroad month open layout tour throughout NJ, PA, DE and MD is in final preparations. this year my layout will be open on Sunday, November 4th and Saturday, November 10th, both days 12 noon to 5pm.

More layouts, including ones you can visit nearby me on the same days, are always listed on

I hope you will be able to stop by and say hello!

Fall is in the air - must be Model Railroad Month!

Friday, August 31, 2012

End of Summer updates

As you can tell by the inactivity here on the blog, there is not too much to report on the model railroading front during the summer months. At the end of May, I finished up the fascia work, including staining and applying the clear finish, to all remaining areas of the layout. This certainly now gives the layout and the room a real finished look throughout.

View down main aisle, new stained fascia in Whitefield on left, and Groveton, N. Startford (upper) and Gilman in back.

Groveton on left, N. Stratford (upper), Gilman (back right) and Lyndonville (right).
Now on to getting some track down in Groveton and North Stratford!

I also completed a couple of LVRC RS3s for some customers, including one that was chop nosed. Just recently, Atlas announced a new run of RS3s and they will be doing 2 road numbers of the Lamoille Valley. I knew this would happen eventually as just about every small railroad has been getting included in new releases by manufacturers. So there may not be any further demand for custom painted LVRC RS3s, but having done about 2 dozen of them, I am OK with that! As these locos are difficult to get sound into, I might be looking at replacing one of mine with a sound equipped Atlas offering.

LVRC 7803 with chopped nose ready to ship to a customer

In June it was reported here locally that a large model railroad would be coming down as the owner was going to move. I used my iCar to do a a bit of video work covering many areas of the layout before it was gone. These have been edited down and posted to YouTube. Here are some links:

Video 1 - Bayview to Clairmont
Video 2 - Clairmont to Sayre
Video 3 - Tamaqua to Easton

I still have a couple more to post, but the good news is that the layout will remain as the owner changed his plans for moving. So we still have more Op Sessions to look forward to on this large layout in the future.

In early July I did get a little time to finish up feeder wiring for the yard in Morrisville. All track tested and functional, although I do need to install ground throws for the turnouts.
Not much to look at, but the wiring needs to be there for reliable operations!

I also finally fixed a pesky issue with a Maine Central U18B (Intermountain with QSI sound). Loco was totally unresponsive and made no sounds at all, and could not be accessed from a boosted programming track. I could tell power was making it to the board with a tester, so I figured maybe the chip was fried or something. I called QSI for suggestions but they could not help as the decoder was factory installed. I decided to pull out the chip out of the decoder board socket and swap it with a working one from another unit to see if it resolved the issue. Then I worried that I might end up with 2 bad locomotives. So I put the same chip back in and tried one more time. Finally the loco responded! I have no idea why pulling the chip and putting it back in would have any effect, but it did. So something to remember for the future should this happen again. In general, I have not been a big fan of the QSI decoders because of weird things like this (and function key magic that sometimes allows the sound to work but the engine to not move). They do sound good in the U18Bs though.

In August, about all I accomplished was measuring and cutting wood for a drop in section that will connect Groveton to the rest of the layout in front of the bi-fold doors. I did not get to assembling this bridge section yet, but all pieces are cut and waiting for me.

Summer is now coming to a close and I look forward to getting some more time to spend on the layout as well as the modules (as there are some events coming up for Free-mo).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Paper Buildings

You may have noticed a recent increase in the use of and articles about using paper based materials for structures on model railroads. Lance Mindheim has written about using prototype photos for the basis of structures on his relatively modern layout in multiple publications ( And there are a number of good examples of roofing and siding material printed on sheets of thicker paper by companies such as Kingmill, Clever, Paper Creek (out of business now) and others that you can find on-line, at your hobby shop and at train shows.

Recently while reading the ongoing saga of nearby modeler Rick Bickmore's steel mill themed layout over on the 'railroad-line' forum, Rick mentioned a British company offering some interesting paper based structures that he has been using for buildings on his layout. (check out Rick's discussion at Page 104 is right in the middle of the paper model discussion and has nice photos of Rick's 84 Lumber building. If you have some time, the other 100 or so pages that detail Rick's layout and model building are a pretty good read with lots of tips and ideas).

The company Rick mentioned was Scale Scenes, They have a free download to try of a low relief brick building that would work well against the backdrop. The free download link is right off the main page. 

What you get is a of PDF file that you print yourself. They have 2 different brick colors to choose from and a separate PDF download for the instructions. The instructions are great and I had no problem following along and building the model. The structure PDF itself I printed on a color printer. You need to resize the output to 87% to get true HO (they have instructions for printing to other scales as well). This was no problem at all. I also sprayed the output pages with Krylon Matte Finish to protect the ink and prevent it from damage during assembly. 

The process involves gluing some of the sheets to thicker paper, such as matte board (Heavy Card), Poster Board (Medium Card)  and 67lb paper (Light Card) to give you stronger sections and allow for gluing surfaces of walls ends. The web site has some details in the FAQ that can answer questions on what paper and card to use. Some of the sections are wrapped with another image and help build out the 3 dimensional details of the building. the door and window pieces are glued with clear styrene in between for window glazing. I used Canopy Formula 560 glue and that worked real well on this structure along with a glue stick for gluing larger sheet sections to their backers. Overall I found the kit to be really well thought out and convincing.

Here are pictures of the completed structure. Considering it cost me virtually nothing to build this, I am pretty happy. I like how it includes the 3 dimensional aspects such as the end pieces and roof caps, as well as the recessed window and interior office. There is just enough there to fool the eye. Some additional features, like down spouts and lights would also help. 

Basic completed structure. I have not added any weathering to this at all, and may not need to.

The interior office adds a lot of dimension, and I look forward to adding some people, a vehicle and other detail parts.

I will probably investing a few "euros" and purchase one of their other kits. Rick discusses how he just used multiple print outs from one kit to give him plenty of siding material for the "paper-bash" of his 84 Lumber kit. I agree this is great idea and can really help get some structures on the layout, whether they are permanent or just mock ups.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Final benchwork and trackwork progress

As we head towards summer, I am still trying to stay busy working on the layout and associated projects. Recent news about a nearby layout being taken down, and the subsequent end to a monthly operating session there really have me wanting to keep work progressing towards getting my layout ready for an operating session. In that regard, I have made more progress, getting subroadbed and fascia in place for the Groveton paper mill area. This represents the last area of relatively major "lumber cutting". With this in place, I can finalize plans for trackwork here and put in the removeable bridge that the B&M will use to cross in from of the utility closet between Whitefield and Groveton.

Along with this work, I did more of the fascia work and under shelf construction for Gilman and Lyndonville. These are nearly complete and I will post pictures of that once they are completed. At that point I will be able to stain and clear coat the rest of the fascia, moving the overall layout area to a completed look. it also will help the operators as I will be able to give them a place to work with the waybills.

An in progress shot of the work at Groveton, to the left, below the shelf for North Stratford. The removeable bridge section will join in below the level where the clamp is seen. To the front right is the Lydonville Industrial park, and behind that the paper mill at Groveton. The 4 locations in this picture are all served by different railroads from different mainlines. This could be a busy area during an Op Session. Hopefully the 4' wide aisle will do! Since this photo, all fascia and subroadbed work are completed.

The other major area needing attention was the yard and industry tracks at Morrisville. Operating the LVRC really would not be possible without this in place, and I am happy to report that all track is in place. I still need to install ground throws, but it is possible to operate without them as I have seen on other layouts.

Morrisville finally has yard tracks and industry spots to switch, plus tracks to head into the engine house.

Trackwork still remains to be done for the B&M in Whitefield, specifically a couple of spurs past the ball signal that will add operational interest. This is not needed however before an operating session commences, This can be added later, with appropriate waybills cycled in at that time too.

Another similar area to get trackwork is the talc mill on the LVRC at Johnson. This will be an industry that will ship and receive a fair amount of covered hoppers, but again does not need to be in place before the first attempted operating session. The area here has received no attention since the initial benchwork went in place 6 years ago. I don't even have a picture of the area!

The industrial park at Lyndonville has long been my "last to do" area because of the convenience of having a large flat area to work on things (see first photo, lower right). I could think about simply running some flex track here and having the local just drop the cars there while I contemplate where to spot the industries I have planned, and that I have already made up waybills for!

A final small location needing some additional trackwork is the CV interchange with the LVRC at Sheldon Junction. I anticipate one or two CV served industries here, but right now there is just a switch off the CV main. Also another example of something that can wait, or can at least be temporarily set in pace with flex track and some spikes. Initially the CV trains do not even have to be operated as they are not critical to any other trains on the schedule.

This area has not changed at all since I took this picture a few years ago. Those CV engines need an industry or two to switch, don't you think?

The point seems to be that I could indeed probably look at the calendar now and set a date for an initial op session. Something to get a crew familiar with my layout and concept, and run a subset of the overall train schedule. The Maine Central is fully in place. The CP could also be operated with at least that temporary track in Lyndonville to receive the local cars. The B&M does not need to be fully functional at this time, and could perhaps just terminate at Groveton on a temporary track after it works the Whitefield interchange. The LVRC can also be fully run, perhaps leaving the covered hoppers for Johnson in the yard for now (replacing empties also in the yard).

I can think of a ton of other things I would like to do before an initial session, but I wonder if it is just better to plan on a date and do it. Otherwise it seems I will always be pushing it back as I find more things to work on that seem "critical" but probably are not when a layout is first starting to get operated.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Whitefield Ball Signal

One of the signature scenes on the Maine Central's Mountain Subdivision is the ball signal protecting the crossing with the Boston & Maine in Whitefield, NH. Even in 1980, the time period of my layout, train crews would stop here and raise or lower the ball signals to get authority to cross the diamond.

Maine Central train YR-1 stops at the ball signal in Whitefield, NH in order to raise the lowered ball signal, giving the crossing two raised signals, thereby giving the MEC train clearance to cross the B&M tracks on its way to Crawford Notch and ultimately Portland, ME.

On my layout I have included this scene and have had the Best Trains kit of the signal and supporting structures ready to be built for some time. Recently, my wife was interested in working on another structure as she has done in the past and I pulled this kit out. She worked on the signal shanty and car shed while I assembled the ball signal. I used some craft beads for the ball signals instead of the ones supplied in the kit as they represent an older style which was replaced in the 1970s. 

Once we had the shanty and signal complete (although the shanty is still without the faded tar paper roof like the prototype shot above), I could not resist mocking up the scene on this unscenicked area of the layout. I posed a MEC and B&M locomotive here and recorded the grand moment.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Cat-proofing the LVRC

My Lamoille Valley track runs around the walls from St. Johnsbury to Johnson before passing through the wall into a small closet area, then reentering the layout room below these scenes on the wall to get to Sheldon Junction and the Central Vermont. As the picture shows, this hidden track is just a simple piece of wood to span between the wall holes.

Well, I have found that my 2 relatively new cats have figured out how to open the bi-fold doors which can lead into this area. Being curious they seemed to have learned that this shelf leads to holes in the wall and ultimately a whole new place to explore. As I found out one day when the remnants of what I can only guess was Hurricane Lexie followed by tropical Storm Roxy...broken trees, freight cars knocked on their sides, some power lines down in Hardwick...even the moose at Fisher Bridge was "sleeping" in the water.

To avoid a repeat of this, I installed a simple foam core protective cover for this track and used sections on top secured by blue painters tape to act as hinges, meaning I can lift up the top and get to the track for maintenance.(I have a pretty good supply of foam core board from a friend)

I am happy to report no further feline incursions to the Northeast Kingdom!
Before, pretty easy access for the cats to the layout room through those holes

With the protection in place, the cats can only visit the layout room under supervision!

Were we bad?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An update on Car Cards and Waybills

Between other modeling projects I have slowly been finalizing my car cards and waybills. As mentioned before, I was intrigued by the more prototypical waybill and especially the plastic sleeve mentioned in Model Railroader’s Feb. 2012 issue. I did order some plastic sleeves and these worked well with the car cards I already had once I trimmed off the fold up pocket.

Next I turned to the waybill. Using the template provided in Excel on the MR web site, I started adjusting boxes in the document and removing things I did not like. The result was a 2” x 2-1/2” area to identify the shipper, receiver, their locations, the commodity and any special instructions. It follows the basic left-right concept of the prototype template, but eliminates a few things to allow larger printing of the data that mattered. I found that I could group 4 waybills in a block and by folding them I could get all 4 steps, one at a time, to be displayable on the front, simply by turning the waybill front to back, then folding it and doing the same again. Kind of hard to describe but the pictures below should help. Once cut out and folded, it was inserted into the plastic sleeve, overlaying the car card.

I printed these on white paper but used Blue print for the variable data and highlighted the box representing the destination location as this is usually what an operator is most interested in knowing. After doing a few of these, I was satisfied that this would work, so I went ahead and ordered enough plastic sleeves (vinyl actually) for the rest of my rolling stock and set forward on the task of creating waybills.

In excel I created new sheets for different cars and routings and printed these out, matching them up with likely freight cars. For example paper will move in MEC boxcars,  appliances will move in my D&RGW HyCube boxcar, etc. This takes time, and can really get to you, so it is best to do a little at a time I find. So far I have done a little more than half of all my rolling stock. I have been keeping track of how many waybills I create for each siding and staging track as recommended in the article I referred you to in the last post.

One thing it quickly identifies is where I have a need for certain freight cars, and maybe too many of another. For example, I doubt I need any more boxcars (although it will be tough not pick up new ones that come out) but I have no oil tank cars that I need for the MEC to interchange with the B&M at Whitefield for the paper mill to the north. So this will help me focus a bit on cars I should be looking for in the future.

Here are some pictures. The first shows the waybill printed and cut out. You can se the fold lines. Also note that I used a highlighter in the boxes for step 3 and step 4.This was something that I picked up operating on someone elses layout. The color coding can help yard operators quickly identify how to route cars. An orange highlight is for cars heading on the MEC to Portland. A Green highlight is for cars heading up north on the CP. I also have blue for southbound cars on the CP/BM and Yellow for cars destined for the CV St. Albans yard. This can help an operator who may not be sure how a car should be forwarded.

Next is a picture showing all phases of the car card and waybill. You can see the plastic sleeve, the sleeve with car card and finally also with a waybill. Above that is the waybill before and after folding.

Finally here is a look at the completed product for a number of different car types on the layout. I color coded the car cards to help crews identify them .

The car cards in their plastic sleeves with waybills inserted.

So far I am pretty happy to have found a way to address this need to move me closer to operations. I know once we start I will probably need to tweek the waybills, and possibly fix some errors. But this has me on a good start. Now, to finish waybills for the remaining cars…oh yeah, and I need to print some car cards for the freight cars I picked up at Springfield in January…

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Of Operations, Car Cards and Waybills

The February 2012 issue of Model Railroader had an interesting article on advancing the state of car cards and waybills used for operations. The goal is to move towards a more realistic waybill following the prototype a little more closely than what many model railroaders have become familiar with, the 4 cycle waybill put into a car card holder. This got me to thinking about waybills for my layout, making me revisit my plans for car cards and waybills. So I thought I would share some details about how I plan to use paperwork to operate my layout.
I have slowly been moving the operating scheme for my layout forward in preparation for the (hopefully not too distant) future initial operating session. I plan to use the familiar and popular car card and waybill system. In our general area, most layouts are using this system and the pool of available operators will be familiar with their concept and use. I did however make some initial changes.
Many layouts use the original larger style car card, which is about 3” x 5” size. Personally I find them a little too large to deal with and find there is plenty of unused space on the card as well as the waybill. So it made sense to look at a smaller alternative. I am going with a custom size that is 2-1/2” by 4”, a little larger than “smaller” versions that are available from Micro-Mark among others. Through a couple of tests I found this to be a comfortable size.
As I had already started a database to track my freight cars, I used a “merge” process to put my database entries into a printable template. This allowed me to print just what I wanted and meant I did not have to hand-write all the data. I did have to then trim the cards to size after printing, but that seemed easier than writing out all the data. Here is a picture of some of my completed car cards.
Traditional car cards with fold up pocket, although the size is somewhat custom, in between the original large ones, and the later small ones.

The next step is waybills. This is an involved process because you really need to look at your layout, the sidings you have, their capacity and the types of cars that can be spotted there. My basic plan will use a method to keep track of this info when preparing the waybills that has been shared locally, was printed in the OpSig Dispatcher magazine and also discussed on the web site of Mark Fryzstacki, a local modeler who helped refine the process. I suggest reading that info to help understand how to do it. Here is a link:

So I started designing a waybill and test fitting it to see what looked good and could be easily printed and cut out. As far as the data on the waybill, I simply took the approach of following a car’s travels across my layout. I started in location 1 and routed the car through 4 steps, for instance from staging to a siding, then in the next step from that siding to either another siding, or back to staging, etc. for all 4 steps. The only consideration is that the car needs to be back at the location of the first waybill in order to restart the process at step 1 again.
An example: A Boxcar goes from East Deerfield CP staging to Vermont Wallboard on the LVRC (waybill 1), then loaded it moved to the MEC and Portland staging (waybill 2), then from Portland staging as an empty it moves from the MEC to the Groveton Paper Mill on the B&M (waybill 3), then finally from Groveton loaded with paper to the CP and on to ED staging, representing a printer in the Mid-Atlantic (waybill 4). At this point the waybill can restart its journey with the same car, or I could swap it with a different boxcar’s car card perhaps.
Nothing unusual, just a manual process to visualize the steps the car will take. And you need to keep track of the steps so you do not overload a siding with too many waybill movements, as explained in the linked article.
Getting back to the MR article, I looked at this alternative method that is using plastic sleeves and single sheets to list the car and the waybill. It is certainly more realistic in a prototype sense. But I wasn’t sure if that really mattered, at least to me. After all we are just model railroaders and most of us do not see real prototype waybills, so the goal for a more prototypical waybill is really a decision for the layout owner in what he wants most. I don’t think one way is wrong or right, just a different approach to the same need – moving cars on the layout.
One thing I did like however was the idea of plastic sleeves holding the waybills. It seems this might help the paperwork hold up better to operator handling. There is a bit of wear on car cards I have seen on other layouts and this seems to help address that issue.
I also like that the full face of the document can be used to convey info to the operator. On traditional car cards, the lower pocket is really wasted space, about 1/3 of the available area in my case.
So, for now I have ordered a few vinyl sleeves to play around with. I am thinking of trimming off the folded pocket on the car card and inserting that into the sleeve. Then print smaller waybills that sit on top of the car card, using a full 2-1/2” x 3” area to convey the waybill information.
I did download the sample spreadsheet and played around with it and tweaked it, adding and removing some fields to better fit my goals. I do like the look of it, but until I get the sleeves and mock one up, I am not sure yet how well it will work. So I will put another entry up once that happens.