Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Conway Scenic

We were up camping in New Hampshire's White Mountains last week. Driving along Rt. 302 I was able to hear and then see the Notch train, led by the ex-MEC GP38. Unfortunately I was not in a position to grab any pics.

But continuing on, we were in Bartlett at Bear Notch Road just when the Valley train was arriving and doing it's run around before heading back to North Conway. Here are some pictures I was able too grab.

The train led by one ex-MEC GP7 arrives, looking real good in the old maroon and gold paint. Not sure if it was repainted or just kept in good condition, this unit has been on the roster for almost 20 years now, and I have pictures just as old in this same scheme. 573 is the original MEC number and has led quite a life (see MEC In Color books for more info)

The head brakeman jumps off to cut the passenger cars from the locomotive.

The old MEC signals still stand in a scene that is not really changed at all through the decades. 

After resetting the switch on the siding back to normal, the head brakeman walks back to the train. In the distance you can see the White Mountains that the Maine Central had to get over on its journey to St. Johnsbury.

Meanwhile the locomotive has run around the train and is ready to couple back onto the passenger cars. Here you can see the state of the MEC jointed track, slightly exaggerated by the telephoto lens. Nowadays with so much welded rail, you don't see this too often. Slow speeds are of course the rule, not just for the scenery but for the track!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Car Weighting

I have continued the car weighting program, having completed about 40 cars so far. These have been boxcars and covered hoppers, along with one gondola that has a load to conceal weight below it. Interesting to put all these cars together on the track and give them a push with your had. Wow, a HEAVY train indeed.

I have been setting the 50' boxcars at about 8 ounces, give or take a .1 here and there. I have a few 40' boxcars still in service and these are around 7 to 7.5 ounces. Some cars are easy to pop the shell off. Others, like the ExactRail cars requires carefully prying the roof off. In most cases there is some spot gluing that helps keep the roof on. Using my finger nail I can usually work between the walls and the roof and then use a small screwdriver to work the roof off. A few cars, especially ones I constructed and then painted and decaled look like they will be problematic and may damage the finish, so I am setting these aside for now and addressing all the easier cars first. When I reinstall the roofs, I do not glue them so I can more easily get back inside if the need arises.

I used up my supply of leftover bolts, nuts and washers, so taking advice from Mike Confalone, I ordered some wheel weights. I found a box of these with double sided foam on Amazon for about $30 a box. The box has 30 strips that are 3 ounces each, and segmented into quarter ounce segments.

Each box has 30 three ounce strips in 12 segments

Each strip has double sided tape that sticks really well inside the freight cars.
As most of the cars are already around 4.5 to 5 ounces, a single strip will finish the car. In some cases an additional weight segment, or washer or 2 brings it up to 8 ounces. So a box will do about 30 cars, and cost about a dollar a car (not counting the washers in some cases). A few cars are lighter and need another 1-3 segments, but this is offset by a few smaller cars, like 70 ton covered hoppers than don't need all 12 segments in a strip.

This CL&P car had additional weight from washers added when built years ago, bringing it to 4.5 ounces. A strip of weights plus 2 other segments brought it right up to 8 ounces.

The amazing thing is how nice the heavier cars feel when you handle them and put them on the track. It makes the other cars seem super light, even at NMRA standards. It just feels like a working railroad piece now and less like a model. Switching a few cars is really cool and feels totally different. Hard to put into words, but the extra weight really changes the dynamics of car handling.

While doing this on each car, I check the wheels, ream out the points on the trucks with the truck tool when required, check and in some cases change the couplers. Most cars get the KD #158 whisker scale coupler. Some with KD #5's that operate fine are being left as is. I know the scale size couplers are a little less tolerant when operating, but I prefer the look of them. I then test the car on the track to make sure it tracks well, and adjust truck screws as needed. I mark the bottom of each car with my initial, which addresses a need when I take cars on the road for Free-mo events. And finally I use a silver Sharpie on the end of each coupler glad hand to represent an air hose. Not totally a prototypical look of an air hose I know, but I am not removing them, and the sharpie helps me quickly identify a car that has been weighted and run through the checklist of maintenance procedures. The final step is to log this activity to the back of each car card.

These couplers have silver ends on their glad hands which helps me quickly see they have been weighted and checked out.
Next steps will be to operate these cars and see if they exhibit any issues. Even before this process, I would find some cars would cause issues that needed the trucks to be adjusted or couplers to be changed. It just takes some actual operations to see if a car has any issues or runs well.

I will keep adding weight to cars over time. It is actually an  easy and relaxing task that I can do even when I only have a few minutes. i can grab 2 or 3 cars, get them weighted and checked out in 10 minutes.

Soon I will start to address other car types. Mike Confalone uses sand to weight his tank cars, drilling a hole in the bottom that cannot be seen, adding the sand and caulking the hole. Looking forward to trying this. Mike C. fills his cars fully, but I am thinking this might exceed the weight I am shooting for, so we'll see once I start adding sand. I might just partially fill the cars. The good news here is that this is an even cheaper way to add weight. I can probably use the same method to address some of the more delicate boxcars on the roster.

I have a few flat cars and open top cars that will be trickier. On open top cars most people seem to simply add in the weights, and then paint and weather them to match the car. It is a trade off for operational needs versus aesthetics.

Further updates to come!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Track in and painted

Just a quick note that the track in Johnson has been finished and I applied my base coat of paint. I like to use Rustoleum Camouflage paint, using the brown color. It dries really flat and has a good railroady brown look. Even without additional weathering this does so much to improve the look of your track work.

Rustoleum camouflage paint in brown, and the block of Homasote to clean the railheads.
After spraying, in a few minutes I use a block of Homasote to wipe the paint off the railhead. Once completely dry I use a cleaning block (brite boy as well as the Woodland scenics block) to clean up and polish the railhead. Then I test run a loco to see if there are any issues. The track is now ready for additional weathering techniques and then ballasting.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tracklaying in Johnson

I continued the track laying for Johnson over the past 2 weeks. After relaying the sub roadbed, I installed new track and took extra care to make sure it was level and with no kinks or other anomalies. The curved turnout was a source of many derailments and the main reason I re-laid the track in this area. So far testing of running cars and locos has been good. In retrospect, I think I could have built this section of the LVRC with a slightly wider radius and a lesser grade. I don't think the 28" radius is a real problem, but coupled with a steep grade problems do occur. But that is something I can add to the "if I was starting over" list (good subject for another post). Rebuilding that would be a major task and I really want to move forward with the layout. I think if you ask any layout builder they would have a list of things they would change, but have compromised to move forward towards a bigger goal. In any event the operations should be better now with the re-laid trackage.

With the curved turnout back in place, I laid out the sub roadbed for the talc mill in Johnson. At one time I thought maybe I would put 3 sidings in here (hence the 3 car card box), but in playing with flex track and looking at it, it just seemed like too much. I'm not really following the prototype here which was just a siding parallel to the main. So I have one nice long siding for the covered hoppers to be loaded and another track for other deliveries the mill might have still received by rail circa 1980.

New turnout and flex track on the LVRC main. Homa-bed laid with adhesive caulk, ready for a #5 turnout and sidings of Code 83 Micro Engineering track. The hoppers will be regular visitors to this scene, ready to be loaded with talc.

Here is how it looks with some hopper cars along the sub roadbed. The door is the entrance to the layout area. This scene is directly across from the Crawford Notch scene in posts from the past year. I'd like to get most of the scenery in this spot done before the open houses as this, along with the Crawford Notch scene are what visitors see first.
The mill will be behind the CN covered hopper with tall silos. I have only found one picture of the mill to work from, but I think I can also draw from an old RMC article on a mill further south in Vermont. It should be an interesting structure. Behind this will be VT Route 15 and a tree line to help hide the transition to the backdrop.

I also did a little track work over on the CP main line at Lyndonville. This is an area that has not really been touched in years. The track was somewhat temporarily laid down as I knew a turnout would be cut in later. It also transitions back to code 100 rail for the hidden track and into CP Newport staging. I simply pulled up the tacked in piece of flex track and put in a turnout leading to the Lyndonville industrial park. Then I put flex pieces back in and reconnected to the code 100 hidden track. The track to the right of the plywood will be mainly hidden by buildings in the industrial park and scenery transitioning up to the MEC mainline (above the CV staging, conspicuous with a CV boxcar!). Here you can see how useful having a large, flat area like Lyndonville has been. A real collector for "stuff" as you work.

The turnout and track are in place and adhesive caulk is drying as the tacks hold the track in place.
Next I will need to plan out the track arrangement for the industrial park. Again, this does not follow the prototype specifically. I'd like to get 3 or 4 spots in here, and maybe another non-railroad building. I have ideas on what will be here but getting it laid out will take some thought. 

As a side note, on the "things I would do differently" list, I think I might put the use of code 100 on there. Transitioning from code 83 to 100 has to be done carefully, and code 100 turnouts (at least Atlas ones) are not real great and not really cheaper than Atlas code 83 ones. It seems it would have been easier to just stick with code 83 in all hidden and staging areas, with Atlas code 83 #6 turnouts instead of the code 100 #6 ones.

With all this new track in, I got out the can of Rustoleum brown camo paint and hit all the track in Groveton, Gilman, East St. J, the CP main through Lyndonville and of course the LVRC track through Johnson. I then set up the fans and ventilated the area, door closed. So those pictures will come in the next update. This means all the remaining visible track is now base-coated with this pretty realistic dull track color. I can detail ties and rust up the rails as the mood strikes in these areas, and eventually add ballast (see MEC Crawford Notch updates in earlier posts to see how this looks).