Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

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

Friday, December 30, 2016

Listening to my operators

Through the 5 operating sessions I have held so far I have received some good feedback on the layout and the operations. Some suggestions have been easy to address, like train sequence, which I have done through schedule changes in each subsequent session. Others have been more "infrastructure" related, involving track. Sometimes this has been addressed by explaining something about the layout and the prototype operation, and that has resolved the issue (like running from Whitefield to Crawford Notch to use a passing siding).

However one suggestion has been mentioned a couple of times by different people, so I am thinking it may have merit. Interestingly enough it involves a location where I freelanced the track plan instead of following the prototype. The prototype usually gets it right, so this comes as no surprise.

In the Morrisville yard I provided a passing siding to assist in breaking down and building trains. It works, but it could be easier if the siding was longer and also if it was not one of the yard tracks. With a limited number of yard tracks, it becomes tough to tie up the mainline and the siding and still have room to move power onto and off trains and also maneuver the yard locomotive.

I have watched these operations and also did some test running after the last session to see how things work. My conclusion was that the suggestion to drop in a pair of turnouts to create a second passing siding would really help things.

The siding to Lamoille Grain parallels the main line (left). The turnout installed is the start of the yard ladder and also one end of the existing passing siding. As suggested, dropping turnouts as shown will allow a second, longer, passing siding on the other side of the main. 
Adding the curved turnout on the main will involve removing a piece if the ballasted main line and a little scenery, but that shouldn't be too difficult. I will need to do some roadbed transition as the siding height is 1/8" lower than the main. The regular turnout on the siding will be even easier, a simple drop in for a cut out track section.

All the turnouts in this area are controlled by ground throws mounted at the layout edge (see earlier post on this). However doing it the same way for these 2 would require some major work that would damage scenery. I think the better solution will be to use Tortoise switch machines. For one, it will not require ripping out and rebuilding some scenery. But also throwing one turnout really requires the other to also be thrown. This is easy to do having one control throw both machines. I'lll just have to determine the best place to add the control. It will be my only Tortoise not controlled by DCC or a Touch Toggle!

Of course, checking my supply of turnouts on hand (I still have to finish track in North Stratford and Lyndonville) reveals that I have a #7 curved turnout, right hand even, but what I really need is a #7.5 for the 28" inner radius curve. And I could use a #5 or #6 left hand turnout for the siding, and all I have are right hand turnouts. Figures! 

As the overhead shows, I need a less sharp curved turnout and a left hand (not right hand) turnout on the grain siding. Of course, I don't have these on hand!
So time to pick up the 2 turnouts I need and then see if I can get this installed without too much down time. I have the layout restaged and ready for another op session, so I'll have to see if I want to wait until this is done, or have the op session first and then come back and do track work.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

ET & HK Ide Building

I've started work on replacing the photo mock up stand in building for the ET & HK Ide building, a signature element of the St. Johnsbury yard scene. I constructed the mock up probably 12 years ago. At first glance it does a pretty good job, but of course lacks many of the 3 dimensional details that make it look better.

Photos printed and applied over a foam core base - 2004.

An early picture when St. Johnsbury was still being built and only some of the track in place - 2004.
I have since built the nearby coal shed and the Allen Lumber building. I'll need to also complete the Caldbeck-Cosgrove building to finalize the main structures for this area.

From an op session last year, at the top of the photo, the coal shed behind the red CP boxcar, the ET&HK Ide building, the Caldbeck mock up, and final the Allen Lumber shed building. Behind are freelanced buildings for an ice distributor and a propane dealer.
Using basic dimensions provided via the MEC Yahoo group many years ago, I built up the core using plain styrene, and applied Evergreen styrene metal roofing. I built up the unique trim pieces using dimensional styrene as well as cut sections from sheet for the really wide trim. I am not building an exact replica as the building was deeper than I have space for. There is also a side extension that I am deciding if I want to include.

The unique siding material appears to be 4x8 sheets of embossed metal, giving it a brick like pattern, but clearly showing the individual panels. I found that a material produced by Laser Modeling 3 that replicates this. You can see it on their AR Gilmore Grain building here. The ET & HK Ide building does not have the pronounced overlap that the Gilmore kit displays, so I am not overlapping the pieces.

Here is an in progress picture:

Adding strips of the Laser Modeling 3 embossed panels. The top section appears to have a slightly different panel applied, although it is hard to tell for sure. I am just using V groove siding for that part as it seems to better capture the look of the prototype.
I'll post more pics as things progress. The next steps will be adding the loading dock, its roof and assorted doors. Painting the large block letters will also be a challenge, along with building the grain elevator chute and platform. The delivery tubes will use styrene tube already on hand. Overall I expect this will take a while, but it is good to get this structure started finally!

For reference, here are some pictures I took in 2002. You can also find many more online, and with trains actually in the pictures too! The building is still there and the yard looks a lot better now that the Vermont Railway has taken over operations of the line.

The coal shed is seen to the left of the ET & HK Ide building, and the spur track leads right into it. Up to the right is the corner of the Callback building and some add on buildings.

Trackside view. The dock roof has seen better days! To the left is the add-on section that I may include - I am reviewing different pictures to get a better idea how it looks.

This loading dock is right up to the track. I believe the elevator chutes led to below track level, although I have no pictures of that. These chutes were added later and are not in earlier photos. They were added right around my timeframe, so I will include them as they are a nice detail item.

The panel sections are evident in this shot, and the overlapping is not as pronounced as the Laser Modeling 3 kit, so I am butting the panels up to each other and not overlapping. I will pull a few seams out to match some of the wear seen on the prototype.
There is actually a historical web site for the ET & HK Ide building with some neat older photos. Check out

Friday, November 18, 2016

Small tasks

I have been doing a number of smaller tasks over the past few weeks. Just as important (sometimes more important) than the larger scenery or structure work, these are things that may not jump out for those visiting, but they help make the layout run better and look better.

After the last Op session, it was noted that 2 turnouts in St. Johnsbury were causing issues. One had a dead spot through the points and frog, and the other did not throw completely. I addressed these with a new feeder and a new throw bar. Small tasks, although it took a while to clear space under the yard to work, and then put everything back. I usually do not have to go under there.

The original throw bar rod was on the outside of the turnout, which worked, but over time was not as effective. A new hole was drilled one tie above the throwbar and a new wire bent and installed.
A simple bell crank method was employed to have the side to side throw of the Tortoise transferred to a twisting motion of the new throw rod. Thanks to Lionel Strang and the July 1997 issue of Model Railroader and a little foresight on my part, I had a photo copy of the article detailing this method right with my Tortoise supply should the need ever arise - now it did!

 I originally addressed the dead section of the other turnout using the Tortoise contacts. But I found that I was getting a short circuit as the machine threw. Seems the contacts would switch power before the point left one of the stock rails. I am sure there is a way around this, but I went the simple route and installed a Tam Valley Frog Juicer I had on hand.

I had purchased a number of Frog Juicers a few years back on a Black Friday special pricing sale. However this is the first I have needed to actually install to address a problem. I only have a few of these older "less than DCC friendly" turnouts where the points, closure rails and frog rely solely on contact at the points. 

I took the time while I was under there to solder feeder wires to each turnout in the yard should I need to address getting power to a dead point, closure rail and frog in the future on these older style turnouts. But I'm not going to invest in the time and cost of adding Frog Juicers unless (or until!) a problem arises.

I also addressed an issue with the Touch Toggle panel for St. Johnsbury yard. The frame I originally used had a cardboard back to press the toggles and paper schematic up agains the glass. Due to humidity this tended to not press tightly in the center area of the panel and operators had to press it from behind to put it up against the glass in order to get it to respond to a finger on the glass.

I solved this by going to a new frame with a wooden back piece that keeps everything firmly in place and tight to the glass. I also decided to screw it in place instead of velcro for a more stable panel.

The back of the new frame is a sturdy piece of hardboard to keep everything tight to the glass. All the wires from the individual toggles exit out the bottom where I cut notches to allow them to escape without pushing the back away from the frame.
The new panel installed with stainless steel screws. Works great! It is interesting to simply build a panel like this up in the kitchen and then just bring it down, plug it into the board and be done. A really nice solution.

I had previously nearly completed the ball signal and shack using the BEST trains kit, however I never did put a roof on the shack, so I completed that. I used sand paper and painted and weathered it as it better represents the look of the prototype in pictures around 1980.

Need some dirt, weeds and gravel so it doesn't look like a recent snowfall has occurred!
The rest of that BEST kit includes the car shed and office for the Maine Central in Whitefield. My wife started this kit a while back, and finished it up by adding the roof shingles and gluing the 3 completed separate sections she completed together into 1 structure. We did not notice at the time, but the 2 side walls of the main building were reversed, so I will end up with the shed being reversed from the prototype, but I doubt anyone will notice. If you think about the side door being used to store a track speeder, you can see the issue and why the office door should be on the opposite end!

The door on this end should really be on the other end facing to the East, with that attached shed on this end. No big deal, I think my wife did a pretty good job otherwise! Need to add a little scenery around here so it looks better.

When I was laying out the MEC track into Whitefield I included a turnout for a siding to a local industry. Sometime later I glued down some wood ties figuring I would hand lay the rails for the siding. I have not really hand laid any track on this layout, and have not done so since an earlier layout that was going to be all hand laid. I can tell you at this point I much prefer flex track and think it looks better when properly weathered. But it was fun going a little old school for this siding. Much harder to see those spikes these days however!

The new siding with hand laid code 70 track. Just need to fill in a couple missing ties by the turnout. Took about 30 minutes to get this in versus probably less than 5 minutes to lay down a piece of flex track.

The new siding is ready for operations. This will be Whitefield Plastics, which did exist but did not actually have rail service. I waybilled this Allegheny Midland covered hopper to haul in plastic pellets. I chose the AM car because it was Tony Koester who first exposed me to hand laying track with accounts of his AM layout in RMC back in the late 1970s when I was getting my start in the hobby. Seemed appropriate.

The prototype Whitefield office had a large pine tree logo on a metal panel affixed above the doorway. I thought this was a cool detail so using some MEC decals I prepared some MEC signage to use on the layout. I painted thin styrene and applied the decals. These are ready to cut out and install now.
Not sure where I will use them all, but I'll find someplace for them. The decals were from a Microscale caboose set that I probably will not need to use, although there are plenty left to do at least one caboose.

I started the process of building an Eastern White Pine tree as described by Mike Confalone. The trunk is a dowel with lots of holes drilled in it and then pieces of leafless cassia inserted and glued. Then the whole thing is painted with brown camo paint. Next steps involve spraying hair spray to the caspia and sprinkling green static grass to represent the needles. This is the first attempt, not sure if I have enough branches or not. But it is time consuming! For a good look at these completed, check out Ryan Mendall's post on Eastern White Pines on his excellent Algonquin Railway blog.

Looks like the Christmas Tree on top of the car in that commercial where they 2 cars race and blow off all the needles! Hopefully my next post on these trees will look more like a pine tree.

A while back I posted a picture of the roof of the FOS Scale Liqour store kit I was building. I finished up work on that by completing and installing the sign. I'm not sure I have a specific space for this on the layout, and it is a bit more modern due to the included signage (i.e. beer prices and logos not right for 1980), so I think this will go to the Free-mo module.

This was a fun kit to build and the interior pictures and other details making it come alive nicely.

I also quickly put together a Bar Mills Basics kit I had on the shelf. I was looking for something to do while watching some hockey on TV, and this simple kit easily fit the bill. The whole thing is easily assembled in one evening, producing 2 cool little buildings for the layout. I painted the structure gray first, then did a dry brushing of the red over top to give the effect of paint that has peeled and fallen off.

These will be useful to drop in on the layout. I figure one will serve well as the gate building for Hardwick Gravel, located next to a truck scale.

Finally, while shopping in IKEA I saw these neat little carts on wheels for $30. They are very sturdy and have pretty nice casters on them. I decided to buy a pair and use them for scenery material. It will be easier to roll these out then hand grabbing stuff off the shelves under the layout where it normally resides.

These come in white and black, but I really liked this orange color. Seems to match the room and fall layout colors better. I think I will be buying  a few more of these.

These small tasks activities, along with restaging the layout for the next Op Session (as well as changing some things in the Ops plan), plus general clean up for the open house, have kept me busy.

Next up is the open house (hopefully I'll remember to take some pics) and then I plan to finally start building the ET & HK Ice building and replace the stand-in photo mockup.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Updating Old Web Site

Most of my online postings have been here on this blog, as well as some posts on my Facebook group (Northeast Kingdom Model Railroad), as well as a few posts to the forum. Preceding all of this activity was the web site I created over 12 years ago, I put a lot of my research information on that site and continued to update it and add information over the following few years.

With the ease of use of this blog as well as the discontinuance of the software I used to maintain the website, has been pretty dormant the past 3-5years. I maintain some other web sites, and acquired new software about 2 years ago to easily maintain these web sites. However there was n real easy way to import the old sites. This wasn't a problem for the other sites which were relatively small. It was an easy matter of just building them from the ground up with similar, yet updated, content. The nekrailroad site though was more work, so I just put that on the back burner.

I've decided to put a few hours into updating the site by bringing it over to the new web site software. That work is now in progress, and I have started the update to

The overall look and content will be similar to the old site, but I will be able to update it more easily now, and fill in some new or missing areas. It will better document the layout and be easier to get to a specific topic, and more easily get to research info I have documented.

This will be an ongoing process, so not everything is done yet. The content from the old site will move over a period of time, so I am providing a link to the full content of the old site, as noted on the first page. This can be accessed via

I'll still mainly post updates via this blog, but will probably copy a few things over to the nekrailroad website as well, such as finished work for example.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Annual Open House - Nov. 19th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 07, 2016

Sept 2016 Op Session

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

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

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

Here are some pictures from the session.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Track Cleaning and CRC 2-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My New Favorite Roof

I am in the process of assembling a FOS Scale liquor store kit. It will be destined for my Woodstown Jct. Free-mo module as it is a little too modern sign-wise for my 1980 layout. It is a pretty nice little kit and I'll post some more photos and thoughts when it is completed. But I wanted to mention the roof. Here is a picture of it before adding a sign and chimney:

I'm quite happy with how this roof came out
In the kit the roofing material was simply a piece of white paper with some scribed lines. Nothing really good about it to be truthful. The instructions mentioned painting it black and gray, and that's it. Hmmm...I've done the black roof and it always seemed too black to me, even if I weathered it with some chalks.

So I decided to experiment. I lightly sprayed the roof paper on the back (non-lined) side with gray primer from a spray can. After drying I had a uniform gray roofing material. Too uniform though. So next I took flat black spray in a can and misted that over the gray. Just far enough to not fully coat it. A few larger drops of black appeared here and there, so I misted more gray over the black to blend it together. The results were just what I wanted. A black roof that has been subject to a quite bit of sun which caused fading. I did not even need to do any additional weathering with chalks or paint.

I cut the sheet on the scribed lines (now on the unpainted side) and used transfer tape to apply to the roof. Any bad areas that had a paint drop that did not look good I worked around. Plenty of material to discard sections. I really think the look is good, better than most of the roofs I have done. I do like a few of the dark and light spots that appear that look like stains. The effect is real nice in person.

I'm glad I was able to turn a pretty mundane material into a nice looking roof for this building. A few more details and this one will be done.