Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A railfanning break

It was a good open house last weekend. I had 50 or so people, some who had not stopped by in a few years, and some first timers. Glad to talk and share the layout with those who made it.

Taking a break from the layout posts, here are some pictures from a rail fanning excursion. 2 years ago in October 2016 I was up in Bethlehem PA for a work event. I had a few hours to get trackside before the evening's events so I drove around a bit and found some good spots to catch trains. I saw plenty of trains, all  Norfolk Southern. But lots of activity.

Going through pictures in my Photos app, I came across these and did a little editing on them and trashed the ones that did not come out too good. Here is a quick look at some of the shots from that afternoon.

It was a nice fall day to be out, a warm mid-October day, with some good colors in the sunshine. I came across these GP38-3's in the yard at Bethlehem.

Driving a bit further west I found a good spot where the main line came right up to the road. I'm sure it is a popular spot to watch trains, but I was the only one there that day. I saw quite a few trains and some light engine moves while I was there.

And plenty of crew around as well, doing various things.
Here was a crew change in progress. A van had pulled up and a crew came out. The crew on board had just dropped a trash bag out the locomotive window (the white spot in front of the lead truck). This was cool to watch the changeover.

Further to the west was a large yard but I really could not find a way to get anywhere to easily take some photos. I could see things from the road as it elevated on the adjacent hillside, but there was not a good spot to pull over. A lot of engine movements came in and out this end of the yard.

Hey, got one of those Spring Mill Depot PD3000 covered hoppers that needs some current day weathering? Here is one in a plain NAHX paint scheme.

This was an interesting movement. This was an RPU6 slug, attached to an SD40-2. More info on the RPU6s here.

The steel mill stacks in Bethlehem are easily seen from all over the area. 

The old mill is now an interesting area with a museum, an outdoor theater, bar, restaurant, and more. It is adjacent to the casino. I have a lot of pics of the museum, but that could be a separate post really. Well worth a visit. 
A nice elevated "park" gets you up close to the stacks and other parts of the mill. There are even a few old hopper cars here on some elevated track showing how coal was delivered.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Open House Sunday November 11, 12pm-5pm

Just a quick note that my layout is included in the NJ-PA-DE-MD open house schedule again this year. I am open on Sunday, 11/11, from 12 to 5. See the full listing with maps at the web site

Here are a few pics of things I completed since last year. This is not everything, just some of the highlights.

I'm looking forward to seeing you!

I've enjoyed finally getting to work on this road scene for Whitefield. Two buildings here have interior details with lighting. Just getting started overall, but nice to move on from the exposed foam!

For whatever reason, this scene in Hardwick was never finished and remained in brown painted foam board for the past 12 years or so. I decided to at least add a basic ground covering to the area and re-install a weathered version of the old creamery building. This will no longer be active, but I plan to use the half the track as a team, track, and later add a simple unloading platform for transferring boxcar loads to trucks.

I noted this scene ion a previous post, but it too now has a finished look, making all of Hardwick now looking much more complete.

This side of the Whitefield diamond was done earlier and also brings a greater level of completeness to the layout. The other half is getting started as seen in the first photo with the road and buildings going in.

Over ibn Johnson I completed the background and roadway. Not seen is the area in front where I did paint the exposed plywood and foam a solid color. I still need to build the talc mill and then finish the scenery, but this now looks a lot better overall.

Not really changed, but I did cleanup a few details here. Still real happy with this initial scene when you first enter the layout area.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Fall scenery work

I've spent bits and pieces of time during the summer and early fall doing some light scenery projects. I also finished off the New England Farmhouse kit, minus some details once I determine the exact layout placement.

Here is a look a the finished farmhouse from Mount Blue Model Co. And a link to their website.

I have an open house coning up on November 11th (see for a full schedule). With that n mind I've turned my attention to trying to add some scenery into places where it will help make the layout look more finished.

One conspicuous area is the pulpwood loading siding in Whitefield, right along the edge of the layout. I put in dirt, stone and ground cover to finish what was started on the other side of the diamond earlier this year.

Basic ground cover and sone piles of pulpwood go a long way to ,making things look more finished. In that big open area, I'll drop in a piece of foam painted an earth color, until I work out the final scenic treatment.

For the look of bark that comes off the pulpwood, I use tea leaves, emptied from inexpensive tea bags.

Over on the other side of the layout, the Hardwick scene on the Lamoille Valley had scenery put in well over 10 years ago. It even has some details added including figures, vehicles, telephone poles, etc. But as I never worked out the final idea for the quarry and the area between that and the church, I never finished off the scene.

To the left of the church, I placed some structures and vehicles, but this is just painted foam. I wanted to make a more elaborate quarry scene, so I held off doing much else here.
I decided that investing a few hours into making this scene look complete, even if it may not be my final idea for this scene, would go a long way to making this how section look complete. I decided to simply add a gravel parking area where trucks would be turned and stored, plus a small shanty. The rest of the quarry would be further down, somewhat obscured by trees.

It was fun bringing this scene to life, adding the utility poles and wires, and stage a few vehicles. I need to get some appropriate dump trucks but for now I'm happy with the results.

At first I did not have that pine tree at the area where the road leads into the gravel lot. But after adding it it really helped the scene, adding some vertical element to this area.

I have more things to do in the next couple weeks before the open house. I also had a light fixture fail, so that is next up to fix. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Free-mo pictures from NER Convention

I posted pictures of the Free-mo layout assembled at the NER NMRA Convention in Mahwah, NJ on my Flickr site. Click the link below to view the gallery.

It was a good weekend. Set up went pretty well Thursday despite a few unplanned physical obstacles. We ran plenty of trains created with the ModuOps software which generates switch lists for the crews. Convention attendees as well as the Free-mo crew ran over 2 dozen schedules trains Friday and Saturday.

There was talk of maybe having Free-mo at the Syracuse convention next September, but that will probably depend on space available. But certainly it was well received again by the convention attendees. Going back the last few years we've had a Free-mo layout at the Laconia NH convention in 2013, the joint MER-NER Mt. Laurel convention in 2015, the Newport convention in 2017, and now this year in Mahwah NJ.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

NER NMRA Convention, Mahwah NJ

I'll be at the Northeastern Region NMRA Convention this weekend in Mahwah, NJ, September 13-16. I'll mainly be on site at the convention hotel coordinating and operating on the Free-mo modular layout. We have modules from NJ, MD, NY and MA coming in for the show and we'll be operating Thursday afternoon through Saturday afternoon.

If you are at the convention, stop by and say hello!

Here's a look at the layout we will be building for this event:

If you are free over the next few days, its not too late to join in on the fun of the convention. For more info, check out

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Good, the Bad...and...the Lightning?

I've been fairly busy with summer activities for the past few months. That has meant not too much has gotten done on the layout. But hopefully things will get back into swing as we move into the fall

I did complete my kit of the Grand Trunk station I plan to use for North Stratford. Although I started the kit in January, and quickly made progress on the walls, windows, foundation and platform, I got hung up a bit on the roof and this sat a while. After finally getting the cardboard roof form cut, bent and fully built as a single piece, I painted and braced it and got it installed on the building. This finally allowed me to start the slow and tedious process of shingling the roof. I used peel and stick strips that I pre-painted. I actually ran out of shingles and had to get more to finish it off. Once done, I did some extra painting of the roof to break up the overall darkness. So that was good progress to get something completely finished.

The finished station. Lots of shingles!

This is the approximate position of the station on the layout, the upper shelf representing North Stratford and Beecher Falls. This is an elevated photo view as this shelf is closer to 66 inches off the floor. With the station in place,  I'd like to work on getting the track in up here. The far track against the wall will be the Grand Trunk. I plan for this GT mainline track to be non-operational and will in fact stage extra freight cars here to help the transition to the photo backdrop. The curving track will be the North Stratford line to Beecher Falls. It interchanges with the Maine Central to the left.
Another good thing that happened was during one evening when I had some time to tend to some small layout tasks, cleaning things up, etc. I decided it would be a great time to run a train around the layout while I worked, as it realistically had been many months since a train moved.

As many can attest, trains and rail that sit for a while tend to have issues with electrical conductivity. As I have treated my rail and loco wheels with CRC-26 a while back, I wondered if it maybe had been too long to get the same results I had been seeing for well over a year when trains last ran.

I pulled the CP local out of staging and ran it into St. Johnsbury. The sound-equipped RS10 did not have any issues moving smoothly over the rails while maintaining the sounds of the MLW Alco prime mover. This was indeed very good!

But I cannot say I did not run into an issue. It just wasn't with the train, the rail, the sound, or anything I would have expected. As I routed the CP train onto MEC rails and started to head towards Whitefield, I noticed I needed to align the turnouts in Whitefield to the MEC main line.

These turnouts are controlled by the excellent Berrett Hill Touch Toggles. The problem was that as I touched the glass over these toggles, nothing happened. I tried all 6 in Whitefield and found only 2 worked with 4 non-responsive. A quick check of my 19 toggles on the St. Johnsbury panel confirmed that they were all working well. So what was up with the Whitefield panel?

I took the panel off at Whitefield and examined things. With nothing obvious I started doing some testing. I quickly learned that the 2 working turnouts were attached to a 2 output panel, while the 4 not working were attached to a separate 4 output panel. I tried moving the toggles and turnout connectors around (easy to do as everything is plug and play with these boards), and found that indeed the issue was with the 4 output panel only. Why would this panel suddenly stop working? This was the bad, certainly.

Luckily I have a separate 8 output panel I have not used yet, so I swapped out the 2 and 4 output panels and reattached everything to the 8 output panel. Testing went well, so I re-installed the panel.

Here I am swapping the Touch Toggle leads from the panel (the orange/red/brown wires) from the 4+2 output panels on the right, to the 8 output panel on the left. The wires to the turnouts are attached to the blue connectors, which were also a simple matter of removing and plugging in to the new board. So at least this process was easy, a little good with the bad.

Here is the Whitefield panel re-installed and working properly. I took the time to drill and install 2 screws which make for a better solution than velcro strips. Now the panel is solidly in place, and working well!
As I worked I thought what might be the root cause. Unless the board just up and died, the only other thing I could think of was a recent lightning strike. A few weeks back we had a pretty active storm while we were at home, and one lightning strike seemed very close. The next day I noticed that our outside lighting wasn't working. I finally traced it to the one GFI outlet in the basement that was tripping the breaker in the circuit box. After replacing the GFI outlet, everything was back to normal. I don't really know how this happened, and nothing else was at all affected other than the GFI outlet.

So perhaps this 4 output board also was compromised by the strike? The board is plugged into a power supply and that goes to a line that is always turned off except when I am in the basement working on the layout. That line has other power supplies on it, like the DCC power supplies. Nothing else (so far) seems to have been affected. But like the GFI outlet perhaps one item in a connected chain could take the brunt of a surge?

Not sure. But anyway, there's my update, the good, the bad and the lightning!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Front End Friday #2

Maine Central GP38 #261 sits in St. Johnsbury yard. This stock Atlas model released in 2001sports the original as-delivered paint scheme.  I applied some additional details, including a horn that is close, but not an exact match, a firecracker antenna, side mounted bell, and an MU hose on the receptacles. It is also lightly weathered and has KD #158 couplers. It sports an older Soundtraxx sound decoder, and it prime for an upgrade to Loksound and iPhone speaker. Like most every Atlas unit, it continues to run and look great.

MEC 261 in original scheme. In late 1970s the Maine Central started a rebuild and repaint program. The nose herald was changed to a simple round pine tree logo, an quick and easy spotting difference. The number boards were usually switched to black numbers on a white background at this time. It also got a new air filter, changing the look of the roof right behind the cab. Atlas released versions with this difference, in the appropriate paint scheme, in 2004. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Great Photos on Flickr

If you have not seen this (growing) collection of photos on Flickr, its worth checking out. Great images from MA, VT, NH, ME, NY, 1970s and 1980s.

The Michael C. Bump collection on Flickr:

Images have been slowly added over the past few weeks, so worth a follow if you are on Flickr (you'll get a weekly email if any new photos are uploaded).

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #25

Photo by Glenn Salvatore, October 1978

Friday, April 13, 2018

Front End Friday #1

On some Facebook groups I have noticed that members will post pictures on Fridays of prototype or model locomotives to specifically show the cab and front end. These usually get a hashtag of #FEF, or Front End Friday.

I figured I needed to post the picture below as it truly captures the intent of this effort. I did not take this picture but it is in my saved collection of images found across the internet for modeling information.

All four of the Lamoille Valley RS-3s lined up at the Morrisville shops. Pretty cool!

Hmmm, couldn't have switched up 7803 and 7804 to put them in sequence? :-)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

TBT - North Stratford NH 1999

On one of our vacations to New Hampshire, this time in 1999, we took a drive up into the north country of the state. This fairly remote area has just a few roads and a couple rail lines, and not too many people or houses. By this time, the former MEC and B&M lines in this area above Whitefield were being operated by the New Hampshire & Vermont Railroad. This track was in OK condition, but showed the effects of less traffic and even less maintenance.

However once above Groveton, as route 3 curves and twists northward paralleling the right of way, you eventually get to North Stratford, and see some real signs of active railroad life,

Here the former Grand Trunk line was now the main line of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic. The track is in great condition, and there is plenty to take in. However, as usual, I am not there at the right time to see actual trains in action. No problem though, still plenty of interesting things to observe.

The station and track are in excellent shape as seen here. The old semaphore is no longer used, but it is cool to still see it in place.North Stratford served as a junction point between the Maine Central and grand Trunk years ago, although not too much traffic was interchanged here, as the GT continues south to Portland Maine to do most of the interchange with the MEC there.

But this is the point where the Maine Central continued north along the Connecticut River to get to Beecher Falls Vermont and the still very active Ethan Allen furniture factory. On this day the line north is state owned and operated by the New Hampshire Central. Before that this line was operated by the North Stratford Railway, who took over from the MEC after the state bought the line. More info about that can be read here on my site.

But back to North Stratford. A string of boxcars on the siding is of interest. First, some interesting older paint schemes, some with new stenciled owners, others with signs of years of use.

A string of boscars sits on the siding. Appears to be dropped for the New Hampshire Central by the St. Lawrence & Atlantic, but that is a lot of cars for that small railroad...
I walked down the track to get a better look and a couple photos of the boxcars there

New Orleans Public Belt boxcar looking very much like the Athearn PS5344 that at the time had been recently released, the last of the Athearn Blue Box kits. Here we see it re-lettered and some nice weathering on top of its 1970s paint job

Ubiquitous for this area from the late 1970s into the early 2000s were these Berlin Mills boxcars with their distinctive jade green paint. They hauled paper regularly from the paper mill in Berlin, and could be seen on the Boston & Maine local between White River Junction and Berlin, until that service ended, and the tracks were later removed.

A closer look at the tack board reveals this and the other boxcars spotted here were dropped for interchange to the NHCR, the New Hampshire Central, on August 8, 1999. 

The New Hampshire Central did not have a lot of local customers, but in the 1990s htey constructed a railcar repair facility. This provided plenty of traffic for the shortline, to take cars in for various repairs, and then return to the St.L & A for active service on the nation's rail network. You can read more about the repair facility in an article I wrote for the NER coupler, click here (be sure to click through to the original page as I may not have updated the new page by the time you read this).

On another siding I find this bulkhead flat built for pulpwood loading. Here a truck can pull up alongside and load logs onto the car to then be moved to a paper mill by the StL & A.

The St. Lawrence & Atlantic was previously the Grand Trunk, which was very much a child of parent Canadian National. On other trips, it was easy to find plenty of CN equipment, and even CN locomotives on the trains operating on this line, even after the StL&A took over in 1993. One time I found a train with a good number of Central Vermont GP9s in Green and Yellow operating a train through Berlin NH.

Another look at the North Stratford area reveals that there was once a bit more activity here, back in the Maine Central and Grand Trunk days. A small yard facilitated more interchange, but most of those tracks are now removed.

These ties in the dirt speak to another time when more tracks were needed to facilitate operations at North Stratford.

A trip to New Hampshire in 2017 revealed not too many changes to North Stratford. The StL&A is now part of the Genesee & Wyoming system, and the ex-MEC Beecher Falls line is still active. The rail car repair facility has been converted to a propane transload, and the line beyond the facility has a stock pile of older cars not currently in service, probably earning some money for the storage service provided.

I'll soon be laying some track on my layout for the North Stratford area. This will be mostly about facilitating some additional operations for the MEC, adding a passing siding, a spur or two, and the line over to Beecher Falls (greatly condensed) for the North Stratford Railway to service a scled-down version of the Ethan Allen furniture plant. This is all up on my shelf area that was added in a moment of inspiration after I thought I had completed the basic layout footprint. I will be digging through my prototype books and articles to draw out some ideas and inspiration for this small area of the layout.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Working on Whitefield

I've spent a few sessions continuing to work on the scenery in Whitefield, starting from the area where I added trees up to the diamond crossing. I ballasted the B&M and MEC tracks and added dirt and grass between. The MEC track is straight Arizona Rock ballast, NS/CSX blend. The B&M is a mixture that includes Northern Pacific gray along with sone various other ballasts I have on hand to create a dirty blend to represent older ballast. The MEC in my time period was regularly ballasting the Mountain Division and I wanted the clean look that is evident in many pictures.

The other areas include various Scenic Express blends of dirt and turf. I added static grass with a Noch Grassmaster, and also some sections of Heki wild grass fibers. I still plan to add more, and then fill in more trees as well.

It is nice to see the structures in a sceniced area. It is a lot of fun to bring the scene to life with some added details I've had for quite a while. Included is a casting for the B&M call box. Plenty of more details will be added, especially around the MEC section house. But for now it is a good start.

An overall view of area. In the back is a dark brown patch where I will add a structure for Whitefield Plastics.

A lower level view of the ball signal with a B&M and MEC train staged. 

Looking back towards the ball signal, this grade crossing links to the section house parking lot. Additional weeds and treatment to the gravel will be done here.
The siding for Whitefield Plastics is in place, but I need to build a structure and some tanks for the covered hoppers to unload. I like the way the the gravel road came out, which has a number of different materials added and final dusting of granite dust.
A close-up of the section house. Pretty cool Dodge pickup model that will look good in this prominent location. Just need to add the NH license plate decals.