Brags: RMC, New Blogs

It’s been a busy time for me over the past few weeks, so this brag post comes a bit late. I’m excited that two of my photos and an article that I wrote have been published in Railroad Model Craftsman. I’ve been quietly published in the past, but this is particularly exciting for me because it’s the first time I’ve had my photos and a humble article about model railroading in print. I encourage you to buy the January RMC because… I’m in it!

Next piece of news: I’ve started a new blog to clarify the confusion between the title of this blog and the content. When I started writing Ontario In HO Scale, I was primarily modelling at the WRMRC layout. Last year, I started building a layout in my house. Writing about my home layout has come to dominate the content of this blog, and it was obvious to me long ago that I would eventually have to change things. To that end, I’ve created The Niagara Branch. I’ll keep Ontario In HO Scale up and running, populated with posts about projects that are relevant to the WRMRC. There’s a third piece of news about my CP Sudbury Division content, but that will have to wait.

 

 

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Just off the workbench: PC 9633

The newest addition to my small collection of locomotives to operate at the paper plant on my layout is this Atlas S2. It’s a sound-equipped model that I painted, lettered, and weathered with acrylics, powders, and graphite pencil. I made an attempt to model the paint chipping along the frame, revealing white frame stripe that was part of its former NYC paint scheme. Also of note is the non-standard application of the corporate logo: the words Penn Central do not appear on the locomotive hood, and the numerals were applied using old NYC stencils.

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The above photo represents the most accurate depiction of the prototype that I can muster with my collection. The prototype locomotive and caboose were both assigned at North Tonawanda yard. In the photo below, 9633 pulls a cut of boxcars across the switch to the bulk coal storage area.

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Green Team SW1 8470

I’m pushing to get the paper plant section of my layout to the point where I can operate regularly. Part of that effort involves completing a few different switchers. I finished one tonight, and another is on the work bench getting closer to being ready. Presenting PC SW1 #8470:

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It started as an undecorated Walthers SW1. The paint and decals were straightforward. Getting the weathering right is still a work in process. The key feature of this locomotive’s charm is the fact that the road numbers are in New York Central font, and the NYC logo is beginning to reveal itself from beneath pealing paint on the side of the cab. The intention was to depict this locomotive nearing the point of being scrapped.

Weathering was done with artist oils, acrylics, powders,  and 8B graphite pencil. There will be some final touches applied when the supplies and parts arrive, but it’s ready for service on the layout.

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Hiding the End of the World

The priorities I had in mind when I designed my layout were these:

  1. Operations
  2. A stage upon which I can photograph my models.
  3. Large enough to create the impression of a large industry.
  4. Small enough that I can build it, given my limited leisure time.
  5. Easily expandable if things go well.

With these priorities in mind, I chose at 12 foot wall next to a crawl space in my basement, and I think things are going well so far. I’m modelling a small, somewhat outdated and specialized paper plant the produces high quality fine papers. But even in 12 feet, I had to give up many parts of the factory, and fudge others, in order to make it work. Part of the fudging involved two long staging tracks that represent the woodchip unloader and a place to unload a number of different liquid raw materials. I put these under the crawl space at one end of the layout.

It was a challenge to deal with making the transition between on-stage and off-stage less obvious. I couldn’t completely conceal the transition, but I’ve placed buildings in such a way as to make it less obvious.

In the photo below, PC 9574 is arriving at the plant and coming on-stage from a staging track that will eventually connect to the modelled portion of North Tonawanda yard. For now, I back trains onto the staging track before an operating session. The building in the foreground was placed to make it difficult to see the hole in the sky where the train comes on scene. The dashed green line shows the bottom of the wall, which doubles as the sky backdrop.

In the foreground of the photo below, the closest track goes to the woodchip unloader, which is completely off-stage. The second track is where tank cars are unloaded. I’ve sketched the outline of a building that I haven’t placed into the scene yet. The idea is that it will help to conceal where these two tracks slip off the edge of the world. At least, that’s the plan.

Foreground building

Bascule Bridge at North Tonawanda

One of the most interesting and challenging structures that I will have to build for my layout depicting the town of North Tonawanda is the bascule bridge over the barge canal. The bridge was built as part of a track re-alignment project undertaken by NYC between 1917 and 1922. The bridge carried the NYC Niagara Branch, double-track at this point, which was NYC’s direct connection between Niagara Falls NY and Buffalo NY.

An interesting fact about the bridge is that it was only opened once. It seems that a government transportation authority insisted on provisions for the expansion of the barge canal to accommodate higher vessels. In response, NYC built a bascule bridge instead of a fixed structure. I’m told that on the day the bridge was put into service, there were some dignitaries present to witness the opening and closing of the bridge. It was never opened again.

The bridge is oriented north-south. To the south of the bridge, the Lehigh Valley gained access to the NYC Niagara Branch which LV used to access its own yard in Niagara Falls NY. The small NYC yard and connection to the paper plant at North Tonawanda are about a half-mile north of the bridge.

I photographed the bridge in 2013. After studying the bridge, I decided against building a model of it, on the grounds that it would be too difficult. Lately, I’ve been reconsidering my previous position because it is the single most identifiable landmark that establishes the setting of my layout. Without it, visitors might simply have to take it on faith that the layout represents North Tonawanda. With that in mind, I’m gearing up to have a go at it. Having never scratch-built a structure like this, I’m spending some time thinking about how to approach it. So far, my friend Chris Vanderheide is helping me plan the build. I can use all the help I can get.

Here are a few of my photos of the bridge. They provide a general overview of the structure’s layout.

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Looking east along the Erie Canal.

In the first photo, above, I can see some basic sub-structures that might simplify construction. The concrete pier in the barge canal is the hinge point of the bridge. The truss on the right is the part that lifts, so it’s rigid. The apex of the triangle to the left of the hinge on the pier provides the fulcrum between the concrete counterweight and the rigid truss that draws upwards.

Taken from the north side of the canal, looking at the west side of the bridge, minus the counterweight.

Taken from the north side of the barge canal, looking at the west side of the bridge, minus the counterweight.

Taken from the north side of the canal, west side of the bridge, looking up at the concrete counterweight.

Taken from the north side of the canal, west side of the bridge, looking up at the concrete counterweight.

At north and south ends of the bridge, there are short deck girder bridges that carry the tracks over roads that parallel the barge canal on both sides. The tracks approach the bridge on large earth fills from the north and south. On the north side of the canal, the North Tonawanda side, the fill provides a convenient grade separation for a couple of residential streets, which I also plan to model.

I have plenty of photos of the general layout of the bridge, but these show the overall structure. I believe what stands ahead of me is an estimation of the overall dimensions of the structure so that I can decide whether to compress it or build it proportionally.

I recognize this as a long-shot, but if anyone has information pertaining to this bridge, I’d love to have access to it. Drawings would, of course, be ideal, but anything else would be helpful and greatly appreciated, including how NYC and Penn Central managed rail traffic in the area around the bridge. I’m also interested in advice on how plan for and undertake this project. I’m looking forward to hear what you have to say.