New Structure

I’ve been working on the buildings and scenery in the area of the paper plant where the branchline comes into the scene at the back, and where the staging tracks go under the crawl space. Like nearly every layout I’ve seen, mine has places where the tracks disappear into a black hole. I’m making those places less obvious with the careful placement of structures.

The newest structure on my layout is a plain metal building in the area where the various chemicals are unloaded from tank cars. Think of it as a building flat at the front of the layout. I’ll be painting it tomorrow, then adding a roof.

Here's the newest structure. The tracks in front of it lead to hidden staging of woodchip cars and tank cars.

Here’s the newest structure. The tracks in front of it lead to hidden staging of woodchip cars and tank cars. This is actually the reverse angle of what an operator will see. I sat the camera on the layout to get this shot.

This shot puts the new structure building in perspective. The track on the right is where trains enter the scene and the two tracks on the left are staging. Again, this angle is not possible from the layout operators perspective. The new structure is only visible from behind.

This shot puts the new structure in perspective. The track on the right is where trains enter the scene and the two tracks on the left are staging. Again, this angle is not visible for the layout operator. The aisle is on the left.

This shot shows the evolving scene. Many elements are still missing, but the scene is starting to come together.

This shot shows the evolving scene as viewed from the aisle. Many elements are still missing and incomplete, but the scene is starting to come together.

A tighter photo of the same scene as the previous.

A tighter photo of the same scene as above.

I’ll post more when I get the building painting and weathered. Thanks for looking!

Finished Projects: PC SW1500 and N-12 Caboose

Two more projects came off the workbench today.


Penn Central 9570 is an Athearn RTR SW1500 that I bought through an online group two years ago. The only work I did to it was install a decoder, renumber it, and add an ACI label. I had to mess with the handrails for a long time, and they still aren’t quite right.  I might some day replace them with hand-bent wire handrails, but for now, I’m calling it finished. I weathered it using artist oils, airbrushed acrylics, and Bragdon powders. I expected that these locomotives would have been relatively clean because they were some of the newest power that PC bought.  Photos prove that they probably didn’t see the wash rack until they got repainted by Conrail. This model has been on and off the bench for some time. My friend Jurgen helped me get the decoder programmed properly, so it was time to finish off the last of the weathering.


Penn Central 24520 is a stock Walthers N-12 caboose.  I weathered it with airbrushed acrylics and Bragdon powders.  This is the second “road” caboose that I’ve recently added to the fleet.

“Test” Operating Sessions


In the photo above, the island switcher is pulling up next to the warehouse at International Paper.  The second trick crew is delivering one hopper of coal to the bulk storage track on the left in the foreground.  The warehouse is on the right and is represented by the styrene core of what was to be the finished structure.  The buildings in the background are a combination of painted foam core mockups and another styrene structure core.

The layout isn’t anywhere near being ready to host visiting operators, but now that the track, turnout controllers, wiring, and DCC system are set up, I’ve taken some important steps toward that goal.

I’ve made three attempts at simulating an 8 to 10 hour shift consisting of set-outs, lifts, and shuttles of about ten to fifteen cars in total. With the fast clock set at ratio of eight hours represented in one hour, it appears to be working out.  I have no idea if I will keep that ratio for the fast clock.  I just needed starting point.  Anyway, there have been some valuable lessons learned in just three sessions.

Before I scribbled out the first crude switch list, I sketched a schematic map showing the various spots.  For now, I’ve marked some of the spots with a  small “X” on the benchwork, to make sure that I’m consistently placing cars during these trial operating sessions.  I’ve had to make adjustments to the exact location of some spots in order for coupling and uncoupling to be manageable.


In just three operating session, I’ve discovered that my planned warehouse building is about 25 to 50 scale feet too long to be practical.  I probably could have figured this out ahead of time, had I not been focused on making the building large.  I designed the building to with the capacity to spot four cars on the “A” track and four cars on the “B” track inside the warehouse, which made the building over 200 feet long.  The geometry of the track and the placement of the building don’t allow for enough tangent track before the cars enter the building.  I’m already planning a new and warehouse building to replace the styrene building core in the photo above.

All of this playing with trains is interrupting construction.  The next big project on the list is to mount the turnout controls on the facia of the layout.  Of course, I’m also still working on the rolling stock that will eventually populate the layout.


Shout Out to Larry Broadbent

I learned through the St. Thomas Railway Heritage Facebook group that Larry Broadbent contributed about 1300 photographic slides of railroad equipment and personnel to the public archives of Elgin County.  Larry’s photos were taken in and around St. Thomas Ontario from the 70s onward.

The best part about this is that the images can be viewed online for free by clicking here.  Once you’re there, type “Broadbent” into the collection name field.  You’ll find the collection to be chock full of shots of the CASO, C&O, and N&W (ex-Wabash) trains.

Larry’s donation is a commendable contribution toward the preservation of the history of railroading in southwestern Ontario.  Most notably, these photos capture the unique operations and equipment of three US-based railroad companies in Canada.

CASO and C&O Canadian Division trains rolled through the town I’m modelling in HO, so this collection is an invaluable resource to me.  I hope more people follow Larry’s lead and make their railroad photo collections available to the public.  Thanks very much for doing this Larry.



Research Field Trip

Last weekend, I took a road trip across the border to do some research for my layout.  I’ve spent a crazy amount of time digging through Doug Kroll’s website called RR-Road Trip while researching the North Tonawanda locale for the home layout I’m building.  I decided it was time to actually meet the man.

Doug was kind enough to spend last Sunday afternoon driving me around North Tonawanda.  He took me to all of the places that are crucial to my layout’s theme.  Each time we stopped the car, he provided anecdotal recollections, all the while referring to maps and photos that he took in the 1970s.  I asked plenty of questions and took ample notes.  I feel much better positioned to move ahead with the layout, now that I have more detailed insight to the operational patterns and physical layout of the place.

It rained the whole time we toured around town, so I didn’t bother trying to take photos.  I’ll be going back some time in July so that I can grab some shots of the key buildings in town.  There are few structures still standing, but I’ll take what I can get.  In the meantime, here’s photo that Doug Kroll posted to RailPictures.Net which depicts a scene I hope to recreate.   A trio of St. Thomas-based GMD geeps rolls through North Tonawanda on July 21, 1974.  One I’ve acquired another Genesis GP9, I’ll get to work on building a representation of this lashup.  With Doug’s help, I hope to get the scene right too.