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.


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.



Saturday at the WRMRC

Each summer, the WRMRC closes operation sessions for the summer in order to undertake major construction projects.  We chose to start our summer work season in May this year because we have major goals and some ambitious workers who couldn’t wait to get started.  Last Saturday, we held our May construction day.

Generally, we set our summer construction goals at our Annual General Meeting, which is slated for June.  These priorities have not yet been formalized, but the work that was done on Saturday foreshadows what some of those goals might be.  You can find the track plan here while you read through the rundown of the projects that were undertaken on the weekend.

Sudbury Roundhouse

Steve Lyons is managing a major worksite at the Sudbury roundhouse scene on Level 1.  This project involves nearly the whole summer work crew. Phil Trudel has undertaken some improvements to the flooring on the second floor, above the Sudbury roundhouse area.  There will be a helix on the second floor, directly above this scene, which serves to carry the Little Current Subdivision from Espanola to the Lawson Quarry scene, and on to Turner and Little Current.  Though the ceiling above the Sudbury roundhouse scene is in place, the flooring on the second floor was never properly completed.  Phil’s work will ensure that construction can proceed on the second floor without causing damage to the scenes below.


This view looks across the back of the Sudbury roundhouse scene. The backdrop will have the horizon scene painted this summer, and at the far end, Steve will rebuild the benchwork to accomodate a lift-out.

Phil’s flooring work needs to be completed because Steve Lyons is working on the roundhouse scene below.  This is a multifaceted project which involves rebuilding the benchwork to facilitate a lift-out section. Jurgen Kleylein will be painting the backdrop behind the scene.  Steve will be laying the track and installing the turntable.  Chris Vanderheide has commenced work on some of the building flats for this area.


This angle shows the turntable pit in the centre. The roundhouse will be behind the pit, and the car shop building will be to the right of the drill and tool box.


Cartier Subdivision Helix to the Second Floor

Another site of major construction this summer is the double track helix that will take trains to the second floor.  Bob Carter and Jurgen Kleylein worked on the math to work out how to get a helix to float in mid air through seven-sided irregular opening.

This helix is need so that we can build temporary staging on the second floor for North Bay and Cartier, and ultimately facilitate the construction of the Cartier Subdivision to its eastern and western limits.


The opening in the floor at the centre of this image is the space which will be occupied by the helix.  The flooring material will be cut back to the floor joists, so the opening will be larger than what you see here. The opening to the left is for the stairway up to an intermediate level. The steps in the foreground come up from the intermediate level to the second floor.


Naughton Helix Area

The third major project is the one I’m leading.  This area shows up in the far left corner of the track plans for Level 0, Level 1, and Level 2.  I’m carrying forward the benchwork, track, and scenery to finish off all four scenes here (two scenes on Level 1, and one each on Levels 0 and 2.  This project is a long term one, and I’ve been working on this since I joined the club in 2011.

The scenery that I’m building at the top of the helix in this area has been halted while I wait for the lighting to be installed.  I have virtually no knowledge of how to wire up electrical mains, so I need to wait while that work gets finished.  I want to be sure that all of the lighting is in place and the ceiling is finished before I proceed with scenery.  It’s probably best to work on scenery from the top level down to the bottom in this aisle.

With the scenery work stalled, I recruited Phil’s help to correct some facia that I installed last year.  It was clear to Phil that we needed to install the roadbed on Level 0 in order to get the facia right.  I’m pretty lousy with wood so I deferred to Phil’s expertise.  I embraced the role of “assistant/go-fer/comic-relief” while Phil led the process of making a cardboard template for the roadbed, then cutting out and installing it.


In this scene, we see the Copper Cliff industrial area on the left. This is Level 0 on the track plan. On the left, a track emerges through the backdrop. This track comes from the Webbwood Subdivision at upper right (where you see the blue foam scenery base) and descends a helix to get here. Trains from Sudbury into this area will enter through the backdrop, pull past this scene, and the push cars into the area curving off to the right.


Here is a tighter shot of the area showing the ramp coming down from the helix behind the backdrop. There will be two buildings in this scene, about where the wires hang down for future lighting. Three tracks will pass between the buildings and proceed through a hole in the backdrop at the right. These tracks will be long enough to hold unit trains of sulphuric acid tank cars.


Here’s a shot looking into the hole in the backdrop for the three stub-ended staging tracks. We had to join this roadbed to some roadbed that was installed last summer. The staging tracks go through the opening and curve to the left to wrap around the base of the helix.



While work on these three major projects was underway, Chris Vanderheide worked on some scenery in the area around Coniston.


Coniston is shown on the upper deck in this area. This is Level 2 on the track plan. The junction between the Cartier Sub and the Parry Sound Subdivision to Toronto was just behind and to the right of me when I took this shot.

I joined Chris, Steve, and Bob at Spice 11 in Guelph for an excellent feast of Indian cuisine.  It was a great way to finish off a productive work session.