Woodchips in, Writing Paper out

An ancient Ford pick-up in the employee parking lot at International Paper is having a reunion of sorts with some steam-era boxcars. They’re running out their last revenue miles performing the inglorious task of hauling woodchips from central and northern Ontario to North Tonawanda.


The employees apparently have great faith in the track work within the plant. That shiny new Gremlin could easily be taken out if the spindly rail and rotten roadbed gives way. Or maybe the regretful owner is counting a calamity so he can replace his lemon on the company dime.

At the other end of the property, and the other end of the spectrum, a pair of Precision Design boxcars will be spotted at the warehouse for loading with fine writing paper.


More elements of my paper plant are coming together. My small fleet of ramshackle steam-era boxcars in woodchip service is just about finished. I’ve collected a few modern boxcars for moving the finished product off of the property (including a small fleet of the ubiquitous X-58). The first vehicles have shown up on my layout: a pair of fresh cherries, a mystery brand Ford pickup, and a Reimer tractor-trailer.

More NSC 10’0″ height 40′ Boxcars


I recently started working on two Ontario Northland 40′ boxcars to get them ready to put onto the layout. After I started those, I realized it would make sense to work on a pair of similar cars in a 1950s CN paint scheme. Well, yesterday I found a third CN car that I forgot about. This one is in an older (as delivered?) CN scheme.

The models are by True Line Trains and all require similar modifications. It makes sense to work on all five at the same time. In the photo above, you can see that I’ve bee applying ACI labels and lube plates to the CN cars. I’ve also applied a variety of patching to all of the cars to represent changes to data and instructions painted on the side of the cars. This is still a work in progress, but I thought an update would be of interest to some readers.

These will be part of a fleet of cars that will serve the paper plant on my home layout, and could also be blocked onto Lehigh Valley and Penn Central trains headed for the Niagara Falls interchange with CN, when I eventually get around to expanding the layout.

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.

An Hour at a Time

It’s frustrating when life gets in the way of having fun.  All those pesky commitments that pay for my food and shelter can seem to sap my energy and make it feel like I have no time for a hobby.

Lately, I’ve been making a habit of spending an hour a day working on the layout.  Two projects that I was able to work on over the past week or so: ballast some track and build a new warehouse structure core.  I found more than hour of time today, but this was a rare exception.  Here’s a photo of my progress.IMG_9540 I know it doesn’t look like much, but a little bit of ballast has helped to take this part of the layout a small step away from looking like the Plywood Pacific.

The styrene building in the background is the new building core.  This replaces my first attempt at the warehouse, in which I was trying to compress the building’s height in order to give the illusion of more length.  That was a fail.  I’m estimating the dimensions from photos, so a bit of trial and error is to be expected.  The proportions look better now.  At some point I’ll put a layer of styrene over what you see and I’ll be adding three rows of windows and other finishing touches to it.

After I finished working on the warehouse, I cleaned all the dried glue from the rail heads and did some pointless shuffling of cars.


Upside-down Roadbed

I built some upside-down roadbed this evening.  Check it out…


What you’re seeing in the photo above is ½” plywood roadbed hung from the 2×12 floor joists that form the ceiling of the crawl space in my home.  I thought I’d try something a little unconventional in order to use the crawl space for the layout and for storage.

Here’s the back-story.  The plan for my layout is to have two long shelves on opposite walls of a narrow room.  The two sides of the room are separated by a crawl space where the track loops back.  The conceptual drawing below (not to be confused with a track plan) helps to illustrate this. 

layout schematic1 copy


The shelf on the left side of the drawing is the International Paper plant.  The shelf on the right side of the drawing is the yard.  A track goes from the bottom left to the bottom right side of the drawing by way of a 180 degree turn-back under the crawl space.  Hence the upside down roadbed.

You’ll notice in the top photo that I’ve left some room for 30 inches of double track  to extend into the crawl space in front of the roadbed I’ve already installed.  This will facilitate the staging of a cut of boxcars loaded with wood chips, and a cut of tank cars loaded with few different chemicals.  There was no way to fit all of that into the visible part of the layout so I’m addressing it with hidden tracks.

The connection to the North Tonawanda yard from the paper plant will be finished when I build the benchwork on that side of the room.  For now, I’ll use the first 6 feet of this connection as a tail track and place to stage the train coming into the plant at the beginning of an operating session and leaving the plant at the end.

I’ll tack some flex track onto the roadbed tomorrow.