Layout Progress – Track Plan and Ties

I was able to start laying track for my industrial layout.  I’ve put down all of the ties on half of the layout, and most of the ties on the other half.   The track plan is the result of many hours examining topographic maps and aerial photos of the International Paper plant that once existed on Tonawanda Island NY.  A paper plant is a pretty difficult thing to try to squeeze onto a 12-foot long shelf, but I’ve moved ahead with my plan.  If it doesn’t work out, I’ll take a chainsaw to it and burn it on a camping trip.

In the photo below, you’ll see I’ve built an a siding for a building flat to represent the warehouse-end of the mill.  The lead will hold about 4 50′ boxcars, but I might designate two spots for loading and two for empty cars ready to be moved to the loading spots.

IMG_0217The track next to the shipping track will be a storage track, and it holds about 4 50′ boxcars as well.  I anticipate using that track to get cars out of the way for switching moves, and for short-term storage of empties ready to be spotted for loading.  Alternatively, I could run this area like a mini-freight shed, with loading going through the cars on the track nearest the building into the cars on the far side.   The aerial photos show that there might have been such an arrangement at the mill.

The next track out from the backdrop is the “main” into the plant.  The tail track from the runaround siding is in the foreground.  The runaround will easily hold five 50′ boxcars and a caboose.  Penn Central assigned a crew to switch the plant and some other industries in North Tonawanda, and they typically rated an Alco S2 and a caboose.

The track closest to the edge of the benchwork is for unloading coal destined for the power house. This track also runs off the edge of the layout, suggesting that it leads to the actual storage pile and unloading equipment.  The lead will be able to hold three 50′ cars, but will likely only see two hoppers spotted there at a time.  The plant consumed around 150 tons of coal per day, but they had a huge stockpile on the south side of the plant. I’ll model the edge of the pile next to this lead.

Off in the distance, at the far end of the layout, the leads for woodchips and tank car unloading will come off the runaround track on the left.  Those leads will disappear into staging in the midst of some buildings and the digester tanks.  Those will probably accomodate three tank cars and four or five woodchip cars. The “main” snakes its way around the white cardboard box, which is coincidentally positioned approximately where the paper machine building will be located.  That building will have spots for boxcars of inbound stuff.   And that’s everything I’m able to fit.

A Cold Sunday Afternoon

It appears we are experiencing the winter that will never end, here in southern Ontario.  When I woke up at 9am on Sunday, it was -10 Celcius.  We achieved a high of -7 Celcius in the afternoon, though it was very sunny.  I walked the dog in the sun and then sat down to work on the lettering for three models.

IMG_0180I’ll progress from top to bottom.

Penn Central N8 caboose 23298 now has all of its lettering applied. It’s posed with the roof and cupola resting in place.  I’m ready to spray flat finish onto it and weather both porches before I proceed further with the assembly.

Penn Central X58B boxcar 361520 finally received a road number.  I still have to apply the end lettering, but I want everything to settle into place on the sides before I start propping the model up on its end.

Lehigh Valley X58 boxcar 8203 has all but the end lettering applied, for the same reason as the PC boxcar.  Microscale’s Liquid Decal Film worked like a charm to fix up the crumbling decals that came with this Railyard Models kit.  Thanks Ted.  I’ll make a note to buy my own bottle 😉

Penn Central N8 Caboose Project

I picked up a Bowser N8 caboose, factory painted in Penn Central some time ago.  It’s a nice model, but the paint left a bit to be desired.  Bowser decided to apply the scheme with the white stripe running the length of the car, and as far as my limited research revealed, this was something of a rarity.  The clincher, though, was that after careful examination, I wasn’t happy with the lettering font.

I considered my options, and eventually resigned myself to the inevitable.  I stripped the paint off the model and applied a new coat of Polly Scale Penn Central Green.  While I was at it, I masked off the cupola to paint the sides green, as per photos of the prototype.  A Microscale Penn Central caboose decal set provided the necessary elements.  Here’s my progress so far:

IMG_0143I need an end-photo of one of these cabins to determine if there was any lettering hiding in the grime.  I’ll probably get this one together pretty soon, though I’ll likely hold off from gluing the roof on until I get my friend Steve to help me hook up some red marker lights.

Centralia Car Shops “NE-5” Caboose


A parcel came in the mail from Tim at Action Hobbies in Kingsville last week.  One of the items he got for me was this Penn Central NE-5 caboose by Centralia Car Shops.  I promised to write more about it in a previous post, so here are my thoughts on the model.

I’ve had my eye on this model for a while because I want to put together a small fleet of Penn Central cabooses.  From what I can gather, the model has been on the market for about five years.  While this was a relatively new find for me, it’s old news to the rest of the model train world.  I had never seen it first-hand, and an admittedly lazy search for reviews turned up next to nothing, so I decided to take a chance and tack it onto an order that I was putting together with Tim.

I was accustomed to accepting compromises with mass produced plastic models but that’s been changing of late.  Kadee and Atlas seem to be on the vanguard when it comes to bringing ultra-accurate ready-to-run scale replicas of rolling stock to market.  With those brands as the benchmark, I’m inclined to expect a lot at this price point.

Without proclaiming myself to be any kind of expert on the prototype, I’ll try to provide a balanced and fair run down of the model’s features.  Overall, there’s plenty to like.  I think the model captures the vibe of the former New Haven cars operated by Penn Central.  I especially like the finely detailed ribs that the earlier versions of this car had.  Etched roof walks can be considered a standard detail by now; check that off the list. The major components that make up the detail on the ends of the car are well represented and properly placed, and the brake rigging provides a sufficient amount of busyness to convincingly depict the broad strokes of what should be going on underneath the car.  Lastly, I like the fact that the car has an interior, and that the windows are not perfectly clear.  There’s not enough light going into the car to reveal more than the ghostly suggestion of the car’s interior, and I’m fine with that.

My complaints about the car are few, but significant enough that I will eventually want to do some work to the car. First, the effect of the railing around edge of the cupola roof is entirely defeated by the out-of-scale and inaccurate eye-hooks that hold it in place.  I’ll remove those and replace them with bits of wire to represent the welded posts on the prototype.  The end windows on the cupola and at the ends of the carbody are too small.  I’ll remove the glazing and open those up once I gather enough photos of the prototype to make an informed guess of their proper proportions.  The model doesn’t weigh enough, so while I have it apart to reshape the window openings, I’ll add some weight and paint the interior to add some colour variety.  I’d also like to replace the ladders.  The rails don’t accurately depict the L-shaped stock from which the prototype ladders were fabricated.

For what it’s worth, the CP wide vision van by Rapido strikes me as a home-run, a five-star accomplishment, and in comparison, this model would rate four stars.  Rapido’s model is also 25-30% more expensive, but I’m not sure what to make of that.  Centralia Car Shops certainly wouldn’t have incurred additional production costs to get the windows correct, so I can only conclude that it was a research oversight.  The issues with the end ladders and the cupola roof railings point to production streamlining, and it could be argued that they’re appropriate given the model’s the price point.

There are a number of great photos of the prototype on the internet.  Here’s one that I like.   That about sums it up.

Athearn Genesis GP9 (as a CASO geep?)


In the photo above, Penn Central 7458 approaches the west end of Montrose Yard on the CASO with twelve cars and a caboose from Welland Yard.

IMG_2215A short while later, the same unit is westbound leaving Montrose Yard to bring five cars and a caboose back to Welland Yard.

Ok, I guess I’m not fooling anyone.  I took these shots of my new Genesis GP9 at Nairn on the WRMRC.  I could change that 5 to a 3 and this model would have the right number for a CASO geep, but there are some details that would have to change as well.  This one might become a CASO geep, or it might keep its number and represent one of the many roadswitchers working out of Frontier Yard in Buffalo.  Regardless, I’m pretty impressed with the model, and I also have to mention the excellent customer service, competitive pricing, and super cheap shipping from Tim at Action Hobbies in Kingsville.