Sand Fork Shifter

Sand Fork Shifter
The Sand Fork Shifter heads toward Cedar Falls Jct. while a westbound train behind SD40 3023 approaches Petersburg Jct.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Developing a Locomotive Paint Scheme

There's an article in the July issue of Railroad Model Craftsman on how the paint scheme for the locomotives on the CWE was developed. It was originally intended to be a sidebar to the layout piece in last month's RMC, but Stephen Priest wanted to expand the article and include it in this months all diesel issue.

There is also an article in the July issue on weathering diesel trucks. The lead photo shows some of the most incredible weathering I've ever seen on a diesel truck. The author makes extensive use of AK Interactive paints and powders. Here's a link to the company's website: I'm not familiar with this line of products, but based upon the results shown in the article, I'm definitely going to check them out.

Friday, May 20, 2016


The June issue of Railroad Model Craftsman will include an article on the Chesapeake, Wheeling & Erie Railroad. Here's a link to the RMC website which shows the cover:

Stephen Priest, the editor of RMC, did the drawing of the track plan and it's incredible! In addition to being a real work of art, it includes more detail than I ever thought would be possible. I have always imagined what the track plan would look like if it was drawn by a professional- it turned out better than I ever could have hoped for.

Having the railroad featured in RMC is a dream come true. Thanks to everyone at RMC for making it possible.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Kanawha & Lake Erie 4.0

Many of us were shocked when John Miller announced back in the summer of 2014 that he was dismantling his K&LE layout and moving to a new house. While we were encouraged with his talk of constructing a large, new building for the next version of the railroad, we knew how much work that would entail. And the lack of an operating layout would mean that he would be placed on probation with the GLA. As time went on, it appeared that the probationary period would run its course and John would be cast out of the group he helped found.

Fast forward to the spring of 2016. Not only has the building been finished, but tremendous progress has been made on the new railroad. As with everything John does that's railroad related, the size and scope of the new operation is, well... large. The building measures 60' x 35' and it's clear that every inch it will be filled with railroad. So let's take a tour of what's happening on the new K&LE.

First up are a couple of shots that were taken from the end of the building near the entrance. These will give you an idea of the overall size of the structure.

Now let's take a look at how some of the sections of the old layout have been incorporated into the new one. The shot below shows the east end of Undercliff Yard. Those familiar with the old layout will recognize Herrick Lumber and the tracks that curved east to Fairfax. The new yard extend toward the back of the building in the left center of the picture.

In the shot below, Undercliff Yard is on the right and the Eggleston Avenue switching district is on the near left. On the far left we can see a portion of Newport Steel along the wall and it extends all the way across the wall in the back of the building.

All of these photos were taken during a Monday work session. As is typical for a work session, John is doing anything but working on the layout. In the photo below, he's weathering another freight car. 

The photo above shows  the workshop that's under the SOU and L&N staging yards and a portion of Newport Steel which can be seen just to the right of John's head. The door into the building is at the far left of the picture.

The photo below shows more detail of the service yard for Newport Steel that can be seen in the photo above. The back of the Eggleston Avenue switching district can be seen on the right.

Oasis Yard has survived the move and can be seen in the photo below beneath the steel mill building. The switching district to the left of the main line has been modified from the previous version. And in the middle left of the photo, you can see the engine terminal at Undercliff Yard.

Now we're looking down Undercliff Yard toward the garage door on the far end of the building. The Eggleston Avenue switching district is in the middle right of the photo.

Turning to the left from where the photo above was taken, we can see the new route of the main line and the approach to the Ohio River bridge. Another portion of Newport Steel can be seen against the back wall. The track coming through the approach to the bridge leads to a small support yard and the switching district to the right of the main line. 

The photo below shows the main line heading under the approach to the Ohio River bridge and on to the west of Cincinnati. To the right of the main line is... you guessed it... another switching district. 

And last but not least, a shot of a train that actually ran on the day of the visit. This is the ore train headed to Newport Steel.

It's incredible to see how much has been done over the past year and a half. And it's clear that this railroad is going to be every bit as much fun to operate as the last one, if not more so. The only drawback is that he's had Bill "Smokey" Doll working on the electrical connections. Bill has never met a wire that can't be soldered with a blow torch. That's probably why the underside of the benchwork looks like someone's wood burning project. Here's hoping that electrical current can actually pass through the maze of wires, connectors and smoldering benchwork.

Congratulations on the progress, John- we are all anxiously awaiting the first operating session on the new K&LE!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Helping Out the Yard Crews

At the end of the last op session, there were a handful of trains that hadn't run. Rather than just leave them for next time, I decided to run a few of them. One of the trains was MN-68 which runs from Morgantown, WV to New Market, VA. This train has set-outs and pick-ups in North Pierce. While I had caught glimpses of this train being worked in the past, I had never brought it into the yard myself and worked it. Actually running the trains on the railroad can teach you a bit about what challenges the crews face and show what parts of the track plan design don't work.

The track plan diagram below shows the layout of Hollister Yard in North Pierce. 

And the photo below shows a close-up of the track arrangement at Hollister Yard.

The yard is really two small yards combined- a coal marshaling yard and a freight yard. The intent of the original design was to have the freight yard worked by the lead on the left and the coal yard worked from Coal 1. Any freight train that needed to be worked would come in on one of the yard tracks. And while I knew there would be locals that would handle both coal and freight, I didn't plan for how the freight and coal would be combined in the yard prior to departure and broken up upon return.

As fate would have it, every yard crew to date has worked the way freights out on the main. The pick-ups are brought out onto either the main or the siding and the switcher works the train. Once the train has departed, the switcher takes the set-outs back to the yard. Looking at the track plan, you can see how far out of the yard the switcher has to travel in order to get onto the main and into the siding. Depending upon the number of pick-ups, the yard crew would have to go past the yard limits to the east. And on the west end, there's almost no room to get out onto the main without blowing through the yard limits. 

So why aren't the freights getting worked in the yard as originally intended? At the end of the last session, I discovered why- the yard gets too full during a session to bring a train in and work it. The yard is relatively empty at the end of each session, and I knew it could get busy there mid-session depending upon the ebb and flow of traffic, but it never occurred to me that it would be too full to work a train. And if the freights were going to be worked on the main, something had to be done to cut down on the time and effort to get cars out and back.

So I proposed a solution to several of the crew members that usually work Hollister Yard. The photo below shows the result- a new crossover that's going in between the main and the yard. 

This crossover will provide much better access to the main from the yard and should cut down significantly on the amount of time and effort it takes to work a train on the main. One of the crew also suggested a connection between the freight yard and the coal yard so that cars could be passed back and forth without having to run out to either end of the yard. The template in the photo above shows the proposed location of that connection. I had originally planned to located a scale here but that won't work for a number of reasons. So the turnout off Coal 1 (where the GP38's are sitting) will connect with Freight 4 just below the fuel tank of 2013.

And in order to provide as much flexibility as possible to the yard crews, another crossover will connect the main and the freight yard on the east end. The photo below shows where this connection will be made.

Hopefully, these changes will help improve the overall operation of the yard at North Pierce. It just goes to show, even the best laid plans...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Progress at Nelsonville

The bridge project at Nelsonville is progressing. As with every major scenery project I've undertaken, plans change as you get further into it. Once the bridges were in place, the next step was to work on the railings. But I realized that I would have to lean over them to finish the scenery around the station. And that was sure recipe for disaster- and broken railings. So I finished up the scenery around and behind the station first. Here are a couple of shots of progress so far.

I'm now working on the two signals that will control eastbound movements at the east end of Nelsonville (the branch coming onto the main in the upper left hand corner of the photo above and just to the left of the photo on the main). Slowly but surely, progress is being made!

Friday, February 26, 2016

It Works!

The new panels at Big Chimney and Cedar Falls Jct. have been installed and... hit the drum roll please... THEY WORK! Not that I had any doubt about whether or not the SBS components would operate as advertised. The question was whether or not yours truly could hook everything up correctly and have it actually perform as it was designed. And so far, everything looks OK.

The photo below shows the new panel installed at Big Chimney. Note the repeater signals on the fascia. The westbound signals on the cantilevered signal bridge at the west end of Big Chimney can be difficult to see and the dwarfs can't be seen from the aisle. Repeater signals were necessary to insure that crews would know what aspects were being displayed.

In the photo above, the turnout at the west end of Big Chimney is lined for the main and there are at least two clear blocks heading west. In the photo below, the turnout is lined for the siding and there are two clear blocks westbound.

In the photo below, the turnout at the west end of Big Chimney is lined for the siding and the turnout at Petersburg Jct. is lined for the branch. The name of the aspect shown for the siding is Approach and the indication is Proceed prepared to stop at the next signal. The westbound crew can expect to find a Stop indication on the westbound main signal at Petersburg Jct..

Last up is a shot of the new panel at Cedar Falls Jct. The repeater signal shows the aspect for the westbound main signal which isn't visible from the aisle. A bit of touch-up paint is needed on the fascia around the panel.

These two panels took an inordinate amount of time to complete due to the repeater signals that had to be wired up. The next three panels are fairly simple and should go together much more quickly.

I need to thank Gerry Albers, who is the mastermind behind SBS, for all of his time, effort and support in getting the RCS cards up and running. His patience with my lack of electrical knowledge and never ending questions has been a Godsend, and everything you've seen that's either signal or push-button route related has been a result of his help. But even more special than all of the help has been the friendship- thanks a million, Gerry.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Some More Details- Part 2

Over the last month or so, I've been working on a number of small structures and details for various areas on the railroad. Several of the small structures are part of my efforts to make some progress on the engine terminal at North Pierce. I learned long ago that it is best to work from the backdrop toward the edge of the fascia when doing scenery work. And as usual, one thing leads to another. In order to put down the last layer of scenery materials in and around the supply tracks, which are closest to the backdrop, several small structures needed to be built and placed in position so that the scenery could be built up around them. The first structure was the pump house for the diesel fuel storage tank. It was scratch-built using Evergreen sheet styrene and Grandt Line doors and windows.

Also shown in the photo above are diesel fuel unloading cranes. These were scratch-built using Williams Brothers pipe fittings and Evergreen channel. The concrete foundations are small, square pieces of plaster. These were common on the C&O and the L&N. The photo below shows similar cranes on the L&N at Hazard, KY in a photo taken by Stuart Thayer. If I had studied the photo a little more closely, I would have added the shut-off valve near the base. Sigh.

Next up is the inspection pit. The base for this is an ash pit that was part of a craftsman kit that my Stepfather built many years ago. I still have the ash conveyor and if I ever get around to back-dating to steam, I'll use it here. My original plan was to simply cover the pit with styrene and weather it to look like steel plate. Then I got the idea of an inspection pit. In checking some photos taken by Everett Young of the C&O engine service area at Martin, KY, there appears to be a yellow railing around a small section of one of the tracks. It certainly appears to be an inspection pit of some type. The railing are from Tichy as are the stairs to the pit.

While studying the photos of the Martin, KY yard, I noticed a small, red box on the side of the station. Speculating again, it appeared to be a fire extinguisher box of some type. The Atlas GP38 and GP40 come with a small equipment box of some type. I've never found an explanation for exactly what it's supposed to be, but it sure looked like it could make a neat fire extinguisher box. The only challenge would be finding decals small enough to label it. Then along comes Robby Vaughn who seems to be able to create just about anything, from cast resin 60 ton L&N hopper cars to decals so small you can't read them. He put together a great set of "FIRE" label decals and you can see some of them in the photos below.

And while he was at it, Robby also made a great set of mailbox decals. The mailboxes are by Korber and were painted and lettered based upon a photo taken in the 1960's. Robby got the pick-up time on the small white schedule wrong, but I don't think anybody will notice...

And last up is a quick update on scenery. The bridges at the engine terminal are finally under way and the photo below shows the progress so far. This is one of the last major scenery projects on the railroad and will take some time to complete. The first objective is to get the bridges in place so that operations can resume. More to follow on this project.