Engine Terminal

Engine Terminal
Empties tracks at the Laurel Ridge Prep Plant- Summit Springs, WV

Monday, August 3, 2020

"... Ding..."

Several months ago, a link to a YouTube video circulated among some of us here in the Cincinnati area. It was a 15-minute clip of the dispatcher's office on the Clinchfield in Erwin, TN back in 1987. Here's a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxfhV8i9R-c. It's an interesting, behind-the-scenes view of a critical piece of railroading that we don't often get to see. And it was of particular interest to me because the Clinchfield was CTC over its entire length and the panel in the video is a Union Switch & Signal model.

As you would expect from someone who has studied the prototype for most of his life and relied on his observations in developing his own proto-freelanced railroad, Allen McClelland picked up on the annunciator bell. You can hear it ring whenever a train comes into a section of the railroad that is controlled by the panel. This alerts the dispatcher, along with an occupancy light, that a train has entered his area. And as you would expect from someone who is continually thinking of ways to improve operations, Allen asked Gerry Albers if there was some way to add a bell to the V&O panel on Gerry's Deepwater District VGN railroad. Gerry is a genius when it comes to anything electrical and is also deeply interested in prototype operations, and an annunciator bell of some sort seemed like a natural fit with his Signals By Spreadsheet system.

Fast forward a month or so and I found a reference to prototype CTC panel sounds on one of the forums I follow. It turns out that JMRI has most of the typical sounds in .WAV files on its website and those sounds are used in connection with JMRI's PanelPro CTC panel. I passed along the sound files to Gerry and he was off to the races.

In short order, Gerry found the small sound modules that are used in audio greeting cards. Not only were they relatively inexpensive, but you can record up to 30 seconds of sound on them. You can see one in the photo below.

There are two tabs that are connected to the board. The one with the red dot is the record button and the other one is the play button. Gerry figured out how to connect the play button to an SBS DIO card so that block detectors could be used to initiate the audio recording of the bell. And before you could say Shazam, the V&O dispatcher's panel had an annunciator bell. Whenever trains leave staging at either Gauley Bridge or Dickinson Yard and hit the first occupancy block, the CTC panel gives the dispatcher a "ding."

Of course, this is something that I just had to have. Gerry was kind enough to give me one of the cards along with instructions on how to wire it up. I mounted it on the inside of the dispatcher's panel as you can see in the photo below.

Two wires for 5V power and one wire to a DIO card was all it took to connect the hardware. A simple signal spreadsheet provides the link between the block detector and the card. So now when a train enters the railroad on either end of the board, well, see for yourself below.

These little audio cards are really neat, and we're already thinking about other ways they can be used to incorporate other types of sound into our railroad operations.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Inspiration- Part 3

Most of the scenes and structures on the railroad have been copied from the prototype in some form or fashion. It has often taken me a long time to find the right combination of structures and/or scenes in order to finish a particular area of the layout. By copying the prototype, at least to some degree, the scenes end up looking plausible and "right" in my eye. I've never been able to create something out of whole cloth that achieved the look I wanted.

A case in point is the collection of yard structures at Nelsonville. There has been an old wooden coach there for years that serves as the yard office. It's a wooden model that my Stepfather built many years ago. I painted it grey, added some roof details, and was planning to blank some windows, add a window air conditioner, and other details but lost interest at some point. You can see the structure here at the beginning of the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlArolLdoXw. The intent with this structure was to copy a similar scene at Sproul, WV on the C&O. But there's just too much wrong with the old car to make it work. So the plan now is to copy the yard office at Elk Run Jct. which can be seen in the photo below by Jonathan Spurlock. The shanty on the right in the picture has already been built and is in service at Nelsonville.

There will be several structures along the tracks to the west of the yard office and I've been kicking around ideas for this area for a long time. I looked long and hard at the structures in the yard at Thurmond, WV but came to the conclusion that there just wasn't enough room. Also, the track by the yard office is a runner and not a RIP track like the one in Thurmond, so most of the structures wouldn't have been appropriate.

So next came the idea of some type of crew quarters. I have a number of photos and plans for C&O section gang houses, and these seemed like they might work. However, most of these are two room structures with an addition on the back. I would have to skip the addition as there isn't room for it. For that reason, I wasn't completely sold on this idea.

And then came the photo. Robert Slavy posted a photo of a bunkhouse at Quinnimont, WV on the C&O Fans Facebook page. I have never seen a photo of this structure before in any of the books I have on the C&O or in any of the articles on Quinnimont that appeared in the C&OHS Magazine. This was it- finally! And it was built  to the same design standard as the other structures I have already planned to use in the Nelsonville engine terminal!

As an aside, Robert Slavy has an incredible collection of photos that he took in and around C&O locations in West Virginia in the 1960's and '70's. He grew up in Pineville, WV and worked for many years in the region. He also has some great photos and videos of the Virginian Railway in and around Mullens and Elmore, WV. I met Robert at a Virginian Crazies weekend several years ago and he's a great guy.

Back to the bunk house. The picture below shows the structure sometime in the mid-1970's.

Note the board and batten siding so common on lineside structures on the C&O. And note the longitudinal board just above the window. This same style of architecture was used on many C&O buildings, including some of the ones in Hinton, WV. I scratch-built several of the Hinton structures based upon drawings by William Simonson that were published in Model Railroad back in the early 1990's. They can be seen in the photos below.

Two of the bunkhouses will fit perfectly in the space between the yard office and the motor car shed. Now all I have to do is get them built!

And, thanks Robert, not only for this picture, but also the many others that you have shared from your collection of C&O and VGN pictures. As many others have suggested, there's a book waiting to be written with all of your shots.

Monday, May 18, 2020

What to do?

So with all this extra time on my hands these days, I've been working on finishing projects that I've started and stopped at various times. In addition to the ones I've mentioned in previous posts, there is also an ATSF boxcar project that's been in the works for, well, let's just say a long time.

A while back, I came across a photo of an ATSF 40' boxcar that was taken sometime in the late 1970's or early 1980's. The U-1 wheel stencil puts the date at sometime after 1978. It was one of those freight cars that just screamed to be modeled, so I started looking for an appropriate kit. The Intermountain 12 panel 40' boxcar with 6' doors appeared to be very similar, so I grabbed a couple of those kits along with decals for the car. The picture below shows the partially complete kit and the photo.

I removed a rib from the top of each end to more closely match the prototype. I also replaced the kit supplied grab irons on the sides with sections of ladder. Some wire grabs on the ends along with A-Line stirrup steps will complete the modifications.

In addition to the ATSF boxcar, I'm starting a Smokey Mountain Model Works resin kit for a PS 52'6" 70-ton gondola. I purchased two of these from Jim King a number of years ago. This is the first craftsman-type resin kit that I have ever assembled and I'm looking forward to the challenge. The first one will be decorated for the home road and the second will most likely be lettered for the prototype. 

In times like these, it's good to have a stash of unbuilt kits and projects to work on!

Friday, April 24, 2020

LV 640

Along with finishing up a number of freight car projects and some miscellaneous items, I've also been working on some new power for the railroad. Lehigh Valley C628 640 has been weathered and placed in service. This unit has been leased from Conrail in order to alleviate the power shortage that has resulted from the tremendous increase in demand for coal.

I purchased this unit on sale a number of years ago with the intent of repainting it for the home road. But as I was getting rid of a number of old magazines recently, I came across the two-page color photo of 633 and 628 followed by two snowbirds in the June 2002 issue of Trains magazine which is shown below. The photo was taken in March of 1976- just five months before my time period. So not only did I have a period photo for weathering, but I also had both sides of the C628's. A little additional researched showed that 640 was an ex-Monon unit that was repainted into the Cornell Red scheme in 1974. And other than the end handrails, all of the details were correct. So the back story of leasing this unit was quickly developed and I went searching for additional photos.

About this time I remembered that Mike Confalone had done a Cornell Red LV unit in one of his weathering videos. Once I found that in my library, it was off the races. I used a number of the techniques that he covered in the video and also added a few of my own.

The unit was weathered with a combination of Pan Pastels, oils, acrylics and even a lead pencil. The weathering is the combination of the various effects I found on five different photos of LV C628's.

The weathering process involved a number of different applications of Pan Pastels followed by Dullcote followed by more Pan Pastels followed by... well, you get the point.

The last step was to scrape a #2 pencil along a small section of the upper front and rear handrails. In studying the photo, you could see where the crews had worn the paint off and what was showing was bare metal. From somewhere out of the blue, it occurred to me that I could represent this with pencil lead.

This unit will be teamed up with a home road C628 and SD45 in the not too distant future.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Variations on a theme

Below is a shot of three loads that I captured at Stone Coal #2 at Summit Springs, WV. You can see three of the paint schemes that can be found on the hopper car fleet in 1976. The car on the left reflects the standard scheme introduced in 1966 for all new and shopped equipment. It features the large "CWE" herald, which also serves as the reporting marks, and the Central Belt logo on the right hand side of the car. The car on the right shows the standard scheme from 1958 until 1966. The car in the middle represents a recent rebuilt with a simplified scheme- smaller "CWE" herald and no Central Belt logo. Note also the plates that have been welded along the bottom of the car. This car was shopped in April of 1975 and the simplified scheme represents both a car whose days are numbered and the railroad's efforts to get it back into service as quickly as possible.

These variations in paints scheme are a great way to add some history to the railroad.

Friday, April 10, 2020

More Details- 1

About a month or so ago, I assembled and painted 12 of the Micro Engineering switch stands. My latest trick is to drill the stand for the target and then glue the target on using canopy glue. When, and not if, the stand gets bumped, the target will fall off the machine. In the past, I used two-part epoxy to glue the targets and when they got knocked off, the base of the target broke off. The canopy glue is weak enough that it won't stand up to a good bump, and as an added benefit, it dries clear.

So with some extra basement time these days, I decided to put together another batch. The photo below shows the stands installed at the west end of Hollister Yard. 

The next photo shows them installed on the leads to the engine service area and the coal yard. These are Details West switch stands which have a slightly smaller target. 

With the addition of these last few switch machines, all of the turnouts in Hollister Yard are now properly marked.

I had a few left over after finishing Hollister Yard so I installed them at the east end of Nelsonville, as can be seen in the photo below.

The past several times that I have staged the Laurel Ridge prep plant at Summit Springs, I have noticed that it's difficult to see where the points are for the first turnout to the mine. I started using a piece of foliage that sticks up right at the points as my "marker" for knowing when I had cleared the switch. I know that this was often done by crews on the real railroads, and there's a classic tale of an engineer shoving a cut of hopper cars off the end of a tail track because someone had cut down the large bush that he used for knowing when to stop shoving. At the Laurel Ridge plant, it occurred to me that I could install a high switch stand that would be visible above the foliage. The photo below shows the Central Valley switch stand that now marks the points.

And here's a view more typical of what the crews see when working the mine.

Hopefully, the new target will make working the prep plant just a little bit easier.

Monday, March 30, 2020

CWE Cab Ride

As I mentioned in a previous post, Greg McComas stopped by last month for a visit. He brought along his GoPro camera and we shot a cab ride on the railroad. It begins at the engine terminal in Nelsonville and wraps up at the west end of North Pierce. Greg kindly loaded the video up to his YouTube channel so that I could post a link here.


Enjoy the ride, and thanks again, Greg!