After firing up the railroad this morning, I heard a soft, humming sound over near the McHenry Coal Co. tipple at the end of the Sand Fork Branch. It appeared that one of the old Hankscraft switch motors had developed a problem of some sort. The photo below shows where the turnout that is controlled by this switch machine is located- it's next to the pole above the tunnel portal. Note the hill between the track and the aisle.
Fortunately, there is access to this switch machine in the area shown in the photo below.
Unfortunately, someone thought that this clever idea might actually allow a person to access the switch machine. Aside from the fact that the hole is behind the previously mentioned hill, there is simply no way to get to anything even remotely related to the switch machine. A quick check under the layout revealed the cursed, dreaded, abandoned west staging yard. And of course, it completely blocked any access to the switch machine in question. Sigh... This project was going to be much more difficult than I had originally imagined.
After studying the throat to the abandoned yard, it appeared that I might be able to remove it. It wasn't physically connected to the yard itself, except for the track, and it looked like there were only a handful of screws holding it the benchwork.
After much gnashing of teeth and a couple of skinned knuckles, I was successful. The photo below shows what was excavated from underneath the railroad.
The next two photos show the site of the dig. Note the staging yard tracks in the lower third of the second photo.
The new machine is now in and operating as it should. I certainly dodged a bullet on this one. And fortunately, the remaining switch machines on the Sand Fork Branch that are above the abandoned west staging yard all have access holes that can actually be used. I think. At least I hope...