Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Passing of a Legend: W. Allen McClelland

Allen McClelland passed away peacefully this past Friday. Like countless others in the hobby, he had a profound effect on me. Many have commented since his passing that their railroad wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Allen, and the same is true for me. He gave me two very special gifts for which I will be eternally grateful.

The first gift was a keen interest in proto-freelancing. When I got back in the hobby in 1978, the V&O Story had just appeared in the model railroad press. I poured over every issue and decided right then and there that I would develop a proto-freelanced railroad. At the time, it wasn’t common to develop a model railroad that fit into the greater scheme of real railroads and was geographically centered in some part of the country. I jumped on the bandwagon and developed my railroad, and I’m still at it- the same railroad- over forty years later. It has sustained my interest over that period of time and provided more hours of enjoyment than I ever thought possible. What a wonderful gift! And I know there are thousands of other people who received the same gift from Allen.

The second gift was his friendship. Back in early 2016, I begged my way into Gerry Albers’ work group. Gerry, Allen, and a handful of other incredibly gifted model railroaders get together every Tuesday to work on Gerry’s beautiful VGN layout. As many of you know, it includes a portion of the V&O that Allen affectionately calls the V&O 3.0. In the summer of 2016, Allen asked if I would be his backup on the V&O. The job would involve assisting him in staging the railroad between sessions, troubleshooting any mechanical problems, and dispatching the railroad when he was unable to make a session (which was almost never!). It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Over the years, Allen and I developed a friendship that will be with me for the rest of my life. How often do you get to meet one of your heroes, let alone have the chance to become friends with them? His kindness, sense of humor, and ability to make someone feel special were only a small part of what him such an incredible person.

Allen was working on the V&O right up until the end. He had plans for an RDC-3 that would make the run up the Durham Sub from Martinsville to Charleston and back. He was also planning some additional trains to run across the Gauley Division, using some of the train numbers from the original V&O. He was an endless source of creativity regarding the railroad, and he would always preference his new thoughts with the comment, “You know, I’ve been thinking, and you know how dangerous that can be.” Oh, how I’ll miss those conversations. 

So farewell, Allen. You have touched thousands of lives throughout your long run in this wonderful hobby. And I’ll be forever grateful to you for touching mine. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Coaling Tower at Nelsonville- Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted on the blog here. There have been periodic updates posted on the CWE Facebook page, which is much easier to manage, and the blog has suffered as a result. But I thought I might put up a few posts about the progress on the coaling tower at Nelsonville. I had been stuck on this project for a long time, and I finally found a way to get the whole thing back on track (pun intended). But first, a little history.

I built the coaling tower at North Pierce back around 2003- 2004. I replaced all of the Walthers steel pieces with Tichy parts and spent a good deal of time weathering it. And while it worked at the time, I was never completely satisfied with the weathering. You can see it in the photo below.

I wasn't able to capture the look of concrete very well, and my attempts at replicating the cast lines from the concrete forms fell woefully short. 

Fast forward ten years or so and I was planning the engine terminal at Nelsonville. I had been studying photos of C&O coaling towers, and the structure at Sandy Hook yard in particular. You can it in the photo below.

I thought I could modify the Walthers kit to closely resemble this, and I started playing around with different shapes. I finally got serious and started cutting plastic. The photos below show some of the steps.

At first, I thought I would just fill in the back of the base of the tower and leave the front part as it came in the kit. The photo below shows how the base looked at this point.

I applied Bondo to fill in the cracks and joints and then sanded everything smooth. At some point, I decided to go all in and change the base to look like the one at Sandy Hook.

Eventually, I got all of the concrete sections of the tower assembled and painted using Vallejo Aged Concrete. I then scratch built an unloading shed and fitted it to the elevator on the back side of the building. At this point, the structure looked like what you see in the engine terminal in the photo below.

And it sat like this for a very long time. In the next post, I'll explain why.