Summer Evening and the ML401

Summer Evening and the ML401
Conrail ML401 rolls west through Central New York farm country in Onondaga County, September 1994.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shortline Progress

Work is well underway now on the shortline component of the layout.  It will be the M&E Railway, which on my layout is the Minoa & Euclid, though the M&E in real life is the Morristown & Erie, a local shortline here in New Jersey that is largely Alco-powered and is a model short line in their operation and classy paint job. 

The M&E leaves the main line at CP282 and immediately climbs a steep 4.5% grade on a horseshoe curve up to a summit (required due to the oil tank location in the basement).  The line then descends on a 2.5% grade to a big through-truss bridge over Skaneateles Creek.  From that point, the line will climb again up a 1% grade along the wall and pass through a tunnel that allows the tracks to continue through the basement steps.  The far portal of the tunnel will be over the workbench, and the tracks come down a 1% grade into Euclid Yard at the end of the line.

Here's a view of the overall progress so far.  CP282 is to the right, with the short line diverging left and climbing the immediate hill across the oil tank and back towards the camera:


With grades like this, operations on the shortline will seem more appropriate with shorter trains and classic power.  The big C424, paired with either an RS-1 or GP7, will be a regular for the run from Euclid Yard down to interchange with Conrail, needed to move the 8-10 car train back up the 4.5% grade to the summit.  Smaller locomotives will call Euclid Yard home, and be used to switch the yard and the customers there:  a big brewery, and a car repair shop (the workbench).

So far, the benchwork is in place for about half the length of the line, from CP282 to Skaneateles Creek.  The final major benchwork construction is required to frame out the wall that will support Euclid Yard.  I laid some of the track from CP282 south, and now need to construct the bridge in order to finish the route.  This will be a very narrow section of railroad:  a total depth, front-to-back, of about 10 inches.  Backdrop and scenery will be key here in 'selling' the look to a viewer or operator.

Back in the 1990's, I kitbashed an Atlas C424 carbody and chassis to model Morristown & Erie 19.  I put a decoder in the locomotive over the weekend.  Here it is at Onondaga Yard: 
Since 19 will be a mainstay for powering my shortline, I needed to have a reason the unit would be in central New York.

This is where the 'modeler's liscense' comes in:  my story is that the fictional shortline was purchased by NJ-based Morristown & Erie, and is using the 19 under agreement with the 'real' M&E.  The line will have other power as well, but lettered and painted for the Minoa & Euclid, not unlike the Maine Eastern, which is a prototype contract operation by Morristown & Erie.

Finally, an action shot of train SEBU (Selkirk to Buffalo) with a wild lashup, including M&E 19, as it comes west through the interlocking at CP277:

The shortline, and the subsequent interchange, will be a key to the long-term fun of operating the Onondaga Cutoff!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shortline Construction

Thanks to a few hours work today with Rick, the shortline progress has begun!  The first of two walls that will support the future right-of-way is now in place:

Everything ended up plumb, despite my out-of-level home and basement.  Having another person to help (actually Rick really guided this work session today, and so I helped :-)  is really an asset and part of the fun of model railroading.  Rick is in the process of building a large layout of his own, and will be going with NCE DCC, just as I did.  After we worked, I gave him a run-down of the system and he operated a few trains, the first of many times to come when we'll be operating together.

Here, the WAON-10 works the west end of the yard with U23B 2795 and an ex-NYC caboose:

I put a variety of photos and wall hangings on the layout recently to get them out of the way of construction, but I think I may leave them for now - it is a totally different effect to have them blocking the view of the railroad on the far side.  Eventually, that will all be backdrop, but for now it's nice to have anything to break up the scene.

A few mintues later, SESL (Selkirk, NY to Saint Louis, MO) worked past the local on Track 1, with SD40-2 6524, SD50 6789, and SD40-2 6495.  This is becoming a favorite spot of mine to take photos of the railroad - this view is just about how it appears when standing next to the layout, as the top level of the layout is just below eye level:


Tomorrow, I will continue shortline progress.  More to come!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wreck Repairs

Some mishaps on a layout are unavoidable.  However, some are worse than others, and over the weekend I had my worst wreck to date. 

I am beginning to experiment with new benchwork to support scenery, and that includes scenery that will be above the staging level on the main line.  I have clamped 1X2 lumber to the existing benchwork in order to measure heights and get a visual generalization of how things may come together.  Everything was clear, and seemed to work well.

At the end of some operating later that evening, however, I leaned a bit too hard on a clamped stringer, and the clamp shifted lower, allowing the stringer to block the forward progress of a double-stacked containter on TV14.  With 4 units up front and 12 cars ahead of the contact point, about 9 cars immediately 'string-lined' the curve.  Two of those hit one of my guard rails, but the rest?  Yup.  They hit the floor.

Thankfully, no locomotives left the rails, and the cars that took the fall were older well cars, but they piled up and sustained damage that made the wreck look pretty real!  Containers at odd angles, shattered truck frames, wheelsets everywhere, cars at different angles on the floor.

After 3 hours of work, I was able to repair all the damaged cars, and last night, all of them returned to service.  An upside to this was that I meant to weather all those cars with my airbrush anyway, and this was a perfect opportunity.  A few photos of those cars will come soon.

Lesson learned:  any clamps that will be in place long-term should be TIGHT!  And, don't adjust or lean on anything clamped when trains are close by.  I learn slowly, but I do learn :-)

Exciting news is that I have procured all the lumber necessary to frame out the last two walls in the basement for the layout, which will enable construction of the short line right-of-way to get started.  This coming weekend, Rick and Jack will both be lending a hand to get the framing in place.  I'll get photos of the progress up next week!