Improve Your Modeling

Jane Clarke, NMRA South Mountain Division Achievement Program (AP) Chairperson.

By Jane Clarke, SMD AP Chair

It’s the beginning of a new year for the South Mountain Division and a new model railroading season! I hereby resolve to help more of you earn certificates in the NMRA Achievement Program (AP). To that end, I will focus on a one or two AP certificates and their recipients in each Wheel Report. This issue will include some introductory information, too.

Why is there an Achievement Program?

Most of us would agree that Bob Johnson is a terrific model railroader. However, even he admits that pursuing his Master Model Railroader (MMR) designation has improved his modeling. That is the ultimate goal of the program; the fancy certificates are nice, but secondary. The program is designed to give you small goals (certificates) on the way to earning the title of MMR.

As the division AP Chair, my job is to encourage participation in the program, answer your questions, and help with your paperwork, if necessary. You can contact me at: jjclarke57@gmail.com or (301) 253-4913.

Getting Started

The Golden Spike (GS) requires a small sample from three functional areas. The requirements can be fulfilled on your home layout, club or modular layout, or even a display at a meeting. Not all of these requirements need to be met on the same layout. They don’t even need to be met in the same scale!

  1. Rolling Stock (Motive Power & Cars):
    • Display six units of rolling stock (scratchbuilt, craftsman, or detailed commercial kits). The pieces do not have to be judged. They should not be straight out of the box, however. Put some time into decaling, painting, and weathering.
  2. Model Railroad Setting (Structures & Scenery):
    • Construct a minimum of eight square feet of layout. This should be more than loop of track nailed to a piece of green painted wood, but certainly does not have to be elaborate or even complete. A typical module is 4 feet by 2 feet which would easily satisfy this requirement.
    • Construct five structures (scratchbuilt, craftsman, or detailed commercial kits). These structures may be separate, or part of a single scene. Add paint, weathering, and other details to simple kits. Bridges and trestles also fall into this category.
  1. Engineering (Civil & Electrical)
    • Three types of trackage are required (turnout, crossing, etc.). All must be properly ballasted and installed on proper roadbed. Commercial trackage and turnouts may be used. Note that the three types do not have to be different; just having three simple turnouts will qualify. The “proper roadbed” requirement can be met by laying the track on commercial roadbed and ballasting it.
    • All installed trackage must be properly wired so that two trains can be operated simultaneously (double-track main, single-track main with sidings, block or DCC, etc.) DCC makes this very simple. However, if you have a DC layout, as long as you can cut power to the sidings individually, you can run one train, park it on a siding while you run another, then park it and run the first again. This meets the requirement.
    • Provide one additional electrical feature such as powered turnouts, signaling, turnout indication, lighted buildings, etc. A powered turnout can be something as simple as an Atlas turnout with a switch machine. Think in terms of anything that runs off the “Accessories” terminals of a power pack and you ‘re half way there.

The Golden Spike in the SMD

Bob Morningstar

Bob Morningstar is our most recent recipient of the GS which was awarded in October 2018. He models the Western Maryland Railway, Hagerstown Subdivision, in HO-scale. If you have seen his layout, you know that it exceeds the qualifications described above!

We congratulate him on this achievement and encourage him to apply for other AP certificates. He is currently working on his Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Structures, and Scenery certificates.

Other GS recipients from our division, past and present, include: Jane Clarke, Pete Clarke, Bob Hazard, Roy Hoffman, Ed Maldonado, Dick McEvoy, Bob Proctor, Paul Rausch, Mike Shockey, Ron Smith, and Bob Van Zant. Come and join this illustrious group!

Golden Spike links at nmra.org.

https://www.nmra.org/golden-spike-award

https://www.nmra.org/sites/default/files/2006-golden-spike.pdf

 

AP Overview

Eleven AP certificates are available in these four functional areas:

  1. Railroad Equipment: Motive Power, Cars
  2. Settings: Structures, Scenery, Prototype Models
  3. Engineering and Operation: Civil, Electrical, Chief Dispatcher
  4. Service to the Hobby: Official, Volunteer, Author

Once you have earned seven certificates, with at least one in each functional area, you will become a Master Model Railroader. You can find more information and all the forms you need at nmra.org.

On-Layout & In-Train Staging

Harvey Heyser III, clerk (2017-2020), NMRA South Mountain Division. (Tom Fedor)

By Harvey Heyser, III

Many years ago, Model Railroader published an O scale plan version of their well known Clinchfield Railroad. (December 1978, p. 88.) That layout plan served as raw material for some thoughts about staging – thoughts that I find to have some general application. 

Sized to fill an entire basement, the O scale Clinchfield featured a continuous oval mainline (around the walls of the basement with a peninsula) and two branches that came together in a loads-out/empties-in (mine/power plant) combination. The main yard at Dante featured eight (8) double-ended tracks (two of them the mainline and siding) and the connection with the power plant branch. On the opposite side of the basement, there was another town (Fremont/Caney Jct.) where the coal mine branch line took off to Moss Mine. The proposed operation of the layout featured heavy mainline freight traffic (especially coal drags), a few passenger trains, and some locals to serve on-line towns and the branches. There was no obvious place to put any staging/fiddle tracks. The question in my mind was how to provide meaningful traffic on the Clinchfield layout without any place to stage/fiddle. I wondered if it might be possible to use the yard (visible, rather than hidden, on-layout staging for the trains) and the trains themselves (in-train staging for the cars) to fulfill those functions.

Holding tracks and the concept of on-line staging: Many years ago, model railroaders embraced the concept of holding tracks as a way to extend the run times of trains. Trains went into the holding tracks and waited a prescribed amount of time before proceeding with their runs.

These holding tracks were often (but not always) hidden; however, unlike staging, holding tracks were regarded as part of the layout not “beyond the basement” as we currently regard staging.  When the concept of staging caught on, holding tracks were sometimes repurposed as staging tracks. This conceptual connection between holding and staging leads to the concept of on-layout staging. Because the Clinchfield has no obvious place to locate conventional staging, we will be looking at “hiding” trains in plain sight on the layout – not in another room, not somewhere out-of-sight under the layout.

Types of mainline trains: I mentally reviewed the categories of mainline trains to be expected on the Clinchfield:

    1. Loaded coal trains.
    2. Empty coal trains.
    3. Eastbound through freights.
    4. Westbound through freights.
    5. Eastbound-sweepers (which set-out and pick-up cars at the main yard).
    6. Westbound sweepers.
    7. Eastbound passengers.
    8. Westbound passengers.

That creates the potential for eight (8) types of trains. In this situation, using one train to represent all trains of its type seemed a reasonable compromise.

On-layout staging for eight types of trains:  Given the presence of six (6) available storage tracks in the yard, I wondered if they could serve as on-layout staging for all eight different types of trains. Types number 1 & 2, the coal trains (loaded and empty), would both need to be modeled.  (The Clinchfield was a coal railroad, after all, and ran lots of coal drags.) If there were only a few passenger trains (#7 and 8 – reasonable considering the era modeled – late transition period) and if operating sessions represented only part of a day (say 8 or 12 hours), only one passenger train would run during each session. Then I considered the through freights and sweepers (#3, 4, 5, & 6). I realized that the main difference between them was the fact that through freights pass through the yard with their consists unchanged while the sweepers set-out and pick-up cars. Otherwise, both types of trains consisted of a mix of different kinds of cars, unlike the coal trains (hoppers only). So, an eastbound freight could stand in for both the through freight and the sweeper – the same for a westbound freight. That thinking resulted in the realization that five (5) trains could represent all the types of trains needed for a session. The yard had capacity to hold/stage the five trains needed to represent all required train types needed for a session’s mainline traffic with one track left over. The sixth track could then serve for making-up and breaking up local trains.

In-train staging

Coal drags & mainline freights:

Staging for coal drags: Both loaded and empty coal trains could represent all the session’s coal traffic.  The cars in the two drags could be set out and picked up as needed. The east-bound drag could set out loads for the power plant on one trip.  Then it could run light or hold in the yard until the local brought in loads from the mine. The next time the drag had to run, it would then be back to capacity. The sight of coal trains sitting in the yard is not unusual for coal hauling railroads. Perhaps the two coal trains should sit on the front two staging tracks.

Staging for through freights: Since these trains did not change consists, they simply could be considered to hold in the yard for other traffic. After they left, they could come back as different through trains or as sweepers.

Staging for sweepers: During a session, there were likely to be two sweepers – one east-bound and one west-bound. Each would set out and pick up a block of cars. But what would happen when sessions occurred frequently or when there were multiple sweepers during one session?  The work for yard and local crews should not always seem to involve the same cars. Here I remembered that the yard tracks on the O scale Clinchfield were double-ended; cars could be set out and picked up from different ends of the train.  The set out and pick up blocks could be close to the same size (say 1/3 of the cars in the train). Then, the trains would remain roughly the same length. If the set-outs always came off the front of the train and the pick-ups always went onto the back, the front end would be different, and the back end would be different each time they ran. Consequently, the sweeper would look different every time it arrived for each of six times around. (Remember Allen McClelland’s observation that we tend to notice the front and rear ends of trains the most.)

1st time through:  block 1, block 2, and block 3  (Remove block 1; add block 4.)

2nd time through:  block 2, block 3, and block 4  (Remove block 2; add block 5.)

3rd time through:  block 3, block 4, and block 5  (Remove block 3; add block 6.)

4th time through:  block 4, block 5, and block 6  (Remove block 4; add block 1.)

5th time through:  block 5, block 6, and block 1*  (Remove block 5; add block 2.)

6th time through: block 6, block 1*, and block 2*  (Remove block 6; add block 3.)

(* assuming the exact same cars are brought in by the locals)

With typical (generic) motive power, there would be little chance that the repetition would be objectionable; in any case, the cars that the locals would pick-up would probably not be identical to the blocks originally set-out by the sweepers. A bit of fiddling between sessions (something you would get to do in an open yard at normal layout height, not under scenery or other tracks) could vary the sweeper consist so much that no one would notice.

Additional cars for locals:  If additional cars were needed for local operations, pausing the session for a few minutes to change out some of the sweeper cars would certainly be possible. During the break, the yard could become a fiddle yard temporarily. When crews return, the consists of the trains would have “mysteriously” changed, and those trains would be ready for the next “act” in the drama that is an operating session.

On-layout staging for the rest of the trains:

Staging for passenger trains would require some sleight-of-hand. I would suggest leaving from the station, making a full circuit of the mainline oval, and then “hiding” on the back track of the yard rather than pulling up again to the station out front. The next run would be in a later session, so that you could turn the train (if needed) and start the next session with it somewhere more convenient (probably at the station).

Traffic staged on the mainline: For an additional train type (for instance, another passenger train), the session could easily begin with a train on the mainline if you could find a place to park/hide it during the session. Provision of a passing siding at Fremont/Caney Jct. might be the easiest way to provide an additional layover/holding spot.

Running mainline trains from on-layout staging:  Treating the yard as if each end were a different place might make mainline trains more realistic. With that in mind, it seems to me there are several ways to handle mainline traffic:

    1. Run out of the yard, around the layout, and into the yard (into the same yard/staging track you left from).
    2. Run out of the yard, around the layout, and onto the passing siding at the yard (as a through or sweeper train would do). Then run around the layout again and return to the yard (into the same yard/staging track you left from).
    3. Run out of the yard, around the layout, and onto the passing siding at the yard (as a through or sweeper train would do). After your train has been switched, back it into the staging track you left from.
    4. Run out of the yard, around to the other town (siding), and hold there (long enough to be “forgotten”). Then return to the yard (siding or staging track per #1 or 2 above).

None of these options would be particularly realistic for train crews but could serve to duplicate the flow of mainline traffic for yard and local crews. One way to make the experience less unrealistic would be to prevent mainline crews from walking from one end of the yard directly to the other end, thus forcing them to walk all the way around the layout room to pick up their next train. (See the discussion of my operating experiences at the end of this article.) Crew members who love to run trains might be volunteered for these mainline jobs. They might enjoy the experience enough to overlook its unrealistic aspects.  (Modelers with an interest in automation of layout functions might be able to run mainline traffic by computer and use human crews for the other trains.) 

Local operations: With both east and westbound locals needed to serve the mine and power plant, the sixth yard track could serve as the make-up/break-up track for these trains. Using in-train staging, the required cars would come off the coal drags and sweepers (in-train staging), which would also take the pick-ups when the locals return. The locals’ work would occur on the modeled portion of the railroad and would include keeping out of the way of mainline traffic.

Storage and classification: To make this scheme work, these functions would need tracks for holding and sorting the blocks of cars coming out of and going into the sweepers. Fortunately, the Clinchfield plan had open space beside the stairs in the middle of the basement for some single-ended yard tracks connected to the layout by a drop down wye. (See diagram at end of article.) This yard could also present the opportunity for some additional industry spots and the possibility for an interchange (another way for cars to come onto or leave the layout). With the wye in place, direct passage from one end of the yard to the other would be impeded, thus furthering the idea that both ends of the yard are “different places.”

Crew requirements (for this layout and this method of staging): The following crew assignments would be possible:  Dispatcher, yardmaster, assistant yardmaster, yard crew, (2) two person local crews, (2) single person coal crews (frequent coal trains – switching to be done by yard crews), (1) single person through freight/sweeper crew (again switching to be done by yard crews), and (1) single person passenger crew.  That totals twelve possible positions – a significant number for a layout lacking hidden staging/fiddle tracks.

What has been accomplished by this exercise? Thinking about the O scale Clinchfield, we have figured out how, with five (5) yard tracks, to accommodate seven or eight types of mainline trains staged on the layout within the yard. On-layout staging, coupled with using one train to represent all trains of its type, could provide heavy mainline traffic, including coal traffic (both loads and empties) moving in the appropriate directions. (The loads-out/empties-in feature eliminated the need to remove/insert loads.)  With in-train staging, the blocks of cars needed for normal local operations would be ready to be set-out (giving the train capacity for any pick-ups). We have done this without “hidden” staging tracks or fiddle yards.  (As noted previously, the O scale Clinchfield left no room in the basement for those tracks.)

These two concepts have great potential for many space-strapped model railroads such as:

    1. Layouts that feature heavy mainline traffic and include a double-ended yard but have limited (or no) space for hidden staging and/or fiddling.
    2. Layouts whose owners do not want the hassle of constructing, maintaining, or operating hidden staging yards.
    3. Shortlines or branches that depend on a mainline connection for regular freight and passenger interchange several times daily (These layouts may need only a few mainline train types, have limited rolling stock to make up multiple trains, and have limited hidden space to stage them.  In-train staging might be especially helpful in this situation.)
    4. Small starter pikes where yard space is limited and where complicated benchwork, hidden trackwork, and mainline grades are not recommended.
    5. Layouts already constructed without hidden staging.

One additional benefit, on-layout and in-train staging can be implemented either during the design stage or later when setting up an operating system. These ideas do not necessarily require revisions to layouts already built.

When thinking about my own experiences during operating sessions, I tend to focus my attention on my train and what it is doing. I pay relatively little attention to many of the things happening around me. So a yard full of trains is just one of those background things I tend to ignore. If I am assigned to run a through train that makes a complete circuit of the mainline loop, I walk all the way around the basement with my train. When my train returns to the yard, I approach from the opposite end of the yard.  From this perspective, the yard I arrive at does not look exactly like the one I left from. That run finished, I get assigned to another train. If I have to walk all the way back around the layout room (rather than directly past the yard) to pick up that next train, I would again see the yard from a different perspective and would not notice what the yard contains. The contents of the yard are not really my business (on-layout staging), nor is the make-up of the trains in the yard (in-train staging) my business. 

The ideas of on-layout and in-train staging make sense to me. There certainly are situations where they apply. I suggest they can work for you if you need them and give them a chance.

Laser Kit Coal Facility

By Richard Lind

Today, when we see coal moving by rail it’s usually in 100-ton hoppers or 100-ton gondolas with rotary couplers. But in the transition era, coal moved in 50 or 70-ton hoppers and 50-ton 40-foot gondolas. In fact, about 30 percent of coal mine production in the Midwest moved in gondolas. So why were they using gondolas? The answer lies with the coal merchants who ordered a carload of coal and didn’t have enough business to justify the expense of building facilities that could accommodate hoppers. They often had a simple shed and the gondolas were shoveled out by hand.

Now you can get a laser-cut kit for one of these sheds in HO. Hidden River Model’s HRM-38 Coal Facility has a footprint of three inches by seven and a half inches. The HRM kit comes in a 4 mil clear plastic bag. It includes black paper cut in strips for roll roofing and hinges that are also cut from black paper. The shed has plank walls and when you hold them up to the light, you see daylight between them all. The underside of the roof sheets are scribed to represent roof boards and they are also scribed to show thelocation of each rafter and partition frame. None of the sheets are self-adhesive and there are no corner tabs, nor should there be. Parts are identified on the carrier sheet and door braces and hinges are spaced for you so you can glue them on as a unit. There are three pages of instructions. A general instruction sheet that applies to all HRM kits, a sheet with an isometric exploded view of the kit’s construction, and a sheet of instructions written specifically for this kit.

I built this kit in S scale and it went together without any problems, following HRM’s instructions.  I have a few tips.

  • When the laser-cut sheets are stained, the wood grain looks entirely out of scale. Fortunately, this effect is broken up and disappears as you assemble the kit.
  • When cutting out the parts for assembly, hold the carrier sheet up to the light so you can see where you have to cut. HRM keeps the places to cut to a minimum, usually occurring on the ends of long parts and the middle of small parts.
  • The parts with the planks for the end walls and partition walls are fragile. I broke three of the five in half by picking them up from the top and bottom edges. This was not a bad thing, because it allowed me to glue them onto the frames half at a time. So, I intentionally broke the other two. After you glue the boards onto a frame, flip the frame over and look for any glue that may have squeezed out. Clean it off by scraping with a hobby knife with a chisel blade.
  • The kit is assembled upside down and I used a square to make sure the partitions were at a right angle to the roof. The rafters extend beyond the partitions and ends on the track side. Make sure the ends of the rafters align with the the partitions and ends of the shed on the side away from the track (the lower edge of the roof). To help line up these parts I used a steel rule with cork on the bottom and a weight on top.
  • When gluing the front wall assembly to the partitions and ends, everything was still upside down. Five Irwin quick-Grip 4-inch clamps that I got from the hardware store helped.
  • I added the braces to the backs of the doors and trimmed the spacers away from the braces. Then I sanded the braces flush with the edges of the doors where needed. To get my hinges positioned right, it was easier to attach just one strap of a hinge to the door and then glue the remaining hinge straps on one at a time so they would be aligned. When dry, the paper spacer is trimmed away from the hinge butts.
  • The hinge butts kept the doors from falling into the bins while they were glued to the top trim piece.  Here, I could apply glue to all five hinge butts at once when gluing the doors in place. When the shed was finished, the door sills were close to the tops of my gondolas and the openings to the bins at the rear of the structure were a scale eight feet high.
  • Finally, I numbered the bins using Model Graphics (Woodland Scenics) dry transfers so the switching crew would know where to spot a gondola load of coal.

Now I have a common line-side industry and a destination for my forty-foot gons.

[Richard Lind is a former SMD member and Wheel Report editor now living in New Mexico. -Ed.]

Working a Big Industry

by Don Florwick

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. Swift Packing Plant. (Tom Fedor)

This January fourteen members of the South Mountain Division responded to an invitation from Mat Thompson, MMR to operate on Mat’s exquisite Oregon Coast Railroad. We had a wonderful time and thank Mat for sharing his wonderful railroad with us. This was my 4th visit to Mat’s railroad. This time Mary Miller, MMR and I were assigned to work at the Swift Packing Plant. We had a blast, hence this article.

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Don Florwick)

Mary and I begin our session at Hoyt Street Yard. The yardmaster showed us our Oregon Coast train. Behind our switcher we find a cut of 8 cars billed to the packing plant consisting of 4 empty reefers, 3 loaded stock cars, a box car of packing material, and a caboose.

The Swift Packing Plant is located along the railroad between the Hoyt Street Yard and Willbridge, 2 railroad miles away. As an extra, all scheduled trains are superior to us and we have to carefully pick our time to leave the yard for our run on the single track main to reach the plant. We receive a clearance from the yardmaster and, after checking our timetable for superior trains, we pick our way out of the West end.

Before reaching the plant siding we notice a double ended siding along the main, used for outbound traffic to be picked up by passing freights or another switcher out of Hoyt Street. This day, a yard switcher will service the siding during our 8 hour shift; taking our outbounds while delivering more empties and loads.

Just short of Willbridge, we pull our string slowly ahead until the caboose clears the siding switch and glide to a stop. With the switch lined for the plant, we back our string of cars slowly down the siding, clearing the main.

(Don Florwick)

A mailbox at the plant holds special instructions for us, from the customer, so that cars are spotted correctly and in a timely manner, ensuring plant operations proceed smoothly despite our inexperience with this job.

Reading the instruction provided by plant management, we discover that it takes 21 minutes to unload a stock car at the stock pens on track-2. It takes about an hour to load a clean chilled reefer at the plant on track-2, and about 2 hours to ice and chill a block of reefers on track-1 at the icing dock. We also note the track diagram provided so we can find our way among the maze of tracks at the plant.

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Don Florwick)

Looking at the diagram, we note that track-3 runs along the back where supplies are offloaded for the packing plant. Track-4 is a service track and track-5 is the cleanout track for reefers. There also is a short runaround track on the ladder between tracks-3 & 5. Note the presence of another stock yard on the property. We were pleased to see there was plenty of head room on the lead to switch the plant without fouling the mainline.

Let’s get started spotting the 8 cars we brought to the plant this morning. You recall we boldly backed into the plant without thought, to clear the main while we looked over our instructions and developed a plan for our first service switch. At the plant we found 1 reefer loaded on track-2, at door-5 and 3 reefers iced, chilled and waiting at the ice dock on track-1. We noted there was one empty box car at door-5 on track-3 and a loaded tank car of tallow spotted near the oil tank, billed outbound.

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Tom Fedor)

Once oriented, we devise our plan. Here is what we did. First, we pulled our string forward to clear the track-4 switch, then we backed onto track-4 to drop our caboose. Pulling forward to again clear the switch we lined it for the ladder and backed our 4 reefers onto track-5, the cleanout track, and cut away. We then left the remaining 3 loaded stock cars short of track-2 and moved to track-1 where we pulled the 3 iced reefers over to track-2 and shoved them down to doors-1, 2, & 3 for loading.

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Don Florwick)

There were three timers provided for our convenience so we set one for 20 minutes.  That would use exactly 1 hour of the 3:1 fast clock time for loading. We then came back to the lead and grabbed the 3 loaded stock cars and swung them over to track-2 at the pens. We had 40 foot stock cars so each had to be individually positioned at the unloading shoots that were spaced for 50 foot cars. Once in position we set the second timer to 7 minutes, giving us 21 minutes of fast time for unloading.

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Tom Fedor)

Moving to track-5 we pulled our cleaned reefer string to move them to the icing dock on track-1. We set our third timer for 40 minutes giving us 2 fast clock hours for icing and chilling. Pulling off the icing track, it’s back up the ladder to track-4 to pick up the loaded box car for door-6. Coupled up we move West down the ladder to track-3.

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Tom Fedor)

We pick up the loaded tank car and empty box from door-5, then out to the ladder again, backing East to drop the box and tanker against the caboose on track-4 and cut away. We then spot the loaded box we had keep near the engine at door-6, on track-3.

Stepping back to asses our progress we find we have spotted the entire cut of cars we brought from Hoyt Street Yard. It’s now time to build a cut for the interchange. Checking our timers we see that our stock cars have been unloaded and the other timer for the loading dock has expired so the 4 reefers on track-2 at the plant are also ready to be pulled.  The interchange track will hold 8 cars, so we back down to track-4 and pick up the tank car of tallow. Next it’s over to  track-2 for all three empty stock cars. We also grab the 4 loaded reefers.

Once we had everything on track-2, we had our cut of 8 cars. Pulling up the spur to the company phone and after checking our timetable for scheduled traffic we called the dispatcher to ask if we could have time and track to pull out onto the main and drop our string onto the double ended siding for pickup.

The dispatcher gave us track time after passage of a scheduled freight. We waited 15 minutes for the freight to pass, notified the dispatcher, then pulled onto the main and made our backing move to the siding. Surprised, we find a new cut of cars awaiting us. You can imagine our movements, making the car exchanges along with the time it took plus returning to the plant siding with a new string of cars.

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Tom Fedor)

We have now completed one servicing of the plant. The new string of cars picked up from the interchange brought 4 empty reefers and 4 loaded stock cars for us to position as our shift continued. And so it goes, we start another cycle of cleaning, chilling, loading, unloading cattle at the pens, as well as spotting supplies for the plant, and removal of byproducts. The process varies each cycle, dependent on the flow of cars to and from the plant. For instance we received 4 loaded stock cars this time and we have only 3 unloading shoots, so we will have to watch our timing since reefer loading and stock unloading happen on the same track. This variety of movement, timing of processes, masterful placement of service tracks at the plant make this a rich, challenging, and most sought out assignment on Mat’s railroad.

A big industry can be the main theme for a railroad when you are cramped for space. Mary and I were busy for over 3 real time hours servicing the plant. The randomness of cars received required a different operating plan to keep the product flowing from the plant on schedule. So a Swift Packing, cement, automobile, glass plant, or other big industry, with a realistic operating strategy and a few staging tracks can keep a small crew busy in an enjoyable and challenging way for hours.  Big industries can be fun and that might be all that you need!

Ops at Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. (Tom Fedor)

Winter Project

by Andrew Dodge, MMR

In 1888 the Colorado Midland Railroad bought a rotary snowplow from the Leslie Company. The original plow had a nine-foot rotary blade with a shroud 11 feet across that would clear a path wide enough for any Midland equipment. One of the more interesting aspects of the Leslie plow was the car body, which resembled a “greenhouse.” There was a crew area directly behind the blade and impeller wheel for the operators who had a full view out the front and sides thanks to all the windows. The body of the machine covering the steam engine to power the rotary was also lined with windows. One can only imagine all the broken glass that had to be repaired each winter

After a number of years in operation, the Midland decided to rebuild the body of their only rotary snowplow. In 1895 the railway’s shop converted the body of the machine to a more conventional and durable design, which included a minimal number of windows. The plow was numbered “08” until 1900 when the Midland bought a larger 11-foot bladed machine from the Schenectady Locomotive Company. The Leslie plow was renamed “Rotary A” and the new machine was designated “Rotary B,” and both machines survived until abandonment in 1918. The Midland Terminal Railway bought the Leslie machine in 1921, and it served that rail line until its demise in 1949.

The model represents the Colorado Midland’s Leslie snowplow after its rebuilding in 1895.  Everything on the modeled snowplow is scratch built from sheet brass and bar stock, sheet wood for the sides, and castings for the window and truck side frames.

The front truck of the plow does not include brake shoes due to the accumulation of snow and ice as the machine fought its way through snow drifts that sometime were higher than the machine.

The rear truck does include brake shoes so there is some way to help stop the plow. The roof is made up of individual six inch wide boards covered in tissue paper with holes in the roof for the smoke stack and the steam dome with its relief valves and whistle. (Building the tender is the next order of business.)

Looking at the model from the rear with the car body removed, one can see all the workings that make the blade turn. (There is a motor under the boiler and all the mechanisms work, even producing a breeze out the exhaust chute.) While some detail work remains, the wood platform is for the operator to supervise the movement and speed of the plowing operation.  He is also, and equally important, tasked with the responsibility to set the exhaust shroud for throwing the snow out to the left or right side of the train. The cylinders are set in a reverse position so they can power the blade through a set of gears. Due to blowing snow, shrouding had to be used to surround most of the boiler and the firebox to keep the working area as clean as possible. It would take at least a two-man crew to operate the boiler with its “Johnson Bar,” injectors, and to shovel coal. But, one of the most important jobs would be to operate the whistle, which was the means of communications between the plow operator up front and the crews in the four or five locomotives pushing from behind the snowplow’s tender.