Sunday, December 8, 2013

The End of an Era

Well, it is with very mixed feelings that I direct you to Bill's most recent blog post.

Obviously I'm quite sad to see this turn of events, as operating on the O&W in Roscoe and Livingston Manor was the first  prototype model railroad that I've operated and the layout has been a huge inspiration for mine. I'm sure that we'll see more fantastic modeling from Bill, but I figured I'd take this opportunity to recount how influential Bill's layout has been to me. If I'd run into Bill earlier, it's entirely possible I'd be modeling the O&W.

I had been out of the hobby for about 15-20 years when we took Jessica on a tourist railroad ride in Easton, PA. She doesn't like loud noises, so she wouldn't get very close to the steam locomotive, but when it was time to leave, she just wanted to stay and watch it as it sat waiting for the next run. She was fascinated. So that was all the excuse I needed to get the trains out of the attic again and see what she thought. Of course, I knew that it was really for my own enjoyment.

I thought my space to work with was small since I only had a portion of at 10 'x 20' basement to work with. I knew I wanted to model a bridge, and thought modeling the Springfield line from Springfield, MA to Hartford, CT would work well. Of course, this was before I realized a 12-car passenger train with double-headed DL-109's would be about 14' long...

After I had come across Bill's website, and read and re-read things thoroughly, I had narrowed my focus to Windsor Locks, the CT River bridge, and Thompsonville. I made a point of hunting him down at my first Collinsville Prototype Meet. We chatted for a bit and learned that we had known each other two other times (going back to when I was in elementary school). Of course, there was no way I'd miss the opportunity to see his layout in person which was on the tour that Sunday.

So I spent the majority of that Sunday there, after quickly checking out a couple of other layouts. To me the whole point of the hobby is to have fun, and the other layouts did a great job accomplishing what the owner intended, but weren't what I was looking to do. When I got to his house it was clear that Bill 'got it.' Or to be fair, since his layout was already built, I 'got it.' This was what I wanted to do.

The point is, for the first time I really understood what prototype modeling was about, and I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do with my layout. But there was still more to learn as I soon found out.

Bill had an operating session scheduled the next Tuesday, and due to a last minute cancellation I was initiated into prototype operations. It was instantly obvious that my choice of prototype wasn't quite right. My layout would have had a single local freight (like his), and a couple of through freights, but the number of industries was limited, and I was going to have to cut out 1/3 of the local job because of a branch line I couldn't fit. My main concern was the passenger trains. Had I followed the concept to my current design, it probably could have worked to some degree if the trains were going to staging via the helixes I have now. But it still didn't feel quite right.

Moving down the Springfield line I came across an old photo of New Britain. It's not actually on the Springfield Line, but is the first town down the Highland Line which had the benefit of eliminating all of the long passenger trains.

Here's how Bill modeled Livingston Manor:

and Roscoe:

In both towns that Bill selected to model, the activity happens right in the center of town. New Britain was the first town on the New Haven I had seen with a small yard right in front of the station, similar to what I'd operated, particularly in Livingston Manor. The yard there is actually at one end of the town, but still right in the same area.

So, prototype modeling? Check. Small layout? Check. Interesting operations? Check. Compact railroading with a small yard and station in the same area? Check.

I know that none of these are entirely new concepts, but the way Bill's O&W fit them into such a compact and complete layout made sense to me. And it seemed to be entirely different to what I had seen in the magazines before. And I can confidently say that my current layout and approach to model railroading would be very different if I hadn't first visited these two towns.

By the time I got around to starting construction on the layout I pretty much went back to Bill's as both inspiration as well as to make sure I was following as much as possible one of the most well executed layout's I've ever seen on many levels. I wanted to avoid a helix, but once again I found that the helix worked well when properly executed. Although trains did go between towns on Bill's helix (and if running at the proper speed by coincidence also took a prototypical amount of time), looking at each individually the effect was that of a train entering and leaving town.

Now that Bill's O&W will follow the path of Tony Koester's Allegheny Midland, or Dick Elwell's Hoosac Valley, I only hope that it won't be too long before it too reborn again. It's hard to imagine the layout being better, but who knows? I look forward to seeing what he'll do.

And I can only hope that since my Springfield Line layout has already been dismantled and been reborn in New Britain that I've already completed this step!

I routinely see commentary regarding some of the great model railroads of the past, and while I can see the greatness of those railroads, they don't speak to me in the same way that the 'Old Woman in the Back Bedroom has.

So thanks for the inspiration Bill!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ch Ch Ch Changes

So, I figured that since Chris has been making regular updates to his new blog, I ought to post something more substantial.

At the NE Proto Meet this year I picked up some more photos from Bob's. Of particular interest is one of T-2-b class switcher #2446 on the pit in New Britain.

Wait...the pit?!?

OK, I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise. Where the T-2-b is sitting used to be inside an engine house. Back in the '20's in addition to the local switchers assigned to New Britain, other locomotives were assigned here for other cities. For example, the Bristol switcher is stationed here. Back before the '20's there was even a turntable at New Britain.

I don't know exactly when, but at some point the engine house was mostly demolished. The south wall, and the structure attached to it remained, as did the engine tracks and an RIP track. However, until I found this picture I had no idea that there was an engine pit (well, two actually) still there.

So once again I need to make some changes to the layout. This is a minor one, and primarily a scenic one, but it will require me to cut out a small portion of the benchwork.

In addition to confirming some more scenic elements (also note the pipes and pile of crushed stone in the background at City Hardware, and the extra wheels behind the locomotive), it both confirms and confuses the assignment of the switcher. The confusing part? Well, it's Tom McNamara's handwritten note on the back:
New Britain Switcher at NB Engine Storage 8/48 ??? Diesel switchers (0800's) had been working in NB for over a year (3-47) at the time of this photo and 2446's career was over.
So this sounds OK. The other photo I have of #2446 is from September, 1946. Another Cochrane photo shows a 44-tonner (NH class DEY-4) on the coal trestle at Russell & Erwin in March, 1947. So the notation makes some sense. Except, in this photo #2446 looks pretty clean, has a very full load of coal, and the stack isn't capped as would be expected if it were sitting for over a year.

From what I've heard, Kent didn't take great notes, and his dates are often suspect. So this could be a case of a mistaken date. But assuming the season is correct (and it's certainly spring or summer), we're talking about a 1 year discrepancy.

So what difference does it make? Well, I've stated that I'm modeling 1946-1954, with the intention of swapping out scenic elements and running the appropriate equipment. Bill discussed this challenge in a recent blog post. My current focus is 1947. Since #2446 was still in service in 1947, I'm splitting the difference for now and will run one DEY-4 and one T-2-b. When the layout (and research) is more complete, then the T-2-b's may be restricted to 1946.

For now I just have another great photo to help with getting the infrastructure as accurate as possible.

Monday, November 11, 2013


All of New Britain Yard has a first cost of ground cover and ballast.
The concrete platform is in but needs some more paint.
Every piece of track has a feeder.
All rail has been weathered and ties painted.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

RPI Ops Session

Rutland Yard at another RPI Ops Session. No wrecks and a great time had by all.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Just trying out the camera on my new HTC One phone. I figured a look at the (slow) progress of scenery was as good a subject as any.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


While I've got quite a few photos of New Britain during the era, they are almost all black and white. There are a few published photos in color, but none of the station area itself.

I know that the station area and yard were ballasted with cinders. Even in the B&W photos it's evident that the mainline is ballasted the same way as the rest of the tracks. So I've experimented a bit with how I want to ballast the line using cinders of course.

So, here's a still taken from a video Kent Cochrane took in June of 1953, the tail end of my modeling era.

This is looking west at Main Street. Surprise, surprise! It's more dirt and weeds than cinders at this point. And a rather pale dirt at that. In addition, the railroad ties are more brownish, rather than the silvery gray I expected. 

Also, note the crossing gate shanty on the left. I had suspicions that there was one there, but no confirmation yet. Also, it would appear that all of the crossing shanties and towers in New Britain were that same brown color. On another portion of the video is a shanty that's painted what looks to be a Hunter Green. 

So, I'm not happy with the scenicking materials I have on hand for this new development, but it will definitely alter the appearance of the layout significantly.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Chris has been having some issues with the NERS K-1-b/d model running through the Micro Engineering turnouts. With the Frog Juicer they seem fine, but without it's stalling. It also appears that it is 'sticking' through them to some degree, and when he checked the gauge of the turnouts, they are tight.

I've noticed the same gauge issues, although they aren't really unexpected in a commercial mass produced turnout. Some are worse than others, but don't seem to be problematic in actual operation. I'm guessing this is due to the amount of slop in the wheels, etc. of your typical model.

Anyway, here's a quick video (by Jessica), of my K-1-b running on DC through several turnouts. It also shows the difference between the track that had been cleaned about a two weeks ago and had graphite applied, and track that had been cleaned at the same time but did not receive graphite.


More of the platform.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A cabless 44 tonner makes its way through New Britain. Most of the platform has just the first two layers of color added. More to do when I get my pastels back from Chris.

Monday, July 22, 2013


... has officially been started. Main St grade crossing under construction. I need to complete at least the grade crossings, of not the roads, before ballasting. There's a lot of asphalt and concrete to do. I know how I'm doing the asphalt so that's where I'm starting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Except for a couple of sidings, all trackwork is in and the helix is reconnected to the layout. Next up, a few more feeders to get all of the new track operational. This includes the Berlin Line industries between Chestnut and Whiting Streets, although I had to change the order in which they appear a bit - more on that later.

After that I can start testing operations on the entire layout, and planning the framing and completion of the old laundry portion of the utility room for the Whiting Street yard and staging beyond. The biggest challenge here, other than just getting the construction done, is the hinged section that will be in front of the stairs.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Mocking up Berlin line industries. There will be about 15 car spotting locations here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Layout construction update

Revised Berlin Line under construction. The held will receive its shroud soon and the backdrop will conceal the pole and the view into the room.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Construction update

The changes are coming along and look like they will work well. I've been gluing down track in Stanley Works and the east side of town. The mockup for the west side looks good and should allow for 5 industries.
In addition it looks like I'll be able include at least 7 of the industries on the Berlin line not including the yard area. I was concerned I wouldn't have enough work for that crew.
The only challenge will be Whiting Street Yard. 8 feet really isn't enough for a double ended yard plus a yard lead. But I think can stretch it to about 10 feet with some creative construction. We'll see once I can get some lumber.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stanley Works track is in

The Stanley Works is finally connected to the rest of the layout. Physically if not electrically. But I can test out what I think the operating scheme will be. They have their own locomotive so this is one job on the layout. If filled to capacity there are spots for 13 cars, plus another 6 on a storage track. Including moving cars from one spot to another, with two inbound and two outbound interchanges with the New Haven daily, they'll be busy. Probably receiving 10-12 cars, and shipping out the same on during a session.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Stanley Works

Mocking up the start of the Stanley Works. The buildings here have to disguise the entrance to the helix and hide the upper level when operating the lower level. They also have to look decent from the upper level and allow you to see the tracks and reach turnouts and uncouple cars when operating the upper level.
These are about 4 stories tall on the lower level, and 2 stories tall on the upper level.
The view as operating on the lower level. That will be a walkway across the tracks.

Looking east where most operation will take place at Stanley Works. 
Once completed, I think this will photograph OK.

The three turnouts will be located within easy reach over the walkway.

I've been able to move the track far enough back from the buildings
so they can be seen (and reached) relatively easily using the step stools.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Working on the layout

Here's a mockup of the Lock Shop Pond photo by Kent Cochrane. The train will be longer, but it won't all fit into the frame anyway. That's the Russell & Erwin power plant trestle in the back.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013


What's this? The office taking shape and a new extension to the layout. The angled wing will be coming off.
If it looks familiar, it should. It's the old Whiting Street Yard deck moved to a new location.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Berlin Line again

A better view at the new alignment.

Berlin Line Realignment

Working on the new alignment for the Berlin Line (this will be the third). It will now be a 2% grade on 30" radius curves and a 36" radius S-curve. The mainline over it will be 28" and 30" radius. Clearance is my minimum - 2.75". But the yard lead will be level for 5 to 6 feet now, and there will be a 4' long 2% grade on the mainline before another level section on top of the helix.
This should help a lot with operations because the whole lead and the passing siding were on a grade before.

Now both helices are disconnected

Replacing a turnout and modifying the curve while I have ready access. Since I'm improving three clearance here I decided to replace the Atlas turnout with a Micro Enigineering one. It will still probably need a powered switch machine because of its location.
The reason for the Atlas one initially was the cheap and easily installed power switch machine, and because the points are supposed to be flexible enough to run through them if need be, like a spring switch. This would have worked well in this location because of the traffic pattern. It didn't work as week as I would have liked, so I'm swapping it to my standard turnout. Instead I will probably use detection to automatically line the turnout.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I must blog!

I need to work on getting regular updates here instead of just the True Line Trains Twitter/Facebook/Webpage.

So I'm working on cleaning up the basement, and identifying what I need to work on next. I can lay out some additional trackwork with what I have on hand, but the budget won't allow much more right now. So instead I'm working on specifically planning what needs to be done so when I can coordinate the budget and the help I can make some significant progress.

I did start up the layout and was surprised that I didn't have anything laying across the track and causing a short. Cleaned some locomotive wheels and track and it's still working pretty well. I really want to finish the connection to the east helix again, though. Then I can have trains running continuously while working.

I need to make a small modification on the west end of the layout as well. Fortunately, the track isn't in place yet. I'll be cutting out a section of the OSB deck and replacing it with masonite over the track that leads into the helix. I need about 1/8" (minimum) greater clearance for the TLT U-2-g coal load to fit. I can run it without a coal load, or a shorter one. But pictures of some New Haven locomotives show that it wasn't uncommon for a tender to be loaded above the height of the cab, and I'd like to be able to do that.

This extra clearance it also going to impact the rebuilding of the east side, but I think it will be worth it for the appearance of the locomotives.

Monday, April 1, 2013

#2456 entering Derby

This is T-2-b #2456 at John Grosner's. John does some fantastic modeling, and the layout is a lot of fun to operate as well. Yes, the State of Maine box car is from 1953, a bit late for the T-2-b. Get over it.