Thursday, July 25, 2019

More progress

Chris came over. How can you tell?

Oops. Wrong picture.

We added the deck inside the helix where tracks for two additional industries and East Main Street will be. East Main will run along the straight edge on the left, and add another grade crossing. The two industries it allows me to add are Miner, Read & Tullock, a grocery wholesaler, and D&K Coal, another small coal industry.

We also addressed what I'll be doing on the inside of the helix at Stanley Works, modifications on the west end, and adding the siding for Skinner Chuck. We also removed almost all of the backdrop. I needed more space where we had coved the corners, and we're coming to the conclusion that even the gray walls (New Haven Silver-Gray) might be all I need for the backdrop. We'll see. It was a very productive day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


As further proof that I inflict the same things upon myself as my modeling buddies...

All of Stanley Works and the rest of the left side of the layout has been pulled up. And I've pulled out the backdrop. This has been operating well for probably 5 years now....

There are a few mockups for testing, but in the last photo you can see some of what I'm planning. I'd like a little more space (and a better-shaped space) for modeling Stanley Works. Most of that blue foam will be cut away in the middle, but the empty space to the right of it will be covered. It will leave an access pit about half the size of the inside of the helix. I'll be able to hide the pit with structures, and I'll also be able to put further structures around the far edge of the pit where the backdrop will be if I want to. I've found that where possible, the most effective backdrop (like one section on Jim Dufour's layout), is to have the backdrop separated from the layout with an empty space between them. The only two places I'll be able to do this is in the helix, but it will work well. In both places it will also allow more scenery on the railroad itself, and access from within the helix.

In addition, it provides a significant alteration in operations at Stanley Works. I'll try to explain it with this diagram:

The basic arrangement is on the top. When we changed the alignment a few years ago, we extended the runaround as far as we could. But because of the arrangement, it created two sections of working track, with essentially two yard leads. The three tracks on top use use the track labeled as #1, and the lower three tracks use the runaround as the lead.

What has complicated this arrangement is learning more about the actual arrangement, for example in this Thomas Airviews 1955 aerial photo:

The box cars along the building are on what is labeled as Track #1 in my diagram. The runaround is immediately next to it. Now my layout is much shorter, but if there are box cars spotted along buildings on Track #1, it cannot be a yard lead as well. Moving the end of the runaround to the right, as in the second diagram, it functions as a yard lead for all of the tracks at that end of Stanley Works.

Is it prototypical? As much as it can be. The reality is that there isn't a collection of tracks that looks like a stub-ended yard. Instead the track continues through the rolling mill, and the additional tracks are across Curtis Street. That doesn't fit, so instead the tracks are represented on the shelf to the left. Operationally they will function a lot like the prototype, though. The main difference being that you won't have to move any cars that are being loaded/unloaded in the rolling mill to get to them.

Another interesting consideration is that since Track #1 is usually occupied by cars, they will have to be moved in order to use the runaround to service the (prototypically accurate) single facing point switch in the complex.

In any event, reworking this area will add about a half-dozen more spotting locations, make the operations work better, and it's easy to do using the Microengineering Yard Ladder system (which is now available in Code 70).

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

PRR X37, X37A and X38 Box and Auto Cars

The PRR Pro Group has started a group build of these classes of cars. While I've been a lurker for a long time, and take advantage of the amazing catalog of information they've created in earlier projects, this is the first time I'll participate at the same time.

In addition to working on these cars, I have a lot of partially completed resin box cars, and I intend to work on those at the same time in an assembly line fashion.

Available Models

Funaro & Camerlengo offers the X37, X37A, X37B and X38 cars as one-piece body resin kits. They are excellent kits, and what I'll be using for my models.

What about the X38x classes?
There are 14 X38 classes. For my needs, only the X38 and X38A are really necessary. The X38B was a one car class, of a single-sheathed composite war emergency variation. The X38C and later classes were rebuilds starting in 1953 (or '55, I have conflicting information).

The 600 X38A class cars are basically the same car as the X38, but with an end door. It may be possible to cut the end off of the F&C kit and replace it with one from a P2k kit.

As a NH modeler, I probably don't need to worry about kitbashing one. But hopefully F&C will release it in the future.

Online Resources

Print Resources

  • The Keystone 14.4
  • The Keystone Modeler #62 (X37B), pg 6.
  • The Postwar Freight Car Fleet, pg 79
  • Steam Era Freight Car Reference Manual Volume 1: Box & Automobile Cars, pg 139, 204.
  • Train Shed Cyclopedia #17.


I currently only have an in-service picture of an X37 and X38A, so I'll probably have to work from lists and other's recommendations on the truck/brake wheel and road number combinations.
  • X37 PRR 65677 as pictured in service in the Postwar Freight Car Fleet, pg 79. The trucks resemble the coil/semi-elliptic trucks Bowser makes for their X31 cars. 
  • X37A I'm not sure of a road number yet, but several pictures show National B-1 type trucks, which are available from Kadee (50-ton), Walthers/ex-Life-Like, and Athearn (70-ton). This would need the 50-ton trucks, but I'll probably order all of them to compare.
  • X37B I'm not sure the road number I'll use, but F&C makes the Elsey trucks that was used on at least 500 of the cars. (I don't see them listed on their website).
  • X38 Don't know the road number yet, but on Jerry Britton's page he notes that Eric Thur recommends the Bowser PRR 2D-F8 trucks.

Other Parts

These are other parts that I'll use which are my current standard parts for any appropriate kit.

  • Kadee bracket grabs, brake wheels and "steel" running boards
  • Yarmouth Model Works sill steps, wood running boards, and eyebolts.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Fine Tuning Operations

My operating session is centered around the locally assigned switch crews. But the more I look at it, I think it should be focused on the Agent's shift. There's a good chance the switch crews were on duty for most, if not all, of that anyway.

That being the case, there are several questions I still need to find answers for.

I know the Station Agent is on duty from 6:15 am until 10:00 pm (10:15 pm after 1949).
The Freight House closes at 5:45 pm.

What I don't know:
  1. What time do the two switching crews start?
  2. Do they start at the same time, or are their start times staggered?
  3. What time does the Freight House open?
  4. Do the crews spot empties at the Freight house in the morning, or the evening before?
  5. Does at least one of the switch crews stay on duty to add cars to the through freights that come through in the evening? I think they might, since all freights picking up cars come through town before the Station Agent goes off duty.
I'm also not sure how long the Stanley Works crew would be on duty, so that's a whole different question. I know that at least into the '60s the NH switched out Stanley Works twice a day. For the most part, I will model the traffic to Stanley Works along the lines of the Freight House and the second interchange will be around 6:00 pm. The Stanley crew may have a little more work to do, and in theory there's an hour left in the session.

Through Freight Schedules

In most years, there are two cuts of cars left overnight, but this varies from 1-4. 
NY-4 comes through at 8:30 and drops off additional cars.
YN-3 at around 2:00-3:00 pm picks up cars.
YN-1 and AO-5 pick up cars between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm.

From 1951 to early 1953 (during the Korean War) there's a pair of Maybrook freights (AO-3 around noon to 1:00 pm and OA-2 just before 6:00 pm) that may drop off and pick up cars respectively. 


I do think that at least one of the freight crews is still on duty when trains come through in the evening. The first clue is ANE-1. This was the Hartford to Bridgeport section of the Speed Witch. It protects the Freight House closing at 5:45ish and comes through town at about 8:00 pm. The Freight House is at Whiting Street, so the crew would need to pull the cars, then bring them to New Britain Yard. The cars are split into several blocks, which will need to be worked into the train, and I suspect that was enough work that the road freight crew probably didn't do it on their own. AO-5 would follow about 40 minutes later, and YN-1 would be stopping at Whiting Street about the same time as ANE-1. So it would seem to me that both crews would be needed at this time, unless the road freight crews did the work themselves.

Since the Whiting Street/Berlin branch hasn't been used in a session yet, I don't really know how long a "complete" session will take. But I'm not sure any session has completed where the NH switchers finished all of their work. The Stanley crew usually does. The sessions themselves have been about 3-4 hours, and a maximum 16-hour day with a 4:1 fast clock works out to a 4-hour session. So that's probably what I should shoot for. 

Through Freight Motive Power
NY-4, YN-3, YN-1
  • S-2s 1946-1949 
  • RS-2s 1949-1952
  • RS-3s 1952+
  • FA-1/FB-1/FA-1
All of these in the delivery schemes, except the FA/B/A sets which switch to a second scheme c1949. Dale and Bill are helping with the delivery scheme, and the P2k models were produced in the second scheme.

For simpler operating schemes, there are no cars dropped after the start of the session from through freights  in late '52, late '53, or late '54. There may be cars dropped by the local freight. 


One the time, the maximum work day for a railroad crew was 16 hours, with a mandatory 10 hours off after working 16 consecutive hours. Working 16 or more total hours over a 24 hour period required 8 hours off. So the problem isn't so much that the crew outlaws, but that they can't start the next day until two hours later than the first day. So their work day must be less than 16 hours. Based on what I've heard, and seen for other paperwork, the first trick typically starts at 7:00 am. So if the crew worked from 7:00 am until just after 9:00 and placing cars on AO-5, they'll avoid the issue with outlawing.

But if the crew starts at 7:00, and one of their first jobs is to spot empties at the Freight House, what time does it open? They don't necessarily need to start loading the cars the moment customers start dropping off freight, so it might open as early as when the Agent comes on duty, or maybe as late as 9:00 am after cars are spotted. 

The Agreement Governing Hours of Service, etc. ... for Clerks, Freight Handlers, and Station Employes of 1947 set their work hours at 8 hours, exclusive of the 30 minute meal period. So those positions are two shifts during the day. 

Research continues...

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Little at a Time

Subtitled: You Don't Have to do Everything at Once
Alternately Subtitled: It Will All Get Done Eventually

I've probably mentioned it before, but I've been telling people I'm a "proof of concept guy." That is, once I work my way through a problem or challenge to the point where I know it can be done, I tend to move onto the next thing. So I have a lot of "next things" in progress (which I think drives Chris crazy).

For example, one week I decided I needed single sheathed box cars on the railroad to better represent the prototypical mix of cars in my era. So I pulled out all of my single sheathed box car kits at the time. Most of them were flat resin kits, so I assembled the kits and cleaned up the castings of the one-piece body kits. Then I drilled all of the holes on all of the cars for grab irons.

That was quick and easy because I had gotten a new cordless Dremel Stylus at the time. While Chris has a fancy footpedal to control the speed of his, I found that the torque is low enough on this model that I can just put my finger on the chuck to slow or stop it.

Anyway, since that was going so well, I pulled out all of the double sheathed box cars I had too. I started installing grab irons after that, and then something came up and they've been waiting for me to get back to them. Part of the issue is that I'll get to a certain point where I need to do some research, or develop a skill better, etc.

Another thing that happens is that I'll either come across some information I didn't have before, or a model will be released that I'll need, which also leads to more research, and then I'll figure out what I need to change or update, and new projects sprout. That happened from several different directions with hoppers. I was busy researching coal deliveries for Household Fuel, which led to coal deliveries for the city (that will be another post in the future) which pointed me to particular railroads, and then researching to see what models are available for those.

One of them was the LNE hopper. So Chris, Pete and I decided to do a group project, where we could each play to our strengths, and complete our roster of those cars. At the same time, I had gotten information on the CNJ/RDG welded hoppers and those became part of my plans for the project. I had also decided that I wanted to settle on the MTH USRA hopper, and got a good deal on those. Aside from those, I picked up what I needed from F&C's excellent one-piece body resin kits of a slew of B&O and PRR hoppers that Steve has been producing over the last few years.

Of course, once those are home, I want to take a look at them, and then start cleaning flash, drilling holes, install a few grabs...

You can see where this is going. I've now got a bunch of hoppers partially done on a shelf under the box cars (and gondolas and flat cars...).

LNE hoppers, and the Montour car is there for comparison.
CVMW, Owl Mountain and ECW flat cars.
Rib Side Cars Milwaukee box cars to rework.
An SP 12-panel box car with resin ends and door acquired from eBay.
A war emergency single sheathed box car shortened by 6" for one of several prototypes.
Bits and pieces plus two Intermountain FGEX cars.
P2k DT&I gondola to get the same interior treatment as the shorter Speedwitch kit.

(Mostly resin) Gondolas, single sheathed and double sheathed box cars on the top.
A mix of MTH, Atlas, Westerfield, and F&C hoppers on the bottom.

A variety of things, but most of the visible cars are the FGEX reefers.
The boxes are desprued IMWX, Red Caboose and Intermountain AAR box cars.

Then things get in the way, and stuff gets sidelined (work, family, trying to build a layout at the same time, etc.), and the projects wait. And then they often seem too large to pick up and start again.

Then I started working on the switch stands. They're kind of fun, but do get old after a little while. But it also showed me that with a few minutes here and there, I could get a lot done. So I pulled out my plastic box car kits and desprued everything. It went really quickly with the switch stands, and now those kits are ready to assemble more easily. And I've started on a few as well.

And it dawned on me. If I play to my "strengths" and just grab what's interesting and on hand at the time, I can make progress in small and large increments. And eventually all of these projects (and more) will be completed. When I was working on Harvey's layout, we would get a ton of work done in a 4, 6 or 8-hour shift. I can't always dedicate my time to that (and it did often feel like work, which it was), but over the course of a week I can easily spend that much time in between other things.

What I should really be working on (and it's what most of my modeling time is going to right now) is completing the layout itself. While scenery and structures are going to take longer, my goal in the next month or so is to get all of the track (new and old) fully operational.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Operations: Daily Check of Cars

So one of the most important pieces of paperwork on my railroad, and one that most other layouts don't need, is the Daily Check of Cars.

The railroad, of course, operates to make a profit (hopefully) and for freight that happens in three primary ways. The first is the charges collected for actually moving the freight. This is basically the same thing as the price paid to ship via UPS, FedEx or the USPS.

This, of course, is a primary business of the railroad, and for most roads through history comprised more than 50% of the railroad's revenue. The New Haven was unusual in that passenger traffic, much of it related to commuting to NYC or Boston, was a significant part of the railroad's revenue. Another reason, though, was the nature of the NH's freight business, since they returned a significant portion of foreign cars empty. That is, there wasn't enough originating freight business to fill the cars emptied at their destinations. The have to pay the expense of moving such cars off of the railroad, but don't derive any income from an empty car. Furthermore, they have to pay a per diem daily rate for any foreign car on the road after midnight. So the goal is to get empty cars off of the railroad as quickly as possible.

This is, of course, the case for every road. So you'll see a pattern in freight movements. Inbound through freights are made up starting just after midnight and, as much as possible, reach their classifying yards by early morning. Then local freights are assembled, to go out and back, so their loads and empties will make the outbound through freights by early evening. The schedules are designed so the outbound through freights will be able to hand off their cars to connecting roads before midnight, thus avoiding another day of per diem charge on all of those cars.

While the NH is paid a per diem charge on each of their cars that is on another road, car routing rules require that foreign cars must be given priority loading over home road cars for destinations off of the home road. While the amount of compliance varied over the years, it did mean that many roads like the NH had relatively small rosters (about 10,000 cars) because they always had a surplus of foreign road empties to fill.

The railroads offset the per diem charges with a demurrage charge. When a load or empty is delivered to an industry, they have 24 hours to load or empty the car. After 24 hours, they are charged a demurrage fee. In part this is to offset the per diem charges that the railroad will pay. But they were also in place because industries found that freight cars made good temporary warehouses, rather than building or renting such space elsewhere. Even with the demurrage fees this was an issue, because they were still considerably cheaper than the cost of warehousing elsewhere. The container business today embraces this business model, and by separating the car that moves the container with the container itself, the railroad doesn't find itself with a car shortage as often happened in the past.

Anyway, I have two NH forms that are designed to address tracking the cars that are located within a town (station):

The first is form 546-2, The Daily Yard Check. I got this page from George Ford, a former operator/agent on the New Haven. So I know it's a New Haven form, even though it has no railroad information. This is clearly a report to record when each car is delivered and released from the station.

In addition, I have form 1480-10, Report of Cars on Hand:

This has instructions at the bottom, that records all of the cars on hand on the 1st and 16th of the month, which is to be forwarded to the Car Service Department. At the time, of course, all car movements were recorded by hand and reported daily so the Accounting Department could report for per diems.

The information on both is similar, but you can see on the second report that the Car Service Department is particularly interested in cars that have been on the railroad for more than 48 hours. Of course, a report filed twice a month won't be used for accounting purposes, and this report isn't provided to the Accounting Department. I think it was used in much the same manner as the national 1% waybill sample, to find patterns and ways to improve the efficiency of the car movements. I don't recall right now where the statistic is, but I recall a report that indicated a freight car on the New Haven moved something like only 28 miles a day, on average.

Of course, on my layout I don't need to report to the accounting or car service departments. But I do have an agent that needs to know what cars are on hand in town, and which cars are ready to be picked up. Joseph has confirmed that the same type of report is still filled out today, at the end of the work day, ready to start the next work day.

And I was just able to get a book of the Daily Yard Check (546-2) and it's quite interesting. First, I got the title of the form from another booklet. But the actual title is the "Daily Check of Cars at..."

As you can see, there is still no New Haven name on it. In fact, it has a space to fill in the specific railroad. It's the same form, and the same form number as the individual sheet I already had.

It also provides the instructions on the inside cover:

Now you can see that this is to be done by 7:00 am, or as close to it as possible. But I think that since the switching crew was a one-shift job, that might have been done at the end of the work day, as Joseph said it is still done now.

But it does provide some interesting possibilities. First is that it takes the Agent 10-15 minutes to get settled and start providing work for the switching crews, maybe a little longer. In addition, the Daily Check of Cars isn't needed until after the inbound cars, especially the priority moves, are addressed first. That is, the Agent writes out switch lists for these cars so the crew can start sorting them, and deliver the priority cars right away.

One option, then, would be to have operators first take the job as a clerk, and fill out forms to be provided to the Agent about the cars on hand. A benefit of this approach is that the operators (who will soon be the switching crews) will also get a lay of the land, learn where the industries are, and see what work to expect during the day. By the time they finish that, the Agent will have work for them, and can then take those lists and compile them into the Daily Check of Cars, as the real Agents did.

Was this how it was done? Well, in New Britain it appears the Agent was on duty at 5:15 am, so the clerks could be busy compiling that report for the 7:00 am deadline. In the meantime, the Agent would have had time to get switch lists prepared for the cars left overnight. I don't know what time the crews started, although I know the first trick on the New Haven was 7:00-3:00. I'm trying to dig up more information about when the Freight House opened as well. This matters because it will need empties to load, probably before they open. Empties would be requested from the Card Service Department, and presumably be delivered overnight.

As I noted before, there is a pattern to the way freight moves on the railroad. It's quite efficient, and is done the same way pretty much every day. So would the report be completed at the end of the Agent's day, which in New Britain was 9:00 pm, or first thing in the morning? What time do the crews start? Do they start at the same time, or are the two crews staggered?

These need to work with the realities of operating a model railroad too. Most crews probably don't want to wait too long before they get to start operating. For example, if the two switch crews are on different schedules, and the second crew doesn't start until noon, but the session starts at 7:00 am, then I need to find something for the crew to do for an hour an 15 minutes while waiting for their job to start. So being a station clerk might work well.

Most likely the Daily Check of Cars was not used by the Agent for car movements. They have the waybills and Home Route cards that come in with the trains, and, while I haven't located New Haven forms yet, there must have been one for recording requests for empty cars, and also a process to release cars from an industry.

Part of the art of designing a model railroad operating session is in condensing the processes, paperwork, and people into something more manageable, and also something that ultimately translates into moving cars around the layout. But by learning how the railroad actually operates, rather than designing the processes for my operating sessions around other model railroad operation schemes, I can more closely follow the prototype, and also choose what compromises or changes work best for us.