Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Rail Code

Another question that comes up frequently on Facebook and other groups is, "what code rail should I use?"

Well, I probably couldn't get a better picture than this to show why you might want to consider different code rail on your layout:

The new rail is 131 lb., and the old rail is so worn I haven't been able to find any markings. It is the smallest rail that I think I've ever found. How can I figure out what size rail it is?

Measure it.

It's 4" tall. I happen to have several original NH documents regarding rail dimensions.

This page isn't dated but doesn't have any rail that's only 4" tall.

This one did, though. It's 56 lb. rail. There's another page that's a fold-out and too large for my scanner, but it confirms the dimensions. Even better, it lists all of the standard rail dimensions, and notes which ones the NH used:

Once again, we find that the 4" rail is 56 lb. Here are a couple of additional pages from the book regarding rail:

How does this apply to our modeling? 

Conventional modeling wisdom is to use Code 83 for main tracks, and Code 70 for sidings and yards, and occasionally with Code 55 for light industry tracks. The fact is, for many modelers it should be Code 70 and lighter.

To start, a quick refresher on rail codes. Model rail is measured by "code" which refers to the height of the rail. Code 100 is 0.10" and Code 70 is 0.70" tall. The prototype refers to the weight of the rail, per yard.

There are many sources that relate the two, a common one I see (such as this one) is:

  • Code 100 = 156 lb. rail
  • Code 83 = 132 lb. rail
  • Code 70 = 100 lb. rail

Or this one from the NMRA that indicates Code 100 "represents" 152 lb. rail instead of 156 lb. rail.

But the NMRA data shows it's a bit more complicated:

  • 155 lb. rail would actually be Code 92 (and 152 lb. rail would be maybe Code 90).
  • Code 83 falls between AREA 140 lb. rail (Code 84) and AREA 132 lb. rail (Code 82).

Railway Prototype Cyclopedia 5 has a chart detailing several brands of rail, in various scales, which fills in some holes. I use Microengineering track/rail, which is:

  • Code 100 = 177 lb. rail (!)
  • Code 83 = 136 lb. rail (Code 82 is 132 lb., Code 84 is 140 lb.)
  • Code 70 = 108 lb. rail
  • Code 55 = 74 lb. rail

Can we even model the 56 lb. rail? Microengineering makes Code 40 rail, although it's designed for N-scale. But it would be even smaller, about 3.5" tall or the equivalent of 40 lb. rail. On the NMRA RP 15.1 it shows 55 lb. rail is Code 47.

Based on the common designation of Code 100 = 155 lb, it's often noted that the only use of such heavy rail was the PRR on a relatively short section of their heaviest mainlines. This isn't quite true. As it turns out, 155 lb. rail is noted on a NH Rail Weight Diagram (updated through November 9, 1954) in a very short segment on the westbound main track just west of Saybrook. I believe it was also used on the P&LE in at least one segment. Regardless, it's not widely used.

The rest of the rail on the westbound main track from Boston to Woodlawn is 130 lb. or 132 lb. rail. Some sections of the eastbound main are 140 lb. rail, much of it welded.

If the Shoreline is 132 lb. rail, or a close match to Code 83 and the Maybrook Line is 130 lb. rail, it seems that the old standard of "Code 83 for the main tracks" holds true.

Or does it?

If you look at the diagram, the only other major section on the entire New Haven Railroad with 130/132 lb. rail through 1954 is Middleboro to Matfield, MA. The Springfield main track is 112 lb. rail (along with Groton to Norwich), with all of the rest of the rail on the New Haven 107 lb. or lighter. The Berkshire Line, Highland Line, Most of the Norwich & Worcester, parts of the Air Line, Midland Line, and the Canal Line north of Plainville are all this weight rail.

Branch lines, like the New Hartford, Griffins, Suffield, and even the Valley Line are under 80 lb. rail. An earlier map reveals these to be primarily 78, 79 and 80 lb. rail.

So unless you're modeling the Shoreline, Maybrook Line, or Springfield Line, your New Haven layout should be Code 70 or even Code 55 for the main tracks.

There are far more prototypical rail weights than available codes of model rail, because it's not practical to manufature all of them. Here's how I would cover the range of rail weights:

  • Code 83 = 122-140 lb. rail
  • Code 70 = 91-121 lb. rail
  • Code 55 = 74-91 lb. rail
  • Code 40 = anything less than 74 lb. rail
Another way to think of it is heavy, medium, light, and extra light rail. 

So yes, Code 83 for heavily trafficked main tracks. Otherwise, Code 70 for main tracks, and Code 55 for others. While this covers only the NH, I suspect it holds true for a lot of other railroads through the '50s (at least).

New Haven standard rail weights are: 56, 60, 67, 68, 70, 74, 75, 78, 79, 80, 90, 93, 100, 107, 130. That's 15 different rail profiles, although I think this was largely because the NH was consolidated out of many smaller roads and they each used different rail.

  • Code 83 = 7.1" tall, New Haven 131 lb. rail is 7-1/8" tall.
  • Code 70 = 6.1" tall, New Haven 107 lb. rail is 6-1.8" tall.
  • Code 55 = 4.8" tall, New Haven 78 and 79 lb. rail is 4-3/4" tall.
That's a pretty close match in my opinion.

Prototype Usage

Really? Code 70 for most model railroads? Yes, at least pre-1970, and probably much later too.

The NMRA has a chart at the bottom of RP-15 - Rail that compiles prototype usage of different weights of rail from 1940 to 1960. What I find very interesting is that in 1960 only 25.66% of rail in use on Class I railroads was 120 lbs or heavier.

That is, in 1960, only 25% of rail in use was the equivalent of Code 83.

The rest would be the equivalent of Code 70 (52%) or less; ~20% would be Code 55, and the remainder even lighter, or Code 40.

I don't have percentages for eras later than 1960, but as you can see the adoption of heavier rail was fairly slow. Part of that is because the heavier rail is primarily installed on heavily used main tracks. A lot of the time that old rail that doesn't meet the standards for heavy main track use can still be used on branch and lighter used lines. So the rail gets reused, and the oldest rail slowly gets replaced. 


What about more modern modelers? I don't have a lot of info, of course, except for what I've seen around here. Over on the ex-Highland Line and the Canal Line (in Plainville) it is still predominantly ex-NH 107 lb rail (Code 70). But it can vary.

The CNZR has slowly upgraded portions of the track over the years. They get rail from other roads in the state. From what I understand, since the state owns the railroad, when rail is taken out someplace else, such as the Springfield mainline, it has to be made available for the smaller railroads. A freight-only line with low speeds doesn't need the same weight of rail as a high-speed main track. In a few hundred feet I found rail in use from as early as 1908, and up to 140 lb. welded rail. Compromise joint bars must be used between sections of different size rail, and in some cases, there are very short sections of a given size simply because they need to use multiple size compromise bars to get from a very small weight rail to a much heavier size. In a lot of cases I could barely read the old markings, but the first one is the standard NH 107 lb. rail that is still common throughout CT.

This sort of detail may seem very particular, but it is noticeable, especially in photographs. Since photos of our models turn them into 1:1 scale, and most people are likely to see your modeling in photos than in person, little details like these can become more important.

Myths About Rail Code

The code of rail doesn't have anything to do with reliability or ease of use. Wheels interface with the rail the exact same way regardless of what code the rail is. Code 100 isn't easier to work with, more durable, less prone to derailments, less susceptible to poor track installation, etc., or any of the many other comments you may see. 

The only exception are models that don't have RP-25 flanges may bottom out on the spikes (especially oversized spikes, molded or otherwise). You may find these on older (early '60s and before), or European models (which are often actually 00 scale), through the '80s. But fixing this is as simple as changing out the wheelsets. This is possible even with locomotives.

The reason there is no difference in use is simply because the only thing that matters is how the wheel rides on the rail head. The wheel primarily contacts the inner railhead, although model wheel treads aren't always cone-shaped like the prototype so sometimes they ride more on the railhead itself. The only difference is how tall the rail is, but that's irrelevant mechanically, unless the wheels have oversized flanges.

Electrically, smaller rail does have a higher degree of voltage drop, for the same reason that a thinner wire does. However, they conduct electricity to the wheelsets in exactly the same way. Sufficient feeders are recommended for redundancy anyway. 

Code 55 or less is more flexible. If you compare it to Code 100 you'll see why. It's much lighter rail. But the mechanical operation is the same.

I'd recommend doing a little research, and you may be surprised and find that even Code 83 is larger than you need. I also found Microengineering Code 70 was less expensive than Atlas Code 100 when building my layout. I do wish I had used more Code 55 for industry tracks, but in photos it appears the yard tracks may be the same size rail as the main tracks. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Pictures from work (CNZR)

I haven't done a whole lot of rail fanning, but when I have, it's often literally "rail" fanning, since there aren't all that many trains running near me. Now that I'm working at CNZR part time, I have a lot of opportunity to do so.

Here's a shot at the start of a Sunday morning work day at Tobey Rd looking toward Hartford.

One of the things you'll notice on a lot of layouts is that the right of way, and scenery around it, is often very uniform. This is true to some degree on a well maintained mainline, especially back in the '50s and earlier. But you'll otherwise find that it's quite variable, in part because of the terrain around it.

Looking the other way, and a little up the line (past the current construction) you'll see that there are a lot of tall weeds. It's hard to tell, but this is in a drainage ditch. The track here is actually in a bit of a depression, you'll note that the ground on both sides is higher. 

If I move up to where that line pole is, you'll see that the weeds are much less, and the ditch has a lot of small puddles of water. 

On the opposite side, looking back towards Hartford again, this side has almost no vegetation (it's in shade all day), It's just dry, but still has a drainage ditch (also dry).

Looking away from Hartford again, the pile of newer ballast is where the other photo was taken. That ballast is there for the ongoing construction, but it also highlights that the scenery also tells a bit of the history of the railroad. 

That's often most clear in things like the ties, in this case where there are a lot of well-worn ties, with some replacements. Again you can see how the ballast varies quite a bit.

One last shot looking toward Hartford.

For earlier eras, we have to rely on photos for details like these. If you're modeling railroading today, though, I highly recommend getting out there and taking a look where you can (safely and legally). I will say that in pictures of New Britain in my era, the track and right of way are much better maintained. This sort of interesting track and scenery almost makes me want to model a later era. 


Friday, September 24, 2021

Fun with 3D Printing

I recently pointed out to Chris that the etched grate that is on the Proto 2000 S-1 model is incorrect. The S-1, as with the S-2 and RS-1 locomotives, had shutters over the fan housing, not a grate. The New Haven and many other roads later installed a walk-over grates, but the fan itself was covered by shutters.

Chris had the good sense to start a Facebook chat with our buddy Mike Redden and another one of our 3D printing buddies, Chris Zygmunt.

Within less than 24 hours, we had photos of multiple test prints to discuss as Chris Z. and Mike had worked up several variations.

Chris Z. printed out several and left them with Chris A. and last night I picked them up while at Chris A's for an ops session (yes, I know a whole alphabet's worth of Chris-es)...

The discussion revolved around a number of things, one of which is how it will be installed. The P2k model has a slight lip on the inside of the fan housing to hold the etched part. So a logical approach would be to be a part that can just drop in.

However, the actual set of shutters rests on top of a slightly larger housing. By making it the size of that frame, one can simply sand off the old frame (leaving the larger housing) and glue this on top. Another advantage with this approach is that the same part can also be used for the Atlas RS-1 and S-2, since those don't have an etched part to replace.

I have cut out the fan in my models, because I'm hoping to let the sound come out through the fan housing. To this end, I'd like a set of shutters that has openings between them. 

So the first one I tried of the three that Chris Z. printed has 16 shutters, with spaces between them. The shutters of all of these are at a 45-degree angle, but are so small I'm not sure that will be visible. Only about 1/3 of the slits were open, so I cleaned the rest out with a scalpel.

I did end up with two small cracks in the process, but didn't look problematic. Until I was trying to cut off what was left of the supports and broke the end off altogether.

It won't be a real issue, though, it fits together cleanly. So here it is just placed on top of the shell.

I really like it, I'll see what the others look like. This is the one with the full 22 shutters that I believe is prototypical. It's slightly too small, but it really looks correct otherwise. I tried to open up spaces between the shutters but there isn't any way that will work.

The third option has 20 shutters, and is sized to be an exact replacement for the etched part, so it drops right in. Again, I couldn't open up spaces between the shutters.

I've seen photos of Mike's versions, but don't have any in person yet to check out. I may very well use a couple of different ones. Looking forward to those (as well as the radiator shutters Mike is working on).

I'm glad Chris had the foresight to pull the group together, and Chris Z. and Mike continue to impress me with their skill in creating parts like these. I'm torn on whether I like the 22-shutter or open shutter version better. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

R-1-b 3335 on EA-2

I'm continuing to work on the new version of the website. Here's what I was working on tonight...

R-1-b 3335 eastbound with EA-2 at Newington Junction. Cochrane

The Speed Witch was one of the highest priority freights on the New Haven, consisting primarily of less-than-carload (L.C.L.) traffic bound for the Pennsylvania Railroad via Bay Ridge. This was an advertised service, overnight to Philadelphia from just about any point on the New Haven.

The Speed Witch itself (NE-1) was a Boston to Bay Ridge train, NE-2 was a reverse move from Bay Ridge, but only to Cedar Hill. In busy years, such as 1947, there was a First NE-1 (1/NE-1) from Boston, and a Second NE-1 (2/NE-1) from Bridgeport.

ANE-1 was a Hartford to Bridgeport leg of the Speed Witch, connecting to NE-1 at Bridgeport. EA-2 was the reverse of the schedule, although it didn't have the prestige of the Speed Witch.

ANE-1 was regularly hauled by R-1-b class No. 3335 until the train was eliminated. It appears this was by January 31, 1949. A supplement for the Arranged Freight Train Service with that date has an update for YN-1 indicating that it protects the closing for L.C.L at the freight house in New Britain at 5.45 pm, and establishes connections with NE-1 at Cedar Hill. Prior to that date, the freight house traffic was loaded on ANE-1.

I don't have any evidence that this train ran with other motive power, but No. 3335 was condemned on November 9, 1948. The April, 1948 Arranged Freight Service book only has tonnage ratings for an R-1-b, even though many other runs list ratings for diesels and steam. NE-1 is rated for DER-1 (DL-109) class locomotives. If ANE-1 ran from November 1948 to January 1949, it may have used a different R-1-b class locomotive, or a pair of DER-1 locomotives. DER-2 (FA-1/FB-1) locomotives could also have been used, although I don't know if they could have kept the schedule. It may have also been annulled in November, 1948.

I had the Key brass model. They released a version with Southern valve gear, which is appropriate for this locomotive. The Key model came with a Vanderbilt tender, although the initial release was wrong. Apparently they produced the correct tender, although I don't know if original purchasers simply received one, or if they had to purchase one. However, 3335 had the USRA tender (from one of the original 10 R-1s), so I found a brass tender produced by Sunset to replace the Vandy tender (which I gave to Dick since he had the version with the wrong Vandy tender).

However, both ANE-1 and EA-2 run outside of my op session window. So I decided to sell it, and it went to modeling buddy Bill Chapin who is modeling the Highland Line (among others) and now has the correct R-1-b for these trains.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Feeders and Exploring DCC for the I-2s

I've been working on one of my least favorite parts of the hobby - feeders. It's really not that bad, especially once I get started. I just have a lot of them to do. I've done about 15 pairs by the time I took this photo. 

Working at Whiting St. Yard.

Another 16 pair or so to go in Whiting St. Then I still have the Berlin Line, some in staging, the east side of town and the west side including Stanley Works. Yep, lots of feeders to go.

I have also made more progress on building the new website. 

In addition to making progress on what I should be doing, I also had my Crown Custom I-2s sitting at my desk, and started planning how I'll install DCC, sound and weight. I have an opportunity to get a couple that have already been weighted and upgraded to DCC. I'd have to sell mine, and hope that I cover most of the cost of picking those up.

Another potential factor is I have different goals that I'm trying to accomplish with my installations, and those wouldn't be set up the way I'd like. They would work great, of course, I'm just looking to do something a little different.

An ESU micro (or a Soundtraxx Tsunami Micro) will fit behind the motor. Both have a Next18 18-pin connector. This means I can do all of the wiring first, and the decoder is removable if I ever need to replace it. As a result, I plan on using these pretty much exclusively, even if the larger version would fit.

Chris prefers the Tsunami decoders for steam. Since he's fired real steam locomotives and understands the most minute details about operating a steam locomotive, I trust his judgement.  I checked and (as expected, due to NMRA standards) the pin-outs are the same, so by installing that wire harness, I can use either decoder.

Why not put it into the tender? Because if the decoder is in the locomotive, I only need to run two wires to the tender (for the reverse light). The power from the tender comes via the drawbar. In my era the lights weren't used during the day, so I don't even have to do that if I don't want to.

There's also space above the motor. Of course, I can't see inside it to tell, but a rough measurement tells me that there's quite a bit. As a test I put two layers of .080" styrene the length of the open section inside and the chassis installed without any issues. So there's room to add quite a bit of weight. I'll need that since these will have to haul as many as 5 passenger cars up the helix.

There are two electronic components (I removed the shrinkwrap) that go to the headlight. I haven't opened the tender to see if there's a similar one to the reverse light. One is a diode/bridge rectifier. I can't find it by searching for the markings on the internet, but I suspect they are for helping to protect the lights and maintain better continuity on DC. They won't be necessary if I replace the lights with LEDs, but I will need to fit in resistors. That won't be difficult, though, there's plenty of space.

I do, however, like the small plugs used for the lights. In this case there's one in the boiler and there's a second one in the smokebox. This allows you to remove the smokebox cover and unplug the light, and the same thing when removing the boiler from the chassis. I may very well consider similar connectors for other installations.

There's also space for the speaker in the front, here's an example of an I-2 that Tony's Trains did with the speaker in the smokebox. In this case there's also a speaker in the tender. I'll consider that, although I may try with the single speaker first, since adding the second one requires more wires to the tender.

I'm on the fence for adding a keep-alive. It's a decent size locomotive with a long wheelbase. It also only has to come from staging, make a station stop, and return to staging. So it's not going to get a whole lot of activity where it is necessary. On the other hand, I kind of want to use them on all locomotives as a general standard. I'll probably order a Tsunami Micro and Soundtraxx Current-Keeper to see how they (especially the Current-Keeper) will fit. Of course, there's plenty of room in the tender if I want to run additional wires there.

By now you're probably wondering why I keep mentioning that. It's primarily about appearance. It's not all that difficult to do, although there's the question of whether the wires are "permanent" or have a connector so you can still disconnect the tender. My goal is to try to make the wires look like the water lines. I'm even considering removing part of the existing lines and replacing them entirely with the wiring between the locomotive and tender. It is possible to get wire with multiple internal conductors, so I could have 4 or even 6 wires going to the tender that still look like two wires/hoses. However, with more wires, it will be harder to hide the connectors if I decide to do a removable option.

If I replace the wire hoses, I will lose some detail (there's a valve on the line), although I have been looking for something similar that is cored to receive wire (primarily at Precision Scale) and hoping I can make that hole large enough to accommodate whatever wire I'm using. I also need to find a way to stiffen the wire for most of the run, but have enough flexibility for curves.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Keep Moving Forward

I generally have two different layout work tracks going at a given time. The first is the stuff that I really need to get done. Things like the lights, feeders, some additional trackwork, etc. A lot of these projects are things that aren't always high on my list of, "things I like to do."

The second track are the things that I do find interesting, at least at a given moment in time. 

I try to make sure I make some progress in the first category several times a week. But for those times where time is short, or I'm tired (especially mentally), I try to just make sure I get down to the basement and find something of interest to work on.

The progress I've made in the basement with the lighting, paneling, and organization has helped a lot with that. It makes it a fun place to be, and I generally do a lot of other work down there as well. The more I'm in the basement, the more likely I'll make progress on something.

Tonight was one of those nights. I was tired, didn't really feel like doing anything, but I had something interesting sitting on the bench.

The KV Models handrail stanchions I got for the S-1s. But as I looked at how they need to be installed, I decided it would make more sense to get a proper bending tool.

So now I'm sitting at my desk/workbench, looking around the room and, when leaning back, the ceiling (because the lights are still very cool). But I still need to finish the (really annoying) job of fitting the (really annoying) fiberglass ceiling tiles that were left. If they hadn't used these tiles when our house was built, I would have used different ones. But they're already here. 

Originally I thought I would need to pick up quite a few new tiles for the Whiting St. Yard, but since I installed so many lights, I had a bunch of spare ones. So I might as well get working on those.

As it turned out, I was two tiles short. I didn't even need two full tiles, but I needed big enough chunks of each that I couldn't get what I needed out of one tile. Home Depot didn't carry them, of course, and the closest Lowe's that had them in stock was about 45 minutes away.

Didn't matter, I was going to finish this tonight. 

The last pieces were the far side of the ceiling over Whiting St. Yard. The great part is that the ceiling is one of those projects that only needs to be completed once.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Maybrook Mix

With the recent announcement of new FA-1/FB-1s from Rapido (it's about time!), I'll want to be prepared for adding the Maybrook freights.

Modeling buddy Mike Clements recently pointed me (back to) Julian Erceg's fantastic site Moving the Freight. Specifically the Traffic Study of Maybrook Freight in 1957.

While it's a fascinating study, I'd recommend reading the whole thing and I'll be pulling more info from it, the initial use I'll get from it is working out a mix of routes.

For example, Maybrook to Hartford traffic in January '57 through Maybrook was routed via:

  • Erie 31%
  • LHR 34%
  • LNE 8%
  • O&W 24%
  • NYC 2%

Maybrook to Holyoke was:

  • Erie 23%
  • LHR 55%
  • LNE 9%
  • O&W 14%

The Wheel Report data also provides great info. Traffic to Hartford in average carloads from:

  • Maybrook 58 (44%)
  • New York 44 (33%)
  • East 16 (12%)
  • Cedar Hill 15 (11%)

East would be from Boston as well as CV via New London, etc. The Cedar Hill cars probably include transloaded LCL and cars from locals and industries that route via Cedar Hill.

This will be great information to incorporate into the routing information on waybills, and may also impact the mix of road names represented in these trains.

Monday, September 13, 2021


 The main room is done:

The staging lights are turned off here. It is super bright. There are slight shadows in the corners, but these really only show up in photos, not when you're standing there in person.

This is looking over a car, with my arms and the camera between the lights, on the track farthest from the front of the layout. Visibility is amazing.

Here's another angle of the same cars. You can see a bit of shadow, but not much. It's most prominent on the wall behind the Landers mock-up.

The lights are LED troffers for a drop ceiling from Amazon (the 2'x4' units in this section) and Home Depot (the 2'x2' in this section). They are 9000 and 4900 lumens, both 5000k. They are also dimmable, and I'll see what that looks like after installing the dimmer tomorrow. There are six 2'x4' and six 2'x2' lights in this section, arranged in a simple rectangle. There will be two over the Stanley/Berlin Line, and two over Whiting St Yard.

Because they are "daylight" (5000k) the layout looks very different than before. It really brightens things up, and not just because there is more light.

I've been experimenting with different color grass tufts, which is much more noticeable now.

It also doesn't matter what angle I use to take pictures anymore. 

The rest of the basement will be finished tomorrow, including dimmers. Getting this done has been a big part of preparing to move forward on other projects since I didn't want to worry about working on the ceiling this extensively after completing some of those other ones.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Copaco Livestock Chute


What's Copaco? It was the Connecticut Packing Co, located in Bloomfield, CT. The primary livestock they received was probably hogs, although I wouldn't be surprised if they received cattle too. They were known for their sausages.

There's a shopping center named Copaco in the general vicinity of where the company was located, and when we moved to the area they used to have a petting zoo in the front parking lot (including a giraffe, I recall).

Why am I posting it? I've started working for the railroad.

The Central New England (CNZR) to be specific. Eversource is replacing 175 of the high voltage line poles with steel poles, and they need flaggers and don't have enough people. So when Dale asked if I was interested, I thought, why not?

So while I was there I decided to walk down and take a couple of pictures. Training this weekend, and from there I think the "work" will be standing there there to clear the crews from the tracks in the event a train comes through, along with ensuring they don't do anything they're not allowed to.