Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Loot Report

The holiday season is always a good time to get stuff for the layout or tools for modeling, especially things you might not normally buy for yourself. This year was no exception so I wanted to share the model railroad items I received for Christmas this year.

Even though I was good this year (I swear!) Santa still brought me coal in my stocking. Actually the coal was a 48 pack of Accurail 3 bay coal loads which was fine with me as I need all I can get. I'll end up coating them with white glue or matte medium and then covering them with either the Dollar Tree Black Decorative Sand or real crushed coal I use for the larger mine run sizes.

The Walthers Truck Dump kit represents a smaller mining operation so the potential candidates are limited to a few locations on my end of the Wheeling District. One truck dump I would like to add is just east of Adena Yard but at this point I'm not sure if there will be room. Another possibility is a spot on the AC&NA branch at the small town of Georgetown (not the Prep Plant). Either way I'd like to modify the kit a bit so it won't be quite so recognizable as a Walthers kit.

Through out the year I saved a few interesting items to my wife's Amazon watch list that were mentioned in the Model Railroad Hobbyist forums.

The first was an inexpensive Optivisor type headset magnifier. Shortly after hitting 40 I noticed my close up vision begin to degrade, sigh...  I now have a pair of reading glasses to help at the workbench and this magnifying headset will really help for the even smaller stuff.

The second item of interest from the MRH forums was a tube of low temperature solder. I want to try it out for soldering specific parts of the frog when building Fast Track turnouts. I'm sure it will have other uses as well.

Lastly my son got me an Athearn RTR Pittsburgh & West Virginia caboose that I had my eye on for a while. My local hobby shop closed shortly after I had placed an order and since I don't really model the P&WV it wasn't really a priority to order elsewhere. However if I ever get a bigger basement (house) I'd like to model the same area but extend things to include Jewett and the line along the Ohio River. Expanding to Jewett would let me model the P&WV run through trains coming from Pittsburgh Junction heading to Brewster and vise versa. Brendan is all about any idea for a bigger layout and made sure I got the caboose for Christmas.

Well that was all for me, I hope everybody also had a happy holiday season and found a few train items under the tree!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Jim Talbott's Wheeling & Lake Erie

Back in July, Brendan and I had the honor to visit with Jim Talbott and see his excellent modern day Wheeling & Lake Erie layout which was featured in Model Railroader's Great Model Railroads 2015.
Jim models the Wheeling mainline from Brewster to the steel mills at Mingo Junction along with Norfolk Southern and CSX run through trains.

Living a couple blocks from the W&LE's Akron line has helped make the orange and black my son's favorite railroad and in turn has grown on me as well. So when the GMR issue came out Brendan and I were thrilled to see the Wheeling make it into a modeling magazine. Little did we know Jim would start reading this blog and extend an invitation to visit his layout. Finally this summer the need for new bedroom furniture for Brendan and Jim's close proximity to an Ikea store provided the foundation for a quick one day road trip.

We arrived at Jim's after lunch and after a quick tour we were both set up with trains to run.

The engine terminal was busy with the Wheeling's large fleet of SD40-2s and a few CSX locomotives. What really sells the scene as Brewster Yard is Jim's representation of the large brick shop building with its tall banks of windows. 

Jim had a push-pull train of hoppers set up for me to run from Brewster to Mingo Junction. I got on my train right next to the Wheeling's imposing brick headquarters building which is appropriately nicknamed "The Brick". Having seen the building several times I can say Jim did a great job modeling the structure.

At the same time Brendan had his own train to run from Mingo Jct. to Brewster. Being that the Wheeling was a single track mainline, a meet was planned for us to pass at Bowerston.

I met Brendan's train at Bowerston and proceeded onward to Jewett passing by a large gravel operation.

Jim was quick to point while the route we were taking is real and the towns are in the correct order, he had to add a lot of industry that doesn't exist to provide work for the trains along the way. Today on the prototype there simply isn't much rail served industry between Brewster and Pittsburgh. Even the Steel Mill at Mingo was closed by the late 2000's, hence Jim setting the date at 2006.

On the way to Jewett is a fantastic farm scene that was also featured in the GMR magazine. This is very typical of the farms that populate the rolling hills of SE Ohio and was my favorite spot to photograph on Jim's layout.

Passing through Jewett and onward past Pittsburgh Junction to the large steel trestle at the Nelms Mine.

No offense to the the Leigh Valley layout on the cover of GMR 2015 but the bridge at Nelms or the farm scene should've been the one to make the cover photo. Jim told us it was close but Cornell Red beat him out in the end. This dramatic bridge scene was probably my son's favorite place on the layout.

I arrived at Mingo Junction and set my hoppers off in the yard. The Steel Mills dominate the scene and if you've ever seen these industrial complexes along the Ohio River you'll feel right at home here.

After dropping off my hoppers full of ore for the furnaces, I picked up a string of empties for the return to Brewster.

In the meantime Brendan ran some Norfolk Southern GE's lite from Pittsburgh Junction to Brewster to pick up a train.

Approaching the fully signaled Pittsburgh Junction with my train of empties.

Obviously I can't get enough of the Farm!

Back at Brewster Jim has a huge Grain Facility inspired by a similar large facility on the west end of the Wheeling near Norwalk. Brendan's NS units have their train and are headed back to Pittsburgh Junction to staging.

Lastly as a special treat, Jim brought out the Nickel Plate Road Heritage unit for a coal train that Brendan and I took turns running to the power plant at Mingo Junction.

While running trains Jim and I talked about his old Nickel Plate Road layout which was pretty much what I'm trying to build now, hauling coal on the old Wheeling! He described the track plan, mines , operations and even the flaws that would eventually help design the present layout. He still had his fleet of NKP diesels and steam engines from that layout patiently awaiting a call for a mine run. I was happy to hear how my blog helps Jim vicariously relive his previous layout through my efforts to recreate the same NKP/Wheeling coal operations. At the end of our stay Jim surprised me by giving me one of his NKP Geeps from his old fleet and also gifted Brendan with a modern Wheeling hopper car.

I'm always surprised by the kindness and appreciation from others I've  received for writing this blog. In the past I've wondered what kind of an impact this blog creates on people. I see the page views and the statistics but its usefulness is harder to judge most of the time. What I've discovered is that writing these posts and sharing old photos has given me the opportunity to make new connections with great people and modelers like Jim. That alone makes me happier than any gift could, but I was more than happy to put that Geep to work. It's already pulled a few test trains with two other sister Geeps.

It's visits to great model railroads and the people that build them that help inspire and keep me going in times when I go down to the basement and sometimes just see a pile of pink foam.

Thanks again for having us Jim!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #105

Hanna Coal Co.'s Tipple "D" was a truck dump tipple on the AC&NA Branch. This is a quick photo of a huge track valuation map of the entire AC&NA Branch I found while doing some research.  CSU Michael Schwartz Library NKP Collection

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Update

Sorry for the lack of real updates recently. Life in general, the holidays and a bathroom remodel project have diverted my attention lately. Not to say I haven't done anything in the basement, little things here and there have been accomplished. A couple new benchwork supports have been added, a homemade switch tie jig was created and I built 30 of the nearly 55 wood trestle bents needed for various bridges. A few weeks ago I also placed an order with Cascade Rail Supply for their 30 degree branchline homasote roadbed. Once this arrives I can start laying the mainline through Adena.

But... as you can see below there's some serious house work to do first. I think however I can sneak in a little train work late at night when it gets too loud for hammers and tile cutting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #104

Located between Adena and Dillonvale, Herrick was a storage and drop off point for empty hoppers and ore loads. At one time there used to be a small town and mine located here. CSU Michael Schwartz Library W&LE Collection

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #103

Many of the W&LE wood 0800 class survived in the N&W era. Here's hastily repainted exW&LE 0876/NKP 876 somewhere on the Wheeling District, maybe along the Ohio River.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #102

NKP W&LE District Adena to Pine Valley CTC Study Plan 4-7-52 CSU Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections, NKP Collection

CTC signals controlled Brewster to Adena and beyond that was "dark" train order territory. The proposed signaling extension eastward never happened but it was a fascinating find among the boxes of old papers in the Special Collections at the CSU Michael Schwartz Library.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #101

Here are a couple of the models I displayed at the 2016 NKPHTS Convention in Bellevue this past October. These are simply Accurail kits with PanPastel weathering and Dollar Tree black sand coal loads.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #98

NKP model display by Chris and Brendan Ellis at the 2016 NKPHTS Convention in Bellevue, OH. NKP Airslide Hopper and TOFC models by Mont Switzer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #97

NKP 819 with the Hanna Coal Marion Shovel "The Mountaineer" during a photo op session on the AC&NA Branch at Hanna, OH., Historical Stripping Shovel Archive, Rachel Frew Collection.
This is seriously an awesome photo.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Now and Then, Hanna Coal Offices

As a companion to Wordless Wedneday #96 and inspired by a comment from Jeff S, here's what the Hanna Coal Co's Office & Maintenance complex looks like in 2012.

Remains of the Hanna Coal Office and Maintenance buildings, looking north. 12-12-2012 Chris Ellis Photo.
Remains of the Hanna Coal Office and Maintenance buildings, looking south. 12-12-2012 Chris Ellis Photo.
There's not much of anything left now, just a few piles of rubble and empty pads of concrete.

Here's another view from past looking south.

Hanna Coal Co. Offices and Maintenance Buildings, looking south. Gem of Egypt fan page

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #96

On the AC&NA Branch near Tipple A and the Goodyear Mine (both long gone in this photo) sat Hanna Coal's Offices and Maintenance Buildings. The tracks exit the bottom of the photo and continue west to Tipple E and The Georgetown Prep Plant. Gem of Egypt fan page,

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #95

The 765 in disguise as the 767 at Northside Station Akron, OH 9-25-2016, Chris Ellis photo

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #94

 Hanna Coal Truck at the Georgetown Prep Plant, Cadiz, OH. Facebook: Historical Stripping Shovel Archive, Rachel Frew Collection

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Construction Report: September 20, 2016

The Fast Tracks turnout machine is at notch eight as I crank out switches for Adena area. A fresh package containing 99 feet of Micro Engineering code 70 rail helps feed the machine every night after dinner. I try to at least build one and start a second on the days I work, occasionally I actually get two completed. My days off haven't been as productive as I've hoped but I've managed to keep the level of production steady.

I still need to build four #8 left handed curved turnouts using only the paper Fast Tracks templates like in Not So Wordless Wednesday #78 for the east Adena Yard ladder. In the meantime I'm doing a pretty fine job of procrastinating by building the easy fixture guided #6 turnouts. Sadly I only need three more of those #6's.

The turnout pile so far.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Netflix and Fast Tracks Weekend.

I spent the weekend building Fast Track switches while binging on the excellent BBC show "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell" on Netflix. It's based on a book that portrays magic as a long lost art that returns to 1800's England. Don't think Harry Potter, this reads more like historical fiction. It's also probably one of the better book to TV/Movie conversions I've watches.

Anyways... I turned out several #6 switches and began construction of the other 6 curved #8 switches I'll need to build Adena yard. If I hadn't been watching Netflix I'm sure my output might have been higher but it was a good way to pass the time.

After building a right hand curved #8 30"/24" radius switch earlier in the summer I felt pretty good about "free hand" building turnouts with only the Fast Tracks paper templates. I finished my first left handed version of the aforementioned switch type while watching the finale of that BBC show. Probably not a good idea as my split focus did not produce the results I had back in that Wordless Wednesday #78 post.

I ended up making a multitude of mistakes. The diverging route wing rail was a bit tight to the frog point rail. The frog points were too short and stubby allowing some wheel drop into the frog on my test wheel set. And to top it all off it wasn't even a #8 30/24 radius switch I built. I accidentally used the #8 40/30 paper template I thought I set aside. No wonder it didn't quite fit into the yard ladder I had laid out on paper. The 40/30 radius switch was for the yard throat and I wanted to save it for last as I figured my switch building skills would be sharper by then. Whoops.

Well I did get building that switch out of the way, but unfortunately I had to go back and fix all it's  problems. Better to make sure its right now then have to fix it when its installed on the layout.

If there's any moral to this blog post, I guess it would be don't build switches while watching compelling TV shows!

Desoldering the far too short frog points.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Wheeling & Lake Erie's Valley Line to Reopen?

On the Unofficial Wheeling & Lake Erie Fanpage on Facebook a story was posted saying the modern day W&LE may bring a large section of the Valley Line (Pittsburg Junction to Warrenton) back to life. The Wheeling has received a decision from the Surface Transportation Board allowing it an exemption to operate a 14.6 mile section of its formerly abandoned Valley Line.

Here's an excerpt from the decision covering the two different sections of track.

Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company (W&LE) a Class II rail carrier, has filed a verified notice of exemption under 49 C.F.R. § 1150.31[1] to operate approximately 14.6 miles of trackage in Harrison and Jefferson Counties, Ohio consisting of two segments:  (a) between milepost 188.5 and milepost 189.1 near Unionvale and (b) between milepost 191.5 near Adena and milepost 205.54 near Warrenton.  Both segments are part of a previously abandoned rail line known as the Valley Line.
 This lets the Wheeling operate from Pittsburg Junction to Kenwood where a big stone operation already occupies the mainline past Unionvale near Kenwood. The other section runs west from Warrenton at the Ohio River past Dillonvale, Adena and through the Adena Tunnel. The missing 2.4 miles between 189.1 and 191.5 is left out for obvious reasons for now as seen below.

W&LE Toledo mainline washout at MP 191.5, just west of the Adena Tunnel. 11-29-2014 Chris Ellis photo
Perhaps there might be a future plan to rebuild this section? Maybe state funding is the goal to help rebuild? Either way this is exciting news, the Wheeling must have some kind of plan for this section of railroad. I wouldn't expect major levels of traffic but just to catch one train traveling this line again would be a pretty awesome experience!

For more reading here's a link to the STB's decision.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Construction Report: September 3, 2016, Coming Around the Corner

In Wordless Wednesday #91 I showed a bit of the west end of Adena as I tested my planned full train size (about 9 feet long, engine through caboose). Aside from laying down a temporary 25 foot mainline for testing and just to run some trains, most of my latest work actually involves the other end of Adena.

In order to fit the Adena yard into my space the east end of the yard ladder will curve the wrong way compared to the prototype. As you can see in the below photo the yard ladder practically starts at the bridge over the Short Creek and then curves right. My yard will unfortunately curve left here but that's just sometimes a fact of compromise when building a prototype based layout.

820 pulls a westbound coal drag over the Short Creek and into Adena yard.
This is one of only two photos I know of that show this end of the yard in action. The other is on the back cover of the April 1950 NKP Company Magazine showing a 2-6-6-2 in the same view but with much better detail. One of these days I'll get myself a copy.

To preserve the bridge being as straight as it's prototype I designed a section of benchwork that carries it above the dryer and water heater. This piece of benchwork had to be strong and removable to access the water heater if necessary, so I built it out of 3/4" plywood instead of my usual foam base.

At this point I'm sure some of you will be quick to point out I should not be building something that close to my Water Heater's exhaust flue, and you're right. In my quest to try and keep bridges and whatnot as prototypical as possible I felt building across the top of my Water Heater would be ok. Once I had this piece built and in place I immediately felt extremely uncomfortable about it and took it down.

For the last month I wrestled with how to re-approach this section, keep it and just remove it when the layout wasn't in use or do a full redesign? Knowing that my son would want to run trains when I wasn't around to help get this section back in place, I opted for the full redesign.

Compromise once again appeared and I decided to curve the bridge somewhat to get around the Water Heater. The plan here is after exiting Adena Yard and crossing the Short Creek the mainline will disappear into Long Run Tunnel and head into a staging yard representing all points east (Pine Valley Yard, Mingo Junction, and Martins Ferry). The small yard at Herrick in between Adena and Dillonvale is another victim of compromise, hence the run straight to Long Run Tunnel. As seen below, I used cardboard to mockup a new safer design.

Cardboard mockup with a slightly curved bridge.
Cardboard mockup in place.

The new design will allow me to sleep at night as it now swings around the Water Heater altogether and avoids the potentially hot areas of the Water Heater.

I still needed this section to be removable so I stuck with the same construction methods as before but this time I used some Birch plywood for added stability. The cardboard mockup ended up being sacrificed as a cutting template.

Much better, plenty of space and available airflow.
I'm real happy with how the construction turned out and it's a redesign I can totally live with. This was a good lesson to learn and I feel sharing a mistake in planning is a huge part in sharing my overall progress on this blog. Even though this won't be a perfect representation of the scene I wanted to recreate in the photo, I still can't wait to see it come to life.