Sunday, January 31, 2016

NKP Wheeling District Coal Production in 1953

A vast majority of my railroad research is on my computer, which is backed up to a network attached storage device and one other location(back up your data!). I do have a small pile of the real important stuff printed out and clipped together for easy access and portability. 

The one thing I tend to look at the most is the mine data. The best source of this information comes from the Nickel Plate Road's own book, "1954 Physical Data and Other Information of Interest: Wheeling & Lake Erie District and the Lorain & West Virginia Railway Company". This is more than just a good source for the mines but also bridges, online facilities, rail weight, grades, curves, interchange data with other railroads and other info. I found this on the Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society's great website at

Instead of constantly paging through my copy of the NKP Physical Data book looking for a particular mine, I decided to compile all the mine info in one nice spreadsheet.

Here's the link for spreadsheet below, I also added it to the left on my blog's front page under Useful Links.

Nickel Plate Road - Wheeling District Coal Production, Brewster to the Ohio River in 1953

As you can see the from the spreadsheet, this small chunk of the Wheeling District had an output of almost 195,000 hopper cars of coal in 1953. The tiny 10 mile long AC&NA Branch accounted for almost half that production alone!

Hanna Coal Co.'s Georgetown Preparation Plant on the AC&NA Branch. Nearing completion in this photo it will be responsible for loading almost 72,000 cars of coal for the NKP and PRR in 1953.
Now I need to figure out how many days a year a typical mine was in operation to figure out how many cars per day on average would've been produced. My hope is to get a close representation of how many cars the different mine runs would handle and help plan for each mine's track work for car capacity.

If you can offer any insight into that area feel feel to contact me or leave a comment!

Using this data I can see how much coal was being produced and where some of it was going. Coupling that information with other aspects of I've read about operations, I can begin to construct the larger operational picture without having all the needed details from station books, train order forms and stories from real railroaders all of which I'm sorely lacking. Although these would still be extremely useful if anybody has anything to share, stories, paper, etc!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #60

US&S CTC Machine for the W&LE's Brewster to Adena section of the Toledo Division, photo

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Multimedia Weathering Attempt

I'll admit a vast majority of my engines and freight cars are clean as a whistle, untouched by the forces of nature and man. Occasionally I've attempted to dirty up and weather a few cars with my airbrush but the experiments were brief and not very satisfying.

Knowing I would have to try a different approach, I asked my Wife for the Pan Pastel weathering sets for Christmas. These are artists pastels that have become all the rage with modelers for their ease of use and range of colors. In fact another fellow blogger, Jim Fawcett, also asked for and received Pan Pastels for Christmas!

Under the tree that morning was the Pan Pastel "Rust & Earth" kit I had asked for! Later on an Amazon gift card from my Mom would take care of the other weathering kit, "Greys, Grime & Soot".

Christmas bounty!
Eager to try them out I grabbed a hopper and started to weather the insides which typically turn rusty colors from the coal and the abuses of loading and unloading.

There has been plenty of press about Pan Pastels including an excellent article by Tony Koester in the November 2013 Model Railroader describing how quickly one can use them to weather a car or engine. One recommended practice is to give the car a coat of a flat finish to give the pastels some tooth to hang on to. This is even mentioned in the instructions that come in a Pan Pastel set. 

So guess what instructions I didn't read or magazine articles I forgot reading about in my haste? Not that the rust coloring turned out terrible but the effect was much more muted than I expected. That's when it dawned on me what step I might have skipped. Winter had finally arrived that week so without a paint booth I had to wait a bit to spray some Dullcote on my test models.

During the wait I googled weathering techniques, read blogs and forums looking for tips and tricks. A few interesting examples of using artist oils, washes, chalks and sprays really lit a fire in me to give the multimedia approach a try.  

I picked unwanted reefer acquired in a lot as the sacrificial car for this weathering attempt. I thought the car was ugly to begin with so if I fouled this weathering up nothing would change!

Athearn bluebox 57' ART MP/N&W Mechanical Reefer

The weather warmed up enough I could give the reefer a protective flat coat and spray the underframe, wheels and trucks with the same Rust-Oleum Camouflage Earth Brown I used in my scenery test module.

Before using the Pan Pastels I wanted to try a fade I had read about on The Weathering Shop to tone down the orange by drybrushing white oil paint. During the wait for warmer weather I visited the local craft store and picked up the needed artist oils and other related supplies.

Sadly I didn't take any photos during the weathering process as I mainly worked on the reefer during breaks I took while I've been studying for my CompTIA A+ exams.

In short, I put the white oil dry brush fade on too heavy but the beauty of oils is you can recover from such mistakes. Four or five washes of Raw Umber and Burnt Umber grimed up the sides and several heavy washes of those colors and Burnt Sienna helped give the roof a patchwork rust look. After letting that dry several days I sealed my work with some Dullcote from a rattlecan. Then once that dried the Pan Pastels came out to darken the screens for the refrigeration unit, smooth out the rust colors on the roof and highlight the trucks and underside features.

Here's the near final result.

Streaky rust side

Slightly cleaner side.

I think I've found the right path for weathering my models. The ease of using oils and Pan Pastels has gone beyond my expectations for those materials. Over all I'm really happy with my first attempt using the multimedia approach and I've already started on another "sacrificial" car.  I'll move on to my main car fleet once I do a few of these practice runs.

Here's a look at all the supplies I used for this project minus the Rust-oleum Camo Earth Brown spray can I forgot to add in the picture. The glass jar is full of low odor Mineral Spirits used in the washes and brush cleaning.

There really isn't much to it, just take time between washes and have lots of paper towels!

Back to studying!  :(

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #58

Originally built by the N&W and purchased used by the W&LE, "Big Ugly" #6806 works at Brewster, OH on September 1st 1950

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Adena Wye Overview and Tweak

Currently almost all my spare time has been devoted to studying for my CompTIA A+ exam (IT industry certification) next week, so I haven't started the Adena benchwork construction just yet.  However, I have managed to slip in a small amount of layout design time during study breaks.

First here's an overview of the tracks through Adena. At left is the wye junction and on the right you can easily see the yard and a few cuts of hoppers filled with coal.

Adena Overview 4-16-1958 USGS

Below is a close up of where most of the railroad action took place in town. Noted are the various buildings that also show up on my mock up in flat dimensions.

Having the mock up to look at for a week or so now has made me want to tweak a couple of things. This is why I love mocking up stuff, you can make major adjustments before real construction starts.

I felt the area at the east end of the wye before the bridges seemed a bit too cramped. Many of the prototype photos show a good amount of space in between the diverging routes before the ground drops off into the Short Creek. As an example click here to see a wonderful JJ Young Jr. photo of the Adena wye that shows that spacing between tracks. Wordless Wednesday #57 also conveniently shows this spacing.

To fix this I added about 4" to the space between the bridges and east wye switch by pushing the entire yard to the right. The yard was never going to fit completely along one wall anyways.

Four inches added between the bridges (yes the brown paper and black girder) and east wye switch.
I think this helped a lot but I may add a few more inches so I can fit a entire 2-6-6-2 off the bridge, have the tender access the water plug (as seen in the JJ Young photo) and still and be clear of the switch. The below photo shows another three or four inches will definitely be needed to achieve that goal.

Yep gotta get that tender off the bridge/brown paper, another four inches should do it.
Compression is a never ending battle when scaling down a scene. Is adding a few more inches here or there important? I don't know but I'll find out before it gets built, another reason to love mock ups!

Speaking of adding, I also decided to add the Adena Mill with a small bump out, increasing the precarious nature of my foam mock up. Thank God my cat is not a curious creature. He typically avoids the trains and associated shelving.

The paper flat Adena Mill
During my planning I've never really considered adding the Mill but this new configuration of Adena and the chance to add something to operations other than coal was worth quickly throwing it together to test out. Does it make the scene feel too busy? Will it affect reaching in near the yard throat? Once I'm ready to make this mock up real I should know if I feel whether it's a keeper or not.

I've always liked the Mill building, it's currently still standing but looks abandoned. I don't have any photos of it during the 1950's or 60's but here's one from this past year. It certainly doesn't seem to have changed much from the 1958 aerial photos.

Adena Mill 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo
If anybody from the area has any info about or photos of the mill in it's heyday please drop me line!

Well it's back to studying, but here's a few more photos from my short layout tweak sessions.

The benevolent cat, Wah Wah (yes that is really his name)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016

Mocking Up Adena Wye

After yesterday's Not So Wordless Wednesday #56, I felt I should show how the Adena Wye will fit into my space plus have all three routes active and function like the prototype.

For the March 2015 blog post describing the the design challenges I faced with this wye, click here.

The long story short is the wye at Adena needed to be modeled to have traffic flow from the branchlines back to the mainline in both directions of the wye. At the west end of the wye the mainline would go directly into staging representing Brewster and therefore could be hidden.  The east end of the wye heads directly into the coal marshaling yard at Adena and onward to another yard at Dillonvale or more staging.

Here's an 1950's aerial view of Adena showing the routes of the wye to help visualize what I'm talking about.

NKP Lines in Adena 1958 aerial photo USGS
I did have one design that handled the Adena yard and the wye in a large peninsula, it was huge and better suited for a dream basement. I've since decided I don't want a huge peninsula hogging up space in my current small basement.

So to keep the design around the walls I came up with several ideas based in part on Dan Bourue's 2013 MRP article about handling wyes in layout design. Of the four ideas I presented in the March blog post, two were combined into a solution.

Since I like to make full size examples of my plans I mocked it up with loose track and foam sheets.
Here it is in a full panoramic view.

I believe this design stays true to the prototype track layout and puts the layout in the best position scenically to capture the essence of the area with the southern Ohio hills helping to hide the mainline to Brewster staging and line the backdrop behind the wye. Here's a close up of the wye area with a crudely drawn hill that will help the westbound mainline disappear

The curve radius for the mainline at the top and the east wye leg that has the steam engine sitting on it is a respectable 30". However, in order to make the curve with the mainline, the west wye leg has to make a 180 degree turn at a tight 24" radius. This will be fine for coal hoppers and my Berkshires which have been tested on that radius anyways. The west wye leg and main line will meet at a curved #8 30/24 right hand switch based on a Fast Tracks template.

An obvious issue with this design is that it makes for a really deep scene at nearly 5 feet wide from layout edge to the switch at the back. I figure the hill can be a built up ridge of foam with the backside completely open for an access portal to pop up from below to address any issues with equipment or maintenance.

In all I'm pretty happy with this plan for Adena, it's not perfect but it achieves what I want to get out of this area. About the only thing I can think to tweak is moving the east wye switch and yard east (right) about a foot to give more room for the two bridges and ease the radius a bit on the most visible up front curve on the wye.

Now to figure out the benchwork part and get started. In the meantime here's some more photos.