Friday, July 12, 2024

2024 Toledo Division Trip: Bellevue to Toledo

My Son has a keen interest in the Bellevue to Toledo section of the former W&LE mainline and plans to one day make a layout of his own based on that route but in the 2010's to present day Norfolk Southern format.

Recently he wanted to scout out several locations along that route and take photos to record things for the future. Google maps and street view can be a great tool for modelers but sometimes you just gotta see it for yourself. So I agreed to take a excursion through western Ohio with him and tour the former W&LE mainline.

We arrived in Bellevue by 11am and started our morning at the Kemper Rail Park next to the NS control point called "Mini Plant" where the NKP's Chicago mainline, the exPRR Sandusky route and the old and new W&LE lines all come together. It wasn't long before we saw the first three trains of the day, 2 NS trains and a W&LE freight.

NS intermodal bound for the Oak Harbor NYC connection

Two W&LE SD40T-2 tunnel motors heading into Moorman Yard.

After railfanning for a hour, we stopped by the Mad River NKP Museum to check out the freshly repainted NKP Diner-Lounge #127 and pay homage to the NKP W&LE designed steel caboose #783 and the former NKP SD-9 #349 that toiled in the Adena area rails that I model.

NKP Diner Lounge #127

NKP Caboose 783

N&W SD-9 2349 (ex NKP 349)

There aren't many actual W&LE or NKP artifacts and buildings remaining along this part of the Toledo line anymore but seeing the scenery and over a dozen trains during the drive made up for it.

After stopping by Clyde briefly we got to Fremont and the Sandusky River bridge just in time to catch another train.

NS train over the Sandusky River Bridge

The 389 foot through plate girder Sandusky River bridge was built in 1911 and will made for a impressive model one day!

NS/W&LE Sandusky River Bridge in Fremont

The rail served Fremont Michigan Sugar plant would be a must have for a layout so we paid it a visit but unfortunately from afar. There as a lot of boxcars and covered hoppers on the spurs at the plant.

Fremont Michigan Sugar

We stopped by the ex LE&W Depot in Fremont hoping to see the beat up N&W C31 type caboose there but it was hidden by trees and a cut of cars. A photo of the depot and NS SD40-2 6118 would have to suffice.

LE&W Fremont Depot with NS (ex N&W) SD40-2 6118

From Fremont we travelled to Oak Harbor to see the bridge over the Portage River. You can tell by the elongated concrete pier in the middle that the bridge used to be a swing bridge a long time ago. No trains went through to photograph while we ate lunch at the gas station parking lot next to the river.

Oak Harbor Portage River Bridge

A bit down the tracks in Oak Harbor stood a old Steelox style building the NKP used in many locations.

NKP steelox building in Oak Harbor

In my Son's future layout, one of the primary scenes he wants to include is the sweeping curve and grade that takes the old W&LE mainline up and over the former NYC water level route just north of Oak Harbor. After Norfolk Southern acquired Conrail, NS built a connecting track between the ex W&LE and ex NYC mainlines. This allows westbound traffic from Bellevue to join the ex NYC mainline to Chicago and eastbound trains on the ex NYC to take the former W&LE tracks to Bellevue yard or other points east and south at the Mini Plant CP in Bellevue. Here's a link to a Google map view and a couple of photos we took.

Bridge over the NYC Chicago Mainline

W&LE Oak Harbor Bridge over S. Railroad St.

It'll be interesting to see how this scene can be recreated in HO scale, especially since my Son wants to include a live west side of the NYC main to replicate trains using the new connection.

From Oak Harbor west there really wasn't much more to see but to me probably one of the best things still remaining from the old W&LE/NKP days. At the Williston Siding near Curtice,OH you'll find original W&LE US&S searchlight signals still in use! Pretty darn cool if you ask me. We parked along Williston Rd. and got some nice photos without trespassing. Nearby to the west on S. Wynn Rd. there are also another set of searchlights.

W&LE Searchlight signals at Williston Siding

We headed to Homestead Yard to take what photos he could and drove around the new giant Cleveland-Cliffs new Hot-briquetted iron plant that seems to be a big traffic producer for NS in Toledo. This is a pretty impressive place and can be seen for many miles while approaching Toledo due to it's tall tower structure. Since there really wasn't a lot to see around Homestead with easy access we started to head back to Bellevue.

Toledo Cleveland-Cliffs DR Plant

On our way back to Bellevue for dinner and more train watching at Kemper Rail Park we stopped in Clyde to photograph the sharp curve through town that passes extremely close by to a few homes there!
If I recall correctly, the line was originally narrow gauged which explains some of these sharp curves.

A tight squeeze through Clyde

Dinner at Bellevue was the tasty hot subs from the Pizza Wheel near the old NKP Roundhouse in town. We caught a few more trains then called it a great day of exploring the old W&LE to Toledo and headed home!

NS action at the Kemper Rail Park, Bellevue, OH 7-1-2024

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Rebuilding a Better Pine Valley Yard: Part 3 - Freight House Spur

Track work continues on the east end of Pine Valley with the spur to the Freight House up next to get finished 

In real life this spur was almost 1000 feet long and ended at the former W&LE Freight House on Main St. In my model version the spur is almost 3 feet long and can hold three 40' boxcars while the removable section is in place. Below are photos of the spur and freight house.

1920's view of east Dillonvale, the station, freight house and mill are all in view. Scanned from the CSU W&LE Collection.

Here's a close up of the freight house and the mill in the background.

1973 Freight House view from the NKPHTS Archives.

As a side note here, if you haven't visited the Nickel Plate Road Historical Society website in a while, there is a new Archive section that is well worth the visit. Thousands of images can now be browsed revealing a wealth of W&LE and NKP history! Here's the link

The turnout for the freight house spur is located on the removable section which I laid down in part 2 of this series. In the photos the spur track is lower than the mainline so I wanted to make a ramp down from the turnout roadbed. I achieved this with a milled homoasote ramp I purchased from a company that is unfortunately now defunct.

Homasote ramp

The homasote ramp wasn't quite long enough, so I had to continue the ramp with some styrene shims. I laminated sections of .020 and .040 styrene and then sanded the entire ramp with a small mouse sander to make a smooth transition.

Styrene ramp transition.
To give the impression of buried track next to the freight house, I scraped out about a 1/8 of an inch of the pink foam with a rasp tool.

"buried track" slot

After the adhesive caulking dried, I painted the new track bed with black acrylics.

Painted and ready for track.

Once that paint was dry I glued down the spur tack with my trusty DAP adhesive caulk and soldered copper ties to the rails crossing the section joint just like the mainline. Then I cut the joint with my Dremel cut off wheel.

Unfortunately I don't have a model of the W&LE style freight house or even a mockup to use yet. I haven't found the actual dimensions of the former freight house or been able to get consistent guesses from the photos I have. However, since the space allotted for it will be tight with a backdrop in place, it will have to be built to fit no matter what the real dimensions were.

So for now the storage building that comes with the Walthers Grain Mill kit will do as a stand in.

Here's the Dillonvale Freight House scene for now with a couple of cars awaiting unloading.

Freight House scene for now

Friday, June 21, 2024

Rebuilding a Better Pine Valley Yard: Part 2

Work on the new Pine Valley Yard continues with trackwork on the curved removable section. I super elevate mainline curves using .040 styrene and .020 pieces on 6-8 inch long transition sections on both ends of the curve. I use DAP adhesive caulk for gluing the styrene shims to the track before installation.

Before gluing the track down with the same DAP adhesive caulk, I sanded the roadbed level with my small handheld sander. Then I painted the homasote roadbed with black acrylics and everywhere else with brownish "discount oops mix" latex paint from Home Depot. The roadbed then got one more sanding for good measure.

Seen in the below photos is a Shinohara #7 curved switch for the Dillonvale Freight House track. I replaced the throwbar with a copper circuit board tie and prewired the frog. This switch will be controlled with a Blue Point Manual Turnout Controller. 

Styrene pieces for super elevation

Sanded, painted then sanded again.

Copper circuit board ties were used at each end of the removable section to prevent the track from zippering off the plastic ties by accident when the section is open. Once the track was glued down I soldered the rails to the ties then cut the gaps with my Dremel cutoff wheel. 

Track work completed on the removable section.

The Dillonvale end of the removable section had a long diagonal cut that worried me but worked out ok except for one small piece of copper tie I had to glue back down. I'll revisit this removable section later and add a styrene sheet backdrop and a short facia.

Angled gap.

When I start a multi track area, I've always preferred to plan with pen and paper then move to full size mockups with tracing paper or brown wrapping paper and pieces of track. Here's that practice put to work designing the turnout arrangements around the yard office area.

Yard Office track work mockups

Once I'm happy with the track layout, I transfer it to the tracing paper then cut out enough of the tracing paper to use also use it as a template for the roadbed.

Like elsewhere in other yard or multi track areas on my layout, I use a 1/8" black rubber sheet material to help dampen the wheel noise that pink foam boards tends to amplify. I know nothing beats the quiet of plywood and homasote/cork but insulating foamboard is so much easier to handle and cut, especially by yourself.

I transfer the tracing paper template to the rubber sheet by outlining it with a white colored pencil and simply cut the sheeting with large sewing type scissors.

Below shows the rubber roadbed glued down with DAP adhesive silicone caulk and the beginnings of the yard turnouts just west of Main St.

West end of Pine Valley Yard in Dillonvale.

So far I couldn't be happier the way this is turning out. The track plan nearly matches the prototype yard layout as it existed in the mid 1950's and I'm making good progress.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Update 2024 - Rebuilding a Better Pine Valley Yard: Part 1

It's been a while since an update to say the least, 2021? Wow!  I think we all know that life happens and sometimes hobbies get put on the back burner for a bit. So with that out of the way here's what's been happening on the Adena Railroad.

Tear Out

In the spring of 2023 while the layout was mostly mothballed, the water line to my refrigerator sprung a leak. Luckily the damage was limited but the repair work required the removal of a section of my Pine Valley Yard at Dillionvale, OH. I had been mildly unhappy with the design for a while so tearing it all out wasn't too painful. The yard passed through stair supports and then jutted out as a peninsula into the near middle of the laundry side of the basement that over time proved to be just too cramped.

Pine Valley tear out in May 2023

It wasn't too hard to find a new home for the Pine Valley, an old layout plan had the yard in a sort of J shape along a far basement wall, but required a swing gate in front of the stairs. This required 15-20 feet more mainline between Adena yard and Pine Valley yard and the chance to model some of the hills and a tunnel between the two points. This addition came with the expense of a coal branch being drastically shortened in place of the new yard location.

The new plan also allowed me to better capture the prototypical track plan of the real Pine Valley yard, thereby enhancing operations to produce the need for a fulltime yardmaster position.

W&LE Pine Valley Yard Valuation Map, partially colored for my own visual reference


In November 2023 I started the construction of the new mainline from Adena to Pine Valley. I began with completely rebuilding a section that ran behind the furnace to make it easier to remove if necessary. The new mainline needed a constant 1.25% grade from Adena to Pine Valley to allow the main to exit to staging at a particular height to clear some existing benchwork. This also helped to replicate the grade out of the Ohio River Valley and will require double headed steam just like the prototype.

By January 2024 I had the new mainline in place. Scenery will include two bridges over the Short Creek and the Long Run tunnel. The natural spot for the tunnel was where the mainline snaked it's way through the basement stair supports.

New mainline section.

New mainline section, one of the many Short Creek bridges, this one is easily removable for the electrical panel access.

New mainline, Long Run Tunnel and Short Creek bridge section.

In April I made the removable section across the stairs that will eventually become a swing gate. The section slips into place with slots routed out to fit the ends of metal 2x2 L-brackets on each side.

Swing gate section

Surprisingly it's very sturdy 

My Son's last High School baseball season slowed down work but by the end of May, I had completed the box frames for the new and improved Pine Valley yard. I'd love to provide a nice looking track plan of all the changes but I usually work with pencil and paper plus large scale templates, but I'll try to get something together to show.

Pine Valley yard - Freight House/Station area

Pine Valley yard - Yard Office area

Pine Valley yard - yard, rip track, start of engine terminal

Pine Valley yard - Engine Terminal area

If you made it this far thanks!