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Author Previous Topic: Splines to risers? Topic Next Topic: Free-Mo in NJ
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Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/09/2014 :  5:49:35 PM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Well, it seems in model railroading there are certain truths and things we know are inherently true. Like, despite thorough planning, we'll always need 1 more staging track. Or, even though I already have enough or it isn't exactly in my time period, I'm still going to buy that locomotive anyway.

One of my favorites is when I clean the track, get a train running for an open house or layout visit of other model railroaders, run the train for an hour with no problems, and then when people show up, I immediately get a short or a derailment!

And so it is as a layout owner in South Jersey, I am supposed to have a thread on railroad-line forums! It is a model railroading truth!!

So I figured I would start a thread because I have an hour to kill at work I want to use it as a springboard to getting operations going on my layout. I am hoping that by sharing some of my operating plans here, I can get some feedback before I host an initial trial session. You know the session where everyone will stand around and not know what the heck to do or what I am talking about when I say get your train from Portland and run to St. Johnsbury!

First off, some preliminaries. I'll give a little background on my layout, but I'm not going to share much about the construction process. As you'll see the layout is certainly far enough along that I probably should have started operations about 5 years ago. I also have a web site that details a lot of the research and planning for the layout at http://nekrailroad.com, and I have a blog that has detailed construction and various projects at http://mainecentral.blogspot.com. So if you want more background, check out those sites.

I started construction of my model railroad in 2003 shortly after we moved in to our house. I built a section of layout that filled about half of the wife approved allotted area first, getting trains running and some scenery in place. And then in 2009 I started construction of the final major benchwork section to complete the footprint in my allotted layout space.

I based the layout on the operations of the Maine Central, the Canadian Pacific, the Boston and Maine and the Lamoille Valley (I know-you're thinking, what railroad?) in Northern Vermont circa 1980. Much of what I planned was detailed in an issue of Trains I picked up in 1982, and it has been my plan to model this ever since.

My layout is a little different in that there is not one mainline or even 1 primary railroad being modeled. I have modeled the railroads radiating out of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where a CP yard received trains from all 4 compass directions: MEC from the East, CP from the North, BM and CP from the South, and that Lamoille Valley (LVRC) from the West (pronounced La-moyle).

The type of railroading in this part of New England in this time period did not feature CTC, trains passing each other, or even really a high density of activity. It does feature some cool switching and interchange, and that is what I am attempting to model, and what I hope will entertain my guest operators.

The overall layout is 19' x 40', and is one deck, although I did come up with a short section of upper deck in order to support some additional operations - I'll detail that later. A basic plan can be found here http://mainecentral.blogspot.com/2013/01/trackplan.html for those interested.

I figured that I would discuss operations and show the layout by following individual trains on their assignments during an op session. I'll do that with subsequent thread posts.

I worked up a train list before I started construction, and added a few trains as new opportunities arose. Here is a look at the list:

A big hurdle will be in deterring the actual sequence to run these trains. Also, initially, I will not run all of these trains, but instead ramp up to that as the layout proves itself, and as operators get comfortable with the process.

I have also been creating waybills, using the methods developed by John Rahenkamp(CL&W) and MarkF. I used an Excel spreadsheet to create "somewhat" realistic looking waybills, and have car cards generated from my inventory database inserted into 2.5"x4" vinyl sleeves purchased online. More about those are on my blog at http://mainecentral.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html and http://mainecentral.blogspot.com/2012/03/update-on-car-cards-and-waybills.html.

So that is my thread introduction, probably enough for now (i.e. my hour is up at work). I'll post one more photo of the entrance to the layout room. Next time we'll take a look at the Maine Central train RY-2, operating from Portland, ME, through Crawford Notch, NH and into St. Johnsbury, VT. This is an important train that brings cars to interchange with the CP and LVRC.

Mike McNamara
Delran, NJ

Country: USA | Posts: 232


Premium Member

Posted - 12/09/2014 :  10:31:28 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Wow Mike, I wish you had another extra hour of free time at work to continue a bit
more of this very interesting thread. I am intrigued to see more. I will be looking enthusiastically to see he next chapter.


Country: USA | Posts: 5407 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/10/2014 :  12:41:19 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Me too Mike! I'm glad to see you start this thread. I too am getting ready to get operating on my layout so we are in the same stage.

While your blog is great, please treat us to some pics of your layout here. As a past visitor to Mike's layout, I can tell you it is gorgeous!


Country: USA | Posts: 13705 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/10/2014 :  10:20:58 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, It's been a number of years since I last saw your layout and I'm sure you've made a lot of progress since then.
I look forward to seeing more of your posts here.

As you think, so will you be.

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Premium Member

Posted - 12/10/2014 :  10:42:28 AM  Show Profile  Visit jbvb's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I was up thataway taking pictures around that time, though I never was properly placed to chase the St.J&LC/LV.

Country: USA | Posts: 5532 Go to Top of Page

Just a fan
Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/10/2014 :  10:56:03 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm curious why you picked those train numbers for the Amtrak trains. Shouldn't they be #60 (northbound) and #61 (southbound) - The Montrealer?



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Posted - 12/10/2014 :  1:40:22 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Good to see this, Mike....South Jersey rules! LOL

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Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/10/2014 :  2:01:03 PM  Show Profile  Visit sjconrail's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Good to see you starting up a thread on your layout and the potential operations in the not too distant future,


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Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/10/2014 :  7:12:12 PM  Show Profile  Send vzjtothalo an AOL message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Harsco

Good to see this, Mike....South Jersey rules! LOL

Proving what we knew to be true.......except that maybe Peabody, MA might be the center of the modeling universe.....

John Loesch

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Posted - 12/14/2014 :  7:36:57 PM  Show Profile  Visit nhguy's Homepage  Send nhguy a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
That is a tantalizing view of the layout Mike. Looking forward to it.

Bill Shanaman
New Haven RR
Hartford Division
in Colorado.

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Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/17/2014 :  12:17:42 AM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Just a fan

I'm curious why you picked those train numbers for the Amtrak trains. Shouldn't they be #60 (northbound) and #61 (southbound) - The Montrealer?


My thinking was that these being diverted from their regular route it helps to distinguish the difference. But perhaps integrating the actual numbers makes more sense. Don't really have a prototypical reference for this in particular as this diversion never happened. Usually Amtrak would run as far as they could and bus the rest of the way, but that's no fun!!

Thanks for the input, something to consider. I'm glad to get observations like this, so by all means everyone keep sharing as we go.

Wednesday I will post the MEC RY-2 info and pics.

Mike Mc.
Delran, NJ

Country: USA | Posts: 232 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/17/2014 :  4:43:23 PM  Show Profile  Visit MikeMc's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Before we take a look at the MEC train RY-2, I though I would explain the railroad name, Northeast Kingdom Railroad. As I am not modeling one particular railroad or segment, I found it did not make sense to call my layout "Maine Central Mountain Division" or the "Canadian Pacific Lyndonville Subdivision", etc. My layout incorporate parts of these and other railroad lines. So I went with the geographical term for this sparsely populated area of northern Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom as it is called by those in the area.

OK, let's take a look at the operations of Maine Central train RY-2, Rigby (Portland, Maine, the "R" symbol) to St. Johnsbury, Vermont (the "Y"), westbound ("2"), a distance of 131 miles. This train ran once a day with general freight to interchange with the Canadian Pacific and the Lamoille Valley. It also carried a few local cars that were dropped as well as some interchange for the Boston & Maine in Whitefield.

Prototype trains in my 1980 era were anywhere from 30-60 cars (sometimes more) and utilized 4-6 two-axle diesels, usually EMD GP38s and GE U18Bs, and sometimes one or both of the MEC Alco RS-11s and one of the EMD GP7s. This was dictated by the tonnage and available power. The road power would lay over in St. Johnsbury and return back later as train YR-1 (symbols reversed and the "1" indicating eastbound). The yard in St. Johnsbury was operated by the Canadian Pacific, and there were no facilities in the yard in this era except a turntable, which the MEC did not use for this train.

On my layout I am modeling select scenes starting with Crawford Notch, at milepost 85, where the prototype has just completed a very arduous 15 mile grade exceeding 2%, with sections exceeding 3%. In my era, the railroad sometimes ran helpers which were cut off at Crawford Notch to run light back to Portland. This is something I may add in to operations later.

Here is a look at the map with the line highlighted:

Everything East of Crawford Notch is represented by staging on my layout. Although this portion of the line features great scenery, it does not offer too much in way of operations, basically a line through the forest. Here is my 6 track double ended staging yard with train RY-2 on track 1 ready to depart (these are just quick phone pics as I operated the train, so the quality is not as great as it could be):

I made the yard double ended so it would be easier o run trains out to the visible layout to restage instead of backing them up. The staging is situated behind a styrene backdrop along one side of the layout. Access is by duck under or reach over depending on location. I did want to have a small aisle next to the staging, but that would have impacted the visible layout area and my visible aisle ways, and that did not seem worth it.

Here is the train card for RY-2. This follows those in use on other local layouts and created by and fine tuned by MarkF. My card is 2.5 inches by about 8 inches. These are not laminated yet as I want to get some sessions done and fine tune any instructions the operators need.

As you can see it details the locations the train will operate and what the operator needs to do in those locations. The colors are used to show which railroad line you are operating on. In this case Harvest Yellow for MEC, and Action Red when we get to St. Johnsbury and the CP yard trackage.

So, after getting the power dialed up on the Digitrax throttle and checking clearance with the dispatcher (a role I will handle, although there will be no formal dispatchers desk), the operator will bring his train through the Notch and onto the visible part of the layout.

We come to the sidings at Crawfords, where we pass a MEC GP38 with a Ballast Extra on the passing siding, waiting to head downgrade to Bartlett, NH (staging).

We see our train is powered by three U18Bs and an RS11. An unusual sight is the MEC snow plow. It must be part of a special move that is laying over on the far siding, powered by a MEC GP7.

Our train card instructs us to stop at the Crawford Notch station (to be built) to sign the register. This also gives us a chance to look over our waybills to see what work we might have ahead. We have nothing for Crawfords or Whitefield, but we do have 3 cars for the paper mill at Gilman, VT. All drops are always located on the head pin at the front of the train. Here is one of the waybills for the cars we will need to drop:

We proceed on to Whitefield and the ball signal that controls the crossing with the Boston and Maine.

The B&M local is idling on it's trackage and the interchange tracks are empty. With no cars to drop here, and the ball signal having both balls up which gives control to the MEC, the MEC keeps it's train moving through the crossing.

After Whitefield, the MEC enters hidden trackage before emerging at Gilman, VT.

At Gilman, the train passes by part of the paper mill.

Here is a stepped back look at the paper mill at Gilman. There is the main and a long passing siding, as well as 3 sidings to spot cars. All this is switched by a separate MEC Local, YQ-1 ("Q" designates Whitefield). That upper shelf is part of the North Stratford Railway, which gets cars from a different MEC local which I'll detail later.

As we have 3 cars to drop here, we pull short of the passing siding switch and cut off the cars from the rest of the train.

We do not spot the cars, just leave them on the siding for the local to handle later.

After pulling clear, the switchman realigns us back to the main and we can recouple to our train.

We head past East St. Johnsbury. Local industries here will be switched later by YQ-1.

We round the curve and pass under Route 2 into St. Johnsbury yard.

We pass by the large ET&HK IDE grain elevator (photo mock up right now). The CP yard switcher is in the pocket waiting to breakdown our train.

With our train fully into the yard, the switcher will start pulling off the cars, separating those that will be going to the CP and those that are going to the Lamoille Valley.

Although my version of St. J yard is compressed, I really only need 3 tracks plus the passing siding to do the work necessary. All the CP cars the MEC brings will head north later and they will be on one track. The LVRC cars will be picked up later, and that track will have anything the CP is interchanging as well. It is possible that the MEC brought some local cars for the yard switcher to spot. Once that is all done, the MEC power and caboose will be moved to the back of the yard, waiting until later to return to Portland with train YR-1.

So that is is for this installment. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading. Post any comments or questions. I can probably post some general layout photos next time to show you a look at the overall train room. We can also look at the CP Rail operations which go from staging in the north to the staging in the south, which is the other end of that double ended staging yard the MEC started from. And we need to take a ride along the Lamoille Valley and also show the small segment of Central Vermont I have included. Plus there is that interchange up to that small upper shelf area where the MEC brings cars to North Stratford for the Grand Trunk and the North Stratford Railway. So lots more to look at!

Mike McNamara
Delran, NJ

Country: USA | Posts: 232 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/17/2014 :  11:20:19 PM  Show Profile  Visit jbvb's Homepage  Reply with Quote
That post is a lot to digest. My first reaction is that St.J yard was already fairly full when RY-2 arrived, so unless 904 is past Wells River, switching is going to be complicated for a while.

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Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/18/2014 :  01:03:44 AM  Show Profile  Visit Twist67's Homepage  Send Twist67 an ICQ Message  Reply with Quote
Hi there,
interesting new thread and also a nice layout...scenery is looking fine.Thanks for sharing.


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Premium Member

Posted - 12/18/2014 :  01:29:51 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, great stuff! You've done a lot of work on the layout since the last time I visited, which was too long ago! Scenery looks great, which doesn't surprise me considering what I had already seen. Beautiful!!!

I'm enjoying your explanation of the operations on the layout. It looks really interesting and I'm looking forward to reading more.


Country: USA | Posts: 13705 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/18/2014 :  09:35:04 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Mike,
Thanks for the road trip in the Northeast Kingdom. Quite enjoyable. Nice touch of the abandon trackage in St Johnsbury yard.

Interesting to see your take on modeling New England... in the fall yet. It's difficult to not overdue the colors. You've got it just right.


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