Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Rebuild, Part 2

Last time, I included the following photo, showing the existing yard of the WCMR:

It's no longer the existing yard, of course. My last post showed how it was pretty much torn up. Last night and today I got serious about getting the rest of the track down, at least temporarily to see how it operated. As a result, the same area looks like this tonight:

From left to right on the far end you have stub ended classification/storage tracks, the arrival/departure track, the main, and the passing siding. I also left a switch in the passing siding for a (very) narrow flat to serve as one more industry on the layout.

Closer to the camera, the engine service facility is on the left. This has been completly relocated from where it was before and so far I'm a lot happier with this layout.

This change has made the layout seem bigger and less crowded. With the old yard, I had so many trains on the layout it was hard to run one-you had to do all kinds of shuffling to make room. Today, with the exact same rolling stock, I had a clear main and two empty tracks in the staging yard so the railroad was a lot more "fluid", as they say in the industry.

I've got about half the track joints soldered, and somewhere around the same proportion of electrical feeders installed. Things moved along nicely today, and with some luck I may be able to start gluing down track and ballasting before spring!

Stay tuned for more WCMR updates, and maybe even some railfanning shots if the weather and the trains ever dovetail with work.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Rebuild

One of the topics I frequently emphasize in any training I do is the need to adapt to constant change. Change seems to be one of the constants in my industry. It's also a constant in my hobby.

When I set out to build what is becoming the West Central Minnesota Railroad years ago, it was envisioned as what is now known as an ISL, or Industrial Switching Layout. Small 4 axle switchers would be the order of the day, along with lots of boxcars and tank cars serving a paper mill. As a result, tight radius curves and #4 turnouts were designed in, as everything I envisioned would operate nicely even with those limitations. A couple of years later, things changed when I decided to model something that would involve bigger equipment, 6 axle locos, and unit coal and grain trains. The newer part of the layout was built with this concept in mind, but the original section still had a lot of tight curves and sharp turnouts. Friday I decided to change part of that.

Here's an end view of my old yard. On the left you can see three "classification" tracks, served from either end. The switch lead is connected to all three through a ladder as well as to the main through a crossover. The main is the second track from the right, with the passing siding the far right track. The engine terminal was crammed against the wall. The track leaving the yard on the far end makes a very sharp 90 degree curve as it parallels the basement end wall.

You can also see that the main is stuck right to the foam top, with no sub-roadbed to build it up above the yard tracks. That was done purposely, but with a different concept in place it now looked foolish to run the main at the same level as the yard. I also needed more space for all these cars I've been accumulating, and when I gapped the rails prior to DCC, the gapped areas made for problem trackwork. All in all, I just wasn't happy with the whole thing. So Friday, it started to come out.

Some of this was already ballasted, and glued down with diluted matte medium, which is not water soluble. I was worried about trying to save a bunch of switches. Then I remembered having read that ammonia will dissolve matte medium. Well, it's true. If you can stand the fumes. I did, and am no worse for the wear. I was able to get all the switches and about 90% of the track taken up in reuseable condition, which made my wallet happy.

This afternoon and evening I finished pulling up the old stuff and started to lay a new main through the area. This one will be elevated on pine roadbed I sawed myself. In this photo you can see the main, which has so far been polished by a single train. Lots of feeders and rail joints to solder, but at least it's in place.

There are 5 switches off the main in this area now. As you travel from the far end to the near end, you will come to the east switch for the arrival/departure track (will be the first track left of the main), the east siding switch, west A/D switch, west siding switch, then the switch for the switch lead. I contemplated leaving the last one out, but stuck in a #4 anyway. Better than installing it later. There will be 2 double ended yard tracks left of the A/D, then 2 more stub ended yard tracks. The engine facility will sit roughly where it is in this shot, with access off the switch lead so no switchback is needed. In addition there will be a crossover from the switch lead to roughly the middle of the A/D track, which can be used to run around a car if needed.

So thats the story of the rebuild of the WCMR yard. Hope to get some more time to work on it soon, but don't expect to have all the track laid before New Year's.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Chase

Sometimes things just come together. That hasn't been true for me lately, for reasons as diverse as the weather, work, and interference from darned model trains. As a result my railfanning has been essentially non-existent for more than two weeks.

Today changed that. After spending my working hours in Tyler, I headed back to Marshall for the evening. I always take the longer way back instead of the back road just in case there is some action along the Marshall Sub or on the DME. It was a pleasant late afternoon so it seemed only appropriate to sit a bit at the Florence interchange, just north of the namesake town.

Less than 10 minutes after arriving, sure enough, a headlight appeared to the east. A DME train was working its way into the sun.

A quick text to Jer told me what had to be done. My message about a land barge bound for Lake Benton brough the almost instantaneous response of "WHAT!? SHOOT IT!". Off I went, trying to track the progress of the train with an occasional brief glimpse between the hills as the track twisted through the countryside.

With a lead on reaching Tyler, I looked for a likely shot. The sight that greeted me was horrifying, as an eastbound rolled into view. Now what? Not knowing the area, I had no idea where the meet would be made or how long it would take. Heck, I've even seen DME trains tied down near Florence and for all I knew they wouldn't proceed. It was time for a u-turn and some exploring. I flew down the blacktop, then gravel, roads at top speed and overtook the eastbound. Sure enough, the first train spotted was slowing for a meet at what turned out to be the Florence siding. Here are the two trains as they approach-both are moving.

I had to fire off one more. After all, how often can you get 10 active SD40-2's (OK, yellow unit on the westbound looks like a 45, sorry) in one frame in this day and age?

Thankfully, the westbound quickly switched his lights back on and got underway, accelerating quickly with all that power at hand. In this shot the tail end of the eastbound is just about out of sight, the switch has been lined, and the 6200 is ready to roll.

The sun was going away fast, and despair was rising as the glowing orb fell, but I continued on in hopes they would make good time between the Florence siding and Lake Benton. I wasn't going to put all my eggs in that basket, though. Just a couple of miles west is a crossing I had shot once before, so a quick stop was in order.

One more quick stop along 14 yielded a sad "across the field" shot, something I just can't seem to get right. Then it was off to the races again.

Having only fanned the Lake Benton area once before, I was hoping to remember how to get to the spot that many others have featured. It seemed further out of town that I remembered, but finally I was climbing the hill on the sunny side of the train as it approached. I fired off a few shots, including this one:

And with that, the chase was over. The valley was in shadow in just a few minutes, so on this day the railfan spirits smile on me and allowed the opportunity for a shot. Thanks for that.

Thanks, Jer, for the inspiration!