Thoughts on modelling the Montpelier, OH Elevator


Small layouts have to meet the needs, and desires, of their owners. Often that is not easy as we want it all, but in a small space.  In this post, we’ll look at how you can work with the track layout from the elevator at Montpellier, OH (see this post) to fit in a smaller space, even if you don’t want to model an elevator.

There is so much that you can do with a good track layout!

Disclaimer

So before I begin, I wanted to make this clear:

  • If you want to model the Eden Co-Op, in an as-is, where-is format, if in a somewhat smaller version, knock yourself out. I’ll go through that in the section below.
  • However, should you want to use the track plan and model something else, then I have a few ideas about that for you too.

Now, feel free to read on.

Site overview

Image 1: The Eden Farmers C-Op Ass’n in Montpelier, Ohio USA

After clicking the image above, which I hope you’ll find interesting, you’ll note that the track arrangement is basically a double-ended Inglenook (I call it a Supernook) providing:

  1. a run-around option for the locomotive,
  2. off-spot locations for cars not being spotted under the over-track auger(s), and
  3. somewhere to go off the layout at the end of the session.
The track plan
Image 2: The track plan

And that neighbours, is everything we need to make an operating layout (see my Ops 101 series starting here for more).

According to our friend Google, the branch line is just under a kilometre at 941 metres (or 3084 feet) from the toe of the switch on the left of the branch to the road on the right. To model it all you’d need 35 feet and four inches, give or take. We’re into small layouts so we’re not going to do that.

Site Operation

The elevator receives empty blocks of cars inbound, shipping loaded blocks of cars out. The elevator has its own switcher (an SW-1200 of 1955 vintage) to do all the in-plant moves.  From the video I pointed to in the previous post, I’m guessing that there might be multiple types of grain available for loading within the block, and this is why the centre track is used to store cars before they are loaded.  You’ll note in the video that the switcher is pulling trucks from the centre track.

Assuming that there are no cars waiting to be loaded, the general operation goes something like this:

  1. Class 1 railroad switches a block of empty cars for loading by the elevator (pushing cars in from the yard – left of the above image). They place these cars onto the branch line (top of the picture)
  2. The plant switcher fires up, after being shore powered (it looks like they have a mains plug to float the battery voltage at the right-most building) overnight
  3. The switcher then hooks up to the first block of the inbound cars, pulls forward to the switching lead, and pushes the cars back onto the loading track (bottom track on the image above)
  4. Where a car is not in the right loading order, the switcher sets this car out to the middle track
  5. The switcher then repeats step 3, and step 4, as necessary until the cars are all loaded
  6. Once switching is complete the switcher then goes back onto the switching lead, is powered down and then reattached to shore power.
  7. The class 1 railroad now switches out the loaded hoppers and the cycle starts again.

Modelling Opportunities

As-Is

Modelling a single industry provides you with focus. In this case, it is a single commodity and car type operation. On the positive side though you only need to buy one locomotive. And there is lots of switching. And if that’s your thing then you’re good to go.

While the original site is really big, a model of it doesn’t have to be. You can build a layout based on this industry, using the simple principles of the Inglenook and model it in a lot less space by determining the maximum number of cars that you want to switch in any given session. And

Freelancing Opportunities

The elevator at Montpellier as shown in the last post is big; really, really big. It handles unit grain trains with an empties in/loads out procedure. So I guess you’re wondering “what is Andrew thinking!

A smaller version elevator

But we don’t want to model this site full size. Instead, we want to model a smaller version of the site. And for that, we’re going to use the classic Inglenook design that is double-ended so you can run around the cuts at either end (see this page for an overview of the Inglenook) to shorten the length to something more manageable.

From the track plan above you’ll note that I’ve named the tracks as Branch Line, Overflow and Elevator track. The branch line is the longest track, with the other two being roughly the same size. That is why the Inglenook is the perfect solution to shrinking the track down to a manageable size. In the resources section below I’ve listed the very best calculators (some on this site, others off) to help you determine the length and number of cars you can fit in a given space.

Same track arrangement, different industry

I can think of several industries that you could model, that require constant switching, mainly in the food industry (refrigerator cars, and boxcars primarily) that will keep your single loco crew hopping for each session. By keeping the same track arrangement cars would be left on the overflow track by the Shortline or Class 1 railroad, and then taken by the company switcher and placed onto the loading track.

To boost operations you could work as follows:

  1. The session starts with the loco on the right end tail track
  2. Empty cars are pulled from the overflow track and pushed onto the loading dock or to the loading doors
  3. As cars are loaded they are pushed to the end of the loading track
  4. More cars are pulled from the overflow track, and the cycle continues
  5. As space is freed up on the overflow track those loaded cars can be switched back to the overflow track using the branch line as the run-around
  6. Rinse and repeat until your loads are completed and a train of loads is assembled on the overflow track
  7. The session ends when the loco is parked up on the right end tail track

Here are my thoughts on what your food-based industries could be:

A frozen foods manufacturer (meat, vegetables, fish, you name it) – empties in, loads out with a slab-sided warehouse and environmental dock door arrangement.  A modern facility (from the 1980s onward) would be a better option. The doors would need to line up with boxcars of the era. Mostly 50 or 60 footer mechanical refrigerators. Luckily, there are plenty of those on the market at the moment.

Other industries off the top of my head are a breakfast cereal factory, or Snack cake bakery (think Hostess), plywood factory, auto part (castings) manufacturer, a food-service warehouse (a mix of dry and frozen doors would work here similar to the old Austin, TX SYSCO/US Foodservice warehouse, using doors rather than docks.

The list of ideas is almost limitless. If they ship a lot of stuff to other factories you could use the track plan and scale it down as needed for your site. Making it a stand-alone layout means you could have a small, high-quality operations based layout up and running quickly, and prototypically in just a couple of weekends. Then spend a couple of years adding detail you go. 1 locomotive, especially an older SW, rusty GP9 or a patched GP20 would do. Try a leased unit.

I hope this has given you an idea or two, and that you’ve found the post useful. In the meantime don’t forget to check out the resources below. Like, comment and subscribe if you find my content useful. I hope to hear from you soon.

Resources

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