Category Archives: Class 1

Site Seeing – The Little Critter that could edition

It’s not often that you get to see internal (in-plant) company railway operations today. Thankfully “Saginaw Terminal Docks” (Facebook and YouTube) posted a video from Reid Machinery in Lansing, Mi showing how they use old freight cars to store valuable machinery on their site prior to sale.


Reid Machinery’s internal railroad

Reid Machinery Inc of Lansing Michigan have specialised in moving machinery, primarily in the forging industry, throughout North America since 1992. And while that may not seem like the most worthy thing to write about on the third Tuesday in July – I urge you to hang around a moment longer. You see they also hold their large (as in big – not lots of) inventory on and in their own railroad assets.

Yes – they have their own switching layout.

Thanks to Saginaw Terminal Docks we have a front row seat, and a cab ride on one of these switching moves. I asked him about connections to the rest of the world. He tells me that the in-plant line connects to the JAIL/Adrian & Blissfield on over a mile of old track through Lansing’s south side.

And this is so modellable…


YouTube video

Some of the things to watch out for in the video are:

  • The three person crew (Engineer, conductor, and digger – and yes it’s a guy with  a shovel)
  • Slow switching speeds
  • At around the 18 minute mark – opening the boxcar door with the forklift forks (we often model the result but the actual operation is rarely filmed)

So sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy the show.


Resources

Site Update – New Gallery – Pyke Brush Cutter

A new gallery has been posted covering a very unique piece of UP M.O.W equipment I found back in 2000 on Austin’s Bergstrom Lead. This comes about because of a post on the MRH website where member cr9617 is modelling one in HO scale.


Not something that you see every day

Maintenance of Way equipment is a fascinating field of study and I was very pleased, as well as lucky, to have caught this piece of equipment on the Bergstrom Lead back in 2000.  (It is hard to believe that these digital images are almost 20 years old as I write this – where has the time gone?)

To view the gallery click here, or use the menu and hover on the Galleries > USA > Austin, Texas, Pyke Brush Cutter and click the last pop-out. Enjoy and leave a comment if you can.

Site Seeing – Last mile switching on the Florida Central

Danny Harmon spends a day out following a railfan friendly switch crew of the Florida Central as they switch customers around Orlando, Florida.


First Mile / Last Mile

This is where I believe that real railroading happens. It is where the customer meets the railroad. It’s also where modellers with small spaces, budgets and time allocation get the most bang for the buck when designing and building a layout. There’s a lot of great locations and close up detail shots of the crew working and the locations for inspiration.

Sit back, put on your headphones and enjoy the sights and sounds of a couple of vintage locomotives as the train crew prepare their train, run out to, and then switch, the customers spurs. (Clickable video below)



Make sure to like and subscribe to Danny’s channel. Recently he’s been doing a lot of switching videos. I hope he does a lot more to come. Supporting him might just get him to do more too.

Site seeing – Op till you drop – Blue flag “Video” edition – August 26, 2018

In my August 18 post we looked at modelling and using Blue Flags for your operating sessions. Thanks to Charles Malinowski’s timely reminder, there’s an additional video for context.


MRR Video Series – Taking Care of Business

Model Railroader magazine has a series of videos (most are pay to play). However some of the best of them are free for you to watch. One of these focuses on the SMS Rail Lines industrial park in New Jersey.

I did try to embed their video (as they offer this as an option – like YouTube) however, it didn’t work. Instead you’ll find below the link for the video. THis will take you straight to the page and then play away.

The video is narrated and professionally shot and edited. It is really well done and shows the operations in the Industrial Park and the blue flag in action. Thanks to Charles for reminding me of the video. I hope that you all enjoy watching and learning.

Don’t forget to comment on and share this post with your friends.


Resources

Taking Care of Business: SMS Rail Lines

Site Seeing – the Switching small customers edition

There was an interesting video posted by Danny Harmon (who goes by the handle of Distant Signal on YouTube).

He focuses on the increasingly rare small switching customer. Once upon a time it was the core of railroading. And while it is harder to find, in some places it can still be found as Danny presents in this video.

Enjoy the video! And if you like Danny’s videos as much as I love his voice then like the video and subscribe to his channel. I have no affiliation with Danny other than as a happy viewer of his content.

Site Seeing – 29 June – A new series from Model Railroader – Taking Care of Business

I’ve been quite hard on model railroader over the years. They’ve been very predatory in their behaviour over the years. I even got a cease and desist letter from them at one point because they thought I’d copied part of their intellectual property when I published a corner layout of my design. After to-ing and fro-ing and a level of “kiss my A##” from me since I was in the right, we’ve gotten along well ever since.

However, I may, and I stress only may, change my point of view if they keep up their new free to watch video venture – Taking Care of business. The basis of the idea is to ride along with a crew (in this video SMS Lines switching the Pureland Industrial Park in Bridgeport, New Jersey) as they go about their day-to-day work. The video was entertaining and informative. My concern is that if it doesn’t stay free I certainly won’t be putting up my money to pay for it. Lots of content providers share similar videos on YouTube and other sharing sites that help me understand as much.

Free is good as in beer, and speech. Hopefully MR keeps this series going as free to watch. There is some really interesting content, good production values and I enjoyed the narrative of the story showing the crew going about all of their tasks during their day.

Resources:

  • Video: To watch the video (while it is still free) head over to Taking Care of Business: SMS Rail Lines | ModelRailroaderVideoPlus.com
  • SMS Rail Lines: SMS Rail Lines restores, maintains and operates many historic Baldwin diesel locomotives (in fact I believe they have the largest fleet of Classic Baldwin’s in North America). It’s a labor of love to keep these rare and historic units in-service for future generations to witness. For more just search “SMS Baldwin” on YouTube.

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Site update – May 23 – TSE Boxcars – additional lading and operation information added

Who says that asking for help doesn’t work?

When I wrote the TSE Boxcars page, about images I took back in 2005 in Austin Texas, I had no idea about the operational nature of the cars. Thanks to Paul, who is familiar with the cars, their loads, and operations I now can share a little more information with you.

This morning (AEST) Paul wrote the following: “Those cars came in empty. We would spot six at a time Balcones Recycling and they would be loaded with waste paper. There was about 30 of these cars that were in captured service. We would send the loaded cars out on the UP. They did not come in loaded with lumber. East end lumber is now long gone, and it has been at least 40 years since they received rail service.

My thanks go out to Paul for sharing his time and knowledge with me. One of the reasons I love the Model Railway community is their willingness to share. Greatest hobby in the world? I’d like to think so.

I’ve updated the page with the information Paul has provided. Good to know finally what they were there for, and the operation cycle they used.

Site seeing – March 06 – Bruce Petty’s Glendale Freight house Module Redux edition

In a post on January 18, 2017 I made mention of Bruce Petty’s excellent module of the end of the Union Pacific’s Glendale Branch and the freight station located there. Bruce’s Module is 5 feet (1500mm) x 18 inches (450mm) but to my eye looks much bigger because of the great use of the space he has made. There is no crowding, no feeling of busyness, only the feeling of a warm summers afternoon in Los Angeles sometime during the 1960s or 1970s. This small scene is evocative and places you immediately in the place and time, even if that is coloured by your chosen time period.

The majority of my layout designs fit into an 8 foot space Bruce’s layout module with the addition of a 3 foot fiddle yard fits right in the space available and would make an excellent display or exhibition layout. More importantly it would fit with any time period from the late 1940s – early 1950s (when I believe that the freight house was built) through to the mid to late 1980s when I believe the freight house fell out of use.

As I said in the previous post I’ve pondered over how to use Bruce’s track plan in other ways. I’ve even worked the design up into a 1/12th scale model to see how it might work. I’ll come back to the alternative in my next post; for now let’s revisit Bruce’s excellent module.

A closer look at Bruce’s module

While this module is a part of Bruce’s larger railroad forming the end of the UP’s Glendale branch it can also stand alone as a layout in its own right. At its heart it is an Inglenook layout. Each of the freight house roads can take two 40 foot boxcars against the dock. For those of you interested in modelling this layout at a later stage it is highly likely that the Freight station never hosted more than 2 x 50 foot boxcars at any one time. If it did so then they would be placed on the right most track with the second car either unloaded directly into trucks as shown in Photo 1 above or set off spot on the left most track and switched out once a suitable space was available at the dock. Lots of switching possibilities here.

Of particular note in the photo above is the connecting piece to the rest of the layout. I like this little yet important touch. The wooden insert which allows the module to join the layout has been disguised as a typical UP/SP bridge. Very smart and ensures that the layout and the module appear to be a single whole and not something that Bruce built later on.

Operation

Operations on this layout would be pretty good too. As we’ve discussed before on the blog Inglenooks are completely prototypical and often used by railroads in tight places. Operating with a locomotive pushing in – pulling out switching focuses on the industry or industries served. The longest track on Bruce’s layout I would use as my switching storage and sorting track. The incoming train pulling outbound cars before spotting them on the long track. Cars would then be switched according to requirement on the remaining two car tracks at the docks. Any cars from those pulled needing to be spotted back at the dock could then be spotted before the locomotive crew pick up the remaining outbound cars and head back across the bridge and back to the yard. And here endeth the session.

Short, clear, easy to achieve, enjoyable and within the 30 minutes to 1 hour per day play time that a small layout should give you. Whether you use a single person (driver/engineer only) or two person (driver/engineer and conductor) crew to do the work the time taken will remain roughly the same. I prefer a two person crew simply because it makes the play time more fun when family or friends get involved.

Hope that this revisit has been of some use. If you like the blog don’t forget to Like and Subscribe. PLease comment if you are looking for more information on layout designs or on the designs I’ve previously posted. And of course take the time to visit the “further reading and resources” links below.

Further Reading and Resources

An industry you can model – Kensington Grain Siding (Victoria, Australia)

On June 02, 2015 I made mention in a post of a grain silo operation close to the CBD in Melbourne, Victoria that allows for interesting operation, and would keep a model railroader busy and interested for the length of a short operating session (around a half an hour).

Image 1: G529 stabled in the dead-end siding at Kensington. The grain hoppers and the switch engine are down by the flour mill (courtesy of wongm’s rail gallery – LINK)

A little background

For those of you not in Australia let me give you a little background on the site from image 1 above. The photo above is from the grade (level) crossing at Kensington station. The station buildings are directly behind the photographer.  G529 is sitting at the north end of the site on a dead-end siding used for second units or for red-carded (bad-ordered) cars.

The two lines under wire are the UP (left-hand line to Melbourne) and the DOWN (right-hand line from Melbourne) lines to the outer suburban terminus of Craigieburn, a fast growing suburb 26 Km to Melbourne’s north. Grain trains come north from Tottenham Yard and back into the sidings. When they leave they have to do a long looping route north, then west before returning to the yard once more. A fair bit of this is on the suburban Craigieburn passenger line. This situation occurred because of changes to rail lines for the Regional Rail Link that has taken freight lines out of service.

The single slip allows access into the site from the DOWN line. On the mill site there are two spurs with the left road running over the under track unloading auger; the right is a passing siding. The switching problem on this site is that the turnout at the end of the two roads only has enough room for two grain cars, and one locomotive at a time.

Site Overview

Image 2: An overview of the site (courtesy of Bing – LINK)

Operation

Generally the train has two locomotives. While a single locomotive can handle the work, and would be easier on the crews when switching, the extra power helps clear the path for the passenger services on the Craigieburn line. Melbourne’s rail network is greatly used by the it’s citizens and the infrastructure is congested requiring new signalling to allow greater train density. Anything that holds up one train has knock-on effects that can and do regularly impact on the rest of the network. So any freight movements using passenger routes tend to be over-powered.

Image 3: A track diagram showing the grain siding and signalling at Kensington (courtesy VicSIG)

1. Arrival

The shift begins with the loaded grain train arriving early on the north-bound suburban tracks. The train pulls into Kensington stations up platform road, before informing train control that they are ready to reverse into the facility. Train control (under CTC) unlocks the shunt signal 7, switch 8 and switch 9 to allow the movement and the train reverses into the site, putting the grain cars onto the ‘left-hand’ unloading road. On completion of the move the crew contacts train control once more and the switches and signals returned to normal.

2. Set up

The crew has to unload one of the locomotives. Without the room to run the power around at the switching end on the unloading road one loco is usually parked on the ‘B’ siding at the north end of the site. Image 2 below shows the problem on-site with the short headshunt (switching lead).

Image 4: The switching problem – the short headshunt (courtesy of wongm’s rail gallery – LINK)

3. Switching / Shunting

Prior to unloading beginning the mill staff remove the metal grate covers to allow grain to begin unloading into the under-track auger. With only one loco for shunting (switching) the operation is fairly straight-forward:

  • The first two cars unload at the under-track auger
  • When unloaded the train pulls forward to two car lengths to begin the unloading process again and handbrakes are applied
  • The loco cuts off the two empty cars, pulls them to the headshunt, before pushing back onto the passing siding
  • Handbrakes are applied on the two empty cars before the loco cuts off and moves back to the headshunt
  • The loco reverses onto the loaded cars, and the cycle repeats until all the cars are empty.

With all the cars emptied the mill workers cover the auger pit with the metal covers. The loco eases off the unloaded cars, runs into the headshunt, and backs through the unloading road back to siding B. Here it picks up the previously stabled locomotive and once MU’d they back onto the empty cars; with the air pumped and they wait for train control to authorise their return to the running lines.

Modelling

Operation of this layout design element offers a lot of opportunity. Whether a small train or a large one the work to be done, including air brake operations and taking time to switch back and forth would give a lot of interest for those so inclined. I can see this being a great industry especially for the modular railroader. Across two or more modules, you’d have the best of all worlds with action on the main, and then a lot of switching action on the modules.

Being self-contained the industry is a real winner and could be transplanted anywhere.

Resources

There are a couple of videos available below for you to get an idea of the action at Kensington.

In the second video you can see the operation under way with the switching in this case being handled by BL class # 32.

You can find out more about the locomotives using the resource links below:

  • V/Line G Class Locomotives: Link
  • Australian National BL Class Locomotives: Link
  • V/Line X Class Locomotives: Link

Feedback?

If you have information that you can share about operations at the site, please let me know. I’ve found everything that I can about the site and its operation, but there is nothing like a driver or someone else knowledgeable of the site sharing what they know. Leave a comment, like and subscribe to the blog if that suits you.

Why I carry a camera on every trip out and about

You never know what you are going to capture with your camera. Sometimes you’ll get a photo, and unprecedented access to things that you might never have believed would happen. Other times you manage to get a great series of photos just before a major event happens in the life of your chosen subject, after which event, things are never the same.

Just after we cam be back to Australia from the United States in 2006, my wife asked me why I bothered to take all of these photos of trams and trains. I told her that it was simple: “Today’s photo is tomorrow’s history”.

Over on the Rails West blog there are two recent posts that follow in just this theme.  Zip on over for a 1979 trip through the SP’s Hardy Street shops in Houston Texas.

Click the link to take you there: A trip to the Roundhouse…(Part I).