Category Archives: Class 1

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 – 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 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).

A Texas Inglenook prototype – The ADM Mill facility New Braunfels

Originally published on the old HVL Blog January 28, 2013

Occasionally for the small layout builder a prototype comes along that you simply cannot forget.

The ADM Mill located in New Braunfels, TX is a perfect example. A simple Inglenook switching location that could be built as a standa lone, or incorporated into an existing layout as a peninsula. The site when I took the photos in 2004-5 was used mainly as a hard wheat facility. In the past though it had been used for milling multiple grains as well as corn.

This photo shows the whole of the north side of the facility. Of note is the circular storage silo in the foregound which has 7 separate silos within it to allow storage of differing types and kinds of grains depending on the season. I’ll be adding a Bing’d overview of the facility tonight as soon as I finsh marking the image up in Paint.NET tonight.

The other photos in the set show different sides of the facility buildings mainly from the grade crossing on E Mill St, or further up the road in the case of the Southern most photos.

Essentially the site lies East West; the road crossing runs North South. The main Mill lies on the North side of the tracks and is the oldest part of the building; the newer storage silos on the south side look to be built during the 1970’s. The main office building is on the East side of the mill, across San Antonio Street, on the East end of the Mill. Once you see the overview you’ll get a better lie of the land.

All in all this is a nice simple Inglenook, and can provide the operator with plenty of work in a small space, with nothing more than a TrackMobile for motive power. The staging can  be cassette, plug in or hidden depending on whether you are using this stand alone. If you love covered hoppers though, this layout will appeal.

ADDITIONAL

You can view the entire album of images at the following link: –>Click Here<–

Layout Ideas – The Bergstrom Industrial (Vinson) Lead – Austin Texas

Introduction

The Bergstrom Industrial lead diverges from the UP main line, at Vinson (MP 183.8). Here the extra track on the east side becomes the Bergstrom Industrial lead (heading east to the former Bergstrom AFB, now Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Back in 2000 I spent quite some time photographing the area. As a wide eyed immigrant I had never had such close up access to class 1 US railroading and the industries it served. And this was in my new backyard.

009_9
Image 1: Originally Brazos Forest Products (now Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors) – a former UP customer

You can view the gallery that accompanies this article here: The Vinson Lead Gallery

A detailed guide to industrial lead and the industries served

The switch into the Bergstrom (AKA Vinson) industrial lead comes off the mainline at a point between Falcon Cove, off Richmond Avenue and Emerald Forest Circle (off Emerald Forest Drive) in south Austin. The siding runs north eastwards along side the UP Main until crossing Vinson Drive at grade. Continuing North eastwards it crosses St Elmo Road West before curving due East behind the St Elmo Elementary school. The next road crossing is South 1st Street just south of Clifford Drive. The line continues eastwards for a short way before turning south-east and running beside Radam Lane. Where the line begins to run along Radam Lane there was a switch, since removed, that provided a permanent way siding. This stretch of line was used (and still may be) when the circus trains came to town to offload all of the road vehicles from flat cars. The next grade crossing is with South Congress Avenue midway between East Ben White Blvd and Industrial Blvd. The line will parallel the former all of the way until changing course and following the line of Burleson Road for the remainder of its journey south-west toward ABIA.

DelStar Technologies
The first customer served on the line comes from a trailing switch to the north-east of the intersection of Willow Springs Rd, and Industrial Blvd. This switch curves and drops away from the branch line to the South-West before crossing Industrial Blvd and running in the DelStar gates. Another switch is located within the grounds of the facility allowing four hoppers to be unloaded at the silos there.

Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors
I originally had this business showing as Brazos Forest Products, but on checking more today (24/04/2013) I find that the company is now Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors. I have several images of Jeld-Wen double plug door cars travelling the rails, and for the modeller this could be a great choice for deliveries to this location, or for pick-ups from their manufacturing site in Austin, for shipping to other locations across the nation.

Original text for Brazos Forest Products: Continuing south-east the next grade crossing, and the next customer, is at Terry-O Lane. Just before Terry-O lane there is a large factory complex that used to be rail served. This I would have imagined took dimensional lumber (because of the cyclones and the storage hopper at the North-western edge of the property). While no longer rail served today, backdating the layout would allow you to reconnect them and ship dimensional lumber.

Commercial Metal Recycling
South-east of Terry-O Lane is the scrap metal dealer. They can handle 5 high-sided scrap cars there and these are loaded by the in-plant heavy equipment. This operation can be seen from the rear parking lot of the Taco Cabana.

The next grade crossing is Santiago St, followed closely after by the South I-35 frontage road. The line then bends eastward while passing underneath the elevated I-35 south and north bound lanes, and then crosses over the North I-35 frontage road.

Four Hands Home
The next grade crossing is at Woodward Street. 100 metres further on a trailing switch leads into a set of doors at a large industrial building which is Four Hands Home’s factory outlet store location. The location is 2090 Woodward St, Austin, TX 78744. I do not believe that there is any rail traffic going in to the building via the siding. But for the modeller you could reasonably find a use for some Hi-Cube boxcars for transporting furniture.

Passing Track & Austin Water Utility
Continuing south-east we cross South Industrial Drive where the only passing loop on the lead is located. Off the south (passing) track is a trailing switch onto a single door at the Austin Water Utility (Glen Bell Service Centre). Location is 3907 south industrial drive. I have no evidence of the spur or the door being in use, but again modeller’s license comes into play.

Todd Lane
Continuing south-east the next grade crossing is at Todd Lane. The passing loop ends about 50 metres short of Todd lane and is sandwiched between Austin Energy’s electricity distribution location and the City of Austin’s recycling centre off Business Centre Drive. In the past the loco worked the train to here, and then shuffled cars around on the Todd Lane end to get them into order before proceeding on to complete any work required further down the lead.

Stock Building Supply
Once across Todd Lane the line curves gently toward the South east and runs alongside Burleson Road. Opposite the McDonald’s there are two grade crossings into Stock Building Supply. Another 125 metres along the line is the trailing switch into Stock Building supply which takes dimensional lumber on centre beam flatcars. This siding curves quite tightly into the facility and ends at 90 degrees to the branch line. There is a Wye switch about 3 car lengths in that splits the industry lead in two and provides storage for a minimum of 8 cars through about 14 all up if the lead is also used. The image on Bing shows 9 cars on the lead and siding in loaded and unloaded states.

I am certain that the industry siding has been rebuilt since 2000 when they only had space for four cars to be spotted and unloaded there. But I admit that I never did get onto the premises during this time and am relying on memory.

The sub-branch
Continuing south-west the line crosses Drossett Drive at grade a sub-branch comes off the Bergstrom Industrial lead at a trailing switch just before the next grade crossing at Promontory Point Drive and Burleson Road. This sub-branch swings away from the Bergstrom Lead on a tight curve and heads due west.

Budweiser Distributor
The first industry  lead about 50 metres in from the switch on the south side of the track and runs along the edge of the local Budweiser Distributor. There is a concrete ramp and loading dock that would have been used at some time for unloading full kegs and reloading empties for return to the nearest brewery. I never did see this in use in my time working in South Austin.

Unknown Industry 01
A further 10 metres along on the north side of the track another switch serves a tilt-up concrete building with 6 external doors. Currently there is no one in the building but the front of the building has truck docks so this could have been a distribution centre of some form or another. There used to be boxcars spotted there during the late 1990s and early 2000.

Goodman Distribution
50 metres further on another switch to the north goes to the back of Goodman Distribution. Goodman has been building quality Goodman brand air conditioning and heating equipment since 1982. I have no idea how long they have been in this location, but I do recall seeing boxcars at the rear of the building during my time in the area.

Alcoholic Beverage Commission
30 metres on are two switches one after the other. The first to the south is a track into the rear of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission building. I have not seen any cars delivered here in my time. But again it is your standard concrete tilt-panel construction with 4 doors along the back wall. It could be used for almost any warehousing if you the modeller were so inclined.

Tri-Supply/InCycle Electronics
The second switch coming off the branch to the north goes to the Back of Tri-Supply/InCycle Electronics.

  • Tri-Supply are suppliers to the building trade and supply everything; doors, windows, mill work, appliances, electrical, fireplaces, bathroom fixtures and home decor. I have never seen cars spotted here during my time in Austin but the building is a modern tilt-up panel building with 5 door spots. So anything is possible.
  • The second tenant in the building is Incycle who are EPA certified and qualified by the TECQ (Texas commission of environmental quality) as a centre for handling electronic waste and as an electronics Recycling Centre for the City of Austin.

Unknown Industry 02
The branch curves away to the south-west for around 90 metres to the final switch on the branch. The industry is currently vacant but that looks on Bing to have been a storage (possibly a moving company) facility. There is a single door in the end of the building.

Clampitt Paper
The branch continues across Winnebago Lane before ending at Clampitt Paper. Although the branch does not run to the facility and dead ends in the grass behind them.

US Foodservice
Back on the Bergstrom lead heading south-west again we cross Promontory Point Drive, and travelling another 200 metres we come to the last trailing switch on the line, again curving tightly 90 degrees to the south-west for the US Foodservice warehouse. There are 6 doors here, with only one of them being in the cold room area.

Team Spot
Lastly heading south-west we come to a small team area at the end of the branch opposite the El Meson Taqueria. The line then carries on for another hundred metres or so before going dead in the weeds.

The remainder of the line
The line used to go on to the Air Force Base (Bergstrom AFB) but after the base was closed, the line was truncated back to Burleson Road, although the right of way appears to still be intact all the way through to Highway 183.

Along the way it would have:

  • crossed Montopolis Drive at grade,
  • passed Mrs Baird’s Bakery off Old Burleson Road,
  • travelled for some way until crossing Metlink Rd before hitting Hwy 183

From having seen the architect’s model when I worked at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, the line for the light rail would have crossed under the highway and then travelled sub-surface into the terminal buildings. Sadly this was dropped from the original scheme.

And this completes the detailed description of the Bergstrom Industrial Lead, Industries and sub branch. Hope that you have enjoyed the ride. Don’t forget to visit the gallery. I’ll be adding more pictures gathered from BING and Google as I go over the next few days. Unfortunately it looks like the line has fallen into disuse which is a shame as it could have provided a great location for some creative shortline magic. There were numerous industries and a lot of switching locations available, and the line along Radam Lane would have made a perfect interchange location with the shortline.

Additionally the area around Clampitt paper would have made the perfect location for a shortline office/engine facility and it would not have bothered anyone because the entire area is zoned industrial. If only the real world were as simple as the modelled one.

Have a great day, wherever you are.

Andrew

Union Pacific’s Lawn mower – June 2000

Originally posted on the Old DasBlog – Friday, April 19, 2013

Introduction

Who knew that the UP railroad owned their own rail mounted lawn mower. Not me apparently!

MOW Gear seen in Austin

During my time in Central Texas, we lived in South Austin and in Kyle (which is closer to the beautiful College city of San Marcos). While we lived in Austin I had the privilege to get some really great train photos. Among the rarer items of rolling stock captured was the UP’s MOW lawn mower. Now I’ve not seen too many photographs of the unit in the press or other websites where I’d visited. As a result I have added my entire inventory of shots when I found her parked on the Bergstrom Industrial Lead @ Radam Lane in south Austin.

You can find the images here: UP’s MOW Oddity. It is not something that you see everyday and I thought should be photographed for later building as a model. Please share and enjoy. Your feedback is always welcome and you can email me using the button on the right of the screen.

Regards

Andrew