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


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.

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.



Union Pacific’s Lawn mower – June 2000

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


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.



What does operations mean for a Small or Micro layout?

Originally posted on the old HVL DasBlog –  Wednesday, May 15, 2013

For the small layout builder/owner/operator their exist challenges that modellers with larger layouts do not face. For example; if you have a 20 foot long layout with additional staging your trains actually do go somewhere, even if it is only 20 feet. But they do go somewhere and switching takes place in more than one location. On a Small or Micro layout the same is not true. Often you’ll be able to see everything all the time. In order to give the sense of operations I came up with a set of “rules” for the game that provided me with a starting point, an end point, and the means to know where I was in the game of “MR Operations”.
The Game
MR Operations is no different to Monopoly, or any other board game. You have pieces, that move in a certain way, according to set rules on a pre-configured gameboard. There is a known starting point and an end point of the game, although this can be changed by mutual agreement of the players.These are my “rules” so far as Small/Micro operations go:

  1. Trains must come from somewhere (they enter the stage)
  2. Trains should do one or more of the following whilst on the modelled portion of the layout (on stage)
    • Change Direction,
    • Change Consist,
    • Do work appropriate to the nature of the train.
  3. Trains must go somewhere when finished the actions outlined in point 2 above (exit the stage)

While formulating this simple set of three rules I took into account all types of layout designs. Thus the rules allow for:

  1. Double ended Small/Micro layouts
    • with fiddle yard to fiddle yard via a station/named location
  2. Single ended Small/Micro layouts
    • with a fiddle yard at one end and a terminus on the modelled portion of the layout
  3. Freight only operation
  4. Passenger only operation,
  5. Loco only operation or,
  6. A combination of any and all the above.

I developed the idea of a SuperNook before I had setout the rules above. However the reasons behind it were clear in my head. I wanted a freight based layout that provided all of the functions that you got with a UK based end of branch layout, that could be applied to almost any style of railroading, anywhere.

Image 1 is an example Supernook.

Image 1

The Supernook in Image 1 above has five distinct zones:

  1. A – is the switching lead/branch/main line – depending on the layout style
  2. B – an industry lead/storage siding
  3. C – an industry lead/storage siding
  4. D – is a passing siding/loop
  5. E – is the short switching lead to allow a run around to occur and/or the entrance or exit from the modelled portion to another fiddle yard

The SuperNook provides the Small/Micro layout operator with a purposeful and practical method of play, that keeps interest for the longer term. The rules do not take away from Car Cards, TT&TO, DTC or any other operating system, they do however focus the mind on what you want to achieve from a small layout and give you the means to map out the path to get you there.


Small layouts allow for greater detail but can suffer from limitations to operation. By using the rules I’ve confined myself to above you’ll achieve more satisfaction from your creations, have greater enjoyment in the longer term, through a better more flexible design that allows for better game play.


HO Scale Supernook

Posted originally on the old HVL DasBlog – Friday, June 07, 2013

Operations and Display Running

Apart from building my new (largish) layout at home, I have promised to provide a small layout for a show next April. The industries can depend on what type of cars you want to run, but the classic inglenook approach still applies of a 5:3:3 Inglenook within the Supernook.

The Supernook is my modification of Alan Wrights classic Inglenook. The Supernook though provides the means to turn a train, that is reverse its direction through the use of a loop to allow the locomotive to swap ends of the train.

The premise being that the train:

  • Enters the stage, in this case from stage left (staging),
  • Breaks down its incoming train,
  • Switches the industries
  • Makes up its outgoing train, and
  • Then Exits the stage to stage left (staging)

Exhibition operation

Apart from talking to people who are interested in modelling at our exhibitions, the most fun I’ve had is to make things work, or show others how things work. To that end I want to present a layout that would keep my interest, and the interest of the viewer for perhaps 5 minutes while they’re wandering around the show.

If I get lucky and I have someone who wants to have a go, and gets into the spirit of Operations then all the better.

The Nitty Gritty
Here is how I would see an operating session go on the new layout:

  1.  Our train arrives from off-stage, and parks itself on the branch main,
  2.  The crew:
    • Sets handbrakes on the cars,
    • dumps the train air,
    • cuts off the caboose or guards van from the rear of the train,
    • cuts off the engine,
    • runs around the train using the Loop track,
    • couples up to the caboose, before pushing it forward to the tail track on the branch main to clear the loop for switching.
  3. The conductor or guard checks the bill box at the entry to the industry track
    • The paperwork here tells the crew which cars are to go where along the industry track
  4. The crew:
    • Climb aboard the loco, and under direction of the conductor/guard:
    • pull the outbound cars from the industry track to the loop,
    • move off-spot cars and the incoming cars from the branch main to the industry spots at the end of the track, continuing to back-fill the industry track until they have completed the switching instructions left for them by the customer.
    • Any cars the crew could not place at the industries are pushed into the storage track.
  5. The crew with all switching moves completed begin the task of reassembling their train and readying it for departure:
    • First all of the outbound cars are marshalled together, and if so required may be blocked for delivery to other yards and industries,
    • Remember that as cars are put together into a rake, brakes must be unlocked, airlines connected and air pumped to operating pressures. All of this takes time, so slow down and account for that time.
    • With the train now almost formed the caboose, previously set out on the tail track, is connected to. The air pumped up, and a set and release performed to ensure that all brakes on the train are working.
  6. Finally with a train ready to depart the whole consist leaves the modelled portion of the line, stage left, for the fiddle yard.

This completes the operating session.


You can increase the level of operation on the layout by having in-plant switching taking place in addition to the interchange operation by the delivering railroad. In-plant switching would involve the local switcher, either leased, in-plant or track-mobile moving the cars from the doors/loading docks/UT Auger as they are unloaded and placed out on the storage road, pending the interchange move with the delivering carrier. The aim would be to use the loop and branch as needed, but to have them clear by the time the interchange carrier is ready to arrive. Say give it ten minutes to ensure that you have everything cleared out of the way to allow the interchange loco to run-around the train.


Weathering takes an oily turn…

I tried using oils for the first time last night on a new car that I’ve been working on building. And I must say that I am impressed with the ease of use and the ease of working with weathering, especially for rust, in this medium. I really wish that I have gotten into this medium earlier. To be honest I was afraid of committing to it because of the sense of not being able to go back, and of course the smell. But what I’ve found is quite the opposite. Smell is not an issue. Using odourless solvent, and a little common sense no one in the home has complained once. As for cleanup – same thing. Easy to reverse course and back the weathering out. Still learning though.

 Need to add this file too: weathered hopper
Image 1: The hopper roof with base weathering (old rust) in place

For a larger view of the image go here –> – once on the page click the image to bring it out to 1024 pixels wide.

Really quite pleased so far and look forward to posting more photos as I roll forward with the weathering scheme. I did find an image last night on the web of a similar car in the same basic time range that I am modelling mid 1970s but it has friction bearing trucks, the only 70 ton trucks I have on hand are roller bearing trucks so I may have to change these out for another pair before it is released to traffic.

What on earth is the HVL?

The Hunter Valley Lines is all about my model railroading and my Industrial Switching Layout. I am moving all my content from my old blogging software (which is no longer supported by my hosting company) to this site. Additionally I’ll be adding new content as I go. I hope that you’ll enjoy what’s here and that you’ll find something of interest. I hope that you will let me know about that when you can.


Designing Small Operating layouts you can build since 2003

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