Thursday, January 17, 2013


Erie no.B25, a slug, photographed probably sometime in 1968. Collection of author.
Remnants of Erie boxcab unit no.25, this slug sits in a yard in this fairly unremarkable photograph. So why bother to post it?

The photo and the transformation of a boxcab to a yard slug suggest a way of operating a model railroad. Instead of trying to create a layout that is a snapshot of a railroad at a particular time and place, how about creating a layout that is maybe more like a film or a book about the railroad?

This photo suggests to me that a different understanding of a railroad can be had from including the time element in the presentation of a railroad during one operating session or over the course of an extended amount of time. Taking the extended time frame first, a series of operating sessions could start in one year, move to another year the next session, and so on at each significant point in the railroad's history. Choose early and late in history for a stark contrast between steam and diesels and types of cargo and amount of traffic, or present it in a slowly evolving narrative picking up on nuances of logo changes, yard track arrangements, evolution of weathered structures, and to our photo above, the transformation of a locomotive from a rather elegant boxcab one session to an unglamorous yard slug the next.

Doing this in a short time frame like one evening's operating session would be akin to watching a documentary on the railroad, and it would lead to a much different presentation, obviously, but more importantly, to a much different understanding of the railroad by its operators. I think this idea has some legs - or at least some traction motors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Erie Scale Test Car 03440

Erie 03440 at Hornell built in 1934 by Lake Erie Eng Corp.Buffalo, N.Y. in collection of author.
This is the real version in a photograph taken in 1940, and there is a Walther's version on the layout that was built in 2012.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Croxton Yard Tower

Just a quick post of an image of the Croxton Yard Tower with an EL string of Alcos in May of 1965.

Croxton Yard Tower, May 1965. In collection of the author.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

HBS 701 post 1960

HBS 701
Sometime after 1960 with an EL boxcar in tow at a favorite photography spot in front of General Foods.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

More Locomotive Eye Candy

Erie no.7134, an F7A unit shining in the sun in 1960
OK, a couple of more, but then you will have to brush your eyes and go to sleep.

Erie no.501, an S-4 moving a cut of cars in Marion, OH in 1952
Erie no.388, a DS-4-4-750 in front of the shops at Youngstown, OH in 1960.

Erie no.407, an NW-2 was caught resting in Hornell, NY in 1959.

 Now off to bed to dream of diesel-electric sheep!

Locomotive Eye Candy

Erie no.19 at 149th St yard. Date? Photographer?
One of the problems with acquiring historic photos is that one doesn't always know from who, where or whence the photo cometh. I can sleuth out that it is at the Erie Harlem 149th St Yard because of the crane, concrete pad an building (behind at right), which belongs to the neighbor (New York Central's Team Market building), but I don't know when unless I get super smart somehow.

One of the ways I get smart is by looking at Phil Goldstein's web site.He has no.19 being scrapped in November of 1958 at Meadville, PA, so I know the photo was taken before that. But wait, if I look in Westing and Staufer's book Erie Power, I see that there is a notation that it was scrapped, but with no date. Looking further at the same roster entry, I see that Erie no.19 had an Erie-Lackawanna number (19) as well. This suggests to me that it wasn't scrapped in 1958 because the two railroads didn't merge until 1960, or that it somehow made its way to the DL&W and then to EL, or that there was a misprint there. I'm inclined to go with Phil at this point because of the more specific scrap date. Perusing photos here and other places tells me that safety stripes on the ends came after 1939 for sure, and its brother no.20 didn't have stripes in 1935.The concrete slab is from an old freight house from the 40s, so it is sometime after that. The crane could also be dated as it looks like a diesel crane and I know from Phil's web site that Gerosa Crane Service was a client at 149th (and from searching Internet, there are photos showing a two-tonee paint job on their cranes). At some point I will follow up and get the references for this straightened out. In the meantime, I just love sharing the photo.

Erie no.1027 at Youngstown, OH 1960
A bonus photo show is a negative of Erie no.1027 at Youngstown, OH in 1960. It is an RS-3 built in November of 1951.

Friday, January 4, 2013

HBS Benchwork progress

Adding a 4" extension (clamped portion) to make the backdrop modules into benchwork modules.

Without really trying, I accomplished a goal before the end of the year (it wasn't a real deadline or goal, but I'll take the accomplishment as if it were one of those "I'm going to do this before the end of the year" kind of things). I started converting the modules I acquired earlier this year into benchwork for the Hoboken Shore portion of the layout in the main layout room. 

4" extensions clamped (and glued, Tom!) up ready to attach to backdrop modules.

To begin with, I added a 4" extension to make the modules a full 4' long which resulted in a 20"x48" module. I ripped a 4" strip from several 2'x4'x18mm Luan plywood pieces from the local big box home improvement store. The 4" strips were then turned into the 4" extensions in short order and added to the existing backdrop modules.
Existing backdrop on bottom with extension piece to far left and an existing 1'x4' module on top to create a combined 32"x48" benchwork module.
These modified modules were then added to existing 12"x48" modules to create a new 32"x48" module. New legs to put the top of benchwork (TOB) at 50-3/4" above finished floor (AFF). This height was arrived at from my reach experiments on the 149th as these pocket yards are a little deeper than regular 2x4 benchwork dominos. I see it as a compromise from my preferred height that is up around 54" and a lower height that may be more comfortable for shorter operators.

Legs and feet (knees and toes). Adjustable feet in 2x3s.
Something of interest I'm doing is using 2x3s for legs instead of standard 2x2s. At my local big box home improvement store, they only had pine 2x2s and no oak 2x2s which David Barrow uses on the CM&SF. The oak is strong and straight, the pine are a cheaper, inferior, but perfectly useable alternative - except when the only thing left are the dregs that are warped, split and worthless. So in steps the 2x3s that are only about 50 cents more than the 2x2s and a lot cheaper than oak. They are labeled Spruce-Pine and smell pretty good, plus they were really straight and tight-grained and strong. The extra heft is pretty nice (at a very small premium), so I'm going to look to continue using them at this point.

So I managed to convert and install 4-1/2 dominos - I need to make a 12"x48" piece for the last one - and get one entire side of the layout benchwork in. I'm using the 1/4" Luan plywood from the backdrops on the legs to provide a uniform skirt that will cover up a lot of the clutter in the room underneath the layout. Much easier than actually taking care of the stuff is to just hide it in place! The plywood is blue (these were sky backdrops), but I will paint a dark color - perhaps a very dark Erie Green or even black.
Clutter soon to be hidden under the layout. Unfortunately, the "Eastbound Trains" sign (from the Erie's Goshen Station) points to the West.  Not sure where I am going to hang it so that it doesn't confuse operators.
I've got three more backdrop modules to convert and a couple of more 18"x48" modules, which need legs, and then I only need to build a few feet of new benchwork to complete the HBS portion. I'm not planning on laying track here immediately, though. I still want to do another pocket terminal next to start to prove out the idea of having scattered, lightweight and easily moveable yards serviced by car floats to begin with.
149th with new cars indicated by their car cards.
The 149th is sporting some new cars picked up from the annual train show, and it is close to being presentable to visiting operators. I would like to get another yard up before having an official session. I realized that with the regional convention slated to be in Austin in 2014, I should set a goal of having operating sessions for the convention. This means I need to pick up the pace. Deadlines do help move things along...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Year One in the Books

I started the blog a year ago and just reached 4000 page views a moment ago (who was it?). Thanks for following along, and stay tuned for the coming year when we get to start playing with the trains...

A HBS box car sits beside the Erie freight house at 149th St while a fleet of Erie vehicles stands at the ready to deliver less than car load parcels to local businesses. 

HBS 701 Photo

A new old photo of HBS No.701 in front of the General Foods building on the left and the Standard Brands smokestack on the right. The image is from a 616 black and white negative taken on 17 September 1968. The 44 tonner is a couple of decades old by this point and looking pretty good. I wonder if they ever repainted any of their locomotives...

*Edit clarification: The HBS changed the paint scheme on the 44s between 1947 and 1954 (see page 11 of Bernhart's Hoboken Shore Railroad book for original paint scheme). What I am wondering if they did any maintenance on the paint over the ensuing last years of the railroad.