Thursday, 26 January 2012

Freight Car Roster 3

I sat down and made up a grid of freight cars for Burnham Yard based on the figures I extracted from looking at the photographs I had to hand. And I now have a copy Interurban to Milwaukee, CERA Bulletin 106, which arrived today. I shall look through it and probably be able to add some more freight cars numbers from the photographs. Fingers crossed.

Also, geek that I am, I've been making notes on freight car emblems and will therefore be able to go back and classify the identities of cars from blurred photographs, which I couldn't do on my first run through. From this I have created a grid of freight cars for my layout.

Note: BHFC is bulk head flat car, other covers stock cars, as I have one.

Obviously, this table is not written in stone and is subject to amendments, if a shiny new freight car take my fancy. Also, not included are tank cars and reefers, which I will add according to what I have in combination with the national freight car distribution figures.

Freight cars really epitomise why I chose the title for this blog, because this really is an opportunity to have no two alike.

Burnham Yard Road Further Revisions

I've been working on the railroad, and while doing so was looking at how I was going to treat the transition of the track through the return loop staging. As a result I started looking at the maps of the area I have from Google and realising that I had made a mistake with the orientation of the street blocks. That is I had set them with the longest side facing the baseboard edge, whereas in fact they should have been orientated with the shortest length to the front of the layout.

I also realised that given the location of the layout, in a square between Franklin, Orleans, Oak and Chicago that I would not have a North to South road running on the layout. So I got the big ruler out and my tape measure and looked at what had to be done to rectify this mistake?

As can be seen from the above picture the result is that it has become easier for me to transition the tracks through the return loop staging. The road to the far left of this picture is only on the drawing for reference to the real location in Chicago, as it represents West Institute Place. 

On the layout we have West Chestnut Street, West Locust Street, and depending on the finding out the date the name was changed, West Whiting/Walton Street. To the right, off board, would be Oak Street, and to the left, off board, would be West Chicago Avenue. Franklin Street would run across the front of the layout if I had room, and North Orleans Street would be at the back of the baseboard.

With the upper level elevated track the plan now looks like this.

I'm thinking about using the Micro-Engineering street viaduct, but I have found another dealer who does laser cut Chicago elevated structures in peel and stick wood. I will have to find out more from people who know more than me.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tri-Wire Harness for DCC

I was going to call this piece "All Wired Up", but when I got to this stage I realised that I might be set upon by the DCC manufacturers for showing that two wires to the rail doesn't mean just two wires to wire the layout.

Now any beginners reading this, take a deep breath, let it out and relax. I really only have used three wires, and the third is only for the turnouts, but what I have done is wired this layout in a way that maximises the chances of it running without glitches from power not getting to all the rails.

Anyway, I started working on wiring the layout by doing the right hand board (North side of the layout) first as it had the fewest droppers, and only one turnout to do.

See not that bad heh? I then went on to the left side the layout as that had the next smallest number of droppers to wire up.

Okay that's a few more wiring runs, but you only ever do one-at-a-time, unless you have more than one pair of hands?  I start with the dropper furthest away from the bus bar point as it makes the process of threading the wires easier. What's a bus bar? It's where you collect all the wires together to solder them up, and I'll show this in another post.

Finally I tackled the centre board that has the largest number of droppers and turnouts to wire.

Now that's more like it! Loads of lovely wires to keep the juice flowing where it needs to go.

I've only coiled the wires like this, because the layout sits above our sofa, and I don't want my hair full of copper wire while we watch a film tonight. For those of you who are extra observant see if you can spot the two missing wire runs in the completed sections that I only noticed I hadn't done after I took the photographs.

And now I have a wiring harness, ho ho ho!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Changing the Era

I consider era as part and parcel of the whole layout planning gig. The choices we make about these things all have an affect on each other. So when one chooses the location it determines the railroad's infrastructure, and of course the locomotives, and the freight cars that we all love to model. Therefore I have been  paying some attention to the freight car roster for my layout, and as you have all probably guessed by now, I'm a bit of a freight car addict.

In my opinion a great majority of the time spent modelling will be spent making freight cars as you need more than one per locomotive that you own. So, as a consequence the choice of freight cars will have an impact on the veracity of the era that one is trying to portray.

My initial plan was to model 1948. As I would I get to run locomotives #450 and #459 without generating any anachronisms. It also meant that the Suydam coach I have of the 737 series wouldn't have to have its roof modernised, as several were still running with their original ventilation and heating equipment, after 1950 they were all modernised with forced ventilation.

However, I had a bunch of nice Kadee PS-1 box cars that have 1951 built dates on them.

What to do? I like the cars. The models are exemplary, and there is a substantial dollar investment to account for, which means I'm not inclined to sell them at a loss. Easy answer is of course to change the date the layout is set in. So, I moved my era to 1951, but now locomotive  #450 becomes an anomaly. I can just about get away with the 737 series interurban as the last one was modernised in October 1950. Okay, who am I kidding, it too become an anachronism?

Then there are the Silverliner cars. If I am modelling 1951 I get the bonus of now running the first of the Silverliner conversions. So every cloud has a silver lining!

I then pottered off thinking nothing more until today about the era, but then an idea struck me. Why am I fixating on 1948? Yes I know it's to do with locomotive #450, but given the location is freelanced I could easily rationalise the anachronism of #450 by saying it was kept as there was still work it could usefully do at Burnham Yard. Pretty close to the reason it was scrapped for in real life, in that this locomotive worked down on Montrose Avenue switching flat cars for the North Shore's trailer service, which was abandoned at the end of 1947.

So I thought to myself, what era would I like to do?

The 1950s are quite attractive in that the later motor cars started to have fins and get interesting. Also, the North Shore wasn't abandoned until 1963, so I could even push the date slightly more forward. Thinking about it, I'm not sure I want to run representing the last three years when the line ran under the increasing threat of closure, its just not a happy place. Also, the Chicago Aurora & Elgin was abandoned in 1959, and this is one of my connecting railroads for my fictitious what if scheme.

So 1959 it is.

This opens up certain choices for freight cars, which is a good thing. Bad things are having to modernise the roofs of one or more of my 700 series interurbans, as I know that there were only a handful still running with original roofs by 1959.

Freight Car Roster 2

As part of my ongoing research into all things North Shore, I have been looking at freight cars seen on the line. I therefore sat down and went through all the books I own, counted the number of pictures that featured a freight locomotive, and counted the number, type and where possible identified the owning railroad reporting marks of said freight cars.


I looked at through the following nine books:

Days of the North Shore, published by National Bus Trader.
Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee in Color Volume 1, published by Morning Sun.
Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee in Color Volume 2, published by Morning Sun.
Interurban Trains to Chicago, published by Iconografix.
North Shore America's Fastest Interurban,  published by Golden West Books.
North Shore Line Interurban Freight, published by Pixels Publishing.
North Shore South Shore, published by Heimburger House Publishing Company.
Route of the Electroliners, published by Chicago Electric Railfans' Association #107.
The Insull Chicago Interurbans in Color, published by Morning Sun.

Photographic Data

So let's start with raw numbers of photographs.

In total I counted a 171 pictures that had a freight locomotive in it, or freight cars seen from the cab window of a freight locomotive.  Of this total 67 came from the North Shore Line Interurban Freight book, which is not all that surprising in itself. However, given that these books are largely pictorial tomes with about three photographs on each double page spread, with approximately 200 pages per book, then the number of pictures of freight operations is quite small in comparison to approximately 2500 pictures I looked through. 

Railroad Reporting Marks

Next let me present the railroad reporting marks I was able to identify.

14 cars: CNS&M  (see Note 1)
13 cars: MILW (see Note 2).
10 cars: NYC.
8 cars: PRR.
7 cars: SP.
5 cars; AT&SF and SOU.
4 cars: CB&Q, GM&O, IC, N&W.
3 cars: CE&I and NWX.
2 cars: B&O, EJ&E, CNR, C&NW, L&N, and the GN.
1 car; CG, CRI&P, D&H, E&L, L&M, NADX, NJI&I, and the WM.

So out of one hundred and seventy-one photographs I was able to identify 27 railroad reporting marks, and 89 individual cars from them.

Note 1: excluded from totals as these were all from pictures showing the TOFC service that was abandoned in 1947. Also excluded and not counted were pictures of work cars.

Note 2: not including one picture showing a train with thirty 50 ton iron ore hoppers being pulled by the three GE steeple cabs as the identity was not readily ascertainable from the photograph and I'm therefore unable confirm the veracity of the caption.

Freight Cars

The other thing I did was identify the type of freight car seen in the photographs.

213 Box cars (48%).
123 Hoppers (28%).
45 Gondolas (10%).
21 Tank cars (5%).
14 TOFC (see note).
12 Flat cars (3%).
10 Covered hoppers (2%).
7 Reefers (2%).
6 Bulk head flat cars (2%).

All percentages were rounded out.

Note: excluded from totals as the TOFC service that was abandoned in 1947.


When compared to the figures from the national average, we see some interesting variations from the normal distribution occurring. Starting with the standouts.

First is the Chicago & Eastern Illinois comes in with three cars, which is 21 times larger than the national average would predict. In second place comes Elgin Joliet & Eastern with two cars, which is eight and a half times the number one might expect to see.

After this three railroads are in joint third place. The Gulf Mobile & Ohio and Norfolk & Western both of each with four cars photographed, which represents four times the expected number. Surprisingly, the Western Maryland is also out of the standard distribution whose single car identified from a photograph  represents four times the number one would expect to see.

In fourth place is the Milwaukee with 13 cars, whose numbers represent three and a quarter times more cars than the average, but given it was a connecting railroad perhaps this is not so surprising after all? Running close to this was the Delaware & Hudson, with one car representing three times the number the national fleet average predicts.

In fifth place there are five railroads represented. The Illinois Central with four cars, the Southern Pacific with seven cars, the Southern Railway with five cars, with both the Louisville & Nashville, and Central of Georgia with one car each, were nearly double the number of cars  expected to be seen from the average.

In sixth place the Burlington with four cars was up by one, which was a third larger than expected.

Falling within one deviation of the average are the New York Central with ten cars. up by two, which is a quarter more than expected. Then the Santa Fe's five cars up by one from the national average number was a fifth higher than expected.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Railroad with eight, and the Great Northern with two cars, pretty much match what the national average suggests we should be seeing from these two railroads. And if you count the Litchfield and Madison car as a Chicago & North Western car, then this railroad have had a total of three cars, which also matches the national average.

The first of the three railroads down on their numbers by a third is the Baltimore & Ohio with two cars, as is the Erie & Lackawanna with only one car photographed. However, the latter was a new reporting mark as the railroad only came into existence in 1960 with the merger of the Erie and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. Also seen was a New Jersey Indiana & Illinois railroad car, a Wabash subsidiary, whose one car means that the Wabash representation is down by a third too.

Coming in lower still is the Rock Island with the one car ,which is half the number expected, go figure? Finally, the Canadian National with 2 cars is a quarter of the number expected by the national fleet average for North American cars, but may well be in line with the number of cars interchanged with the United States?

Freight cars I can't readily account for with the data I have to hand are the three NWX and one NADX reefers. No doubt more information will come to light at some point.

Disclaimer: Of course now that I've posted this piece and had chance to reflect and think upon it, I realise that I've forgotten to add that terms and conditions apply, errors and omissions excepted, and numbers can go down as well as up, or something like that. Also I've made some egregious assumptions too. Playing rough and ready with the statistics, but hey that is what they are there for, right?

Freight Car Roster 1

I have a few freight cars, more than I've shown here on my blog, as most are still works in progress. When I show works in progress I like to at least show some progress that amounts to more than just opened the box and plonked it down on the track. At least showing the change of wheels, trucks and couplers as necessary to bring my freight cars to the standards I set for the layout, which may seem idiosyncratic, but that's me.

Now I'm basing my freight car roster on data I have about 1950s freight cars. So if I had a hundred freight cars, then very roughly the numbers would break down for the big six railroads as follows:

8 cars: New York Central
8 cars: Pennsylvania Railroad
4 cars: Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe 
4 cars: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific
4 cars: Southern Pacific ,
3 cars: Baltimore & Ohio

I then looked at all the railroads that go to Chicago, and or had some connection to the North Shore. This came from information about routing I've come across and from maps of the area. As far as I can ascertain there were six as follows:

3 cars: CB&Q
3 cars: C&NW
2 cars: IC
2 cars:  Rock Island
1 car: EJ&E
1 car: Soo Line

Then I looked at photographs of freight operations on the North Shore and came up with another fifteen railroads where I could clearly identify the reporting marks. I will choose to use national percentages for these lines too.

3 cars: SOU
3 cars: GN
2 cars: L&N
1 car: C&EI, CofG, D&H, E&L, GM&O, L&M, MC (NYC subsidiary), NJI&I, N&W, WM.

I also have to add the CNR too, and they had a large number of cars, but how many came South in 1948, I don't know?

I also need to add reefers from NADX, NWX, and tank cars

I also have other cars from my first project that I want to run. These include seven tank cars, two PFE reefers and a WP gondola. In addition I have extra cars from the SP and UP too. For a grand total of fourteen extra cars.

So it looks like my initial estimate of 61 freight cars has now risen to a grand total of 75.

At best guesstimate my total staging and online spots for cars comes to fifty cars, which by a rule of thumb means the layout will cope with about thirty, so I can see that I will have to rotate cars off the layout. No bad thing, but quite an eye opener.
More to follow on the photographic evidence.

CNS&M: Locomotive Sizes

Some people have asked how large is the Alligator locomotive #459?  So I thought some pictures of her with two of her sisters for comparison might be appreciated.

So let's start with the smallest steeple cab first, #450.

And now with  steeple cab #453.

And finally with a PS-1 boxcar.

She looks a bit of a beast, but in fact she is quite dainty in her own way.

Monday, 16 January 2012

CNS&M 457: Build Part 2

Well I put her back into the soldering shop, and as you can see she looked liked she had been through the wars afterwards. If I didn't know that this is all cosmetic stuff that is very easy to clean up, I think I would have been quite disheartened.

Just showing the front and how getting the hood cover down tight straightened the whole appearance up.

The inside of the model in the soldering aftermath. To the right hand side and center my appallingly lumpy solder, and on the left the craftsmen lumpy solder. Solder will go lumpy, I just had more lumpy solder after re-soldering the model back together again.

Then after cleaning (a combination of scraping with a knife edge and  polishing with a fibre glass brush) you end up with a gleaming model like this.

Unfortunately, all the soldering had softened the brass wire of the hand rails, which had the tendency to bend if you looked at them a bit hard.

So I gently tweezed them straight and them used my micro torch to heat the the hand rails up and then quenched them with cold water, which restored their stiffness.

Finally, I reassembled her, breathing a sigh of relief that the connecting plates that had come adrift had been put back into the right place. Real skill, craftsmanship, or just plain stupid good luck? No not really, the model has oval holes in the frame so as to allow for any minor misalignments. Clever design by the original builders.

So by removing a few part I have completely changed the character of the locomotive and she looks a lot more like her sisters now. More to come when I move into the detailing stage.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Improving Trolley Poles: Part 2

Just a quick update really on the progress I'm making in rebuilding the PSC trolley pole that I showed last time. The first thing I did was to remove the springs and unsolder the two parts, which shows how I did the initial conversion.

I then rebuilt the main body casting and shortened the pole, which I had made too long (note to self this is 3.5mm to the foot modelling, not 4mm) as so, and here are the two rebuilt parts together.

Here is a picture with a Suydam pole for size comparison. As you can see this is quite tiny.

Finally I reassemble the pivot joint. Had a problem with soldering it solid, so a bit of a panic to disassemble, clean up the excess solder,  and then reassemble using Loctite to secure the pivot points.

And finally with three of the other poles I showed before, for a size comparison. Left to right; Suydam original, Eaton Custom Engineering PCC pole, MTS Imports pole and my rebuilt PSC/Kemtron pole.

All I have to do now is make another five of these. Well first off just make another and see how they work as a pair with both poles tied off on one end, which is the purpose of this exercise after all. Pole still looks a little bit long here, but it measures between the furniture at both ends as the same as the MTS pole.

As a Note. I found out that the GE steeple cabs never operated with two poles up as such. Anytime you see one with two poles up it is suggestive that the crew are doing some switching manoeuvre that requires a change of poles. So for instance when switching back and forth at low speed a wheel is more convenient for the crew, or when going from a main line to a spur line where you don't want to stall if the pole comes off on the frog, or to prevent arcing as one pole is taken down and the other put up.

Fascinating what you can find out on the web.

CNS&M 457: Build Part 1

I'm currently off work with laryngitis. No seriously, my work made me take the time off sick as they felt I couldn't do my job properly. So feeling a bit miserable, as I much prefer to be working rather than sitting at home when unwell, I picked up my soldering iron and waved it all over my brass MTS Imports Sacramento & Northern GE steeple cab. Bought for me as a birthday present many years ago by my partner.

Oh dear the horror...

My soldering iron really doesn't have enough thermal capacity to handle the job, so I had to pre-heat the areas I was working on with a miniature brazing torch. Unfortunately, as a result the roof fell off as I was working on it. Oops! And as can also be seen the hood and the retaining plate too. You can't see it here but the other retaining plate also lost alignment too.

No matter though as it can be soldered back on. I discovered that it was handed in the process. By handed I mean that it fit better one way round and not the other. Things that look quite precisely made are often not as precise as one would thing. However, this is a sign that the model was a craftsman build, rather than machine built.

Various other bits fell off too. Including one of the hood covers and both the fixing plates to attach the body to the chassis.

Reassembled and looking like it has gone through the wars at this point. I took the opportunity to realigned the window frames to match the #457.

And here she is after a clean up with methylated spirits, a dip in the sonic cleaner and some going over with a fibre glass brush.

Big oops on the hood soldering now readily apparent as a gap has appeared. Oh well this is only stage one; she had go back into the soldering shop as two of the seams on the other hood that join it to the cab have broken.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

CNS&M: 452, 453, 454 & 457

The four North Shore Line General Electric freight motors were arguably the core locomotive team for the railroads freight service. The first three were all acquired at the same time, while #457 was a second hand bargain.

I recently acquired from a dealer a Car Works #452 steeple cabs and an MTS Imports #453, both made in brass.

They are pretty much identical, but not quite. Some of this being down to replicating the minor variations between the sister locomotives, and some of it down to the manufacturers implementation of the prototype.

As and when I paint #453, it will be altered to represent #454, as it had an interesting variation on how the cab windows were painted.

I was a little surprised to see on the MTS box that they did three variants; locomotives #452, 453 & 457. This I found odd as according to the drawings I have, locomotive #457 was slightly longer than the original trio. Only six inches, or so, but still six inches can make quite a big difference in the bigger scheme of things.

The next model is  from the days when I was planning to build a layout of the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad, and it is an MTS model of a Sacramento and Northern GE steeple cab. My intention is to convert this into a model of locomotive #457, as it shares the longer truck center spacing. I see it as a nice little ongoing project for when I feel like doing some soldering.

Here are the three steeple cabs together showing some of the detail differences between them.  I will also have to fabricate, or find replacement castings for the truck for #457.

This last shot pretty much replicates the common picture taken of three "pups" working together.

I will post updates. After all, I still have trolley poles to make for these first.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Improving Trolley Poles: Part 1

As you have probably all gathered by now my intention is to model an electric freight line inspired by the North Shore Line. This inspiration came from reading a couple of books. The first, Not Only Passengers: How the Electric Railways Carried Freight, Express and Baggage by Roy G. Benedict and James R. McFarlane, published by the Central Electric Railfans' Association, as Bulletin 129. The second, North Shore Line Interurban Freight by Edward M. DeRouin, by Pixel Publishing as part of Midwestern Rail Series Number Two.

As a result I want to run freight motors, and the North Shore had a few unique freight motors, which make nice signature locomotives for my layout. However, the North Shore freight train crews also had the habit of running with both poles up; done I understand to reduce the strain on the overhead when drawing large amounts of power when starting heavy freight trains. They also had the habit of swinging both poles to hang over the same end of their four GE freight motors #452, 453, 454 & 457.

This causes a problem when trying to replicate this on the models. So the first picture show a CNS&M Steeple Cab Imported by MTS Imports, Inc. I've replace the MTS poles with Eatman Custom Engineering poles I got off eBay. These are effectively a modern version of the Suydam poles, with better wheels/sliders.

 As you can see when down there is plenty of room between the two poles when down.

The second picture show a CNS&M Steeple Cab Imported by The Car Works with MTS poles showing that they too can be run with twin poles collecting current.

However, when down these poles foul each other as can be seen here. Not so good.

They also foul each other when both up facing in opposite directions. An unlikely situation, but I show it just the same.

Here is an over head view showing the biggest problem of all, which is that one can't stow both the the poles down on one end, a typical North Shore Line practice by the train crews of the freight locomotives.

The poles I have to hand are  as follows from left to right; a Suydam original, an Eatman Custom Engineering pole, a Car Works pole, two MTS poles (one modified to two springs), and finally a PSC pole that I have modified by shortening it and replacing the pole with a scale thickness guitar wire.

Order reversed for the top view.

Both of the modified poles to the left of the picture are still too wide to do the whole both poles pulled down on one end thing that the North Shore Line freight train crews did. The rather lovely Car Works poll suffers from being too long, which prevents the prototypical functioning I require, and for those of an inclination to such matters, still scales at about twice the length of the prototype..

Plan at this point is to go back and rebuild the PSC kit again. I've already cut it in half to shorten it, but I reckon I can take another couple of millimetres off its length, and more importantly I plan to narrow the width of the end. Hopefully, this will allow two poles to be pulled down on one end.

Oh yes. Made my replacement pole too long, forgot I was working in 3.5mm to the foot, not 4mm. Oops.
Edited Jan 10th for clarification.

Friday, 6 January 2012

CNS&M 459: Part 1

Ah the big Alligator. A signature locomotive for a North Shore layout set from 1948 onwards.

Some bits need re-soldering, and as you can see this locomotive is articulated for sharp curves

I also need to add poles too. I've also noticed that fitting the coupler is going to require some thought. Looking at this picture I think that I'm going to replace all the handrail knobs as they look far too fat, especially the ones on the hood.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

CNS&M 450 Steeplecab

This was another eBay purchase. When I saw it I thought that this would make the basis for a conversion to locomotive 450.

The paint job is very basic and again a bit tatty, but serendipitously look what the box said.

I count that as a win. Not sure if it runs, as on testing with my Lenz DCC system it growled telling me that the motor didn't like what it was being fed. So I need to test it with a chip in it to see what happens? My friend Bill reckons a new eight wheel drive would be a be a good option, thereby bringing the model up to modern specifications.

At some point it will go in for stripping and detailing to make it more like number 450 circa 1948.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Burnham Yard Track Laying 8

Well it took me a couple of days longer than I intended to take, but here it is all done. For definitions of all done that mean that there are still tons of things left to do. Like for instance making up the wiring harness and testing it, before one even begins to start working on the scenic side of things.

Below is the finished crossing complex with a tank car in one of the small off stage industry spurs. The short track off the turnout by the tank car represent the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin RR junction, which I managed to squeeze in, and it looks like I might be able to make another return loop to connect up to the front Chicago, South Shore & South Bend RR junction so that I can use it as a staging loop for both roads.

Next is a shot looking at the staging area showing the storage for half a dozen freight cars.

At the other end of the layout is from left to right, the mainline that will eventually lead off into hidden staging, the RIP track, and the REA and team track, with the yard lead and caboose track at the front.

Finally, an overall view showing a train on the arrival/departure track, the yard throat and in the background three freight cars are sitting on an industrial spur that comes off the crossing complex.

I've enjoyed making my Xmas project as it has been very rewarding and most satisfying to build. It has restored my confidence in my model making abilities.