Everyone is invited to join us on Wednesdays from 6 to 8pm starting March 31. We’ll be operating on the Four Corners Division as well as discussing modeling, the local prototype scene, layout news for those who have it, and a first look at what’s on your workbench. Join us for a few minutes or the whole 2 hours, either in person or via Zoom. Bring a model, if possible.
Pandemic got you
Want to talk trains?
Want to run trains?
Starting March 31 and then
every Wednesday from
6 to 8pm
Ops session and train
In person Or via Zoom
Join us to operate, talk trains or
layouts, or to share that new model or project
Everyone with an interest in model
railroading is invited, no matter what your skill level
Due to storage capacity limits, I may need to take this copy down in a few months, so view it when you get the opportunity.
We discussed recent work by various members, including Buzz’s office building; Ernie’s layout and a steamer he’s been working on; Mark’s mainline completion; an interesting discussion of 3D printing by Marcus and Alan; and Mike’s announcement of the beginning of his weekly ops sessions on Wednesdays from 6 to 8pm starting on March 31.
In addition to finally being a place to physically meet in person after so much distress over the last year, Mike’s Wednesday night ops sessions will also be conducted virtually via Zoom. While it’s not sponsored directly as an NMRA event, the Wednesday night show will provide a weekly place for ITD members to gather and for the public to learn more about ITD and model railroading. It won’t just be an ops session, but will also include a look at what’s on your workbench, layout updates, and projects underway by ITD members, along with being a place to find advice on difficult issues.
Look for the formal announcement and links to join via Zoom in a message that will be posted here in the next few days. With the vaccine spreading, we are hopeful that this long painful social separation will soon draw to a close – and model railroading will remain fun.
As I prepare for my first ops session in more than a year (Wednesday, March 31, look for more info below), it seems a good time to reflect on all the work that was accomplished. Mostly a long list of known issues, I managed to squeeze in some extra work I didn’t anticipate. In some way, it all helps the layout to operate more realistically, easier, or in a more prototypical way. Let’s start in.
Motivated by a lightning strike nearby that caused EMP to take out my DCC command station, it returned from the NCE shop ready to serve as a backup to the new unit I’d bought to fill in. We’re prepared for losing one again with a backup now and can loan the spare if someone else finds themselves in a similar fix. JMRI has been updated and much new support structure is in place. I’m working on entering the revised NCE Macro/Route structure into JMRI right now. The home wifi system has been freshened with 4 Google Wifi nodes that are now providing a strong signal throughout the basement.
Another large project was a revision of the initial grade up the Cascade Branch behind Tefft. By taking out one end of the shorter siding at Tefft, enough additional run was provided to lessen the grade so that K-27s can usually boost 6 cars up the Cascade Branch. A spur was added to support the expanding business of the 9 Lives Cat House at Tefft.
In Silverton, the main switch into the Silverton Union Rail Road interchange track was replaced and a siding was double-ended down by the stockyard. Some fiddling with storage tracks added space for MOW equipment, including a new Jordan spreader. The freight house was relocated to the container terminal and a scratch-built, condensed version of the old Silverton Union RR office was constructed to takes its place.
Silverton, like Durango, now has a MiJack servicing a newly-installed container lift facility. Container service (limited to 20′) extends to Snowden at the end of the Cascade Branch, which services customers like the new Gramps oil field. Container trains are on the timetable, enabling T&TO operations when enough crew are present, as they are scheduled in order to meet the service needs of mail and express, which are still served by the RPO/express car carried by each of these trains.
Numerous improvements facilitate the busy local switching work along the Cascade Branch. In Purgatory, a third siding keeps local switching out of the way of road trains meeting at this former helper station. The industries in town have better views for switching and the grade up to Camp 10 reliably takes the line on past Lime Creek Gulch.
The area from Camp 10 through Black Cat Junction is now nicely scenicked after the dust settled. There is some work at a few local shippers and receivers, but mostly this station mainly serves as a staging ground for trains headed on up the line.
Summit is reached next. Its 8-car siding often hosts meets, plus now seasonal shipping from stock pens there.
Crater Lake Junction’s track has been thoroughly worked over by crews, so it runs much better while preserving that interesting waddle that puts the mud in Mud ducks. The main siding has been extended to accommodate trains as long as 13 cars. The branches to the Outlaw Mine, Camp 13 and the quarry add challenging switching at eye-level. Most difficult of all is the steep branch up to the Merry Widow Mine, where the AEC continually complains of track conditions.
The station in Crater Lake swapped sides of the track and is now inside the wye, closer to the big rock bins that supply outbound crushed stone. This made way for an industrial siding on the aisle side. A new oil jack supplies the Bunker C that fuels Loon Lake Line #1. Acquired from the Bob Miller estate, the #1 is a light Shay that handles most of the switching at the end of the Cascade Branch as well as is able to climb the tight confines of the Merry Widow Branch. #1 was converted to DCC, lit, and had a keep alive added for even more reliable operation, as have many other small locos on the line.
The end of the line at Snowden continues to see regular inbound unit trains of pipe heading to the Gramps field and outbound shipments of crude oil headed to the Oriental Refinery in Durango. While facilities are limited, this is a busy container terminal, largely due to the oil field. Other traffic includes outbound raw poles and ties, along with carload service to local industry. Extensive use of open loads and unit trains keeps an interesting mix of freight operating over the line.
Freight and mixed train service continues on the lines from Silverton to Red Mountain and Animas Forks. These runs are popular with new crews for their well defined tasks of forwarding loads of supplies and MT cars for concentrate loading to the mines, while returning the loaded ore and MTs to Silverton.
The dual-gauge line from Durango to Hesperus continues bringing coal and transloading other outside supplies like hay, animal feed, and building materials for customers in the mountains.
Beyond Hesperus, the standard gauge continues into Dove Creek. Industrial traffic there, powered by the busy Atomic Energy Commission plant, continues to expand and diversify.
Underfoot, operators now enjoy a nicely cushioned floor thanks to recently installed rubber matting. Car card boxes and other fascia amenities have been revised to better meet user needs. Plus we are set-up to broadcast ops via Zoom with this rig.
It’s a big railroad, ready to operate.
You’re Invited to Operate
You’re invited to join us in person, if you’re vaccinated or bring your mask – or via Zoom – every Wednesday evening starting Wednesday, March 31 from 6pm to 8pm. To arrange to visit or to connect via Zoom, you can contact me via: email@example.com
We take operators of experience level. Don’;t be intimidated, this is fun and we will make it so.
Due to the need for social distancing, we anticipate hosting no more than 5 people in person – 1 dispatcher, plus 4 crew. I will take the first who sign up and wait list anyone in excess of 5 for in-person slots. Zoom is virtually unlimited, so please join us, one way or another on March 31 snd subsequent Wednesdays.
After all, there’s no train show to miss – this year!
If you can’t make it on Wednesday, we can still make this work another day and time. Let me know what will work for you and we can arrange a visit then.
If you came here looking to find out more about the 2021 Lincoln Square Train Show that usually happens around the end of this month here in Urbana, Illinois, well, the headline says it all. And you can probably guess why, but, yes, the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to plan and, in the end, still impossible as of right now to conduct a train show in 2021 anyway that would appeal to the public with regard to safety, as well as exhibits, layouts, and vendors. 2022 will be different and we are looking forward to the 2022 Lincoln Square Village Train Show!
With the timely cancellation of the 2020 show, we remain in good position to put on the train show, but circumstances prevent it from being in 2021. It is possible for smaller community exhibits to perhaps come back near the end of the year if everything goes well, but we are realistically planning on making sure the 2022 train show is one that will help get community healing and fun going after a really rough patch for everyone. Good health until then and we look forward to seeing everyone in 2022.
Those on our mailing list should have received a notice shortly after New Year’s about this year’s cancellation. If you would like to be on our mailing list, contact me via the email link below and we will see that you are also kept fully informed of developments as we work to get back on track in 2022.
Brought to you by
The Illinois Terminal Division of the National Model RR Association For information, contact Mike Lehman
Well, a computer screenshot is not usually very exciting, but after fighting it all weekend, I finally got Apple to let my iMac talk with my NCE Power Pro command station again, allowing visitors to use their phones as radio throttles. I also was able to find my old loco Roster and restore it to use. Both of these events today will facilitate the operating sessions I plan to offer here weekly starting around the end of March.
If you have JMRI and use a serial connection accessed via a USB-to-RS232 adapter to connect to your Power Pro, be cautious if prompted to update to their latest OS, Big Sur. Its security restrictions are so tight it likely won’t work with many older serial device drivers. I finally kludged together something that works, with a thread about it here:
Meanwhile, I added some containers and chassis to the intermodal fleet. For around $13 I found an undecorated 20′ container and chassis that I weathered up to kill the shiny white exterior of the container.
The next pic shows another relative bargain, a Herpa tractor trailer double-bottom rig that came with two containers for $25.
I also finished up a build of a 1:24 Land Rover from a Revell kit. Here it is on a late winter inspection run on Tincup & Telluride.
Since I model what is now the Durango & Silverton line, I have to anticipate the need to support fire-fighting activities. Here is my new Canadair CL-415 water bomber headed for the fire. It’s N scale, but the forced perspective seems to work pretty effectively over the scenery.
A couple of tentative first dates for reopening with the aid of vaccines now going around. Looks like the first weekly ops session here will be in about a month on Wednesday, March 24. At this month’s ITD meeting, I also raised the possibility of holding the April 10 ITD monthly meeting here. That way we could experiment with a video feed from an ops session, so that those not in attendance can at least observe the action and, perhaps, participate. I’ll have an update on these in the next article in this series.
For years, I’ve had a road that ran down to Sheridan so that miners whose diggings were not on the line could still utilize the transportation it provided. The problem was that there wasn’t a place to really load at. The dock in the picture belongs to the Wilde Mine and they weren’t inclined to share it with others due to insurance reasons.
I didn’t want to make too big a deal of fixing this, in fact wanted to spend about 15 minutes and be done. And that’s pretty much what happened. My scenery is a thin layer of Sculptamold over shaped Styrofoam to which scenic foam and other finishing materials is applied. If you’re careful, you can often slice into the shell and lift the top layer, excavate underneath, then reset to the original shell. This minimizes the rehab work needed to get things looking good again. Here’s a pic of a piece of the shell set on the dock showing this layering.
In this case, I needed a wider flat area near the track to allow trucks a level spot to load and unload from the railroad cars. I sliced under the scenic surface, then peeled it up to access the underlying Sculptamold, which I excavated . I then returned the peeled up surface to its previous location, but now lowered, pressing all down until I got a good flat spot for a team track area. Then I used some recycled ballast to build the area up and connect it to the road that came in to the area now that it has a destination.
Now we turn from old school freight handling to the very latest, as flatbed container units began appearing on line. Here’s one.
There are always small maintenance issues that arise. I operate my layout quite a bit on my own, so can often catch and correct them as they happen. Recently, the Durango diesel centercab yard switcher started derailing on Yard 4. A closer look revealed a bent point end.
CAREFULLY bend the point back to the correct shape to correct. Nickel silver is soft, but the fact that this is soldered nearby means it has been heated and could be more brittle than usually.
While the pic is a little fuzzy, you can see how the corrected point allows a much better transition for the diverging route. Derailment issue at this ‘point’ is solved.
Ending this somewhat belated edition of the 4CN is a somewhat hopeful development. Operating sessions will soon begin again here at the Four Points Division. I get my first shot of the vaccine tomorrow and the second within a month. Add a couple of weeks for full effectiveness to kick in, I am personally going to feeling a lot better about returning to normal life, with a few lingering precautions. That means operating here starting in late March. Coincidentally, that is about the time the Lincoln Square Train Show would normally occur, pointing out the impracticality of trying to hold it this year.
These will be personal non-NMRA sessions, so anyone who is interested is invited. You must wear your mask(s) and I will only be able to host 4 people at a time. They will be weekly and probably on a Wednesday to start. However, I am willing to operate on just about any day of the week, so if Wednesday evening doesn’t work for you, drop me a line anyway and we can probably arrange something. Besides my getting the vaccine, my wife and I are both tested twice weekly in the University of Illinois Shield program. If you are covered by regular testing that’s a good thing (and reassuring to the host) but I am not making this a requirement or vaccination for now, just the mask and social distancing as best we can (keeping in mind the tight aisles here.) Please come if you’re comfortable, but don’t expect more than standard precautions as the expectation. If you’d just like to drop by and talk trains one-to-one, that can also be arranged. The point is to give people an opportunity to relate to others with mutual interests after a very hard year for everyone. I think this hobby can be a big part of getting things normal again.
You can contact me at Superintendent@IllinoisTerminalDivision.org to arrange to operate here (near downtown Urbana and easy to find.) I accommodate all levels of model railroaders, from those still figuring out how to get around a basic oval to serious operators who like to see the timetable first. This is as much an event to get out and see people as it is an operating session, but we plan to also move some trains. More on this effort to Deadline the Pandemic & Build Hope coming to this space soon.
While some take a lifetime to plan the perfect layout, I tend to think the best layouts are those that don’t wait on a perfect plan, because they tend to actually be projects that run trains, no matter how imperfectly. This week’s projects show how improving unanticipated things that you’ve found irritate you is a part of working towards perfection over a lifetime of work.
First up is a pic of the Stock Yards switch in Durango. Over several years I’ve converted many locations to remote control of turnouts. For Durango, the biggest conversion yet, I used NCE Swicch-8 modules. These provide a easy to use and program user interface, while being economical. However, they allow for groups in increments of 8, which in my case meant a handful of turnouts around the periphery of Durango continued to operate by toggle switches. Such was the case here.
What was worse was that Stock Yards was controlled from a small panel that was tucked out of the way. All other turnouts it controlled were converted to remote operation. For my layout. the Stock Yards control was placed fairly distant, about 2 feet to the left from where the pic above was taken. However, the narrow aisle next to Stock Yards precluded anything protruding. This was my solution to a better, easier to find location.
I used an otherwise recyclable plastic snack cup (like those used for fruit or pudding), which had a nice rim around its lip. I used a suitable size hole saw to cut the opening in the fascia. I used the circular blank cut-out to reinforce the bottom of the cup. You’ll need to safely cut a 1/2″ hole through both the cup and the cut-out disc to have a place to mount your turnout control toggle switch. I mixed up a small batch of 5-minute epoxy and applied it to the lip edge of the plastic cup. You could clamp it, etc but I held it in place until it stayed stuck.
As the top pic shows, the control is now adjacent to the turnout it controls, so is obvious to anyone wanting to use the Stock Yards turnout. It is also protected against the snags and bumps of a narrow aisle.
Next up was “drive time.” I like to move vehicles ar5ound to keep things interesting. I moved the Menards crane into position to do some work at the ASARCO mill complex.
Down by the river near Silverton, I reshuffled some of the rafters for a fresh look at having fun in the Rio de las Animas.
A warm day on a cold river
Most of the layout enjoys adequate light now, but a few spots still remain less than optimal, including the short segment at Crater Lake Junction, with its stingy 10″ of overhead clearance. It could be gloomy under there, although this pic doesn’t adequately depict the situation.
I found that Menards has changed their lineup of LED strip lighting. Instead of getting a choice between Warm White and Cool White color temperatures, you get a LED control unit that allows you to select whatever color temp you want. It also allows for a wide variety of other colors, along with sound-activated effects, all of it now possible to control via wifi. All I need is something close to Daylight.
While iPhone photo magic makes it seem as if the two scenes are similarly lit, in person eyeballing shows the new lighting to be much improved. These new LED strips are easy to hang, as they have industrial strength 3M magic sticky stuff to attach them with.
Besides maintenance and construction, I also did some operational testing. A lot of this was standard gauge, but also working on improving transfers between standard and narrow gaiuges and on intermodal traffic.
That’s this week’s report from the Four Corners Division. Anyone have any news to pass along, post it up or forward it to me to do so.
Following the lead of one of my fellow local operators, Rick, I added some floor cushioning to make operating sessions a little easier on the feet and legs of operators on my Denver & Rio Grande Western Four Corners Division a couple of years ago. The stuff I used was cheap, perhaps, too cheap. It came in rolls about 4′ wide and needed just a little trimming to follow my aisles. After some use, it started puckering some, creating the possibility of tripping. I’ve been looking for a replacement or additional covering that would be higher quality and not subject to puckering.
Costco opened a store locally last fall and I was there doing some grocery shopping recently when I walked by a pallet of rubbery floor cushioning panels. Nice stuff, it interlocks, is about 3/4″ thick, is reversible to either black or dark grey, and seems quite durable. What really stood out was the price, just $19.99 for six pieces that cover an area that is approximately 4′ x 6′.
I installed the new cushioning right over the old, because it seems heavy enough that it flattens the puckered spots down. I rarely get any water in the basement, but leaving the old cushion down should make it easier to dry things out when it does happen. The one place where the can be a semi-regular trickle is in the utility room side, where I covered that area with a set of panels that do not interlock and can be taken up when it rains hard enough to leak (> 1″/hour.)
I did a bit of custom fitting, which is what’s responsible for the gaps at seams that are visible. A bit more attention to detail in trimming would fix this, but it visual and doesn’t feel at all “gappy” underfoot (unless one happened to operate in high heels, I suppose.) In areas where you fit everything to standard, the seams virtually disappear.
Unlike some thinner, less robust similar products, the Norsk panels are thic k and stiff enough so that the interlocking and edge pieces work really well. These panels should stay in place and resist being shifted out of place by foot traffic, a very good trait for use underfoot in layout aisles.
For about $250, the cost of a single DCC sound-equipped loco, my operators and I can now work in a much more comfortable and safer environment that will hold up for years. You do have to join Costco as a member to get access to this deal, but we’ve found its modest cost has already saved us plenty, more than its cost on this project alone. Note that Costco has very similar cushioning available online, but it costs $70 for a package of 8 similar sized pieces, so this is an in-store deal only on this Norsk floor cushioning.
I’ll note here that I’m going to try to make this a weekly report on what’s been happening on the Four Corners Division and, from time to time, what’s happening in the wider model railroad community in East Central Illinois. We hope to find some regular readers and welcome the opportunity to pass along any news you think worthy of bringing to the attention of a wider audience.
Probably the biggest news in the area is that the annual Lincoln Square Train Show is again, regrettably, cancelled for 2021. Those on the vendor and display layout contact list should’ve received a postcard with this news shortly after the first of the year. While vaccines give us hope that by early spring the virus will be under control enough to make such an event possible, there is no way to know that with certainty. Given that this is the same period in which the organizing committee must make things certain and commit funds based on certainty, there is simply no way to see this through for 2021. However, 2022 seems pretty certain to getting the big annual show back on track, one way or another. There may be some limited public displays possible before then and we’ll let you know when we can make that possible if it does become possible. We are eager to get some new stuff out for the public to see, the public wants to get out of the house (even if the layout has benefited from “quarantine work”), and vendors and customers need to see each other happy and healthy, all commercial considerations aside, when this terrible thing draws to a close.
Besides a newly comfortable floor, I also have been working on one of my longer term projects, the Purgatory Food Co-op. It started as a kit for a tool room/office annex to a enginehouse kit that I bought off of Bill at the last train show. Bill is a local operator who is also an ops guru for a well known model railroad periodical. I’m privileged to have operated on Bill’s high-intensity mainline Timetable & Train Order-based layout, but Bill’s focus building through Central Illinois led him to dispose of a number of surplus items at very reasonable prices a couple of years back. The tiny structure gave me some ideas, but sat for a couple of months, before I decided how to proceed.
The kit provided a nice loading dock door suitable for RR cars, along with a roof and three walls…
Since it was designed as an addition to a larger building, for the fourth wall I was on my own. Eventually, I decided it would make a great grocery store, so I built a removable storefront. There was little clearance between the storefront and the edge of the layout, so I kind of got stuck there for a time.
I also mocked up a basic interior and lit the inside.
In the last pic, you can see some of the recent work. I had some leftover concrete sidewalk material from the Downtown Deco Atomic Cafe kit I recently built and got to thinking it was just what was needed. After some cutting and backfilling with Sculptamold, along with adding a concrete foundation around the building, things were looking better.
I’ve got more detail to add, plus an interior, signage, and some people. See you next week!
When the ITD decided to conduct the 6″x8″ Challenge, I had just the thing to build. I’d recently acquired Downtown Deco’s The Atomic Cafe kit after waiting a while for it to be produced again. I’m not sure there’s a prototype for this structure or if it’s just a riff off the 1982 documentary movie of the same name (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083590/). It fits in with one of the themes of my layout, reflecting my dissertation research, as a sometimes humorous look at the perils of nuclear weapons. It’s got a prime location just outside the gates of the semi-fictitious Dove Creek Atomic Energy Commission Plant. Those hungry workers have to eat somewhere, even at 2 am.
The kit largely consists of excellent plaster castings that come well-protected by bubble wrap, supplemented by printed signage and some plastic stock. I supplied some additional details, like the electric service, interior details, and lighting. The kit instructions are thoroughly detailed, including finishing, paint, and light weathering, and are well-illustrated. While I have a bit of experience, the comprehensive guidance provided should allow a careful beginner to get good results.
The iconic signage consists of a casting that is painted and then covered by a printed paper applique. It just begged for lighting, so I did. I built a lamp bucket for an LED on each side, nothing fancy to give them a home-built look.
Being on a budget, the interior is built of small bits from the scrap bin, mostly, with a few seated prospectors and their families being the theme. There is a bar with a mirror and some swinging doors to the kitchen, It houses the battery pack and wiring harness, along with a push button to control things. It needs a bartender, a waitress, and a small folk combo playing in the corner with the green-striped stage backdrop, along with some bottles of boozeahol to stock the bar.
Somehow, the whole thing comes together in a style a lot like Edward Hopper’s iconic 1942 Nighthawks painting in this night time pic.
Looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with on Dec. 12.
I was reading the latest issue of The Cowcatcher and came across an ad for a new, local train store. Rob Brown has opened a shop recently in Farmer City, on I-74 halfway between Bloomington and Champaign-Urbana. Blue Rail Hobbies serves model railroaders working in scales from G to Z.
Or should I say, Blue Rail Hobbies is ready to take your mail- or curbside delivery order. With the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be a little while longer before walk-in customers can visit.
Rob works the show circuit and has been at recent Lincoln Square Village Train Shows here in Urbana. He the fellow who has brought along the big NMRA banner we’ve had at our divisional booth the last couple of years.
You can find contact info for Blue Rail Hobbies, along with an online catalog, by pointing your browser to: