Four Corners News #3: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Ore about to be loaded to go to the mill at Sheridan on the old Silverton RR, now Silverton Union RR

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.

A chunk of scenery

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.

Sheridan, Colorado New Team Track

Now we turn from old school freight handling to the very latest, as flatbed container units began appearing on line. Here’s one.

Kibri 20′ folding end flatbed container

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.

Note how rightmost point is keeping it from full closure

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.

Corrected if a little out of focus

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 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.