Four Corners News #5: Quarantine Work

An empty stock extra tops the grade at Summit

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.

Old Tefft before revised grade behind town.

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.

Scheduled container service pleases customers

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:

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.