Category Archives: Model RR

Things to do with my model railroad.

Model Railroad Planning – Fitting the Bridges Over the C&O Canal

I’ve been on a hot streak lately working on the layout and have made tremendous progress thanks to help from friends. I hope to make a blog post soon detailing the progress and maybe a vlog. For now, I’m spending time thinking about designing and building the three bridges that carried the B&O over Canal Rd. and the C&O Canal down in DC.

B&O H12-44 9725 leads the Georgetown Local westbound across the C&O Canal toward Georgetown. Wm. Duvall photo (ca. Nov 1966)
B&O H12-44 9725 leads the Georgetown Local westbound across the C&O Canal toward Georgetown. Wm. Duvall photo (ca. Nov 1966)

This is the spot where the line had nearly descended all the way to the canal level and broke away from the Palisades and crossed over toward the Potomac River on a beautiful trio of historic bridges and sweeping curve. I have the blueprints for these bridges and plan on modeling them, but I need them to fit my space. Right now it’s a very tight fit. I did a mock-up below:

Mocking up the three bridges that carried the B&O across Canal Rd. and the C&O Canal. The *just* fit!
Mocking up the three bridges that carried the B&O across Canal Rd. and the C&O Canal. The *just* fit!

I’m considering options for including the bridges. Everything from only modeling one of the three, two of the three, or all three. Curving them more. Using tighter radius curves at the approaches. Or moving it to another location. One final option is to ditch it altogether. What do you think? Feedback below!

Modeling Link: Scratch Building a Whipple Truss Bridge

B&O Bridges over the C&O Canal
B&O Bridges over the C&O Canal

I found this link ages ago but wanted to list it here in case anyone is curious. This gentleman, Craig Bisgeier, has a New England model RR set in 1892. On his layout he needed a Whipple Truss bridge so he set out to kitbash/scratchbuild one from two Central Valley 150′ Pratt Through Truss bridge kits. The build is pretty involved and detailed. I wish there were more photos but nonetheless it’s a great resource for a modeler like me who is considering this daunting task! One benefit I do have is a full set of blueprints of the bridges crossing the canal. My plan is to laser-cut custom pieces as needed from thin mat board. More on this in the future.

http://housatonicrr.com/Whipple.htm

A Photo Surprise – Lumber Straddle Carrier in Bethesda

Last weekend, while doing some research on track and industry layout in Bethesda with my friend Matt I was looking at a photo that I have looked at many, many times before and noticed something completely new and exciting. (don’t you love it when that happens?!) Here is the photo:

May 30, 1956. B&O C2222 and full yard at Bethesda. Ray Mumford photo.
May 30, 1956. B&O C2222 and full yard at Bethesda. Ray Mumford photo.

Looks pretty normal. A really full yard at Bethesda. The road crew, on an S2, a short distance from C2222, the “local” caboose that ran regularly on that assignment. In the background is Bethesda Avenue, with a car parked next to it, a few gentleman talking and some freight unloading going on in the background. Well, here’s the fun part. “Computer. Zoom and enhance!” (I love saying that.)

Close up view of the freight unloading.
Close up view of the freight unloading.

Immediately my brain triggered. “Hey! I know what that thing is! Look, do you see it?!” I exclaimed to my friend Matt, sitting next to me, looking befuddled. It’s a straddle carrier. A lumber straddle carrier. These neat vehicles were invented around 1913 and had four wheels which could turn independent of the others, allowing the vehicle to maneuver in tight spaces. The bottom is open and has arms which can grab a stack of lumber beneath it. Really brilliant. They were common in lumber yards around the country until the advent of the fork lift and palletized lumber. In some instances these vehicles are still used today and are even produced for specialized applications by some of the manufacturers who made them back then.

Hauling lumber with straddle carriers at Putnam Lumber Company - Shamrock, Florida. 1929. Black & white photoprint, 8 x 10 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/24975>, accessed 12 January 2018.
Hauling lumber with straddle carriers at Putnam Lumber Company – Shamrock, Florida. 1929. Black & white photoprint, 8 x 10 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/24975>, accessed 12 January 2018.

So why is this special?

Well, it’s another fine detail that brings the setting to life. Had I never zoomed in and noticed that tiny detail, I would have never known there was one in Bethesda. It means that in my modeling of the area I can include this distinctive vehicle and it will be prototypical. I love these things. They’re quirky and eye-catching. I have no other photos that I know of showing the straddle carrier in Bethesda, so it is rather special.

How was it used?

Well, I doubt it was used by the Einsinger Mill & Lumber Co, as they had their own siding into their yard. It very well COULD have been theirs, but there were several other lumber yards in the area (Devlin, for example) who may have used the straddle carrier to shuttle lumber to their yard just a short distance from the team tracks in Bethesda. You can see a gentleman stacking lumber to the right. The lumber would be delivered by boxcar as was common at the time. The lumber would be stacked and then the straddle carrier would drive atop the bundle, grasp it and then shuttle it to the yard for storage and sale.

Closeup of Lumber Carrier
Closeup of Lumber Carrier

I NEED YOUR HELP!

I want to identify the make of this carrier. I have been hunting high and low for a photo or reference to the specific unit pictured in this image. Look carefully at the engine cowl, the wheels, what appears to be shrouding over the front wheel mounts up top, the rear gear assembly/cover and front opening. Also, don’t be fooled by the silhouettes of the gentlemen in the foreground, especially the one to the right. Try to crop those out. Also note what appears to be a gas tank of some sort just behind the carrier. Is this part of the unit? I can’t tell. Distance-wise, remember this this is REALLY far from the photographer in the photo. The distances are really squished together at this distance. If you have any info that could help me, please email me at cpl_clegg at yahoo dot com.

Final Note

These kind of details revealing themselves are the things that keep me hunting for more and more photos, stories, maps and documents related to the Branch. It intrigues me and I enjoy it tremendously! One other thing I noticed, further back, beyond the straddle carrier there appears to be a bulk transfer conveyor loader. These were seen in just about every town and it’s no surprise there was one in Bethesda. One end of the conveyor would be placed beneath a hopper and a truck would be spotted at the upper end. Once turned on, the hopper would be opened and the contents loaded into the back of the truck. Think sand, gravel, etc.

Lone Star Cement Sign

Lone Star Cement plant in Georgetown, DC on the waterfront. Date unknown, most likely early 1960s. Photo from DC DoT Archives. (https://ddotlibrary.omeka.net)

As I prepare to model various structures along the Georgetown Branch, my attention turns to recreating various details such as signs, vehicles and small details which establish the scene in historical context. Of course I have to pick and choose these details because I don’t have room to model the entire branch line.

One of the structures I plan on modeling is the Lone Star Cement plant. This large structure sat at the west end of the industrial waterfront in Georgetown. The silos towered above the Whitehurst Freeway and were emblazoned with a very large Lone Star logo. Using some photos and Adobe Illustrator I re-drew the logo as best I could, to be a relatively decent representation of the one painted on the silos of the plant. Here is a JPG of my attempt.

Lone Star Portland Cement Georgetown sign
The Lone Star Cement sign, re-drawn by me.

A Christmas Surprise on the Georgetown Branch

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season. My friend Nick alerted me to this awesome photo from the Mansfield Library Archives  which shows the 1958 National Christmas Tree being received down in the new yard on the Georgetown Waterfront. How cool is this!? I know it’s slightly outside of my era, but I will have to figure a way to model this on my layout.

1958 National Christmas Tree
The location is the “new yard” along the waterfront in Georgetown and the year is 1958. The National Christmas tree is being received . Photo from Mansfield Library Archives (https://www.instagram.com/mansfieldlibraryarchives/)

The Great Northern flatcar bears a large sign on the side which reads:

TO PRESIDENT EISENHOWER
THE NATION’S CHRSTMAS TREE
FROM THE KOOTENAI
NATIONAL FOREST
LIBBY. MONTANA
SHIPPED BY COURTESY OF G.N. – C.B.&Q. – B.&O. RYS
PREPARATION BY, J. NEILS LUMBER CO
DIV. OF ST. REGIS PAPER CO.
PRESENTED BY THE
LIBBY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

1958 sign on the National Christmas Tree in Georgetown, DC
The sign on the National Christmas Tree delivered to DC via the B&O in Georgetown, 1958

Apparently it became a tradition in the early 20th century for a tree to be donated by lumber companies and state forests across the country. Anyone with more information or background on this, please chime in! Also, if you know where I can locate a manufacturer of that particular model of flat car, I’d appreciate it! 🙂

EDIT: Since I’m planning on modeling this I took a stab at drawing the sign. Comments welcome! I drew it in Adobe Illustrator using a combination of Source Sans Pro and Montserrat fonts, customized and altered a bit to match the original more closely. Enjoy!

Rendering of 1958 National Christmas Tree sign
My rendering of a sign that was placed on the side of a flat car carrying the National Christmas tree.

Another edit – I found a reference to the J. Neils Lumber Co. (which had merged w/ St. Regis Paper Co. in 1957) in the Minnesota Historical Society. Interesting short read: http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00977.xml

Maloney Concrete Sign Design

At the Maloney Concrete plant in Bethesda, MD there was an iconic lettered sign up high on both sides of the main tower of the plant. The beautiful Art Deco lettering was painted red at one point and really stood out  among all the industrial machinery that surrounded it.

Maloney Concrete, early 1980s. M. Vurek photo.
The Maloney plant, with the deco lettering painted red. Photo by M. Vurek, early 1980s.

I plan on modeling one face of this concrete loading hopper and as such need to include the gorgeous sign. Unfortunately the font is different than anything I have. The font “Broadway” is a close match but has significant differences. I contacted a friend who also confirmed my suspicions about its design and decided to draw it myself using Adobe Illustrator. The process was not too bad as most of the letters are geometric and consistent. Thankfully there’s some repetition, too.

Maloney Concrete sign drawing
my re-drawing of the Maloney Concrete sign in Bethesda, MD

My plan is to laser engrave this onto a piece of very thin wood which I will then paint and install in the model, eventually. This is a first draft, so comments are welcome!

Thinking About Track Layout in Bethesda

I’ve outlined many of the tracks in Bethesda as I plan for the track arrangement on my own layout.

I’m tossing ideas back and forth on how to represent the town of Bethesda on the layout. I have already laid much of the track and am fine tuning the details. I’ve yet to decide on the East end of the town (where the track heads under Wisconsin Av) and placement of building flats. I’m doing more research looking at photos of the area to decide exactly where things will go. Above is a quick sketch I did showing the various tracks in the town.

Bethesda

Layout Update: Templates, Grades & DCC++

My progress on the layout has been minimal for the last year, but over the last month I’ve cleaned up and made some great progress, figuring out solutions for some issues I was having. My friend Kelly helped me figure out track arrangement and grades at Georgetown Junction. I am planning on further reworking the track arrangement to be a bit more prototypical and easy for construction/structures. My friends Joe & Matt helped me visualize how to lay in the area West of Rock Creek and East of Bethesda which includes Chevy Chase. I had originally made a mistake of not figuring the grade separation between the trestle at Rock Creek and the level tracks at Bethesda. I decided to create one long grade from the trestle and Bethesda, cut from plywood out of a cardboard template. I’m working on this now.

I’ve also been experimenting with DCC++, a free, open-source, full featured DCC system. It uses an Arduino Uno, Arduino Motor Shield and a 15v power supply. I managed to get it up and running in an evening and will use this moving forward until I am ready to purchase a full featured DCC system… or maybe not! We will see how it works for me. Here’s a short video:

I’m recently enrolled in school at UMUC going for a Computer Science degree, so much of my time is devoted to class work, but I’ve got a reinvigorated interest in the layout so I’m hoping to make steady progress.

Layout Progress Update

It’s been too long. Over a year. I haven’t touched the layout since the summer of 2015. There, I said it. There have been many, many factors and excuses to explain this lapse, none more compelling than inertia and laziness. I’ve taken on lots of other side-projects and tasks and found many other ways to distract myself and burn time doing fun things that don’t involve working on the layout. Well, I’ve got the bug again and I’m back at it. I spent the holiday weekend cleaning out the layout room, reorganizing and getting myself mentally back up to speed with my progress on the layout.

I’ve posted a few photos of my progress here on my Flickr page.

When I had last left off I had completed much of the track in Bethesda but ran into a snag when on of my train club friends pointed out that there was a nasty S-curve in the yard entrance. I had also installed some spline roadbed at the Geo. Jct. area and that worked out quite nicely. Much of the rest of the layout was covered with “stuff”, and became staging for painting trim for our office renovation as well as other random projects. All of that stuff was cleaned up, moved out or reorganized to optimize space. I completely cleared the upper level of the layout so I could continue working on the track work I had started over a year ago. Once I got cleaned up, things really moved along nicely. I realized a few things:

  1. I really love this project and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
  2. I need glasses – reading glasses at least. My vision is not what it was.
  3. I need to set some goals and stay on task.
  4. I need to flesh out the layout design a bit more; I came across some issues that are going to prove to be challenging to overcome and will most likely require reworking some of the track plan. (oh well!)

All in all, it’s been a productive weekend and I’m moving ahead with a good head of steam. I just hope I can keep the momentum!

A Sketch of the Lower Level of the Layout

I created this a while ago but wanted to share it. This is a sketch I did showing rough scenery concepts for the lower level of the layout. What you have is the track entering from the helix at the bottom right. It exits from Dalecarlia Tunnel and then crosses a drop-down bridge, passes the Army Map siding and into the Dalecarlia water treatment facility yard area. From here the track continues down hill, crosses over the C&O canal, a Canal overflow/stream and into Georgetown. The line will pass the boat house, scale and under the Aqueduct bridge. In Georgetown there are several industries and yards for switching. The line continues through G-town  and ends at the Coal & Ash house and King Coal.

The idea here is to get a rough idea for what will actually fit and a slight reality check for my own sanity. I know that the track layout is relatively accurate but this exercise really allowed me to see what will fit and what won’t. I removed a few things I thought I would be able to fit and added others that I had missed. I hope to create one for the upper deck but it’s just a matter of time if I ever get around to it.

A colorized scenery and track layout sketch showing the overall concept for the lower level of the layout
A colorized scenery and track layout sketch showing the overall concept for the lower level of the layout