Category Archives: Model RR

Things to do with my model railroad.

Workbench Update: 9/4/22 Rock Creek Trestle

The last several weeks proved to be some of the busiest for me at work and as such progress has slowed. Today, however, I tackled another milestone – completing all of the assembly for the trestle structure itself. I tacked on the final bracing, stringers and girts to complete the lower section. Here’s a few photos of what it’s looking like:

This means that the to-do list is getting shorter and shorter. Here are a few highlights of what’s left:

  • NBW castings on the side-facing stringers and beams. This will take a good amount of time as I will have to drill and install each one. Much like what I did on the bents, but a bit fewer. I’m not going to install NBW castings on the inner facing beams due to the difficulty in placing them in such tight spaces.
  • Attach a brace to the bottom of the middle two bents. This will serve as support when the model is turned upright.
  • Build a sort of cradle to hold the bridge when upright.
  • Remove bridge from base and flip upright onto cradle/steps.
  • Build two emergency platforms on the top side.
  • Install the two beams that run atop the deck parallel to the track, install NBW castings.
  • Install bracing/walkways that run along top of bents.
  • Weather and install on layout.
  • Build and install bracing around lower center bents and cribbing for the ends.
  • Drink a cold beer.

Workbench Update: 7/17/22 Rock Creek Trestle

Exactly one month since my last update and I’ve made some great progress on the Rock Creek trestle model that I’d like to share.

All bents are installed and the model is ready for bracing and stringers to be installed.

On Friday I built a sled/jig thing to facilitate installing the bents perpendicular and square. More on this in a moment. First up, I needed to flip the top of the bridge over, as it was mounted with track side up. I then took the opportunity to extend the lines that indicated where the bents would be installed, as this would guide my sled/jig later. I also measured where I wanted the straight edge to be and installed it with double-sided tape.

I placed small rectangles of double-sided tape where the rails would lay. Aligned the rails to the plans and pressed gently to set in place over the plans.

Next it was time to install the center deck girder section (which I had previously built, painted, weathered and installed ties and tie plates). I prepared some 5-min epoxy and lightly brushed it to the back side of the rails. I carefully positioned the bridge in place and weighed it down while the glue dried.

Getting ready to fasten deck girder to rails with epoxy.
Weights holding deck girder center section down on the rails while glue dries.

I then completed the blocking around the deck girder.

Close up of the blocking around the deck girder bridge section.

The sled/jig allowed for me to install the bents perpendicular and square to the base. This took a bit of finagling to get set up properly but made the job go fast once the system was in place.

Sled for aligning bents. Rides along straight edge.
Overall view of sled and plans.
Sled in action, installing bents.

Halfway there!

Nearly done with the East end. When I reached the center, I flipped the sled around and faced the center section to install the two bents at the end.

And here we are with the completed bents. It’s looking pretty good!

If you flip over the photo you can sort of get a feel for what the completed model will look like.

Ok – that’s all for now. I’m very pleased with how this is coming along and up next I’ll be installing all of the stringers and girts to get this over the finish line! Stay tuned…

E.C. Keys Coal & Fuel Oil Trestle Model Project

April 2, 1956. Heading west down the Branch from the Junction. On the right is the long E.C. Keys warehouse atop the retaining wall. To the left of the train is the coal trestle lead track. The old B&O MOW X-358? M-15 boxcar is sitting on a storage track.
Photo by R. Mumford. B&ORRHS Collection.

(NOTE: UPDATED DRAWING TO v2 BELOW 7/3/2022) Just about a hundred yards west of Georgetown Junction was the Enos C. Keys & Sons company that sold building materials, aggregates, merchandise, coal and fuel oil from 1889 until 1978 when it finally went out of business. On the North side of the Georgetown Branch track, a turnout branched off and climbed up a steep embankment and sat atop a high retaining wall where it served a warehouse for building materials. Aggregates would be unloaded over the side of the retaining wall via chutes, down into large sorting bins below. On the south side of the GB tracks, a turnout diverged, rose slightly, and then out on a coal trestle that was approximately 227′ long (based on aerial images). This trestle also served as an unloading platform for fuel oil. In the very far northwest corner of the property, at the intersection of Brookville Rd & Stewart Av was the scale house, which was torn down recently. In a strange twist of fate, a fellow GB-served industry, T.W. Perry, is now occupying the E.C. Keys space atop the retaining wall. The lower area where the coal dock was is now a long warehouse building. Much of this will likely (or already has) change once the Purple Line construction is completed.

Feb 22, 1958. Heading to Georgetown. Another view of the trestle lead and warehouse/retaining wall. This is the BEST photo I have of the coal trestle… and it’s not even in the photo! yep!
Photo by R. Mumford. B&ORRHS Collection.

For my model railroad, I am modeling the coal trestle, retaining wall and siding, and the long lumber warehouse.

The area around Georgetown Junction
This view of the layout should give you an idea of where things will go. The coal trestle is going where the small trestle is in this photo, the retaining wall will be along the high siding.

I decided to spend some time studying the site and develop a plan for my model of the trestle.

A snip of the 1957 aerial view from Historic Aerials. Note the fuel storage tanks to the southeast. The scale house was up in the upper left hand corner. Also note the boxcar sitting on the end of the retaining wall siding next to the lumber shed.

Using the scale tools available on the Historic Aerials site I was able to get basic measurements of the trestle. Approximately 227′ long, 15′ wide, bents (bins) about 15′ apart. This was enough to get me going, along with other details in the coal yard that I could observe. I now needed to figure out what sort of prototype to go after. Of course, without a photo I have no idea what the design of this trestle was derived from, but a good starting place was with the B&O Standard Plans book. I happened to have one that covers such things:

B&O Railroad, Roadway and Track Standards, 1945 (rev 1948); Commercial Coal Dump, Timber Construction. Book available from B&ORRHS, item 72047.

This fantastic reference book is available through the B&ORRHS Company Store, now in digital format. I highly recommend it! After some mocking up on my model railroad I realized that I wouldn’t be able to model a whole 227′ trestle and needed to reduce the size. I settled on a nice 135′ which will allow three 40′ cars, two less than the prototype would have held. This would work nicely for my small layout and even at this small size would still be a formidable structure. (I sure am building a lot of trestles on this layout… sheesh. I’ve got about four more to go, but that’s for another day!)

So, using Adobe Illustrator, the B&O plans and some photos I found online of similar structures & models, here is what I came up with:

So the image is quite wide – click for a larger view. I hope this gives you an idea of the design I’m after. I tried to stick as close as possible to the B&O design, but added a few modifications that I felt were necessary. One was the inclusion of additional supports for the walkway, a wider walkway, along with a railing. I also made some slight height adjustments but stayed within the requirements laid out in the B&O plan. All in all, I think it’s a good representation of the trestle and will make a very nice model. If you’d like a copy of the vector file, it’s below as a PDF for your own personal use. (NOTE: UPDATED to V2 7/3/2022)

The E.C. Keys facility will be a key scene on my layout. It’s a fascinating area to switch and this coal trestle will be a centerpiece of the small industrial area. Now to finish the Rock Creek trestle so I can get on with building this!

Workbench Update: Rock Creek Trestle Status

I know, I know, the trestle has been moving forward at the speed of slow. It’s been a while since I made an update so I figured I’d put a stake in the ground and share where I’m at.

20 bents, completed and arranged in order

Last Tuesday during my train club “Bench Time” I finished the last of the 20 trestle bents. Yesterday evening I touched up any of the unstained ends of wood that I missed and installed a few NBW castings that I missed. They are done! I consider this a big milestone. On to the next step.

The trestle deck

I spent some time cleaning up the trestle deck and clearing space for assembly. My plan here is to build a sort of sled with a flat vertical face to lay the trestle bents against for installation. I will keep it square by mounting a straight edge along one side that the sled can slide against. More on this in a future post.

Cutting stringers and girts

Finally, I laid the side view schematic out on some 2″ foam core and began to cut the various stringers, girts and braces that will go on the trestle sides. I need to cut, sort, prep and arrange all of these pieces before I can begin to install the trestle bents to the top deck. I have this weekend off so I think I will try to make more progress.

The project is coming along nicely. The last several months have been busy and as such this fun project has been going slowly. I have mainly assembled trestle bents during train club Zoom meetings. One or two a night, every week or so. I’ve also been working on a few other projects. I’m good at starting projects; bad at finishing them. Can you tell?

Quick Update: Layout Visit Projects, and More

I know I haven’t posted in a while but as the Spring approaches, things are getting busy around here. Work has been nuts. HPDE season is upon us and I’ve got my first event at Summit Point with the Audi Club this coming weekend. Track prep time! Here’s the update:

Layout progress has been focused on cleaning up, organizing and working on the Rock Creek trestle, as well as devoting a large amount of time to working out the operations scheme in JMRI Operations Pro, with lots of help from Kelly R. The cleaning and organization tasks were accelerated by a visit from Ken & Bill from Spring Mills Depot. Ken and I chatted at the Springfield show and decided to get together to see each others’ layouts and share progress and lessons learned. It’s been very motivational seeing what Ken is doing and having them visit my layout to talk about my own process and future goals. I’ve got lots of good energy to move forward with.

I drove up from MD to Springfield to attend the big show with my cousin Eric. Here’s the status on the evening of the first day. It wasn’t too bad in Springfield compared to eastern MA, but it was still an adventure!

Coupled with the layout visitors, I have also been selling a lot of extra stuff on eBay. Over the last year or so I’ve really culled a lot of rolling stock and material from my collection. Much of it was sold at the GSMTS Timonium show, but much of it has been sold via eBay. As I clean and dig through my things, I find more and more to list for sale which really helps motivate me to continue to refine my focus and standards for the layout. Also, the sales help pay for the layout materials and new freight cars that I come across. Here’s a photo of the layout from a month or so ago:

The layout became staging for eBay sales for a few weeks.

JMRI progress has been a real roller coaster. Yesterday morning, in a fit of frustration, I was ready to swear off the program (both literally and figuratively) after running up against a string of constant, baffling errors. Kelly talked me off the ledge and offered to help rebuild and refine my layout concept in the software. I’ve realized that JMRI is going to be the best solution for what I want to do with the operations scheme on my layout; it offers pretty much all that I want, even though I have a long way to go before I get to my goal. I do have a document which outlines all of my “givens & druthers” as well as rules, specs and other details about my scheme. This will be published later for anyone who’s interested. Also, if anyone wants to talk Operations or JMRI, please reach out! I’m neck-deep.

A byproduct of the layout visitors and the JMRI work I’ve been doing was that I put together manifests for four trains that I refer to as the “Bethesda Turn”, since Bethesda is as far as the track currently goes on my layout. After the visit, I ran these four trains as I intend to run most of my trains, and it was fantastic. Yeah, not all the switch machines are in place, and some of the frogs aren’t wired, but the overall feeling of what it will be like to operate the layout was there, and it was really cool. A taste of things to come.

I find that in this hobby it’s important to have active projects in different areas of the hobby to keep things interesting. Last month when I got tired of installing DCC decoders and building trestle bents I switched over to building a freight car kit. The one I chose from my shelf-o-unbuilt-kits was an old Intermountain PS-1 50′ Double Door Box Car lettered for Southern Pacific #650159, kit #40607-10, with a 1955 build date; just inside my era. I found this kit on the shelf at the Annapolis area LHS, Star Hobby, for a had-to-have-it price of $10. Side note: I-M seems to be taking reservations for a re-release of this kit right now!

Photo of my boxcar kit.
Trimming the grab irons from the sprue. A fresh blade was a necessity here.

I hadn’t put together a challenging kit like this in many years and I had a blast. I upgraded it with a Kadee Apex running board, some Tichy end grabs and Tangent ASF A-3 wheel sets. (The prototype apparently had Symington-Gould A-3 trucks, but I haven’t found a manufacturer for those in HO.) The kit didn’t come with instructions, but thankfully I found some on the I-M website. It’s really nice they put the instruction manuals up on their site!

Tiny bracket.
This particular bracket decided to liberate itself into thin air as I was attempting to install it. I searched and searched and eventually gave up. The next day, I found it nearly straight away below my workbench. Huzzah!

Car weights came in the form of wheel weights I collect off the ground at track day events, which I glued to the interior floor with Liquid Nails. The body was badly warped at the top and required careful attention to straighten when gluing to the roof. The doors were also ever-so-slightly warped but once in place looked fine. All in all, a neat car. I don’t have many 50′ cars so this one will look nice delivering lumber to Galliher Lumber in Georgetown.

Lastly, a word about the NMRA Achievement Program (AP). Over the winter I was inspired to begin participation in the various AP areas. A few of the folks in my club are diving in and working toward their MMR so I figured I’d join the journey. So far, not a whole lot of movement on my end. I’ve started organizing and reading through the materials but that’s about it for now. I just haven’t been making this a priority, as I’ve had other things going on requiring attention. However, I have been taking photos of some of my projects in preparation for writing up articles. I will definitely post links here once that materializes. For now, I’ll keep planning and aligning my modeling efforts with the various AP certification qualifications. I think of it like merit badges for adult model railroaders. I’m enjoying the challenge!

Like I said, this is just a quick, off the top of my head update. I am hoping to be able to post more, but with work being so busy and other things vying for my time, I do what I can when I can. Be well and keep in touch!

B&O FM H12-44 9725 Heading East at Georgetown Jct., April 5, 1966

B&O 9725-1 Silver Springs MD 04-05-66, By RNS
B&O 9725-1 Silver Springs [sic] MD 04-05-66, By RNS

This wonderful photo by Russ Strodtz on Flickr came via Jeffrey Sessa over on the Maryland Division Railfans FB group. My money is on the train likely being a load of empties coming off the branch, perhaps from Maloney in Georgetown or Bethesda. Curious if they’ll pick up some cars from the Junction and head East or pick up loads and head back to Georgetown. REALLY neat view of the E.C. Keys lumber shed in the background. Gives me some great info for when I build that model! Thanks, Jeffrey!

Rock Creek Trestle Model Update

I am playing catch-up with many things including getting everyone up to speed on my progress with Rock Creek trestle model. Unlike many folks, COVID was not a super-duper productive time for me with my model railroad. At the outset of the stay-home orders, I embarked on a remodeling project that took most of my time, sanity and family peace away for several months. The upstairs guest (kids) bathroom was gutted and renovated all by myself. This included a completely new tub, surround with tile, plumbing, new tile flooring, toilet, vanity/sink, beadboard, ceiling fan, and a custom-made mirror made using the very large old one and some leftover trim. It all came together in the end, but the journey burned me out. I found that I had no time during the project to work on my model railroad, and for a very long time after was uninterested in doing layout work at all. As such, my progress over the last year has been slow.

The completed bathroom.

NONETHELESS, I have made progress! Today I’m going to share a slew of photos showing where I am with the Rock Creek trestle model. This will be a showcase piece on the layout so taking my time is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m learning A LOT along the way with this scratch build and it’s been fun so far. Tedious, but fun. If you recall from previous blog posts, I drew the plans from drawings, photos and some measurements I made. The challenge was great, as there are no good reference photos from the time frame I want to model (late 1940s) so a lot of time was spent making careful judgements and measurements from the few photos I DO have. In the end, I’m quite proud of the plans I made.

Prepping materials and plans for the trestle. Jun 2020.

I started in earnest on actually building the trestle back in June of 2020. (yeah, yeah, a YEAR AGO…) A few early experiments helped me to refine my technique for how to assemble the trestle bents. At first I had hoped to use a magnetic tray to lay out the parts. This quickly was dismissed, as I realized the magnets did not allow for fine adjustment and placement that was necessary for this sort of construction.

Reaching back to my youth, I decided to use the same technique I used to build balsa airplanes; pins. This turned out to be a great choice, and paired with small slabs of 2″ extruded pink foam boards, worked beautifully.

2″ Pink foam, pins and wax paper made bent construction very easy.

My technique is to trim the 8.5×11″ sheet of paper the plan is printed on to fit on the foam block. Then, place the plan down and a small sheet of wax paper atop it. Use pins to secure to foam. Then I will place my dimensional lumber atop the plan to mark and cut using The Chopper II or a new X-Acto blade. I use the NWSL True Sander to achieve a good angle on the trestle bents. I use white glue (used carpenter’s glue for a while) and pins to hold the pieces in place while they dry.

The benefit of using the slabs of pink foam is that I can have 5-6 of them working at once. I start one, glue and pin it up, then set it aside. Prep another bent, glue and pin it, set aside. Rinse and repeat. Once a bent is dry, I flip it over and finish the other side. I made up an angle template for my Chopper to cut bents at a consistent angle. I would then clean them up on the True Sander. These were really coming together nicely.

Balsa angle template for the Chopper.

After the bents had dried, I would trim up any angles or edges with an X-Acto blade. The next step is to install the NBW (Nut-Bolt-Washer) castings. I prefer the Tichy 8016 as they are molded in brown plastic and reasonably well resemble the prototype. I also have some of the NWSL 5046 NBW and they are very nice, too. EDITORS NOTE: While writing this, I looked more closely at the image below and realized I should be using the NWSL 5066 (1 1/4″ NUT, 3″ MALLEABLE WASHER .014″), as it is a MUCH better match. I will have to get some of these now.

Photo I took from Jan, 2019 before the trestle had been torn down. This is one of the original bolts and washers.

I first painted the tips a rust color, trimmed using sprue cutters and then installed the NBW castings on several bents using a pin vise and a small #76 drill.

Drilling holes for the NBW castings.

The results were quite nice, but my fingers were starting to get really sore.

A nearly completed bent with NBW castings installed.

I knew there was a better way. A bit of brainstorming and Googling, I found the Dremel 220-01 Workstation, which is essentially an arbor press for your Dremel multitool. Using the Dremel 4486 Keyless Chuck with my #76 bit, this worked a treat. The Workstation was only $45 at Home Depot, which I think is a bit of a steal considering the excellent functionality of the tool.

The Dremel set up in the Workstation arbor press. After some configuration and adjusting, the press made quick work of drilling holes for all the NBW castings. The block of wood provides a surface that I can safely drill into as well as move the trestle bent around easily and position for drilling. This took a bit of practice to get right. I use a very small pin awl that belonged to my grandfather to “mark” the holes prior to drilling.

After assembling several bents, I decided to change gears and work on another part of the trestle – the deck. I needed a change of scenery. This required clearing down my workbench and developing a new workflow. I knew I wanted to assemble both sides at the same time. This would allow me to have everything aligned and placed on the same level, except for the center deck girder section which I’d have to spike in place later. Once both sides were spiked down, I could flip the whole rail and top deck over and glue the bents in place, upside-down. Again, this would allow everything to be aligned perfectly on the same plane. At least, this is the plan. I used an old shelf that I had in storage in the garage as a base. The shelf is straight and level and when I need to move it off my workbench I can do so easily.

I first used a straight edge to align and then tape down the plans on the board, side by side. I then used used some double-sided tape (which I had removed some of the tackiness from by touching my fingers to both sides) placed on the plans to secure the laminated stringers to the plans. (I previously laminated four sets of three 8″ x 16″ (HO scale) cut to length using a straight edge on a sheet of glass)

As you may recall, I had previously installed the ties into the laser-cut mat board jigs I made and installed Proto:87 tie plates. My plan was to put some glue on the bottom of the ties and then carefully place the jig/ties onto the stringers, weigh them down, and then once dry, lift the jig off of the glued-down ties.

Well, this very much did not go as planned and resulted in the first big “disaster” of this project for me. When I began to remove the jig, ever-so-carefully, it began to “flake off” the scale tie plates and about 1/3 of the ties with it. Apparently the glue did not quite reach between the ties and the stringers (not enough) and the tie plates, well that was a mistake to begin with. They were never really aligned correctly and I should have never put them on first. In hindsight, this was a mistake. So now I had a mess to clean up.

First, I picked off all of the old tie plates from the ties, sorted and stored them. I then removed any other loose ties. Next, I re-glued any of the wayward ties back in place, using my plans as a guide.

Finished gluing ties to stringers.

For the other side, I decide to be a bit smarter on the approach. I laid a strip of masking tape atop the ties in the jig and carefully, using a putty knife, pried the ties slowly out of the jig. This worked well. Once they were removed, I laid glue on the ties and placed them atop the stringers where I aligned them using the plans. I placed a piece of extruded foam and some weights atop the assembly to dry overnight. This worked well.

Over the last few weeks (catching up to today) I have been working on installing the rails. I chose to use Micro Engineering’s 30-108 Micro Spikes and the Proto:87 tie plates. I am generally spiking the rails about every five ties, and the ties that have no spikes will get the tie plates. This is an incredibly tedious process but the end result will be some nicely detailed track. I experimented with installing the Proto:87 spikes, but decided I didn’t have the patience to go through with spiking all the tie plates so that’s where I’ll be drawing the line. Here are some photos of this process:

And so here is a photo from today:

I’ve got three of the four rows of spikes done. The bottom right is the one I’m working on now. Once this is completed, I will set it aside and continue working on the trestle bents. Once they are done, they can begin to be installed. My aim is to have this completed by the end of the Summer, so hopefully you’ll be seeing an update sooner!

If you’ve got any questions or comments about the project, would love to hear them!

Model Rails Magazine, Vol 1, No 1 – The Georgetown Terminus, ca 1957

A very lucky find on eBay is this issue of Model Rails Magazine. A small publication that I had never previously heard of, this premiere issue features a thorough article on the Georgetown Branch operations on the waterfront. Not only is it full of details, but it is focused on building a model of the terminal. I’ve scanned it and hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

If anyone knows more about this publication, I’d love to hear about it. I found it fascinating that a publication from the 1950s was so prototype-focused. There were at least two volumes, but I have found no more beyond that run.