Friday, March 29, 2013

To-Do List - Spring Update

Back in mid-October I blogged about my then current layout to-do list. 

In the interest of keeping me honest, here's the current status: 

1. Improve the layout lighting throughout the room. Investigating several options. 
Complete. We ended up adding a number (ten) two-tube fluorescent T-5 fixtures. The difference is huge!
2. Realign mainline track on one side of peninsula (there's a strange track alignment that the guys suggested looked odd enough to be reworked. Of course, this will require some modification to the foamboard surface of the layout, but shouldn't be too bad) - (Estimate 2 evenings)
Modifying the mainline was easy, but this project got a little out of control, and I ended up moving a hillside, extensively reworking the scenery behind Waterbury, adding two new rivers, and several hundred trees.  All in all, this task has taken considerably longer than the estimate, but it's been far more involved than simply realigning some track.
Track work is completed, and most of the rough scenery is completed. This project was deferred to finish up the layout wiring. Currently, I need to complete a second river side mill building in order to do the final scenery contour in this area. 
3. Add coal trestle siding to Everett. Again this will require some modification to the terrain, and some track modification. To fit the coal trestle siding in place may require lengthening the passing siding slightly and handlaying a turnout on the south end. - (Estimate 4 evenings)
Complete - All the track is in place in Everett. 
4. Essex Junction trackwork - Three more turnouts to handlay - then the remaining spurs need to be installed. - (Estimate 4 evenings)
5. Drop feeders in WRJ yard - (Estimate 1 evening)
6. Feeders in Everett, Essex Junction, and north-end staging - (Estimate 3 evenings) (Note: includes running a new length of buss wire).
7. Bridge street overpass (abutments, bridge, and track needs to be complete so I can get to the WRJ passenger station area - (Estimate 2 evenings)
8. Install yardmasters desk in WRJ (John Paganoni is building this for me, but it will need some time to install - (Estimate 1 evening)
Desk complete, needs to be installed. 
 Of course, I also got the entire mainline in, extended the north end staging yard, and got the entire railroad wired with three DCC districts. Some of these tasks are thanks to the help from a great group of fellow modelers. 
This may look like I have nothing left to do on the railroad. Nothing could be further from the truth! I'm not ready to create another "to do" posting, but wanted to close this one out!
Next to-do list will focus on the tasks I want to get accomplished for a test session and for the upcoming MER Convention open house in October. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Build me a river....

The weather is less than pleasant, so I spent a fair amount of time in the basement this weekend. I started Friday evening with about 8 things on my weekend "to do"list, and while I didn't get all of them completed, I did pretty well. 
I got the remaining track in White River Junction yard (with the exception of the stall tracks in the roundhouse), including new "river main" track arranged, curved and cut to fit. Once the roadbed dries this evening I'll put the track down permanently. I also got the north end staging yard track extended and added cut off toggles to the power feeds on each of those tracks (mostly so I can turn off locomotive sound units!)
Biggest accomplishment was completing the benchwork modifications to White River Junction to add a rather large river scene to the foreground. 
After struggling with what to do with this scene for weeks (ideas ranging from moving the roundhouse to the foreground to adding an "industrial switching area" with lots of structures and sidings) I remembered this is supposed to be rural Vermont. 
Since I didn't want to put too much in the foreground to facilitate switching cars and throwing turnouts, a river seemed a logical answer. And hey, there was even one on the prototype. 
This meant I needed to modify the existing benchwork to provide a surface for the river. 
Here's the area as it looked Friday evening just a big open flat area - 
And here it is with the riverbed in place and fascia trimmed to follow the land contours (you can barely see the planned outline of the river bank on the Masonite.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Waterbury Station Agent - Jim Murphy

One railroad employee who played a critical role in the safe operation of the Central Vermont Railway, and all railroads, was the station agent/operator. And one of these, Jim Murphy, a native of St. Albans, Vermont, reported to work in 1955 as a telegrapher. He retired from the railroad in 1998 as chief dispatcher. Jim has also served as something of an unofficial “historian” of the railroad and has, over the years, accumulated a vast collection of photographs, records, and artifacts – many of which were relegated to the trash heap by the railroad. He has also willingly shared many of his stories of working on the Central Vermont, and has played a key role in recording the oral history of many of his fellow railroad workers.
Jim worked up and down the railroad’s Northern Division, from White River Junction to St Albans, but spent much of his early career on the extra board, filling in for operators who were on vacation. 
He’s also a skilled “lightning slinger” and can send and read RR morse code with the best of them. He used to do a presentation for school kids and railroad clubs where he plays what is best described as an absent-minded station agent – but it’s really quite informative and extremely entertaining. (You have to remember Jim talks with a true “Vermonter” accent . . .) . During this talk he does a bit where he’s reading a message, while talking on the telephone to the freight agent, and dealing with any one of several wacky townsfolk who stop by to see what’s happening in the world.  
Yes, it sounds weird, but it was very entertaining. 
Since I’ve been working on the Waterbury, Vermont scene on my layout, I asked Jim if he’d ever worked there. Turned out it was his first job on the railroad! Recently, Jim sent me a series of emails outlining some of his experiences while working at Waterbury.
And, just for fun, here’s a picture of Jim at the ops desk in Essex Junction, circa 1957 (that's Murph to the lower right):

"Our typical day at Waterbury when I started with the railroad in the 1955 was unchanged from the earliest days of railroading. Copying train orders from the dispatcher and relaying these to the train crews were the ops primary duties. Telegraphers at most small stations, in addition to their railroad duties, worked for Western Union. 
The first time I worked at Waterbury the south end waiting room had been closed off even with the ticket office south wall and I think that the door into the south rest room was changed to open towards the ticket office. The south end was used by Buster Miles and Joe Belanger, both track supervisors. In the waiting room there were benches connected to the wall from the west wall to the east wall or track side then south towards the door that opened onto the platform. Also there were two other long benches which ran east to west with seating on each side. In the ticket office the only window into the waiting room was the angular one which pointed towards the west door into the waiting room. The operator sat facing the bay window on track side with the train order signal handles to his right."
"To see trains approaching from either direction without going outside there were two mirrors outside mounted at an angle so you could look into the mirror and look north or south. Behind the operator was the agent’s desk."
"On the north wall of ticket office from the door to the ticket window was a high shelf with storage beneath. The ticket case was on the west wall to the left of the ticket window on a continuation of the shelf on the north wall. No shelf on the south wall. The tall shelf on the north wall is where the 3rd trick operator rested (slept)."
"I cannot remember much about the businesses there at the time. There was the creamery, a coal dealer, and the grain dealer across from the station. The freight house north of the grain dealer handled all of the local customers so the agent and operator didn’t get mixed up with them except for the creamery. We made up the milk car waybill since the car was not ready when the freight agent was on duty. I remember nights when the “VERMONTER” #304 picked up the milk car there."
"The operator handled train orders and Western Union telegraph which also paid a good commission for each telegram sent or received. 
Sending, receiving, and delivering telegrams was engaging work. There was always a sense of urgency about a telegram. Many contained death notices or news of serious illness. Others announced births, anniversary wishes, or congratulations on a job well done. Those brought smiles, and tips, from the recipients. The railroad didn’t allow us to accept gratuities from a passenger, but Western Union had no such rule."
"The agent took care of ticket reports and railway express agency which also paid a good commission. When I first started working Waterbury the Montrealer stopped there but the Washingtonian did not. Later they made it a flag stop to pick up coach and sleeper passengers going beyond White River Jct. over to the Washingtonian. There was a small bus type van that did pick up passengers getting off the Montrealer #21 and #303 for the ski resorts in Stowe. Otherwise you took the local taxi. 

To get into some of the stories I can think of won’t be much but will try.
"As you know, the Vermont State mental hospital was across the street from the station and we always had patients drifting into the station at all times of night. They would just walk out of the hospital and for some reason came to the station. We had a number for the local police to call (they didn’t work nights then) and they would come over and pick them up and bring them back to the hospital, never any problems.
There was one story that one day the “AMBASSADOR” arrived and a young woman who had boarded the train at Montreal was put off since she had no more money and all she could buy was a ticket to Waterbury. That night she left Waterbury to New York first class all paid for. From the time she arrived at Waterbury until she left the agent disappeared for the day with her. I wonder what she gave him for her ticket?
3rd trick seems to be where all of the stories I can remember. Since there weren’t many trains during the night 3rd was a good time to catch up on your sleep on that tall counter I mentioned before.
One operator (not I) name withheld who later became a high official on the CV did not wake up in time to e on the platform when train #430 went south about 2am. When he heard the train whistling for the crossing just north of the station, jumped off the counter, turned on the platform lights, which the switch was on the wall to the left of the operators desk, grabbed his lantern which was sitting on the desk below the light switch and ran out to give the train the required highball to say he was on duty to check train going by. He turned on the lights ok but what he grabbed was the scissors phone used to talk to the dispatcher. Completely pulled all the wires out and screws and ran out waving it like it was a lantern. Had to temp rewire to talk to dispatcher.
One night I was standing at the window in the waiting room watching a train go by, #430 again, wondering where all the flat cars were going and he said only 2 flat cars on train. All I could figure out was I was sleep walking and dreaming I was seeing flat cars.
One of the other 3rd trick men found the railway express revolver
kept in the office under the ticket case. It was loaded so he sat there for some time with his back towards the ticket case shooting rats walking along under the operator’s bench. He then started to worry he might be hitting something important in the wall and  stopped.
Waterbury was also devastated by the flood of 1927 and the water tank just south of the station is where I am told that the engine crew from the milk train that was stranded south end of yard, spent the night when the water came up. Inside the waiting room, which had high ceiling the water got to about 12 feet deep. One night when there were a lot of trains running and rest was impossible, I decided to wash the walls of the station since they were cruddy. Did a very good job and was real proud of my work. When the agent came in the morning he got all upset. Seems that with all my good work I also washed away the high water mark left there thru the years. OOPS."

Cant think of much else. So good luck with your models of Waterbury - can't wait to see them! - Jim


Monday, March 18, 2013

Green Mountain Paper - Part 1

After two weeks of feeling lousy I finally ventured back into the layout room on Friday evening and turned my attention towards the Green Mountain Paper Co. complex. 
This is the largest single customer on my model railroad. Although it isn’t based on any one particular prototype, it's inspired by the mills at Montville, Conn., on the CV and the Gilman Mill along the Maine Central’s former Mountain Division. 
There are three primary structures in the Green Mountain Paper complex – the “old warehouse” which is now the pulp and dry chemical receiving area, the chemical track, where tank car loads of chemicals are delivered, and the “new” warehouse. Throughout the complex there will be an assortment of smaller buildings, tanks, catwalks and the like. 
We’ll start with the “old warehouse.”
Inbound “Pulp” Warehouse
I theorize this was originally the outbound warehouse for the first large paper company on this site. During the war, demand for the plant’s production meant a new brick curtain warehouse was constructed. At the same time the pulpwood operation here was shut down, and the facility became a non-integrated mill, meaning it started with pulp that had been processed at another mill. So, the old warehouse became the new pulp warehouse where market pulp was received, stored, and processed. 
I wanted a building that was obviously older, perhaps a little more weathered. I also wanted to add some additional texture in the form of ventilation systems that were obviously added onto the original building. 
The basic structure is made up of a number of Walthers brick Modular walls. I had an earlier version of this building I’d started for a previous layout that I disassembled and rearranged slightly. 
Basically, each piece is a one-story section of a brick building which the modeler can stack to create taller buildings with an almost infinite arrangement of windows and doors. After I determined what I thought was a good arrangement of the components I cleaned up any flash on the sides of the parts and glued them together. The resulting structure is about 26 inches long, with four freight doors on the side for spotting cars. 
I painted the entire building with a base brick red color using craft store barn red paint. Despite my best efforts, the horizontal seam between the first and second floors was too visible on the red building. I knew I’d be hiding some of it with all that extra piping and machinery I planned to add to the walls, but in an effort to really minimize the seams I painted a black band along the length of the building between the top of the first floor doors and the bottom of the second floor windows. Then I added white decal letters to spell out “Vermont Paper Co.”, the name of the original paper mill owner. 
The building isn't finished yet. The lettering is still too stark, and I need to work on fading it even more.   
I also still need to add the vents and piping to this building, and I might add some vine-covered walls in a few spots to really add a sense of age to this building. 
But I wanted to show that I was, at last, making some progress! The next step is to construct the "new" warehouse building, which will be between the track and silver water tank in the photo below. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Course Correction

As some of you might know, I'm one of several columnists who write a column called "Getting Real" for Model Railroad Hobbyist, the online model railroad magazine. My fellow columnists are Mike Rose, Jack Burgess, Nicholas Muff, and Tony Thompson. We rotate the column, so no one contributor has to come up with a column each and every month. It's also interesting to get different perspectives on the subject of prototype-based model railroading. 
The March 2013 issue has a long column on the process I went through designing, building, redesigning and rebuilding my Central Vermont Winooski sub. 
If you haven't seen it, check it out HERE.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Under the weather

Been feeling a little under the weather - in the last week I've had a root canal, had two wisdom teeth removed, and a trip to the doctor yesterday revealed I have bronchitis. So, I haven't done much on the layout - or posted an update to the blog - in the last few days. 

Hopefully things are on the mend and I can get back to the layout soon.