Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Richford Branch track plan - first look

As I've mentioned previously, I've been working with layout designer (and my good friend) Lance Mindheim on designing the plan for the new layout. Shown below (click to enlarge) is the layout design in the "current final" state - Lance and I both decided to forego any further tweaks or adjustments to this plan "on paper" - adjustments and tweaks may well be made full size as the layout is built - but with the possibility of the finished layout being a little smaller than shown here the basic footprint and theme are a 90% solution. 
I'll post some more details on how the plan could be built and operated (which in turn will explain the layout design proper) in the future. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Move - The Conclusion

As you may have noticed from the last few posts, we are (finally) in the new house. While the final walk-through and closing went fine, the following week was a bit topsy turvey as I contended with being sick, we had some confusion about paint colors that delayed the painters a day. That normally wouldn't have been a big deal, but a series of events spiraled the entire process out of control. 
A major windstorm knocked the power out for 4 days - which prevented the painters from working which in turn delayed the movers. That same storm delayed delivery of our new furniture (as a reminder we sold our previous house with all the furniture so the main level of the new house is empty!) In addition, that same wind storm blew a fair number of shingles off our roof! 
We'd planned to take this week off work and get settled. Needless to say that didn't happen and we're still living out of suitcases. 
For my part, I’m spending the weekend emptying boxes, moving boxes that ended up in the wrong room into the right room, and other fun moving tasks. 
We've moved a lot of times over the years - we were a Navy family once - but although this has been one of the shortest distances we've moved, it has been, without a doubt, the craziest. 
All that said, we're thrilled to be in the new house and have already met many of our neighbors who thus far seem to be wonderful folks. 
Beau and Molly have also met some of the canine neighbors but have at this point stopped caring much and have given up frantically sniffing every corner of the house and simply collapse at the end of the day in utter exhaustion. I know how they feel. 
So, since we have heat and lights, and the new internet pipe seems to be working (house phone is still an issue though…) I thought I’d post a quick update. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Best approach for a CV (ex-GTW) SW1200?

CV 1509 and CV 1510 will likely take the Richford local out of St. Albans in this early to mid 1970s view. 
One thing I've toyed with over the last couple of years is an era change. I've long modeled "1954" since it represented the point when the CV's RS-3s were delivered. 
But modeling the Richford Branch eliminates the RS-3s, and many other road units, such as the Canadian National C-Liners, FAs, etc... from "accurately" appearing on the layout. (If you promise not to tell anyone, I will still run those inaccurate locomotives for fun when, you know, nobody is looking.) 
That leads us back to the potential era shift. 
Moving backwards in time is still a possibility - but for now let's talk about moving forward on the timeline to the year...????
Moving too far forward on the timeline and the traffic on the Richford branch begins to seriously tail off - moving forward to "today" and I'll be modeling a bike path....
So I can't go too far forward. 
Power on the Richford Branch for several years after the railroad dieselized was a single GP9. In later years several (four, if I remember correctly) SW1200s were transferred from the GTW to the CV. After that, power on the Richford local was typically a pair of SW1200s like the ones shown here. 

Which leads to a question for all the diesel modelers out there (of which I'm not one). What's the best approach to a good-running, good looking SW1200 that best matches the GTW/CV prototypes? 

Thanks in advance!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Checking In

Despite rumors to the contrary, I haven't fallen off the edge of the earth. Life in all its forms has gotten and stayed extremely busy since the fall - and things only now are showing some signs of letting up. 
One of the leading time sinks over the past several months has been the process of building the new house. In an interesting turn of events, the people who bought our old house bought the furniture - every stick of it - as well. And although it's been great that we haven't had to pay to move and store tables, couches, beds and the like for several months only to find they don't fit the new house - it's also meant we've been spending a great deal of time shopping for furniture. 
New Layout Area - but what form will the new layout take? 

But the new house is getting dangerously close to be being "finished" - the seemingly never ending extra long days at work seem to regaining at least a sense of returning to normal hours, and things are looking good. 
What I haven't gotten a lot of done lately is model railroading. 
I managed to start a couple of car kits, and they sit in early stages of assembly on my modeling desk. I strongly suspect they'll be getting packed up shortly as we are scheduled to close on the house at the end of the month. 
In fact, the main model railroading thing I've gotten accomplished in the few months we've been living in the apartment is working closely with my friend Lance Mindheim to design a plan for the Richford Branch inspired layout. I'll likely share the track plan here at some point in the future - but frankly want to move in and live with the space for a little while before committing to say "this is the plan." 
To those of you familiar with Lance's approach to such things, the layout is what might, at first glance, seem minimalist. Honestly, there's more "scope" that could be cut from even the "final" draft as it now sits. 
There's also a nagging temptation, based on the ongoing reality of how all-encompassing work has become over the past year, to think a very simple, stand alone layout - perhaps with a radically different theme - may be the best approach for now. 
Expect no decisions anytime soon as the "to do" list for various household tasks after we move in are going to take priority over layout construction. Honestly, I doubt I'll cut the first piece of lumber before the weather turns cold again. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Unanswered Questions

An early photo of the Missisquoi Pulp & Paper plant in Sheldon Springs on the CV's Richford Branch. 
Researching railroad history can be a rewarding and fascinating past time. 
As a rule, historians focus primarily on "macro" examinations of their subject. And railroad histories for many years were the realm of classic economic or business historians. I remember reading the railroad books in the local library when I was a kid. You know the ones, page after page of board meetings, earnings, revenue and (mostly) losses. The one thing they all had in common were the "plates" in the middle of the book where there might be a photo or two of a train hidden among the portraits of the railroad's presidents. 
But even those type of histories seem to fall out of favor about the time the railroads were going into the toilet - basically the late 1960s. Frankly today most of the work in railroad history isn't been done by "professional" historians but by amateur historians. Whether this constitutes "real" history is a question I'm not going to touch. 
Historians who subscribe to "Cliometrics" - basically the application of statistical methods and analysis to history - tend to study industrial and transportation history. As a rule the more data, the more valid the resulting statistical analysis will be.  And large industries, such as railroads, have generated a lot of data that Cliometricians, as they call themselves, love to chew on. 
Back in my grad school days I took a business history class. My paper for that class was a look at the effect of the railroads that would eventually become part of the CV's southern division had on several "sub regions" of New England.  In doing the research I turned up some fascinating and obscure references - including a paper on the economic impact of the Amherst & Belchertown Railroad (told you it was obscure!) published in the early 1930s that Bernie Kempinski obtained for me from the Library of Congress. 
As we were packing up stuff this spring I came across my old paper and flipped through it. I realized two things: First of all, the paper really was pretty good, with a sound premise and valid research to back up my thesis.  
Second, and more to the point, there's little or anything that would be of use to a modeler attempting to duplicate those lines. 
Instead of focusing on the macro, modelers, and amateur rail historians, tend to focus on the micro. 
As I'm researching certain elements of the Richford branch I've come up with several questions I've been unable to answer such as:

1. I know the motive power used on the branch in the 1950s and later. I'm having difficulty determining which engines ran on the branch prior to that time. 
2. The Enosburg Falls station was an interesting building with some intricate trim. I can't determine when the structure was torn down. 
3. The Missisquoi Pulp & Paper Co. had it's own in-plant railroad, complete with a small engine house. I know they used a Track mobile to move cars around in the plant in later years. What, if anything, came before the Track mobile? 
4. I've located a couple of vintage images of the paper mill buildings, but would like an overall shot of the "river" side of the mill taken in the 1940s/50s - something more current than the one shown above. (see update below)
5. How was the Canadian Pacific interchange traffic at Richford handled? Did the Richford local bring those cars to the CP yard? Or did the CP come to the CV's yard to fetch them? Or is it something that changed over time? 
6. Did anyone ever take a photo of the Richford plywood plant from the CV yard during the time period I'm modeling? I've seen one photo that appeared in Ed Beaudette's book. the only other image is a quick glimpse in a "CV in Steam" DVD from A&R Productions. 

I'm noticing a trend in the information I have been able to uncover. Most of it seems to be from an earlier era than the 1950s. Does that mean an era shift is afoot? Don't know - ironically, I can't find a lot of railroad photos from earlier than that time period on the branch - a few, but not many. 
Somewhat frustrating is the fact that the vast majority of my reference material is in storage at the moment. Since I didn't start researching the branch in earnest until a few months ago it's entirely possible the answers to my questions are buried in the storage containers. 
In meantime, I'll do what I can and and keep piling up the questions.
Finding the answers is a lot of the fun of prototype modeling.


Scratch #4 off the list above. It's too cold to go out for lunch so I spent my lunch surfing - I stumbled across this photo on the UVM web site showing the Sheldon Springs paper mill. Look closely in the area of the mill in front of the hillside in the closeup image below and you can see the tower and horizontal covered walk visible in the vintage photo above: