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The Rapid City, Black Hills, and Western
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 Posted: Fri Oct 6th, 2017 10:10 pm
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jtrain
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The Rapid City, Black Hills and Western is known by several other names:

The Rapid Canyon Line
Dakota and Wyoming Railroad
Missouri River and Northwestern Railroad
Dakota, Western, and Missouri Railroad
Dakota, Wyoming and Western Railroad
Dakota Pacific Railroad
Dakota, Wyoming, and Missouri River Railroad
Black Hills and Missouri River Railroad

and finally...

Black Hills and Wyoming Railroad

Most people just call it the Crouch Line.  The tracks followed Rapid Creek 36 miles into the Black Hills to Mystic, South Dakota, along the CBQ Highline.  It was a bridge route, hauling freight from the CBQ tracks to the CNW tracks in Rapid City.  Back then freight would have to go an extra hundred miles or so to get to Rapid City, so it made sense.  As the mines and logging camps went bust, so did the railroad.  Operations closed up in 1947.  The line never owned a diesel engine, all the equipment was second hand, and it owned few rail cars.

What the line did have was a Mack Railbus, passenger cars, a Heisler, several 2-6-2's (two at a time in different eras of the company), and 122 bridges in the bottom of a canyon 36 miles long.  Some of the curves were only 200-300 foot radius, snaking along Rapid Creek along the bottom of granite and sandstone cliffs.  Areas where the canyon opened up into a meadow were quickly settled with communities such as:
Mystic, Silver City, Hisega Lodge, Pactola, Johnson Siding, and a couple others.

The railroad was standard gauge, but operations were similar to a narrow gauge line.  Two trains daily made the trip up the canyon, plus the railbus for flag stops in later years.  In the summer additional trips were made with passenger trains on picnic excursions.

Needless to say, this one will keep me occupied for quite some time.

--James



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 Posted: Sat Oct 7th, 2017 02:02 am
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jtrain
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Okay, photo time!
Otto Perry took a few photos of the line and the Denver Public Library has them stored in their collection.  Photos can be found at:  Rapid city, Black Hills and Western (Denver Public Library)
Here are photos of some of the equipment:

This is Heisler #7 Which ran from about 1930 onwards.

Number 55 was the only 2-6-0 that I know of which ran on the line, it was bought around the same time as the Heisler to replace the previous generation of engines.

This is engine #49 in 1933.  It hasn't been in the boneyard for too long, but parts have been stripped from it.  This engine would have been retired somewhere around 1930 when #7 and #55 were purchased.
This is Engine #48 on the same day.  Both were 2-6-2 type engines. These engines made up the previous generation of locomotives used on the line.

And here is the motorbus.  It's a Fairbanks-Morse type.  The rear car was used for summer excursions, the whole thing is draped in mesh presumably to keep bugs and birds out of the car.  This may not have been the first motorbus on the line either, there is a couple of grainy photos on the net somewhere that shows a motorbus, but it has a completely different profile to this one.

The railroad never owned very many freight cars, the bulk of it's traffic was shipping CB&Q as well as CNW and Milwaukee Road cars from Mystic to Rapid City, both cities having an interchange.  However, the line did own a small fleet of passenger cars.  Because of the beautiful scenes of Rapid Canyon... and the lack of good roads, The Crouch Line had a steady stream of passengers right up until the bitter end in 1947 when the line finally closed. 
If it had lasted 20 more years, this line may have become the 1880 train instead of the line between Hill City and Keystone, but that one is quite spectacular as well, plus I don't think a 2-6-6-2 would have negotiated the curves.
Otto Perry had nice photographs, but he's not the only one to have toured the line.  A couple of nameless photographers photographed parts of the line early in the railroad's history.  I'll try to get permission to use those.  FYI, these photos are available to download from the Denver Public Library.  The copies are low resolution to prevent illegal use, but the copies can be used on the net or for personal reference.  Please see the link at the start of the post.
--James

Last edited on Sat Oct 7th, 2017 02:46 am by jtrain



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 Posted: Sat Oct 7th, 2017 02:53 am
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jtrain
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So, the question then is how to capture the character of this railroad in HO scale in a small space?  I'm thinking of a portable layout that breaks down into two or three pieces.  It would be used for train shows and for testing new equipment that I acquire.
--James



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 Posted: Sat Oct 7th, 2017 04:09 am
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jtrain
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Okay, I got the idea!

I first read about this on the Small Layout Scrapbook, June issue of 2010, "Switching Around".

The concept is to have a shelf layout that can perform switching operations, but also have the ability to add a temporary oval for train shows or when a person feels like running trains on a loop.  This would be great for my situation for a couple of reasons:

1)  I WILL be moving around the next few years, so the idea of a layout with a big footprint is out of the question.  I can have a long run, but it has to be build on narrow modules, maybe a foot or so wide.

2) This concept works well for expansion and contraction of a layout.  I could have a few as one module with scenery, like a diorama, or I could have a full system of modules and just have turn back loops set up on each end.  The only requirement is that modules be built to a standard length, I'm opting for 4 feet.  Width can vary, but I want to start with 12 inches.  That maximizes the use of high grade lumber that can be bought in short sections.

Other requirements: 
  • R/C with battery control.  I've got one steam engine that's ready to be converted.  All steam engines in the Black Hills were required to burn oil, so each tender has more volume compared to a similar sized tender meant to carry coal.  This is actually a cheaper system than DCC for small fleets because there's no wiring, very little soldering, and no need to purchase a DCC system for several hundred dollars.  I don't need sound right away, I can get more locomotives later and put sound in them.
  • Realistic track.  This is a must because the focus will be on the ROW, so the track has to be looking very much like the prototype.  That means grass growing right up to the ties, a multitude of bridges and light rail.  Probably code 70 for a good compromise.  Won't be doing proto 87 though, that's too much for right now.
  • Fits in car.  This will be much easier than previous designs since the big pieces, the turn back loops, will be built like curved cassette attachments.  Probably 45 degrees per section.  My car can comfortably hold about 6 modules that are about 12x44.
  • Instead of legs, I'll take a page out of Woodie's playbook and use tripods. I can get them used without much trouble.  They pack down well too, just have a bag of them ready to use.  An additional benefit is that I'll have extras for camera work in the future.
  • Easy set-up and take down.  Must be able to set up and take down the layout in under a half hour by myself.
  • Experimental platform that will let me test out various ideas that come to mind.
That's about it.  Just start with one or two modules then build the loop.  Keep building from there.  Construction starts tomorrow.


Last edited on Sat Oct 7th, 2017 05:01 am by jtrain



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 Posted: Mon Oct 9th, 2017 09:44 pm
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Salada
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'Evening James,

The RCBH&W rail weight looks fairly light in the above photos but it is Stn Gge. and
running 2-6-0s & ?2-6-2s plus heavy freight cars from other RRs so unlikely to be less
than 55lb-60lb-(max 70-75lb) rail by the 1930s-1940s. Train & car weights increased a lot during those years.
That gives an HO/OO rail code of around 75-80, C70 absolute minimum but C70 would look good for an "on the cheap" RR.

Regards,    Michael 

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 Posted: Tue Oct 10th, 2017 04:40 am
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jtrain
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Hi Michael!  Yes, part of the downfall of this railroad is that by 1947 a lot of the traffic just couldn't go through this route.  The ultra tight curves and close clearances were meant for traffic of the early 1900's.  The other reason for the downfall of the route is that the minerals and usable timber in the Black Hills was dwindling.  Of course, logging operations today would be impressive, those hills have twice as many trees as they naturally would due to fire suppression.
Anyways, after gathering materials I've gotten the basic framework for two modules done. Each one is small enough to be a diorama, but can be combined to form a switching layout.  One tripod with a module isn't that stable, but both clamped together, each with a tripod supporting it, should be plenty strong.
Here's the photos:

My Roundhouse 2-6-0 that's currently awaiting battery conversion.
Module photo shoot.

Module clamped down to prevent canned foam from expanding too much. The module gets it's strength from the 4 inches of foam which is glued together.  For mounting to tripods and clamping modules together, the underside of each module has a simple framework of cabinet grade 1x2 lumber.  Investment so far is about 30 per module and will get cheaper in time.
The only problem I've had so far is that the modules weren't clamped enough, the middle needs pressure to prevent the foam from bulging in the middle.
Here's a link to the blog showing progress:
Modules Part I
--James.



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 Posted: Thu Dec 14th, 2017 08:22 pm
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With winter break here between semesters, I'll actually have some time to add to this project.  Updates to come shortly.

--James



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 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2017 05:30 am
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jtrain
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Currently just planning the upcoming project which will take about 18 months, a methodically researched, historically and spatially accurate HO scale model of the interchange yard at Mystic.

This is to be a museum quality display, or as close to museum quality as my skills will allow.  Block control DC with the intention of eventually turning locomotives into battery operation (tenders on steam engines are a wonderful thing).

I've just finished the track plan in AutoCAD and it will take up 3 modules, each 4 feet long.  I had originally planned on having shorter modules, but I need the extra 3 feet of space for longer switches.

Yesterday I had enough time to write a blog post, so I did a quick overview of towns along the route.  In the upcoming months and years I'll be researching these towns intensely, but it would be nice to start off with figuring out what towns were along the route, their miles from Rapid City, and a brief description of what was at each town.

Here's the link for those interested:

Towns Along the Crouch Line, Overview

Thanks!

--James



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 Posted: Sat Dec 30th, 2017 05:27 am
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jtrain
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Finally, construction begins!

For more info, see my post Module 1, Part 1.  I'll be continually linking to posts so that more details can be had rather than writing book chapters on the thread, as I've done in past topics.

Over the last couple of days I've spared a few hours to assemble the first module.  This module is one of three and will be the west end of Mystic's 3 track yard.  Originally I had planned on 36 inch modules, but I increased the length to 48 inches to allow for longer turnouts.  My plan is to recreate the Mystic yard as close to the prototype as possible.

I'll be working on one module at a time, each one taking roughly 5 months of work.  My goal is to have this layout done by March, 2019 so that it can travel the train show circuit.  The three modules, combined with a cassette on one end and a fiddle yard, should make a fine switching layout.

Set in the 1920's, both passenger and freight trains will be featured.  If I have time, a temporary oval may be built too so that continuous operation can be had.

With the framework done for this module, I can now freely work in 5 - 10 - 15 - 20 minute increments as I have time

Here are the progress shots:









Just to note, the 3/4 inch plywood sheet is being used as a giant clamp to keep the foam from expanding out of place.  It is not the surface of the module (because having 4 inches of foam underneath the plywood makes not sense)

End plates are countersunk and will probably be filled in the future for a smooth finish.  The result is that there are no screw ends showing. 

The next step is to add fascia using hardboard, fill gaps in the foam, and carve the terrain.

Thanks!

--James

Last edited on Sat Dec 30th, 2017 05:49 am by jtrain



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 Posted: Sun Dec 31st, 2017 06:22 am
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jtrain
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Currently waiting for expanding foam to dry.  All the holes in the insulation board have been filled and module 1 is now a solid piece.  The next step is to plot where the track will go and start carving foam to match historical photos.

No photos of this step (maybe tomorrow).

What I would like to show is just how sharp some of these curves are.  This is a screenshot from Google Earth taken just downhill from the junction where the RCBHW line split off from the CB&Q line in the Black Hills.  This creek is the only route downhill and the curves are as sharp as 200 foot radius.  In HO scale, that's 27.5".  Quite large for us, but very possible to replicate sections of the line foot by scale foot.



This is give or take about 30 feet using the scale measurement provided by Google Maps (which isn't perfect, but good enough).  There's no way around it, that's a sharp curve for a standard gauge train.  This particular bend is inaccessible, but it appears about 1/2 the route can be followed without being on private property.

--James



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