What I meant was I have never been to the States so my impression of what the railroads are like come from reading books, looking videos and DVD’s and watching television. Most of my research was done 20 years ago before the advent of computers. I must admit I enjoyed finding out all I could as much fun as the actual modelling.
Now old age is creeping up on me and I enjoy operating as much as anything.
I bought a couple of second hand freight cars the other week at a show I was exhibiting at, an SP bulkhead flatcar and an IC box car. They were made up and fitted with KD’s. I thought they looked a bit too new and shiny so I weathered them both using simple acrylic washes. I then took a few photos of an operating session featuring these 2 new additions to my freight car fleet.
The locomotive featured is an old blue box Athearn that I have customised for my fictitious short line the Talbot Valley Railroad.
I have been playing with the layout using a pair of end cab switchers for a change. As usual the locos featured are all Athearn blue box jobs.
The assumption being that the company like to give locomotives that spend much of their working lives at slow speeds in the yard, a chance to stretch their legs on a run now and again.
The two switchers arrive with a tank car of diesel fuel and an empty pulp wood car.
They leave the pulp wood car in the loop and run round their train. The orange low nose geep in the background will work an ore train later in the day. The crew are in a local diner having a meal break.
The two switchers spot the pulp wood car at the team track where it will be loaded directly from a truck.
I was having a clearout in the railway room the other week when I came across a file of articles from The Rock Island Technical Society. I was a member of the society in the early 1990’s at the time I was exhibiting Colonel’s Crossing. It was a report of an experiment carried out by the Rock in March 1978 which made interesting reading.
A typical freight car in 1978 averaged 1.134 loads per month, covered hoppers a little more at 1.25. The experiment the Rock carried out gave a figure of 25 loads per month, a significant improvement.
The scheme that the Rock tried out tested the feasibility of operating a train capable of competing directly with trucks in the short distance grain hauling market.
The train operated for three weeks out of Muscatine Iowa. On each of its daily runs it delivered empty covered hoppers to grain elevators in Keota and Ainsworth. It waited at each elevator until the cars were loaded and then returned the loads to Muscatine for spotting at the Grain Processing Corporation plant (a round trip of 104 miles).
Originally it was intended that each train would consist of ten 100 ton covered hoppers but as the Rock wanted to use existing equipment only found that 100 ton covered hoppers weren’t always available, so on occasion used 60 or 80 ton versions instead. Power was a GP7 or GP9 and as part of the route was on a poorly maintained branch line speeds were as low as 5mph in places. The crew consisted of three men, an engineer, conductor and brakeman and the whole days work had to be completed in 12 hours.
The experiment was not repeated due to various complicated reasons as at that time the Rock Island was facing bankruptcy.
This sort of simple operation could make the basis for a layout as all that is needed is a switcher and two or three of covered hoppers, all named for the same road.
I have tested a version of the Rock Mini Train on my layout at home. My version uses SW1500 switchers which run on flexi coil trucks so are fine for this sort of road job.
RI SW1500 no 947 is seen passing KAP lumber’s yard as it arrives at Colonel’s Crossing with a train of empty covered hoppers.
The train pulls into the run round loop and the SW1500 power uncouples.
One empty car is spotted at William Archer’s Elevator to be loaded grain. The other is spotted at the Farmer’s Co-op Elevator.
The crew of the loco take a break in the local diner while the cars are being loaded.
When both cars are loaded the SW1500 makes up a small train and heads for the Grain processing plant ( Flour Mill ) at Benson.
The train is seen arriving in the west yard at Benson.
The full hoppers are spotted at Flour Mill to be unloaded.
The Rock was not the only road to try out a short haul and short train experiments. For example The Illinois Central RR tried the idea in both the 1960’s and1980’s. The Reading RR had tried the concept under the name of “Beeliner” service in the 1960’s. Conrail also instituted 16 mile haul with a unit coal train in the 1990’s.
Having thoroughly enjoyed running and photographing my version of the Rock’s experimental short haul train.
I thought I would do a bit more “what if “ modelling starting with, what if the Rock had tried out the scheme at an earlier time. So it is repeated the operations but using different locomotives and stock.
RI SW1500 switcher is seen emerging from the tunnel mouth and rolling past the engine house at Colonel’s Crossing with a train of empty covered hoppers.
The empty grain cars are spotted at Archer’s elevator and the crew take a break at the local diner while the loading takes place.
The train is now seen in the head shunt for the flour mill at Benson. The cars will be left there to be unloaded, and for the crew the end of their working day.
Having tried an earlier period I thought why not try the scheme assuming other roads had used a similar method starting with the Santa Fe.
I don’t have any SF yard switchers so the power for this unit train is a GP 50 here seen loading grain at the Continental Grain Co’s elevator at Benson. The locomotive is a detailed blue box Athearn that is well over twenty years old. It has performed faultlessly at well over 50 exhibitions and is used regularly at home were it still runs as sweetly as it ever did.
With my Union Pacific version we are back with a yard switcher but one that is running on flexi coil trucks so is quite happy at the higher speeds needed on a road job. This locomotive is wearing a livery it only wore for a short time when the UP first took over Missouri Pacific. It was soon re-painted with UP lettering and looked like the rest of their large fleet of yard switchers.
The model is another super detailed blue box Athearn.
With its air horns blaring SP SW1500 rolls over the grade crossing with a train of covered hoppers full of grain. The Sp train is heading for the Flour mill at Benson.
The SP train is next seen passing the engine house and repair facility at Colonel’s Crossing on its way to the flour mill at Benson.
My old friend Andy Knott took a few photos on his most recent visit of his UP big road switcher mu‘d up with my GP40x. It’s the model he won last year in the raffle at the Trent Valley North American show. This is only the second time it has been out of its box. It is a superb model but I suspect like most modern models rather delicate. I’m not sure how well it would stand up to the rigours of exhibiting.
It brought in a mixed train which an elderly Alco S2 spotted at various destinations in the yard.