CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

D&H Geep #573

For much of its early diesel years, the D&H was an all Alco railroad. There was good reason for this, as Alco was a customer and any maintenance questions could easily be resolved with a call or a quick drive over to Schenectady. It was awhile before they started buying EMDs, but even then it was just a trio of SD45 engines. They weren't popular, perhaps because they were the odd step-children of the roster, and were later transferred to the Erie Lackawanna (during a period of mutual control by the N&W). Later GP38-2s and GP39-2s came during the early 1970s. However, the D&H never owned any first generation EMD units like Geep 7/9s or F units. Or did they? 

I suppose it depends on how you define "D&H" but when Guilford bought it and swapped engines on the three railroad's (D&H, B&M, and Maine Central) combined rosters things got interesting. At times, too interesting. But, the D&H ended up with at least a couple high-nose Geeps. A picture of #569 is at the bottom of this post. An extensive history of #573 can be found here. The picture above is dated January 01, 1984, and it shows that Guilford's two regular passenger engines (#573 & #251) also earned their keep pulling revenue freight even during the cold winters. Brrrr...

Friday, October 26, 2018

Two new projects started

The weather is getting colder, which means time to start new projects! Both will be the subject of more detailed posts in the future, but for right now I will reveal that one is a live steam, 7/25" gauge caboose and the other is a gauge-1 live steam locomotive. How far I will get with each is unknown, but my basement has plenty of room to hold projects.

I also have 6 HO scale freight cars in various stages of assembly, and my G scale gauntlet track needs finishing. My D&H bobber caboose is waiting. And my layout is crying out to me.

One would call this a "Project Rich Environment." This is going to be a really exciting winter!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Handlaying a Gauntlet Track - 2nd attempt

My previous attempt to scratchbuild the third and last remaining piece of track for my NMRA civil certification started off with tremendous ambition, but quickly fizzled because I was attempting too much (sharp curves) built to a standard (NMRA specifications) and planned to run trains on it that were not to NMRA code. It is a common malady in G scale, which consists of various ratios and different standards with the only universal one being to have the trains stay on the track. Gauge, back-to-back wheel spacing, rail height, and frog depth are all over the map.

Attempt / Failure #2
Still, I wanted to give the in-street gauntlet track the old college try so I soldered up another frog point assembly and then attempted to make it work. Because I was now using cheaper aluminum rail, I couldn't solder to it so that made my previous four-rail frog assembly impossible. And try as I might, I couldn't get everything to line up and operate smoothly, so I abandoned the project for eight months. Recently, though, I have wanted to get it finished so I tried again to make it work. I even spiked up all the rails necessary, including guard rails. But, it just didn't work well. Or well enough. So, I eventually pulled out all the spikes and started over with plan C.

Gauntlet Track at Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
(image from Wikipedia)
Instead of focusing on building a gauntlet track with frogs to allow the train track to cross over one another, I decided to build one with point rails that allow the tracks to run parallel to each other. Making points wasn't very challenging in G scale with a belt sander, but I want to get my certification. Sometimes the diverging track moves away from a station platform (like shown in the picture at right) to provide greater clearance for oversize freight cars. Other times, the mainline is straight and the diverging track breaks away to connect to a platform that the mainline couldn't normally reach (imagine if the station was on the left instead in the picture shown). In fact, if you search online for "Gauntlet track" images you will find lots of different examples for various situations which demonstrate the ingenuity of civil engineers.

I reused the same wooden base as my previous two attempts, and by now it was looking pretty gnarly with all of the spike holes and ink markings. But, it reminded me to press on. I had some shorter ties left over from the first two track pieces, and a couple more sticks of 3/8" square dowel chopped up led to the longer ties. I didn't really have a good idea how long to make them as I wasn't sure how much of an overlap the gauntlet part would be, so I winged it. Thankfully, the length turned out to be just perfect. I didn't bother to sand the tops as I liked the rustic look, though the ties were clearly warped a bit in places. Were this HO scale, sanding and leveling the ties would have been mandatory.

Then, out came the stain and the plain wooden blocks turned into fresh creosoted ties. I was using smaller rail (code 250 vs 332) and it was softer (aluminum vs. brass), and it was also by now bent, kinked, and warped, but I wanted the final gauntlet track to look nice. So, I measured where I wanted the rails to fall on the ties and scribed a line using a metal straight edge. If I spiked the first rail to this line, it would perfectly straighten out the wavy rail. I used some smaller spikes that a friend gave me while cleaning up his father's house. They were delicate looking but perfect for this application. I spiked every 10th tie to start, then filled in the gaps. They went into the soft wood easily... all 266 of them!

I laid the long, straight rail first. Before I spiked it I used my belt sander to notch the inside of the rail near where the points would nestle in. I used my #6 turnout as a guide for how long to make the notch. Then, I did the long outside curved rail the same way. I only spiked the curved rail by the entrance to the switch as I still didn't know how much I wanted to curve it. I then made the two point rails and everything was spiked down. It was a bit of "spike this rail here first, then that rail next, then bend this rail and spike it third, etc." I didn't have instructions to follow, but I thought through everything and it came out fine. Again, I scribed the ties where I wanted the rail to go to make sure it was perfectly straight.

As it turns out, I nearly painted myself into a corner. If I had made the diverging gauntlet track any farther out from the main (straight) track, the two inner rails would have been nearly on top of one another. But, I kept the curve smooth and graceful and it all worked perfectly. I couldn't solder tabs to the bottom of the point rails to connect them to the throw bar, so instead I drilled clearance holes in the thin base of the rail for 2-56 screws will pass through. I angled the holes slightly, as there wasn't much base alone to drill into. They are delicate but will be fine for a demonstration switch.

rail bits from previous gauntlet track attempts!
I now just have to fabricate a throwbar and wire it up. The throwbar has led to another problem, but thinking it through should lead to a solution. All in all, once I had time to regroup on the project, it took only about 3 hours to cut the ties, glue them down, stain them, mark and grind the rail, and spike it all down. I spread it out over about 10 days though, working here and there at a leisurely pace. I also had something on the television in the background...  usually low budget Sherlock Holmes movies or Scooby Doo cartoons.

Stay tuned for the thrilling finale!

Monday, October 1, 2018

I Love NY boxcars

Green "Operation Lifesaver" emblem
One of the biggest reasons I model 1984 is because of the colorful boxcars that roamed the railroads as a result of the "Per Diem" regulations from the late 1970s. Nothing says Delaware and Hudson more than the "I love NY" boxcars. Maybe it is my New York pride, or the sharp blue and white slash paint scheme, or large red heart on the side. I don't know exactly, but they sure are striking.

NYS Department of Transportation emblem
The early 1980s were tough times for the D&H. New York shippers needed clean, serviceable boxcars to haul their products but there was a shortage of 50' boxcars on the D&H. The D&H was going through financial troubles and didn't have the funds to purchase more boxcars. Bankruptcy was on the horizon and the D&H's Oneonta car shop employees faced potential layoffs because of a lack of work. In 1981 New York State decided to step in and address all of these issues at once, initiating a program whereby NYSDOT would fund the rehabilitation of 200 used boxcars by D&H's Oneonta shop for use on the D&H system (by NYS shippers) and NYSDOT would hold title to the cars.

No emblems at all
The cars were previously built by Pullman-Standard in 1965-1966 for the D&H in their #29000 car series. Though the program was supposed to be for 200 cars (#50000-50199), only 165 cars were completed before program was terminated. Per this June 12, 1988 newspaper article the State paid about $10,000 for each car. Portions of the article are copied/pasted below: 

New York State's Department of Transportation has canceled its boxcar leasing agreement with Delaware & Hudson Railroad. [...] The department got into the boxcar leasing business in 1981 when it purchased 165 Class A 50-foot boxcars from D&H, said Dennison P. Cottrell, DOT supervisor of local assistance programs. 

The cars were repaired, then leased back to D&H, he said. At the time, much of the United States suffered from a shortage of boxcars and the DOT wanted to ensure shippers in the Empire State had an adequate supply of boxcars, he said. The DOT paid about $10,000 for each railcar in the deal, which was also designed to provide a quick source of revenue to cash-starved D&H at the time, Mr. Cottrell said. [...] A Guilford source said even though the DOT boxcars were 50 feet long, their carrying capacity was 150,000 pounds, about 4,000 pounds less than other 50-footers. [...] Those cars were too light for some shippers, like printing paper companies, the source said. Some shippers would simply outright refuse to load on them. 

There were four different variations on how the cars were decorated during the six years of the program. Originally, the first twenty cars (#50000-50019) had a round black and gold NYSDOT emblem on the right-hand side. Next, they added the "Operation Lifesaver" insignia but couldn't decide on the color. The first ten (#50020-50029) were black, and pictures of these are rare. The remaining cars (#20030-20164) were supposed to have green artwork but for unknown reasons only about half of them received it, with the other half getting nothing. As the program was partially administered by the State, some of the decision making could be blamed on that I guess. 

The cars traveled throughout New York and elsewhere. However, by the late 1980s they were over 20 years old and worn out. There also wasn't a great need for boxcars in general anymore, leading to a surplus. As a result, during the D&H bankruptcy proceedings (from 1988 through 1991) the bankruptcy Trustee sold the cars individually by sealed ballot. Two large buyers included the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (which refurbished them again for paper service) and the Naporano Iron & Metal scrap dealer. For the later cars, NYSDOT received $2,837.51 from the sale of each car and the D&H estate total received $561,828.00. One artist is selling pictures of the cars lined up for scrap.

Some history of the cars as well as instructions on how to modify HO models from the time (which is a bit dated now) and paint them can be found in Jeff English's excellent paint shop article in the February 1997 Model Railroader magazine.