CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Monday, September 30, 2019

Ballasting Colony Liquor and Agway

There are three sidings coming off the main line leading to three different industries in this section of my layout. Based on photographs taken at the end of March 1984 (just two months before my layout's set time frame) at least two of them were still receiving cars. Despite the pictures showing the full effects of winter's desolation and spring's mud, it is still quite obvious that the tracks were not kept to a very high standard. In this first picture, the first siding to the left which went to Southworth Tractor was buries in the weeds. Ties were sometimes visible but mostly it was just two rails sticking out of the ground. The boxcar was likely parked at their concrete loading ramp alongside the rear of the building.

The second siding, which breaks off the parallel side track just after the first switch, is just as covered with weeds and dirt. The track actually extended quite a bit further out and then turned and ran parallel to the Agway building. Even today, there are remains of this track including some old ties in place. I am not sure if they received rail traffic in 1984 as all I have to go by is this photograph. However, as a modeling note I plan to model it so that it also can receive cars. However, I will try and make this track look even worse than the first. You can see that in this picture the three tracks appear to be at three elevations.

Finally, the side track curves and ends up at Colonie Liquor. This is a neat industry where the rail stop was positioned so that a boxcar spotted here would stop with its side door directly in line with a loading dock that was installed at a 45-degree angle at the corner of the building. This track had some evidence of spillover ballast from the mainline in areas and weeds as well, though the ties were visible (and there appears to be piles of old ties near the end of the track. Unlike the first two sidings, the rail heads on this track also appear to be a bit more polished or shiny which might indicate it was receiving cars more frequently.

The real challenge was that all my photos showed the area in late March (late winter), but I am modeling late May (full on spring season). Thus, in my mind I started converting all the brown dead brush to vibrant green brush. But, I really had no idea how bad the weed control problem was at that time. This is typical of the area. With that image firmly set, I was ready to proceed. For starters, I decided to do the siding to Colonie Liquor. It was not only longest but it appears to be the best maintained. In the past I have ballasted track and randomly sprinkled ground foam on it to look like "weeds" but never had I set out to model track that was half-overgrown.

I wanted to make sure that there was lots of dirt showing, but the ties still had to be visible an prominent. Since I had put this track on N scale roadbed, I needed a bit of fill material. I used one of the Scenic Express samples I had obtained which was a gray blend and randomly sprinkled it along the track, including the sides where it formed the ballast slope. Then, I took some W.S. "brown ballast" and tried that... yuk, it didn't look like dirt at all. I sprinkled a few cinders here and there but figured by the 1980s most of the cinder ballast would have finally sunk in the ground. Pulling out my actual real dirt, I applied that liberally here and there. I then went over the area with some find W.S. ground foam. I didn't want to overdo it here, as the other two tracks would be really overgrown and those should get the full treatment.

When I stepped back, it looked like a hot mess. But, the colors seemed right. The dirt brown looked like the dirt from the area (as it should be), I had only used dark green foam which would have been appropriate for May. The ballast was a gray blend similar to the stuff I used on the mainline but not quite, reflecting perhaps a change in ballast supplier in the past. And, some of the worn out ties were visible. The splotchiness matched the pictures, and I was really happy with it. The two sidings into Agway and Southworth Machinery were given a similar treatment, though I made sure to bury those ties even more into the dirt. Scenery materials were actually mounded over the rails in places (intentionally and otherwise) and then I ran a truck set over it to cut flanges. I also used my finger to try and bring the level below rail height where possible to make track cleaning easier in the future.

Admittedly, this looks a bit garish. This is just the initial layer of ballast. During scenery application, I will add broken ties, static grass weeds (which I am currently researching), weathering down the middle of the track, paint to the sides of the rails, etc. Right now, it just stands out as an extreme green area. But, I am quite pleased with it.

The same area looking north (note the 
switches on right) on September 04, 1986
By the way, the picture on the right was taken looking north in 1986. By this time, maintenance had been deferred so much that many portions of the Colonie main line were buried in weeds and grass that you couldn't easily see the rails! And that didn't include the sidings. You can see the switch ladder arrangement leading to the sidings on the right of the picture, buried in the grass. I assume by then none of the three businesses were shipping by rail, but I can't be sure. This is the look I was going for, but to a slightly lesser extent because I was modeling a little be better maintained D&H in 1984. The colors are really vibrant in the picture, with many shades of green on the left and reds and browns in the middle. And the trees haven't even started turning colors yet! The tree row on the left will eventually become the backdrop for this layout section.

And here is the mainline in more recent times. The tracks are well maintained, the sidings on the right to the buildings are gone except for some times and a few pieces of rail, but you can actually see the track. There are some weeds growing between the rails, and I will likely go back and add that to my layout when I am doing more scenery work. You can also see all the colors of the ties (which appear more solid orange/brown in the 1984 pictures above. The oil stains in between the rails in 1984 don't appear as visible here either.