CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Monday, October 21, 2019

Ballasting Keis Distributors and Norlite

Compared to my previous ballasting adventures lately, the two industries on this next section of the layout should be fairly easy. However, before I could dig to the process I had three more Micro Engineering switches to replace. All three of these had failed, and like before I didn't have the patience to try and replace the throwbars with new ones made from PCB ties. Unlike my Menands section, this was easier as the switches didn't form a ladder and I didn't have to try and cram them all together. Still, it is much more fun laying track when you aren't cutting and piecing together tiny sections of rail.

Keis Distributors
Once that was done, the ties were painted and then the ballasting could begin. The Keis siding is an interesting study in economics. I have talked with people who worked for and with D&H as well as engineering consultants and it appears that these two sidings were fairly new and also rarely, if ever, used in the 1980s. The ballast looked nice and clean in 1984. In fact, if you go to the building today (it is a Window manufacturer now) the sidings are still there, and still are in great shape. The switch to the mainline was pulled a long time ago, but I can see exactly what the ballast looked like at the time I am modeling.

A neat detail is the gravel MOW road crossing the
siding on the left hand side of the tracks.
I plan to go easy with the weeds on this section, as it didn't appear as though they were able to grow on Keis sidings. I have a theory on this, though there is no way to really know for sure if it s correct. I bet a lot of the growth on the other sidings was because one of the customers was an Agway, and perhaps loaded cars with grain coming in or going out spilled and the contents took root? That, combined with a lack of interest by the D&H in a minority customer, let the track go wild. Here, the tracks were installed or relaid with a lot of car because the customer was going to ship in or our a quantity of chilled beer, and perhaps the D&H wanted to put that new relationship on good grounds. Sadly, I guess it never came to pass.

Current pictures show the ballast as a dark gray, and pictures from 1984 don't really dispute this. While I don't think the current colors of the mainline ballast match those from 1984, I used Woodland Scenics' solid gray ballast on the two sidings to give the appearance that it was more recently installed than the mainline. I think this will reflect the history of the sidings (and hopefully not just look like I ran out of one color of ballast and substituted another on a whim). One thing I noticed though is that the WS gray ballast acted differently from other WS gray blend ballast I had been using. It was finer, dustier, and floated more with the glue. And, it isn't as dark a gray color on my layout as it looks in the bag. But, I have terrible lighting on this section of the layout and once I hang another set of lights I hope it will look better.

Mainline between Keis and Norlite. Note the ballast in the middle.
One interesting detail is the condition of the mainline between Keis and Norlite. As I have noted before, the D&H mainline (in fact, all tracks) on the Colonie Main were in a state of neglect (though certainly not as bad as in, say, 1986) and there were lots of opportunities for a weed spray train and a ballast train to get to work. However, there are some areas that look as if a ballast train did drop some stone but in a weird pattern. Note the picture at right. Between the rails is a lot of ballast that covers the ties but just for a short length. Also shown are "dual lines" of black oil drippings along the center of the track. Instead of one line of weathering down the middle, many pictures show two distinct trails. I don't know what causes that.

Norlite Lightweight Aggregates
Before it lost its rail service in 2011, it was a bare track on the ground that was filled with front end loaders or some other heavy equipment. They would load two or three open top hoppers with vetrified shale. The track leading in was probably was ballasted at one time, but the dirt and mud from below likely came through and partially buried the track. Then, likely some of the shale that spilled while loading might also end up on the ground on and around the rails. For now, I am ballasting the track with the same stuff I used on the mainline but there will be a light bit of weeds as is shown in the picture. I don't want all my sidings to end up green (even if prototypical).

Recently I was talking with someone at Norlite who worked there for decades and has access to photos I don't have, in the mid-1980s there might have been a structure that was used for loading the cars. The pictures I have from 1984 don't show this, but the track might have been longer and the structure just out of view. The round tube things in the picture above don't appear to be the structure he is talking about but I can't be sure. He might be confused, but he is looking into it more. The current siding is only about 16" long on my layout so there isn't much to actually ballast. And, if I need to redo the area based on future research it will be pretty easy.

And with that, I am only 5' of ballasted track away from completing my requirements for my NMRA badge! And, I just ran out of my diluted matte medium adhesive which takes a while to make. Grrr.

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