It is cold outside today. That got me thinking about warmer times, and I remembered this picture. There must be some story behind it. I don't know what it is, but it is a nifty image nonetheless. It was taken at Fort Edward Station in October 1975. Can anyone identify the make and model of the car?
CP Executive train in Albany
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Saturday, February 19, 2022
The last structure that is part of the "North Menands" layout section is Southworth Tractor & Machinery Company. It is an industry that was still receiving boxcars in 1984, though the condition of the track suggested that it wasn’t a high-volume customer. The track (which still exists today in the undergrowth) came off a switch located just after the one from the main line and broke sharply into a curve that ended at a concrete loading dock. This is a really neat feature and one that usually seems unrealistic when I see them on layouts. A previous blog post discussed how the industry was switched by someone who actually observed it.
Below is a satellite picture of the facility as it looks today, and here is a previous blog post with some additional images. The D&H mainline is still in the background, and just across the tracks is a cemetery. The red line is the spur that came off the mainline and ended at the concrete dock and the yellow line is the parallel track that continued on to Agway and Colony Liquor. It is a relatively large facility and building it will be a lot of fun. But, I wanted to jump into it slowly.
So, inspired by a recent post by Chris Adams on his blog about building a concrete loading dock, I decided focus on that first. While he and I used different materials, I would have gone his route if I had been fortunate enough to have some foam board lying around because its texture sure looks a lot like concrete.
The area where the track was located has become a holding ground for barrels.
Trucks could back up to the concrete dock (where the black rubber protection strip is shown below) and be loaded up with whatever came in on the flatcar. It was a pretty slick set up. Alternately, the tractors could just be rolled down the ramp on the left of the garbage bin.
The pictures I took in 2010 plus the satellite images helped me picture it. Unfortunately, the lack of space on my layout between structures is really hurting me. The blue Agway building was literally only inches away. You can see in this picture the Jeep is on ground that looks near level, but behind it there is a slope from left to right.
Beyond the loading dock, the entire parking lot is slanted to allow trucks to back up and park. Multiple elevations make for a neat looking prototype, but I could not capture all of that on my layout. The flat area to the right of the ramp should be much wider, but there was no room for that. So, the area where the trucks could back up to the dock (marked in red) was essentially eliminated.
To avoid nasty surprises, I made a paper template first to get the final size of the loading dock.
Ideal height of the dock was established using the most scientific method I know... an HO flatcar!
I then took my template and made up a drawing. A NMRA gauge was used to check clearances.
A broken Life Like tractor model (another scientific method) revealed that I made the sloping ramp too narrow, so some whiteout and ink corrected that.
The top of the ramp was made from scraps of 0.060" styrene glued together and braced from below. I cut a line for the ramp with my knife and bent/broke it clean, then scribed another line for the top ("hinge") of the ramp and bent it down. The image below shows everything upside down.
The sides are more strips of styrene I cut out and glued to the edge. It took a while because I had to use every metal block I had to hold it in position while I slipped small styrene brace blocks in the joints. In all, this took about an hour to put together. The sides were left oversize for now. To ensure the top of the ramp (the "hinge") didn't break, I braced it with eight parallel pieces of styrene in an alternating pattern which I think is called a log cabin joint.
Later, I trimmed the oversize pieces and then filled in the remaining spots. I admit I really enjoy this type of work because I can sit at my desk and listen to the radio and relax. I make it up as I go, sort of like a Lego or Erector set where I am building something new. However, using foam like Chris did would have been much simpler and probably have looked better too.
The finished loading dock from the top. I took a diamond pointed scribe and scraped in some expansion joints. The prototype has an odd pattern that was modified in some areas where they took asphalt and patched it over. I chose to just do a regular grid for my model.
My last tube of modeling putty dried out recently so I had to improvise for a large seam. I filled it with gel super glue and then scraped the top surface flush. Perfection wasn't required, or even desired.
I finished off its exterior appearance by using sandpaper and sanding sticks to add surface texture everywhere, to round off and scrape up the edges, and to blend any seams. I intentionally wanted it to look more rough like old concrete than smooth like plastic. It was one of those situations where I was doing the opposite of what I normally had to do.
It looked good but it felt flimsy. So, I mixed up epoxy with some BBs that I had on hand until I had a slurry of sorts and poured it in. The next morning it was rock solid.
I washed it with soap and water in preparation for painting. Then, I sprayed it with some sandy camouflage paint. Normally I like the yellower tones for concrete, but in this case I leaned into the grayish colors to match the prototype pictures. So, after the sand color dried I went over it lightly with gray.
Once dried, I applied a wash of black oil paint and mineral spirits. It didn't look quite right so I blotted it with a paper towel. I then had to let it dry.
The combination of mineral spirits and paper towel blotting caused some of the gray to be removed, revealing the sand color underneath. This color variegation was exactly what I was looking for. I then applied another wash of black oil paint to highlight the cracks.
The loading dock currently has yellow safety curbs and a railing around the edges but I don't know if they existed in 1984. Right now I am leaning towards leaving it off. I did want to add some weeds and other vegetation to the top and sides of the dock though. So, I used a toothpick dipped into some tacky glue and added tiny little spots in some of the cracks. Then, I sprinkled on the finest ground foam I had. I didn't over-do it, as the dock was still occasionally used, but the greenery helped break up the otherwise stark gray.
The loading dock isn't attached to the layout yet. I still need to work on the scenery around the three Agway buildings, and I think I want to build the main Southworth building too. I need to go visit the prototype dock again and see if they had anything reinforcing the area where the coupler would strike.
But, it was a fun little project. Now on to the main building (which I am in the middle of drawing plans for and mocking up).
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Here is a picture showing Alco C420 #410 with a smashed up nose from November 1980. For more information on the D&H's Alco C420 class, see this blog post. I don't know the circumstances of the accident, but it reminds me of the time one of my HO scale engines took a dive off of my layout and landed on the concrete floor...
The D&H later rebuilt this engine with a new nose acquired from the N&W's parts department.
Friday, February 11, 2022
Here is a picture from 1973 of what was in the old Cohoes freight yard. This old Cohoes passenger station is just north of here (to the right in the picture) and in the background is an old church, now the Cohoes Public Library. This is an interesting photo for a number of reasons. I am sure we have all seen pictures of retired boxcars or passenger cars sitting on the ground being used for MOW purposes. I even showed a picture of some cars in Colonie here. But this is quite a bit different. Look at the poured concrete foundation below the ex-combine car! This was clearly not a temporary arrangement. The side door even retained its steps underneath and the foundation was notched to accommodate them. With the stairway on the end so close by, I can't imagine why people would want to use the side door.
On a cold January day in 2022, I drove back to the area to see what remained. Here is roughly the same perspective. The baggage car and yard are long gone, and some luxury apartments have been built on the left of the picture. A couple of the telephone pole cross-arms are missing. But the church remains.
Rotating to the right a little bit, you can see the long-abandoned D&H station. For many years it was an Off-Track-Betting (OTB) site, but I guess the pandemic killed that. The streetlight it out of place, though I imagine it was installed as part of the luxury apartment program. It would be nice to live there and watch the trains go by, but my wife reminded me that I would need to give my my basement. Nope!
For some other great photos of the D&H in Cohoes, check out Gino DiCarlo's webpage.
Monday, February 7, 2022
In this April 06, 1975 picture, a southbound D&H train pulled by "Popsicle" RS3 #4071 is heading through the north end of the old North Albany yard. Its likely destination is Kenwood Yard, a few short miles away. Note what looks like a red D&H gondola directly behind the engine.
The track branching off to the right next to the first boxcar led to what later became a COFC facility, bulk commodity transfer facility, and now oil tank transfer facility. The bridge overhead is the I-90 expressway.
Looking at all the trackage visible here, it is hard to imagine that within 10 years it would nearly all be gone. A previous post showed what this yard originally looked like, and it was the basis for one of my layout sections.
Here is what the scene looks like now. Less tracks, a few billboards, but about as much snow. At least it was sunny when I was out yesterday taking pictures. The cones and orange pole on the left indicate the location of a "derail", something you wouldn't want to miss buried under the snow. It would be a neat detail to model. The markers, like the switch brooms I wrote about earlier, are some recent upgrades by Canadian Pacific to make operations safer and easier.
One last look... with the camera pulled back a little. Not a single Alco in sight...
Thursday, February 3, 2022
Here is a special picture for me. I saw it listed on Ebay for several years and no one wanted to buy it. Finally, I decided to add it to my collection. It is dated August 16, 2010, and it was taken in Sanbury, PA. Admittedly, it isn't a great shot in and of itself and I suspect the embankment in the foreground is what caused most people to pass. But from the first moment I saw it I knew it was special.
If the train looks familiar, it should. I happened to take pictures of the train only six days before on August 10, 2010. I had been furniture shopping with my wife at Huck Finn's (the former Montgomery Ward satellite building) when we heard a train horn. As luck would have it, I actually had my camera with me (this was before smart phones) and it was light enough outside to take some pictures. I had no idea that the train was going to be a special passenger train movement.
We rushed down to Kenwood Yard which was only a mile or two away, and because the train was going pretty slow I was able to shoot some pictures of it entering the yard. The one above is in my blog's header. Even though it doesn't show the D&H during the period I model and this specific scene isn't currently on my layout, I think it captures a bit of what I am interested in. Tracks snaking between and around buildings, lots of foliage, and colorful trains.
Because it was late in the day, shadows really wrecked my attempts at well-lit photographs. But, I managed to get a few clean shots of one of the D&H's last heritage units. This is #7312. I have photographed #7404 (though not very well) too but I don't recall if I have seen #7303.
Considering the rear of the second unit was coupled to the rear of the observation car, I must assume that the owners of the passenger car did not spend much time on this part of the trip sitting on the porch. If you look at the lead off picture from Sanbury, they ran the engines around the car and hauled it the way it should be pulled.
Here is a shot of the observation car "Macintyre." It is owned by Green Mountain Railroad Specialty Cars and more information on renting it can be found here. Perhaps this train was running empty from Vermont to some event in Pennsylvania. Sadly, my location made it impossible to step back far enough to get all of the car or engines in one picture.
In this better-lit shot of #7312, you can see an usual round, white insignia right in front of the dynamic brake blister. I have no idea what it is.
The train slowly eased into Kenwood Yard and disappeared behind a string of tank cars. It was a pretty successful "chase", and a sighting I am especially proud of. It was complete fortune to be in the right place at the right time.