CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Railfanning: Albany Port Railroad

The Albany Port Railroad (APR) is an industrial railroad located in downtown Albany. It operates trackage south of the former D&H's Kenwood Yard, and a connecting track breaks out and runs to the nearby CSX's Selkirk Yard. It is controlled and operated jointly by CSX and the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is my understanding that they share equally costs, and each railroad used to take turns providing engines to service the line. 

Railfanning the APR has always been tough because I work during the weekday and they don't seem to do much on nights and weekends. At night, they lock their engines and caboose up behind chain link fence. So, many of my visits usually resulted in pictures shot through the fence, such as this one of engine #13 from September 02, 2005.

To access their enginehouse, the locomotive has to do a switchback maneuver. This is a picture of their enginehouse taken the same day. The track going to the right stops in about 100 feet. The track switching to the left leads "out" to the Port.

In the 1990s they used two idential switch engines (#12 and #13) shown here on June 27, 1993.

Before that, they used red Alco engines (an RS3 and an S2). Sadly, they were acquired by a local railroad group and sat rotting in Colonie Yard for many years before being scrapped. Here is a link to some pictures and information on my blog of those old APR Alco engines from 2005.

The largest customer is a Cargill grain facility which has its own switch engine and I frequently see this engine parked nearby, but on September 02, 2005 I caught it operating. I suspect it was being remote controlled by an employee in the loading shed, as there wasn't any crew in the cab or riding the engine itself.

Per this website there are other companies receiving rail service too at the Port. Here is a map I found online of the APR (from this website):

Finally, on Octover 21, 2014 I took a day off from work and decided get to the Port early to railfan. It was still dark when I arrived, and the weather wasn't cooperating. I quickly introduced myself and promised to stay out of the way, and the manager agreed to let me drive around the Port and take pictures from the roads. I should mention that in 2021 I was once stopped by a security guard... the equivalent of a mall cop... and told I was trespassing. I wasn't but I didn't argue and just moved along.

The day started off with APR #13 pulling a cut of loaded covered hoppers from Kenwood Yard. As their manager explained, Cargill was the largest customer and got priority switching.

The sun was rising as the train trundled past me. I was surprised that the Cargill engine wasn't being used, but it was actually parked behind the fencing in the APR enginehouse facility.

Cargill owns at least one car mover, and it worked in tandem with the switch engine.

After dropping off the loads, they pulled some empties and took them to Kenwood Yard.

Then, the engine ran light around the property. Being essentially a big loop around the port I could guess where it was going, but not all access roads were "public" and some had lots of pot holes. And, the train had a direct route whereas I had to make several turns along the way and mind the speed limits.

The engine snaked between pipe works and past old abandoned tank cars.

Here are those tank cars. I cringe when I see people model grounded tank cars on layouts because they seem fanciful, but here is a real prototype.

The southern end of the port has another large covered hopper facility, and there were several tracks set up for rapid loading or unloading (I don't know which).

Then, the engine went and picked up a string of large flat cars from the docks where wind turbine parts had been brought to load onto outgoing ships.

Thank goodness the engine had a headlight (and the manager was wearing a bright orange jacket) so I could see where the train was amongst all the buildings and other railroad cars. It slowly backed onto the tank car here, and then pulled it away.

From this shot you can see how close the tracks run to some of the access roads.

Once those cars were stored in Kenwood Yard, the solo tank car on the end was spotted.

Next, the engine picked up three more tank cars from the yard.

These were dutifully pushed around the facility (again) to the back. I don't know if the engine just didn't have enough muscle to move all the cars at once, or if it was easier to switch each facility piecemeal. But, it seemed very inefficient to constantly go around and around. 

The destination of the cars was the Molasses storage tanks. And yes, in the summer months you can actually smell molasses in the air! 

The three tank cars were dropped off, and none were pulled.

Then, the locomotive ran light to the engine house.

Finally, it was backed into the fenced in area, and the crew went off to lunch. I should have asked if they ever used that caboose for anything but I forgot. It is bright red in this 2014 picture, but before that it was faded CP orange in the lead-off picture from 2005.

The gates were closed and that was that. All of this had taken place in about five hours.

For their kindness, I later sent the crew a gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts. 

Recently in the past few years the APR acquired a new locomotive, GATX #390, which is an MP15AC. I imagine that this is through a lease arrangement. Here is what it looked like on November 30, 2017, shuttling tank cars into the tank farm. The paint scheme is reminiscint of Montana Rail Link, and it looks very sharp. Ironically I selected the same paint scheme when I painted a few engines for my own HO shortline railroad (the "Rochester and Western") over 20 years ago. 

Here is a picture from September o, 2020 of one of the metal recycling companies. The track looks like it was installed recently, but I have been told it is over 10 years old. 

Naturally, the Port has a large crane facility. Here is what it looked like in September 02, 2005. I wonder if the blue paint is part of the Port's corporate image?

The area is also frequently used to load oversize loads from General Electric like the electrical transformer (?) shown below on September 06, 2020, but but wind turbine parts are also common. 

Here is a shot of an assembled/disassembled panel track taken in the back of Kenwood Yard which I also shot on September 06, 2020. I don't know what its function is.

I have posted pictures elsewhere of the Red Rinling Brothers' circus train that caught during a  random visit to the Port in May 2005.

Finally, here is a shot from September 06, 2020 of a CSX transfer run that had come from Selkirk Yard. It was parked right outside of Kenwood Yard and I waited almost two hours for it to pull the last 300 feet into the yard, but it never budged. Shucks.

There still be another chapter added to the history of the Port. The area is being developed to add an off-shore wind turbine manufacturing facility, and that will mean even more rail traffic! Stay tuned for the future.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

A short D&H train (1989)

Here is a shot of D&H RS36 #5017 pulling a single gondola somewhere is a pastoral scene. Dated June 1989, I know nothing else about it but I can sort of make out ties inside the gondola so perhaps it is on an MOW job.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile transport car (O scale)

I have always been enamored with the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile ever since I was a child. My father would give me various trinkets such as Wienermobile whistles (including some from the SuperBowl and glow in the dark ones), and I have been searching for the real vehicles for years. Hot dogs are my favorite food and I love them, and a giant one that you could drive around in seemed neat. So, this project was inevitable. However, it has had a tortured timeline:

Note: regardless of what Oscar Meyer calls it now, it will always be the "Wienermobile." 

Summer 2020

I was driving on the Thruway near Schenectady, NY and I saw the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile approaching on the other side of the highway. I was pretty excited, but I didn't have a smart phone to take a picture and even if I tried I doubt I could have done so safely. So, I went to the Oscar Mayer website and discovered that there was a Wienermobile tracker. With that online resource, I hoped to find see it again in the future and take pictures of it but I soon forgot about it.

Spring 2021

At a train show many months later I found an old Wienermobile bank that was roughly O scale and thought it would make a neat flat car load. The bank was in bad shape but it was cheap ($15) so I bought it. Parts of it were broken and faded and I hoped to repair and repaint it. In the process of looking for replacement decals for the letting on Ebay, I found a newer version in excellent condition for the same price ($15) including delivery. I bought it, and set the old one aside never to return to it. Interestingly enough, as can be seen on the picture below the windows and chassis are different molds. Then, I searched for an inexpensive O gauge scale flat car to mount it onto and soon forgot about it.

Early November 2022

Fast forward more than a year and my parents visited us in November. During their stay I happened to relate the Wienermobile sighting story to my Dad. He had given me several Wienermobile whistles and different times in my childhood and they were special to me.  So, we chatted about it some more and I decided to get to work on it. Then, I promptly forgot about it.

Veterans Day, November 11, 2022

Literally five days after my parents left, my wife found on Facebook that the Wienermobile was coming to Albany the upcoming weekend for six different events! (What are the odds?) 

As luck would have it, one of them fit into our busy schedule so we drove up to an elementary school on Veterans' Day where it was to be displayed at the start of a fundraiser race. We waited and waited, and wondered if maybe we were in the wrong place. But then it came into view and I got giddy. As it turns out, it had to stop right next to our car in the parking lot to get further instructions from the event coordinator so we took that chance to jump out and take lots of pictures! Note the smaller Wienermobile on the front dashboard!

We couldn't wait around to see if they had special things going on involving the vehicle as we had other plans for the day, but we did have time for one more picture. Someday Harrison will think this shot is really cool or roll his eyes. Perhaps both. 

With the fire burning, I decided to find a suitable flatcar for my model. The trick is that it had to be both a "scale" car (no toy-like semi-scale or toy proportioned business) and the deck had to be at least 2.5" wide to match the width of the model Wienermobile's wheels. I asked on an online forum about suitable flatcars and several options popped up. Unfortunately, most flat cars are sold with loads (tanks, trucks, crates) and I didn't want to pay for any of that stuff. So, I looked and waited for a good deal, and promptly forgot about it.

January 2023

After several unsuccessful train shows I found a guy online willing to sell me a custom-modified K-line 50' flatcar. He had added a real wood deck and side boards and painted it for the Rutland Railroad. It should have been perfect for my project, but on arrival I discovered that the deck wasn't wide enough and the Wienermobile's wheels kept falling off the side. Instead of removing his custom deck to add a wider one, I set the project on hold again and moved on to other things. And promptly forgot about it.

June 2023

A friend took pity on my plight and bought me a Lionel scale 50' flatcar as as gift. It isn't as detailed as some of the newer releases but it was a lot more affordable and certainly would be perfect for my project. More importantly, he had made sure that the deck was 2.5" wide. And, it was something that I now actually had in hand (so I could get working on the project again). Perfect!

The flatcar was painted dark brown for the AT&SF and that included the molded wooden deck. I considered staining and gluing down individual boards but as the deck was in great shape with lots of bolt detail I decided to see what would happen if I painted it. So, I unclipped the plastic deck assembly from the bent steel frame and masked the deck boards area. Then, I sprayed it with flat tan paint. If I didn't like how it turned out, I could always go back and add the individual boards.

But, the transformation was so striking that I decided to leave it. It now looked like wood and would be a good starting point for weathering the molded boards.

I applied several diluted acrylic paint washes onto random boards on the deck. I wasn't going for perfection, and since the finished model won't be super-realistic anyway I was okay with a more generic weathering approach. 

By the end, my paint/water cup was pretty gross looking, which was perfect for a wash on the sides of the car. This reminded my why I hate using water to dillute acrylic paints... if you don't get perfect coverage, you get splotches. And, you need to use distelled water or risk white mineral deposits showing up. I much prefer oil paint washes but was too lazy to set them up. I finished up with some orangy rust drybrushed on the edges, and some light gray drybrushed on the deck boards. I was happy with the results. 

The frame and chassis were also drybrushed with acrylic paints to weather them. The wheels were treated with rusty brown colors, as were the couplers. The underside focused more on dirt colors even though it really isn't visibile under most conditions. Some dustying of brighter orange highlights accentuated the raised details. 

I didn't want to glue the Wienermobile on in case Harrison wanted to play with it. But, I also couldn't have it falling off. So, I needed some wooden chocks on the deck (no chains as they would be too permanent). I pulled out some square stripwood from my inventory and cut and stained it with my alcohol ink solutions. I focused mainly on brown washes to compliment the colors of the deck. 

Four large pieces of wood run parallel to the sides and are installed directly inside of the wheels. They prevent the Wienermobile from shifting side to side... and falling off the flatcar! Because they served an an important purpose I used oversize wood. Besides, at the end of the day this is going to be a toy and not a scale model. Once thing I noticed after they were glued down is that the rear wheels are spaced differently on the axles than the front wheels. So, I had to shim out the blocks on the rear axle. Then, small angluar bits were cut using my miniature miter box and glued on. On Father's Day morning, I finished the project.

Finally, it was ready to hit the road. Even though the bank itself is really light the overall model is a little top heavy, and running through tight 0-27 curves at speed would likely lead to a disaster. Thankfully, sourcing another Wienermobile would not be tough if this one were to get damaged.

Now, to celebrate with some gummy hot dogs...

Saturday, June 17, 2023

A Tribute to Bob Hamm, M.M.R.

My friend and mentor, Master Model Railroader Robert "Bob" Hamm, recently announced that later this year he will be moving to Florida. As a result, his magnificent HOn3 layout will need to come down. His layout, known as the "Iron Gorge Subdivision", was featured in the September 2017 issue of Model Railroader magazine. A track plan of the layout as it existed then can be found here. It has resided in his current house since 2000, though portions of it were built before then. Sadly, he was this close to finishing it.

He invited people to view his layout for one last time and so sadly I went to record it with my camera. My apologies that some of the pictures took on an orange hue. 

Bob has been a modeler and member of the NMRA for about fifty years, and has served it faithfully. He was a chairman of the Northeastern Region (NER) convention in 1997 and co-chaired it again in 2001. He served as a leader in every position in the Hudson Berkshire Division and for eight years on the Board of Directors of the NER. For eight years he was the on the NER Board, and was the NER contest chairman for twelve years. In 2007, he took over as the National Contest Chair and held that post for eleven years. He has qualified for 10 different MMR certificates and earned his MMR in 2003. 

He is, unequivocally, the finest modeler I have ever met. It was for this reason that I wanted him to judge my structures and rolling stock for my MMR certificates. If they passed his judgment, they must have been okay.

He is a retired mechanical engineer with a resume that includes research and developement for the space shuttle's main engine, work on a north sea oil platform, and twenty years riding nuclear submarines conducting research projects (no, he doesn't glow in the dark).

I first really got to know Bob in the fall of 2018 when he graciously offered to host interested modelers at his house to work on projects for our Master Model Railroader certificates. I remember getting hopelessly lost on the way up for the first night, and then being totally amazed at his HOn3 layout upon entering the basement for the first time. And his workbench alone was awesome? No wonder he could create such wonderful models. This was his "tool" bench. He actually builds his models in a comfortable office connected to this. 

And on the other side of the aisle? More flat workbench space. Wow.

Out of the group of 6-8 people who took him up on his offer I was the only one working on rolling stock, a D&H bobber caboose which later became my first piece of rolling stock to earn a merit award. Bob gave me lots of insight into what I should and should not be doing to not only maximize judging points (my immediate goal) but also improve my modeling skills as a whole (my long term goal). Through inspiration and/or fear he taught me how to strive for my absolute best, whether it was scratchbuilding windows instead of using castings; cutting and applying 3,618 individual cedar shingles on a roof; adding interior and exterior details to structures that most people would never even notice; or researching prototype pictures to justify decisions instead of just guessing. 

When my models didn’t live up to the requirements necessary for a Merit award he would kindly point out areas to improve on. And we had a lot of laughs too, such as when I randomly picked a Sinclair gas station to model and it turns out his father used to own one! Yeah, that model received a lot of scrutiny during judging.  

A modeler must certify when they submit their MMR paperwork that they will agree to assist other members in this subject whenever possible. Bob certainly met that requirement, and for his help I am tremendously thankful. He may be an excellent modeler, but he is also a fantastic teacher. His legacy will live on in. And, my last structure which was a wooden engine house protects a steam engine lettered for the Hamm Surman Lumber Company in his honor. 

The below picture is the exterior wall of a bathroom in his basement. He decorated it to look like a station house!

This winter I decided to start a new column in the Hudson Berkshire Division's Form 19 newsletter called "Derailed" where members could share anecdotes of failed modeling projects. I asked all of the readers to submit stories but specifically quipped (only partially joking) that Bob probably had never made a mistake in his life and wouldn't have anything to share. He thought it was funny...

And then, when I recently visited him, he presented me with the model below. It looks like a nice passenger car, and it is... it earned him a merit award in 1972. When I asked why he was giving it to me he confided that it contained a mistake. When he explained what it was I could only roll my eyes... it was something no one would consider a "mistake" except him. But now it is a secret that we both share, and I will treasure the model.

I will truly miss him, but his layout will live on through my own models. He was the best teacher I could have asked for.

His crew lounge was filled with Colorado narrow gauge artifacts including real railroad china, track spikes, and metal pieces from bridges.

His workshop was filled with piles of immaculately built structures that had no where to go. He is definitely a builder more than an operator.