A safety reminder since the oilfield is hopping on the LCN RR

By B. Smith


Sand, mud and chemical traffic is booming on the LCN RR. West Texas Oil Field Fluids is to the right where the tank cars are spotted.

The 1990 oil boom is creating a lot of traffic on the LCN RR.  Rumors are the FRA may visit any day now, and with a regional chemical supply dealer taking over the local dealer in Pecos, the LCN’s Operations Manager felt it was a good time to refresh the LCN train crew’s awareness of handling placarded hazardous material shipments in a train.  West Texas Oil Field Fluids has indicated that it will be receiving numerous sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid tank car loads in the coming months spurred on by the increased drilling activity in the Pecos area.

So let’s assume a car load of hydrochloric acid has just been delivered to the LCN interchange track and West Texas Oil Field Fluids wants that car ASAP.  The LCN railroad wants to keep on good terms with their new customer so it dispatches an engine and a crew to deliver that car.
We see the train departing for Pecos.

unnamedThe crew was on the ball and picked up five empty LCN hoppers to serve as buffer cars (sometimes called spacer or cover cars) to place between the engine and the hazmat car.  But this run often includes an occupied caboose.unnamed-1Putting the caboose on the end would violate FRA rules as the caboose needs it own buffer cars.  If they were no additional buffer cars available, the tank car would have needed to be placed in the middle of the train to protect both the engine and the caboose.  A business car on the end of the train is treated as a caboose.unnamed-2Now if the crew of our train picked up a flat cat loaded with steel beams and placed it next to the placarded tank car, the FRA would get ready to issue the LCN a fine.  Putting the flat car ahead of one of the empty hoppers would work, as long as the flat car is not next to the engine where its shifting load could endanger the crew in the event of an accident.unnamed-3Now placing a reefer with an operating temperature control unit or internal combustion engine will bring out the FRA’s fine book too.  The train crew needs to separate the tank car and the reefer with one of the empty hoppers.unnamed-4An open top car (including bulkhead flats) when any of the contents protrude beyond the car ends are not to be placed next to a placarded car, or engine, or occupied caboose/business car.

These are some things to be aware of if your railroad handles placarded cars.  Make sure your crews are aware of the regulations.
(Editor’s note: Knowing the rules can make a small to medium layout more entertaining.  It is not always as simple as just stringing a train together and moving out.)

My Gurus


A frequent contributor to Rails West, B. Smith’s LCN RR.

We all have been influenced by others at some point in our pursuit of model railroading. This post focusses on the folks who have profoundly influenced and inspired me.  You may know some of them, others may be new to you.

gil-freitag  I have to start out with the original influence–Gil Freitag.  As a fourth grader, my trips down the street to see Gil’s Stoney Creek & Western layout were just about all a 11-year old boy could handle.  Gil was very generous with me and let me borrow a lot of resources to help me learn all about the hobby.  I seriously doubt I’d be in the hobby today if it weren’t for my neighbor Gil.  He lived about 6 houses down the street from me in Houston, TX.  Click here for youtube of his layout


Gil Freitag’s masterpiece, the Stoney Creek & Western.

hpim0690  Next up is B. Smith, proprietor of the LCN RR.  He is a retired railroader among many other great pursuits.  He too has been very patient and nurturing as I have grown in the hobby.  He taught me a great deal about prototypical operations and how to make your layout function in a realistic manner.  He taught me how slow, realistic operations can really be rewarding–think about setting the brake, how the brakeman is going to get back in the cab, closing derails, etc.


One of the lonely stretches on B. Smith’s LCN RR.

B. Smith also exposed me to the virtues of isolated, generally peaceful and slow western operations.  There is something really special about railroading in the isolated West.  His work is featured often on this site.

61wslltik6l-_ux250_ Next up is Lance Mindheim.  Lance has inspired me to embrace right-sized layouts and also appreciate slow, realistic operations.  He is certainly among the very top modelers today, particularly in terms of creative approaches, blazing new paths, discovering compelling prototypes to model and realistic scenery.  For more on his outstanding work, click here. (His Los Angeles Junction Railway layout is featured above in cover photo.)


One of Lance’s previous layouts, East Rail.  –©photo by Lance Mindheim

01-weathering-confalone-intro-thumb Lastly, in terms of my gurus, is Mike Confalone.  Unlike the other three gentlemen featured above, I have never met Mike.  Nevertheless, I have drawn inspiration from him and find his work extremely impressive.  His Allagash Railway is amazing.  Click here to see more.


The Allagash Railway–©photo Mike Confalone.


The Allagash Railway–©photo Mike Confalone. The weathering is just superb.

These four people have had the most impact on my work.  The hobby is so lucky to have these guys.


There are many other folks whose work I find very compelling and would definitely belong on the “All-Star” team.  Here are just a few–

Filename: MRR-FE1113_02.psd Pelle Søeborg is one of the top modelers in the world today.  His depiction of modern western railroader is top notch.


Pelle’s layout–©photo Pelle Søeborg. A modern masterpiece.

maxresdefault Gary Christensen is truly a rockstar.  His weathering and diorama compositions are breathtaking.  For more of his work click here.


Breathtaking. Gary’s work is the best.–©photo Gary Christensen


img_4038_mrh Jimmy Simmons is a master model maker.  His Monster Model Works produces some of the finest models for layouts available today.  They build out very well and are not fussy like some wooden kits.  I have a few of his kits on the layout.  Click here for his site.


Jimmy’s work is spot on.–©photo Jimmy Simmons.


Jimmy is quite the modeler himself as well as a great producer of models.–©photo Jimmy Simmons.


One of Jimmy’s kits on my Rails West layout.

20244985620_a3b893bb39_b Butch Eyler is another weathering master.  I have had the pleasure of meeting Butch and watching him work at the Mid-Atlantic RPM each year. (The meet has been cancelled in 2017, but will likely be back in 2018.  Thanks to Norman Wolf, who is quite a modeler himself, it is a great meet each year.  Click here to see his operation.)


Butch is another master weatherer. –©photo Butch Eyler.


The rust is perfect! –©photo Butch Eyler.

His work looks just as good up close.

gsrpm-1 Ralph DeBlasi does great work modeling the Lehigh Valley.  His layout is beautiful and features an awesome fleet of Lehigh Valley locomotives.  I have seen Ralph’s work up close also at the Mid-Atlantic RPM.


Ralph is passionate about the Lehigh Valley and it shows!


His fleet of Lehigh Valley diesels are beaitiful.

I could go on and on, but I’ll share just one more…

“Mountain Goat” Greg has a nice website on his Northwest-themed modules.  He does some of the nicest interiors of any modelers I’ve seen.  Below is a rework of a Monster Model Works kits.  The results are very nice.  Click here to visit his site.


Mountain Goat Greg is an excellent builder of structures.


A master interior!

Again, there are many others, but these are the ones that come to mind right now.

Enjoy the links to these fine artists.  They are doing amazing work enriching our hobby and providing inspiration.  My thanks to all of them!