The new layout (Part III) and an announcement concerning the site

In this post, I will do “an around the horn” discussion of the proposed customers along the line, starting east and working our way southwest to the end of the SP-DRGW line.

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Hernandez and Sons Beverage Distributors

The customer to be behind the ATSF box car is Hernandez and Sons Beverage Distributors.  It is the region’s Budweiser distributor. Beer cars bearing SP, UP, MP, WP and ATSF reporting marks will arrive full of “Suds.”  Business is usually a couple of loads a weeks, except for the holidays.  Last Christmas, there were five cars at once in town for this shipper.   In fact, a couple of boxcars were unloaded off the grain elevator track directly onto trucks for delivery.  You might say the boxcars served as a warehouse addendum for a few days.

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Mountain West Transload

Continuing down the line further into town, we see Mountain West Transload (where the two dirty UP boxcars are spotted).  Business is often boom or bust with MWT.  You may see strings of reefers loading onions or potatoes for a couple of 2 or 3 weeks, and then see very little traffic for a month of two.  Bagged beans and scrap paper are often loaded in boxcars as well.  MWT is toying with transloading corn syrup and cooking oil for a couple of factories in the valley, so tank cars may appear in the future to help provide more regular traffic.

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Carrizo Valley Co-op

Across from MWT sits the Carrizo Valley Co-op.  It is a full service co-op, but the primary traffic is wheat loading.  During the wheat season, six car strings typical load a few dozen times.  The 2 to 3 times a week service from SP-DRGW can become almost daily for a brief stretch.   Aside from wheat loading, the Co-op can receive other loads from time to time–box cars and covered hoppers of feed, off and on, the Co-op will handle molasses for cattle feed and an occasional box car of ranch supplies such as barbed wire or building supplies, etc.  Last year during a quiet time at the co-op, the county highway department used the track to off load a few covered hoppers of highway salt.

Here on, the next couple of customers are on the SP-DRGW, but actually serviced by the Pinedale and Limpia Creek.  The P&LC runs 25 miles up into the foothills into the Carrizo National Forest to service a medium-sized sawmill and a few other infrequent shippers including a scrap dealer, feedmill and a mining supply in Jimenez.  Occasional loads of acid and feed come in and scrap metal out.  However, 95 percent of the freight is outbound lumber and wood chips.

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Consolidated Perlite

Here just outside town, sits Consolidated Perlite. Except in the dead of winter, Consolidated Perlite will load anywhere from 3 to 8 cars a week.  It is a good reliable customer.  I will be kitbashing Walthers’ Cornerstone Diamond Coal Corporation to construct the loading and processing facility.

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Jimmy’s Scoria loading facility

Further towards the southwest sits the scoria loading area.  A couple of mines truck their production to this loading site.  Jimmy has a contract with both of them to load here.  As long as the weather cooperates, Jimmy is good for 2 to 4 loads a week.

At the end of the SP-DRGW line, we see the P&LC train coming into town.  The train will service Consolidated Perlite and Jimmy’s Scoria before setting out the interchange with the SP-DRGW.

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Pinedale and Limpia Creek train coming onto the SP-DRGW main.

All the names I have used are just working names.  The actual business, etc., may change names as the layout progresses.  I will see how they wear over time.

Well all that’s left is to do is — all this stuff — wire the layout, build the buildings, weather the locomotives and cars, construct the scenery, etc, etc.  Looks like you won’t be seeing many posts from me for awhile.  I have a layout to finish!

I will try to provide an occasional post.  I have been doing this site about a year, so it is time to slow down anyway–work on the layout, write my book, go hiking and do all the other things I must and want to do!  I hope you have enjoyed the site.  I am not going away, just slowing down.  Happy trails from Rails West!

The new layout (Part II)

Last week, I shared the new track plan.  Click here to see the track plan.

Over the next couple of posts, I will share the new track plan.  As you may have noticed, I am painfully deliberate in layout construction.  There are at least two reasons for that–

(1) I don’t like wiring, and I want to make sure the layout is fun, practical and interesting to operate before I drill any holes, solder any wire.

(2) I have a thousand other interests–family, spiritual life, exercise, blogging, reading (reading a great book on Ethiopia right now), hiking, golf, watching baseball and football, work and writing on my novel (expected publishing date in 2015) .

That all said (or written), here is the layout with the proposed track plan in place.  It is not wired and please forgive the un-weathered rolling stock.  Only the cars from a previous layout are weathered.  Though the layout is targeting operations on the DRGW-SP (a couple of years after the UP takeover) around 1998, cabooses will be used from time-to-time.  I am a sucker for cabooses!  Home road cars will feature cars from the SP and DRGW as well as the UP and associated railroads–MP, WP, CNW and MKT.

The first post will give the big picture.  The second post will further discuss the industries and operation.IMG_0919

Here is a view of the layout looking southwest towards the principal town (yet to be named).  The layout features a pretty generous, fold-out staging track so the main train can completely get “off stage.”

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Far to the left almost out of sight, is the main train getting ready to enter the principal town.

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The train is coming “on-stage.”  It is kind of a short one today, especially with the wheat elevator running low and not needing a cut of cars today.  It is getting towards the end of wheat season, but another cut or two of covered hoppers will likely be delivered before the season is done.  A couple of weeks ago, the tracks all over town were filled with covered hoppers.  Once the wheat season is over, only occasional shipments of feed or fertilizer will come in in bags (boxcars) or covered hoppers..

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The train arrives in town.  The switching will soon begin after the crew takes lunch at Garcia’s cafe.

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Continuing to the southwest, on the outskirts of town, we can now see the perlite loading facility. (There are two covered hoppers spotted there.) It is normally good for two or three covered hoppers.

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Looking to the end of the layout to the southwest, we see the scoria loading site and in the distance, the short line is coming on-stage.  The scoria shipper typically loads the black variety of scoria.  The short line mostly serves a sawmill that is up in the foothills.

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The short line coming on-stage–it ships a lot of lumber and woodchips.  The track in the foreground is the end of the SP-DRGW mainline.  It did go miles more to the the southwest, but service was cutback to the present location in the 1960s.

The next post will discuss the proposed industries and provide more details on the operations.

Selecting an era to model…

It is funny how fundamental this decision is, yet not a great deal is written about it.  For some of us, it tortures us to select just the right locale, era or railroad to model.  For others, it seems to come easy (I kind of envy or perhaps even almost hate those people, just kidding).  Why should it be so easy for them and so hard for others (including me)?

CB&Q 902 in Denver, CO, October 1970.  Photo by Hol Wagner.

CB&Q 902 in Denver, CO, October 1970. Photo by Hol Wagner.

I have had many scenarios during my modelling career.  Here is a highly simplified summary of my torturous history–

Mid-1970s — CB&Q in the 1970s (Midwest)

Late-1970s to early 1980s — BN in the 1980s (Pacific Northwest)

BN 2087 Mar 20 1977 Stockton CA.  Photo by Jim Gavin.

BN 2087 Mar 20 1977 Stockton CA. Photo by Jim Gavin.

Took a break — College, women and career

Mid-1990 to early 2000s — SAL, L&N and ACL in the early 1960s (Southeast)

Early-2000s to mid-2000s — MILW, Rock and CNW in Midwest in the 1980s

Mid-2000s to late 2000s — BN, SP and WP in 1978

Late-2000s to early 2010s — CSX in Florida (modern, Lance Mindheim almost hooked me, click here to see how.)

CSX 1143 Defuniak Springs FL front Dec 27 2011

CSX 1143 Defuniak Springs FL front Dec 27 2011. Photo by Glenn Laux.

2011-2012 — CSX, NS in Midwest (modern)

2013-2014 — ATSF in New Mexico in early 1990s, UP modern

ATSF GP30 near Roswell 1993.  Photo by C. Hunt

ATSF GP30 near Roswell 1993. Photo by C. Hunt

2014-present — DRGW-SP in Southwest (right after UP merger, late 1990s), UP modern

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DRGW-SP era in southwestern Colorado, 1999. Photo by Roland Levin. See his great website –http://hem.bredband.net/drgw/antonito_pictures.htm

That is really kind of a “train wreck” because I collected equipment for all of these periods.  There is really a financial impact and almost emotional impact for jumping around so much, particularly in this era of hyper-limited runs.  Thank goodness for ebay!   Through ebay, I estimate that I have been able to cut my losses by about 70%.

Here’s a point of sharing my lack of focus, you are better off settling into a period and primary set of railroads as soon as you can.  It is a lot easier on the wallet and saves you some of the anguish of collecting then selling so much!  We often assume that once something is run, It will never be run again.  That is often not true.

As late as September 2014, I was focused on the ATSF in New Mexico around 1990.  I designed and built a track plan around the concept.  It quickly became apparent that the layout was going to be limited and difficult to operate.  I started to redesign it, but then I anguished over letting go of Roswell as I did.  As I began to gently let go of Roswell, Athearn Genesis came out with DRGW GP-40-2s.

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Here is the troublemaker. Athearn’s release of this locomotive, partially caused me to re-evaluate my ATSF in Roswell concept.

As soon as I saw them, I had an epiphany–I always wanted to model the DRGW, why wasn’t I doing it?!  As I started considering it, I also started to think how neat it would be to model the DRGW-SP era.  I grew up with the SP kind of in my backyard in Texas and felt an emotional attachment to the SP.  I thought if I model right after the UP merger, I could feature UP, MP, DRGW, SP, SSW, WP and CNW (all railroads of interest to me) all as “home road” reporting marks.  This concept really caught hold with me, and I am committed to it (for now).  I have re-designed the layout in a much more free-lance manner that offers less complicated, but richer operating scenarios including a shortline inspired by the Union Railroad of Oregon.  (Click here for a nice link on the Union Railroad of Oregon.)

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon.  Note tiny locomotive on train.  This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design.  Photo by Dan Schwanz

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon. Note tiny locomotive on train. This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design. Photo by Dan Schwanz

I hope it sticks.  Here’s why–

1 — It is rich with having both DRGW and SP motive power and an occasional caboose.

2 — Home road cars of UP, MP, WP, SP, SSW, CNW and CNW.  All favorites–just need some ATSF thrown in.

3 — The track plan holds great promise and having a shortline could offer a variety of operations as well as mini-operating sessions when desired.

4 — I am very tired of re-configuring my rosters!!!

5 — It operates in the part of the country that I love and is beautiful.

Time will tell.

I also seriously considered backdating to the WP (early-1980s) but decided against going that far back.  I love the WP, but it is a bit limited compared to the versatility of the above scenario, plus I can run some WP rolling stock as a home road reporting mark.

I hope my sharing my difficulties in settling on an era, may help you navigate this tricky issue that we often may not fully appreciate.  We may let ourselves just drift along being knocked off course whenever a bright and shiny new product is offered.  (Take me for instance.)  Try not to go there if you can avoid it!  It is ultimately exhausting and can derail your dreams of having an operational layout.

Perlite, Scoria and Scenery in the closing days of the Rio Grande

I am a big fan of the Denver, Rio Grande and Western.  Unfortunately, the DRGW began to disappear in the 1990s as the effects of its 1986 merger with the Southern Pacific influence grew, but it really began to disappear in the early 2000s as the effects of its 1996 merger with the Union Pacific really took hold.  One of many segments of the Rio Grande that was interesting and scenic was the Alamosa Subdivision.  This post is going to focus on operations around Antonito, Colorado.

1984

The first segment will focus on when B. Smith visited the line in July of 1984.  It was pure DRGW then.

Perlite loads near Antonito being switched by local train in July 1984. --©photo by B. Smith

Perlite loads near Antonito being switched by local train in July 1984. –©photo by B. Smith

Local at Antonito.  Engine (GP-40) has run around its train after arriving from Alamosa.--

Local at Antonito. Engine #3086 (GP-40) has run around its train after arriving from Alamosa. –©photo by B. Smith

Covered hopper of perlite in the consist.  What a great paint scheme!

Covered hopper of perlite in the consist. What a great paint scheme! –©photo by B. Smith

Local at Antonito about to return to Alamosa with train of perlite loads.

Local at Antonito about to return to Alamosa with train of perlite loads.  –©photo by B. Smith

2003

In 2003, James Griffin documented the action in the closing days of action that reflected the DRGW heritage of the line.  His website does a great job of capturing that day in 2003 and I encourage you to check it out.

Griffin captured a photo of this DRGW perlite car sitting in Alamosa as he waited for the train coming down from Pueblo, CO. March 7, 2003.--©photo by James Griffin.

Griffin captured a photo of this DRGW perlite car sitting in Alamosa as he waited for the train coming down from Pueblo, CO. March 7, 2003.–©photo by James Griffin.

train makes it way to Alamosa, east of Fort Garland, CO.

Train makes it way to Alamosa, east of Fort Garland, CO. –©photo by James Griffin.

Near Trinchera Ranch Road, CO

Stunning scenery near Trinchera Ranch Road, CO. –©photo by James Griffin.

Scoria loading into open hoppers south of Antonito.--©photo by James Griffin.

Scoria loading into open hoppers south of Antonito.  Locally mined scoria was added to the traffic mix after B. Smith’s visit in 1984.  Scoria is volcanic rock primarily used for landscaping.–©photo by James Griffin.

Leaving the nearby perlite plant--©photo by James Griffin.

Leaving the nearby perlite plant which sits a little south of the scoria loading site.–©photo by James Griffin.

This is only a small sample of the great photos James Griffin offers on his site.

Today

Today the line is now operated by the San Luis & Rio Grande which interchanges with UP at Walsenburg, CO.  The spirit of the Rio grande lives on in the paint scheme of the SL&RG and the occasional DRGW car that makes an appearance.

San Luis and Rio Grande unit #116  in Walsenburg, CO April 4, 2014

San Luis and Rio Grande unit #116 in Walsenburg, CO April 4, 2014 — photo by Paul Leach

Modeler’s note:  The DRGW offers interesting modelling possibilities during almost any of its eras.  The 1996 to early-2000s window particularly intrigues me because of the potential to run mostly DRGW and SP motive power with the cars of the DRGW, SP, SSW (Cotton Belt), UP, Chicago and Northwestern, Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific all home road cars.

Simple pleasure of watching a grain train go by and playing detective…

Happy New Year to all!

In the last few days, a friend of mine caught a number of grain trains in Kansas and Nebraska.  He shared these great pictures.  Follow along as we “sleuth out” the original owners of these covered hoppers.  (All of these photos were taken by R. Houtwed.)

Now Northwestern Oklahoma RR, but was originally marked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.

Now Northwestern Oklahoma RR, but was originally marked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.

Former Rock Island.  The Rock went bankrupt in 1980, but hear is a clear reminder of a once great railroad.

Former Rock Island. The Rock went bankrupt in 1980, but here is a clear reminder of a once great railroad.

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Formerly owned by “Growth Nonstock Co-op.” Feels like something is missing!

Formerly owned by the Bunge Corporation.

Formerly owned by the Bunge Corporation.

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Former Union Equity. These were originally very attractive bold yellow cars with Emerald green writing.

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Formerly Ralston Jefferson. Tangent recently did a nice HO-scale replica of these cars.

Very nice specimen of a former Far-Post Elevator hopper.

Very nice specimen of a former Far-Post Coop hopper.

One of my favorites, a former Denver and Rio Grande Western RR covered hopper with "ghost" writing.

One of my favorites, a former Denver and Rio Grande Western RR covered hopper with “ghost” writing.

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Former Farmers Marketing Association car.

Lastly, a mystery car…

Can you tell us who the original owner of these car was?

Can you tell us who the original owner of this car was?

The next time you see a grain train pass, see if you can identify the original owner of the patched cars.

Have a great 2015!

Perhaps the finest locomotive paint scheme ever devised?

The first use of railroads in the United States, may have preceded the United States.  Some contend the first railroad in what would become the United States was in 1762 when British military engineers constructed a gravity railroad at the Niagara Portage in Lewiston, NY.  Beginning in the early 1800s, rail became an important part of the transportation scene in America.  Over the years, many methods have been used to create corporate identities.  Since the mid-1950s, railroads have commonly deployed colorful paint schemes on locomotives and rolling stock to foster a brand.

ATSF 2349 in San Bernardino CA on February 14, 1987.  ©photo by Greg Sommers. http://www.locophotos.com/PhotoDetails.php?PhotoID=132150

ATSF 2349 in San Bernardino CA on February 14, 1987. ©photo by Greg Sommers. http://www.locophotos.com/PhotoDetails.php?PhotoID=132150

There have been many classic, attractive schemes employed, such as Santa Fe’s warbonnets (both red and silver and blue and yellow) and Union Pacific’s.

UPY 719 in Rochelle IL July 11 2006. ©photo by Collin Reinhart. Courtesy of RR picture Archives --http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=441139

UPY 719 in Rochelle IL July 11 2006. ©photo by Collin Reinhart. Courtesy of RR picture Archives –http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=441139

The competition is tight, but perhaps my favorite all-time locomotive paint scheme was the one used by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad beginning about 1969.  The DRGW must have liked it too–it was the principal scheme from 1969 to the date it merged into the Union Pacific in 1996, by way of its merger with the Southern Pacific in 1988.  As a result, it was the principal paint scheme for almost 30 years.

Rio Grande 3096 Backman's Crossing,Provo,UT Early Spring 1994. --photo by Quinn Clegg.

Rio Grande 3096 at Backman’s Crossing near Provo,UT in Early Spring 1994. –photo by Quinn Clegg.

Back in the early to mid 1990’s well into the SP era, it was still possible to catch pure sets of Rio Grande power on Southern Pacific trains.  The DRGW continued to use this scheme pretty much throughout the SP era.

DRGW 3095 at Desert, UT on Apr 1 1988. ©photo by Mike Woodruff courtesy of RR Picture Archives.

DRGW 3095 at Desert, UT on Apr 1 1988. ©photo by Mike Woodruff courtesy of RR Picture Archives.

What a great scheme.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that the DRGW operated in some of the most beautiful parts of the United States.

Here the scheme was applied to a GP-30.  Rio Grande train north of Provo,UT in 1994.  --photo by Quinn Clegg

Here the scheme was applied to a GP-30. Rio Grande train north of Provo, UT in 1994. –photo by Quinn Clegg

I really like the above picture.  In a sense, Quinn Clegg has captured the essence of the DRGW–attractive trains passing through often lonely but beautiful scenery.

The DRGW also had great schemes applied to their rolling stock, but that may be the subject of a future post.