Sunday, March 31, 2019

Un-Doing the Re-Doing of the Re-Do of The Branch...

So, because at least now that I know what I'm doing with the tracks in my West Yard, but also am fixated on attacking my New Jersey Turnpike bridge "problem"/backdrop treatment (please visit my FB group for info on that), I ALSO decided to revisit my previously re-built Edgewater Branch - 

Ya see, I recently bought and read the thought-provoking book by Lance Mindheim, titled "Model Railroading As Art" (which is available from Amazon by clicking on the title), and realized that, among the MANY "design principles" he puts forth, that I didn't have enough of what he calls "negative space". I knew that upon my rebuild of the branch, that I OVER did things - I added WAY too much track that didn't exist, not because I needed to, but because "I could", and because it "looked cool"..... This was a simple branch, built alongside the Morris Canal, as evidenced here - 

And I really wanted to keep that scenic element in place, even though by the 1950's, the ditch that was the canal, was long gone. But ever since the very first version of this layout in my parent's house in the 1990's, I wanted to have a bit of an abandoned canal prism (I have a slight Morris Canal obsession, unrelated to the railroad), and with all this track, there was no room whatsoever to model that. But in reality, it was just way too much track to have! I had installed three passing sidings, and they weren't separated by a few cars lengths, mind you, but by no more than one turnout each! Not only would a real railroad probably not do that (it would have been double tracked with maybe a crossover mid way to divide the long siding instead), but it just wasn't like that in the real world, EVER! (and I have the Val Map of the branch to prove it!). Henceforth, the need for "negative space"....

So, today, instead of finishing other track projects that I've already started, I ripped up my branch and "de-industrialized" it -

Well, in actuality, I didn't loose any industries, I just "rationalized" the physical plant to not only be less cluttered, but simple and rather forlorn, just like the real thing probably was by the 1950's. Now, if the local has need of running around cars, it has to do it in the yard before it runs down the branch, or go all the way to the end of the branch to run around its cars. Crews will need to plan things out, rather than just grab everything at one time and go and have the luxury of a mid-branch runaround. I think it's much more realistic, and it certainly more realistic to essence of the real branch, which didn't have nearly as many industries on it in 1950 as I decided to model it (three of the six currently on the branch). One last thing I DID add that I thought would be helpful (and to be honest, it was an attempt to get another industry in), was to add what is essentially a switching lead/team track/"for later" track - 

It's that left hand stub track seen in the distance above, just past the pole,and adjacent to the Monmouth St Team Track "module".

In the above company map, said track is labeled "West End Coal Yard" and appears to be double-ended siding (which is why I did what I did to begin with), but like I said, it was just TOO MUCH TRACK after everything was said and done! I estimate this branch to have been about 2-3 miles in length, and seeing as that I have only about 12 feet to play with, allowances had to be made.

In the end, this was all easy to pick up and un-do, as no track feeders have been re-installed yet, and just a few pins to pull out that were holding all the track in place. I suppose that I'll be spending some nights this week in the basement as I find the time, putting it all back together......

So, hopefully I will be able to stay focused and make some more leaps of progress before the bank account stops any further Westbound expansion!

Until next time,


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Not "one and done" by a long shot.....

I have been busy posting updates elsewhere, and by "elsewhere" I mean my Facebook page, so if you're a "Facebook'er", please "click and join", as I tend to post material that I don't post here, especially when I'm looking for some "immediate community consensus" on something. I recently asked for some public opinion related to my last post here about the West Yard track layout, and it generated some helpful content, so please stop by and request to join (please mention you saw this post, and I'll add you ASAP) as it is a private group. If I'm working on something "in the moment", I tend to post there first.....

Anyway, I'll make this update fast and furious, unlike all my other updates tend to be......I have slowed down on progress a little since St. Patrick's Day, other than to buy the new foam insulation board for the redone fiddle staging yard -

It went from this - 

To This - 

So instead of being a Frankenstein of four different pieces and now, only one level instead of two, it's a matter of rebuilding the "Main Line" into staging which means buying more turnouts, and that ISN'T in the budget right now, not to mention that's a blog update in and of itself......

Bottom line, it's approximately 10 feet long, 7 tracks wide, and if my rough measurements are right, about 10 cars per track capacity. While I plan on doubling a train while building or receiving a train (each Main Line track, and the National Docks Branch has a pair of staging tracks allotted to it) I never planned on running 20 car transfers into, and off of, the layout, though maybe once the new ops plan is in place (yes Dave Abeles, that means getting Jack "O.C." Trabachino down here!), we may be running bigger transfers. I still have some details to rough out (engine escape turnouts at the end of each track, engine storage tracks off one track), but we'll get to that in due time.....

Right now, I have other fish to fry in the previous "work locations" on the layout that need fine tuning, and also re-wiring (BORING!!!). But we'll get there, and I'll make sure everyone is along for the ride.

So yeah, that's it (for now)! 

See you soon!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Rumors of this Blog have been greatly exaggerated

As promised (OK, maybe only to my friend Eric Hansmann), here is my first blog post in two years, three months!

Why so long you ask? Well, mostly because of "life stuff". But, since about January, I've been gandy dancing all over the basement!

Ya gotta be careful with that Micro Engineering track....

So what was so special about January? Nothing really, but I did get the urge again to get the railroad running towards the end of last year, and I also really wanted by friends Chris Barany, John Zelehoski, Doug Burrell  and Dave Abeles (yes, THAT Dave Abeles of Onondaga Cutoff fame  - - to come over and see the layout. The problem? It hadn't seen an op session since 2013, AND the basement was a wreck!

 Not an actual photo, but not far from the truth, either

Coupled with that recent epiphany to see the layout through and not go for a total rebuild, I took stock of the situation to rebuild some trackage that had been bugging me for years, and go forth with a ton of improvements. I'm not going to get into all the key points in this 
"return to blogging" entry (I've been using Facebook to keep my friends updated - 
Look for the layout on FB under - Ralph Heiss' Lehigh Valley Terminal Railway
Of course, that’s assuming that you're a Facebook'er, but I am going to probably “dueling posts” different from each other, so…... 

So in the month since the guys were over, I have been rebuilding most of the key points of the layout, things that have bugged me for months, if not YEARS! Literally NOTHING has escaped the track crew, be it the Washington St. Yard throat, the CNJ's Jersey Ave Branch, or the LV's Edgewater Branch! So in today's post, I have come seeking your thoughts, suggestions, comments and whatnot......I have worked by way around the layout and the small (but very important) Grand Street/West Yard, and am looking at several possibilities to redesign access to the yard. I will say that I have departed from strict prototype track arrangements and instead am going with "what works best with model railroad operations" plan, and I'll try to impart those differences first by using some visual aids. 
First, the prototype, from a hand drawn map issued by the railroad -

Not exactly finely drawn, but it WAS part of a circa 1960's vintage Company-issued document, so I say i can be considered canon. The spatial representations of things is what is wrong with the drawing, not so much any actual tracks or buildings, which are accurately represented. The view looks compass north (main yard is to the lower right to the right, horizontal to the Hudson River), and the large arc of parallel lines to the right of the yard represents the Holland Tunnel extension of the NJ Turnpike, aka my backdrop.

Now, here's a photo from my era dated 1956, showing the West Yard and the new TOFC ramps, and looking in roughly the same direction as the map shown above - 

Too bad the angle wasn't a little higher up so we could see if there was a runaround where those four boxcars to the left are sitting. Honestly, in this era (a post 1954 photo, but probably before 1960) this yard was used for the LV's new TOFC operation, and cars would be backed in from the main, so there really wasn't a need for much flexibility in the trackage. The track running off to the left side and ducking back under the Turnpike bridge in the far distance served the Edgewater Branch and the Grand Street freight station and team tracks, probably still used in the 1950's (but not for much longer). Of course, in the model railroad world, most of our yards and other such distances are horribly foreshortened, and what worked for the railroad may not work out so well in model form. Case in point, my Yard throat is not the same as the prototype, so after the first few shakedowns many eons ago, it was suggested to put another through track across the yard to help expedite movements, so, like a good Terminal Superintendent, that's exactly what I did - 

Not only did I loose a yard track by doing this, but it does kind of 
stick in my craw that it's not 100% prototypically correct, too

There are possibilities I'm exploring, and I'd appreciate you, my faithful readers, for help. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let you see for yourselves.....
First, I'll give you a "photographic tour" of the yard, starting at the Edgewater Branch, looking compass north and railroad east, and then turning around and facing south and west....

So, as you can see in this last photo, the "unprotopypical" through track is the track directly to the right of the gray building, leading to one leg of the wye into the main yard, and to the noth or westbound side of the main float yard at Washington Street, while the wye track with the boxcars on it in the distance leads to the south or east side of the yard. You can see the connecting pair of turnouts between the two legs, which, if I had had the room, would have both come to a point BEFORE the split in the wye legs.The other or west leg of the wye comes in from the upper right out of the shadows. So from right to left, you have your main running track to the Edgewater Branch, a runaround siding, what could be another through track, and/or access across the two diamond crossings into the Grand Street freight station and Monmouth St. team tracks (as seen in the first and second pictures beyond the lolly column), three stub ended yard tracks, the "east through track", and then the two TOFC ramp tracks.

I'm currently suffering from "which way do I go, George?" in regards to the track arrangement, and how to achieve a good level of "correctness" and operating flexibility. I thus present you exhibits A thru D with track just kind of plopped in to represent the possible routes, with each pair looking right/left.

First up, Version "A" get the most flexibility out of the yard, with what amounts to four separate through tracks across the length of the yard, two separate routes to/from the branch, and the ability to run around a cut of cars in three different places.

Version "B" eliminates that foreground curved connecting turnout, but is otherwise the same.

Version "C" is yet another variation of the above, except we now loose one through track and now GAIN a new stub storage track, but otherwise everything is the same.

And finally, Version 'D" is the most "scenically pure" version of the yard. In the first photo, you can see I lifted the mid yard through track, which now gains me back a TOFC ramp track, AND elimination of this track and associated turnout lets be extend a siding to that factory JUST that much more, which is always a good thing. I still keep two routes in/out of the yard (that come back together at the entrance to the branch next to the column), but also now just ONE runaround and that re-acquired yard track from the last version above. Only drawback? I have to buy a new turnout.

In the last photo above, trains can come off the western leg off the wye, and trains can come out of Washington Street on the east leg, and stay on the next track in, which is the runaround track.

So, I said it would be a long post (what entries of mine AREN'T?), but I hope you stuck with me through it all, and I'm REALLY gonna try to keep the updates regular so they stay a manageable length.

As always, thanks, and I hope to hear from any and all of you on this, and it's great to be back!

~ Ralph