Research · Trackwork

The Bumper Stops Here

The freight house siding in St. George needed some sort of bumper stop to prevent errant cars from straying onto Main St. I choose the Hayes Cushion Wheel Stop for this siding and the public delivery track. The Hayes type SF cushion wheel stops (a.k.a scotch blocks) have been around forever (there are patents stretching back to at least the thirties) and are still made by Western-Cullen-Hayes. Lucky for me, Scale City Designs also makes them in a size more suitable to the D&NE. I picked up a few packages from their table at the Strasburg O Scale Swap Meet a few weeks ago.

See Western Safety Products WCH Type SF Wheel Stop

and Scale City Designs Hayes Wheel Stop – O scale 2 rail

Here are some photos I took a few weeks back of Hayes wheel stops at the end of a decrepit spur on the ex-B&M Hillsboro branch in Milford, NH.

And here are mine on the end of the freight house spur. Notice the big face up against the tie. It directs the force of a run away car into the roadbed.

Proto48 · Research · Trackwork

Nailing down the trackwork

It’s high time for me to nail down my approach to trackwork for the D&NE. Having about 12′ of track and 2 turnouts down, it’s not too late to tweak things before moving on to completing the trackwork in the St. George area.

Switch ladder off of track 2 in St. George.
Point area. This one is getting a Blue Point control.
Here are the vintage guard rails.

As you might recall, the D&NE is set in northern Vermont circa 1953 and follows track standards typical of New England shortlines of that period. I’m working primarily from photos of Peterborough, NH taken about this time and field trips along the ex-B&M Hillsboro branch as it sits today. This means primarily 75# rail (code 100), 52# rail (code 83) on some spurs, no tie plates and those shapely guard rails. Also, I’ve noticed that the outside splice bars sit quite proud of the railhead.

The first bit of trackwork in St. George was okay but something was bothering me — it just didn’t look right. The guard rails weren’t the right shape and the tie plates under the frog had to go. Also, I just had to take a stab at fattening up those splice bars. Better now then later with more track down.

Original attempt. Tie plates under the frog area. Guard rails not shaped correctly. Outside splice bars flush with the rail.

As it turns out, my field trips to the Hillsboro branch have yielded lots of old 75# track with no tie plates but all of the turnouts I saw were updated over the last 60 or so years or were new. The first turnouts in St. George were influenced by these but they shouldn’t have been. I went back to the excellent photos in Randy Brown’s Peterborough article in MR Planning 2000 and a few others found on the B&M Railroad Historical Society online archives for a closer look at vintage turnouts.

Dateline: Peterborough, NH, circa 1950. Light 75# rail. No tie plates to be found. None. There is a small flat plate under the point of the frogs. No gauge plates. There are rail braces along the stock rails near the points and at the guard rails. And the guard rails have that pronounced bend (I didn’t get that right at all).

In all of this track work, the outside splice bars sit proud of the rail. The old 75# track on the Hillsboro branch is that way today and I’ve seen it elsewhere. There’s a block of wood around the size of a 2×3 stuffed inside a piece of channel iron behind the outside splice bar. It might have been a poor man’s lock washer. Drawing the splice bars tight against this softer material put some pressure on the nuts and helped keep everything in place. [Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyone know better?] I’m going to try to replicate this effect. It’s very noticeable when looking down the line.

One of those proud splice bars on the Hillsboro branch at Milford, NH.

So, I bit the bullet and removed all of the tie plates, gauge plates, outside splice bars and guard rails from the first stretch of trackwork. I left the points alone – they were fine as is. A simple plate of 0.010 styrene was slipped under the point of the frogs. New guard rails were fashioned that better match those seen in the photos. Replacing the outside splice bars was tedious but it’s done. I backed up the plastic splice bar castings with 0.040″ by 0.040″ styrene to fatten them up.

Now we’re talkin’. The rail and various gubbins are painted with Model Masters Leather followed by oil washes of  burnt sienna, raw sienna and black. Then, Pan Pastels of similar shades were worked in. The freight house switch is operated by a Bull Frog mechanism from Fast Tracks. I’m trying a Blue Point on the lead switch. Both operate well but I hate installing these things under the layout.

Let’s declare victory and move along to the crossover and station tracks.



Ruminations · Scenery

Autumn Scenes

I’m a ways off from any serious scenery effort on the D&NE. Lots of trackwork to finish along with wiring and controls. The crossover in front of the station is next. And the 44 tonner is still in the shop. You know how it goes.

I’ve been thinking, though, about what I’m going to do on the scenery front. Mike Confalone models Northern New England too and his mud season scenery is something to behold! I have been tempted…

But sometimes I get the notion to plant the D&NE in the mid-autumn season. Just look out my front door.

Train Shows

Road Trip – O Scale Swap Meet

My wife and I took a road trip to Strasburg, PA last weekend to attend the thrice yearly O Scale Swap Meet in the Strasburg fire station. And I’m glad I did! Got a chance to see my good friend, Jack Keene, who was up from Maryland.

My shopping bag filled up quickly with a Des Plaines X29 boxcar kit, a passel of freight car detail parts, a set of proto48 trucks courtesy of show runner Rich Yoder and Tony Koester’s new book on transition era modeling. I was looking for a RY Models 70 tonner but none was to be found.


Main room at the Swap Meet. That’s Scale City Designs at the left.


After the show (it ends at 1 PM), we rode the dining car on the Strasburg railroad for a trip to Paradise (PA, that is) behind a steaming 2-10-0 behemoth. There were several great catches in the yard – a CV single sheath boxcar and 2 Rutland double sheath boxcars. I took lots of detail photos as both cars are on my to-build list.

Toward the end of the day we slipped over to the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum. I haven’t been there in some time. Incredible displays including another catch – a Lehigh Valley wrong way door boxcar.

We spent the next two days touring around Pennsylvania before heading for home. A great time was had by all.


Layout Construction · Proto48 · Research · Trackwork

How’d That Turnout?

Overview of the frieght house siding at St. George. Turnouts are nearly complete. Siding is code 83 and drops a little below the main tracks to the right. Sad looking freight house mockup helps set the scene. Detail work on the outside braced CN boxcar is languishing as effort is focused on trackwork.

Rail is going down slowly but surely in St. George starting with the freight house siding and the two turnouts that feed it. I’ve been researching trackwork both in photographs of the period (circa 1953) and in situ on the ex B&M mogul branches here in New Hampshire. My turnouts are a close approximation of those I’ve seen in photos of Peterborough, NH. Although much primitive trackwork exists, turnouts on the Hillsboro branch have been modernized over the last 60-70 years and haven’t been as helpful as I had hoped. I’m still looking for one out Bennington way that is more primitive. A hike is planned out of S. Bennington to the Elmwood Jct. site and beyond to end of track with the hope of bagging an older turnout. My Springer Spaniel Rosie will help suss that out, I’m sure. She has the nose for it.

A photo on page 64 of Model Railroad Planning 2000 is the best photo I have for a turnout of the period. It shows few tie plates, few rail braces, less of everything compared to a modern turnout. I also like the funky guard rails the B&M had at that time — at least out there. I’ve seen them in other photos. The D&NE turnouts are derived from this style.

St. George freight house switch nearly complete. Need rail braces outside the guard rails. They’re on order.

All the turnouts on the D&NE are being built in code 100 (75#) rail. This turnout, the frieght house switch, is nominally #6 but is actually an equilateral of sorts. Both legs are in easements facing opposite directions. The frog needed to be built on the workbench. It has Tichy NBW details.

Tie plates are from Right-O-Way and Grandt Line along with homemade ones in 0.020″ styrene. Rail braces, gauge plates and code 100 insulated joint bars are from Right-O-Way. Code 83 joint bars came from Foothill Model Works.

Beautiful guard rail castings are available too but I like to make my own in the style of the old B&M ones I mentioned. They are made from code 83 rail so that track cleaning won’t scuff off the weathering.

The points are tied together with circuit board ties and pins. I drill a pair of #68 holes in the circuit board ties exactly 0.562″ apart (or as close as I can get!) and then drop the pin through the saddle that is cast on the point. These are soldered to the circuit board cladding from the backside. As my points are wired hot, the copper cladding is cleaned off of the center of the ties, both sides.

The beautiful gauge plate is a brass casting from Right-O-Way. It’s insulated with a styrene spacer. Strictly speaking, in non-signaled territory like this with no track circuits, there is really no need for an insulated gauge plate but why not! As you can see, the slide plates are styrene with Right-O-Way rail braces.

The freight house siding is spiked with tiny stainless steel spikes from Proto:87 Stores. I’m using them primarily on foreground code 83 rail. You need a high power Optivisor for this work! For the code 100 rail, I’m using the small spikes from Fast Tracks. The goal is four spikes per tie but I fudge on background track and track that is behind a structure or buried in grass. The public delivery track was laid in code 100 rail with spikes every fourth tie as it is in the background and will be buried in dirt.

And no tie plates. The prototype didn’t have them, except at turnouts. This saves a lot of fuss.

[One thing I’ve noticed about proto-48 is that it seems a little easier to get the trackwork just right! Why is that? The flanges are so small yet the trucks track beautifully. What does the prototype know that we don’t?]


The point end of the freight house turnout.
A #6 turnout under construction.
The points for the #6 turnout on track 2 under construction. The stock rails are soldered to #6 brass flat head screws to firm them up as they are adjacent to the French River bridge.
Overview of the turnout ladder. Yeah… I’m a messy worker!

I can’t wait to paint and weather this trackwork! Some of the rail was sprayed with ruddy brown primer years ago. I’ll be sure to spray all of the rail ahead of time from now on. The plan is to touch up the rails and details with acrylic paint in rust and umber colors then apply Pan Pastels in various rusty, cruddy shades — all with a brush. Oily black highlights around the point workings along with oil drippings down the center of the track will help complete the picture. The ballast is a little plain and needs cinders and other variations mixed in. All good fun!

Layout Construction · Model Building · Research

Ideas for the French River Bridges

As track laying progresses, I’ve run into the French River. The railway crosses the French River over a pair of low bridge spans smack in the middle of St.George yard. Oddly, this was also the case in Peterborough on the B&M where the yard tracks crossed the Nubanusit River. Unfortunately, I have no low angle photo of the actual spans. If you have a copy of Model Railroad Planning 2000, pages 58-59 show these spans from above in a beautiful Phillip R. Hastings photo. Note that one of the bridges carries a turnout and so will mine – the switch to the public delivery track.

The railway crosses the French River on a pair of low, 3 span bridges.

Here’s are some shots of those old granite piers today.

Center piers at Peterborough, NH
Note the sharpened block pointing upstream.

I was out in Lyndeboro, NH on the B&M’s Hillsboro branch recently and found the bridge spanning the entrance to Pike quarry. The bridge is one lane wide, a span of maybe 12′-15′ and consists of six timbers, maybe 12″ by 12″. This would make the perfect bridge design for St.George as the spans are in the same range (14′). The granite abutments are also good inspiration for how this type of structure was constructed. Piers and abutments made from individual granite blocks cast in Durhams Water Putty will do the job.

Bridge at entrance to Pike Quarry, Lyndeborough, NH.
Simple, rugged construction.

Looks good to me! Let’s get started!




That Silly Ad

I was flipping through a recent issue of Model Railroader when an ad for Kalmbach digital archives caught my eye. It featured a few of the MR folks in engineer caps grinning over a layout.


My thoughts flew immediately to the cover of the December 1950 issue. And there it was reproduced in a small panel in the ad. I have that very cover framed and hanging over my workbench.


You see, the young lad on the left is my late uncle Lawrence Scott and the smiling gentleman to his immediate right is my late grandfather, Charles E. Scott. The photo was taken at the Metropolitan Society of Model Engineers layout upstairs in Union Station, Washington, D.C. earlier that year, around the time I was born. They are entirely responsible for my life long infatuation with everything trains. If I wasn’t at the throttle of my grandfather’s Globe F7s (I still have them) or his beautiful scratchbuilt bullet nose Pacific, I was under the layout checking out a stack of Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman and Trains magazines to bring home.

We shared many fan trips. They took me on my first train ride on a B&O commuter train from Union Station in D.C. to Camden Yards in Baltimore to tour the B&O railroad museum. I think I was six or maybe seven. The shortline Washington & Old Dominion ran right behind my grandfather’s house in Vienna, Virginia. At the warning sound of the air horn, I was off and running through the woods to my viewing perch on the side of the cut near Park St. to see what they had on the headpin that day.

All of these memories and more came flooding back … all from that silly ad.





The Joys of Proto48

One of the joys of proto48 is that nearly everything needs to be converted. Or maybe it just seems that way.

I bought an O scale RY Models 44 tonner a few years back and, with some track down now, it’s time to convert it to proto48. The locomotive needs everything done besides the conversion but I want something running so I’m just attacking the power trucks for now. Some of these models came in as proto48 and it was my hope that the power truck frames were narrow enough for the conversion and by golly they are! So it seemed all that needed doing was to replace the wheels and regauge them. It ended up being somewhat more work than that.

The first step was to pull the old wheels off the axles along with their nylon top hat bushings which insulate them from the frame. NWSL proto48 33″ wheels were drilled out to match the outer diameter of the bushing. But the nylon bushings had deteriorated and needed replacing so new bushings were machined in Delrin®. Not the best choice of material as Delrin® is slippery but that’s what I had to hand. I machined the bushings a few thou large on the outer diameter and drilled the axle hole a step down, #47 rather than #46. Best to be tight with Delrin® as it can’t be bonded with LocTite or anything else for that matter.

Firing up the Sherline lathe revealed that all the ways and means had stiffened up to the point of being unuseable. It’s been a damp summer and some rust was showing here and there. So, I took some time out to give it a navy yard overhaul. I disassembled the entire tool, attacked the rust and relubed everything. Now it runs like new again!

Back to the 44 tonner, adjusting the back to back (1.100 – 1.110″ for proto48) on the new axles revealed that the shoulders on the axles needed to be machined back 0.033″ to accept the tighter gauge. Loosening the dog screws on the gears and chain drive sprockets, the axles were removed and machined. Noticing that the power pickups were looking the worse for wear they were cleaned up and retensioned. Then all was reassembled for a test run.

And run it did! A little cleaning with acetone improved the pickup. Here’s a photo of the first power truck running on the freight house spur at St. George.

One power truck converted to proto48 running on freshly laid code 83 freight house siding in St. George. Oh, there’ll be spikes in every tie and joint bars every 39′.
Here’s the setup for machining top hat bushings. The Delrin rod is center drilled from the tailstock chuck,  machined down to the target diameter and then parted leaving a full sized rim.
Converted truck on the left. Original truck on the right. Notice the difference in the wheels! In front, a NWSL proto48 wheel and one of my top hat bushings ready for installation.

While I have things apart I’m going to replace the wiring. The motor is connected directly to the contacts on each power truck. Loss of pickup on either truck stops the loco. Also, DCC is coming before too long so I want separate pickup leads and the motor leads. The pickup leads from both trucks should be connected for true eight wheel pickup. Some sort of plugs and sockets will make it easy to disconnect the trucks if needed. I might make a temporary patch panel on some perf board for these plugs which could come in handy for the decoder harness later.

Achievable layout · Layout Construction · Track Plan

Changes to St. George


St George Small
Original track plan for St. George

I’ve been fiddling with the track plan full size on the plywood surface while waiting for some track supplies to roll in. The first go was direct from the original drawing you see above. It showed problems with the turnout flow for the back siding and the turntable approach. Too clumsy. Also, the back track was just too far away from the aisle to switch conveniently.

Mockups of the station structure (based somewhat on Peterborough, NH) and a freight house helped visualize the scene. The back track wasn’t going to work.

I wanted a nice long freight house as LCL freight is a big part of the traffic in St. George. I also wanted to retain the curvy public delivery track near the station and still keep the siding at the front for a feed mill and coal trestle. Here’s the updated plan…SG_Plan

Updated plan for St. George

As you can see, the back siding was removed. It was too hard to reach for switching. Tracks 1 and 2 are now gently curved pushing the station back. A third parallel track was added for the freight house across from the station. The turnout at the head shunt was expanded to a crossover providing a nice pocket on the end of track 2 to spot a car or two out of the way while switching.

I like it. The new curve and crossover adds visual appeal. It gives a very railroady look with three tracks running in a canyon of sorts between major structures. Some of the tracks are parallel but none are parallel to the walls.

First ties
First ties. The #7 crossover.
End on view. Code 83 (52#) rail going down on freight house spur. Ties are colored with black and brown ink washes and then oil washes of umber, black and gray.
View of the depot from the feed mill location. Freight house platform will extend across this area with a ramp at the end for unloading autos. These mockups were quick to make and ideal for visualizing the scene.

To fit the coal trestle and feed mill in front of the freight house, the joists at the end of the layout were replaced with longer ones. L-Girder benchwork makes that easy.

At the other end, the turnout for track 2 was moved about a foot farther out onto the curve. This adds a car length. Now a six car train plus caboose (five car mixed with a combine) can be run around. Removing the back track made things simpler as the turntable approach now diverges directly from the main track.

Turnouts are mostly #7 as before. The freight house siding is a #6. The turnout to the feed mill is a wye turnout of unequal radii. Track 2 is entered through a 52″ radius curved turnout. The outer side is a spiral transition from 52″.

All-in-all, I’m happy to have had the time and patience to see these changes through. By laying out the plan full sized with a few mockup structures, I was able to correct a reach problem on the back track and improve the overall visual appeal. The original plan was okay but now it’s much better. The crossover does add a seventh turnout but who’s counting!



Research · Trackwork

Prototype Track continued…

I thought a field trip to the end of the Hillsboro branch might yield track work in a more primitive state. Well, not really. But it was worth the trip. These photos were taken in Greenfield. Between the Milford & Bennington and the Wilton Scenic railroads, remedial track repairs have interspersed newer ties, many with tie plates, between the older ones. The switches seem to be the same as in Wilton and may be much as they were in 1953.

I did verify that the rail is 5″ tall which makes it 75#. If the mill mark is any indication, it was drawn in 1898. Guard rails and some other switch details are different than Right-O-Way’s parts. I may build a few masters and cast some of these details in resin. All the switches I saw were #10. The ties are largely faded gray and rotten but they wouldn’t be back in 1953. Mine will be well worn but have a little more color.


Who needs tie plates?


#10 frog


Notice the gauge plates. The rail braces are adjustable. The turnouts have tie plates but not everywhere.


The guard rail does not have clamps but is heavily braced on long tie plates.


Love the switch stand.



30 miles to Keene – most of it on foot!.