Wednesday, September 25, 2013

EBT 988 Delayed delivery

The new East Broad Top 3-bay extended side hopper #988 will be delayed for a little over a month due to issues which arose during assembly (started to twist.)  I told Adam I wanted him to take the time necessary to get it right.  The car should soon have all its body built.  It will then need to be sand blasted and then a bed liner applied to the inside to protect it from all the rock it will handle.  The outside needs plenty of paint to protect it and then it will be lettered.

Under the car the trucks will receive brakes and then all the brake rigging and associated parts installed.

The completed car we are hoping will be able to be run at the Grasshopper Short Line in early November.  Adam will bring the 944 with him as well and we have the go ahead from Don Orr to perhaps even demo using the cars ballasting track.  I think it will be interesting to have such cars on hand there.  I do plan on also taking the 4616 and 4686 flat cars, the 159 refrigerator car (if I get it done enough to take) and the #11 locomotive.

Work is expected to commence this weekend on the engine house with the nice, cool and dry weather continuing.  I should be able to get a truckload of ballast delivered early next week to allow me to continue to work on this building and the tracks leading into it.  I hope to have it done over the winter.  At least the weather seems to be cooperating, if only my pocketbook will cooperate too.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summer into Fall



Progress on the new D&RGW Refrigerator Car #159 has been progressing slowly.  The body and siding is in place and the sides have been primed and painted.  One side has been painted the final coat of paint and that has been allowed to dry an extended amount of time before the other side it painted.  The ends need one final coat of paint and then it will be ready for lettering.


The roof for the #159 needs to be built up still.  It will be hinged to allow me to use this car to haul railroad ties and track building supplies and tools.  That way all track building materials are kept online and in one place.


An additional flatcar was made available for purchase this past summer from the same person who sold me the large #4686.  This new flatcar, the #4616 is 7' long which is 12" shorter than the other flatcar.  These two flat cars will work to handle materials which are oversized (bridge members, rails, etc.) as well as handling occasional shipments of wood to and from Pine Hill and to Wood Station.



D&RGW #4616
In the future, the two flats will be joined by 3 more 8' long flat cars mades from frames like the one used on the 159 but done up to look like wooden idler flats, albiet they are close to a scale 40' long.  Their purpose is to be loaded with wood and to sit ready to be hauled to Wood Station when wood is needed.  That will cut down on how often I have to transfer wood on and off the trains.  Those cars will have plastic decking so they will be rot-proof.  The last frame which is 7' long and closer to 30' scale feet in length will become RGS 0404, the caboose, the tool car / storage car for all items used with the RGS #20 steamer.  If I do take the train anywhere to train meets, the #20 and 0404 will most likely be what I take with me.  Closer train meets would allow me to haul more cars such as the 4686, 4616 and 159, provided I can stack them in the trailer and truck safely.  Not to mention LOAD THEM.

On order and currently under construction in Michigan by Adam Wright to be delivered the end of September is a new East Broad Top 3-bay extended side hopper complete with functioning automatic air brakes,  doors and a spreader for ballast.  This car will allow me to be able to single handedly maintain the track ballasting since I can use my tractor and top load the ballast directly into the car and then unload it without having to use buckets.  With the current track projects and future track expansion, this car will be a savior to my back.

Similar Hopper to what will arrive the end of September.  It's also 2.5" to the foot scale.
Adam also machined the number and builder's plates for my #20.  I have been in contact with people who have completed this locomotive about issues they had with it.  The problems sound like they were overall somewhat minor comparatively.


Adam is still working on machining the brake parts for the 4686 which has the Andrews trucks under it and have the brakes hung but the car is missing the brake cylinder, reservoir, links, rods and plumbing.  Once Adam delivers these parts, the 4686 will be pulled from service while I install the brakes and dial them in.  By that time, I hope to have the 159 body ready for its frame and can purchase another set of brakes from Adam (which hopefully can be manufactured and delivered fairly quickly so that car can go into service over the winter - about the time I hope to have the engine house completed so it can be stored indoors.)

Track work has been extremely limited this season as we have had one of the wettest summers here in a LONG time.  (And I was working on other projects around the house which needed doing.)  The tracks have been settling where it was reciently improved and some tamping has been required.  Over the summer the only trains on the line have been the occasional train hauling materials to the engine house site.  The frame of the 18' by 5' building is supported on piers on the side of the hill to the right of the crossing on the side of the hill, on the same track the engine house was originally proposed but on the other side.  It is also a 2 stall building and not the 5 stalls I had been planning.  Between the piers I am building retaining walls and backfilling almost 12" in places to level the grade.  The tracks inside will have a one percent grade towards to door to allow the rolling stock to roll out the door on their own.  Once the building "foundation" is completed, the area in front of the engine house will get its retaining wall, ash pit and switch installed and backfilled.  It is hoped the hopper will aid in much of this work.

The turnout switch in front of the engine house for tracks one and two will be the switch in the switchback.  The new powered switch is still up at Telluride and will be installed uphill from where that switch was located to provide that longer siding / run around.  The switch which is in place for the House Track I decided the points are completely shot.  They are around 40 years old, were mangled when I got them and I can not get them to work.  So I need to replace them.  I might as well switch the switchstand over to the harp switchstand as well. 

I have been considering taking the switchstand from Wood Siding and replacing it with a motorized switch and using its switchstand for the house track.  The idea behind this is that I am contemplating an additional uphill track which can connect to Wood Spur near Wood Station which can circle up behind the chicken coop making use of some of the new land and up to the existing short piece of track at Home Ranch which will continue up behind what will be a new garage and the trailer parking areas and parallel to the driveway.  This will allow me to build an unloading ramp up there which would be so much easier to bring equipment in and out on trailers.  A future steaming bay is planned near the garage with a possible track into the side or the garage storage wing which can be used to keep the #20.

This extension will be a fairly sharp curve and a significant grade.  I still have to survey it.  But it will pass near the rock pile so it would be a simplier matter to load ballast onto the train at this location, across the driveway from the ballast storage pile.  This track also connects to Wood Station which will need the tracks realigned around the tree so the crossing will need to be remade there and the tracks extended to allow a train up to 50' to work what will be the upper switchback.

The interesting thing is that any train coming from the top with the locomotive facing downhill will by the time it reaches the mainline next to the engine house will be facing uphill.  It will then have to pull into Telluride and run around the train to face downhill for the rest of the trip.

Additional survey work still needs to be done across the creek from the (current) switchback to extend that track.  As I mentioned before, the lower switch will be raised about 6" to make the tail track easier to use as it will be less than one percent and not the 2 to 4% it is now (steeper near the creek.)  This is a good move as it will raise the bridge at Dawn Creek (Bridge 2B) the same amount and reduce how deep the cut will be between Bridge 2B and 2C.  It also will add about 10' to the length of 2C.  But with the additional property, the curve near Bridge 2D will be a lot broader and even allows for a siding which is good for the approach to the puzzle when more than one train is operating.  Luckily that should be rare as I am usually the only one on these tracks with a single locomotive.

Lots of plans and moderate progress seems to be the norm on my railroad.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Start of Spring - April 2013

This late winter and spring has been quite wet here in North Carolina with us running a surplus of rain this year.  Little snow fell as it seemed to hover in the 30s but not cold enough for snow.

The railroad has been successfully operating over the new tracks near Dogwood except one section which I believe I need to pull the short rail out and bend it some more.  And another load of ballast here would help.  Rains helping to settle the tracks here nicely.

A couple weeks ago I hauled in about a ton of oak 2 by 3s which were rejects from a local box making company which makes pallets from the better ones.  A few are good enough to use to make into end beams for the railroad cars (not long enough for side sills) and many other ones can be ripped in half to be turned into ties.  The remaining ones will be turned into blocks for burning mainly.  I might be able to barter some with my brother-in-law who got an equal sized load and get the better ones from him for the bad pieces since he will only burn them.

The RGS shop in "Telluride" has been turning out restored and new equipment in an off - on - off - on again scenario.  Many days I just don't feel like being out in the cold and damp messing with the train.  I guess I am getting old.

Starting in January the #302 went into the shop to receive new trucks and air brakes as well as a by-pass air line to connect the compressor and reservoir at the end of the car to the locomotive air brake system.  The air compressor was set up and will be housed in a self-contained box with a battery.  This will allow this car / compressor to be used wherever a portable compressor is required.  The 302 will be stripped of paint and receive the same yellow paint as the #10 and #11 locomotives, once it warms up enough for the paint to stick well.  The engineer seat needs only a few little tweaks and will be able to sit on the car sides and slide forwards and backwards to adjust to different engineers.

In late February, Adam Wright stopped by on the way back from a train meet in Florida and we started to set up the flat car 4686's new trucks with brakes.  Since the arch bar trucks from Roll Models would require a good deal of additional work to set up the brakes, it seemed logical to switch it over to Adam's Andrews trucks.  The remaining brake linkages, cylinder, air fittings and the like are to be delivered shortly along with new builders plate for RGS #20.  The arch bars will be used on one of the flats still to be built after we come up with the best way to mount brakes on these cars - either truck or body mount - we will come up with something.

Part of the project of switching the 4686 over to the new trucks involved changing the bolster which had to have some grinding and a new one had to be welded in place.

Once the 4686 was returned to service that evening, we coupled up one of Adam's EBT hoppers to the flat and the #11 and in the fading daylight we spread one gondola load of ballast.  Adam is currently producing a long, high-side EBT hopper for the RGS to hopefully arrive on scene in late September in time for the fall "track building campaign."  I do hope that by fall I will have enough motive power and rolling stock in active service with no defects to be able to operate a couple proper track construction trains.  (Number 10 handling the rails, ties and tools and Number 11 handling the ballast hopper and the flat of buckets of ballast which is hand dumped ahead of the track building crew.  You can not get to much of the railroad with tractors to haul rock - maybe later from the lower end of Pine Hill I can.)

D&RGW 4686 coupled to D&RGW 159 (frame)



RGS #11 with the 4686 and 159 with #10 on the right  Also notice that the #11 has a number plate.

159 frame on its wheels with couplers and the stack of frames to the left.

D&RGW 4686 on the new Andrews trucks.  You can see the brake shoes inside there.


Later in the evening, Adam and I tackled one of the other car frames I had on hand and put some more Andrews trucks under it (no brakes on this one - yet.)  We had to tweak a lot of the frame to make it work and will probably go with different bolsters on the future car frames.  We also welded additional coupler pockets on the car to allow it to be coupled to either 1.5" or 2.5" scale trains.  This car will be D&RGW 159, a 40' long reefer.  I decided because of the length, it would be better to be a reefer than a boxcar.  So far I have the frame, floor, walls and ends made for the car.  The roof and wrapper which will be routed to look like car siding still need to be made and installed which will make this car weigh in around 250+ pounds easily.  The roof will flip up and the car will be used by the Maintenance of Way department to hold ties, track parts, tools, etc. and get them out of the barn!!!  A box car is still possible to be built down the road but I have plenty to do between now and then.

D&RGW 159 body set on it's frame and rolled out on the Dogwood Bridge with RGS 302 for contrast.
D&RGW 159 and RGS 302.  The 159 is a fraction under 8 feet long.


Since Adam's visit, the #11 returned to the shop because the throttle cable broke on it (again.)  It has been rubbing against the frame.  It was decided to redo how the sleeve for the cable connects to the frame and since the throttle arm was removed, the locomotive's controls were reworked with a new air brake valve and gauge for the train brakes and a new horn button.  At the same time, the electrical system was gone over and a new main power switch was installed since the old one was faulty.  The air compressor and tank have been installed under the engineer's seat and the system is being plumbed.  The air line and valve at the front of the #11 needs to be installed and the air system will be completed (although I am thinking I will add another regulator and the air tank feeding the train line.)  The throttle being redone allowed me to fix the locomotive brake as well.  Now it does not rub and functions properly.  But the prime mover motor is not operating well and might need a cleaning.  I wonder if the problem is the amount of ethanol added to gasoline now is gumming these locomotives up.

Up next was RGS #10 which was returned from the small engine shop where its prime mover was gone over due to a faulty shut off valve caused it to get gummed up.  The #10 also received some work on its electrical system and the new horn was made functional (although the switch seems to have since broken when a visitor was a little too hard on it - a button will probably replace that too.)  The air brake valve and gauge have been installed on the backhead but was awaiting more parts before the air lines can be completed.  I attempted to letter the locomotive but the 40 year old fiberglass cab is in bad shape that paint does not stick to it and the lettering masked pulled the paint off.  Ideally, this locomotive will undergo a class 1 shopping in 2014 to receive a new prime mover (as the small engine repair people say that parts for the current motor can not be found any longer.)  The locomotive can also get a new metal cab at that time too.

The old Kohler 4 HP prime mover on the #10 and the Eaton transmission.  Fresh back from the shop awaiting the body paint, electrican and plumbing to be completed.  And the new number plate was being installed on the locomotive too.

The compressor "in a box".  The box was shortened a little since I went with a garden tractor battery to power it instead.


Currently only the beam riding car and the #302 have air brakes operating.  The Santa Fe flat has old (beat up, torn up) vacuum brakes which also will be switched over to air brakes later this year.  It will require altering the brake hangers.  And once the parts are provided, the 4686 will also have functional brakes.  Also, the brakes from Adam Wright includes hand brakes so the cars can be parts and not roll away when all the air leaks out (although all my trains have wheels which are chocked in place except at Pine Hill where the tracks are level.

The reason for the expensive of brakes on the train is that the Rio Grande Southern of North Carolina is a mountainous railroad with several steep grades.  Moving heavy loads downhill can cause the locomotive to slide and be ineffective in braking.  These are usually loads of wood or ballast.  And the smaller switcher (10 or 11) usually only operate with the beam car for passengers leaving the heavy passenger coach parked.

Ongoing work is to complete both air brake controls for the locomotives and dial them in.  Then the car brakes need to be adjusted.  Then I will work on the #159 to get it on the tracks.  Part of that project will include purchasing another set of brakes and setting them up before the car it put into service.  But this spring will have to be split between the railroad and other projects.  This summer, weather permitting, the house track will be realigned and stabilized and I will build a small engine house over it to hold the #10 and #11 out of the weather.  Too many problems with animals (deer mainly) down around Pine Hill jumping over the wood pile and landing on the equipment.  I need to protect the equipment where possible.  Also, the electronics for the switchback control will installed and the powered switch installed above the one which was going to go to the lower section of a car barn.  That switch will be removed reused elsewhere.  A new powered switch will need to be built to be installed next to the lower switchback switch to provide a run-around there.  And the house track switch needs new points and a new switch stand as the current arrangement just does not work no matter what I do.  A harp switch stand will take over and new aluminum points installed.  Below this the track needs to be dug out and the hump removed from what we believe was deer jumping over the wood pile and catching their hooves under the rail.  Must be clumsy deer.  No lame deer have ever shown up so it could be a tree roots too.  I will not know until I investigate.  But as I mentioned at the start, it's VERY WET down at the tracks.  :-)

Another load of ballast will need to be ordered for use on the switchback to raise it up some more and the prospects of replacing the wooden wall in the next 5 years looks pretty real.  All the new electronics control systems will have their cables in conduits anyway...

I know I change my mind (frequently it seems looking at this blog) but in actuality as it takes longer to build stuff like the train tracks, I find that I have opportunities arise (like purchasing the additional land) or needs (like a passing track where I can run around a train) which changes my plans.  As long as I do not have the tracks built, I have options.  And since the #20 I hope will be done in a couple years, additional storage space will be required for her so I might alter my engine house design and move that switch from below up to the house track instead.  I'll have more room and more options later when I get built down around the s-curve for Pine Hill (possible engine house or round house down there - or at least a car barn.)  Up near the barn I have a little room along the garage which can be dug out to allow a roundhouse to be built there - built off the turntable there.  And a steaming bay track with a scissor lift between the engine house and the garage would work well too.  Having the roundhouse structure next to the barn would allow me to power the building easily and heat it too which would be required to store my steamer securely.  A possibility is building the lifts inside the roundhouse to work on equipment and then lower it down to head out half-sized doors.  See - many possibilities.  But only one man working on them so...  it takes a LONG time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wooden Retaining Wall replacement


It was decided that the wooden retaining wall between Bridge 1A (the Dogwood Bridge) and Wood Spur Switch was rotting away in spots which was causing the tracks to sag and shift.  A new permanent wall was in order and by removing the top courses of the wooden wall allows the tracks to be moved farther away from the spur track which improves the tracking on the 2.5% grade and cut down on the flange binding.

The lower course of the wall is set in place (dug into the hillside) and then back-filled with ballast.
Then the wall is back-filled with ballast.

The wall going up

More wall stones head out on the rails.

Now that the wall is stacked, it's time to remove the rail to realign it.


Rails are pulled out.  Ties set aside.

New rails (straight) are put in and alternating plastic and wood ties.

Tracks are completed.

Train on the rebuilt mainline parked at Wood Spur Switch.

Looking down over Dogwood Bridge 1A towards the new alignment over the fill.
 Also check out the new signal head on the bridge switch.  Early in the fall of 2012, the electronics controlling the switch was replaced.  It also allowed me to test the new design which allows me to select routes.

The space between old and new wall is to be back-filled with ballast.  The top course of the old wooden wall (rotted) is removed.

Frosty morning on the RGS

Dogwood tree pops up through the wall.

The new alignment of the mainline.  Plastic ties installed periodically to help the old wooden ties (which were in fine shape) maintain perfect alignment.  Near the drain close to the end of 0300 I used all plastic ties because of the moisture.

Train parked on the mainline.

Early winter morning showing the resulting wall.

The new retaining wall.  Almost completed.  Just some more ballast for the wall and tracks and it's done.

The new retaining wall - all 120+ blocks of it.

The wall wraps around the bridge abutment to reinforce the wooden wall.
One of the old panels stacked to the side to be used down the hill on what I believe will end up as a new run-around.
 Up next is doing the same thing to Wood Spur near the wood stove where the wall has already collapsed.  This will give me more of the real rock to use to continue the wall separating the spur and mainline.  A section of rail in this track is also needing replacement.

Additional notes (05-APR-2013) - the Wood Spur tracks will be realigned as well to reduce the curvature on the 5% between the turnout switch and to the right of the tree above.  The track has already been seperating as it tries to straighten the curve with the heavy trains taking the curve.  Also, most of the Sprall Joints will be switched to fish plates to prevent movement.  On the curves I might take more of an approach like this leaving the joints which can expand and contract to straighter sections of track.