Monday, May 27, 2013

Portage la Prairie Layout Trackplans

The eight steps of Portage la Prairie layout planning have led us to...the trackplan.  In 1986, CN 9627-5135 led lumber empties west at the UGG/storage track switch. The Cominco Elevator shed, arena, Tupper Street overpass and UGG elevator with grain cars complete the scene. Now what? Seven more steps:
On a blank piece of paper, with the major streets that I'd use in each trackplan (Eighth St NW, Tupper Street overpass and Third Street NE) as benchmarks. I wrote down each signature scene I wanted to include in each trackplan: interchange, diamond, industry spur, building or other specific track in its relative location, plus a tick-box to check off once it had been included:
STEP 2 - PLAN 1.0
Following on from my earlier schematics and adding signature scenes, this was my first draft of a comprehensive trackplan for Portage. For each railway, I included two mainlines, a switching lead, spurs and three triangle-shaped 'fissible points'.  The latter are: West Tower, Manitoba Pool 'B' elevator and the CN-CP interchange.  These three points become important to include if the plan undergoes fission (splits) into CN or CP. 

Also to be included in all track plans are 1980's-era east-to-west points for CN or CP:
-2 or 3-track yard
-ramp track within yard
-bulk fuel dealer track
-team track opposite station
-United Grain Growers elevator

-McCallister Pea & Seed (or McCain frozen foods)
-team track
-North American Can of Canada warehouse and engine track opposite station
-Engro fertilizer shed
-Manitoba Pool 'A'
-Campbell's Soup west of Eighth Street
STEP 3 - PLAN 2.0
Each railway has one mainline at east and west ends, with the second mainline ending at East Tower or diverging at West Tower: CN's to the VIA connecting track or CP's to the Carberry Sub respectively. CP has a storage track for freight or Service cars, while CN's storage track is combined with the UGG spur it was adjacent to. 

Although I needed crossovers for switching purposes, I included as few as possible.  Some switching at the west end will require mainline crossover moves between tracks.  CP's trip to Campbell's will be facing-point switched instead of the prototype's trailing-point. I considered flipping CN's team track north of the lead, but kept it in its prototype location. There's something cool about running a complete freight train around one car in its way! I combined CP's team track with its nearby industry using a switchback.  The northernmost yard tracks will function as switching leads for each railway.
STEP 4 - PLAN 3.0
Remember how I wanted to maintain the length and proportion of Portage? I settled on a 24x3 foot layout, then tried to include all the above trackage and signature scenes. I wanted to avoid a log-pile (linear version of a spaghetti-bowl layout). It looks do-able on paper, but I needed to test-fire it.  I used the untried and unlikely DBS (Driveway Bed Sheets) method.  I spread old bedsheets that we ust as painting dropcloths on our driveway to create a 24x3 foot layout planning space.  
I brought up a six-inch bundle of flextrack, a box of turnouts, a box of snaptrack and structures from my railway room to represent three grain elevators, two stations, the fuel dealer and Campbell's Soup.  In less than an hour I had a finished trackplan mockup.  It became apparent that to save space, CP's McCallister, North American Can and possibly Campbell's , and CN's UGG elevator and fuel dealer could be represented by structure flats.  Another alternative would be to 'bend' trackwork around structures to make room for the trackage.  Overall, I was pleased that this trackplan would actually fit - in about 2,000 HO scale linear feet. The views from West tower (above) and East Tower (below) show the DBS method:
Detail views follow, looking from south to north. West Tower includes Campbell's Soup, the VIA connecting track from CP to CN, the start of the spurs, storage tracks and switching leads and MPE 'A':
The mid-section spreads out to include MPE 'B' (top) and UGG (bottom) elevators, both stations, CN's team track, fuel dealer and ramp:
The next-eastern section includes yard trackage and the interchange (centre):
And at East Tower, CP's team track and McCallister are at top while the mainlines rejoin and diverge:
In all trackplans, the cross-streets are shown as thicker lines, with trackage being the thinner lines with signature scenes labelled.
STEP 5 - PLAN 3.1
While 24x3 feet was a reasonable size layout for this prototype, I wanted a non-linear shape (L-shape) that could occupy a smaller, 12-foot square room, with additional staging potential, or for inclusion in an O-shaped layout. I bent Plan 3.0 90 degrees, with the 'hinge' area between Third ST and Tupper St. This bend would affect radius for passenger train operation, as well as the CN team track. If continuous operation is desired, the mainlines can be creatively bent at the east and west layout ends.
STEP 6 - PLAN 3.2
I'd always intended to split the layout into CN and CP halves. Although a long 24x2 foot layout could be planned for CN or CP, it seemed to me that more modellers would find a shorter 12x3 foot trackplan more useful. Plan 3.2 is CN-only, with all three fissible zones at layout's edge. All industries are still included, the yard is stub-ended with an optional crossover added. Two road crossings are included for orientation purposes, and the Tupper Street overpass could be added.  Mainlines can lead to staging, or this can be a fun-to-run switching layout!
STEP 7 - PLAN 3.3
Plan 3.3 is CP-only, also measuring 12x3 feet. The storage track and team tracks could still be added if desired. As with CN, Plan 3.3 could have staging added or remain a stand-alone layout.
These plans can be further refined, redrawn, revised or otherwise enhanced as desired. Though Portage does not have an over-abundance of lineside structures seen in more urban settings, motor car sheds, houses, the arena, water tower and various sheds and garages could be modelled as structures, flats or photo backdrops.

I've seen lots of photos of layouts using the Rix Highway overpass, which is used as a view block to separate scenes. Portage actually had Tupper Street's overpass that could be modelled as a great trainwatching spot, though I had to omit it from the smallest layout plans. Gravel roads and a plethora of trackside details would enhance the layout as well. On September 20, 1985 CN 5088-5055 lead a 40-foot grain boxcars and an 86-foot hicube boxcar in a westbound freight also at the UGG/storage track switch at sunset. In the next post, we'll look at operations and structures to bring these trackplans to life.

Running extra...

Another Portage-prototype modeller is Randy O'Brien of Niagara Falls, ON. Randy added to my early west-end schematic and has produced his own design sketch, mockup, trackplansome impressive benchwork and some impressive recent updates. Randy also shares some of his elevator construction here. John Longhurst recently travelled west through Portage on VIA train No 1. Manny Jacob snapped his train from the Tupper Street overpass, and his photos show how the Portage sightlines have improved with the eradication of almost all trackside structures.

I really shouldn't be surprised by the interest in Portage la Prairie modelling, but I am. Portage is definitely a Canadian hotspot worthy of 'fanning and modelling.  Be sure to check out my 'Railfanning and Modelling Portage la Prairie' posts in the right sidebar. Though I wallow in 1980's nostalgia, rest assured that heavy tonnage still rolls.

I just finished listening to Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden. The harrowing tale of the life and subsequent escape from one of the few North Koreans born in a detention camp, Shin Donghyuk. The story helps us understand the mindset of the Kim dynasty, bizarre though it may be, as well as the incredibly strong will to live that we all possess.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Portage la Prairie Layout Planning

Portage la Prairie, Manitoba is one of Canada's best railfan locations. CN, CP and VIA trains funnel through Portage, travelling between Winnipeg and the wider west on parallel lines and diamonds.  Portage has it all.  And within reach.  CN and CP lines are a few hundred feet apart.  It's no wonder modellers want to portray it in scale.  But how? In this post I'll present some thoughts and planning, accompanied by some classic, captioned Portage photos.  Here then, are my eight simple steps to model 8,000 feet. (Top photo - CN 5586-5237-5020 lead a westbound CN freight in June 1980. CN boxcars on CN's team track and ...on CP's North American Can of Canada spur too!)
STEP 1 - IT'S 8,000 FEET LONG.
Portage's rail infrastructure is about 8,000 feet long.  West Tower's diamonds to the Tupper Street overpass is 3,500 feet, with another 4,500 feet between the stations and East Tower.  That's approximately 90 HO-scale linear feet! Gentlemen, start your helices! No, I don't really believe in the helix.  It's overdone, and it often results in phoney multi-levels that are not believable for a prairie setting like Portage. (Above- Candy-striped CP 5708 brings a CP freight east from the Carberry Sub while another (arrow) waits on the Minnedosa Sub, taken from Tupper Street in 1979, as Service cars repose north of the mains and CN is quiet to the left)

Long and thin - two parallel lines that are straight, as many flatland prairie lines were constructed.  No turn-back loops, bridges, tunnels or other model railroadish devices.  Very few curves. I'll try to keep in mind the average space available to most modellers - somewhere between a bedroom and part of a basement. (Below - CP 5750-5503 head eastbound through CP's long, straight trackage in August 1981)
Technical aspects to include: trackwork that can accommodate transcontinental passenger trains on CN (and P before 1978); making the layout fissile - able to be split for the preference of CN or CP fans;  keeping CN and CP distinct except where they operationally interact; using mainline switches on crossovers and entrances to lead tracks; including technical requirements that produce good operations. (CP 5936-5740-5511 lead a hotshot out of the baking early-morning sun through CP's main, lead and spur trackage west of Tupper Street)
I'll need both mainlines, both stations still in use, enough industries to provide roughly equal switching opportunities for each railway (especially grain elevators), and the CN-CP interchange deep in the yards. It's important to include interesting prototype operational possibilities in model form. (CN 9522-9496 growl west as does a 6-unit CP freight in 1979, showing the proximity of the main lines to each other)
To reflect my modelling interests, I chose the early 1980's.  VIA's Canadian, Churchill trains and at times, the Super Continental were operating.  Elevators were still standing, grain boxcars still a-filling and CP's Portage switcher was S-3 6569. (CN 9557-9519-9473 pull 103 cars including some CP insulated boxcars west in June 1980, as CP S-3 6569 drills cars east of CP's station.  A bad-order flat car with Manchester Liners container aboard sits on CN's team track.)
There are some scenes and vignettes that I just gotta have, assuming I can find the space in the plan:
-CN's team any revenue car or bad-order here
-grain elevator loading including boxcars
-the CN-CP interchange as a traffic generator
-Campbell's Soup...if I can fit it in
-at least two main tracks on CN and CP to allow for multiple trains 
-diamonds at West Tower
-spurs or sidings for car storage and MoW cars
(CN 9657-9479-213-1352 plow west, while a CN boxcar of insulation batts sits on the team track in August 1979)
Since there may not be room for a purely linear layout (90 feet!) the benchwork may have to bend.  If only one bend is needed, the logical point to do so would be at the Tupper Street overpass.  As much as I dislike seeing dismembered, no-approaches overpasses on layouts for view breaks, it might have to happen here.  Also a great place to show foamers in action! An L-shaped or even a C-shaped layout would lend itself to visible/open or invisible/covered staging east or west of Portage.  Better yet, a continuous run could be added, allowing urban Winnipeg or a branch line with elevators to be modelled down the line. (On June 13, 1982 three westbound CN trains are working Portage.  A train of coal etys at centre behind 5268-5264 scoots through while 5223-5233 glide with a grain train, and 5089-5240 switch the CP interchange)
Now it's time to stop typing and start drawing to incorporate all eight 'dreaming' steps in to a 'doing' step.  It's getting harder...but closer to the eventual outcome.  After this diagram is done, it's benchwork time*. I'll have to incorporate everything above into a plan that will not only be do-able as well as fun to operate, and do justice to the prototype.  There will be selective compression, but not too much that will render the prototype unrecognizable and too model railroadish...a caricature of itself. just do it!
These are the west-end (above) and east-end (below) schematics of Portage's trackage that I used in my planning.  One small correction...McCallister Pea & Seed was not located on the tail of the wye, but on a separate spur leading over 4th Ave NE (Thanks, Ian for the additional information). Remember, all this is draped over 8,000 feet through beautiful downtown Portage!
(*since my HO layout depicts an early-1970's Vancouver locale, I'm not actually going to build this layout.  But if I was...)
In my next post, I'll include the completed plan and a novel way to see if it will all fit!

In my previous post, I featured an American A-7 Corsair jet.  At least one reader asked about the A-10 Thunderbolt that was part of the same display, and to be responsive to Trackside Treasure readers, I'm pleased to include a few more photos and a surprise:

Myrtle Beach (above) and an airborne growler at the CFB Trenton airshow in 1986 (suivez-moi below):

Oh, and those last two are a 1:72 model!

Monday, May 13, 2013


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was our sunny spring vacation destination. Railfanning was not the reason for the trip, but that doesn't mean that the drive would be devoid of trackside treasure. Watertown, New York's Afgritech feed mill on Willow Street was a busy spot, with cars of feed all around the property. A Canadian Yankee in King Arthur's Court, CP/SOO 122045 awaits its trip to the unloading shed.  Syracuse NY and Harrisburg PA were Interstate 81 overpasses with views.
Selma NC is a busy rail junction of CSX and NS just off I-81.  Ex-Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac caboose 907 is stuffed and mounted near the unique diamond-dwelling Selma-Smithfield Amtrak station:
Looking south along CSX under the platform awning, with NS crossing at the diamond, with the Bailey Feed Mill in the distance:
Looking norh from the same location, the NS-CSX connecting track used by several daily Amtrak trains is at left, passing near a former freight station now used by CSX section forces:
There is at least one train in the NS Selma yard paralleled by Pine Level-Selma Road every time we pass by, a westbound while we were southbound: NS 6647-6649-7645-9865, as well as 9164-9889-8827 at the east end of the yard facing east.  This ex-BN Midwest Railcar Corporation woodchip gon MWCX 101501 languished in the yard:
This Helm-Pacific Leasing ex-UP tarped gondola HPJX 147572 has also been through the Folkston Funnel in Georgia:
Is this a NS yard switcher? NS 9889-8827 back into the yard with cars of aggregate, cement and tank cars.
Southern 101714 is a typical aggregate car, built in 1972 and over 40 years old:
Apparently it an online car, stencilled for the Association of American Railroads' Rule 88 governing the interchange of such elderly (by today's standards) cars:
Perhaps these cars are hauling bedrock. Fred Flintstone is aboard NW 150067. This type of clever, didn't-lift-the-chalk, nearly one-stroke yabba-dabba-doodle graffiti is head-and-shoulders above the hurriedly spray-painted variety.  Dated October 2012.
Roanoke Cement pressure-differential 45-foot covered hopper cars like RCCX 104 seem to spend a lot of time in Virginia.
Now we're at the west end of the yard, as the backup move appears at rear, with the ever-present NS freight at left with NS 2749-6646-9698-2668.
Some ex-BN, exx-Conrail PS2CD RFMX covered hoppers were on the freight, formerly seen traversing CN's Kingston Sub:
It's plane to see that the only non-road wheeled transport near Myrtle Beach, south of the inoperative swing bridge over the intracoastal waterway is to be found at the Warrior Park near the former US Air Force Base in Myrtle Beach. A-7 Corsair, A-10 Warthog and Super Sabre operated by the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing are stuffed and mounted near the current airport that sees multiple charter and scheduled civil flights, and during our stay Hercules, Globemaster, Cobra, Huey and Fighting Falcon flybys and touch-and-gos.
The post title?  Freight Cars plus North Carolina plus Norfolk Southern equals South Carolina. Seems we did most of our railfanning in southern North Carolina!

Running extra...

Favourite state to drive through: Virginia.  Prosperous though starchy, it's the only state that includes Starbucks in its Lodgings-Gas-Food signs on the Interstate.  Also home to the most personalized license plates, such as CYAJRZY.

Emporia NC has a historic train depot, and sees the Tropicana Juice, Auto Train, Amtrak and CSX trains as well. Did I mention Applebee's? I could produce several weeks' of posts on dining and trains in the good ol' USA on my other blog, Fast Food and Trains (see sidebar). I think I'd gain weight just writing about them, though. Would you like fries with that? And a Lipitor?

Good to be back in Canada, where we drive on the right, celebrate Labour Day in September and splurge by including a third major political party. It's said that Canadians are just like Americans, except unarmed and with health insurance! Thanks for joining me in this foray into the US and south of the Mason-Dixon line, y'all eh?