About a year ago, we purchased a Model #220S ground throw made by Caboose Industries. We have used their ground throws on many of our turnouts - essentially all that are not electrified with Tortorice switch machines. I had seen the ones with contacts advertised, but never really understood how they worked, so I bought one just to experiment with. These are ingenious little devices! They are useful for powering turnout frogs or operating dwarf signals to indicate turnout position. Essentially, they are a SPDT switch built into the ground throw. Here are a few photos showing how they work. If you've not understood how they worked (like me), this may spark some ideas for how you could use one.
This installation is to power a long frog on a #8 turnout. We have another location where it would be helpful to know which way a turnout is thrown viewed from 10-12 feet away, and one of these could be used to power a red/green dwarf signal. It is a pretty clever idea.
This past Saturday was our NMRA Keystone Division's Annual Jamboree - an unusual name for an unusual event. This event includes modeling clinics, model contests, door prizes and raffles, modular layouts and a white elephant table. The $25 registration fee ($35 for non-NMRA member) even includes a continental breakfast and lunch, making this an unbeatable bargain. An optional banquet and speaker are offered Saturday evening. On Sunday, there were layout tours, although we did not participate this year. I didn't take very many photos, but here is my report. Jim Sacco (City Classics) and his committee do a fantastic job planning and running this event.
As in recent years, the Jamboree was held at the Sewall Events Center on the Robert Morris University Campus in Moon Township. This facility is a perfect venue for our event, but sadly this was the last year we will be there as they are tearing it down to build a new facility. We will have to find alternate space next year.
The banquet always provides an opportunity to catch up with old friends, as well as make some new ones. Andy and Charlie (left photo) enjoyed the company of another father/son team, Steven and Neal Schorr (right photo) over dinner. We made friends with some new members as well. Vagel Keller took a number of "official" photos, which I am sure will be posted on the division's website soon.
If you live in the tri-state area, this is an event you should not miss. Heck, we had one guy who came from the State of Indiana! It is held every April and details can be found at www.keystonedivision.org.
For the second year, Kevin and I traveled to Springfield, MA on the last weekend in January for the famous Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show. This show has the best of everything. It is larger than the Great Scale Model Train Show in Timonium, MD, and arguable rivals the National Train Show held in conjunction with the annual NMRA Convention. It is a challenge to try and get through this show in one day (and yes if you return for a second day, you need to buy another ticket. No hand stamping here).
The show is held at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield and fills up four buildings. Most of the major manufacturers attend, as well as hundreds of dealers and many historical societies. There were certainly bargains to be found. There were also a number of modular railroads in all scales and my favorite, the 1/87th Vehicle Club.
A number of local hotels offered discounted room rates (<$90/night) for the weekend. It is a solid 8-hour drive from Irwin, plus time for pit stops and a meal, so we drove up on Friday and back on Sunday, leaving all of Saturday for the show. Here are some photos.
These flexible, pre-weathered sidewalk and brick street sheets from Chooch Enterprises were interesting.
Railroad wall art, including these illuminated locomotives were offered for sale. Sadly, no Conrail EMD units.
Here are some of Ralph's resin kits of Mack trucks that he has built. Wow...
Here are two really nice highway underpass scenes from the many modular layouts.
Two very large industries on a modular layout: a power plant (left) and a brewery (right).
Well, hopefully I've whetted your appetite to attend this show sometime. See you there next year?
As railroads continuously evolve, higher-horsepower, greater efficiency, and higher safety are always needed in each railroad's motive power fleet. Inevitably, certain locomotives are deemed "retired" and end up at the scrapper's torch or in a queue for rebuilding. Norfolk Southern's fleet of about 100 standard cab Dash 8s have now reached the end of their useful lives. An unsuccessful rebuild program was attempted on the units, but no practical solution for reusing the iron horses developed. After sitting in storage in Roanoke for a while, many of these locomotives were sold to Larry's Trucking and Electric in McDonald, OH to be used as parts donors or scrap metal. Norfolk Southern decided to tow many of these units west in dedicated "funeral" trains. I was fortunate enough to catch one this week in Wilmerding.
We heard word of an eastbound empty slab train approaching from Pittsburgh, so we went to the heart of the Turtle Creek valley to snap a photo of the train. At this moment, the train was crossing paths with the Main St railroad crossing, Union RR, Turtle Creek, US-30 on the Westinghouse Bridge, and E. Pittsburgh McKeesport Blvd.
While the rest of the world celebrates April Fools Day. we always pause on April 1st to reflect on Conrail's legacy. It was a very successful railroad built from the ruins of a handful of bankrupt railroad in the northeast, and certainly the root of our enthusiasm for the railroad industry and the basis for our model railroad.
Several months ago we agreed to host a Thursday night operating session during the 2017 Railroad Prototype Modelers (RPM) Meet in Greensburg. We had been using JMRI software for operations, but Charlie was not pleased with the way JMRI handled the classification yard, so we decided to switch to a traditional car card and waybill system. This is not as easy a task as it may sound. It involved creating hundreds of car cards and waybills for all of our freight cars. Realistic shippers and receivers for each car had to include industries on our layout, such as Cambria Iron Works, National Biscuit Company, Rolling Rock Brewery, Kopp Glass, Union Switch & Signal, etc. We spent many evenings researching industries online and creating routing for freight and materials. We decided to have a "practice" operating session on 3/10/17, two weeks prior to the RPM, with our regular crew.
Charlie and I both gave presentations at the Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet in Greensburg, Pa last weekend. I spoke about the design of our model railroad - how it started, how it evolved, and how it has been built. One of the obvious questions was why Conrail? I explained that I returned to Pittsburgh in 1979 after graduating from college and was struck by the gleaming blue Conrail locomotives pulling piggyback and coal trains up the Turtle Creek Valley. After giving my presentation (of course), I found this photo which captures the view looking up the valley from Greensburg Pike at Aliquippa Street - a view of the valley you could not get from any other location. I have annotated the photo with a red line to show the path of Union Railroad and a blue line to show the path of the Conrail (now NS) main line on the opposite side of the valley. The Greensburg Pike Bridge (the "blue bridge"), which has now been replaced, is in the center of the photo. Truly the photo that launched a layout...
Here is a current (2/11/17) shot taken from the same location. Being a digital photo, rather than a scan of an old print, this one has much better resolution and with the leaves off the trees allows a better view of the Union Railroad trestle immediately below. The replacement Greensburg Pike Bridge and Turtle Creek are visible at the center of the picture. The prominent yellow brick brick building is an old school I believe, now the Human Services Center. The taller building to the left is the Senior Citizen high rise apartments. It seems like every river town around Pittsburgh built one of these buildings in the late 1960s/early 1970s. This valley will always have a draw on me.
These photos have been sitting in the archives waiting to be posted. Charlie and I saw this unique Norfolk Southern MOW car on the siding in Trafford last summer. If passing through town, we usually drive down along the tracks to see if there is anything interesting. NS uses the lead track to the now-defunct Turtle Creek Railroad as a place to store MOW equipment to get it off the mainline. We had never seen one of these before and stopped to get some pictures.
Two weeks ago Charlie saw reports of a Sperry Rail Service Inspection Car on the siding in Trafford, which was a "must see." We were not able to go during the work week, because it is now dark by 5 pm. We held our breath hoping it would still be there Saturday morning so that we could get some photos. The word was that they were doing track inspection/testing on the NS Pittsburgh Division at night when traffic was low, and parking the unit on the former Turtle Creek Railroad siding in Trafford during the day. We got our wish when we arrived Saturday morning, but saw some other neat things too. It was well worth the effort on this very cold morning!
Although the Magnuson Models Power House kit is similar to the Wabtec manufacturing plant, I think it might be possible to stitch these three photos together to make a credible photo building flat. I need to use a step ladder to get a little more elevation - the rails are always blocking the bottom of the building!
We usually drive home through Wilmerding on Pennsylvania Avenue past Pitcairn Yard. We got lucky today as not one, but two, sets of NS Eco-Units were in the yard. The one set was in a perfect position to get good photos. Norfolk Southern designed and built about thirty pairs of these locomotives over the past few years using government subsidies. These units have flared radiators to increase the length of cooling tubes and decrease heat and particulate pollution. Two sets are assigned to Pittsburgh, as denoted by the map on the locomotives, which usually work out of Pitcairn Yard.
Last weekend we enjoyed a fabulous meal at The Supper Club, located in the historic Greensburg, Pa. Train Station. This building is an architectural gem which still serves Amtrak's Pennsylvanian train twice each day.
If you have never dined here, there is no time to waste. The Tribune-Review reports that the restaurant will close at the end of January 2017 as its lease was not renewed by Stone Kim Properties, the owner of the building. The restaurant's owner, Deborah Driggers, offered to buy the station from the Westmoreland Cultural Trust last year for $800,000 after putting $500,000 into the restaurant. The Trust declined her offer, choosing instead to sell it to Stone Kim Properties for just $525,000. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the developer sits on the board of the Cultural Trust.
The restaurant has an imaginative menu, great service, and of course a primo location. It will be missed.
The Greensburg Train Station was designed by architect William Cookman and built in 1912. The building was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The Supper Club is on the left in the former passenger station, while Amtrak passengers reach the platform through the former freight depot on the right. (Westmoreland County website photo)
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