Although not on such a grand scale, Charlie and I were very happy to complete our two-track Conrail mainline on Tuesday evening, October 4, 2016! I started designing the layout with Bob Dengler and Tom Gaus in 2003 and we started construction in 2006, so it has been a long time coming. I credit Charlie with keeping the project moving forward on weekends and evenings when I'd rather have relaxed with a magazine or newspaper.
Here Charlie drives the "golden spike" (okay, it was just a track nail painted gold) in the eastbound track as Conrail SD40-2 #6366 waits to make the first entire loop around the layout. This loco was lightly weathered, tuned and had sound and DCC added by our friend Mike Garber from Midlothian, VA, so it was very appropriate that this would be the first loco to make the complete run. The final spike was driven in front of what will be Westinghouse Airbrake (now Wabtec) in Wilmerding. I hope George Westinghouse is looking down and smiling!
Here is a photo of the "new" room where the tracks met. This room will represent the Turtle Creek Valley, starting with Braddock on the left and finishing with Trafford on the right. This picture was taken about four weeks ago, just after the backdrop painting was complete. With the main line connected, a complete run around the layout takes 14-1/2 minutes at normal operating speed.
We have worked really hard this summer to get the mainline completed for our NMRA open house on October 16, 2016 and we are so glad we made it, We've not taken time to update the web site since mid-July, so now that the open house is behind us, watch for some catching up and updates on our Progress and Blog pages. Thanks for your patience.
We were pleased to again co-host the NMRA MCR Division 2 meeting today with Bob Prehoda at the Norwin Library. Thanks to all who stopped by our layout before or after the meeting. Here are a few pictures.
Two other very nice entries; the one on the left by Alden McBee and on the right by Marge Meehan. Both Alden and Marge are frequent winners of the monthly contests with their excellent entries.
Everything was ready at Pittsburgh Mainline for our visitors. The layout tour sign was in the yard, the Conrail flag unfurled, refreshments set out and the guest towels in the bathroom.
Bob Prehoda, also a North Huntingdon resident, is always very gracious to open his layout for visitors during the October NMRA meeting which he co-hosts with us. Unfortunately, as a result we rarely get to visit or photograph his layout since we are open at the same time. However, please click on the link below for a video tour of his magnificent finished layout, the Huntingdon Northern. Credit: TrainsOnBrains Youtube Channel
Quite out of the blue, Charlie announced two weeks ago that he had seen some refurbished steam engines on Broadway Limited's web site, and he thought we should get one for the layout. A post-war PRR K4 had his eye, priced at 40% off MSRP. Not sure where this came from - this is the young man who, when he learned that room fresheners came in different scents, asked his mother if they made them in diesel fuel scent! I figured we could maybe use it for fan trips on the system...and after all, it was a Conrail predecessor railroad. So, the order was placed and our first steam engine arrived last week. So begins a new era.
I couldn't get any photos as good as those on BLI's web site, so I copied these three images.
We were recently invited to an open house at DJ Arlia's Union Railroad layout. We have followed DJ's interesting YouTube videos (YouTube channel: djstrains) and website (www.djstrains.com) about building his layout, and finally met him this past winter. In addition to being an over-the-road engineer for CSX, DJ shares our interest in this local uniquely-Pittsburgh railroad. He has captured the essence of the Union Railroad with the Clairton Coke Works, Irvin Works and the Homestead steel mill in N gauge, using a lot of books, research materials and maps he has collected. We hope our layout can include at least some of the meticulous detail and scenery of this layout. It was an enlightening visit, including a nice lunch buffet (thanks Theresa!) and souvenir gold railroad spike!
Thanks DJ for a very pleasant visit. We sure learned a lot about the Union Railroad through your neat layout. We look forward to more of your "how to" videos on YouTube! - Andy, Charlie & Kevin
Charlie and I had a rare and special opportunity this week. My lifelong school friend Henry Posner, partner with Bob Pietrandrea in Pittsburgh-based Railroad Development Corporation, invited us to a cocktail reception onboard the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) Inspection Train in conjunction with the U.S. Open Golf Tournament in Oakmont, Pa. The train, consisting of two locomotives and two private cars, and dubbed the "Golf Tournament Special," is spending the week parked on the Allegheny Valley Railroad's main line next to Allegheny Avenue in the heart of Oakmont. It was a very posh affair and we had a wonderful time. Here are some photos of the train.
The train was led by locomotive #716, a GP38-2 originally built for the Penn Central Railroad in August 1972. Under Conrail ownership, this unit was numbered #8017. The second unit #711, also a GP38-2, built in July 1972, was also previously owned by Penn Central and Conrail. Both were gleaming in their black paint with red and yellow accents. There are many more (and better) photos of IAIS motive power at www.iaisrailfans.org. The Iowa Interstate is one of eight railroads around the world operated by RDC. It is based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and operates the former Rock Island routes between Chicago, IL and Omaha, NE. IAIS is one of the few railroads that connects with every Class 1 railroad in the U.S.
We enjoyed some good conversation, delicious food and the pristine private railroad cars. Thanks for including us Henry and Bob! We wish you safe travels back to Iowa aboard the Golf Tournament Special.
Ever since climbing on board a Conrail SD80MAC locomotive at South Fork, PA during a CR Historical Society Convention, I have been fascinated by Conrail's largest locomotive model, the SD80MAC. These thirty locomotives unique to Conrail each harness a whopping 5,000 HP and weigh in at 420,000 LB. Conrail bought these locomotives equipped with radial trucks and AC traction motors to haul long coal trains over steep grades in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Conrail was very impressed by the locomotives and planned to order more before NS and CSX took control. The locomotives were split up but were reunited on NS last year except for one wrecked unit. These units are likely to be rebuilt soon so I am working to catch all the units I can. I have seen 25 out of the remaining 29 units so I'm almost there.
Anyways, I acquired a Kato SD80MAC in Conrail a while back. I just installed a "Plug and Play" DCC decoder at first but recently had the time and money to install sound. I chose a Tsunami TSU-KT1000 decoder. This is a simple board replacement requiring very little work. Unfortunately these decoders are being phased out. I used a TCS UNIV-SH1-C WowSpeaker and enclosure which I am very satisfied with. More details and a video are below.
After hearing word of the Norfolk Southern executive train approaching, my dad and I went to Wilmerding (CP-WING) to catch the business train and also saw some other neat trains.
With the recent cake to celebrate Conrail's 40th birthday, we can't help but share the train-themed cakes that have become a tradition for Andy and Charlie's birthdays! Each one has been better than the one before. These cakes were all made by our local "cake lady" Linda Kovach, who does a tremendous job. They are almost too nice to eat! In case you wondered, both Andy and Charlie are partial to spice-flavored cake.
Since we needed to complete more design work before continuing construction, Conrail's birthday seemed like a good time for an operating session. Here are some photos.
Conrail commenced operations on April 1, 1976, forty years ago today. Happy Birthday Conrail!
This is the first advertisement for Conrail that appeared in a trade publication, Modern Railroads, in May 1976. Note the original logo with a capital letter C and R. This logo was only in use for about a month before the familiar steel wheels on rails logo appeared. Thanks and a hat tip to Robert S. Waller for preserving this piece of Conrail's history. His Conrail Cyclopedia website at www.crcyc.railfan.net contains a wealth of information and photos.
The Train Nerd's Blog is dedicated to bringing you the latest railroad news and railfanning adventures of Andy and Charlie!