Following the completion of Pitcairn Yard and the first full operating session held for the 2017 Greensburg RPM meet in March, we have held monthly operating sessions. We like to have some progress to show each month which has taken the form of laying sidings for several industries. See below for photos of each spur thus far.
This is no April Fool's joke, but we met the deadline on installing an industry for April. Rolling Rock brewery was once a thriving industry of Latrobe (it still is but under different ownership). We chose to model it using one of the buildings from the Walthers Paper Mill kit and two sidings. The outdoor siding is used for unloading raw materials such as grain to make the beer. The indoor track is used to ship finished beer out in insulated boxcars. There will also be several truck loading docks for materials the plant would receive or ship in too small a quantity or too short a distance to use rail. These truck docks are highly visible, making it a great place to detail an open door and the flashing green and red lights on the dock.
In order to achieve as much grade separation between the mainline and Stone & Co. as possible, a very steep drop is made off the main to reach the industry. We doubled up the cork roadbed to effect a smooth and gradual vertical curve. Despite the severe vertical curves, we have had no runaway cars so far.
The progress for June's operating session was made on the North Side. There was a severe vertical kink in the mainline as it entered the Ft. Wayne bridge's west end. As a first step to try to resolve the issue, we removed the screws that set the elevation of the riser in the far right of this photo. This fixed the problem! The plywood set itself where there was no resistance, and we sank the screws in new holes. The plywood in the bottom right corner of this photo was also cut and screwed in place to emphasize the elevated mainline compared to ground level. Footage for the Pittsburgh Mainlines videotape/DVD was shot from the roof of R.R. Donnelly, a printing company located here, so we'll probably model that business, even though not served by rail. Additional track was added on the north side of the main. A run around was installed to allow westbound intermodals to work the stub-ended Island Avenue intermodal terminal. Off of this run around are two sidings.
For July, the AVR interchange at Island Avenue Yard was installed between the intermodal yard and the mainline. The plywood rises up into the yard, so the cork was sanded out to nothing to compensate for the hill and allow the yard tracks to sit flat on the plywood. We have used this technique with cork roadbed to transition to plywood on many of our sidings.
Much of the information on rail-served industries came from these track diagrams of the Conrail Pittsburgh Division that Charlie has collected. Conrail published yearly ZTS maps showing exact track layout, car spots, and owners of industrial sidings. We even did some tax map & deed research, which was fun and interesting.
This photo shows the main line continuing past Island Avenue Yard and dropping down into the "trench" through West Park, which is a very popular spot for railfans. The prototype disappears from sight beneath a signal bridge and a road bridge for North Avenue. These will be modeled to disguise the hole in the wall leading to the staging yard.
After connecting the mainline, we had to lay track for Pitcairn Yard to allow for operations to commence. The prototype Pitcairn Yard was used as a general freight classification yard into the Penn Central era. An interesting feature of Pitcairn Yard for many decades is that it also served as an autorack unloading yard where new cars were driven off trains to go to local dealerships. Since the mid 1990s, the yard has served as Conrail, and later Norfolk Southern's, Pittsburgh Intermodal Terminal. Although the prototype yard was practically dormant during the early Conrail years that we model, it serves as a freight yard out of which local turns originate on our layout. Our Pitcairn Yard includes two double-ended arrival and departure tracks, five stub-ended classification tracks, a run around, a caboose track, a RIP (Repair In Place) track, two autorack unloading tracks, and an engine terminal.
Operationally, mainline mixed freight trains stop to work the yard as they pass through the layout. For right now, the PML has four mainline mixed freights. Usually two to three of these run in a session. The road crew ties their train down on the arrival and departure tracks, splitting their usually-lengthy train to fit, then runs their road power to the engine terminal for servicing. The yard crew then works the mainline train, removing cars bound for online industries and interchanges and adding cars bound for staging in the same direction as the train's destination. Once the yard crew is done putting the train back together, the road crew doubles up their train and heads for points east or west.
The yard crew is also responsible for putting together locals on an as-needed basis as cars for local industries accumulate in the yard. All locals operate as turns. They pick up power from the engine terminal, pick up their train, work the industries off one main on their way out, work the industries off the opposite main on their way back, and tie down in the yard.
Pitcairn has turned out to be a major hub of operational activity on our layout. See the photos below for a tour of the yard, working east from the western approach to the yard.
Pitcairn Yard had many required tracks, so careful planning was required in AutoCAD before a single spike was driven. About a month was spent drawing and revising the yard design until we were happy with the result. In this view, blue trackage belongs to Conrail. The yard ladder is seen at top middle and the engine terminal to the right.
This concludes your tour of Pitcairn Yard. Once everything was said and done, the yard envelops most of the "new room". The yard fills a much-needed role for prototype operation.