Friday, February 20, 2015


The industrial park down the street from my house is located on just about the northern end of Conrail Shared Assets Hainesport Industrial Track.  Formerly a PRR through line, this railroad has been cut back to Mt Holly, but is only serviced as far as Hainesport.    Despite being at the dead end of an "industrial track", Hainesport is quite busy in terms of rail traffic - enough for one train each weekday to make the run up from Camden, usually dual GP38-2s with at least a dozen cars, sometimes many more.     This very small industrial park receives wine in refers, steel coil in coil cars (the right door on the blue building in background),  plywood, rebar, and steel on flats, gons and center beams for a team track, and outgoing many many large trash gons and skeleton flat cars with garbage containers.    The industrial park itself is served by the independent Hainesport Industrial Railroad - a track mobile - and in reality a scam to enable a trash to rail operation without local or state regulatory oversight (not that I object)   There is an additional customer in Hainesport, but not in the industrial park, a creosote plant, or whatever the substitute is to treat power poles.  This is still served by Conrail Shared Assets, receiving log cars.    Add a very large paper distributor down the track in Mt Laurel that usually has up to a dozen or more box cars spotted, there is an interesting mix of traffic to see, and, unlike most of the rest of New Jersey, not a covered hopper or tank car in the mix - its an all-natural railroad - trees, wood, steel, paper, and booze inbound,  trash outbound.

So, despite a semi predictable array of freight cars there is occasionally an interesting visitor, like EAMX 303, shown above.   (I once thought I saw a G-39 ore jenny at night on the local, but could have mistaken it I guess)    Since the pipe mills closed in nearby Burlington and Florence a few years ago, hoppers are rare, and even rarer, single hoppers.    I'm not sure what this was delivering or picking up - maybe they were trying it out with trash? but there is a STEEL connection.  This car was originally owned by the Cambria and Indiana Railroad, a Bethlehem Steel railroad, and used to haul coal from Bethlehem Steel mines to coke plants at their mills.    The car was of course also built by the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1980.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Happy New Year to All.

I apologize for no updates for sometime.  The modeling bench has been collecting dust as I work 7 day weeks and very long days/nights.   Despite adding a few more carpenters we have been swamped with work over the holidays and at least for the next two months or so.   We took a brief weekend break in mid-December for a short antique shopping getaway.   One of my purchases was a Union Switch and Signal train crossing signal light - basically one of the flashing red lights  (of two).  It's in ok shape and functions - I plan on welding up a mounting bracket and maybe put on a pole outside, or inside possibly too.  

Purchasing this signal got me interested in signals in general.  Something I had never really read much about, other than just knowing what the different types looked like, and having a sense of what railroads used which types.   After learning a bit more about this subject I sort of became curious about collecting a few more  - move forward a week - and I'm now the proud owner of an Union Switch and Signal N-3 Dwarf Signal, and a Union Switch and Signal H-2 Searchlight Signal (signal only, not the mast)   This isn't an especially inexpensive thing to collect, but not unreasonable for what you get in my estimation.  Railroad items in general are way over priced given there is so much out there, and fewer collectors out there.  The same goes with model railroad items too.   Ebay is a joke in that it used to be an auction site, but most sellers, and especially sellers of train related items, just set the starting bid at what they ultimately want to get for the item, which is usually some inflated value that they have in their mind anyway.   I've sold hundreds of items on eBay including a sailboat and a diesel truck and never had a starting bid higher than 99 cents and never put a reserve on anything, and guess what - I always got at least what I wanted for the item.  There are reasonable deals on there, but you just have to find them - and don't give those people that set the price high business.    Anyway enough of my eBay rant.  

All the signals work so my intention is to connect them to a power source and probably build and program an Arduino micro controller to randomly change signal aspects.   But first, I need to build a base for the N-3 Dwarf Signal.  The signal is maybe 3' tall but cast iron and heavy.  It has a small baseplate with two slots for bolts - slots as signals need to be aimed precisely  (something else I learned)   I'd like to just leave the signal as shown, however, it's very precarious.  A gust of wind could knock it over and send 100 lbs of cast iron into my hardwood floor.    So it needs a base.  I thought of making one out of concrete to imitate the small pedestals you see them mounted on next to the railroad tracks, but was worried about the concrete inside, on the floor etc.   Wood is something I can work with easier.  Using some scrap parallam beams as a core, and for weight since they are heavy, I built an MDF shell around, which I will paint to simulate concrete.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Thanksgiving at the shore as usual.   A recent nor'easter had uncovered some railroad tracks buried in the sand at Cape May Point, so we shifter our Thanksgiving Day walk on the beach from Avalon to Cape May.    The tracks were associated with a sand mining plant at the point which closed in the 60's or 70's.  Sand was dug along the beach and hauled by rail to the wash plant and rail car loader located about a 1/4 mile east from these tracks.  The plant was effectively the southern end of the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines trackage.  Located in the dunes, a hundred feet or so from the ocean, you couldn't really go any further south in New Jersey.     This looks to be only a section of track and not a continuous line that got buried.  My guess is either a storm buried the track and they just removed the unburied trackage and shifted the line, or they were in the process of moving the track sections to mine another strip of beach and this one got caught in a storm.    It looks narrow gauge in this shot, but the rail has just shifted off the ties.    The section of rail is in a tidal outflow which generates mini-rapids during the outgoing tide.    Who knows how long it will be before it is covered again

Sunday, November 2, 2014


A few weeks ago I received an announcement from Wayne Cole that his newest Ghost Rails - Volume XI was finished and available for purchase.   Like Volume X this is another large hardbound box devoted mostly to the steel industry in the Shenango Valley.    I promptly ordered and received a copy last week.

If you aren't familiar with these books, Mr. Cole I believe self-publishes them.  Most are related to forgotten railroads, traction lines, and industry in western PA/easter OH.   Because they are self published I've heard some criticism on things like photo quality, organization and editing, and lack of maps and visual aids.  These are valid issues - Mr. Cole even goes so far as to acknowledge them.  In his preface he writes: "Volume 11 is complex and confusing in areas" and suggests having the content guide and a topo map handy while reading.   Despite this, these books have been my favorite steel industry related reading.  The books are full of photos and descriptions of processes and rail movements within the mills.   At a base level, this is what I personally want to know about the steel industry.   For example, the history of a certain mill, say a rolling mill is interesting - when it was built, who designed it,,...etc...  but I also want to know how the raw steel for that mill is delivered and handled, and how the rolled products are shipped and where too.  These books are full of this sort of info.  So far I've leafed through twice and read most of the captions and looked at the photos.  Like Volume X it will take me a month or two to really go through the book.  Well done again Mr. Cole.

Forthcoming Volumes are to cover Youngstown (XII) and Warren (XIV)

Monday, October 20, 2014


Sorry for lack of blog posts of late, but business is growing too fast and spend most of my waking moments trying to keep up.   An opportunity presented itself for a last minute weekend getaway this past friday.  Hastily planned, we resolved to go somewhere within a few hours driving distance that we haven't been before - difficult given that we mostly travel within a few hours of our house on our weekend getaways.   Since we like antique stores, I consulted the guides I keep on my desk and found a cluster of antique stores around Hagerstown, MD - Gettysburg, PA.  I'd been in the area before with my son when we used to do father and son Civil War battlefield trips when he was little, but never with my wife and not for shopping purposes.   About halfway there I got recalled that the regional NMRA convention was possibly in Hagerstown, although I also thought maybe Virginia, and I wasn't even sure which weekend.  Well it was this weekend and was in Hagerstown.  So I guess I could have gone, but since it was a last minute call,.....  

We had a great weekend - bought lots of industrial artifacts - ate mostly good food - and saw some new towns and villages.   I stopped at the Western Maryland RR Museum in Hagerstown  late Saturday afternoon after a jaunt down to West Virginia, and bumped into now fewer than 4 model railroaders I knew.   They probably think I've lost a few marbles with my explanation at how I ended up in Hagerstown the same weekend as the convention.

Besides the antiques, the posted photo's show a real neat find in the C&O Canal Park at Williamsport, MD.   This is probably one of the neatest little moveable railroad bridges I've ever found and it cries out for modeling.   The bridge was built by the Western Maryland Railroad in 1923 to access a newly built power plant built on the strip of land between the canal and the Potomac.  The canal was still in use at the time so the bridge had to be built in a way to allow clearance for both the canal boats and the mules and towrope pulling them.  This led to the unique configuration shown in the photos.  Ironically there was extensive flooding the winter after the bridge was completed and the canal never reopened.  The bridge was only raised a few times to protect it from later floods.  The spur was abandoned in the early 1970's when the plant switch to truck deliveries of coal.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Once again I haven't had the time to follow up with additional posts related to my new cutting machine.  Hopefully I'll start to assemble the gas washer I started a few weeks ago,  very soon.  In the meantime......

SPRAY PAINT -  This is a Liquitex can of spray paint I picked up the other evening.   It's the first that I'm using this product line.  I've used liquitex acrylic paints for years and like them.  The spray paint is low odor and while wet can be cleaned up with water.   There are a fair number of online reviews relating to the tips clogging.  This is common with water based sprays I've noticed.   I use a Zinzer water based spray primer and it behaves similarly - clogged tips and sputters if you don't keep the tip clear.    As I use these paints,  I guess I'll figure out how much of a pain in the ass this becomes.   What I do like, is the range of colors, and not typical bright pastel colors, but lots of earth tones and industrial looking colors.  The cans are 12oz, which is four times as much paint as the Testors or Floquil cans.   The price varies, but figure on around $6, which is slightly more than the Lowes/Home Depot Rustoleum or Kyrlon Cans.   I managed to pick up two on sale at Michaels at $5 a can to try.   I bought an industrial light green color that I might use on my port crane, and Raw Umber #7  - This second color is the best I've seen to approximate weathered concrete.  I do also like the Rust o leum light brown camouflage color for this as you've seen in the past, but I think this is slightly better as it's a touch lighter.    You can go online to Blik Art supply and check out there range of colors.

One pass made for rabbets - awaiting second pass

STORAGE -  With the limited space I have in my basement, my scratch building supplies and parts are scattered in many plastic bins and boxes.  I want to get a more organized system as the one part I usually need is the only one I can't find.  Taking a page from the old drawer/bins found in general stores and hardware stores I experimented at my shop with developing a system of mass producing sturdy and cheap storage bins.  I'm using 1/2" MDF for the entire drawer and they are roughly 6"x6"x12",  but really any size could be made.  I want to be able to create some simple plywood shelves that these bins will fit into.    MDF is super cheap, but I also wanted to not spend a lot of time on these things.   The fewer machines and operations the better -  All the cuts were made on a table saw with a regular blade.  The only other tool needed was a brad or pin nailer to assemble the drawers (the glue really holds them together.   The fronts have a notch, or in woodworking as it's known, a rabbet, on three sides, and the sides have rabbets on the two long sides.  The bottom has none.   If measured correctly, the pieces will fit together nice and tight, with the glue doing the real work, and the brads just to hold things together while the glue is drying.   I fashioned some cheap simple handles from poplar using a few passes on the table saw.  Hopefully the pictures tell the story, but if you need more info just drop me a line.
The five pieces of a bin/drawer

Assembled - these 8 took about 2 hours from raw MDF to built
Cheap easy handles.  I might use the handles typical on the old library card catalogs as they have a slot for a label.  

Getting late so I'll cover the Electrical Poles in detail in a future post.  Briefly I wanted a look that you see in a lot of steel mills - tall narrow towers as opposed to your typical hi-tension poles.  The BCH towers fit the bill, however, they were slightly short I felt.  I added a short section from the Walthers electric tower kit to the bottom of the BCH tower and then added a concrete foundation.  Still playing around with the design a bit but here are some preliminary results -

Sunday, July 20, 2014


While antique shopping last weekend I came across these two wire rope artifacts and purchased them.  One was a full spool and the Bethlehem one, just a half.   Also note the Penn Central timetable from 1970.  It was a few bucks but interesting reading - good info on trains and also on industrial sidings along routes.  Posted track speed limits were a crawl in many places - too young to remember but physical plant sounds a mess.

I also picked up a few other time tables for $1 a piece - a couple PRSLs from the 50s of local interest and a ACL very nicely done booklet - last station stop Havana.   While at the Reading RR Historical Museum (photos of equipment in earlier blog), I picked up some back issues of there magazine - the Bee Line.  Specifically I picked up the very well done issues (3 part) on Bethlehem Steel's Grace Mine and another nicely done article on the massive railroad tie creosoting plant at Port Reading, NJ

A few models here and there.   At a visit to a Robot museum/store I grabbed a model of the robot from the 70's (I think) TV show Lost in Space.  Also elsewhere, a 1/144 scale Dragon model of a WWII German Railway gun - nice brass etched detail parts and a turned aluminum barrel.   Nice mix of reading materials, trains and models, and industrial artifacts.