Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Fresh Start

                      My CP&StL equipment will soon be operating on a new layout.

The model railroad that I was building and (somewhat sporadically) chronicling in this blog is no more.  A new layout rises in its place, and I hope to share my progress with you all in the months ahead.

There wasn't a single reason for starting over, but several.  I wanted to both add and simplify the wiring system and improve the layout lighting.  As I explain below, I also wanted a little more diversity in the traffic I had on the railroad -- to look more like the photo friend Frank Hodina took that I have posted again above.  But, more than anything, I had taken the concept about as far as I could, and with empty nesterdom looming, it seemed like time for a fresh start.

I have a lot invested in equipment for my freelanced version of the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railway, and as the railroad came down, I began by considering whether I wanted to make a complete break and model something different.

To be honest, if you read the model railroad hobby press with regularity, it is hard to escape the conclusion that freelancing – that is, modeling a fictitious railroad -- is increasingly passé.  That’s a fairly recent development in the hobby.   As recently as twenty years ago when I began planning a new layout in the basement of our then new home, a number of the most respected model railroads in the hobby were freelanced, including W. Allen McClelland’s Virginian & Ohio (which, at least in the modern era of the hobby, probably stated it all), Tony Koester’s Allegheny Midland, David Barrow’s Cat Mountain and Santa Fe, Bill Darnaby’s Maumee Route, and Eric Brooman’s Utah Belt.  It’s telling that today two of those iconic freelanced model railroads have been replaced by their builders with layouts that faithfully follow specific prototypes.  They have joined modelers like Jack Burgess, Lance Mindheim, Bob Rivard and James McNab who have likewise chosen to model prototype railroads to a high degree of fidelity.  

I suspect freelancing has waned for a couple of reasons.  First, as manufacturers began producing far more accurate models of prototype equipment during the 1990s, modeling a specific prototype railroad accurately no longer required scratch building, making it a much more manageable undertaking for more modelers.  Today, countless kits are available that not only match specific prototypes in great detail, a number of these models are even available ready to run – the modeler need only add some weathering and place the equipment on the layout.  

In addition to the boom in the production of high fidelity models, over the last twenty years historical societies and interested individuals started using the new technology of the Internet to post photos, maps and other railroad data online, making it far easier for modelers to research and obtain the necessary information they needed to accurately model prototype railroads, and, just as importantly, to easily communicate with other individuals all over the world with similar interests.

While the trend towards modeling prototype railroads shows no signs of slowing, there are still good reasons to model a freelanced railroad, particularly for those of us who are interested in smaller railroads that operated in very specific places and times where the number of suitable models is still limited and the information available is still imperfect. 

Which is where the story of my new layout really begins. 

I have long been interested in steam era railroading in Illinois, more specifically the line between Madison (outside of St. Louis) and Litchfield (south of the capital in Springfield) during the 1950s – a stretch of track that was operated by a number of different railroads over the years.  The corporate history is complicated, but the executive summary is that this section of mainline was built by the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railway in 1889 - 1890 as the last segment of its route from Peoria to St. Louis.  Unfortunately, the financial panic of 1893 triggered an economic depression, and the original CP&StL drown in a sea of red ink.  

In 1900, the bankrupt CP&StL was sold to another group of railroad investors who already had their own mainline from St. Louis to Springfield.  The new owners were interested in the northern trackage of the CP&StL between Springfield and Peoria and preferred the “Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis” name, but the southern portion of the railroad was surplus to their needs.  Accordingly, in 1900, the new owners transferred the southern operation of the CP&StL to a new subsidiary, which they named the Litchfield and Madison Railway, and then they went looking for someone to buy it.  It took them over four years to accomplish it, but finally the L&M was sold to a group of investors led by the rather notorious John R. Walsh, who was later imprisoned for bank fraud.   And so, in late 1904, the L&M and the reorganized CP&StL went their separate ways.

The Litchfield & Madison soldiered on for over five decades from 1904 until it was purchased by the Chicago & Northwestern in 1958, and in many respects, it was a very interesting railroad.  With every new layout that I have built based on this stretch of railroad right of way – this is my third – my friend Frank Hodina has suggested that I might be well served to simply model the L&M outright, and I seriously considered doing so before I started construction on the present layout, but it’s easier said than done.   The L&M 2-8-2 Mikados featured low 55” drivers, and while I think Frank may have figured out a way to create a passable model of an L&M Mike from a Southern Pacific MK-10 (the ex-Minarets & Western Mikados built by Alco in 1923 that look very similar to the L&M Mikados also built by Alco that year), it’s not an easy or cheap conversion and it still involves a number of visual compromises.  Building a small fleet of brass bashed L&M Mikes using this technique still seems a daunting task.  The same is true of much of the rest of the L&M’s equipment roster during the steam era.  Over time, Frank and I have figured out ways to do it, and InterMountain now even makes a very nice model of an AAR Alternate Standard L&M twin hopper, but the cost and time to assemble a representative roster has always seemed more trouble than it’s worth.

Still, if the only obstacle to modeling the L&M was getting suitable equipment, I probably would have gone ahead and become a prototype modeler, scaling back the size of the layout and, in the process, the equipment that I would need to operate it, but there are other obstacles too.  Part of the charm of the L&M is that it wasn’t very big – the mainline was just under 45 miles long and included only four intermediate towns that required depots:  Mt. Olive, Staunton, Worden and Edwardsville. Unfortunately, it’s small stature means that photos of depots and other railroad buildings along the L&M are rare.  It’s not easy to make even a semi-educated guess as to what these structures looked like, let alone reproduce accurate paint schemes for them.   Even after two decades of hunting, I just don’t have much data to go by, no matter what era that I might choose to model the L&M.  Of course, I could just use common kits as stand ins, but if neither the equipment nor the structures are accurate, would simply slapping L&M lettering on a readily available model really constitute prototype modeling?  To me, it wouldn’t.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while I wanted to keep the coal traffic on the southern portion of the line that was so important operationally to the railroad (both prototype and model), I also wanted more diversity.  Outside of the United States Radiator plant at Edwardsville, the L&M didn’t have much online business apart from the coal mines located along the line.  To supplement its coal traffic, the L&M moved a lot of bridge traffic to and from the C&NW interchange at Benld, but as the mines closed and the L&M became more and more dependent on this bridge traffic, the C&NW in turn exerted more and more control over L&M operations.  C&NW trains began running behind C&NW locomotives over the line in 1949, and within a decade, the L&M was no more.  To model the L&M in the 1950s was, in effect, to model the C&NW and a couple of L&M coal trains running behind the railroad’s trio of RS-3s, memorializing a time when the railroad was dying a slow death.  It just wasn’t what I wanted.

What I did (and do) envision is a layout featuring not only the Wabash interchange where the L&M delivered much of its coal – a single mine owned by the L&M supplied all of the coal needed to power the Ann Arbor Ferry Boats that operated on Lake Michigan – but also a layout that includes a couple of small farming communities so common to Illinois that were served by a small class one railroad under steam power during the early 1950s. To accomplish this, on this layout, like the previous two, I decided that I will continue to model not the L&M, but it’s parent the CP&StL, and explore what it might have looked like had the railroad survived in some truncated form until the 1950s – an alternate reality form of “what if?” freelancing. In effect, I am re-writing history so that the owners of the L&M not only got the track and equipment, but the CP&StL name and the line from Litchfield to Springfield as well.

I'll pick up the story from there in my next entry.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Branch Out Your Layout Design

This L&M Mikado is crossing the Illinois Central near Mt. Olive headed towards Litchfield with a couple of boxcars and some hoppers in tow; although originally part of the CP&StL mainline, once the Chicago & Northwestern trains began using the L&M to reach St. Louis, the line north of Decamp effectively became a branch line on the L&M -- this look was the inspiration for my railroad.  Joe Collias photo.

I have written before that when the time came to build my own layout in our new basement, I was smitten by time table and train order operation during the steam era.   To be fair, judging from the comments in various model railroading forums, I wasn’t the only modeler to find Bill Darnaby’s Maumee Route, Jack Ozanich’s Atlantic Great Eastern and Tony Koester’s Nickel Plate Third Sub visually and operationally compelling, and I made up my mind to build something like it for myself.
I soon discovered that fitting a 600 foot long mainline into my basement with a fleet of brass steam locomotives – the high quality plastic steam we enjoy today wasn’t yet available -- and hundreds of freight cars simply wasn’t realistic.   With four (then) small children, it was beyond my grasp, both financially and in terms of my modeling abilities.

When I began working with Frank Hodina, he had just designed Tony’s Third Sub, but I was surprised that he nudged me down another path almost immediately.   The secret to modelling in a smaller space, Frank advised, was to slow things down.   Yes, operating a crack manifest freight behind a big, handsome steam engine on a “dark” railroad sounds exciting, but Frank reminded me the hotter the freight, the more other trains must make way.   In many respects, operating the most important freights can be one of the least interesting jobs on a TT&TO layout, which is why, I learned, more experienced operators tended to gravitate to the locals and the yard jobs – the jobs that require more switching and decision making during an operating session.  For them, those crack manifest trains were the equivalent of a literary foil – contrasting trains that were primarily needed to highlight the character of the locals and yard jobs that were the stars of the show. 

That was my first and most important learning point from Frank – when space is limited, put the manifest trains in a cameo role and emphasize the “inferior” trains, that is, the locals and extras that do more work within the narrow confines of a small layout.

It was a huge breakthrough for me on my journey to get my layout up and running, but it still took Frank and I some time to refine the concept.  Frank’s first plan for the CP&StL was a highly detailed industrial switching layout based in Madison, Illinois.   It’s still a beautiful plan, but for my needs the complicated handlaid track work and the double deck were non-starters.   My solution was to build just a section of the mainline, but that didn’t work either as the trains would pass over the layout too quickly.   There just wasn’t enough work to be interesting.

Finally, Frank suggested I model a short branch line.   Frank had fond memories of the isolated branch line on the pioneering Midwest Modeler’s Club layout in Batavia, Illinois.   On the Batavia club layout, the branch line left the main at small terminal yard in St. Anne to reach the coal cleaning plant at Shelby (see track plan in Model Railroader, May, 1987 – yikes, has it really been almost 30 years?)   A single operator could enjoy working a short branch line, but the plan could potentially support a couple operators – which seemed perfect for my needs.

So far, the approach has worked very well for me, so much so Frank and I have recommend the concept to others on a number of occasions, even reducing it to something of a formula.    Whether freelanced or prototype based, if you wish to model a small branch line we encourage that you’ll need to plan for two basic elements:

--  A small yard on the mainline.   A small terminal with a small engine house and means to turn a locomotive (turntable or wye) is ideal, but the yard itself is critical.   The yard is needed for two reasons.  First, you need someplace for your crew to start and end it’s session, and a small terminal with a yard office allows for that.   Second, a small yard allows one of those crack manifest trains a place to drop and pick up cars, providing a mechanism to get the cars destined for the branch on and off the layout.   The superior trains won’t be on the layout very long as very little of the mainline need be modeled.  Operationally it’s not too different from modeling a live interchange with a foreign road -- the set out train come into town on the mainline, quickly swaps small cuts of cars and continues into staging.  

-- A major generator of traffic at (or very near) the end of the branch.   During any time period you may model, a branchline is an expensive luxury.   There has to be a source of traffic large enough to justify the cost of the branch.   A major industry is appropriate, but be careful if that’s your choice because few manufacturer’s would choose to locate in a remote area without some unique financial benefit they couldn’t otherwise obtain in a larger city where transportation options and a larger labor supply would be more prevalent.   For that reason, mines or other industries dependent on natural resources are good choices – those resources were often found off the beaten path.   Finally, the branch may be needed to make a connection with another railroad, but we found it was better to combine both an interchange and some major industry to generate the needed traffic.

The Litchfield and Madison didn’t have many branches, but it did have one, the two mile “Staunton branch” north of Staunton, Illinois.  The Staunton branch left the mainline at a place called “Mine 1” – a reference to the old Mt. Olive and Staunton Coal Company mine sunk at that location but long since closed – and headed east to Mt. Olive and Staunton Company Mine 2 near Williamson, Illinois.   The branch was built to serve the mine, but subsequently extended south to the Big Four connection at Livingston, Illinois.

Here was Frank’s first sketch for my layout:

There was a small yard at Mine 1 where the L&M stored hoppers and a wye for turning locomotives that seemed the perfect location for the small mainline terminal.   In order to introduce more industries and operating potential, Frank created the small freelanced town of “St. Anne” at this location (named, as you probably guessed, after the town on the Batavia club layout town that inspired the design of the layout).   The wye at Mine 1 was included too, but in Frank’s plan it’s just a dummy.  Even on the Staunton branch locomotives appear to have returned to the mainline by running backwards; the wye was for turning the locomotives once they reached the mainline.  Frank’s plan for the mine and the town of Livingston are freelanced too.   Although he later found a detailed track chart for Mine 2, whatever L&M trackage existed in Livingston was minimal and Frank’s version is likewise freelanced.

The Wabash Coal Marshaling Yard at Karnes looking north  – the hoppers are on the right of the double track mainline.  The Wabash had a coaling tower, steel water tank and a small station at this rural location.  John Barringer III photo.

I have refined the plan as I have built the layout, starting with the terminal on the mainline at St. Anne.   As the layout concept was refined, I wanted the joint Wabash/L&M coal marshalling yard at Karnes to feature prominently in the layout’s operations – simply put, the mission of the branch is to move coal from the mine to the coal marshalling yard at Karnes.  Unfortunately, I simply didn’t have room for both a small terminal and the coal marshalling yard.  At first, I planned to just turn Frank’s freelanced “St. Anne” into the Karnes coal marshalling yard, but quickly thought better of it.  The real coal marshalling yard was in a very rural location on the busy Wabash double track mainline – Karnes is listed on the Wabash timetables and there was a station, but there was no actual town there (see above).   The real place was both too much and too little:  I didn’t want to model a lot of those Wabash trains, and I agreed with Frank that some semblance of a small town was needed sufficient to support some other industries in order to give the operator more work to do. 

This L&M track chart shows the "Wabash Connection", a spur to reach the Wabash Coal Marshaling Yard at Karnes, Illinois.

My solution was to model the small yard similar to what Frank had designed and rename the adjacent town “Karnes.”   Like on the prototype, the Wabash coal marshalling yard is just to the west of the original CP&StL mainline beyond the treeline, connected (again as it was in real life) by a long spur off the main called the “Wabash Connection” (see above).  A  CP&StL 2-10-2 with a string of empty hoppers will be staged on this long Wabash Connection track, in theory having just come from the Wabash coal marshalling yard to begin its journey to the mine.

To provide some additional industries at Karnes, I’ve included an elevator, a flour mill based on a prototype from nearby Mt. Olive and a Soybean plant based on prototypes in Springfield and Decatur.  There’s also a team track near the depot.

Having moved the Wabash to the west of my small yard just on the other side of the treeline “over there”, I removed it from Frank’s suggested location on the plan in the northeast corner of the layout.   I replaced the Wabash crossing with the truncated wye which had been in the northwest corner adjacent to the yard.   Moving the wye not only allowed me to model a bit of the town of Karnes just north of the yard, it also allowed me to extend the mainline a bit, giving a little bigger cameo role for the manifest trains before they drop and collect cars at Karnes at a place I’ve named Carbon Junction (see above).    At the start of an operating session, the southbound local is staged here at Carbon Junction on the mainline taking on water.  It heads south to Karnes to work the local industries, where the bean plant in particular generates a fair amount of work.   When the work at Karnes is done, the crew spots the locomotive and goes to beans until the northbound set out train passes and collects the cars the local has set out for it.

The Mt. Olive and Staunton Coal Company Mine Number 2 at Williamson, Illinois was the inspiration for the mine on my freelanced branch.

The change of the terminal required some modifications to the branch as well.  On the L&M, the Staunton branch left the mainline four and a half miles south of the Wabash Connection, but in my layout room if I kept north and east to my right as I faced the layout (which I think is more natural), the mine had to be in the opposite direction north of Karnes.   Since most of Frank’s plan for Livingston was freelanced anyway, my solution was to keep the plan as he envisioned, but to forget about modeling the Staunton branch specifically and make the layout depict a second, freelanced branch to serving another mine, which I rather unoriginally named Mt. Olive and Staunton Coal Company Number 3.  Having cut the cord on the modeling the specific prototype branch, I re-named the freelanced town near the mine Carbon Prairie, which recalls nearby town of Glen Carbon on the L&M and underscores the “Prairie Coal” theme of the branch.   Finally, for purely practical reasons, I flipped the location of the mine and the town from what was shown in Frank’s plan to take advantage of the wider benchwork that was possible in this location for the small yard and industries located at Carbon Prairie.

That sounds like a lot of changes, but it really wasn't.  The essence of the branch Frank designed remains:  move coal from the mine to the Wabash, while providing some additional industrial work.  My hope is that it will keep two operators busy.

In the 2016 issue of Model Railroad Planning, Bill Darnaby describes how he added the Miami branch to his Maumee Route, terminating at Mesalia, Ohio.   Bill noted that the small branch keeps a crew busy for the better part of a four hour operating session.   If your space, time or budget is limited, I encourage you to consider the possibilities of modeling a branch line off of a larger layout.  It may just be the solution your looking for.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Historical Freelancing Step Three -- Select Appropriate Equipment and Devise Realistic Paint Schemes for your Models.

The Litchfield & Madison never rostered any Wabash L Class locomotives, but the L&M's simple paint scheme works well on the freelanced CP&StL 2-10-2.  Model by Frank Hodina

In the 1994 edition of Great Model Railroads, Tony Koester wrote a great primer on freelancing entitled “Prototype free-lancing on the Allegheny Midland”, where he outlined three approaches to freelancing a model railroad:  (1) extending the timeline and modeling a railroad in a time period it did not exist, (2) extending the physical plant to model a railroad in territory it never served, or (3) adopting base a base prototype and using it’s characteristics.  

I am using a form of timeline freelancing for my 1950s CP&StL, but rather than project a single railroad into the 1950s, I’ve created something new by assembling a railroad from various short lines and smaller railroads, much as the real syndicates did.   This form of “what if” modeling also provides me several 1950s base prototypes that were operating various segments of my freelanced mainline – the Litchfield and Madison to the south, the Chicago & Illinois Midland and Illinois Central in the center and the Chicago and Alton to the north -- which were the successors to the CP&StL and the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern.

An obvious benefit from this approach is that many issues are resolved simply by following the practices of one of my base prototypes, starting with the name of the railroad itself.   I’ll fess up here though because while it certainly sounds like a railroad (as, of course, it was), I probably made a mistake by using the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis name.  As I have written in other posts, the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis name was used by two very different prototype railroads that had very different routes and were  owned by very different groups.   Frankly, the prototype history is already confusing for most railfans, and by adding my freelanced version of the CP&StL with yet a different route to the mix, I’ve muddied the waters even more.  

I did have other options though.  At the time we were discussing track plans, Frank had urged me to use another of the “component parts” and take the name of the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern, or, alternatively, the St. Louis and Northern Short Line -- that’s the name he actually put on his first sketch plan for my layout.   Better still, Frank advocated that I adjust the Litchfield and Madison name and simply swap the northern terminal “Litchfield” for my intended terminus at “Peoria”, naming the freelanced railroad the Peoria & Madison.   All could have worked, but I liked the sound of the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis and I already had some equipment and decals made, so despite Frank’s warning I stubbornly stuck with it, but, as he re minded me not long ago, because two very different prototypes also shared it, the name has complicated the story I’m trying to tell.  He would want me to add, “It’s also too long!”

The complications with the name notwithstanding, creating a freelanced railroad via a merger of prototype predecessor lines has greatly simplified the thorny task of choosing appropriate equipment and paint schemes for the freelanced CP&StL.  Some designs were simply cribbed, paint scheme and all, such as on the VO1000s (see above for Frank's version). 

As I recently discussed in another post, the L&M provided the freelanced CP&StL with its caboose design (or, to be more accurate, the ex-Mopac AC&F cabooses that the L&M purchased in 1950 and 1952), including the “St. Louis Gateway Route” herald used for the paint scheme (again, see above for Frank's version).  Likewise, my CP&StL hopper car roster closely tracks the 1950s L&M roster, which serves as my base prototype for this equipment.   The CP&StL diesel fleet likewise follows the designs and simple paint schemes of the L&M.


The design preferences of the prototype predecessors and successors to my railroad were equally helpful when I had to choose suitable boxcar designs.  The L&M didn’t roster any boxcars and the boxcars purchased by the original CP&StL would not have survived into the 1950s, so I had to come up with something else.  Studying the rosters of both prototype versions of the CP&StL and L&M (which began as a CP&StL subsidiary), I learned all of these railroads had a preference for American Car & Foundry equipment, which was often built in nearby Madison, Illinois.   Knowing this preference for AC&F built cars, Frank suggested the freelanced CP&StL roster include a modified 1924 ARA boxcar design with a Howe truss built by the American Car & Foundry for a number of smaller class 1 railroads and short lines during the 1920s (see above).  We repeated the tactic for a steel boxcar design as well, choosing a 1944 AAR 4/3/1 “improved dreadnaught” design which AC&F built for the Illinois Terminal, among other railroads.   While neither prototype version of the CP&StL nor the L&M ever rostered these cars, given their preference for the builder they still look appropriate.

I plan to take a different tack on depots, which are critically important in setting the tone on a freelanced railroad.   Ray Breyer built a number of handsome depots for the CP&StL to a freelanced design using Wabash lines without some of the Victorian detailing.   The first CP&StL began by taking over some Wabash shortlines, so that seemed a good choice.  With more photos now online, I noticed a strong similarity between the Illinois Central depot on Alhambra and the Chicago and Alton depots in Pekin, Fancy Prairie and New Holland, Illinois.   I suspect all were built by the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern, and I plan to eventually use this depot design on the CP&StL too.  (Curiously enough, I recently learned this same depot design was also found on the Akron, Canton & Youngstown and the Missouri Pacific, and I suspect it was something of a standard plan in the 1890s.)  If I can ever find what colors the StLP&N painted the depots, I’d strongly consider using those too.   

As you can see, the use of appropriate base prototypes makes it much easier to make appropriate choices on locomotives, equipment and structures for your freelanced railroad.   I strongly encourage you to develop specific equipment and locomotive rosters early on before you spend a lot of money chasing favorite models or new releases that, later, you realize don’t really fit your concept. 

One caveat, when developing a 1950s locomotive or equipment roster for a freelanced railroad, it’s important to consider what the railroad looked like at least thirty years prior when the equipment was theoretically purchased – for a 1950s roster, go back at least to 1918 and the USRA period when standardized engine and equipment designs became more common.   Some of this equipment may not have survived to the time period you actually model, but if nothing else this equipment impacted the numbers your current modeled locomotives and cars were assigned, if not the choice of the subsequent equipment that replaced it.

A reprint of the 1953 Official Railway Equipment Register is available from the NMRA, and you’ll need one for your 1950s based railroad.  I’ve worn the cover off of mine.   You can buy it here.  For this project, however, set aside that 1953 reprint and go back and study the ORER listings from decades before.  I went back over 50 years and began by pulling various copies of the Official Railway Equipment Register and looking at the listings for both prototype versions of the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis, the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern, the Litchfield and Madison and the Chicago & Illinois Midland.   Those older ORER were hard to come by once, but you can find many issues of the Official Railway Equipment Register online for free here.  If the year you are interested in isn’t there, Westerfield sells some editions on CD.  Check their website.   Other editions of the ORER show up on ebay, you’ll just have to hunt.  Not only will the ORER give you good information about the quantities and types of cars you might need for your freelanced equipment roster, you might even consider adopting the numbering system of one of your base prototypes as well.

The key learning point here is build from the back.  Don’t just look at your freelanced roster as it would be in the 1950s (or whatever decade you model), go back several decades and build the roster so that it evolves over time, just as rosters did on the prototype.  Not only will your choices be more plausible, you can incorporate some subtle wrinkles that make your freelanced railroad come alive.

Here’s my complete locomotive roster for the CP&StL, but note how few of the designs would still be around to be included on my 1952 layout: 


   4  -   6                  0 - 6 - 0                  Alco Rhode Island Works                  1891/93 -1931 
   7  -   9                  0 - 6 - 0                  Alco Rogers Works                              1905 – 1931
  40 - 46                 2 – 6 – 0                  Alco Rogers Works                              1894 – 1913
150 - 159               4 – 6 – 0                  Baldwin Locomotive Works             1904 – 1941
160 - 167               2 – 8 – 0                  Alco Schenectady Works                   1913 – 1931/1937                             
200 - 202               0 – 8 – 0                  Alco Schenectady Works                   1925 – 1946  Modified USRA
203 - 205               0 – 8 – 0                  Alco Schenectady Works                   1928 – 1946  Modified USRA
300 - 302               4 – 6 – 2                  Alco Schenectady Works                   1924 – 1948        
400 – 402              2 – 8 – 2                  Alco Brooks Works                             1914 – 1952 
403 – 407              2 – 8 – 2                  Alco Schenectady Works                   1923 – 1952  Modified USRA
408 – 409              2 – 8 – 2                  Alco Schenectady Works                   1926/47 – 1952  Ex- Monon*
500 – 501              2 – 10 – 2                Alco Schenectady Works                   1917/42 – 1952   Ex-Wabash*

* Former Wabash locomotives 2503 and 2507.
* Former Monon locomotives 562 and 563.


100-104                 VO-1000               Baldwin                                                 1942 – Current
300-303                 RS-3 (phase I)      Alco                                                        1952 – Current
304-307                 RS-3 (phase II)    Alco                                                        1953 – Current

By 1952, only the 2-8-2s and the 2-10-2s would still be around, along with the VO-1000s and, soon, the RS-3s -- dieselization is still a few weeks away during the period I am modeling -- but by looking at the historical roster the numbering sequence works and the quantities of locomotives are appropriate.   As for the designs, many come from the L&M, but as I’ve described in separate posts, I’ve added some wrinkles with the 2-8-2s and 2-10-2s.  I am repeating this process for the CP&StL equipment roster and caboose fleet as well, slowly working forward from the railroad’s early days.

As more and more detailed models are now available, many fine modelers have eschewed freelancing and moved into prototype modeling, but freelancing to prototype practices can be every bit as demanding and the results hugely satisfying.   There is something uniquely gratifying in watching a freelanced railroad concept come to life.   I encourage you to give it a try.    

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Historical Freelancing -- Step Two: Anchor your Railroad with Prototype Interchange Partners and Appropriate Traffic

A Litchfield and Madison Extra freight prepares to depart Madison, Illinois northbound over the line built by the original Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis; the line passed to the L&M in 1904.

In my previous post, I described how my freelanced railroad was created by theoretically merging several smaller bankrupt railroads in 1900.  In this post I’ll discuss how that helped me establish prototypical interchange partners and traffic for my freelanced Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad.

Assembling a model railroad from real smaller prototype lines has proven to be very useful in developing traffic patterns for the freelanced CP&StL.   For the southern third of the railroad, the prototype CP&StL line between Madison and Litchfield passed to Litchfield and Madison Railway, and the L&M provides me with invaluable clues as to what traffic my freelanced railroad might have had in the 1950s.  While it’s helpful to have the Litchfield and Madison as a benchmark, because it was a primarily coal hauler that served as the Chicago & Northwestern’s route into St. Louis, the L&M isn’t a perfect match for the railroad I’m trying to model – if it was, I’d be modeling the L&M instead – but for coal traffic and related equipment, I follow the L&M practices closely.

For bridge traffic moving between Madison and Peoria over my freelanced railroad, however, while traffic moving over other railroads in this congested area near Madison is instructive,  to establish interchange partners and to refine the traffic mix for my railroad I again looked back to the prototype Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis. 
In 1920, the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce appointed a Terminal Committee to study the plethora of railroad terminals in St. Louis and recommend how movement of fright might be streamlined.   Their report provides a treasure trove of information on how traffic was interchanged.   You can download the report from Google books here.

According to the Terminal Committee Report, in 1920 the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis – the second of the prototype railroads to use the name – received almost two-thirds of its northbound cars from four principal connections:  the Missouri Pacific, the Southern, the SSW (Cotton Belt) and the SL-SF (Frisco).  Add cars generated by the CP&StL itself, and these five railroads accounted for 75% of the prototype CP&StL's northbound traffic from the St. Louis gateway.  Of these railroads, the MoPac was, by far, the most significant connection, accounting for 27% of all northbound loads forwarded by the CP&StL.
Southbound cars moving from the prototype Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis at St. Louis were both fewer and more broadly dispersed.  In 1920, the Wabash, Frisco and Southern were major recipients of cars from the CP&StL, but still these lines collectively received only 40% of all prototype CP&StL inbound traffic.  A significant amount of actual CP&StL inbound traffic during 1920 appears to have been transferred to the TRRA and terminated in St. Louis.  I didn’t have the same data from Peoria to preciously calculate where those southbound cars came from, but from written accounts I knew that the Santa Fe was a major CP&StL interchange partner and an important source of southbound traffic – the first CP&StL and the Santa Fe even operated joint passenger trains between Chicago and St. Louis for a period of time.  Research done by Ray Breyer on 1950s Nickel Plate traffic in Peoria further suggested that the Minneapolis & St. Louis, the Toledo, Peoria & Western, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific were likely to have been important southbound traffic sources for the freelanced CP&StL too, roughly in that order.
While the data was interesting, I wasn’t sure how valuable it was for projecting what traffic would be on my freelanced railroad in the early 1950s.   After all, my railroad was set thirty years after the data was collected by the Terminal Committee.  After I told him my concerns, Don Daily, a retired NKP engineer, made a key point:  while some of the St. Louis railroads changed because of merger and the volume of cars increased, the basic traffic patterns from the 1920s set forth in the report were much the same during the early 1950s.
You may not have this kind of data to work with, but even by studying photographs of your railroad’s prototype predecessors you will get a much better understanding of what kind of traffic your freelanced railroad should have.   How you depict that traffic in model form is up to you. 


Some rolling stock from the major connections of my freelanced Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis; the resin cars are the work of Pierre Oliver, the SRR boxcar is an ebay find.

In order to really drive home the point that the Mopac, Frisco, Southern and Cotton Belt are major St. Louis connections for my freelanced CP&StL, I have focused on modeling a number of boxcars and other equipment from these “foreign” roads, the Missouri Pacific in particular.   In my eagerness to make my point, I have probably run afoul of some of the research done Tim Gilbert and Dave Nelson that suggests the size of a foreign railroad’s equipment roster, rather than an interchange connection, is probably a better indicator of how many cars it would have on my freelanced railroad’s mainline.   As Tony Thompson noted in Model Railroad Hobbyist here, Gilbert and Nelson’s research suggests that “most railroads would be represented everywhere in the country in proportion to the relative size of their fleet of freight cars.”
So while the Mopac may be my railroad’s single biggest connection, with only the seventh largest fleet of freight cars on the rails in 1950, I could expect to see Pennsy and New York Central cars on my freelanced CP&StL mainline even more frequently than the Mopac car because their freight car fleets were even larger.   Tony Thompson collected the information in this blog post.

I find Gilbert and Nelson’s work persuasive, especially for bridge traffic, and for those who want to skip the research, modeling common cars from the biggest railroad fleets seems an equally plausible strategy.   I still suspect so close to a major gateway where these western roads terminated that cars from my freelanced railroad’s major interchange partners would be seen in greater numbers, either freshly loaded on their own rails or returning home from somewhere distant.   Even if I’m wrong about that, however, I’ll likely run these cars, including those pictured above, in disproportionate numbers anyway.

In a wonderful Trains of Thought column in the November, 1995 issue of Model Railroader, Tony Koester made the point that it’s important that model railroads – especially freelanced model railroads – tell a clear, concise story.  He noted that his model Alpha Jet ASJ-12, headed southeast off the Nickel Plate with “blocks of cars from midwestern railroads in its consist” helped tell the story of the Allegheny Midland, just as the other trains and the carefully chosen structures and equipment did.   I want my CP&StL manifest train consists to likewise tell part of my freelanced railroad’s story, and representing the road’s primary connections is an important part of that.  Keep in mind, if my manifest trains are 15 to 20 cars long, my sample size here is small.  If I have to exaggerate the numbers a bit to better tell the story, well, I can live with that.

If you are still not persuaded as to the value of this kind of research in establishing your freelanced railroad’s traffic patterns, however, as I’ve mentioned coal operations on the Litchfield and Madison had a huge influence on my layout.   I’ve written before about how Mark Vaughn’s article “Coal on the Wabash”, published in the Winter, 1993 issue of The Banner, was a turning point in my layout redesign.  Vaughn’s wonderful account of how Wabash and L&M crews worked the area mines around the Karnes, Illinois coal marshalling yard -- and his data illustrating that coal originated on the L&M supplied the entire fuel needs of the Ann Arbor Railroad and its fleet of lake ferry boats -- became the storyline of my new layout.  Frank helped move that story into the layout room and translate it into HO scale, but that article and the research it inspired were crucial in the development of my layout.
It’s hard to conjure up a piece of fiction from thin air, and it’s equally hard to develop a concept for a freelanced model railroad solely from the confines of your imagination.   If the secret to model railroading really is effective storytelling, I think you’ll find more than enough interesting stories in the various historical accounts of fallen flags in any region of the country to capture your interest.   All you have to do is come up with a new, plausible ending to the story to give these long departed railroads a better fate. 
Next, how historical research can help you select appropriate equipment and devise realistic paint schemes for your models.