Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Passing Through Time

Old railroad passes can be fun to collect and I have acquired a number of them over the years.  These passes could be purchased to provide passage on a railroad's passenger trains, but more often they were simply given out as tokens to railroad executives, employees and special guests.  For the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis, these passes also chronicle the various changes in ownership and administration over the years.  

At the top is an 1893 pass, shortly after the CP&StL was extended into St. Louis by William Hook.  Hook and his family also controlled the Jacksonville Southeastern Railway and operated both railroads, although the minority shareholders from the JSE blocked him from merging the two lines together.  Still, the pass from 1893 signed by Hook clearly shows the JSE connection and a map of the entire system.

By 1896, the fortunes of the CP&StL had changed.  Now in receivership, all JSE references were removed from the 1896 CP&StL pass, although the railroad adopted the old JSE herald, albeit in a somewhat clumsy fashion IMO.

In 1897, the railroad was still in receivership, but now had been acquired by the creditors and renamed the "Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad of Illinois", as shown on the pass above.

With the loss of its leased section between Litchfield and Springfield, the CP&StL turned to the St. Louis, Chicago & St. Paul Railway, better known as the Bluff Line, to connect to its northern trackage.  The Bluff Line was also in receivership, but the creditors saw potential in the northern section of the CP&StL and both lines were administered jointly in 1898 until they were purchased and merged together in 1900.   The 1898 pass reflects this period of joint administration.

After the Bluff Line and the CP&StL combined, the CP&StL name was retained, which is shown in this 1905 pass above.  This version of the railroad would continue until it too went bankrupt in 1924.

The history of the railroad is a complicated one, but it is shown clearly in the passes issued over the years. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

An Elevator Facelift

I have been working on a facelift for the elevator that will anchor my freelanced town of Karnes, Illinois.  I built the elevator and feed mill kitbash shown below for use on my old layout from a pair of Walthers kits based on a Tom Johnson model, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with the brick feed mill as, to my eye, it just didn't seem typical for the part of central Illinois that I am modeling.

To be more representative of the scenes I had in mind, I wanted to just include the clad elevator, some evidence that it had been expanded over the years and a wooden office.   The early results are shown in the first picture.  So far, the toughest part of the project was fabricating a new end on the left side of the structure -- the building didn't have one since it was attached to the brick feed mill.

I also wanted to put the Faultless Feed emblem on the elevator – it was made in Springfield, Illinois so it’s the local brand and the elevator along I-55 in Lawndale with the faded “Faultless Sign” sign is a real eye catcher.  You can see it here.   I thought the sign would help locate the layout in a more specific place.  I had the sign from an AMB Country Elevator kit, so I simply had to swap it.   Here are the results:
Still some work to do, but I like the new look.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Prairie Steam

One of the L&M Mikados has this freight well in hand as it heads toward Benld.  This is the look I am after on my new layout.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Locating My Freelanced Towns

The Litchfield & Madison Railway crossed the Illinois Central south of Mt. Olive, Illinois.  This scene will be the basis for one of the freelanced towns on my layout.
As I noted in an earlier post, I am modeling two towns on my layout depicting a “what if” version of the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railway.  Lacking sufficient information to model any of the towns served by the real CP&StL/L&M on the northern portion of the railroad accurately, I plan to include a pair of freelanced towns on the layout instead.  In keeping with my re-writing of history for my freelanced railroad, while the towns on the layout will be freelanced, they will be placed at actual locations on the original CP&StL/L&M mainline. 
Here, I am using a technique similar to that employed by Tim Swan on his first Monon Railroad, splicing three fictional towns into the Monon mainline.  Describing Swan’s earlier layout, Bill Schaumburg noted in the March, 1997 Railroad Model Craftsman that “it is as if someone cut the tracks, moved the ends apart for a couple of miles, then inserted [the freelanced] towns named McMurray, Paquita and Currysburg . . . while these are not actual places, they look so familiar to anyone who has ever lived or traveled in the Midwest that it is hard to believe they are not copies of real towns.”
In the 2004 edition of Model Railroad Planning, Bill Darnaby took Swan’s idea one step further, describing how he had his freelanced Maumee Route cross two New York Central lines at an actual location in Edison, Ohio.  Darnaby retained the NYC structures in his model scene, adding some additional trackage and structures for the Maumee.  By overlaying the Maumee on what was actually there in real life, Darnaby was able to embed his fictional freelanced model railroad into a specific place, making it seem all the more real.

With that, the hunt for suitable locations along the prototype right-of-way to locate my freelanced towns began. 

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of visiting Tony Koester’s Nickel Plate Clover Leaf Third Subdivision layout.  Tony has been a friend for many years now, and while the “Third Sub” is much larger than my planned layout – and incredibly even more impressive when you see it in person – he reminded me of a couple of design points that I could use in my much smaller space.   Tony had originally done a plan of Wingate, Indiana for an article in the 1995 issue of Model Railroad Planning and hoped to include a version of the town on his Third Sub layout.  He reminded me that Bill Darnaby convinced him otherwise, suggesting he should instead focus on towns that included an interchange with another railroad to provide more operational interest.  Frank Hodina did just that when he designed the Third Sub for Tony.  (Tony did come back to Wingate, however, as he has now modeled it in O scale). 

There were not many interchanges on the northern portion of the line south of Litchfield that interested me, either under CP&StL or L&M ownership.  That focused my search on the Wabash interchange at Karnes and the Illinois Central interchange at Mt. Olive, which is where I decided to locate my freelanced towns.  These crossings are shown on the map from an L&M timetable reproduced below. 

Karnes was a real place, but not a real town.  On the L&M, Karnes was nothing more than a 50 car passing siding and a connecting track used by the L&M to reach the Wabash Railroad coal marshalling yard north of Staunton, Illinois which was also called “Karnes.”   A September, 1951 aerial photo from the Wabash that shows the yard at Karnes (and the L&M connection) can be found here: Karnes in 1951
My freelanced town of Karnes will be built around the prototype trackage on the L&M during the 1950s (shown on the simple chart below), but I will include a depot and some additional tracks to serve an elevator and some other appropriate structures that are “Illinois small-town typical.”

The second town will be located where the L&M crossed the Illinois Central south of Mt. Olive, Illinois.   Here, an automatic gate protected the IC against the L&M as shown in the photo at the top of this post.  While the IC actually interchanged with the L&M in Mt. Olive, I plan to add an interchange here as well and put a freelanced town I have tentatively named “Carbon Prairie” just south of the crossing.   The town will feature a passing siding, a depot and an elevator.

Of course, cutting a freelanced town out of whole cloth is not an easy task.  I pick up there next time.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Case for Freelancing


The original CP&StL used leased trackage rights between Springfield and Litchfield to link Peoria with St. Louis.  Those trackage rights were lost in 1895, forcing the CP&StL to negotiate with other railroads to restore the link between Litchfield and Springfield, but it was far less direct.  In 1900, the CP&StL was acquired by investors who already had a line from Alton to Springfield, rendering the line from Litchfield to Madison redundant, as shown on the map above.  The map actually is a bit flattering; the original CP&StL trackage rights over what later became the Illinois Central provided a far straighter route between Litchfield and Springfield than the old Springfield, Alton and St. Louis "Bluff Line" routing that replaced it which is shown above.

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.   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.
For example, the L&M's Alco built 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.  I am working on one right now (see photos below), but 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 factory lettered model of an AAR Alternate Standard L&M twin hopper, but the cost and time to assemble a representative roster of L&M steam locomotives and rolling stock has always seemed more trouble than it’s worth.  


It is possible to model a reasonable facsimile of an L&M Mikado using and SP MK-10 with a different tender; I just don't want to model a fleet of them!

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 some of 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 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 a lot 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 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.

With that, I started to plan my new layout