Friday, January 25, 2013


No, despite the title I'm not abandoning Model Railroading or plans for my layout(s). I just felt the gravitational pull of physical reality more than half-way through the seasonal Christmas-New Years "break." I say break in quotes as my career has offered little lately, due to pressing deadlines and lean staffing both within my own organization as well as the functional groups supporting my program. A weak-matrix is just that – weak – and often the burden falls upon me or a small core group to make up the shortfall. Anyway, the long and short of it is I haven't found much time for modeling lately, nor do I foresee much slack time available in the near future.

What I have been doing is a little acquisition activity on eBay and an occasionally brick-and-mortar hobby shop. Regarding the latter, I can highly recommend Timberline Train Shop in Downers Grove, Illinois. An added bonus – besides the generous discounts offered by Keith, the proprietor – is the fact you can ride Metra there if you happen to be in Chicago-land. This LHS is only a few short blocks south of the Downers Grove-Main Street station on BNSF's former Burlington line between Chicago Union Station and Aurora, IL – a boon for added atmosphere. I stopped by here on my way home from a few days at the head office in East Aurora, taking the Burlington "dinky" back to CUS from the Naperville-Route 59 station, where my usual hotel is located. After I boarded the inbound train I told the conductor that I wanted a stopover in Downers Grove, so he marked the ticket accordingly after punching it once.

After alighting at Main Street a short walk south took me to Timberline. Talk about a great, little "local hobby shop" (or LHS, as we like to call them) here in Burlington suburban territory – chock full of both HO and N inventory. The proprietor also has an inside contact at Kato USA, and besides the new Metra P-S bi-levels he had a small stock of the erstwhile C&NW yellow-green cab-coaches – thought to be long out-of-stock. Turns out Kato had a small residual inventory in their warehouse, and he picked up the whole lot while at a customer (wholesale) event in Schaumburg. I just couldn't leave without a pair, tucked nicely into my smaller carryon bag. They'll look great with my RTA F40 and bi-levels as an early Metra consist. Of course, I couldn't pass on the newer versions a few weeks later after picking up the two coaches and one cab-coach for less than $40.00 a car on the auction site. I'll keep an eye out for the City of West Chicago F40 in Metra blue and red, should one pop up at a good price.

That should about do it for now as far as Metra equipment, although rumor has it if the recent release of Metra P-S cars does well Kato Japan will entertain a run of the Nippon-Sharyo fluted cars in HO scale – similar to their current run in N scale. No worries, as that is likely a year or more off in the distance so plenty of time for my bank account to recover. Meanwhile, I have a nice commuter consist I can run between the early 80's and mid-90's simply by swapping the C&NW cars for Metra and vice-versa. However, the rub is having the track to run them on which leads me to my next topic – the Layout. While I've started on the small Micro C&O layout mentioned in my earlier post that portable pike is merely a diversion from my greater plans for the basement-filler – the Burlington and North Western Railway's branchline somewhere north and west of Chicago. Yes, besides the North Western I'm including the Burlington as well – as in Burlington Northern Inc.

You see, for besides the UP and C&NW equipment I noted in earlier posts I also have a sizable roster of Proto 2000 BN hardware Рa couple of SD60s, four GP38-2's and a pair of SW1200's for yard service. Those Рcoupled with additional P2K power in the form of three CNW SD60's, a lone CNW SD50, two North Western SD45's and four UP GP38-2's make up the bulk of my western road roster. I also have a pair of Kato Wisconsin Central SD45's Рone in maroon and cr̬me and a second in ATSF paint Рand a short Amtrak International consist made up of an F40, a coach-baggage, two coaches and a diner for food service rounds out the list. I figure I'll use the WC units for interchange or transfer power, but the bulk will be run on the main trackage as the host road. The question was whether to model just the C&NW-UP, BN or somehow justify a combination of the two. Since I am a fan of both Class 1 entities I needed to alter history a bit in order to make my plan viable.

Back when both the Chicago and Galena Union Ry. and the Aurora Branch RR were the first rails laid west of Chicago the latter used trackage rights over the former C&NW predecessor to reach the Windy City. I've decided to keep up this Burlington-North Western partnership into the present day, albeit under the BNSF and UP flags. Similar to these road's joint ownership of the Camas Prairie in central Idaho the B&NW is a jointly-owned operation similar to Norfolk Southern and CSX's dual rights to Conrail's Shared Assets territories. Both the UP and BN provide the locomotives and rolling stock as the B&NW is a "paper-railroad" without its own equipment. The Burlington-North Western just owns and manages the joint right-of-way and physical plant for its parent roads – as well as Metra and Amtrak rights for passenger service. So, enough of the history – how about a track plan?

The plan shown above depicts a short, suburban branch similar to UP's McHenry branch to Ringwood, Illinois from Crystal Lake Jct. – the junction point with Metra's NW line to Harvard. In my proto-freelanced, or fact-ional, version I've brought joint operation by BN into the mix, along with a hidden interchange with the WC (not shown – WC trains run from staging into the yard and return as transfers). The layout is based off a plan from Lance Mindheim posted on his blog – an out-and-back operation with B&NW local freights and Metra branch runs from the peninsular town through the small terminal and into staging and vice-versa. Similar to the operation of the McHenry branch, two inbound Metra runs will originate in the morning from the end terminus and head into "Chicago" (hidden staging). Once the passenger runs have departed, the local freights and mainline home and foreign road transfers will own the line until the evening rush – when the outbound commuter runs will leave staging for the end terminal.

Besides the flavor of the former C&NW McHenry branch the line will take clues from Metra's Southwest Service branch to Manhattan, Illinois. This former Wabash mainline is now truncated just south of downtown Manhattan, nearby the former junction with the Milwaukee Road's Gary line – now a spur to a chemical tank farm loadout. Besides an NS local Metra runs several trains daily to and from this now-branchline terminus – and fully equipped with CTC signaling at that. Since the McHenry branch is dark I thought I'd borrow some inspiration from this former route of the Bluebirds to allow for some twinkling red, amber and green lights – at least at the interlockings. I also plan to interlock the lift (access) bridge, which will kill power to the approach tracks – hopefully keeping trains from plunging off into the great void below.

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