Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Bye 2014 /\ Hello 2015

As we traverse the last day of 2014 I stop to reflect back on all of what this year has brought in terms of challenges, successes, and opportunities. Personally my family and I have had alot of all three and it has been a fun journey, but that is what life is all about.... Enjoy the journey and continue forward.

From a model railroad perspective alot of progress has been made on the layout, modeler friendships created, kept the blog pretty well updated, and began sharing my layout with others through informal operating sessions.

Looking to 2015 - top goals are to continue with good blog posts (2-3 a month), finish all trackwork as right now I just need to add in the industry tracks, operate the layout quarterly, and have fun.... The last goal seems so simple but we lose sight of this as it is a hobby. Going to kick it off on track with our first four person session this Saturday.

Here's to the new year!


Winter Photo Fun
Photo below used with permission by Chris Palmieri.

An empty BNSF coal train lead by EMD SD70MAC pushes through falling snow onthe Sioux City Sub at Abel, NE.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

MCIS 4050 "Old Glory"

We have all seen those engines out there on the rails that look like have been though hell and back but somehow the guys who designed, built, and maintained them to keep them on the main in service.

The Michigan Interstate has one engine in particular that has had this journey. MCIS 4050 (EMD SD40-2 snoot Kato early) came from the former Santa Fe in the nineties when the railroad was shopping for mainline power. 

Since coming on roster the engine had suffered a bent frame which required rebuild on a mid-production Kato frame with truck hardwiring. Most recently the unit received two new trucks from EGS Rail Services out of Kansas that were installed in house at the Mt. Pleasant shop. Finding trucks without parting out another engine is tough. While in the shops the engine also received a new microprocessor (Tsunami KT-1000 EMD645 sound decoder) which I have been very impressed with. This week shop forces will had the air conditioners and snow plow back.

Crews have dubbed this unit "Old Glory" as it looks tired, been through rough times, but continues to be reliable and prevail in mainline service.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mid December Update

Merry Christmas Eve!

It's been a few weeks since my last post and well my excuse is the holiday shipping season. Not me shopping or going to parties but the demand put on my career supporting UPS and the big push known as "Peak Season" this time of year. Neat fact about UPS and railroads; they are one of the largest users of rail transportation in North America from coast to coast. 

But back to the St. Clair Sub.....

First off over 10,500 pageviews - Thank You to everyone for following, commenting, or just taking a quick peak on progress. Today's technology allows us to better share, connect, and further our knowledge of the hobby. I firmly feel this blog helps reinforce that concept and will continue to do so.

With the next ops session scheduled for January 3rd I have been plugging away to compete tasks that were given as constructive feedback from operators and items needed to continue phasing more operations into each session.

Project 1- Lower Deck Liftout Section
While I can't say that I would not have another one of these in future layouts, I feel they are viable as long as the construction is solid. 

  ITEM A - Securement
Previous versions were held in place by slide locks. Unfortunately these are to loose for consistent alignment. Ken Patterson in a recent MRH discussed using door hinges with removable pins. Current engineering did not allow this so I needed to find an alternative which I found using surface bolts.

1. Checked where I would install surface bolt between both the ridged layout and removable piece, leveled as necessary.

2. Cut the bolts mounting track (not the slide bolt) using mutter box / saw.

3. Installed bolt guide with adhesive caulk on rigid and removable sections. Use slide bolt in track to ensure alignment while drying. The bolt should slide in / freely but have no lateral or vertical wiggle room.

4. Finished securement mechanism on other end.

  ITEM B - Finished Look
While undergoing the work on this removable piece I wanted to give it the finished look since its the first thing seen when you walk in.

The sides are Eucaboard attached to the 2" blue foam using 2x2 blocks mounted on the bottom of the foam. To house the wiring safe and securely a thin sheet of Lauan plywood was secured in place. Screws for holding metal lathe in place have worked best for me.

  ITEM C - Power Connection
Using home stereo plugs I have a quick connect/disconnect setup for the section.

Project 2 - Turtle Curve Trackwork
In conjunction with the work on the lift out section I also replaced track leading from the WYS (West Yard Switch) to the Saginaw River swing bridge.

This trackwork also paved the way for the Bay Industrial Park Spur which leads off up the middle in the photo above. Having both Fort Mackinaw Corrugated and Huron Mills in place to work on January 3rd is a must.

Project 3 - Turnout Securement
While recent switches on the mainline have been Peco 83 (North America) which have positive point control, I have a number of Walthers and Atlas switches that needed to have point control for manual throws (Floaters) in yards and on industry tracks. 

Last night the last turnout in Bay Yard was completed which the yard master will enjoy at the next session.

Thanks for checking out the blog update and I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas! With work now quieting down to normal operations along with my work hours post should be going back to Early, Mid, and Late month posts.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

MCIS Locomotive Roster

In between my early, mid, and late month posts I wanted to give everyone a little variety and talk about the MCIS locomotive roster.

As of October 2014 the entire roster (modeled and non-modeled) totals 75 units.

The fleet is categorized into three pools: Road Service, General Service, Yard Service

Lets now look deeper into each of the three pools:

Road Service: 3000+ HP
EMD GP40-2 (3000 HP - EMD 645)
#4001-4008 - Modeled 4005, 4008
Note: Lineage of units from many North American roads

EMD GP40X (3500 HP - EMD 645F)
#4031-4035 - Modeled 4035
Lineage of units from many North American roads

EMD GP60 (3800 HP - EMD 16-710)
#6051-6054 - Modeled 6051
Note: Former Santa Fe, EMD Demo

EMD SD40-2 / 40-2M (3000 HP - EMD 16-645)
#4050-4062 - Modeled 4050, 4052, 4056, 4059
Note: Lineage of units from many North American roads

EMD SD45-2 (3600 HP - EMD 645)
#4570-4571 - Modeled 4570, 4571
Note: Former Santa Fe units

EMD SD70ACe (4300 HP - EMD 16-710)
#7050-7053 - Modeled 7050, 7051
Note: Original owners from EMD

General Service: 2000-2500 HP
EMD GP30 (2250 HP - EMD 567)
#3081, 3081, 3083, 3085 - Modeled 3080, 3085
Note: Units stored at MCIS Mount Pleasant Shop for conversion to slug.

EMD GP38-2 (2000 HP - EMD 645 non-turbo)
#3810-3812, 3814-3835 - Modeled 3810, 3816, 3823, 3828, 3829, 3833
Note: 3813 - Wrecked 10/08, lineage of units from many North American roads

EMD SD22ECO (2150 HP - EMD 12-710)
#2290-2291 - Modeled 2290, 2291
Note: Converted by Virginia Midland Shops from EMD SD35 

Yard Service: 1500 HP and 2100 HP Gensets
EMD MP15DC (1500 HP - EMD 12-645)  
#151-153 - Modeled 153
Note: Original owners from EMD

NRE 3GS21B (2100 HP - Cummins Diesel)
#2101-2104 - Modeled 2101
Note: These units replaced aging EMD GP15-1s which were sold off. 

NRE 3GS21C (2100 HP - Cummins Diesel)
#2110 - Modeled 2110
Note: NRE kit being built at MCIS Mount Pleasant shop on frame / trucks of EMD SD35

As my model railroad stays in the modern era the locomotive fleet is constantly being upgraded and changing to the demands of the system. The next few years will see some changes to the roster:

  • EMD GP30s rebuilding into slugs to be mated with EMD GP38-3s
  • EMD SD45-2s rebuilding into EMD SD32ECOs
  • Possible further acquisition of high horsepower locomotives SD70M-2 or ACe???

All information is fictional and is not endorsed by actual locomotive manufacturer.

Thank you to Fred Fogelsinger and Shannon Crabtree for the great job painting, detailing, decaling, and weathering my Michigan Interstate diesel fleet.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Michigan Interstate Railroad. We hope you have a safe and fun time with family and friends.

Q-GRPH-27 ties down at Bay Yard for the 8 hour no call window during the Thanksgiving. Later this evening a new crew will take the train to Port Huron.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mid November Update

Weather down here in Texas today is cold, rainy, and overcast which makes for the perfect time to provide my Mid November Update. The last few weeks have been alot of fun around the house and on the "Clair".

MCIS SD70ACe 7050 leads the M-BAPH-10 out of Bay Yard towards Port Huron.

Fort Worth Train Show - Will Rogers Coliseum 

Tug and I prior to going into the show.

Grandpa and Tug checking out train photos and other memorabilia.
A CN / Grand Trunk Western consist in Texas.... Those new Intermountain SD40-2s look and run fantastic!
  Last weekend was the annual Fort Worth Train show at the Will Roger Coliseum (Amon Carter Event Center). This show hosts a ton of local modular layouts (A hit with my son) and dealers selling consigned and new products. I was very impressed with both the Forest Hill and Fort Worth train shows this year in Tarrant County. The same vendor that I had picked up five cars from at the Forest Hill Train Show was in attendance so I had the opportunity to pick up another nine cars needed for customers served on the railroad. 

Picked Up: 
2 Atlas Pressuraide Hoppers - Customer: Huron Mills 
2 Walthers Plastic Hoppers - Customer: ThermoPak Industries 
2 Athearn 20,900 RTC tank cars - Bridge traffic 
2 Atlas 3560 Hoppers - Customer: AmCan Salt 
1 Intermountain Cylindrical Hopper - Customer: Michigan Agricultural Commodities

Y-BA04-08 bringing the new online cars back to Bay Yard from Lake State Railway Interchange.

Layout Update
Along with the train show I have been working diligently to complete the basic scenery on the east end of Bay Yard. The most recent addition to the scene was SuperTrees trees. For this area I decided to use the 60 second tree method with spray paint and hair spray versus matte medium. One of these tree batches I will try out the glue method using scenic cement but with my time limited every shortcut helps balance time working on the railroad.

Enjoy the pictures - hope Santa Claus will bring me Siliflor grass tufts to help finish the scene transitioning into the helix.

East Yard lead into Bay Yard - the Smith & Sons ballast blends turned out really nice.

Coming out of the helix - just beyond the curve is the east switch to Bay Yard and Chessie Junction.

Looking east from the yard lead - the whole in the backdrop represnets the lower level continous run / Lake State Railway Interchange.

MCIS SD70ACe rumbling through the newly added foilage.
L to R - East yard lead, Main 1, Main 2, Industry track into Lakes Forest Products

Engineers view through the newly forested section east of Bay Yard between the M-15 overpass and helix entrance. This is also the beginning of the continous grade out of the Saginaw River Valley up to Upper Huron, so as you can imagine the prime movers would be singing.   

Everyone stay safe going into the holidays and stay tuned for my next update around Thanksgiving.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Early November Update

Over the past week the east end of Bay Yard has begun to take on its own identity with basic scenery installed.

The wet/wet process continues to be a great straight forward method, as long as you have your materials ready to go. Working in two foot sections progress can be scene right away!


                                     Overview of work area

The ballast being used is Smith & Sons #50 limestone in light and dark shades. This material is real rock and great to work with, even though this is technically n scale ballast I like the finer grain.

Lakes Forest Products
This is the first customer in place ready for full scenery. Centerbeams and double door boxcars will frequent the facility so solid pavement for unloading was needed. This particular scene I used Busch's flexible pavement adhesive roll. After templating with paper I cut the sheet, removed the backing, and pressed it into place..... If only gift wrapping was this easy....

I need just a bit more of the material to complete the pavement between the mainline and siding. 

Stay tuned for another update this weekend!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Late October Update

With scenery once you make the jump its hard to stop... For all those out there who are timid, grab a scenery guide out there and just hop in. Practice makes perfect!

The area I am currently working on uses Pelle Soeberg's wet/wet method and the results have been awesome!

Here are a few photos of progress made this week. To compare before and after check out my earlier October updates. The only thing missing scenery basic wise is grass tufts, static grass areas, and SuperTrees. Maybe trip to hobby local shop this weekend?

  Wednesday Evening Progress


  Thursday Evening Progress

Hope to have another post sometime Sunday or Monday


Monday, October 27, 2014

Cement Hopper Fleet Attrition

One disadvantage of modeling current era 2013-2014 is equipment eventually reaches its retirement age or as traffic bases or trends change so does the equipment mix of the railroad. 

2960/70 Cu. - 2 Bay Cement Hopper Fleet
This fleet is comprised of second hand cars built in the late 70s and 80s acquired for a new cement plant, but after being in cement service for some time were beginning to show their age. Based on industry attrition of railroad owned cement cars to private or lease fleets it was decided by management to retire the fleet through sale and scraping by the end of 2014. Roughly 60% or 30 cars went to the scraper while 40% or 20 of the cars were in good condition for sale to other roads. A few captive 2000 cubic hoppers rounded out the entire fleet at 55 cars.

MCIS Cement Hopper Fleet
Size: 50 (2960/70 cubic)
           5 (2000 cubic) 
Customer: LDM Materials (fictional)

While I model 2013-14, Shannon Crabtree and his Virginia Midland represent the 90s. If you follow his posts you saw the addition of a sand facility on the Virginia Central line and needed more sand cars. The two railroads worked together and in short order 6 of the good condition hoppers and parts were on their way to Virginia. Upon arrival they will time warp to the 90s but still have a unique history from the previous railroad owner - the fun of proto-freelancing.

Cars lined up at Bay Yard awaiting pickup by the Q-PHGR-27 for interchange to the CSX at Wyoming Yard in Grand Rapids.

This segment of cars 7 total came out of storage on the Port Belle Branch last week and were mechanically inspected and in the case of the 2000 cubic cars given waivers for one time interchange movement. The one car on the flat is a parts source car to help keep the fleet rolling on its new home.

Any idea who the previous owner of this car was......?

With the cement fleet no longer on the MCIS roster, LDM Materials has struck a deal to lease 3281 cubic hoppers from Trinity Industries. (Coming soon from American Limited Models).

Hope everyone enjoyed a little MCIS history and prototypical fleet planning. Have a safe Halloween!