Friday, November 10, 2017

Layout visits during RPM Chicagoland

In a previous post, I described my impressions of this year’s RPM (Railroad Prototype Modelers) Chicagoland meeting. It was a very good meeting, a gratifying return to the excellence of the past, and most enjoyable to attend (see my commentary at this link: ). I often am able to add to the meeting itself with chances to operate at local layouts, as I did this year. The present post is about those visits.
     A highlight for me of the entire trip is a chance to operate on Bill Darnaby’s outstanding layout, the Maumee Route. The layout itself is one of the best anywhere, and the operations live up to the setting.This year I had the privilege to operate (with Paul Weiss) one of the two local freight trains in the schedule, No. 21. It was fun, as it always is. And it is always interesting to see the various additions and improvement Bill has made on the layout. One example I really liked was this treatment of a road heading straight into the backdrop. Good strategy: indicate a dip in the road, making the segment down in the dip invisible; that segment, of course, is right where the road and backdrop intersect.

I also enjoyed taking a close look at one of Bill’s many realistic details, the fire-equipment cabinets. There are at least two; the one shown below is near the roundhouse at Dacron yard.

I made something quite similar for my own layout,  originally inspired by Bill’s model. My own fire cabinet, scaled from an SP example at Dunsmuir, was shown in a recent “Getting Real” column I wrote for the August 2017 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist (you can read on-line, or download, any issue of MRH, for free, at any time, from their website, ).
     On the Thursday night of the meeting, I had a chance once again to operate on Bob Hanmer’s fine layout of the GN and DM&IR in the Iron Range country. My assignment this time was Gunn Yard, for which I’ve been yardmaster before, and again it was a fun and busy job. The yard is shown below. I must say there were times it was much more full than this!

     On Friday, I got the opportunity to visit Steve Cizek’s Marquette and Grand Marais layout, another layout strongly dominated by moving iron ore. The feature I really liked was the loading dock for ore boats, represented schematically, but with extensive switching required. The ore loads are all “live,” which means they are real granulated iron ore, and when ore cars are emptied, the ore goes into the buckets representing the boat. (A coffee scoop is the tool in the bucket.) Note the lines drawn on the wood track support. These represent the dump pockets in the ore dock, and are numbered.

But there is more to it than might appear in the photo above. Iron ore, back in the day, had different grades, and the ore had to be loaded into the boat so as to create the proper mix for the steel mills. Each car has a slip designating its grade, and the switcher working the ore dock has to arrange the cars to match a loading sheet. Shown below is the paperwork for the boat, with loads already dumped marked off on the loading sheet. There are quite a few to go, as can be seen by looking at the unmarked part of the sheets. (You can click to enlarge.)

This was a neat operation, as was the rest of Steve’s layout.
     I was lucky this year to be able to visit and operate on three layouts, all different and all quite good in different ways. As I said, this is very much a high point of the RPM trip for me.
Tony Thompson

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