Thursday, June 8, 2017

Huron Shop Small Layout Idea

One thing I like about the RCPE railroad is that it is one of the few that still uses a turntable to store and turn it's engines, despite being 2017!

The turntable in Huron South Dakota is on the National Register of Historical places and gets plenty of active use, so it probably won't be tore up any time soon.  In addition to the turntable, part of the roundhouse is still used even though it was built back in the early 1900's.  However, the roundhouse doesn't have a tall enough ceiling for pulling large pieces off of the SD40 fleet, so beside the roundhouse also exists a machine shop and fuel/sanding area.

Now then, this plan is merely a rough draft and therefore isn't an accurate replica of the roundhouse area, but something like this layout could be used to house and store a number of SD40-2 locomotives.  If wanting to build a fleet, this is probably the best way to run the engines without having a proper train layout.

A new SD40-2 by Scale Trains

Scale Trains, a new manufacturer of HO and N scale equipment, and thus one which I don't have a lot of info through the grape vine, is producing SD40-2 and it looks promising!

Now then, there are no RCPE units available, but buying a CNW, BN, BNSF, or NS unit would do just fine and fit in on the RCPE trackage.

The details are quite impressive in the photos, and the list of specifications is long and is the kind of stuff modelers like to see, seperately applied details, see-through grills, and a DCC/DCC-Sound option available.  The only thing that makes me hesitate is that the price for a DCC unit with sound is $200.  That is a little low, especially for an engine that has so much detail.  It makes me think that there is something internal that is wrong with the engine.  Of course, that is just me being cautious.  The only way to know for sure is to buy one and test it, and that's what I intend to do.  For the time being though, here is a few pictures, a list of the specs, and a link to the scaletrains SD40-2 webpage:

Rivet Counter HO Scale EMD SD40-2, Burlington Northern


Rivet Counter SD40-2 Locomotive Features
  • All-new model
  • Fully assembled
  • Four (4) different road numbers
  • Dimensionally accurate truck centers
  • Underbody frame rail with separate plumbing and traction motor cables
  • Sectioned treadplate detail on the walkways
  • Accurate hood door and long hood detail
  • Accurately profiled dynamic brake housings 
  • See-through dynamic brake intakes with resistor grid detail
  • Factory-applied wire grab irons, wire lift rings, windshield wipers, snowplows, horns, coupler cut levers, and trainline hoses
  • Semi-scale coupler buffer equipped with durable metal semi-scale E Type knuckle couplers
  • Directional LED headlights
  • LED lighted number boards
  • All-wheel drive
  • All-wheel electrical pick-up
  • Dual flywheel
  • Motor with 5-pole skew wound armature.
  • Printing and lettering legible even under magnification
  • Color matched to Tru-Color Paint colors whenever possible
  • Operates on Code 70, 83 and 100 rail
  • Packaging safely stores model
  • Minimum radius: 18”
  • Recommended radius: 22”

Sunday, March 5, 2017

First Question, How to Model the RCPE?

I've been brooding over this question for weeks, how does one model the Rapid City Pierre and Eastern?

The fact is that this railroad is quite unique, running from the low and fertile prairies of Minnesota through the high plains of South Dakota all the way to the Black Hills.  it's a diverse geography to be sure.  Fertilizer, grain, bentonite clay, cement, corn, ethonal, lumber, and a few local industries makes for an impressive diversity of rolling stock. 

Then there's the scenery!  Most people think of South Dakota as being a flat moonscape, but it's not.  While it might appear flat, South Dakota is actually a series of large, rolling hills.  The Rapid City Pierre and Eastern is built on the old CNW line through South Dakota, taking trains along the banks of the Missouri River, Wall Hill, some of the Badlands, Cheyenne River, and the Black Hills.  Basically, this train is everything from a Midwestern to a mountain railroad in less than 600 miles?

So with the incredible vistas, the sheer variety of industries, and the vast geography of the railroad, how does one effectively model this railroad?  I think I've figured out the answer.

Rather than trying to model everything, a model railroad of this line should model the "feeling" of the line.  Most people use selective compression, but I'd rather not.  In fact, I'd rather have fewer switches, a single mainline, and a more selective region than to try and compress everything at once.  I'd much rather have the big curves and the rolling hills that to make something that obviously looks like a model in some guy's basement.  What I need to do is model the atmosphere, to make a person think they are in South Dakota, watching trains.  Imagine a train running up Wall Hill as a thunderstorm rolls overhead, or switching cars in Rapid City on a 100 degree day.  How about  getting stuck in a late Winter blizzard as a grain train departs from an elevator?  Or maybe the train is rolling along the banks of the Missouri River on a warm spring day?

To model this railroad effectively, I can't just build a 4x8, throw some orange and black engines on it, and call the railroad complete.  No, I need to appeal to all the senses, sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.

Okay, now I'm not going to go around licking rocks to get the "taste" and I can't recreate flowing fields of grass in a bedroom for people to touch, but I can get a "feel" of the railroad by recreating the prairie, burning sage or sweet grass for a "smell" o the prairie, recreate the ever-changing skies, and create a realistic looking scene that draws people in.  Lastly, a good sound system for the trains and for the prairies is a must.

Granted, this isn't a plan, it's the mere start of a plan, but it's better than I had a few paragraphs ago.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Oelrichs, South Dakota

This is the first real town North of Dakota Junction.  Located in Fall River County, South Dakota, Oelrichs has a population of 126 and sits right alongside the main line of the Black Hills Sub-Division of the Rapid City Pierre and Eastern.

The only industry in town is a small grain elevator which, amazingly, still seems to be in use.

This town is also where I graduated high-school, which is the town's main employer.  Like most of the small towns in South Dakota, the infrastructure is decrepit, many houses are single-wides surrounded by cars on blocks, and every house has an unkempt yard with cottonwood, oak, or evergreen trees.

Here is the view track side:


The Grain elevator at Oelrichs is small, but apparently being used.  I had always thought this was abandoned, but apparently not!

Judging by the number of cars, this particular elevator can only hold enough grain for a few hoppers, probably about 13.

Another possible explanation is that the siding is simply being used as winter storage for the cars, as is apparent in other small towns.  I just like to think positively.

Dakota Junction

Dakota Junction Rd crossing the small yard West of Chadron, Nebraska
As discussed earlier, Dakota Junction serves three separate railroads, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the Nebraska Northwestern, and the Rapid City Pierre and Eastern.

For the Rapid City Pierre and Eastern, Dakota Junction is an interchange with the Nebraska Northwestern and shares trackage with that railroad on the leg of the wye which leads south to Crawford, Nebraska.  Dakota Junction is the southern-most point of the Black Hills Sub-Division for the RCPE and is the last point of full trackage rights.

Dakota Junction has no inhabitants as it is not a town, just a point on the RCPE.  But being an interchange, Dakota Junction is a very vital piece of the line South of Rapid City.

This photo shows the yard tracks from the East end of Dakota Junction.  A half mile or so West of this point is the wye.  While no trains came that morning, it is apparent there has been recent traffic in the area.  There might be a weekly train, or perhaps a train on an as-needed basis from Rapid City to this point.

Looking to the East from the yard we can see a grain loader on the mainline of the Nebraska Northwestern. Train cars here probably head south to Crawford, Nebraska where they are interchanged with the BNSF. The only thought that causes doubt is that the mainlines at Crawford serve only one purpose, coal hauling.  I have not yet seen a grain train on that mainline between Crawford and Edgemont, South Dakota.

This crossing is about 2 miles South of Oelrichs, South Dakota between Dakota Junction and Oelrichs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

C Vision Productions

C Vision Productions, known for their excellent videos that capture the flavor of different railroads and regions, has released a video dedicated to the Rapid City Pierre and Eastern.  Here's a preview:

In addition to the recent video about the RCPE, C vision has also made videos on the predecessor railroad, the Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern.

Volume I:

Volume II:

Volume III:

Monday, December 26, 2016

Dakota Junction, A Good Starting Point

Dakota Junction is located at the extreme Southwestern end of the Rapid City Pierre and Eastern Railroad.  I'll be doing followup posts on the prototype, but this is looking at the excellent qualities of this area to be modeled.  To start with, it is an interchange yard and a wye for turning trains.  The yard interchanges with the Nebraska, Northwestern Railroad which runs 7.22 miles east into Chadron, Nebraska.  The line headed South goes into Crawford, Nebraska, where the BNSF mainline is at. The RCPE will make runs down into Crawford and head back North to Rapid City, dropping off and picking up cars at the interchange with the NNW.  As for the NNW, the railroad hosts a grain loader in Chadron and has a large yard that is busy repairing cars.  The RCPE may sometimes bring cars down to be repaired, but most of the rail cars seem to be coal gondolas for the BNSF.

But our focus on this post is just on the junction, which we can see via Google Maps:

This small piece of the railroad serves a very vital function, equally important to all three railroads.  For the Rapid City Pierre and Eastern, Dakota Junction is an interchange with the NNW and a continuation to Crawford, Nebraska with it's interchange with the BNSF.

For the Nebraska Northwestern, Dakota Junction is the lifeline for the railroad, with all traffic going through the junction.

And for the BNSF, it receives and gives cars via Dakota Junction and it provides the link for the railroad to an important short line that fixes it's cars, which would have to be shipped hundreds of miles to the nearest repair facility large enough to handle all the coal gondolas that wear out.

So what would this look like as a model?

To accurately model this section of the line as an independent railroad, I'll need access to staging at three points, to look something like this:

The staging yard is where all trains originate as it represents Crawford, Rapid City, and Chadron.  The Rapid City and Crawford lines enter the scene at the wye.  Wiring the wye would be tricky because it is a wye that is integrated into a reverse loop.  Another option would be to separate the Rapid City and Crawford staging so that one or the other terminates in it's own yard.  But for this diagram.  Either way, the staging track will loop around and then re-enter the scene as the Nebraska, Northwestern line on the right side of the yard.  The yard itself, just like the prototype, is three tracks that hold several dozen cars. Between the wye and the yard is a long bridge that is at least 600 feet long that crosses the White River, which is only about 50 feet wide in the spring, reduced to a trickle by fall.

All in all, I think this would make an excellent show layout.

Here's what I envision as a layout:

But what if someone doesn't like wiring for reverse loops?  This layout could still operate without a wye, and operations might be a bit more interesting!

Using a 32" by 80" door for a platform, this small layout captures the operation of Dakota Junction without the use of a wye or reverse loop.

Rapid City Pierre and Eastern trains can come down from the top and either continue directly South to Crawford, or head around the layout only to loop back through the crossing after passing through the interchange yard.

Nebraska Northwestern trains have to come through the interchange yard in order to access either the RCPE line or the shared trackage south to Crawford, Nebraska.