Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Layout Plan

I should take the time and show the plan for the layout. It will be a two level around the wall type layout. The upper (Falls Yard) level is 55" from the floor and the lower (Lewistown) level is 40 3/4" off the floor. A helix will join the levels at the far end. Removable staging tracks are located at the opposite end of each level for the off-loading of trains. Along with Milwaukee trains, the layout will also have Great Northern trains passing over the line on a run through while their line to Billings is being repaired.



THE UPPER LEVEL (Falls Yard/Geraldine)
This level will be represented of the line from Great Falls to Geraldine. The Falls Yard will be a terminus for all Milwaukee Road trains. Great Northern trains will not stop and pass on to staging tracks to simulate their terminus at the Great Northern yards off the layout. At Falls Yard switching will include trains bound for Harlowton and point east or west on the Milwaukee mainline. Trains will also be made up to exit the staging to represent movement further up the branch to Agawam. Switching in this area includes a large grain elevator, fuel oil depot, freight house, farm implement dealer and team track.



The station at Geraldine will include a grain elevator and stock yards. The track has been extended to have an area for storage (M.O.W. or other cars). At the far end the is a loading ramp that was thought to be gravel or some other bulk material. After some investigation by the members of the Yahoo Milwaukee Group, it turns out the original ramp was used in the early years as a way farmers to dump their grain into boxcars. (See photos below). I will continue with the original plan and use it as a gravel loading ramp.

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THE LOWER LEVEL (Lewistown/Denton)
This level will be the incoming trains from Harlowton and out bound trains to Great Falls. A small holding yard will store a minimum of cars to be switched at the local industries. These industries include a large grain elevator, freight house, brewery and flour mill. A siding will represent the branch line to the gypsum plant at Heath (See photo below). A major part of the Lewistown area to be modeled will be the beautiful station that is now the Yogo Inn.  Here is a photo from years ago.


Lewistown Depot (Yogo)-1940 Heath Gypsum Plant--1986

The town of Denton will be a standard railroad town for the state of Montana. A grain elevator and stock yards are about all that existed on most small towns on the Northern Milwaukee line. This town will be used as a passing siding for east and west bound trains.


THE HELIX (Connects both levels)
This is the helix that will connect both levels.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Layout Construction - October 18, 2009

Time to Lay Some Track
I received an box of cork roadbed from Now it was time to begin laying out the track plan on the foam. I started on the Lewistown area since I had placed roadbed from the tunnel the previous day.

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This is after a few hours work. While starting on the roadbed, I decide to alter the track plan a little. The industrial siding and yard tracks were moved closer to front for easier access. No track in place yet.

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Before finishing for the day, I decided to test fit the trestle bents to see how much modification was going to be needed. Looks like I will have some work to adjust the height of each tower.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Layout Construction - October 12, 2009

Tunnel Construction
Now that all of the benchwork is secure and the pink foam is glued down, it was time to concentrate on the bridge/tunnel area. I added the supports for the bottom of the creek and top of the tunnel.

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Now the base support for the creek is in. The tunnel area will need to be finished before the bridge can be built. The tunnel will feature a half tunnel wall to hide the background. In the foreground, the fascia board will cover the center section leaving two access holes to the tunnel track on either side.

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A view through the east tunnel entrance. The pegboard masonite will be covered and not visible after the scenery is put in. At this point the cork roadbed has glued down, but the track has not been set.

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I Can See the Light
I also installed the under cabinet lights for the lower level. A scrap piece of peg board was used to test the height of the fascia. I was concerned about the fascia covering the lights and being small enough to not block the view of the lower level. It looks like during work and operating times a stool will be required. I used 23" under cabinet lights that are inter-connected from Walfart. A good deal at only $9 a piece. There is a limit of 5 connected lights.

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A view of the lower level lights with the main room lights off.

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Layout Construction - September 26, 2009

On to the other side
I completed the the benchwork for the Denton and Geraldine levels. Added the foam sub-base for the track on the opposite side of the tunnel/bridge area.

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Here is a closer view.

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Over the Bridge and Through the Woods…
I experimented with using a piece of aluminum channel for the bridge support. This bridge will be typical of the ballasted deck bridges that the Milwaukee used on this line.

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This type of bridge construction was from a video I saw Tony Koester do for the "Dream, Plan, Build" series from Model Railroader. The aluminum channel provides a solid base for the bridge deck and ensures that the bridge is straight and level.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Layout Room Construction - September 13, 2009

If you don’t like it, hide it
The enclosure for the furnace and water heater is finally finished. The panels are locked into position at the top and bottom. These panels can be removed to service the equipment.

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On the layout, I installed shelf brackets on the Denton and Geraldine side of the layout. I also cut the baseboard for the bench work.

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North Montana Line Driving Tour

The North Montana Division of the Milwaukee Road
Excerpted from Helmut Wisinger's Website

The Montana Lines North of Harlowton produced a large agricultural base for the Milwaukee Road. Actually more revenue loads originated here than anywhere else on "Lines West".

Leaving from Harlowton North on Hwy 191, the GN tracks cross the highway just South of Judith Gap. Just North of Judith Gap you can see where the GN crossed over the Milwaukee Road. Next, just a half mile off the highway is Straw. Here you can still see two elevators and stock yards and chutes, long out of commission.

Next is Sipple with a lone small elevator giving us its location. The Great Northern built a 2 mile connector track from their Laurel to Great Falls line to connect with the Milwaukee Road trackage and now serves the communities from Sipple into Lewistown. Moore is one of the main stations, nothing is left at Moore to indicate its Milwaukee Road heritage but there are a number of elevators and feed mills at this location.

After descending into the valley the line arrives at Lewistown. A number of buildings from Milwaukee Road days can be found here including the original depot, now a feed mill, the later brick depot, now the "Yogo Inn", the original freight house, now used by BNSF as their HQ for Maintenance of Way services between Laurel and Great Falls. Also east of town were the yards were located you can find part of the roundhouse and what I believe to be the ice house.

At Lewistown the tracks split to go West, North and East. Just West of Lewistown was the Roy-Winnifred Junction. At one time, Lewistown along with Great Falls was going to be along the second Main Line through Montana.

The line was built East to Heath, Grassrange and on to Winnett where it was supposed to carry on further East. This of course never occurred.

Just West of Lewistown was the Roy-Winnifred Junction, where the tracks went North, which again branched at Roy Junction to go East to Roy and North to Winifred. Check out the sign a local made at the elevators in Suffolk.

Originally the track West from Lewistown went to Danvers, Denton, Square Butte, Geraldine, Great Falls, then on to Choteau and Agawam. The trackage West of Lewistown is now owned by the Central Montana Railroad (CMR), but as it is isolated because the Spring Creek Trestle is unusable, BNSF switches the few industries located along this line just west of town. As an aside, the original GN station is now an Exxon gas service bar.

About 7 Miles West of Lewistown, just West of Hanover is the Spring Creek Trestle, and just West of the trestle is Spring Creek Jct, which was the beginning of gauntlet track when it was shared by Milwaukee Road and Great Northern from the point into Lewistown. CMR built a large wye here at Kingston on GN trackage to connect with their track from Moccasin, originally BN, to reconnect with the Milwaukee Road trackage as far as Geraldine. Kingston is also where the Charlie Russell Chew Choo originates from. There are 3 large trestles and a small tunnel between Kingston and Denton, which is why this dinner train is popular as a tourist attraction.

The first trestle is the Judith River Viaduct, followed shortly by the Indian Creek Viaduct, then through the small (very) town of Danvers, on to the Sage Creek Viaduct and a short tunnel , the last two being quite difficult to access.

Denton is the Headquarters for the CMR. There is a sizeable shop along with their HQ here. CMR has 6 GP-9s, all ex GN heritage, 1 caboose, 5 ballast cars and this railroad, unlike other short lines of its size does all its own track maintenance. They even have a Mark 3 Liner. They operate between Moccasin, their connection with BNSF and as far as end of track at Geraldine. Major commodity is grain, most of it from Geraldine. They have recently installed 30000 ties and are planning to put in more next year, especially in the Arrow Creek Loop where considerable difficulties with track have been experienced due to shifting terrain. There is even talk of putting in CWR on the trestles in order to handle the large bulk grain cars with their higher gross weight. All in all, a very forward looking railroad and management. They are also very accommodating to motor car enthusiast groups and have hosted a number of these. To us as Milwaukee Road fans, the trackage between Spring Creek Junction and Geraldine is all ex Milwaukee Road. There is no talk of rehabilitating the Spring Creek Trestle itself as that would prove too costly and would do little to improve the bottom line.

Geraldine boasts a restored Milwaukee Road Depot. Looks real good. This is also the end of track. The elevator which partially burned down in 2001 has been rebuilt and service will continue to Geraldine with CMR.

From here on the right of way becomes quite inaccessible, through Montague and Shonkia. The right of way can be picked up again briefly at Highwood, then on to Waltham and then through the very scenic, but inaccessible Red Coulee/Belt Creek area and on to Great Falls.

Great Falls has the beautiful, almost majestic depot still standing, fully restored and used by various private enterprises. They were thoughtful enough to leave the original diamond sign in place on the tower. Also the bridge across the Missouri is being redone as a hike-bike trail by private funding.
From Great Falls The track turned northwest and after passing through Manchester, Fairfield, and Choteau terminated at Agawam. There was a bit of joint trackage just outside of Great Falls, and the tracks of the GN and Milw Rd paralleled each other for some distance south of Choteau.


Please visit Helmut's wonderful "Lines West" Homepage here

Family Fun - August 2009

Again, Why I don’t do construction for a living
The month of August was spent working on kitchen and bath remodel for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. My wife's brothers came in and the majority of the remodel was completed in 8 days. My wife and I then spent additional weekends doing the finish work.

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Layout Construction - July 28, 2009

More progress
At this point I have added some additional benchwork to finish the approach to the bridge and tunnel. I have also added 1" thick pink foam for the track foundation.

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Real Railroads - July 6, 2009

Rail fanning in Wendover 
We decided to take a few days off and drive to Wendover, Nevada for some rest and gambling fun. While there, we drove down to the small yard on the old Western Pacific line. We found this interesting creature. It appears to be a scale car that is used to test scales for weighing freight cars.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Layout Construction - June 30, 2009

Testing the plan
On this day, I decided to check the accuracy of the XTrkcad program I was using to design the track plan. I laid out the prints from the program on the benchwork to get a feel for the layout (This is Great Falls yard). I designed the yard tracks to all curve slightly to make room for the grain elevator on the right. (The grain elevator will be cut down to hide the pipe coming out of the wall.) I wanted to make sure the curve and track spacing would not cause interference.

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This another view of the yard.

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Just having some fun using the close-up feature on the camera. Looks like I need to clean the real world weathering from the top of the caboose.

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Layout Construction - June 24, 2009

Benchwork for the Falls yard (upper level) and Lewistown (lower level) is now built. I dug out building from a previous layout to see how it would look. After months (years actually) of planning, I just had to set out some rolling stock and track to get that layout feel.  

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This view shows the brackets that will hold the benchwork for the bridge (upper level) and the tunnel (lower level) over the fireplace.

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Layout Construction - June 14, 2009

Now we are starting to look like something
More shelf brackets installed. I determined the height of each level by needing to be above the fireplace tiles at the back of the room and a comfortable viewing level. The window provided a challenge since the studs are on 24" centers along the outside walls.

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Larger brackets were used to allow for shelving under the lower level.

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Another view.

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Layout Room Construction - June 7, 2009

Ahh progress!
The ceiling is finally up! You might also notice the shelf brackets on the right-hand side. I had started testing the heights for the different levels of layout benchwork.

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The other end of the room with a few panels needing to be placed.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Layout Room Construction – May 2009

Why I don’t do construction for a living
After months of on again and off again work, the walls have been finished and painted. The ceiling still needs to put up. The pile of crap in the middle of the room, was the only place it could go. It was fun working around the pile to finish the room.

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This is a view of the other end of the room.

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I needed to find a way to allow good airflow into the room and keep the cats out of the room. I finally decided to buy a screen door and remove the screen. In its' place I purchased some "egg crate" style ceiling panels used for drop ceilings. These were cut to size and screwed to the back of the door. The door is held shut by magnets at the top and bottom. Easy opening, but strong enough to keep the cats out.

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