Friday, August 14, 2015

Saying good bye to the Aroostook Valley

Well, this layout was a lot of fun, but I've moved and built a new layout that will be featured in a new blog.  Rest assured that many of the elements of the Aroostook Valley layout have been incorporated into my new layout, but this is the end of the line (for now) of the AVR.

Please visit the to view my new layout, Vermont Rail's Washington County Railroad, running between St. Johnsbury and Orleans, VT, circa 2002.

Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Coming nearer a new layout

The neat thing about a blog is you get to see what you were thinking when, and how if may have changed over time.
In my last post, I talked about a layout based upon a plan developed in Model Railroader featuring the Housatonic Railroad.  I still think that's a pretty nifty layout plan, but recently I took stock of the motive power I've accumulated over the years and noticed that it's pretty evenly split between Maine-based railroads and Vermont-based railroads.  I still like the idea of a layout featuring a freelanced railroad, but since a number of the locos on hand are ones I worked hard to custom paint, wouldn't it be nice to find a place where I could plausibly have them run on and off the layout as well?  And instead of scrapping all the hard work put into and careful deconstruction of the Aroostook Valley Railroad, wouldn't it be nice to re-use what moved with me?
So, while my "givens and druthers" haven't changed too much, I am now thinking of moving the location I model from Maine west, into the Connecticut River Valley.  What's caught my imagination is the area between St. Johnsbury and Newport, Vermont, and/or the tracks from St. Johnsbury, Vermont and Groveton, New Hampshire.  What will need to be built will be modules (so they can be moved again, not necessarily taken to shows) that reflect St. Johnsbury and staging, and some new trackwork to connect the AVR pieces together.
My current thinking covers an area 14x10 feet, in the shape of an upside-down U that will be accessible from all sides (the advantage of a big basement).  For a virtual tour, we'll start on the right-hand, outside leg of the U, and travel clockwise (railroad north): 

·    Staging yard –scenery depicts a rail yard a’la New Madrid on Mike Confalone’s Allagash Railway

·    St. Johnsbury, Vermont – trains coming out of staging travel around the bottom of the peninsula, passing a farm (I have a round barn and farm I will borrow from my Ntrak module when not at a show), an oil dealer, and then into the yard that stretches most of the way up to the inside corner.  Trains from the south represent my fictional railroad and any Vermont-based railroad (Vermont Rail, Green Mountain) I want to give trackage rights up to St. J.  At the northern end of the yard, one track goes off to the left to the rest of the layout, and the other loops back into the staging.  The track back into staging represents the old Maine Central Mountain Division, giving me a rationale for running my Maine Central and other Maine-based motive power out onto the layout.  These Maine trains come into the yard at St. J, interchange cars with the other railroad(s), swap power and crew, and then head back “north.”.  Between the daily train from Maine, my fictional railroad’s trains from the north and south, and the Vermont-based railroad’s train, I suspect I’ll assign a dedicated switcher for the town.  It’ll be a busy place!

·    The space between St. Johnsbury and the next town is pretty much a transitional space for trains to run through.  Scenery only.  I want to avoid too much switching work in this section to avoid fouling the switching needed in St.J.

·     A small town comes next on the downward, inside leg, with a couple of industries.  Perhaps the woodchip business siding I had on the Aroostook Valley and/or the food processing plant, that would receive tank cars of vegetable oil and send out an occasional reefer of frozen food.

·     On the other side of the peninsula will be the paper mill from my Aroostook Valley (see Model Railroader, August, 2013).

·     The top side of the layout will be mostly just scenery, but over towards the northeast corner the track will re-enter staging, giving me three ways in and out of staging. Here I want to put in a grain mill inspired by the Poulin Grain mill in Newport to receive traffic.
Let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What comes next?

Well, even if it is twelve below this morning, it's still not too cold to think about what comes next.  We've moved from Massachusetts with the AVR shelf layout in the family room into a home with a large, dry, tall-ceiling, well-lit basement (nice house too).

The old AVR is sitting in my son's basement waiting for me to pick it up and resurrect pieces.  I wasn't going to leave it to the movers to handle this.  So what will the Aroostook Valley 2.0 look like?  Will it even be the AVR?  I've been bitten by a bug to create something new, something that would allow longer mainline trains and a variety of motive power lash-ups - that's not the AVR.  But then I'm the guy who put a paper mill on the AVR, so maybe I'm getting too hung up on following a prototype and need to learn more about freelancing.  Mike Confalone's Allagash Railway is not far from the AVR: is something like the Allagash in N scale the answer?

Here's what my "givens and druthers" look like so far for this new space:
  • Still set in Maine (or at least northern New England) around 1980.  I like running modern equipment pre-graffiti era, with a smattering of first-generation diesels a'la the BAR.
  • DCC - I'm not a wiring genius
  • Modular construction - I may move again someday!
  • While I love pokey short lines like the AVR, I want some big-time railroading too for trains of 20+ cars.
  • Paper and agricultural products will still be the main businesses.  The food processing plant will stay, along with pulp loading and fuel oil businesses.  I like big and small industries but they need to be authentic to the area.
  • Live interchange(s) to add variety.
  • Operations on a point-to-point basis (conducive to operations - the railroad's got to have purpose and a story), but with the option of a loop for when I feel like being mindless.
I'm looking at track plans that have caught my eye over time, and one that keeps coming back to me is the Housatonic inspired plan featured in Model Railroader in 2003.  MR won't allow me to post a picture of it here, so I hope you will find it in their track plan database (type in Housatonic and it pops right up), and then give me your thoughts.

As drawn, the plan fills an 18x12 foot room in HO (I'm sticking with N scale), but in my new space I have the idea of building it free-standing so I can add a staging yard outside what is shown as Pittsfield, looping to connect with the drawn plan at Stearnsville and West Yard.  The remainder of the layout would then continue on as shown until the line gets to Canaan, where instead of a duck under at Specialty Minerals I'd eliminate that industry to allow a walk-in so no one has to stoop under.  The line would then continue on around the perimeter of the layout and reconnect with the staging yard.  By changing the angle of the junction and some trackage at Canaan I could create a live interchange (maybe based on Washburn to bring back in the AVR?).

You that follow this blog, please share with me ideas!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AVR Going into Reorganization

The management of the Aroostook Valley Railroad announced today that effective October 1, the company is ceasing operations indefinitely.

In other words: I have to relocate to New Hampshire for a new job and take down what's been built here in Massachusetts.  Will the AVR be reincarnated in the hills of southwestern New Hampshire?  Or will the pieces be salvaged into a totally new railroad - maybe one featuring the railroad junction in Bellows Falls, VT, or some totally new time and place in northern New England?  Time and space will tell.

In the meantime, thank you to all who read this blog (such as it was), and who offered help and advice along the way.  The AVR's been a fun little railroad to learn from and keep the rails shiny.  I hope to introduce you to something new next year!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Photos by Greg Smith

My son is the photographer of the family:
The AVR rolls into Washburn on its way back to Presque Isle.  LaBrie Wood Products, a woodchip loader, appear to have a couple of loaded hoppers ready for pick-up.

The B&A train out of Squa Pan waits in Washburn for set-outs.

Coming to a magazine rack near you. . .

I'm very excited to announce I had an email from Jim Hediger, Senior Editor of Model Railroader, telling me the Art Department is just about done with the artwork for the "Railroad you can Model" article featuring the Aroostook Valley Railroad!  Look for it on newstands in the August issue.

Unfortunately the formula for these articles is such that you won't see any photos of the layout (but then that's why you look at this site!); the publish shots of the prototype.  You'll also see in the article a paper mill that is an optional design for the leg of the "L" in place of the industrial park that was on the prototype and first design of the layout.  This is what is actually on the layout now, and I really like the impact it has.  The mill provides a much better traffic flow on the layout (I shy away from rail siding serving industries no bigger than the boxcars themselves). 

Progress on the mill is coming - I've completed the brass kit conveyors from the woodchip pile to the kraft mill and really just need to do the base ground scenery for it to look reasonably complete.  The buildings are now all in place.  I'll post some photos of the mill once I tackle the ground cover. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Railroad Season Resumes

Now that the November winds are blowing cold and the beach has been washed away by Sandy, it's time to get back to the Aroostook Valley!  The photo shows a scene from Washburn prior to ballasting the tracks and completing a bit more of the scenery, but i include it to show off a couple 40 foot boxcars converted to woodchip cars.  This is what the BAR did with many surplus 40 footers, and it's a great use for some of my own.  The project is surprisingly easy; requiring only a saw and scrap styrene.  Decals were from Highball Graphics.

With the new paper mill going up in the Skyway Industrial Park (humor me here), these boxcars are going to rack up some mileage!