Saturday, July 12, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Various Updates

Various updates on the ROCK.  After our trip to the prototype, I'm gearing up for some work on the layout.

Operations Update
As mentioned before, I'm exploring temporary staging on the west end of my layout.  Here is a concept drawing that I created.  I believe this will work. I have already laid out some test pieces of track (over the existing track).  It looks like it would flow good.  Now, to develop the end cap to the layout for the staging cassette to couple to as well as build out the area in front of Peru Power and Westclox).

Ottawa Local "The Sand Job" Changes
In between sessions, I have been playing around with the scale track and demonstrating the crossing gates at Ottawa Avenue to visitors.  Each time, I return the cut of cars to the loading track at Ottawa Silica and tie down my locomotives adjacent to the small office building on the south end of the plant.

This got me to thinking.  Maybe the Ottawa "Sand job" should originate here vs. in the yard.  The crew would start their day by pulling empties from the various locations (still minding the tracks that can't be worked until the blue flags are taken down), shove the pickups up into the yard and then bring back the cars to be delivered.  This would add more action for the yardmaster throughout the day and ease the bottleneck of cars down between Ottawa Silica and LOF.   This is also more prototypical to the operations described in the article provided by Steve Holzheimer a while back.  

Roster Update
The two Ex-P&LE GP7s I owned have been traded for some other equipment.  They have been removed from the roster. I love the P&LE, but enjoy having all RI power as well.

An Atlas GP38-2 in the blue and white paint scheme has been procured.  It is the #4303 "State of Iowa".  I owned two demon possessed Life-Like Proto 2000 GP38-2s in the past, but they never did run right and had multiple issues.  I loved the locomotives though.  I'm happy to finally own an Atlas version.

An Atlas GP40 #373 in the blue and white scheme has been ordered for delivery around Christmas this year.  In the meantime, to have a set of similarly matched locomotives, I'm leasing a GP38-2 #4304 from a friend until my GP40 arrives.

The roster page of the blog has been updated to reflect these changes.

Track Department Update
A while back I had tore out some track at the east end of Ottawa Yard to add a crossover between tracks 4 and 5.  I had some difficulties with the turnouts and have worked on them off and on.  I received in some materials this week to hopefully remedy the situation and fill the void of track in this area.  This will allow for the Ottawa Local to utilize two tracks for pickups/setoffs when arriving from South Ottawa.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Staging Yard Possibilities

I typed this up quite a while back but never posted.  I have been working on scenarios in my head of how to add staging west of LaSalle.  Since this time, I discussed with a few local model railroaders.  The idea of a temporary staging yard cassette that would attach to the end of the layout when operating seemed to be the most feasible idea (and less obtrusive overall).  

Luckily enough, my friend Steve H had just this (a staging yard cassette) that he no longer needed.  So, now, I'm in the process of testing to see if it will work and what modifications would be required to the layout.    More to come in follow-up post.


After running the first op session, I found that I wasn't happy with one thing.  I had to stop the westbound train and take it off the layout as the westbound freight arrived at LaSalle.  It was mainly due to the end of the freight train was back across Mill Street so it just didn't look good.  Majority of the off layout traffic moves west.  I also had an eastbound train that I had to place on the layout.  Again, the front end was past Mill St before I managed to get all the cars on.  A staging yard at this end would be a nice addition, but I'm not sure how or if it can be done.  It would allow for the trains to go through the entire scene I completed.  I don't have much railroad, but would really like to see a train go through what I did create.

Here's my track plan again.

Option 1:
Go through the linen closet and back side of master bedroom closet.  This would provide ideal space for a staging yard, but has many challenges.

1) four holes in the wall. 
2) a lift out section would need to be created in the linen closet to provide access to the shelves between op sessions.
3) The clothes hanger bar for my clothes would need to be move forward by 4".  
4) Most likely plan to meet opposition by other people in the house.

Option 2:
Build a temporary staging yard that would extend out over the staircase 1/2 wall.

1) cuts off access up/down stairs.

Option 3:
Create a temporary staging yard that would curve the staging yard to the left to go across the staircase 1/2 wall up to the door for the master bedroom.

1) Only would block access to the master bedroom.  Not as bad as that would probably work ok during an op session.  The only thing I worry about is the tight radius onto the 1/2 wall.
2) Again, where to store this when not in use.

Option 4:
Curve the mainline to the right to go under the Storage Shelf with the flat screen TV.  

1) It would completely kill my Westclox scene as the tracks would have to be realigned shortly after Mill St to make the turn under the shelf.  This is one of my signature RI scenes and I'm not quick to compromise on this.
2) The TV height now is perfect.  To raise it higher would be too much.  I'm unable to lower the shelf any due to the railroad signs below (no other place to relocate them either).

The ROCK 3.0: Railfanning the Ex-ROCK - Part IV

...continued from yesterday's post.

LaSalle, Illinois (continued)
We departed the LaSalle area and continued our trek east on Brunner St.  It changes names to Canal St just before crossing over the mainline to the north side of the tracks.  We took a left and headed back up the bluff.

Up ahead, we could see the very large Illinois Cement plant.  I'm unsure what it may have been called back in the days of the RI.  It doesn't appear to have any rail traffic now, but may have back then.

It's a rather large facility nestled between in the trees to the east of LaSalle.  Other than seeing the buildings tower over the trees, there was no good angle to photograph.  I have chosen not to model this plant.

When driving up toward it though, we noticed the Illinois Central Railroad bridge crossing over the Illinois River.  For some reason, I was thinking that it was removed, but now I recall that was the New York Central Railroad connection in Depue I was thinking of.  The railroad bridge had a fence at the end blocking access.  This is the IC's Gruber line.  They once interchanged with the Rock Island by crossing the river into a small yard.  An interchange track went down a steep hill off the bluff down to the RI main along the riverside.  

The LaSalle and Bureau County Railroad Company
Later on, the LaSalle and Bureau County Railroad Company took over the line and switched some of the ROCK"s industries after their shutdown until around 1986.   The railroad was best known for their alledged theft of other railroad's freight cars.  An article was written here:  I'm unsure if the bridge is used now, but there were a few cars in the small former IC yard.  

As were headed out of town just past the IC line, I noticed the LaSalle County Carbon Coal Company building.  This company had a coal mine in LaSalle (as well as five others in the region)  from 1883 to 1930.  

Utica, Illinois (MP 94.0)
We continued east on Highway 6 over into Utica.  The route into Utica is mostly farmland after crossing over the I-39 interchange.  There are a few newer neighborhoods built on the farmland now.

We took a right on a road that led us down to Hwy 178 which turns into Clark St in Utica.  We drove a block over to the east which is Mill Street which I'm modeling on my layout.  

Here is the view looking north across the RI mainline.  The depot used to be located just right of me.  It was razed after being partially destroyed by a tornado in August 2004.

Here is Mill Street on my layout.  My high climbs a little higher than the prototype, but it gives a sense of the prototype.  

Here is a photo of the Utica RI Passenger Station back in the day.  
This photo is looking east toward Chicago. 

Here is the station at Mill Street on my layout.  This structure is a temporary structure that will be replaced when I have time to scrathbuild one like the prototype.

This is looking east toward Chicago from Mill St.
Belrose Silica (now Unimin) is on the left and Philadelphia Quartz (now PQ Corp) is on the right.
There was a small yard here, but I didn't have the room to model it.  It was also curved some whereas my representation is straight.

Here is what it looks like on my layout.  No structures are present yet.  The access road to the Belrose Silica Plant was further off the road which I had to compress due to my available space.  

This is the current post office that was constructed back in 1966.  This is unmodeled on my layout due to the narrow space between the tracks and edge of my benchwork.  

Here is the entrance to Philadelphia Quartz.  Unfortunately, with 9/11 and today's times, I can't simply march in and snap photos.  They had numerous no trespassing signs.  I didn't want to push my luck.  

Here is roughly the same angle on my layout of the PQ Plant.  I need to adjust the position of one of the tanks.  My building will not be a perfect match to the prototype.  It would be hard to construct without better photos.  If Bing Maps updates their images, I might be able to do it.  For now, I have the structure I threw together.

A sign on the fence outside of the plant.

Here is another photo of the office building.  I believe I have room to model this building on my layout.  It might be a little narrower than the prototype, but should suffice.  

When I made the turn off Highway 6 there was a sign that said "Welcome to Utica - Home of Starved Rock".  Well, that's interesting.  We just learned about Starved Rock Park ( when watching a show "Illinois Stories" on PBS the afternoon before.  Carrie requested that we visit while there.  It wasn't on the agenda, but how could we pass up the opportunity.  We walked the 0.3 mile trail up to the top and found these views of the Illinois River and Belrose Silica (Unimin) plant towering above the trees in Utica.

Ottawa, Illinois (MP 84.5)
After our visit in Utica, we drove back up to Highway 6 and drove east over to Ottawa paralleling I-80.  We turned right on Boyce Memorial Drive which crosses the former RI Mainline (now CSX), and former Burlington Northern tracks that access the Ottawa Silica Plant (now U.S. Silica).  

I made a wrong turn and ended up in the CSX Ottawa Yard.  While there, I snapped a quick photo of the yard job sorting out sand hoppers.  

CSX Yard Job sorting a string of sand covered hoppers in CSX Ottawa Yard.

The sign at the entrance to the yard.  I like how they paid homage to the ROCK with the "The New Rock".

I had found on Bing Maps that we could park at the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail and walk down to the hill track (track that connects the old Rock Island Ottawa Yard to the Ottawa Silica Plant).  I figured I would be able to get some photos from this vantage point.  I estimated it would be roughly a 1700 ft walk down to the hill track.  We ended up walking a little further.  Too bad it was blazing hot outside and very humid.  I was drenching with sweat and flushed after that walk.  The following day, the high barely made it out of the 60s!

Here is a photo of the plant from the Hill Track looking south.  That's an ex-Canadian Pacific switcher and Ex-UP GP locomotive.

An old Santa Fe hopper on a side track by the Hill Track.

The trail was much more overgrown than what appeared on Bing Maps.  I just couldn't get up high enough over the buildings that were close, trees, etc.  I need a drone camera!  

I was hoping to get a photo of this from the ground level, but it wasn't meant to be today.  Overgrown bush and trees, a family hot, tired, dehydrated and hungry prevented further exploration.

Here is an overhead shot from Bing Maps before a lot of the expansion to the plant that is present today.  The plant has had many add-ons since this was last taken.  It appeared they were constructing another large processing building as well.  I must say the sand operation is still going strong!

Here is my representation of the Ottawa Silica plant. 

In the Bing Maps pic directly above, you will notice the main tower is narrower than it is in the photos I snapped.  They added on that building quite a bit.

So, imagine a narrow tall building in the middle below.  You can then see my structure on the left side modeled.  The section on the right will not be modeled as that is up against the wall.  I thought about using building flats and doing the overhead conveyors though.

I plan on modeling the sheet metal building that has Ottawa Silica displayed on the side.  It would be to the left of my tall buildings where the bagged sand was loaded.  The only difference is I will paint "Ottawa Silica" on the side facing the aisle vs the West Side in the prototype (which would face the wall on my layout).

While it may not be a perfect match, I believe I will have a pretty good representation of the plant.  I'm pleased with my progress so far.  As I get into constructing the buildings with more details it will be fun to watch it evolve.

We continued to drive south on Boyce Memorial Drive and around to the south end of the plant looking for more photo angles.  The property is protected by a tall fence, trees and brush.  Even standing up on the van I was unable to get a clear shot.  My best bet would be from inside the confines of the plant, but I would have to obtain approval to enter the plant.  I would have loved to take some photos in the former Rock Island Ottawa Yard as well, but what can you do.

We meandered our way through the city streets looking for a specific place for lunch.  We rolled up on another site I wanted to photograph.  The former BN locomotive shed at the crossing of the BN and RI lines.

The RI mainline is in the foreground, looking east toward Chicago.  

This is looking north on the BN line toward the interlocking and locomotive shed.

This is another view looking north.  The line in the foreground is the North-South BN line and the line from side-to-side is the West-East Rock Island Mainline.

Here is a view of the locomotive shed looking south from West Norris Street (Highway 6).
Check out that SD45!

Here are two photos that overview the area on my layout now.  The blue building is a temporary building where I could like to scratchbuild the BN locomotive shed.

After lunch, we headed north on Columbus Street to photograph the former Rock Island passenger station in Ottawa.

The former Rock Island station is now used as an office for CSX.

Looking East toward Chicago.

I noticed the depot in Iowa City also had this feature.  It's not very wide for a car.  Maybe it dates back to horse and buggy days.

It was around 1:30pm in the day now (Part I through Part IV of the blog posts), we continued up north to Rochelle, IL and on up as far north as Beloit, Wisconsin.  We saw a lot of other non-RI but railroad related stuff as well which will be a separate blog post.  The final post in this series (Part V) will cover the Iowa City area where we stopped for the night two days later.  In three days, we traveled 800 miles.

It was a whirlwind mini-trip while on our main vacation, but provided for some great exploration for our family.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.