Two feet in?

Two feet in?  No I’m not talking gauge…I’m talking about me…

This past weekend, I attended the Midwest NG Show put on by Gary Kohler (PLW/M2FQ/LITCo…) and met up with some of my long time 2-Foot enthusiasts.  Including Gary White and Chris McChesney.  I had a wonderful time, great to spend time with my long time (more than 20 year) 2 foot enthusiasts…Darry S, Mark H, Gary K, Jeff S, Tom H, etc… also to catch up with my other NG friends, including those from right around home…The most common question to me was something like this:  “So how’s your layout going?”   My answer tended to go something like this…  “Well….not much progress, I’ve got one foot in Sn2, one foot in S-scale standard gauge, and a hand in HO DT&I of 1976”  It’s an honest answer and I’d continue with, “I need to jump into something with two feet…oh yea, I have two other projects in play too.  My dad and I are building 4.75″ gauge railroad in my backyard for my 50th birthday celebration and I’m working HAVOC, and 1923 HO modular layout with my model building friends”

Clearly I have lots of dreams, some will come to fruition, but none of them will be what I want if I keep shifting my energies and resources all around.  So, I proclaim, I need to pick a home layout and jump in with two feet!

So what should I jump into?

  • DT&I is out – Actually 3-4 weeks ago, the HO DT&I was hot and heavy.  I thought I could build Ford park at one end of my basement on top of (or under) Kingfield.  I could probably make something fit…but it was not going to be special and the 20+ foot long trains would have looked funny in my railroad room (24×30′).  The DTI regularly ran 3-4 diesels on the front end of trains, it simply would have looked bad pulling anything less than 20-25 cars…Anyway…I may have some 1976 freight cars on ebay soon.
  • S-scale – I really like the size of S-scale standard gauge.  I’ve considered the C&O of Indiana or the PRR in Cincy or B&O or other.  S-scale is still in the running, but it seems doubtful right now.
  • Sn2 SR&RL is back in the lead…I’m trying to jump in with 2-feet….There are a few things I need to get past:
    • How to meet my locomotive needs?  The current 5 SR&RL locos will not meet my needs and scratch building is not in the near future….Answer:  How about a compromise of Blacksone K-27’s?  Yea, not cheap, but they run great out of the box, have sound, and are steam.  Seems better than running diesels, given my 1912-1914 era.  I could practice building steam by re-detailing them.  These engines could put in the miles running the railroad for show purposes so as not to wear off the nickel platting on an Sn2 brass Forney.
    • Can the locos pull a 2% grade?  I think the answer is yes and I really think the K’s could pull more than enough…A future 2-6-0 or 2-6-2 should be close to a K, might be a bit less as those K’s are quite heavy.  Now the Jeff B has gotten us bolster for the Tichy Trucks I think Tichy and/or Smokey Mountain should roll sufficiently well.  Both should be simple enough to assemble.
    • What about spiders for all those turntables?  I could have 5-8 turntables….
    • Trackwork….At this point in time, I do not feel that handlaid track is something I want to do on the full railroad?  So I’m considering the use of ME code 55 flex with LITCo code 55 turnouts and code 70 between Phillips and Farmington.  I already have some flex to use.  Possibly in towns I may handlay…So, I’ll have to try it out…
    • A detailed plan – Honestly, I pride myself on being good at Track planning…but I think I’m just going to build the benchwork and fit the track in place….I’ll deal with change as required…
    • One phase!  I had been thinking how to do this in phases….Phases so I could just back out at any time if things did not work out….We’ll I think that mentality just does not work!  That’s like sticking your toes into the pool.  At this time I think I need to jump in with two feet and go all the way under!  I may come up shaking my head and screaming….but then I’ll warm up and enjoy myself…

So, step back…I’m about to take a running leap and jump all in!


Here is an HO K-27 with an Sn2 Big Forney. Do they look OK together? The domes are a bit small, but not tiny, the boiler is lower slung, but might be fatter, but lack the extension typical on 2-foot locos, the head light is a bit small. The tender is a bit short, but not terrible, clearly the CAB is the biggest problem. The cylinder might be too large. Anyway, good enough for a stand in…


The HOn3 K-27 does fit on the turntable, so no compromises there to make it run on the layout. A K-36 might look better, with it’s bigger drivers. Blackstone is taking orders for those now (No, I’m not going to order one)



Posted in Comentary | 4 Comments

Search for SR&RL freight car red

I want to have a large fleet of SR&RL friend cars, and all of them will need to be painted. Much discussion related to model colors has occurred in M2FQ, and on the various Maine two foot yahoo groups.  The On2 FAQ site has recorded some of the most valued content for modelers to read, read the post on Tin roofs and colour schemes.  However many of the recommendations are for older obsolete painted and/or complex mixes.  So I decided it was time to find paints acceptable to me.  My preference is for acrylic paints in an airbrush or spray cans.

So, I decided to do a number of test shots for my own evaluation.  To do the shots I cut styrene sheet into 1.5×4″ pieces around the size of a boxcar side.  Then I primer them with krylon great primer and finally sprayed them with the candidate colors.  Here are the results.


Candidate colors for freight car red

Which one do you like?  Rendering may not be accurate.  Upper left of unpainted. Next is primer grey.  The image below has them all flipped over so you can read the names.


Names of paints

It was Gary Kohler’s recommendation to use the dupli-color primers.  I do like the results they give and will likely go with one of them for my SR&RL freight car red.  If for nothing else they are in a spray can.  I’ll probably not stick to one color for all equipment, as the color likely varied some over time.  I’ll choose a roof color from there’s too.  It may be same car sides or vary, time will tell what I do.


The paints used in the test shots

Posted in Modeling | 4 Comments

Link to Al Churella’s layout corrected – He has updates

Strong on Al's On2 SR&RL

Strong on Al’s On2 SR&RL

My link to Al Churella’s layout had been broken.  It is now fixed.

I see that he continues to make good progress on the layout despite writing PRR books….He has a link to a youtube video on the main page.  Worth a watch…

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Sense of Place

Like many other model railroaders I want my my guests to feel a sense of place. So I outfitted the entry way to my railroad room with a dash of depot…


Hopefully this bit of decoration makes one feel like they entered a depot.  I only did this little bit by the door.  The rest of the walls will be covered by one or two decks of model railroad and should get skirting and backdrop to hide so the extra time and money to outfit the whole room like a depot would be wasted.

I guess one could classify this as a bit of 1:1 modeling…

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Harry’s Farmington – 2,3,4…

As soon as I made the post “Farmington Faithful for Harry” he sent the following email and images to the Sn2_Trains yahoogroup:


The 13.5 feet is the lenght of the wall at the back of the section of benchwork. At the left end of that wall there is a 45* corner. I want to use the corner as a sort of view block to keep Farmington “framed in”. In the picture looking from the far right side, at the far end of the photo is a white card (there is a blue post it note above it), on the same level as Farmington. That is my mock-up of Baker stream bridge. Strong, which is not yet modeled, is where I am standing when I took this shot. I like your condensed sketch- busy looking without being choked with track. However, if each square is 12″ its too long. Regarding the crossings, I am hesitant to model them but they are a necessity. I had thought about running the NG track and having the SG track just butt up to the rails with no real crossing track. The SG is all dummy track so electrical shorts won’t be a problem. I was even thinking of using plastic rail to make my life easier- if there is such a thing as plastic rail. I dont want to go with the expense of having them made. But then again, I didnt want to model Farmngton at all.
The south end of Farmington on Harry's Sn2 SR&RL.  The tape represents the track and the plate is the SR&RL turntable.  Kingfield is below and I think Rangeley is above.

The south end of Farmington on Harry’s Sn2 SR&RL. The tape represents the track and the plate is the SR&RL turntable. Kingfield is below and I think Rangeley is above.

The north end of Harry's Sn2 Farmington.

The north end of Harry’s Sn2 Farmington.

I like your track plan for your new layout. I have ran the Foreny up a mock up of a 2% grade and it pulled 8 cars and a caboose. But the mock up’s track was only about 10′ or so. The Foreny was out of the box.


Based on this new input, I drafted versions 2, 3, and 4 for his inspiration.  These have a more accurate representation of the fascia.

Version 2

Angled the track to have the turntable within the bound of existing benchwork.

Angled the track to have the turntable within the bound of existing benchwork.

Version 2 is angled to keep the turntable on the existing benchwork.  The MEC freight house and SR&RL canopy are preserved too.  The MEC trackwork is simple and a crossing is provided for interest.  This version has ample space behind the transfer yard for the hill and trees that existed behind the prototype.

Version 3

A simple linear version that keeps the turntable within the bounds of existing benchwork

A simple linear version that keeps the turntable within the bounds of existing benchwork

Version 3 puts all track at the rear to keep the turntable within the bound of the existing benchwork.  The standard gauge crossings are preserved, but the SR&RL canopy is likely lost.  The Russel Box factory is at the far left.  It could go into flats so look more substantial.  The limited space behind means little room for trees and the hill.  This is my least favorite of the three versions.

Version 4

Moving the track toward fascia makes results in a new version

Moving the track toward fascia makes results in a new version

This last version moves the track forward for more background scenery including the box factory as a flat on the backdrop.  The box factory track could continue for some length behind the trees to allow more cars and operation.  The turntable is in the aisle, but I think that is a compromise with trying.  The SR&RL canopy is now just a flat as could be part of the MEC depot.  The crossings have been left out for simplicity.

Final Comments

I hope these designs give harry some ideas on what he could try.  Honestly no one version is best in my mind, I put them together for him to have ideas (brainstorming).  Hopefully he finds something to take from the designs.

Posted in Farmington, Layout Design, Trackplanning | Leave a comment

Farmington Faithful for Harry

Harry Downey just yesterday posted a Farmington design challenge to the Sn2_Trains yahoogroup.  Here is what he wrote:

I’ve finally gotten the time to get back to some serious work on the layout. I left off at the track work from Farmington to just south of Strong. On my original plan, I had Farmington as just a staging yard. Now, I see how much it is needed to show the purpose of the connection between the standard and narrow gauge as well as the comparision between gauges. I am, however, drawing blanks as to how to arrange the track. I have 15′ of layout space to work with and I really want the freight transfer yard area to be the highlight. However- I still need a place for those rustactors to transfer fron the ME. And, enough room for one crossing. All in 15′. My “plan” so far has the standard gauge at the rear of the benchwork (running paralell to the wall) with the station at the far right end of the bench work. At this end is the narrow gauge turntable, ME crossing and the station. This is in the first 5′ from the right end. I want to include the coal transfer at the north end- it never seems to get modeled. Because of space restrictions I have the NG turntable swinging out over the aisle by about 3″ or so. Also, the SG track running along the back edge will be a single track with no turnouts etc. The benchwork in this area is 18″ wide overall. I have thought about leaving out the crossing(s) but then realized how important to the scene. (What was I, thinking!!)   

From what it looks like to me, the railroad had the sidings laid out to minimize disruptions to as few cars as possible when switching. Hopefully someone can see what is right in front of my face and have a great suggestion.

While there is significant unknown in the Harry’s description, I thought I’d take a crack at answering the call.


Several years ago I considered modeling Farmington as a Sn2 Free-mo module.  It was a faithful design of the Station area (left) and the middle yard (center).  The upper yard would have been to the left.  Here is that design.

Sn2 Free-mo version of Farmington, ME on the MEC and SR&RL.

Sn2 Free-mo version of Farmington, ME on the MEC and SR&RL.

The MEC tracks were designed to be operable across the front with an option to build the full wye that existed in Farmington.  The design does not sows a very short (3′) runaround on the SR&RL.  A full 5-6′ runaround would have been added to the left in as part of the upper yard.  Harry want’s to include the coal transfer which is north of the upper yard.

15 Feet for Harry

Using the Free-mo design as a guide, here is a design for Harry.

Sn2 Farmington to capture Harry's desires

Sn2 Farmington to capture Harry’s desires

On the left is the Coal trestle.  I understand it to have been used to transfer coal from SR&RL gondolas to SR&RL locomotives.  The coal would have been loaded into the gondolas from the standard gauge cars right in the this yard.  An interesting bit of operations.  I’m not sure there is sufficient length to make the grade required.

In the middle is a single run around track that is 5 feet long, sufficient for a nice 6-8 car train.  At front are is the main MEC transfer tracks.  I’ve extended the front track to the left and added the small transfer track at the rear.  Proceeding to the right, the turnouts are overlapping unlike the prototype.

At right is the station area.  I’ve kept it simple  I’ve included the SR&RL canopy (where passengers got off the SR&RL passenger cars and the MEC depot.  Finally, I’ve provided a flat for the MEC freight house.  I my mind, the MEC freight house is a must, it is a signature building that caps off the end of the station scene.  The turntable could be moved to the left to keep it tighter into the scene.

I did not draw fascia, as I do not know Harry’s space limits.  Overall, as dawn, it’s a bit more than 15′ from the coal transfer spur to the MEC freight house.  Some slight changes on the left end of the run around can reduce the distance a bit.  I did not draw the MEC track along the back edge as Harry describes because that’s not the way the prototype was laid out.  Having the cars in front and SR&RL trains go behind will emphasize the size differences and emphasizes the freight transfer as he suggests.  I have one standard gauge turnout, it’s a key turnout seen in many photos and adds to the fact that the MEC and SR&RL had multiple locations to transfer.  I would consider adding one more MEC track where the “SR&RL Canopy” text is on the diagram.  It would not require a turnout but would add a crossing.  It would run to the end of the MEC Freight House, just like the prototype. and enable transfer near the turntable.

Posted in Farmington, Free-mo, Layout Design, Trackplanning | 2 Comments

Setting the grade

In a an earlier post, I tested how many cars an Sn2 Forney could pull.  Click here to see post and watch video.  In that post I showed how many cars an Sn2 Forney could pull on level track and hypothesized about how many a Forney might pull on 2% or 3% grades.  In my last post I proposed a new track plan that my friends responded to positively.  The plan calls for three decks and stiff grades (upward of 2% see chart at bottom of link) to get between them via a “nolix” design.  If I’m going to take this design seriously, I need to confirm that such grades will meet my operating goals.  So testing is required.

The weekly model railroading session just happened to be at my house on this week, so Phil and Paul helped me conduct some tests.  First step was to setup a grade.  We did this by putting the last two free-mo modules on a grade by shimming the feet of the legs.


Here is the setup. Can you tell the two modules are on grade? Roughly 2%


The legs were shimmed with 1/2″ boards. The far legs were remained on the ground, the intermediate legs got two boards (1″) and the near legs got four boards (2″) to establish a 2% grade over 8 feet.

Once the setup was made, we ran trains of cars up the grade and watched for slipping.  WW&F #7 handled 6-7 cars up a 1% grade, and then 4-5 cars up a 2% grade and 3 cars up a 3% grade.  Let me tell you we had 15+ minutes where I was scared, as I wrongly thought the 3% grade was 2%.  3 cars up a 2% grade was never going to be acceptable.

Later, we decided that not all cars were equal.  We thought weight was a significant contributor.  In the end, I dug out 7 HO Walthers cars that had HOn3 trucks on them (these has been used during ops on my previous layout…way back in 2005).  With these and the corrected 2% grade WW&F #7 was able to pull a 8 car train up the grade.  9 cars would be great success!

The following day I got curious and tested with one of the small 0-4-4T Forneys,  T&T SR&RL #7.  It was able to pull 7 of the cars up the grade.


T&T SR&RL #7 with 8 cars, ready to take on the grade, this missed but removing the last car resulted in success with a 7 car train.

After completing the test, I wondered if weight was the only factor.  So I did rolling tests to see how well the cars rolled.  The results were unexpected.  Many cars which I thought had good Kadee trucks on them did not roll well at all.


Free-rolling test. The cars came down the 2% grade from right, then rolled freely across two curved modules. When a car stopped, I placed off the rails next to where it stopped

As you can see from the test, some cars hardly rolled one foot, yet others rolled 6 feet.  So what is the difference?

Here are a few quick notes:

  1. SR&RL Flat (on track) – Rolled 0″, weight 1.8 oz, KD trucks
  2. SR&RL Pulp Rack (at front) – Rolled 1/2″, weight 2+ oz, KD trucks
  3. SR&RL Box (behind) – Rolled 5″, weight 2.5+ oz, KD trucks
  4. PRR Box – Rolled 8″, weight 1.6 oz, MDC trucks with brass wheelsets
  5. Stark Box – Rolled 13″, weight 1.6 oz, MDC trucks with brass wheelsets
  6. Tichy Flat – Rolled 29″, weight 0.8 oz, MDC trucks with nickle plated wheelsets
  7. SR&RL Box – Rolled 36″, weight 2.5 oz, MDC trucks with nickle plated wheelsets
  8. SR&RL coal – Rolled 62″, weight 2.5 oz, MDC trucks with nickle plated wheelsets
  9. SR&RL flat – Rolled 67″, weight 2.5 oz, MDC trucks with nickle plated wheelsets
  10. There was one SR&RL box with KD wheelsets that would not even roll down the 2% grade when I pushed it.


  • Weight is a factor, but not the only factor effecting locomotive pulling power.
  • Not all trucks are the same.  The trucks and wheelsets effect the drag and likely limit loco pulling power.
  • KD trucks are not the quality I need.
  • The light weight cars all have MDC trucks, so were easier to pull because they were lighter and the trucks were more free-rolling than the MDC.

Blackstone trucks set the standard!

None of my cars have Blackstone trucks on them yet.  But I’ve been planning to put them on my passenger cars and cabooses and possibly some freight cars as stand in’s until I can build the Smokey Mountain Model Works trucks.  Being curious, I put one of the trucks on the tracks and let it roll.  It rolled freely for over 7 feet!  then rolled back 2 feet.  Yes, this truck rolled further than any other set of trucks with a car body (mass) on top.  The trucks roll so freely, they can be used to test level!  I plan to use a Blackstone truck to level my modules at the next setup.


  • 2% grades will be acceptable if I use qood quality trucks and keep the cars light.  My plan has always been to minimize the grades from Farmington to Phillips so that I could run longer 8 car trains with a big forney and 10-12 car trains with a 2-6-0 or 2-6-2 or 2-8-0 loco.  Likewise from Strong to Kingfield, I’d like to be able to run 8-10 car trains.  However, north of Phillips to Rangeley and north of Kingfield to Bigelow, I’ve always planned to run shorted 5-7 car trains and require crews to double the hills when required (just like the prototype).
  • Blackstone trucks are the GOLD standard.  All KD trucks will be replaced.  MDC trucks with nickle wheelsets may be remain.  David Hoffman made an order with NWSL to replace the MDC wheelsets.  I have a few of the Hoffman wheelsets so will test to determine if they are acceptable.
  • I have SMMW truck kits and Tichy trucks that can be converted to a more “scale” Sn2 truck.  But if I’m not able to make them run smoothly as a MDC nickle plated truck, then they will not be used.  I’m more about operations than looks!
  • I will set standards for truck rolling and car weight.  Only if both are met will I allow a car onto the layout (once built).
  • I will have to set operating limits on how many cars can be pulled by locomotives between towns.  The locomotives will take excess wear if crews do not follow the rules.  I do not want to get drivers nickle plated every few years or be required to make new frames should the originals wear out…
  • Onward!  This testing does not deter me from proceeding with Sn2.  Just the opposite, it makes me optimistic.
Posted in Layout Design, Operations, TNT | 3 Comments