Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Progress At last!

2013 has been a year of major changes in the basement.  We made the decision to remove the oil furnace, oil barrel, and associate pipes for the hot-water heating system, and replace it all with a heat pump.  The change took quite a while, and made it necessary to remove all of the railway that was located in the furnace room (west-end staging tracks, the main line between Wakefield and Pembroke, and the town of Northampton).  I then studded, insulated, and gyprocked the outside wall of the former furnace room.  Finally, I was able to begin rebuilding the railway.  Northampton is now back in place, the new West Avondale Yard (west-end staging) has been installed, and the mainline is open once again.

The photo shows the new west-end staging yard, comprised of nine tracks.  Four of the tracks are long enough to hold 36-car trains.  The nine-track yard is a big improvement over the old staging yard with only five tracks, the longest of which had room for an 18-car train.  All three east-bound passenger trains can now enter the layout from staging--one of them previously originated in the Avondale coach yard.

(Click on the photo below to see the full width of the expanded staging yard)

The east-end staging will also be enlarged, an entirely new industrial area will be added west of Avondale (above Northampton in the furnace room), and a few new industries will be added in Lower Wakefield.

2014 looks like a good year for operations on the Carleton Railway.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sketch of the layout

I am often asked if I have a track plan that I can show people.  I do not--but if someone with the skill to draw a detailed track plan volunteers, I would be very grateful!  I have sketched a very basic plan to give a sense of the two levels of the layout--each grid line represents 12 inches (click on the sketches to enlarge them).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lumber by Rail!

Patterson's Mill Begins Shipping By Rail
(click on photo to enlarge)
With flatcar loads of logs arriving at the mill almost daily, Patterson's Sawmill in Northampton has long been a major customer of the Carleton Railway, but the mill owners had become accustomed to shipping their finished products by truck.  That is about to change. The flatcars that previously left the mill empty are now likely to be loaded with lumber destined for markets in the eastern US and Canada.  The Carleton Railway's marketing department convinced the mill owners that rail is a reliable and cost-efficient mode for delivering their products to market.  In the photo above, three carloads of wrapped lumber await their departure on the next "Northampton Local."    

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An Unusual Extra

Railfans were pleasantly surprised this week to see a very short passenger train stop briefly at the Avondale station on the way to the Carleton Railway's car shops in Nortondale, York County.  The eastbound extra train consisted of Alco C-420 #2010 pulling a pair of shiny dome cars that had recently been purchased in Tatamagouche.  Once the cars have been re-lettered for the Carleton Railway and upgraded to the railway's exacting standards for quality service, the cars should enter regular service by fall (click on the photo to enlarge it).  
It is a busy day in the Avondale yard.  Those covered hoppers on track 5 are part of the westbound Newbridge Turn that has just arrived from South Newbridge, and the caboose that is almost out of sight on track 6 is at the rear of the Aroostook Local leaving for Monticello, Maine.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

MFMR 2013 Convention

I just returned from a wonderful weekend at the annual convention of the Maritime Federation of Model Railroaders.  It was an exceptional convention.  Steve O'Brien, George Sabean, and I took a 16-module display to represent our local Saint John club (SJSMR) and, as usual, the Carleton Railway's six "Monticello, Maine" modules were part of the public show on Saturday at the Recreation Centre in Tatamagouche.  With some much appreciated help from Mitchell, we kept the trains running all day and talked to a lot of interested people (click on the photos to enlarge them):  
Alco switcher 1023 kept very busy in the Monticello yard as train after train passed by on the double-track mainline.  Lots of people took copies of the latest railway timetable.  
The public show was well attended and featured a large number of layouts and several dealers.  The photo below is a mid-morning view of the crowd in the arena.  The show was busy all morning and afternoon.

The high point of the convention for me was the tour of Dave Gunn's railway.  The scratch-built structures were incredible--some complete with detailed interiors and lighting.  The large industrial buildings were very impressive.  I have included a few shots of some of the highlights of the layout (the photos were from my cell phone; I wish I had taken my digital camera to get some better close-ups of the fine detail):
 The above photo shows the fruit and vegetable terminal.  Below is a huge furniture manufacturing complex.

 The Sherwin-Williams plant takes up most of one wall of the layout room.
 There are switch levers inside the lighted interlocking tower below.
It was a great convention!  Sincere appreciation is expressed to those who did such a fine job of organizing everything and welcoming us so well.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Signal Project

New Signal Bridge in Avondale
About a year ago I made the decision to begin the process of adding operational signals to the Carleton Railway.  Progress has been slow (life has been busy!).  The signal masts are now in place, along with some relay cabinets, and I have been reading up on JMRI--I also attended several clinics on signalling at last year's NMRA national convention.  A major problem was at the east end of the Avondale yard.  The two vertical signal masts that had been positioned could not be seen well from the aisle and really didn't seem to "look" right.  

This evening I installed an NJ International two-track signal bridge.  I still have to add the signal heads and the wiring, but it looks much better and the signals will be more visible from the aisle.  Here are a couple of views of the new signal bridge (click on the photos to enlarge them):
You can see in the photos that the vertical signals just don't look right here.
I am obviously not going to have the signal system up and running for a while, but I am hoping that with help from other club members I will make some progress in the months ahead.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Another Great Operating Session

Tonight was the Carleton Railway's last operating session until fall, and a great turnout of 13 enthusiastic crew members made for a busy and productive evening.  All trains completed their runs and a lot of freight was delivered.  There were a few minor incidents--two carloads of beef cattle were mistakenly left on a yard track in Waterville, but the Newbridge Turn crew (Bob B. and George) spotted them at the BQM packing plant later in the day.  A load of cull potatoes was missed at Rosedale, but its market value is pretty low anyway. Management will make a thorough check to see how careful the crew was in making sure that each carload got to its intended destination.  

Bruce was back at the big Avondale yard as yardmaster, with Bob B working as Assistant yardmaster.  They were a great team (click on the photos to enlarge them).  

In the photo below, the potatoes are off to a good start.  Peter was hard at work as South Newbridge yardmaster, while Doug guided the eastbound Capital City Commuter (passenger train) into the station.  Mike was part of a three-man crew on the Valley Local tonight--thanks to Willy and Matthew for their help.

Ian jumped in with both feet during his first visit to the Carleton Railway, serving as the crew for Extra 2010 (which serves as the Waterville yard switcher).  Here he switches the BQM packing plant while Barry guides the Fast Freight East through town.

At about noon (railway time) the yard at South Newbridge was full--lots of freight is transferred here between the two branchlines and the Avondale Subdivision.  By the end of the evening, the yard was nearly empty thanks to the efficiency of the crew.

During a quiet moment, the president of a rival railway took time to spy--er--observe the industries in Grafton that are served by the Carleton Railway.
Thanks so much to everyone who has been able to participate in the operating sessions this past year.  You are the people who make it all worthwhile.  I look forward to another enjoyable year of operations beginning in September.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Keeping Busy

I have not accomplished a lot in the basement since the last operating session, but the photos show that I have still been active.  The photo below shows the six "Monticello, Maine" modules being prepared for the next MFMR convention.  Some wiring problems which have lingered since the DC to DCC conversion have now been solved thanks to help from Bob K. and from Lou.  New details are being added along with more signs to identify the buildings.  Thanks to the SJSMR club, it is great to have a place where we can work on the modules.   

Last weekend was a very enjoyable trip to Summerside, PEI to operate on two great model railroads, thanks to our hosts Derwin and Scott.  Our SJ crew enjoyed a full day of op sessions and lots of good PEI hospitality.

I love the nicely weathered locos and the variety of cabooses and snow plows on Derwin's layout.

Scott has some very interesting structures and scenes that make operations a lot of fun.

The Carleton Railway's next operating session is scheduled for Friday evening, May 17.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Operating session video

Crew member Norm McDonald has posted a video of a recent Carleton Railway operating session.   The link to the video is  HERE.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Carleton Railway Hosts a PEI crew

Five crew members from Prince Edward Island joined a few regulars for a special Saturday afternoon operating session on the Carleton Railway.  Thanks to Scott, Ed, Barry, Kenny, and Steve for a great afternoon.  Below, Ed takes the lead in Avondale yard as Bruce serves as Assistant Yardmaster.

Scott brings the Carleton-York Peddler into Wakefield:

Steve is moving the Newbridge Turn onto the main line on the upper level while Barry, assisted by Lou, serves as yardmaster in South Newbridge.  

Kenny is assisted by Barry as the Northampton Local East does some switching in Grafton.

The next op session is tentatively scheduled for April 5.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Big Alcos on the branch line?

The Carleton Railway was very busy on Friday evening with 12 crew members joining me to run 14 scheduled trains as well as an extra.  Below, George is looking very serious as he checks the waybills while Norm does some railfanning as the Capital City Commuter makes its way through Wakefield on its way toward Fredericton.
 Avondale yard was an effiicient spot with Bruce and Wendell (below) keeping everything running smoothly.
Bob Kane oversaw a very busy evening in the South Newbridge yard.  In the photo below, he spots some reefers at the potato sheds.
While Barry and Randy were busy with freight trains, Lawrence had an unusual amount of work in the Waterville yard.
The most unusual sight of the evening was on the Northampton branch.  Two huge locos, Alco C628s, were spotted by railfans on the branch line near the tiny Mulheron Street station.  Never before have such powerful (and heavy) locomotives ventured onto the line toward Northampton.  Since such locomotives were not scheduled or expected on the branch line, an investigation was carried out by management.  It seems that the innovative crew of the Valley Local decided while doing some yard switching in South Newbridge to use the branch line instead of the yard lead. An inspection of the tracks for damage will be carried out before the next operating session.
This weekend is a busy one for the railway.  On Saturday, a visiting crew from Prince Edward Island is scheduled to operate the railway.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Not Everyone Is in Springfield...

Although many regular crew members have headed to the Big Train Show this weekend (and the rival ICR even cancelled its scheduled op session), the ever-reliable Carleton Railway faithfully continued to deliver freight to its valued customers this evening.  In the photo below, Bruce Bosence serves as both engineer and conductor of the westbound leg of the Newbridge Turn in Waterville, where work consisted of moving a number of "off spot" freight cars (including a loaded stock car) to their intended destinations at the BQM plant.  During the last op session, the Newbridge Turn only got as far as Pembroke before the session ended; during this evening's "mini op session," the train completed its run.  Yard switching was also carried out at both South Newbridge and Avondale, readying the railway for the next scheduled op session on Friday evening, Feb. 22.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


The Carleton Railway's first operating session of 2013 drew a crew of eleven skilful operators who efficiently delivered freight and passengers in keeping with Timetable #7 which went into effect on January 1.   The eighteen-hour session (3 actual hours with a 6:1 fast clock) flew by as 14 scheduled and 2 extra trains traversed the system.  Although there were a few delays, the crew did a great job.  A three-way meet (two limited-stop passenger trains and a local freight) at Waterville was accomplished without a hitch.   

Management took special note of how carefully the railway's primary means of income, agricultural commodities, were delivered to loyal customers.  As expected, the crews delivered the freight efficiently.  The following photos give a sense of how important agricultural commodities are to the railway (click on the photos to enlarge them):

Buckingham Quality Meats, the major employer in Waterville, received five car loads of beef cattle and two car loads of hogs.  Extra 2010 (engineer Lawrence) switched the yard and spotted stock cars, along with a string of reefers that will deliver processed meat to waiting wholesalers.  Later in the day, the Valley Local (operated by Wendell, with some "help" from Doug) delivered additional stock cars to the plant:  

The railway realizes that BQM has other options for shipping their products, including their own fleet of trucks.  The Carleton Railway considers BQM meat shipments to be a top priority and moves them daily to customers on fast freights # 21 and #22 (both trains were crewed by Blake).

The potato industry is also very important to the railway.  This decrepit-looking truck, used only around the farm, is loaded with potato barrels.

The railway takes care to keep its stock cars in clean working order.  After being unloaded at the BQM plant, the cars move to the clean-out facility.

Even small facilities like this hog pen in Nortondale are switched by attentive railway crews.

Although agriculture provides the bulk of Carleton Railway freight, the lumber industry is also important.  The Northampton Local, with Lou and Barry as engineer and conductor, delivered several loads of logs to Patterson's Mill and spotted a variety of cars at nearby industries:

In the South Newbridge yard (Jct. with the Northampton and Newbridge Subdivisions), Yardmaster Peter used an Alco switcher recently acquired from CN and not yet repainted.

Bruce and Roy served as Yardmaster and Assistant Yardmaster in the big Avondale Yard, staying well ahead of schedule throughout the busy session.  The old H16-44 switcher (lettered for the wholly-owned Avondale Terminal Railway) was assisted by an Alco S-4.    

In addition to the freight trains, six passenger trains made their way across the system, with Doug, Mike, and Blake at the throttles.  One other interesting event was the inaugural run of locomotives 2801 and 2802, the railway's new Alco C428s, serving as power for the Carleton-York Peddler.