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  • Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Coast Extension’

    Three’s Company: Neighbors on the MILW West Coast Extension

    2012 - 07.25

    (Pt.3 on my model train odyssey. Click here for Pt.1 and Pt.2)

    I started researching what other railroads ran through the same territory as the Milwaukee. The candidates for intermingling would be the Union Pacific (“UP”), the Great Northern (“GN”), and the Northern Pacific (“NP”). I’d like to have a second road around for the sake of operational complexity and visual variety. More colors are good. The UP would introduce yellow, GN would introduce more orange and dark green, NP would give any number of shades of green.

    Despite the fact that the UP would make the most logical companion to my MILW (they shared depots), I really just … don’t like the UP! This is owing to the fact that a passenger-sharing agreement with the UP drove the Milwakee to repaint their orange and maroon livery into the standard UP yellow scheme, thusly ending my favorite schemes. To me, the UP Yellow is like a boring beige. It’s the Toyota Camry of railroad paint schemes: sensible and cheap. But overpoweringly bland. Uninspiring. Ubiquitious to the point of forgettable. I’m looking for something more unique than UP. That leaves me with the GN and the NP. Fortunately, there are some interesting possibilities for modeling these lines…

    The GN and the NP both had flagship passenger trains that were pretty neat; The Empire Builder & The North Coast Limited, respectively. Since the Empire Builder is mostly orange, for the sake of variety I’m more interested in the North Coast Limited. Depending on the year I want to call it, there are TWO distinct and arresting paint schemes for the NCL: 1. the so-called “Pine Tree” scheme, which is a two-tone dark green with a thin yellow stripe for ‘pop’ and 2. the “Raymond Loewy” scheme, created by the same famous industrial designer who drafted the design for the MILW Erie-built diesels as noted in the last post. The Loewy scheme, pictured above, uses a thin white stripe separating a sea-foam green from a forest green. Both of these are attractive possibilities, along with the option of using either streamlined or heavyweight coaches for the Pine Tree scheme, again depending on the year. No matter what way you slice it, that North Coast Limited is a neat passenger train. And I like the name.

    Sealing the deal, the NP and the MILW had a good amount of trackage that ran parallel to one another through Washington State, and also in Montana. So it would be realistic to have those main lines running together, or even on opposite sides of a stream, which could make some neat scenery. The North Coast Limited also traveled those tracks, so I could model ‘meets’ (aka two trains passing one another) between the North Coast Limited and my Milwaukee Olympian Hiawatha. SOLD!

    The only downside to this arrangement is that the NP and the MILW never shared depots.

    Thusly my trackage will be occupied by NP and MILW, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t squeeze in some Great Northern too. They had a short-length commuter train called the Cascadian, which would be simple/cheap to model and provide some further variety. It would not be terribly unrealistic to model the Cascadian taking the occasional detour over the NP mainline, a practice that would happen in real life as the result of track washouts or wrecks.

    I think that wraps up my passenger operations–heaps of MILW, a healthy sprinkling of NP, and just a tiny pinch of GN.

    “Now THAT’S Railroading!”

    2012 - 06.12

    (Pt.2 on my model train odyssey, which begun here)

    If I had to choose a favorite train engine, it’d be the Milwakee’s electric “Bipolar” locomotives, so-named due to the type of motors they employed. Designated class EP-2, only 5 examples were ever built, made in 1919 and operating until ’61. They ran in Washington State until 57 when they were transferred to the Rocky Mountain Division–but really their glory period was before a botched rebuild-job in ’53 which made their appearance more ‘bubbly’ and their operation unreliable. Personally I prefer the old look with all the exposed piping, more similar to a steam engine in appearance. These engines never ran on any other railroad besides the Milwaukee Road and wore a variety of colorful paint schemes during their lifetime.

    As posted previously, I do plan on recreating the Cascade Mountain division on the Milwaukee Road, where the Bipolars ran. Since I’m going to do a good deal of work building catenary (that’s the hip’n’with-it word for overhead electrical wires) I want to max out any/all operations that might have occurred under Milwaukee wires…

    Which leads me to another type of distinctive electric engine on the Milwaukee nicknamed the “Little Joe”. Although in my book the Joes aren’t quite as cool as the Bipolars, they are still way up there on the scale of rad-lookin railroading. These fellas were designated class EP-4 (2 units) and EF-4 (10 units), depending on whether they pulled freight or passenger service. The MILW ran them on the Rocky Mountain Division from 1950 all the way until the dismantling of the electric wires in June of ’74. Unfortunately for my historical accuracy, the Joes never once ran on the Coast division: ONE, there was an un-electrified gap separating the Rocky Mountain Division and the Coast Division, and TWO, the substations which powered the railroad had to be ‘modded’ from 3kV up to 3.3kV to max out Joestyle performance. I highlight these engines in particular since they are readily availble in inexpensive plastic, as opposed to haughtily-expensive hand-built brass. So I could definitely obtain these.

    In doing research for my forthcoming model railroad, I basically just did some google image searches for Milwaukee Road and tried to find anything that I felt looked awesome. The Joes definitely qualify. And the scenery on the Rocky Mountain Division is more or less interchangable with that of the Cascade Mountains in Washington where the Bipolars ran. I think I am going to make the IME (“it’s my empire”) decision to call my mountains either the Rockies or the Cascades, depending on who’s traversing them. That’ just more fun.

    Further motivation to make such a compromise is the fact that the Joes actually ran some very interesting freight service, the form of Train #261 westbound and Train #262 eastbound, both of which were “hotshot” freights or extra fast freight trains in other words. In 1962, these two trains were named the “XL Special” and the “Thunderhawk”, respectively–both of which are ultra badass names! Their claim to fame was speed. They covered 2200 miles in 55 hours. By contrast, their fastest competition did it in 94 hours. And only the Milwaukee had tall enough tunnels to run tri-level auto racks, hauling imported cars from Seattle to Chicago. Check out this photo of the Thunderhawk in action:

    Running those trains sounds like a lot of fun to me: they’ve got badass names, they’re really fast, their motive power is a distinctive mix of electric and diesel, and they’ll fit with the terrain I’ll be building. Only issue is the time period. If I set the railroad in early ’53 I can have both Bipolars and Joes, although I shouldn’t mix them for regional accuracy. But my favorite Bipolar paint scheme was painted over in 1948. And the Super Domes didn’t exist until late ’52. I suppose if I really wanted to be a stick in the mud, I could just hide the offending mismatches in staging but realistically, when no one else is around to be appalled at my hideous choices in modeler’s license, I just see myself running the trains I like and calling it close enough.

    Another candidate for my modeling is the Olympian Hiawatha as pulled by the “Erie-built” diesels, as pictured below. These babies had a flashy chrome nose and a mean-looking evil-eyebrow thing going on with the cabin windows, thanks to famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Put those suckers down as my vote for all-time favorite diesel. Only problem: they don’t exist in plastic… yet. Ball’s in your court, maufacturers. I’ll be waiting for these……


    *** pedantic technicality: Erie-builts DO exist in plastic, but only in a Life-Life Proto 1000 rendering of the engines which didn’t have the chrome nose or the flat windows. In other words, it’s a ‘so-so quality’ model lacking the two most distinguishing features of the version I like.

    The Pacific Coast Extension. Stage ONE: Dream It.

    2012 - 05.15

    “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong. It’s YOUR empire. Build it the way YOU want.”

    That’s sage advice… about the hobby of model railroading, given to me by a good friend who also runs trains. Soon there’s going to be a brand new model railroad in my life. It’ll be my second serious attempt–Version 2.0–and I’m ultra-excited about this fact. This is the first in what is sure to be a long, ongoing series of posts, describing the joys and tribulations of this new railway. We’re going to delve deeply into the minutia of the microcosm known as Model Railroading.

    Oh heeeeeeells yeah. Put on your engineer’s hat and blow the whistle because here we go, people!:

    Model Railroader magazine has a series of DVDs about the hobby entitled “Dream it. Plan it. Build it.” I’d go one further to say there’s a 4th stage, being “Run it.” But right now we’re definitely in the “dream it” stage. All those other stages are still just a distant airhorn, far off on the horizon.

    A little historical background: my great, great grandfather was a conductor, and my great grandfather was an engineer, both working for the (now long-gone) Milwaukee Road, or the Milwaukee, St. Paul, & Pacific as it would have been known. Both of them worked on the Milwaukee’s pacific coast extension, which connected Chicago to Seattle. I intend to model the western-most end of that trackage. Number one because of the family history aspect, but also equally because the trains that ran over it were super cool looking, and third: the terrain itself is mountainous with lots of bridges and pine trees–picturesque! It’s got all the ingredients.

    I learned a lot from my previous model railroad, and I definitely want to apply those lessons:
    1. Have a loop. (aka continuous running) Some people hate it, others love it. I’m in the latter camp, and love being able to just chill out and watch the trains roll by.
    2. Have a computer there. Or in other words, have some other reason to spend time hanging out in this room. You’ll be there more often, you’ll look at the railroad, and be reminded of what you want to do on it next. Having other reasons to hang out near your railroad forces you into working on it more.
    3. Use wide curves. My last RR had a harrowingly-tight 14 inch radius. That was the single worst aspect of the pike. Originally I had intended to run only steam-powered lumber trains. Then Walthers came out with the Hiawatha passenger cars and suddenly I had the chance to run my favorite trains. Prior to that, they had only existed in brass ($$$$)–which pretty much meant to me that they didn’t exist. Goes to show how new products can change what your operating interests are. Wide curves will support all matter of engines and rolling stock.
    4. Build it out of wood. Some people will laugh at this, but my last layout was made chiefly of styrofoam insulation and foamcore board. Those are great materials for mocking things up, which was the idea… then I got lazy and just never upgraded to wood. Probably because my radius was so tight that I had to have the track in just the perfect placement to stop derailments from happening, therefore I was leery of ripping up something that was just barely working. Even when you glue it and support it well with shims and filler material, foamcore is inherently unstable, and the tracks never quite stay in one place. Never again, foamcore, never again. All track, I don’t care how inconvenient, will have wood under it this time. Lesson learned!
    5. Don’t just loop: Get wireless DCC. I never did on my last layout. It was small, sure. But I think not having it made me spend less time doing realistic train operating–assembling trains and moving them from A to B–as opposed to just looping all night. Having a wired DC throttle means you’re stuck in one place, physically, AND you can only run one train at a time. With a wireless DCC throttle, you can have multiple trains doing different things, and you can walk around to monitor tricky maneuvers up close.

    Okay, so those five lessons right there, those are great guidelines! And we still have RULE #1: “It’s YOUR empire. Build it the way YOU want.”

    The first question I asked myself about this new railroad is, “what year should it be set in?” I started doing a lot of research and I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I don’t think militant (or even rigid) historical accurancy is for me–at least not in the aspect of “set in the year____”

    New goal: Be historically accurate to the point where things look like thed did in the photos. But don’t be so historically accurate that you can’t run the trains you want to run, or have fun.

    What do I mean by that?? Tune in Next Time to find out! This is JB, signing out on the Model Railroading tag for now…