The home of The Rip Track podcast, disseminating information about model railroading and worldwide railroad history.

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What's going on at Amtrak?

You may have seen the announcements yesterday that Alexander Kummant submitted his resignation from the presidency of Amtrak. Amtrak's own press release about the resignation doesn't cite any specific reasons for the change, but there's a story on the Trains News Wire today that it is the result of a dispute between Kummant and Amtrak board chairwoman Donna McLean over debt restructuring. A few of the stories I've seen so far mention that our new Vice President Elect's son, Hunter Biden, currently sits on the Amtrak board, so there's speculation that Kummant's replacement will be someone who is expected to work more closely with the executive branch of government. What will this mean to all of us as railfans and loyal Amtrak passengers? We'll see...

Layouts of the rich and famous - David Popp's Naugatuck Valley Railroad

David Popp and the Naugatuck Valley

Most model railroaders, especially those living near Lake Michigan, know that Trainfest was held over this past weekend. While I plan to post a story with notes from my discussions with the manufacturers and views of the layouts that were there, this post will take some time to show you an extra tour that a friend of mine was able to arrange for us. Friday night, after setup, several of us were invited on a private layout tour to see David Popp's beautiful N scale layout, the Naugatuck Valley Railroad. David is currently Managing Editor for Model Railroader magazine, and his layout has been featured a few times within its pages (I guess rank really does have it's privilege). Let's take a look at some of the photos from the tour...

Modeler's Moment - Supports must support something

Saloon model

When you build a structure with visible supports, make sure that the supports actually connect to and support something. This saloon model was entered in the model contest at the MWR convention in Waupaca last April. If you look closely at the image, you'll see that the support poles at the far right and far left on the porch don't actually support the roof over it. A mistake like this takes points off construction, which is the largest emphasis in NMRA's AP judging criteria, unless you can show documentary proof that the supports on the prototype structure also didn't actually support the roof.

Modeling on the prototype

Okay, all you railfans out there. Be on the lookout for a newly painted box car in interchange service in the US. WSOR 503175 is a 52' double plug door boxcar just released from the WSOR paint shop last Friday. This car joins WSOR 503149, painted in 2003, and WC 26173 in 1999 as prototype boxcars with a little extra in the paint. All three of these cars carry emblems celebrating significant anniversary years of publication for Model Railroader magazine. The new car entered regular service on October 10. There is at least one photo on teh intarweb already showing the new paint scheme. Have you seen this car yet?

Modeler's Moment - Former grade crossings create instant history

Former grade crossing

It's said that "the only constant is change," and this tenet is evident in a myriad of ways in the rail transport industry. As model railroaders, we have an equally large number of ways that we can show evidence of changes on our layouts. Here's an example that I saw on the prototype over the weekend. The location in this image is Black Earth, Wisconsin, a town on the former Milwaukee Road line between Madison and Prairie du Chien. The mainline is still in use through this town by Wisconsin & Southern, but as we can see in this photo, the facility across the street used to have an industrial spur leading to it. The narrow strip of asphalt in line with the building covers the former grade crossing. Notice that the patch over the track location is slightly darker than the surrounding pavement? On a model layout, such a detail can be added to almost any street, even at a sharp angle to the layout edge, and as we see here, we can add this detail not only in the large cities, but in the small towns too.

Modeler's Moment - Painting plastic people

N scale figures on their sprue.

When you get down to the smaller scales, it can become quite difficult to hold onto a figure and paint it at the same time. In N scale, especially, trying to hand-hold a figure while painting it will often end up with painted fingers instead of figures. The solution to this problem is a simple one. Paint the figures while they're still attached to the sprue; then after you cut them from the sprue, a quick drop of paint at the connection point finishes the project.

Follow the money - US railroad stocks down 11% yesterday

I like to say that I'm interested in learning everything I can about anything that runs on rails. Anyone who spends time reading various railroad histories, knows that some of the financial shenanigans that the robber barons of the 19th century perpetrated led to nationwide panic markets more than once. I'm generally not one to pore over economics textbooks or financial ledgers, but one thing I've been wondering about is how US railroads are doing today in the stock market. I figured that since many railroad companies are publicly traded, I should be able to accumulate some data to build a daily pulse number much like the big index numbers that we hear on the news every day (especially this week). I was thinking of building a script to put somewhere on the site that would aggregate a total on a daily basis, but then I saw an article on Bloomberg discussing the largest single day drop in the US Railroads Index since 1989. So, I can save myself some work and just watch ticker symbol S5RAIL:IND and get back to my model building.

Modeler's Moment - ONT 92065

ONT 92065 in Hearst, Ontario, 2005

Forty foot long boxcars are getting harder to find on the prototype. They're still out there, but just not used anywhere near as often as their longer 50' or 60' brethren. So, whenever I see one, I make sure to get a photo of it. This car, ONT 92065, is one that I saw while on vacation in Northern Ontario in 2003 (yes, with a much smaller camera than I have now). Notice the rust patterns on the car side and how they differ between the left and right sides of the door. On the right, where the door slides, there are horizontal rust streaks from the door scraping the car side (the side sometimes bulges from the load pushing on the wall), while we see a much more scattered rust pattern to the left of the door.

US Bicentennial rolling stock

HO scale model of MILW 156 in bicentennial livery
In the mid-1970s, America celebrated its bicentennial. The well known bicentennial year of 1976 saw a large number of items repainted into special commemorative red, white and blue liveries. The railroads of the time got into the act, with a great number of them participating. Trains magazine managed to get a photo of many of these bicentennial locomotives in one photograph when they were gathered in Chicago. I got to talking about them a little with a friend over the weekend, and we started wondering about the entire bicentennial roster. So, instead of guessing about it, I did a little research and came up with a mostly comprehensive list (there are probably a couple of locomotives still unlisted) for all US railroads that participated.

DM&E flag falls

DM&E locomotives at Davis Junction

The news is out, America's largest Class II railroad is officially a fallen flag. The Surface Transportation Board announced its approval today of Canadian Pacific's plan to purchase Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad, Iowa Chicago and Eastern Railroad and Cedar American Rail Holdings. The purchase was first proposed a year ago, and the last day of independent operations for DM&E and IC&E is currently scheduled for October 30, 2008. Already, CP power is showing up more frequently on DM&E/IC&E tracks. Now, how long will it take CP to finish the job DM&E started and get new track built into the Powder River Basin? We're still not sure, but that was one of the reasons that was given a year ago for the purchase in the first place, so my guess is that it won't be too much longer.

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