AMHERST BELT LINES
HO Modular Railroad
Copyright ę 1999, Amherst Railway Society
November is already upon us. In no time at all we will be celebrating the beginning of the final year of this millenium, and 1999 will be behind us. This means, too, that the busiest month of the show season is rapidly approaching as February draws near. But, before all that, enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, and the time with family that the upcoming Holiday Season presents. From all of us at the Amherst Belt Lines, we wish you and your family a joyous Holiday Season.
In October the Belt Lines made its annual trek to Townsend, MA for the Pepperell Siding Model Railroad Club's show. We brought a relatively small layout, roughly 24' x 28' in the shape of a ╬Q'. The layout went up in record time, and we were actually running Saturday afternoon. We had a few bugs to iron out--somehow the wiring on a long time module got crossed--but the layout ran well for the show. Our hosts left their modular layout at the clubhouse and gave people directions to go there from the school. It left the school very empty of displays, but apparently did well for the Pepperell group.
The first weekend of November was the Bedford Boomers' show in Bedford, NH. The 16' x 34' layout seemed once again to go together reasonably smoothly and we were ready to run on Saturday afternoon. After a lasagna dinner at the Belforti's, we all headed out for an operating session on Jamie Robinson's West River Railroad in Derry, NH. Jamie has made a tremendous amount of progress on the West River--there was a good deal of rough scenery in place this year--and operation on the layout was enjoyable as always. Our layout performed well on Sunday, to a well attended show.
February will prove to be a busy month for the Belt Lines. We have two shows coming up: the Amherst Railway Society show and the Worcester Model Railroaders' show. Here is the current schedule:
The Amherst show is, of course, our own big show at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds (Big E). Setup will begin on Thursday afternoon and continue on Friday--see the article on the West Springfield show, below.
We have received the official invitation to the Worcester Model Railroaders' show at the end of February. This is a one-day show, with setup starting early on Sunday morning before the show opens. We bring a small layout to this show, only about 16' x 32', so that we can get operational by show opening. Last year was the second year we were invited to this show, and nearly all who attended thought it was a good show. More information about the show will be provided in a future newsletter, but if you are interested in attending, please let Alan know as soon as possible as space is limited.
This year the Amherst Railway Society show is back in February where it belongs. The show opens on Saturday, February 5, with setup on Thursday, February 3 from noon to 11pm and continuing all day on Friday. Show hours will be the same as last year, 9am-5pm on both Saturday and Sunday.
All module owners, and other interested parties, are invited to participate at the show, with or without modules. We will have the same space in the Better Living Center that we have had for the past few years, but before any planning can start, we need to know what you plan to bring to the show. Designing a layout the size of our display at the Big E show takes a significant amount of time. We are also required to submit the layout plan to the West Springfield Fire Department for approval so that we can allow the public access to view all of the modules. To allow enough time for these activities to occur, Alan needs to begin planning the layout as soon as possible. If you would like to have your module, or modules, included in the layout, you must contact Alan by not later than December 20, 1999.
Unlike previous years, this date applies to modules that have been in previous layouts ("legacy modules") as well as new and modified modules. If you notified Alan prior to the publication of this newsletter, please contact him again as a reminder. If you have a NEW module (one that's never been in an ABEL layout), or a module that has had significant changes to track configuration, you must send Alan a track plan and the industry or siding information (see Operations, below). If you have a NEW module or have made significant electrical changes to your module(s), we will make arrangements to inspect the module before the show to avoid having to fix or repair problems at the show. We will not be fixing or repairing modules at the show this year, as repair is not an efficient use of our resources. Remember, we will not assume your module is coming to the show. If you want Alan to include your module in the layout, you MUST contact him by December 20, 1999!!
Our policy regarding module delivery remains unchanged. All modules must be in the Better Living Center on Thursday, February 3. New or reconstructed modules must be there no later than 8pm; legacy modules must be there by 10pm. If you have specific reasons why you cannot meet these deadlines, let Alan know as soon as possible. If you have not arranged for the late arrival of your module the space will not be available when you arrive on Friday morning! This is a VERY large layout, and we cannot afford to delay setup. This year we plan to test Digital Command Control on the layout (see article below), so we must be operating by 5pm Friday. If you need help with transportation to meet this deadline, let Alan know when you contact him so that arrangements can be made.
We are glad you asked! When you arrive at the show, assemble your module(s) and place them in their approximate position. Next? Hang around. There is plenty of work to do and the more hands there are to do it, the faster it goes. You can help others unload and assemble their modules. We will need at least two crews to level modules and two more to put in the rail connections. We need people to run DYNATROLĘ cables, put up skirting, setup the barrier, etc. - the list goes on. Do not forget to stick around after the show, too. Everything that is done on Thursday and Friday has to be undone on Sunday. Rolling stock must be sorted and stored; the skirting must be removed, folded and stowed; cables must be pulled and coiled, etc. Remember, our goal is to have the layout setup and operating smoothly as soon as possible, and taken down and shipped out as fast as possible on Sunday. If we can have some fun operating trains in between, so much the better!
We now find ourselves in the position of having to advance yet again in the control area of the layout. We are finding that the size of the layout we are assembling in West Springfield (over 13 scale miles!) is taxing the limits of the current control system, even with the various additions and enhancements made. So, this year, on Friday afternoon and evening, the Belt Lines will be used as a test bed for Digital Command Control, or DCC. If we find this test to be successful, we will be implementing some form of DCC on the layout by the 2001 show. Because of this test, it is important that we have all of the modules in place and connected as early on Friday as possible. We still have to have DYNATROLĘ up and operating before we can run this test--since we have to be ready for the show to open at 9am on Saturday. Please help us to make this test a success!
Last year we started using a Car Envelope/Way Bill (CE/WB) system for routing cars on the Belt Lines. We started the system in Bedford last year, and now that it has gone through a year long trial feel it is a simple car routing system, and suitable for show operation. For it to work properly, we need some information from module and rolling stock owners one month prior to the show.
If you have a new or modified module since last year's Amherst Show in February, please provide information about the industries on the module when you send your track plan to Alan. The important information is the name of the module or town, the name of the industries or sidings, the spot name if it applies (dock, pit, etc.) and what car type(s) are received by that industry. If you have any questions, please contact one of the coordinators and we will be happy to help you with this task.
If you have rolling stock you would like to include in layout operations, please send a list of cars with the following information:
This list can be sent to any of the coordinators to be included in our database. Thanks for your cooperation.
Last year the Nashua Valley Railroad Association brought along their RailCam equipped locomotive and allowed spectators and participants alike the opportunity to have a cab ride on the Amherst Belt Lines. What an experience THAT was! Some of us had the opportunity to take the driver's seat and experience what it is like to be an HO scale engineer. By the end of the weekend we had all hoped that we would see a return of this unique way to view the layout. Well, we have it from some very reliable sources that the Nashua Valley Railroad Association intends to return with RailCam this year. In order to allow more people to benefit from this unique experience, we are going to provide several television sets around the layout with a brief description of what people are viewing. This way, the operator can monitor the progress of his train without having a huge crowd around him. We are looking forward to the return of RailCam--if you didn't see it last year, you will understand why this year!
After nearly 14 years of shows, the decision has been made to take Eastside Yard (VY) and the Junk Yard (M&J Salvage) out of service. Originally built and owned by Jamie and Margo Robinson, Eastside and the Junk Yard have always been crowd pleasers. The interesting track arrangement of the Junk Yard, the "bangover" track cutting through Eastside, and the attention to detail that was put into the scenes drew a crowd at every show the modules attended. You could almost be guaranteed to see some sort of activity in Eastside Yard. Over the years, the modules have seen a steady deterioration in both their appearance and operational characteristics. Maintenance of the module set has now been neglected for so long that to refurbish the modules would be a major undertaking. With that in mind, the modules were retired after the Worcester Model Railroader's show last February and a new yard (see Conn. River Yard, below) designed to replace Eastside. We hope that the new modules will provide as much crowd appeal.
When the decision was made to retire Eastside Yard, we realized that the replacement would need to be some sort of small yard for the three smaller shows we attend each year. Dry Hill Yard, owned and operated by the Dry Hill Model Railroad Club, while an amazing facility is just too big to setup at these "limited space" shows. So, the decision was made to design a yard that did not require a large amount of real estate to assemble (Conn. River Yard's standard setup is only about 5 feet longer than Eastside), would serve as a classification yard with out interrupting mainline operations (Eastside had never really be designed for classification), would be flexible in operation and in configuration, and would be truly modular. After approximately 6 months on the drawing board, with the assistance of many sources for feedback and ideas, the plan shown below was developed.
The plan above is what we consider the "Standard" configuration. The straight module shown in the middle of the plan is an extension module that can be added to either end of the corner module. The track alignments are such that the yard can be assembled in a minimum configuration of just the two 6 foot lead and throat modules with the tail piece, or the maximum size with all components in use. There is an additional module in the planning stages for extending the length of the switching lead and engine servicing facilities that may be built at a later date. The standard configuration of the yard is capable of supporting a train of about 15 to 16 cars--which is a good length train for the average layout size. In the minimum configuration, the yard tracks hold 7 to 8 cars, and in its maximum configuration about 22 cars.
The yard is currently under construction. The basic module construction was modified by Steve Belforti to try out some lightweight techniques that may become new standard. The yard is presently in Amherst in Sudro Brown's garage and basement for the installation of HomaBed and possibly the installation of the track. It is expected to head for Ludlow at some point for whatever track work is not done in Amherst, and wiring. We are looking forward to seeing this module set at the show in West Springfield.
Guess that is all the news for this edition of the Modular Mumblings. Have a safe and happy holiday season. We will see you in West Springfield. (Remember--December 20!)