Author Topic: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line  (Read 5448 times)

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milw12

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Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« on: October 07, 2012, 03:14:31 PM »
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Hi all,

As some of you know, my name is Lucas, and I'm working on a small 24"x48" practice layout. My goal is to model the Milwaukee Road and Chicago Great Western in their jointly-operated Cannon River branch in southern Minnesota around November of 1953. The purpose of this small layout is to practice my skills and make myself a better railroad modeler, and I hope this thread will give me the motivation to see this layout to completion.  I'm open to critique, so don't sugarcoat anything!

As a note, I have been working on getting more familiar with my camera. Not knowing the all functions and the poor lighting in the basement makes for some sketchy photographs, so please forgive me for now. I use GIMP to try and doctor the photos somewhat, but you know what they say about lipstick and pigs  :-X



The benchwork is an open grid made of 1x2 aspen. A sheet of quater-inch plywood is on top as a base for the half-inch ceiling tile subroad bed. Most of the scenic base will also be shaped ceiling tile, which I chose over foam because it's not obnoxiously colored, easier for me to find and handle, and comes in handy 2' x 4' sizes  :D

Fascia and the backdrop is made of more quarter-inch plywood. The backdrop is mounted to a spare 1x2 and screwed into the base of the layout, and is in theory removable. The backdrop as it is right now is wavy and needs some bracing in the near future, but is sealed so it shouldn't warp. The fascia still needs a few coats of paint, but that will be done after the wiring is finished on the underside so the paint won't be damaged when flipping the whole thing over.

A note is that every surface on every piece of wood is painted to seal it from moisture and warping. It's a good way to turn an afternoon project into a week-long journey in patience as the paint dries between coats.

It's a little over built, especially with the 1/4” ply under the ceiling tile, but because it's a portable/storage-ready layout it needs to be beefy enough so the tile can't be damaged as easily.

It's been a lot of work for a 24”x48,” but I want practice in doing it right for if I ever get around to the 'real' layout. It's been real tempting to hack the benchwork together and start slinging track, but solid benchwork is important, plus I get a kick out of carpentry.

-Lucas

milw12

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2012, 03:40:20 PM »
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The past week was spent laying roadbed. Choosing Woodland Scenics's foam roadbed for the mains was easy because there was a pack laying around from a previous layout :D

Of course, I was short by a 16” half strip. My hobby shop doesn't sell by the strip, so I had to drop $8 on a whole pack  :x

Has Woodland Scenics has changed how they make their roadbed now? The stuff I had from a few years ago seemed different from the new roadbed, with the new foam being a lot more spongy. It may be be because the old stuff has been drying out over time- not that it matters, but just an observation.

I used some 1/16” cork sheet for the passing siding and spurs to get an elevation change between the main line and other track. It should look nice with the code 55 mainline and code 40 spurs. I wanted to do the whole layout in code 40, but I don't have the time or talent to hand lay turnouts... yet.

Wood glue was used to fix the roadbed to the tile, and I'm impressed that it worked so well. It dried fast and made a solid bond, I will definitely use it again.

Next up will be preparing to superelevate the curves, using Dave Foxx's masking tape method. I did it on a previous layout and loved it, it adds a nice touch when the train 'leans' into the curve.

-Lucas

Dave Schneider

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2012, 06:13:43 PM »
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Good to see you making progress Lucas. I think you have a good plan starting with a manageable size. I would love to learn more about the prototype. What are your reasons for picking this line? Where does it run from/to? Is any of the line still around?

Best wishes, Dave
If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

MVW

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2012, 11:03:26 PM »
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Looks like you'll have a place for that new RS to work in no time, Lucas.

I also used the "foam bed," along with cork sheet for passing tracks and yards. Industrial spurs were laid right on the foam. It made a nice but subtle difference in elevation.

Code 55 and code 40 track should look great. Good luck!

Jim

milw12

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2012, 07:53:58 PM »
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Thanks for the kind words Dave and Jim! I considered running the spurs straight on the ceiling tile, but like most my decisions in life, I arbitrarily chose to put cork underneath 8)

I chose this prototype for a mix of reasons. My previous layouts have all been either free-lanced or proto-lanced, mostly with the prototype as a second thought after the track had been laid. This never really was gratifying and it felt like something was missing. The Rock Island was my first love, but the operations they had in Minnesota were lacking, and I wanted to model my home state. After bouncing around plausible fictional modern short lines for a few years, I wanted a true prototype. I've never had space or funds for a true Class 1, or anything that could resemble big-time railroading, so a branch line would be the most appropriate.

After a spell I discovered that the Milwaukee and CGW, two railroads that I like, shared a branch in southern Minnesota. It definitely helped that the line was along the Cannon River, a beautiful river valley that I have canoed many times. It all lined up, and I knew what I wanted to do. Even if the traffic is barely worth modeling, its a manageable and unique project.

Plus, Alcos were almost exclusively used on the branch :drool:

Thanks for the interest,
Lucas
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 09:44:56 PM by shrubs »

milw12

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2012, 08:23:15 PM »
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Dave, here's what I've scraped together about the prototype, and hopefully it will answer your questions. Leave it to me to be interested in an esoteric branch line with a confusing and complex history! On top of that, it isn't documented that well from as far as I can tell.

So a condensed history, it's a little rough around the edges, but I haven't written a history essay since high school  :lol:
Also, to anyone reading, if I'm blatantly wrong about something, don't be shy about corrections, I'm slowly accepting the fact I can't be right about everything  :D

In late 1800's southern Minnesota, the Cannon Valley line was built by the Central Railway Company of Minnesota, which then turned into the Wisconsin, Minnesota & Pacific. The purpose was to connect Mankato and Red Wing with a line along the south side of the Cannon River. At the same time as that the branch was being constructed, the Milwaukee Road built a parallel line from Red Wing to Cannon Falls on the north side of the river.

The Wisconsin, Minnesota & Pacific line was then passed to the M&StL, which was controlled by the Rock Island, then to the Rock Island itself. It wasn't profitable, and the CGW optimistically took over in 1909. In the 1930's the Milwaukee line was abandoned due to washouts and maintenance, and an agreement was made to have the Milwaukee use CGW track. Industries on the Milwaukee side were reached by bridge, if they still had rail service. Later, the CGW was absorbed by the CNW, which continued to operations along with the Milwaukee.

Operations ended in 1976, and the line was abandoned by the CNW in 1983. It was then turned into snazzy trail, and fully paved in 1992. CGW mile posts, counting out from Mankato, still line the trail.

The CGW used RS-2s for power here, and the Milwaukee had RSC-2s, and some crazy rebuilds in the later years. I haven't found much information, or photographs, of the line from the CGW takeover in 1909 to the 1970's- its a unique challenge to find info on the 1950's, to say the least.

For those interested here's the list of research material I have had my hands on. Most only have only a page or two (if that) on the Cannon Valley line, but some are more filled out:

The Corn Belt Route by H. Roger Grant
Dreams, Disasters, and Demise: The Milwaukee Road in Minnesota by John C. Lueke
The Tootin' Louie: A History of the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway by Don L. Hofsummer
The Chicago Great Western in Color by Lloyd E. Stanger
Milwaukee Road Track Charts, Minnesota Division- 1976
The Wikipedia page for the Cannon Valley Trail
Official Trail Website History

The book The Chicago Great Western in Minnesota is also a wealth of knowledge that the Cannon Valley Trail website used for their history page, but I have not been able to find a copy.

I'll try to make up for these wordy posts with more photographs in the near future!

-Lucas
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 09:47:20 PM by shrubs »

wcfn100

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2012, 10:27:17 PM »
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The book The Chicago Great Western in Minnesota is also a wealth of knowledge that the Cannon Valley Trail website used for their history page, but I have not been able to find a copy.


My dad is supposed to talk to John Luecke to get a copy of the RI in MN for my birthday.  If I remember, I'll have him ask if he knows of any copies of the CGW book still around.  Also, John did a follow up book about the CGW in MN, but I don't know if it would have anything you'd be interested in.  I can take a look when I get home in a few days.


Jason

MVW

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2012, 01:49:47 AM »
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Hey Lucas,

I don't know if this adds much to your knowledge base, but you may find it interesting. From "Rails to the North Star," by Richard S. Prosser:

"The Chicago Great Western, which acquired its main lines by taking over the Chicago, St. Paul & Kansas City in 1893, snared most of its Minnesota branch lines through the purchase of the Wisconsin, Minnesota & Pacific Railway Co. in 1899. This orphan system barged about from pillar to post, apparently with no equipment of its own, controlled and operated variously by the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern and the Minneapolis & St. Louis. It built from Red Wing to Waterville in 1882, and to Mankato in 1887. An entirely separate segment was laid from Morton to Watertown, S.D., and was later sold to the M&St.L. The WM&P retained separate operations under the CGW, and expanded to include the Duluth, Red Wing & Southern Railroad (Red Wing to Zumbrota) and Winona & Western Railway (Winona to Rochester and Osage, Iowa) in 1901."

Dave Schneider

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2012, 12:48:27 PM »
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Lucas,

Thanks for the information. I managed to find this area on the map, so that is a step forward for me! In the big picture (future layout) are you looking at the line from Red Wing to Mankato, or something shorter. The part to Cannon Falls while scenic, looks like it doesn't offer much in the way of operations. Bing maps indicates that there is still a section of railroad from Cannon Falls through Northfield to Mankato. Is this part  of your area and do you know if it is still in service? I have always liked the look of Red Wing, and it would be cool (for a future layout) to include the Milwaukee Road Chicago-Twin Cities mainline with the Hiawathas, and various freight trains with this branch line leaving from there. I know that I am getting ahead of things a fair bit, but it is nice to put your current project into a bigger context (for me anyway).

Best wishes, Dave
If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

milw12

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2012, 08:47:40 PM »
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Jason-

Thanks for the offer, I appreciate it if you wouldn't mind. Just to be sure, would you know if the 1984 The Chicago Great Western in Minnesota would cover the period I'm interested in? I'm looking for history and photographs for the early-to-mid twentieth century, which I have not been able to find a satisfactory source for yet.

Jim-

Excellent! Thank you, that paragraph sums up the early history better than I can, but I'll be the first to admit I'm no author  :D
I can get a hold of that book pretty easily, so I'll take a closer look at that when I have the chance.

-Lucas

milw12

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2012, 08:57:40 PM »
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Dave-

Yes, the line from Northfield to Cannon Falls is still being used by Progressive Rail and is in the area. They are using the old grain elevator in Cannon Falls for frac sand storage and transloading. An interesting operation for sure, and I'd say it's definitely modelable. Especially if one likes hoppers!

Operations on the branch are slow I admit, and that's being kind. My original “big picture” idea was to focus on the small towns along the line, perhaps a modular layout that would grow and become more detailed as time goes on. There would be modules for Cannon Falls, Welch and other small towns to model the local traffic at first, using Red Wing and Mankato as staging. Later on Red Wing or Mankato could be modeled as a heavier operation area, being a origin/destination point for the towns and a connection to the outside world.

I like the Red Wing idea, focusing on general operations in the city, with the traffic from the Twin Cities passing though, and a good excuse for Hiawathas  :drool:
The main focus could be on the yard and general operations in the city, and then have a branch heading to Cannon Falls. I'll mull it over as that seems like a good direction.

I can't blame you Dave for looking ahead, it's always nice to have a set goal. I'll have to research more into the prototype operations of the branch and in Red Wing more before I start planning the “big one,” just so I don't make a bigger fool for myself than I already am  :scared:

About my little layout, it plays into the future layout as a test bed. I won't incorporate it into the 'big one,' but use it to test techniques, and have a loop to run trains, I haven't done in two years  :facepalm:

The track plan, however, inspired by Welch, a small town on the line. The plan is an approximation what I found in my 1976 track chart, being obviously heavily compressed and with an extra spur for interest. My 1957 CGW industry list has two industries there, Welch Oil and Streater Lumber, which would be good for such a small layout. The plan is to scratchbuild the structures and especially work on modeling the bluffs and woods, and try out techniques on just about everything. On the future layout, if I like my structures enough, I can transfer them to a more prototypically accurate Welch.

Thanks for the interest, it definitely helps keep me motivated.

-Lucas

Dave Schneider

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2012, 09:58:07 PM »
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Lucas,

Here is an aerial photo of Welch from November 1953 (click on the photo to get a bigger version). I see two boxcars...so you are probably going to need to buy another one! This is a crop from some stereo pairs. The full size images are on my Photobucket site at: http://s291.photobucket.com/albums/ll290/djs_ank_ak/AirPhotos/CannonFallsLine/



I hope this is helpful and keeps the interest up.
Best wishes, Dave
If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

MVW

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2012, 12:45:48 AM »
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I can get a hold of that book pretty easily, so I'll take a closer look at that when I have the chance.

-Lucas

I wouldn't bother picking up that book just for your project, Lucas. It's a handy volume, sure, but that's the only paragraph I found regarding your particular locale. Sounds like you have plenty other sources ... including Dave!

Jim

milw12

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2012, 08:20:33 PM »
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Jim,

I should have mentioned that I can easily borrow the book! Most of the books listed are borrowed, I make up for it by helping with track plans and construction, so I'm not a total leech :trollface:

Dave,

That aerial photograph is fantastic and will be very useful, thank you! I was actually thinking about trying to scrounge some up but couldn't remember the website I used a few years ago. If you don't mind me asking, where do you find these photos? I've seen you reference them before here on the forum, for your Beer Line perhaps.

The photo will give me something to puzzle over to for the next few days. It doesn't quite match my track chart, but I know that those aren't always correct.  Regardless, it's going to be a great help and save a ton of time.

And I'm sure it won't be hard to convince myself to buy another boxcar  :D

Thanks,
Lucas


Dave Schneider

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Re: Milw/CGW Cannon Valley Line
« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2012, 12:19:19 AM »
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Dave,

That aerial photograph is fantastic and will be very useful, thank you! I was actually thinking about trying to scrounge some up but couldn't remember the website I used a few years ago. If you don't mind me asking, where do you find these photos? I've seen you reference them before here on the forum, for your Beer Line perhaps.

The photo will give me something to puzzle over to for the next few days. It doesn't quite match my track chart, but I know that those aren't always correct.  Regardless, it's going to be a great help and save a ton of time.

And I'm sure it won't be hard to convince myself to buy another boxcar  :D

Thanks,
Lucas

Happy to help out. The photos are from the U.S. Geological Survey (my employer) and accessed through http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
1) You need to register to download the data. It is relatively easy to do.
2) Search on the place name if it has one, and then select the appropriate result to get the lat/lon.
3) Go to the data sets tab, and then select aerial photo single frames.
4) Change the date range if needed.
5) Select the results tab.

The highest spatial resolution image will have the smallest scale ratio. The one I found was 1:17,000. Higher altitude photos will cover a larger area but at lower resolution like 1:60,000.

Once you find what you like you can download the image. These are relatively high resolution scans, but for $35 a frame (!) they will pull out the 9x9 inch negative from the archive and produce a very high resolution scan. I have done this for one photo so far due to the cost.

The two main Federal agencies that flew aerial photos in the US are the USGS (to produce topographic maps) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, primarily in support of the Soil Conservation Service. The USGS photos are online, but I have yet to find the USDA ones. At one point, pretty much every county had a SCS office to assist farmers. Many of these offices would have aerial photos of their county in their files. Not sure about MN, but it it is worth looking into. There is also http://www.historicaerials.com/ but I prefer free to having to pay. Finally, many large state universities have map and air photo libraries. Most of my Beer Line photos are scans from photo print at the U Wisconsin map library. UM may have a similar library, but I'm sure it won't be as good as the one in Madison!  :troll face:
 
Hope this helps.
Best wishes, Dave
If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.