Author Topic: Montana Rail Link 2nd and 3rd Subs - "The Divide"  (Read 4134 times)

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trainzluvr

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Montana Rail Link 2nd and 3rd Subs - "The Divide"
« on: December 23, 2021, 02:38:25 PM »
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I'd like to research a railroad from 1970s/80s as that's the period I would like to model. For the sake of discussion, does not matter which railroad - presumably one that was around then but is not around anymore (got acquired or folded).

Where do you start, how do I find out the trackage they had, or the industries they served, etc?

In contrast to some past railroad of 70s or 80s, I've looked into a railroad that's current and fairly young - MRL (Class II). Using Google Earth I can plot around where they go and what they do. With the Google Earth I can also go back in time to the 90s and see satellite imagery of where the trackage used to go, or the industries that were there but are gone today.

Using the MRL example, their area covers half a dozen railroads that don't exist anymore (NP, BN, GN, CB&Q, Milwaukee Road...). Where would I find similar information about those because it clearly isn't as easily parseable (Google Earth) and a lot is left to imagination, especially if you never lived there or during those times.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2021, 09:11:02 PM by trainzluvr »

wazzou

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2021, 03:04:12 PM »
+1
I'd start with exploring Historical Societies, many of which are very good and many offer a treasure trove of information.
See if the railroad you're interested in has a groups.io forum following.
Google can be an effective tool as well to track down information.

The NPRHA (Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association) of which I am a member has recently come out with what we call the
Vista Dome Package at a cost of $290 which includes a 4 year membership, so 4 Quarterly publications of the Mainstreeter Magazine per year.
In addition, you get a Thumb Drive with the following...

Quick Stats
*            Over 11,000 scanned photos from over 20 donated or loaned collections. High resolution - examples will be shared later
*            Over 1100 scanned NP Mech. Dept. drawings, including over 100 General Plans. Hundreds from McKown, Leach, Marceau, etc.
*            Hundreds of Painting and Lettering drawings, and rare lettering stencils
*            Scans of NP Depot calendars (1952 to 1970), ready for printing in almost any size
*            The first ten years of the official publication of the NPRHA, The Mainstreeter
*            Nine Equipment Diagram Books, including three Steam Locomotive books
*            24 modeling articles from Mainline Modeler, specific to the NP
*            755 NP forms, ready for printing
*            Over 800 Employee and Public timetables of the NP and other affiliated railroads
*            NPR Annual Reports from 1943 to 1970, scanned in high resolution
*            Over 300 copies of the NPR employee newsletter, The TELLTALE
*            Over 180 copies of the NPR customer marketing magazine, The NORTHWEST
*            Over 80 magazine and newspaper advertisements by the Northern Pacific Railway
*            24 large posters published by the NPR for marketing purposes, ready for printing in any size
*            Seven Standard Plan books, some in color, some quite rare
*            Hundreds of structure, bridge, and other right-of-way drawings
*            Dozens of Numerical Registers for the NP
*            Track Profiles - Condensed Profiles from 1928 and 1969
*            Track Profiles - Long Profiles from Glendive MT to Seattle WA (90% of the Tacoma, Idaho and Rocky Mountain divisions).
              Several are 30ft long.
*            Station maps for MT.
*            And MORE!


This was part of a presentation done at the 2021 Convention in Missoula in September, highlighting the long track profiles included with the Vista Dome Package.

Bryan

Member of NPRHA, Modeling Committee Member
http://www.nprha.org/
Member of MRHA


trainzluvr

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2021, 04:02:49 PM »
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Thanks for the pointer to NPRHA will check it out.

I have to admit, I started with MRL and thought I would model that, even though it's not in the 70/80s but late 90s and up to-date (and I really dislike modern railroading).

But, after scouring Google Earth and visiting all the MRLs subdivisions, present day and in the past 30 years looking for points of interest, I realized that there's not much there to do.

I wish to build an operational railroad, and thought that MRL being Class II would fit well in my space and I liked the locale of Montana. Yet because they are a "bridge" railroad, things just go through and they don't have much locally happening, at least railserved.

There were industries that used to be railserved, but closed down, and there still are some left, but nothing to warrant the kind of traffic worthy of a bustling local economy.

As a reference, I did preliminary LDEs in my space (image below), modeling 2nd and 3rd Subs from Bozeman to DeSmet, and plotting all the possible industries along the way from the late 90s till today, while staying true to their prototype locations:



I named my designed portion of the railroad: MRL "The Divide", because the Continental Divide cuts it in half, and happens around the upper right corner, ironically where a liftout for electrical cabinet is.

What I'm not sure is if this is too much to model, and also whether it's doable because MRL being a "modern" railroad most of the buildings would have to be scratch built (while I have a lot of Walthers kits already) if I was to stay true to the prototype (though that's not my requirement).
« Last Edit: December 23, 2021, 04:09:46 PM by trainzluvr »

peteski

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2021, 06:08:55 PM »
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Friend of mine has a N scale layout very loosely based on MRL.  He is very happy with it, and he used to host (befoer COVID) regular operating sessions.  Layout was featured in May 2009 issue of Model Railroader magazine. See this post for some photos of the layout.  More photos (and the track diagram) are in this album. 
. . . 42 . . .

trainzluvr

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2021, 07:09:36 PM »
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Ah I know about that layout - I also found its plan on the MRR website. There was another one (MRL 3rd sub)  either in 2005 or 2007, and then I found one more made by the Track Planner for someone on the MRL Modelers Facebook group.

I'm still on the fence though about whether I should model it. My benchwork is only 12" deep throughout and wasn't really made for grand vistas and such. Matter a fact there's not that much room for full size industries. I sacrificed benchwork depth for mainline run.

Tad_T

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2021, 08:42:25 PM »
+1
I'd like to research a railroad from 1970s/80s as that's the period I would like to model. For the sake of discussion, does not matter which railroad - presumably one that was around then but is not around anymore (got acquired or folded).

Where do you start, how do I find out the trackage they had, or the industries they served, etc?


I model a short line fallen flag that existed from 1913 - 1996.

I lived right beside the mainline when I was young, which is probably a major factor in my fascination with trains today.

My era of interest is similar to yours. Probably because the 1970’s - 1980’s were my formative years, I graduated high school in 1981, and my chosen railroad was very strong and expanding at that time.

There used to be a free model railroad database that listed just about every model railroad article ever published. I think that it still exists, but I am not sure that it is free anymore.  I looked up every article that was ever published about my prototype and then bought all of the back issues that contained those articles.

Some of those had references of other sources of information, such as books that contained information about my prototype. I acquired those books.

I went to the U.S. Geological Survey website and purchased all of the 1:24000 maps of the route of my prototype.

When my prototype fell, it was folded into another short line. I visited the main offices of the new railroad. Several employees of the new railroad were former employees of my prototype. They were excited to share information, pictures, documents, and memorabilia of the old railroad with someone who was genuinely interested.

I also visited the libraries in the towns served by my prototype. They had a surprising amount of information in the local history sections that included the railroad and industries served by the railroad.  This included never published photographs. They also had articles published in the county historical journals that included information about the railroad and local industries.

I did Google and eBay searches on my prototype and found websites, photos, slides, and articles that had information on my prototype.

I am still researching my prototype and have been for about 22 years.  I still find new information. I am doing my best to incorporate this into my planning for my “new, big layout” that I hope will be a fairly accurate representation of the railroad and its operations within my chosen timeframe.

That’s how that I have done it anyway.

trainzluvr

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2021, 12:23:53 AM »
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That sounds like a life-long journey that had everything in it, and you are still going strong - very impressive. I also feel somewhat envious because you have found satisfaction in the line you are researching.

Though knowing myself, I would probably not be prepared to take as many steps, or invest as much effort beyond the armchair research available at my fingertips. That is assuming I find something that will scratch my "itch" for model railroading. Somehow each time I think I've finally found "the one" it only leads to me discovering things I don't like, or reasons why I shouldn't model it. I'm my worst enemy.

All meanwhile I see modelers who have been modelling one prototype (usually from their childhood) through numerous iterations over years, and with every new one it gets better and better.

Just like you I've been fascinated with trains from the early childhood, but maybe model railroading is not for me after all, despite all these years invested into it and learning so much in the process, or even having relatives who worked for a railroad.

I don't know what else, I keep spinning in circles it seems looking for some logic and reasoning behind all of this.

nkalanaga

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2021, 12:56:41 AM »
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For the Three Forks to Missoula area you might be surprised how many older buildings are still there.  Other than Mullan Pass itself, the entire route is paralleled by major highways, so, if you have the chance, you might make a vacation out of it, and see what's left in person.
N Kalanaga
Be well

trainzluvr

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2021, 01:13:26 AM »
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Looking at the Google Earth satellite imagery I did not see other things, despite going back to the mid-1990s, so I was going to keep Three Forks only as a short branch line it being the 5th Sub, but having a major/big industry (Talc Plant). Don't think I have much room in that area anyway, though wanted to still have more operating interest (and another reason to have a train go there).

Now looking at my current LDEs above, I'm thinking I might get rid of Montana City (13th Sub) and pull Townsend to the left to equalize space betnween East Helena and Townsend.

Also move Logan to the right so it falls over the decline in the benchwork leading down to Three Forks. I had Bozeman on the left after Logan, but dropped it because it felt crammed.

What I really don't like is that I had to take a creative license and remove Austin Trestle and swap the locations of the Skyline Trestle and Mullan Tunnel so they fit better.

I'd like to have Drummond as a stop, but it feels there's not enought distance between Missoula and Drummond, as well as Drummond and the Skyline Trestle...

peteski

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2021, 01:42:02 AM »
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Maybe instead looking for a prototype RR to model, you should look at what is realistic in your situation.

Do you want to model the scenery as close to prototype as Mark (Spookshow) is doing on his Hope layout, or are you willing to use some selective compression, and you aren't worried much about how close to the real scenery you get on your model (just like Ernie Poole did on his MRL layout)?

Are you planning to have multi-person OPS sessions, or will you be operating the layout by yourself? Or will it be a roundy-round layout just to watch trains go by?

Maybe by determining this type of stuff first will help you narrow down what prototype you want to model? Or maybe do a fantasy layout?
. . . 42 . . .

wazzou

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2021, 01:45:47 AM »
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I’d agree about Missoula and Drummond, mainly because there are other locations like Helena and East Helena that are relatively close to the same distance apart, but not Geographically.
I’d lose the space between E Helena and Helena and spread everything out a little.
If you wanted to take it further, I’d drop either Montana City or Logan to create a little more space.
Bryan

Member of NPRHA, Modeling Committee Member
http://www.nprha.org/
Member of MRHA


trainzluvr

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2021, 11:13:16 AM »
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@peteski

My benchwork build was based on Mark Lestico's UP Cascade Sub, with the 12" deep dominos. Wasn't really meant to be grand vistas though I feel there's room to model somewhat realistic scenery, at least to the point of being recognizable of the locale.

Originally, I was going to make a freelance fictional railroad but have been struggling with coming up with a locale, and so went for looking for a prototype instead. The fictional railroad had the same concept ("bridge" railroad) as MRL in real life is, but would've been put somewhere in the Eastern parts of North America, in the Fall, as I like those colours in the nature at that time. It wouldn't have any of its own motive power though, but all leased foreign, giving me an option to use whatever road name I want/like or all of them.

Operating the railroad was (is) final goal and eventually have OPS, majority remote because I want to automate everything I can.


@wazzou

The East Helena and Helena are actually next to each other on the layout here as Helena would have a yard spanning that long wall. I included Montana City on the other hand because of that big industry, and because I feel that MRL just doesn't have enough local "action" going whatsoever, or at least not enough variety for my interest.

I'm not clear about Missoula and Drummond though, are you saying I should get rid of both?

Operationally I want to have both Missoula and Helena as two larger yards because that would introduce transfer trains between the two, and each of those yards would serve their local industries in their area, up to the Divide (Mullan Tunnel in this case which is a lift-out on the layout).

Missoula would serve DeSmet and Drummond, while Helena would serve East Helena, Montana City, Townsend, Logan, Three Forks and Spire Rock (might drop that last if I can't squeeze it in sufficiently).

...

I like MRL as a prototype and the locale, and at this point my layout would end up being a Proto-Freelanced railroad based on it.

As I mentioned above, based on my research MRL doesn't have much local stuff going on. Would it be a "crime" if I added other industries not railserved or seen in the prototype, e.g. paper, brewery, intermodal/autorack loading/unloading, meat packing, etc? Just how much "freelancing" am I allowed on a Protolanced layout?

signalmaintainer

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2021, 11:36:24 AM »
-1
The problem, as has been the problem for so long with you, Trainzluvr, is that you don't take the time and effort to adequately PLAN and you demonstrate a weak grasp of essential layout design principles. You are in too much of a hurry to build. You built that benchwork, when, two years ago? Bet I'm right. You showed it of on another forum about then.

Now you are in the position of a director who builds an elaborate, expensive set and is now searching in vain for a play that will somehow accommodate the monstrosity.

Site, scale, subject -- then planning, before one stick of wood is cut.

But I guess there are some people who never learn. They'd rather moan about it.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2021, 12:33:26 PM by signalmaintainer »
Check out Appalachian Railroad Modeling! https://appalachianrailroadmodeling.com/

trainzluvr

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2021, 11:55:49 AM »
+1
Well, what can I say to that...guilty as charged.

Pat yourself on the back that you've successfully put down yet another clueless model railroader.

Merry Christmas.

signalmaintainer

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Re: How do you research a prototype from the past?
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2021, 12:37:39 PM »
+1
Well, what can I say to that...guilty as charged.

Pat yourself on the back that you've successfully put down yet another clueless model railroader.

Just stating the obvious, that's all. What with the wealth of books, articles, forums, magazines such as Model Railroad Planning and special interest groups such as LDSIG that is at our fingertips these days, pleading "clueless" -- well, that dog just isn't going to hunt.
Check out Appalachian Railroad Modeling! https://appalachianrailroadmodeling.com/