N Scale Lead Line Layout

Discussion in 'N Scale' started by rolla dave, Feb 23, 2015.

  1. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member

    I'm starting a new switching layout, using the Inglenook concept. My prototype inspiration is the truck/train transfer crane at Buick, MO on the Lead Line branch. Why the Lead Line? For one thing, it's what I know. I did some train watching there back in the '90s and more recently made several expeditions to photograph it after it was closed down. I also happen to have all the necessary rolling stock on hand. Six or seven years ago there were Frisco gondolas available from a number of N scale manufacturers. I picked up about ten, all with different road numbers. This will let me put them to work and keeps the budget for this layout small. That's good as a young family doesn't leave a lot of extra cash for modeling. Finally, I think the transfer crane is a visually interesting prototype that I should be able to model by kitbashing a couple of readily available cranes.

    My track plan differs from a classic Inglenook in several respects. While it holds to a 5 car, 3 car, 3 car set of sidings, the sidings are not tightly bunched together. This was necessary to provide scenic space for the transfer crane and associated facilities. I also designated the "siding" closest to the front as the mainline and extended it beyond 3 car lengths so that it can accommodate a caboose and 3 cars. Additionally I extended the headshunt (the long track on the left side used to switch the other tracks) so that it can hold two Geeps and 3 cars. Now an "arriving" train can consist of two locomotives, three cars, and a caboose. That's not exactly the four locomotives and thirty cars of the prototype, but it will look much better than a single locomotive and no caboose! All of that means it will be possible to "cheat" the switching puzzle to a certain extent, but I'm willing to live with that for the sake of a better appearance.

    My benchwork consists of a bookcase along one wall in the guest bedroom. On top of that I laid two lengths of thin pink foam glued together (I can't find thick foam board where I live, it just doesn't get cold enough). That's it so far. I'll probably add more "benchwork" after I finish the wiring. Certainly adding some fascia and a backdrop will be necessary as well. I may make those out of foam core board. I'm trying to keep this layout nice and light!

    After several months of fiddling with track arrangements and doing a little test operating, I've finalized the track plan. Last night the roadbed went down. Now I can start laying track!

  2. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Looks good, Dave - looking forward to seeing more progress on it. I'll be interested in seeing how foam core works for a backdrop; I've often thought of trying that out but never gave it a go.

    Best Regards,
  3. tferk

    tferk Member Frisco.org Supporter


    Can you share photos with the group of the facilities around Buick, such as the transfer crane? That is one area I failed to photograph very well while attending college in Rolla. More embarassing was that I was in many of those facilities while working for the US Bureau of Mines - I managed a few photos with a cheap camera that did not handle the low light conditions, but those facilities were mostly "camera adverse".

    Ted Ferkenhoff
    Flagstaff, AZ
  4. pbender

    pbender Member Frisco.org Supporter


    This n-scaler is looking forward to see what you do.

    jmoore16 likes this.
  5. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member


    I have plenty of pictures of the crane, but precious little else of Doe Run facilities. For obvious reasons they're pretty camera shy down there and it's hard to learn much from what you can see from public roadways. However, the crane is apart from the rest of their facilities in Buick and I was able to access it easily, without transgressing any No Trespassing signs although it is almost certainly on Doe Run property.

    The only concrete information I have about the crane comes from the December 1989 All Aboard stating that there was a "truck-trailer transfer point for the Fletcher mill" at Buick. Everything else I've had to surmise by observing what is left.

    Here's an overall picture of the crane. It appears that it would lift a container off a truck on the right side, move it over a railcar, dump it out, and then return the container to the truck.
    Here is a closer shot of the three hooks. Two of them appear fixed (i.e. they would move up and down with the whole crane) while one of them is on a chain that I surmise could be winched up, dumping out a container into a gondola below.
    Here's a shot from the other end of the facility. According to Google Maps the crane's track is about 700 feet long. So it could load 12-14 cars at a time. The line of covered poles on the left was the electrical power for the crane. Three electric lines were under the cover. The crane collected power through three small pantographs. Just beyond the line of trees on the left is more roadway, forming a loop for the trucks as they passed through the facility.

    David Erickson
  6. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member

    Tracklaying progress has temporarily screeched to a halt. I was using a drill bit to punch holes for feeder wires through the roadbed and styrofoam (just using my fingers to twist the drill bit through) when I pushed a little too hard and the bit broke through the foam and I banged my hand against the layout. I had my turnouts in position to help me drill in the exact right locations and my thumb broke a rail off the turnout! :mad: I knew the Atlas Code 55 stuff was delicate, but I didn't know it would break that easily! I fiddled with it a bit to see if I could put it back together, but it didn't seem this would be the road to reliable operation. So I decided to get a new one.

    Normally buying a new turnout isn't a big deal. Just one little problem. I live nowhere near a hobby shop! The closest local hobby shop is an hour away and they carry very little train inventory. They carry a little bit of N, some HO, and some O, but really it's just a few things for the trainset crowd. The only track they carry is EZ-Track (which is probably fine stuff, but not what I want to use). So no new turnout from there. Otherwise it's a 2 1/2 hour (one way) road trip to either Dallas or Houston to visit one of the fine hobby shops there. I don't have time for a road trip this weekend, so I'm ordering one online and will just have to wait for it to arrive. That's just part of the price for living in the country! Oh well. It's an opportunity to buy some ground throws and a couple of other things I'll need in the coming months. Gotta make that shipping charge worth it!
  7. SteveM

    SteveM Member Frisco.org Supporter

    David, regarding the use of foamboard, you should scout around and see if you can find the type with plastic instead of paper cover. We have a manufacturer here in Bentonville that gives away damaged 4x8 sheets. The covering is similar to PVC, takes some effort to cut it but it is quite strong and not affected by moisture. Takes latex paint well. I have been using it for backdrops (as well as shields for fluorescent lights, etc.) Try a sign shop, they use lots of this stuff for signs hanging in stores. Or come up and visit and we'll get you a sheet.
    I haven't used Atlas 55, just a little bit of MicroEngineering and a lot of Peco. Managed to damage one Peco turnout with too stiff a throw mechanism.
  8. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member

    Thanks for the tip! I'll have to look for that. Is this the corrugated plastic sheets? I've been able to find that as it's a common sign material, but haven't been able to find any foam core with plastic laminate. I'm sure that corrugated plastic would work, but I'm concerned that it's not a smooth surface, which could be an issue for a backdrop.

    My big concern with standard foamcore from a craft store is the reality of warping. I understand from people like Prof Klyzlr on Model Railroad Hobbyist that it is possible to prevent the warping by reinforcing the sheets with cross bracing made out of foamcore board. He makes his entire benchwork out of the stuff, so I'm willing to try it with the backdrop. If it works, I may explore other ways to use the stuff.
  9. SteveM

    SteveM Member Frisco.org Supporter

    No, they aren't corrugated, like the material used for yard signs. One of the local HO layouts had steel mill structures made from that which looked okay, but I agree it wouldn't do backdrops well. I used some of the flooring underlay plywood and just couldn't cover the grain with paint. The stuff I am using is smooth. They make it in several thicknesses, some with white and some black, even blue sheets for cover. It may be foam, but get a foot thick stack of 4x8 sheets and you'll be looking for a forklift. Once they are damaged or if not completely filled with foam they go in a reject pile and they were free for the taking at the local plant.
  10. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member

    So that broken turnout just got really expensive! Mostly because while searching for an online retailer that had the turnouts in stock (they seem rare, a whole issue about Atlas I'm just now learning about), I happened to discover that Wig-Wag still had some new Frisco GP38-2s in stock! These were models that I missed during my time away from model railroading and I'm super happy to find them! So after spending way, way more than the price of a turnout, it all shipped out today. Soon I'll be able to put together a legitimate Lead Line train from the '70s, with four Geeps, a decent string of gondolas, and a caboose. Even if the layout is much too small to operate with that kind of train, maybe I can at least get some nice photos.

    BTW, Wig-Wag is still showing Frisco GP38-2s in stock, so someone else here might want to jump on that.

    In related news, all my non-Frisco equipment has gone off to ebay to help finance the new locos. Back when I was just starting to dabble in N scale 10 years ago I initially found nothing Frisco and started collecting some Chessie (my wife liked the cat). I distinctly remember the day I walked into Hobby World in Fort Worth and spied an Frisco Atlas GP38AC behind the counter. It changed the entire direction of my modeling. Now it's time to get rid of all the stuff that has no place on the present layout.
  11. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member

    The shipment arrived yesterday! Last night I got the trackwork in place and feeders dropped. I was about to secure all the track in place when I noticed a slight problem with both of the turnouts: they're not straight! The straight leg on the Atlas turnouts actually curves slightly inwards towards the curved leg. This is noticeable when sighting down the track. I'm not sure if this will be an issue or not. So I held off on gluing down the track, but I can now operate the layout to make sure the turnouts are reliable and the slight curve isn't an issue.

    This afternoon I got a chance to unpack the GP38-2s and set up a train on the layout. The new locomotives look nice, although I did notice that Atlas changed the shade of orange very slightly between the GP38ACs and the GP38-2s. I went ahead and tried to get some pictures of the train. Four locomotives, nine gondolas, and a caboose is all that will fit on the "mainline." Of course this train is far too long for the layout, it can only move backwards and forwards a couple of inches!

    But for now it's time to enjoy running trains and working the Inglenook puzzle.

    Attached Files:

  12. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    It's great to see a new layout develop. The photo updates are nice and should inspire others (including me for sure) to get busy with some model railroad projects as well. Various shades of orange could be prototypical due to the effects of weathering and such. Sucks about the turnouts being janky. We'll stay tuned till the next update.
  13. PacRail

    PacRail Member

    Any additional updates? Also, what are you using for the loads in the gondolas?
  14. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member

    Progress on the layout has taken a temporary hiatus. About the time of my last post, household management informed me that a new tenant would be joining our home in November! So the guest bedroom is about to be transformed into a nursery! That pretty much killed my enthusiasm for working on the layout. Plus pitching in extra around the house right now doesn't leave a lot of extra time in the evenings. I've managed to operate it a few times, but haven't done any additional construction.

    I'm currently negotiating a new home for the layout. There's a spot in the master bedroom that would work great, but there are some aesthetic concerns I'm trying to alleviate. We shall see. Management is sympathetic, but there is only so much space in our little house.

    The gondola loads I have are ones that came with the cars. None of them are appropriate for representing lead-zinc concentrate or the tarps that covered the concentrate. I don't know of a commercially made load that would reasonably appear like lead-zinc concentrate. I expect I'll have to create those myself, but I'm not certain what kind of material would have the right color and consistency to represent concentrate. I plan to try tarp covered loads from Hay Brothers to represent cars covered and ready for transport. The pictures on their site look good, but I've never seen them in person.
    fireball_magee likes this.
  15. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Hi David:

    First, congrats on the newest member in the oven!

    Tarps: I suspect that during the era you are reflecting, the tarps weren't in use, instead being a contrivance of the EPA of more recent vintage. Woodchips, for example, were shipped open top and no tarp up until the last decade or so, now they're covered with a tarp. However, your mileage may vary!
  16. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member

    I'm not exactly sure when they started using tarps to cover the lead concentrate. If I recall correctly, the Molo book has some information on that in the section on gondolas, as the Frisco bought gondolas specially equipped for use on the Lead Line. Here is a picture from 1975 that shows a string of tarp covered gondolas on the Lead Line: http://michaelckelly.net/?p=1292 I've assumed that was lead concentrate, but have no confirmation of that. Also given that lead paint was banned in 1978, surely they began handling lead concentrate with greater care sometime before that. Of course, the entirely preventable lead contamination around Missouri caused by Doe Run in just the last twenty years is a sad reminder that sometimes corporations couldn't care less about people, so long as a profit is made.
    If you enlarge the picture on Michael Kelly's site and look carefully, you can also see that the tarp is poorly fastened on the last gondola in the string of gondolas right behind the locomotives. I know that many years later lax procedures on covering lead concentrate loads was a major contributor to the entire Lead Line being contaminated by lead. After BNSF stopped service (due to the contamination), Doe Run began trucking the concentrate, which rapidly contaminated the highway (and a lot of people's houses) between the mines and the smelter.
  17. tferk

    tferk Member Frisco.org Supporter

    At least through the early '90's when I was working with the US Bureau of Mines, lead concentrate loads were not tarped. Tarps were used on gondolas of concentrate moving long distances to smelters or ports for export. If you look closely at the photo on Michael Kelly's website, the first string of gons are covered, but there are two other strings of gons without covers. Lead concentrate in gons originated at St Joe Lead mills and moved a relative short distance to the smelter at Herculaneum. (St Joe did not become Doe Run until 1986.) Homestake/Magmont smelted their lead concentrate at the smelter at Boss. I would venture that the tarped loads in the photo are copper concentrate, since copper was not smelted anywhere near Missouri and a lot moved to export. None of the gondolas being dumped at Herculaneum were tarped when I was around there.

    Ted Ferkenhoff
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 11, 2015
  18. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    Wow, Ted that was a great post. I remember working the lead line, a couple of gons derailed, and SLSF at that time sent the DL-920 (American Crane) up with a clam bucket to pick up the lead and put it into a Gon. It was too heavy though and too far away from the track. A total loss, not sure what they finally did about it though. It sat their for quite a while. This was on the Salem line, the lead line part was relatively new, at that time, maybe around 76.
  19. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett Member

    David, congratulations on the first class passenger coming soon to your depot.
    On your layout setup there is post #104 by gjslsffan, Tom Holley, in the "random layout pictures", all small letters, that may interest you. Also in the past I've used adjustable shelves to hold my layout modules. You might store your module under the bed and use the shelves when operating. Just a couple of suggestions or may help you with finding another idea. Keep us posted on what you find that may solve your layout setup.

  20. rolla dave

    rolla dave Member


    Thanks for the info! That is very helpful! Maybe I'm showing my (relative) youth, but it really surprises me that they would transport lead concentrate out in the open as late as the '90s. Of course, something that seems so obviously a bad idea now may not have appeared that way in the past. I've just assumed it was further in the past than that! I may be guilty of perceiving anachronistically the lead mining companies during the Frisco era, projecting the behavior of Doe Run in the 21st century back into the past.

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