Geoff Elliott Fixes His Broken Turntable

So the indexing board in my Walthers DC turntable is dead.  I can’t turn the table or anything.

So, I dismantled it the other day and tested the motor which works perfectly.  It’s just the control board built into the table.  I called Walthers and they no longer have the boards for replacement, nor do they have the DCC conversion kits for it.

What to do, what to do…

Here’s what I’m planning to do.  I’m taking an old TCS T1 decoder that I have and mount it in the turntable.  This will be given an address like ‘9999’ or something along that line that will never conflict with anything else.  This decoder will be used to run the motor on the turntable so that it will turn.  The turntable still won’t have indexing, but the table is low enough, and close enough to the edge of the layout, that the operator will be able to line up the tracks ‘manually’.

I’ll need to power the rails, so we’ll put a PSX AR in place to take care of that.

Now, you’re probably wondering how I’m going to do this.  In the pic below I have a diagram of the ‘basic’ wiring, and you’ll see the bullseye as well.  The bullseye is part of the turntable spindle and is how power gets from the controller to the motor/rails.  The plan is to change things so that both the T1 and the rails pull from the continuous rings rather than having the rails connected to the broken ring like is the norm.

Geoff Elliott's wiring plan for a broken turntable

Geoff Elliott’s wiring plan for a broken turntable

The PSX AR will manage the rail power regardless of what track the table is oriented to, so how the BUS feeds any track coming to the table is really not an issue unless you have some that could pass through (I will only have 1 like that).

The decoder will look at the motor as being a locomotive going either forward or backward and will be unaffected by the polarity change managed by the PSX AR.  By doing this, I only need to feed 1 pair of wires to the table spindle versus the 5 that feed it now.  Additionally, I have no sound decoders going silent when rail power goes dead when the contacts bridge the gap on the outer ring as it won’t be used. The PSX AR is needed anyway in my engine terminal as 1 track (if you look at the old track diagrams) is a ‘wye’, so I’m not really adding anything that wasn’t already needed.

Now, all anyone has to do is bring their glasses to an operating session to ensure that they’ve lined the table up with the proper track!

Geoff Elliott Remembers: C&O Speeder Visits Renwick

As mentioned before, I lived about a ½ mile from the C&O tracks in Renwick.  At the crossing was Roy Getty’s store and a couple of houses, one on each side of the Campbell Side Road, right at the tracks.  To the east were open fields and, of course, the Renwick Co-op.  To the west, the tracks split a large wood lot, so you wouldn’t see the approaching eastbounds until they emerged from the trees.  If the wind was blowing in the right direction, you would hear the eastbounds rumbling through the trees, but quite often they snuck up on you.

One day, while playing in the front yard, I remember hearing an odd ‘putt-putt’ sound coming from the area of the woodlots.  The sound kept getting louder and louder until finally, emerging from the trees, was a small C&O ‘putt-putt’ cruising along the main.  I had seen these before, but usually sitting with a MOW crew, but had not ever noticed one running solo before.  Whomever was running it rolled up to the crossing and stopped.  As was the norm for the train crews, the operators of the putt-putt got off and walked over to Roy’s store.

After a few minutes, they walked back to their idling Fairmont and took off heading east.  I thought that was so cool, and how it would be so much fun to be able to ride one of those someday.

Well, come 2003, I ended up purchasing and restoring a CP M19 (CR7 to Canadian fans) and have been running it on various lines in Canada and the U.S., including the Algoma Central, the Ontario Northland, and even the Port Stanley Terminal.  Eventually I was able to find and acquire a C&O M9 (presumably the one from the Pelton motorcar shed) but it still needs to be restored.

Sadly I’ve never had the chance to run on C&O rails yet and imagine what those track maintenance guys were seeing, but who knows, maybe someday I’ll get on what remains of the C&O here in Canada – and even run a car that rolled those very rails years ago.

Geoff Elliot's M19 sitting at Canyon on the Algoma Central Railway.

Geoff Elliot’s M19 sitting at Canyon on the Algoma Central Railway.

Geoff Elliott Remembers: The End Of The Line at Erieau

When I was really young – before school age – and my mother and father were working, my Grandma Franklin would quite often take care of me during the day.

Depending on what time of year it was, we might be taking meals out to my Uncles and Grandpa while they were working in the fields.  Or we might go out buying groceries, or sometimes we’d just go for a drive. Goodness knows that after almost 45 years, I can’t remember too much along the way of days, months or years that certain things happened, but there are two memories I have that stick out from that time. This particular one seems pretty simple, but might be significant to some.

It would have probably been Spring 1971, and on a drive with Grandma I remember heading down to Erieau, Ontario.

Now we all know that the Pere Marquette / C&O had a coal dock and yard in Erieau that was closed in the late 1960’s and that the track was lifted in the very early 70’s, but being a small kid, and loving trains, I actually got to see what might have been one of the very last trains to Erieau.

I remember riding along on Erieau road and going around the bend just as the road meets the beach. Just a short distance down from there was the railroad crossing. Being interested in trains that young, I looked back as we crossed the tracks and saw the blue nose and headlight of a C&O unit coming up through the marsh fill headed for Erieau. I’m pretty sure Grandma slowed down going into town so I could get a better look because I can still see in my mind’s eye the train crossing the road where it ran between the beach and Erieau Road as I looked out the back window of the car.

Aerial view of Erieau, Ontario showing the C&O mainline and coal dock yard lead trackage running alongside Mariner's Road where young Geoff travelled with Grandma Franklin, circa 1950's.  Source:

Aerial view of Erieau, Ontario showing the C&O mainline and coal dock yard lead trackage running alongside Mariner’s Road where young Geoff travelled with Grandma Franklin, circa 1950’s. Source:

Further into town Erieau Road turns into boulevard running, so we made the sharp right turn and crossed the tracks again. There’s the headlight!

We turn left and head down a short distance and park. At this point I remember getting out of the car and standing with my Grandma and watching as an enchantment blue painted C&O GP7, a C&O boxcar, and a caboose trundled down the boulevard in front of us.

Wow! That was neat!

After the train passed, Grandma and I did whatever business we were there to do and then headed back to Coatsworth. My Grandma brought back whatever it was we went there for, and I brought back a memory of what might have been one of the last freight trains to ever roll into The “Eau”.

Editor’s Note: The Canadian Sub 1 C&O track diagram from 1976 notes (in the handwriting of dispatcher Ted Wright) that the rails to Erieau were lifted in 1973.  Action Hobbies Kingsville has the first Chessie System map on display in the shop, dating from 1972.  It shows the line intact from Blenheim Junction to Erieau.  The second edition of the Chessie System map produced a few years later in 1974 / 75 does not show that portion of Sub 2 any longer.  Our sources and research indicates that regularly scheduled service to Erieau ended in late summer 1969 and that C&O SW1 #8401 (previously PM #11) that had been assigned to Erieau since 1952 had been removed from Erieau in late 1968 / early 1969.  Geoff’s memory does seem to fit into the timeline.  We think the fact that the train was a single C&O boxcar might indicate they were down to Erieau to pick up some of their own equipment and supplies as part of closing the line.  As proven previously in the Wreck At Glenwood posting, Geoff’s Memories are fairly accurate.  That D&H shield was key in that memory, the boxcar might be the tell tale sign in this one.

Layout Construction Extra: Room 2 Swinging Door

We interrupt the Geoff Elliott parade of memories to showcase some progress on our own layout, which continues to move forward, if at times very slowly.

Overhead panels were added in Room 1 and we are nearly completed the painting of the underside of those in sky blue.  We’ll feature that in a future posting.

Today’s posting looks at the construction of the angled swinging door outside of Room 2.

The door has three levels going across it – the bottom (“Level 1”) will be the connection from the north end of Chatham modeled on Level 1 in Room 2 to connect back to the helix to go to Level 2 / Room 2, which will be Wallaceburg.  A small staging yard leading up to the stairwell will accommodate a few tracks to stage cars for spots not modeled on C&O Sub 1 between Blenheim and St Thomas.

The second level (“Level 2”) is the connection from the north end of Wallaceburg to staging for points north of Wallaceburg and Sarnia in general.  A turnout will also enable staging beside the stairwell for a few tracks for C&O Sarnia ferry freight, bound for Port Huron.  The C&O floated their high & wide cars between Sarnia and Port Huron until the Sarnia and Windsor tunnels were expanded in the 1990’s, after which the ferry service was discontinued.

The third level (“Level 3”) has two purposes.  The first is for both the C&O Sub 1 main coming out of Leamington from Level 2 in Room 1 via the helix to travel through our rendering of Ruthven and Kingsville in Room 2 before it heads back into Room 1 to pass through Harrow, Pelton and then either to the tunnel to go to Detroit staging or into Walkerville.  The second purpose is for CASO Essex County branchline staging, which will run along a few tracks up to the stairwell.

A view from the top of the stairs down to the new swinging door construction outside of Room 2.

A view from the top of the stairs down to the new swinging door construction outside of Room 2.

The door design is angled to keep the walkways to the stairwell clear.  The staging tracks leading up to the stairwells (not completed) will be removeable in case of the need to use the stairwell to move larger objects into the house that won’t fit through the other main entrance to the house.

A close up view of the revised connections from the helix to Room 2 and the new swinging door.

A close up view of the revised connections from the helix to Room 2 and the new swinging door.

Geoff Elliott Photography: CSXT Grain Train Memories

Not quite a year after the photographs taken that we viewed in my previous blog post (CSXT R321 entering the Detroit River tunnel) and we can see that the power assigned onto freight trains into Canada looks quite different from the all Chessie System coloured consists.

This is not power for R321, but it will be lifted by R
321 when they arrive from St. Thomas.

January 4, 1989 - CSXT Grain Train power on the CASO in Fargo, Ontario.  Photograph by Geoff Elliott

January 4, 1989 – CSXT Grain Train power on the CASO in Fargo, Ontario. Photograph by Geoff Elliott

Here CSX 8236, an ex-Seaboard System SD40-2, leads a motley crew of power, with a Family Lines GP16, a VMV Leasing, ex-Conrail SDP45, and an ex-Chessie GP40-2.  Add in an International C27-A caboose for good measure too.

This power had come over on an ‘Extra Grain’ earlier in the morning that day.  The train had come over with the Chessie unit on the point (I wish I had been able to shoot that one somewhere along the line!) and ran down the CASO to Fargo.

At Fargo, the train turned north on the then relatively newly installed northwest connection track to clear onto the old C&O #2 subdivision.  From here the train shoved (yes- backed up!) all the way to Blenheim Junction and around the east leg of the wye and into the town of Blenheim itself, where they cut off their caboose and yarded the empty hoppers for W.G. Thompson’s.

Once done, they coupled onto their caboose and came north back to Fargo.  The went back around the northwest connection from the C&O to the CASO and then came east to yard their power and train, but not until they did a ‘flying switch’ to get the caboose into the siding first.

About a week later, another set of CSX power would come over on R320 in the morning, with an extra C27-A bay window caboose.  The extra caboose and power would be setoff here and the local would take it all down to Blenheim to get things ready for the unit train to start heading south to the port of Mobile, Alabama to offload the grain for points beyond North American shores.

Editor’s Note: Geoff is standing in front of the C&O Sub 2 mainline in the southeast quadrent taking this photograph, looking northeast.  The track curving to the right of the photo is the old C&O interchange track to the New York Central / C&O interchange yard at Fargo.  It was unused by this point but stayed in place for some time.  Interchange between NYC and C&O at Fargo relatively ended in the 1970’s.  CSXT adapted the little yard at Fargo on the CASO in the mid 1980’s upon re-routing the manifests from C&O Sub 1 to the CASO.  What was once picked up and dropped off in Blenheim for the east / west manifests was now done in Fargo, giving the tiny community a small revival for 10 years before the CSXT lost trackage rights on the CASO.  Afterwards, Fargo would slowly be dismantled over time by the CNR.  Today, only the old C&O Sub 2 mainline remains, occasionally used by the CNR to service Thompson’s and ADM in Blenheim.

Geoff Elliott Photography: Chessie Cats On Their Way Out

By April of 1988, CSX had been renumbering locomotives at a record pace.

The GP40’s in the 40xx series and GP40-2’s in the 41xx to 4447 series were now in the 68xx and 60xx to 63xx series.  That was just the start of the elimination of C&O/B&O/WM/Chessie by CSX.  In time the yellow, vermillion and blue would give way to grey and blue, ironically the colors of the civil war – foreboding maybe??  Anyway, there was still time in my photography infancy to still catch some Chessie before it all disappeared.

Here is one my lucky catches from 1988.  A trio of Chessie cats, a GP40, a GP40-2, and a GP38 run ‘elephant style’ on the head end of CSX train R321 as it descends the Canadian grade headed for the Detroit River Tunnel on the Canada Southern (CASO).

In the first photograph, the train is rolling under the College Avenue and Essex Terminal Railway bridges.  From this view, you can see that there was a reason we called CSX train #R321 the “bomb train” – with all those tanks of LPG, Anhydrous Ammonia, Sulphuric Acid, and other not to be mentioned chemicals that originated in Sarnia for customers in the U.S.

CSXT #6841 leads CSX train R321 west over the Canada Southern towards the Detroit River Tunnel - April 26, 1988.  Photograph by Geoff Elliott

CSXT #6841 leads CSX train R321 west over the Canada Southern towards the Detroit River Tunnel – April 26, 1988. Photograph by Geoff Elliott

In the second photo, CSXT #6841 is about to enter into the darkness of the westbound tube.  When he emerges into daylight again they will have traveled under the Detroit River into Detroit, Michigan, USA – emerging next to the old Michigan Central Depot.  From there they will make their way to their final destination of the C&O Rougemere Yard in Dearborn, Michigan where the Canadian crew will book rest and likely sleep it off before being called to take R320 back to St. Thomas the next morning.

CSXT #6841 leads CSX train R321 into the Detroit River Tunnel - April 26, 1988.  Photograph by Geoff Elliott

CSXT #6841 leads CSX train R321 into the Detroit River Tunnel – April 26, 1988. Photograph by Geoff Elliott

Geoff Elliott Remembers: Wreck On The C&O at Glenwood

Back in the early 70’s, I remember going to my Grandparent’s home in Coatsworth.  Grandpa always had the radio going, listening to either CFCO out of Chatham, or CHYR out of Leamington for the crop reports.

This particular day CFCO out of Chatham was on the radio and I remember hearing about a train derailing in the small community of Glenwood.

Glenwood?  That’s just west of Merlin!

As the day progressed I remember hearing a train coming and looked out the dining room window at the tracks and four locomotives went by heading east without any cars.

After a couple hours the same units headed west pulling cars, presumably from the wreck.  At that point Grandpa said, “Let’s go see what happened”.  So Grandpa, Grandma, my mother, and myself hopped in the car and headed off to Glenwood.

Once we got close, we knew something was up.  There was all kinds of traffic from the locals coming out to see what happened.  Lots of people standing around at the crossing, cars stopping on the side of the road, everyone gazing at the chaos that had ensued.

I remember Grandpa turning onto the Glenwood Sideroad and going up and over the crossing very slowly so I could see.  I can remember the seeing the crumpled cars, and what in my mind today looks like a D&H shield or something.

Wow!  What a mess!

I’ve never seen photos of the wreck, or read anything about it in newspaper archives, and all I have are the memories of a five or six year old kid.  Hopefully someday I’ll find out more about this wreck or someone will have photos to share of it.
Editor’s Addition:  While researching the C&O book project, numerous photographs have been uncovered from various sources – many of which can’t be shared here at this time for reasons that are obvious.  Occasionally, some non-railfans would submit some photographs and almost always they were of train wrecks.  Nothing got the average people taking pictures of trains quite like derailed trains!  Sharon Cook submitted several slides of the C&O wreck in Glenwood in the summer of 1975, which may in fact be the memory Geoff recalls.  As he notes, the D&H shield monogram was definitely a part of the wreck.

August 1975 - C&O derailment at Glenwood, Ontario, Canada (photo by Sharon Cook)

August 1975 – C&O derailment at Glenwood, Ontario, Canada (photo by Sharon Cook)

One good thing about so many photographs of train wrecks is that an often under-photographed subject matter gets some coverage – freight cars.  Essential to any model railroader but often hard to come by, especially if you’re modelling a specific time, place, location and operations such as the C&O in Ontario.  This was a Sub 1 manifest, Detroit / Buffalo, and often had similar loads on it, especially towards the back of the train. 

From left to right in the above photograph: Penn Central gondola, C&O MW truck (still with C&O For Progress monogram on the door), Illinois Central black “eye” monogram 50′ SD boxcar, unknown 50′ boxcar on it’s side on ground (I can say it was running on friction bearing trucks), Rock Island single bay airslide covered hopper, D&H all door lumber boxcar, Maine Central 50′ SD boxcar and two D&H yellow 50′ SD boxcars.  The latter of which are made by Kadee in fine quality:

Kadee HO Scale PS-1 50'  w/9' Panel Side Door boxcar

Kadee HO Scale PS-1 50′ w/9′ Panel Side Door boxcar

What will Geoff Elliott remember next?  Stay tuned to the blog to find out!