Modeling Modern Short Lines.

Discussion in 'Model Rail Operations' started by brakie, Jan 2, 2007.

  1. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Let's discuss modeling modern short lines from spin offs and mergers.

    What defines a modern short line?

    These railroads are the result of the Staggers act that deregulated the railroad industry and lead to many marginal profit lines being lease or sold to short lines or Port Authorities set up by local communities or business men and then either lease to a short line operator or perhaps a use locomotive is bought or lease and operated by the Port Authority.Of course the best path is to lease the line to a short line operator.Examples of modern short lines would include Twin Cities & Western, Grainbelt,Iowa Interstate and other such short lines.There are companies such as Rail America,Rail Tex and Genesee & Wyoming Inc that operates a family of short lines in several states.R.J.Corman also operates a group of short lines bearing his name in Ohio,Pennsylvania,West Virginia and Tennessee.

    Why model a short line?
    There are several reasons to model a short line to include needing less locomotives and cars.One of the biggest is a short line is a good choice for a small layout to include a round the walls layout or a industrial switching layout.A short line fits waybill/car card operation like a glove seeing all you do with a short line is every day customer service by delivering or picking up freight cars..
    Draw backs of modeling a short line would include no hot shot pig/stack trains,no Amtrak trains and usually slow speeds in the 20-35 mph range.

    How to organize a Freelance short line.
    First we must look at several angles to include long abandoned branch line track.Remember we are free to use modeling license.
    Ok..Now where do we want our short line located? That question can only be answered by you.Why? Because we all have our preference in locations in a given state to include some branch line or perhaps some long gone favorite short line.

    What type of freight?

    The type of freight handled will depend on our short lines location...Our short line could specialize in serving coal mines,stone quarries,a steel mill , grain elevators,a industrial park or it could serve several industries located in the towns and small cities the line goes though...MY thoughts is to limit the number of industries being served because IF this was a profitable line instead of being a marginal profitable line the big Class 1 would have kept it.I also like the idea of smaller industries in small towns and cities that still depend on rail service.

    How many car loads per year?
    That would depend on our customer base and size..My thoughts is our WEEKLY car number should not be less then 30 since that works out to be 1,560 cars a year and based on a 5 day work week-remember most short lines doesn't operate 7 days a week- that is only 6 cars per day..Workable but,a rather bare bones short line.
    My perferance is 50-60 per week which is either 2600 cars per year or if 60 cars per week 3120 cars per year or 10-12 cars per day again based on a 5 day work week.Of course that can vary as well.

    Here is the most interesting and hardest aspect of short line modeling.We can use a GE 44 Tonner to a SD40-2 depending on tonnage and the steepest grade we need to climb.A short line that handles small train lengths daily can use a GE44 Tonner or 70 Tonner.
    However,if we specialize in coal,stone,steel etc then perhaps a second hand EMD or GE 6 axle unit would be needed.Of course 4 axle units would work as well but,more would be needed for the heavier tonnage trains.Of course here's where the short line economics plays a large roll..They may need 6 axle units but,can only afford 4 axle units..
    A different approach would be to lease locomotives from one of the locomotive leasers.This way a short line could pay "power by the hour" lease where they only pay the hours the locomotive is actually used.

    How about a color scheme?
    A very good question! The answer will vary according to your givens..We can use a plain scheme,a complicate scheme or just use lease units some a locomotive lessor.Another approach is to buy a locomotive and paint over the road name and letter it for our short line.We can even use the locomotive's number.We don't even had to match the paint since most short lines favors black.
    However,I do recommend finding a color scheme that fits your style.
    It is my opinion the track should be lightly ballast and have lots of grass and short weeds between the ties but,fairly maintain other wise except for some broken or split ties at various locations..Thats one style the other style is a well maintain right of way that was refurbish by State and Government operating grants.
  2. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Larry, thank you for the food for thought. I'll keep these things in mind as I develop my layout design. I've been doing some research on my own, but it certainly helps to hear from others. Keep this info coming!

    I've put up some diagrams of my preliminary plan at this thread:

    I'd sure appreciate it if you could take a look at it and see what you think. :)
  3. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    Very nice, lets me think more into my dad's mini-layout...
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    We have a couple of short lines locally. The Goderich and Exeter is actually prety long for a short line; it has a long stretch of the CNR main line plus a branch. Run by Rail America, it seems not to have 3 locomotives with the same paint scheme. There is a very heavy covered hopper traffic from the saltmines plus auto parts.
    It sees 4 VIA trains a day. Until the funding was halted, one of them was the Amtrak Toronto-Chicago run.
    The Brampton and Orangeville is an CPR branchline (the one Will Annand is modelling). They have one lcomotive (a GP9) and runs very short trains a couple of times a week. They also have a handful of passenger cars and run scenic excursions.
  5. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    We have a short line of sorts that runs North from the 5th sub of MRL in western MT. It is still a part of MRL but has all of the characteristics of a short line operation. It serves a few grain loading facilities; a modern sawmill, both logs and finished product; propane handling facility; asphalt plant and a 21st century version of a team track at the end of the line. I've been intending to take some photo's of the team track for modeling info, since there are lots of small details like loading ramp, grain conveyers etc that would fit on a small layout. Two trains a week.
  6. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    David,As you may know the Goderich and Exeter has 169 miles of track and therefore it is more of a regional railroad then a true class III short line like we are discussing.It does has possibilities as a freelance short line.
  7. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Jim,That is a sub of a regional railroad and therefore not a true class III short line BUT,it would make a mighty nice foundation for a freelance short line.:thumb:
    Should you get those pictures I for one would be interested in seeing them.
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Larry: I know the G&E fairly well; I've driven beside it almost all the way. It's a frustrating drive: the railway runs parallel to Hwy 8 for nearly 45 miles and is just far enough from the road that you can't see it.
    The Exeter is the same one that my Perth and Exeter is named for.
  9. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    David,The Ashland Railway is like that..The only place you can see it is in the towns and small cities it serves.Heck,even the engine terminal is hidden from view.

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