How Would You Build A Branchine to Ramble Down?

WM183 Dec 5, 2018

  1. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

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    Hello all.

    I gotta admit; I am intimidated by the space I have available to use for a layout in N. A 14 x 4 L shaped shelf 18 or so inches wide seems pretty huge to me! I keep going back and forth between N and HO, but N continues to lure me in, so I decided to ask for some help here.

    If I shrink the size to 10 x 4 (helps clear a nearby window, in fact, and makes it a BIT less ominous) and was willing to add a bubble at the long end of the "L" and at the corner for 13 inch radius curves for continuous running. If you wanted to depict a branchline "Somewhere in Eastern Ohio/Western Pennsylvania" in, say, 1950, where branchline local runs might go north 3 days a week, and south 3 days a week (switching different industries each time, except perhaps one or two which must be done daily) through 1 or 2 sleepy "Anytown, USA" locations... how would you do it? I'd like to be able to use my Key brass mikes, as well as 2-8-0s and the odd diseasels, for these runs. Should I even worry about being able to let a train go roundy-round, or perhaps do like the brits and make a cassette that could be moved from one end to the other, or switched around, to depict trains leaving and returning?

    My mind is a mess here.

    Amanda
     
  2. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

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    30D2F0DF-A0E1-40EB-921C-DFB15FB418A6.jpeg Other than the locale, you just described my layout. One end is an interchange with a Class 1. Here I have the junction and a run around track for interchanging cars.

    Cars are brought South to the yard, where they are sorted. One large customer is at the yard, so you can switch them out at the same time.

    Three more customers are further south. They all have different volumes of cars to be switched. One get a unit train weekly, one gets one car move daily and the other gets switched every three day (all prototypical). I leave one engine at the south industries as needed.

    Start with one scene you can picture in your mind. Maybe the spot with the most industries, or the junction. Build that first. The rest will flow from there. I built my layout in a modular fashion. This allowed me to expand as I built new section. I’m 18” wide and over 60’ of modules now. It’s so much fun.
     
  3. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    You have described something similar to one part of mine. The Class I is a four by eight roundy round, single track with passing track that is against one wall (the middle is one huge pop-up). There is a connecting/junction section. Finally, the part in which you might be interested, consists of:

    One four by two N-TRAK module
    Two just under four feet by just under three feet pieces on each end.

    The result is a dog-bone type layout. The loops connect the Red and Yellow lines.

    Originally, I built the N-TRAK module with an industrial area off the blue line. There is a turnout off the loop at one end that connects to the blue line. The blue line also serves as a parade track from the not-modelled shops to the main line. There are industrial areas inside each and loop.

    The loops consist of Kato thirteen and three quarter UNITRACK. The turnouts to the blue line and interchange track, on the other loop, are UNITRACK #6. The turnouts to the industrial sections are UNITRAK #4.

    While the "roster" is supposed to have only three diseasels and three steam active at any one time (this is a busy short line whose management keeps power in reserve so that trains will always keep running), I do have others that I can swap in at any time.

    I can run even a B-mann EM-1 around the thirteen and three quarter curves, but SC&N does not ever run anything larger than a Kato USRA heavy 2-8-2 (in your part of the US of A, only P&LE would have those--Kato did sell two in P&LE). There is also one B-mann SPECTRUM 2-8-0.

    The mikado and the consolidated can run on the parade track and main line, but the curves on the industrial areas are too sharp. This is why I prefer
    the 2-6-0s. The B-mann and MP 2-6-0s will run on the sharp curves in the industrial areas. The 4-6-0s will, as well. I do not use the 4-4-0s on freight, because the MP eight wheeler, even the MRC version with the traction tyre, just will not pull much. It will pull three B-mann shorty passenger cars up the 2,2% grade into the interchange section, though. Three shorty passenger cars; two head end and one coach or combine, is enough of a passenger train for the SC&N.

    Thus, most of what I am running in steam is six drivered. I have first generation diseasels which are mostly switchers. I have several lettered for SC&N, so I can swap those in and out. The only consistent one is the Atlas Baldwin. Others are Atlas FM road switcher, Kato RS-2, Kato NW-2. LL BL-2 (WM had two of those). The smaller diseasels and 2-6-0s can work the industrial trackage.

    This is a non-historic railroad that I call Short Creek and Nopedale.

    I do not know if your brass will operate on thirteen inch curves. Brass tends to be finicky. Brass is built to prototype standards, clearances and dimensions. This means that much of it will not run on mediocre model railroad trackwork. Much of the brass requires professional grade trackwork. The first generation diesels of the WM, P&LE, AC&Y and Penn will operate on those curves, though. Even the Erie builts (only Penn, out of all of those, had Eries) will operate, although they do look a bit funny pulling short trains.

    You probably could do the continuous running in the space that you describe. The question is will your brass operate? That depends on how finicky it is.
     
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  4. SP-Wolf

    SP-Wolf TrainBoard Supporter

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    Here's an overview of mine:
    This section of the layout is 14' deep - by 36" wide - overall, my layout is 14' X 9'.
    My curves are in the 18,19 to 20" range. None are smaller than 18"
    Mainlines are to the left - the branch line is to the far right.

    [​IMG]

    Here is another view -
    [​IMG]

    Thanks,
    Wolf
     
  5. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    Well you have enough space for a single or double track main except the ends where it would have to balloon out to have continuous running. Depending on geographic location, sidings for grain or feed mills, small oil and fuel depot, farm supply. lumber, maybe one or two small rural stations and any small industry one can think of. Small structures being the key word here. With steam the main necessity is water on a branch line. Steamers go through 3 to 4 tanks of water to one fuel load so coal or oil need not be modeled but can be off line. If you put a set of maintenance buildings, speeder shed, supply house,and pump house you can get by with a water column and don't need a tank. Passenger service can be a gas electric, or and mixed train with a single baggage, or combine and coach on the end of a freight. If running a passenger instead of a mixed I would suggest something like a express box car, or a combine, short RPO, and a coach.

    I grew up on a branchline between the Northern Pacific and Great Northern and passenger service was by a gas electric that in the heavy traffic season had a trailer coach added. Later service was by a mixed train and the coach would be left at the station while the train set out and picked up cars. The Fall season was always busy with extra locos assigned to the area for all the traffic the harvest generated.
     
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Relax. :D Take your time. Read. Ask questions. Think where you might wish to set your empire. (Yes. Even a branch line is an empire!) Some memorable place? Childhood? Era?

    You can have a point to point, much a the real branch lines, and have a hidden loop for continuous running as well. Possibilities are endless. We have some great talent here, and they can answer just about anything worrying you.
     
  7. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you SO much all!

    Luckily my brass operates just fine on Kato 13 3/4 radius curves, and I don't intend to go any smaller than that. If I decide to just do a point to point, I can get away with much wider curves, in fact.

    Era and location is early 1950s somewhere in the hilly region along the Ohio / Pennsylvania border, no specific location as much as a representation of railroads in and around the area where I am from. New York Central will be the primary road I think, and C&O may also feature, so perhaps further into southern Ohio. I love the NF&G, the joint C&O/NYC branch in west virginia, but I want more than just coal traffic, so perhaps "NF&G plus". Nonetheless, Ohio/PA Appalachia, "somewhere". Picture Greenville, PA as sort of a generic representation, I suppose.

    The branch is busy enough to get Monday through Saturday service, of combination locals of 8 or 10 freight cars and a RPO/Combine. It would be nice to have 5 or 6 industries for switching. Other trains need to get by sometimes, too; a busy industry further along might get dedicated daily traffic as well, leading to meets and so on. Perhaps this is the mine runs? Some industries might be only served by NYC, others by C&O, adding more operating interest in a smaller space.

    I have in mind a collection of scenes. For me, the tricky part is putting those scenes and structures into a layout so that it's still fun to operate, where my NYC Mikes and my C&) 2-6-6-2s can trundle along and do their thing. I'd like the usual eastern red brick buildings set close to the streets and a railway overpass emblazoned with the name of the railroad that owns it. Some street running, perhaps to reach a stamping plant or a small local beer brewery. A small combination depot with the team track nearby. A feed mill, perhaps, based on the one in Jefferson, Ohio, because of the rather unique elevated spur that is right next to the building, atop an embankment of wood pilings and earth. As we transition city to country, an old truss bridge for the railroad, and perhaps a covered road bridge nearby, where locals like to stop and fish. All around, fall trees hint that its time to fish for steelhead!

    Making this into a track plan, that's my trouble I suppose.
     
  8. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    NF&G-I can imagine the derogatory names that one must have spawned.......and here I had thought that my non-historic Short Creek and Nopedale was bad.......................(I always chose my non-historic road names for derogatory name potential)..................
     
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  9. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    I can identify with your location, time period, and sense of not knowing where to start. Being somewhat farther along in the process, I will tell you how I proceeded. Of course, I did a lot of reading about the things that interest me, and asked questions on forums, like you are doing. It sounds like we are both interested in operation, as well as modeling scenes. To try to put together what I was learning, I purchased a track-planning computer program to see what I could fit into my space. I chose "AnyRail", but there are others, some free. I also bought another program that would allow me to "run" my trains on the layout schematics that I designed with AnyRail. In my case, that program was "TrainPlayer". It let's me understand how the layout can be used, and showed me the configuration problems that would make operations difficult, so I could correct the plan before laying any track, which is harder to correct.

    A couple of thoughts for your situation. First, since you are thinking about making the layout a little shorter to keep a window clear, maybe you could make a detachable, unsceniced return loop that you attach only when you want to do continuous running. If you decide later that you really need that additional 4' to "ramble down", you would already have an easily extendable track plan. Remember, even in N scale, 10' is still less than a third of a mile, so, if the image of rambling some distance is what intrigues you, you will probably be happiest with the longest possible branch line for your space. If you could get the width needed for a helix, you could make it a two, or even 3 layered track plan. Not only does that make your track physically longer, it also gives the travel time and physical separation that aids in the illusion of distance between points on the layout. And, with 2 layers, you could stack two return loops so that they would both go by that window on a single removable module. But, the helix requires some planning to make it work without becoming an operational headache, and it will require more than an 18"width, probably more like 3'.

    Short lines in your location were often steep and winding, which required small engines and often multiple engines, even on short trains. The Western Maryland was notable for putting 5 to 9 consolidations on a 50 car train on some of their tougher branch lines. So, running a couple of steam engines double-headed on even a short model train isn't non-prototypical. For 3% grades, more that about 7 cars might justify a second locomotive. And, you don't need to make your grades actually 3%, since nobody can really estimate a grade incline by eye, anyway. You can easily pretend that a 1% grade is 3.5%. Modelling sand on the tracks where you make a grade adds to the illusion that the locomotives are struggling at those locations.

    But, remember that even in N scale, an 8 car train with 2 Bachmann consolidations and a caboose is going to be about 2-1/2 feet long. That is going to make a 10' long layout look like a pretty short "ramble". Using Anyrail helps me to properly envision how trains will look on the layout. Using small cars helps some. Using more layers helps a lot. I stay away from freight cars much over 40' and passenger cars much over 60' for branch line traffic.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
  10. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you all so much for all the helpful replies! I have debated something of an out and back, as I could likely fit a return loop at the far end of the "L" and, with the short leg, extend the run to maybe 23-24 feet; still not long, but would give me lots of room for scenes. I think I want to avoid any sort of helix, and multi-level layout; this one area seems quite large enough to keep me busy for years, even if i were to decide to swap to HO! I will not go over 40' for freight cars, and I believe the Micro-Trains combine/RPO is 62 or so scale feet? I will try to sketch something today and maybe you guys can help me sort my brainbits!

    All the best,

    Amanda
     
  11. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    The MicroTrains RPO is about 62', but the RPO /Baggage combine is 70'. The new Atlas RPO is 60', like their other short cars (baggage, coach baggage/coach combine, and observation). Note that the MicroTrains RPO has the original window layout, which did not survive to the 1950s, while the Atlas RPO has the more modern window layout mandated by the U.S. Postal Service. If your short line hangs on to old passenger equipment, take a look at the Athearn "Overland" (not "Overton") passenger cars. They are 50' long, with wood siding and open platforms and truss rod underframes - not something that would leave the branch line in the 1950s, but could still be running there. You can also get a 3D-printed body for a 40' RPO/baggage combine from outoftheboxmodels.com that makes more sense for a shortline, because the RPO "appartment" is only 15' of the car body, which is the minimum size the USPS used.
     
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  12. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

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    I have a noob question, as I am really confused about passenger cars; are the 60' Atlas RPO a combination RPO and coach, as they have a seating section? And would one of those solve passenger and mail concerns for the average small out of the way line? Or does it need to be a proper "Combine" as Atlas makes a 60' one of those also?
     
  13. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    I don't know of any combination RPO and coach, neither prototype nor model. There may have been prototypes, but I am pretty sure there are no models. RPOs are often combined with baggage cars, with the RPO section ('apartment") being 15', 30' or 45' long. If the RPO section is 60', it is the whole car. The other "combine" is baggage and coach. For those, the railroads made all sorts of variations as to how much of each.

    If you want s single "car" to be both mail and coach, I think some of the railcars that had their own engines (e.g., a "Galloping Goose" and other names) had some mail capabilities as well as passenger seating.

    https://images.search.yahoo.com/sea...186729cbb2a9131c001645510f3b.jpg&action=click

    In some small branch lines, one of those railcars was the only thing that traveled the rails carrying passengers, so any mail contract would have had to use them somehow. Those things looked like the front was the front of a highway truck and the back was some sort of railroad car. There were also "Doodlebugs" like the one that Bachmann makes which looked more like railroad cars and sometimes pulled an additional coach behind them.

    https://images.search.yahoo.com/sea...roducts/81424_1032593_Qty1_1.jpg&action=click

    Both would make very short "trains" and be right at home in the branch line service you are thinking about. But, if you like traditional-looking trains with a locomotive and separate cars, a 2 car train is not out-of-place on a branch line, or even a one car train. Look-up the Maryland and Pennsylvania to see what they did. Although it was north from Baltimore instead of out on the Allegheny Plateau where you you are thinking, their practices are good to understand.
     
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  14. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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  15. silentargus

    silentargus TrainBoard Member

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    The Model Power combine is actually a Pennsy MPB-70... and yes, it's an RPO/Baggage/Coach combine. It wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to find one of those in your region in the 1950s- all of them would be on Pennsy or Pennsy-affiliated lines, though. It's not impossible that one would be found near NYC trackage, since the two rivals had a great deal of territorial overlap. Maybe at an interchange?

    The Budd RDC-3 is also a RPO/Baggage/Coach combine... and as luck would have it, NYC bought several of them (according to Wikipedia, their total order was 16 RDC-1s, a lone RDC-2, and 3 RDC-3s *edit- apparently it was one of the RDC-3s that had mad science done to it with jet engines, not the RDC-2). I don't know what part of the system they actually ran on, but an RDC wouldn't look out of place on a branch line run at all- it's more or less what they were designed for, to replace the older Doodlebugs on such duties. You could pair it with an RDC-1 for high-traffic days. Kato made models of all the RDC subtypes except the RDC-9. All except the RDC-4 are full-length 85' passenger cars, but they'll run on whatever curves you've got; mine have no issue on 9-3/4" radius. RDCs are also entirely appropriate for a 1950s setting; they were introduced in 1949.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018 at 7:59 AM
  16. Kentuckian

    Kentuckian New Member

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    Read up on the Hocking Valley. You could “protolance” a layout based on that. That would give a reason for the C&O power, but in your world the HV survived another 20 years or so. I would definitely go single track for that branch line feel, and make operations more interesting.
     
  17. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    The Atlas RPO does not have a seating section--not for passengers, at least. Post Office Department rules dictated that only POD employees were permitted in the mail sections, although everything that I have read suggests that this rule was honoured more in its breach than its keeping.

    You could run the Atlas TRAINMAN RPO and a baggage/passenger. Atlas sold then in C&O blue and yellow. The cars are actually based on C&NW prototypes, except for the open deck observation, which is based on a CNJ prototype.


    C&NW had an RDC-3 that had the baggage door blanked out-it was a coach/RPO. Other than that, as someone already has indicated, Budd did sell an RDC-3 that was baggage/RPO/passenger. Most of the service photographs that I have seen of the NYCS RDC-3s show them on the Detroit-Bay City trip.

    One of the Anthracite roads (Reading Company[?] CNJ[?]) had coach/RPOs. It was not a usual arrangement. As someone already has indicated, the Penn did have a baggage/RPO/passenger. There were not many of them. Most of the service photographs that I have seen of them show them as rider cars on mail trains.

    The MDC/Athearn wood fifty foot cars are good, but there is no RPO. There is a thirty four foot baggage car that has what is alleged to be an "RPO window", but, the funny thing is that even in the wood car era, the RPO had taken on a form that looks much like its "modern" form: at least one narrow door for mail that was separate from the baggage. RPO sections in combines were much the same. You could bash one of the combines into an RPO/baggage. You would have to cut in a mail door and blank out at least one window.

    Since you mention C&O, the C&O did buy a pair of RDC-4s used from the M&StL. M&StL. had a small passenger section added to the baggage end of each one that accommodated about twelve passengers. Those cars lacked air conditioning. I do not know in what year C&O purchased those cars. The Louie was towing cars with them, which was a violation of the warranty. Of course, it had trouble with them. The story goes that Budd Company fixed them the first couple of times, as a courtesy, but after that, refused to do so. At that point, The Louie sold them to C&O. If C&O ever towed anything with them, never have I seen a photograph of it.

    WM never had any RDCs. If it even had doodlebugs, never have I seen a photograph of one.

    NYCS did use gas/electrics. Some were converted to diesel. P&LE had either one or two "motor cars", but sold them early.

    Other roads did tow non-powered cars with RDCs, but, every dated photograph that I have seen of that was taken after the warranty had expired. CRI&P was one such road.
     
  18. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    Mail contracts with the USPS were a very important source of revenue for railroads, large and small. In many cases, the passenger service lost money on passengers, and only broke even or made small profit by using the same train to handle mail and express. On a branch line, a small (15' or maybe 30') RPO apartment in a baggage car makes a lot of sense in the early 1950s. RPOs actually "worked" the mail, picking up mail going in the direction of the train and sorting it while traveling down the track, dropping off what went to each town with a post office along the way. And, in those days, there were no UPS, Fed Ex, etc. package services - - it was the railroads themselves or the Railway Express Agency (REA) that did those shipments. So, modeling "express" shipments requires a baggage section. "Baggage cars" carried very little of the passengers' actual baggage -- they were really mostly filled with packages being shipped by rail to train stations or REA depots.

    So, a small branchline train that has one car split between RPO and baggage, followed by a single coach, makes a very believable branch line train. When a larger railroad owned the branchline, the locomotive on these small trains might look like over-kill -- perhaps a Pacific pulling 2 cars, because the big railroads were converting to diesel power and either scrapping steam or relegating it to such secondary services. On a small, independent line, the locomotives were more at a premium, so the power assigned to a small train would typically be more suited to that load. However, even on large railroads, some of the branchlines had bridges that were so restricted in weight that the typical mainline locomotives could not cross them, and that accounted for some anachronistic motive power living well into the 1950s with names of major railroads on their tenders.
     
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  19. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks much! I will look for a smallish RPO and a coach, and use that for my passenger service!
     
  20. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

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    Here is the smallest RPO/baggage combine that I know of: https://outoftheboxmodels.com/colle...-40-harriman-baggage-car-railroad-post-office . But, it is just a body, and needs trucks plus sanding, painting and decals. That plus an Atlas "shorty" baggage/coach combine or just their coach would be a nice little train, if you are up to the tasks to finish the RPO/baggage car body into a model.

    The attraction of the Outoftheboxmodels car is that it is only 40' long and has the only realistically small RPO section (15') that I know of in an N scale model. The Microtrains RPO/Baggage combine is 70' long, with a 30' RPO compartment that might be a bit big for your shortline. And the Microtrains full RPO is about 63' long, making it noticeably longer than the 60' Atlas coach. The Atlas shorty RPO version is 60', which matches their coaches, so it looks better with those coaches. But, it is a full 60' of RPO, which may be somewhat out of place on a shortline.

    But, please remember Rule #1 of model railroading: It is your railroad, and you can do what you like with it. You don't have to make it appear 100% authentic to somebody else who may or may not ever see it. Studying the prototypes can be interesting and give enjoyment because it adds to the understanding of what your trains could be doing as they move around your layout. But, nearly all of us have some cars or locomotives or operations or scenery that are stand-ins for what we know would really be on the prototype railroad we are basing our models on. We make those compromises so that we can get things running and operate our layouts, rather than spend the rest of our lives striving for perfection and, of course, not having the time or all the talents needed to actually reach perfection. If some of those things bother the owner, that often becomes the impetus needed to learn new skills to build something more to our own desires. But, remember that it really doesn't matter what others think, so long as you are having fun. That is what a hobby is for. And comments on forums like this are offered only for the purpose of showing you options and methods, not to tell you what you should do. You can use your imagination to see what you want to see, filling in whatever blanks you have. A lot of people get their trackwork done and go directly into operations, perhaps never completing their scenery, or maybe working on it between operating sessions when they feel like doing scenery work. There are a heck of a lot of train layouts that are basically a "plywood plateau" with track and some paper cutouts, or even just 3" x 5" cards with names of industries along spurs where cars are spotted during switching operations. Imagination can be the key to happiness in this hobby. So, you said in your original post that you felt intimidated by the size of your available space, but you also used the word "ramble" for your operations. If the image of a rambling shortline is what really appeals to you, then think about emphasizing the amount of ramble you can get without worrying about needing to scenic the whole thing to museum quality before you are "finished".
     
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