New to n scale, first project; Tex Mex Rail yard

marc1kim Aug 9, 2013

  1. marc1kim

    marc1kim TrainBoard Member

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    Returning to model railroading after over a 20 year break. I've been doing lots of research on layouts, and new techniques. There's a couple of things I want to loosely incorporate in my layout. One is the Texas mexican railway yard that's been a fixture in my hometown longer than I've been alive. Here's an old photo of it:
    Here's a shot from the west side looking east:
    [​IMG]

    it's changed a bit since the photo, and looks more like the bottom of the layout I've been toying with:
    [​IMG]

    Here's a recent pic showing the west side of the TM yard (taken from standing sout east):
    [​IMG]
    From the backside:
    [​IMG]
    Here I was toying trying to get perspective:
    [​IMG]

    Another thing I want to incorporate is the old train station that sits less than 50 yds east of the TM yard. It's been in sad shape since KCS aquired the rail line about 10 years ago. mainly used as a storage facility for the KCS employees:
    [​IMG]
    but back in the late 80s early 90s it was a depot for the Tex Mex Express passenger train:
    [​IMG]

    I'm gonna loosely model it so exact replicas of the silos and train station arent necessary, but if you guys can steer me in the right direction to where I could find similar structures, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'm excited to be back in this hobby and I'm anxious to get started. Thanks
     
  2. Philip H

    Philip H TrainBoard Member

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    Welcome back! you've picked a really nice, easy to start with prototype. As an inveterate scratchbuilder I look forward to seeing the depot - you should be able to do it easily out of styrene. build the structure core first, then laminate on the siding and such aroun the windows. Plenty of forum posts here to guide that effort.
     
  3. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    On "the layout you have been toying with," I would want to model the 281 overpass at the left end, both as a recognizable feature and to break the view of the necessary but unprototypical turnback curve.
    On the right end, I would want at least SOME representation of the Southern Pacific crossing, a 90 degree crossing with a dummy track toward the back and a hand-operated crossing gate. The gate could either be always set against the Southern Pacific because the SP is not operating, or it could be sometimes closed against the TM when we pretend the SP has been given dispatcher clearance mover the Xing.

    I believe I have some crude scale drawings of the depot. Depots were built to the same plan at Corpus Christi (long gone), Kingsville (now a railroad and city museum), and Bay City (still standing last I knew).

    I have a number of my photos on railimages, and some may be clearer than what you can scan from the ones in Journal of Texas Shortline Railroads.

    Alice depot
    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/542/alicdepo.jpg

    Ex-troop sleeper used as tool car, at Alice.
    [​IMG]
    I acquired an MTL troop sleeper to model it.

    Texas Mexican Express at Laredo
    [​IMG]

    "Wild Horse Desert" between Hebbronville and Laredo, seen from Tex Mex Express
    [​IMG]

    Laredo depot
    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/525/lardepot.jpg
    Tex Mex Express
    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/525/exp.jpg
    Interior of TexMex lounge car
    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/525/intlouno.jpg

    TexMex depot at Corpus Christi, view along platform
    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/525/depoplat.jpg

    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/525/caboose19.jpg

    north side of departing TexMex Express at Corpus Christi, w caboose
    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/532/lv7north.jpg


    Bicentennial unit
    http://www.trainboard.com/railimages/data/530/1776cu.jpg

    Me on TM GP38-2 #867 at Laredo, 1986
    [​IMG]

    Besides railimages, I have about 100 images viewable online at the Texas A&M University Corpus Christi library website. I donated about 1500 photos to the library historical archives and catalogued them. Some 100 are on the online catalogue. Railroad, town scenes, industry, news happenings etc.
    Kenneth L. Anthony photographic collection
    http://rattler.tamucc.edu/dept/special/Anthony.html

    I have well over 100 Tex Mex photos scanned in my computer, mostly NOT available online, I could put on a disc for Marc1kim or anyone else actually building something from the TexMex, if you will PM me with a request and a mailing address.
     
  4. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    As a starting point, I would search Walthers.com advanced search, specifying scale N, structures, and keyword depot. The search should bring up an illusatrqated list of almost all depots made in N scale, and you can see what looks like Alice.
     
  5. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    I took my own advice and searched walthers.com.
    What to search for?
    MAJOR CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ALICE DEPOT:
    brick masonry construction (not wood frame)
    hip roof (not gable roof)
    three-sided bay with angled sides on track side of depot (not rectangular bay)
    dormer window jutting out of the roof.

    "Structure/ N scale/ Depot" gave me almost 40 hits. Near the end, I found one fitting the general specifications, a plastic kit sold by Walthers under its own name as the "Pella Depot," item #933-3818.
    https://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/933-3818

    As a "stand-in," this would suggest the Alice depot to a casual observer who wasn't holding a photo of the real thing for comparison.
    to be continued
     
  6. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    Contrasting the Alice depot and Walthers Pella depot in more detail....

    The Alice depot has a rectangular bay on the street side. We can't tell from Walthers' picture whether their kit has any such feature on the street side.

    The Alice depot has EXTENSIONS on each end beyond the basic rectangular shape of the Walthers model. The extensions, both narrower than the middle section of the depot, have gable roofs, creating an interesting (an challenging to build!) array of angles. Also note that the roof over the depot's middle section extends out away from the walls, creating a shelter for passengers, while the roofs of the extensions barely come out over their walls.
    The SOUTH extension originally housed a baggage and express room. Its walls are slightly taller than those of the rest of the depot proper and the bottom of its roof is higher than the rest of the roofs. However, because both the south and north extensions are narrower, and because the roofs do not hang out fare from the building, their hip roofs come to a peak lower than the peak of the center section. Note that the baggage door on the track side is at ground level, while the baggage door on the street side is raised to truck bed or wagon bed level.
    The NORTH extension originally was an open-air covered passenger shelter with no walls. Note the heavy masonry footings at the corners. The open sides were walled up with wood frame construction covered with some kind of shingles, possibly slate or asbestos.

    The dormer on Walthers' Pella depot is an extension of the walls of the operator's bay upward through the roof, giving it a complicated hip roof with 5 surfaces. The dormers on the Alice depot, found both trackside and streetside are set back from the operator's bay (and back bay on the streetside), and are rectangular in plan view on both sides.

    Walthers' Pella depot has curved corbels supporting the edge of the roof that extend out away from the walls, while the Alice depot has corbels consisting of two straight members that cross each other. (I wonder if parts like this are available anywhere or if they have to be scratch-fabricated?)

    I haven't gotten into the specific placement and style of doors and windows...
    I guess it could all depend on how close you would want to make it, and how much room it would take.
     
  7. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

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    What a great prototype to model. I think you could really have a nice model railroad based on this.

    I think Kenneth has the depot nailed down for you. As for the cotton oil company, I would start with some of the Rix grain elevator components. (not the bins, just the towers) For the smaller vertical steel silos, I would look at the vertical tanks in Walthers Interstate Oil kit. (also available in other kits, and/or you might check...the HO version might be closer to correct size) For the larger silos you could scratchbuild or use commercial grain silos of some sort. (again, maybe an HO product out there I'm not privy to) I wouldn't use the Walthers ADM silos because they are interconnected versus the obviously stand alone silos in your photos.
     
  8. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have the Walthers Pella. Street side just has 3 windows on a flat wall. I am using mine for a stand in for a Post Office on the left side of my layout....

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2013
  9. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    Industries served by the Texas-Mexican Railway and commodities handled, per Southern Pacific Transportation Company Freight Tariff 1517-F, issued June 11, 1971.

    Alice Cotton Oil Co...........oil mill products
    Barr Iron & Metal Co.........scrap metal
    Bingaman P H....................road materials
    Federal Iron & Metal Co....scrap metal
    Texas Highway Dept..........road materials

    The SP tariff shows Mobil Oil bulk station as handled by SP but the Sanborn’s map appears to show a Magnolia bulk oil facility adjacent to the TexMex yard, so it would not seem out of place to operate it as a TexMex customer.
    I painted and lettered an old Arnold Rapido N scale tankcar for Magnolia on my layout, and built a bulk oil dealer...but mine was Phillips 66.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Bulk oil dealer prototype
    [​IMG]
     
  10. CHARGER

    CHARGER TrainBoard Member

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    Looks like you picked a nice location to model. Looking at the proto track chart and your track plan, I can't help but think you should look at the Carolina Central Plan in MR. Have you seen it?
    [​IMG]

    You could tweak it a bit and be able to replicate Alice, TX pretty well. I'd omit the sidings in the center, have a left hand switch come off the main or ladder off the left side switch for the passing siding to reach Alice Cotton Oil. The siding on the bottom of the CC plan replicates the one in your track chart almost exactly, then the turns of the layout flows with the turns on the track chart. You could also include switches off the main in the bottom right corners, to create the interlocking in the bottom right of the chart, these tracks could lead to staging or further expansion...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2013
  11. CHARGER

    CHARGER TrainBoard Member

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    Alice TX 3.jpg

    I did a quick photoshop of the CC plan and I came up with this. (Click on pic to expand size)
     

    Attached Files:

  12. ken G Price

    ken G Price TrainBoard Member

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    I also am working on adding more TexMex to my fictitious Texas UP branch line / KCS interchange.
     
  13. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    When the Southern Pacific was still operating to the Rio Grande Valley, Alice was a point where SP interchanged traffic with the Texas Mexican. Here is a photo from the late 1970s of a string of Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator cars (affiliated with Southern Pacific) interchanged between the Southern Pacific and Texas Mexican Rwy on tracks along Front Street/Texas 44 between Johnson and Aransas Streets. The Southern Pacific through Alice was a major route for handling refrigerated loads of Valley citrus fruits.
    [​IMG]
    For an Alice Tex Mex layout set in this era, interchange traffic would be a major part of operations.
     
  14. bumthum

    bumthum TrainBoard Member

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    Based on the actual photos and the suggestions of others here I would ensure that a runaround track existed in my main yard for switching and building trains. Sure you have the passing siding/staging on the back side but that would make your operations unrealistic and I would wager less fun.
     
  15. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    After 5 starts and restarts, I came up with a design that gets a condensed version of most of what I would like to see in an N scale TexMex Alice layout on a hollow core door. Except that it could sure stand to be a foot or more longer.
    I figured on a 32” x 80” hollow core door with 11 inch radius curves, at least for the end turnback curves on which entire trains will have to run. The 32 inch depth would actually allow an even broader curve easily, but I wanted something a little broader than the standard minimum 9 ¾” radius, yet still something available in sectional track. Laying flex track would allow 12” or 15” radius end curves. Some of the spur tracks on the inside of the layout might use 9 ¾” radius because they would only be used by a loco and a 2 or 3 cars being run slowly for switching, and it would contrast with the gentler end curves.

    It was the 80” length of the door layout base, not its 32” width, that was the constricting problem for fitting in all the elements I thought would be desirable for operation and for making a recognizable (if condensed) version of the Alice scene.
    The original “toying-with” plan from marc1kim in his first post called for an oval of track with a dead-end industry spur that fits the location of the cotton oil mill, and two dead-end “yard track” spurs parallel to and north of the main line. On the opposite side of the layout showed two double-ended sidings which could serve as staging.

    I wanted to add:
    1. A double-ended siding south of the mainline just next to Front Street. This is the track on which I photographed the line of Pacific Fruit Express reefers shown in an earlier post. It could serve as a runaround so that a train running west could switch a spur that deadends going west, and vice versa. It would also be convenient to place cars there so that a train going through Alice in either direction could pick them up easily. Also, the Sanborn’s map reproduced by marc1kim shows that track as having a track scale, which could add some interesting operation. The copy of the map posted by marc1kim, a copy from a magazine copy, is probably too small to read the track scale notation. I looked up an enlargeable Sanborn’s map available online from the Corpus Christi Public Library (with a library patron’s password), and it notes the track scale.
    The Sanborn’s map shows this track connected at its west end to the mainline and slanting toward but not connected at the east. Sanborn’s maps are notoriously unreliable for track arrangements. They are designed to assess fire insurance risks for buildings, considering type of construction, how closely buildings are placed together, available of fire plugs, sprinkler systems and night watchmen in commercial and industrial buildings. But regular fire insurance companies normally do not insure track. It is just shown to get a general arrangement. I have seen the actual two-foot-square pages the online digital maps are copied from. They have overlay after overlay pasted on as buildings have been built or demolished. By the way, the map shown in mac1kim’s post is dated “January 1932 updated to August 1947”
    Track scale on track closest to Front Street
    I depend more on photo evidence, and is some in the first picture on marc1kim’s first post, p.40 from Journal of Texas Shortline Railroads and Transportation, bottom right corner picture showing crossing and freight house in background. I furnished the original photo for the Journal, and it shows a turnout to a track south of mainline. That was cropped out of the picture to get it to fit in magazine, but a SWITCHSTAND to that turnout still visible at the left edge of picture. I also have a photo of the Alice TexMex freight station taken from the southwest looking northeast, that shows 2 tracks south of mainline, tied back into mainline at east end. So yes, they were there, though not shown on the map.
    2. A spur to the west of the US281 overpass to serve a scrap metal yard and/or road materials yard, out at the edge of the built-up city.
    3. A dummy track (non-working) crossing the TexMex line just east of the Alice yard, to represent the Southern Pacific—assuming we are modeling the period before abandonment of the Southern Pacific line from Skidmore- Mathis- Alice- Falfurrias to the Valley. I believe that was about 1980.
    4. The width of a minor street to represent Aransas Street between the SP track and the TM passenger depot. I have used 2” in N, although 1 ½ or 1 ¾ might be acceptable.
    5. A length of straight track in front of the passenger station. A Sanborn’s map shows the prototype as about 75 feet long which is just under 6 inches in N. Walthers’ Pella depot is 6 ¾ inches according to the catalog.

    Alice N hollow core door layout
    [​IMG]

    All these elements which take length deprive the “yard tracks” of reasonable length, if the layout is limited to an 80 inch hollow core door. Cutting the plan at the dotted yellow line and adding a foot or a foot-and-a-half would make a nicer layout IF you have the space, and IF you don’t mind building a table or benchwork. It could be reduced in depth to 30 inches or even 28, to make the back staging easier to reach.
    I used several tricks and have some operating, scenic and structure ideas but this is enough for one chunk. “Later...”
     
  16. marc1kim

    marc1kim TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks everyone for the information. Kenneth, thank you very much for the wealth of information. I can't get enough of Tex Mex history and photographs. I think it's become an obsession for me since the Green and orange are no longer on the tracks here. I do remember the days the S.A.A.P. railroad intersected the TexMex line, I was a young boy. i was a little sad when the city demolished the SAAP train station, but this town has no historical society and it happens quite a bit here. I wish it were possible to to make our current TM depot into a RR museum, just like the one in Kingsville, but it remains owned by KCS.
    I really to appreciate everyone in this forum that has chimed in with all this good info. i'll keep you posted in my progress.
     
  17. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    I am not sure about a historical society in Alice. There is the South Texas Museum a block and a half from the depot at 66 South Wright Street in the former McGill Brothers Ranch headquarters office building, which is open to the public free 6 days a week. I don't know how or by whom it is funded. There appears to be a curator and a board, according to current notes on their web. It has an archive of historical railroad photographs and documents. I remember flipping through about 100 8x10s a few years back when working on a TV story.

    Perhaps you mean there is not an advocacy group pushing for preservation.

    A little more about the speculative Alice layout plan I drew. It has 4 turnouts in a row on the left (west) end of the main track, at least two more than in marc1kim’s original design. In N scale, that would cut off about a foot available for the length of the “yard tracks.” To reduce that by about 3 inches, I placed the turnout (track switch) into the end curve, so that the curved side of the turnout goes to the mainline and the straight side goes to the siding/ runaround track along Front Street. Usually the straight side of a turnout is on the mainline, but in this case, it saves a little length while eliminating a double reverse S-curve. Here is an explanation I drew for another layout, in HO and flipped over, but it shows the principle.

    [​IMG]

    Note that the curved leg of the turnout does not exactly match the curvature or length of the curve it replaces. If you are using sectional track, you will need to adjust either with a half or third section of curved on the other side of the end curve, or with Atlas sectional track, with one section of 19 inch radius curve on the opposite side of the turnback curve.

    Another trick in the same area is the placement of Johnson Street. I drew it right across where two turnouts connect. A two-inch street (26 scale feet, 2 lanes) will fit between the frogs of two turnouts. This is a quick mockup to show...
    [​IMG]

    I will admit it will take some tricky fitting to lay pavement unless you use something like plaster.
    Is it realistic to put a turnout right up partway in a street- or to pave a street over part of a turnout? It happens. Here is one example about 100 feet from the bedroom of my boyhood home, at 65th Street in Houston.

    [​IMG]

    If you look closely at the high angle shot of the Alice yard at the beginning of marc1kim’s original post, you may see that Johnson Street crosses the tracks between the frog and the moveable portion of the point rails. Of course, the prototype turnout is a much more gradual angle than our model turnouts. We probably couldn’t do this with the turnouts used most widely on small layouts.

    Towards the other end of the layout plan, I curved one of the “yard tracks” to almost converge with the dummy Southern Pacific track. It “should” connect with the SP line but that would cost a turnout and some space, and take away from the length of track where interchange traffic between the SP and TM can be spotted. It just “almost” looks like it “might” connect somewhere back there...

    More features and operation ideas to come, later...
     
  18. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

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    More ideas about features for an Alice TexMex layout:
    The cotton oil mill spur which I drew as a diagonal across the middle of the layout could continue just short of the staging tracks. When the SP was active, it connected with the SP at one end and the TM at the other. However, it was not normally used as an interchange by the two railroads. My SP tariff says that the cotton oil mill was served by BOTH the SP and TM. This allowed each railroad its own route to the industry.
    When the SP was abandoned, the track was used as a route to remaining industries formerly served by SP. GoogleEarth satellite view and street view also show a switchback off this spur. They also show a lot of open space now along West Main where I drew warehouses and industrial concerns I remember from the 1980s, in particular a big gas compressor builder. Someone really interested could do research in period photographs and city directories.
    One small feature I did not note on my suggested trackplan but I notice as I check and recheck photos and plans. There was a scale house between the tracks and front street. It shows at the left edge of this photo.

    [​IMG]


    It is small but “railroady,” could add to operation and would be easy to build. The scale house also appears as a white speck in this photo.

    [​IMG]

    In this same photo, way off in the distance, is a water tower not far off the railroad right-of-way. It is a notable Alice landmark, said to be the World’s Tallest Concrete Water Tower, and I noted a possible place to represent it on my trackplan. It's in the 1976 Guinness Book of Records.
    Here is a link to a clearer photo.
    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/70756394

    It could be represented by a picture on a background, or built. I built a similar World War II-era concrete water for an N-scale 2x3 foot layout of a Navy blimp base. The tower was still standing when I visited the ruins of the base in the late 90s. I photographed and scratchbuilt a model in styrene.
    [​IMG]


    The old McGill Ranch headquarters, said to be built in a style slightly reminiscent of the Alamo, is a distinctive Alice site, now a museum, located just a block and a half from the Tex Mex passenger depot.
    Links:
    http://www.southtexasmuseum.org/wp-content/themes/stxmuseum/images/slide4.jpg
    http://www.texasescapes.com/SouthTe...cGillBrosBldgCowSouthTexasMuseum710TJnsn3.jpg

    The layout plan doesn’t quite include the actual location- it would have to extend another block east to catch it. But we might cheat and relocate the structure on San Diego Street facing south or on Aransas Street facing west. It would be fun but challenging, and is not absolutely needed to make the scene, so it could easily be put off for some future date, with a nondescript building back filling the place for the time being.

    I drew the plan with 3 staging tracks at the back. That would allow one eastbound freight, one westbound freight and the Tex Mex Express to operate through the Alice scene.
    More another time on operation ideas...
     
  19. marc1kim

    marc1kim TrainBoard Member

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    Kenneth, I like all your ideas. I'm definitely making note of all the good advice here. I think most of my structures will have to be scratchbuilt, sxcept for maybe the train depot. I had planned on including the water tower in my layout. In my opinion a Layout of the rail yard wouldnt be complete without the old water tower.
     
  20. marc1kim

    marc1kim TrainBoard Member

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    I've been reading this thread over and over, I love the wealth of information contained herein. I had never thought about the s curves and I'm glad kenneth brought that issue to light. I had originally brought in a hollow door from my garage and it measures 32" x 78 1/2". I have another two doors in storage that I want to measure, i'll end up using the widest and longest one for this layout. I Want to thank everyone for the all the information and input. you guys have definitely added fuel to my fire. :)
     

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