The Winter 2012 edition of Classic Trains magazine may attract notice on the magazine rack for its cover photo of a Delaware and Hudson PA on the point of the Laurentian (and I know my friend and fellow hobbyist Michel Boucher will pick up a copy), but for me the real prize is found on page 50.
That’s where Robert A. Janz writes about working for the Chicago and North Western in the summer of 1952, when he was called to fill in on the Geneva Switch Run, a local that worked a 2.6-mile branch between Geneva and St. Charles, Illinois.
Robert weaves a wonderful tale about working this job – a modest train with a six-person crew, powered by a CNW R-1 4-6-0. As the map in the magazine illustrates, the branch to St. Charles curves northward from the east-west mainline between Chicago and Omaha. It runs up the west side of 7th Street, serving a number of industries en route. At the north end of Geneva, a spur strikes east several blocks, where it curves south again to serve a number of industries along the Fox River. Back at the west side of Geneva, the line continues north through open country to a small terminal in St. Charles, featuring a passenger station, a freight house, and a few more railroad customers.
As Robert relates, trains were arranged into four blocks. These were north and south west-side cars in Geneva, east side cars in Geneva, and St. Charles cars. Switching was conducted on the west side, then cars taken over to the Fox River. Cars lifted from east side industries were left on the spur where it joined the main track, to be collected on the way back from St. Charles. The six-person crew was required because there were numerous grade crossings in Geneva (and a few in St. Charles), so this job warranted a dedicated flagman. There was even a bit of middle of the road running.
As I read this feature, it occurred to me how similar an operating session would be to my own, Port Rowan layout. A single, short train… a single locomotive… no other rail traffic to worry about… but a lot of thought required to safely and efficiently serve the customers in these two communities. If one used staging to represent the Geneva yard and began modelling the branch just as it left the mainline, it would fit in a relatively modest space in HO scale (or be the basis of a stunning basement endeavour in O scale).
Why HO and O, but not S? As always, it comes down to equipment availability.
– In HO, Hallmark Models imported the R-1.
– In S? Well, this is another example of why a friend of mine says, “‘S’ is for ‘Sorry’,” as in “Sorry, that model hasn’t been done.”
Perhaps, some day, an S scale manufacturer will consider adding some small steam prototypes to its catalogue. They are definitely more layout-friendly than prototypes such as the Baltimore and Ohio EM-1 (2-8-8-4) monsters that also appear in the Winter 2012 Classic Trains.
In the meantime, though, I encourage readers to have a look at Robert’s article in this magazine. Obviously, it’s an ideal prototype for CNW fans looking for an achievable layout. But there’s no reason that, with a change of structures and setting, this couldn’t be great inspiration for any small steam or early diesel era branch. It certainly reminded me of some of the CNR (and CPR) lines around Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge…
Definitely worth reading – thanks, Robert, for writing about your experience!