Middle Switch Complex

This past week I’ve been working on three additional right-hand turnouts that are key to laying another twelve feet of track on the old mainline. As a reminder, the old main is used to service industries in Circleville (the modern mainline was constructed in 1911). In a future post, I’ll reflect on the five turnouts (constructed two months ago) that lead to these three.

Some folks are able to build turnouts on a fixture in an hour or two. I cannot, even though I’ve built at least a dozen. Likely the problem is that I figure out all of the tricks for speedy assembly during a building session, then forget those hard-learned tricks before I build another set!

I cut the rail I needed for the eight turnouts along this stretch (four righthand, four left) last autumn, along with doing the filing needed for the frog and switch points. That left only locating and filing the stock rail bases where the point rail would sit, some bending operations, cleaning the rail, and cutting the PC board ties before I started soldering.

Turnout construction tools

After completing that work and assembling the turnouts, I spent a good deal of time tuning the points to allow smooth operation on both routes. I tried some new ideas on the shaping the points that seemed to work well (my growing collection of files came in handy here) – though the real test will be running trains over them.

Arranging the turnouts on the layout was mostly completed last summer, using Fast Tracks paper templates as stand-ins. I spent several hours experimenting with different arrangements, trying to find the best balance of usability and aesthetics. The tracks competing for turnout space along the old main were:

  • The west end of Esmeralda Canning’s siding
  • The east end of a runaround on the old main
  • A spur to Pickaway Grain and Maizo Mills
  • A spur to Enderlin Coal

A fourth turnout is in the immediate vicinity, but as it was on the runaround track (not the old main), it had no impact on the arrangement.

Referring to the gallery of photos above, I decided against Arrangement 1 primarily because it would require a switchback to get to Enderlin Coal. In reality, there was a switchback in this location that led to Pickaway Grain’s own coal yard. That made a turnout here defensible, but I wanted to avoid the complexity.

Arrangement 2 solved the switchback issue, but cramped Pickaway Grain’s loading area and crowded Enderlin Coal and Esmeralda too closely, which went against my aesthetic interest in creating breathing room between industries. These first two arrangments also made Esmeralda’s siding shorter than I wanted (only 2.5-3 cars) due to it’s west end turnout placement.

To lengthen Esmeralda’s siding, I tried Arrangement 3. This involved moving its turnout to the right, displacing Enderlin’s turnout back to the switchback. This was better for Esmeralda, but… the switchback.

The biggest change with Arrangement 4 was the removal of Enderlin Coal. This is the arrangement I decided on, for a couple of reasons. In my last post about the industries I selected, I mentioned eliminating Enderlin Coal to “mitigate problems elsewhere” – this switch complex was that “elsewhere”. Removing Enderlin and its turnout provided breathing room and simplified this area as well as giving space back to the rest of the layout. See the previous post for more information.

Fast forward back to this past week. After getting the turnouts built and placed on the layout, I tweaked them a bit more to account for track spacing and the already-installed Pickaway Grain/Maizo turnout.

Final Arrangement

In the photo above, the left turnout leads from the old main to the east end of the runaround, the center-left turnout (on the runaround) leads to a short 1-car stub-end spur, the center-right turnout is the west end of Esmeralda Canning’s siding and the rightmost turnout leads to Pickaway Grain and Maizo Mills.

The final photo below is looking railroad west (compass north) to illustrate the nicely-developing industrial area along the old main. Complete with captions!

Circleville’s west-side industrial stretch, progressing nicely

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any questions or additions, please share a comment in the section below. If you know others that might be interested in this blog, feel free to share the link.

Finalized List of Modeled Industries

Almost since the moment I decided to model Circleville, I was certain I would include three specific sites on my railroad; Circleville’s Interlocking Tower (VI Tower, the namesake of this website), Container Corporation’s strawboard mill, and Pickaway Grain’s elevator.

The inspiration for VI Interlocking Tower is twofold. Firstly, dad spent a lot of time hanging around the tower as a kid, getting to know one of the operators very well (Wink Wellington), feeding his interest in the railroad – and indirectly, mine. Secondly, interlocking towers are an iconic railroad structure – known by railroaders for their function, and by the public as a landmark.

Container Corporation was the largest industry in Circleville during the time I am modeling and produced an unusual product, making it an operationally busy and functionally interesting addition to my railroad. In addition, I remember the plant (albeit in a more modern form than my modeled period) and my uncle Gene worked there as a chemical engineer in the fifties. Both make it personally relevant to me.

Pickaway Grain was astride one of the doorways to Circleville (Main Street / Rt 22), making it a landmark to local citizens and travelers. It represents an industry that was (and is) ubiquitous in grain-growing areas – during my modeled time period, smaller elevators were a common sight along every railroad. Pickaway Grain is another personally relevant industry as I remember passing it every time we left Circleville for home.

Those three obviously weren’t the only three rail-served industries in Circleville. Dad suggested three more from his memory for modeling consideration. Esmeralda Canning Company was on Canal Street immediately north of Container Corporation (CCA). Esmeralda was probably still operating during my (early) lifetime but would have been long out of business by the time the building was torn down in 1996. Enderlin Coal (later VanCamp), north of Esmeralda, was once a very busy retail coal yard with an unloading trestle spanning a concrete pit. It’s not clear when it stopped selling coal – I suspect shortly after VanCamp bought the property since that company’s focus was road work. Maizo Mills was on the north side of Main Street, across from Pickaway Grain. It burned down spectacularly in the 1950’s.

Beyond these initial six, I learned about additional sites/industries of the period from a variety of sources (mainly period Sanborn Fire Insurance and N&W Right of Way maps) that I also considered including. They were (from south to north):

  • Purina Feeds on S. Court and W. Huston.
  • Two canal-era houses on Canal street between the CCA and Esmeralda properties.
  • N.T. Weldon Coal and Building Supply at the corner of W. Mound and Canal streets, between Enderlin Coal and Pickaway Grain
  • A bulk oil company owned (I think) by Weldon at the same location as above
  • The Ohio and Erie Canal warehouse (re-used by a host of other industries later) on the site of today’s Pickaway County Health District building.
  • N&W’s Freight House at the corner of North Western Avenue and Water Street
  • Highway Department site north of Ted Lewis Park (at the same location as today’s ODOT facility).
  • Sturm and Dillard sand and gravel’s spur on the west side of the N&W, across from the north end of Forest Cemetery

Ultimately I had to make some choices since I don’t have space for the entire city. After a year or so of planning, building mock-ups to check for fit, research trips to the Pickaway County Historical and Genealogical Library, advice from friends in the hobby and lobbying by dad – with my list growing, shrinking and changing from month to month – I finally decided on the following list. From north to south this time, the champions are:

  • N&W Freighthouse
  • Maizo Mills
  • Pickaway Grain
  • Esmeralda Canning
  • Container Corporation
  • Purina
  • VI Tower

I chose these based on relevance to my family (i.e., what we remember), interest from a visual, train operations or historical standpoint, recognizability and (very importantly), space available.

I tried very hard to work Enderlin/VanCamp in. It checked the interesting (coal trestle) and relevant boxes and dad lobbied hard for it. In the end, I couldn’t make the track layout work in the space available and removing it freed up enough space to mitigate problems elsewhere. If I can fit it in a different (incorrect) location, it will be back.

The Ohio & Erie Canal warehouse is certainly interesting, but since it wasn’t rail-served, it missed the “operationally relevant” check. I pulled N.T. Weldon because of redundancies with Pickaway Grain (both sold coal and building supplies, and in fact, Weldon was later purchased by Pickaway Grain). It also presented some track layout issues.

I will most likely add Sturm and Dillard to the list in the future, though more design work is required before committing to it. Also possible (though less likely) is the Highway Department. There may also be a few items added east of South Court Street, once I get to planning that area.

Over time I will add new posts about each of these industries, and for those that have enough information, a stand-alone web page.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any questions or additions, please share a comment in the section below. If you know others that might be interested in this blog, feel free to share the link.