logo: Black River Valley Model Railroad




NYC #4038

At right is New York Central E7 #4034. The model was modified from Burlington E7 #9924A featured below. The photo was take shortly after completion of the project. A few photos of the steps taken for the conversion are on the How'd You Do That page.

Burlington 9924A

Burlington 9920B

I purchased this pair of Burlington E7s at a train show in November of 2017. I need a few more passenger locomotives and these just happened to be priced right. I intend to chainge their livery to the New York Central cigar band used by the road in the 1960s. They will make perfect locos for Mail and Express or passenger trains, singly or as a pair. The first unit has been completed and some of the steps taken for the conversion can be seen on the How'd You Do That page.

Frisco 2020

This Frisco E8 was "New in the Box" when I purchased it at the November 17 train show. I inted to chage its livery to New York Central Jade Green. The NYC had just three locomotives in the green cigar band color scheme. I intend to number my model NYC #4053 which I have documented as one of the three such engines. I may have to wait for warmer weather to use my air brush however.

Berea Station

Bachmann Depot Kit

I am in the process of replacing my Berea Station with a little larger depot structure. The curent depot is an Atlas kit hat has been on the layout forever. I am replacing it with a Bachmann kit that has been on the shelf for years. The Frankford Junction structure will require some modification to fit in the space between the inner mainline and the watering, commuter, and freight track on the layout. Progress to date can be seen on the How'd You Do That page.

Flour Mill

Walthers Cannery Kit

Another project that is replacing another structure on the layout. In the works is replacing the Redwing Flour Mill with another, smaller structure. I have Walthers Golden Vally Canning kit on the shelf and will probably replace the flour mill with a modified version the the canning company building(s).

Virginian 2613

I have a thing for these little Tyco Viginian hoppers. I buy them whenever I see them at train shows providing they are not too beat-up. I purchased four more of them at a November 2017 train show. At the same show I bought some Woodland Senics lump coal for loads. The photos of the process and the finished products are on the How'd You Do That page.

PRR 99113

I purchased this Mantua "Heavyweight" 36' caboose at the Medina Train show in early November. It is/was new in the box. I installed Kadee #148 couplers and checked the wheel spacing. At only 5.25 inches in length it is quite heavy at 4.5 ounces. It track well but needs lighting and window glazing. Another project for this winter.

NYC 2072

New York Central Railway Express/Baggage Car #2072 is an Athearn BB kit that I picked up at the Medina Train Show. I installed Kadee #5 couplers and cleaned the wheels. I will modify the truck mounting bolts and install copper wire pickups for interior lighting in the near future.

I ordered these two cars from the Walthers May 2016 flier. At left is a 85' Budd Baggage-Dormatory Transition Car. I have scoured train shows for a long time looking for one of these cars at a reasomable price. Walthers finally came through, at half-price, in their May flier. A few interior lights are in this car's future, I think. At right is a 60' Thrall Material Handling car, also purchased at half-price. Both are welcome additions to my Amtrak consist.

I picked up this Walthers 85' Budd 24-8 Slumbercoach at the Lakeland Train Show in February. I got it for a bargain price, new in the box. It is a welcome additon to my Amtrak consist which is growing fast. As soon as time allows I'll install a few lights to give the car some life.

NY:C #1814

New York Central F-7 #1814 is the newest addition to the Black River Valley layout's locomotive roster. It is and InterMountain model equipped with a Soundtraxx (no sound) decoder. It is intended as the running mate for NYC #1821 which is shown below. When #1814 arrived the box had a sticker on it announcing that the locomotive "Was converted to DC only by my dealer." Huh? After removing the shell and studying things through a magnafying glass for awhile, I changed the location of one small plug and the decoder came to life. Except for changing the address and adding a bit of momentum the loco was already speed matched to #1821. The matched pair can be seen together behind the thumbnail at right.

I picked up these two Bachmann coaches in NYC livery at the Vermilion, Ohio train show in mid-January. Both were in pretty good shape and didn't require much beyond a wheel cleaning and new Kadee couplers. I decided to 'light' them with a strip of tape LEDs. I installed the lights with a 270-ohm resister in series to cut down on the internal glare. To give the cars a little more 'life' I installed several 1:100 figures I purchased in bulk several months ago. The results are shown behind the thumbnails at right and left.

Track Cleaners

I have been cleaning the tracks on the Black River Valley Railroad with alcohol or Goo Gone using a soft cotton rag and lots of elbow-grease. Although it is always a chore it only needs doing a couple of times per-year. Until 'J Bear' a contributor to the Model Railroader Form's Weekend Photo Fun thread gave a brief tutorial accompanied by a couple of photos, on how to make your own track cleaning cars. Since the BRVRR has more than a few of the Athearn BB box cars Bear used to make his, I decided to give it a try. To see how it is/was done, just 'click the thumbnail at right.

Abandoned Scale

The picnic table has been in the central park area in Black River for years without any patrons. On a whim I added a few figures and a couple of pseudo coolers to give the little park some life. Now I have to find picnic ware, plates, bottles and glasses to fill out the scene.

For Fred's Farm Machinery I utilized the little scale house featured below. To spruce it up a bit, I put i LED interior lighting and installed a floor and a people figure (Fred). I mounted it on the layout with Aleene's Tacky Glue and added a few bushes around the foundation. A couple of HO scale tractors and a figure contemplating a purchase completed the basic scene. In photo at left Fred's sign on top of the structure faces south and is easily visible from the front of the layout. In the photo at right the sign faces generally north and is visible from behind the layout with the table pulled away from the back wall. The sign itself is the third or fourth rendition and not completely satisfactory yet. It needs, at least, some serious weathering, and possibly outright replacement. I've been having difficulty reproducing satisfactory small images of tractors and farm implements for the sign(s). One addition, which is coming soon, is a yard light or two to illuminate the scene and make it more noticeable at the front of the layout.

Abandoned Scale

As noted below, this little scale house has been around for a long time. After I dug it out for a thread on the Model Railroader Forum I decided to put it to use. For the abandoned rail car scale I used a couple of pieces of flex-track rail, some movable rails from an old snap switch and a few pieces of Evergreen styrene timber to construct a 'ghost' of an old scale. I haven't decided if I'm going to leave the building as 'abandoned' or repurpose it as a used farm machinery dealer. If I leave it as is there is less work involved, but a farm machinery dealer appeals to me and would allow me to light-up the area more. We will have to see. I'll need a few more pieces of machinery and a few more people to pull off what I have in mind.

CSX #785

Zachary has been looking for a high powered CSX locomotive for quite some time. Number 785 seems to fit the bill quite nicely. It is an Athearn Genesiss SD-70-MAC locomotive he purchased at a train show in Vermilion, Ohio a few weeks ago. I installed a Digitrax DH126 decoder which gives him motor and light control. A new 6-function decoder is on order so he can take advantage of the model's many features. So far he his quite pleased with his purchas. We will know more once the new decoder is installed.

NYC 1821

NYC F7A #1821 is my 2015 Christmas gift from my wife. The locomotive is an InterMountain Railways model with a Soundtraxx Tsunami sound decoder installed. It is shown here at the head of a short mixed freight consist passing the Redwing Flour Mill on the BRVRR layout. Although it is shown here solo, I usually pair #1821 with NYC #1872, a dummy locomotive that helps round out the power set. Except for setting the address and turning down the sound, I haven't taken the time to explore the capabilities of the Tsunami. Hopefully, DecoderPro and my home computer will make that task enjoyable. So far I am well pleased with my Christmas present.

PRR 6407

This Pennsylvania RR J1A 2-10-4 is a Broadway Limited Imports Paragon2 locomotive. It was our 2014 Christmas gift to our eldest grandson. It is quite an impressive locomotive. Large, heavy and a very good puller. The sounds system and its many options are a hit with the grandson. With 20 freight cars and a caboose it navigates the outer main line on the BRVRR without a problem. The efficient smoke generator is an added plus for the grandson who loves smoking steamers, though it fills my relatively small train room with pine scented fumes rather quickly.


This little structure was built 7 or 8 years ago as an office for grain elevator scales. I found it while rummaging for for another old building for a thread on the Model Railroader Forum. It is constructed out of balsa wood and a couple of pieces of .005-inch clear styrene. It is shown here on the layout near where I am going to install it once again. Interior lighting, some enhancements on the nearby track, a couple of people, some landscaping and it will once again be a useful structure.

NYC #1855-2425

New York Central F-7 #1855 and its booster #2425 have been on the layout for 10-years. Just recently the decoder in the A-unit bit the dust. Because I didn't have a replacement on hand, I installed a Minatronics 2-conductor wire set from the power leads on the Soundtraxx DSD100-LC in the B-unit to the motor leads in #1855 as a temorary solution. While I was at it I connected the headlight directly to the pickups on the front truck. The units function every bit as well now as they did when each unit had its own decoder. I'll switch things back when the new Digitrax decoder I have on order arrives.

Amtrak 104

Amtrak #104 has been on the layout for quite some time as a dummy. As our Amtrak passenger consist grew, Amtrak #120 was not quite enough power. To remedy the situation, I purchased another AMD103 locomotive at the Vermillion train show for the power chassis. After cleaning up the gear boxes and lubricating everything, I installed a DH-123 Digitrax decoder. I speed matched #104 with #120 with my computer and DecoderPro. The two locomotives can now handle our entire Amtrak passenger consist without a problem.

Here are the latest additions to the BRVRR locomotive roster. These Sante Fe E-8s are Proto 2000 models. They were both equipped with DCC decoders, but I installed a new Train Control Systems T-1 decoder in the A-unit and a MRC 1716 sound decoder and speaker in the B-unit. The locos operate quite well together and pull my 8-9 car Santa Fe passenger consist without any trouble. They can be seen making their first test run with the new decoders on the Railroading page. A welcome addition indeed.

Another of my purchases at the Berea show were these two Bachmann Amtrak cars. They will require weighting to bring them up to standards and eventually lighting, but for now the track quite well. I realize that their paint scheme is different from the rest of our Amtrak equipment, but my grandson doesn't care, nor do I actually. They can be seen making their first test run on the Railroading page.


Over the past few years ten videos of the Black River Valley Railroad and vaious railroad attractions throughout the Midwest have been scattered around the website. As part of the update for the site's 10th Anniversary, I decided to gather them all onto one page. This will make a visit to the site more enjoyable for those interested in just the videos and easier for me to maintain. The Video Button at right or the one in the page selection column at left with take you to the new page. I hope the change proves successful.

NYC Museum

The second part of our 2014 railroading trip was a visit to the National New York Central Museum. It is located at 721 South Main Street, in Elkhart, Indiana in what was once a New York Central freight house. They have a quite extensive collection of locomotives and rolling stock which includes NYC Mohawk #3001. NYC E-8 #4085, Pennsylvania/Penn Central GG1 #4084, several box cars, flats, a few special pupose cars and NYC cabeese. There are also a few small railroad related structures on the grounds that serve as workshops and storage sheds. The star of the show is the NYC Mohawk #3001, one of only two such locomotives to escape the scrapper. Behind the thumbnail of the Museum's sign at left is a short "Photo Essay" of our visit.

I have posted two new items on the Links page. Both are glossaries of "Railroad Termonology" and quite extensive. The first from the Catskill Archive is very large and features many terms from the steam and transition eras. The second glossary comes curtesy of Union Pacific and has terms for more modern railroaders. I think both would prove useful to any railroad hobbiest. Either of the thumbnails will take your to my Links Page.

PRR Altoona

Since the locomotive shelves have been full for some time. We have been storing over-flow locomotives on the bookshelf above my desk/work bench. Not the best solution. Since I had some time late last month (June 2014) I made a new shelf out of 1/2-inch plywood. It took most of one day to make and another to paint. The new shelf is the one on the right in the photo at right. Now we have room for more locos!

While at the Lakeland train show in March 2014 I purchased four Roundhouse Arch-Roofed passenger cars in Pennsylvania RR livery. The thumbnails at right and left show a couple of examples of the cars. These are nice little cars with metal wheels and body mounted knuckle couplers already installed. The left thumbnail is a passenger coach. The right thumbnail is a combine. The other two cars included a diner and an observation car. While they are a little old fashioned, the make a great consist for our Pennys K-4 steam locomotive. One day soon I'll install interior lighting and maybe some basic interior details. You can view the individual cars by clicking on the acompanying thumbnails and see some of the cars in use on the Railroading page.

PRR Altoona

I picked up this Riverossi passenger car at the spring show at Lakeland Community College. I installed body mounted couplers and replaced the truck mounting pins with brass #6 screws. Next on the agenda is weighting the car, blackening the trucks and interior lighting. In the mean time 'Altoona' is a welcome addition to my Pennsylvania RR passenger train consist.

NYC #6111

This little Mantua GP-20 locomotive, NYC #6111, has been on the layout for going on 8-years. It is equipped with a Digitrax DH123 decoder and runs is a very smooth, quiet, runner. Its major drawback was the 'bonfire in the cab' caused by a poorly located headlight bulb. This past March I finaly took action and replaced the incandescent bulb with a 3 mm LED and a light sheild. It is shown here on its test run with the new headlight configuration. The operation was a success I think.


Several years ago I purchased an IHC kit Stock No. 2086, with 2 gliders and 4 airplanes from a local hobby shop. A couple of months ago I built one of the tow planes for a thread on another site and placed it above the layout as a conversation piece. I added the pilot figure and a disk of clear styrene to simulate the propeller arc. It has been a real hit with my youngest grandson and adds some color to the upper reaches of the layout.


This Athearn BB kit 62' tank car is a recent addition to the BRVRR's collection of rolling stock. The has resided in the closet for several years and was just recently rediscovered. I added a couple of ounces of extra weight inside of the tank body for better tracking and Kaydee couplers. To improve the tracking even more I installed Proto metal wheels with a little Rust Brown acrylic paint on them to take off the shine. I'll weather the rest of the car when I find a pro-type to use as a pattern.

BRV 1116

After long deliberation I decided to change the name of my layout town site from Berea to Black River. The change will require many small changes in the future but will be time well spent. It will also allow me more 'creative license' from the prototype. In the thumbnail at right, BRVRR F-7 #1116 waits at the renamed station for a crew change.

UP 1500

At left is UP Observation Car #1500. The car is a recent acquisition, manufactured by IHC that was much too light and unreliable because of the 'push pin' mountings for the trucks. I disassembled and weighted the car with sheet lead. I mounted the trucks with #6-screws and removed the truck mounted couplers. I installed a body mounted Kaydee coupler and gear box on the front. I left the original non-functioning coupler on the round end. Next, I intend to install metal wheels and basic interior lighting. Another project!

PRR 9600

Pennsylvania RR ALCO FA-1 #9600 is a Walthers Trainline locomotive that has resided in the closet for quite some time. I finally took it out and installed a TCS T-1 decoder. It is a welcome addition to the BRVRR's Pennsylvania locomotive roster. Now all I have to do is find a powered B-unit to go with it.

BRV 1116

I finally got around to finishing the glass tinting job on the remainder of my Santa Fe streamlined consist. The job required the disassembly of each of the cars. And each car had to be masked to prevent overspray from damaging the exterior finish. The general process and the materials used are discussed behind the thumbnail of the vista dome car on the How'd You Do That page.

BRV 1116 & 1445

For a very long time the only representative of the Black River Valley Railroad was BRVRR F-7 #1116. I had promised myself that one day there would be more rolling stock to represent the layout's 'home' road. The thumbnail at right will lead to a short photo essay and description of how I constructed a new caboose for the railroad.

Union Pacific #1469 is shown here on its DC test run at the head of a short excursion train on the BRVRR approaching Black River (formerly Berea) Station. The locomotive is an Athearn Ready-to-Run that I picked up at the Lakeland Train Show this past winter. I have a Soundtraxx decoder and speaker that I intend to install in the near future. While doing the installation I plan on putting out the fire in the cab, installing handrails, grab-irons, MU-hoses and a few other details to bring the loco up to BRVRR standards.

The Farmer's Market shown at left is a combination of the existing Tourist Scene and portions of Woodlands Scenics Farmers Market Scene. I added the fruit and vegetable display, a couple of extra vehicles and a few human figures to give the scene more life. Although crowded, the scene works for me.

The thumbnail at right leads to my Team Track scene at night. I added a couple of light fixtures to the ends of the crane gantry to brighten the night-time scene. The changes helped but I think I need a couple more pole mounted lights.

Here are two views of my lighting project. At left is a view of the trackside loading dock and personnel access on the north and west sides of the Redwing Flour Mill. I added the light above the personnel door and installed another under the awning above the loading dock. The photo at right shows the light on the west side personnel door again and the light above the truck loading dock on the south side of the building. Together the new lights brightened the scene considerably. Maybe a couple of pole mounted lights in the truck yard are still in order.

I intended to add several signs to the sides of the Farmers Union grain elevator and warehouse for some time now. During the past week I finally took action. I have been collecting the various signs posted by tomkat-13 on the Model Railroader Forum for years. All of the signs used on the elevator and adjacent warehouse/feed store came from him. The thumbnail at left shows the signs and their locations on the grain elevator itself. The thumbnail at right does the same for the warehouse. Just click on the thumbnail of choice for a large image.

The Pennsylvania RR RPO #342 at left is part of a six-car heavy weight consist I purchased used at a trains show in February of this year. Except for needing a few new couplers the cars were in remarkably good condition. I think they are either Rivrossi or IHC cars since they are so light, have truck mounted couplers and have plastic wheel sets. The cars track well and look good behind my grandsons Bachmann Spectrum Pennsy K-4. The Performance of the loco will be improved when I get around to applying a little "Bull Frog Snot" to improve traction.

At right is the thumbnail for Southern Pacific Combine #3050. This car and its brothers, a couple of coaches and an observation car, are all Bachmann Spectrum models. They were purchased used at a train show at Lakeland Community College in early February 2012. All of the cars have suffered from rough handling and some of the diaphragms are missing, but the price was right. I have had to fill in some oversized holes and install new coupler pockets but the cars track well and look really good with my grandson's GS-4 Southern Pacific locomotive. Next will be replacement diaphragms, proper weighting and lighting.

Southern Pacific GS-4 #4449, at left, is a Bachmann locomotive that belongs to my oldest grandson. It was a Christmas present in 2004. To please him I installed the guts from an IHC steam sound car in the tender. Although it produced only white noise it satisfied the boy at the time. With the acquisition of a Southern Pacific passenger consist at a recent train show, it was time to upgrade the sound.

I removed the sound car components and installed a Soundtraxx DSD-101LC sound decoder and a 1-inch speaker in the tender. I fabricated and installed soft brass electrical pick-ups, thumbnail at right, on the underside of the tender and wired them to the decoder. The hardest part was isolating the motor and installing the electrical leads to and from the decoder.

When 4449 was placed on the track with its short consist of heavyweight passenger cars, there was a lot of slippage. After checking all the wheels on the cars and the locomotive and lubricating everything without much improvement I decided to try a little "Bull Frog Snot" on the locomotive's drivers to see if it would improve the loco's adhesion. The photo at left shows the result of the "Bull Frog Snot" application on the rear drivers. I'm happy to say there was a dramatic improvement in the performance and now SP GS-4 #4449 happily travels the BRVRR layout with its heavyweight consist without noticeable slippage.

I purchased this Proto 2000 SW8/900/800 loco in NYC livery from a vendor at the NMRA Div. 4 train show in Berea, OH, on October 1, 2011. The price was just too good to pass up. It is shown here during its DC test run. The gearing is a little gummy so they will need cleaning and lubrication. It still needs some detailing and I'm not fond of the handrails on the hood. A little tinkering and a decoder will make this little gem into a welcome addition to the BRVRR.

A new photo of the West End of the BRVRR layout. There are not many notable changes, but I was trying for a better image of the down town. I have a bunch of new trees that are looking for a place on the railroad. Any suggestions.

I have been working on a small repair scene near the Farmers Union grain elevator. Shockers Electric is replacing a broken ventilation fan for one of the grain bins. To do so they needed a truck with some kind of crane or hoisting equipment. To give them one, I used an Athearn White Freightliner tractor kit that has been on the shelf for some time. I shortened the chassis by removing the rear axle and then primed and painted the cab with Testor's Flat Dove Grey. The cab and chassis are shown after basic assembly in the thumbnail at left. I fabricated the truck body from some .030-inch styrene I had on hand. When the glue was dry I painted it with the same Dove Grey I had used on the cab. I built the hoist from some styrene shapes and painted them with Testor's silver. When the truck bed had dried I applied a light coat of artist's acrylic grey and streaked it with brown. A Sharpie with a fine point provided the seams between the boards in the truck bed. I made a 'broken' fan assembly from a few pieces from a Walther's Roof Top Ventilation Kit and painted it silver. I mounted the fan in the truck bed and installed the dunnage 'wedges' made from a few small pieces of scrap balsa. A couple of figures from my 'People' box give the scene a little life.

After building Santa Fe FP45 #5945 I had every intention of weathering #5941 to match. Well, I finally got around to it. I removed the window glazing where I could and masked off the remainder. Then I applied some Bragdon dry powders to the body shell and the trucks together with some lightly brushed Floquil rust and oily black paints. I sealed the surfaces with a couple of light coats of Dulcote and then reinstalled the window glazing. The results are shown in the thumbnail at right. Just 'click' for a larger view. To see how I built Santa Fe FP45 #5945 go to the How'd You Do That page.

As a part of my layout beautification project I finally filled in the last area of painted ground on the layout. The area around Black River (formerly Berea) Tower has long needed some attention. I finally got around to improving the ground cover with Woodland Scenics mixed green foam. I added a couple of sections of roadway, two rail crossings and several signs. The roadway is made from heavy artist's board painted with flat black latex. The RR Crossing and Stop signs are printed on heavy paper and glued to posts of 1/8-inch brass. After the photo at left was taken I painted some Railroad Junk from a Preiser grouping and placed some barrels near the building and a few paint cans and small crates under the stairs to the tower. A few pieces of Woodland Scenics coarse foam for foliage and the scene was done. Big improvement I think.

I have wanted to stripe the front and rear of my NYC RDC#53 for quite awhile. The arrival of the needed decals from Microscale meant that I had to take action. After removing the body shell, removing the window glazing and taping of the top and sides I sprayed a coat of reefer white Testor's paint on the front and rear panels of the body shell. Once the paint had dried I applied black 8-inch (scale) stripes from Microscale sheet #91152 to each end. It took a little fiddling to get the right match on the entry doors, but I finally worked it out. Next I applied a few strips of 8-inch wide red barricade stripes to complete the design. A few touches with red and black Testor's enamel finished the stripe application. A liberal application of Bragdon Enterprises weathering powders and a couple of coats of Dulcote finished the job. For a larger image of my RDC click the thumbnail photograph at right.

I am always looking for heavyweight and streamlined Athearn passenger cars. The slightly shorter cars look better on my railroad than true scale cars. The NYC had thousands of baggage cars that were often used as mail/express cars. This NYC Baggage car started as an undecorated kit. I painted the body Pullman Green, the top black and added decals from Microscale. A coat of Testor's Dull Cote sealed the whole thing together. The interior is lighted with a single bulb with wound wire pick-ups applied to two axles on each truck. I use a piece of plain white copy paper inside of the shell to diffuse the light a little. With the addition of Kadee #5 couplers the car was complete. A worthy addition to my passenger car fleet.

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