Erie & Pittsburgh Branch Model Railroad
Featuring news and information on my future model railroad and its prototype. Stay tuned for more!
Click here for layout photos and construction commentary. (Photos last updated March 8, 2008.)
The Pennsylvania Railroad's Erie & Pittsburgh Branch ran 100 miles between New Castle and Erie, Pennsylvania. This line was one of two routes the PRR had into the city of Erie. The tracks ran north-south (although by timetable it was east-west) through the Shenango River Valley, roughly paralleling the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line. At Girard Junction, the E&P had trackage rights over the New York Central's Buffalo-Chicago main to Dock Junction in Erie, approximately 14 miles. Here the E&P diverged and went to Erie's bayfront and ended at State Street, where it met the PRR's Philadelphia & Erie line.
I have drawn up a diagram showing scheduled freight service on the E&P for the year I am going to model: 1969, during the early Penn Central era.
The Track Diagrams page has a couple of E&P track diagrams.
Design and Construction
The railroad is being built in phases. Phase 1 is currently under construction and will include the PY&A main from Wampum Junction through Moravia Yard to Cross Cut, the wye at Castle Tower (greatly compressed), and the E&P up through the north end of New Castle. A hidden staging yard will represent the PY&A mains going towards Conway and Youngstown.
Phase 1 plans
These are slightly dated. New ones will be coming soon.
- Lower level drawing: Staging yard. Adobe Acrobat file (111 K)
- Upper level drawing: PY&A and E&P mains and Moravia Yard. Adobe Acrobat file (143 K)
- Upper level drawing - revised: Updated version of the previous drawing as of December 2004. Showing how the double track has been extended through the station area at New Castle. Adobe Acrobat file (40 K)
Phase 2 and beyond will take the railroad through Wheatland, Farrell, Sharon, Sharpsville, and Greenville and into the north end staging yard. These two phases are roughly designed, but design will start in earnest once Phase 1 is complete.
Chief Architect Fred Lotte designed both levels of Phase 1 using CAD software. This provides detailed drawings and measurements for construction.
Construction began in March 1999 but quickly stalled due to a lack of resources. After standing idle for a long time, construction resumed in earnest during the fall of 2002. Fellow modeler, laborer, and plywood cutting expert Tim Krogg, along with Blaine Hays, Fred, and myself, make up the construction team. The staging yard benchwork was completed and the first rail was laid on December 1, 2002.
Track in the staging yard was completed and tested in June 2003. Upper-level benchwork construction began shortly thereafter, with the benchwork for the Castle wye installed on August 3, 2003, and the riverbed for the Mahoning River bridge two weeks later. By August 31, plywood roadbed was temporarily in place through Moravia Yard. After it was permanently installed, the roadbed for the entire E&A main line was built. Installation of the Mahoning River bridge was finished on December 14, 2003. Tracklaying for the E&A main and Moravia Yard was completed on January 19, 2004, and wiring is in progress. The cabinet for the control panel was finished on January 25 and the panel was mounted on February 1. We were struggling with getting some of the manually-controlled turnouts properly installed, but I think we finally figured it out. See the photo pages to see how we did it.
History was made on March 7 as the first train ran a complete loop through the staging yard and across the main line under its own power. Both main lines are operational. As wiring continues in the yard and on the spurs to MVS&G, all tracks are being tested by a variety of equipment to find any problems with the wiring or trackwork.
As of May 2004, facia board was installed between Wampum Junction and Castle. Meanwhile, turnouts were being wired up to the stationary DCC turnout decoders, and the Castle control panel is being populated and wired.
Benchwork construction (except for trim and facia) on the E&P in New Castle was completed on January 16, 2005, and trackage on the main between Castle wye and the hole in the wall (leading to Phase 2) was completed on March 20, 2005.
With the exception of one spur, track and wiring are complete on Phase 1. We had an operating session on December 17, 2005, as a shakedown session before starting scenery construction. Little progress was made on the layout during 2006 and early 2007 due to other priorities, especially during the traditional model railroading season during the winter (such as my "repaint two room and install carpet through most of the house project "). During the fall of 2007, progress started up again, mostly in the form of structure and rolling stock construction. Scenery progress began in earnest in 2008. See the photo pages for more details.
Facts, Figures, and Standards
- Layout control: Digitrax Super Chief DCC system
- Wiring: Power buses use 14 gauge wire. Jumpers and feeders are either 20 or 24 gauge wire.
- Track components: Staging yard uses Atlas Code 100 flextrack and Peco Electrofrog turnouts. The upper level uses Atlas Code 83 flextrack with Walthers Code 83 turnouts.
- Turnout control: Turnouts within the limits of an interlocking are powered with Circuitron Tortoise switch machines, controlled from a central tower panel using NCE Switch-It stationary DCC decoders. Hand-thrown turnouts are powered by manual pushrods connected to a slide switch mounted on a bracket under the points.
- Signaling: Oregon Rail Supply PRR position-light signals will be used trackside, controlled by a custom circuit using a Digitrax DS54 stationary decoder, Digitrax BD-1 block detectors, and Atlas Snap Relays. (Only the two interlockings, Castle and Wampum Junction, will have working signals.)
- No double-slip turnouts. Anywhere.
- No permanent magnet uncouplers on the main line.
- All main line and staging yard tracks need proper vertical clearance to support double-stack cars and hi cubes.
You may ask: why worry about vertical clearance for double-stack cars on a late-1960s layout? Simple: I still have some modern equipment left over from when I was modeling the modern era, and I want to have a place to run it if I want to.
Al Buchan writing a book on the E&P. (I am assisting Al any way I can.) If you have any photos or information to contribute, please contact Al at email@example.com and let him know. Thanks!