Here's a local freight that's known as much for its caboose as for its motive power - the Norfolk Southern local operated between Sandusky and Bellevue, Ohio, on an as-needed basis. And with NS beginning to do away with caboose operations, this aspect of the PM Prototype could be in jeopardy by the time you read these words. Thanks to modeling license, we can side-step the march of progress and continue to offer the Sandusky local, caboose and all, on our pikes.
Sandusky and Bellevue are well known for their own merits as railroad towns. Once the host of a four-track New York Central main line, Sandusky still feels the weight of almost a hundred passing Conrail trains a day. The Great Lakes port at Sandusky Bay, with its rail-water transfer operations, attracted the likes of Pennsy, Central, Nickel Plate and Baltimore & Ohio. Bellevue achieved fame as a division point on the Nickel Plate, especially when fast 2-8-4 Berkshires withstood diesels in the late 1950's. Today it is the site of a major yard on the Norfolk & Western side of the NS.
It is the NS, in fact, by virtue of its 10-mile line between Sandusky and Bellevue, that actually provides the majority of the local service in Sandusky. There are the coal docks, a Ford Motor Co. parts plant, the New Departure Hyatt Bearing plant and several smaller businesses. Several NS coal trains run in and out of a rather large yard on a daily basis, with hoppers of various N&W ancestry, Southern hoppers and CSX unit train cars making up most of the traffic. But it is the local freight, with 86-foot hi-cube auto parts cars, tank cars, and some general merchandise cars that serves the local industries and provides visual variety.
The head-end power is usually a lone N&W GP40 or one of the many GP30's that roam the area. These are the hi-hood units for which the N&W and Southern are known, and the drawbacks of modeling a black paint scheme are offset by the modeling challenge and operational variety involved in providing hi-nose power in a low-nose world.
But it is the caboose that has attracted us to the Sandusky local. Just about every type of N&W caboose at one time or another has been part of the train, but No. 542802 has been the usual crummy. This old fellow happens to be of Wabash ancestry and is not your typical cabin. Its main-carbody is similar to the long-time Santa Fe caboose offered by Athearn while the cupola is streamlined and almost Pennsy-ish in appearance. This particular caboose has been "hanging around" Sandusky for the last four years and the last time we looked was still making the Sandusky to Bellevue (and back) train several times a week.
A crew is called to the engine house where they board the assigned locomotive and switch a few tracks over to tie onto the caboose. It's usually early morning and they then spend time assembling the train before heading south. All the switching is normally done with the caboose coupled to the engine as the train is assembled from the rear. When all is in order, the locomotive backs off from the train, drops the caboose beyond a switch and then moves forward and runs around the assembled cars. It backs down on the cars and keeps pushing until the caboose is coupled. The train skirts the yard on an outside track and heads south down the single track line (former Pennsylvania) to Bellevue.
A few miles to the south is a now deserted grain elevator and few miles beyond it a large gravel quarry. Sometimes the local picks up or sets out at the quarry. In just another 10 minutes or so the local passes the Bellevue roundhouse that stabled those S-class NKP Berkshires. Past the roundhouse is the "west" end of the large, modern Bellevue yard. The train is backed into the yard where the usual shuffling of cars takes place. It may be a matter of hours or an entire day before the counterpart northbound local is ready for the return trip.
This is an easy train for the HO modeler to put together in terms of expense and required modeling skills. The motive power can be a low-nose Bev-Bel GP30 (there are times when one of the N&W's ex-NKP low-nose GP30's is employed). However, if the true atmosphere is to be captured, you should use a hi-nose GP30 (see the Sept.-Oct. '83 PM article on how to install a high nose on a GP30) or a hi-nose GP40 (which can be modeled by adding the high nose from the Atlas GP38 to the lownose Atlas GP40, although Canadian Prototype Replicas has announced an up-coming hi-nose kit for just such a conversion). Rolling stock includes the standard Athearn (86-foot hi-cube) and Roundhouse quick assembly cars. The caboose, however, is another story. If you are to model ex-Wabash No. 542802, refer to the Jan. 1984 RAILROAD MODEL CRAFTSMAN. Otherwise, an Athearn bay window caboose can be modified to represent its N&W counterpart, or an Athearn extended vision cab can be utilized by narrowing the cupola.
|Models given are HO scale.|
|Locomotives: Bev-Bel GP30 (should receive high-hood modification), Atlas No. 7025 (undecorated) highhood GP38* (can be used as is, but is used mainly to supply high nose for GP40), Atlas GP40 (requires high hood modification).|
|Boxcars: Athearn No. 1974 (undecoroted) and No. 1980 (Norfolk & Western) 86-foot hi-cube boxcars and No. 1985 (undecorated) 86-foot hi-cube boxcars, Roundhouse No. 1785 (Norfolk & Western) 5-foot hi-cube boxcar.|
|Caboose: Athearn No. 1285 (undecorated) bay window caboose (requires modification).|
|*Denotes equipment out of production, availability may be limited.|