A short line of distinction

I HAVE been creating different routes in Trainz for quite awhile now, but I wanted to find an actual railroad I could model in full scale that had an interesting history and would have scenic beauty at the same time. By full scale, I mean that the route would not be shortened from the actual distance, and would run in real time.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the short lines of the New England region, especially Maine. When I was a young man I worked in Maine during summers, clearing woods, painting barns, and driving tractors. I felt the Maine people and their railroads had a spirit of the pioneer in them that still exists today.

After lots of searching I found a railroad that was perfect for my modeling project. The railroad is called the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad and it was chartered in Waldo County, Maine in 1867. Amazingly, it is still running today as a scenic railroad.

There are many short lines that once existed or still exist that would make an excellent modeling project, and I hope this article can help you to research and create a model of your own favorite road. [Photo courtesy of Joseph Raymond.]

Today we have a great storehouse of information available from the Internet, which I used extensively to gather the information I needed. My first stop on the web was the search engine called Google (http://www.google.com). Google has an excellent, easy-to-use system. Just write in key phrases or words and let Google find links for those words that may lead you to sites on the web that will have the information you need.

After a bit of searching I was directed to a site called The NERAIL New England Photography Archive (http://photos.nerail.org). This web site is full of railroad pictures from all over New England. One of the choices on the menu of the site was to “Browse by Railroad.” When I picked that option I was shown a list of railroads by name in alphabetical order from A to W. What great names some railroads had. There was the “Aroostock Valley Railroad,” “Billerica & Biddeford Railroad” and the “Conway Scenic Railway” amongst the many railroads, large and small, listed there. When I saw the “Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad” on the list of railroads, I just had to take a look. And what a look it was! There before me were 17 pages of photographs dealing with the rolling stock and history of a great little railroad that ran through the Maine hills and woods from the docks of Belfast, Maine to Burnham Junction where it joined with the Maine Central Railroad. The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad Logo at the head of this article is one of the pictures I found there. It was seen on a car at the railroad, and photographed on September of 2001 by Joseph Raymond. Mr. Raymond has graciously given me permission to use his photograph in this article, for which I am deeply grateful.

As I investigated further, I was able to visit another web site dedicated to the history of this little gem of a railroad, The Railroad Photographic History Museum (http://cprr.org/museum/bmlrr). Written by Bruce C. Cooper, this online history is chock full of historical information about the B&MLRR and the Central Pacific Railroad. Mr. Cooper has amassed photographs, copies of schedules, tickets, maps and other items in addition to something I wish every historian would include in a history of a railroad. He put in lots of legwork and included the detailed track plans of just about every station stop and siding along the way. These details were invaluable to me when I laid the tracks for my model of the railroad.

My final step in getting a picture of the B&MLRR for modeling purposes was to look at topographical maps detailing the terrain along the route. Once again, I was able to do this by searching the Internet. I found an archive of historical topographical maps at the University of New Hampshire’s Government Document Department (http://docs.unh.edu/nhtopos) web site that included topographical maps of the Belfast and Moosehead Lake area. The detail of these maps is excellent and is a great assist to me as I build the terrain details. The maps below are examples of the information that can be found on these historical maps. They are of Belfast, where the line starts, and of Burnham, where the line meets the Maine Central. I want to thank the University of New Hampshire for allowing me to use their material in this article. Additional Topographical information can be found at http://www.topozone.com and http://terraserver-usa.com.

Finally, I used my own topographical map program, Topo USA, which is sold by the Delorme Company (http://www.delorme.com). This program is very powerful and comes with excellent measuring aids and the ability to generate 3D maps. The Delorme Company has generously given me permission to use two images from their program in this article.

topo 1

topo 2

Map images courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.

A short history of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad

The B&MLRR runs a distance of 33 miles along a single-track line going up from sea level at Belfast, Maine over the hills to Burnham Junction, where it meets the Maine Central Railroad. The line includes intermediate stations along the way.

map 1

Map image courtesy of the Delorme Company.

There was a time when the B&MLRR belonged to the Maine Central Railroad. Some early maps show the B&MLRR trackage as Maine Central owned. The railroad also had close ties to the Bangor & Aroostock Railroad (BAR), and purchased locomotives that had already seen service on the BAR. The first locomotive the B&MLRR purchased from the BAR was an 1893 “American” 4-4-0 Manchester steam locomotive. It was purchased in 1927 and given the number 16. The railroad ran two 4-4-0 locomotives until 1940. In 1940 they upgraded their steam power with 1901 “Ten-wheeler” 4-6-0 Manchester locomotives numbered 17, 18, 19 and 20. In 1946 the railroad purchased their first GE 70-ton diesel and phased out the steam locomotives.

In 1940, when their operation was at its peak, the B&MLRR had for freight operations two cabooses, one flatcar, one boxcar and one refrigerator car. Other freight cars entered and left the line from the interchange with the Maine Central Railroad at Burnham Junction. For passenger service the line had three coaches and three mail/baggage cars. For maintenance of the railroad and for keeping the tracks clear during those snow-filled Maine winters, the line had a track inspection car, a flanger car, and a snowplow. And that just may be the sum total of cars the railroad ever had.

During World War II the railroad was very busy helping with the war effort by shuttling farm goods and dairy products to Burnham for countrywide distribution. The railroad fell onto hard times following WWII and almost didn't survive, but the purchase of the GE 70-ton units improved the railroad's efficiency, enabling it to continue operation. Today the railroad operates primarily as a scenic railroad, using two GE 70-ton diesels and a Swedish 4-6-0 locomotive pulling Swedish-made coaches. She’s a tough little line and she’s been through a lot over the years. The local townsfolk affectionately called her the “Broke and Mended.” I felt that she would be a good line to model in detail.

Trainz rolling stock

Currently there are no available models of the Manchester steam locomotives, but there are engines that can approximate their look. For my model of the railroad I chose to use Prowler’s 2-8-0 D&RGW locomotive, which is standard issue in TRS2004. I used the tender from Marlboro’s Union Pacific 4-6-2 P-10 that I lettered for the B&MLRR. I have lettered a second tender for the Maine Central because I discovered the Maine Central used a 2-8-0 on their line. [Note: this article was written before the recent release by Gary Hoorn of a generic 4-4-0 "American," which might serve as a source for the early Manchesters. Gary’s recent 4-6-0 “Ten-wheeler might also be a good candidate for the early days of the road. -- Ed.]

bml 1

The GE 70-ton diesel was simulated by using the NASA Alco S2 by Gumbytrain, available from the Trainz Download Station (kuid:52779:1). I used my Gimp paint program (http://www.gimp.org/windows/) to letter it for the B&MLRR.

bml 2

The Swedish 4-6-0 locomotive is not available, but a close match is Jetstreamsky’s 4-6-0 Royal Scot LMS Black (kuid:4468:100), available at the Trainz Download Station. I was able to download the Swedish passenger cars from the Swedish Train Workshops (http://www.stw.se). I used the Brown SJ Passenger Cars.

bml 3

bml 4

The snowplow is by Magicland and can be downloaded from the Trainz Download Station (kuid:58843:1508). The remaining freight cars were created using Paint Shed.

Building the model of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad

I am now in the process of creating a model of the B&MLRR route and have completed laying down the tracks. What is important to me is that this will be a full-scale accurate model of the railroad. This means the route will run the actual length of the original, which is 33 miles. No need for a fast clock here! If the trip took one hour in real life, it will take the same hour to make the trip on the computer. When the route is finished I am hoping that I can run trains based on the original schedule on a real-time basis.

Just how big will a full-scale model of a route 33 miles long be in terms of Trainz baseboards? The first thing I did was to make a quick estimate on the amount of baseboards the route would need. Using the ruler option in Surveyor with the setting at full scale, a baseboard is 2,389 feet long. I calculated that it would take 2.2 baseboards to cover the length of one mile. In addition, I would think in terms of square miles for each mile of route, which would be 4.4 baseboards for each running mile. This gave me an estimated total of 145 baseboards. That is a lot of baseboards, but not beyond anything that can be done.

map 2

Courtesy of the Delorme Company.

The next thing I did was use my Delorme Topo USA program to lay out the baseboards on the route. The program has a drawing option that lets me create baseboards in scale on the Delorme map and follow the route. Using the program to lay out the baseboards I was able to reduce the baseboard usage to 136 baseboards. However, as I actually build the route I am making adjustments up or down based on the scenery I want to include or not. The above image is of the Topo USA map with the simulated baseboards laid over it covering a middle section of the route.

Each redlined square represents one Trainz baseboard. Using the Delorme program you can zoom in on the map and get additional detail from each baseboard area. At this point I have completed laying the track from Belfast to Burnham Junction. I used a measuring tool in the Delorme program to establish the points where the tracks crossed the edge of each baseboard. Then when I worked in Surveyor I used the ruler option to mark the same points on the real baseboards. Baseboard by baseboard I laid in the track from one end of the route to the other.

After the route was completed, as seen in the image from Trainzmap below, I raised the track to the proper elevations. The process took me about one month to complete. I am now in the process of bringing the terrain up to meet the track elevations and adding detail as I go along the route. Belfast is now nearing completion as seen in the following screen shots.

map 3

The completed route.



The route is full of interesting scenic areas. There are steep hills, rivers, lakes, ponds and even swamps in addition to the small villages along the route. Thanks to the excellent detail I have been able to get from the sources of information I used, I will be able to create a decent model of a grand little railroad. I have no schedule set for the completion of the route but I am enjoying building it. It’s a great winter project for an old retired geezer like me!

I hope that this article has given you enjoyment and will help you find the resources you need to create your own gem of a route.


Article and screen shots ©2004 John D'Angelo. All rights reserved.