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Thread: The Silver Lines Electrified West Virginia Division

  1. #1
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    Default The Silver Lines Electrified West Virginia Division

    Hello folks, welcome to this new little thread.

    If you peruse the USA Pics thread often you'll note I've been throwing lots of photos of my Silverlines railroad in there, all with captions about either the wires or West Virginia or similar. I thought I might as well make a little thread to dump those photos and others, like work-in-progress or more scenery oriented photos. I figure other things like ideas, lore, reskins, all fit in here as well. If by chance I give a copy of the route to anyone else they're free to post pictures as well.

    So a question those who haven't seen any of the aforementioned photos & posts might have - or even those who do know what I'm talking about already - would be, what the hell is this whole thing?

    Let's go over a little backstory, and then we'll look at other route things.

    The Silver Lines Electrified Division - History, Part 1: The Tracks & Their Owners



    In the late 1800s, the Pennsylvania Railroad's ever-expanding rail empire brought them into West Virginia. Deep coal riches were found throughout much of the state, and the PRR was highly interested in hooking into them. The problem was that by this time, nearly all of the decent routes through the mountains had been taken by competitors. After much deliberation and argumentation, the railroad brute-forced its way through the state. It would take extraordinarily steep grades, tight curves, long tunnels, and some of the most unusual construction projects - all in order to get into the now famous West Virginian coal pockets.



    In all, the route encompassed approximately 230 miles. Beginning at Parkersburg, the line ran south via a number of towns, including Gauley Bridge, St. Marys, Ellenboro, Harrisville, Smithville, Clay, and more, until it reached a pair of tiny towns known as Boomer & Alloy. Here, the line split into two pieces - one westward towards Charleston, approximately 30 miles, and one southbound towards Beckley, approximately 45 miles. The route is thus divided into three corridors - the "Northern line," which covers all of Parkersburg to Boomer, the "Charleston line," which covers exactly what you'd expect (Boomer to Charleston), and finally, the "Southern extension," from Boomer to Beckley. The southern extension is regarded as one of the most ridiculous routes ever built by the PRR, and indeed may be #1.

    While the PRR enjoyed success for a number of years with this route, and indeed had recouped the massive construction costs thanks to the plethora of coal mines, the railroad soon saw the line begin to fall apart. Once the Great Depression hit, mines began to close and fewer trains moved over the rails. Passenger traffic dwindled and general freight, already a more rarely seen thing, dropped even further. One of the larger mines at Carbon also closed down at this time, a huge blow to traffic. A nasty passenger accident also further reduced the PRR's good standing in the region.

    A pair of PRR's venerable I1sa's depart from the depot at Chloe, where they had stopped for a brief crew change and updated orders.

    Screaming up the steep St. Marys Grade

    Wartime traffic helped, as did the post-war boom, but these were only temporary. By the mid 1950s, there was little traffic on the line and even less attention paid towards its maintenance. Seeing as competitors had routes, and easier ones at that, between the major cities, the PRR sought to abandon the line but was promptly denied. Communities along the route would be left completely isolated, with hardly even a dirt road to connect them in some cases. A handful of industries were also in operation here, and it wouldn't do for them to be cut off. Instead, the PRR put the line up for sale.

    Nobody wanted it. The B&O was only interested in a few snippets of the most northern lines along the Ohio, and the C&O was well-set with their own route alongside the Kanawha. Any other potential buyers looked at the gradients and just flat out said no.

    With desperation setting in, the PRR made a case to the Silver Lines Railroad.

    Initial examinations didn't look good - the general disrepair combined with the steep grades, long tunnels, and curvy nature of the route made the railroad apprehensive. However, some friends in the mining industry let it be known that they had big plans in an area down by the Southern Extension, which got the railroad more interested. In addition, the company had been considering electrification as a way to regain high power in fewer locomotives and a long-term money-saver. With grades as steep as these, it would be a prime candidate for the wires.

    Countless hours, studies, and research was put into the idea, and in 1967, the Silver Lines made the Pennsy an offer. All 230 miles for hardly more than scrap value. After the initial near offensiveness of the lowball washed away, the PRR asked for a higher price. After some shrewd negotiations, the companies landed right smack dab in the middle - at hardly more than scrap value.

    Mere weeks after the Pennsylvania merged with the New York Central to form the dreaded Penn Central, the contract was finalized and the Silver Lines had gained ownership of the entire route.

    SD38 #3006 is brand new to the railroad, a PRR GP9 has yet to get its PC markings, and a large number of old PRR hoppers have been temporarily returned to service. Dozens of these cars have sat dormant in yards throughout the route for years now, but with traffic on the rise, old hoppers have been pressed back into service. These cars would quickly begin to disappear from the roster as new 100-ton coal hoppers arrived to replace them, but for the first few years, they could be spotted across the route. By the time the Little Joes arrived, all but 6 were gone. June, 1968.

    Until 1970, the Penn Central had trackage rights as it closed out its pre-existing contracts with a few industries along the West Virginia line, and motors could be seen tackling the route from time to time. As well, they would occasionally join SLRR units, as the monochrome railroad had been continually short on power for a while now, a problem this new addition only further added on to. Even after 1970, Penn Central motors found their way onto the line.





    As the new owner of the line quickly found out, the heavy grades and cargo required an absurd amount of power to move over the mountains. Almost immediately, the plans to electrify and replace the half-a-dozen diesel consists were sketched out, and in a few short years, the face of the route would change completely.





    Coming up next, the history behind the electrification and its motors...

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    The Silver Lines Electrified Division - History, Part 2: The Motors

    It's no secret that a railroad needs motive power to operate. Silver Lines has had a great number of locomotives on its roster, but they're spread out across the entire railroad network. This new addition to the railroad necessitated far more locomotives than most other divisions required. While the railroad was plenty familiar with steep gradients, this route trumped all of them. The long 2% of Big Springs Loop, the 2.5% near Mt. Zion, and the king grade: a 3.8% on the Independence Grade - just to name a few. The only way to cross these grades is with large amounts of power.

    Thankfully, there was a solution. Electric motive power has a vast number of advantages over diesel and steam, including higher horsepower and tractive effort, no need for carrying fuel, reduced operating and maintenance costs, and temporary bursts of additional power, to name a few. The only issue was the overhead cost - literally. Constructing overhead wires was expensive, but when considering the benefits long term, it made the most sense. Spend money now to save money later.

    The question became this: what motors do we use? There are few electric operations in the United States, much less freight operations, but there was one very clear railroad to look at - one on the other side of the continent. Mere weeks after acquiring the WV line, the railroad reached out to the Milwaukee Road.

    Between 1968 and 1970, the SLRR & MILW would communicate ideas and negotiate. It didn't take long for General Electric to join the discussion, as they had been trying to convince the Milwaukee not to abandon their own electrification. With GE and SLRR pushing for the continuation of electrified operations, GE could stand to profit in a major way - selling power to both railroads and having not just one, but two railroads to use as advertising to convince others of electric motors. The ASEA of Sweden would also be roped in, with their own plans working with MILW and EMD having fallen off, they sought a new idea, and this seemed promising.

    In 1970, contracts were finalized and preliminary designs were ready to go. The old Milwaukee electrics would be sold to SLRR for their own rebuilding programs, while GE would manufacture new electrics to supplement and replace the old ones on the Milwaukee, then later offer them to the Silver Lines. Meanwhile, ASEA, partnered with GE, would supply and assist in construction of a brand new 25kv, 60hz electrified system to be used by both railroads. This would replace the 3000V DC of the Milwaukee and act as the first wires for Silver Lines.

    A month and a half later, the first of the old "Boxcabs," sometimes known as GE Motors, were dragged to their new home. They would be rebuilt by the newly erected shops at Boaz, West Virginia - the new headquarters for all things electric. There, they would be rebuilt and revamped. Boxcabs in their prime were excellent haulers - nearly impossible to kill, excellent power output, and were very capable of navigating steeper grades and tight curves. By 1970, the Boxcabs had deteriorated heavily, and the SLRR sought to return them to their former glory. New welded frames, upgraded traction motors, electrical equipment upgraded to handle 25kvAC, and plenty more parts to replace them. It was an expensive rebuild, an impractical one at that, but with no other freight electric cataloged by GE or anyone else, they were what the railroad got.

    In 1972, the first GE Motors began to leave the shops and start hauling coal.

    E13, recently turned out by the Silver Lines' Boaz Shops, hauls empties around the curve at Bentree, WV. The curve is tight and the grade the train comes off of is simply massive, letting these motors exercise their regenerative braking to the fullest.

    The Milwaukee had begun wholesale scrapping of the GE Motors the previous decade, but 39 motors still existed in various states of repair and disrepair in 1969. These 39 motors were organized by SLRR into 13 locomotives - four EF-1s, two EF-2s, three EF-3s, and four EF-5s. Respectively, each class used up eight, six, nine, and sixteen cabs. The 13 locomotives were christened with new numbers in October of 1972, when all 39 cabs were completed and sorted into their new classes.


    E4 is a particularly strange Boxcab. The EF-1 was damaged while acting as a mid-train DPU, but thankfully the damage was light and easily repaired by the Boaz Shops. For reasons still not really known, the shops ended up painting chevron stripes onto both the A & B motor noses, and each cab received a new horn - a K3H & M5, respectively. The strange look and sound, paired with the accident, earned E4 the nickname of "the Cursed Cab," and sometimes "the Bad Box."

    To supply the new GE Motors and later electrics, 23 substations were built on the division. The reason for so many was redundancy - a lack of power for whatever reason on a steep grade is not something anyone wants to experience - as well as relative inexperience in designing such a system. Substations were spaced out further on future electrification projects, but remained as they were on the WV division. Some, such as Substation #9 at Chloe, were covered buildings, while most were open-air and exposed. Covered substations existed only in regions with more snowfall than usual, and in more populated areas, where the risk of vandalism was higher. Catenary based upon Swedish designs was created by ASEA and put into production by GE.


    June, 1971 - equipment is piling into the small town of Chloe, WV, to complete Substation #9, one of only a few enclosed substations. The catenary crews are getting close, too, and within a month, the tracks here will be under wire and connected to the substation.

    The completion of a new power plant in the 70s, as well as mining productivity increasing, led the railroad to phase 2 of it's motor acquisition plan. In 1980, the Little Joes were hauled away from the Milwaukee Road and onto the Silver Lines.



    Rebuilt by the Boaz Shops, the SLRR EF-4s boasted even higher horsepower and tractive effort figures that easily beat out any diesel locomotive at the time. The twelve Little Joes from the Milwaukee were joined by the Chicago South Shore's de-rated 800s, as the Silver Lines took over the company from the C&O, totaling 15 Little Joes. Silver Lines did contact FEPASA in Brazil to inquire about potentially bringing their five Joes home, but FEPASA wouldn't have it.


    E70 raises its pantograph towards the wires for the first time at the Boaz shops in West Virginia after a lengthy rebuilding process. June 11th, 1981.

    The newly rebuilt Little Joes, despite struggling on some of the incredibly tight curves of the route, were major successes. They were incredibly fast, something they would be able to exercise when the wires expanded out of West Virginia, and capable of taking charge of trains that SD40 sets would struggle on. The Boxcabs typically ran as helpers after the Joes arrived, giving the Joes the spotlight.





    With the EF-4s having joined the roster and joining the Boxcabs in service in 1981, the railroad found itself acquiring even more motors. Conrail's electrification was shutdown in 1981, despite GEs attempts to convince them otherwise, and the Silver Lines managed to acquire 17 E44s and 10 (11) E33s. These were already ready to run in the 25kvAC environment, but all received tune-ups and upgrades to boost power and weight.



    In addition, the railroad tested the GM6C during the late 70s, and after tweaks following the EF-4, E44, and E33 rebuilds, would purchase the original GM6C demonstrator and order 19 duplicates of it (now classed as GM6C-2). The railroad also ordered 20 E60C-2s from GE, as well as 30 unspecified 5400hp electrics originally offered by GE to the MILW before the four-way contract. The most unusual electric was one constructed by the Boaz Shops between 1981 and 1986, using some parts from GE U25Bs that were on their way to being traded in for C30-7s. Using the dead U25Bs and spare parts for the EF-4s, the EF-6 class was constructed. These were essentially a Little Joe-styled EMD FT class, where one unit is actually two, an A & B unit. Two were built, E85 and E86, creating an A-B-B-A set of Little Joe A & B units when combined. The EF-6s still used the 2-D+D-2 setup with some improvements, and when completed, was one of the most powerful electrics ever created.

    With the new and old electrics powering freight traffic throughout the West Virginian division, diesels became less common. Electric power dominated, and the results were enough to convince the railroad to expand the wires out of the state. In 1988, the wires expanded into Ohio, and since 1992, have been slowly slinking farther west, with new electrics joining the roster since then. One day, the railroad hopes to link its own wires to the Milwaukee Road's wires to create the first transcontinental electrified rail line.

    Still, though, even today, electric power reigns king on the West Virginia line.

    ---

    There we have it folks, some backstory. More route related posts later.

  3. #3
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    Very nice! What fill asset is that under the track by the way?
    Last edited by kcwright_rm; September 19th, 2020 at 04:28 PM.

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    Bout damn time the Realignment Route had its own home on the forums... Can't wait to see where this goes!

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    Quote Originally Posted by kcwright_rm View Post
    Very nice! What fill asset is that under the track by the way?
    Thank you! I use a reskin of a j_embankment spline, where the originals are available on the DLS.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smitening View Post
    Bout damn time the Realignment Route had its own home on the forums... Can't wait to see where this goes!
    Been a long time coming!

    ---

    This route is, clearly, a long one. What I'm working on is 200 miles of the route. Here's a map:



    Left is north, right is south. Lower left, where the greenery wraps around the Ohio river, is the Boaz Shops - directly above that is the St. Mary's grade. Dead in the middle of the long north-south section is Chloe, the small patch of green to the right is Hartland, and the largest patch of green further right of that (where a few other patches are directly beside it) is Lizemores, Independence Summit (and its slopes), and Bentree. Farthest to the right is Beckley. A little below that is Clear Creak, where the biggest mine is located. It's hard to see, but the patch of green farthest to the right - just beside that is the Kanawha River, which is where the line splits a few miles southwest. I am not modeling the line into Charleston, just a handful of miles of it really.

    Following speed limits, it's about a 4 hour journey end-to-end, though the last 40 miles are sort of a guess as track isn't done there. Speaking of which, all tracks between Boomer and Boaz are complete, so just over 150 miles. Complete in this case meaning it's been laid out and graded. There's always fine tuning and editing to do, but trackwork is in. Signalling is also mostly in, which is all using PRR PL signals from JointedRail. I'm still learning signalling though so it'll probably be edited here and there, but it is entirely possible to operate a train from Boaz to Boomer or vice versa with oncoming traffic - it's barebones, but doable.

    I've been working on this since June. There is no estimated complete by date, nor release date, because it's absurdly massive and will likely not be finished ever. At the least I'd like all the tracks, signals, mileposts, industries, etc to be in place to make it fully operable. Silverlines is more of an exercise in creative writing these days, so building scenes here and there acts as a visual aid to that. There's a whole document full of that sort of thing.

    Anyway, here are some photos, some older, some newer, and all of the route in varying states.



















    Cheers,
    SM

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    excellent writeup and shots!

    This space reserved for F units.

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    Superb shots and great landscaping.

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    Thank you, guys! Much appreciated.

    I tinker with the route less now because of work - and I've now got 2 other little routes to play with as well - but I have been continuing to touch up a few areas. Light vegetation experiments, mostly. I'd like to experiment more with my trees as well, narrow down a better set of them, or maybe reskin a few to better match my needs. Something to consider, at any rate.

    For the hell of it, a pair of SD50s, an SD45, and an SD40-2 run in dynamics to hold back a load of empties down the steep 3.5% and 2% sections of the southern ascent of the Independence Grade.







    Cheers,
    SM

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    And I thought I had a monster to work on . WOW ..................Fantastic work

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    At this I have to know how do you keep track of all this territory, track, engines, and divisions you done so far? When its still growing without pulling your hair out.
    Lead, Follow, Or get the **** out of the way -​Hugh "Polar Bear" Rowland
    My website: https://sites.google.com/site/gwinsplace/

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    Thanks guys!

    Quote Originally Posted by constar261 View Post
    At this I have to know how do you keep track of all this territory, track, engines, and divisions you done so far? When its still growing without pulling your hair out.
    Lots and lots of writing, simply put. I have a 53 page document full of lore and backstory and other information, which helps me greatly in keeping track of everything. I've also got a large excel document which lets me easily roster everything. Here's a sample from the roster:



    In terms of keeping track of all my tracks, well, there's not too much to keep track of quite yet. Though Silverlines is a Midwest Class 1 with tracks through most of the usual midwestern states, I don't have specific routes outlined for most of it. The Google Earth route photo in the first post is most of the fully outlined route - other than that, there is a line from Parkersburg to Cambridge, OH, and there, one track heads west towards Columbus, and the other north towards Cleveland via Akron and Canton. I have some notes in another large document which specify locations that I think the railroad would cross state lines in Ohio, plus some very loose mapping for Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota lines. Nothing really set in stone, though. There's an old map of the Silverlines hidden on my website, but that's very inaccurate now.

    Essentially I think of everything SLRR pre-2020 to be noncanon, if you will. I've rewritten and redesigned most of the railroad in the past year. Had a lot of time to do that during furlough-quarantine-time, so I've got a stable foundation to work off of.

    tl;dr I write long documents, have excel sheets, and use Google Earth to organize everything about silverlines - routes, history, locos, etc

    --

    Welcome to Hartland. This place has been here on the route for a while, but the track spacing was pretty gnarly. I use 5m spacing for my tracks in this route, and Hartland siding was closer to 10m... not good. I went back in with my spacer guides and redid the siding, as well as the embankment splines. Speaking of embankments, I've equipped Hartland with a new set of embankments I received the other day... I'll have to try them in another area to really get a good look at them, but these are a bit wider than the usual embankments on the route which should eliminate that ssstupid issue of the very visible space between parts of the track and embankment.



    No more of this crap! from previous post


    More experiments to be done with these new splines, and some edits to do as well I reckon - could do with adding in some coal dust up top so banked track doesn't look awful. You'll note I've replaced my tracks in newer shots with a sort of coal-dusted version - something I just whipped up in a few minutes. Not the greatest, but it's a bit better than totally clean track. Got some more variations of that to use elsewhere, too, so that'll be nice.

    If we turn the camera around, we can see more of what the majority of the route looks like.



    A bit to unpack here. So, Hartland is another substation town on the route - one of 20 of the 23 total. Sitting on the hill at the end of the road is the substation from Piedmont, Milwaukee Road Substation #5. Which is not right. This is a stand-in for now, as Hartland is listed as an open-air substation. I imagine this substation will handle both power for the railroad and for the tiny town here at Hartland. So, in time I hope to get some realistic looking open-air substations to replace this one and use elsewhere. That's why the scenery around the sub is so limited, because it will change in time.

    You'll also see the untextured route back there. Most of the route looks like this - grey transDEM textures everywhere! Given time, green will take over more and more of the route, but for now... most things are looking quite similar to my paintschemes.

    More things to come later!

    Cheers,
    SM

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    this route looks really nice. nice job.

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    Thank you kindly!

    --

    Flashing north some 120 miles, we find ourselves at Willow Island. A pair of GP38-2s and a GP30 drag loaded coal behind them, some fifty cars. Most coal trains here are longer, as most come from the massive mines of Clear Creek, but a few smaller coal mines have reopened along the line and bring in additional cars to haul home.

    Milepost 17 here is home to a crossing and a defect detector. It's also where the mainlines converge. The lefthand track follows the Ohio River through St Marys and heads northward, while the right line heads up the steep climb of the St Marys grade and takes trains south. That's where the real meat of the route is.





    At the Pleasants Power Station, coal is offloaded and sent to be burned to generate electricity. Pleasants is one of a few privately owned power stations in West Virginia, and was also the location of the worst construction accident in US History - and that part is actually true of the real world. Makes for quite a read, the Willow Island Disaster...



    Pleasants is a location that will need a plethora of custom assets, which is irksome for a variety of reasons. At the least, if I can get some stuff built it would help everybody out - I think we are all in desperate need of new cooling towers, new smoke stacks, etc... Actually, if anyone has an interest in building a few assets for this plant, let me know... Such major things like power plants, mines, and substations - to name a few - certainly deserve a very detailed set of models due to their prominence.

    A bit of looking around at those embankments I mentioned in my last post determines that yes, replacing all of the old ones on the route with these makes a world of a difference - both in looks and frames! I don't joke when I say I gained 15-20fps by removing the old embankment set. Utterly insane. Bright futures ahead!

    Cheers,
    SM

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    Your screenshots make it oh so evident, that a massively heavy train is descending a hugely steep grade, with full dynamic braking absolutely deafeningly howling
    Last edited by MP242; September 27th, 2020 at 03:03 PM.
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    Can you take us on a video tour of the silver lines segments?
    Lead, Follow, Or get the **** out of the way -​Hugh "Polar Bear" Rowland
    My website: https://sites.google.com/site/gwinsplace/

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