Ilchester, Maryland, Part Two; The Railroad Infrastructure. The Coal Dump, Bridges, and Tunnel.

If you follow the progress of my layout, you know I am starting at the railroad east end and working my way west. Laying track to serve the town of Ilchester, MD requires special infrastructure, including a coal dump, two bridges and a tunnel. That’s what we will cover in this post.

The Coal Dump

This structure appears in the earliest photos of Ilchester after the realignment in the first part of the 20th century. Maybe it was meant for residential delivery when it was first built in the early 1900’s. Coal was used to heat homes and was a common fuel during that period. I wonder if gas stations will seem as unusual to modelers in the beginning of the next century? The early photos of Ilchester Station show long wooden passenger platforms, maybe this was a planned commuter station initially. Remnants of the coal dump are still on the site in 2018 and it might have been part of the original 1904 realignment or built just thereafter as it was in place in the 1920s. It appears to follow the B&O 1907 Standard Building Plans for a Commercial Coal Dump. I have a copy of those drawings contained in a document obtained from the B&ORRHS Company Store.

Tipple, Trestle, or Dump? In my B&O home growing up, what was termed as a Commercial Coal Dump in 1907 by the B&O was called a coal tipple. The term tipple is often used at or near a mine head for a trestle that is used to transfer coal from a mine cart or truck to another means of conveyance. I have also heard the term coal trestle used. I am going to use the term coal dump.

Source and Date unknown, though it appears to be before 1920.

Source in text

Building an HO scale model of the coal dump was a matter of purchasing styrene stock shapes to match the plans and adapting tried and true methods of wood model bridge construction to styrene. I chose styrene over wood for several reasons. The first was my comfort with accurately cutting and joining styrene, I like the precision it affords. I also wanted dimensional stability. And finally it has the same look and texture as the other modeled “wood” for the ties and especially the large number of bridge ties in the modeling scene. I used Evergreen products: including #8612, HO Scale 6×12; #8212, HO Scale 2×12; #8412 HO Scale 4×12; and #8410 HO Scale 4×10. I glued various sizes together to get needed lumber sizes, for example I glued two 6×12 pieces together to get needed 12×12 for the main supports.

I reduced the plans in HO scale with a photocopier to aid in taking scale measurements, using the rail width as a known distance. Having them to scale helped me check my first bents and then I figured out a simple jig to construct multiples. I only need one, but am building three more for my friend Don Barnes for his layout. If the jig survives, I am happy to lend it to anyone wanted to duplicate this structure. Drop me an email.

I sought insight into the best way to build a jig for a plastic bent, but it seems most people use wood. After some internal debate I decided to keep it simple and use materials on hand. I had a small piece of flat aluminum and some square brass stock from another jig. Expecting a short life for the jig, I combined dissimilar materials and used 5 minute epoxy to join them. I used a NWSL Chopper II to duplicate structural members and glued them together in the jig. The Plastruct Bondene solvent melts the plastic to form a joint and some of it leaked under the joints and lightly attached the bent to the aluminum. After the glue started to set and melt the plastic, I lifted it a few milimeters and let it cure. That allowed it to release easy enough.

Stringers under the rails tie the structure together. I glued the bents to a thin piece of styrene sheet and positioned it on the layout using scenery goop to set it at rail height. The styrene sheet was painted black with a light highlight spray of brown like the rest of the structure and covered with coal and coal dust to make it blend into the scene. As the trestle structure is mostly hidden, I also finished it in black paint with a rail brown overspray for highlights and to simulate the heavy creosote on such structures. Tichy nut, washer, and bolt castings were added to the visible ends and the top to finish the model.

Ilchester Coal Dump, March 2018. Bruce D. Griffin Photo
Ilchester Coal Dump, Looking east. March 2018. Bruce D. Griffin Photo.

The Bridges and Tunnel

The Bridges offered me several modeling possibilities. The double-track Pratt Truss pin-connected prototype bridge has actually been offered as an excellent brass HO and N scale model. Train Cat Models offers the brass kit, but the $549.95 price tag and the prototype length led me down a different path. Walthers and Central Valley both offer suitable stand-ins.

I chose to construct both bridges from Walther’s kits. I didn’t have immediate access to the Central Valley kits and I found one of the Walther’s kits on EBay very cheap. I used the Walthers HO 933-2948 Through Plate Girder Bridge Kit and the Walthers HO 933-3012 Double Track Truss Bridge Kit. The Through Plate Girder Bridge kit was modified by removing the center girder and replacing it with a styrene strip to keep the bridge width the same as the longer span. The prototype only has two girders so this is a way to simulate the look. The girders aren’t tall enough to match the prototype, but it looks good. The Truss Bridge Kit was built according to the instructions. Both were airbrushed with Vallejo NATO Black during construction to make sure all of the nooks and crannies got painted. I weathered the structures with pastels and Bragdon powders.

The track is Micro Engineering Code 83 Bridge Track. I painted the rails and ties Vallejo NATO Black and then weathered them with dark brown and rust pastels. The end result is a nice dark shade of rail brown. I wanted the bridge ties to look different as they do not age like ties in contact with the ground and are specialty products designed for bridge construction.

My extensive use of Vallejo paint and my new Iwata dual-action, gravity-feed airbrush on this basic painting project have given me a lot of valuable airbrushing experience that I will use on new freight car projects. Airbrushing was never a skill I was comfortable with, but using Vallejo paints with their easy thinning and clean-up gave me the chance to practice my skills. I am currently experimenting with a variety of colors from the Vallejo line to see where they can be used on other projects. One accessory I purchased to make airbrushing more enjoyable was the Iwata-Medea Universal Spray Out Pot. It makes color change and clean-up so much easier. Find a video on how to use one and give it a try!

The three bridge piers and abutments were made from two Walthers parts, HO 933-4584 Double-Track Railroad Bridge Stone Abutment, Resin Casting, and HO 933-4582 Double-Track Railroad Bridge Stone Pier, Resin Casting. The Stone Pier was cut into two pieces with the shorter top half used as an abutment on the tunnel side of the bridge. The taller left over piece was used for the middle pier. It needed a unique concrete top that I created with some pieces of sheet styrene. I painted the styrene a concrete color and weathered it along with all the other stone surfaces with a wash of thinned black acrylic hobby paint, pastels, and Brogdon powders. Prototype photos helped me choose appropriate colors.

The tunnel portal was originally mocked up using a scaled photocopy of a drawing from the B&O 1908 Standard Plans, as seen above. I was looking for a way to recreate this brick structure when fate intervened. I asked a few OML modeler friends about how they planned to model the distinctive brick tunnel portals and JohnTeichmoeller came through with the suggestion to use the AIM Products #151 Baltimore & Ohio Style Brick Tunnel Portal, Double-Track. A quick email to my friend Raymond Stern at Pro-Custom Hobbies in Eldersburg, MD found one sitting on the shelf waiting for me. Pro-Custom is always well stocked, especially with products for local railroads.

Source in text.

The portal is cast plaster and readily accepted hobby paint washes of brick red, orange, and brown to create a rich brick color. A steam-era tunnel portal wouldn’t be complete without some exhaust smoke weathering, a little heavier on the uphill side. The prototype now has a distinctive green hue from mosses, but I chose not to model that as I assume the environmental impact of multiple steam engines a day kept the surface free of natural materials.

AIM Products #151 Baltimore & Ohio Style Brick Tunnel Portal, Double-Track

Ilchester Bridge and Tunnel in 2018, Bruce D. Griffin Photo

The next step will be to add and paint some “scenery goop” to most of the scene, add trees, ground cover, and the river water. I’ll cover track ballasting in a blog about laying track. And I’ll cover the buildings and final details in another.

As the scene is coming together in my mind I am excited to see it more complete. I like the TOMA concept because of being able to near finish a scene before digging into the next one. The variety of jobs keeps my interest level high and focused, as I tend to wonder to the next shiny object too quickly in my modeling.

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Photo Diorama

One of my first tests of what I wanted to build as part of a future layout was a simple diorama to take photos for the new B&O Modeler. I have had this prop for a while. The parameters were simple; lightweight, portable, removable backdrop for outdoor photography, double mainline, river side scenery like the B&O’s Old Main Line, and inexpensive, using materials on hand.


A thin sheet of 1/8″ luan was in the garage and made a lightweight base. Some two inch foam insulation, Code 100 flextrack, scrap posterboard, ballast, ground foam, and some Sculptamold rounded out the materials list. I cut the luan to a 18″x 24″ rectangle and added some 2” foam for base scenery. I covered it with Sculptamold and painted it brown. The idea was for the view to be from across the Patapsco River, so the front of the scene sloped down to the river and was covered in cinders. This is meant to be 1950’s view but generic enough that it could be used as a background for trains from the last 100 years.


The backdrop is a piece of posterboard left over from one of my son’s school projects. Some foggy, gray spray paint and a poor attempt at clouds added a neutral background. Don’t want to steal the show from the models. It slips into place between the foam scenery base and piece of scrap approximately 3/8″x 1″ glued to the base.

Some weathering of the rails with a spray can, then gray ballast, some ground foam and we have a lightweight photography prop. While it is slightly noticeable, I used a little more red-brown to simulate additional “brake dust” on the downhill track. I usually took it into the backyard with trees in the distance to get my shots in full sunlight. One key hint is to put some long pins at the end of each track. The cars roll pretty easily with the slightest incline and one rolling off the end would ruin a day.


After 15 years of service, it might be time for a refresh on the backdrop and scenery. Sounds like a great opportunity to try some new techniques before I try them on the layout. Time to get a static grass applicator and break out the airbrush.

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Ilchester, Maryland, Part One; The B&O Station.

Finding information about the the B&O Station at Ilchester, MD became part of a research project that involved multiple people and continues with the sharing of the information with local historical societies. Sometimes I think we are doing research to save our history but not sharing it with the broader community to insure it meets the needs of a bigger audience. My son probably won’t care about the ladder construction detail on an M-15-k boxcar, but hopefully he can learn about the rich railroading history along the Old Main Line (OML] and this effort added to that body of knowledge

Sometime back in the late 90’s or early 2000’s I started looking for information about Ilchester Station after seeing one picture of the OML emerging from a tunnel, crossing the Patapsco River, then a small road and running next to a very unusual B&O Station.

1941 View from Buzzard’s Rock of Ilchester Station. Herb Harwood Photograph.

At the time I was part of a small list-serve of B&O OML Modelers and we exchanged information about our favorite railroad topic. Working in universities most of my career I had access to the some of the first public list-serves about Genealogy and learned how to use them for other hobbies. That first Genealogy list-serve had about a 100 or so members and was state of the art back when PCs had green screens. Remember green screen monitors? It taught me the power of information exchange long before Yahoo Groups or now .IO Groups.

We exchanged information about rolling stock, sources, and anything we could. Exchanging photos online was out of the question, only the DOD had that kind of bandwidth. We saved photos on CD’s and sent them by snail mail. I remember Bill Hebb, Nick Fry, John Teichmoeller, Don Barnes, Bill Barringer and a few others being on the list. When I asked a question about Ilchester Station, Bill Barringer (author of the definitive book on the B&O’s Q-Class Mikados) sent me a CD of photos he had from before and after a B&O renovation project to upgrade the structure in the 40’s or 50’s. The dates were approximate, but those photos have turned out to be the best source of information about the station in existence. Bill has since passed. What a great thing to share with the larger community. Thank you John Teichmoeller for doing just that.

Ilchester 005
Looking east toward Relay Junction past Ilchester Station, date unknown, B&ORRHS Collection

2018 March OML 242
Looking east toward Relay Junction past Ilchester, March 2018, Bruce D. Griffin Photo

So we had photos of the station and someone remembered a set of erection drawings for the station existed at the Smithsonian. A couple of years later one of the members of this tribe found the drawings and shared them with the group. They were not even close to the photos of the actual structure and things like roof pitch were so different we thought that they couldn’t be the result of a renovation, too expensive with little purpose. As time passed older photos were found and we realized the plans were never built. I guess we should send the photos to the Smithsonian and let them know the station turned out different than planned.

Ilchester Station Thumbnails, 1940’s, Bill Barringer Collection

Ilchester Station Thumbnails, 1954, Bill Barringer Collection

One of the people in this research group was Don Barnes and he was building a huge layout that included the entire OML, so he needed a model of the station structure. He contacted Mark Bandy of now MJB Model Trains,, to see if he would be interested in producing laser cut models of some additional structures, including several along  the OML. Bill Barringer had taken the extra steps to photograph all sides of the structure in the early 50’s and with those, Mark was able to produce a kit for the structure in exacting detail. It wasn’t cheap but I was able to trade my research skills and resin kit building skills with Don and he traded me for one. Thank you Don.

The more we learned about the station and the OML realignment in the early 1900’s the more questions arose. Even old postcards became reference material. At some point between maybe 1920 and 1940 a freight house was added next to the station. No one has found a photo of more than an edge of the structure and an overhead shot from above the tunnel, across the Patapsco. Similar to the station it is not anything like a B&O Standard Design. It has board and batten siding, something not too often seen on B&O structures in the east. That and the coal trestle on the north side of the main tracks across for the station are a story for another time after additional research.

Ilchester Station 1 1959
The Agent ready to inspect a west-bound through Ilchester Station, 1959, B&ORRHS Collection.

if you are wondering why I was complaining about a lack of photos when there are so many in this post, I will add that this is about all that could be found from twenty years of digging. Building the station kit deserves a little more attention. This is the first step below. I will post another blog about it, as it is well engineered, and should produce a top-notch foreground structure.

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York, the National Railway Museum

So for me as a B&O modeler and a member of a long serving B&O family, I stake claim to being part of the heritage of the first common carrier in the United States. The claim of first for the B&O relates to being the first non-captive railroad in the Americas. It is specific because people were moving things on rails before its charter in 1827. It is all okay, and it is significant that the mainline I am modeling was part of that first US mainline between Baltimore and Ellicott Mills.

However, when we speak about firsts, we have to defer to my English cousins. For me that is literal as my mother was a “war bride” and emigrated to the US in 1944 after serving in the WWAF and marrying my father who was serving in the USAAF.

That brings me to one of my family home’s, England and a chance to see the evolution of railroading from its genesis. Last week while visiting family, we took a train from Reading to York and had a table with reserved seats, a nice travel. It rained a bit and we made it through the Old York Wall to our hotel. Safe and sound.

The next morning we ventured outside the ancient city wall to visit the National Railway Museum Having family not as interested in railroad history, I was curious to see if the museum presented them with the same intrigue it would for me. The museum is free for entry, but they do ask for a £5 donation. Very reasonable compared to other historical sites in the city.

By luck we wondered to the left and first visited the train shed containing the most recent Royal coaches. Well in fact it contained Queen Victoria’s coach and she was the first Royal to travel by train. This part of the museum brought together so many parts of history that everyone was interested. The size of the collection and its level of ongoing preservation is fantastic.

When we entered the larger train shed, the size and scope of the collection was overwhelming. The museums I have visited in America have a well preserved engine or two, but here in front of me where dozens of incredible machines in fantastic condition.

I wasn’t looking at them as objects to try to replicate in scale, I was just seeing magnificent machines from an era when electronics were non-existent. When you think about transportation machines today electronics are a big part of the machine. These are machines that relied on steam or electric power to move them. The electric generator on a steam engine is just an accessory to make the lights shine. My other hobby is working on old British cars and I have an old 1960 Austin Healey 3000. I appreciate its simple electrics and utility. And it is fast. Machines of this age had a few relays and they didn’t have more than the basics to keep electric accessories working. As we welcome autonomous vehicles on our roads, it is a moment for pause to consider how much things have changed.

You know I did not learn anything specific about modeling the B&O or prototype modeling but I had a great time with family. That has led me to consider how to involve my family more in my hobby and on their terms, not mine. And York has many other great thing to offer.

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Laying out some initial track work…

The down side to not having a scale drawing for track design is that things don’t fit as they do on a free hand sketch. Turnouts eat up a lot more space than imagined and transitions have to be more gradual. I took my sketches and started some finer scale drawings, but I found that laying out the track and eyeballing straights and transitions led to better track flow and a more natural look as the trains ran down the line.

I put a long 8’x 2′ – 3/4″ sheet of birch plywood on my layout structure and started playing with the design. I am using #6 Code 83 Micro Engineering turnouts as much as possible, their weathered Code 83 flex track, and their bridge track. I bought several turnouts and also printed templates from their website to assist in the exercise.


Some Fast Tracks Sweep Sticks in various radii (with 2 1/4″ center radii differences), push pins, and some mock-ups of major structures helped me see the potential and make decisions about distances. Things got compressed more than desired and some things had to be left out. But I needed to visualize the layout in full size with a backdrop, turnouts, freight cars, and locomotives to feel comfortable with my decisions.

A signature feature of Ilchester is the two bridges that cross the Patapsco River and Ilchester Road just as the roadbed emerges from a tunnel. The line used to follow the river, but a realignment changed that with the addition of the tunnel in 1903. The quick mock up of a concrete coaling tower is the center point for the next location after Ilchester, known as Lees. The tower was added during WWII to help through trains avoid congestion in Baltimore as they headed further east on the B&O. (More on that later.)

2018 March OML 303
Ilchester Bridge and Remnants of a Coal Trestle, 2018, Bruce D. Griffin Photo

The next step was to use the Cookie-Cutter method and trim down the large 1/4 sheet of plywood to just follow the roadbed. For the bridge area, I tried something unusual to make sure I had the right height on both sides of the bridge. I cut a hole in the plywood to fit the bridge and left small supports on either side to make sure the two sides of the gap were in perfect alignment. The track was already glued to the bridge with Pliobond. I fastened the subroadbed to the risers before fully cutting the subroadbed in two.

The bridge alignment was a big unknown for me, thus the measures to keep the plywood subroadbed whole before fastening it to the risers. It worked out well and the only thing left was to shim up the supports and add feet for the smaller bridge. The odd shapes of the support columns and the extreme gap for the through girder bridge actually mirror the prototype.

The next operation is to start adding some cork roadbed and track. Let me thanks the many members of the for their insights into the next steps.

I have a sketch of the trackplan beyond the first two modules, but I want to get track halfway through the second module before I start to finalize the design. The Tunnel Portal (a commercial casting that follows the B&O plans for this era portal) leads east to Baltimore and will eventually be moved against the wall leading into the unfinished basement and staging. I may add a temporary track to allow me to run one train in each direction and try operations.

September 2018 Final Layout Sketch cropped photo
My “final” sketch for the overall layout before starting the first three modules. September 2018.

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