My objective in building my HO-scale model railroad layout was to recreate the Lehigh Valley RR as it passed through the village of New Woodstock in 1944-45. A tremendous amount of research and meticulous effort went into replicating the trackage pattern and trackside structures to make sure that what I was looking at on the layout was as close as possible to what existed at that time on the railroad in that location.

So it was equally essential that the train itself was reproduced in as exacting detail. This was especially important since it was the train which had burned itself into my memory in 1945 and was the motivation for the project in the first place. Fortunately there was a gold mine of verbal and photographic documentation of the LVRR Cortland Branch, on which New Woodstock was a stop, that dated to the late 1940s and early 1950s, such as the photograph above, which shows an LVRR J-25 4-6-0 at Cazenovia, just up the line a few miles from my prototype area, and within a very few years of my target date. (Source...)

A finer point was put on this quest by a 2002 article in Model Railroader magazine focused on the depot at New Woodstock, which still exists, as a good prototype project (Model Railroader Magazine, September 2002, pp. 82-85). And attached to the end of the article was a photograph taken during this period (late 1940s) of a "Cortland Branch mixed train", led by an LVRR 4-6-2. The photo (below) was also taken at Cazenovia from the same angle as the one at the top of this page.

The editor captions this historic photo with the statement... "Here's one of the Cortland Branch mixed trains at Cazenovia, N.Y., just up the line from New Woodstock, in 1947. With home-built Pacific Type no. 2015, three assorted freight cars, and a heavyweight combine, this train begs to be modeled." (Emphasis mine).

Well, it has been... (read the following). I did not set out to have this as my primary motivation, but in the process of modeling New Woodstock in 1945, modeling this train, which passed through the village two years later as show above, became a result (below).

Typical of the short trains running the Cortland Branch in the late war years, this consist includes the engine, with coal tender, followed by a coal hopper, a tanker, a boxcar, a milk car (?**) and is completed by a combine.

(** It is not clear whether there is just a boxcar following the tanker, or there is another car between the boxcar and the combine. The owner of the photograph could not provide me a larger format image, so I had to base my conclusions on just the two inch published picture. A milk car would not be uncommon on such a mixed train.)

In the war years there were two engine types used on the lighter rail of the Cortland Branch - the J-25 4-6-0 (below, left) and the heavier Pacific 4-6-2 (below, right).

Either of these could have been seen passing through New Woodstock in 1944-45. While the J-25s served most of the line perfectly well, the grade north of New Woodstock suggested use of the Pacific for heavier loads. The J-25 4-6-0 is not easily duplicated with off-the-shelf HO scale locomotives. In fact the demand for the unique qualities of this locomotive motivated the premier engine modeler, Dave Grover, to create and begin manufacture of an accurate HO-scale J-25 some years ago (below).

HO-scale Lehigh Valley J-25 by Eddystone Locomotive Company

An easier, though not perfect, match can be had to the larger engines with some commercial "4-6-2 Pacific" models, and I used one that was "close enough" as a starter (below, made by IHC). Plus it was already lettered for "Lehigh Valley". If you compare this model with photos of LVRR 4-6-2s on the Cortland Branch, it actually compares reasonably well.

I added a number plate to the front and numbered that, and the cab, in the appropriate range for the engine type on the LVRR. In order to have the engine be "absorbed" into the prototype layout, which was totally weathered to appear realistic for the period, I weathered the engine and tender using a combination of weathering powders, paints and chemical rust liquid.

I obtained a hopper appropriate to the railroad and the time period from the Anthracite Railroad Historical Society in 2006, and using a photgraph of the same type of hopper from Model Railroader Magazine as a goal and guide, I tried my very first attempt at "weathering", using oil paints, modeling paints and (perhaps) weathering powders (below).

Below is the car, completed and with a home-made coal load, at the coal company elevator on the layout.

This car was soon joined by another ARHS offering, more closely connected with the railroad.

Locating a tank car correct to the location and time period took a little research, but finally one was located that fills the spot for the time being.

The greatest number and greatest variety of cars that would have appeared on trains passing along the Cortland Branch would be the boxcars. These also provide some tremendous opportunities for weathering, and as I acquired cars I also attended a 2007 NMRA workshop in Albany on weathering, presented by Mike Rose and Scotty Mason. Using their techniques of oil paint weathering with some rusting liquid applications, demonstrated in their videos on "Weathering Freight Cars", I worked up a small fleet of cars.

Identifying which boxcars would be appropriate, and not post-date the 1944-45 era, was facilitated by the publications of Ted Culotta, such as his "Prototype Model Railroading" books and articles in Model Railroad Craftsman. And his own weathering examples provided both inspiration and guidance.

While it is impossible to tell what the next to last car in the MR 1947 mixed train photo might be, if in fact there is one, the appearance suggests it might be a milk car. Such cars often made up part of these late-era mixed trains, and there is one photograph taken in the period at the New Woodstock Creamery (below) that confirms the car type.

While a broad variety of milk cars are available to the modeler in HO scale, this one matched the photograph best.

The most interesting car on the mixed trains on the Cortland Branch in the middle-1940s, and the one shown at the end of the train in the Cazenovia photograph from 1947, is the "combine". This car combined (hence the name) the functions of three different cars on full-size trains....the mail and baggage car, the passenger car and the caboose.

The photograph above was taken on the Cortland Branch in the late 1940s ("Lehigh Valley Memories", David Marcham, 1998, p. 59). The forward section served for mail and baggage and the rear section served the diminished passenger needs. And the unusual window insert midway is to allow the train crew, riding in the middle "caboose" section, to look out the window to inspect the train and track while the train was underway. The sides and overhead extension served, apparently, as rain guards.

It takes some effort to match this car from stocks of off-the-shelf models. Either the window pattern is wrong, or something else does not match. In the end I bought a used car body by Rivarossi on eBay which matched the prototype door and windows pattern, attached the correct heavyweight trucks, and scratch-built the specialized crew window (below).

We had a lengthy discussion, on the Anthracite Railroads group, about the correct color for these cars. It was generally decided that the standard Pullman green was appropriate. The LVRR did repaint their combines Cornell red around this time, as shown in the 1955 photo below, which is a nearly identical car to the one shown on the Cortland Branch in the 1940s. But it was suggested that cars used on the branch lines would have been the last to go in for re-painting, or maybe never got the painting upgrade. So for 1945 on the Cortland Branch the color (above) was considered correct.


So much for duplicating (above), without meaning to duplicate it, the mixed train captured at Cazenovia in 1947.

To round out the roster, additional cars were acquired. I will add them as they are completed.

Sources used for prototype information:

"Model Railroader", Kalmbach Publishing, September 2002.
"Rails North - Lehigh Valley Railroad", Central  New York Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, 1971.
"Lehigh Valley Memories - 1941-1959", David Marcham, DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County, 1998.
"The Gangly Country Cousin", Herbert Trice, Historical Society of Tompkins County, 2004.
"Prototype Model Railroading - Vol. 1", ed. Ted Culotta, Speedwich Media, 2005.

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