513 2022-03-22

513 backing out of Wright’s Cove this evening. With daytime (511) and now night (513) gypsum trains operating and basically just the two sets of cars the balance of moving these cars must be so precise and it’s always impressive to see this heading out. Certainly not just the mainline trains but the National Gypsum switchers here and at the mine must be going non-stop too.

You grow up reading stories of coal trains, ore trains, or trains like these that haul gypsum in the pages of popular railfanning magazines and it always sounds like they’re compensating for speed they don’t know for volumes they can still move; but here at the Princess Margaret Road crossing any romantic stanza easing through slumbering movement is set aside quickly and replaced with the practised grace of the almost god-like sprinter’s launch. Their first movement is to climb a steep S curve up through Burnside and then they’ll fly all the way to Milford. Those gates will lift to release the automobiles and drivers back into their own patterns and I’ll drive home with an imagination reminded of the hierarchy of exciting fun things we coexist with in this transportation ecosystem.

My posts about 511, 513, and this fascinating operation are all gathered into the National Gypsum category which includes the first of many times I started to seriously sketch a plan for a layout dedicated to this operation:

Categories: CN Dartmouth, national gypsum

Tags: , , ,

5 replies

  1. Where are these two sets of cars shuttling to?

    Gypsum arrives at a Portsmouth, NH, wallboard factory by the shipload from NS. Is the line you photograph the source?

    Micro layout relevance:
    North staging = gypsum mine
    South staging = loading dock, ship, shipping lanes, unloading dock

    Visible layout: two tracks connecting the two staging yards

    This is supposed to be funny.

    • Absolutely entertaining! Thank you!

      The mine is in Milford, Nova Scotia and the unloader (rail to ship) is in Wright’s Cove and it’s all shipped by, well, ship. I know it is sent to the United States but can’t remember where it’s sent to though likely one location and wouldn’t it be cool if it was your Portsmouth location?

      In the earlier Wright’s Cove post I was sketching something layout-centric and focussing on just what happens during the unloading process. I don’t have much experience at designing large layouts but, though I didn’t address it in that post, I actually see this all as a large layout dedicated to this operation: the mine I wouldn’t model beyond the loading shed, then the mainline from Milford through to Wright’s Cove sort of in the style of Grant Eastman’s SAR layout, and the unloading process at Wright’s Cove modelled as faithfully as space would allow.

      That said it could be compressed and a small layout based on Wright’s Cove alone could absolutely be done. The first plan Carl Arendt kindly published of mine on his Micro Layout Scrapbook was one that used a similar unloading process to what I’d prescribe for this gypsum unloading layout: the unloader at Wright’s Cove can only handle four cars worth of gypsum at a time before it fills and the process to unload the full train pauses here while the conveyor catches up; the unloading shed is only one car long; in classic micro layout style that unloading shed could be set against the backdrop and on the other side a simple sector plate four cars long; basically the National Gypsum engine shoves in four loaded cars then unhooks, behind the scenes this sector plate swings over to the the back of the yard track, this whole process repeats and the unloading of thirty or more cars is represented with about four cars constantly being fed through this sector plate in a very coy version of “loads in-empties out”.

      Back to your comment though and you could also represent just 511 alone and still make it a large layout but, as you suggest, model only the track 511 and 513 use to move between the National Gypsum properties and then represent both the mine and unloader as staging. Heck, these could both be the same staging yard and the whole train is simply run on a loop.

      I always planned more posts on this operation because it fascinates me so much and while I don’t think I’ve spent enough time with it I do think I’ve spent enough to post more photos here–copied over from Prince Street’s photo albums on Facebook.



  2. I do love those gypsum trains… it’s been a long time since I’ve seen one. No gypsum in the Prairies!

    • I love seeing them too. We grow up on a diet of railfanning books and magazines that seen to place a hierarchy on different types of trains from sleek express passenger trains to those slow moving (“lumbering”) coal trains meandering through the mountains as if waiting for a country music song to catch up with them. Seeing these gypsum trains sometimes feels like serving that familiar kind of big railroading because they’re long trains, they’re heavy trains, and they move with a purpose that’s almost absolute. And I like how they’re unique to life here. While a daily experience that could almost be mundane they’re only here. I’ve never been lucky enough to see your railroading on the prairie (though I’m so very wanting to) and think its the same. While autoracks and containers are the railroading we all share gyspum feels almost like my private railroad experience–you know?


      • “My private railroad experience” – I like that. I felt that way about the New Brunswick East Coast Railway. The NBEC was not well covered by railfans and I felt responsible and honoured to be able to tell its story through photos for the 10 years I knew it.

        Specialized unit trains like the gypsum train are so localized, and this one in particular because it runs for such a relatively short distance. If you weren’t from the area you might not even know of its existence, while anyone along the Moncton – Halifax corridor has a shot at the long distance CN trains.

        I liked their original gypsum cars with the employee names on them – it was a nice touch like the CB&CNS named locomotives. I wish more railroads and industries would do that.

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