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Dick Kafka’s Colorado Midland     April 27, 2019

Photos and article by Bill Mosteller

Nick Kalis, our layout tour coordinator, likes to say that hosting an open house is an excellent vehicle for getting your layout shaped up, and our host today, Dick Kafka, agrees completely. Much of what we saw today is recent, but exquisite work on his part. The Colorado Midland stretched hundreds of miles from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction, most of the width of Colorado. Dick's layout focuses on Basalt, roughly at the midpoint of the line, with double-ended staging tracks beneath serving to simulate the un-modeled parts of the railroad.

Basalt hosts scratchbuilt structures that produce traffic for the railroad, including a hotel, a station, an engine maintenance facility, an ice house, and a turntable. The railroad was built for the purpose of hauling coal, and the centerpiece of the Basalt trackage is a coal trestle. Prototypically, the slope of the track is steep, suggesting only a few cars were moved up at a time. Dick says that at the time he's modeling, hoppers were unloaded by men with shovels, forget rotary dumpers or even doors on the bottom of the hoppers. Basalt was a farming community on the western side of the continental divide, so reefers loaded with produce would be iced, and stock cars would be used to move cattle between winter and summer pastures, or to market. A yard provides space for these cars.

The hand laid track in Basalt, on wooden ties with spikes on every second tie, immediately caught my eye. After seeing this excellent engineering, I wasn't surprised to see a certificate on the wall indicating that Dick is an IEEE Fellow, retired from PEPCO. The staging track beneath has LEDs to illuminate the track, greatly improving visibility in that area. (The lighting reminded me of subway tracks in my native Boston.) The layout design was reviewed by John Armstrong prior to construction and he recommended the turnouts be placed along the front edge of the hidden track area. While this change makes the staging look a little less like a real railroad yard, and shortens some of the tracks more, it also means that maintenance and problem solving on the yard will be possible. Excellent idea!

Future plans include construction of the Aspen Branch, which at present is represented by a section of track leading off into the air. When this is completed, it will be possible to exchange freight between non-staging parts of the railroad. Operating sessions are already being held, and the extension will enhance them.

Last modified: November 09 2019 13:13:30.