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Craftsman Boomer Trail - March 2010

The Electric Westchester Northern

A New York Central T-motor leads an afternoon train into Ardsley Heights, on Ken Lawrence's free-lanced Westchester Northern Railroad. The platforms and lights are from Walthers, while the overpass was kitbashed from a Model Power kit. Ken's Westchester Northern is based on the New York Central's Electric Division, which served the suburbs of Westchester County from Grand Central Terminal. Photo by Ken Lawrence

Electric commuter action on the Westchester Northern

by Otto Vondrak/photos and models by Ken Lawrence

The New York Central's Electric Division stretched from Grand Central Terminal some twenty miles north into suburban Westchester County. Comprising parts of the Hudson, Putnam, and Harlem Divisions, the railroad was elecrtified with a 600-volt direct current third rail system as part of the Grand Central Terminal project in 1910. Electric trains ran as far north as Harmon (today Croton-Harmon) on the Hudson Division, from High Bridge to Yonkers-Getty Square on the Putnam Division, and to North White Plains on the Harlem Division. Steam (and later diesel) took over at Harmon and North White Plains for trains traveling further.

Ken Lawrence is a native of Yonkers, growing up just minutes from New York City at the very tail end of the trolley era in Westchester County. An avid model railroader and historian, Ken has been modeling electric passenger trains for more than 25 years on his freelanced Westchester Northern Railroad. Taking its name from a cancelled project abandoned by the New York, New Haven & Hartford, Ken's WN incorporated New Haven heavy electric locomotive and MU's with lacey, complex overhead catenary (Ken's New Haven-themed layout was featured in the March 2003 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman). Running from Nepperhan Manor (inspired by downtown Yonkers), through Ardsley Heights and Glenwood Lake, the line ends at an underground terminal in Kensington (based on White Plains).

A few years ago, Ken grew weary of maintaining the complex overhead wire system. It was beginning to show its age, and was prone to breakdown. Having explored the New Haven-inspired theme for many years, Ken decided to switch gears and convert the WN to a New York Central subsidiary, complete with third rail installation! New equipment was added to the roster, including heavyweight MU coaches based on Branchline Trains popular Pullman kits (see the March 2007 RMC). New station scenes were constructed based on typical New York Central practice.

Ken's layout is built around the walls of his model 16x14 living room. A simple track plan allows Ken to showcase his great scenery and customized equipment. Add in the suburban commuter traffic, and this is not your ordinary traction layout!

The Electric Westchester Northern

A two-car MU train glides into Glenwood Lake station. This structure was totally scratchbuilt using Northeastern Scale Lumber. Working from drawings of the old New York Central station at Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Ken copied the districtive roof layout. The tiny station was built to fit into an existing area at Glenwood Lake. The platform and lights are also scratchbuilt, but salvaged from his earlier New Haven-themed layout. The fence and railings are from Central Valley.


The Electric Westchester Northern

The Glenwood Lake Mobilgas station was scratchbuilt from styrene to fit into an existing area near the station. Pumps are JL Innovations on a Woodland Scenics island. The signs were found on the Internet and resized to fit. "Lately I have found a lot of old advertising online," Ken says. "Old billboards, movie and theater posters, things like that." Ken downloads them to his Mac, then reworks them in Photoshop, and prints them out on his color inkjet.


The Electric Westchester Northern

Kurt's Coffee Shop and Country Music is a Blair Line General Store kit, and is typical of roadside establishments that could be found all over Westchester County at mid-century. The length was cut down to fit the tight scene near Ardsley Heights.


The Electric Westchester Northern

A closer look at Ardsley Heights station on Ken's Westchester Northern. This is the Branchline Trains Woodard Depot kit, which is based on a New York Central standard design, and appropriate for many locales. Ken modified the kit by cutting the width of the main part of the structure by 1/8", and cutting the length by 1-5/8" off the baggage room side. This simple modification not only allowed the structure to fit into the area, but also made a unique model.


The Electric Westchester Northern

Passengers prepare to cross over as New York Central T-motor 275 eases its train into Ardsley Heights. Track work on the Westchester Northern explains why this train is "wrong-railing" against the current of traffic this morning. The T-motor is an old Alco Products brass model that Ken repowered using two Hollywood Foundry (from Australia) "BullAnt" power trucks. Motor 275 wears New York Central's earlier "all-black" paint scheme with serif lettering.


The Electric Westchester Northern

This MU baggage-RPO was a fun project, but deviates somewhat from the prototype in the end roofline, sides, door sizes and trucks. Ken based his model off the Walthers undecorated 70' ACF baggage car for the sides, and mated it with a Branchline Trains 78' coach base, with ends and roof. He used protoytpe photos for guidance and drew out on the sides on his Macintosh. The car is powered with a NWSL "PDT" power truck. It is in service with a powered MU coach that was built earlier this year, and they run great.


The Electric Westchester Northern

As Ken transitions his layout from New Haven to New York Central equipment, some new pieces of rolling stock were added to the roster in 2009. At far left is NYC T-motor 275, an old Alco Products brass product which Ken repowered. Next to it is MU postal-bag 4391 and MU coach 4313, both powered. The materials storage box car is an old undec Athearn blue-box kit painted green and lettered for the Westchester Northern. Behind the T-motor is MU baggage car 4393 built a year ago. It was a busy year for "Lawrence Locomotive & Car Works!"


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