Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Westerfield I-GN Boxcar

As I was sorting and packing some of the smaller items that reside in various small plastic containers, I came across the decals for a Westerfield International Great Northern 40-foot single sheathed boxcar that I'd built almost two years ago.
Having no idea how the decals ended up separated from the car, and knowing full well that it would happen again if I didn't take drastic measures, I opted to spend a pleasant hour or so this past Sunday evening getting the decals on one side of the car. Side #2 has since been completed.
For the record, and my reference, the car was painted with a base coat of Vallejo "Boxcar Red" sold by Micro-Mark. The Vallejo labels reveals they refer to this color as "Rust." The paint was allowed to dry completely (although the 26 months this paint dried may have been excessive!) before I hit the model with an airbrushed coat of Future clear acrylic (or whatever they're calling it this week).  
When this photo was taken I hadn't yet "snuggled"* the decals in place, which is why there's so much decal film showing.
When I decal a car I like to leave it on the modeling desk for a week or so - every evening I'll add another application of Microscale setting solution. After a few days of this most of the film disappears. The next step will be another coat of gloss, followed by a coat of clear flat.
Sharp-eyed freight car fanatics will note this car is lettered to reflect lettering styles that predate my typical 1950s roster. 
No further comment on that at this time.  


*When I was on the Model Railroader staff we were always debating the best way to describe of process of softening decals using settling solution to get them to conform to the various details, ridges, rivets and the like. Somehow, someone (likely Jim Kelly, it sounds like something he'd come up it!) suggest the term "snuggling" the decals....it stuck.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Don Mitchell's Southern Mountain Railroad blog


Some of you may recognize the name Don Mitchell from the pages of Model Railroader. Don published many innovative layout designs over the years. The first time I met Don he took Christine and I on a behind the scenes tour of the La Mesa Tehachapi Pass layout (incidentally, Don was involved in the design of that railroad and is still an active member of the club), followed by wonderful early dinner and tour of Coronado Island during which we discussed model railroading (Don was one of John Allen's friends, and regularly operated on the Gorre & Daphetid), the Navy, food and cooking, and a wide range of other topics.
I've fallen out of touch with Don over the last decade or so, but was thrilled to discover he's been posting about his home layout on the Model Railroad Hobbyist blog over the last year or so. 
There's numerous thoughtful insights on layout design, composition, and interesting operations throughout this thread, so instead of trying to summarize, I'll merely direct you to his Southern Mountain Railroad posts on the Model Railroad Hobbyist blog here




Friday, June 30, 2017

Richford Branch Maps 3, Sheldon Springs

In between painting the basement walls and boxing up household goods I did manage to find enough time to draw up Sheldon Springs. Sheldon Springs is located west of Sheldon Junction (see the close up map here). Highlight of Sheldon Springs is the Missisquoi Pulp & Paper Co. plant, which is by far the largest single industrial customer on the Richford Branch. The first map is an overall view of the area and shows how the various elements fit together. (Click on the maps to enlarge).

The Missisquoi Pulp & Paper plant was located on a spur that swung northwest from the Richford Branch proper. The mill itself was located downhill from the CV tracks at the base of a fairly steep hill. The paper mill had a small switch engine (even had it's own engine house between the mill and CV main). But the CV did switch the mill, although CV engines couldn't operate past the points denoted with the red "B" on the diagram below.
Typically the Richford freight required two engines for power. George Corey provided this shot of N-5-a 2-8-0 no. 466 shoving on the rear end of the Richford-bound freight at Sheldon Springs on February 23, 1957. Within a month steam would be dead on the CV. (And yes, freight car nuts should check out the GTW rebuilt boxcar ahead of the van). 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Story Telling and Layout Design?


The space in the basement for the new layout has been roughly defined, meaning it’s sufficient to start some rough sketches of potential benchwork shapes and the like. Or so I thought.
These sketches are nothing more than doodles … and attempts to apply the John Armstrong’s by the squares and “givens and druthers” approach proved equally unsatisfying.  It simply wasn’t working for me. 
Mike Cougill and Trevor Marshall have written extensively about their model railroading and layout design philosophy on their respective blogs.  Rather than attempting to review it all here, I’ll suggest you read them for yourself (See here and here for some examples, but be sure to look around at both of these excellent blogs while you're there).  
I believe the essence of what they’re saying can be boiled down to “What story are you trying to tell?”  While this is a novel approach to thinking about model railroading, military modelers and miniaturists have done for years. Meaning we might be able to learn something from them.
Typically we jump right into layout design by figuring out how to fit the longest possible run into the space.  The question of “why” is left unanswered.  Instead, thousands of gallons of ink are spilled on explanatory text “I’m modeling the XY&Z railroad from Town A to Point B…” I’ve edited and you’ve read more than our share of such exposes so I won’t belabor the point.  Instead I’ll simply ask shouldn’t the story we’re telling be painfully obvious with nothing more than a single glance?  For example, see Sheperd Paine’s “How to Build Dioramas” – a book that should be a part of every modeler’s library.  Paine was a master at crafting a storyline for each of his dioramas. Check out the cover photo of the diorama depicting an aircraft assembly line in WWII – what stories does that one image tell? 

Truly gifted artists and craftsman imbue their work with an indelible stamp.  And, while I think most model railroads fall well short of being “art” some model railroads do indeed cross that threshold.  These are the layouts built by excellent craftsman with a strong, well defined theme – a story they’re telling.  
Mike Cougill frequently refers to model railroading not as a hobby, but as “the craft.”  And I think it’s no accident that defining the story you’re trying to tell, not only about railroading but about yourself and your relationship to “the craft” extends far beyond the trains, curve radii, dispatching methods or other minutia that bogs us down way too early in the design process.
While it may be a little too philosophical for some, all this resonated with me to a certain extent.  I should add these same ideas are applicable individual projects as well as the layout. 
I don't know how much all of this will impact the ultimate layout design, but asking yourself “What Story do I want to tell?” is worthwhile. I know I’m going to come up with an answer before I cut the first piece of lumber for the new layout. And I'm going to keep the answer in mind throughout the process of designing and building the railroad.