Sunday, October 16, 2016

Housekeeping and inspiration

First, the housekeeping. Things were getting a little messy around here so I spent some time this morning cleaning up the blog. Also, a week or so ago I noticed all my Blog List content had somehow disappeared. So as I sat here sipping my coffee I (re)established the various links. 

This also gave me a chance to look at each of the blogs I follow, which naturally led me to their "Blogs I'm Following" list - sending me down yet another (always interesting) rabbit hole. 
Great fun. You can now (hopefully) click directly on the links on the right hand side of this page. 
While I find most of the model inspiration I find nowadays comes from blogs, there's still some interesting things to be found on forums. One forum I've followed for years is The Railwire. If you've never heard of it then it's likely you've never done any serious N scale model building. 
One of the most interesting current threads (click here) is Max Magliaro's ongoing build of a SP&S 0-6-0. 
This is not a "kit bash" or even a modification of an imported brass locomotive of a similar prototype. 
Here's the "strategic vision" for this project, in Max's own words:

"Right from the outset, I want to make it clear that a major building requirement, (a "promise to myself") is that I want to make as much of this by myself, from scratch. So use of commercial parts, castings, 3rd party casting or etching services, will be kept to an absolute minimum, if not zero. 
I plan on using a commercial motor, gears, and electrical components, and screws, but hopefully not much else from outside sources."

Perhaps I need to apply such "goal statements" to some of my own modeling. It's become way too expedient to take the easy way out and go with something "close enough" in the supposed interest of saving time. Ninety percent of the time it's not about saving time, it's about avoiding the challenge. Max has obviously faced that head-on. 
Will he succeed? The only way to really know is to tune in and find out. But indications thus far indicate he will. Max has built several other N scale steam locomotives I'm aware of, detailing one of them in a series of articles in RMC a few years ago. He's also learned how to use the tools and techniques to actually achieve his goals. 
If you review the build thread (and I strongly encourage you to do so), you'll notice this is not a "here's how to do it to get perfect results the first time." While the project is progressing nicely and Max's results to date are quite good, he's taking a "diary" approach to the build thread. Sometimes a technique works, sometimes not so much. 
It's really quite interesting to watch. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Mid-Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers (MARPM) After-Action Report

Had a chance to visit with old friends and make some new ones at the Mid-Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers (a.k.a. “MARPM”) in Fredericksburg, Va., this past weekend.
Ramon sits behind some of the (many) models he displayed. We don't see a lot of BNSF out this way, which makes this display really stand out! 

The entire crew (Norm and Daylene Wolf, Shannon Crabtree, Bob Sprague, Butch Eyler, and Doug Chapman) who set up and run this meet did a great job as usual. Daylene provided a wonderful lunch both days (a great advantage that means you don’t have to leave the hotel to find something to eat!).  Attendance was a little down from last year – a combination of a scheduling snafu (strictly the fault of the hotel) that moved the meet a week later than previous years – and putting it closer to some other larger meets.  After Labor Day and before the end of September seems to be a sweet spot here.  I think the number of “walk ins” on Saturday was impacted by the torrential rains that fell early Saturday morning. All that said, the folks who did make it were extremely enthusiastic and I never got the feeling there wasn’t enough to do or somebody to chat with.   

RPMs have always been about four main things (Clinics, Model Displays, and Vendors), and, of course, the fellowship with other modelers. Here’s my After-Action report for the weekend, based on these four items:

Clinics: Excellent. The pool of clinicians in this area is especially talented and includes well-known names who also happen to be excellent modelers and seasoned presenters. If that comment comes across as bragging (after all, I was one of the clinicians!), I apologize. I think it helps that not only are these guys excellent modelers they’re excellent presenters. Due to the nature of the work most of us do, delivering “briefings” is nothing new to us. Those skills translate to providing an excellent clinic. I defy anyone to come up with a stronger lineup than was offered at this meet.
Lance Mindheim on deck for second of two clinics he presented. 

The only issue is there wasn’t enough of them and every presenter went on only once. The facility only provides for one clinic room at this time – Norm told me he’s trying to find ways to have more than one clinic at a time. I should add that one room is excellent – with a large screen, theater style stacked seating, and (new this year!) a projector that really works.

I gave my Modeling the October Scene clinic. I've been doing this clinic since Cocoa Beach in January 2015, so I think it's time to retire it. Several people told me in advance they’d be skipping my clinic (I got the last hour on the schedule, the coveted “cleanup slot”!) since they’d seen it at Cocoa Beach or New England RPM. 

Model Display:  The models that were on the display table were outstanding. I just wish there had been more of them – and that a variety of eras, scales etc… was a little broader.
One thing that seems to be gaining more traction at MARPM than some other RPM meets I've attended is the “ongoing hands-on how-to display/clinics.” (Hey, what my description lacks in length it makes up for in completeness...). Basically, someone sets up at a table and does something (weathers a car, builds a model, installs decoders, whatever…) and attendees can sit across the table, kibitz, ask questions, or just observe. So, I spent most of the meet sitting at a table building – or perhaps better described as “preparing to build” several resin freight cars.

Butch Eyler and Norm Wolf sat at a table next to me weathering cars.
Butch Eyler (right) walks an attendee (left) through his weathering techniques. 

My understanding is this was well received by the folks at the meet. I certainly had a number of folks sitting around my table asking questions and observing (and offering the usual assortment of helpful – and not so helpful - suggestions!). I know Butch and Norm never looked lonely at their table.

I wish I’d prepared a little differently. Since I haven’t done any freight car modeling in several (4+!) years, I have two types of freight cars in the basement – finished, and unstarted! I should have had several cars at different stages of construction – from "out of the box" up through ready for weathering. That way if someone had a question on installing underbody piping (for example) I'd have a car to use as a demo. Lesson learned.

Vendors: My feelings are the vendors at an RPM meet should be the ones offering products for prototype modelers. I have no interest in looking at table after table of “stuff” at an RPM meet. Due to the aforementioned change of the show date, several vendors weren’t able to make it. Hopefully they’ll be there next year! But it was good to catch up with Ted Culotta of Speedwitch (who also offered a clinic). I even managed to purchase a thing or two from him! I also grabbed some paints and Tahoe trucks from some of the other vendors.

Fellowship: Couldn’t be beat! I had a great time visiting with a lot of really interesting people and hearing about their projects. Actually sitting at the table working on models kind of forced me to engage with people whom I might not have had the chance to talk with otherwise. 
Operating Session on Mat Thompson's Oregon Coast Railroad. 
Layout Open Houses and Op Sessions: I tend to think of these as a "bonus" at an RPM meet. Let's face it, layout "tours" and such are really the thing of NMRA conventions. But most RPM meets, including MARPM, manage to have a few layout open houses, and op sessions, typically timed to occur before or after the meet has officially started or ended. This year was no exception. Mat Thompson hosted an op session on Thursday night at his Oregon Coast railroad, and Bernie Kempinski had an open house (see his description here) on Sunday for his USMRR O scale and PoLA HO scale layouts.

Dates have already been established for the 5th annual meet on September 22-23, 2017. I, for one, can’t wait for next year!             

Sunday, September 25, 2016

SNE Wiggle Worm

Over the years I've had folks who model a later era that I've ever really modeled ask what the lettering for my Southern New England would have looked like post-1961. 

A few months back, Bernie Kempinski and Otto Vondrak worked with me to develop the initial concepts for a “new image” SNE “wiggly worm” logo. The graphic challenge was how does one “link” the letters “S,” “N”, and “E” - try it - it’s not as easy as linking two letters like “CN” or even “CV.”
The answer lay in the approach the DWP took - the graphic designers for CN way back in 1961 obviously had the same issue linking the letters together. The solution was to not even bother trying!
I have to give Mike C credit for suggesting the DWP possibility - and all the credit (or blame if you don’t like it) for the logo goes to Otto. 
Thanks to all, here, for the first time, is a poor color rendering of what this scheme might look like on one of the SNE’s GP9s after repainting in the North Providence shops in 1965….

Appreciate any and all thoughts - 

Here's a version of the lettering scheme in the later green/yellow:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What If?

With all the neat new stuff coming out in what one friend of mine described once as "designer plastic" - especially in HO scale - it's easy to feel like a kid in a candy store.

Impulse buying is not necessarily a bad thing - after all this is a hobby and as long as you're not taking food away from the table for indulges like model railroading no harm no foul.

One of my favorite prototype locomotives because they're just cool is the Union Pacific's turbines. Besides, what railroad other than the UP could get away with calling a locomotive the "Big Blow." (I actually prefer the N&W's "Jawn Henry" - but come on, no one will EVER make that in plastic, will they???).

Enter the Scale Trains Union Pacific Turbine. I saw these announced a few months ago and immediately passed since well, you know they aren't really a "fit" for the Central Vermont.  

What if, just maybe, my prototype freelanced subsidiary of the CV, the Southern New England, acquired a few turbine sets???? I mean, someone made GG-1's painted for the SP Daylight and I've even seen an RGS Galloping Goose painted in a Santa Fe Warbonnet!
Imagine if you will a set of Big Blows painted green and yellow ... what a wonderful sight they would make winding (and screaming!) their way through my depiction of the tranquil New England countryside.

There might be some, uh, "operational challenges" to overcome. Consider the wood overpasses and covered bridge over the tracks just south of Everett....the equivalent of jet exhaust might take it's toll on the century+ old wood?  

On second thought, maybe not. Perhaps Bernie should get a set to switch the LAPT?