Sunday, June 29, 2014

Operating Session #5 - June 28, 2014

Hosted another op session yesterday. 
I'd have to rate it as the most successful session to date. 
I spent several short work sessions over the last week correcting the few track work issues that revealed themselves during the previous session. 
One lesson I learned from last week is to have a "ready toolbox" of frequently needed track and wiring tools available. Putting such a tool kit together seems to work - I didn't have any layout issues at all! Perhaps being prepared scares away the gremlins? Or at least keeps them at bay? 
Things ran so well I actually ran a couple of trains during the session. 
I tried to shoot some video but failed miserably - I need to work on figuring out the video functions on my camera. 
So here are a few "grab shot" still photos:
RS-3 on the empty sand and gravel train north of Randolph:

My contribution to the next generation of model railroaders - two of my three sons are into model railroading to one degree or another. The oldest likes building models - the youngest could care less about building models but loves operating, and has since he was a kid. Here's the youngest, Matt working the northbound local in Randolph with Phil. As an aside - I need to add cup holders to the fascia to give people a place to put the soda cans. 


Several of the guys on today's crew belong to the Vienna Model Railroad Club in nearby Vienna. Turns out one of them, Dave Mitchell, is also a Central Vermont fan and modeler! Was nice to have someone immediately recognize the various stations and scenes. His train, the southbound local, is meeting the northbound in Waterbury. He's temporarily changing roles to that of Waterbury station operator and calling the dispatcher to OS his trains northbound counterpart.

White River Junction yard is always a busy place - it got a little backed up at one point in the session until I gently reminded the yardmaster he might want to call the B&M to come take some cars off his hands...Getting the scenery done in this area is high on the list. It also needs additional lighting. The coaling tower is based on a standard Roberts & Schaefer design and is detailed to match the one in White River. If you want one it's  available as a kit from my good friend Bernie Kempinski's Alkem Scale Models. 
As I said I managed to run a couple of trains. I also had the chance to "rail fan" the layout a bit during the session. Those are both firsts for me. This is train 307, the Boston/New York to Montreal "Ambassador" heading through Everett, Vt. 
And yes, the day ended with Christine's now famous (at least among our NORVA operating group) BBQ sandwich lunch. On another forum someone commented that op sessions are too serious and take all the fun out of the hobby. Of course that same person went on to say he didn't operate and didn't care to try it. As you can tell, no one here was having any fun. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tru-Color Paint - we have a winner!

My comments here are limited to airbrushing - I rarely, if ever airbrush things like structures and usually paint them by hand. 
Years ago my go-to paint for painting locomotives and rolling stock was a line of paint called "Accu-paint" from SMP Industries. (Not to be confused with the Accu Flex line of paints that eventually became "Modelflex"). 
I got started using Accu-paint since I modeled New England railroads and Accupaint made a line of decals with paints colored to match. But I found I always had great results with the stuff - it sprayed nice and fine, didn't spatter, gum up the airbrush, or dry with anything other than a smooth, shiny finish perfect for decals. 
A few months ago I stumbled across a bottle of Tru-Color paint at a train show. I'd heard of this paint but had never actually encountered it. "Oh great, more crappy paint" I said to the owner. 
"Try it and see what you think" was his reply. 
Last night I sprayed a car with the stuff - the paint performed beautifully, just like the old Accu-Paint (no surprise since they're essentially the same formula). 
I've used some acrylic paints - primarily the Vallejo brand - with good success as well. With some brands I always seem to get splattering and other issues. 
And no matter what I've tried I always seem to have issues with clear flat finishes from any acrylic paint manufacturer. 
I just tried the Tru-Color clear flat finish - it went on like a dream! 
Tru-Color has also introduced something Accu-paint never did - a line of flat weathering colors. I'm going to try those once I get through tomorrow's operating session. 
I'll post photos later. 
And since someone will inevitably post a comment about solvent-vs-acrylic paints and safety issues I'll add common sense applies. When you're airbrushing anything - including acrylics - you should be using a vented booth and ideally wear a two-stage respirator, gloves, and eye protection. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The many locales of Williams Creek

Seeing the overview of the entire peninsula from the post on Saturday's op session has received several nice comments... "layout is looking great," "glad to see it coming together" and the like. What I see is all the effort, time and money it's taken to get from "there to here."
The expense and time building a helix, second level, and a laying a lot more track. The wasted effort of doing, and then tearing out backdrops, scenery and the like.
It seems kind of strange that I kept one scene - the Williams Creek crossing, intact through all these changes. The labels show how this section of the layout, about 20" x 48" overall, started on the upper level, then moved straight down about 15" when the layout was single-decked. Finally, the addition of the longer siding at Randolph meant the bridge came out. As I related in a series of posts back in March and April, the bridge scene sat on a shelf in the storage room and more than once almost went to the curb. In the end Williams Creek has come to rest in his present location and there are no plans to move it anytime soon.
I really need to accept that the track plan, area for buildings, scenery, etc... will never be ideal. Instead I have to move forward and finish some other portion of the railroad. I'm planning for that to be Waterbury - but you never know.
Stay tuned.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Operating Session #4 - June 21, 2014

Operating Session #4 on Saturday June 22, 2014. Started at 0900 with victory being declared (and lunch served) at 1252....One of my visiting operators, Wayland Moore, took photos - a good thing since I didn't! Thanks Wayland!
Mat Thompson stepped in to take Bob Warren's
normal spot in the dispatcher's chair.
Randolph made its operating debut. Note the "spare" locomotives in the background.
All in all, session went well. A few trackwork gremlins hid until visiting operators were present,and one feeder wire connection came undone which rendered a section of the mainline dead for a time while the Section Foreman (me) tracked the problem, failed to find it, and ran an over-table temporary jumper to get the trains moving again.
I had fun and the guest operators enjoyed themselves (or so they claim). We will finish the operating "day" next week with a different crew - it will be interesting to see if they can recover from some of the issues "earlier in the morning" since the cascading effect of the mainline shutdown is most certainly showing itself in the on-time performance....
Post session I spent some time getting another of the 2-8-0s up and running - and reprogrammed the steamers on the layout so the brake squeal is turned way, way, down.
A few granuales of ballast found their way into the turnout going to the creamery, which caused some issues. I got those cleared out so hopefully that problem is fixed.
Roger is asking two guys who clearly don't know the answer "Which track is this?"
Answer: I forgot to tape the Randolph track diagram to the fascia....sorry.

Paul Dolkos and Steve Williams try to
decide what to do next.


Steve and his conductor on a northbound.




Paul gets ready to depart St Albans (north staging) while Molly makes
sure no one gets out of the aisle without petting her.


Lunch! the best part of any session. Thanks  to Christine for the delicious BBQ and potato salad!
Rain held off long enough for us to enjoy lunch on the deck.


Interesting angle shows the current state of the peninsula "blob."
Need to tweak some track issues in Essex this week prior to our next session on the 28th. I might end up replacing Essex with something much simpler since it's a little jammed in. But this town does add a great deal of operating interest.
 The Essex operator left several little notes on track issues in Essex Jct - I need to resolve those before next week's session. I might (and emphasize might) make some radical simplifications to the track in that section of the layout - one possibility is removing Essex Jct from that section of the railroad and replacing it with a much simpler town of Richmond, Vt. I just think there's a little too much jammed into Essex - something that's becoming more obvious as I try to fit buildings between the various sidings. I'd lose the Essex switcher position if I did that, but Essex Jct might return on the currently empty wall of the basement beyond the current north end staging yard. 
As an aside, if I do change out the Essex scene the remaining styrofoam subroadbed will be replaced with plywood on that side of the peninsula.
Another lesson learned was I need to be a little more specific in some of the train card instructions - I will try and beef those up a little before next Saturday.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Work Session Report - 15 June 2014

Tom, John, and Ben stopped by a short work session this afternoon. 
About a year ago John made a yardmasters desk for White River Junction - he and Tom worked on installing it on the layout. John is an extremely talented modeler - his other hobby is making mandolins - so to say he went above and beyond the call with the YM's desk is an understatement!
But the finished desk looks great, and it's on drawer glides so it can be slid out of the way to keep the aisle clear when it's not needed. 
Tom and I spent some time discussing the station platforms and B&M track arrangements by White River Junction station. We have a plan for the area that will maximize the platform area around the station building and make the finished scene close to full size in HO. It's going to have to wait until after the operating sessions in the next two weeks. 

 Ben worked on passenger car wheel sets. 
I did a couple of minor little tasks - adding another set of feeders near the creamery crossing and ballasting some of the mainline track. 
I also finished installing the phone system that Mat and Pete stopped by to help with on Tuesday night. The phone system deserves it's own post. 
Thanks to all for the help!
As for me, now I have to clean up the layout room and get things staged for the session next Saturday.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Central Vermont Water Tower drawings

Found this among some other old plans and drawings in a plastic storage container during my clean out. Thanks to Christine for scanning this on the large format scanner. Plans for a standard CV 50,000-gallon water tank. 


Spring Cleaning….again?

Spending the day clearing all the stuff out of the workshop area - I'm tired of tripping over boxes of old phone cords, bags of styrofoam peanuts and a box with my sons old Citadel shoes (from the looks of them it's a wonder he ever passed inspection of any sort…) And that doesn't begin to cover the various kits and other model railroad parts I have still stashed away. 
In the meantime my new milling machine is still sitting in the box since I "don't have the room to set it up right now!" 
Regular readers will recall I started this back in Mach and made great progress, until we had the leaky pipe issue. That meant everything in the storage room ended up in the workshop and layout area…. and frankly I lost a lot of steam after dealing with the mess and repairs. 
There's op sessions the next two weekends, and some of the guys are coming over for a short work session tomorrow, so it's the perfect day to (finally) get the junk out of here and  to the curb where it belongs. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sky Blue Paint

Tore, and a few other blog readers have asked me about the sky blue paint I've used for the layout room and the peninsula backdrop. Readers in the US simply have to walk into a Home Depot and ask for Behr's "Silver Strand."
For those who don't have access to the brand name of the paint, the mixture labels on the two cans I've used over the years are shown here. A paint store should be able to match the formula. Although the numbers are slightly different I've never been able to ascertain any difference in the color between these two cans that's worth worrying about.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Distant mountains behind Waterbury

I added some distant hillsides and mountains to the wall behind Waterbury last night. I need to leave this backdrop somewhat unfinished for now. I plan to spend my layout time this evening finishing up some areas that need static grass - specifically around the underpass and north bank of Williams Creek. Then I need to start clearing off the layout, including putting away the scenery materials and backdrop paints, in preparation for my operating sessions on the 21st and 28th.
I also have a few of the usual suspects coming over for a small work session this coming Sunday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Not a Cloud in the Sky…."

With all due respect to Karen Carpenter that's not quite the case anymore. 
I painted the basement walls sky blue before starting construction, but it looked exactly like what it was - a plain blue wall. 
A vast expanse of blue wall behind the peninsula needs a few clouds to liven things up a bit. 
Tonight I decided to add some horizon line clouds and a line of clouds slightly higher in the sky. I'll come back tomorrow and add some distant hills. 
While it's not exactly going to put anyone "On Top of the World" I think it does look better. 

I painted these using tips I picked up from video series on MR Video Plus and from Chris Lyon's four-part series on TrainMasters TV. 


Monday, June 2, 2014

Grassing up the creamery area

Overall view of the creamery scene. 
Spent some this evening adding the basic layer of static grass to the area around the creamery. I also added a row of trees to separate the creamery scene from the pasture area. As time permits I'll add some additional textures, various weeds and small bushes to break up the surface of the grass. 
New tree line between creamery scene and pasture. 

The next view is a close up look at the tree line with some of the various textures/static grasses in place. As an aside, the more I take photos of this area of the layout, the more I'm convinced the east wall of the basement needs to be painted "sky blue" and not tan!


I also added some static grass in an effort to blend the road into the backdrop photo.