Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Post op sessions To-Do lists….

After the last few posts with "big dreams/big plans" time to get back to reality. 
Several pieces of a couple of puzzles have to drop into place before I do the 'big WRJ re-do' I blogged about. 
But the last two op sessions did reveal some issues/glitches that need to fixed. AND, I want to continue working on the rest of the layout (you know, the parts I don't intend to tear apart anytime soon). 
First, and most critical of these is a Walthers Code 83 curved turnout at the north end of Waterbury. It has worked okay - early on problems with some Rapido passenger cars were traced to out-of-gauge wheel sets. These were replaced with Reboxx wheels and it seemed to alleviate the problem. But in the last two sessions the issue came back with a vengeance and now just about every passenger car, most steam engines, and even some freight cars, are derailing in this turnout. 
After the session a careful check with the standards gauge revealed the issue - there are several points along the length of the point rail where the gauge is tight. 
Shouldn't be too much of a surprise - the point rails are "straight" and the closure and corresponding stock rails are curved. How COULD the gauge possibly be constant? 
So this one has to replaced. 
 At the same time this end of Waterbury yard has code 70, Walthers code 83 and Peco code 83 all coexisting - less than reliably. The entire ladder is going to come out and hand laid curved code 70 turnouts are going in their place. 

Of course this is the only place on the layout where the track is still laid on styrofoam - so the question is "Do I suck it up and replace the sub roadbed with plywood and relay all the track?" (That means redoing the track/ballast and wiring, and maybe some of the scenery so it's not a simple answer)
I suppose I could relay the turnout on the foam and see if it works. (As a practical matter securing turnout controls to the foam - especially through the 2" foam - can be somewhat problematic.) What I DON'T want to do is stick with the foam then find I still have reliability issues and get to relay the track a third time…..

The other "to-do" items are much less intrusive. Actually, most of them are "administrative" and paper work in nature. 






Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sneak Preview - and a possibility???

This post serves two purposes. And, it may be the first model railroad blog post to feature a Vulcan funeral… 
The first purpose is crass commercialism - a plug for my friend Bernie Kempinski's Upcoming book from Kalmbach - 45 Original Track Plans. 
But one of those plans does have some bearing on this post and on my layout. It's Bernie's Magnum Opus du White River Junction…. or some such. Essentially the plan in the book features White River Jct. and several other CV towns in a massive dream layout scenario. He did me a favor and didn't design it for my present basement - a good thing since I'd likely be taking a crow bar to what I DO have had that been the case. Thanks Bernie!
For frame of reference here's a snippet of the parts of the plan that apply to this discussion (reproduced here with Bernie's permission)


I've blogged about the issues with the White River scene on my layout before so I won't repeat those concerns. I might come to the conclusion that what it is is what it is…and it's not worth the time/effort/expense to change. 

But, as Mr. Spock said, "I like to consider that there are always …. possibilities."
[Editor's Note: Of course that was shortly before he sucked down the Enterprise's main engine fumes inside a glass box that looks the smoking rooms in the airport, died, and then got shot out of the ship in a giant eyeglass case….But I digress.

Although the plan in the book is too large but perhaps I could take a kernel of an idea and solve several of the issues with WRJ by adapting it to fit my space. 

The key would be the removal of the wall behind WRJ - completely - and finishing off the walls in the present workshop to match those in the rest of the layout room. (The workshop area is 6 x 11 feet).The staging yard which presently juts into the middle of the storage room would turn 180 degrees and end up along the left wall of the present workshop in this view.
 I'd add a little - perhaps 14-18" to the rear of the layout - enough to make the platform area of the station a true highlight. The resulting operator's area would be approx 36" wide. Access could be via duck under or through some sort of lift out lift gate. A door may or not be installed between where the water heater is and the corner of the wall. 
A conceptual sketch of how this might fit the space is below.

Will I actually do this???
Honestly, I don't know. There's some appeal to it but I also dread the thought of another step backward. 
At least this wouldn't require tearing out sections of the layout and rebuilding them - it's a change to the space more than the layout itself. 
Key is to determine if the time/effort/expense is worth the benefit. We'll see. 




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Key Pieces of White River Junction

I've had some inquiries from my post the other day showing one possible change to the White River Junction section arrangement. I think it may have confused some people - in fact I know it did! I didn't make it clear that the plan DOES NOT reflect the current track arrangement. In fact, the proposed "new" plan is a compromise from the prototype. 
In an attempt to clarify - 
here's an aerial photo from 1953 showing the station area at White River Junction, Vt. From the UVM web site. I added the labels to show some "key" elements. 

The orientation of this aerial photo is close to how my layout's White River scene is presently arranged - the station is to the left and the CV yard is north - to the right in this photo - as you look at the layout - and when you're standing in my aisle you're really in the White River.
My main issue with the current arrangement is the staging yard - it's on a stub-ended shelf through the large mouse hole. And, speaking of the mouse hole, well that's issue #2 - but as we add more and more elements to the foreground and continue the scenery into the staging yard it becomes less and less obtrusive 

But it doesn't change the fact that the staging yard itself is a real problem….And now here, for the first time anywhere - the "Backstage" View. I've lost count of how many times I've bumped into the end of this damn "temporary" staging yard. 



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Operating Session Jul 18, 2015 - The Motion Picture

An experiment - I shot some video during yesterday's op session and pieced together a short film that's available on YouTube for viewing - CLICK HERE TO VIEW
Enjoy!
In no danger of winning an academy award but comments are welcome. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Op session preps and Waterbury Progress

Low angle aerial view of Waterbury. Filled in the gaps between the old scenery and new fascia, adding about 4"-8" to the foreground of scene. Time to call in the ballast crew and the static grass landscapers. 


Derby & Ball - ready for some final texturing and details.

What's with this guy? Obviously my son Matthew's work….

Doing something I've never tried before - two op sessions in the same month. The smart thing to do would have been to leave the layout as-is from the last session. I find it difficult and somewhat time-consuming to make the shift between "construction mode" and "operating mode." Maybe as more of the layout gets "finished" this will become less time consuming. That's my hope. 
Of course, in the two weeks between I redid some the fascia in Waterbury - which left a gaping hole between the old scenery and the "new" fascia. 
I filled that in with foam and got a coat of earth-colored paint on it with some basic texturing in the form of sifted dirt. 
I was going to repaint the fascia (it now needs it - badly!) before today's session but cooler heads prevailed when I had images of my operating crew members sporting spots of green paint!
Next on the agenda is finishing the country store for Williams Creek, getting Mrs. Griffith a house to go with the barn, and then a LOT of static grass work between the end of the peninsula and Randolph. 
Possible location for the Griffith Farm house? 
But right now I have to make sure the throttles have fresh batteries…. and find the directions for the fast clock….
Remind me WHY exactly I'm doing this? 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Flipping the Yard?

I've discussed some of the frustrations I have with the main yard scene on the layout in previous posts. 
Bob Sprague, who's had a number of layout designs published in MR over the years, came by a few months ago and after we reviewed the list of what was bothering me (outlined in more detail below) he prepared this drawing showing a possible solution. This drawing shows the "main peninsula" exactly as it exists. Changes to the main peninsula are off the table. 

The top wall and left side walls (relative to the drawing above) basically the location of the main yard does not reflect the current state of the railroad. At this point the station "wye" scene (not actually a complete wye) is where the turntable is shown on this plan - the turntable is in the upper left hand corner.The south-end staging yard is currently on a stub-ended shelf that juts into the middle of the furnace room. This drawing shows a revision to the staging yard that wraps the line around the furnace and creates a double-ended fiddle yard on one end.The other change on this plan from what's in the basement presently is the right side of the room (relative to the drawing) - currently the north end staging yard is along that wall - I'd like to move that from the wall to another location. Pluses to the current arrangement: 
1. Current arrangement represents the "prototype" orientation of White River Jct. - from the north you go through the CV yard, past the engine terminal and then arrive at the station.

Cons to the current arrangement: 
1. The station in its current location is kind of hidden - the proposed plan would make the station - a signature scene - the first thing you see when you walk down the main aisle.2. The current location of the turntable is too far from the aisle to effectively work as the "hostler" and there's no room for the roundhouse - which means this section of the layout languishes simply because I can't figure out how to make it work. And frankly we never seem to use the turntable during an op session. 

In essence the main issue is the station is a "curved scene" - the curve in front of the station is a longtime favorite of prototype railfans - and the same north yard is an inherently straight scene - (on the prototype it's arrow straight for a couple of miles). 
 Naturally, I ended up with the "straight" scene in the corner - meaning the yard has a 90-degree bend in the middle. 

There is one "con" to the proposed new arrangement - actually two: 
1. I'd have to scrap what I have and rebuild the thing
2. The orientation of the elements in WRJ don't match the prototype - you'd pass the station before arriving at the yard from the north - exactly the opposite of what really happens. 

But, although the orientation will be reversed from the prototype the arrangement in the "new" plan has the yard and engine terminal in a "straight" part of the layout and the station in the corner.... I've been toying back and forth with these plans for several months - thought it was time to share it with the world and see what the reaction is. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

July 5 - Progress Report

Progress on the hay barn at Griffiths Farm. I might add a farmhouse "up the road aways…." But I finally got the lower level windows, doors, and trim in place. And planted the wire tree. 
Considering this was a holiday weekend (Happy Independence Day!) I didn't get a LOT done on the layout. Besides, I have a small group of guest operators coming by on July 18 for an operating session so I really don't want to dive into any major messy projects until that session has concluded. Once that session is done the plan is to finish the areas that I plan to have judged for the NMRA AP Program scenery certificate. (I run hot and cold with the whole MMR/AP Program thing. But I figure I'm pretty close to knocking out three certificates - Electrical, Civil, and Scenery - so I might as well. At that point I'll reassess whether I want to pursue what would be for me the last two certificates.) 
Even without the MMR certificates I'm so close to getting some sections of this layout "finished" that I'm determined to do just that. 
The barn scene I've shown several times was one of those "90%" done projects - the doors and lower windows weren't installed, and the tree adjacent to the barn was simply plopped into place. 
Friday morning was spent finishing up the structure itself - I even "dug" a hole and planted the tree.
The Williams Creek area has progressed with a creamery building (a Branchline kit with a scratch built boiler house addition). But the scene needs something else. 
I can't think of anything more New England than a country store. I'd had the sub walls for a BEST Trains country store (The Trussel Store) on the layout for more than a year. Finally this weekend between other obligations I got the clapboard walls painted and painted and glazed the windows. 
Progress!
Walls with windows for the country store. The mullions on one of the large laser-cut large store front windows simply wasn't there when I removed the pieces from the wood sheet. Need to repair it. 

Not entirely sure if it will be placed in front of the mainline in Wiliams Creek or between the track and the backdrop - either position will require "adjusting" the scenery a little but I think it will be a nice addition to the scene. I'm going to hold off selecting exactly where to place it until it's assembled. See the photo below for the two possible locations. 
As far as color, I toyed with painting it plain white - but the creamery is white. I also toyed with ochre yellow, which was a very common color on older rural New England frame buildings (see the BEST web site for a photo of the store in that scheme). In the end I settled on barn red with white trim. Should really pop. 
I plan on adding a simple interior and some lighting to this structure - partially for the MMR thing (you get extra scenery points for "lighting") but mostly because I think it will be neat to have a chance to do a "nighttime" shot or two. 
A light construction project for this week. I've stripped most of the structures from Waterbury in preparation for a short work session Tuesday evening. We're going to re-do the fascia around the lobe end of the peninsula (above) to make it a smooth curve and straighten out of a reverse curve in the fascia to add a few inches to the scene at Waterbury (below). 

A little bit of major construction is also on the agenda for this week - luckily it won't impact the upcoming op session (actually should be finished well before then). I've never been pleased with the fascia on the lobe end of the peninsula. Frankly it looked awful. John Paganoni is coming by Tuesday evening to help resolve the issue with the curved portion of the peninsula. At the same time I'm going to straighten out a weird "reverse" curve in the present fascia - essentially making the fascia straight and adding 6" or so to the front of the layout. I'll save what I'm planning to use that additional depth until another post.