Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!





Here's hoping these trees get to their final destination before Santa's arrival!

Safe travels, and a blessed holiday season to all our friends - Marty and Christine McGuirk

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Swing... and a miss!

Sometimes you can find an old vintage photo of a scene, and then either go on location or do a search on Google maps and instantly recognize most of the key structures etc...
That was the case with this post from a couple of weeks ago where I found the old Perry granite shed was still sitting in Waterbury relatively intact.
Sometimes, things don't quite work out as well.
Take for instance, the Eldredge* Woodworking plant. It showed up in the Wordless Wednesday post from December 14 - and in the 1938 aerial photos of Waterbury mentioned above.
Here's what Google street view reveals the building looks like today:


The structure that was immediately adjacent to the track in the photos from "back then" is either significantly changed or just .... gone.
I guess sometimes you just strike out...

*Determining the proper spelling of "Eldredge" has been problematic.
The Central Vermont Railway engineering department plats clearly show it as "Eldr-i-dge." While the Sanborn Map spells it "Eldr-e-dge."
Yikes! Which was correct! Historians tend to be fairly anal about the spelling of surnames...besides, I needed to make a sign for the model!
The History of the Town of Waterbury, which has proven fairly reliable, references a number of folks with this surname. Since it spells all of them "Eldredge" that's the spelling I've chosen.





Monday, December 19, 2016

Sixth Anniversary of this Blog - Some Numbers


December 17th is the official anniversary of this blog. I made my first post on that date in 2010, making the blog six years old.

In keeping with what has become a blog anniversary tradition, here are a few numbers, going back to December 2012 (first month I actually took notice of these statistics!):


December 2012:

Total Views: 44,690
# Followers: 88
Total Posts (2011 and 2012): 90
Average Posts/Week: .86


December 2013:

Total Views: 100,000
Total Posts (2011-2013): 175
Average Posts/Week: .89


December 2014:

Total Views: 186,301
#Followers: 165
Total Posts (All time): 313
Average Posts/Week: 1.5


December 2015:

Total Views: 288,625
# Followers: 192
Total Posts (All time): 421
Average Posts/Week 2015: 2.0
Average Posts/Week All Time: .61


Sixth Anniversary, December 2016:

Total Views: 403,423
# Followers: 180
Total Posts (All time): 475
Average Posts/Week 2016: 1.04
Average Posts/Week All Time: 1.5

As of December 17, 2016, here’s a list of the ten most viewed posts in 2016** (the number to the right is the total number of unique page views):
EntryPageviews
7194
Sep 4, 2013, 10 comments
3692
2737
Feb 9, 2013, 1 comment
1573
Dec 23, 2010, 3 comments
1191
1007
958
832
Jan 15, 2014, 7 comments
779
Jan 22, 2015, 10 comments
688

I started this blog to create a diary of sorts that would document the building, rebuilding and operating my home layout.  The fact that so many other modelers have found it somewhat interesting is particularly gratifying.  Thanks to all who stop by my little corner of the internet.


* There are no stats available for the first year since I didn't include them in the first anniversary post!

** Of course, by including the list of Top Ten posts and associated links here all I've done is guaranteed people will click on them, increasing their total views more!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Video Update #1 - Lessons Learned


One of the gremlins with the BlogSpot software is the length of comments is limited, meaning a long comment, or reply, will often be cut off in mid-sentence.
Over the weekend I posted a link to a video update I made - I received the following comment in the thread for that post from Mike Cougill. Rather than deal with the limits of the comment section, I decided to make my response it's own post.
Here's Mike's comment and my reply:
Hi Marty,
Your videography has a solid foundation to build on. The motion is smooth and consistent, with each scene well lighted. Tthe audio is clear with excellent sound quality and natural sounding narration. Excellent beginning.

Regards,
Mike Cougill

Thanks for the kind words Mike.  
Although I’ve shot “grab shot” videos before, this was the first time I tried to create something resembling a coherent, technically acceptable product.  My goal was to create something at least one step above unwatchable – in other words an acceptable baseline from which I could progress.
While I didn’t write a script, I did use some notes taped to the underside of the camera on the tripod to keep me on track.  What you heard (and saw) in most cases was the second or third time I’d shot the segment – in fact I shot a whole segment on fascia colors that ended up on the cutting room floor. In all, I shot about 3 or 4 times more “footage” than I actually used. 
The video editing is an enjoyable challenge, but it does take time.  All told, I spent a pleasant few evenings and one Saturday morning working through the process, toying with the software (iMovie), and the like.  I found structuring the content of the video no different in principle from writing for print – but there the similarities end.
A few seconds on a single image with voice over feels like an eternity. Excessive panning creates a dizzying viewing experience.  And you need to think through what the viewer can see, and what they will be hearing. for example, in the "here's what's in the box" segment I should have spent less time showing my ugly mug and cut back and forth to video closeups of the parts of the model I was holding up. Doing that, of course, takes longer than simply holding up the stuff in the box but the results will be far better.
I tried to focus on not saying “um, and eh and the like.” The video editing process came pretty easy – once I figured out the software. I found audio editing is an entirely different animal.  More than once I found I’d cut some video and fail to accurately cut the corresponding audio, resulting in me talking about something the viewer wasn't seeing. I also need to add some musical outros and intros for the segment transitions.
I was impressed with the performance of my iphone 6 in shooting both the video and the audio.  I felt I might have needed to do a “voice over” for the layout tour sections, but the audio levels once boosted slightly matched the “sitting at the modeling desk” portion so I went with them.
I should add the inspiration to do this video was from Mike Deverell (see his Colorado Front Range YouTube channel), and Gerry Leone's Bona Vista update videos (also on YouTube).  Mike's are long, extremely well done shows (they're almost broadcast quality) - while Gerry's updates are a little more "shoot from the hip."  I can see advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
We'll see how this evolves over the next few months.
But, hey, I had fun doing it and have more ideas (improvements!) for the next one!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Video Update #1 - December 2016

I'm going to try something new - doing monthly video updates on the layout. The first of them is posted on YouTube and can be found at the following link. 
Video production is something new to me, and I obviously have a lot to learn! 
I hope you enjoy and appreciate any and all feedback. 
It's available here.
https://youtu.be/Sm25muC3zfk

Monday, December 5, 2016

Then and Now - Perry Granite (later Cooley-Wright), Waterbury, Vt.

Zooming in from a 1938 aerial view of Waterbury on the UVM web site produced this screen capture. The Perry Granite shed is clearly visible with its "Rock of Ages" lettering on the roof:
Eventually this building would house the Cooley-Wright Manufacturing Co foundry. Google maps street view of the building. It's in pretty good shape considering how long it's been around.
The granite shed is inching closer to the top of the "to build" list. (I want to complete the buildings to the left of track in the aerial view first).  I'm planning to include the rooftop lettering - hope I can come with an easy way to recreate it.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Inspiration and a clear path




While my approach to building, and rebuilding, my layout has given me a reputation of taking the “Ready, Fire, Aim!” approach, that’s not really accurate. 
Think things through before taking action, lest you find
yourself in an untenable situation.

I tend to approach designing layouts by defining a particular location in the basement where a specific scene will go, and then design and build that scene before moving to the next.  There is an inherent risk here – you can quickly end up with a finished layout where all the various segments don’t necessarily function together as a cohesive whole either operationally or visually.
The subject of much discussion on this blog, and in private emails with some of my friends, has centered on the section of the railroad where the White River Jct. yard had been located.  Although I’d made some modifications to the area it really wasn’t working (I won’t dwell on those issues here, as “whys” have been discussed ad nauseam in previous posts).
Prior to the inclusion of White River, the original plan layout design called for some form of Essex Junction, Vermont, certainly a CV signature scene, in this area. I ended building a version of Essex at the other end of the modeled railroad (Essex Junction v1.0?). This was subsequently removed when the neck of the peninsula was rearranged earlier this year). Through most of the summer and fall, while things have progressed well on the other end of the layout, I couldn’t really get the plan for Essex Jct. v2.0 to “gel.”  The solution, I thought, was to forego Essex and all its appeal entirely and instead include a “yard” (you know, since model railroads apparently have to include a “yard” if for no other reason to give the yardmaster something to do).
I worked diligently on designing this new yard over the course of several weeks starting back in the early spring.  Luckily, I realized what a mistake it was before committing to actually building the thing.  Prototype yards, even small ones, are massive.  Model railroad yards tend to be fairly imperfect depictions of the prototype - 90% of the time we basically fill a shelf with parallel tracks.  I was in real danger of simply repeating the issues I had with the White River yard in slightly modified form.  Unlike the other sections of the railroad, this would have forever looked like nothing more than a shelf full of parallel tracks at best, or at worst some sort of out-of-place appendage to the rest of the railroad.  It would do nothing to complete the picture.
So there this section of the layout sat, a sea of bare homasote awaiting some inspiration.
That inspiration arrived a few months ago in the form of some layout photos from Neil Schofield, showing his scene at Orleans, Vt. You can see one of them (taken by Neil and used with his kind permission) below.
Orleans, Vt., in HO scale as modeled by Neil Schofield.  N. Schofield photo, used with permission.
What inspiration could I draw for my transition era CV from a scene showing a street running in front of a couple of stores and clearly set in a different era?  Turns out, plenty of inspiration. Although there’s no denying the wonderful job Neil is doing creating his vision of upstate Vermont in the 1980s, what I found most inspiring was the sense of place they evoked and the way the prototype is driving the modeled railroad. 
A Google street view of the scene Neil has modeled.
This sent me back to the layout to determine if perhaps I gave up on Essex Junction too quickly, dismissing it as “too hard” to fit in my space.  I’ll likely do another blog post with more details on Essex Junction v2.0, but essentially the scene has two “sections” – the trainshed/station area, and a couple of blocks away a wye with several industries inside it and alongside it.  I know there’s an effective way to model the “wye” – simply leave off one leg of the thing.  After all, that’s exactly what I did with Essex when it was located on the other side of the basement.



Kurt Thompson works the Essex Junction switcher job in Essex Jct. v1.0. A workable track arrangement that captured the look of the prototype, it lacked room for the structures themselves so wouldn’t ever visually capture the look of the prototype.
The crews that operated "Essex 1.0" found it was an enjoyable job with the right blend of action and down time.  If I duplicated the basic approach to a "two-legged wye" in the new location for Essex I found I could include many of the buildings that had to be left out of Essex 1.0.
That's perhaps the biggest inspiration I got from Neil's photos. His railroad is firmly in context with the other elements that make the scene recognizable. I suppose he could have included a spur and yet another place for his crews to switch, but the resulting scene would have looked model railroad and not created the same sense of place.
Thanks Neil. I feel like I've gotten over a bad head cold!

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?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mid-Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers (MARPM) Meet - Fredericksburg, Va. 30 Sept-1 Oct 2016

The Mid-Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers (a.k.a. "MARPM") will be held Friday Sep 30, and Sunday Oct 1, at the Windgate by Wyndham Inn in Fredericksburg, Va., just off I-95.

There will be usual model display room, chances to visit and kitbitz with other models, and to see some truly stunning models.
I will be presenting my "Modeling the October Scene - Achieving believable fall colors."
But there's a full slate of clinics that rivals that at many national events.

Some of the clinics –

- Andrew Dodge "Creating a Steam Locomotive Roster" based on the roster of steam locomotives he scratch built for his new Proto:48 Colorado Midland – truly museum quality examples of the modeler’s art.

- Paul Dolkos “Tracks in the street: challenges of modeling the urban jungle” – it’s Paul explaining his modeling illustrated with his photography - why say more?

- Bernie Kempinski “Down to the Sea in Trains” – an introduction to his new, modern era Port of Los Angeles layout, the star of his soon to be published new book Model Railroaders Guide to Marine Terminals and Wharfs.

- Lance Mindheim “Tips for Better Structures” – Lance combines details and photos to convince us we are seeing more than is modeled.

- Ben Hom “New York Central System Open Hoppers 1919-1967" – a national expert on freight cars, Ben’s eye for detail and methods to improve prototype accuracy apply regardless of the cars you are modeling.

- Ramon Rhodes "A RAILROAD ODYSSEY: A Half Century Love Affair with Trains" – this man can tell a story - sit back, learn a bit and enjoy a lot.


There is more. Take a look at the website marpm.org and sign up.

By the way, there is no organization that puts on or fronts the money for an RPM event. Norm Wolf, Bob Sprague, Shannon Crabtree and others I don’t know have taken the initiative and done the work to make the MARPM happen.





Sunday, August 7, 2016

Plan 9 From Outer Space…

"This isn't Plans 1 through 8 from outer space. This is Plan 9! This is the one that actually worked!" - Jerry Seinfeld

I alluded to a “major project” on the other end of the basement in a post last week. I suppose it’s time to fess up and show just how “major” this project is and the current state of that end of the railroad.
It started with the removal of the White River Junction scene from the layout early last fall. My plan at the time was to install Bethel in its place.
While that was going on I was trying to locate things like structures and streets in Richmond and Randolph. As you can see on the track plan the way the mainline curved 90-degrees and then 180-degrees in Randolph, and the 180 degree curve in Richmond, was playing havoc with creating a realistic arrangement of the structures in both locations. See the benchwork plan below for the "before" benchwork arrangement:

The reason for this form factor was an attempt to hide the support column in the basement from view. But it was becoming clearly evident what I needed was a longer stretch of tangent track, especially to depict Randolph.  If I attached the neck of the peninsula to the narrow wall of basement (at the top of the plan) I would create a long stretch of tangent track on both sides of the backdrop. See below:
Key to all this was learning to simply accept the support column (not much of a choice since it holds up the house...) and live with it. 
So I decided to make a change to the benchwork footprint. This photo, taken before the track laying was finished in this area, shows the previous view from the spot: 


We removed the old benchwork and reattached the peninsula to the far wall.  Then we unscrewed the backdrop and ran it straight (surprisingly, the thing didn’t crack or break). Then I spliced some new pieces to the backdrop and connected it to the end wall. Next step will be repainting the backdrop sky blue. 
Sharp-eyed readers will also note that White River Junction is being replaced by Essex Junction. Long time blog readers will recall that was the plan for the layout several years ago. Guess I should have stuck with my original plan!
This view shows how much tangent track I have for the new version of Randolph. It also shows the tremendous mess all this work and rework creates: