Saturday, October 13, 2018

Video Layout Update #2

For those of you interested, I just posted a short (about 7 minute) video update. 
This features a quick pan of the layout area, showing the benchwork in its current state and then does some minimum radius testing on both a CV 2-8-0 and, just for fun, a 2-10-4. You can find it at the link here, or by clicking on the photo below. 
And if the like the video channel please consider subscribing and leaving a comment!

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Progress Report - 17 September 2018

Progress photo - September 16, 2018. It's starting to look like something other than a pile of wood!
After a seemingly endless process of painting and staining the legs, painting the walls, and then assembling the IKEA shelves, the layout has finally started to look a little less like a pile of lumber and more like a layout. Or at least the underpinnings of a layout. 
As I've mentioned before, one of the main goals for this layout (dictated by my wife - although I completely agree with her) is that it should "Look like a piece of art or furniture and blend in with the rest of the space."
We opted NOT to use the curtains under the fascia since decent looking curtains would not only be expensive, but they would actually detract from the non-cluttered look we're going for. 
Early tests with black for the IKEA shelf legs and under the layout was far too stark so I deferred to Christine's color sense. She chose a Sherwin Williams color called "Riverway" (SW 6222) for everything under the layout. The shelves are stained a light shade (Pecan) in order to allow them to pop a little. 
Ultimately I plan to use the IKEA shelves in the "entry" aisle shown here for display purposes for some other models and collectibles. But for now they're serving as staging spots for track, roadbed etc... 
There's one section where the benchwork is 12" wide - IKEA brackets secured to the inside of a 1"x3" "L" and painted to match the wall are more effective than individual legs or shelves.  
There's no need to have all the benchwork built on the IKEA shelves (which could get pricey). Using the IKEA Ivar shelf system is working out well - as you can seen here, most of the time you can use a short set of Ivar as shown here, and then bridge the gap to the next set of shelves or even a single support leg.  
A lesson learned from trying to string wire on previous layouts - lay in the buss wires now. ran a pair of buss wires and a second pair of wires (most likely for lighting and the like) around the entire layout now - before the subroadbed was in place. 
So far I'm quite pleased with how everything looks. 





Sunday, September 9, 2018

"Surround" or "Screened" Staging - Inspiration for CP staging

If you study the track plan in the link above you'll note the Staging and Feed mill, both of which represent the Canadian Pacific "side" of Richford, are somewhat underdeveloped. 
At the same time, the Central Vermont Richford branch, which originates in St. Albans, also needs to be factored in (those CV trains will end their run - actually they'll turn - in Richford - but the CV branchline trains need a place to go to/come from. 
I toyed with several arrangements - some of which started getting ever more complicated. 
Inspiration for how I'm planning to address all this is coming from an article in, of all places, the January 1987 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. While I shared several of my early influences HERE, in a post that is among the most read on this blog, I likely didn't encounter the January 1987 issue of RMC until several years after it was published (I was in Navy Main Propulsion school in January 1987 and up to my eyeballs learning the inner workings of ALCo diesels, so I didn't get do any model railroading or rail fanning at the time).  
But when I did see this issue one article did make an immediate impression on me. I was on the Model Railroader staff and looking for a design for a layout to fill a spare bedroom when Andy Sperandeo referred me to this article: 


This is a Christian Day design for a layout depicting the Grand Trunk's operations in and around South Paris, ME.  What was most intriguing about the design was the way he handled the staging. In fact, it was an early version of what has come to be called "Surround Staging" - rather than me typing a long description, a quick study of the track plan makes the concept pretty obvious. 
I actually used a slightly modified variant - with the staging tracks placed behind a low 2-D and some 3-D scenery in what I called "screened" staging in a previous layout - so I know the idea works and is quite effective - and is certainly a heck of lot easier than placing staging tracks below the scenicked level on a model railroad. 
"Screened Staging" on a prior railroad. 
I suspect if you tried to build Christian's plan in the size room he shows in this piece I think you'd be disappointed at the results. But I know I'm not the only one who's been inspired by the concepts demonstrated on this seemingly simple track plan. Andy once lamented to me that he couldn't get Christian to do any layout design articles for MR! 
In fact, combine the South Paris Switcher with Andy Sperandeo's San Jacinto branch, a design that was completely misinterpreted as underwhelming at the time it was published, and you have the acorn from which many of today's "achievable" layout designs have sprouted. 
I'm going to hold off sharing the specifics of how all this is (hopefully) going to work on the track plan until I have a chance to draw it out to scale. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Monday, August 13, 2018

Making sawdust

I managed to find some time this past week to get a start on the benchwork for "Phase 1."
The Ivar shelves are working out pretty much as expected. I did need to lower the grid framework to clear a light switch. Murphy's Law saw to it that the height of the Ivar shelves would have put the benchwork dead center on the light switches! 
Since that area will be where two wood trestles are located, I needed to lower the base height slightly so it worked out well. 
If pressed I will claim that I planned it that way.... 
While the vast majority of the benchwork will be open grid as show here, since the Richford peninsula is kinda oddly shaped I'm going to use L-girder there since it will be easier to create a more "free-form" look than the myriad of angle cuts that would required for open grid. 
One thing I'm doing on this layout (lesson learned from last one!) is using pocket screws to make it easier to move the cross members when/if that proves necessary. I'm trying to avoid having access to any screws prevented by the screw ending up against the wall or buried behind scenery or behind the fascia where it would be very difficult to access.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Something I need to get back to...

I recently unpacked my Mac desktop and set it up in the office in the new house. Knowing that this machine would be packed up for a while once we moved, I'd transferred a bunch of information to a portable hard drive that I figured I could use with my laptop while we were living in the apartment. 
One of the things I intended to work on during this "between layout (and house!) time" was the artwork for some Central Vermont lettering - especially things like the flatcars and MofW cars. 
Of course I transferred the Illustrator file that I'd started working on several years ago to the hard drive. 
Great, except that I neglected to remember that I didn't have Illustrator loaded on the laptop. 
The screen capture above serves as a reminder that I'd like to get back to this project. 
First I have find all the bits and pieces on this machine!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

White River Junction Coaling Tower - Photos












Resin Freight Car Cleanup tips

If your summer has been as wet as ours has been perhaps you were Googling "ark building" when you stumbled across this blog. 
In the interest of providing something useful on this blog I'll go ahead and offer a few tidbits on preparing resin kits. That's a perfect task for the summer modeling season. 
These are bits and pieces of a planned eBook on building and detailing rolling stock. While I still hope to finish that book - someday - in the meantime here's a couple of things from the cutting room floor.


Cleaning up the parts 
No matter the manufacturer, I start by cleaning the parts before assembly, and then follow up with a pre-painting touch up cleaning. 
Different manufacturers use different mold releases - some of them are really hard to clean off completely - and you won't realize it's still there until you try to paint the model and the paint either beads up or comes off in sheets. Sylvan mold release seems to be the toughest. 
I've tried warm soapy water, Goo Gone, Sylvan resin prep (which I'm pretty sure is some form of Goo gone), but one thing I've found always works pretty well is Shout. After removing the resin sheets from the tissue paper wrapping I gave each of the parts a shot of "Shout" (yes, the laundry stain pre-treat stuff) and scrub them gently with a toothbrush  before rinsing them under warm water. Then I put the parts aside to dry.

A few tools
I don't use a lot of fancy tools to build these kits, mostly a razor blade, an X-acto, some sanding sticks/files, pliers (to form wire), tweezers, a small machinists square, and starting in the last few years, an Opti-visor....
For drilling holes for grabs and brake components and the like, I prefer my drill press - but an old fashioned (but perfectly serviceable) pin vise works just as well.  Two tools that I find are really useful are shown in the photo to the right: 
The NWSL True-Sander 
Coffman right corner clamps

Removing flash
The most tedious part of building a resin freight car is cleaning up the parts.
But time and care spent on this task definitely shows on the finished model. Despite what the instructions say, I don't clean off all the parts before I start constructing the model. For one thing, I'd run out of enthusiasm before getting started, and for another I'd likely lose half the parts before getting everything together!


If there's a trick to removing the flash it's to be careful to not accidentally remove any detail that should be there. On flat kits it's quite common to find the sides or ends have some detail that needs to be preserved. A perfect example are the rivets on the side of the ends of this car - you might be tempted to sand the edge flat on your NWSL Tru-Sander - but you'd be removing the rivets and other details. The trick is to remove the flash without destroying the detail in the process.  For this, I use a razor blade held at a steep angle to scrape away the resin flash. I've found it's sometimes better to use a slightly dull razor blade for this scraping technique. A sharp, fresh blade can sometimes slice right into the resin whereas a dull blade will meet with just enough resistance that you can avoid digging into the part. 
To remove flash from openings, such as the end of this ventilated boxcar, I use a hobby knife and trim the resin flash to the edges, then use sanding sticks and/or files to true up the openings. 



Thursday, July 26, 2018

Best kept secret in Washington DC?

There's certainly no lack of secrets in Washington, D.C. Perhaps the best kept secret in DC has nothing to do with politics, politicians, spies. 
That secret is the Museum of the United States Navy, located on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard - itself a historic landmark. 
Frankly I think it's one of the better museums in a city with no lack of museums. And while visitors to the museum will learn lots of interesting facts about the sea service and the role it's played in American culture and history, the highlights for any modeler has to be the impressive collection of ship models on display. 
Ever wonder how big an O scale WWII aircraft carrier would be? Wonder no more. 
USS LEYTE, CV 32. This model is an actual 19'-8" long. (sorry about the reflections of the glass cases)


Closeup of Leyte's flight deck. 
USS Constitution, 1/8"=1 foot (1:96 scale). This particular model was in the Oval Office during JFK's administration and was removed immediately after his assassination. It was later in the office of James Brady, White House Press Secretary when he was severely wounded during the attempt on President Reagan's life. At that point the Executive Branch transferred the model to the Navy Museum. 
Some of the ships from the Great White Fleet display. Personally, I find these pre-Dreadnaught ships to be far more interesting than the Civil War ironclads that preceded them. 
Fascinating cutaway model showing the interior of an English 120-gun man-o-war. 1:64 scale model ("S" in model railroad lingo). This is not an official "Admiralty" model but instead was likely made by a sailor. One of my favorite models in the museum if only for the fascinating details that capture life aboard an 18th century ship. 
USS Crosley - a destroyer transport. If you've ever seen the film "Mr. Roberts" you're familiar with life aboard these ships. 
Can't think of a more appropriate ship to show on this blog than this one - USS Vermont.  
Today I had a chance to stop by the museum in order to pick up a set of drawings for a project I'm getting ready to start on. But as I had a few minutes before I had to head over to the Humphrey's Building for a meeting I took a quick look around. 
Although some of the ship models are "permanent" some of the models on display rotate from time to time. Currently there's a display with models showing the ships of the Great White Fleet and another "semi-permanent" WWI exhibit display featuring several models of WWI-era vessels. 
Most of the WWI and WWII era models were contracted by the shipyards building the vessels at the time the actual ships were built. They are constructed to specifications intended to make sure the models endure. With the exception of the model of Old Ironsides,  all these models have served the Navy longer than their prototypes. 
So, if you're in DC and think  you've seen everything the Smithsonian or Mount Vernon have to offer, spend a half day at the US Navy Museum. It's well worth it. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Layout Update #1a

I've been busy working on the layout over the last week or so - although it doesn't feel like model railroading. Actually, doesn't feel a whole lot different than the painting we've been doing in other parts of the house. 
But all the IKEA leg sections have gotten two coats of paint, the shelves have been stained and varnished and most of those components are in the basement awaiting assembly. 
I also have some IKEA cabinets - those have gotten a coat of wood prep. 
On the docket for this evening is sanding the cabinets and getting a coat of paint on them. 
I've also worked up a benchwork plan and plan to start construction sometime over the July 4th week which promises to be a little slow at the office. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A truly universal tool

Ever wonder what the original universal tool might be? 
It just may be the file. 
Beyond the obvious purpose to either smooth or file metal, plastic or wood to shape consider you can also:

1. Cut material to length (using sharp corners)
2. Hammer nails or brads - provided it's a beefy enough file
3. Use it to pry two or more boards apart
4. Open a can of paint with it 

And, of course, once the paint can is open, you can work most efficiently by using it to stir the paint. 
I'm starting a new trend here, that I hope will catch on. Despite my known tool-alcoholic tendency, I'm turning over a new leaf - I think I can get by with two or three tools - 
something that makes holes, such as a drill; drives screws (hey, a cordless "drill" also works - even more efficiency!) and, of course:



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Traffic in (and out) of a plywood plant


Most of the industries along the Central Vermont, at least in Vermont, can be summed up in one word - lumber. 
Furniture makers, door and window manufacturers, and even ski and baseball bat manufacturers all had one thing in common - their raw material was primarily hardwoods harvested from the verdent Green Mountains. One could even say another famed Vermont product - maple syrup - was directly related to the lumber industry.  
So it was no surprise to me when I learned one of the larger industries (click on photo above to enlarge) along the CV yard in Richford was a plywood manufacturing facility. Specifically, this  particular plant specialized in making plywood shipping crates for shipping a variety of items, including "special talking machines." 
So the outbound shipments are fairly obvious. Plywood crates, shipped flat in "shooks" (kind of like the Ikea of its day, I guess!) that can go almost anywhere other products are made. 

But I'm wondering what, if anything, would be shipped in to the plant?
To make plywood you start with a log, strip the bark, and slice it into thin strips, called "plys."Glue is applied to the plys and they are stacked with the grain running alternate directions from one layer to the next and then they are subject to high temperature steam before the stacked plys are placed into a hydraulic press (below) that laminates the layers together forming, you guessed it, "plywood." 
The raw sheets are then heated and stacked to dry, and will eventually be cut to size and/or sanded before being shipped to the customer (the illustrations with this post came from a 1921 Atlas Co. brochure - you can find the entire brochure HERE). 
I'm fairly certain the plant in Richford generated enough wood scrap that the boilers - visible at the location of the stacks in the photo above - were likely wood fired, but who knows - it's possible they were coal fired or the coal provided supplemental power to the plant. 
"Adhesive" of some sort may also have been delivered to the plant - at least that seems fairly logical. I don't believe the plant received wood by rail, although it may have in earlier times or in the event a unique species of wood was needed. 
Turning up the brochure has given me enough knowledge to press forward with planning how to model the industry on the layout.