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. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Model Railroad Hobbyist and Podcasts

Couple of quick updates - 

Although I haven't written anything for a couple of years for Model Railroad Hobbyist, Joe Fugate asked me to participate in the 100th issue version of the "Getting Real" column. You can find that here:
The fantastic images in that issue of Mike Confalone's latest visit to Allagash country are well worth your time. 

The column produced some interesting comments - some of which went down a rabbit hole and led to some interesting, and widely divergent, commentary dealing with spouses, money, and the hobby. 
And somewhat out of the blue Lionel Strang asked me to appear on his "A Modelers Life" podcast to update him on what I'm doing. We spent almost as much time talking about the Navy as we did model railroading. You can find it here:
A few weeks ago I got a short spot for an update on Tom Barbalet's Model Rail Radio (Show #141) podcast - you can find it here:

Friday, May 25, 2018

IKEA Ivar Benchwork - User Report

I first saw the IKEA Ivar system used for model railroad benchwork at Bernie Kempinski's. (See his blog post HERE). 
Pricing dimensional lumber can be a bit of shock. And picking through the stacks of torqued/twisted and warped lumber at the home improvement center searching for straight lumber can drive you downright nuts. 
The IKEA Ivar turns out to be less expensive than clear pine - and it's precut and ready to assemble into a stable, good looking layout base. 
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I'm going to try the IKEA Ivar system for the basic structure of the layout. Greg Stubbings saw that and offered the following experiences he has had with the same system: 

We have a number a mutual friends and have met a few times over the years.  Last time was at Dick Elwell"s place, I was running trains and you were buying Dick's CV 2-8-0 ! Stic and Bernie were also there.  I model CNR in the Lindsay Ontario are in fall 1957.
Anyway, I follow your blog with interest and noticed that you were considering using IKEA IVAR bookshelves as a basis for your benchwork.  I did this 2 years ago and found they worked very well.  They go together fast, are temperature and humidity  stable, sturdy, readily available, cost effective and you can put them up with only one person.  Best of all, you have a lot of organized shelving that can be covered with drop curtains etc when guests are coming.
I used the 20 " wide shelves 48" high for most areas and 12 " wide shelves in a penninsula. On top of the L girders is 3/4 plywood and 2 X1" foam insulation board. Track ends up at about 51"
The only modification that I made was to use levelling bolts and tee nuts on all 4 corner posts.  I used 1X3 and 1X2 pine for the L girders - good quality plywood that you have already ripped will also work.  I set each shelf unit up with at least 2 shelves (you can add more later as storage need and budget permits).  I levelled each unit.  When I had a section / phase done with a number of units, I installed the L girder on the front edge and back edge with a level and clamps.  Depending on how level your floor is, the position of the L girder does not always match the top of the shelving unit.  I also used smaller L girders on a horizontal plane so that I could attach the plywood  top from below.  It is amazing how sturdy these are once the L girders are in place and the front fascia is attached.
I have attached a couple of photos.  I do not have a blog but a friend of mine, Chris Lyon has done a number of You Tube videos of my layout on his CNLVN channel. 

Take care

Greg Stubbings

Here's some photos of Greg's IVAR benchwork:

Thanks for writing Greg, and for allowing me to share your experience with readers of this blog.

I plan to follow the same basic approach as Bernie and Greg - with one exception. I'm going to use a couple of the Ivar cabinets on the "front" section of the layout. It will not only make that portion of the layout appear more finished, the points where the two sections of the layout are spanned by a removable section needs to be stable. I'm counting on the Ivar cabinets - which are plenty heavy - combined with books and magazines (or bricks!) on the shelves inside the cabinet to keep the end of the layout in place. 
Modelers lacking the tools, skills, or desire to build their benchwork from scratch might want to check out the Ivar system, perhaps combined with components from a company such as Sievers, to get their benchwork completed. I'm sure you could fill a spare room with such "screw together" benchwork in an weekend morning. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

100% Started?

The June 10 "Benchwork Started By" date is looming closer. 
But that begs the question - exactly when does construction start? 
I've gotten a good start at the Phase 1 benchwork/framing plan - basically the Richford peninsula and it's approach tracks. In fact, I'm at the point where I could start assembling open grid "boxes."
Of course, benchwork building will require some wood - as I mentioned previously Bernie was getting some 3/4" "plywood ripped into 3" boards (essentially creating strong and straight 1x3s at less cost than dimensional lumber). So he was kind enough to tack on some to his order. A whole bunch of it in fact. 
The final photo I took of the previous layout showed the scrap in the back of a truck on its way to the recycling center, it seems fitting that the first photo of the new layout mimics that - in this case the wood in Bernie's wife's car.
Having seen some local modelers use the IKEA Ivar shelving system as a base for their layouts I decided to adopt the same approach for the Richford peninsula and the "front" section of layout running the length of the room. So yesterday I drove to IKEA and managed to completely fill a Mazda6 with a bunch of Ivar components. I also picked up some stain. Next step will be staining those legs and shelves. 

Philosophical query of the day: 
Can you ever be less than 100% started on benchwork?
Does obtaining the wood count as "starting construction?"
And, if not, does staining the legs and shelves count as "starting?"
Or, does sawdust actually have to be produced to be considered 100% started? 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Stuff to do BEFORE starting the layout

Things have been busy and hectic around the new digs. First of all, the garage is still home to a lot of "last minute pack" items - stuff that we shuttled from the apartment to the house as time, and mostly the weather, permitted. 
Adding considerably to the delays in household accomplishments, I severely sprained my knee a few weeks ago and ended up in a knee brace. I'm just now getting to a point where I can get up and down stairs in a reasonable manner. Very frustrating. 
I think both Christine and I are suffering from "moving burnout" - but we need one more push to get the main level of the house completed - something that has to be done by 1 June as we have house guests coming and it would be nice if they could get into the guest room!
We ended up at IKEA the other day, and I took a photo of a new line of utility room cabinets - likely not as nice as the kitchen cabinets, but seem like they would be plenty good for the workshop. 
Speaking of the workshop - although I planned to get it finished before starting the layout I really want to live with the space for a while before committing to a permanent arrangement. So I've set it up in temporary fashion with tables and cabinets I have on hand. A real dog's breakfast but workable, at least for now. 
We took a much needed break from house chores to walk around the Reston Art Festival last Saturday. We had a nice lunch with Stic and Stephanie (actually we brought them a bunch of empty moving boxes - only slightly used - since they are moving this summer!) 
It's not unusual to find railroad theme art - typically photography - at the show in Reston. I liked this large photo enough that I was tempted - but for the price I didn't LOVE it. So we passed. 
Last week Bernie Kempinski mentioned his idea for a PRR-based set of Free-Mo modules. He also mentioned he was going to Colonial Hardwood, a local lumber dealer, to get the wood for his two planned modules. I signed up for a module to connect with Bernie's. I'll have more details on that in the next couple of months. But since I still have a J-O-B and Bernie is now officially old and retired, he agreed to get some 3/4" birch plywood ripped for me - thanks to his help the core of the Richford Branch, phase 1, now resides in my garage. 
On Sunday Bernie, John Drye, and me got together at Bernie's house to have a module building party. See his USMRR blog for more detail. In the end we got five modules framed up - several are awaiting the hardware to install the legs.  

While I have a layout design for the Richford Branch, the plan doesn't really show how to actually build the thing. So the next step is to develop a benchwork/framing plan. This doesn't have to be overly complicated or elaborate, but on previous layouts I seemed to be constantly finding benchwork components in the way that needed to be moved. I'm going to try minimizing that this time around. 
I also still need to figure out a way to support the layout structure that looks good. My instructions from Christine is that this layout should look like a piece of built-in furniture. Anyone who's seen my woodworking knows that is a tall order. But I'll try my best.  
Speaking of benchwork, I was originally planning to wait until the fall to commence construction - but have now established June 10th as the official "ground breaking" date. Why June 10? Simple. It's exactly one year after my previous layout went down the street.