Friday, November 15, 2019

"Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer" - Part 3 - Front wall and Garage Doors

With the attic refinishing project complete (that's a whole other story) I finally had a chance to turn my attention back to the Enosburg Falls implement dealer. 
The first thing I did was adjust the front facade of the building to match the prototype photo I have showing how the large overhead doors were arranged before they were boarded up at some point in the 1990s. (See this photo)
This required cutting one new opening in the front wall and enlarging the opening with the two smaller doors. As I was enlarging the door openings, I made sure to allow enough space for the two windows above each smaller door. 

Before I cut the openings, I tried to find commercial garage door castings that would work. Everything I found in my stash of gas station kits and plastic doors were either too short, too wide, not tall enough, or too tall. Scratchbuilding was the only option. 
I tried two approaches to the garage doors. For the taller single door, I started with a piece of Evergreen .015 clear styrene, cutting it slightly larger than the opening to provide a surface to attach it to the door opening from the inside. Then I added styrene strip for the vertical and horizontal portions of the door. A coat of white paint - being sure not to get any paint on the window "glass" completed that door.
For the two smaller doors I cut a rectangle of .015 styrene wide enough to accommodate both doors and the center post between them. 
Then I cemented the trim strips to the styrene base. The vertical trim was fairly straightforward, the horizontal trim pieces were installed overlength and then trimmed to fit with a fresh razor blade. 

One everything dried, I carefully cut out the door openings and filed them square. After painting, I'll add clear glazing to the windows. 
I can't say I like either of these approaches better than the other - if you needed a door painted a color other than white, I suspect the second approach might be a little easier. 
One thing I do know - it was far easier to scratchbuild these than the two or three evenings I wasted trying to find a ready-made solution. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Swing Gate v1.0

If you looked at Video Update #6 you saw a live demonstration of the swing gate. Actually, the gate in the video wasn't quite complete - so in the interest of full disclosure here are some photos showing that it is indeed more than just a "piece of plywood and a couple of hinges..."
The underside of the plywood "bridge" is braced along most of its length by a plywood brace. Note how the brace gets thinner as it gets further from the hinges - an attempt to minimize sag and at the same time minimize the pressure on the hinges!
That plywood brace is itself strengthened by a couple of pieces of 1 x 2 arranged in an "L".

The hinge end with the bridge in the open position shows the hinge arrangement - nothing fancy here, I told Stic to just be sure everything was really sturdy! I think there's two boxes of screws holding this thing together!
This shot shows the swing gate in its fully open position - it opens up enough to touch the fascia on the layout. 
Next trick is to figure out how to get the track in place. Stic tells me that's my problem. 
Thanks to Stic Harris for his help with this project, and with all the various thankless tasks I always seem to assign him! 
Today also happens to be his 50th birthday. He's taking a well-earned respite from model railroading to enjoy coastal Maine with his lovely wife. And he's officially joined the ranks of those us who complain we're too stiff, sore, or otherwise impaired to work on top of or under our layouts!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Video Layout Update #6

Just released on my YouTube Channel!

A video update on the Richford Branch layout - including the chance to see Stic Harris conduct the first "walkthrough" of the swing gate. 

Plus some other stuff. 

What else could you possibly waste 5 minutes and 41 seconds on? (don't worry, it's not Stic the whole time....)

Just click HERE to go directly to the video. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Just about reached the end ...

I've started to experiment with photo backdrops. Yes, I plan to trim it to the ridgeline and not have the white borders on the final backdrop!
... of the woodworking phase of layout construction! 
Two significant (at least to me) accomplishments in the model railroading realm this week. 
First of all, I'm happy to report that the significant benchwork construction is (at long last) completed - that means all the subroaded and fascia has been installed, See below for an overall view of the layout:

At this point the only construction left is to complete the swing gate and install a couple of shelves in some key locations. The shelves will prove useful for a place for visitors and operators to put their beverages - oh yes, and in case we ever operate the layout formally there'll be a place to store throttles and paperwork and the like that isn't the surface of the railroad!
There's still some track laying left to complete - primarily on the two peninsulas - the shot below shows the CV yard in Richford - obviously it's awaiting roadbed and track!
The other thing I finished was a clinic on the layout that I just presented at the NMRA Mid-East Regional Convention in King of Prussia, Penn. For those keeping score, this is actually the second all new clinic I developed in the last 6 weeks - I'm hoping that this one will be a layout progress clinic that I can regularly update. I'd like to get as much mileage out of this as possible! 
The clinic was well received despite the 10 o'clock start time (that's 10pm!) and some issues getting my computer to talk to the projector. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Progress 2 - The Sequel

It's like seeing an old friend. The turntable is a Diamond Scale kit built for my Locomotive Servicing Terminals book, circa 1998 or so. It's the last remaining physical remnant of SNE #1, and is being recommissioned to serve as the Richford turntable.  
As I mentioned in a previous post, I had high hopes for completing the "major" benchwork construction this past weekend. And, though I made some significant progress on what will be the Richford peninsula, I didn't actually finish it. 
Frankly I spent way too much time figuring out how to support the turntable "module". In reality, this is the old Palmer turntable mounted to the same piece of plywood I cut from SNE #1 when we moved out of the Oconomowoc house. Getting it level, lined up, and supported took the better part of last Sunday afternoon. 
I managed a fair amount of time on the layout a couple of evenings this week - so I'm very close to getting the benchwork on the Richford peninsula checked off the to-do list. 
Hope springs eternal to get this task completed this week. In the meantime, here's a photo showing the current state of the Richford peninsula. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


The only way to finish a project like fascia is to keep
plugging away at it one piece at a time. 
The clinic at MARPM seemed pretty well received - and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people in the audience - especially when the show organizers saw fit to put me on opposite Paul Dolkos for both of my "performances" <g>!
Frankly prepping the clinic meant all kinds of half-finished (half started) projects now litter the modeling desk. 
And, preparing for the clinic meant there was virtually no progress on the layout itself for the last month and a half. 
I really need to focus on my next clinic, which will be a layout status report/update at the upcoming MER (Mid-Atlantic Region of the NMRA) Convention in mid-October. 
But first, one thing I'd really like to get completed sooner rather than later is the "woodworking" phase of construction. To that end I spend some time Sunday and the last two evenings away from the modeling desk and the computer and have been making sawdust. 
The only benchwork and fascia remaining at this point are the Richford peninsula. The basic L-girders and joists are in installed - meaning I have to mark and jigsaw the subroadbed, attach all that to risers, and install the fascia. 
I think I can get those done by the end of next weekend. I might even manage to get a coat or two of paint on the fascia. 
Once the heavy sawing is done I can at last thoroughly clean the utility room area which has served as the "sawmill" for the last six months or so. Truth be told, I'm looking forward to getting that place cleaned up almost as much as getting the benchwork finished!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Estimating Dimensions from Photos

I've had several requests to post the slides on estimating prototype dimensions on the blog. 
The following images are the slides from the presentation - I hope they are helpful:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

(Somewhat) Weathered Windows

LEFT: Window primed with Tamiya Tan and Hunterline Driftwood wash. RIGHT: Window primed with Hunterline Light Gray. CENTER: After drybrushing white. 
I've long been frustrated at the results I've gotten painting and weathering plastic window castings. I'd find more often than not the walls on my models - even the styrene ones - would look pretty good. However, the plastic window and door castings always looked like fresh and newly painted. That might be acceptable for a well-maintained building, but what if you want things like windows and doors to show the ravages of time? 
The logical approach would be to paint the plastic castings white and then weather them. After all, that's what happens on the prototype. Honestly, for darker windows it's not as much of a problem. But most windows, no matter what the color of the building walls, tend to be white. So the trick becomes weathering a light colored window. 
I tried airbrushing those white windows with some earth tone paint. And I tried washes of India Ink and alcohol, pastel chalks and drybrushing colors such as Raw Umber and Grimy Black. The results always ended up looking like someone had streaked, airbrushed or chalked a dark color onto a white window. And though I took some solace in the fact that my results were consistent, they still looked awful. 

An Experiment
As I was painting the windows for the implement dealer it occurred to me that the solution may be to reverse the "paint final window color then weather" process. 
After removing most of the sprues and gates from the windows, I taped them to a scrap of cardboard on a roll of painter's tape (the Green Frog kind - but the blue tape works just as well!).
Then, instead of reaching for the can of white spray paint, this time I sprayed everything with Tamiya Flat Tan. After that dried, I gave the castings a quick wash of Hunterline stains. I found Light Gray (shown here) and Driftwood seem to produce a pleasing "soft" warm almost-but-not-quite black color. 
After I waiting for the stain to dry completely - more than 48 hours in the case of the doors and windows in these photos - I went over each with a light drybrushed coat of white paint. A little goes a long way here - and I found a light touch is required. I did get acceptable results after a few practice attempts (see lead photo above and the door photo below). 

If you can't tell, I'm quite pleased with the results. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Progress on the Implement dealer for Enosburg Falls

I've made some adjustments to the mockup that I showed last week - primarily lowering the overall height of the building since it just didn't "look" right. The sketch is really an outline of the shape of the wall - the doors etc.. are not to scale at all!

I have the rear and side walls completed - here is a mid-progress shot of the street side wall. 

One little detail that I almost failed to notice - the right side of the building (with the clapboard in this photo) is older than the "overhead door" section - and it has narrower clapboards than the section to the left. But I needed to get the two halves to end up with a flush surface. The first attempt was to build it like the prototype - but the series of angles where the two halves of the building join together didn't look right. 
I scrapped that attempt and went with the approach shown here - basically a subwall for the entire facade of the building with the two different sizes of clapboard laminated to it. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Threshers Mill Basic Structure Finished

I don’t want to admit how long this thing has been sitting “half finished” (started??!!) in the corner of my workbench. It’s basically been a sub-wall shell for about 4 years. 
Finally got the thing finished up - next step is to site it and install on a scenery base. 
If you want to spend an entertaining half hour, go to You Tube for excepts from a documentary about the mill:
A rather complete set of information on the prototype building is featured on the LOC web site - this model is a to scale version based on those drawings and photos. Here's one of those - 

I’m trying to incorporate some new technique with each model I build. For example, on the last resin boxcar I finished I tried etched metal ladders. In this case it was getting a weathered look to plastic windows, and painting the stonework and brick chimneys using some tips from Geoff Taylor’s book. His brick and stonework are simply the best I’ve ever seen - anywhere. And his techniques seem straightforward - I haven’t mastered them yet but it’s been interesting to try them out. 

Although Thresher's Mill certainly existed in the mid 1950s, my model shows it in slightly better repair than the LOC photos and video. Meaning that it reflects the building more or less as it would have appeared in the 1910s-30s - certainly pre-WWII. 
I’m enjoying this slightly earlier era modeling. I'm actually working on a blacksmith shop of all things at the moment - just found a couple of vintage photos that made modeling the building seem very appealing to me. No surprise to anyone who's read my blog post on my early model railroad influences. 
Who knows, maybe some of this earlier era stuff may well leak off the modeling desk and onto the layout…..

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer" - Part 1 - Researching

I need to get started on this since I've committed to doing a clinic on how I research and model prototype specific structures for the Mid Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers (MARPM) meet at the end of next month. 
The series of blog posts for this project will not include all the photos/diagrams/etc... from the clinic - think of this as an overview of the project. For a more in-depth description consider attending the MARPM.

While I have some typical New England buildings left over from prior layouts that I will be using on the Richford Branch, I certainly plan to model some signature structures. The first of these is this "Agricultural Implement & Paint" dealer, which still stands in Enosburg Falls, Vermont. 
I've known about this building, with its unusual front corner door, for a number of years. In fact, I first noticed it in an early issue of the CVRHS Ambassador when it appeared in an article on the Richford Branch. 
Sanborn Maps label the structure as Agricultural Implement & Paint." What the name lacks in pizzazz it makes up for specificity. Reviewing the maps over the years show the building was originally L-shaped with peaked roofs. At some point between 1920 (the date of the latest Sanborn Map on the LOC website) and 1960 or so when the Ambassador photo was taken, the building received a flat roofed addition that converted the footprint to a rectangle from an "L."
Some places change radically from year to year or decade to decade, meaning the opportunity to a building from the 19th century standing relatively unchanged is pretty rare for some parts of the country. Luckily for me, rural Vermont is not one of those parts. 
A quick wander around the streets of Enosburg Falls on Google Maps streetview show the building still stands, and is remarkably unchanged. I did screen captures showing all the sides of the building. I've included those below:
This view shows the rear of the building. You can see the original "L" footprint.

 "Trackside" perspective (the building was located directly
alongside the Richford Branch mainline.) The angled front door is 

visible to the left. 

Compare this Google Streetview with the b&w 
photo above to see how little the building has changed. 
Full in the knowledge that I need to come up with a better name for this thing, I thought I had enough information to get started on the model. 
I have two more potential sources of photos/information to check for this structure. 
The first is the history of Enosburg Falls (if you've seen the video layout updates on my YouTube channel you've seen this book). 
I also need to check the Central Vermont Railway in Steam, Volume 3, DVD which features a trip in a van up the Richford Branch to see if this store shows up at any point. It's surprising what shows up in that video - for instance, the only overall photo I've ever found of the Richford plywood plant happens to be in that DVD. 
If anything turns up in either place I'll do a post highlighting what I've found. Otherwise, the next post in this thread will show the approach to site planning and mocking up the building. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

CV 41000-series Boxcars - Some notes for modelers

Considering their relatively small numbers, these cars seem to come up on the Steam Era Freight Car List with surprising regularity. They reared their heads again a week or so ago on that list. My response with a couple of tidbits about modeling these cars may help you with your models of these cars. 

These cars were in service for a very long time – through the late 1960s, but they really didn’t change in appearance all that much over the decades.
For perhaps more detail than anyone wants on these cars, I’d refer you to the following:

  • Ed Beaudette did an article in MR (August 2001 I recall) that included prototype drawings of the CV/GTW 1-1/2 door as built cars (CV's 41000-series).
  • There were a set of drawings in Mainline Modeler sometime in the late 1980s – in that case they were shown as listed as GTW cars, with no mention of the Central Vermont.
  • The best reference for these cars is Steve Horsley’s article (which is part of an outstanding ongoing series on CV freight cars) in Volume 24, Issue #4 f the CVRHS “Ambassador.” I’d highly recommend checking that issue out.

Over the years I’ve built a dozen or so more of the Steam Shack/Funaro resin kits. A couple of things to note on the F&C kit include:  

  • The end door casting kind of just hangs above the roofline and doesn’t really capture the beefy look of the prototype on the B end of the car. See this photo of the door end, and compare with the F&C model to see what I mean:

  • My F&C kits (like me, they’re old!) came with regular ladders – some of the newer F&C kits come with Tichy “Canadian” ladders – neither of these are correct. The CV cars had an integrated sill step (basically the “stirrup” is welded to the ladder stiles, not the car side), but the shape of the step on the Tichy ladder isn’t correct.
  • Compare the side ladder and stirrup in this photo of a 44000 series car with the Tichy part to see what I mean:

  • The cars had wood running boards through most of their service lives. It’s possible a few of them may have received steel running boards, but I’ve never seen any photo evidence of such. I have seen some of these cars with steel brake platforms.

Now we get to the issue with these kits that comes up whenever we discuss them – the trucks.
The cars rode on cast steel ARA U-section trucks with spring planks and Barber lateral motion bolsters equipped with six springs per side frame--a style called "increased spring capacity trucks" by several manufacturers.
The MR article referenced above states the ECW 9074 70-ton "Bettendorf" trucks are closest. That’s a typo – it should be 9064 (I started editing the article, but had left the MR staff before it was published and a couple of minor, but annoying errors crept into the copy.) I got the reference to those trucks after extensive back and forth with Richard Hendrickson – and though those ECW trucks might look the closest, I’ve never bothered using them, or even trying to find a set since the operating qualities of ECW trucks are marginal at best.  I use Tahoe Model Works 50-ton Dalman 2-Level trucks. While certainly not an exact match they roll well, and at least have a large number of visible springs when viewed from the side.  
As a side note, my first item published in a “real” model railroad magazine was a review of this kit (marketed by Steam Shack but produced by Steve Funaro). Just for fun, here’s a photo of that model – warts and all - including its completely incorrect Kadee "Bettendorf" trucks! - on Paul Dolkos’ former B&M White Mountain Division: 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Status Report - End of July 2019

Layout Video Update for July 2019 can be found HERE

Unfortunately a lot more went on UNDER the layout than on top, entirely necessary of course but hardly photogenic! But here's a quick rundown:

1. All the track on the outer "loop," including all sidings and spurs (with the exception of the bridge and swing bridge) are complete. That's track down, wired, tested, and debugged.

2. Started laying out the track "full size" on the paper mill peninsula (I'm considering calling this area "Stafford Mills" since there's one too many "Sheldon <fill in blank>" on the layout. Someone mentioned that might confuse operators. I think it might since it confuses me.
You'll find Stafford Mills was the location of the paper mill complex on the original Southern New England (see MRP 2000). Besides, I came up with the name Stafford Mills for my first "real" model railroad back when I was in high school. I liked it then and I liked it now. 

3. Continued with creating a realistic, and visually appealing, composition for the Enosburg Falls section. I sketched, and re-sketched some of the streets a half dozen times, but I think it's finally taking shape.

4. I didn't do a great of bench modeling this month, but I did finally finish this structure - Ben Thresher's Mill. You might remember it from the previous SNE layout in its unfinished state. I still don't quite know where (or if) it will find a home on this layout - at the very least I'm going to build a small diorama and install the mill pond and damn.

I'm on the docket to do a couple of clinics this fall. The first will be at the Mid-Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet (MARPM) in September. The second will be at the Mid-East Region, NMRA Convention outside Philadelphia in October.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Replace a steel bridge with a wood trestle?

One of the most familiar scenes on my old layout was the Williams Creek* bridge. It was featured on the blog header several times. I also blogged about it on many occasions, including this post, which illustrates how it was actually in three locations (and two heights) on the layout. I also wrote a whole series of posts showing how I built and moved (and then moved yet again) the thing. So I've gotten lots of mileage out of it. 
The Williams Creek bridge was built on it's own benchwork, meaning it was fairly easy to save when the layout was dismantled. In fact, it's the only piece of that layout I saved. As you can in the photo at right, it's been installed on the Richford Branch layout. It's just a little too long for the spot it's sitting in, but it does fit, although there's going to have to be some extensive and tricky blending of the river into the wall to fill a triangular-shaped gap. But it could be done. The question is should it. 
What the Richford Branch had plenty of is wood trestles - right up to the point it was abandoned. What my layout has none of at this point are wood trestles. And precious few places where they would fit. However, one location that would be ideal for a trestle (or two) and some pastureland is the section where the Williams Creek bridge is currently installed. But as much as the Williams Creek Bridge doesn't really "fit" on the Richford Branch, a scene like the one in the George Corey photo below would truly capture the essence of the prototype:

Although I'm making every effort to avoid the "do-loops" which produced nothing but lack of progress on the previous layout, I think this one change may be appropriate. I can always keep the Williams Creek Bridge as a photo diorama. 

*The name Williams Creek is not the prototype name for this bridge - it's named in honor of my college roommate and best friend, Brigadier General Zeb Williams, USA, Ret. 

A new look - Epic Fail - and a reboot.

As several of you noticed I changed the appearance of the blog a week or two ago. 
I like to change the look of the blog every so often, and it has been more than a year since I made any changes to the layout and appearance of this thing - and frankly the look of the blog before the green background was a quick revamp in an effort to make it obvious that the blog, and model railroad that serves as it's primary focus, were taking a different tack. 
I kind of liked the dark green - thought it looked "snazzy" - but I know well it's more difficult to read to large amounts of reversed text. 
I received several comments - via email or in the comments section regarding the dark background. 
So, I've changed it. 
I actually like the new look, and hope you do as well!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Philosophy in Practice?

I started building the Richford Branch last summer - early August to be exact (see this post). Even though I've done a pretty good job of sticking to the script (ie., the plan Lance Mindheim designed) I have been tempted a time or three to "Add just (chose one) <more track//more industries//a spot for that structure kit that looks cool but doesn't really fit with the rest of the layout>.
The only one of these changes to make it to the plywood stage is the staging yard. Lance designed the layout with a deliberately simple, small staging yard. I added an extra eight inches or so of benchwork and added a few more staging tracks.  
That was, in itself, fine. 
But it also put me firmly on the precipice - It was like the those devil vs. angel arguments from classic film and television: 

Devil: "Add a couple more tracks and sidings and the Canadian Pacific interchange could be a "live" one, and create an another operator position or two."
Angel: But you're not a CP modeler - the CP tracks are there to provide context. Besides, where does the devil think these "live staging" tracks will be? 
Devil: Along the narrow walls at both ends of the layout  - you could screen it with hills and trees. After all, you'll never need to access them. There's almost 4 whole inches between the CV line and the wall. Plenty of room!" 
Angel: So a CP train is just going to be sitting there behind the scenes you want to build - you know, the ones that inspired this whole project in the first place?" 
Devil: "Plans are made to be broken."
Angel: "You discussed with this with Lance when you were designing this thing. And he made some really valid points about not needing to add more operating capacity - there's plenty there already."
Devil: "That guy ruins all our fun!"

Okay, enough of the silliness. 

I'll summarize all this by saying even though I wish I hadn't added extra tracks (and benchwork) to the staging yard, it's in place and working so I'm not going to change it out now. 
And, other than some roadbed, which is easily removed or scenicked over, I didn't get that "live staged" CPR connection in place before I stood back and realized how silly it would look.
That takes care of adding additional track and more "operating interest."*
What of the temptation of adding things that really fit the theme of the layout? One perfectly valid approach is to say "It's a hobby, I like it!" and simply be done with it. Perhaps if it's not around, there won't be a temptation to use it? 

Seeing what my friend Bernie Kempinski is dealing with this week has given me pause. He's had to pile all his stuff in the center of the room, and he's amazed at how much stuff was living under the layout. I know some of it he hasn't seen in years.  
Of course, there's no universal standard defining too much, or too little, stuff . It varies from person to person. 
And it's not because I'm a hoarder, or have some sort of psychological disorder (see the last comment on this post for one of the oddest comments I've ever received on this blog!). 
I've come to realization the very presence of things I know I won't use on this layout are actually impeding progress. They're just "in the way" - even if they're stashed under the layout or in the back room. 

* Of course, the added operating position would have consisted of running a short train from behind a row of trees, setting off and picking up some cars at a feed mill, then the CV interchange, before heading into another stub ended track at the other end of room. Hardly engaging, especially compared to the CV Richford local job!