Monday, July 13, 2020


A week or so ago, Lance Mindheim asked me to provide a couple of photos showing the railroad as it sits in the basement for a layout design book he's writing. 
My first thought was "I really need to clean this place up" - Covid-related quarantine has meant no visitors, group work sessions or the like, so the tendency to leave tools and supplies on the surface of the layout has become an issue. One I needed to deal with whether or not there's a photo shoot looming!
Then I reflected on my own books, and how they can stay in print for a number of years. "Do I really want," said I to me (since there's no one else here most days....) "to have the first photo of the layout published to show a sea of unpainted plywood with unballasted track?"
The answer led me to put aside the Great Tortoise Install and focus this weekend on trying to get some scenery looking at least a little respectable. 
The result can be seen in the photo above. One neat part about building landforms is that any one of several methods can be used. And all that really matters in the end is the top 1/64" or so - since that's all that really shows. 
My preferred method for open, or relatively open, areas such as fields and pastures, is cardboard webbing. For tree-covered hillsides I really prefer green florists foam. The webbing will get a coat of plaster cloth followed by a skim coat of plaster to create the hardshell. The green florist foam will get a coat of paint followed by ground texture. As an aside, I've never understood why anyone would go through the added expense of using the foam scenery base, and the added trouble of carving it to shape, to then cover it with plaster cloth of other texture material. That seems to me to be negating the primary advantage of using the stuff - which is to easily "plant" trees an the like. 
After finishing the waterfall on the Thresher's Mill diorama "off layout" I installed it in place. I still need to  blend the river surface and finish the rough landforms to the right of the river crossing. I hope to spend some time this evening getting that done and getting a start on the plaster cloth. 

Luckily, I saved a lot (three large appliance boxes!) full of finished fall trees from the old layout, so the hillsides should be tree covered very quickly. LAst winter I trimmed our two Crepe Myrtle trees to get some tree armatures. Those have been sitting untrimmed in a couple of boxes in the garage, so yesterday while waiting for the dogs to dry off from their baths I sat with them on the deck and trimmed the seed pods off. 
I don't think I'll have time to complete the foreground trees for the photos for Lance, but I did want to get my car in the garage and these things were in the way!
One more note - the scenery doesn't connect directly to the walls - I cut profile boards and mounted the cardboard strips and pieces of foam to the profile board - leaving about a 1/4" or so gap between the back of the scenery and the wall. This way, if I want to add a photo mural backdrop in the future I don't have to try to trim the bottom edge to follow the scenic contours. I also might try something with the lighting to shine light "up" on the sky. But that's a project for a day in the far future!

Monday, July 6, 2020

CV Form 852

I've had requests over the years for various "official" Central Vermont forms and the like - particularly operating paperwork. These requests have ranged from Form 19 "flimsies" - which are fairly easy to locate - to more esoteric paperwork.  For example, in the past week I've received requests from two people modeling the CV (on opposite ends of the country) for a copy of a CV switchlist.
The answer is I did find one, or at least a photocopy of one, shown above, buried in my file cabinet.  At least I think this is what they're looking for.  
A number of years ago (more than 40 years ago at this point!) a former railroad employee, who shall remain nameless, found a stack of CV switchlists/train consist lists, versions of which you may seen referred to as "Conductor's wheel reports" on other railroads - tucked away in the attic of the White River Junction station and/or freight office (the story varies as to the actual location of the original repository). 
What was interesting was the "stack" included a number of lists all from the same month - November 1955. 
In the early 1990s and early 2000s a number of freight car modelers across the country, primarily Tim Gilbert, conducted detailed studies of freight car distribution. While I don't think it was the original intent of Tim's research it didn't take long for layout builders interested in car routing and the like to glom onto these percentages in order to create a "correct" mix appearing freight car rosters. In other words, if you were modeling railroad x and had a total of 300 cars, you should include cars from 20 cars from railroad y and 15 from railroad z since they would likely appear based on traffic patterns, percentage of the national freight car pool, and other factors, including good ole' plain dumb luck. 
Frankly, this is a real rabbit hole and one you could spend months and years going down. 
All this was going on about the time this stash of 1955 lists appeared. And several members of the CVRHS took this stock of lists and outlined all the road names and car numbers that appeared on these lists. While it presents an interesting snapshot, it's only that. My main purpose is getting ahold of this data was to create a list of possible freight car modeling candidates - a goal not without its own tripwires. 
I covered the results of their analysis in a couple of prior posts on this blog and on my Steam Era Freight Cars Blog, and won't belabor the point here except to say it was an interesting exercise and if you want to model just one of almost any North American railroads boxcars you could do worse than White River Junction in 1955. (If you want to learn more about this, those posts can be found here and here). Note: The posts are identical, but the comments certainly are not. 
I only repeat the tale to share this image - a very bad photocopy - of just one of the sheets. 
Obviously it's noted as CV Form 852. Since I don't believe there's a CV Form 851 or 853, I surmise that it's "852" because it was introduced in August,1952. I welcome any challenges to that assumption, backed up by proof of course!
It would be easy enough to create a version of this in Excel or Word for someone wanting to duplicate this list. The notations in the right column are fairly interesting. 
I also cropped in on the top of the list for easier reference. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Batting Clean Up - I

Batting Clean up. For those who aren't familiar with baseball, that's a baseball reference. Of course, with the way things have been going in the last four months, no one's been doing much batting, 'clean up' or otherwise! 
We're all still healthy here, and hope all reading this are the same. I'm still on "max teleworking." For April and May all that commuting time I'd thought I'd be able to "convert" to hobby projects never really panned out. It seems like I just worked more hours every day. A couple of weeks ago things slowed down just enough to allow me to catch up on some hobby (and gardening) projects.
Instead of starting (yet) another modeling project, I opted to focus whatever extra hobby time I had on finishing up some half completed (half started?) projects. 

Structure Bases
When I scrapped my old layout before we moved I did my best to carefully remove the structures and packed them so they wouldn't be damaged. For the most part I was successful, but I really think I got lucky. One thing I'm trying this time around is placing each structure on its own base. The dimensions of these bases (I'm using Gatorboard) is determined by the structure's dimensions plus a buffer. At this point I've got about a dozen structures installed on scenic bases. A couple of these are shown below. 
Of course, Threshers Mill needs a mill pond and falls, so once I'd determined where it would go on the layout I made an extra large base for it.

This old Branchline Creamery dates back to the first Southern New England layout and needed some repairs before it got installed on it's own base. I plan to replace this one "someday" - but for now it will serve as a nice placeholder. 

And ... Let There Be Light (Sometimes)
You may have noticed the wires under the creamery base in the photo above. I've been retrofitting LED lighting in several of the structures as I place them on bases. The two main requirements to determine is a structure gets lighting are:
(1) How logical is the lighting for that building and, most important; 
(2) How easy is it to add lighting? 
In some cases, it's not possible without risking extensive damage. I'll have more thoughts on lighting in a future blog post. 
And Finally, For Now
I have some other Batting Clean Up projects to share - but here's another before we close out this chapter. The photo below shows blending the roadbed into the surrounding terrain.But that's not the real point of the image. The real point is the toggle switch on the fascia. After several layouts where I used hand thrown turnouts I've opted to return to powering the turnouts with Tortoise switch motors on this layout. To that end I've got the entire outer "loop" powered at this point. This is one of those projects I really have to be in the mood to do. I'll get on a roll and install four motors in an evening. Then I don't want to look at a Tortoise for a week. But slow and steady wins the race.... Get it? Tortoise? Slow and steady?? 
"I'm here all week folks....!!"

Monday, May 4, 2020

A huge Milestone and mocking up backdrops

My original goal when I started this layout was to have the major infrastructure - benchwork, track, and wiring with basic scenery. I'm pleased to report that this afternoon, approximately 18 months after starting construction on the layout, all the track and wiring are completed well ahead of schedule. 
I've even gotten a start at roughing in the scenery, especially in the Enosburg Falls area around the implement dealer (come on, you didn't think I'd have a blog post without mentioning the implement dealer, did you?!)
One thing I've been thinking about before starting the around the walls scenery is the backdrop. One possibility I'm looking at is using Trackside Scenery's (for their website, click HERE) line of photo backdrops. 
I even mocked up a couple of possible arrangements. 
Trackside Scenery offers a varied and versatile line of backdrops, and the quality of the images is second to none. 
Unfortunately, they have a limited selection of fall backdrops, and the ones they do have are very - uh "vivid" - neat but as this test shows, so much fall backdrop might be a bit overwhelming on a relatively large layout. And since there's only a "Fall Valley" series (in the center of the image below) and a Fall Mountain series, I think the backdrop may end up just a bit repetitive. I don't know a lot about backdrops but I do know you (1) don't want them to be obviously repetitive and (2) they should complement, and not distract from the 3d modeling. 

For my second attempt I used backdrops from two different sets the Hickory Hollow and Valley Flats series - both of these are in the "green season." 
Frankly, I'm seriously considering doing the layout's scenery in the green season - for variety if nothing else. All, and I mean, all of my layouts since I was a teenager have had falls trees. Maybe it's time for a change of pace?
To that end, I even tried painting a couple of my fall colored Super trees with an overcoat of green paint. I'm happy to report that works, and actually adds another layer of color to the tree that makes it look pretty realistic. In fact, if I stick with the autumn trees I'd likely give each one a misting with the airbrush before installing them. 
But let's return to the backdrop:
Frankly, I think the profile of the distant landscape looks much better than with the autumn backdrop. 
I also like how the fascia (and the underpinnings of the layout) are all the same bluish green color. 
What I don't like about either of these is the obvious point where the top of the "sky" ends and the sky blue wall color begins. 
There's something like 2 feet of additional light blue wall up there - and it doesn't look natural. 
One solution would be to trim the backdrops at the treeline - and eliminate the photo sky. Frankly, I think that border between the photo backdrop and the wall can be as difficult to get right as painting the whole backdrop in the first place. 
A possible solution would be to simply paint the band of blue above the sky to match the fascia - creating an upper valence with paint. 
Photoshop makes it easy to rough this in, just to see how it would look. Forgive my rough photoshop skills, but I did this in literally 5 minutes before dinner. 
I wasn't sure I'd even like this, but frankly I think it sets the layout off better than running the blue up to the ceiling. 
I still haven't made a final decision on the backdrop, but I do really like the darker color defining the upper limits of the sky. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer - Part 11 Trim, Stairs, and Test Fitting

Over my lunch breaks on the last few days I got the windows glazed and installed, added the trim, installed the doors, and even scratchbuilt a set of front steps. 
Steps were made by stacking square stripwood,
which was sanded and painted to give a concrete texture.
Today I even got the initial coat of Sculptamold in place to "plant" the structure. (It needs another coat). 
Sharp-eyed readers will note the wires emerging from the side of the structure. 
Trim was added using pre-painted
 1x6 and 1x8 stripwood.
I even installed the subsurface of the street. 
Things are shaping up nicely. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer - Part 10 - Another sign

Here's everything needed for this project. 
Cut the .008" wire that the sign will be
"hanging from" long enough to fit between
the two printed signs with a few
scale inches of wire left protruding above the top. 
As I was test-fitting the implement dealer structure in position I decided the scene needed a sign out front - preferably an older, now rusted sign, hanging from a bracket on a pole. 
So I found a sign on the internet, sized it in Photoshop, and printed out two signs. 
Then I found a length of wood dowel, and some .019" and .008" wire. 
The photos show the basic process. 

The wire is secured to the rear of one sign with ACC, and then the second sign is added to the rear. Touch up the edges of the white paper and carefully dab some dark rust colored paint on the edges and surface of the signs with a sea sponge (below). 

Paint or stain the pole (I used some Hunterline Light Brown, followed by a wash of acrylic Burnt and Raw Umber. Then I drilled a hole in the pole and used ACC to secure a short length of .019" wire. The next step was to glue the sign to the horizontal wire, allowing it to hang a few inches down on the .008" "chain."

Sorry for the quality of the photos - I want to get this structure and scene completed, and didn't want to dig out the proper camera for this - and as you can from the photos above, this sign is really small!
But though it's small, I think it will add just a little something to the finished scene.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer - Part 9 - A couple of signs

Since none of the prototype photos of the Enosburg Falls implement dealer structure showed any signage, I was on my own when it came to making up appropriate signs. 
After looking over what signage I could find (through a variety of internet searches), some common patterns emerged. For one thing, there was a large sign over the larger doors - in fact my prototype has a remnant of such of sign (such through earlier posts in this series of posts). 
So it was a simple matter to create an appropriate sign in PhotoShop (above). 
On one of my searches, I came across a neat black and yellow McCormick-Deering sign, with the dealer's name in the lower section of the sign. I imported the sign into PhotoShop, and replaced the Mott Implement Co. lettering with my own company's and inserted Enosburg Falls as the town name. 
After I printed the signs out (copying and pasting it a few times so I'd have extras in case I messed one up!) I carefully trimmed the overhead sign from the paper and glued it a piece of .040" styrene. Some stained stripwood 3x6 trim, drybrushed white and then installed around the edges of the sign, completed the main sign:

I wanted the Mc-Cormick Deering sign to look like a metal sign so I used a sea sponge to gently dab a compbination of old rust-colored paint to the sign. I made sure to go lightly on the surface and a little heavier on the edges. 
Work continues on the main building as well. I realized the inside of the building looked like a big empty box when viewed through the garage door windows. But a full interior didn't seem worth the effort since that would be a little too hard to see - besides, I need to get this building finished and move on to something else! 
On a whim, I googled "Vintage Farm Implement Dealer interiors" and found this image:

I sized it to the fit the rear wall of the garage portion of the building, printed it out, and glued it in place. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Viral thoughts

As of today (March 13, 2020) due to concerns regarding the Covid -19 virus all of the planned events listed HEREwith the exception of MARPM, have been cancelled or postponed with no new date identified. 
Sorry I'll miss seeing folks at these events, but I hope to be able to post revised dates as things sort themselves out. 
One thought. I've been reading several blogs and message boards today where people are:

(1) Lamenting the cancellation of train meets, shows, and other hobby events, and/or 
(2) Worried about the impact of a global pandemic on the production of model railroad equipment, especially overseas.

With regards to Item #1. Model railroading is a great hobby, but it is just that, a hobby. The organizers of these shows and the owners of venues where they're being held aren't enjoying this situation any more than you. And while it's a bummer that you won't have yet another opportunity to purchase more, perhaps we should all take this opportunity to build some of the stuff we have. 
The answer to #2 is simple - yes, there will be an impact. There will certainly be delays, and I'm sure some of these will be significant. Some model train manufacturing facilities overseas may not survive. Some model railroad companies in the US might not survive. 
Frankly, I could care less. The hobby will go on. Besides, there's little or nothing commercially available in the RTR market suitable for a Central Vermont branchline that I don't already have, so I'm covered.   
We need to keep things in perspective as far as what's truly important, and what's not.  As of today, my office is still open, but I wouldn't be surprised if we are told to work from home at some point, most likely next week. 
If that happens, my plan is take the three hours a day I currently spend commuting, as well as those weekend days I won't be at NMRA and RPM meets over the next month, and try to work my way through my rather extensive stash of kits. 
Here's hoping many of you take the opportunity to do the same. 
For now, please listen and comply with the instructions of health care professionals and take care of yourself and your family. There's no reason to panic, but there's every reason to be prudent. Besides, I'm looking forward to seeing you at an RPM meet at some point in the future - hopefully sooner rather than later!

Monday, March 9, 2020

"Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer" - Part 8 - Initial painting and terraforming

Got an initial coat of paint on the implement dealer this weekend, including a coat of paint on the raised seam roof.

Actually the roof got two coats of paint - the first, from Polly Scale Flat Aluminum, just lacked any life - looking more like a flat light gray. After that dried, I went back over the roof with a 50:50 mix of Vallejo "Steel" and "Silver," which produced a much better metal color. 
For the main walls I dry-brushed a coat of two craft paint colors - about two parts of one called Snow White (any "real" white would work) and one part of a very light cream (or off white) color called "Parchment." 
While that was drying, I cut a piece of 1" thick foamboard to fit between the front edge of the layout and roadbed, and carved it to shape. There's still some work to do here, but I did pose in the building in an approximate position. 
As you can tell from the overall shot of the building, the paint on the front wall needs another coat of white to even it out just a little. I think the effect came out pretty good on the side walls (see closeup photo to the right). My goal is a well-maintained, but weathered front wall, with the side walls showing more signs of wear and tear on the paint. 
The rear wall of the building was painted a barn red color (not shown), for some variety if nothing else. Frankly, the rear of the structure will likely end up almost completely obscured by brush and trees. 
I also made some progress on the Thresher's Mill diorama (I don't really consider these dioramas, but structure bases with a small amount of landscaping around the building itself, but that's a subject for another post. 
I'm getting ever closer to wrapping this seemingly never-ending project up!

Friday, March 6, 2020

"Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer" - Part 7 - Fascia and Freize Boards

At first New England buildings, especially those built in the 19th century, may appear very simple. They're not simple as much as they're understated, but when you study them close enough there's plenty of small details. 
The Implement dealer building is certainly one of those plain or understated buildings, but the wild assortment of additions and changes to the prototype structure over the years produced an interesting building. "Simple shapes combined into a complex whole" may be one way to describe this thing. 
Last night I tackled one thing I don't really love about  building structures, the fascia trim and freize boards. The one good thing about getting to this stage is that it means the end of this endless project, while not here, is certainly close!
I started with the fascia trim. For most buildings this isn't a single piece of lumber, it's actually comprised of several pieces of descending widths. Studying prototype photos over the life of the building showed at least three different arrangements of the fascia trim, so I opted to go with what I thought looked good on the model. (You may remember from one of the initial posts on this project, I don't actually have photos from my modeled era, only decades before, and decades after - so some logical guesswork is called for!).  In the case of this building I went with a wide board on the bottom, and two additional boards on top. The trickiest part of this step is getting the correct angles on both ends of the fascia trim. I started by laying an over-length piece of styrene onto the side wall being sure to get the styrene to line up with the roof on its length and one end. 

Next, I used a square to locate the angle on the top of the board. NOTE: In this case I marked the line with a pencil so it would show up in the photo - in truth the pencil line is too thick to create a mark accurate enough to make the cut. I usually mark this angle by scribing it lightly with the tip of an X-Acto blade.     

To cut the angle on the bottom of the board I repeated the process, making sure the board was seated correctly in the peak of the roof. In this case, the trim boards end inset from the corner posts, so I was able to use them as a guide. 
 I repeated this process for each of the three pieces on the front and rear of the "paint store" section and on the gable side of the "L extension by the garage doors. I cemented the trim in place using MEK applied with a small brush. 
Once the fascia was completed I added the freize boards to the underside of the roof overhang on the side and rear walls of the building. 
Then I added the trim to top of the "false front" section of the structure on the front wall (lead photo above). 
After all that was done, I gave the model another light coat of primer gray, focusing on the roof and trim. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

"Agricultural Implement & Paint Dealer" - Part 6 - Ribs, lots of ribs ...

Roof ribs, that is. 
I've noticed a lot - the majority in fact, of the smaller industrial and agriculture related buildings along my prototype feature standing seam metal roofing of one form or another. Over the years I've tried all kinds of ways to model this, from paper with stripwood "ribs" to Builders in Scale metal roofing, such as on this model of Ben Thresher's mill. 
Frankly, when it's painted and weathered the real metal roofing looks perhaps the best, except the material is just a little too thick, meaning for this building, with all its valleys and angles in the roof panels, I didn't think it would offer the best approach. 
Instead I opted to go with Evergreen styrene metal roofing. This material is easy to work with, but the most tedious part is adding all those ribs to the slots in the roof sheet. 
For a situation where the ribs end at the bottom of the roof, simply install the slightly long ribs along the length of the roof and then trim the ends flush. For areas where the ribs run between two other sections of roof, or one section and the peak, it's a little more tricky. 

Here's how I do it:
1. After the roof panels are in place, and the strip styrene ridge cap (a 1x6 styrene strip at the top of the peak) I cut the rib overlength and insert the bottom of the rib into the slot. That plain styrene on the right is the subroof on another portion of the building - meaning the ribs are running between the ridge and another roof panel.  
 2. Once the bottom of the rib is in position, lock it in place with a slight amount of styrene cement or MEK applied with a needle applicator or a small brush.
 3. Once the cement has dried, insert the rest of the rib into the remainder of the slot. I focus on getting the rib into the slot and with no gaps or waviness. Leave the rib overhanging the ridge cap slightly at this point.
 4. Use flush cutting nippers to trim the rib just inside the base of the ridge cap. Then run styrene cement along the entire length of the rib. 
5. Repeat Steps 1-4 ... a lot ... (!)