Saturday, September 25, 2021

One less siding, but better performance

If you want to find every place on your track that needs work, try running a brass steam locomotive over it. While today's diesel, and even plastic steam locomotives can run down a gravel road without a hitch, brass steamers are the most finicky of all. 

I had one spot - a fairly broad curve - where the brass engines were all derailing (or stalling). Stalling is usually a power pickup issue - but derailing in this case was the fault of the track. 

I wanted to add a siding from the curve, and thought I was being clever when I bent a Micro-Engineering turnout to follow the curve, but I either didn't do it correctly or the brass engines were just a little too stiff to deal with the curve-into-tangent-into-curve-into-tangent arrangement. After thinking the matter through I decided the trains negotiating the curve reliably outweighed the benefit of having one more siding to set out and pickup cars.

Frankly while I fretted over this for a few weeks, but the fix didn't take more than a couple of evenings. The photos show a little more detail:

You can see the offending turnout at the top of the photo. Diesels, plastic steam locomotives, and cars went through it without a hitch. Brass steam locomotives not so much.

I prebent some Micro-Engineering flextrack to a curve so the new alignment would continue the same curve radius as the rest of the mainline. Note the difference between the old and new alignments.  

I covered the creamery building with a paper towel and then soaked the old track and ballast with water and alcohol mixture. After waiting about 10 minutes the track and ballast came right up. 

 A quick scraping with a putty knife removed any remaining ballast and dirt and leveled the roadbed. 

Laying the new track was a matter of pre-bending it to a constant curve radius (in this case 40", you can see the track radius gauge in place at the joint between two sections of track) and gluing the track in place with adhesive caulk. 

After the track was painted, weathered, and ballasted. I thought about moving the creamery track to the left as well, but I like how there's a gap between the main and the siding. Next step is static grass on this entire curve area and details like telegraph poles and the like. 


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Feed Storage Shed for Enosburg Falls

I built this model about a little more than year ago (I think!). I thought I'd described it on the blog but apparently had never posted this! 

After completing the seemingly never ending build of the farm supply dealer I was looking for a simple and quick project - and this feed warehouse kitbash of a couple of cheap plastic kits fit the bill! 

The branch through Enosburg Falls, Vermont featured a string of sheds, warehouses, and the like alongside the track from east of the freight house to the Pleasant Street crossing. 

I know these structures were there since they appear in some early photos of Enosburg Falls, and are included on railroad and Sanborn Maps. In this map the Enosburg Falls freight house is marked "Express" - the building that's the subject of this project is the Feed Store to the right of it. 

As is often the case with non-descript buildings such as these while I know they were there I have no way of knowing what they looked like. 

So, imagine my surprise when I was reviewing an old "Central Vermont Railway in Steam" DVD and saw a shot of the Richford local working Enosburg Falls. This was a short - one or two seconds at best - clip. But I rewound the DVD and took the following photo of the television screen with my iPhone.  

The quick screen capture from a video that inspired this build. (It's all about the sign!)  

One of those warehouses is visible to the left. Of course other than showing the building was wood (well weather clapboard) and had some sort of "tarpaper" or membrane roofing, there's not much to go on to create a detailed model. 

The list of industrial sidings in Enosburg Falls does show a Wirthmore Feeds dealer - and this structure has a bright yellow sign that appears to be the trademark colors and style of lettering of Wirthmore - so it doesn't seem to be much of a leap to figure this must be that building. 

I didn't want to spend a lot of time and effort guessing what the building looked like - only to invest time building a model that was likely going to be wrong. A generic well-weathered clapboard building with that trademark sign on the peak of the roof would let me quickly cross something off the "to do" list.  

That makes this a perfect candidate for a kitbash. 

I started with two Walthers Co-Op Storage Shed kits (part 933-3529). I cut the molded on vertical corner trim from the end of the long walls in one kit, and cutting the long walls in a second kit just slightly longer than half.  The result was a building that just about a little more than 1.5 times the length of original building with three warehouse doors on each side. I  carefully "lifted" a few of the clapboards to give some additional character to the siding. 

I could see from the prototype photo the doors are inset - so I cut some rectangles larger than the door openings from scribed siding. I put the doors aside until they were painted and weathered with the main structure. For variety I used one or two of the doors that came with the kit. Frankly I wish I hadn't - those doors are the worse looking parts in the kit. 

I gave the entire building a dark gray primer coat and drybrushed white and "linen" craft paint in the direction of the clapboards. I gave the doors the same treatment before installing them. 

I made a new subroof from .040" styrene and added tarpaper roofing from the scrap bin (I think it was originally from Branchline). 

The signs started with some Wirthmore artwork I found on the internet. During a Zoom call a few months ago Brett Wiley, who was on the call, took pity on my efforts at creating the sign and in the course of 20 minutes during the call created the rooftop sign for me!

I wanted to have some feed sacks stacked on the loading dock, and perhaps in the bed of a farmer's pickup. I started with Tichy feed sacks, but even after painting them they didn't look right. So I found photos of Wirthmore feed sacks on the internet, reduced them to HO scale (or at least the size of the Tichy feed sacks!) and glued them to the plastic sacks. 

Sanded tile grout for the road, cinder ballast, sifted dirt and tan tile grout for the soil, and some static grass and the scene was basically completed. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Hindsight 2020 10.0

 The virtual Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet (Hindsight 2020 10.0) has announced the lineup of presentations and presenters. Here's the flyer and the particulars on how to register etc, ... :

There's some great clinicians and clinics on the docket. And of course, me.... 

I'll be offering my "Modeling the October Scene" clinic. I was shocked to find the last time I'd presented this particular clinic was back in 2016 - five years ago - so I've taken this opportunity to update some of the content. I'm also using this clinic deadline as a motivating factor to add the "second layer" of scenery to the "cove scene" (search through the blog to see the scene I'm referring to - it's the only part of the layout that's scenicked!

This is actually the second time I've presented for Ted, Ryan, and Hunter - the gang of three who put on these virtual RPMs. 

Last fall I did my Modeling Prototype Structures clinic for Hindsight 2020 2.0. I did that same clinic for the local NMRA division a few weeks later - so you can see the recording of that version of the structures clinic on the NMRA Potomac Division You Tube Channel by clicking HERE

Monday, August 30, 2021

Grass mats

Remember back in the old days when Life-Like (and some other companies I'm sure) sold "grass mats." Basically rolled up paper with dyed green sawdust glued to it? 

My first HO layout featured just such a mat as the scenery. I carefully stapled it to the plywood sheet that formed the base of the layout. I do remember I took the time to paint the shiny staples with green poster paint - otherwise the silver staples made the whole thing look less realistic. 

Grass mats, much like the "horn hook" coupler are, as far as I know pretty much gone from model railroading. 

So imagine my surprise a week or so ago when Christine texted me she had found something she thought I could use at the craft store. When she got home she presented me with a "grass mat" of sorts. In fairness, she got it thinking it would be a nice basis for fields or swamps on a wargame table. And it would. But as I examined it I think I found it may be useful for some limited applications on the layout. 

First of all, this isn't your grandfather's grass mat. No dyed sawdust here. Instead, it features various lengths and textures of realistic-looking vegetation. It's real purpose is a decorative table runner, meaning it fairly large - about 17" wide and almost 7 feet in length. The retail price was about $20. 

I have one narrow spot between the rear staging track and wall. This needed to be finished with something other than raw or even painted plywood, but I didn't want to invest a great deal of time or effort. 

I cut the mat into several narrow strips and placed them in position. 

They worked, but were just a little to "vivid" and green. So I broke out the airbrush and a selection of Vallejo tans, olive green, and browns and misted the green. 

The result can be seen in the photo to the right. 

And I have plenty of raw material left to create some South Carolina swamps for our next wargame table!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Explaining Staging

Over the last few evenings I've completed the basic landforms for the area where trains will emerge from the staging tracks onto the scenicked portion of the layout. As mentioned previously, the staging tracks aren't hidden from view (since hidden from view in this case would also mean "difficult to access"!). They will, however, be screened from view by a low rise in the ground, and perhaps trees and bushes. At the point where the staging tracks emerge from hiding trains will round a bend and appear from behind a more dense stand of trees. At least that's the plan. We'll see how effective it is in practice. 

Some questions and comments indicate a little bit of confusion with what exactly is going on in this corner of the layout. Really, it may seem complicated or confusing but when you see it in person it makes perfect sense. 

I will try to clear this up with a couple of labeled photos. 

A few months back I described how I added a couple of new staging tracks to the layout. There are actually two stub-ended "screened" tracks along the right hand (short) wall if you view the track plan in the Richford Branch layout description tab above. 

These represent the originating point of the Richford Branch in St. Albans, Vermont. These are labeled St. Albans (west) in the image above. As you can see in the photo above there are two other double-ended siding tracks visible in the foreground. These tracks serve a dual purpose. First of all, their primary function is to represent the interchange connection with the CPR in Richford at the other end of the branch. But since these two tracks are double-ended they could also provide additional "surge" staging capacity for another train originating in St. Albans. And their third, and perhaps most important function, at least to me, is to provide a continuous run connection. 

The second photo shows the other end of the staging yard. This is the point where trains coming from St. Albans will first appear "on scene." This photo also shows the other end of those double ended Richford CPR interchange tracks. I've built up the basic landforms out of foam board and florist foam to create a scene with a slight slope to the foreground between the track and aisle and a slight hillside between the track and wall. I'm hoping this will prove to be a good place for "roster shots" of rolling stock. 

Since all this "staging" is really integrated into the rest of the layout visually my intention is to scenic it, ballast the track, etc... 

To the casual observer it will just look like a few more tracks - perhaps with a train or cut of cars spotted on it - but won't be a visually jarring distraction from the rest of the layout. 

Hope that clears things up!