Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trees, Trees everywhere

Background trees added to the long neck of the peninsula. 
This helps break up the joint between the modeled railroad 
and painted backdrop. 
One thing you need when you model a New England railroad is trees - lots of 'em. In my case they come in two distinct categories - foreground trees, ones that are "stand alone" items - and "filler" trees. I decided to spend some time over the last few evenings adding some of those "filler" trees to the area between the mainline and the backdrop. I've started "grassing up" the area between the mainline and fascia edge as well. 
Next step is to add the texture (static grass and the like) between
the track and fascia. 
This is an example of "large scale" modeling - not in the proportion but in the amount of material needed. I didn't count how many individual Supertrees are now planted on the layout, but it took most of Sunday afternoon to prep the trees, paint them, and install them. I think the time was well spent since this portion of the layout is at last starting to look a little more complete. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy First Birthday!

I find it hard to believe, today marks the first anniversary of this blog.
It was also one year ago that I started the extensive rework of my layout. Here's the view from the bottom of the basement stairs in late October, 2010: 
Here's a shot taken from the about the same spot this past September:

When I decided to change the layout I promised myself all the heavy construction work - benchwork, backdrops, and the like - would be finished within a year. I'm happy to report that I accomplished that, and I've even gotten a fair start at the scenery. 
I do need to get the track in White River Junction and Essex Junction sections complete - and that's a goal for the remainder of this year. 
The only other "goal" I have is to get the "Front Door" scenery completed - I need to get rid of the pink foam that's still visible in the mill stream area. 
I enjoy posting my progress to this blog, and appreciate all the comments I receive on it. I hope you will continue to follow my adventures. Here's to a productive New Year on the Central Vermont!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Backdrop Video Trailer

Coming This Holiday Season . . . from Dog Butt Films, in conjunction with Leaping Hound Productions ....

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 8 Work Session

Good work session this evening on the Central Vermont Winooski Sub.  Bernie braved the DC traffic to come out to Manassas for a Friday night session. I worked on roadbed in Essex Junction while he painted a late fall backdrop behind Waterbury.  I won't bore anyone with photos of roadbed - but the backdrop Bernie painted came out pretty sharp.

We did shoot a couple of short videos showing Bernie at work - I will post those later. 

We found some pictures in Morning Sun's Central Vermont Railway in Color for inspiration. One of the most recognizable items in the Vermont landscape is "Camel's Hump" - the second tallest peak in the state but one with a unique profile (hence the name). Bernie used a photo taken by my good friend Alan Irwin as a guide - Alan's picture is in the lower right in the open book. 
In the image below you can see the unique shape of Camel's Hump - but Bernie was careful to not make shape TOO distinctive since the backdrop would look odd when viewed from a different angle. Looks like there is already snow on the peak - it won't be long before Waterbury will be buried in the white stuff .  . . maybe we need to run a couple of ski trains?

Along the narrow "neck" of the peninsula, Bernie added some "foreground" tree detail to my already outstanding backdrop painting efforts! (Actually, I think he "tweaked" my trees more than a little). The Supertree in the center is there as a height reference. One thing that has become obvious is I need more light on this section of the railroad. We discussed some possibilities for that as well. 
I couldn't resist setting up a simple "test shot" in Waterbury. I want to finish up the work on the track in Essex Junction - but I also really, really, want to get to work on the "front door" Waterbury scene. 

Thanks for the help, Bernie!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Garden State Road Trip

Naturally I had to kick off the trip report with some CV RS-11s!

St Johnsbury, Vt., on Mike McNamara's HO railroad. 
Just back from an enjoyable weekend tour through the New Jersey countryside with Bernie Kempinski.  We started out early Saturday morning, heading north towards the Garden State. After paying homage to the governors of both Maryland and Delaware (it takes about 15 minutes and $9 to get through Delaware – Maryland is almost as expensive but at least you’re in the state longer) we arrived at Mike McNamara’s “Northeast Kingdom” HO layout.  Mike models the railroads in an around St. Johnsbury, Vt., in 1980.  Lots of colorful engines and freight cars.  Mike was a great host and we had a good time looking at his layout, taking some pictures, and shooting some videos of trains in action. 

After lunch – at a local pizza joint, where surprisingly no one was named “Tony” (for the record, we did ask . . .) we headed north.  Lola, the GPS in my wife’s Honda Accord, decided to take us on a circular tour through downtown Princeton – but at least we saw a horse in the middle of the road. 

When we arrived in Newton we checked into the hotel and Tony Koester picked us up and took us on a tour through the northern New Jersey countryside.  Tony pointed out all the old railroad archaeological artifacts and abandoned right-of-way.  It was very interesting, but difficult to see in the dark. 

From L to R: Bernie, Perry Squier, and Tony Koester. 
The St. Mary's Penn., scene on Perry's P&S is a great example
of prototype modeling. 
We stopped first at Perry Squier’s house.  After meeting “Richie” – a rather large (and hungry) horse, we went to the basement to look at Perry’s Pittsburg & Shawmut.  Set in 1923 this is a very nicely done coal-hauling railroad in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  I especially liked Perry’s signature scene of St. Mary’s Penn.  I also think Perry has done a wonderful job modeling what many consider the “Golden Age” of railroading – the era just before the “super power steam” of the early 1920s. 

I really liked how Perry's layout fit the space. 
From Perry’s we headed to Ted Pamprin’s Chesapeake & Ohio.  Set deep in the New River Gorge in West Virginia I especially wanted to see for myself how Ted’s leafless trees look in person when covering a large mountainside.  I’m happy to report they look just fine. Ted had some great tips on landform modeling, including using leveling sand, secured with this thin adhesive, for basic ground cover.  Neat layout – his Thurmond, W.V. scene is right on – and looks great. 

Ted Pamprin's HO Chesapeake & Ohio New River Sub. 
Ted's Supertree-filled mountainsides look great!
A look at Thurmond, W. Va. 
After a very nice dinner (although the wait was so long Bernie was able to do an impromptu version of his USMRR clinic on his iPad while we waited in the bar!) we headed over to Tony’s for an tour/indoctrination on his Nickel Plate.  This is a BIG layout – having edited the article on the track plan back in my MR days this was the first time I’d seen the layout basically in place (I visited Tony a few years ago before he had finished most of the basic infrastructure.  The NKP Clover Leaf is a big project – very impressive. I’d classify it as “industrial strength” model railroading – everything  – locomotives, throttles, freight cars, wheelsets, etc . . . has to be done in bulk.  It’s really quite a project, and I admire Tony for his dedication to bring his favorite railroad to life in his basement, and appreciate the chance to operate on it - I had a great time.   

Go faster, Bernie, this is supposed to
be a "Fast Freight" route!
Frankfort Yard on Tony's NKP.
Yes, this yard is 60 feet long!

While we completely enjoyed the operating session, I, for one, left secure in the knowledge that style of layout was just not right – for me, anyway.  Seeing Mike’s, Perry’s, and Ted’s layouts confirmed, to me at least, that I really prefer the single deck layout arranged with a “panoramic” view over the multi-deck, long mainline at the expense of all else approach.  I felt completely vindicated in my decision to remove the upper deck from my own railroad.  I’m also continually tempted by an earlier era than I presently model – then I realize how much inventory I have on hand and think I should stick with the 1940s/50s era. 

Overall, a great trip that left us motivated to work on our own railroads. Now that I have a few weeks at home, the weather is cold outside, the days are short, and it’s time to get something done on the Central Vermont! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Planning Essex Junction

I have been spending an hour or so a night for the last couple of weeks planning, and re-planning, the Essex Junction scene. 
I’m happy to report these efforts are starting to pay off. 
This scene and I go way back. The first layout I started building as an adult (when I determined the CV in the steam era was right for me) featured the Essex Junction scene. That one never got past the benchwork stage.  The second time I modeled it was in N scale on a small layout I built in a rented townhome when I was on the MR staff. That scene led to an article on Essex Junction that appeared in Model Railroad Planning
It's finally time to do this scene again - this go 'round will be HO scale. 
Essex Junction is, in reality, two different “scenes.”  The first, and most recognizable, is the area around the trainshed itself.  Here’s a familiar view of the trainshed. 
 The second, much less familiar scene was area around the wye, just a couple of blocks south of the trainshed.  It was rarely, if ever photographed – at least in its entirety.  One photo showing the wye is this very early image: 
Using CV engineering department drawings and Sanborn Maps this map shows the track and most of the industries in, and around, Essex Junction in the early 1950s. 
On the layout, I’m taking the approach of making whatever compromises I need to make to have the trainshed look as much like the pictures as possible, even if it means I have to “tweak” the wye scene slightly.  Perhaps the biggest compromise I made was to flip the location of the wye and trainshed, relative to the other modeled towns on the layout.  Coming north from Waterbury (on the layout, around the bend on the peninsula) a train should go through the wye and then past the shed on its way north to St. Albans.  On my layout the train will go through the shed and then the wye.  If I maintained the prototype elements in their correct orientation, the track would curve in the “wrong” direction relative to the most commonly photographed view of the scene.  I felt it was important to capture this angle for the trainshed scene to look right, even if it meant flipping the relative location of the shed and wye.  Besides, when I mocked up the scene with the elements in the “right” place there was little room for the wye trackage. The shape of the basement dictated the placement I’m using. 
Due to the configuration of the layout and the basement, I can also add a live third leg of the wye to serve as a live interchange track representing the Burlington branch.  This same track will also permit me to reverse trains between sessions by backing them over from the north end staging yard. 
I suppose there are some who would be bothered to no end by the compromises I’ve made on this scene.  I think the finished scene will look like Essex Junction, even if the individual elements are not arranged exactly like the prototype. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trip Report - MER 2011 Convention, Cary, NC

I rolled back into town Sunday evening after spending a very enjoyable three days at the NMRA Mid East Regional Convention in Cary, NC. Model railroad conventions can run hot or cold, and I've been to plenty of regional conventions over the years - and frankly some of them have been awful. But not this one. 

First of all, the show went off without a hitch - the hotel (Embassy Suites) was excellent - even the food in the on-site restaurant was pretty good and reasonably priced. The clinic lineup was outstanding - they ran four rooms from 8:00 until 11:00 pm for three days - quite a feat! the weather on the drive down was great, but by Friday the skies had clouded over and it was pretty windy and rainy so I stayed inside most of Friday.  Judging from the audience size in the clinic rooms so did most of the other attendees! 

Bruce DeYoung gave two excellent clinics - one of slate roofs and the other on "Modeling tricks and tips" - here's Bruce showing one of his tips - a great way to spread ballast:

Danial Fisher is a structural engineer who specializes in steel-framed buildings. He gave an "extra fare" clinic on modeling steel framed structures. For $12 I got a GREAT handout and a small kit to build a steel-frame shed (or addition to an older building. Dan displayed this model, which is a Walther's Car shop with complete framing and bracing added to represent a steel-framed building with brick curtain walls. Sorry for the quality of these photos - I took them with my iPhone in the clinic room! Apparently, Dan's factory manufactures droids!:
I did get out of the hotel for a little while. I had lunch with Mike Brestel and John Roberts on Saturday, and then headed over to check out Bruce Faulkner's N scale CSX layout. To give some sense of this project, Bruce's layout is about the same size as mine but is double-deck in N scale. He has a CTC signaling system installed, but is only now really starting to make progress on the scenery. It looks like a great railroad to operate and I may need to get a few of the locals from this area to make it our next operating road trip. 
Here's Bruce:
And here's a view of his main classification yard:

All in an all, an excellent weekend seeing old friends and making new ones!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stand-in Vermonter

I ran across this USRA Light 4-8-2 lettered for the Southern New England Ry. the other day and decided to see how a passenger train would look on the bridge. This is a "Stand-in" for the CV's Vermonter - my plan is to run it on the layout with a CV RS-3, but that's another project that's not done yet!

I liked the picture (which was literally a "grab shot" with my iPhone!) so much I thought I'd post it here. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Open house!

We had about 40 local NMRA members come by and visit over four hours 
during the open house Saturday. I enjoyed having a chance to see old friends, and make new ones and got a kick out of seeing the reaction to some of my rather unusual construction methods. 
      The layout performed well without any issues - I was really pleased especially considering how "temporary" some of the wiring is at this point! I actually laid some track the in the morning and wired it in time for the open house!  I really shouldn't have done that, but I wanted to be able to run the entire length of both sides of the peninsula. I had a list of 10 things I wanted to get done for the open house - issues with one turnout cost me more than a day of troubleshooting which blew the timeline so I didn't get the fascia painted (item no. 10). I considered painting it on Saturday morning, but cooler heads prevailed when I had visions of visitors leaving with splotches of fascia color on their clothes!
Jeff McGuirk (in bright green shirt) chats with Potomac Division members
at the September 17 open house. 
     Jeff (my oldest son, in the green shirt in the photo) came up from Virginia Beach for this event. He helped clean up before the open house and was a great help during the proceedings - he mostly ran the trains and I talked, and talked, and talked. Which apparently isn't really a problem for me . . .
     Everyone who saw the previous layout footprint found the new arrangement to be a real improvement. I'd estimate we had as many as 25 people in the basement at one point. It seemed cramped but not overly crowded - of course I'll never have half that number for an op session. But I concluded the day secure in the knowledge that 8-12 member crew will be very comfortable in the space.
     I reviewed some options for the mill stream arrangement with a few folks, including Dave Emery who's an expert on New England mills. We did come up with a workable arrangement for the Lamson & Goodnow kit but I'm still considering using the Atlas Middlesex building since it seems a little larger, more modern, and might fit the space better.
     I also talked through some decisions that need to be made for the "yard" area - which is still an expanse of open benchwork. Stay tuned to this blog for more details on how that area will shape up in the next few months. 
     The decision to change the layout has been worth the blood and sweat to pull it off. Since the entire layout is actually cleared off I should take a series of pictures as a "walking" tour (Dave showed me some cool pics he took with his "extreme wide angle" setting) and record what it looks like at this point - about nine months to the day after I started construction!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Houston, We have a problem"

We had family visiting for most of the weekend, so I didn't get a lot done on layout - until they left for the airport on Monday morning. I spent the first part of Monday afternoon getting the remaining feeders connected to the buss wires. Then I tweaked a troublesome turnout on the south end of Richmond (just beyond the bridge scene). Once I got the passenger cars through it without any issues I dug out the Division Point 2-10-4s and one of my Overland 4-8-2s. 

The 2-10-4 made it through the mainline route of the switch - the diverging route traveling northbound direction was no joy - that wasn't a surprise and is something I can handle with a timetable special instruction (there's no reason for a 2-10-4 to be on that siding anyway). 

Then I got out the first 4-8-2 - it ran back and forth just fine, I was thrilled. Then, the engine stopped. I mean it just froze. I immediately suspected a wiring issue - after all I was testing the wiring. Then I figured perhaps it was a track issue - no problem, the engine was on the rails. Then I noticed the side rods were a funny shape - the main rod looked like a mountain range - going up and down. That can't be right. Apparently the long screw holding the valve gear assembly into the third driver had loosened to the point where it slipped out of the driver on one side - throwing everything out of whack.

I put the engine back in the box, and put the other 4-8-2 on the track - checking it to be sure it was in good shape. It ran back and forth even better until it started stuttering - I shut it off right away and examined it closely. Believe it or not, this engine had the EXACT SAME issue - loosing it's siderod screw after a few runs back and forth. 
So now I have two engines that are down hard until I have enough time to really work through the issue. I've never been much of a locomotive mechanic - looks like that's about to change. 
I'm so mad I could spit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Scenery - Williams Creek

The inspiration for this scene is the prototype photo I bought from Bob's Photos a few years ago. 

Russ Greene at New England Brownstone used the photo to create his plaster abutment kits. The bridges are Micro-Engineering 50-foot deck girders. I wanted to have the river look more like a clear New England stream than a Midwestern or Appalachian muddy river (although this week I know plenty of rivers in Vermont look plenty muddy and murky . . .). 

The sub-base of the river is 1/4" Masonite painted black and covered with a combination of sifted sand, gravel, and Scenic Express "River Bed" gravel. I left some of the black-painted Masonite showing between the rocks to represent deeper areas. I applied a coat of Envirotex, let it set up completely, then painted some tan riverbanks and some green/black areas on top of the Envirotex - again, not covering the surface completely. Once that dried I added a second layer of Envirotex. Since the Envirotex leaves a perfectly flat surface, I've been adding several coats of Min Wax Polycrylic Polyurethene. I think at this point I'm at six coats, and it's just starting to "bubble" a little - which is a bad thing on furniture (MinWax warns against too many coats) since the resulting surface looks rippled and a little like waves. 

I still need to finish this up obviously (the blue tape on the track should be a hint). Still to come:
1. A few more coats of MinWax
2. There are one or two of the background Supertrees that look a little too wavy from the side - they will be replaced with some with straighter trunks.
3. Foliage, undergrowth etc . . . around the base of the piers
4. Adding some electrostatic grass to the embankments
5. The harvested field with the corn shocks (the field is not visible in these model shots)
6. And, obviously, a coat of paint on the fascia. 

.... Oh, and a few more coats of MinWax!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Central Vermont's 42000, 43000, and 44000-series Boxcars

In his latest flyer, Martin Lofton at Sunshine Models announced two different Central Vermont 40-foot single sheathed HO scale boxcars as part of a series of “converted automobile cars.” 
The Sunshine Flyer announcement states “The Central of* Vermont had two series of outside braced auto cars with a 10’ IH, the 41000 series with a door and a half, and the 42000 series with a 12’ double door. The latter were rebuilt into 6’ door cars and renumbered in the 43000 series. The last two series are planned.” 
(* I’ll admit the incorrect addition of “of” to the CV’s corporate name is a pet peeve of mine. The railroad never, officially or otherwise, referred to itself as “Central of Vermont” – it was simply Central Vermont).  
Of course, the actual story of the CV's 42000, 43000, and 44000 series boxcars is a little more complicated. This announcement provided the necessary impetus to unscramble the somewhat convoluted story of these cars.  (The prototype information here is, of course, also usable if you’re looking to build those somewhat long in the tooth Steam Shack/F&C versions of these cars that are likely collecting dust on your shelf. I know they are on mine!) 
The late 1920s were heady times indeed on the Central Vermont Railway.  Across the system, new facilities and bridges were built and older ones upgraded.  The upgrading included new motive power (the 700-series 2-10-4s and U-1-a class 4-8-2s being the prime examples) and a new generation freight cars, the most numerous of which were two classes of single-sheathed boxcars. 

Construction and Components
A total of 500 cars (42000-42499) with two six-foot Youngstown doors, (giving them a 12-foot opening) were delivered new to the CV from Pullman in October, 1929.  The cars were single sheathed Howe truss design with 3-3-3 early Dreadnaught ends. They were all fitted with six foot Youngstown steel doors with Camel hardware, Hutchins roofs, and KC air brakes with Universal lever-and-ratchet hand brakes. The cars rode on cast steel ARA U-section trucks with spring planks and Barber lateral motion bolsters equipped with six springs per side. 
Their 3,705 cubic foot capacity was considered generous for the time. In fact, these cars were close in size to the 1937 AAR car (at 3,713 cubic feet), that wouldn't be built in any quantity for another decade. 
In the mid 1930s, 125 of these cars (CV 42125-42499) were transferred to the Grand Trunk Western, leaving 42000-42124 on the Central Vermont roster. 
In the 1940s the cars were equipped with AB brakes, with many getting Ajax brakewheels in place of the ratchet style brake. 
In the years following the transfer to the GTW, 97 of the 125 remaining 42000-series cars had their roofs raised approximately 4” to accommodate auto loading racks.  The spotting feature of the raised roof was a noticeable deeper flange running along the length of the car at the roofline and a double row of rivets at the top of both ends.  Like most freight car spotting features, once you know to look for this the difference is very obvious. 
If you're keeping score, between the mid-1930s and the early 1950s only 28 out of the original 500 42000-series cars remained on the CV roster in their “as-built” configuration. 
Between 1953 and 1956, a total of 59 (16 original height, and 43 raised roof) 42000-series cars had their auto-loading equipment removed, were rebuilt with single six-foot doors, and renumbered in the 43000-43058 series. 
This car shows one of the "as built" 42000 series cars after it had been converted to single-door and renumbered in CV's 43000-series. Note the "pregnant tapeworm" CV is centered on the door - it never appeared on the body of CV's single-sheathed boxcars despite what some model railroad manufacturers have offered over the years.  

This view of a 43000 series car after it had been transferred to MoW service clearly shows the extension on the end and along the roof line
This car is one of the increased height cars that has been converted to a single door car.  Note the top rail for the former left door is still visible. Also, note the difference in the X brace to the left of the door - it's an angle instead of the hat section bracing used on the original portions of the car. 

Auto racks were removed from all the remaining 42000 series cars by the mid-1960s.  Eight of the 42000-series cars were equipped with special loading devices to ship granite. 
In September 1960 four of the 42000-series cars (2 extended height, and 2 as-built height) were equipped with steam and signal lines for use in bulk mail service in passenger trains and renumbered 44000-44003.  They were repainted CN Green #11 with black roofs, ends, and underframes and had small placards with two small Central Vermont Maple Leaf monograms on the sides.

Not only does this image show two of the converted "head end" cars in their original Maple Leaf paint scheme, it also shows a comparison of the as built (right) and raised roof 42000-series cars. 

In 1963, with the adoption of the CN-family’s famed “wet noodle” logo, the 44000-series cars were repainted, this time with large CV “pregnant tapeworm” logos across both doors.

Paint and Lettering
If readers of this blog would be interested I can prepare a more detailed review of CV paint and lettering schemes at some point in the future. In the meantime I’ll offer these notes for painting the 42000/43000 series cars. 
Trucks and underframes were originally black, although they were repainted the body color as the cars were repainted over the years.  The sides, ends, and roofs of the cars were boxcar red (I prefer to use Badger or Scalecoat CN Red 11 perhaps toned down with some Earth-color paint). All lettering was white on the red cars.  As built the cars were lettered with “Central Vermont” and car numbers in Roman-style lettering.  Later, the now-familiar stacked Gothic lettering became standard.  Originally there were two white horizontal lines, one above the reporting marks and a second below the road number, although these gradually disappeared with repainting over the years. Other than this, admittedly minor difference, the cars remained in this scheme for the rest of their service lives. In the early 1960s, the CV began applying intertwined CV “pregnant tapeworm” lettering across the door(s) . 
Four of the cars were equipped for passenger train service and repainted and lettered as described above. 

HO scale modelers have had resin models of these cars available for years.  They were offered by Steam Shack (and are still available from www.steamshack.com).  Funaro and Camerlengo manufacture these kits for Steam Shack, so they are also available separately from F&C.  F&C/Steam Shack offer four versions of the 42000/43000 series cars – double and single door and original height and raised roof.  Steam Shack does sell a set of decals for the 44000 series “Maple Leaf” passenger scheme, but based on the photo on the Steam Shack website the roundels look oversized. 
As I mentioned at the outset, Sunshine Models has announced the 42000 and 43000 series cars will be released Fall 2011. I’m not sure if the Sunshine Models will be the as-built height or the modified height (or both).  I’ve dropped the folks at Sunshine a note and will update this based on any information I receive from them. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Foreground Trees

August 8, 2013 Update:
I've been getting some questions on the Crepe Myrtle trees, so I added a couple of pictures of the trees in bloom to this post.
One of the trees in bloom:
Here's a closeup of the bloom. When these die off they have to cut from the tree. It's one fall gardening chore I actually like doing!

I want to work on some scenery - for a change of pace from track and wiring and also to have a place to pose some "finished" photos, especially around my bridge scene. The problem was I didn't have any foreground trees. So I decided my "weeknight" project - for those times when I had a few minutes in the evening - would be to build up some leafless deciduous trees. 
Last spring we had a bunch of landscaping done - and we ended up with several Crape Myrtle plants. These flower in the summer, one flower on the end of each branch, and the seed pods and flowers turn brown in the fall. To get the plant to flower again you really need to remove the seed heads from the plant. Here's one of the plants in the side yard - this was taken in late spring.
You can see the seed pods on the dried out bloom below - I kept these cuttings thinking they may make decent tree armatures. They do, but it takes a little bit of trimming. Of course, the seed pods have to be removed and the "droopy" ends of the branches need to be trimmed off as well.

Here's the "stripped" armature - ready to have the finer branches added:
I used the pieces of the fine Super Trees sold by Scenic Express applied one at a time and secured in place with hot glue - much easier than the CA I used to use to build up trees. I always ended up with little bits of SuperTrees on my fingers!!
Here's a tree just about ready for the paint shop (I'll paint them primer gray with a dusting of "Camo Brown" on the ends) - On this one I also plan to remove that oddball branch on the bottom.

I don't plan to make forests of trees this way. This is strictly for foreground "specimen" trees. But I'm pleased with the way the Crepe Myrtle branches make the trunk and main branches look more robust and the Super Tree foliage adds the finer branch structure. I've made about a dozen of these in the last week of evenings - which should be more than enough to scenic the bridge scene. That's tomorrow's project. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Missed opportunities? What might have been?

When I tore out the upper deck (and frankly, most of the lower deck) on the layout last fall I seriously considered other options - some radically different than anything I've done previously. One possibility I contemplated was a East Tennessee & Western North Carolina RR layout in On30. I couldn't resist the Bachmann model of no. 11, and since I remember visiting "Tweetsie" in North Carolina with my kids when they were little - and even getting a few cab rides in no. 12 - it's always been a tempting theme for a layout.
Another possibility I hinted at in a conversation with Bernie Kempinski was an On30 layout that was patterned after the Maine Two-Footers. This certainly isn't the first time I've flirted with 2-foot modeling in 1/4" scale. Back in my MR days, the very first plan Iain Rice and I collaborated on was an On2 layout (this was the days before On30 took off) based on Phillips (o maybe Strong), Maine on the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes RR. It's never been published, but I did find the plan and have posted it here.
Bernie, always willing to be a trouble maker, and perhaps sensing a convert to O scale, quickly fired off a track plan for the layout area patterned after the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington. I'd forgotten about it until we were watching "Aerial America" on the Smithsonian Channel the other night. Basically, the series is an aerial tour of one state. the episode we saw was filmed in Maine and featured the a look at the Wiscasset waterfront.
Just for fun, and maybe to offer you some inspiration, I've included Bernie's trackplan here. The footpringt is very close to the current HO layout.

As I build my "simplified" layout - which still has several dozen turnouts and a lot of buildings I find a LOT that's appealing about the 15 or so turnouts on this layout.
But not this time - I have too much invested in the CV of the steam era to change at this point.
But I also think  this will be the last CV layout - the next one (if indeed there is a next one) will likely be something very, very different.
So part of me wants to file this plan away on this blog so I can come back to it, just in case.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Planning the Essex Junction Trainshed

I managed to mess up my back during the weekend so I have not been able to work on the layout – I simply can’t stand for very long or hunch over anything. Luckily, today it feels better than it did yesterday and far better than on Saturday.
Since I can’t really work on finishing up the track work in Waterbury, and daytime television isn’t worth anything I decided to round up some photos of the Essex Junction trainshed. I have a lot of information on Essex Junction, but it’s scattered in numerous binders, books, and file folders. It was time to put it together in one “Essex Junction” reference binder. Included with this post are a few pictures of the shed.
When it was built (sometime just before the Civil War) the shed looked like three tunnel portals, side by side. 

Over time as engines and cars got larger the shed portals were too small, so they were removed by the late 1880s and replaced by a wood gable ends that spanned all three tracks (when the B&L line was abandoned in the late 1930s, the third track – actually Track One – was removed leaving two tracks that ran through the shed. Here’s the way I’m going to model it (top photo is looking north, bottom photo is looking south):

This is going to be one of those signature projects on the layout – it has to be done “right” since it’s such a critical element of the scene.
You can see lots of details on Essex Junction in my article that appeared in Model Railroad Planning 1998. I also wrote another article on Essex Junction, this one including plans of the station and trainshed drawn by my good friend Laz Scangus, in the February 1993 Mainline Modeler.
I’ve built an N scale model of the trainshed before (it appears in the MRP 1998 article). But for this HO scale model I want to take it a step further and include the ceiling truss work as well as some interior lighting. Mostly, I want to be able to recreate some of the photos shown here, taken inside the shed.

There is also the practical aspect of coupling and uncoupling cars inside the trainshed. Do I make the entire roof removable (for operating sessions we’d take the roof off) or add an opening in the roof – similar to what Jack Burgess did with his model of the Yosemite Valley’s El Portal station?
Perhaps what I need to do is leave one side wall removable, perhaps held in place with magnets. That way, if I want to shoot a picture from inside the shed I can take that sidewall off and get the camera lens “inside” the building.
I plan to build the shed almost exclusively from styrene. Once I figure out how the roof trusses were constructed I’ll draw them up and we’ll see if they can be cut on Bernie Kempinski’s laser.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lay of the Lost Traveler

Essex Junction is the location where a short branch to Burlington connects to the Central Vermont’s mainline. Until the late 1930s, that branch didn’t end at the CV main, it actually crossed itt as the Burlington & Lamoille branch of the CV (named after the original B&L RR).
As one of the key scenes on my layout I've done a lot of research on Essex Junction over the years. One of the most interesting things to turn up in my research is the following poem. (I'm not particularly into poetry . . . oh heck, I can't stand it and never read it after I finished school and didn't have to . . .) But the following goes to show just how classy this blog is - not just poetry but 19th century poetry no less.
A number of railroad towns have been immortalized in poetry and song over the years, and Essex Junction is no exception. The poem, “Lay of the Lost Traveler” is said to have been inspired when the author, the Honorable Edward J. Phelps, left Burlington on the so-called “shuttle train” for Boston via Essex Junction.  He stepped off this train in Essex and waited for the arrival of the mainline train. The usual shifting of trains took place and Mr. Phelps, without inquiring, got on board the train he anticipated would take him to Boston. In fact, he had reboarded the “shuttle” train which promptly deposited Mr. Phelps back in Burlington, his starting point. There, on his arrival, he penned the following:

The Lay of the Lost Traveler

With saddened eye and battered hat
And eye that told of black despair,
On wooden bench the traveler sat,
Cursing the fate that brought him there.
“Nine hours,” he cried, “we’ve lingered here
With thought intent on distant homes,
Waiting for that delusive train
That, always coming, never comes,
Till weary, worn
Distressed, forlorn
And paralyzed in every function!
I hope in hell
His soul my dwell
Who first invented Essex Junction!

“Here Boston waits for Ogdensburg
And Ogdensburg for Montreal,
And late New York tarrieth
And Saratoga hindereth all!
From far Atlantic’ wave-swept bays
To Mississippi’s turbid tide
All accidents, mishaps, delays,
Are gathered here and multiplied!
Oh, fellow man avoid this spot
As you would plague or Peter Funk shun!
And I hope in hell
His soul may dwell
Who first invented Essex Junction!

“And long and late conductors tell
Of trains delayed or late or slow,
Till the e’en the very engine’s bell
Takes up the cry, 'No go! No go!'
Oh! Let me from this hole depart,
By any route so’t be a lone one,”
He cried, with madness in his heart,
And jumped aboard a train – the wrong one.
And as he vanished in the smoke
He shouted with redoubled unction,
“I hope in hell
His soul may dwell
Who first invented Essex Junction!”