Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Second Anniversary

December 18, 2010 saw my first post to this blog - that means it's time to celebrate our second anniversary. 
I'm continually amazed at the number of unique visitors - 44,690 unique visits - as of this post that have stopped by. A total of 88 of you have decided to follow this blog, which of course means you have to do whatever I say ....<g> 
I'm less impressed with the total number of posts - which sits at 90 - that I've managed to write. That's roughly one post every 2-3 weeks. From what I've read about blogging you really should offer short, but frequent posts. Obviously I've fallen short there.
I don't really believe in making new year resolutions, but I'll make an exception here:
  • I will commit to try to post a little more frequently:' I'll try for a one post a week average. 
  • In an effort to increase the post count I may adopt a "wordless Wednesday," like my friend George Dutka does on his White River Division blog. That will be in addition to the weekly post. 
  • According to Google analytics, the most popular post in the one titled "track plan." No surprise, since model railroaders are attracted to track plans like moths to a flame. But the plan shown in that post is an early version that doesn't show how the layout actually evolved. I really do need to do an updated trackplan that shows the layout as it currently sits. 
  • The second most popular group of posts are the ones on various classes/types of CV equipment. I have a few more of those prepared, and will post them shortly.

I'll hold off on layout resolutions for now. 
In the meantime, thanks to all of you who visit this little corner of the internet. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

CV 40000-series Howe Truss Boxcars

 I was in Lancaster, Penn., for the Fine Scale Modeler Expo a few weeks ago. As I reported then, I took a trip to the nearby Strasburg Railroad, which is home to a number of nicely restored steam era freight cars, including a Central Vermont 40,000-series car.
It wasn’t in the best place for photography, but I did manage to get a couple of pictures in the late-afternoon light that show off the details of the car.
The Central Vermont received 200 of these single-sheathed 40-foot boxcars from American Car & Foundry in late 1924. These cars, numbered 40000-40199, represent some of the earliest examples of what are commonly referred to as “alternate” standard ARA boxcars. Although never proposed as a standard by the ARA’s Committee on Car Construction, more cars were constructed to this Howe truss design with two diagonals on either side of the door, than were built to the ARA standard single sheath design. 
The underframe was wood, with six stringers in place of the typical single pair of steel, Z-section stringers.

Closeup of the end of the restored car shows the ladders,
the top end plate, and the Carmer uncoupling lever.
 The CV’s cars were delivered with wood six-foot doors, Andrews trucks, and Hutchins roofs. They had an inside height of 8 feet, 6 inches. As built, they were equipped with vertical brake staffs, but all would eventually be retrofitted with geared handbrakes and Ajax brakewheels. they also came equipped with Carmer uncoupling levers. The sides had seven grab irons, while the ends were equipped with six rung ladders with the stiles mounted far enough from the end to clear the diagonal brace on the end. 
AC&F Builder's Photo shows the vertical brake
and end components. 
The ends of these cars were perhaps their most unusual feature. They were composite ends (wood with two vertical and two diagonal braces). Spanning these braces across the top was a pressed steel component referred to as a top end plate. The Car Builder’s Cyclopedia, defines an End Plate as:

 “A member across the end and connecting the tops of the end posts of a car body and fastened at the ends to the two side plates. It is usually made of the proper form to serve as an end carline.”*

Other single sheathed cars with composite ends used end plates of course, but what seems to make the ones of the CV’s 40000-series cars somewhat unusual is the fact that it was a pressed steel component, not fabricated from standard structural steel components.
The cars remained in service, pretty much as built, through the late 1950s and early 1960s when many of them were retired or placed in some form of company service.
 Approximately 25 of these cars were modified with the addition of grain hatches to the roof and hopper bottoms for grain service.
 Painting and Lettering
As delivered the cars featured the CV’s then-standard Roman lettering, with “Central Vermont” spelled out across all three “panels” to the left of the doors, and no "CV" initials, with the car numbers centered underneath.
During the Second World War (January 1942), the CV changed to the stacked Gothic lettering, with the road name spelled out in two lines, with the addition of "CV" reporting marks above the car number, like that shown on the restored car at Strasburg, and on this car: 
Initially, there was a white line above the “CV and below the car numbers. In later repaintings through the 1950s these lines tended to be removed, like in this view of 40050:
 The final paint scheme on these cars was in the early 1960s with the addition of the intertwined CV logo on the door.
A “layout quality” representation of these cars can be made using the old Train Miniature single-sheathed (incorrectly called by modelers “outside braced”) cars. John Nehrich described such a conversion in an old issue of Mainline Modeler, later reprinted in a book by Hundman Publications. Both are long out of print, but you can find old issues of Mainline Modeler at swap meets or on eBay.
About 15-20 years ago Steam Shack produced a series of resin freight car models for a number of CV boxcars, including the 40000-series cars. These models were made for Steam Shack by Funaro & Camerlengo, who still offers these as their Kit 7060 (as built cars) or Kit 7061 (cars equipped with roof hatches and hopper bottoms).
There are some issues with the F&C kit - the sides are rendered as heavily weathered - which some feel is a little on the heavy side (I tend to agree), making the model look like the prototype did late in life and not as these cars would have looked in service. There's also some issues with the ends - primarily the height of the end sill - on the resin cars it's much taller than on the prototype. But the Steam Shack/F&C kits do represent a good starting place for an accurate model. 

*Thanks to Dennis Storzek for his help in determining the most accurate description for the components of these cars. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

HO Scale Steam Era Freight Car Trucks

Well known freight car modeler and historian Richard Hendrickson has recently updated his summary of HO scale steam era freight car trucks, available online HERE. If you ever needed to know how a "Bettendorf T Section" differs from an "ARA Cast Steel with Spring Plank" - well, here's your chance to find out!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fine Scale Expo 2012

Just returned from the Fine Scale Expo in Lancaster, Pa. Overall, I had a good time - it was a fairly small show (although there were 500 registered attendees over the three days) - and it's very focused on craftsman structure kits. I overheard one gentleman complain to his wife that "For a train show, there's no trains!" Actually, the only model trains were the five or six items entered in the popular vote contest. This show isn't about trains - it's all about structures.
I arrived Friday afternoon, wandered around the dealer show and picked up a couple of items that I thought were appropriate for the layout. I also picked up a pre-production set of parts for an upcoming model of a New England mill building. The manufacturer asked me to build it and install it in the layout in time for him to have some photos of the finished model to show at the Springfield show. Since I was going to build the mill anyway, it worked out well for both of us!
I ran into George Dutka and Don Janes there - I always enjoy spending time with fellow CV modelers. As an aside, I was thrilled, and somewhat surprised, at the number of people who mentioned they follow this blog. Thanks! Nice to know someone is reading my scribbles!
Friday night I gave a hands-on clinic for 21 people - showing them how to bend and form wire tree armatures. The comments were very positive, and I enjoyed it although if I ever do that clinic again I'll change the approach slightly. We weren't able to completely finish the trees in the time allotted - and we couldn't spraypaint in the hotel and it was too dark and little too chilly outside, so the trees stopped at the "ready for final painting and leaf texture stage."  I'm quite pleased at how good some of the finished trees looked, especially when you consider these were first-time efforts! Oh well, I guess you learn something every time you "premiere" a clinic.

One of the highlights of the show was the "Muskrat Ramble," and On30 layout that was built by a group of Australian modelers. It now has a permanent home in Florida, but was transported to the show and set up and running for the event. 
The banquet on Saturday night was a special treat. I thought about heading out of town early, but was glad I stayed. The banquet was held at the Pennsylvania State Railroad Museum - which is right across the street from the Strasburg tourist railroad (see photo above). I got there early enough that I was able to get a few photos of the fully-restored CV 40000-series boxcar at the Strasburg, as well as some other pieces of equipment like this Rutland boxcar. 
The banquet food was nothing to write home about (it was okay, but typical of such events). The setting - among the restored PRR and Conrail locomotives - couldn't be beat! After presenting the awards for each of the contest categories, the main event featured a pair of speeches by Dave Frary and Bob Mitchell, two well-known model railroaders. Mercifully, they kept their remarks brief and to the point - and were certainly entertaining. 
All in all a good weekend. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

White River Junction Featured in October 2012 RMC

In the October 2012 RMC you can find two articles on modeling White River Jct. Don Janes and George Dutka, two of my friends and fellow CV modelers, have articles describing their HO scale versions of White River Junction, Vermont. Don has modelled the yard and roundhouse while George focuses on the Station area.
You can find regular updates from both of these excellent modelers on George's blog (see the link on the right).
They also have the cover shots for this article - one (on Don's layout) features a CV M-3-a and a CN C-Liner awaiting their next assignments at the White River coaling tower (an Alkem Scale Models kit).  The inset photo shows a CN engine and some of blue and white thing in front of the station on George's layout.

Here's the cover -

I promise that's the last RMC cover for a while . .  . two posts in a row featuring RMC covers is sufficient! 
But this is sufficiently inspiring to get me in gear to finish MY version of WRJ!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Model Railroad Influences

What model railroad articles or authors influenced you as an aspiring young/beginning model railroader?
Although I find inspiration nearly everywhere I look on the internet and in the magazines today, my earliest influences, like most modelers, were in the pages of the model railroad magazines. And despite the fact that I would later be on the staff of Model Railroader, the majority of my early influences were found in the pages of Railroad Model Craftsman. Some of my model railroad heroes shared their work with us through the pages of this magazine at that time - names like Dave Frary, Bob Hayden, and Art Curren. Little did I know I'd get to know the three of them as friends and co-workers when I joined the MR staff - at the time they were model railroad giants to me. 
For the generation of modelers that came before me, John Allen is often heralded as the greatest inspiration. And though I admired (and still admire) his creation, I never really considered him one of my direct inspirations. To this day if you ask my generation of model railroaders who their greatest inspiration was I think Allen McClelland would win hands down. His Virginian & Ohio series ran in RMC about the time I was in high school – and was a real shift in the way model railroaders considered everything from design to operation. In many ways, the V&O and its creator defined the “modern” model railroad layout. I devoured every word of that series. Allen’s fictional railroad was so well thought out that I remember searching (in vain) through a railroad atlas in the local library for the V&O.
Another modeler, who’s work we didn’t see anywhere near enough of at the time, was Dick Elwell. His Hoosac Valley Railroad remains a favorite – and unlike the V&O it still exists today (although in a different house than when I first encountered it in the pages of RMC). See this post for some photos of the current version of Dick's masterpiece. 

Two other modelers who were an influence on me are not as well remembered as Dick and Allen today – but they still provided me with a significant amount of inspiration. Interestingly, they both modeled 19th century railroads. I'm not sure what that means, if anything, except perhaps their work was unusual enough that it really made an impression on me. Or maybe because my first HO set was an AHM 4-4-0 "Reno" I thought their articles applied to me more directly. In any event, their modeling and articles made quite an impression since I remember it clearly more than 30 (yikes!) years later. 
I don’t think either is active in the hobby anymore. (I believe one may have passed away a number of years ago.) (NOTE - See the comment section below)
The first of these two was Lester Jordan. He modeled a little-known Pennsylvania narrow gauge shortline called the BB&K that interchanged with the Shawmut (RMC, February 1978). His article, Trees of Autumn (RMC, October 1979) showed me that modeling realistic autumn scenery was possible, and the key was to have the overall tone of the coloration reflect the way trees actually changed color. His article on “Painting Russia Iron” appeared in the March 1978 RMC –and remains the best treatment of that subject I’ve ever seen. I remember referencing it when I was answering a question for MR’s Paint Shop some 20 years later.
The last big influence I remember from my formative years was Russell Griffin. Perhaps it was because he modeled New England (like Elwell), which was home to me, at a time when it seemed like no one modeled standard gauge New England railroads, that I found his articles so appealing. I still recall them after all these years –
November 1978 – “The Stone Fence” – a how-to showing how to build a true New England signature item.
July 1980 – “A New England Enginehouse” – At a time when it seemed every kit on the market was either over weathered to the point of stretching plausibility or was some fanciful version of reality this was a well-worn structure with the simple, basic lines that are a hallmark of New England vernacular architecture.
June 1979 RMC – “An American from a Mogul” – this was my first attempt at kitbashing – and my model came out pretty well. A neat project converting a Roundhouse (now Model Die Casting) “Old Timer” 2-6-0 into a “beefy” 4-4-0. Lots of neat detailing tips (as a bonus he also built and detailed one 2-6-0 “stock.”
December 1977 – “Personalize Your People” – Russ started out as a military wargamer who learned how to convert figures. He applied those lessons to create model citizens who looked right in his 19th century world. I still use the tips in this article.
There were others of course, but these four gentlemen really inspired me “way back when” to try different materials and techniques. For that I’m thankful since they really opened up a lifetime of challenge and fun.  
So, who were/are your well-known, and perhaps not-so-well-known modeling inspirations?   

Thursday, September 20, 2012

White River Junction from the air, 1953

A few months ago I found a neat UVM web site that featured vintage images of Vermont - including some aerial views of Essex Junction and even a close up a industry at Waterbury. While these images were extremely helpful, the White River Junction selection was pretty slim pickings. In fact all that came up in a search of "White River Junction" was a bunch of photos showing the interstate highway being built through the Green Mountains in the late 1950s. While somewhat interesting, it hardly was useful for my layout research. 
That was a few months ago, and the internet is always changing. I've had some time during my lunch to wander around the internet over the last couple of days. Just for fun I went to the UVM site and entered "White River Junction" in the search window, fully expecting to find those same photos of interstate highway construction. Wow, those folks at UVM have been busy. There are dozens of photos of White River Junction - including this one dating from 1953 that at long last shows exactly how the turnouts between the station and the CV yard were arranged. If you go to the link you'll be able to use the "Zoomify" function to get some real close up views.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Peninsula Track Plan

I get a lot of ribbing from my fellow modelers for my relative lack of written track plans. I do draw plans, I just don't often show them since I'm a terrible artist and the plans I draw wouldn't make much sense to anyone but me.
So here is a special treat - the sketch plan I drew (the last of several) before starting the ongoing rework on the peninsula.
Key elements include
(1) The Waterbury station scene (which includes the Waterbury station, a feed mill, the CV freighthouse and a coal dealer)
(2) a mill stream scene - this will be visually isolated from Waterbury proper by a low hill and trees. The mill stream will disappear behind the trees and dead end in the woods. Along the mill stream will be one, perhaps two, old non-rail served mills. These are strictly for atmosphere - not traffic generation.
Working our way around the peninsula we encounter a simple grade crossing that features a small country store - and not much else.
Finally, we end up at the river crossing scene with the large truss bridge that will end up "buried" in the tree-covered hillsides.
Still to come is a way to transition from the hilly bridge river crossing scene to the relatively flat Essex Junction scene.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 19, 2012 Work Session Report

Good work session on the railroad this afternoon meant an early start to the new "model railroad season." I'm hoping to get the railroad somewhat operational in the next couple of months - thanks to the good friends who are willing to help it just may happen. 
Paul Dolkos and John Paganoni were the first to arrive - after discussing the lighting situation over the main peninsula (long story short - a better lighting solution is now a top priority) Paul got work ballasting the track in Waterbury. This track is in place and "finished" - which means it's been tested so I feel confident it's ready for ballast. 
Stic Harris arrived next. After the obligatory tour of the railroad, Stic got to work gluing down some ties for the last two turnouts in Essex Junction - while waiting for the ties to dry he cut up some pulpwood piles for the woodyard to be located on the end of the peninsula. 
John got busy filing up some switch frogs and points, and also got some measurements for the White River yardmasters desk - he'll build that at his house in his wood shop. 
Ben Hom opened up the rip track and managed to give all the cars currently on the railroad the once over - checking car weights, coupler height and operation, wheelsets, etc . . . He really plowed through the car fleet - we'll have to have him over again  . . . 

Bernie arrived later than the others and showed my son Matt how to assemble the Alkem C&O Signal Bridge kit (Matt is doing some contract assembly work for Bernie) and then made some repairs and touch up painting to the WRJ coaling tower. That's great, since I need to get it installed on the layout!

Finally, I took the opportunity to review the plan for the industries in Everett (named after a college classmate who was upset when he learned I named the river crossing after another classmate . . .) Looks like we'll be adding a coal dealer and a team track to the scene in Everett. 
All in a great day. 

Thanks to all for the help!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Major Milestone - 30,000 page views!

As of this evening, the blog has exceeded 30,000 page views. Thanks to all who take a few minutes to look over this blog. I hope you find something of use here, and I appreciate all the links to the blog, feedback from readers and emails!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Essex Junction Trackwork - Update

Rather than overcomplicating things, I decided to go with a very simple homemade spring to hold the points on my hand laid turnouts. As you can see from the photos, the spring is a piece of .028" brass wire bent to a 90-degree angle with two "legs" bent downward. These legs are inserted in holes drilled in the throw bar and an adjoining tie. 
Once the turnout is finished, painted, weathered, and ballasted, I think it will be virtually invisible. If I want to take a realistic photo of the scene at some point it's a simple matter to remove the spring and replace it once the pictures have been taken. 
Thanks to all who commented with suggestions - the "spring" you see here is actually the result of some experimentation over the last couple of nights. I'm pleased with how well it works. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. 

Possible shelf model?

I have a couple of HO scale models on display in my office. And my-coworkers and our clients who regularly visit our offices always comment on them - usually there's a story about someone or another (or them) who had a Lionel train. But I've uncovered one or two "real" model railroaders in the process. 
But let's face it, even the nicest HO scale model sitting on a shelf lacks, well, "presence." 
I'm thinking maybe an O scale model would be a better choice. 
I found that Mullet Scale Model Works makes an O scale Central Vermont three-window caboose. One neat thing about their models is the way the steel components on the prototype are modeled in brass, and the wood parts are laser cut wood. A neat approach. 
I may have to build me one of these. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Layout Work Sessions - Beneficial or Too much like, well, work?

I've had several local modelers volunteer to come over and help with various aspects of the layout. Several have indicated they would be willing to stop by and help next time I have a "work session." 
While I appreciate the gesture, and have certainly accepted help on the railroad from time to time from friends, I've been a little hesitant to declare "Every other Tuesday night" or whatever is a work session and invite a half dozen people over to work on the railroad. I seem to do okay with one or two folks at a time.  I also do okay when it's a group project - something like building benchwork comes to mind. Or it's something where I know the results will meet my vision (Bernie's backdrop painting, like that shown HERE, jumps to mind.)
My main hesitation stems from the fact that the few times I've had more than one person over to work on the layout I get really stressed out looking for tools, materials, and the like, answering the "is this what you wanted?" type questions, and all the rest. Frankly, it brings the hobby dangerously close to the kind of stuff I deal with all day at the office. And that doesn't sound like fun. 
But the whole process is fraught with peril of another sort. Someone might be the nicest guy in the world, but he's all thumbs when it comes to modeling - or certain aspects of modeling. Such things can easily lead to hurt feelings - "Gee, Bill, thanks for taking the time to make all those trees last work session. They looked like garbage . . . which is where you'll find them if you want them . . ." 
Hardly seems friendly. 
But I do know some modelers who manage to host what amounts to a private club in their homes - and they seem to get a fair amount accomplished. I'm not sure, but my guess is they know to play to each person's strength - and in some cases may find that honesty, even brutal honesty, is the best policy. And there's a clear understanding that "This is my layout, and if something doesn't meet my expectations I reserve the right to change it." 
Another key would be to have the "work assignments" in mind before everyone shows up at the door - and tell them what they will be working on and ask they bring their own tools. That would cut down a little on the need to spend an entire evening or afternoon rushing around the basement looking for all the tools and materials needed. 
Any thoughts for people who host, or attend work sessions? No need to mention specific names. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Actively working on the layout (more track work - update coming soon!) and staying out of the summer heat - 

Hope all have a happy and safe 4th of July! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Farewell to yet another Waterbury landmark

Although the Waterbury Vermont station has been wonderfully restored the other buildings that once stood across the tracks haven't been so lucky. The first of these to disappear was the feed mill that was directly across the tracks from the station proper. Now, I understand from Bill Brigham and some of the other folks in Vermont that the former CV freight station is no more. The photo above was taken during a late winter safari with my friend Alan Irwin. Alan was a  dear friend - but he was a train chasing rail fan at heart and never really understood WHY I would stop and take pictures of buildings with nothing around them - especially in a dimly lit cold (and I mean cold) Sunday afternoon in early March. 
I'm glad I did. 
Here's a photo of the feed mill I took the same day. 
Of course, I plan to include these on the layout in the Waterbury scene, but at this point all that exists of the freight house is the footprint. (For the record, this is "full size" in HO scale):

Leveling Sand

Not much has been happening on the layout in the last few weeks, but I did spend some time in the basement today - the track laying crew are getting fired up again. I fully expect to be able to reach the end of track laying chores during the summer. 

In the meantime . . . 
On the Proto Layouts Yahoo Group this week one of the topics that came up was the use of Leveling sand to create a fast and easy ground base. Simply apply the leveling sand to the layout base, then glue in place with adhesive.  Ted Pamprin uses this material extensively on his C&O layout - and I've tried it as well and find it works great. Ted holds it in place with an additive use to make tile grout flexible. This stuff is available at any home improvement store (Home Depot, Lowe's etc  . .)

Here's the stuff Ted uses to cement the leveling sand in place:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Two-Legged Wye?

Not sure if it's akin to a three-legged dog. The riddle: "When is a wye not  a wye?" The answer: "When you only model two legs of it."
Adding a wye to a model railroad is usually a source of frustration and trauma. Sure, a small wye - one that has nothing in the center, can be a fairly straightforward addition to a track plan. But what about those  times where the wye has "stuff" - buildings, sidings, and the like - inside?
The wye at Essex Junction was unusual since there was a cut off track (I’m not sure what it was called) that ran between two legs of the wye.  Along this cut off track were several industries.  Since I didn’t have the depth for the “outer legs” of the wye, I decided to focus my efforts on this cut off track.  In essence, I'm modeling two of the three legs of the wye and not connecting them together. (On the prototype, the "missing" leg formed the branch line to Burlington, about 8 miles west of Essex Junction.
Losing the wye is not a problem for me - and trying to include the complete wye was causing all types of track planning issues.
Besides, I’m more interested in the industrial switching possibilities than in modeling the several blocks of commercial and residential buildings that would be required if I wanted to model the complete wye.
In a previous post, I mentioned how I’d switched the position of the trainshed and wye.  I also found I had to flip the orientation of the wye itself – a mirror image of the wye.  Luckily these changes are almost “transparent to the user” – you have to be pretty familiar with Essex Junction to pick up on the differences between my now-developing layout scene and the actual prototype.  The main goal, in my mind, is to capture the overall look of the scene.
This old time photo of the wye area (I’m not sure when it was taken, but based on the locomotive I’d say this pre-dates 1920) shows a couple of key buildings that I wanted to include on the layout. The opening photo shows the area just to the right of the picture about. One of the neatest industries in Essex Junction was the Vermont Maple Sugar Co. (a signature industry for rural Vermont - sometimes you have to almost hit people over the head for them to get what you’re modeling – the sign is a step towards that goal) and the Baxter Brothers cannery.
I know both of those buildings were still there in the 1950s (they’re still there today), and I can get photos and enough information to model them.  The other industries that were on that connector track inside the wye are a little more problematic.  I hadn’t turned up any photos showing those buildings until I came across the UVM website that included aerial photos of Essex Junction in the 1930s. I do have footprints of the buildings from both the railroad drawings of Essex Junction and Sanborn Maps.  I also managed to locate the buildings, as they appear today, in Bing Maps overhead views of Essex Junction.
I’ve adjusted the position of some of the buildings to better fit the layout space, but I have already built mockups of the Vermont Maple building, the Baxter Brothers cannery, and several of the other industries have been mocked up by taping pieces of various kits together.

Backdrop tweaks

My first attempt at including a backdrop in what I call the "Essex Junction alcove"  (You can see the approximate position of the Essex Junction shed with the mockup on the left) utilized a curved piece of Masonite attached to the wall and forming a constant radius curve in front of the support post and joining the peninsula backdrop.
I didn’t like the way the curved section of backdrop looked – besides it would have made an awkward scene with the wye trackage.  I also (for once) wisely decided to do something about it before laying track in this area.  It would have been difficult to do this work with track in place – and virtually impossible with scenery!
So I removed the last backdrop section, cut a panel of Masonite to fit between the end of the existing backdrop and the support post, and blended the joint smooth. I’ll paint the post sky blue so it will look like part of the backdrop.
Removing the backdrop section meant the backside of another section of backdrop was visible. I framed up some supports and used some Masonite to fill the area between the support post and the wall. When this is all painted sky blue I think it will fade away from view – something that all backdrops should do!
As an aside, I'm really, really pleased with the fascia color!

Monday, April 30, 2012

An addition to the roster

I've been so consumed with benchwork, track, and wiring over the last couple of years that I haven't added any new cars to the layout - although the pile of "to be built" kits certainly hasn't shrunk - in fact, it's grown. 
So I was doubly thrilled to find a box from Elgin Car Shops arrived in today's mail - although I have to admit I was expecting it. A couple of weeks ago Elgin proprietor Pierre Oliver sent me a email asking for my home address, since he had something he wanted to send me. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box to find a Sunshine Models kit for a New York Central 1-1/2 door boxcar. That was great - but the best part was the fact that car was finished - on a railroad with precious few "Finished" cars anything "Done" is worthy of a blog post - and a sincere thank you. 
Actually, this past week I've contracted with Pierre to build a couple of other cars. Having seen his work in person I highly recommend.  

For details on Elgin Car Shops check out his website

And  as requested Pierre, now I can say "Pierre Oliver built that car for me . . ."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A home for orphans . . .

Paul Dolkos spent almost two decades building and detailing his beautiful Boston & Maine White Mountain Division. In addition to the layout itself, he created a roster of cars appropriate for his northern New England railroad. But, when he switched from modeling the B&M to the Baltimore Harbor District some of the New England cars seemed a little hard to justify.  . . . he also needed some Micro-Engineering track components to finish his latest addition to the new layout. The dealers were out of M-E turnouts, but I wasn't. And, while Paul found it hard to justify more than ONE Rutland car on his new layout, I can justify a couple on my layout. So, we made a swap. On Sunday I went over to Paul's to inspect progress on his railroad, and pick up the cars. I ended up with four of Paul's former freight cars - they are already performing yeoman service on the Winooski Sub. 
Paul didn't build all these cars - back in the early days of Paul's layout a mutual friend, Tom Underwood, built a number of cars for Paul. They are easy to identify by their "builders plates" that Tom added to the underside of the cars. This is the one from the Rutland flat car. In this case, this Rutland flat (detailed Athearn) was the 44th car Tom built, and he completed it in September 1993. 

Note Tom also included information on the lettering (in this case, CDS dry transfers). I think the builder's plates are kind of a neat idea, and I may incorporate them on cars I build in the future. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Historic Photos of Vermont

I ran across a tremendous resource at the University of Vermont web site. A collection of historic photo graphs of Vermont, many of which show scenes familiar to railroad modelers of the state. I found two of them of particular interest:

The first was this view of Essex Junction that shows the industries located in the around the wye - this shot dates from 1930 (the dates on some of the captions have been questioned, but the presence of the Burlington & Lamoille RR trackage in the middle of the wye makes me believe the 1939 date.

Another neat find was this photo showing a close up of the Demeritt Company in Waterbury.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Downshifting - A simpler scene = Bigger impact?

Although I've been working pretty steadily at track laying I just couldn't take the pink foam and white Sculptamold monstrosity at the entrance to the layout area.

My original plan for this section of the layout was a large mill scene - a river feeding several water-powered mill complexes. I even hogged the riverbed out of the pink foam layout surface - which believe me wasn't difficult but was hardly what I'd call fun.

Then it dawned on me - I have a big layout to build, with a lot of true signature structures - I didn't want to get bogged down building a bunch of mill buildings when I was trying to get the layout operational. Also, I was having trouble blending the freelanced mill river scene with the prototype based Waterbury scene on the other of the peninsula. I wanted to include the Demeritt Cannery in Watebury - but in order to place a hill as a view block between Waterbury proper and the river I didn't have enough room for the Cannery buildings.

The mill river obviously wasn't working for a bunch of reasons. So I stuffed a bunch of plastic bags with newspaper and used them to fill the riverbed. Then I applied a layer of plaster cloth - entombing the riverbed inside my new terrain.

In place of the river side mill complex will be a much simpler scene of pastureland - perhaps with a farm building or two up on the hill. A single industry - likely a creamery, will also be featured. The original culvert has been replaced with a road underpass. All that's there is the basic landforms and the rough outline of the roads, but I already like the scene more than the planned mill complex. The fact that it's an easy way out has been overshadowed by the fact that I think it looks more like rural Vermont than the developing scene it replaced. I guess I agree with Mike Confalone and George Dutka - as George wrote in his recent blog post, "From my point of view a barn built with little else around makes a great layout scene."

You can find the previous plan for this scene in an earlier blog post. The picture above shows the scene ready for the initial coat of scenic texture.

Monday, March 26, 2012

John Paganoni's East New London roundhouse

Believe it or not, there are actually TWO Central Vermont Railway modelers in Manassas, Va., me, and my good friend John Paganoni. 

John is well known in CV modeling circles - although he hasn't built a huge number of models, the ones he has completed are universally excellent - and his latest, this roundhouse, is no exception. 

The model is completely scratchbuilt, and accurately reflects the appearance of the structure in John's 1950s era. 
Close study will reveal this is a building with history - the older arched stalls on the left side date to the pre-Civil War era (by John's era this section of the building had been converted to a shop area since the doors were too small for the power in use on the line at the time), the middle section - with the larger doors and longer stalls - built as six stalls but four of them burned down. And finally, the "new house" - the wooden section to the right with the larger windows and doors. 

This was the last major component of the New London facilities John needed to complete - he's already built the coaling tower, water tank, and turntable.  

Here's John's description of the project:
The New London roundhouse project is about complete except for some interior 
detail in the newest section (4 stall section)that I will do before putting 
the structure in place. The machine shop will be fully detailed inside, and 
I have already completed the machines and floor as an insert when I put the 
structure in place. Lighting is already installed. 

There are a lot of things I would have liked to come out better, but I am 
tiring of this project (it has taken far more time than I thought it would) 
and want to get on with bench work.