Monday, December 23, 2013

Tree from Norway at Union Station

There's lots of Christmas trees in the Washington DC area this time of year - they make walking around town fun. This one is a gift from the people of Norway, and it stands just outside the main entry doors to Union Station, so there's a railroad connection there. Besides, occasionally, a pack of roaming Vikings have appeared in my layout room!
The tree is beautiful. Can't say the same for the "Vikings," but our train friends from Norway are welcome back anytime!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Three years, 100,000 views, 175 posts

I started this blog with a very simple, and classic "Welcome to My Blog" on December 17, 2010. According to the analytics machine in the Google Blogspot engine, the blog has 100,000+ unique views - and a total of 175 posts. 

Thanks to all for following along. I have a feeling this next year is when much of the layout will begin to finally look finished, so here's to a great 2014 of model railroading on the Green Mountain Route. 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Building Waterbury: Park Row Pavement

The grade crossing on Park Row in Waterbury. Still needs
 a final sanding and the track needs final ballasting.
Got the initial coat of pavement onto Park Row in Waterbury. After toying with various methods to make the streets, including sanded tile grout (a little too gritty for an HO scale paved road) and styrene, which is a great material for streets but seemed a little too perfect for a side street in Waterbury, I settled on using lightweight joint compound. Before troweling it onto the layout I pre-colored it by putting some light and dark gray Bragdon Weathering powders in the tub of joint compound and mixing it thoroughly.  According to the CV Engineering Plats for Waterbury the street was 24 feet wide, so I taped a couple of Plastruct 1/8" angles to the layout surface at 24 scale feet apart. Close up photos of the grade crossing in my era shows the grade crossing wasn't planked. Instead there were two boards on the outside of the rails and one board on the inside of each rail with the paving material filling the space between the tracks and between the rails.
I cut these "planks" from a GLC Laser laser-cut grade crossing. After securing the wood to the ties with CA, I stained them with Hunterline "Dark Brown" stain. I was careful to leave enough clearance between each rail and the wood for cars and locomotives to run through without the grade crossing lifting the wheels. Once I confirmed everything was working I added narrow strips of painter's blue tape (cut the width of the wood planks) to prevent filling the gaps between the rails and the wood.
Park Row after the initial coat of lightweight
 joint compound. Although this looks like
 a rough road, the prototype was never a
very smooth ride!
Then I carefully spread the lightweight joint compound between the Plastruct angle. Once the joint compound started to "set" (after an hour or so) I carefully peeled away the tape, exposing the wood planks. Although I tried to get the road as smooth as possible when applying the joint compound there were still lots of bumps. So, after the joint compound dried completely I sanded the road smooth with a fine-grit sanding block.
Park Row is now ready for traffic.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Building Waterbury: 4 - Sign or No?

The feedmill building that used to stand across the tracks from the Waterbury, Vt. station was - how to put this - rather plain.
I know there was nothing but a very small "cement" sign on the front of the building by the late 1940s - since a George Corey picture shows it clearly. However the building did have a neat sign on the front back in the 1920s (for a prototype picture see my earlier post).
Actually, there was also a neat "Gold Medal Flour" sign painted on the front of the building as well.
So, the question became, include the sign or not on the model? Even if it was slightly out of era for my layout. 
Virtually every one of the people I asked confirmed my instinct to include the sign - although it will be more faded and weathered than shown here (this is simply a paper print out propped on the front of the building). 

Besides, my modeler's license is fully paid through the next few years….

But I've already started thinking through the next few building for the Waterbury scene - the Demeritt Cannery. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Revised Everett sign

I got some critiques on my previous posting showing my "Welcome to Everett" billboard sign. Bill Gill was kind enough to revise the sign slightly to match the prototype Bellows Falls inspiration. Bill had the cover story in the November issue of Railroad Model Craftsman - an excellent piece on modeling vehicles.
Thanks for the work on the sign Bill!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Building Waterbury 3: Progress on Feed Mill - Haze Gray…..

Tonight I put the finishing touches on the basic walls and roof for the Waterbury feed mill. The model is entirely scratch built from various Evergreen styrene sheets and shapes. The building is going to be a very, very light gray (almost white). I've found that light paints, especially white and yellow can be problematic when applied over raw styrene so I fired up my airbrush and gave the entire building a base coat of US Navy hull gray. 
At this point it looks more like a destroyer than a building - at least the Haze Gray offers a relatively even coat for the finish paint. 
I still need to decide what color to paint the roof. It likely should be very weathered galvenized panels, but I can't find a picture that confirms the color of the roof in 1954. I'm leaning toward very weathered red just to give some pop to the scene. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Welcome to Everett sign

It's a friendly place to hang your hat. 
I was making some signs for the Waterbury feed mill (see previous post). While shaking the rust off my Photoshop/Illustrator skills I decided to make a "Welcome" sign for Everett. 
I spotted the prototype sign - as campy as they get - outside Bellows Falls a number of years ago. I didn't take a picture of it at the time, but thought it was neat. I forgot all about it until I came across a picture of it on the internet!
Problem is I don't have Bellows Falls on my layout. Some work with the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop erased the "Bellows Falls" lettering. I also cropped the oddly shaped "wood" frame painted around the perimeter, and fixed up "father's" tie, shirt, and jacket. 
Adding the letters to spell out "Everett" - with some drop shadows - completed the sign. 
This will end up "painted" on the side of a barn at the outskirts of town….I may even have the local police cruiser hiding behind the barn…a real "Welcoming Committee."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Waterbury Feed Mill - Early Era

To say the Waterbury feedmill is plain is an understatement. I was going through some of my reference photos of this building and came across this vintage image I obtained from Jim McFarlane a number of years ago. I'm seriously considering including the Gold Medal flour sign on my model - even if it's in a faded, heavily weathered state. 
My search for "Gold Medal Flour vintage ads" turned up a lot of very vertical (tall and skinny) versions of the logo,  but nothing as rectangular as the one in the picture above. 

If anyone has a rectangular sign in a format I can use on a model I'd appreciate it - otherwise I'll have to dust off my Photoshop skills. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

FineScale Expo 2013 - Trip Report

Stic Harris and I hit the road early....very early...Friday morning for Pittsfield, Mass. and the 2013 FineScale Expo. Three days and 1000+ miles on my car later and I'm back in Virginia. 
This is the second Expo I've attended and while it was fun my impression was there wasn't the same frantic level of buying and selling going on in the dealer room. The clinics, while interesting and excellent seemed to be a lot of repeats from last year - some variety would have been nice. 
Was the show worth it? I think so. The main reason we went was to see some friends. We had a nice visit with Don Janes and George Dutka....Don being more interested in Stic's hockey career than his model railroading.....and we both dropped a few sheckles in the dealer room. I did hold true to my mantra to only buy things I know will fit on the railroad - and my big purchases were a new country store from BEST Trains and a Winchendon Machine Co. kit from Laser Modeling 3. I already have spots picked out on the railroad for both of these buildings. 
I rounded out my purchasing with some odds and ends - Northeastern has a new line of doors and window castings that are smaller windows more typical of New England buildings, so I ended up with a variety of those parts, and I also bought some metal details from BEST Trains. 
Our main reason for going was to visit Dick Elwell's spectacular Hoosac Valley - one of my favorite layouts of all time. I've seen Dick at a few shows over the last few years, but hadn't been able to get to see the railroad since shortly after he'd moved a then finished railroad into a new house about 12 years ago.
We left the hotel early enough to be there when Dick opened the doors at 10:00. Actually, we got to Adams early enough that we had time to photograph a couple of the wonderful old mill buildings that are all over the place in that part of New England.

Although the railroad is basically finished, Dick is all excited about his latest project - a new paper mill complex that is in the early construction stages. I was flabbergasted, and more than a little humbled, that when I walked into the basement the first thing Dick did was reach onto his side table and produce my paper mill articles from MR .... and he proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions about the article!

We also visited Bob Van Gelder's South River &  Millville (left), and Bill Duffe's Boston & Maine  (below) before hitting the road for a long, dark, but otherwise uneventful drive home. 

Here's a photo from each of those layouts -  more to follow in future posts I'm sure. 
All in all a great weekend with good friends. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Hoarding," "Collecting" or Savvy Buying?

The following is a little unusual for this blog, since I tend not to engage in "opinion" pieces. It's also fairly long for a blog post, but I thought with the colder months arriving all too soon (for some of you they're already here!) and the associated "Train Show" season this might be a good topic for this time of year. I promise, I'll be back with a layout/modeling update shortly!

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks since frankly autumn yard chores, medical issues (nothing serious), and acting on a promise to at long last get my wife’s dollhouse wired, have taken most of my attention.
I'm heading to the Fine Scale Expo in Pittsfield, Mass., at the end of the week. Don’t know what I’ll buy at the show, but it will likely not be too much. About three years ago, when I started the layout rework, I came to the conclusion that I had too much model railroad stuff. I have less now than I did then but that’s because I’ve been on a focused, long term (seemingly endless) effort to downsize. Like most model railroaders, I found it way too easy to end up with lots of stuff. Some of the causes of this were:

1. The manufacturers themselves. The limited run approach to producing model trains means if you don’t buy it now, it may not be available when you do want it. This leads to the idea that you “need” 10 or 15 of the latest freight car when it comes out – even if there’s no layout to run them on. The result seems to be a version of a well-stocked hobbyshop in every model railroader’s basement. Of course, this is really a form of “Checkbook” modeling (“Chequebook Modelling” to my Canadian friends…..) and can lead directly to that tendency to over accumulate.
2. Model railroading is somewhat unique in the sheer volume of published hobby material. At one time I subscribed to 5 or 6 monthly model railroad and prototype magazines – and had literally a hundred or more railroad books. Want a Railroad Model Craftsman from 1974? Or Model Railroader? Or Narrow Gauge Gazette? Or Trains?  I had them all, and more. And every issue published. All stored in magazine sleeves or stacked in very, very heavy boxes. 
3. The tendency of model railroaders to find a variety of scales/gauges/prototypes/eras etc…. appealing. In other words, “Rubber gauging” – known in our house as the “shiny object syndrome.” A neat article would appear on an On30 layout, and I’d figure “I’d like to build one of those someday” – (see #1 above).
4. Model trains are (mostly) plastic and/or metal – and they have an almost infinite shelf life, meaning they don’t go bad. They just sit there.
5. For the decade or so I worked in the model train industry a trip to shows or visits to manufacturers would produce all kinds of “samples” – and like a kid in a candy store I found it hard to say “no.” So, I ended up with lots of stuff, most of which I’ve never opened.

You'd think modeling a somewhat obscure prototype like the Central Vermont would make finding something to buy almost impossible. You'd be wrong. Most model railroaders I know, myself included, have enough items stashed aside under the layout and in closets that we rival a well-stocked hobby shop. Is this hoarding? Or is it simply being a knowledgeable collector who knows what he/she needs for the layout, and is buying it now for future use?
What brought this to mind was an ongoing discussion on the Model Rail Radio podcast, hosted by Tom Barbalet. As an aside, if you’ve never listened to the show I encourage you to give it a try.
The question of what to do with no longer wanted/needed model railroad “stuff” comes up from time to time on the show.
Hoarding has been publicized in recent times thanks to reality television programs featured on A&E, TLC and Animal Planet.  Perhaps more in common with model railroading is a show on SyFy called “Collection Intervention” ( that features collectors (usually comic book or toy collectors) whose collections have come to completely dominate their homes and their lives.
Without sounding like Dr. Phil I will offer the following. From everything I’ve read Hoarding and Collecting are two different things. Hoarding IS A DISEASE, and not a very fun one at that. It is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder where the person assigns a value to everything that passes through their hands. There are very excessive forms of hoarding – where everything, including what any sane person would consider refuse – is saved.
To me, a hoarder is someone who doesn't know what they have, never intends on selling anything, and is actually damaging what they do have with neglect, improper storage, etc.
So I would say no, model railroaders are not “Hoarders,” at least not in the clinical sense.
True collectors tend to buy and sell things to get to their definition of the best collection of their chosen field. They tend to be focused The buying and selling keeps things moving around, and they eventually end up in the 'right ' hands.
But wait – while there is certainly a valid part of the model railroading hobby that is “Collecting” – be it Hornby, LGB, Lionel, or even vintage HO rolling stock - that’s not what most scale model railroaders envision themselves doing. We’re not trying to build a “collection,” we’re trying to recreate a vision of the world. Which means we’re all about using the stuff we acquire – albeit at some point in the future! And while using it does provide us with enjoyment and satisfaction it also, by definition, “ruins” the collector’s value.  

A Long Road

So, secure in the knowledge that I’m NOT a hoarder I set about “right sizing” the assortment of model railroad stuff residing in our basement. This has been an ongoing process – taking close to three years of effort.  In my case, focus became the key. Focus on one scale, one prototype railroad, and one era.
First, I completely cut out purchasing new model railroad items until I’d finished my inventory/purge process. eBay and swap meets mean the stuff will be there if and when I want it at some point in the future.  I did make an exception for specific Central Vermont items that I know were needed for the railroad and I knew to be rare. 
 Second, I ditched the paper – almost completely. I did keep most of the books - for now. As far as the magazines go, Prototype Modeler, Model Railroading, and Rail Model Journal are all available for free on line. So they were the first to go. Kalmbach released a complete set of Model Railroader on DVD – so all the MRs went to the recycling center next (I kept the bound volumes for the years I was on the staff). The Narrow Gauge Gazette is a wonderful magazine with inspirational photography – but I’m not a narrow gauger, and frankly while the pictures are inspiring I can’t recall the last time I used a modeling tip or technique from the Gazette that required me to save boxes of these things. So, off they went. N Scale Railroading and N Scale are very nice magazines, that aren’t applicable to my current modeling. They went to a friend who is into N scale – along with a couple of large boxes of N scale stuff. I also reduced the number of Mainline Modeler magazines from virtually all of them to a small selection of issues that had drawings of structures, cars, and locomotives I might want to build someday.
Where did these magazines go? Our local library has a magazine drop off system where you can bring old copies of magazines for other patrons to pick up and read at their leisure. At some point, I’m not sure when, the older materials are cleared out and taken to the recycling center. I’d like to think that most of the model train magazines went to someone who was interested in trains and has either created, or rekindled the once latent interest, of another model railroader or two.
Third – a real commitment to focus on one scale and gauge meant that all the extraneous stuff – including HO stuff for other eras and prototypes, and all that oddball stuff of different scales and gauges – went up for sale. The $ generated from the sales actually financed the purchase of a few specific CV pieces. eBay, several model train “Yard Sale” Yahoo Groups, and the like became the best ways to move the items. I found the key is to realize that the vast majority of this stuff doesn’t “hold its value” – and you better be prepared to take pennies on the dollars in most cases. The goal is to get the layout room cleared out, not beat the S&P Index…..but take solace in the fact that it will be out from under foot.
At train meets when I was selling this stuff if a young person seemed interested in a particular item I “significantly” discounted it. You might think this was “cutting into my profits.” There are no profits, remember?
And finally, what of all that stuff that I had been given over the years? Most of it has found its way to new homes – I try to give it to friends based on their specific interest. When my friends got tired of seeing me coming with more stuff (remember, most of them had their own boxes of stuff!)  I’ve been known to give it away at swap meets. My goal with going to a swap meet is not to bring anything home.
I’m finally at the point where I have so little “extra” left that I don’t need to go sell at swap meets anymore. I still have plenty of stuff left – more than enough for a few modeling lifetimes, but my checkbook modeling days are at an end.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Building Waterbury 2: Feed Mill - Walls and window openings

This view shows the street side wall of the building and the addition that was on the rear of the structure.
Since the model was originally built for a narrow shelf layout I never bothered adding clapboard to the wall away from the tracks. In fact, this was all that was visible, so it's all I modeled. This time the building can be viewed (from a distance) from the other side of the peninsula so I needed to add clapboards and the rest of the addition to this side.
At this point I've added the new walls to the street side of the building. The angled wall was originally used to accommodate a siding that once wrapped around this side of the building. By my era the track was no longer in use. NOTE: For this photo the building has been moved from it's planned location on the layout.

 Since this building was started well before I began this blog, I don't have photos of the earliest stages of construction. Basically, I built an inner shell of plain styrene (usually .030" or .040"). After locating the window and door openings, I used the well known scribe and snap method to create the window and door openings. After the sub walls were reassembled, I applied the outer layer of Evergreen .040" scribed clapboard siding. Once that's dried, I cut the window and door openings in the clapboard from the back (using the openings in the subwall as a guide).

Next steps on this and roofs.....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bulding Waterbury - 1: Intro

What’s the best part of a large layout? The variety – you can work on anything from benchwork to scenery to wiring as interest dictates. What’s the worst part of a large layout?  The variety – you can work on anything from benchwork to scenery to wiring as interest dictates.
 The problem of course, is while you get a lot of variety you can really only do one thing at a time. Too many things half-done means nothing looks finished. Potential large layout builders heed my words – the lack of focus caused by having too many things started and nothing finished has killed off lots of large layouts and is nothing to sneeze at!
Enough editorializing.
In an effort to overcome the “everything started nothing finished” syndrome I’ve decided to focus my attention on the structures in and around Waterbury. Why? Well, several of them are “half-started” and I have the information necessary for most of them. Perhaps most important Waterbury is the first scene you see when you come down the stairs into the layout area. Finally, this Phil Hasting’s photo of Waterbury is the one image that got me started modeling the CV of the steam era.
We’ll get started with the feed mill visible to the right in this photo. Here's what the same feed mill looked like the first time I saw it (sometime in the late 1980s, as I recall).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MER Convention Op Session - A couple of photos

Although I failed miserably to take any photos during the open house and op session this weekend Chuck Diljak, who did a fine job as White River Yardmaster, was kind enough to send a couple of  pictures he took during the op session.
Here's the WRJ Assistant YM, Joe Calderone during a break in the action at White River Junction. That yard is entirely too empty and he looks far too relaxed and smiling ..... we'll have to do something about that next time he visits.
A northbound extra through freight (behind a CN F7) runs through a crowded Everett as the Mill Turn works the town.

Monday, October 14, 2013

MER Open House and Layout Status Report

Running at track speed north of Williams Creek. 
 Just completed a very busy model railroad weekend as part of the NMRA MidEastern Region convention. Not only did I serve as clinic chairman for the convention, I gave a clinic on my railroad and also opened the layout up for two days of open houses and one guest operating session for convention attendees. 
Everett in all of its mocked-up glory....
Of course, the weeks prior to the convention open houses were spent mostly in the basement getting the layout ready. As anyone who has hd their layout on a tour can attest, often times more progress is made in the month before the open house than the six months before!  
Current state of the "front door." It's getting there - many structures to scratchbuild.
Completing this scene is very high on the agenda for the winter! 
I started with a long list of things I'd like to get done - I'd say I managed to finish about 75% of them. I wanted the trains to run fairly reliably, and for the most part succeeded. For my part I made a real effort to get rid of all the visible foam, plaster and plywood by covering it with a coat of earth-colored latex paint. I also got a fair amount of track painted and ballasted. It's amazing how much those two simple things blended everything on the railroad together. 
While I wanted to get the "Foreign road" power we've been operating replaced with CV/SNE/CN etc... power I wasn't quite as successful at that!
We did have issues with some recently ballasted track - and one particularly troublesome set of Proto 2000 FAs. All these issues were fixed  "on the fly" during the open house. I'm more than a little thrilled to report that we had zero issues with the wireless throttles over two days of almost constant running. 
The "back aisle" had been raw plaster, plywood, and pink foam the week before the open house. Some paint, ground foam, and some extra trees made it look presentable if not "Finished."
My crew (Stic Harris, Jeff McGuirk, Ben Hom, Norm Wolf and Bob Warren) did a great job. My parents manned the upstairs. Everyone seemed to have a great time. I didn't get any photos of people gawking at the layout, but here's a few pictures showing how the railroad looks today. 
With the layout up and running it's time to turn my attention to some actual modeling projects. More on those to come in the weeks/months ahead. 
"Yes, I know the station hangs over the edge of the benchwork!" Don't know how many times I had to say that! One thing we didn't get done was the alterations to the benchwork at Essex Junction that will accommodate the station. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Progress(?) Report

I've been working on two scenery projects at once - the White River scene and the peninsula farm scene. Last night I test fitted the barn in place on the farm scene that dominates the center of the peninsula. The tree is made from a twisted wire armature with Supertree branches covered by Noch leaves and some fine ground foam for "highlights."
But, considering this is how the White River Junction scene currently looks, and I have an op session on Sunday, I guess it's time to start cleaning up!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

MicroLux Hobby Acrylics

A couple of months ago many model railroaders were dismayed to learn that Testors was discontinuing production of Floquil and PollyScale acrylic paints. These paints had been a mainstay of model railroaders for years, and based on the reaction to this news in various model railroad forums and blogs many model railroaders were ready to jump off tall buildings.  
Rather than getting overly upset about it, I opted to look for an alternative. One of them landed, quite literally, in my lap as I was flipping through latest Micro-Mark catalog.
In that catalog I noticed MicroMark was coming out with a new line of hobby acrylic paints called "MicroLux." 
The are prethinned for airbrushing just like regular artists acrylic airbrush paints (from manufacturer's like Golden). 

I also noticed Micro-Mark was offering Vallejo "Model Air" airbrush paints in "railroad colors" matched to the now defunct PollyScale and Floquil lines. Vallejo is well known to military and figure modelers as one of the best acrylic paints for model building available anywhere. In the list of the Vallejo and MicroLux colors you'll find many of the old names like "Tarnished Black," "Boxcar Red," etc....
So I went ahead and ordered a few colors of both the Vallejo railroad colors and the MicroLux paints.  

I just got them, so I haven't used them yet. The Vallejo paints are actually Vallejo's line of military colors - and come in the familiar 17 mil "eye drop" bottles. Micro-Mark has determined that Vallejo "Rust" is a color match for Polly Scale "Boxcar Red" and labeled it as such. 
The line of MicroLux paints come in larger bottles - 2 oz of paint in each and are specifically matched colors. I was thrilled to read the "Made by Vallejo" labeling on the Micro-Mark bottles. 
I haven't tried airbrushing with these paints - yet - I will report back with the results, but if these spray half as well as "regular" Vallejo paints but we may have a winner.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Foreground Trees - Update

I've gotten some questions on my Crepe Myrtle trees lately, including questions on what a Crepe Myrtle plant looks like "in the wild." Rather than create another post I added a photo of a Crepe Myrtle tree in bloom to the original August 2011 post on making trees using Crepe Myrtle tips and Supertree foliage material. See it here:

Since that post appeared I've done some experimenting adding leaves to the Crepe Myrtle foreground trees - a post on that will follow shortly.