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” (http://www.syfy.com/collectionintervention/about) 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.