Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fare thee well, RMC!

Last Friday Carstens Publishing closed its doors. Along with that announcement came the notice that Railroad Model Craftsman would be suspending publication.*
Since then the model railroad inter webs have been buzzing with comments, posts about RMC and what it's demise means to the individual hobbyist and the hobby as a whole.  I truly feel for the employees of Carstens Publishing, and for the Carstens family, many of whom I've known for a long time. This is a particularly emotional and difficult time for them all. 
I've always had a soft spot for RMC. My first appearance in print in a model railroad magazine was in RMC. I have to thank RMC editor Bill Schamburg for recommending me to a headhunter who was searching for young editors for a "hobby publishing house in the upper Midwest." That turned out to be my entree into working on the MR staff - a time in my life of many professional and personal blessings. 
I always enjoyed seeing the Carstens gang at various conventions and shows. Colonel Hal Carstens sat in a number of my clinics over the years - he had a real interest in the Central Vermont. One time, without realizing Hal had snuck in after the room was dark, I referenced one of Hal's photos - an overview of the White River engine terminal in Ed Beaudette's Central Vermont Railway (published by Carstens). I couldn't include the picture in the clinic but mentioned it was a great image and that it, and Ed's book, were well worth checking out. 
At that point a deep voice in the back of the room quipped "All you have to do is ask…"  
I returned home from to find an envelope from Hal with a beautiful 8 x 10 b&w copy print of that image and the note "Marty, Ask and you shall receive. Think you might be able to find a use for this in your next CV clinic?…." (remember, I worked for the 'competitor' at the time! I was thrilled to include Hal's photo in my clinic with the credit to "H. Carstens, Carstens Publishing!!")
I do feel that over the last few years, RMC had something, well, missing. But I still enjoyed reading it and continued to purchase every issue. It's just something about it didn't grab me like it once had. 
Growing up, the highlight of the model railroad month was riding my bike to the hobby shop on a Saturday afternoon, walking into the store, and heading right for the magazine rack to see if the new issue of RMC was there. There was precious little I could afford to buy - but I could always scrape together enough to purchase the latest magazines. And, if I had only enough for one magazine and was forced to choose between Model Railroader and RMC, the Carstens product almost always won out. 
I was going to blog on some of the great articles I remember reading in RMC "way back then."  Then I realized I've already done that. In fact, it's one of the most popular posts on this blog. You can read it HERE
Fare thee well, RMC! Thanks for a great ride. 

*There are rumors of one or two parties who are interested in acquiring the rights to RMC. Although I sincerely hope this is the case what I know about magazine publishing, and acquisitions of magazines, makes me less than optimistic. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Waterbury Freight House: 3 - Staining the "old" freight house walls

I got the one-story freight house primed last night. While it was drying I turned my attention to the two-story section of the building. In later prototype photos this structure had plywood sheathing added to the first story section on the track side of the building. I was going to do my model that way until I came across a photo Frank Quinn photo from the December 1990 issue of Trains* from my modeling era that confirms (1) the clapboards extended all the way to the ground, no plywood sheathing, (2) the building was in dire need of a paint job and (3) there were a couple of small freight doors on the side of the building (these were covered over when the plywood sheathing was installed. 
I decided to build this portion of the building from basswood clapboard (Albert Scale Lumber, 4" HO clapboards). I spent some time last night with Hunterline stains of various colors trying to match the overall appearance and coloration of the building in the prototype picture. I think I'm getting pretty close. I find the wood stains hard to control since the wood grain plays tricks with the coloration. I think using styrene with brush-painted colors would have been easier. 
*The article indicates the location is "unknown" but it's pretty obvious to anyone who has been to Waterbury or looked at photos taken in the steam era that the photographer was standing between the station and the foundry building.  You can see Frank looking out from one of the window openings!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Waterbury Freight House: 2 - One story "new" freight house

I've gotten the basic styrene shell assembled for the one-story "new" freight house at Waterbury. The sub walls are .060" with .040" Evergreen clapboard siding on the exterior. Before installing the clapboard I run a piece of fine grit sandpaper over it in the direction of the clapboard. This "breaks" the surface, adds some fine "wood texture" and seems to make the paint adhere better since the surface has some tooth. 
Here's a couple of pictures of progress. Next step is to get the first coat of paint on the styrene. 
The freight house with the basic door and window openings in place on the layout. 
The building won't have a full interior, but I wanted to include a suggestion of the freight agent's office since it would be visible through the windows and the partially opened freight door. I also plan to add some simple interior lighting to this building. I attached the agent's office walls to the sub roof, added a door and some wainscoting. The interior detail here will be simple shapes to suggest a desk, file cabinet, and shelves, and perhaps a figure. 
The floor is scribed styrene sheet (scribing is on the other side in this view). The floor will not only be visible inside one or to of the open doors, it also acts as a brace, stiffening the entire structure. To get the floor at the correct level, and to further stiffen the floor, I used strips of .060" styrene. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Steam Era Freight Cars Blog

"This blog discusses all aspects of North American freight cars of the steam era, from the dawn of railroading through 1960.
it is designed to be a place where model railroaders who seek to produce the most prototypically accurate freight cars possible can come to view information pertinent to their pursuits.
Prototype modelers are encouraged to participate in this blog. Please consider sending photos of prototypes and your efforts to model them, reviews of kits, books and other products, “articles” about your modeling efforts – with or without photos. The nature of blogging means the material can be "real time," and in-process models can be shared. These are not only welcomed, but appreciated as we all love to see a model develop over time.
Also welcome is information about upcoming prototype meets, existing steam era freight cars (including where they are located), newly discovered photo collections, upcoming events, etc.
Information for this blog is considered to be submitted gratis. Also, all submissions must include your name and contact email."

A couple of years ago I created a blog intended to highlight steam era freight car modeling. Intended in no way to replace the STMFC Yahoo! Group I figured the blog format lent itself better than an email group to showing modeling and highlighting specific projects and techniques. After all, if you've ever tried to follow a modeling project on a chat list you know seeing the photos can be a frustrating experience.
My ultimate goal is for the blog to have numerous contributors - if someone wanted to contribute only one or two items they could send it to me and I'll post it (full credit will be given to the modeler of course!) 
If someone wanted to share a lot of projects/photos and the like I would give them "Author" permission and they would be able to post away without any interference - or effort - on my part! 
Although Charlie Duckworth did send me several contributions, the blog has languished in the internet waste land for more than a year - although it's had close to 10,000 views I haven't posted anything new in quite a while. 
There was (and has been) talk of reviving the Steam Era Freightcars website - and some of my fellow modelers were concerned this blog would be seen as competing with that effort. But frankly that seems to be stuck in limbo. 
So I thought I'd mention the blog here. I'm going to start by cross posting some of the freight car posts from here just to get some new content included. If I get little or no response I reserve the right pull the plug - but I will take a month or two and see if there's any life left in the thing. 
If you're interested in sharing any of your steam era freight car modeling please email it to steamfreightcar@gmail.com!

Wordless Wednesday #56

GTW 4-6-2 on Ambassador. Courtesy CVRHS collection.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wabash 40-foot boxcar

I certainly don't need another resin freight car kit, but I couldn't resist this one. It's from my good friend Pierre Oliver's Yarmouth Car Works. 
The model depicts the Wabash's 88200-88699 12-panel welded boxcars. These cars were built in December of 1948 and were the first welded side cars purchased by the Wabash. 
That in and of itself isn't really a big deal to me. 
What's neat about this kit is the way the resin sides have been cast to create the distinctive rippling that occurs in sheet steel when it's been welded. The effect is subtle, but apparent. And it's almost impossible to duplicate on an injection plastic kit unless the effect has been cut into the tooling. I remember seeing this effect on an N scale resin PRR boxcar years ago but, as far as I know, this is a first for a commercially available HO scale kit. 
In addition the kit features custom etched brass details, etched running boards, decals, and trucks. Everything but couplers. 
I've ordered mine - go to the Yarmouth  Models website if you want to get one of these, or one of the other kits he has available, for your railroad. 
And tell Pierre I sent you!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Maine Two-Foot Adventure

A few years ago I shared a track plan for the narrow gauge layout Bernie had designed for my current layout room. Although I decided to stick with the standard gauge CV in HO for this layout, I placed the design on the blog as a way of showing what "might have been." That post is one of the most popular on this blog - you can find it here
In it I mentioned one of the first plans Iain Rice and I collaborated on was for an On2 theme layout. These collaborations were pre email and were done with fax machines, hand-written notes and sketches. He would have an idea for a layout theme - usually something pretty esoteric, and I'd dig up whatever photos, maps, and the like I could find. This On2 plan was one of the more unusual, at least it seemed so at the time. 
Since I worked down the hall from HOn30" pioneer and Maine Two-Footer expert Bob Hayden there was no lack of prototype information and inspiration. I even owned a couple of brass On2 engines at the time, and was contemplating buying the then-new Car Shop SR 2-6-2.  Those models are referenced by Iain in his note below. 
I was actually thinking of building this plan as an MR project layout. (The reason for the "no wider than 16 foot limit" I put on Iain's plan). 
As it turned out, the plan was never published and I obviously never built the layout.  Although a neat plan that would make an interesting layout On2 was just a bit too esoteric for an MR project layout. Today, of course, On30 offers a viable alternative with the obvious compromise in track gauge. But at the time On30, at least the Bachmann commercial models didn't exist. In fact, the idea that a major manufacturer would introduce a line of O scale RTR narrow gauge equipment was the furthest thing from anyone's mind!
Besides, Iain had a lot of other plans with far more wide-ranging appeal - some of which are hinted at in the following portions of this note. 
Here's Iain's note. I've included it word-for-word, complete with all the asides and inside jokes:

To Marty McGuirk, Supreme Associate Editor, etc… etc… Model Railroader Magazine, Kalmbach Publishing World HQ 
From: Iain Rice, UK.

Marty -
Here are a few sketches and ideas, as promised a while back. The main drawing is the 1/4" scale Sandy River layout, which is actually, strictly speaking, based on the Franklin & Megantic. You may be aware of the projected Franklin and Somerset extension of this, which was going to run from East Strong to New Portland, Me. They never built it (more's the pity), but I don't see why it shouldn't come to life in model form. This scheme is for Franklin Junction which, in my version of things, is where a kick-back branch cut off north up the Carrabasset and Gilman Rivers towards Lexington, where there was (of course) a huge lumber mill. 
In this proposal, the main line from Strong comes in over the covered bridge (a model of the one at Phillps, Me, on the Phillips & Rangeley section), while the branch from Lexington also comes over the river slightly downstream on a sheathed trestle (a must have, ala Frary and Hayden!) The main line would carry on to New Portland behind the roundhouse, but if there's no room for any staging at this end (you said max length of 16 feet) then the story goes that the traffic to Lexington grew and grew but that from New Portland never came up to scratch. So now the section from Franklin Junction to New Portland is laid up, and trains on the busy line from East Strong to Lexington have to reverse or connect at Franklin. 
As elsewhere on the SR&RL, the junction station (as at Strong, Phillips) has become the centre of operations, with the roundhouse, shops, and so forth. Excuses, excuses! I note that you have SR No.10, an outside-frame Baldwin 2-4-4 Forney, and B&SR No. 8, ditto. Well, the Franklin & Somerset would need power, so they looked about and lo! a big modern engine like No. 8 would be just the ticket. So Baldwin got the order for an identical 38-tonner. Didn't they? 
Of course, the engine you really need for this layout is SR No. 16, the 2-6-0. That spent most of its time on (or, almost as much, off) the F&M section. But the 2-6-2 would be nice, so long as you don't go around curves too quick - she's awfu' wide! A pukka F&M 0-4-4T Forney would be nice, but the line seemed to rely on Sandy River power most of the time. So does the F&S, needless to say. 
The control location and access to the fiddle yards is a tad unusual, although I've used the scheme successfully a time or two before. It's good for exhibitions, where you can keep on eye on the trains and the prying fingers at the same time. Hope it's of some use. 

Right. The other two scribbles. The first of these is for an idea for a small try-out layout for P87 fine scale standards with a Maine coast setting…..

[Note: In this same note Iain went on to describe what became his multi-part P:87 MEC project layout, and also sent along sketches for several 4 x 8s that we ended up publishing. One of them, the Lilliput Logger, has proven to be a real favorite. ]

Best Regards, 

If I was going to build this layout today I'd opt to go with On30 for the reliability/availability of the equipment and ignore the error in the track gauge. I'd also use an approach similar to the one my friend Bernie Kempinski took with his McCook's landing project - a stand alone portable layout with an integrated lighting/backdrop arrangement. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Waterbury Freight House

I started cutting out the door and window openings for the Waterbury freight house before we left on vacation. I had some time this afternoon so I finished those up and taped the walls together to see the structures would look when installed on the layout. When this photo was taken I still hadn't cut the door and window openings on the one-story "new" freight house. 
With these structures in place I could determine how big to make the Shepley Coal Co. sheds. 
To the left of the two-story building you can see the paper walls to get a rough idea of the size of the sheds. 
I'm using wood for the two story portion of the building since it was unpainted during the era I'm modeling. I felt the wood would be easier to stain to look like unpainted wood than styrene. It's been a long time since I've cut window openings in basswood. Now I remember why I prefer styrene!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Waterbury Curve

Phil Hastings, Central Vermont Railway Historical Society collection.
 With vacation over and a lot of the half done freight cars cleared off the shelf it's time to turn my attention to the layout again.
First project for this fall will be the "front door" to the layout - basically the structures, final scenery and the like in Waterbury which is the first scene visitors encounter when they enter the layout room.
I'm going to adopt a narrow focus approach and ignore everything else on the layout (with the exception of fixing any operational issues that crop up) until I get this area looking done. We'll see how that goes.
I have the basic walls cut out for the Waterbury freight house, and will post at a future point. Before I can proceed to build the structures I need a plan for this scene.
My inspiration for the mainline curve just north of Waterbury station is this Phil Hasting's shot of the Ambassador steaming through Waterbury in 1954. Basically, I'm figuring the viewpoint of the photographer matches the viewpoint of a visitor standing in the aisle at the corner of the peninsula looking at the layout.
The Dutch gambrel roof to the right of the overall shot above is one end of the Demeritt Canning complex. The other end of the complex is shown here.
The one-story buildings to the left of the train in the picture above are part of the Derby & Ball complex.
Next step is to create some footprints of the various structures to see how they fit.