Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Here's hoping these trees get to their final destination before Santa's arrival!

Safe travels, and a blessed holiday season to all our friends - Marty and Christine McGuirk

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Swing... and a miss!

Sometimes you can find an old vintage photo of a scene, and then either go on location or do a search on Google maps and instantly recognize most of the key structures etc...
That was the case with this post from a couple of weeks ago where I found the old Perry granite shed was still sitting in Waterbury relatively intact.
Sometimes, things don't quite work out as well.
Take for instance, the Eldredge* Woodworking plant. It showed up in the Wordless Wednesday post from December 14 - and in the 1938 aerial photos of Waterbury mentioned above.
Here's what Google street view reveals the building looks like today:

The structure that was immediately adjacent to the track in the photos from "back then" is either significantly changed or just .... gone.
I guess sometimes you just strike out...

*Determining the proper spelling of "Eldredge" has been problematic.
The Central Vermont Railway engineering department plats clearly show it as "Eldr-i-dge." While the Sanborn Map spells it "Eldr-e-dge."
Yikes! Which was correct! Historians tend to be fairly anal about the spelling of surnames...besides, I needed to make a sign for the model!
The History of the Town of Waterbury, which has proven fairly reliable, references a number of folks with this surname. Since it spells all of them "Eldredge" that's the spelling I've chosen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sixth Anniversary of this Blog - Some Numbers

December 17th is the official anniversary of this blog. I made my first post on that date in 2010, making the blog six years old.

In keeping with what has become a blog anniversary tradition, here are a few numbers, going back to December 2012 (first month I actually took notice of these statistics!):

December 2012:

Total Views: 44,690
# Followers: 88
Total Posts (2011 and 2012): 90
Average Posts/Week: .86

December 2013:

Total Views: 100,000
Total Posts (2011-2013): 175
Average Posts/Week: .89

December 2014:

Total Views: 186,301
#Followers: 165
Total Posts (All time): 313
Average Posts/Week: 1.5

December 2015:

Total Views: 288,625
# Followers: 192
Total Posts (All time): 421
Average Posts/Week 2015: 2.0
Average Posts/Week All Time: .61

Sixth Anniversary, December 2016:

Total Views: 403,423
# Followers: 180
Total Posts (All time): 475
Average Posts/Week 2016: 1.04
Average Posts/Week All Time: 1.5

As of December 17, 2016, here’s a list of the ten most viewed posts in 2016** (the number to the right is the total number of unique page views):
Sep 4, 2013, 10 comments
Feb 9, 2013, 1 comment
Dec 23, 2010, 3 comments
Jan 15, 2014, 7 comments
Jan 22, 2015, 10 comments

I started this blog to create a diary of sorts that would document the building, rebuilding and operating my home layout.  The fact that so many other modelers have found it somewhat interesting is particularly gratifying.  Thanks to all who stop by my little corner of the internet.

* There are no stats available for the first year since I didn't include them in the first anniversary post!

** Of course, by including the list of Top Ten posts and associated links here all I've done is guaranteed people will click on them, increasing their total views more!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Video Update #1 - Lessons Learned

One of the gremlins with the BlogSpot software is the length of comments is limited, meaning a long comment, or reply, will often be cut off in mid-sentence.
Over the weekend I posted a link to a video update I made - I received the following comment in the thread for that post from Mike Cougill. Rather than deal with the limits of the comment section, I decided to make my response it's own post.
Here's Mike's comment and my reply:
Hi Marty,
Your videography has a solid foundation to build on. The motion is smooth and consistent, with each scene well lighted. Tthe audio is clear with excellent sound quality and natural sounding narration. Excellent beginning.

Mike Cougill

Thanks for the kind words Mike.  
Although I’ve shot “grab shot” videos before, this was the first time I tried to create something resembling a coherent, technically acceptable product.  My goal was to create something at least one step above unwatchable – in other words an acceptable baseline from which I could progress.
While I didn’t write a script, I did use some notes taped to the underside of the camera on the tripod to keep me on track.  What you heard (and saw) in most cases was the second or third time I’d shot the segment – in fact I shot a whole segment on fascia colors that ended up on the cutting room floor. In all, I shot about 3 or 4 times more “footage” than I actually used. 
The video editing is an enjoyable challenge, but it does take time.  All told, I spent a pleasant few evenings and one Saturday morning working through the process, toying with the software (iMovie), and the like.  I found structuring the content of the video no different in principle from writing for print – but there the similarities end.
A few seconds on a single image with voice over feels like an eternity. Excessive panning creates a dizzying viewing experience.  And you need to think through what the viewer can see, and what they will be hearing. for example, in the "here's what's in the box" segment I should have spent less time showing my ugly mug and cut back and forth to video closeups of the parts of the model I was holding up. Doing that, of course, takes longer than simply holding up the stuff in the box but the results will be far better.
I tried to focus on not saying “um, and eh and the like.” The video editing process came pretty easy – once I figured out the software. I found audio editing is an entirely different animal.  More than once I found I’d cut some video and fail to accurately cut the corresponding audio, resulting in me talking about something the viewer wasn't seeing. I also need to add some musical outros and intros for the segment transitions.
I was impressed with the performance of my iphone 6 in shooting both the video and the audio.  I felt I might have needed to do a “voice over” for the layout tour sections, but the audio levels once boosted slightly matched the “sitting at the modeling desk” portion so I went with them.
I should add the inspiration to do this video was from Mike Deverell (see his Colorado Front Range YouTube channel), and Gerry Leone's Bona Vista update videos (also on YouTube).  Mike's are long, extremely well done shows (they're almost broadcast quality) - while Gerry's updates are a little more "shoot from the hip."  I can see advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
We'll see how this evolves over the next few months.
But, hey, I had fun doing it and have more ideas (improvements!) for the next one!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Video Update #1 - December 2016

I'm going to try something new - doing monthly video updates on the layout. The first of them is posted on YouTube and can be found at the following link. 
Video production is something new to me, and I obviously have a lot to learn! 
I hope you enjoy and appreciate any and all feedback. 
It's available here.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Then and Now - Perry Granite (later Cooley-Wright), Waterbury, Vt.

Zooming in from a 1938 aerial view of Waterbury on the UVM web site produced this screen capture. The Perry Granite shed is clearly visible with its "Rock of Ages" lettering on the roof:
Eventually this building would house the Cooley-Wright Manufacturing Co foundry. Google maps street view of the building. It's in pretty good shape considering how long it's been around.
The granite shed is inching closer to the top of the "to build" list. (I want to complete the buildings to the left of track in the aerial view first).  I'm planning to include the rooftop lettering - hope I can come with an easy way to recreate it.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Inspiration and a clear path

While my approach to building, and rebuilding, my layout has given me a reputation of taking the “Ready, Fire, Aim!” approach, that’s not really accurate. 
Think things through before taking action, lest you find
yourself in an untenable situation.

I tend to approach designing layouts by defining a particular location in the basement where a specific scene will go, and then design and build that scene before moving to the next.  There is an inherent risk here – you can quickly end up with a finished layout where all the various segments don’t necessarily function together as a cohesive whole either operationally or visually.
The subject of much discussion on this blog, and in private emails with some of my friends, has centered on the section of the railroad where the White River Jct. yard had been located.  Although I’d made some modifications to the area it really wasn’t working (I won’t dwell on those issues here, as “whys” have been discussed ad nauseam in previous posts).
Prior to the inclusion of White River, the original plan layout design called for some form of Essex Junction, Vermont, certainly a CV signature scene, in this area. I ended building a version of Essex at the other end of the modeled railroad (Essex Junction v1.0?). This was subsequently removed when the neck of the peninsula was rearranged earlier this year). Through most of the summer and fall, while things have progressed well on the other end of the layout, I couldn’t really get the plan for Essex Jct. v2.0 to “gel.”  The solution, I thought, was to forego Essex and all its appeal entirely and instead include a “yard” (you know, since model railroads apparently have to include a “yard” if for no other reason to give the yardmaster something to do).
I worked diligently on designing this new yard over the course of several weeks starting back in the early spring.  Luckily, I realized what a mistake it was before committing to actually building the thing.  Prototype yards, even small ones, are massive.  Model railroad yards tend to be fairly imperfect depictions of the prototype - 90% of the time we basically fill a shelf with parallel tracks.  I was in real danger of simply repeating the issues I had with the White River yard in slightly modified form.  Unlike the other sections of the railroad, this would have forever looked like nothing more than a shelf full of parallel tracks at best, or at worst some sort of out-of-place appendage to the rest of the railroad.  It would do nothing to complete the picture.
So there this section of the layout sat, a sea of bare homasote awaiting some inspiration.
That inspiration arrived a few months ago in the form of some layout photos from Neil Schofield, showing his scene at Orleans, Vt. You can see one of them (taken by Neil and used with his kind permission) below.
Orleans, Vt., in HO scale as modeled by Neil Schofield.  N. Schofield photo, used with permission.
What inspiration could I draw for my transition era CV from a scene showing a street running in front of a couple of stores and clearly set in a different era?  Turns out, plenty of inspiration. Although there’s no denying the wonderful job Neil is doing creating his vision of upstate Vermont in the 1980s, what I found most inspiring was the sense of place they evoked and the way the prototype is driving the modeled railroad. 
A Google street view of the scene Neil has modeled.
This sent me back to the layout to determine if perhaps I gave up on Essex Junction too quickly, dismissing it as “too hard” to fit in my space.  I’ll likely do another blog post with more details on Essex Junction v2.0, but essentially the scene has two “sections” – the trainshed/station area, and a couple of blocks away a wye with several industries inside it and alongside it.  I know there’s an effective way to model the “wye” – simply leave off one leg of the thing.  After all, that’s exactly what I did with Essex when it was located on the other side of the basement.

Kurt Thompson works the Essex Junction switcher job in Essex Jct. v1.0. A workable track arrangement that captured the look of the prototype, it lacked room for the structures themselves so wouldn’t ever visually capture the look of the prototype.
The crews that operated "Essex 1.0" found it was an enjoyable job with the right blend of action and down time.  If I duplicated the basic approach to a "two-legged wye" in the new location for Essex I found I could include many of the buildings that had to be left out of Essex 1.0.
That's perhaps the biggest inspiration I got from Neil's photos. His railroad is firmly in context with the other elements that make the scene recognizable. I suppose he could have included a spur and yet another place for his crews to switch, but the resulting scene would have looked model railroad and not created the same sense of place.
Thanks Neil. I feel like I've gotten over a bad head cold!