Sunday, July 31, 2022

Below layout paneling

While it still needs some corner trim and perhaps base molding, the paneling directs the eye upwards at the layout. 

 I mentioned in my last post that I was on the docket for the MARPM meet layout tour. Although I've had the occasional visitor in the last couple of years, the last time I had an open house of any type was the first weekend of March 2020 - literally days before the Covid lockdowns started! 

I took a few minutes to look over my blog posts from March 2020 through the late summer. (As an aside, being able to record my progress - or lack thereof - is one of the main reasons I maintain this blog!). And while the alcove "Curve" scene is obviously much further along than it was then some areas of the layout have remained remarkably stagnant. So a couple of weeks ago I walked around the basement and made a list of things to do before the open house. I divided it into two parts - "Need to finish" and "Nice to finish". Almost top of the list on the former was "Do something about shelves under layout."

I don't know about you, but I've been to plenty of open houses over the years where people spent more time looking at and commenting on all the stuff under the layout than the railroad itself! We had a couple of neighbors downstairs a few weeks ago and while they didn't comment on the stuff under the railroad they certainly noticed it. Messy shelves with stuff stacked on them never looks neat or orderly - no matter what we tell ourselves.  

I intended to use the Ivar shelves in the "entry area" of the layout to display railroadiana and perhaps models that I've built or acquired over the years that don't really fit my New England branchline theme. But in the last few years that really hasn't panned out. I tell anyone who listens that the shelves aren't really at an ideal height for displaying or viewing anything. 

The "before" view in all its glory. 

But in reality those shelves have become the semi-permanent homes of a variety of jetsom and flotsam ranging from the boxes from half completed structures to old magazines and empty freight car boxes. 

So last weekend I bought a couple of sheets of beadboard paneling, painted them my fascia color and installed them on the "display" side of the shelves. At least that will eliminate the distraction when you first enter the layout area. My ultimate goal is to have nothing under the layout at all. For now, the "operating aisle" side of the shelves are open and usable for storage. Of course all the stuff that was on the shelves in now stacked on the other side of the basement - but dealing with that is the next project! 

Monday, July 18, 2022

MARPM Open House - October 16, 2022

The Mid-Atlantic Railroad Prototype Modelers (MARPM) has posted the official line up of layout open houses. You'll note that somehow I've managed to get the Richford Branch included amongst a lineup of truly stunning and spectacular model railroad layouts in our area. 

The layouts in the northern Virginia area are open (mostly) on Sunday, October 16. 

In preparation for the open house I've made a list of things I need to complete as well as a list of things I'd like to complete. I may post the list here with some thoughts on preparing for an open house.  But even if I don't if you're planning to attend MARPM and are in the area please feel free to stop by and inspect progress (or lack thereof!). 

Monday, July 11, 2022

McGuirk Coal - A new kit named after ....

Mine Mount Models has released a very typical small town coal dealer. This isn't a fancy "bunker" dealer (like several Finescale Miniatures kits featuring tall wooden bins with hoist mechanisms). Those Finescale coal dealer kits are really cool, and frankly some of the most prototypically accurate kits in the FSM line, but they are big facilities, like those you would have seen in a big city in the steam era through the early diesel era. 

Mine Mount Models new kit (named McGuirk Coal, since I suggested it to Mine Mount Models President Ron Klaiss!!) represents a much more typical smaller dealer with a low shed-like coal bunker. And while I'm honored he named the kit after our family, even if he didn't I'd still be suggesting you find room for at least one (or more!) of these in your steam era or early diesel era town. You could even model it abandoned and forlorn in later years! 

Ron is also offering a coal conveyor (actually it could be used for any bulk material such as stone or gravel). While Walthers makes a decent plastic coal conveyor this one is a noticeably different style, and is far more detailed than the Walthers one. 

You can buy either McGuirk Coal and the conveyor separately, or you can combine them (which I did) and save a few sheckles. 

You can order McGuirk Coal from this link: or simply click HERE

Friday, July 8, 2022

Realigning the Sheldon Springs Mill

The paper mill complex at Sheldon Springs has always a key element of my Richford Branch. I built the benchwork and installed the track and got it working "fairly well." While the track in the mill yard itself functioned fine, the curve into the mill peninsula from the mainline didn't like steam locomotives. It was simply too sharp, or had a weird kink, or the curved turnout I incorporated as part of the curve was just a little out of whack. 

My trackwork nemesis....this turnout and that curve
I reworked that turnout twice, replaced it once, and tried re-aligning the curve. But nothing helped. I actually considered removing the paper mill peninsula altogether - and even extending the Richford yard peninsula to fill that space. Such plans were greeted with much groaning and subdued laughter. After all, the prime directive of this layout is to stay with the theme - ignoring all those great "what if..." ideas that constantly derailed progress on my previous layout. 

But something had to be done with the paper mill. 

The first issue I identified is that the track arrangement had gotten too complex and crowded. I won't really take a lot of blame for that - over the last few years I've come up with some more information on the complex that I didn't have a few years back. 

But although there are still some questions remaining about the purpose of some of the buildings (like exactly what is that "bunker" in the lower right hand edge of the overall shot of the complex for? And when did it disappear?)

I do have a pretty good feel for how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and I'm fairly confident I know what the track arrangement should be. 

And of course comparing this newfound knowledge to the original track arrangement revealed a "close but no cigar" situation. Sure, I could freelance some buildings to fit the track arrangement as it was, but would I ever really be satisfied with that - especially when I'd turned up information on the real thing? 

Besides, reworking to reflect the prototype would give me a chance to really fix the operational issues with the lead into the mill. And it would reduce the amount of track and turnouts on the peninsula - I've come to the realization that the less track, the better. In fact I'm eyeing another spur (elsewhere on the layout) for possible removal.... 

The drawing shown here, which Bernie Kempinski did based on some of my sketches, shows the basic approach (although some of the specific structure footprints and track arrangements may change or evolve as the scene is constructed).  

The first step was to build a new, curved turnout for the lead into the paper mill. This replaced the original straight no. 6.

Once the turnout was finished and tested I removed the track and plywood subroadbed from the peninsula. I'll remove the fascia panels next - actually I might be able to swap the taller and lower fascia panels. But I ordered a couple of pieces of bendy board from Rockler just in case. 

While I'd love to have this scene basically looking complete in time for the open house scheduled as part of MARPM in October, I may not meet that goal. There are several other projects I want to get finished up - such as the background forest areas in a couple of other spots on the layout, and ballasting Enosburg Falls and Richford, that may be a better use of time between now and the open house. 

But on the other hand my layout progress has been somewhat paltry over the last year ... the MARPM open house (and our annual Holiday open house, which we'll be hosting this year after a couple of year hiatus, may be just that gust of wind I need to get a bunch of stuff done. 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Pulpwood delivery - Sheldon Springs

Jack Delano photo, Sheldon Springs, Vermont, Sept. 1941

I've been doing some additional research on the Missisquoi Pulp & Paper complex at Sheldon Springs. I've featured the mill complex in previous posts HERE and HERE

I'd gotten as far as laying the track and wiring it on my freelanced ("inspired by") version of the mill. But I've learned enough about the prototype over the last couple of years that my version simply isn't cutting it. The result has is a complete scrapping - down to the open grid benchwork - of my initial attempt. 

I'll share more about how this is shaping up in future blog posts. 

In the meantime I wanted to share this Jack Delano photo (above) from the Library of Congress website. 

This is obviously a second pulpwood handling station (a photo of the other one appeared in a Wordless Wednesday post HERE). 

The sign next to the shed reads "Engines Must Not Pass This Point".

Obviously I plan to include some version of this wood unloading station on my revised mill. But this photo actually makes me ask more questions than it answers. 

For example, while the wood is obviously being delivered by boxcars (not surprising) I'm a little puzzled by the fact that pulp logs appear to have been debarked. The pulpwood pile is on the other side of the plant from the pulp mill itself - so how did the logs get from the pile to the mill proper? 

By the way the reporting marks on the end of the boxcar are CN 511534, making this a member of a very large group of CN single sheathed boxcars. Sylvan and Steam Shack (F&C) both offered resin kits for these cars.

There's clearly an NY&OW gon in the photo linked above. Perhaps that is an ex-NYO&W gon that's being used to shuttle the pulpwood within the plant complex? 

Luckily none of these questions need to be answered before I get the basic benchwork, track, and wiring complete in the mill complex. 

And yes, that little speck in the lead photo atop the pulpwood pile is indeed an OSHA violation waiting to happen.... <g>!