Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Factory painted Southern New England power (sort of ...)

 As I've mentioned in the past, I've been pleased that model locomotive manufacturers (Atlas, Rapido, and Athearn) have all introduced factory painted models of Central Vermont diesels. (Although I wish one of them would do something in the post-1963 tapeworm scheme - on both the Battle Creek Blue and Red and Black variations!). 

But I never thought I'd see anyone do a locomotive factory painted in my prototype freelance Southern New England Railway. 

Let me clarify - this isn't some sort of freelanced roadname deal like Homeshops is doing. 

These are legit prototype locomotives that run on the Battinkill Railroad in New York. Here's a picture of SNEX 5012 - the D&H paint scheme heritage is pretty obvious:

You can find the story of the Battinkill Railroad, as well as more photos, in the October 2022 issue of Railfan and Railroad

But the plot thickens. 

Way back when I was still working on SNE #1 (see Model Railroad Planning 2000) I got lots of requests from various folks who modeled a more current era than I did regarding what a SNE diesel paint scheme may look like in the late 1990s. I came up with two possibilities that never made it past the sketch stage - 

One of these two was based on reversing the Maine Central's paint scheme, the other on the D&H scheme - although I changed the main color from Avon Blue to SNE Green. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but perhaps someone over in New York stumbled across my blog and thought "Hey, that's neat!"

To round all this out, Atlas is taking pre-orders for two SNEX painted locomotives - I may have to get them for the display case if nothing else!  

Thursday, November 23, 2023

A couple of upcoming projects

 I've been pulling together a couple of projects that I plan to offer to the model railroad community in the next few months (essentially sometime in the first half of 2024). Thought I'd mention them here in case anyone is interested. 

The first is a long planned project - decals for Central Vermont freight cars. For example, there's been several resin kits offered over the years for CV freight cars - especially the boxcars - and even a number of injection molded plastic cars (such as Accurail) that while certainly completely accurate models of CV cars are decent stand ins. The one thing the resin kits and the plastic cars have in common in that there's something (in some cases a lot of somethings!) wrong with the lettering. And to the best of my knowledge no one has ever done lettering for the "as delivered" boxcars. 

Several years ago I started working on the art work to develop more accurate CV lettering. That project frankly sputtered along for years so a few months ago I asked Bill Brillinger at PDC to pick up the ball and carry this one home. 

Last night I reviewed the final artwork for the boxcar decals. Essentially there will be three variants of this lettering. One will be the as delivered scheme for the 40,000 and 41,000-series boxcars. (the single line lettering will work for the 42,000-series cars as well). 

I also plan on a set for the post-1940 stacked Gothic lettering (with the post-1963 "pregnant tapeworm") for the 41-, 42-, and 43000 series boxcars. 

This first group of decals will be limited to the boxcar lettering for the 1920s built cars. I already have plans for a second series of decals that will include lettering for the flat cars, and MofW equipment. 

While I'm doing these mostly for my own use, I'd be glad to offer them to anyone who is interested. Please let me know in the comment section if you have any interest in these - and if so which set(s) you'd be most interested in. 

The second project are a couple of new books I've been working on. 

As many of you know, I've given my "Modeling the October Scene" clinic a number of times over the years. This book pulls together the content from that clinic, along with a lot of other items I don't have time to cover in a 45 minute clinic, into one volume. 

The second book, tentatively titled "Modeling Steam and Transition Era Rolling Stock" (I know, truly riveting!) is a compilation of modeling tips and tricks. It will address topics such as getting ready to run models truly ready for the layout, adding details to some simple kits, and more advanced projects such as mixed media and resin kits. I may even include something on scratchbuilding cars - but that remains to be seen. Finally, I plan to include chapters on painting, lettering, and weathering cars. 

I'd like to gauge potential interest in any of these projects. If you're at all interested please leave a comment in the comment section - letting me know which decal set(s) you'd be interested in, and/or which of the planned books. 

I should add that I have no idea what the cost of any of these may be at this point - for the decals I'd assume somewhere between $5-$10/set (which should include decals to letter at least a couple of boxcars). If I self-publish the books, which is my current plan (I haven't spoken to any publishers at this point) I trying to keep them around $20. None of these estimated prices include shipping of course! 

Thanks in advance! 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Trees, Glorious Trees....

One of the tree "panels" ready for spray painting. 
I took advantage of the beautiful fall weather today to prep some Super Trees that are needed for both the "Charlton Branch" (the former Northern SNE section) as well as some background forests between Stafford Mills and Berkshire. 

So I dug out the Super Tree boxes, picked through to find the best armatures (always disappointed at how few useable trees you get from a box of these things!). I also plucked the useable (ie., not totally dried out) trees off the mountain section from northern SNE - I figured I might be able to use those. A fair number of those trees turned to dust when I tried to pluck them off the hills, but I figure about half of them were worth while. 

Hopefully some trees from the northern SNE may be useable. 

I plucked those annoying leaves off a bunch of trees while watching football, and stuck the trees in Styrofoam panels. 

We went out for a nice early evening dinner with some of our neighbors. I returned before it got dark so I was able to get the trees spray painted (primer gray with Krylon Camo Dark Brown and another Krylon color called "Weathered Wood" - my new favorite base color) before it got dark. 

One of my tree panels after the trees were spray painted a base gray color. 

Now I have six Styrofoam "panels" of trees ready for matte medium and flocking. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Great Scale Model Train Show

Just a quick update to let blog readers know I'll be selling some of my model railroad "Junque"* at the Great Scale Model Train Show in Timonium, MD this coming Saturday, October 14. 

I used to do this show once or twice a year but haven't attended as a vendor in a while. I also plan to announce an upcoming project at this show. 

I'll be in the "D" section of the South (large) Hall. 

More details on the show, including times (I'll only be there Saturday, but the show is also on Sunday), admission info, and a list of vendors, can be found on the show website HERE:

I welcome any and all blog readers to stop by my tables and say hello, even if you don't want to "liberate" any of the stuff from my basement! 

* Definition of "Junque" - (1) a fancy name for "Stuff that I no longer plan to use." Also (2) "One person's trash is another's treasure!" 

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Snippets of Progress - Background hills in Stafford Mills

One of the background hills visible behind the green building in Stafford Mills. That building is a Walthers kit leftover from my old layout. I put it here as a placeholder for the MARPM open house ... but I kind of like it! 
From the photos you can tell this is about making background scenery. It started out with cleaning up the workshop - really it did! 

I haven't had much of a chance to work on the layout since the MARPM weekend - fall chores, and a crazy month at work - thanks mostly to the bozos who work in the big dome building down the street from my office - have meant that by the time I get home I'm ready to sit down with Christine and binge watch a few episodes of something on Netflix (current choice is "Suits"). 

When life gets that this I try to come up with a railroad project that's easy to accomplish in spurts - and is something I can leave and quickly come back to. 

Prepping trees is one great project. 

Cleaning up the parts for a resin car is another. 

As I hinted at above, the project started with an attempt to clean up the workshop. I simply couldn't function in the shop any more - every horizontal surface was buried in something. And there was a stack of styrofoam chunks that always seemed to be in the way ... and a box full of Super trees ... You see where this is going? 

Typically I would take the foam, put it in another box and move them and the tree box "out of way" - which really isn't out of the way it's just slightly less under foot. 

So instead of moving that stuff I decided to use it. So over the course of a several short work sessions over a week or so I got some background hills completed. 

The area to the left of the junction with the paper mill peninsula has a spot where the track gets pretty close to the wall - the only real option for scenery there was a tree covered slope. It's also a little hard to reach. So I decided to build the background sloped landforms "off site"  and then add the trees etc... before installing them in place. 

I wanted to get some background scenery in place here before finishing up the area between the track and fascia. The area with the pink foam and unpainted plywood will get an industry of some type...

After cutting the styrofoam hills to size and rasping them to shape I covered them with scatter leaf. It's not terribly obvious here but I use wax paper to avoid gluing the hills to the plywood!

I ended up with three "segments" to create the hillside (Remember, I was starting with scraps!). This is the smallest one after the Supertrees had been added. 

The small hill "section" in place - note how the trees help screen the joint between the layout and the wall. The gravel parking area is tile grout with some fine dirt. 

The other two sections of background hills. Notice how the plywood serves as a palette!!

I have gotten some other cleanup done in the shop. I had been storing the larger sheets of styrene and brick texture sheets in a plastic storage tub on the floor. Problem was that particular tub has a lid that prevented me from stacking other tubs on top of it. So it sat in the middle of the floor (bad) or in front of the shelves on the floor (worse)! I got sick of tripping over the stupid thing.  A couple of additional shelves in one of the Ivar cabinets and all that stuff has a new home. And that tub is going out the door! 


Thursday, September 21, 2023

Sprague Coal

I've always thought this would make a neat scene from Providence, RI. There's a lot of background and (potential) history here - essentially centered on the connection between the proposed Southern New England and the C&O. (Hint: There's a reason the book on the Southern New England has a jacket painting featuring a coal train). I could go into more detail on that at some future date if there is any interest. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

A New Addition to the Layout: Part V: De-Wiring

Real quick update on the process of adding the Charlton Branch section of the Northern SNE to my layout. 

Took some time over the weekend to really study how Jason had wired this thing. As I mentioned previously it was originally wired for DC cab control, then modified for DCC a couple of decades ago. 

There were also a few things I simply couldn't figure out - a few quick texts back and forth with Jason cleared those things up. I just wanted to make sure I didn't snip any wires that were important! 

If you've ever converted a layout from DC to DCC you know it's not really a "wiring" process, it's more like a "De-wiring" process. Add to that the fact that there were a couple of reversing sections that required auto-reversers on Jason's layout that won't be on mine - and a couple fewer switch motors I started tracing wires and removing those that weren't necessary. 

Essentially I kept the track feeders and the control wiring for four turnouts - all the rest came out. 

The photo above shows about a third of the wiring I removed from this one segment of layout. 

Now time to start putting things back together! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

New Addition to the Layout - Part IV : Back on its own two (four) feet...


The stars aligned last Saturday and Stic and I were both in town and had some free time to raise the Charlton section of the "Northern SNE" from the spot on the basement floor where it has sat unceremoniously since the day we unloaded it from the truck. One lesson I'd learned from previously layouts is to paint the legs BEFORE installing them - especially when the layout room is carpeted like mine. So earlier in the week I dug out the fascia paint and painted the four legs for the Charlton section. And while the paint and rollers were out I painted the fascia panels on the paper mill peninsula. 

I'd thought about trying to install the legs on the Charlton section myself - if for no other reason than I was getting sick of seeing this thing on the floor. As an aside - is there anything sadder looking in the hobby besides a chopped up layout viewed out of context? But I waited until I could get some help since (1) It didn't seem like a one person job - in actuality it turned out to be a three person job; and (2) Like most model railroads this thing is heavy, awkward, and delicate. A bad combination when the desire is to avoid as much damage as possible! 

Stic arrived nice and early and after we got ourselves a game plan the first step was to cut out the pieces of the layout section that we knew we wouldn't be using. This included a real hodgepodge of wood on one end that connected to the rest of Jason's layout. There was also some track that had popped from the ties in the process of moving, and a turnout and associated siding that simply would not make any sense in the context of the new arrangement. Those all went into the scrap bucket. When we took the layout out of Jason's basement we cut away more of the river than I knew I could use - I reasoned it would be easier to cut away more of the river than leave it short and be forced to splice more water onto the river. So out came the jigsaw and more water went away. 

Frankly at this point I was doubting even trying to incorporate this into the railroad. We went to lunch, which, for the record, is our favorite part of any work session! 

After using my handy laser level (if you don't have a laser level, get one!) to determine the height the new legs would need to be we got the 2x2 legs cut to length, including two spacers for each. My wife lent a hand as we lifted the section up, slid the sawhorses out from under the layout, clamped the first leg section in place, made sure it was level and screwed the legs into the L girders. 

Actually the first pair of legs went in and were leveled and installed quickly. The second set of legs took a lot longer to get lined up and leveled for whatever reason, but by the end of the day the Charlton section was up on its new legs. 

My task for this week is to get the wall behind the Charlton section painted the match the rest of the layout (sky blue above the benchwork, Riverway below). I've already removed the fascia "extension" in the junction corner of the existing layout and patched and sanded the screw holes. 

Jason had this layout section situated as a narrow peninsula - I plan to place one side against the wall since I think it will fit the space better. I do plan to make the scene a little wider (something like 6-10" or so) where the long side of the section connects to the wall. That way the track won't be 3/4" from the wall - there'll be some space for a transition from the modeled area to the backdrop. 

Another issue we noticed as we worked this weekend was the wiring - there's a LOT of wiring under this one layout section! Not surprising since Jason's layout was originally wired for block control. I know he had NCE for the last couple of decades - and I know the wiring worked with NCE, but frankly I'm tempted to take out everything but the feeders (and the wires to the powered frogs on the turnouts) and essentially rewire the section using my color coding and standard process. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Another building for Stafford Mills

The church in the approximate location on top of the hillside. I'll add a small fenced grave yard alongside the church when the building is installed in place. 

I've just about completed another building, in this case a small wood frame church, for Stafford Mills. This is the classic Campbell Scale Models Community Church. 

I don't know when this kit was introduced but I remember seeing it when I was a kid on layouts and in advertisements. I picked this up for a song at a Timonium show a few years ago. Frankly, it remains one of the few church kits on the market. It's really too small to a be represent a small town New England church, but it certainly looks like a church. I shingled the overhang above the door  but as you can see from the photos I haven't installed it yet. I'm thinking leaving it off may help it look a little more like some of the New England churches I'm using for inspiration.

I built it pretty much according to the instructions - even using the stained glass windows which are essentially images of stained glass on 35mm film strips. I've built a number of these kits over the years (this is the first time I built the church) and found the text in the instructions is somewhat lacking. I tend to read through the steps once or twice to get a feel for the approximate order and then use the exploded diagram(s) to actually get the pieces in the right place! 

I found the wood shingles in the kit were kind of stuck together. I've also tried to use the Campbell shingles in the past and found they were almost impossible to straighten and get to lay flat so I pitched them and substituted Northeastern Scale Models pre made shingled roofs instead. 

For the steeple sections I used BEST shingles leftover from the Inn project a few weeks ago since the coloration of the BEST shingles was close to the Northeastern roofs - beside, the BEST shingles were piled up in the corner of my cutting mat!

The roof does need just a little bit of weathering to tone it down a bit. 

I think there's room for one more structure along this street in Stafford Mills, then I can proceed with planting the buildings, finishing the road surface, and getting the scenic textures in place. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

A New Addition to the Layout - Part III - A New Home

 By popular demand I'll wrap up the story of moving sections of the "Northern SNE" to Virginia. 

A quick glance into the back of the truck at dusk showed nothing had broken loose, and everything seemed relatively intact. 

On the drive back I had texted Stic Harris and asked him to round up some volunteers to help offload the truck. Todd Hermann, Bill Schultheiss, Mat Thompson, and of course Stic showed up on time at 1100 on a hot, muggy, Virginia day. "Friends" show up to help unload a truck - "Real Friends" show up to help unload a truck on a hot, muggy July day!!! I didn't take note of the temperature but it was certainly in the 90s, and the humidity made it feel like it was over 100 degrees. 

We started with the mountain section. We had too since it was in the back of the truck. As I've told Jason he takes no prisoners when it comes to hardshell scenery. This thing had to weigh close to 300 pounds! In Massachusetts we had to remove the mountain (and more importantly the supports for the helix inside the mountain) from the L girder frame. We then constructed a set of braces from 2x4s - meaning the whole thing could be carried like a stretcher. 

The mountain section just before the big lift. You can see the 2x4 "stretcher" arms - as well as the helix sections and helix uprights. These would prove to be less sturdy than we'd hoped. 

We found the section was heavy but moveable as long as it stayed level. Stic had removed both the glass door panels from the basement door - meaning we had a six foot or so wide opening. The only limit was getting through the four foot wide gate into the backyard. That's where the trouble began. 

This thing was too heavy to lift over the fence, even for five strapping model railroaders! So we tilted it slightly - I'd say 20 degrees or so. Then there were several loud snap and crunching sounds as the helix roadbed (which was a fiberboard material not unlike Homasote) broke. That in turn caused the whole mountain to start tipping over. For a couple of seconds it looked like the whole thing may have ended up upside down on the ground, but we got it righted and managed to set her down right side up. 

The fact that the mountain was sitting on those 2x4s that were secured to the floor of the truck created a situation where there was enough bounce on the ride to Virginia to crack some of the helix supports and roadbed. Moving it the 100 feet or so to the backyard was just too much stress for the helix. We also lost some of the mountain, but about 2/3rds or so of the mountain, including the curved trestle and tunnel portals, remained intact. 

We picked up the chunks of helix, and the broken plaster chunks and assessed the damage. 

After putting the mountain aside, we turned our attention to the Charlton Branch section. I was more than a little relieved (and amazed!) that the buildings that were secured in place hadn't broken loose. 
We eventually moved the mountain section into the basement where it's currently sitting on sawhorses. I'm still not sure what, if anything, I can do with it. 

Halfway to the basement - time to take a break! It was HOT!
Like most model railroad sections this one was awkward and clumsy to handle, but we managed to get it off the truck around the side yard, and down the steps into the basement with no damage. 

After it was on the basement floor I checked it for damage - other than some damage to the track in front of the station - that had occurred when we took the layout apart up north, the only other issue I found was a small crack behind one of the retaining walls by Martin Machine. 

Minor track damage.
Would I ever do this again? Honestly, probably not. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled I was able to save a piece of Jason's version of the Southern New England, but the only reason I even attempted this was it was a cohesive piece of the layout that fit with mine thematically and scenically. This section also included beautifully built structure kits - I had several of these in kit form that I planned to get to "someday." Now I have them already completed. (If anyone is interested in the kits let me know!) 

In general I don't think it's a good idea to try and combine pieces of layouts since it's very difficult to end up with a cohesive whole. For example, my good friend Paul Dolkos is selling his wonderful Baltimore Harbor District. But as much as I admire Paul's layout, I couldn't combine parts of it with mine and have the result look cohesive. And I pretty firmly believe a cohesive theme is critical to a successful model railroad. But if you're interested in Paul's railroad contact Bernie Kempinski or Mat Thompson or see Bernie's post on his blog HERE for more details. 

Here's the branch on the floor of the basement in its approximate final location. The next step will be to raise the branch on some new legs and attach it to the junction area of the layout. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Coloring Laser Cut Shingles

The shingled potion of the roof on shows the results of this method of coloring roof shingles. 

A quick tip that I stole from someone else but works so well it's worth passing along. 

The only thing more tedious than applying roofing shingles to a model has to be coloring those shingles after they're installed. I spent many an hour using a fine tip marker to color each shingle. The results looked fine, but it seemed to take forever. 

Then I ran across a tip in a South River Modelworks kit. SRMW owner Bob VanGelder showed how he colored the shingles quickly, and randomly, before cutting the rows from the sheet. 

The effect was quite effective and the technique reduces the shingle coloring chore to a matter of minutes. 

Here's the starting point, a sheet of plain gray shingles:

Using several shades (I think I used 20%, 30%, 50%, and 70% Warm Gray) of Prismacolor markers simply draw random lines using the markers in line with the shingles. Once the sheet is colored, cut out all the rows, jumble then up on the table and select the rows at random as you apply them to the model. 

It looks that it will never work at this stage - the trick here is to trim all the rows off the sheet and mix them up before applying them.

One caution - unless you're going for a specific effect - like a deliberate decorative pattern on the roof shingles - don't color along the length of the row or you won't get any randomness to the finished roof! 

Friday, July 14, 2023

Richford Branch in the Press

About a year ago I was contacted by Peter Bowen, the editor of the Roundhouse, the British Region of the NMRA's excellent magazine. Peter was interested in an article on my HO scale Richford Branch. Once I got a scene or two to the point where I felt it could be photographed without embarrassment, I sent him an article. I was thrilled to see it appear in the May/June 2023 issue. I should mention this same issue includes articles by two other Americans, Gerry Leone and Tom Johnson. 

For the record, this represents the first time my current layout has appeared "in print" and the first article I've had in a printed magazine since an article in a 2015 issue of Model Railroader. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

A New Addition to the Layout - Part 2 - The Voyage Home


This view of the Charlton section in Jason's garage shows the Sherman's necktie
in front of the station!  

Krr-chunk!! Slam!! Krr-chunk!! Slam!! - As I drove the rental truck from Massachusetts through Connecticut and across New York I thought I'd dealt with the worst of the rough roads. Then I hit I-78 in Pennsylvania. The truck managed to find every bump along the way, and the suspension took those bumps just as well as you might imagine a rental truck with almost 200,000 miles on the odometer would. 

I'd already dealt with a remarkably uncooperative GPS - that kept trying to send me off the highway to take shortcuts (that may have saved a minute or two) - including sending me on a 10 mile side trip - halfway through that little sidelight a bridge tender waived me off the drawbridge since trucks weren't allowed across! 

Relying on my old sailor sense of dead reckoning I eventually found my way back onto the highway. And that was just one of the three diversions the GPS sent me on. 

To make matters worse, my phone battery was dropping at an alarming rate (and I was getting an endless stream of text and voice messages from friends checking in to see how the journey was going!) And the truck, of course, had no way to recharge the phone. I considered purchasing a cigarette lighter charger converter, but before I spent any money on that I checked and confirmed that the cigarette lighter in the cab was nothing more than an empty hole...

The phone battery died on I-78 about 60 miles short of Harrisburg - but that wasn't my biggest concern. With each of those Krr-chunks I was picturing plaster pieces from the mountain flying about the rear of the truck like cannon balls - and destroying the finished structures on the Charlton Branch section which were the whole reason I'd started on this adventure. 

Once I got to Harrisburg I found myself on Route 15 south heading towards Gettysburg and the final leg home. 

I pulled up to the house around 9:00 pm. I grew up in Connecticut, went to school in South Carolina, and lived in Virginia for the majority of my adult life. Trips up and down the east coast are nothing new to me - I must have made this drive a hundred times - and this makes the top five worst. Before I went into the house I briefly opened the truck to see if there was any damage. To my immense relief, and shock, everything looked fine. Of course, that wasn't the case but I wouldn't find that out until we tried to move things into the house. 

Upon arriving in Virginia, all I quickly opened the truck to make sure the pieces were still intact. 

But that's for Part 3 ...

Wordless Wednesday #266