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


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

A New Addition to the Layout: Part 1

Part 1: Dismantling the Northern SNE:

As I mentioned in my post "Farewell to the Northern SNE" (if you missed that post you can find it HERE) I planned to take some of Jason and Pam Fontaine's wonderful layout off their hands as they prepared to relocate down south. 

I just realized something - with Jason moving the Florida, does that mean the Northern SNE will now become the Southern SNE - and my SNE which was the Southern SNE is now the Northern SNE??? .... ugh, I'm giving myself a headache ...

To summarize the events of the last week: I flew up to Connecticut from Dulles early Friday morning. After hearing horror stories all last week about airport delays the flight was on time (technically we landed a few minutes early) and I found myself in a cab, driven by a pleasant and talkative chap named Khan (no relation to the Star Trek villain of the same name) on the way to the Budget rental truck outlet in Enfield.

The truck was - let's say it was 16 feet long as promised and leave it at that. 

Before heading up north Jason and I came to an arrangement and I would take the Charlton Branch (essentially an approximately two foot wide and 9-10 foot long section of layout with several very nicely done structures and scenery, as well as "Fenton Mountain" - a large - and extremely heavy - mountain with a three lap helix inside. 

I drove to Charlton Mass, to find Jason and Derek (who's taking several other sections of the layout) already starting the process of disassembly. After some considerable discussion of the best place to cut through the Envirotex river we concluded the more "water" we could leave in place the better. 

Since the pieces I was taking were essentially the cork in the bottle, basically blocking everything else from getting through the layout room door, we had to start with them. So after cutting along the base of the mountain that served as one "end" of the Charlton Branch, Jason turned the Saws all on the river. 

Halfway through the first cut into the base of the mountain alongside the riverbank. 

The area of the river that looks like rapids is plaster dust! 

I realize Jason started work on this layout in 1990 - and having tore layouts down in the past I know how painful the process can be. 

The biggest challenge we faced in getting things out of the layout room with minimal damage was the width of the door opening - 31" or so of clearance - and the mountain was almost 45" tall from base of the L girders to the peak. The solution was to cut off the top portion of the mountain. The plan for moving the mountain was to remove the side braces that held the helix baseboard inside the mountain, letting the helix collapse like a slinky, add 2x4 bracing to the underside of the helix framework so we could remove the helix essentially intact, but collapsed, inside the mountain, and then take it out in three pieces - the benchwork holding the mountain and helix up, the mountain section with the helix inside, and the top of the mountain. 

There was one side of the helix that had a weak spot that was especially noticeable when the section was tilted. But we managed to get the pieces onto a dolly, turned 90 degrees, and moved into the garage. 

The (second) worst part of the disassembly process was moving the mountain out of the layout room into the garage. The worst part of the move is still to come! 
After a long day of cutting, bracing, and moving the two sections of the layout I was taking, along with a section containing a lumberyard that Stic Harris wanted, all the pieces that were coming with me were sitting on Jason's garage floor. We retired for a well deserved pizza dinner. 

Next Step: Part 2: A New Home

Monday, July 3, 2023

An Inn for Stafford Mills

For some reason I always seem to manage to find the time to complete a model over the 4th of July weekend. This year that model is this BEST Trains Colonial house with kitchen addition. I intend to brand this as a small New England inn.  

Nothing particularly noteworthy about the assembly process. I did note that all of the window openings (and there's a LOT of them!) are cut just slightly undersize - meaning I had to enlarge them just a little to get the plastic windows to fit. Also, the stone foundations on a lot of these BEST kits seem to be a just a little undersized - leaving an exaggerated amount of overhang between the wood structure and the stone foundation. In this case not a big deal and an issue that can be disguised with foundation plantings. I did a pair of Woodland Scenics carriage lamps on both sides of the front door. Other than that this was a real basic build. 

It's shown in the drone shot above in the approximate location on the Stafford Mills town area. I'm thinking on one or two more buildings for the upper street - perhaps a church or maybe a small town garage? Another option is a house or perhaps a cafe???? 

On the other hand I want this to look like a New England country lane, not a downtown Main Street!

One additional detail needed before this is planted in place - a sign:

Extra points to anyone who gets the reference ...