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.