Category Archives: General

A Monty Python Moment…

As the Monty Python troupe used to say ” and now for something completely different”.

As I mentioned before my normal modus operandi was to continue collecting and building railroad “stuff” while in between layouts. I have plenty of extra buildings and freight cars, more then I could hope to get on my layout. In addition to this some of them won’t even fit my time period that I’m modeling.

Common sense took over in between my last layout and the one I’m currently building. I started out by building the ore boat and “Lakes” freighter, but while researching the ships and looking for detail parts I came across the world of scale model warships in 1/350th scale. Once I finished the two ships for the layout I kept myself busy building these ships.

Below are a few examples:

USS Arizona, 1941, Bow looking to stern.
USS Arizona, 1941, Bow looking to stern.
USS Arizona amidships.
USS Arizona amidships.
HMS Titanic, bow looking to stern.
HMS Titanic, bow looking to stern.
USS Missouri, bow looking to stern.
USS Missouri, bow looking to stern.

What has this have to do with my model railroad, other then I get to show off my model ships?

First, because of the scale and the finest of the details you can’t brush paint or use a rattle can. The details would simply disappear. One of the things that I collected while in between layouts were a couple of very nice airbrushes. One single action and one a double action. I never used them as I was afraid to, but wanting to do these ships justice I started using them and found that they are actually very easy to use. I’m sure to those of you who use them, you are sitting back going “DUH” but until you do it you don’t know. Now I have no problem grabbing one to paint something no matter how small the project.

In addition to using the airbrushes, I have developed killer masking skills. When doing the camouflage paint schemes you have a lot of masking as is evident on the USS Missouri. I look forward to carry this over to the railroad in developing new or refined paint schemes for the Continental Northern equipment.

The second thing is research. While building the ships, I wanted to make sure that they were accurate in detail and paint scheme. While researching I found interesting facts about the ships which in turn made me want to do further research. You find interesting little stories and facts as you dig around. An example would be as follows. If you look closely at the picture of the USS Arizona amidships ( sorry, the camera moved and the picture is a little blurry ) you will notice the platform on the top of the forward observation post as well as the empty gun tub amidships. The base at Pearl Harbor was more of a maintenance base then a major repair yard. The yard at Pearl did what work they could, but could not install the anti aircraft radar on the upper platform or do the upgrade and addition of the anti aircraft guns. This work was  scheduled to be done in the ship yards in Washington state and was to be done in early December of 1941. But because of a backlog of work it was rescheduled to early 1942. By all rights the Arizona should not have been in Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th, 1941.

In the past research to me was a quick reference on the internet to see if something was present in the timeframe of my railroad. If it was, great, if not, oh well. Now I find that I dig a little deeper, wanting to know the how’s and why. For the railroad an example would be as follows. I wanted an ore boat but did not want to model an ore dock. They are huge and I did not want to commit to that much space. But a little research showed that they also carried coal up from the lower lakes to Duluth. And there you go, I get my ore boat and a source of revenue for the railroad.

They say model railroading is a learning process. We learn to do drafting work in designing the layout or use a CAD program if you are more into computers. A little structural engineering to make sure it will hold up. Then there is learning the basics of carpentry. After that or in conjunction depending on how you roll is electrical work. Once you have the trackwork in there are several different disciplines in art, painting/weathering, carving or working with plaster, perspective, etc. With DCC there is now computer work also. But whether you are freelancing or modeling a prototype, you need to know why it was there and how it did it.

Research.

Happy railroading.

P.S. : to those who stumbled across this post looking for something to do with Monty Python, I’m apologize, but thanks for reading through.

 

Looking back, looking ahead…

As the new year starts I have been looking back at what I have accomplished and ahead to what I hope to get done in the coming year.

2014…

Finishing the basement train room was a biggie and then…

Getting started on what I hope will be THE layout that gets to a level of completion that I yet to obtain over the years was a big accomplishment. I have put more thought and planning, both in what the layout will look like physically and operationally, then any of the past layouts that I have started. I’m hoping this is a good omen. In the past I would come up with a concept of what I wanted and hoped that the rest would fall into place. It never did.

This website seemed like a natural way to chronicle my progress. I have always documented any project that I was working on and I have found that when writing these posts, talking about what I did and how I did it, it helps to also plan out what I have to do going forward. And it is rather satisfying knowing that I am able to share what I have done and what I hope to accomplish with others. And I appreciate the feedback that I get from others.

Building the benchwork has been a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed working with wood and trying to engineer the upper deck without any supports along the front was a fun challenge. As I mentioned before I had hoped to have the main benchwork, as well as the base for the helix, done by the end of 2014. Well I missed that goal. But I have to remind myself that the only one imposing goals is me and there is no timetable for completion, so sit back and enjoy the journey. I should have the end of the peninsula done in the next couple of weeks.

2015

Which brings me to the helix. I suppose in a way I have been dreading its construction. Everyone who has done it always talks about getting the first level grade right. But I’m not really that worried about it, I’ve mentally gone through the construction and I believe that I have most of the bugs worked out. Not to say that getting that first loop right won’t be a challenge, but I know that I’m up to the task. The exciting part is once I have the base down for the helix I get to start laying track as there is a return loop under the first helix loop.

The thought of actually laying track and be able to run a train is what it’s all about. I know that at first it’s going to just running an engine on short stretches of track to make sure everything is right, but hey it’s something. Along with track laying comes everything else, running the bus wiring, planning block sections for the signal system, wiring for the switch machines, etc. But it’s progress that involves many different aspects of the hobby and not just building benchwork. Also as the track goes in, I will be able to start planning structure placement, which means that I will be able to start unpacking all the boxes holding all my other “stuff” that I haven’t seen in a while.

So what do I hope to accomplish in 2015? It would be to finish the benchwork and have at minimum the mainline in and operational. Along with that will be some of the track work for the towns along the way. It may not seem like a huge goal, but after this year and not making my intended goal, I’m trying to be realistic. And if I make more progress, all the better.

So, thank you for following along so far, and I look forward to sharing more as I progress.

Happy New Year.

Yup, I’m still alive…

Yup, I’m still alive. I just haven’t gotten much done on the layout. I did get the two short cabinets done on the flair out on the end of the peninsula, but not the half round that would complete the peninsula. I had hoped to have the basic bench work done by years end. With the amount of time I had between Thanksgiving and December 31st, I figured finishing it was a no brainer. However, as they say, life happens.

One of the things that got in the way was a week in New York city on business. And then once I got back there was all the catch up work that piled up while I was gone. Toss in all the things that go into getting ready for Christmas and there goes the time.

The upside is while in New York I was able to do a couple of things that were train related.

First was a trip to Grand Central Terminal or Station, depending on who your talking to. My wife ( yes, we work together and usually travel together ) wanted to go because they have a bunch of pop up shops in the concourse during the holiday season. They have about 60 local artists and craftsman selling their wares. There are some cool things, but I covered the shops in very little time as I wasn’t really looking for anything. Kind of how I shop, if I’m not looking for anything, then nothing is truly interesting  and no reason to look too hard. So, as my wife was inspecting every little thing I meandered down to the museum. It is pretty neat, especially if your into tin plate, as they several cases displaying a variety of different name trains in what I have to assume is different scales within tin plate.

The other thing they had was a layout set up running Lionel O-27 trains. Half of the layout depicted Manhattan, centered on Grand Central Station. They other half was a mountain / country scene. The city scene was well done, all though not quite to scale. The buildings were right in relationship to each other but not with the trains. You will have to excuse me, that’s the critical part of me. The overall detail was very good especially for a display layout.

It was fun to watch the trains running, but it was more fun to watch the kids watching the trains run. They did a great job as they had a half dozen or so trains running at the same time. They had them set up to run with a signal system, with a red signal the train would stop and then proceed on the green. The city scene had surface, elevated as well as a subway trains depicted.

Below are several photos:

The city scene with Grand Central Terminal as the focus.
The city scene with Grand Central Terminal as the focus.
Clearer shot looking down thee aisle.
Clearer shot looking down the aisle.
The country scene.
The country scene.

Next up was a stop at The Red Caboose Hobbies ( theredcaboose.com ). If you have been there then I won’t say anything, but if you haven’t then I would highly recommend a visit if you are in Manhattan. If you look it up on the web then you might run into the reviews of the place. I would recommend that you ignore them. They are right, the owner is a bit obnoxious and abrasive at first. The store is cluttered and tight. If you have claustrophobia then I would recommend that you don’t go. How this place passes a fire inspection is beyond me.

But once you start looking around you will be amazed. The layers of merchandise is amazing. And layers is the best way to describe it. Model railroading is represented in O scale all the way to Z scale. The amount of Z scale he sells at first amazed me, but then I realized with a 500 square foot apartment renting at around $3000 a month, it makes total sense. I’m sorry, back to the layers. HO is the predominant scale carried, and in that scale you find representations of everything. In the cases with the engines, you will find the latest offerings to old AHM engines on display. The shelves are the same way, again the latest offerings mixed with almost any older brand you can think of.

In the back of the store is a case with old O scale brass engines. How do I know they are old, because there is a stack of old, dust covered boxes stacked in front of them. The place is a treasure trove, if you want to take the time to poke around.

The part that really intrigues me is at one end of the store there are a couple of back stockrooms. The doors are always open and the lights are always off. But from the looks of it, they too are layered with older stock. Since this store has been in existence since 1946 one has to wonder or dream of what is back there.

And far as the owner, once you have been there a few times, you get use to him. Strike up a conversation with and he loves to talk and is quite knowledgeable on many subjects.

Below are some pictures that I took of some HO buildings that were done for display purposes that in a case at street level. I haven’t asked who did them but they are very good, with an excellent eye towards detail. I didn’t take any pictures inside the store as I felt a little weird if I did. I do believe  there are pictures online if your interested.

DCF 1.0

Well done overall, but great detail in the windows.
Well done overall, but great detail in the windows.
Great scene with a lot of action going on even though it's a static model.
Great scene with a lot of action going on even though it’s a static model.
Nice kitbash of the building with good detail in the open loading doors.
Nice kitbash of the building with good detail in the open loading doors.

Anyways, Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to making far more progress in 2015 and I hope you will follow along on this journey.

 

 

 

In support of Jim Gore.

I’m  writing this post in support of Jim Gore and all the others who have gone through this. If you had not heard Jim Gore, who is a professor of Biology at the University of Tampa and models the Denver & Rio Grande Sante Fe division, had his layout featured in the December issue of Model Railroader. This should have been the highlight of his modeling career ( I know it would have been for me – maybe someday ) I’ve seen the article and his layout and his work is beautiful. However there were several people ( kind word inserted there as I would have preferred to use something else ) didn’t think so.

Jim has modeled a fictional branch of the railroad, one that had been rumored to have been contemplated but never built. He had modeled it using On30 equipment. Side note: standard gauge is 56 1/2″ between railheads, the Denver & Rio Grande was a narrow gauge at 36″ between railheads and On30 is 30″ between railheads. I sure Jim was using On30 because of the wealth of equipment at a reasonable cost put out by Bachmann trains and others. He also had come up with a plausible story as to why he used this gauge.

These trolls had decided that he had gone to far and let him know that what he had done was wrong ( again that was putting it politely ). Now there are always going to modelers out there that don’t agree with something that you’ve done and they usually will politely ( and I truly mean politely ) disagree with you. But these idiots went as far as to contact Jim by e-mail and call him. They totally stepped over the line.

I know to some extent what Jim is going through. Let me explain.

When I was much younger, my father had a friend over who was a “SERIOUS” model railroader. My father invited him down to see they layout. I was playing around with it at the time. Now at that time I enjoyed building things for the layout and running trains, thus a modeler who liked to run trains and not a model railroader. He quickly informed me that I was doing it all wrong. I felt pretty stupid. On the plus side it did make me want to learn more about how things worked on a railroad so that I was “doing it right”. However 40 years later I am still reluctant to join a club because then I would have to have people over who would look at what I have done and would be judging the layout. This blog has been a big step forward to getting past that. Who knows, someday I may join that club.

But getting back to Jim. He was very gracious about all the criticism and kindly replied to it by saying that it was his layout, his reality and that this is only a hobby. He is a better man then I am. I probably would have lashed out at them, making matters worse.

So to Jim, hang in there, a majority of modelers support you and what you have done. I will offer to you the same sage advice that I offer to my grandson when he takes a tumble – ” shake it off buddy “.  And remember this, those that can – Do, those that can’t – criticize the others.

Early November Update.

Though I have made progress, it isn’t technically with the layout. As I have been building the cabinets and benchwork and slowly getting all the “stuff” stored away underneath, there have been some items that just weren’t going to fit underneath. These items have been slowly pushed to the end of the layout room waiting to go somewhere.

As they were in the way of the peninsula end construction, that day has now come.

I will be spending this weekend reconfiguring our store room to more efficiently use the space so that I can get these last few large items out of my way. Once that is done I will have the last section of the basement freed up for construction of the peninsula end. I have already got some of it put away and uncovered floor space that I haven’t seen in about 8 months. With the last of it gone I will be able to move forward as there won’t be anything in the way.

I should have progress to report and pictures to prove it by mid week.

Again, stay tuned and thank you for your patience.

Throwback Thursday #7

A view of an elevator scene and a couple of the little vignettes that make looking over a model railroad fun.

The local grain elevator and feed mill.
The local grain elevator and feed mill.
Packing for a trip.
Packing for a trip.
Whoever he is, whether a salesman or politician, she's getting a earful.
Whoever he is, whether a salesman or politician, she’s getting an earful.

 

Throwback Thursday #4

Once again scenes from the old layout. I promise to have an update in the next couple of days.

Engine service facility before scenery was added.
Engine service facility before scenery was added.
An engine under the coaling tower next to the station.
An engine under the coaling tower next to the station.
Overview of the yard. The gondola in the bottom right corner was outfitted with a wireless camera for an engineers view.
Overview of the yard. The gondola in the bottom right corner was outfitted with a wireless camera for an engineers view.

 

Throwback Thursday #2

Just got  back from a trip, thus still no progress to report. Hope you enjoy the pictures from the past.

Another cool lighting effect.
Another cool lighting effect.
Trackside diner at night. This and the retail stores above hid where the railroad went through the backdrop.
Trackside diner at night. This and the retail stores above hid where the railroad went through the backdrop.
One of those fun little scenes that you discover as you move around the layout.
One of those fun little scenes that you discover as you move around the layout.

 

Throwback Thursday

I have made a little progress on the railroad, however nothing exciting to report. Thought I would change gears and share some photos of the old layout. As I mentioned before the railroad was the Grand Forks and Western Minnesota (fictitious) Dba as the Grand Western Railroad. Loved The Grand Western part, reversed engineered the other part to show a history. However it gave the wrong impression of where the railroad operated. Thus the new name, which I love.

Enough of that, I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Mainline freight passing the city depot. I thought this was a pretty cool shot. Don't know how I did it and I doubt I could reproduce it. And yes it is a bit schizophrenic as I had originally planned on a 80's railroad but then high quality affordable steam became available and I was backdating the layout.
Mainline freight passing the city depot. I thought this was a pretty cool shot. Don’t know how I did it and I doubt I could reproduce it. And yes it is a bit schizophrenic as I had originally planned on a 80’s railroad but then high quality affordable steam became available and I was backdating the layout.
The roundhouse at night, weathered with a detailed interior.
The roundhouse at night, weathered with a detailed interior.
I always enjoyed this scene on the railroad. The garage in progress was scratch built. Pre ballast and weeds along the mainline.
I always enjoyed this scene on the railroad. The garage in progress was scratch built. Pre ballast and weeds along the mainline.