Thursday, July 20, 2017

LOTS of stuff added to the website

In addition to working in Wethersfield, I've been trying to beef up the Valley Local website with distilled versions of the information scattered all around on this blog - as well as some new website-only content.

So be sure to head over to and check it out. Addition highlights include a whole new section on "Prototype Inspiration" where I've posted some of the photos that really got/get me into doing this project (along with a very evocative essay on the Valley Local by Tony Koester, courtesy White River Productions), photos of some of my modeling, and an extensive new "tips" section which has a lot of information I think you'll find useful.

There's also a new "accountability" section <g> where I post my layout goals & highlights, mostly so I don't forget them, and I've added a lot of content to the "Trains of Thought" section as well as the "Projects" section (found under "Modeling").

These are just the highlights - lots of other stuff has been added in the past couple of weeks. So if you have some time during your morning coffee break or lunch, browse around and let me know what you think - and if there's something more/different you'd like to see.

Happy Friday Eve!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #179 - Recent Arrivals

Recent additions to the Valley Line from two fans of Wethersfield....

Scratchbuilt Hubbard Homes billboard and whistle posts from Dave Messer

And a milk delivery truck and milkman from John Wallace - shown here making a stop for the crew of the 0510 in Saybrook before he heads up to Wethersfield.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Rt. 15 Overpass Update and Things to Do Before You Paint Your Track!

While Bill has been working down at Goff Brook on the Wethersfield/Rocky Hill line, I've been focusing on the north end of Wethersfield, and am happy to report some (glacial) progress on the Rt. 15 bridge:

Old-school "Sketchup" - literally sketching up a mockup of the Rt. 15 bridge girders, with prototype photo on the iPad

I drew (like, with a pencil and ruler - nothing computer/fancy) my best approximation of what the support girders will look like under my model of the Rt. 15 overpass, based on the prototype photos, the bridge model I expect to use for the deck, and the space I have. As you can see in the "proof-of-concept" photo above, it looks like it's going to work out well. Thankfully, my buddy MikeR is doing some computer/fancy drawing in Sketchup for an actual resin master of these parts. VERY exciting!

Lest you think otherwise, I'm not totally computer-drawing-phobic: I've been fooling around a bit with my Model Builder software in an attempt to create some building mockups for East Berlin (specifically, Stanley Chemical and the Kane Brickyard). Unfortunately, I've found the learning curve to be just a bit steep, so I need to take a break from time to time and do something simple.

Like paint track!

The only downside to how fast Bill works is that sometimes we get ahead of ourselves a bit. Case in point - we (I) almost forgot to paint the track before the scenery went in at Goff Brook. It would have been a pain to have to hand paint it later - it's MUCH easier to get out the rattle can and shoot it with abandon.

And that was the plan for this past weekend - get all the sensitive stuff (structures, rolling stock, etc) out of the way, put up some masking/dropcloths  and have at it.

All ready to paint - well, gotta block off/mask some areas but at least all the stuff's removed.
I was just getting ready to get out my favorite track paint base coat (Krylon Camouflage Earth Brown #279178) when I stopped..... and just in time. I just remembered a few things that I still needed to do before painting the track. Hopefully, you'll do these too before it's too late (or a real pain to do later...)

First off, I assume that your track as been down and operable for a while, so you've done any major adjustments and minor tune-ups to be sure it runs flawlessly. To be sure of this, the first thing I did was file down the points on the turnouts a bit:

Slightly round off that hard corner at the top/tip and file the end edge to fit super snugly against the stock rail. Do for both points.

The points are fed electrically at two (well, four) points: Primarily where joined to the closure rails, and secondarily where the points come into contact with the stock rails. That secondary point can be easily cleaned after painting, but to keep paint from gumming up the point/closure rail connection, I add a drop of plastic compatible oil, as above.

Filler ties are easily overlooked until after you're done spraying. Best to put them in beforehand so they get the same base coat as all the other ties around them.

Important note: You'll want to be sure to shave off the spikes from any ties you use as filler ties (or, better yet, use thinner profile ties). Otherwise, you'll risk creating a vertical hump/kink at the rail joint which is just asking for a derailment or separated couplers.

Ah - that's MUCH better looking and ready for painting.

But don't get out the spray can just yet!

We haven't had any ops sessions using the Berlin Branch - heck, the trackwork isn't (wasn't) even completed there - so I hadn't bothered putting feeders in yet. But it's a VERY good idea to get those in before you paint the track 1) because it's much easier to solder feeders to clean/unpainted rail, and 2) because painting the track will cause those solder joints to disappear. So the little sign above reminds me that I've got to put some feeders in. 

But before I do that I really needed to finalize the trackwork in East Berlin and finally complete the Berlin Branch. So out came the Aleen's glue and water bottles:

And that's the current state of things. Next step is to remove the bottles, install the feeders, and mask everything off. THEN, and only then, will I actually be ready to paint my track.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Little Whimsy - Roma Wine Tankcar

The first - and until recently, the only - HO model of a Roma Wine tank car I'd ever seen. An eBay find, it's probably Tyco or AHM. All I know is it has "Made in Austria" embossed on the bottom. BION, a prototype photo can be found here.
Longtime readers know that I consider Trevor Marshall a great example of a prototype modeler and he's doing a beautiful job depicting the Canadian National's Port Rowan branch during the 1950s (in S scale, no less). But recently, he departed - ever so slightly - from strict prototype emulating to include a little mini-scene that most likely never actually happened. I won't spoil it for you, so click here if you haven't seen it. . .

The post he wrote on this scene - as well as the backstory - gave rise in the comments to a brief discussion about the use of whimsy in model railroading. Now, this is a concept that's certainly familiar to those more on the freelance end of the model railroading spectrum - but it's pretty rare among serious prototype modelers who want primarily, if not exclusively, to tell a non-fiction and historically accurate story of their chosen railroad. A discussion of whether - and/or to what extent - whimsy or other elements of fiction are "appropriate" on our model railroads would be very interesting indeed, but beyond the scope of this post. Maybe (likely) some other time . . .

As hopefully you can tell, I have pretty firmly planted my flag on the "nonfiction" end of the spectrum and take modeling the prototype fairly seriously (well, as seriously as you can take model trains :^), but I know I'd really be missing something if I didn't relax this rigidity at least some of the time.

Thus, the Roma Wine tank car.

Decidedly not the Roma Wine tank car I first purchased, here spotted on the house track at Old Saybrook. Click here for some info on Roman Wines, including photos of prototype and model freight cars.
One of the reasons I depict the era I do (late 1940s) is because I find everything about the post-war period fascinating - the music, the movies, the radio shows. Especially the radio shows. I'm often listening to my favorites (Bob Hope, The Shadow, and just about any detective series) while working on my layout. But perhaps my most favorite show is SUSPENSE! which aired for over 20 years but had its heyday during the late 1940s when Roma Wines was its main sponsor.

Now, I haven't impulse-purchased a freight car in a long time - my friends know that I obsess deliberate over additions to the railroad and being a strict prototype modeler means having to say "no" to a lot of purchases. But when Tangent recently announced its new tank car model (a General American 8,000 gallon 1917-design insulated radial course tank car, if you must know) and one of the offerings was a Roma Wine tankcar, I just had to get one!

Does it matter that I have no place on my entire layout that would receive such a car? No.

Does it help that it's possible one may have, at one time or another, been seen in a freight train between New York and Boston (and thus pass through Old Saybrook)? Admittedly, yes.

On Track 6, as seen through the platform at the Saybrook station.
This purchase represents just one very small step towards "what-might-have-been" rather than "what-was-and-can-be-conclusively-proven-with-photos-and-official-documentation" but I think it's a large step towards a little more flexibility and likely a lot more fun . . .

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Fun - Valley Line Crew Info

Despite my recent hemming & hawing, I'll be hosting my first NMRA Regional ops session in a few months. So in preparation for that I've created a new section over at the website called "Valley Line Crew Info" where new operators can get oriented as well as find additional information and details on the layout. The goal is to provide a great "first introduction" to Valley Line ops and (hopefully) answer ahead of time a lot of the questions that first-time operators might have.

But it's most definitely a work in progress. So, especially you more seasoned operating veterans (and most especially anybody that's operated the Valley Line before), please weigh in and let me know if I'm forgetting anything and what else would be helpful to add!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Function Mapping - What Do YOU do?

I posted this over at the Model Railroad Hobbyist site, but wanted to be sure and get input from those of you here that don't make it over there . . .
So - what functions do you use the most and what buttons do you have them assigned to?
I've been having a good time playing around with my new LokProgrammer and have been pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to change function mapping.
Perhaps TOO easy . . . because I just can't decide how I want to map the buttons.
I have an NCE system and am using Select decoders with Full Throttle. Unfortunately, the independent brake is on F10 (which requires the shift key) and the "hammerhead" throttle display only shows the status of the first 6 function keys (I know when I'm plugged into the cab bus, I can hit the EXPN key to get the status of the other keys, but that doesn't work when I'm operating wirelessly). So I've been playing around with different function key button assignments, especially for the Drive Hold and Independent Brake.
Here's where I'm at so far:
  • F0 Direction Headlights
  • F1 Bell
  • F2 Horn
  • F3 Coupling/Uncoupling
  • F4 Dim Headlight (Rule 17)
  • F5 Drive Hold
  • F6 Independent Brake
  • F7 Both Headlights Dim (yard switching)
  • F8 Startup/Shutdown/Mute
  • F9 Compressor
  • F10 Fan
  • F11 Switching Mode
The line I'm modeling is pretty flat, so I don't need dynamic brakes and the Run8 & Coast features aren't really necessary.
Figuring many of you are further down the road on this than I am and have much more operating experience to glean from, I'd love to hear what functions you use most and what buttons have you assigned them to!

PS - and not to mix threads - but while working on this I've been fooling around with the programming in an old Atlas S-2 (with the cast-on detail) that has an almost-as-old MRC Atlas S2/S4 sound decoder w/speaker in it. I'm considering installing a LokSound Select and iPhone speaker instead. Should I "waste" a great decoder/speaker on an old unit that at least has SOME sort of sound already? #askingforafriend