Thursday, December 12, 2019

Pillar Crane

One of the things I've been mulling over with regard to my "proto-freelanced" version of East Berlin, CT is how to load bricks there. Other than the Stanley Chemical Co. at the end of the Berlin branch, the other reason for the line was to serve the many brickyards along the way. Now, on my version of the branch I only have the end of the line, but wanted to pay a little homage to the brick industry in the area. So, I'm considering adding two elements at the end of one of the sidings there: a concrete loading dock, and a pillar crane. This should be enough to at least simulate some brick loading capacity.

Even though this area is proto-freelanced, I still start with the prototype as much as possible. Starting with the crane, I took these shots with my buddies Mike Redden & Bill Chapin in Westerly, RI after the Springfield show earlier this year (this was the same day we were surrounded by the local police, but that's a story for another time...):

Can't believe this crane is still there, in the middle of where the big yard used to be, not too far from the Shoreline of the former NHRR. Even more surprising was how easily it moved on its bearings - very balanced and smooth.

And, even better, as I was doing some more research, it turns out there was a similar crane right in Middletown!

Don't know if it's still there, so I must check ASAP. No good excuse since it's right on my commute to work(!)

If you're like me, you've been in the hobby a long time and have collected various & sundry bits & pieces for the layout you'll build "someday" - and it's not until you actually start building that you start to discover some things you didn't even know you had.

Like this!

Don't know where or when I got this, but I'm sure glad I did. And good thing, since I don't think it's available any longer (please prove me wrong!). As you can see, while not a perfect duplicate of the prototypes I shot, it's pretty darn close and certainly much closer than the other pillar cranes I've seen currently on the market.

Turns out, it's a kit consisting of white metal castings. I assembled mine with thick, gap-filling CA. And boy, was it finicky! But patience pays off - that and doing one step at a time, allowing the glue to cure between steps.

First step was to stick the base to some tape to hold it in place, and then glue the pillar to the base. While that was curing, I added the motor/pulley/handle part to the beam.

One of the fussier steps was to thread the "cable" using the black thread included. Pro Tip: Use some beeswax or something similar to get rid of all the fuzz - or at least smooth it down. I didn't do that and regretted it later. Also, use some self-clamping tweezers or a clothespin to weigh down the hook and keep the "cable" taught. Adding CA to the places where the thread touches the metal will fix it in place - and stiffen the thread, making it look more like cable.

Another Pro Tip: Make sure you set the beam at the angle you plan for final assembly. Otherwise, your nice, straight, vertically-hanging cable will instead hang at a slight angle. Don't ask me how I know this.

Once the thread is all cured, it's time to glue the beam to the pillar and the crosspiece from the top of the pillar to the end of the beam. This is the 2nd most fussy part of the assembly. I first glued the beam to the base, then propped it up with an eraser. Then I measured and cut the top crosspiece and very carefully glued that in the recesses cast in the parts.

Let all of this cure really well, then snip off the excess thread (though you could certainly do that earlier in the process).

For painting, I just attached the assembly to a holder made from a business card and hit it with some dark brown/black Krylon Camouflage rattle can paint.

Remember what I said above about smoothing the thread? I thought I had smoothed it enough, but this is when I discovered I should have used something like beeswax. Painting the thread just made all the thread fuzz really stand out. Fortunately, everything is really stiff, so you can clip off the strands with sprue nippers like I did. UNfortunately, there are a LOT of little strands. The pic above was how it looked before I started snipping. And in this pic you can also see what I mean about making sure you weigh your cable down so it hangs at the right angle.

Thankfully, this crane will be toward the back of the East Berlin scene, and I can rotate it so that the funny hanging angle isn't as obvious. And the fuzz won't be either.

All I have left is to weather it. Oh, and build a concrete loading dock for it to go on. But that'll be for another time.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bumping Posts

In all the hubbub of the Holidays, I'm afraid this here blog has gone onto the back burner a little bit. But that's not for lack of activity on the Valley Line, no sir! I have a bunch of progress to report here - if only to document it for myself (the "log" part of "blog"). So, in no particular order really, I'll start off with some bumping posts.

One of the things I noticed right away when doing scenery in East Berlin (wow - it's been since end-of-August that I reported progress from there. Need to update you on that soon!) is that I need at least one bumping post - if only to keep cars from falling off the end of the track and onto the floor!

End-of-track at what will eventually be Stanley Chemical. Note edge of layout in the left foreground(!)

Here are a couple of prototype photos of what I have in mind for this spot:

I saw this while The Missus and I were on a fall roadtrip up to Putnam, CT.

Now, there are many options when it comes to bumping posts - and I even had a couple different ones on-hand.

First was a package of old Sequoia bumpers. I don't even remember when or how I got them (or if they're even produced any more), but I figured I'd at least see whether they'd fit the bill.

As you can see, they're a white metal kit. Nice for durability, but they look a bit fussy to assemble. But the deal-breaker was that they didn't really look like what I was after.

Fortunately, I also had on-hand a pair of Tichy bumpers (a.k.a. "track stops"). And I know if I need more, they're still available and pretty common at local hobby shops.

They're also in kit form, but cast in styrene so assembly - while a little finicky - is pretty straightforward and easy to do with some liquid plastic cement.

All the parts separated from the sprue and molding/parting lines filed down/removed.
After reviewing the instructions, the first step was to remove the parts from the sprue and remove any molding/parting lines and gate nubs with a file and sanding sticks.

To make the "I-beam" look on the main legs, you have to add a flat piece on top. I found it helpful to put the main legs onto a piece of tape to hold it in place. Then I applied cement sparingly on the narrow verticals, then added the flat piece with tweezers, centering as the glue set. You can see a completed piece at the upper right.

Once that was done, I added the other two legs - basically a "strap" that goes around the top of the main bumper, as above. The other two parts in this photo become the base.

I found locating and affixing the base parts to be the most finicky step in assembly. They have to be located just right in order to nest properly between the ties. And that's made a bit more challenging if you, as I did, angle your ties slightly to represent little-maintained siding track.

Also, there isn't much gluing surface - especially between the front legs and the base. But thankfully being styrene, the cement really takes hold. I wouldn't go banging into them really hard with a locomotive (nor would the prototype!), but they should be sturdy enough with regular freight cars.

The penultimate step before installing them on the layout is to hit them with some paint. I used Krylon Camouflage "Earth Brown" as the base and held the parts in place with tape. While I was at it, I also painted some Hayes wheels stops I had on-hand, held with reversed clothespins.

And here they are, waiting for the final step - weathering. I'll use some rusty chalks & pan pastels to do that. Should make them look all nicely worn and a bit rusty.

Bumping posts are not only practical - keeping your rolling stock from bounding across the landscape, or - worse- off the edge of the earth to the concrete floor - but building little details like this is a really easy way to have a nice stress-free evening at the hobby bench. If you have 15-30 minutes to spare, and are of the philosophy that "even a little progress is steady progress", I hope you'll put some of these together. Even better if you've learned a few tips from this post along the way!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Friday Fun: Newly-delivered Alco FAs at Old Saybrook

Christmas came early to the Valley Line last night, in the form of TomD acting in the role of elf on behalf of himself and JohnG. I now have a matched A-B-A set of delivery scheme Alco FAs to power the Shore Line freights! Thanks to Tom for the engines, and thanks to John for the decoders & installation - they're truly Ready-to-Run, and are already performing yeoman's work between New Haven, CT and Worcester, MA as you can see in the videos below.

HUGE thanks to them both for such a great addition to the Shoreline operations!
Enjoy and Happy Friday!!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this special day, let's remember all the wonderful blessings we have of family, friends, and - yes - a great hobby that brings so many of us together.
Here's wishing you and yours a Very Happy Thanksgiving!

Over the River and Through the Woods....
Valley Local carrying passengers southbound
over Shailerville Bridge, Higganum, CT
And here's a northbound train, showing the famous Shad Shack & part of the Middlesex Turnpike (old Rt. 9 - now Rt. 154)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wordless Wednesday #292

Wish we could see this trackside today - speeding travelers to their families at Thanksgiving . . .