Saturday, November 9, 2019

On the Valley Line Today - HOTT

Too cold and too lazy to head to the grade crossing to shoot the northbound trip of today's "Hand on the Throttle" guest run this morning, so just shot from my train room window instead. Note the "non-regulation" grade crossing whistle.

Steam train through my backyard? Yeah, I'm a pretty lucky guy...

Monday, November 4, 2019

Construction Update - "Extending" the Saybrook Scene

Crews operating PDX-1 in Old Saybrook typically have to use a long lead off the east (left) end of Track 6 (aka the "Balloon" track behind the station). The good news about that long lead track is that they're able to stay off the busy Shore Line while switching. The bad news is that they have to go "off scene" into the other room (shop/New London staging area) to do it. So, at the (very high) risk of some "mission layout creep," I decided to extend the Saybrook scene "just a little" and finish the rest of the east end of Track 6.

This is what you used to see as you looked through the door into the shop/New London staging area. The Saybrook scene is at your right shoulder here. I've already added a vertical support (2x2) for the end of the backdrop.

Other than the fact that I'd like to keep the door, this is the other reason I don't just remove this short portion of wall. These are all the power distribution wires going from the Saybrook control panel to all the switch machines on the layout.
I started by fitting in a curved backdrop - again, of 1/8" Masonite

It looked ok, but really cut into the scene and would make adding the overpass (to the right) and the signal bridge (to the left) much more difficult.
So I decided instead on more of a "box" to maximize the horizontal real estate for the scene. Frankly, it's also constructed this way so that it'll be easy to remove if I change my mind later.

View looking from the shop back toward the Saybrook scene, so show how it fits together.

I went ahead and decided to finish the fascia here too, while I was at it. Eagle eyes will notice that the screw I used are not countersunk or hidden in any way. That's no problem at all in the corners - since, if I decide to keep this here I'll just cove the corners with vinyl (and that'll cover the screws). For the ends, I can just replace the screws sometime later.

View at the bottom of the stairs, showing the other side of the wall. Plan is to have two overpasses - one on each side of the wall - represent two sides of the same overpass.
Swing your head to the left, and this is what you see now.

I went ahead and filled in behind the track with foam and painted everything for a more finished look - including continuing the fascia color right across the doorframe in an attempt to tie the two sections together into one cohesive scene.

Compare this view to the earlier shots. I'm pretty happy with how it came out - but I'm still deciding how best to deal with scenicking it....
* * *

So that's all the major work on the layout that I've done lately - and it (hopefully) represents the last of the "heavy" construction needed for the layout (e.g. benchwork/masonite backdrop) - at least until I decide what to do about a valence.

I've also been doing a bit more scenery, have built & finished some scenic details, and have even started water & started building a few craftsman structure kits(!!). But details on those projects will have to wait til next time!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Construction Update - Filling in around the Airline

Wow - Happy November already(!) It's been a fun-filled couple of months what with all the railroady events coming all at once right during my favorite season. If you haven't already, be sure to scroll back through the posts for my reports on the NHRHTA Reunion, MARPM, and OPtoberfest.

The only downside of so much goodness is that the layout has taken a bit of a back seat these past weeks - I haven't posted any construction update since I last did scenery in East Berlin at the end of August(!) But things haven't been totally idle. Since my last ops session, I've taken a break from scenery-making and instead have been been busy making a few changes and upgrades to the layout itself, with a view to finally finishing basic construction (well, except for the valence and maybe some other sundries that don't occur to me at the moment).

* * *

I'd always planned to do a "generic Airline" scene to the left of Somerset, but after accidentally knocking a loco off the elevated Airline track - and seeing it careen through the still-open benchwork to the floor - I decided it was finally time to start closing things up and get a backdrop in there.

A scene something like this . . .
Or this . . .
Here's what I started with. This is the area to the left of Somerset with the "Airline" on the upper level and the west end return loop on the lower level. Lead into west end staging is off to the right on the lower level. Where that little bit of tree backdrop fell off? Yeah, that's where the loco took a dive.

I used some scrap pieces of plywood for a base for the foam (figuring I could use the larger piece that was there before somewhere else)

First layer of foam is 1" thick with 1.5" thick spacers on that.
I'll top this off with another layer of 1" foam. Note that I've also added a 2nd "fascia" to face the foam and blend the scene into the upper level, leaving the Shore Line in a trench on the lower level to de-emphasize it. It shouldn't really be there, distracting from the Airline, but the location is a necessary evil. Not smart to bury it all since we still need easy access during operations.

Since the foam was just placed temporarily to get an idea of contours, I removed it in order to install the backdrop of 1/8" Masonite.

Clamps are your friend when you're doing this by yourself. I secured the two end pieces, then pressed/wedged the middle section in, secured right to the studs.

Screws are all countersunk, seams sanded smooth, with fiberglass mesh tape over that.

Then it's just a matter of topping, sanding, then topping again to make it all nice and smooth.

Final steps are two coats of "sky" paint. Another good view of the "2nd fascia"

Finally, needed to engineer some support for the foam behind the Airline track, which also has to be high enough to provide clearance for trains on the loop below. Here are a couple of long risers on the joists, along with foam block spacers in the middle at the back.

Provided a little lip of support at the back left corner as well.

A nice new one-piece of 1" foam cut to shape.

I'm leaving the foam off the front and the "slats" (plywood supports) loose for now so I can pop up from below and have easy access to scenic behind the Airline main.

So that's what's going on on the Airline. Tune in next time for an improvement on the Shore Line!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday Fun: Then & Now - "Valley Local" Southbound at Middletown

I love "Then & Now" comparison photos, even if it's sometimes sad to see how much things have changed, because they're a great way to "see" that the past is still with us - even if only in faint vestiges.

Sometimes though, things that once were no longer come back again.... Case in point - The Valley Local, which you can see here in 1947 as well as just last month...

Today's version of the Valley Local
Southbound at Miller Street crossing, Middletown, CT - October 2, 2019
(Click here to see the "same" train in the same location, 1947)
(Click here to see the same view as above, 2013)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ghosts of Railroads Past

(In the "spirit" of the season, and because it's Halloween, I hereby repost this from last October. I think you'll agree it's especially fitting this time of year...)

A big part of my motivation for recreating the Valley Line is to keep alive the memory of the men & women who were responsible for getting the stuff of life delivered to you, each and every day.  From coal for winter heat to a bicycle to ride in the summer, for over 100 years in this country the stuff of life was delivered almost exclusively by rail.  And sometimes, if you're lucky, your historical research will unearth a ghost or two.

Given that it's Halloween, here's a question for you:  Do you believe in ghosts?

The answer for me depends on what kind of ghosts you mean. I don't believe in the creepy un-dead or goulish wanderings of departed souls. But I do believe in the ghosts of the past - the hauntings of a place by the memories of the people who were there. Who were they? What were their dreams and plans? Were they anything like us? While dead people don't actually haunt us, the spirits and memories of the past can - and often do. Especially if you're paying close attention.

During this time of year especially, if you keep your eyes open and know where to look, you can see some of these ghosts of the past materializing.  You have only to slow down, pay attention, and keep your eyes peeled. Here's just one example for those interested in the history of railroading in the Connecticut River Valley...

Bridge far
Railroad line from Middletown to East Berlin.  Trust me, it's there - somewhere...
I passed this spot a dozen times back when I used to ride my bike to work, but only recently did I spot a ghost of the old railroad line between Middletown & Berlin across this field. Do you see it there in the distance? How about if I zoom in . . .

Stone arch bridge, Middletown - Berlin line
You'll have to excuse the camera quality of my phone, but if you tilt your monitor just right, you should see, just beginning to poke out of the trees, this beautiful stone arch bridge. The railroad was abandoned and torn up years ago, and the trees have long since reclaimed much of the right-of-way. But this bridge remains - a monument to the memory not only of the railroad, but to the spirit of the men who built it.

If during your travels you stop at a spot like this and imagine, even for a few minutes, how those men lived, what their hopes were and whether they ever achieved them, you might see some ghosts.

And if you're especially quiet, you may even hear in the sound of the leaves floating by on the breeze a whisper of thanks from those men for not letting them be forgotten.