Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More Website Additions!

For a "wordless" Wednesday, a whole lot of words (and pictures, and files) got added to the Valley Local website today...

  • Divided & reorganized the "Operations" section into "Prototype Info" and "Modeling Info & Ideas"
  • Added "Deja Vu" under the "Trains of Thought" section
  • Added a whole new "Clinics & Presentations" section
  • The "Modeling" section really got a workout:
    • "Photos" section got filled in a bit lot
    • "Projects" section now includes some of my modeling, including articles on:
      • Building the Saybrook Tower Control Panel
      • Modeling the New Haven's DERS-2b (RS-2) #0510
      • Modeling the New Haven's DERS-1b (RS-1) #0669
      • ProtoFreelancing the coal tower/conveyor at Valley Coal in Wethersfield
      • Modeling the Mattabessett river bridge on the Berlin Branch
I'm trying to add content as much as I can, but it's a pretty daunting task. In a lot of ways, it's just a duplication of what's already on the blog - but it is more organized and user-friendly, and represents the "best of the best" from the blog. So even if you've been following the blog from Day One, you should be able to find the most important info without having to dig around too much (that's my main reason for maintaining the 'site, after all). And, assuming you haven't been following the blog from the beginning, you'll see some stuff at the website you probably haven't seen before.

So check it out when you get a chance and let me know what you think, what you'd like to see added, and whatever other suggestions for improvement you might have.

Wordless Wednesday #175 - Hart Seed Co., Wethersfield

Need to know what kind of truck this is - and whether there's an HO scale version. Then "all I have to do is" figure out how to do the decals/lettering.... This wonderful image came from the Hart Seed Co. website. Too bad it's not in color - even if I had a truck I'd have no idea how to paint it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Adding to the Website

I expect many of you come directly here to the blog. But did you know that I have a website as well?

All along, my goal in doing the blog was to be able to update frequently and easily - keeping track of my progress for my own records and enjoyment, and hopefully for your information and enjoyment as well. But the blog has always been intended to be "fleeting" - which is to say, it's organized chronologically rather than thematically (though the "Topics" links on the right hand side do a fair job).

The website, on the other hand, is where I archive/organize/store the real meat of my research and the most favorite of my blog posts - all organized and laid out for ready reference. The only problem is, it's more of a pain to update and change.

So lately, I've been trying to remedy that. To wit - if you haven't been there in a while, you'll see recent changes to the "Layout Tour" section (I added pages on Old Saybrook and Shailerville Bridge), the "Operations" section (added "Crew Call"), the "Choosing an Era" section (how I settled - at least temporarily - on the Fall of 1948), and added a brand new section called "Trains of Thought" (with apologies to Tony Koester and Kalmbach Publishing) where I hope to collect some of my more wandering/wondering ruminations.

And if you've never been to the website, hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised by all that's there - including a track plan (which, given my recent expansion, really needs to be updated), particulars of the layout, and all the other topics I mentioned above.

Whether you've been to the website before or not, be sure to stay tuned. I plan to add content there much more regularly (and before I forget, again, how to go about updating it!).

So go on over to and check it out!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Mail Call: Mockup, Mini-Scene, 1948 Calendar

Turned out to be a fun day in Valley Local land today, but first, a quick progress photo of mocking -up Valley Coal in Wethersfield:

PeteL graciously loaned back to me the mockups that BillS made for Chapman's in Old Saybrook and they turned out to be nice stand-ins for the bins, shed and tanks at Valley Coal. Unlike Chapman's, though, these mockups are nowhere close to or as extensive as what was actually at Valley Coal, but something along these lines may be all I have room for. And I don't even have the rear of the Webb Theater in the scene yet (it'll be right behind the office/scale house).

Since I've been working in Wethersfield (and the progress is, admittedly, painfully slow...), DaveM has been encouraging me and firing my motivation by supplying exactly the sort of detail I want to be sure to include as the scene finally finishes...

This crew - along with their truck - came in today's mail and will be placed near the Gra-Rock siding just south of the Wethersfield station (freight house). They're unloading onion seeds for Hart Seed Co. Just need to get an appropriate reefer (or boxcar?) from a RR that serves onion producers and spot it at the bulk track just south of Church Street in Wethersfield. Thanks Dave!!

Also in today's mail, my latest "prototype" acquisition arrived - an authentic, complete 1948 calendar!

Since I won't be all-steam any time soon (brass locos still need to be painted and decoder-ized), my "official" era of the moment is October, 1948 - right after the PAs arrived on the Shore Line, RS-1 0669 is on the Haddam Local (PDX-2), and RS-2 0510 is brand-new (and plausibly being tested on the Air Line). So, of course, I needed an era-appropriate calendar! The graphic actually has a story as well. I've often mentioned to the Missus that my dream house is a Cape on the Cape (Cape Cod) coast with a picket fence and rose trellises (don't tell anyone). Well, when I found this on eBay - and saw that the caption was "My Dream Cottage" (really! zoom in to see), I just HAD to get it.

And, let's just say, it's a just a bit less - ahem - risque than all the other 1948 calendars I saw and considered purchasing. Suffice it to say, while what I have now is an authentic 1948 calendar, an Esquire calendar would probably be more era-appropriate in a RR Agent/Operator's office!

ANYway.... speaking of the RS-1 and RS-2, here they are in Saybrook going through some testing yesterday (Chapman's Coal & Oil is there back left)....

I've been trying to dial-in the Loksound decoders and have the RS-1 pretty well there. But the Proto 1000 RS-2 still has a pretty low top speed, no matter where I set the trim and momentum. The DL-109s in the background need no adjustments at all - they're dialed in pretty nicely already (though I do plan to change the pitch of each of the prime movers slightly so that they don't sound exactly alike).

There's just So Much To Do - but all good and all fun. I guess that's why it's called The World's Greatest Hobby!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Fun: The Valley Local on Model Rail Radio

I mentioned a couple months ago how big a fan I've become of model railroad podcasts. They're a great way to pass the time when you're doing something you'd rather not be doing (long commute, mowing the yard, etc.).

Well, as it turned out, the day after I posted that post I ended up being on one of my favorites - Model Rail Radio ("The Internet's Only Live Recorded Radio Show Where the Topic is the Hobby of Model Railroading"). I'd first called-into MRR on our way home from vacation back in August, 2014, but being in the car at the time wasn't ideal. I've been enjoying listing to this podcast for a while and - after going through an 18 month expansion of the layout - I figured I had some new news to share. So I called in again this past April and the show was just recently posted.

You can check it out by clicking here (my report starts at 39:00 - and even Dave Ramos chimes in at 50:00).

And, for the contrast and to keep these 'casts together, the one from 2014 is here (starts at 40:10 and the connection drops - heh, or Tom just got tired of hearing me ramble - after 6 minutes or so).

So if you're looking for a distraction from cleaning your pool or unloading mulch this weekend, check'em out. And be sure to look at the list of other model railroad podcasts and listen in. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable and informative they can be.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New Fast Clock & Foam Core Project Box

Life on the Valley Local involves running a meandering wayfreight, serving the industries along a scenic branchline along the Connecticut river. When you're on the Local, you pretty much own the railroad - you may, occasionally and rarely, have to look out for a speeder or a work train. But you get done when you get done. No need for a fast clock with this kind of layout (though I played around with an app, just for kicks). In fact, until recently I didn't even realize that my NCE DCC system had a fast clock built in.

But since I started incorporating the Shore Line trains into my operating sessions, and especially since Randy developed a cool train register for the Agent/Operator to use - it's become obvious that I needed a clock at the A/O's desk. I researched a number of options, preferring an "analog looking" clock (for you millennials, that's the one with the hands and numbers :^) in keeping with my era. And I really liked the system that Jim Dufour uses on his layout. But they all involved more work and money than I was willing to do/spend - especially since I already had a fast clock system with NCE.

Unfortunately, the NCE fast clock only reads out on the hammerhead throttles. That's great for the two mainline operators, but for the A/O I needed a desk clock that would tie-into and synchronize with the NCE system.  Fortunately, Logic Rail Technologies makes just what I was looking for - provided I didn't mind a digital readout. I figured that was a small compromise to make for the convenience and ease of installation. "All I had to do was" extend a branch of my cab bus to come out behind the A/O desk for the clock to plug in. And besides - the mainline operators are using digital too.

Conveniently, my wedding anniversary was coming up about the same time and the Missus was looking for gift suggestions . . . so she ordered the LRT fast clock and some decoder install supplies from Litchfield Station and had them sent to work (she worried later what the Capitol police would think when they scanned the package and saw a digital clock and wires.... but I digress).

When I opened the package (after security finally released it), I was a little surprised to discover that there wasn't much to it - basically a PCB with a cover plate.

What you see is what you get - the PCB is, of course, behind the cover plate
Now, this makes sense if you're mounting it to your fascia, but I wanted it as a desk clock. I could jsut prop it up, but that wouldn't look very finished.

Mounting instructions
Fortunately, LRT designed the clock to be mounted inside a Radio Shack project box. Unfortunately, Radio Shacks are dropping like flies around here - hard to find one still open, and those didn't have the project box I needed. Even my new favorite store didn't have anything suitable.

And then I remembered the cool NCE PowerCab Mount/Box I built from black foamcore a few months ago. I figured I could do the same here - and so I did.

It's really just a matter of marking out the board, using the mounting instructions that come with the clock, figuring the overall dimensions you want, cutting the board, and gluing it all together with hot glue. The photo above shows the tools I used (the glue gun is just out of the pic), with a couple additions since last time: I found my XActo foam board cutter (better than the freehand #11 I used before), and I used the Micro-Mark magnetic tray to hold the board pieces at right angles while the glue cooled. And, yeah, cuz I have OCD, I used my dial calipers to measure everything out (actually, those points are pretty handy for marking the board for cutting...)

And here's the result:

I angled the bottoms of the side pieces a bit to provide a stable backward lean - and mounted with #4 screws right into the board, secured at the back with hot glue.

The PCB, showing the screws secured with hot glue.

At the desk - and much more attractive than just propping up the raw/unboxed unit there, IMO.

An overall view of the Agent/Operator's "office" - now complete with NCE-synchronized fast clock to help with Shore Line train movements
Since the clock plugs directly into the NCE cab bus, an unexpected - but very welcome - benefit of having this clock on the desk is that I'll know immediately as I go up the stairs if I forgot to turn off the DCC system. If the clock is on, so is the DCC.

It took me more time agonizing over how to go about boxing this clock in than it did to finally do it. Once I gathered the tools and materials, it just took one evening of listening to Philip Marlowe on the "radio" with the Missus knitting on the other side of the room. And now I have a handy-dandy clock to use for the next operating session!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #174

This is how the engines of the Valley Local got from the East Hartford roundhouse across the Connecticut river to the Hartford Yard to pick up cars for points south - taken today during my lunch time run.