Saturday, August 29, 2015

Starting Essex

My trackplanning process is very, um, visceral. There's no computer involved. No paper & templates. For a anal Type A person like myself, my process is very right-brained. I basically just mock things up and do what looks right.

Ok, it's admittedly not quite that Zen. But almost. For Essex, I'm using the same process that I used for the rest of the layout. The benchwork is positioned and built according to where the aisles need to be and where the benchwork has to be to support the turnback curves. Click here for that process.

Once the benchwork is in place, I top it temporarily with masonite, cardboard, or whatever will support the large sheets of paper I draw on:

Make sure you tape the paper in place.

The above pic shows the paper in place and the pre-cut turnback curve plywood subroadbed positioned at the end of the peninsula. Now it's just a matter of connecting the end of that curve to the point where the track will go through the wall to Saybrook, drawing lines that represent track centers.

But how do I know where to locate the track? Typically, I'll use Sanborn maps to give me a good idea of the track layout. But even Sanborn maps aren't perfect, depending on your era and when the map was produced (click here for how I discovered that little tidbit). In the case of Essex, I have an additional resource - a scale map that Max drew up some years ago:

That's a LARGE map of the Essex track layout over by a LARGE valuation map of Middletown.
So, feeling fully prepared with reference maps, I was all ready to start drawing track centers with my Sharpie when I remembered all the track relocations I've had to do on earlier sections of the layout to accommodate structures. Sooooo...... my next step in "track planning" is going to be  . . . wait for it . . . Structure Mockups.

Yes, having an idea of what buildings you're going to want to include goes hand-in-hand with deciding what track to include given the space that you have to work with. And having at least a rough 3D version of those structures to plan around will also give you a much better visual sense of your space and how everything will look/work together. This step isn't that critical when you're talking about "hinterlands" like Rocky Hill (though even there I bumped out the fascia a bit to make more room for the station & freighthouse), but Essex has a lot of buildings - most of which are still around today - so it's critical to get it looking as "right" as possible.

So, before I do anything more in the basement, it's back to the workbench to build some buildings....

Friday, August 28, 2015

Liftout Finished (just about)

Since getting the liftout started, my approach to building it has evolved somewhat. As I'd mentioned, I'd considered a hinged-drop leaf but decided to keep it simple and have just a plain ol' liftout. I'd also considered various latches, hooks/eyes, and such to secure it. But, again, I kept it simple.

What follows are photos of what's turned out to be a pretty, um, simple solution to the problem of bridging the gap.  Did I happen to mention the approach I ended up taking is "simple?"

Here's where we left off last time. I was going to just do cookie-cutter subroadbed, along the lines of that blue template, but wasn't happy how it was going to be supported.

So I decided to go a more simple traditional route - full plywood. I had it on hand, it gives me flexibility on where to actually position the track, and - most importantly - it makes the whole assembly much more rigid. I was worried - given this is supposed to be a liftout - that all that plywood would make things too heavy. But it turns out that it's still pretty light.

To provide some additional support to the "outboard" plywood, and to dress things up a bit, I decided to add a couple of pieces of 1x3 after the fact. As you can see, they're screwed in at one end (which has been mitered down to fit the pre-existing angled girder more closely), and screwed in from the top.

Two short 1x3s on either side of the curved plywood will provide plenty of backing for a narrow strip of curved masonite fascia. That'll dress things up really nice and tie everything together visually.

And here's the underside, to give you a better view of how it all went together:

I still need to add the masonite fascia

So a (simple) liftout is just built-to-fit as I described earlier. The tricky part is how you insure that it lines up perfectly every time and secure it once it's in. Again, I opted for a simple solution.

For alignment, I used L-shaped shelf pins, like this:

Image copied from here
and for securing, I opted for Quick Clamps, like this:

You can see both parts together here - shelf pin attached to L-girder support and clamp holding things together.

It's not as elegant a solution as I'd hoped for, but it's easy and bulletproof. Luggage clasps, hooks & eyes, deadbolts - I tried them all. And this is by far the simplest solution I've found. To attach the pins, I lined them up to be centered under a liftout girder, rubbed graphite/pencil on top of the pin, then lowered the liftout onto the pin. The graphite makes an impression on the girder so you know where to drill the hole that the pin will go in.

Once the pins are attached to the supports (as you see above), putting in the liftout is just a matter of lining it up with the pins and dropping/pressing into place.

The pins aren't perfect though - you can still conceivably shift the liftout slightly and thus put your track out of alignment. That's where the clamps come in. Once you have the rails lined up, just clamp down each end to keep everything secure.


I still have some things left to do on the liftout before it's really done. Track (of course) is first and foremost. Then wiring (including some sort of socket arrangement so the wiring will connect and disconnect quickly and easily). Then fascia and a little scenery.

But for all intents and purposes, the liftout is done for now. Which means I can rush headlong into the Next Big Step - Trackwork for Essex! Yes, I'm trying to get "North" from Saybrook to East Haddam as quickly as I can so I can have my Golden Spike ceremony sometime in October - or at least by November 1st. With a week's vacation down south to visit family, along with all the fun field trips we tend to make during the fall, it'll be tough to meet that deadline. But at least I've got some (self-imposed) motivation!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Throwback Thursday: NCE ProCab Wireless Antenna

Way back in 2003, I purchased a state-of-the-art wireless DCC system - the NCE ProCab.

It's worked well over the last dozen years - as much as I've actually used it, which hasn't actually been all that much. I've done much more layout construction (and moving) than operating over the years.

But one day I got invited to an ops session at Craig Bisgeier's Housatonic RR and - bonus! - Tony Koester was going to be there as well and I was looking forward to meeting him. Craig was an awesome host, and the ops session was great (well, until the "burning booster" - but that's another story). But one of my first conversations with Tony still haunts me. . .

At one point during the session, we were chatting and Tony noticed the wireless NCE ProCab I'd brought along to use. Like the photo above, it had the long whippy antenna. "Wow - haven't seen one of those in a while. Be careful you don't poke your eye out."

Alas, my ProCab still has that whippy antenna, but I hear tell that there is a "fix" - some way you can do without this antenna and connect/route some antenna wire internally. I'd really like to do that - especially since it's more likely the antenna will knock over trees or other details rather than poke somebody's eye out (though you never know).

Have any of you done this conversion? How well does it work? If you have any info on how to do it - or, ideally, know where I can find a step-by-step article - lemme know!

(edited to change "antennae" to "antenna" where appropriate. Ooops!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wordless Wednesday #83

Need to learn PhotoShop so I can edit out all that background. Or remember to just put up a blue piece of posterboard...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tool Tip Tuesday: Strip Stock Storage

Tired of rummaging through drawers looking for just the right size of stripwood or strip styrene?

Wish you had all those assorted sizes stored and sorted satisfactorily?

Well, look no further!

  • 1 cardboard box
  • LOTS of cardboard paper towel tubes
  • Packing tape wrapping to suit (holds the boxflaps down)


(almost) Instant organization for all your stripwood and strip styrene!

You're welcome :^)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

BLI I-4 Pre-Test Tips

(For a great & quick prototype overview of the New Haven Railroad's premier passenger locomotive - including LOTS of great photos - be sure mosey on over to this site. Ed Ozog has produced a fantastic and comprehensive website for all NHRR steam locomotives there.)

If you got the Broadway Limited Imports (BLI) model of the New Haven Railroad Class I-4 Pacific, Congratulations!!  It's an expensive model, admittedly, but well worth it IMO. The only other model that even comes close was done by Precision Scale and that retailed for around $1,500(!). This model has just as much detail and retails for less than half the price ($699.99). Yeah, $700 is nothing like what we "used to pay" for steam locomotives, but before you choke on your coffee, consider this: That $700 would be "only" $215 in 1980. And trust me, a 1980 vintage steam loco model would not look nearly as good or run nearly as well for anywhere near that price. Oh - and it wouldn't have sound, or DCC.

So if you haven't gotten the BLI I-4, do yourself a favor and get one. It's an absolutely exquisitely detailed model and quite a bargain (especially at the "street" price of around $550) - and it's the only way you're gonna have a just-about-perfect NH I-4 anywhere within reach.

Once you get it and take it out of the box, there are a few things you'll want to be sure to do before you put it on the track. Thanks to friends Joe Smith, Pete Luchini, Bill Shanaman, John Sheridan, and Paul Cutler for the following tips - they blazed the trail and show the way to I-4 operations happiness...
  • First and foremost: Turn off the smoke generator (Ops Manual p.3).
For some reason, BLI doesn't supply even a little bit of smoke fluid for its model and the smoke unit switch is "ON" by default, and even worse according to the Operator's Manual, you "will damage the engine" if you operate the smoke unit without smoke fluid.

So turn off the smoke generator before you even test run the engine. Here's how you do it:

The switch is located under the cab, engineer's side. Turn the loco over (I put it in a foam cradle) and use a small screwdriver, toothpick or something to just move the slide switch over from "ON" to "OFF"


Alternatively, you could press F7 on your DCC controller, but that would require you to put the engine on the track with power. I'm risk averse - so I think sliding the switch is a better first step. F7 will come in handy when the smoke unit runs out of smoke, but you don't want to stop running the engine.
  • Check Wheel Gauge
I admit I'm not so good at this. I really should make it a habit to check the gauge of all wheels of everything before it goes on my track. But I don't. It's really necessary you do so on the I-4 model though. There have been reports of drivers being out of gauge - rare, but possible. BLI is good about sending replacements, but if you run the engine without checking the gauge first and it's derailing - out-of-gauge wheels are the likely culprit.
  • Clean the wheels
Speaking of wheels, you'll want to be sure to check the treads and clean them if necessary (not the rear set of drivers, which has traction tires). Check the tender axles too, where the electrical wipers touch. Making sure all those points of contact are clean and free of oil-residue will make for much smoother running.
  • Fully seat the plug (Ops Manual p.2)
And speaking of electrical contact, make sure the plug that connects the tender (and its associated electronics) to the engine is FULLY AND COMPLETELY seated in its socket. If you don't you will experience erratic operation, intermittent power pickup, and - worse case - you'll hear the engine making sounds, but it won't move at all.

That's all I've heard so far that you want to be sure and do before you even test run this engine. If you've discovered other must dos let us know in the comments.

As for "nice-to-dos" - here are some additional tips you'll want to do pretty early on:
  • Pump Up Lower the Volume
Once you run the I-4, you'll probably want to lower the volume because it's set at its max from the factory: CV133 = 128 by default. Setting CV133 to "32" or even "16" instead results in a less ear-splitting decibel level.
  • Change the address from "3" to the engine's road number
The operations manual covers this on page 10, but it basically refers you to your DCC system process. If you have DCC, you likely know how to do this already.
  • Fun Fact
The bell sound is from a recording of an actual New Haven Railroad steam locomotive bell - reputedly from off an I-4(!). It doesn't look like you have a choice of bell sound - but you wouldn't want to change it anyway. If you want to change the ring rate though, modify CV180. Higher values result in slower ringing.

We model railroaders generally aren't a big fan of manuals/instructions - choosing to charge ahead rather than "waste" any time. But I highly recommend you read the BLI manual. While I've hit the most important stuff here, there's lots of other great information spread throughout that little booklet, including how to remap function keys (pp. 17-18), and a complete list/description of CVs as well as their default/factory settings (pp. 22-23).  I, for one, was intrigued by the "quillable whistle" capability - which I wouldn't have known about if I hadn't read to the end of the manual (p.26).

If you have any additional tips, advice, or cool CV changes to offer, I'd sure like to know about them - so be sure to leave a comment below!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fun Stuff Friday: I-4 First Look

I dunno 'bout you, but I'm not gonna lie - I enjoy the vicarious thrill of seeing someone else get new model railroad stuff. Some of my favorite posts are "show 'n' tell" play-by-plays of getting something new. Post-Christmas posts answering the timeless question "whadja get?"  are some of the best of all.

But it's even better when *I* am the one getting the new stuff - and it's Christmas in August!

Look what was waiting for me by my door when I got home today . . .

A Nice Big Box from Broadway Limited
 And look what was inside . . .
Not one, not two, but FOUR brand-spankin' new I-4 class New Haven Railroad locomotives!
Alas! They are not all mine . . .

But ONE of them is! Here's what you see when you open the box . . .

Not too exciting yet . . . the anticipation is building . . .

thick Operator's Manual (thick mostly cuz it includes instructions for DC as well as DCC operation, an exploded view diagram (locomotive on one side, tender on the other), and misc promotional stuff.

Once you set that stuff aside and remove the top layer of foam, you get your first Actual Peek . . .

You can just make out the "New Haven" on the tender
And then, the First Reveal . . .

Gorgeous detail - brass model quality
Best First Tip:
Instead of trying to lift the engine and tender out of the foam, it's much better IMO if you lift the foam up from around the engine and tender. It comes right up and you don't have to worry about inadvertently damaging any delicate detail.

Next step was to just get it over to my display case where I could give it a good look . . .

But no way is this where it's gonna stay! I'm no "display case modeler" - this thing is gonna RUN! Before it's squiring Shoreline name trains through Old Saybrook, however, I've heard there are a few things you MUST which are strongly recommended you do first. I'm getting those notes together and they'll be the topic of my next post.

For now, I'll just admire this beautiful model!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On the Valley Line Today

(Well... Tuesday...)

Yes, this was the scene this past Tuesday evening at "end of track" - Milepost 0 - just north of the north switch of the wye at Saybrook Junction.

New Haven Railroad EF-4 class electric locomotive (former Virginian Rwy EL-C class), ex-Conrail #4601. Certainly far from its former stomping grounds west of New Haven, CT (and even further from the mountains of Virginia).  Towed from the former museum yard and left here for pickup by P&W, it's now on its way to the Illinois Railway Museum for (hopefully, eventual) restoration.

I'm glad I was able to get these shots (thanks for the heads up, Lee!), but boy what I would've given to see this beast go past my house earlier that day!

For more about the EF-4, including a shot of this engine in action on the NHRR, check out the NHRHTA's discussion forum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lopsided Liftout

As I contemplated bridging the gap between Old Saybrook and Essex, I seriously considered doing a hinged drop-down. I even bought the hinge! But after getting some more input from folks, it looks like the easiest and most reliable (though perhaps not the most convenient) approach will be to do a liftout instead. So tonight, I started plotting that out.

I thought the first thing I ought to do is make a template that I could use to cut the plywood subroadbed. The chalk marks I had on the floor wouldn't suffice, so I put down some kraft paper to mark up. Here you can see I lined it up with the wall, put my curve template down, and put a piece of wood down to mark the edge of the Saybrook wye benchwork.

I then marked the outlines using my Sharpie. You can see the result above.

I thought at first that I would just cut out the plywood to fit and the attach the 1x3 supporting structure to it. But I realized early on that this was going about it backwards. Better to build the supporting structure first. So I needed to create a "lip" on the wall and on the end of the wye benchwork to give something for the lift out structure to rest on.

Here you can see the "lip" I attached to the wall. It's really just a short L-girder turned upside down. The vertical piece is a 1x3 to match the wye benchwork and the "lip"/flange is a 1x2. This support is just long enough to allow me to screw it into studs. In the photo above, I'm confirming that it's still level across the span.

To get an idea of where the sides/girders of the liftout would go, I dropped my plumb bob from the end of the support to the floor and laid my 4' level down where a side/girder would go - it's lined up so each end would be fully supported by the lip/flange at each end. You can barely make out from the chalk marks the fact that the track goes outboard of the girder. The only way to avoid that would be to either have a much longer girder (and wall support) or have two 1x3s meet at a corner in the middle of the span. Not good either way.

Oh - here's a 1x2 lip/flange about to be put into place at the end of the Saybrook wye benchwork...

And here it is in place - glued and screwed.

After a lot of fitting and cutting, I now have the outline of the liftout:

I put the curve template where it needs to be to get the track from the turnout to the wall at no sharper than a 24" radius. I'm not super happy with the track going outside the side girder, but I didn't want essentially to "break" that side girder into two pieces and have them meet at an angle/corner. I'm not too worried about supporting the subroadbed - I can put in a couple metal L brackets if necessary. And I can add short pieces of 1x3 perpendicular to the side girder to support a fascia which, if pushed out a bit from the track, would establish a buffer outside of that curve.

I don't have but an evening's work invested in this so far - and much of that time was installing the inverted-L-girder supports, which are necessary no matter what I do. So now that you can see what I'm trying to do, what do you think about this approach, particularly where the track/subroadbed is going to end up?

Your comments/input/advice is VERY welcome and appreciated!

Tool Tip Tuesday: Simple Tools

Eric Hansmann has a great blog entitled "Notes on Designing, Building, and Operating Model Railroads" where he documents his approach to modeling a 1920s era railroad. He's recently been in a freight car building phase and has shared some of his favorite tools, and I thought that you - like me - would discover something new and useful here.

So, for today's "Tool Tip Tuesday" I introduce you to Eric's post entitled "Simple Tools." And if you have any cool tools that you find especially helpful, let us know in the comments.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Meet in Old Saybrook

I've had to spend some time catching up on non-model-railroad stuff this past week, but am planning on pushing north starting this week - so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I did get down to the basement yesterday since DaveK came over, along with Pete, Tom, and Pieter (and even a surprise visit by Max!), to watch Pete's new New Haven I-4 chase my I-5 around the Shoreline. Every once in a while, things timed out nicely where they met right in front of the Saybrook station.

So enjoy this quick little grab shot video (I promise to have better quality in the future):

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Throwback Thursday #1: Rocky Hill - Then & Now

I don't know if it'll become as regular a feature as "Wordless Wednesday," but Throwback Thursday will give me an excuse to post some early construction photos - which will hopefully be especially interesting now that I've started some scenery and made some significant progress. Well, at least I'll find them interesting...

For my first TBT, here's a shot of the Rocky Hill/Wethersfield peninsula laid out on the floor:

The Rocky Hill area is being mocked up at the left there. Early on, I thought I could have a turnout further back ("north") along the turnback curve to make a longer siding, but that proved unworkable. That quonset hut is a little "south" of where the station ended up being. And you can make out another turnout template - and loading dock - where I thought I could fit the foundry. But - alas! - I didn't have enough space.

But I think it worked out ok in the end. Here are a couple of shots from just a few days ago standing (very roughly) in the same location:

Of course the layout is up off the floor now, which changes the perspective a bit.
End of peninsula, with prototype reference photo on the fascia, looking south toward the station. You can see the models better if you enlarge the pic.
The difference is pretty amazing - and would be especially impressive if that first photo of the mockup hadn't been taken almost four(??!!) years ago (11/25/2011, to be precise). I clearly work in fits and spurts. Fortunately, I've been in a, um, spurt lately.

Speaking of that first photo - it may be the first time I've given any hint of how I go about track planning. Just briefly - I do some rough chalk sketches on the floor (mostly just the major curves and tangents) to make sure things have at least a chance of fitting as expected. Then I lay out paper on the floor and use turnout templates and a sharpie to mark out where the track will go. It's a long trial-and-error process to try and fit things. And, as you can see, not everything makes the cut.

Literally. Once I get the track layout settled, I cut it all out from the paper and use those cutouts as templates for cutting the plywood subroadbed. You have to be careful to label things well - especially where you have to cut across the track/subroadbed. Just be sure to label each end of the paper - and the plywood - so you can match everything up later.

I may go into my process in more detail in a future post (especially if there's a little clamor for it :^) but for now, it's just cool to see how much this area has changed. After doing so much historical research and seeing on the prototype how often things change for the worse or are lost entirely over time, it's neat to see an area change for the better - even if only in HO scale.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - Bridging the Chasm

Now that my first layout tour is in the rear-view mirror, it's nice to get a little bit of a breather from the manic & intense activity of the last bunch of weeks - but I know that I'm most motivated when I have a goal to work towards. So the only question is, "what should I do next?"

Two alternatives present themselves immediately: 1) I could "stay" - which is to say, I could focus on consolidating the gains of recent months, scenicking and bringing the newly constructed areas (as well as the rest of the layout) up to the level of completion of the Rocky Hill scene; or 2) I could "go"  - push onward, and "northward," from Old Saybrook to Essex and beyond - building new areas as I go.

Your answer - or at least my answer - to this question probably depends on what excites you more. What gives you the most motivation? Which alternative will give you the most measurable progress? And - if you're operations minded - what will get the railroad to the point where it's fully operational as soon as possible?

In my case, the answer to all of these questions is to GO!

While I've had a few ops sessions already, starting way back in October 2013, they've been limited to just two locals (Valley Local - Hartford to Middletown & AirLine Local - New Haven to Middletown). But now that Old Saybrook and the Shoreline section is in (not to mention the Saybrook wye), I'm within striking distance of full operations - all 4 locals, plus mainline trains (well, once I build Essex to Haddam).

And by "striking distance" I mean just 33.5 inches . . .Problem is, that 33.5 inches is over a huge (for HO scale) chasm . . .

North end of Saybrook wye on left, mocked-up curve to Essex on floor, 33.5" from the leg to the doorpost.
The only way to connect Old Saybrook and the Shoreline to the rest of the railroad is to bridge that chasm. So tonight I started to mock things up a bit to figure out how to go about it.

I tend to plan things full-size, right on the floor, so my first step was to transfer the location of the end of the wye to the floor. So I got out handy dandy plumb bob. You can see the string hanging down from the track centerline in the pic above.

Here's everything temporarily in place, waiting for my chalk outlining. As you can see, the plumb bob shows on the floor where the end-of-track is, and I've placed my "subroadbed template" in place, with 24" radius (my minimum radius) track on top of that. The tape measures the 33.5"

The plumb bob works both ways - you can also use it to transfer points on the floor up to where you need them. In this case, I marked the outer edges of the subroadbed template on the wall where the track will enter. As you can see from the markings, I'm leaving myself plenty of wiggle room for adjustment. In case you can't read it, the horizontal line is at the same height as the 1x3 at the end of the Saybrook wye benchwork. I marked it using a 4' level from the top of that benchwork to the wall.

I next had to figure out whether I wanted to do a lift out, swing up, swing gate, or dropdown (no way was I going to have a duckunder). I ruled out a lift out immediately since it would require too much time to put in and take out. I've also discovered (based on the liftout I have between the two modules) that it's hard to keep things lined up precisely over time, given all the handling. And I didn't want anything to swing up since it would be right in the way, in everybody's line of sight - and might even hit the ceiling. So that left a swing gate/door or drop down.

I'm really intrigued by the swing gate/door option. Doors have been around for a long time (duh) and the "technology" is proven. I could basically buy a cheap door, cut it down, install it, and build my benchwork on top of it. BONUS: it could swing out (just like a door) if anybody had to get out quickly.

Once I mocked things up though, the problem with this approach became clear:

Even if I was able to get it really tight against the wall, it would still stick out quite a bit into the space I'm reserving for the Agent/Operator's office (not to mention obstructing whatever limited aisle space I have there).

So that leaves a drop down. A quick initial mockup was encouraging:

Folds out of the way, pretty much
And the more I "tried" it (as much as I could under the circumstances), the more it looked like it might actually work...

Bill suggested a piano hinge, to keep everything lined up, and I found one that should work:

 It's 12" long and wide enough to join two 1x3s together.

So, in addition to the track centerline mark, I used my plumb bob to add marks for the end corners of the Saybrook wye benchwork, and used a 12" ruler to show where the piano hinge will go.

The next thing I need to figure out is how best to secure the non-hinge end. Any suggestions?

For that matter, is there anything I'm missing? Let me know if you have another approach to bridging the chasm that you'd recommend, or if you know of any good articles/videos on how best to do this.

And if you see anything wrong with my approach so far I hope you'll let me know before I start building it! %^)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

First Layout Tour!

(just a quick reminder that you can subscribe to this blog by email if you want to get notices of new posts automatically)

I had no idea where I was going to end up when I agreed to do a little talk last March. PeteL is head of clinics for the Nutmeg Division of the National Model Railroad Association, needed somebody to fill a vacancy he had for the March meeting, and asked if I could help. He'd seen my presentation of "A Day on the Valley Local" and thought it'd be interesting for the club (especially since their meetings take place right along the Valley Line) and would be no trouble for me to do (since I already had the PowerPoint done).

The presentation went well, folks seemed to enjoy it, and the club's head of layout tours asked if I'd be willing to host an open house to see my layout at some point. I'd heard a lot about these open houses, how motivating they could be, and was curious how I'd fare. So I agreed, and a date "far away into the future" (or so I thought) was set.

Let me just say - now, from first hand experience - that agreeing to host a tour of your layout, as stressful as it can be, is the best thing you could do to help you make a LOT of progress on your layout. The best comparison I can think of - if you'll excuse the pun - is training. I raced my bike for almost 10 years, and if it wasn't for the fact that I had races to train for, there's no way I'd be getting my butt out of bed at 5:30 on a winter morning to ride. But knowing that a race was looming was what got me going. And I found the exact same thing to be true for having this open house event.

So, if you haven't done one yet, Just Do It - it'll be the best thing you can do for your layout.

As for my First Open House, it went great! Everything ran well (thanks to Bill, Dick, Pete and Roman for ironing out some last-minute glitches), I had about 30 people show up (at least according to my Guest Book, which I pestered asked folks to sign), and everybody seemed to enjoy the day. Even me! Despite how I'd been stressing in the days leading up to it. I actually got to visit with some folks, and made a bunch of new friends. I can honestly say I can't wait to do another one (but will certainly need to wait, if only to catch up on everything else I've been able to let slide lately...)

And now, for those of you who couldn't make it this time, here are some photos from a most wonderful day...

The NMRA provides this cool lawn sign so folks can find you. And you can see my new ride in the driveway (shhh.... don't tell Bill . . .)
It was a beautiful day, but even without lots of folks, it was starting to get stuffy in the basement. So since I turned on the AC and didn't want to have to keep answering the door, I figured a sign would do. I like the script herald - hopefully it made up for the first - of many - reminders to sign the guest book.

After you come through the door, but before heading down to the basement, there were some snacks and my iPad with the Valley Local website on it, in hopes that folks would stop and sign the guest book. 

The Old Saybrook scene is the first thing you see when you come down the stairs. I had just finished the balloon track, wye, and sidings behind the station early that morning. Thankfully, everything ran well through here. Note the prototype reference photos on the fascia (also done about an hour before show time) - that show what I'm trying to model in this spot.
As you turn around, behind you is the Agent/Operator's Desk. I'd set it up with some NHRR paperwork and had the iPod playing some '40s music to set the mood.
While my main keepsake of the day would be the guest book (which is why I so much wanted folks to sign it), the missus reminded me to make sure I took some pictures of the people too in order to commemorate the day. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get photos of everybody - especially during the busiest times - but I was able to get a good representation, especially early in the day . . .

Roman and Dave at the entrance of the "North End" room (Wethersfield to Middletown). That's the siding for what will eventually be Middletown Meat Packing, at the south end of town.
Bill and Lee at Middletown. Looks like Bill is trying to tone down the volume on the S-2 which was so loud it actually made it difficult to have conversations.
I'm standing where Bill was in the previous photo and looking back toward the south end of Middletown (on the right side of the aisle) and the only completed prototype scene on the railroad so far, Rocky Hill there on the left.
Dave and Tim - thankfully, some folks had name tags. I might consider having those at the "entry table" next time. As much as folks don't like them, they really are pretty helpful.
Back at the staging area, Roman is working on a kink in the track - helped with new spikes that I ordered from Tom's Trains which were personally delivered during the tour (thank you!). Looks like Lee is having more fun than Pete here...
Bill doing some switching at Rocky Hill. It was great having a few guys operating trains during the day - it gave me a chance to visit (and to take these pictures!) and gave folks something fun to see.

Rocky Hill - my favorite scene on the railroad, probably because it's my ONLY completed scene on the railroad. Bill was right - it was good to get at least one scene done for the open house so that visitors could get a taste of what we're trying to accomplish.

Trackwork and rolling stock by me - structures and scenery by Schneider (Bill)

I'm super happy with how this area came out. Given the discussion about New Haven Railroad structure colors, note that the freight house - still in use by the railroad here in 1947 - is recently painted a simple all-brown scheme.

Note here (and in the pics just above and below) how the station - no longer in use by the railroad - is in an older paint scheme and is showing its age. Note also the scratchbuilt NHRR specific crossbucks. Custom lettering on stryrene strip, mounted on weathered code 70 rail (also by Bill - but at least that's a boxcar I built, coupled to the engine:^).

It's October, 1949 now and the Valley Local has gone diesel...Here's the 0615 southbound at Rocky Hill. Remember, you can always "embiggen" an image by clicking on it. And you may want to do that especially with this pic, if only to see the cool telegraph and telephone signs on the corners of the station.

Diesel-powered Valley Local, northbound at Rocky Hill. I really need to learn PhotoShop so I can eliminate UFOs in the sky background distractions.

Steam pinch-hitting on the Valley Local southbound rounding a curve between Wethersfield and Rocky Hill.

Ahhhh.... PhotoShop.... that's more like it! THIS is a pretty great shot - which I can say without boasting since I didn't take it. Bill took this pic and did the doctoring - so now I can say "scenery, structures, and SKY by Schneider...) 

Rocky Hill is all quiet now. That cool tall switchstand is one of Rapido's new products. Perfect for the New Haven, and it really completes the scene.
After all the work and time needed to get the layout ready for this tour, I really cannot imagine it going any better than it did. But that success is very much due to the help of a great group of guys. So thanks again to Roman, Dick, Tom, and Pieter for all your help, and especially to Randy and Joseph who made not one, but two special trips to the hobby shop for turnouts. And special thanks to Bill for an amazing amount of time and work in doing the structures and scenery for the Rocky Hill scene - it looks even better than I'd hoped it would. Thank you for using your skills and talent to accomplish what I couldn't (or at least can't yet...). Special thanks also to Pete whose innocent(?) invitation to share my interests generated a wave of motivation that I'm still riding.

I didn't do it for any accolades, but this was really cool and is very much appreciated. This, along with my guest book and photos, are prized keepsakes of a great day. Thank you again to all who were able to visit!