Sunday, August 9, 2015

First Layout Tour!

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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!


  1. Hi Chris;
    Glad to hear the open house was a success. Really sorry I couldn't attend due to another commitment (crazy summer).

    Wow, that Rocky Hill scene came out great! Really nice work on the structures and details by Bill. Wonder how he feels about trying S Scale....

    1. Thanks Pete! Sorry you couldn't make it, but I know we'll be able to get together soon (and hopefully the visit will be less crazy too! :^)

  2. Chris,

    Thanks for the great tour! I really appreciate your going ahead with the open house even without having all of the scenery done. You're inspiring me to try it!

    1. Hi Geof and thanks for stopping by! I wouldn't have done the open house this early without encouragement from folks that said it'd be good to see the layout at various stages (raw benchwork, up through trackwork, and full scenery). Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Hi Chris:
    Congrats on holding the tour - it sounds like it was successful. I love the little touches you added - the prototype photos, the 40s music. Nicely done!
    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

    1. Thanks Trevor! Taking a page out of your book, I tried to provide some "ambient" sound to set the mood. I just fear that at many points during the day you couldn't hear it since there was so much conversation going on. A *very* good "problem" for sure!

  4. Hi Chris,
    Congratulations on a successful tour, wish I could have attended.
    Rocky Hill scene looks terrific, weathered station, awesome!

    1. Thanks Joe! You're welcome to visit any time - Just say the word!