Thursday, June 30, 2016

Gettin' Ready

Getting ready for tonight's ops session. Have paperwork and various sundry other things to do, but step #1 is to gather all the cars that will be put into the four local freights for delivery all along the Connecticut Valley. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Agent's Chair

The card table chair just didn't look right, so I pilfered this old wooden office chair and just added some casters I got at Home Depot during my lunch break today. They'll keep the chair from scuffing the painted floor. 

Hope their whiteness  doesn't distract too much - I wish they'd had black or brown instead of white. But they'll certainly add some convenience to the Agent's position. And the chair itself is certainly more authentic. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Fun: What's On My Workbench

Door-and-a-half boxcar and Micro-Engineering bridge, standing by waiting for the paintshop, but primarily New Haven DERS-2b (RS-2) #0510 (a Proto1000 loco) broken down, waiting for NHRR-specific details to be added. If anybody's done that before, I'd love to hear about it!

What's on YOUR workbench for the upcoming weekend?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: A Few Quick Words about Wordless Wednesday #124

As I mentioned in the caption yesterday, this shot was taken at Connolly Drive, Old Saybrook in November 1987.  By me. But - as they sometimes say - "there's a lot more to the story."

At the time of this photo, I was into the 3rd month of my first Autumn without school since kindergarten. I'd just graduated high school the previous June and moved out of the house - and into a boxcar - literally the very next day.

Lest you get the wrong impression, no, I wasn't kicked out of the house. I just have very supportive parents and they agreed to let me put off college "temporarily" while I pursued my dream of working on the railroad. So the day after graduation, I packed bag and baggage and moved into an old Pullman Troop Sleeper (which looks very much like a boxcar - and I could never convince my mom that it wasn't) next to the enginehouse at the Valley Railroad to become one of the youngest full-time steam locomotive firemen in the US at that time.

The previous November, 1986, I'd attended the VRR's Railfan Day and - long story made short - was invited to volunteer in the restoration shop. I did that for a few months and, once I turned 18 in January, I was able to start my training as a fireman. I spent that first summer after high school living my dream.

By November though, the novelty had started to wear off just a little. I still loved what I was doing, but watching so many of my friends go off to college was tougher than I'd expected. I couldn't help feeling like everyone was moving on with their lives except me.

But when Railfan Day, 1987 rolled around, I had the weekend off and was free to do some railfanning - getting on the "other" side of the camera for a change. I had a blast chasing this "photo freight," headed by a newly-restored & painted New Haven U25b (the railroad's last locomotive), all the way down to Old Saybrook. I'd never noticed Connolly Drive before, but since it was one of only three major grade crossings south of Essex, it was a "must shoot." The fact that there was still an old home signal/semaphore I could use to frame the shot was an unexpected bonus.

What was even more unexpected is what happened almost exactly 20 years after I took this shot.

I continued working for the railroad as I started college, but gave it up as my academic workload increased. Then I met my future wife, went to law school, got married, and started my career. We lived in Shelton and Milford before deciding to try finding a place in Old Saybrook, where we'd spent so many fun summer day trips over the years.

As luck would have it, the only house we could find that we could afford and didn't need a lot of work was - you may have guessed - on Connolly Drive. We moved in July 2007, about 150 yards west of the spot where I'd stood to take the photo freight photo almost exactly 20 years earlier.

And as if that weren't enough, twenty FIVE years to the month after this photo was taken, I was out railfanning the VRR and saw that same guy I'd seen way back during Railfan Day 1986, and I got a second invitation to (re)live my dream. I started firing again the next month and have been working on the railroad again (though only part time this time) ever since.

I don't remember exactly what I was thinking as I clicked the shutter way back then - 18 years old, working on the railroad, my whole life in front of me and having no idea where I'd end up. But I couldn't possibly have imagined then the path my life would take - that I'd be living along the tracks in Old Saybrook with a wonderful wife, a good career, and the privilege of being blessed enough to live my childhood dream again in middle-age.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #124

New Haven U-25b southbound on the Valley Line at Connolly Drive, Old Saybrook (November, 1987)
Would *love* to know who got the semaphore

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday Tip: Useful Dimensions - Proto & Model

I'm still pretty new to freight car detailing, but have really enjoyed learning on the door-and-a-half Accurail boxcar I've been working on. Since I am a relative newbie though, I needed to know what size wire to use for the "scratchbuilt" uncoupling levers I wanted to add. Well, instead of just measuring some uncoupling levers that were already installed on other cars (which would be way too easy & make way too much sense), I decided to work the Google on the Internet Machine (with apologies to my friends at AML) and input "freight car uncoupling lever wire size." I got some very good hits - so I thought I'd share them here for this week's Tuesday Tip.

First hit was da trains! Standard Dimensions page:

As you can see from the screenshot clip, there are - as you'd guess - standard dimensions for all sorts of things in all sorts of scales:

And as if that wasn't enough, da trains!'s site included a link to a site to warm any OCD modeler's heart - the "Rivet Counters and Nit Pickers Treasure Trove"

All the dimensional data you'd ever need can be found at these two sites - at least they had all I needed for this project.

But I suppose I needn't have gone so far afield  . . . My Google results included a page from The Resin Car Works blog which is right on my blogroll (see the list at the left). The page, appropriately enough considering I was installing uncoupling levers, was titled "End Sill Details."

It never ceases to amaze me how much helpful prototype modeling information can be found so quickly with just a few clicks of your keyboard. Let me know if you find these links helpful - and be sure to share your own favorite helpful and useful sites!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Modeling Monday: 1-1/2 Door Boxcar - NOW It's Ready for the Paint Shop

After posting my progress on the door-and-a-half boxcar, Don Valentine (the fella responsible for getting me started on this project in the first place) suggested in the comments that I at least remove the cast-on side grabs and replace them with wire. It's "so easy it is almost a shame not to do it" - were, I think, his actual words in the comments to that post.

So I figured I might as well get some freight car detailing practice in. I literally have only the cost of the decals as my only investment in this project (I'm not counting the cost of all the add-on details I had on-hand), so it's very low risk practice. Certainly not a $40 resin car.

Rising to the bait challenge, I not only removed/replaced the side grabs, but I went ahead and did the end grabs, lateral running board grabs, airhoses, and - yes - even custom fabricated uncoupling levers.


Now I think it's ready for paint & lettering. Not bad for a (long) evening's work . . .

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Downside of Ops Sessions: More Punch List Items

For those of you contemplating operations, this here little post will give you an idea of the types of issues that operating sessions will bring to the surface. Just like the bubbles coming up in your resin pond, you pop each one as it surfaces. It's just funny how such things hardly ever raise their heads until Ops Session Night.

And for those of you that are experienced Ops Session Hosts, how many of these sound familiar?

Equipment Issues
  • Motive Power
    • K-1 mogul had sound but no motion.
      • Bonus: only happened occasionally
      • Downside: only happened occasionally (so can't be replicated).
    • K-1 tender truck derailing between Shailerville and under-Middletown.
      • Possible track issue - more likely a tender-binding issue.
  • Rolling Stock
    • Some couplers mismatched in height and type
      • PLE 35988, NWX 15356
      • Remedy: use the coupler height gauge, and standardize on KD #58s
    • Broken Coupler on NH 17050 (DCFC)
Electrical Issues
  • Intermittent shorting on reverse loops and wye which are controlled by Digitrax AR-1s
    • Remedy: adjust trip current; or replace with PSX-ARs if necessary.
  • Feeders needed between Shailerville & Middletown (DONE)
  • Need cab plug-in at east (left) end of Old Saybrook
    • Remedy: need to extend cab bus from Essex up & over doorway and under Shore Line and install additional plug-in panel.
  • Relocate the main radio antenna to improve coverage at New London staging (DONE)
Trackwork Issues
  • Troubleshoot "Berlin Jct" switch
    • Turnout that splits between Berlin Main and Main headed toward Wethersfield  - K-1 was picking points there
  • File points on Track 6-8 switch in East Haddam (DONE)
  • Fix/replace 24" radius curve and turnout on the Shore Line (west loop)
  • Nails at end of airline staging (DONE)
    • To keep things from rolling off into the abyss
Operations Issues
  • Physical
    • Uncoupling deep in Middletown yard
      • Need a more-accurately-sized Remington mockup (DONE)
    • Uncoupling tools
    • Knob on Middletown switch pushrod
      • Having the cut-off end of a coat hanger sticking out of the fascia is a bad idea.
  • Paperwork
    • Trains Are Unbalanced
      • Some trains have too much work; other trains don't have enough.
      • The Valley local especially has too much work to do (they outlawed) - such a heavy workload may actually be unprototypical for 1947.
    • Cars need waybills
      • Using just switchlists, it's hard to keep track from one session to the next where cars are supposed to go.
    • Need paperwork for Valley Local to go to East Haddam
      • This will be part of a more-thorough ops/paperwork reworking
    • Indicate grade crossings
      • Even just marking them on the plywood - so crews get used to working with/around them.
    • Bill Boxes or Binder Clips?
      • To hold waybills at each town (when I get waybills)
    • Label all industries
      • Part of the "label everything" rule that's critical to successful operations.
    • Put track layout/spotting locations on fascia
      • "Label Everything"
  • Crew Assistance
    • "Conductor's Notes"
      • Available in each town, like an "old hand" these notes would give crews some hints for for efficient switching in each town.
    • "Engine(er's) Notes"
      • For each loco/throttle, indicate how to get to all the different functions (besides the obvious ones of "bell" and "whistle")
      • Especially important to note momentum/braking particularities.
And these all came about during a relatively trouble-free session! Now, admittedly, some of these items were already on my punch list to do, but haven't (yet) become so much of a problem that they've bubbled up to the top of the priority list. But the sheer volume gives you an idea of what you can expect on a medium-to-large sized layout - at least in the early days of operations.

So be sure to keep that in mind as you consider your own layout and how big you want it to be. I'm fortunate that I have many helpers - if I were a lone wolf, I'd either scale this layout WAY back or (hopefully) would not have bitten off so much to begin with.

In the meantime, I hope to get some time this weekend to cross some of these things off the list. Next session is only a couple weeks away!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Fun: Name That Location

This is obviously a photo of New Haven RR K-1-d #466, which was the last mogul used on the Valley Line. But this location doesn't look like anything on the Valley Line that I recognize.

Any idea where this is?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thankful Thursday

I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog how thankful I am to have a number of friends in the hobby that are very supportive of my efforts – some of whom have spent actual man-hours helping me with the layout. BillRandy, Pete, Tom, Dick, Pieter, Roman, Joseph have all devoted significant amounts of their time on-site to help me build the Valley Line (and the Air Line and the Shore Line %^). And many others have contributed information, advice, and guidance to me along the way to help me bring this project to life (I'm lookin' at you JohnW, Max, JohnG, Craig, Marty, Ted, Joe, Bill (the "other BillS"), Trevor, and the sadly-blogless JimD). I really hope I haven't missed anybody. I won't even try and name all the different folks that have graciously taken the time to offer encouragement either through commenting on the blog or taking me aside at an event. The free exchange of information, the generous offering of one's time, and the abundant back-and-forth of encouragement are a lot of what makes this such a great hobby

If I'm going to be honest though, this first edition of "Thankful Thursday" was prompted by a totally unexpected package I got in the mail yesterday from DaveM. Dave grew up in Wethersfield, just slightly after the era I'm modeling, and he was able to visit my layout during the NERPM weekend a couple weeks ago. Fortunately, he was able to stay a while and gave me lots of great information on the area that I hadn't heard before, which is especially surprising since I've been studying the area for a few years now and thought I knew everything about it. Silly, silly me.

So when I saw where the package was from, I thought perhaps he was sending me some photos or other information. That, of course, would have been awesome, but instead he sent me the following note:
For the Church St. Siding:
PRR Hopper (opposite station)
WFE Reefer ("" Gra-Rock)
Conveyor (w/hopper)
Coal Load
Enjoy! Dave
And, yes, those items were in the box, wrapped in bubbles. Here they are spotted on the Saybrook balloon track ready to be taken up the Valley Line to Wethersfield:

In transit, at Rocky Hill:

Spotted at their final destinations:

Thank you Dave! I expect these cars will have a long life producing revenue for the Valley Local!

It's sometimes easy to take for granted all the generous people model railroading introduces us to, so I thought it'd be fun to do an occasional "Thankful Thursday" to celebrate those who have contributed something to our efforts, who have spent some of their valuable time to help, influence, inspire and inform us.

Who are your influences? Who's helped you along the way?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #123

Even if steam locomotives are finicky pains in the butt, we're sorry to see them go.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Quick(?) Hands-On Clinic Boxcar

Progress pics on the door-and-a-half boxcar I started at Don Valentine's excellent hands-on clinic at this year's NERPM.  It's (almost) ready for paint & lettering . . .

I'm considering adding air hoses and cut levers. Figured I'd skip removing/replacing the side ladders with grabs, and not bother with the end walk railings/grabs. Or the side grabs.

Then there's the underbody/brake rigging and retainer valve to consider. UGH! This is/was supposed to be a quick project. I'm going to have to learn "when to say 'when.'"  At some point - probably right about now - it may be "good enough."


Tuesday Tip: Installing A-Line #29000 Stirrup, er, SILL Steps

A-Line makes great metal stirrup sill steps which are bullet-proof when installed. Proof is that I used them exclusively on the resin boxcars I built some time back and they've never even thought of breaking. In fact, during my build I often forgot and rested the entire car on just the stirrups steps. No problem.

I need to install the #29000 type (seen in the pic above) on the 1-1/2 door boxcar I'm building and needed to figure out what size drill to use to drill the mounting holes and how far apart to drill such holes.

Since I figured it out, you don't have to. So put this in your toolbox - or even better put a little note in with the stirrups steps wherever you store them:
  • Drill two mounting holes per stirrup step using a #75 (.021") drill (I confess I later reamed out these holes with a #74 - .225" - bit to make installation easier)
  • Drill the holes .064" apart (as you see in the pic above)
  • Place a drop of gap-filling ACC in a cap and dip the stirrups steps into it before inserting them in the holes. Alternatively, you could either rely on a press fit or just apply thin ACC after inserting them.
Once I decide whether this is going to be a CN or a GTW car, I'll finish it up and it'll be ready for the paint & lettering shop!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Modeling Monday - What's On My Workbench

Working on the GTW/CN 1-1/2 door boxcar I started at Don Valentine's Hands-On clinic at the NERPM last weekend. And the decals from Black Cat Publishing arrived in today's mail!

Finished the MicroEngineering bridge for the Mattabassett River on the East Berlin branch. Just needs paint and weathering.

And, taped to a small piece of glass in the lower right corner there, is my first attempt at attaching a die-cast metal MU connector/plug part to a Delrin end railing. Just starting to "New Havenze" my Proto1000 RS-2. . .

So, what's on YOUR workbench?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Fun: Another Shake-Down Ops Session

After my month's worth of progress since the previous ops session, it was time to see how all my improvements and fixes would fare. So I had a quick pick-up/shake-down ops session on May 26.

Bill working PDX-1 (Cedar Hill to New London Local) while the New London/Haddam Local (PDX-2) waits on the east leg of the wye in Old Saybrook.
The Rest of the Gang: Crews of the Air Line Local (Tom & Roman on HDX-12) and the Valley Local (Pete & Pieter on HDX-7) meet in Middletown, just as on the prototype. Roman giving the "thumbs up" despite there being no O'Rourke's Diner to grab lunch at (very UNlike the prototype).

It was another good session - certainly not perfect or without its share of gremlins, but issues are becoming less common and we're approaching that point where we can just see on the horizon that Happy Place where our biggest problem will be coordinating schedules, both personal and model.

But like all sessions - even good ones - this session highlighted a few persistent, and a few new, issues:
  • A couple couplers need to be changed or replaced
  • Need more operator "helps" - track arrangements on fascia (especially in Saybrook), operating instructions for individual engines, all industries labeled (whether there's a building or not), all grade crossings labeled, etc.
  • A few turnouts' points needed to be filed/smoothed.
But these are all pretty minor things - and no matter how good the layout gets or how many ops sessions we do, there will always be some minor nagging things to address afterwards.

The biggest overall highlight/problem of this session, though, was paperwork/carforwarding. As we evolve from "shakedown sessions" (which are primarily to highlight physical issues that need fixing) to "formal operating sessions" (which are primarily to simulate running a railroad) this issue will become an increasingly big deal.

And whether we're doing a "shakedown" or "real" ops session, there's always an opportunity to try out something new. This time, I tried "short" skewers for uncoupling. The long ones that you typically get were a little long for my liking. So when I saw short ones at our local grocery store (about 1/2 the length - 5" long), I bought a package. I have to say - they weren't really a hit. So, experiment done - result noted. We'll go back to my (not yet) patented coffee stirrer/dental pic combo for uncoupling next time.

So I have my punch list of things I need to get to by the next session. All in all though, we got together, the railroad ran fine, and we had a good time. And with a model railroad, that's what matters most.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Unfinished Business

Bear with me - this post is intended to be motivational, not morbid. But it's no surprise that the older we get the more we hear of contemporaries passing. In the model railroad community, these hopefully-not-too-frequent announcements take on a unique poignancy - we wonder whether he (or she) accomplished everything they wanted with their layout, whether they built all the kits they had, or read all their books.

Unfortunately, the answer is usually "no" - there never seems to be enough time to do all we want to do and model railroaders tend to have especially long "to do" lists. Whether it's our "dream pike" plans or our ever-growing stash of kits that "I'll get around to, someday," our reach all too often exceeds our grasp. We eventually run out of time just like everybody else and leave our share of unfinished projects behind.

The Missus - wise woman that she is - told me a story once of how sad it is to hear of folks saving stuff "for special occasions" and somehow not finding occasions "special" enough to use the "good" stuff. Or waiting until "someday" to do something they've looked forward to. She'd say "wear the special dress, use the good dishes, bring out the fancy linens, take the trip. Why not have those experiences and enjoy those things as long as you can while you can?"

Why indeed.

The model railroader's equivalent isn't far off. Don't save the kits for when you think you have enough skills. The irony is that you won't get the skills until you start building. Don't wait to do a layout until you have the dream space or your dream plan - start small, but at least get started.

I did a post on this blog a couple years ago titled "Too Much" which described some of the anxiety I was feeling at the time for having taken on the Valley Line project. I, too, have been guilty of too much planning and buying and not enough doing and building. But as I hear of yet another model railroad estate sale, and confront all the structure and freight car kits I have on my shelves - not to mention the many unfinished projects in varying states of progress - I've made my mind up about something:

"Someday" is NOW.

NOW is the time to finish that Micro Engineering bridge kit for East Berlin that I started a couple years ago. It only needs a little more work...

NOW is the time to finally get past the roadblock with my tender modification for J-1 #3022. Once that's done, the Air Line Local will finally have accurate steam power...

NOW is the time to get going again on the Old Saybrook Tower kit I opened last July and quit obsessing over the proper paint scheme (I'm color blind anyway)...

And, yes, NOW is the time to (at least start to) get over my scenery phobia, despite said color-blindness...

Why not just finish these projects and develop these skills? What am I waiting for?

Now that NERPM 2016 and my layout open house is in the rear-view, it's time to get back to the modeling that has taken a back seat during the past 18 months of construction. I got a nice kick-start last Saturday when I attended my first-ever hands-on clinic - modifying an Accurail boxcar kit to a 1 1/2 door boxcar. Admittedly, I didn't finish it, yet, but I did start. And I got beyond my usual analysis paralysis and accomplished much more in a shorter period of time than I ever had before.

So I'm going to keep up that motivation momentum as long as possible, rejecting "someday" and embracing "today." There's not much left to do to finish that boxcar, so I'll finish it. If I hit a snag in the process, I'll either address it and move on (I ordered the necessary decals last night) or I'll set it aside for the moment and dive headlong into something else (maybe that ME bridge). The point is - continue moving forward.

Don't wait for "someday" to accomplish what your imagination inspires you to do. Progress breeds even more progress and skills only develop as you do as much (or at least as often) as you dream.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #122

Couple of micro-examples of modeling at the NERPM last weekend...

Bill Gill's weeds along the track

Beautiful interior - unfortunately I forget by who
For MANY more photos from the weekend, click here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tuesday Tip: A Box of Tea for Detail Parts Storage

The Missus is a tea drinker and I like cranberry tea. It's rare in these parts, but it's a treat even I enjoy. So when we're out on Cape Cod I don't mind picking up a box or three.

Well, anyone that knows me knows that I seldom throw anything away that looks even remotely useful and these little wooden boxes have been sitting around empty for some time.

Until lately.

As you've already figured out from the pic, they make Absolutely Perfect storage boxes for your detail parts. They're just the right size for most packages of detail parts. Why does Precision Scale have to go and be different? Ah well - just store those facing the other way.

If you're a tea drinker and a modeler, I highly recommend the Metropolitan Tea Company's Premium Cranberry Ceylon Tea - in the "Decorative Wooden Box" of course. Just six bucks on eBay - and you get 25 bags of tea to enjoy in addition to a very cool storage box (it even has a slide-on lid!).

Let me know if you try out this tip - and, if so, what you think!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

New England/Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet - 2016

(if you're just here for ProtoMeetPics, scroll'on down... otherwise, stick around for "what I did with my weekend")

Whew! What a crazy, but wonderful, 72 hours that was! I only get to attend the NERPM on even-numbered years due to my day job, and I just about missed part of it this year due to work. But amid rumors we'd be working into the night, we gaveled out a just after 5pm Thursday. The State of Connecticut can rest easy now that the state budget/spending/borrowing package is done. Well, not really. But that's an entirely different post.

Suffice it to say that the last echos of the 2016 legislative session hadn't finished bouncing off the capitol walls and I was in my truck headed to Collinsville, CT.

Don't worry - I didn't forget that this year's NERPM moved from Collinsville to Enfield. I was just headed over to my buddy Randy's house to be 2nd shift for an ops session (the 2nd session there that day).

Randy models New Britain, CT - and while the scenery is just getting started, it's fully operational. I took a turn at the agent's desk but was still able to watch this northbound Holyoke freight pull into the station. Even in an unfinished state, you really get a sense of New Britain in the late 1940s. And those line poles really help set the scene!

After getting home late that night early the next morning, it was up-and-at-'em for a presentation on my Valley Line layout. I met friends Pete and Tom at the Cracker Barrel for breakfast and got to the Enfield Holiday Inn in time to score a few new books for my library, as well as set out some sales items myself. My presentation was set for the first timeslot of the weekend and I was wondering if many folks would be able to make it that early. But despite an initial hiccup when I discovered there was no laptop to show my PowerPoint, there was a good number of attendees (and I did get a laptop in time - thanks again Bill!)

Since I'd gone a little long the last time I gave this presentation, I really motored through and finished at 10:00am - right on time! Or so I thought. Then I realized I actually had until 10:30. Ooops! #rookiemistake But at least there was time for some Q&A and visiting. And I got lots of great feedback and some awesome comments on the material. Thanks again for everyone who made it.

And you can click here for the only known photograph of me actually giving a presentation (thanks Marty!)

As soon as I got packed up, it was off to the next clinic/presentation - "Scratch-building from a Photo" by Craig Bisgeier. He did an amazing job of modeling a large coal dealer from just one (at first) old photo. I expect I have a lot of scratchbuilding in my future, so his clinic was especially helpful.

If there's one "complaint" I have about the ProtoMeet though it's that there are almost too many clinics/presentations to choose from. For every time slot for the entire weekend, I had a hard decision to make between at least two clinics - talk about an embarrassment of riches! Unfortunately, going to Craig's clinic meant I missed Neil Schofield's talk. Among other things, he went over how he does scenery quickly - tips I really could use. Maybe next time...

But all was not lost scenery-wise. After lunch, I headed over to Jim Dufour's clinic on how he does scenery and details along his Cheshire Branch railroad. If you've been around this blog for a bit, you know my jealousy of Jim Dufour. If not, suggest you read about it here. They say confession is good for the soul . . .

And as if that weren't enough, the very next clinic was by Marty McGuirk on "Modeling the October Scene." Could it get any more perfect for the stage I'm at on my layout right now? (the answer is, of course, "no"). I'd seen a "preproduction" version of his article on the subject (and even, based on the article's recommendations, purchased a bag or two a fair amount a buttload of scenery materials), but I'd never seen his presentation before. It was great to be able to "interact with the article" in person. Just remember to use wax paper when doing his stone fence building trick.

After getting my fill of scenery techniques, it was time to get an actual fill. A bunch of us went to Bears BBQ for dinner and to an ops session afterwards. The session was great and the after-session visiting even better. But it made for another late night/early morning.

I'm not a morning person at all, but my favorite meal is breakfast (if you figure that one out, clue me in), so the next morning Craig and I hit my favorite diner - O'Rourke's in Middletown - the same place where the Valley and Air Line local crews used to get lunch. I figured it'd be the perfect way to start the day.

Since I didn't have to do any setting up of sales items or presentation, I was able to check out the model room before getting to my first clinic of the day. Here are a few random pics from my walk-about that will give you a little taste of the talent on display (as always, you can click on the image to "embiggen") . . .

Since I'd gotten a bunch of sensational scenery suggestions the previous day, I figured it was time to find out what the latest & greatest was on the structure front. As you've probably guessed - "there's an app a clinic for that" and Ron Poidomani had just the ticket - a clinic on using washes and dry brushing techniques to finish & weather his buildings and tips on using LEDs for lighting them up. Check it out:

That's his latest creation. Truly outstanding work. I mentioned to him afterwards that there's a knife edge between being inspired by the display of such talent. . . . and totally giving up on the hobby in desperation. Thankfully, his efforts as well as all the others you could see there, were so much more motivation than desperation.

But it was time for me to try some modeling myself, so my next stop was a "Hands-On" clinic where I'd be kitbashing a 1 1/2 door single sheathed outside braced (I can never keep the terminology straight) boxcar, courtesy of a detail kit developed by Don Valentine who, bonus!, was running the clinic as well.

You can click here for a pic of the clinic - I'm the guy with a determined look of bewilderment on my face. I was sitting next to Ron. I don't know if that has anything to do with it.

Now, I've never attended a "hands-on" clinic before and, considering my modeling progress is measured in terms of months I was pretty skeptical that I'd be able to finish in the 90 minutes allotted. But this was the speed-dating equivalent of modeling - and I finished with time to spare. Well, actually, I finished gluing on the doors. I still have to mount the hardware. And assemble the car itself. And paint and letter it. But other than that it's done. (I would have SO sucked at speed dating...)

After lunch it was back to scenery with a clinic by Bill Gill on how to model specific "Weeds Along the Tracks." Only true modelers will appreciate how much of a challenge that is (not to mention why you'd even want to try). Everybody else is probably reading the wrong blog (in which case, congratulations on getting this far).

Since I have a few brass steam locomotive modifications in my future, I next attended Mal Houck's clinic on "Building and Modifying Brass Locomotives." I figured it'd be perfect for where I'm at. But I quickly realized that I'm Nowhere. His collection of tools and techniques are, in a word, indescribable. Literally. There are some tools that I still don't remember the names of. But another two words I can use in describing his clinic are "impressive" and "inspiring." I hope someday to be able to even attempt some of the things he's able to do. But in the meantime, he graciously and patiently reviewed how to use a desoldering wick properly - which I found especially helpful. Sincerely. (my soldering isn't all that great, but my DEsoldering really sux)

By this time, my head was really spinning with all the inspirational and motivational things I'd been seeing, and I was starting to get overloaded. Trying to cram two years' worth of ProtoMeet into two days meant that the remaining clinics I attended (courtesy Tony Koester and Dave Ramos) were a little bit of a blur, but no less enjoyable and informative.

Another late night/early morning, and the last night at that, but I still didn't want it to end. Thankfully, I got to hang out with some really great guys and got a chance to get to know them a bit better. All the amazing tips and techniques I'd learned over the previous 48 hours were icing on a very large and tasty cake.

My weekend wasn't quite over yet though -  I still had a layout open house to host. After seeing the ProtoMeet Layout Tours sheet - and realizing that mine was a faaaaar outlier (all the other layouts were clustered around north central CT and MA) - I didn't expect many folks. But despite the long drive and bad weather, I still got some visitors. And the number was just perfect for being able to visit a little longer and share a little bit more of this wonderful hobby we have in common.

So thank you Dave Owens and the rest of the NERPM gang for putting on another wonderful event. All your hard work and attention to detail was obvious and appreciated - but certainly not surprising. And thanks again to my friends - old and new - who were able to make it to the meet and help make it such a memorable weekend. I'm already psyched for NERPM 2018!

Randy and Joseph on this morning's Saybrook Special heading north on the Valley Line past my house.

On the Valley Line Today - ProtoMeet Weekend

Having an awesome time at the 2010 NERPM - and my layout open house is today. But first, we just had a train go by the house... in keeping with the spirit of the weekend of course!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New England/Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet - June 3-5

We (finally) have what (I hope) will be our last day of legislative session today - so we'll be wrapping up our business just in time for this year's annual NERPM! Given how the calendar falls, I can only attend this event every other year, so I was really getting nervous I was going to miss it. And that would have been especially bad this year since I'm on the agenda(!)

Yup, right out of the gate, first day of the 'meet at 9am tomorrow I'll be talking about this:

Hopefully even long-time readers of the blog will see something new, but in any event this is the first time I've assembled in one place all the different things I'm attempting with my layout. I'll discuss sources of prototype layout inspiration as well as how/why I chose to model the Valley Line, prototype locations, equipment, and structures, and a bit on operations - both prototype and model.

So I hope you'll be able to stop by - and if you do, be sure to say "howdy!"

But even if you have absolutely no interest in the Valley Line, there are a TON of other fantastic clinics and presentations to see over the next two days. You can check them all out here: There's also a model display room where you can't help but be inspired and an impressive variety of vendors where you can see and buy what you need to support your own modeling efforts

Dave Owens and his crew continue to raise the bar on this event and the new location promises to take the NERPM well onto the next level. His hard work and attention to detail are evident in every aspect of the 'meet and if you're able to attend you're sure to leave newly-charged and pumped to make some more progress on your layout and models.

So if you haven't already made plans to join us, I hope you'll check out the website and clear your calendar for the next couple days. If you're at all interested in prototype modeling, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wordless Wednesday #121

Still busy with special session at work, but still making progress on the layout - with a little lot of help from the gang. Here's a taste of Bill's work at Shailerville to whet your appetite if you're visiting during the NERPM this weekend!