Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wordless(er) Wednesday #197

(on the Valley and Airline today....)

Today's version of the Valley Local - G&W (nee P&W) on the Valley Main just north of Middletown (pic by the Missus)

Today's version of the Airline Local, Reed's Gap - Middlefield, 11/19/17.

A closer, brighter view.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tuesday Tips: Cab Addresses & Another "Tripod" for Smartphone Photography

Here's a treat - not just one, but two tips for this week's Tuesday Tip . . .

Cab Address List

While I have a wifi throttle server installed on my layout, I don't have enough physical throttles to handle all the trains I have nowadays. So, I ask folks to bring their own throttles if they're willing (and if they have NCE) and it's also nice to have backups in case a throttle dies during the session (as happened to me last year).

My most-recent ops session highlighted another need though: the need to know the addresses on each of my throttles (aka "cab addresses" or "Cab ID"). If a throttle has the same ID as another throttle, strange conflicts happen. So every throttle must have its own unique ID and if there's any duplication, as the ops session host you should change your throttle addresses to accommodate the folks who were kind enough to bring their throttles to supplement your stash (you can of course change them back after the session).

But to do all that, you first need to know what your cab addresses are - for NCE, that's a simple matter of plugging in the throttle and noting the CabID (that pops up and disappears quickly) on the screen. And then, if your memory is at all like mine, you should place a listing of said IDs in a prominent place. Thus: 
Cab Address List for my four throttles, mounted right at the A/O's desk.
While you're at it, you may want to put an address label on the back of each throttle - that way, you know the ID for when you take it to another's layout...

Smartphone Camera Holder

As you can probably tell from recent posts, I've poked my head down the rabbit hole of layout/model photography. And while I built a great tripod for holding my P&S digital camera - and it'll even hold my iPhone securely - it still doesn't allow me to take those true "eye level" photos.

But as luck would have it, the model railroad press has published not one, but TWO great articles on smartphone layout photography this month. Lance Mindheim did an extensive article in Model Railroad Hobbyist, and Pelle Soeborg has an article in Model Railroader. While Lance's article goes into great detail about focus stacking (which I'm really looking forward to trying), Pelle's article has a great tip for how to secure your smartphone to make it easier to take such photos:

He used pieces of styrene strip, 1/8" square tube, and halves of 3/8" tube to make a holder for his phone. Using his idea - and modifying it somewhat to use what supplies I had on-hand - I built one of my own:

It was a really fun evening project that went together really quickly with raw styrene and Tenax. The most difficult part of the process was figuring out how best to hold/clamp pieces while I applied the solvent (oh, and trying to cut 3/8" tube in half - lengthwise - was no picnic). It's always enjoyable to spend time at the workbench - especially when you can produce something as quick as it is useful:

I'm really looking forward to using this holder whenever I use my phone for photos (as opposed to my larger/better camera) - bonus: the styrene doesn't short out the rails. In fact, this is the setup I used to take the videos I took over the weekend back in October, 1948.

Hope you enjoyed this week's tips! If you did - and especially if you made a list or holder of your own - I hope you'll let me know in the comments!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sunday Straddle - Scenery & Sound

It's no wonder model railroading is "The World's Greatest Hobby" - there are so many different aspects to it that, no matter what you might be in the mood to do, there's always something you can do on a model railroad.

But that wide variety of choice does make for some indecisive days from time to time. Yesterday was a good example . . .

I started by getting the scenery carts out. I've been waffling about doing "real scenery" in the Wethersfield scene, but my lack of confidence in doing it "right" the first time keeps me from making further progress in this area. But I figured with a large block of time to just push through the mental barrier, I'd finally get something done scenery-wise. And to further bolster my confidence - not to mention my motivation - I decided to go back to my Airline branch modules for practice.

While they are among the most complete areas of the layout (since they actually have some scenery), they're still not finished: I need to finish ballasting, do some more ground cover, and install trees.  I figured since I really couldn't mess up any of that too bad, that success - and increased confidence - would be just about certain. So I did some ballasting . . . and then stopped when I realized I didn't have enough of the ground cover I needed to match what was already there.

One of the problems I'm discovering with my stash of scenery materials - as extensive as it is - is that it's made up of a lot of different textures/colors, but only tiny amounts of each. I also realized that, since adding the staging to the front of the Somerset module, it's really difficult to reach the back of that scene to do any scenery. I considered borrowing one of these, but I think I can manage with just a taller step stool.

But while I pondered all that, I decided to dial-in the decoders on my DER-1s (Alco DL-109s) . . .

Bill did the ESU decoder installs on these and even modified the stock programming to put the independent brake on F7, to match my mogul. But since then, I've done some extensive function key mods myself to my other ESU decoders, and the sounds on these DLs needed to be modified as well. So up to the workbench they went, and I fired up the Lokprogrammer.

First, I changed the stock horn (a Leslie, IIRC) to the Wabco E2. Then, I maxed the Master Sound Volume and backed off all the other sounds except for the horn. Interestingly, if you reduce the Master Sound (CV63 IIRC), it reduces the horn proportionally - which is as expected, except the prime mover sound is always much louder, overpowering the horn (not cool). So this is the only work-around that I've discovered to make the horn (much) louder than the prime mover. Bonus: editing the sounds this way allows you to dial-in exactly how you want everything to sound relative to everything else. Then the Master Volume can be used as expected - to reduce/increase all the sounds by the same amount and in the correct proportion.

Finally, I changed all the function key assignments to match what I'm doing in my other ESU-equipped engines - primarily moving Drive Hold to F5 and and the brake to F6. That way, you can see on the NCE dogbone screen whether or not those functions are engaged.

Once I did all that to the first DL-109, I made a copy of the .esux file to download into the next unit in line - 0742. Strangely, when I did that, I could no longer get 0742 to run! And - scariest of all - when I put the engine on the NCE programming track, it couldn't read the decoder(!). Fortunately (and strangely), it did read the decoder version and I could then get it to run. So back up to the bench it went. And the same problem happened.

A reboot of the Lokprogrammer software seems to have solved the problem. But we'll see tonight when I try and finish the programming on 0742.

That is, unless I feel like doing scenery. Or finishing up my flatcar (not to mention the Rt 15 overpass). Or taking some more photos. Or....

Well, you get the idea. Depends on what I'm in the mood for. "World's Greatest Hobby" indeed!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sittin' at the Station - Old Saybrook, CT October 1948

I went down to the station last month (almost 70 yrs ago) and took these videos of a few of the Shore Line passenger trains. Even the locals are powered by DER-1s now (Alco DL-109s), and the new stainless steel equipment is just starting to join the old heavyweight parlor cars.

I still have a lot to learn about videography, but whattaya want - I'm just learning how to use this new 8mm home movie camera. At least they got a bit better as the afternoon went on . . .


Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Fun: NER Convention Ops Session

Way back in May, I was invited to participate in this year's NMRA/Northeast Region Convention operating sessions, which would entail me opening the layout to any convention attendees that wanted a chance to run on the Valley Line. Since my ops sessions had up to that point been limited to those that help build the layout and other close friends, the prospect of inviting "all and sundry" was a little intimidating at first. In fact, I even posted about my concerns here (and subsequently in Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine here).

But I needn't have worried at all. I'd already planned on having some of my regulars as "pilots" on the 4 locals, if only to provide helpful tips/hints to newbie operators along the way. And as it turned out, over 1/2 of the conventioneers that showed up were folks I already knew or was acquainted with. In fact, the only one I knew only by email was the guys responsible for organizing the NER sessions themselves. So I figured all would be well.

And it was. In fact, like most (if not all) of my sessions, it was a blast. Heh - at least *I* thought so. Getting to see the layout come to life is the goal of every session host; it's the operators that have the challenge of navigating the session that the host created.

This session was like my previous ones with a few new innovations. Now, instead of each crew having to report to the agent in each town to get their paperwork and go "on sheet," they sign a Train Register and get their paperwork from new boxes I've installed at each station.  Click here for more detail on that process and how it's evolved.

I also decided to try staggering the crew start times to reduce congestion, especially at Old Saybrook. When the railroad has two-man crews on the locals, I can easily require 11 people to operate the layout (8 on locals, 1 "mole" in each staging yard, 1 A/O). And with 2 locals in Saybrook at the same time, other locals waiting to get started, and mainline trains going through as well, it can get very crowded. I didn't want to reduce crew size (and limit the fun!), so this time I got the Valley Local started first (they have the longest day), got the Airline local out next (and out of the way), and just had PDX-1 (by far the shortest job) be the only train with a 1-man crew.

That did the trick - everybody staggered out nicely and didn't run into any congestion. Now, if I could just do something about the liftouts/duckunders.......

So with all that as prologue, here are some photos from a great afternoon running trains on the Valley Line:

Mike Redden, Randy Hammill & Pete Luchini - Randy is the head operator at New London/Fort Yard staging (representing "points east" to Boston) and is explaining why some changes are necessary. Mike is acting as Randy's apprentice, getting qualified to run the yard in the future. And Pete is sole-operator of PDX-1 in Old Saybrook.

Meanwhile, at the "other end of the line" in New Haven/Cedar Hill Yard staging (representing "points west" to New York), Tom Derwin is getting another eastbound train ready to go, while Dave Ramos and Al Oneto are on PDX-2, trying to figure out how to switch Essex.

Further up the Valley Line in Wethersfield, James Mayo acts as conductor on HDX-7 (The Valley Local) while Sudro Brown keeps a firm hand on the throttle.

Heading back down the Valley and banging a westward turn at Middletown, we find Bill Schneider and Howard Miller working the Airline local at Mill Hollow.

A better shot of Tom, Dave and Al - all smiles . . .

. . . . until they realize they're still not done switching Essex.

As typically happens - on the model railroad as well as on the prototype - the Airline local and the Valley local are in Middletown at the same time. Well, actually, in this case, they're in the "Middletown Aisle" at the same time - HDX-7 is actually still in Rocky Hill at this point.

After finishing Essex, Dave and Al discovered that the rest of the work goes pretty quickly. Here they are back at the south end of the Valley Line in Old Saybrook having already done their work up to East Haddam and back. They're waiting for permission from the dispatcher (um, who's taking the photo) to occupy Main Track 1 so they can  continue to Cedar Hill Yard and home.
Despite my initial misgivings - especially with regard to crew size/congestion - this was probably one of the most successful sessions to date - definitely since the Shore Line got into full operation. The layout ran well (with only a couple minor glitches at the beginning, despite having JUST tested everything an hour beforehand!), there were no major incidents, and everybody seemed to have a great time.

But - as is always the case with ops sessions - a few punch list items surfaced:

  • Some couplers have developed issues - specifically, I need to (re)check the coupler heights on all the DER-1s (DL-109s) as well as the centering on the DERS-1b (RS-1) and a few freight cars.
  • Even though I distinguished operating notes for the Shore Line trains (so the operators know clearly which notes pertain to them), I'm considering just creating separate sheets for each of the Shore Line operators to make the schedule easier to follow and the staging easier to execute.
  • I need to check the trackwork at the east (left) end of the Saybrook station area, as well as tweak the Airline liftout. Seems about this time every year I have a similar issue, due to seasonal expansion/contraction. No derailments (thankfully), but any height-mismatched couplers would tend to disengage in these areas.
  • And - a first for this session - the main power toggle switch got bumped and shut down the layout. So I'm considering putting a toggle guard around it to prevent future unintended shutdowns. %^)
  • Finally, signing of the Train Registers in each town was spotty. So I'm considering returning to in-person reporting to the Agent. Then they'll HAVE to report in - if only to know what work they have to do in town >:^)
Comparing this list to previous punch lists, it's gratifying to see that the quirks are being worked out of the layout over time. That sort of improvement is one of the reasons to host regular operating sessions - but it's certainly not the most important reason.

THAT is to have a chance to have friends - and future friends - over to share in the love of railroading and help get the time machine we've created off the ground and running.

Thanks again to Mike, Randy, Pete, Dave, Al, Tom, Howard, Bill, Sudro, and James for making it such a great day! I'm already looking forward to the next session (as soon as I can get through the punch list...)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More from Don Janes . . .

I mentioned in passing a couple days ago that Don Janes and Greg Stubbings had been able to visit the Valley Line recently. Well, while Greg and I were operating the Valley Local, Don was using his considerable photography skills to capture some scenes from the layout. He certainly makes things look nice!

He's uploaded a post over at George Dutka's White River Junction blog with more about the visit. If you get a chance, I hope you'll take a minute and click over to see it!

Thanks again to Don and Greg for visiting and for such a great time - and thanks to George for giving Don a place to upload such wonderful photos!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Quick Update: Canadian Visit, NYHRR Ops Session & Prep for NER Convention

Wow - I just realized I haven't done a substantive modeling update since October 23. Unfortunately, work got especially busy during that time and whatever hobby time I had I've mostly spent working on layout & backdrop photography. Thanks to some great help from Brooks Stover, I've been improving - though still nowhere near where I want to be. Fortunately, "backdrop photography" consisted of something I am actually proficient at - taking pictures outdoors. So I took advantage of the teeny tiny foliage season to get some more shots I can (hopefully) use for backdrops.

Not a "backdrop photo" but something I saw while out shooting landscapes for same.
Housatonic Railroad local freight, North Canaan, CT 10/27/2017
I also had a visit from Don Janes and Greg Stubbings and was able to host a quick ops session with Greg, while Don took photos (unfortunately, I didn't get any photos myself - but hope to be seeing Don's pics soon!). They were down from Canada visiting New England and were in the neighborhood - click here for Don's report on their visit to the Valley RR.

Speaking of Ops Sessions, I was able to make it down to Dave Ramos' and was able to meet Tim Harrison and Stuart Chirls in person, which was an unexpected treat. It was amazing how long it took us (a 3-man crew) to switch a yard, a few industries, and a car float. But it's always a blast to visit the NYHRR. (sorry guys - next time I promise to relinquish the throttle...)

As for modeling, unfortunately, the B&O flatcar and Rt. 15 bridge are still in primer, ready for the next step. But I did get some layout work done, thanks VERY much to DaveM for some additional Valley Coal structures, thanks to scenery help from Bill and sadly-blogless-Pete, and thanks to a looming scheduled ops session hosting folks from the NMRA/New England Region Convention in Newport, RI.

The photos tell the story . . .

In addition to the Valley Coal office and oil tanks, Dave also sent models of the coal bins and garage - built according to what prototype photos I had available and a plot plan I'd sent him. They all arrived recently and I started doing a final mock-up of the scene.

Once I got everything in a good place - and as close to prototype arrangement as practicable - I decided to raise the terrain with foam core so that it would be more in line with the tops of the rails (thereby "sinking" the siding) and cut some openings to accommodate the masonite structure bases.

Then it was a matter of adding Ground Goop to feather everything in (hiding the edges of the foam core, primarily) and painting the foam base to make things look a little nicer (and to prep for further scenery materials.

The road will definitely get additional treatment - this was just a quick paint job to hide the foam. There's much scenery to be done here...

Meanwhile, Bill worked on modifying/sizing/printing a photo backdrop for where Middlesex Turnpike hits the masonite in the Goff Brook scene. Here he's creating a fillet of paintable caulk to feather the edge between the 3D road and 2D road on the backdrop.

Trucks sitting in front of Gra-Rock, on the site of the old passing siding across from the Wethersfield station.
Just because you need to move details and such out to keep them out of harm's way doesn't mean you can't set up a little mini-scene in the meantime... And it's a great way to keep motivation high.

Pete and I also got back to the East Berlin scene to add Ground Goop and get it ready for further scenery. Turns out, we worked so fast that this is the only shot I got of the progress - I promise more pics later.

While it's always nice to show some additional layout progress to my regular operators, I have to remember that the NER guests will not have seen the layout in person yet - so everything will be "new" to them at least. That realization kept me from getting too stressed about getting a lot more accomplished - but knowing they were coming still gave me a timely kick-in-the motivation to press ahead a little further at least.

So what's next? Ah - there is SO much to do. I'd like to finish up the B&O flatcar, as well as teach myself resin casting so I can copy the girder parts for the Rt. 15 overpass (thanks to Don Janes for the encouragement to try casting...) and get that done. And I really want to maintain my motivation to do scenery - something that's always been a major hurdle for me. Thanks to Bill and Pete, I've got a good start - I just have to keep pressing forward (and finally try out that static grass applicator myself - are you listening Ted?). Steam decoderization is waiting for decoders, and I still need to dial-in the installs I did recently.

But all in good time - they don't call this The World's Greatest Hobby for nuthin' - it certainly is all-consuming with an amazing variety of different things to do and skills to learn. Hope you'll continue to enjoy following along as the Valley Line continues to evolve - or at least learn what not to do along the way... %^)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The Circle of Life

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 that didn't need a lot of work was - you may have guessed - on Connolly Drive. We moved there 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.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Fun - Railroad Wives and SOs: What Goes On?!

(We interrupt our regularly-scheduled blog with our Second Guest Post, penned by my SO, aka "the Missus." I should probably feature her more often - her first post is the 4th Most Popular Post EVER on this blog - Enjoy!)

We were getting ready to leave for work last Tuesday morning when I stepped into the front garden to stake up a branch on my rose bush that had fallen on the grass. As I did so, a neighbor I’ve never met before was taking her morning walk, turned down the driveway, and cautiously approached me.

“Um, do you mind a totally random question?” she asked.

Thinking she was going to ask how I had such fabulous roses growing in late October, I mentally prepared myself to explain about landscape roses, proper pruning, etc.

“What happens here on Thursday nights? All the cars…I mean, is it some kind of multi-level marketing meeting?”

We live in a small seaside town, where, for the most part, neighbors keep to themselves unless there’s a hurricane warning. Everyone is polite, willing to help if needed, and they don’t ask questions. Which is why, over time, they have apparently been eaten alive with curiosity about the Mister’s Thursday night New Haven Railroad photo library meeting (and occasional op sessions).

"I'll raise you one.... locomotive photo, and take a station..."
Our first clue was two Christmases ago, when I decided that we should make more of an effort to know our neighbors. I baked cookies and the Mister and I stopped over to the house next door to deliver them and wish the family a Merry Christmas. The Mister had assisted with generator duty for him and his wife during Hurricane Sandy, but I had never met them.

The neighbor was surprised but welcomed us in, and at one point in the conversation, the Mister mentioned something about the Thursday night crew. You could see recognition dawn like the proverbial sun.

“Oh! So that’s what all those cars are there for every week. The neighbors and I had wondered about that!”

The Mister was then equally surprised to discover that our neighbor was the last tower operator for the New Haven RR in town, and was able to borrow his old interlocking diagram to make a copy for his control board. (Apologies in advance to all the wives and SOs whose misters are now going to ask for dozens of cookies to meet all their neighbors).

And the neighbor on the other side, whom we know pretty well, told us that the woman who lives across the street complained to him about the cars parked all over the road. She couldn’t understand what we would possibly be doing to have all that company every week. And whatever it was, could he please tell us to make sure they didn’t park on her side of the street? Maybe she felt left out for not having been included.

But this morning’s encounter was the most interesting yet. Marketing meeting?! I told her it was a historical society thing, since we were in a hurry and it would take too long to explain about the trains and the photographic cataloging. She thanked me and we went our separate ways.

When I got back into the car, and told the Mister what happened, we had a good laugh. And then we speculated what those neighbors who weren’t asking must think actually happens. 

Our favorites:
1.       a basement gambling casino
2.       "historical society," cataloging 1940s pinup art
3.       a secret cult

And non-railroad people think it’s a dull hobby. Obviously they’ve never been to our house on a Thursday night!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ghosts of Railroads Past

(In the "spirit" of the season, and because we've been without power since Sunday's storm, I hereby repost this from last October. I think you'll agree it's especially fitting this time of year...)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Modeling Monday: Rt. 15 Overpass & Priming the B&O Flatcar

I've been a little schitzo lately, making a little progress on multiple fronts, but not making substantial progress on any one project. But to the extent that this blog is - at the very least - a record of what I'm doing on the layout, I herewith submit a few pics of what modeling I've been working on lately - centered around the Rt. 15 overpass (at the north end of the Wethersfield section, disguising the hole in the backdrop), and the B&O P-11 flatcar.

Here's my mockup of the overpass - it's a standard Rix early highway overpass, with custom girders to follow the prototype more closely (click here for pics of the prototype and the Shapeways girders developed by my friend MikeR). I plan to use the Shapeways parts in the front and as masters for the other two girders.

Here's the mockup in place on the layout, effectively hiding where the Valley mainline (on the left) and the Berlin Branch (on the right) enter the backdrop.

Besides the girder work, I still have a lot to do on this area to get it all to fit and look right. But I'm REALLY pleased with how it's coming out.

And here are the girder parts getting a primer coat in the paint shop along with the B&O flatcar. Heh - and here is where they've sat for a while, while I got distracted with other things like model photography and such.

But even incremental progress is still progress - and big goals are reached by a number of small steps. So I'll take that as some encouragement that - while I haven't accomplished or finished much lately, I'm having fun working on a variety of things at once knowing they'll get done. Eventually.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Test Shots

Went down to Saybrook to try out the homemade tripod some more . . .
Shot with my iPhone 6 - no regard to settings; Nikon Coolpix P4 on the tripod.
Unless otherwise noted:
 no flashlayout lights only, auto white balance
macro setting, auto focus
ISO 50 f7.6 @ 1/8th sec (self-timer)
8 megapixel 2448x3264 @300dpi
Exposure Bias -1 step
Exposure Bias -0.7 step
1/6th sec, Exposure Bias -0.7
1/7th sec, Exposure Bias -0.3
1/20th sec, Exposure Bias -0.3
I'm really pleased with how these came out - except for the last one, which came out too dark. I bracketed all my exposures starting at -0.3 (underexposed) and going darker by 1/3 EV (exposure value) down to -1. Doing so gave me at least one shot of each lot that I liked. Unfortunately, the best shot of the last image was the one I shot first - at -0.3. A normal exposure at 0.0 would have been better for that shot.

As I continue to learn I continue to covet your constructive criticism and guidance, as well as any tips you have to share. Of course, if you have any kudos/compliments to share that'd be encouraging as well!