Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Fun

Spotted this as I parked by car at work this morning. Yup, this is the long-awaited Connecticut commuter rail train between New Haven/Hartford/Springfield. You can read more about it here - and be sure to visit the website at

While not technically Valley Line related, this may be the first new passenger service coming into Hartford since - well, since the Connecticut Valley Railroad started running trains through here in 1871.

In any event, it's historic. I just wish CTDOT had kept alive the tradition of painting its rail service engines in New Haven RR livery. And - bonus! - this Saturday and Sunday you can ride the train for free.

Happy Weekend!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Ramping Back Up

I have to admit, given the first 5 months of 2018 I was starting to wonder whether I'd fallen off the model railroad wagon without any chance of getting back on. Things were going well and I was making progress right through Springfield Weekend, including (almost) finishing the B&O flatcar I was working on. But then work & life intervened in a big, unexpected way. Thankfully, things are finally calming down now and dads' healths are improving, which all bodes well for focusing on other things (heh - like yard work). And also thankfully, the NERPM came at Just The Right Time to re-ignite my model railroading mojo.

One of the first things on the agenda is dealing with the in-progress stuff on my bench (which I alluded to in last week's WW):

In due time I'll get to those projects - hopefully soon.

But in the meantime, there's another fun development I can report on . . . Just check out the (2nd to) last page of this month's Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine. Long time followers of this here blog will recognize one of the photos there, but for those that don't, here's a little teaser:

Maybe that farmhouse in the lower right corner will look a wee bit familiar. :^)

Between the RPM meet and finding out I'll soon have my first-ever feature article published (as opposed to an op-ed piece), I've really gotten a HUGE shot-in-the-arm of modeling motivation. Thanks for hanging in there - and especially for all your well-wishes, thoughts, and prayers - while I was out of it for a bit. I'm looking forward to making more progress and sharing it with you!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Talky Tuesday - Kelly Questions

Still digesting the NERPM meet last weekend - what a great time! And folks are starting to post reports and photos on FB and their blogs. Check this one out by Don Janes over at the White River Division blog - it has some great photos (despite at least one questionable choice ;^)

* * *

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy listening to model railroad podcasts, but I'm afraid I've gotten woefully behind in them lately. But I'm catching up and I'm apparently not the only one behind . . .

One of my favorite podcasts - A Modeler's Life - has a segment called the "Kelly Questions" where they ask their guest a series of questions to get to know them a little better, very quickly and I was one of the victims guests. It was recorded about a year ago, but it just got posted last month - and I just discovered it this morning on my way in to work. I guess a bunch of us are trying to catch up.

Unfortunately, like my Springfield interview, this 'cast is on the Modeler's Life paid site (costs as little as $5/month), but if you want to check it out click here and scroll down to May 14 to the episode called "Kelly Questions Rounds 33-34-25"  Yup, there are two other much more interesting fellas on that episode as well, so you get a little value-added for your money :^)

And, as always, you can browse & listen to the content on the main site by clicking here. There's a LOT of great model railroad talk to make long drives and cutting the grass just a little less awful.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Quick Post on the NERPM

What a Whirlwind Weekend! Yes, it was ProtoMeet weekend and since I can only make it every other year, I try to cram as much as I can into its 72-hour bucket. Started off bright and early Friday morning, attending as many clinics and presentations as I could right through Friday evening, including having dinner with my buddy PeteL, as well as CraigB, JimL, and LouP (Kaylee was, regrettably, at another table). Next morning was even earlier, meeting Pete, Pieter, Randy, and Tom for breakfast (minor miracle since we'd lost power at our house overnight). Then my presentation at 10:30, lunch with Randy, and great afternoon & evening clinics - as well as dinner with BillS, JimL, Randy, JimF, Mike & Mel. Then up again this morning to prepare for my layout open house, which was awesome due to the great folks that made the trip down to visit.


Among the many cool new things I learned over the weekend, three things stand out right away: 1) this hobby is MORE than alive and kicking (there were not only a high number of attendees, but many younger folks as well), 2) ProtoMeets provide a much-needed dose of motivation to get back to your own layout and make some progress, and 3) I really suck at documenting them.

But such as I have, I share with you. So herewith are some pics and video from the weekend. I wish I could say these are the best selected from what I have - these are pretty much ALL I have.

Enjoy! And if you ever have a chance to attend  ProtoMeet, you certainly should. Just be sure to take more and better photos %^)

A wonderfully done scene on the O&W by Mal Houck. I'll just say this here and now, because it's true of all the model photos I took this weekend (such as they are) - pictures don't do the modeling any real justice. Really amazing work. Be sure to attend in person so you can see this craftsmanship firsthand.

I wish I'd done a much better job not only at taking more photos, but remembering who did such amazing work! Fortunately, I captured Jim's great "description sheets" in this photo. What a great idea! Shows off the modeling and ensures that the modeler gets due and proper credit for their art.

Thanks to MelR, I have proof that I actually gave a presentation at the NERPM. Thanks to all that took the time to attend - and special thanks to the folks that came up to say hi and offer encouragement. We do this as a labor of love, and the appreciation & feedback we get back from sharing our work is truly priceless.
Thanks to BillS, we had a sign for the Layout Open House (especially helpful to clear up any confusion since my next-door-neighbor is the one that has an actual RR crossing sign hanging on the wall of his house).

No layout tour is complete without the Guest Book (which you must sign :^) and - of course - snacks!

As an added bonus, this weekend marked the first of the monthly Saybrook Specials run by the Valley RR (aka Essex Steam Train). Intrepid VRR photo WarrenD is over on the left, but my Open House helpers Pete, Bill, and Randy took a break with me to head down to the crossing to catch the action - at least some consolation for all the work they did to help me with the layout tour.

Special thanks to those you made the trip down to see the layout - and if you took any pictures, I hope you'll share them with me. I'd love to have some shots of/by folks that were there! And I promise next time to check the RR schedule and have the Open House earlier so visitors have a chance to see the train too.

I wish I had more or better photos of the 'meet, but be sure to check out the NERPM website. Dave Owens does an excellent job not only of putting on a fantastic weekend, but he's much better than I at making sure there are lots of photos from the weekend posted on the site, so be sure to visit. And make plans now to attend next year!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wordy Thursday - NERPM Meet this Friday-Sunday

Just got back from an out-of-state visit Way Down South to see the family, so missed this week's Wordless Wednesday. But I wanted to be sure to remind you of the 16th Annual New England/Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers' Meet this weekend, starting tomorrow June 1. Click here for their website and particulars. Online registration is closed, but you can still register at the door.

And here also is a shameless plug for the clinic I'll be giving on Saturday at 10:30:

If you're able to make it, be sure to say "Hi!" - it's always cool to see that folks are still reading (despite the dearth of posts lately - but that's going to change...) and to put faces to names.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday Status

tap tap tap - Is this thing on? . . . .

Well, now.

It's been a while. Since I started this blog over 4 years ago, I don't think I've ever had a hiatus this long, but life - as they say - has a way of hijacking your plans from time to time. But all is well, relatively speaking (sorry 'bout the pun...).

My dad is doing really well, the Missus' dad is doing less well, but ok. At least he's home now. He's not recovering as fast as we'd hoped and the doctors expected, but they're not super concerned so we're trying not to be.

And the day job did its usual ramp-up into Crazy Town mode over the last couple of months, so that's been a major distraction. I've also been trying to find a new car in the middle of all that.

So, unfortunately, the blog - and model railroading in general - has taken a back seat. More like waaaay in the back of the bus.

But light is showing on the horizon. I debuted a clinic on operations at last month's meeting of the Nutmeg Division of the NMRA. It was kind of a dress rehearsal for a presentation that I'm scheduled to do in a few weeks at the NEProtoMeet. I'm also scheduled to have an open house on the Sunday of that weekend - I just hope I can get the layout cleaned up and operating again in time(!) Hope to see a lot of you that weekend!

And while all the non-model-railroad stuff has kept me from model railroading, I fully expect to feel the nibble of the bug again soon. Of course, as I do, I'll share that here. Thanks much for your patience - hope y'all will stick around a bit more.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Modeling Monday: Route 15 Overpass - Castings Reveal!

So, as things typically happen lately, I got distracted by work/life and am only just now getting around to sharing the result of the castings I poured over a week ago. And this time, I actually had enough room on my iPhone to shoot a proper video. Well - I don't know how "proper" but at least it didn't get cut off this time. . .

I'll never become a YouTuber, but let me know if you've been enjoying the videos and/or finding them helpful. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video's gotta be worth even more. And it saves a lot of typing :^) And - bonus! - you actually get to see in kinda-real-time how things are working (or not - that's the joy of a "live" video).

But this is a blog after all, so here are some detail shots of the castings that I got. I don't know if I had beginner's luck or not, but I think they came out really well.

Unfortunately, there must have been some bubbling along a few of the girder edges though. You can see above what look like "chips" that broke off. Nope - that's how the casting came out. Should be a relatively simple matter of filling them in with either putty or strip styrene. I'll letcha know (or I might not even bother, since these will literally be painted black and put under a bridge back next to the backdrop...)

Speaking of bubbles...

Remember that beginner's luck I mentioned? Well, it wore off a bit with the second pour I did. My main mistake here was not overfilling the mold with the resin pour. As a result a lot of air - and thus, bubbles - got trapped under the acetate.  Even WORSE - I tried to fix things by lifting the acetate up and smoothing the bubbles out. Big Mistake - that really just made things worse and created more bubbles. I would have been better off just placing the acetate,leaving it alone, and seeing what I ended up with, come what may.

Note to self: Always overfill the mold.

The beginner's luck didn't totally leave though, cuz the castings ended up ok. Yeah, there are a lot of voids, but they're either on the back (where they won't be seen) or actually in the casting (where they really won't be seen - especially after they're painted).

So, as I mentioned on the video, turns out I really only need two sets of girders in addition to the masters in order to have enough for the Rt. 15 overpass. But for that plan to work, I needed to be able to free the masters . . .

If you can remember waaaaay back when I first started this a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I used some Aileen's to glue the masters onto the base of the foamcore box. Well, while it did take a bit more time than I expected, a soak in water did eventually allow me to carefully peel them off.

And there wasn't even any residue! Certainly no damage to the masters, which of course is awesome. I'll be sure to wash all the pieces thoroughly before painting though.

And that's it! At least for now, my resin casting efforts are going to take a back seat while I focus on some other things. Busy days at work will be ending in a few weeks and I've been immersed in shopping for a new car (mine just turned 180k and the Missus' car just turn 245k!). Unfortunately, my FIL is still in the hospital, but doing ok all things considered. It's just a long road. Thanks for your continued thoughts and prayers.

Before I do anything else though, I really REALLY need to clean up this mess %^)
Thanks to all of you that attended the NMRA Nutmeg Division meeting yesterday and hung around for my presentation on Operating the Valley Line. You were a great audience and I got some good feedback that'll help me improve it for the upcoming NEPROTO Meet. Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Route 15 Overpass: Removing the Mold & Pouring the Resin

Ok, that was a little bit of a fail. That's what I get for not making sure that there's enough room on the phone for an actual helpful-length video. Since I don't want to leave you in SUSPENSE! suffice it to say that I was able to get the rubber mold out of the foamcore box. And here's what I had:

Not too bad - but I still got some seepage of rubber underneath the masters, despite running a bead of glue around the perimeter of each part. Next time, I'll make sure that the glue seeps out just a little around the edges - that should seal things nicely.

But that's next time. For now, I had some trimming to do. And, after trying even a sharp x-acto, I came up with the perfect solution - sprue nippers! As you can see above, they're straight and flush-cut ting. Just what I needed to go around trim off the extra rubber "flash."

Compare this photo with the "before" shot above, and I think you'll agree that the nippers worked great.

Next step was to mix and pour the resin. Click here for the details.

As before, I mixed the Parts A & B in equal measures together, then slowly poured into the mold doing my best to avoid bubbles. And - important (as I discovered later) - be sure to "overfill" the mold slightly.

Next, cover with acetate or plate glass/plexiglass to keep the backs of the castings flat. As you can see, a few bubbles resulted. I'm not sure yet how to avoid that and decided they didn't matter since they'd be on the back of the castings anyway.

Lastly, weigh it all down. I think that'll help a bit with the bubbles but we'll see.

It turned out that I ended up mixing a bit more resin than I needed and it had actually started to cure ever so slightly in the mixing cup. So I did an experiment and quickly poured the rest of it all into the gondola load mold I'd made before. Just a quick & dirty pour - and I didn't even bother with acetate or a weight.

And this is what you end up with (above). A very non-flat surface that's not only very uneven, but slightly humped. No matter though. Because: test.

This comparison shows you the difference the acetate/weight will make. Sure, the casting on the left has no bubble voids, but the casting on the right doesn't require lots of sanding to get everything flat and flush (though you may want to putty the holes - not really necessary on a gondola load).

So now I'll wait overnight to see how my *important* (i.e. "not test") castings come out. Since I've done a bit of practice, I've become much less intimidated by the whole casting process. At least I've cleared a lot of the fog for myself and removed some of the mystery. Hopefully that bodes well for what I hope will be some really nice girder pieces for the Rt. 15 overpass in Wethersfield.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Fun: A Modeler's Life Interview

Click to enlarge and actually be able to read it :^)
Since things have been so busy lately, and despite all the necessary extra driving, I am way behind on one of my favorite ways to pass the time - listening to model railroad podcasts. In fact, I'm SO far behind that I just recently realized that my convo with Lionel Strang at Springfield got posted (over a month ago - yikes!). Lionel hosts one of my favorite podcasts - A Modeler's Life - and he and I spent some time together during the Big E train show weekend talking about trains.

So check it out if you can - link is here and just scroll down to March 9. Unfortunately, unlike my other interviews, it's on the paid Patreon site. But browse around there and see if you don't agree that you can get a lot of great content for as little as five bucks per month.

And whether or not you head over to Patreon, be sure to check out the free content on the ol'AML. Lots of great stuff there - or at least something to make long commutes a little more bearable!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Route 15 Overpass: Making the Mold

I mentioned last time that the main reason I wanted to learn how to do resin casting was so that I could duplicate the wonderfully-detailed bridge girders that Mike Redden made for me from photos I took of the Route 15 overpass. This overpass will anchor the north end of the Wethersfield scene and provide a nice - and prototypical - view block for hiding where trains head "to Hartford."

Well, after doing a test run using an old scrap load as a master (click here, here, and here for details on the steps involved), I decided it was finally time to tackle the overpass.

I started with Mike's Shapeways parts as masters, which I'd primed last October(!). Here I'm trying to arrange them as efficiently as possible for the mold. I determined that about 8.5" across and 4.5" front to back would make a good footprint/base. 

So I measured that all out on a piece of foamcore, cut out the base and then cut the sides at about 5/8" high. This would account for the thickness of the base (I glued the sides to the edges of the base rather than on top as I did before), the thickness of the parts, and still allow a 1/8-1/4" of rubber on top to cover everything adequately. In addition to hot gluing the sides to the edge of the base and to each other, I also ran a bead of glue inside each joint to ensure that the box was water rubber tight.

Next, instead of using hot glue, I decided to use quick drying Aleen's Tacky Glue to attach the parts to the base of the box. To (try and) ensure that no rubber would seep underneath the parts, I ran a bead of glue around the entire perimeter of each part to, hopefully, form a nice seal/barrier. I'm not too concerned about messing up the nice masters, since the Aleen's should just soak off with water. I guess we'll see.

After letting the glue cure for 4 hours or so, it was time to mix and pour the rubber. Here are the quick steps (but be sure to click here for a detailed post):
  • Make sure the mold box is level in all directions
  • Use rubber gloves
  • (this time I didn't apply any mold release)
  • Pour rubber mold material Part A into one cup and an equal portion of Part B in another cup
  • Mix together in a larger, clear cup (so you can see that it's mixed thoroughly)
  • Mix gently to reduce the number of bubbles
  • Let the mixture sit to allow as many bubbles as possible to come to the surface (this material has a 10 minute work time from mix to pour)
  • Pour the rubber into the mold from high up (12" +/-) if possible so you have a small, thin stream (again, to reduce bubbles), starting in one corner and covering the entire master. If you aren't comfortable pouring from that high - or if you can't maintain a steady stream - you can pour closer, just keep it flowing so as to reduce bubbles.
While I've enjoyed doing the videos, I wanted to try a new way to document these steps:

I set up my iPhone on a tripod and got a Bluetooth shutter release so I could take hands-free pictures during the process.

Here's the rubber mold material from the Micro-Mark resin casting starter set. Put some of Part A in one cup and an equal amount of Part B in another cup.

Then mix the two cups of material together in a third, clear cup. Be sure to scrape out all the material from each cup.

Then mix the two parts by slowly stirring them together. The clear cup helps you see how thoroughly you're mixing.

When it gets all thoroughly mixed together, you're ready to pour. Well, almost. Set the cup down and tap on the sides for a minute or so to encourage any bubbles to surface so they'll pop. Then pour.

This step is both the most fun - since it's cool to see it coming out of the cup and into the mold box - but also the most harrowing - since you're covering up, in this case, over $40 worth of parts with liquid rubber. Start in one corner . . .

and work your way around . . .

and all throughout the mold box, covering everything with hopefully enough material. You can see that I had extra cups waiting on standby in case I had to mix up more rubber quickly! You have about 7 minutes from mixing to pouring.

Use your stirrer to scrape out all the material - might as well be sure and use it all up!

The final step, like with the rubber in the cup, is to tap on either side of the mold box to encourage the bubbles to surface. And just because I have this handy-dandy camera & shutter release setup, I decided to do a video of this complicated process . . .

Tapping releases the bubbles and blowing across the surface helps them pop faster.

And here's what you end up with with your done - a nice, smooth swath of rubber. Whether it made a good mold or not remains to be seen. Until next time . . .

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Un-Molding" the Casting

So here's where we left off last time - resin poured into the rubber mold & a sheet of acetate laid on top and weighted down . . .

The video from last time seemed to work well, so instead of a lot of pictures and text, I figured I'd do a longer video of "unmolding" the casting . . .

As I mentioned, I'm not happy with the bubble-voids, but they're on the bottom of the casting where they won't be seen, so they don't really matter. I'm just happy that all turned out as well as I'd hoped.

Not bad for my first rubber mold/resin casting effort. Here you see the mold I made, with the master in the center, and my copy/casting on the bottom.

Now, all this was by way of practice for the real reason I got all this casting material and did all this practice in the first place. I intend to use the Shapeways parts that MikeR made of the Rt. 15 overpass and use them as masters for a bunch of additional girders so I can, yes, FINALLY(!) make some more progress on the north end of Wethersfield!

PS: be sure to let me know what you think of the videos. I'll never become a Vlogger, but sometimes I think having a video in a post instead of a lot of pics and text description is more helpful. So let me know your thoughts in the comments!