Monday, October 29, 2018

On the Valley Line Yesterday...

As promised, here are some photos of yesterday's MassBay Railroad Enthusiast Charter.

Some great times on the Valley Line!

Railroad President Kevin Dodd checks the valve gear on #97, which is returned to revenue service this day after being out for many years.

Northbound departure from Essex

Northbound crossing Plains Road

Southbound entering Essex station area, with #40 waiting in the hole on Track 5.

Last shot of the day - southbound under Dennison Road.

And - bonus! - a couple videos of the last northbound of the day, passing under Dennison Road.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

On the Valley Line - Now!

Turns out, yesterday's train was only the beginning. Today, the MassBay Railroad Enthusiasts charter visited the Valley Line - and this time with double-headed steam!

I'll post pics either later today or tomorrow, but in the meantime, enjoy the videos (and apologies in advance that I didn't use a tripod. These were grab-N-go).

You'll notice I had a little bit more company at the crossing today than usual . . .

The backup move, southbound...

Entering the Essex Station area, northbound...

Third(!) steam locomotive, #40, deadheading into Essex, southbound...

Train departing Essex, northbound...

Really amazing amount of activity on the ol' Valley Line. I daresay that this line never had this much activity during my chosen modeling era of the late 1940s - or at any other time in its history. And I don't think I've ever seen any evidence of double-headed steam back in the day . . . So this is a pretty special treat.

As I mentioned, I'll post the photos later on, but for now I hope you enjoy the videos of The Valley Line Today!

PS: and note to Lionel and the NMRA - notice all the young folks photographing/videoing all this. LOTS of them around today. #thehobbyisnotdying

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Rt. 15 Overpass - More (incremental) Progress

I'm a big fan of Mike Rose, despite the fact that his chosen modeling era and locale are so different from mine. One of the things we have in common though (other than bike-riding-as-therapy) is that we tend to work in bursts. He often says something along the lines of - "when you're in the flow and  have a wave of motivation going, ride that wave as hard as you can for as long as you can."

Now, I'm not nearly as productive as he is when he's in that state, but I feel the same way. And I'm riding one of those waves lately. I'm not making HUGE progress, but I'm making definite progress on a number of fronts (thanks in no small part to some help from Bill and Dave as well).

One of those fronts is the Rt. 15 Overpass, which got a substantial kick-start at the beginning of the month when I got the start of the abutments in the mail from Dave. I've been trying to get the overpass finished by this weekend - or at least by the end of this month - so every time I have a quarter-hour or more, I do another little bit.

Here are some of those bits:

When I dry-fit the roadway, I noticed that - somehow - one of the side supports had "drooped" a little. If I secured the roadway to it, it would have ended up a little skewed. So, I tack-glued the roadway to the good/level side and saw where the (now braced) roadway would end up on the other side. Then - as you can see above - I glued little bits of .060" square strip to the side support and the underside of the road and cross brace to secure it. Time: approx 15 mins

Next, I cut the pieces that would become the curbing/sidewalk along the sides of the roadway. I needed to laminate together two courses of sheet styrene, cut to size, since I didn't have any .090" sheet styrene on-hand - only .040". I figure nobody will notice the .010" difference from 4 feet away. Hope I'm right.

First sidewalk/curb installed (closest to camera).

Other sidewalk/curb installed, along with a short piece of .060" square strip to continue the "step" along the parapet. Notice the gap/notch at the left end of the roadway. I'd need to fill that so there won't be a gap where this buts up against the backdrop.

Roadway notch/gap filled with a strip of .040" styrene to match the road, glued to the underside of the walkways/curbs and spliced on the underside with a strip of .020" styrene. You may not be able to see them even if you click on the photo to enlarge it, but I did carry the expansion joints from the road onto the little extension.

Total time: 2 hours (since I have to do so much thinking, I work SO slowly. But hopefully I'll speed up as my experience/skill grows. I have to remember that I'm mostly scratchbuilding here...)

Another in-progress photo, just cuz it's looking so cool :^)

Now that the left abutment is essentially done (except for painting/weathering), I needed to focus on the right-end abutment. When I placed & positioned the bridge on the layout, I discovered that the angle at which I thought the right abutment would hit the wall was a bit off. Like by 1/2"!

So, I needed to extend the side wall by that much so there would be no gap - and also so the bit of roadway I need to install on top of this abutment will match.

Again, it took me some time to think through how I wanted to approach this and what materials to use, but finally settled on an extension of more fiberboard & a splice, all secured with white glue. Heh - and clamped, as you can see above. Total time: 45 minutes (included mockup, diagnosis, and fix).

Another one of my mentors, Tony Koester, mentions keeping what I think he calls a "15 minute box" which contains small projects you can do in just 15 minutes to keep making progress on the layout. Now, I don't have such a box (not yet, anyway), but the philosophy goes right along with what I've been saying about taking small bites of the elephant.

That's all fairly standard project management. The challenge I've found, though, is figuring out just what small bites to take. Where do you start? Fortunately, I've discovered that this overpass project lends itself pretty readily to small steps that each take only a short amount of time, but all of which - over time - are resulting in a pretty cool, and unique, model.

Another view of the prototype. Compare to cool model photo above.
Click here for more prototype photos.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday Modeling: Adding Weight & Overpass Roadway Work

I had hoped to get to a lot more modeling over the weekend than I did, but the fact I got to anything at all considering all that's going on is a blessing. So, in the spirit of "incremental progress being progress, nevertheless" here are a few photos of what I did. . .

In addition to adding air hoses to the B&O P-11 flatcar I just recently (almost) finished, I realized it needed a more weight. A lot more. Thankfully, the "fishbelly" side sills will hide some weight (and are also the primary reason I didn't bother adding brake or other underbody detail). Unfortunately, lead fish weights - or lead of any type - are/is getting harder and harder to find. So I decided to cut up some A-Line weights to fit in where I could: 

Conceptually, it was pretty simple - use a utility knife to cut the soft, lead weights down to the right size. But it was a bit easier said than done. It's not THAT easy to cut the weights, but with time - and a lot of rocking the blade back and forth - you finally get there.

All the little bits of weight, cut to size to fit in between the deck framing.
Once I dry-fit everything to make sure they would not only fit, but not interfere with truck swivel, I used some big drops of Aleene's glue to attach the weights to the underside of the car.

 Once everything was in, it was just a matter of a quick brush-paint job of Grimy Black to disguise/blend everything in.

While that was drying, I turned my attention to the roadway on top of the west abutment for my Rt. 15 overpass. It's made of .040" styrene and I didn't want it to bow or sag over time, so I added some 1/4" square styrene braces:

I also scribed the top to match the "expansion joints" on the main bridge and am starting to add curbing to match as well:

FYI - the curb on the Rix overpass I'm using is .090" tall/thick.
Not really all that much to report, but it did provide a few hours of hobby enjoyment. And, like they say, you can even eat an elephant if you do it just one bite at a time.

Evidence of Hobby Being Pursued!

Friday, October 19, 2018

F.O. Friday & Thank You!

One of the many hobbies The Missus pursues is knitting. And in the knitting world, an "FO" is a "Finished Object" - and the cause for much rejoicing. After days/weeks/months of spending time with a project, getting it finished is a big deal.

Although we don't use the same terminology, it's that way with our hobby too - so herewith I submit my latest "FO", in the making for over a year now (on and off). Yes - I've finally finished the B&O P-11 flat car that I started last September:

Well, almost finished.

I already knew that I still need to weather this car. But it wasn't until I got to taking this FO photo that I realized I'd forgotten something important . . .


So I just need to add those and weather the car and it'll be really finished. I'll be sure and post more FO fotos then :^)

Speaking of finishing, last night the Missus and I finished our fundraiser by participating in the L&LS's Light the Night Walk. Thank you SO much to all of you that have expressed your support either through thoughts and prayers or through contributions - or both! We raised over $1,000 in just a few short days thanks to the overwhelming generosity of our friends - and even folks we don't know so well but who wanted to help. So THANK YOU so very much!

If you'd like to support the L&LS but haven't had a chance to yet, it's not too late -
you can still donate here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #237 - Profiles & Courage


(As I mentioned at the end of Monday's post, the Missus and I are participating in a fundraiser tomorrow for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on behalf of her dad. Thank you SO much to those who have supported us so far. If you haven't been able to yet, I hope you'll consider even a small donation. Every little bit helps. Click here for more info - and thank you!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Happy October!

From Liberty Magazine, October 1946
Ah October! The best - or at least one of the best - months of the year. At least it's one of my favorites.

And if you live in New England, it's certainly the most colorful of months - and right smack dab in the middle of my favorite season: Autumn! It's also the shortest season - since I only count when the leaves have erupted in full color, my favorite season lasts only a few weeks. Anything before that is "late summer" and anything after that is "early winter."

But for now, I look forward to enjoying the shushing of leaves, the smell of wood smoke in the air, the taste of a warm cup of apple cider by the fire. And it wouldn't be a bad thing if I spend some time in the basement on the layout as well in the coming weeks - after all, it's always Autumn on the Valley Line!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Modeling Monday: Building Castles & Carmers

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost;
that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." 
-Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau obviously wasn't a model railroader.

As you may have guessed from last week's Wordless Wednesday, I've been making some significant progress on the Rt. 15 overpass (with a LOT of help from the parts Dave sent me). Actual modeling is one of the reasons my posts have been a bit infrequent lately. For the other reason, well, check out the bottom of this post. Things have been a bit busy 'round here lately.

So, what does this all have to do with our ol' friend Thoreau? Well, stay with me here...

Now that the overpass is nearing completion, I figured it was high time to set it in place on the layout to make doubly sure everything would fit as expected. You know, before I built any MORE of it (not that anybody's ever made that mistake before...but I digress). Well, good thing I did. Turned out, despite my best measurements, everything was a bit longer than I expected. But no worries, "all I have to do is" swing the whole thing a bit toward the aisle and it fits.

Lookin' good!

But now that I'm actually placing the almost-completed overpass here, I've noticed a problem . . .

Oops! Massive sinkhole on the left
The West (left) abutment has precious little - which is to say, "almost nothing" - to rest on. Though made of concrete, an abutment isn't exactly a castle. But it still needs a foundation....

That's better
So I got to do some more of what I (apparently) enjoy most, and what - these days - I seldom get to do: Benchwork.

The photo above shows the new foundation/support, er, plywood - and the photo at the top of this post shows the foundation, under my castle abutment (which used to be) in the air.

Apparently, I've been bitten by the modeling bug lately cuz I even got back to my B&O P-11 flatcar project(!) I started this project back last September 22 (that's September of last year...). When last we saw it, I had just finished decaling/lettering it. And, between work and family stuff, that's where it's been for the last 9 months(!!).

Well, it was high time I got back to it. All I had left to do was the brake wheel and the uncoupling lift levers. Those levers had me stumped - until I saw this photo of the PRR car on which this car is based:
Carmer Cut Lever
 And Randy brought me some HO scale versions of such couplers:

HO version - by Yarmouth Model Works

Unfortunately, these things are tiny . . .

First part, which I had to bend per the prototype diagram
And, they're in two pieces that need to be bent & assembled. Ugh! Well, fortunately, the Modeling Bug persists, so I'll press on - but the details will be in the next post.
* * *
So much for the first reason why posts have been a bit lax lately. The other reason is that the Missus and I have been working toward a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fundraiser which we're participating in this Thursday in support of her dad.

Long-time readers know that 2018 hasn't been kind to our dads. My dad had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass in early February, and about the same time Deb's dad found out cancer had come back - for the third time. Fortunately, my dad's doing great. Deb's dad - Rich - a bit less so. He was in the hospital for 3 months for treatment and then came home. Now he's going through 3 more rounds. He's hanging in there, but we're trying to do what we can for him.

Thus, the fundraiser to support research for the types of cancer he has. If you're interested in learning more about our effort click here and here. And if you're able to support the L&LS Light the Night cancer walk we're doing, thank you SO much!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Last Saybrook Special of 2018 (really, this time...)

I thought the Saybrook Specials would be ending with Labor Day Weekend (I even posted to that effect) - but, thankfully, I was wrong.

So, realizing my mistake, I got myself down to the crossing this morning and caught both the back-up/caboose first/southbound move, as well as the more dramatic northbound move. I even used a tripod this time(!)


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tuesday Tour: "OP"toberfest 2018

Really cool welcome sign outside Kevin Surman's house
"OP"toberfest is an amazing 2-day event put on each year by Doug Dederick and his team. Its name is a clue to what it's all about - 2 days chock full of serious operations on privately-owned model railroads in the Albany, NY region. Despite its name, though, it didn't happen in October (not this year, anyway).

This was my first year attending and I can't say enough how impressed I was with the organization and execution of the event. From the "swag bags" left at each layout for the operators, to the graciousness of the layout hosts, to the dinner Saturday night, every part of the program was outstanding. I'm definitely going to make this a new annual tradition!

There are three operating slots over the course of the weekend - Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon and, with all the details of the event so well taken care of, my biggest challenge was to try and choose just three of the layouts to operate! For this first time though, my traveling companion Pete Luchini and I decided on Kevin Surman's New York & Long Branch, Jack Cutler's PRR Juniata Secondary, and Kip Grant's D&H Sonnyvale Branch.

Each visit could be a huge post in its own right - and the number of pictures is proof: I took almost 200 of them on just those three layouts (and, no, I didn't let my railfanning distract me from my operating...for the most part). But here's a little bit on each one to give you a sense of the incredible work these guys have done.
Kevin Surman's New York & Long Branch is a double-decked layout that runs from Newark, to Bay Head, NJ and features a mostly-double-tracked & fully signaled mainline with a variety of traffic from both the PRR and the CNJ.

I was able to run a passenger train and a couple of local freights during my visit and really enjoyed the combination of signaling and switchlists. At first, the switching seemed overwhelming, but Kevin helpfully hinted that I should focus on doing the cars in the order they were on the list. Duh! I would certainly have overthought things without this tip and really messed things up. Switching as he suggested made the session much less stressful than it might have been!

Kevin's urban scenery provides a great start to the layout (it's the first thing you notice when you walk in) and a great contrast to the landscape you see on the way to Bay Head.

More of Newark - including overhead catenary(!)

Scene along the way - I think this is Cliffwood. I really like how effective the photo backdrop is here.

The mud flats at Matawan, NJ. The pilings are the last remnant of a trestle here that burned.

Rolling lift bridge over Cheesequake Creek.
The New York & Long Branch was featured in the November, 2013 issue of Model Railroader. and contains a much-more-detailed description - as well as much better photos. As I reviewed all the pics I took, I realized that most of them were just for reference (especially of the backdrops). There's a lot on his layout that I want to try and emulate, especially with regard to the scenery. Note though that the MR article doesn't show how the "Atlantic Highlands" area of the layout has been extended to get the railroad all the way to the yard at Bay Head.

Kevin and his layout provided a really wonderful environment and start to my first "OP"toberfest weekend. The fact that over 3 hours flew by, due to my total immersion in the world he's created & replicated, is testament to how well he's executed his vision.
As wonderfully scenicked as Kevin's layout was, Jack Cutler's Juniata Secondary was the polar opposite - not much scenery at all. He's "going to get to it" but, frankly, if he never does I don't know that anybody will notice.

Jack's layout is a depiction of a PRR secondary line pressed into mainline service on the day after D-Day. In his version of history, the famed Horseshoe Curve has been sabotaged and the Juniata Secondary is shouldering the brunt of moving critical traffic for the war effort. As you can imagine, the PRR during this era is stretched to the limit - and now, all of its traffic is being funneled over a single-tracked line with a number of passing tracks almost inadequate to the task.

Much of the line is signaled/CTC, but enough of it is still "dark" territory to keep things interesting - as if literally tons of traffic squeezed onto single track main isn't interesting enough. Just as you'd expect on the prototype, there's a fair amount of waiting for signals to clear, but that just gives you more time to fully appreciate what Jack has created in his basement.

The beginning of "dark" territory is just east (right) of Marcia Park on the lower level (right) and a very impressively-built helix is on the left.

Beginning of CTC territory is just beyond the swing gate, at the west end of Lukestown. Some structures - some built, some mockups - along with  printouts provide a little hint of the world to come.

Even though there's no scenery here, you can easily imagine the multiple tracks going into a sheer rock cliff somewhere in the Allegheny mountains of Pennsylvania. This photo also give you just a hint of how well Jack has built his benchwork and track. 3/4" 5-ply plywood provides a very firm foundation for trackwork which is among the best I've seen.

While there isn't much scenery per se, what structures there are on the layout are done to the same high level of craftsmanship evident in the benchwork, wiring, and track.

The nerve center of the Juniata Secondary is the CTC panel. Even though it runs on software, it still requires miles of wiring to get to all the signals around the layout.

Overview of Mattsburgh Yard (lower level, left) and, I think, Johnsboro (upper level, right)

A clue into how Jack is developing his layout. Really impressive.
From the tacked-up 3rd PlanIt renderings, to the cabinet-like benchwork and arrow-straight track, to the over 20(!) pages worth of material emailed to operators before the session, it's evident that Jack Cutler isn't doing anything by halves here. Sure, there's not much in the way of scenery or structures, but as I said at the outset, you really don't notice. You're focused exclusively on getting your train of war materiel over the road as quickly and safely as possible - and for that, Jack has already provided all you need.
After a quick lunch provided by Mrs. Cutler ("quick" only because Pete and I needed to get to the next session - and, frankly, MUCH appreciated since we probably would have had to skip lunch if the Cutlers hadn't been so gracious), we high-tailed it back up north to get to Kip Grant's Sonnyvale Branch of the Delaware & Hudson RR.

Kip's layout - like Kevin's - provided a stark contrast to the busy PRR we'd operated in the morning and was the perfect respite for a early-Autumn Saturday afternoon. Of course, I may be a bit biased since, of all the layouts we operated, Kip's creation is the closest to what I'm trying to do with the Valley Line.

The Sonnyvale Branch is based on the real Lake George Branch of the D&H, with just enough variation and variety to provide a bit more operation than the prototype. It wends its way from the D&H mainline at "Junction" and works its way through bucolic farmland at Sheldon's Curve and the town of Jasperdale before terminating at Sonnyvale. Just outside of Sonnyvale, a short branch takes off from Fenimore Jct. to serve the industrial area of Fenimore.

The small interchange yard at Junction, with the D&H mainline in the background. I'll probably say it a bunch of times, but I really like the backdrop effect here. It uses the old Dave Frary method and looks pretty good in person, but even better in photos. After switching some of the cars in the yard into a train (cars chosen based on switchlist), the local freight to Sonnyvale can depart.
As the local leaves the yard, it passes Hudson Paper Box & Holly Hill Creamery

Trackside view of the industries outside of Junction

The farm at Sheldon's Curve is by far one of my favorite scenes on the railroad. I probably took more pictures of this area than anything else - there's just so much to see! I really need to find out how Kip did his roadway (heh - and everything else in this scene) since it looks so authentic - and I have a LOT of roads to do on my layout...

Pulling back a bit, we see the creek next to the farm and the ROW going over the bridge.

Our local going by the farm at Sheldon's Curve. As with all the photos, be sure to click on them for a larger view. Your eyes - and imagination - will thank you!

On the way to Sonnyvale, we have some work to do at Jasperdale. What a well-executed, rural, wayside scene! There's SO much here that I want to try and emulate on the Valley Line.

Sonnyvale, looking back down the branch toward Junction. The Fenimore branch heads downgrade in the foreground.

Closer view of Sonnyvale station, with the Fenimore branch in the foreground. Really effective use of structures to convey a medium to large town.

Overview of the industrial complex at Fenimore.

And just cuz I couldn't resist - another view of the farm at Sheldon's Curve.
Kip has really nailed the look and feel of upstate New York. His use of color and texture - not to mention the myriad details, including pumpkins, gardens, linepoles w/wires(!) - is really effective at conveying a sense of time as well as place. Everything works together to put you back in the early 1960s, when the local freight was still a big part of the fabric of every day life. Consequently, the Sonnyvale Branch gives you a great trip back in time and is just a really fun, laid-back place to visit.

If you want to learn - and see - more of this great layout, you're in luck. The Sonnyvale Branch was featured in Great Model Railroads, 2011 as well as the April, 2013 issue of Model Railroader. You'll definitely want to check them out.
Typically, the Saturday afternoon ops session is the penultimate event of the "OP"toberfest weekend with only the dinner that night left to cap things off. Well, as a bonus, it turned out during dinner I was seated next to a fella I didn't know & asked him what layouts he'd operated over the past couple days. "My own," he replied. Well, turns out I was sitting next to John McBride who owns and operates the Crown Point Iron Co. railroad - in F scale(!)

His layout was the first on the list of layouts we could pick to operate on and, frankly, I made a big mistake passing it over - thinking it would be a hodge-podge of LGB equipment (not that there's anything wrong with that) and not really good for "serious" operations.

I couldn't have been more wrong. How about a working hump yard?!

(My apologies - it plays fine in Media Player, but not on YouTube.
And it looks like YT no longer allows you to rotate videos withing YT.)

John's layout is loosely based on a real ore-hauling railroad in upstate New York. There's little left of that line, having closed down in 1893. But in John's version of history, instead of closing down, the railroad adapted - and thrived - going into the new century, entering interchange agreements with surrounding railroads and expanding its industrial base. His CPICo RR is the impressive result. Yup - this is a fully-operational & operations-oriented G SCALE layout in a basement!

Yard at Crown Point, with the hump in the far background.

Crown Point engine terminal

Scene along the line at Sherman Corners, looking back toward Crown Point.

Same scene as above, looking toward Woodhull Mountain.

John scratchbuilt all of his structures - and almost all of them have full interiors as well!

Bennett Wood & Chemicals at Ironville, looking toward Hammondville.

Same scene, looking back toward Crown Point
Since the mainline punches through one of the risers on the basement stairs, you literally walk down into the layout which occupies the entire basement - on two levels! As I mentioned in one of the captions above, most of the structures have full interiors and some of them even have animation. Unfortunately, as you might have surmised from my hump yard video, I have a LOT to learn about videography. You'll just have to visit the CPICo RR in person to see it for yourself. Thankfully, John is a gracious and generous host and welcomes visitors.

Don't make the mistake I did - if you have a chance to operate this layout, DO IT! Pete and I decided right then and there that it'll be at the top of our list next year.
Even though this post is much longer than usual, it still doesn't fully capture how great a weekend this was. But hopefully it gives you a little taste of what these very talented artists have created for us to enjoy. I, for one, cannot wait to get back to the basement myself and channel some of this inspiration into progress on my own layout. I may never achieve the level of success Kevin, Jack, Kip, and John have, but if I follow their example even a little bit, I know I'll be a lot closer to creating a slice of railroad I can be proud of.

Thanks again to our hosts, and another special thanks to Doug Dederick for putting on such a wonderful event. I'm already looking forward to next year!