Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wordless Wednesday #273

Westerfield kit with full brake detail and broken/chipped bracing repaired with strip styrene. Sill steps kitbashed from A-line steps by soldering in an additional rung.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday Fun: New Haven Railroad DERS-4 (GP-9)

Had a visitor from "the future" on the Valley Line recently - New Haven Railroad DERS-4 #1229 (aka an EMD GP-9). The prototype wasn't delivered to the New Haven until the mid-1950s, so way beyond my chosen era,. But BobV brought his "dead rail" version for Show-n-Tell at last night's Photo Library volunteer night, so the Valley Line was only too happy to play host.

Be sure to check out the video - crazy!

Friday, July 5, 2019

East Berlin - Starting the Backdrop

The recent mugging diversion was a good exercise for a number of reasons, not the least of which - it's prompted me to think more strategically about the backdrop in East Berlin. Here's an overview of where things left off once the track dried (and I removed all those bottles weighing in down!):

Based on the station photograph I found (and my subsequent reasoning for how to handle it), I'm going to rethink the backdrop that I've temporarily mocked up behind the station area and Mattabessett River bridge (to the left of the road) and turn my attention to the backdrop behind the new-to-me structures.

A while back, I sent some of my background photos to my friend (sadly blogless) PeteL for him to use. He in turn sent them to a company who stitched them together and printed them on a seamless 6' length of vinyl. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for me), the scale of the trees on the resulting backdrop print didn't work for his space - he needed them smaller/further into the distance. So, he couldn't use said backdrop and offered it to me. After trying it unsatisfactorily in a few locations, I decided to try it in East Berlin . . .

Not for nothin' - and I know it's not "perfectly prototypically accurate" (one can know too much about one's prototype area...) - but DANG! I think it looks pretty great here. And Bonus: the right edge of the print is even with the corner of the wall and with a minor shortening I can hide the the left-end seam behind the IDEAL building . . .

And in a stroke of total luck, much of the sky in the print actually matches the color blue I used to paint the walls(!) Check out these grab-shots: they're not PhotoShopped and the scale of the trees looks pretty good to me. Whattaya think?

The sky looks SO good that I'm considering following Bill's suggestion to keep it, rather than trim it down to the top of the trees (as most of us do with such prints). I'd of course trim off that white border and might even do a wavy cut line to disguise the top edge. I may also try using some of my backdrop/sky paint - along with some flat white - to try and blend in the edges of the print.

Have any of you tried that sort of blending? Do you ever keep the sky or do you always trim it off?

For the time being, I'm just going to admire how it looks!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Mugged by the Prototype: A Few Words about Wordless Wednesday #271

You may have noticed lately an ever-so-slight relaxing of my otherwise-rigid following of the prototype in my modeling the Valley Line. The case of how to model & position the Wethersfield Lumber Co. is one case-in-point, and illustrates an all-too-common dilemma of Prototype Modeling: how do you model the prototype convincingly in the limited space you have? My friend MartyM offered an excellent perspective:
"Prototype modeling is about necessary compromises. Where the wheels always start to fall off the bus is when we try to cram too much into our too small spaces."
Where to make these inevitable compromises has a lot to do with your priorities - your "givens & druthers" - and what you want to accomplish with your modeling. In my case, I have a strong interest in replicating what John Wallace saw during his time with the Valley Line in the late 1940s. And what he saw has been beautifully conveyed in his articles and photographs. Those have been the primary - and often exclusive - basis for my efforts.

And where - as in the case of Wethersfield Lumber - there's little information and no photos, it's easy to make a "best guess" and leverage the resulting flexibility to make the best use of the space I have available.

But what about East Berlin? John has little, if any, direct experience with that part of the Valley Line and no photos. So, as I've related earlier, when I got some cool structures I wanted to use I decided to put them in East Berlin. They look great in the space and function enough like the prototype for my tastes - at least based on my limited information.

The problem started when DaveM offered to build another structure for me and I suggested, perhaps, the East Berlin station would be a good next project. In keeping with my "proto-freelancing" of East Berlin, all I was going to do was use a kit I had on-hand. But the prototype structure actually still exists - in a form - and I have a little space for it on the layout. So, I thought, why not use a more accurate model?

Of course, to model the station accurately, Dave needed photos. Other than the one above that I took a while back, all I had was this one taken around WWI (and phone photoed from a calendar):

There's a LOT going on there - maybe folks waiting for the doughboys to come home? Look at all those tracks - even going behind the station(!) No worries - this photo is from WAY before my time and even the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. (located across the tracks from the station) is going great guns at this point in history. By the late 1940s though, passenger service had been gone for over 15 years and the Bridge Co. had moved away as well. I figured I was still pretty safe in how I was going to model East Berlin.

Then Dave asked me what should have been an obvious question: "Does the NHRHTA Photo Library have any photos of the East Berlin station?" Heh - as the NHRHTA Photo Librarian I figured "Nope - I of course would have known if it did" - but I checked anyway. Turned out I was wrong. Out of over 14,000 images, there's one of the station at East Berlin:

What a great shot! But - as with many new discoveries of one's prototype - it presents good news and bad news: It's always wonderful to discover something new, but it's usually a problem figuring out how to handle the new information. In the photo above, there are two background buildings I knew nothing about and I think they're still there (though heavily modified). But if you stand in the photographer's spot today, all you'd see behind the station is a dense row of trees.

This photo was taken on Armistice Day, 1931 (that's what Veteran's Day was called back then) and you can see that it's still an active passenger station (barely - passenger service would cease within a couple of years) but all those tracks we saw in the previous photo are long gone. Only the passing siding remains and that would disappear by World War 2. And the station building itself is much longer than the space I have available for it.

So, having been thoroughly mugged by this new information, what should I do?

A prototype-modeler-purist (a group to which I aspire) would do what they could to include and accommodate the new information. If there's room, build the station full scale length and add the background buildings. If there's not enough room for that, include the buildings as flats - or at least on the backdrop. "Selectively compress" the station if absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, none of that's going to work here - not without a very significant amount of work, and perhaps the sacrifice of at least one of the two great structures I've already included. And all for what is - to me - very little benefit. The buildings in the background are not rail-served and serve no operating function on my layout, and by my era the station is probably only used for LCL/express/package service and that's most likely truck-hauled (there's no team track).

So the background buildings aren't critical, and the model of the station can be compressed to fit the space I have for it. It's not a perfect - or prototypically pure - solution and in a perfect world, with ample space, I'd much prefer to have East Berlin be historically accurate. After all, one of my "givens" is that I want to convey the Valley Line as accurately as possible.

But in this case, these are compromises I'm willing to live with. And I'll be sure and include a dense stand of trees behind the station to hide the evidence.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

E. Berlin - Moving the Siding

Been working on the end of the Berlin Branch lately and, given that there aren't too many photos or information on the area, I've decided to freelance it just a little so I can use some great structures I recently acquired.

Unfortunately, one of those structures was a bit too large for the space I had, so I decided to move the siding to accommodate the building. But before doing anything drastic, I wanted to be absolutely certain that the trackwork would work here - not to mention figure out precisely where it would go. So I positioned the structure again for a final check...

and used an 18" radius template to get the siding to swing out enough and provide as much tangent track as possible. Yes, that's a tight radius, but certainly no problem for a 2-6-0 and 40' cars. Besides, tight curves aren't uncommon for industrial trackage.

Using the marks from my skewers, I determined where the plywood subroadbed ended and marked that out.

Then I removed all the ground goop in that area . . .

and backfilled with more N-scale roadbed to make a nice, flat area . . .

Then, I filled in the gaps with some vinyl spackling.

Here's the siding moved, temporarily, and the structure put in place to check everything.

More spackle to even things out, and a straight gauge to align the track.

To simulate a cinders under the track, I added some black paint - but since I didn't want to remove the track itself (it's actually soldered to the turnout), I lifted it with a putty knife and skewer and painted under it - leaving the track suspended while the paint dried.

I also painted all the surrounding area to pull it all together.

After all that dried, the final step in the siding relocation was to put down some Aleene's tacky glue and weigh down the track.

We'll see how all this turned out next time!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Makin' Changes at E. Berlin

Seems I can only make manic, sporadic progress on the layout lately. Sometimes I'm working in Essex, sometimes I'm in Wethersfield, and lately it happens that I'm trying some new things in E. Berlin. The last time I was there, I was working on a brick building to represent the Stanley Chemical Co. But since then, I acquired a number of wonderful structures from Bill Maguire that I want to be sure and use.

So that's required a bit of rethinking of how to proceed in East Berlin.

Considering all my prototype angst around Wethersfield Lumber, you won't be surprised to discover that I'm relaxing my prototype rigidity just a bit. In locations that aren't well-known or photographed, I'm allowing myself to "imagineer" a little. Thankfully, that gives me just the opportunity I need to be able to use some of Bill's structures.

The photo above shows where I left off (click here for the details). The plan had been to use a brick station to the left of the road, and the Walthers modular brick factory (of my own design) between the wall and the track on the right. That would be Stanley Chemical. The track at the back, going off to the right into the wall, is the old mainline to the Kensington section of Berlin (and a connection with the New Haven-Hartford main) which was cut back to this point around 1917. I had a rough plan for a brickyard - or at least a concrete ramp for brick loading - along that track in the back.

But here's what I'm going to use here instead - two of Bill's beautiful scratchbuilt structures. The only problem is locating them effectively. You might not have noticed in the previous photo that there's a little hill in the corner which pushes the yellow building toward the main. And the depth of the gray building pushes it up the siding toward the curve in order to fit.

First things first - I removed the little hill to create some more space in the corner . . .

And since I wanted the foam board to go all the way into the corner, I hotglued a piece of foam to the wall for support . . .

And then painted everything a uniform color . . .

So that allowed the yellow building to scoot back toward the wall and away from the track, which allows room for a loading dock and a truck turn-around area. But here I'm still fussing around with the positioning of the gray building - even considering separating the two sections.

Playing around with the gray building's position some more, it looks like I may be able to move the siding further away from the wall to create some room, which will in turn allow both parts of the building to move down toward the end of the siding and allow more space between the two industries.

So "all I gotta do" is move the siding. And the first step to that is to get a sense of where the plywood subroadbed ends (which, in turn, will let me know whether I need to add more subroadbed under where the siding has to go).

I pushed some bamboo skewers from underneath through the plaster cloth & ground goop to show the edge of the plywood. Looks like I may have enough subroadbed to move the siding further from the wall toward the aisle.

And it looks like I have some goop excavation to do . . .

Friday, June 28, 2019

Friday Fun? Making Room for Dickinson's Warehouse

"No plan survives contact with the enemy."
-paraphrased quote by Helmuth von Moltke

Building a successful model railroad shouldn't be likened to going into battle, but it sometimes seems that way. Despite the most-detailed plans, Harsh Reality (the "enemy" in our little metaphor) has a way of at least modifying said plans, if not totally laying them to waste. You can fuss and fret all you want, but the path to success is being flexible enough to accommodate/overcome/go around the inevitable hurdles reality puts in your way and confront them head-on.

The most common hurdles are planning curve radii which won't actually fit, or turnouts that turn out to be much longer than expected. But sometimes, the hurdle is the result of an unanticipated opportunity. Case in point: the Dickinson Witch Hazel Warehouse in Essex.

Ain't she a beaut? And she still exists today...

Other than the station itself (actually, the freight house in my era), the Dickinson warehouse really establishes & anchors the entire Essex scene. So there was never any question that I would have to include a model of it on my layout.

For the longest time, I just had this as a temporary mockup. I figured the 3" or so between the track and the backdrop would be enough space for a deep-relief flat version of the warehouse.

And a flat would be just about all I'd be able to accommodate since Deep River is directly on the opposite side of the backdrop - and, as you can see, it's already a bit snug there (especially down by the transfer siding in the distance). No worries though - all that's on the backdrop side of the track here is a riverbank - and the river itself will be on the backdrop.

So that was my rough plan - a 2" or so deep flat version of the Dickinson warehouse. Then reality hit in the form of an unanticipated opportunity courtesy Bill Maguire.

Yup, that's a full-scale model of the Dickinson warehouse that Bill built and gave to me when he dismantled his layout. That's the good news. The, um, not so good news is - well, you can see how it fits . . .

Now, there was absolutely no way I was going to cut or in any way modify such a gorgeous model, so I moved it down the siding until it actually fit . . .

It "fits" but certainly isn't located where it really needs to be. So next I decided to see what I'd need to do in order to get the warehouse to fit where it's supposed to go.

Turned out, I needed about 4 more inches(!) between the track and the backdrop in order to get the warehouse to fit properly. Ugh!

I pushed a long bamboo skewer through the foam to mark the corners of the building. In this overall view, you can see how much track would need to be moved in order to create enough space. Moving all that track was a non-starter. I'd end up losing the sidings closest to the aisle, not to mention creating unrealistic - and probably non-working - big S curves at each end of the scene.

So, if I couldn't move the track, the only other option (other than cutting the building, which was another non-starter) was to move the backdrop. So that's what I did.

The skewers helped me "see" where the limits of the building were when viewed from the Deep River side of the backdrop. I sighted those limits and marked them on the foam on the Deep River side, and started cutting . . .

My friend RonD has often said that "the toughest aspect of  any modeling action is the first step" and, once I'd decided to move the backdrop, things progressed pretty quickly. It's amazing what you can do with a sharp steak knife, despite the foam being 2" thick (based on a previous experience with BillS, I decided against burning through the foam with a hot knife).

Fortunately, the backdrop rests on the slats and within a slot that had been cut into the foam (with said hot knife), so I figured "all I have to do" is remove more foam and push the backdrop over enough to make space for the warehouse.

Well, that was mostly correct. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that I did install one vertical support to hold things up . . .

And, also unfortunately, when I went to move the backdrop toward the Deep River side of the peninsula, it got hung up on this L-bracket. It took me longer to get in there with a screwdriver and move the L-bracket than the whole rest of the moving project did (and I never did get the bracket totally removed). But at least I got it unhooked and was able to move the backdrop just enough.

A piece of foam, wedged in the gap on the Essex side, is enough to hold the backdrop at bay. Voila! There's enough space (finally!) for the Dickinson warehouse!

But the Deep River side has suffered a bit, admittedly. See how close the bow in the backdrop comes to the transfer siding?

There's enough clearance to get cars past there, but it doesn't look that great. There's going to have to be some creative sleight-of-hand scenery-wise to disguise this. And I'll probably move the siding a bit further north (left) as well.

But, in my mind at least, that's a small price to pay for such a signature structure in one of the most important towns on the Valley Line.

Whattaya think? I know everyone has their own "givens & druthers" and you may have decided differently. How do you tend to confront the inevitable obstacles you encounter during layout construction? Any helpful tips or suggestions? Weigh in in the comments below.

And thanks again to all of you who either posted here or emailed me directly about Wethersfield Lumber. I really appreciate your taking the time to write and share your thoughts and perspectives. Stay tuned for more progress there. For now though, I think I'll give the Essex scene a rest.