Saturday, October 12, 2019

"OP"toberfest Day 2, Session 2 - Ken Nelson

After a thoroughly enjoyable morning of operating large scale trains, I have to admit it took a bit of time to get reacquainted with operating in HO scale, but Ken Nelson's layout provided the perfect contrast. Being in operation for over 30 years, the freelanced Poco Valley Lines is more of a traditional model railroad rather than some of the more prototype-based layouts which have become popular in recent years. But that made it no less fun to operate, with a large number of trains running through some really cool scenery.

Hopefully the pics will give you a some sense of what it was like . . .

One of the first things that becomes apparent as you enter Ken's basement is the long history of the layout, including lots of RR memorabilia as well as historic artifacts of the layout itself - all nicely displayed.

A couple of over-all shots of the layout to give you a sense of the space. This is the main city on the layout, which includes the main classification yard and an engine terminal at the end of the peninsula.

Panning right a bit, you see the end of the main branchline, which connects with a former interurban line (the Hillsode Street Rwy) which has been converted to diesel power and serves another outlying town.

The "outlying town" of Coopersburg is at the end of a branch in its own separate room. Next time, I want to operate this job!

Former interurban tracks in the foreground, down Hillside's main street.

Closer view of the engine terminal with Pete operating a train in the background.

One of the towns along the way, with an effective use of background illustrations to extend the road.

Many of the model railroads built during the '80s included not only a large yard and engine terminal, but a huge wood trestle. Here's Ken's impressive effort, located on the branch which - in addition to providing cars for the former interurban line - also serves a mine.

Passenger station in the main city - very impressive, and not too compressed adding to the sheer scope and size.

Some of the buildings had full, lighted interiors - including the main roundhouse.

Despite the poor quality of the photo, I couldn't end this post without showing you the Caverns. One of the sites Ken models is a limestone quarry & cement plant in upstate NY which also had caverns beneath it. And, as you can see, he's modeled them as well! Unfortunately, the interior lighting wasn't working, so you have to deal with my flash. But hopefully it gives you a sense of what he's accomplished here.
Having operated on three different layouts in two different states in less that 24 hours, "OP"toberfest was about as close to an "op til you drop" event you can get. While I wasn't quite ready for it to end, I was thankful when I realized we had a couple of hours between Ken's session ending and the annual dinner. I took a quick nap (the "drop" part....) so was recharged enough for the fun of seeing old friends and making a few new ones over a great spread.

Special shout out to Dean S who was kind enough to seek me out to let me know he follows the blog and special thanks to Doug and his crew for organizing another wonderful operating weekend!

Friday, October 11, 2019

"OP"toberfest Day 2, Session 1 - John McBride

I'm running a bit behind in reporting all the cool layout visits I've been lucky enough to do so far this autumn - primarily because I've been busy doing other stuff (some fun, like working on the layout & other operating sessions, some not-so-fun like crazy day-job antics). So please excuse the increase in pace here - I just hope it doesn't detract at all from fully sharing the amazing layouts I've visited lately!

First up on Day 2 of "OP"toberfest - John McBride. . .

Pete and I had wangled our way into an invite to see John's layout after "OP"toberfest last year. We registered too late to operate on it, but heard so many great things about it we decided we had to at least see it. Well, John graciously agreed to have us visit - and after that visit, we decided right then and there that we'd have to register early for 2019 and have John's layout be at the top of our list.

The photos will make the reason clear...

The first two things you need to know about John's layout: 1) It's G scale, and 2) it's indoors. Oh, and it has an operating hump yard(?!)

Hump on the left. Bumpers equipped with actual springs located at the end of each yard track.

John's layout is based on a lumber and minerals hauler in upstate New York. There's some modeling license exercised to allow for a bit more traffic diversity, but the main point of the railroad is clear. Many of his buildings have full interiors, lighting, and sometimes even animation.

Another view of the Hump

In order to fit so much G-scale RR into a standard basement, some - um - innovation was required.

Watching the large scale Shay operating was a real treat. And there are turntables at each end of the line to turn the engines for return trips.

One of the coolest parts of operating John's layout - other than the sheer size of the equipment - was that you could actually do things that you can only simulate in the smaller scales. For example, I ran a mixed train and part of my instructions were to pick up mail and milk at a certain station. Well, I got to the station and paused to simulate loading (as I would on an HO layout), but John's helper said: "Are you gonna load the milk and mail?" Sure enough, there on the platform were sacks of mail and a few milk cans which you physically picked up and put into the combine.
I didn't dare check to see if there was any actual mail or milk....

The layout is actually on multiple levels, with two branchlines going up from the base level to service a lumber camp and a town with a saw mill.

Another thing you don't see in the smaller scales. This is what's necessary to rerail an engine that's gone off the track at the back of the layout. No access hatch needed.

I mentioned earlier the treat of seeing a large-scale Shay operating.... well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, what's a video worth? Enjoy!

If you ever get the chance to visit - or, even better, operate - on John McBride's layout, definitely do it! But beware - like me, you might just be tempted to sell off all your current RR stuff and change to G scale!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wordless Wednesday #285

(certainly not the Valley Line, but such a cool photo I couldn't resist sharing it)

Monday, October 7, 2019

"OP"toberfest Day 1 - Bill Duffe's LKJ&W Railroad

Although odd-numbered years mean that I can't attend one of my main RR events of the year - NERPM - I've certainly been making up for that this year. Literally every other weekend, starting with the first weekend of September, I've been able to attend something major - from the Annual NHRHTA Reunion, to the MARPM, and now just this past weekend, "OP"toberfest.

My friend PeteL and I first attended this 3-day event last year and vowed to try and make it a new annual thing. Layout owners from all around the Albany, NY area - all the way up to Saratoga Springs - open up their homes and host operating sessions for visitors. Demand is high and it's by invitation only, but if you're lucky enough to get on the list and get into a few slots, you're guaranteed a fun-filled weekend of railroad simulation.

Our weekend this year started Friday night with an ops session hosted by Bill Duffe. His layout is 100% scenicked and is jam packed with craftsman structure kits and many details. Think Dick Elwell's Hoosac Valley, but on a smaller footprint. It runs from staging yards between Boston &Mechanicville and towns in between. And while the mainline does go back and forth past itself a few times, you still get the sense of traveling from one town to another, doing work along the way. The operation itself is fairly laid-back, controlled by a full signal system, phones, and switchlists. There's no fast clock, but the trains run in a set sequence. All in all, it made for a wonderful and engaging evening of working the railroad. Here are some pics from the session:

This handy-dandy trackplan was conveniently posted right outside the layout room. VERY helpful for orientation. Be sure to click on the image to zoom in.

One of the many craftsman structures on the railroad. And even though his backdrop is painted, it looks very effective and "autumny"

Scratchbuilt stone crusher.
Super detail on the crusher

The layout is a real feast for the eyes - everywhere you look, there are photogenic buildings and scenes.

His town of North Adams was especially impressive & loaded with tons of detail.

North Adams from trackside.

A drone shot view showing how some of the mainlines come back on themselves, but the scenery here is still very effective. And when you're operating you're not as aware that the towns are so close together.

Bill's representation of North Bennington, with Rutland staging off to the right.

East Deerfield yard, looking east.

Overall view looking from Greenfield with Troy in the left distance.

One of the industries in Eagle Bridge.

Pete having a good time as our local makes its way down the grade from Greenfield to Charlemont.

The massive station and surrounding area at Troy.

Our local heading back to East Deerfield via Greenfield.
With its many trains - and SO many things to look at while you were waiting at signals - Bill's session was the perfect way to kick off "OP"toberfest 2019. It helped that the layout was only an hour north of Hartford - one of the far east outliers for the weekend, but conveniently on our way. Unfortunately, we still had a 2 hr drive to our hotel after the session. We wanted to be sure to be well rested in time to be able to make it to John McBride's layout the following morning - a railroad we'd barely seen last year, but vowed on the spot to make a priority this year.

Friday, October 4, 2019

MARPM Day 4 (cont) - Visiting Bill Aldrich and Joe Smith

I've been a fan of Bill Adrich's work for a long time. He's right up there with John Pryke as an influence in my decision to model the New Haven Railroad. Of course, his choice of the New Haven's famed Shoreline Route has become even more influential to me as I've attempted to model just a small portion of it in Old Saybrook.

I knew Bill lived "somewhere in Pennsylvania" but when I learned at Paul Dolkos' that he was actually right on our way home, well, we just had to give him a call. And he enthusiastically invited us over to visit. Here's just a small sample of the photos I took of his outstanding work . . .

The main city on the layout is Providence, RI and Bill's included the Charles St. engine terminal on a peninsula coming off the main freight yard. It's the only peninsula on the layout, which otherwise goes around the entire basement on an 18-24" shelf.

Among all the many details you'll find here as on other great model railroads, Bill has also fully detailed many of his passenger cars, based on personal experience having ridden in them as a member of the NHRR Board of Directors (pre-McGinnis he'll be sure to point out).

I think the tablecloths are aluminium foil. Amazing. Check out those wall sconces!

We've all seen detailed harbor scenes, but how about detailing what's under water?! Here's a lobster boat with - as you can see - lobster pots below. I didn't have the nerve to ask if there were actual HO scale lobsters in the pots. I was afraid he'd say yes!

An R-3a 3500-series Mountain on the Shoreline. These were 3-cylindered engines, and yes there's a working 3rd valve gear hidden behind the air pumps. Oh, and this steamer - like all the others on this layout - is scratchbuilt. #speechless

View of downtown Providence behind the passenger station. Certainly compressed, but still very effective and - not to mention - seldom modeled.

Mystic station out on the Shoreline

One of the many scenic highlights of the layout is the area around Rocky Neck park. It's not evident in this photo (as you can tell, I was caught a bit off guard by the speed of the train!), but it's shot from the famous overpass which you'll see later.

Another beautiful harbor scene. The New Haven's Shoreline Route crosses dozens of these between New Haven and Providence and they're well-represented on Bill's layout.

"Shoreliner" type Hudson, 1400 series. Scratchbuilt. An amazing representation of a typical Shoreline Route passenger train.

Here's the overpass at Rocky Neck that I mentioned earlier. Prototype photo.

Here's the overpass at Rocky Neck that I mentioned earlier. Model photo. :^)

Drone view of the Charles St. engine facility
I'd almost say I could check Bill's layout off my bucket list, but there was no way I could see & appreciate everything in just one visit. So I hope to be able to go back again soon when we can stay longer!


We ended our jam-packed weekend with a quick detour to see our friend Joe Smith and the layout he's building depicting scenes on the Berkshire line.
Here's Danbury, CT and a view not only of the yard, but the well-known and much-photographed freight house, which lasted into the 1990s IIRC.

View the other way, showing the station and part of the City of Danbury.

What is it with the folks I know who scratchbuild their own locomotives?! Yes, Joe scratchbuilt this model of one of the New Haven's unique Ingersoll-Rand switchers. It runs and sounds as good as it looks. What a cool looking engine! Be sure to check out Joe's blog for the build thread.

Danbury was one of the locations for steam/diesel transition to electric on the New Haven. Here's part of the electric facility, with the much-photographed Danbury barn in the background.

Long view of the Danbury yard, looking from the engine facility back west toward the station.

The other towns Joe's modeling aren't as finished as Danbury, so I focused my camera there for the most part. But I'd be remiss if I didn't give you a sense of the room. He's stacked his levels/scenes and they're all joined with multiple helixes (helices??) and set off with black fascia and valences. Very theatrical and very effective. Really causes the scenes to pop. 

While his other helixes/helices are fully enclosed, this one has invaded his workshop and is there exposed in all its glory. There's a truckload of carpentry and engineering that went into this layout and to me this "under the hood" view is almost as impressive as his modeling.

Joe's effort is truly amazing and pretty innovative if you ask me. I know folks that have strung together favorite prototype scenes, but I've never seen them presented in such a theatrical way as Joe's done here - nor with the overwhelming amount of carpentry!

If you want to see more photos - and, even better, benefit from learning how he does things - you're lucky in that he's documenting his builds on his blog at Signal Station 199 (named after the interlocking where the Berkshire line branches off the main).  Be sure to check it out - I think you'll be as impressed as I am.


Whew! I think it's taken me longer to document and share my MARPM weekend as the weekend itself. But hopefully these posts have given you a sense of what a well-run RPM is like and also given you some motivation to seek out other layouts that may not be on the formal tour. I also hope you'll be sure to check out the links in these posts and visit the different blogs and websites for more information and photos. I'm always so impressed with the quality of work and level of dedication these modelers have. It's truly inspirational and I hope, like me, you'll get some wind in your modeling sails too.

Happy Weekend!