Sunday, January 9, 2022

2021 Accomplishments/2022 Goals

Although I'm loathe to make any hard & fast New Year's Resolutions, I do find it helpful to look back and look forward. But unlike that more general post I did the other day, this "accomplishments/goals" post is a no-nonsense, no-frills (and no pics) comparison of what I'd set out to do in '21 versus how I actually did.  While not "resolutions" per se, I'll at least note where I'd like to be a year from now.

And, unlike last year, I'm posting this a day earlier. So that's a step in the right direction at least...

A layout is never done - there are always additional details and scenic textures we can add. But there's definitely a level of "done-ness" that I definitely want to achieve - if not by the end of this year, then as soon as possible. By "done-ness" I mean the following:

  • All trackwork is in and operable (mission already accomplished here, mostly, despite some persistent shorting issues);
  • Main structures, roads, and grade crossings are done and in place;
  • There's a basic layer of scenery (at least ground foam & static grass, and ballast on the track - trees are a bonus);
  • Backdrops are all installed.
Other than the inevitable detailing/scenicking that will go on (and on), additional items that will move a layout to more "done" than "in progress" have to do mostly with the layout room itself and include fascia & valences being installed and painted (fascia definitely - valences optional), layout curtains installed below the fascia to the floor, and carpet or carpet squares.

I completed the fascia as part of the benchwork, but I've only installed valences and layout curtains in a few areas. And operators don't have nice carpeting yet - or even carpet squares - to stand on during sessions, but foam squares do in a pinch.

So my main focus is on the layout itself - which unfortunately still has quite a way to go before it's at even a basic level of "done-ness." I'm making progress - but never fast enough for my liking. So in the hopes of spurring some additional motivation here at the beginning of the year, here's a current assessment, starting at the north end of the line. . .


How I did: After major progress in 2020, including finishing basic scenery, I only got started on the backdrop and did a little more scenic texture.

How (I hope) I'll do: Finish the backdrop. That's it. There are no more structures that need to be done here, and basic scenery is already in. Of course, there's LOTS AND LOTS of detailing that needs to be done here - including lumber piles, chain link fences, additional scenic colors/textures, and switchstands (cosmetic only, but needed throughout the layout) - but to hit the level of "done-ness" I outlined earlier, I just need to get the stupid backdrop done, finally.

East Berlin

While technically branching off the mainline, north of Middletown, in my basement East Berlin is located in the corner next to Wethersfield, so it's next . . .

How I did: Ditto Wethersfield. Major progress in 2020, but only a little more scenic texturing in 2021 - including trees though!

How I'll do: I actually just started working on the last structural element there today - a concrete loading dock for loading bricks from local brickyards. Other than that, I'd like to improve the transition between the foreground and backdrop on the right side of the scene. And other than just a few more details, this area should be very close to "done" by the end of this year - if not the end of this month(!)

Rocky Hill

Continuing south from Wethersfield, the Rocky Hill scene has been close to done for years, lacking only a backdrop.

How I did: I started the backdrop here last year, finishing it from the Goff Brook scene around the end of the peninsula.

How I'll do:  I have only to finish the backdrop from the peninsula to the backdrop in Dividend for this area (at least "north" <to the right> of Glastonbury Road) to be done.


How I did: Progress in Dividend was my major accomplishment in 2021, including a speed record in getting the backdrop done start to finish, as well as finishing most of the basic scenery - including a rock cut(!)

How I'll do: I'm working more here now, having just finished painting the major structure foundations and starting to rough in the rest of the backdrop. Other than that and the remaining basic scenery (which will have to include a lot of trees), I need to build the tank farm at the south end of the Hartford Rayon complex.


How I did: Other than mocking it up enough to figure out where/how to place the hill that divides this town from Dividend, I think all I did here last year was some cardboard lattice and plaster cloth.

How I'll do: Other than a distinctive diner, and perhaps scratchbuilding the station, most of the buildings here will be generic DPM-type town buildings - some of which are already built. The other challenge will be colorizing an era-appropriate postcard of Main Street and integrating it into the photo backdrop here. 

But the MAIN accomplishment in this area is actually also the last major (re)work that needs to be done on the layout - I need to remove part of the benchwork and add-in the Mattabessett River and a rail bridge. On the prototype, that represents the line between Cromwell and Middletown, so if there's any way I can figure out how to replicate that on my layout, I'm gonna try.


How I did: I did a lot of mocking up and trying different street/terrain levels to try and get things to look "right" in the limited space I have for the major town on the Valley Line. Other than that, I reworked the terrain at the north end of the yard.

How (I hope) I'll do: There's a LOT of structures to build for Middletown, even though I have a huge head start thanks to Bill Maguire and Dave Messer. Some of them - like the freighthouse and Meech & Stoddard - will have to be scratchbuilt, but most of the rest of the city structures will be a mix of DPM, Walthers, and Magnuson Models kits.

Given all the structures needed - as well as all the area I need to cover with even cardboard lattice and plaster cloth (it's mostly bare benchwork here) - I think it'll be a long time before Middletown is at any level of done-ness. But I at least hope to get the backdrop done this year.... fingers crossed.

East Haddam/Deep River/Essex

How I did: I painted the foam board.

How I'll do: Since I plan to focus on getting everything north of Middletown "done" this year, I don't expect I'll be accomplishing much on the south end of the Valley Line. But I'll see if I can at least finish the structures in East Haddam that Dave Messer started.

Old Saybrook

How I did: Um, nuthin' - zero - zilch - nada

How (I hope) I'll do: The Saybrook Scene is the first thing you see when you come down the basement stairs, so I'd really like to get this area to a level of "done-ness" in 2022. The good news/bad news here for years has been that (thanks to BillS), Saybrook has been within striking distance of "done" - all major structures in, and most of the scenery completed. However, before it checks all the "done-ness" boxes, I have to at least ballast the track (still vacillating on what to use), finish the backdrop, and get the Route 1 overpass done. Signal bridges will be a bonus (I figure actual signals are a detail that's way off in the future).

Unlike the rest of the layout though, Saybrook can boast that it's the only area that has not only painted fascia, but painted valence and layout curtains. Still no carpet though (I don't think having it on the basement stairs really counts...)

Other Projects

J-1 Class 2-8-2 #3022: I worked on the cut-down tender a bit in 2021, but still have to do the over-the-top-of-the-smokebox handrail (the bending of which is surprisingly tricky), and finish detailing the tender and the loco itself. I really hope to get that done this year.

DEY-3 & DEY-5 Class diesels (Alco S-1 & S-2): Last year, I finally got these undec models out of the box(!) and started putting them together. And THIS year so far (even though we're only 9 days in...), I got the DEY-5 primed and painted. So that should definitely get done by the end of this year month. The DEY-3 will need a little more work (3D printed fan housing, perhaps thinner radiator shutters), but it should definitely get done (finally) this year - perhaps even by the end of winter. Fingers crossed!

Ops Sessions: Unlike 2020, I was able to operate monthly for a few months last year, but ops sessions are on hiatus for the time being. Turns out, some of my shorting problems have resurfaced, so - in addition to more sessions in 2022, I want to figure out - once and for all - what the source of the shorting problem is, and fix it.

Blog Posting: If there's one thing I can almost guarantee that I'll improve on in 2022 vs. 2021 it's the number of posts on the blog. Of course, the more I can accomplish, the more there'll be to write about.

So there you have it - a thorough & current, if not quick, assessment of the layout and what I hope to accomplish by this time next year. Here's hoping you'll continue to follow along and provide some much-needed motivation and encouragement (as well as guidance & tips) over the coming months. 

With your help, I hope next year I'll be able to report a LOT more on the "How I did" side of the ledger.

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