Sunday, February 19, 2023

Quick Progress Update

After all the flurry over the past couple of months working on/finishing the SW1, then trying to get as much done as possible on the layout - culminating in a big op session and Springfield Weekend, the Valley Line took a back seat for a while as I tried to catch up on everything else I'd been able to let slide in the meantime.

But like crocuses poking up through the snow, the Valley Line has started to wriggle back to life a bit. Here's a quick sampling of what I've been up to lately on the layout. . .

After vacillating for, literally, years and having them languish on my Christmas lists, I finally purchased the rest of the throttle holders I needed. They've obviously never been a high priority - my operators have never complained there's no place to put the throttle (probably cuz they're usually 2-man crews), but I noticed their absence every time I operated the layout solo. And now that I'm getting more scenery done, I'm less and less willing to lay the throttle on the layout.

I also found this PSX-AR (combo circuit breaker/auto reversing unit). Long time readers may remember the troubles I had with shorting at the ends of the reversing section between Middletown and Wethersfield (click here for the background). Well, way back in Sept. 2021, I'd borrowed a PSX-AR which seemed to fix the problem. So I purchased one of my own, but then was able to get my old PSX-AR units working. So the new unit sat in a box. That is until recently when the old unit decided to start acting up. Out came the new unit, on went a piezo speaker, and here it is semi-permanently installed on the layout. I want to get a bunch of op sessions into it before I mount it more permanently, but so far so good . . .

Speaking of op sessions, I noticed that my radios were starting to show evidence of, um, being dropped. I know at least one of them got totally trashed when *I* dropped it, but it's a bit of a mystery how the others have fared so poorly. No worries though - I've been wanting to upgrade them for a while anyway and now I had an excuse, and found a 4-pack on sale!

Even better, these come with headsets which I'd been wanting for a while (and which may reduce the amount of handling and the risk of droppage). Also, these are rechargeable (no more blowing through packages of AA batteries). I'd initially just plugged all the chargers into a power strip on the floor. But FB friend Ces Ses suggested a more elegant solution. I love building things, so I created the nice shelf and cord routing you see in the pics above. Looking forward to the next session to try them out!

As for actual layout progress, there's a bit o' activity happening down at Saybrook Junction. DickO was over recently to remove some of the fascia to accommodate a plexiglass barrier which will eventually protect the end of the Route 1 overpass he's building for the east end of the Saybrook Scene. Looks like I'm going to have to finally bite the bullet and decide on a ballast for the track in this area...

Before track can be ballasted though, it needs first to be painted and weathered. Fortunately, the track in Saybrook already has a base coat, but the track between Essex and Deep River doesn't. Well, it didn't. And since I'm hoping to get some tie weathering done in Essex tomorrow, I figured it'd be a good idea to continue the base coat from Essex "north" around the end of the peninsula. I used to swear by using Krylon camo paint for the base coat ("Earth Brown"), but during the winter especially - when you can't open a window or put a fan in - the rattlecan fumes are especially noxious, if not downright dangerous. Thankfully, RalphR suggested I leverage my new-found enthusiasm for the airbrush and use it to paint my track with an IPA-based acrylic rather than a rattlecan lacquer. The setup is pictured above: portable compressor, hose with in-line moisture trap, Patriot 105 'brush, stand, and Tamiya Linoleum Deck Brown paint, thinned 1:1 with 90% IPA. From setup to cleanup took about 40 minutes and no (or at least fewer) brain cells killed.

The weathering step is even safer since I just drybrush water-based craft paints onto the ties. The paints I use are above (and staged for work tomorrow), and the technique I use is outlined here (just scroll down a bit).

Oh! One last thing I did was to finally finish affixing the track in Middletown yard . . .

The yard has been in the same configuration - and operated successfully - for probably close to 10 years now. And the only thing I've changed at all is the length of one of the stub-end sidings. So, since I now have a winter/indoor friendly track painting technique, I figure I'll soon be painting & weathering the tracks here, in preparation for scenicking the yard itself. But before all that, I had to install some filler ties and glue down the track.

Typically, this would entail my laying a bead of white glue down the side of the track, lifting the track up, then pushing the glue underneath the track with a business card or putty knife. But Boomer Diorama (via the Mudfather) suggests dribbling Matte Medium down the center of the track, letting it wick underneath the ties to fix it in place. It'll dry dead flat and, best of all, no need to move or disturb the track at all.

So I tried that - I'll let you know how it worked out.

So that's where things currently stand. JimD is visiting tomorrow to help with some more scenery, so hopefully I'll have even more layout progress to share soon!

Friday, February 17, 2023

Friday Fun - On the Valley Line Today

. . . well, not technically "today" . . .

This past Monday, I was working on the HO scale Valley Line when what to my wondering ears should appear, but the sound of a Hancock whistle blowing for a grade crossing!

Immediately dismissing the possibility that my 1:87 scale rendition of the Valley Local had actually materialized, I looked out my window just in time to catch the 1:1 version heading south to the mainline at Saybrook Junction.

Feeling duty-bound to capture the event and report to you fine folks here . . .

. . . I caught the northbound at the crossing, running light - though I was pretty sure I'd seen cars on the southbound train . . .

So I headed down to the wye at Saybrook Jct where my suspicions were confirmed:

Set out on the main, just north of the wye, were two empty gondolas. This is the usual place such setouts are made - at the farthest point south on the Valley Line, within reach of the mainline local when it comes by later at night to pick them up.

And to provide some further context and orientation, this is the view looking the other way - south toward the wye itself and Saybrook station. You can just make out Milepost 0 there on the left, just this side of Mill Rock Road.

All in all, this move was a nice 30 minute distraction from what I was doing - and a great reminder of how cool it is to live literally right next door to the prototype you're modeling.

For those who have 41 seconds to spare, I caught this video of the 0901 heading northbound, light. Incidentally, this is one of (if not the) oldest operating diesel locomotives in New England - if not the entire country. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Friday Fun - On the Valley Line Today

One of the fun things about modeling the Valley Line is that my daily commute from Old Saybrook to Hartford, CT follows much of the old mainline.  But it's closest at the Hub of Valley Line operations - Middletown.

Middletown has been served by a variety of operators since my prototype NHRR folded - Penn Central, then Conrail, Connecticut Southern, Providence & Worcester, and now Genesee & Wyoming. Even though operations today aren't as busy as in years past, you can still occasionally see the old 1911 Airline railroad swing bridge being used and motive power idling away waiting for its next assignment.

Lately on my way into work, I've noticed old P&W-painted power sitting on the old Valley Line but it was just today that I had the time to stop and take a few photos. While things don't look like they used to (just compare these pics to my banner photo), it's still awful nice to see the Valley Line still in service!