Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010

As the new year turns folks take the time to reflect on what has happened in the old year and what the new one will bring.
For "Seven day Model Railroad" its been quite the year. Three hundred and sixty five days ago I never even considered building a model railway in 7 days. But I did it and with some considerable success I think you'll agree. Where things will go from here are uncertain. The layout is still on display in Lakeside hobby and I expect it will make a few more appearances at shows in Minnesota in the coming year. To that end I'll still need to do some work on it. Add a proper fiddle yard and add some photographs to the backscene are the main tasks. Anything else would be extra.
So it was quite the year this last one. Who knows what the new one will bring?
I hope it brings you as much fun, enjoyment and success as I hope to get out of mine.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Going beyond the train set

Wingetts recycling has had an effect.
Now Terry at Lakeside Hobby has gone public with this announcement I can talk about it. I will be presenting a series of workshops on building a micro layout for under $100 (or thereabouts). The sessions will cover everything all the way from design all the way through all aspects of building a layout that should end up not much bigger than 4' long. In order to "put my money where my mouth is" I think I should be building a layout along with everyone else.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Support your Local Hobby Shop

Wingett's recycling is currently on (non working) display at Lakeside Hobby in Zimmerman, MN. I'm hounoured that Terry, the owner thinks it worthy of display to hopefully encourage other people to consider small model railway layouts when getting started in the hobby.
But that's not what this post is about.
With the opening of Lakeside Hobby I am now very lucky to have a truly Local Hobby Shop. In these days of internet shopping we all tend to go for where we can get the best deal when buying stock for our model railways and forget about how important the L.H.S. can be. Lets not forget that until very recently most of us bought just about everything from their L.H.S. Then internet traders with no premises and low overheads started to offer things at ridiculously low prices that the L.H.S. couldn't compete with. I've seen hobby shops close to me shrink to a shadow of their former selves in the last 10 years.
But the hobby isn't just about buying trains cheaply and running them on your model railroad. There's the interaction with like minded souls at exhibitions, clubs and hobby shops. Your L.H.S. owner is likely a keen modeller too. Buying stuff at an L.H.S. is a social experience.
"Come in, take your coat off and pour yourself a coffee" is the sort of atmosphere Terry is after. I'm all for that. I might just spend more money that way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

On show (again)

Just a quick post to say that the 7 day layout will be on display at the opening of Lakeside Hobby at 12197 Freemont Lane, Zimmerman, MN this Saturday December 19th.
That's awesome.
A new local Hobby Shop for mid-Minnesota, I mean. I won't have to travel 30-50 miles in one direction to get layout building suppies. This one is so close I could almost fit it into a marathon training run...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Say Hello to the Protocrastinator

(n) Protocrastinator is a person who puts off finescale Railroad (and railway modelling) for no good reason.
That would be me then, and by some incredible co-incidence Protocrastinator is the name of my new blog.
Why another blog?
Well, Seven day model Railroad is nearing the end of its journey. It was planned as a seven day layout and that's pretty much the time I've spent on it. So it fulfilled all my dreams. There are still things to do with it and there will still be a couple of model railway exhibitions it will attend as well as being written up in the model railway press. So there is a lot of life left in the old dog yet.
But I've been a frustrated finescale modeller since I discovered the concept. There is nothing that disappoints me more when I look at this layout and most others than looking at the wheels. Those Steamroller wheels. Then there's the pointwork, those flangeways. They are nothing like what they are on the real thing. As I was building this layout several times I thought to myself.
"I should have built this in P87" But It wouldn't have been a 7 day layout then.
You could ask why I don't re lay this layout with P87 track and turnouts. It would have to be a bigger layout then. Turnouts would have been longer and the layout would have lengthened. Besides I am very attached to this layout and I don't want to tear it up.
So there you go. Seven day layout is not dead, not even sleeping. But there will be 3.5mm scale developments going on elsewhere and you might just want to drop in and check it out.
You heard it here first Protocrastinator.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


In the few moment I had before the start of the show on Saturday I managed to get a few pictures taken. Here's a few. I hope you like them.
Trackmobile rests outside the building
Jack Trollopes "dirty old lady" is glimpsed between a couple of box cars
A view down the layout.

I'm such a Luddite

I reproduce here a copy of a post I made on my 4mmscaleagonies blog. I've changed a few terms to suit the US outline blog.
I have now read through the latest copy of Scalefour News. (A UK finescale magazine)
DCC operation of couplers. Mind boggling.
Blimey Charlie! I haven't even got around to the DCC operation of my locomotives yet.
DCC. Technology marches on.
I suppose I should at least try it out somewhere.But why should I fork out an extra $100 for a locomotive just because it has a computer chip in it (then lets not forget a new controller for another $150) when my straight DC loco's work fine as it is. You should have seen my FDT trackmobile on my US outline layout at the weekend. Ran to a perfect crawl. Same with my Athearn Genesis MP15-AC. So I just don't see the need currently.
(Was there a pun there? Sorry)
What about other features like digital sound? Someone will chime in.
What about it? Say I. Surely the sound coming from our HO scale locomotives should be 1:87 scale too.
How loud is a C-44 throttling up? 90 decibels?
What's 1:87 of 90? 1.2 decibels?
How loud is 1.2 decibels? Would you even hear it?
Just a thought from a Luddite. I'm sure that the subject has been hacked to death somewhere on the internet already.
Ironically the one DCC feature that interests me the most is the one that boggles my mind the most. DCC operation of couplers...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Model Railroader 102 Realistic Trackplans

"Back by popular demand!" it says on the front cover. I must have missed it the first time and been following a different line of model railways.
Still fired up after last weeks show I saw the magazine on the shelves and decided to buy it.
So what follows is a review of sorts.
This book reprints some of the more popular plans from previous issues of the stable of Model Railroader magazines.
In the past I've had mixed feelings about Model Railroader and their track planning books. Sure, they've been nice enough to feature one of my layouts in their pages, for which I am very grateful. But for the longest time their idea of a small starter layout was something on an 8' x 4' board. Judging by this book that fact seems to be changing. Plans start as small as 5' x 3'4" in HO scale that a true beginner could hone his skills on before moving onto something bigger. As to wether or not a loop of track and two sidings on such a small board could be deemed "realistic" per the books title is for your personal opinion. This small layouts section of the book also inclues a couple of very nice 2' wide switching layouts which are very definitely food for thought for me. However the main let down for me in this section is the cliched Z scale in three suitcases.
The book then moves on to cover their ubiquitous 8' x 4' starter layouts which, apart from an On30 layout do nothing for me but that's just my personal opinion.
Then there are three more sections covering progressively larger layouts. Even these larger trackplans contain sections that would work as smaller layouts by themselves.
The sections are broken up by some informative track planning articles to give you ideas on how to develop your own schemes.
All the way though the book I found some interesting planning ideas that I could well try to incorporate on my next model. All in all this book comes recommended.

A change of scenery

Yes, it's that most wonderful time of the year again and I felt I should mark it with a change of header. It should, however, be pointed out that the actually is no snow in my part of Minnesota at the moment. Perversely they actually had some in Dallas, Texas this morning.
A wonderful time of the year. My favourite time of the year. How many of us actually started out on this wonderful hobby of ours at Christmas? I know I did. A Hornby Freightmaster train set when I was 11 or 12 years old and I've never looked back.
So a Merry Christmas to all and I hope you all are getting some model railroad related gifts in your stocking this year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The dust has settled...

So it's time to reflect on the Princeton Train show from a distance.
It's safe to say that the experiences with Brandon and Jeremiah were the highlight. Compare their attitudes to the old man that watched me struggle for a moment with mating a pair of couplers. He said.
"That ain't workin' worth a shit" and turned and walk away. Ignorant twits like that the world can do without.
A couple of times I heard people say. "That's a proper model railroad." That made me feel pretty good too.
Several folks actually recognised the model as being Phillips recycling in Saint Cloud. The building must have been a pretty good representation then, considering it was built by guesstimation. So that's more to feel good about.
There was nothing to feel bad about to be honest. As this layout was my first experience using Kadee couplers and magnets I didn't know what to expect. Sure some of the couplers need adjusting but those that were set up worked perfectly. I'll carry on using them I think. The delayed action feature was a lot of fun to watch.
The only thing I can really complain about is not having a proper fiddle yard (staging area) it was very difficult to marshall a train for the operating sequence.
Still, all these good experiences don't stop me from wanting to improve things. There's a lot I'd like to incorporate on the next layout.
Next layout?
Yes. I saw things in this model that really inspired me. The curved layout front for example and the way the track followed it. A real change from watching rectangular slab baseboards. Several people remarked on this fact. It also made for interesting relationships between the building and the front of the layout. So often people cop out and have everything parallel and perpendicular to the front edge of a model. I won't do that again.
Another myth to dispell about exhibtion layouts is that little kids won't watch a shunting/switching layout. Many really young children delighted in watching the trackmobile scurry in and out of the building taking a boxcar in there and re-appearing without it. Also taking an empty gondola in there and re-appearing with it loaded went down well with everyone.
So lots to incorporate in the replacement layout then. But don't worry. That will be a while away. I plan to show this layout a few more times yet.
Of course if anyone wants to buy the layout. I'm open to offers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jeremiah and Brandons big day

Todays post was going to be about the same steady performance of the layout at day two of the Princeton show and what tweaks I need to do to the layout before the next time I show it. Sure enough the layout performed as well as yesterday. But that's not important.
Today was one of the most rewarding days I have ever had exhibiting a model railway and it was all down to two small children. Jeremiah and Brandon.
First was Jeremiah. He stood at the layout for around 45 minutes studying the layout and its operation. He read the blurb attached to the model and knew what it was all about. He studied the details of the models and even noticed some details that I hadn't completed on some of the freight cars. He knew exactly what he was talking about. It was a pleasure to have someone like that to watch the layout at work. Jeremiah models in N gauge. I'm going to watch out for you because I'm sure that one day you will produce a truly excellent model railroad.
All through the two days of the show another small child had been making periodic visits to watch my layout from helping with his older brothers S scale trains. So at 2:30 half an hour before the show closed I said to him.
"Do you want a go?"
He looked at me rather disbelievingly and said.
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely" I replied and gestured for him to step behind the layout.
We found him a chair to stand on so he could see over the top and I familiarised him with the controls. Though as he'd spent two days watching the layout I don't think he needed much in the way of familiarisation. With that I guided him through the operating sequence and in no time at all he was aware of all the quirks and oddities of the layout and apart from me placing stock on the track he was operating the layout all by himself. Mom got a picture I'm happy to say.
I was amazed at how quickly he had picked everything up and he declared that he was going to go home and start on a similar sort of layout based on a mining scene.
Well Brandon, if you build that layout then you can show it at the Princeton train show next Thanksgiving. I bet it will be great.
In these days when the computerised "Playbox-X-three-sixt-wii" is the big thing It was great to see such young children taking an active interest in the hobby. These kids are the future of the hobby and if there are more Jeremaihs and Brandons about then the future of the hobby is pretty secure.
Thank you very much guys.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Princeton Train show Day 1

While the crazy people were getting up and rushing off to the "Black Friday" sales. (Who in their right mind would go to a store at 3am to buy something no matter how cheap it is?) I was still sleeping soundly not worrying abut a thing because I had set The layout up at the depot the night before. "Set up" makes it sound more complicated than it is. The task took all of 1o minutes. So come the morning we got up, breakfasted and leisurely sipped on our coffee's at Coffee Corner before I made my way to the depot and finished off those last few bits that meant the layout was ready to go. The picture below shows how everything looked moments before the doors opened.
I've been attending model railway exhibitions for many, many years and it's safe to say that I love exhibiting. Not just for the "showing off" of my work. But I like meeting the people. Meeting old friends, making new ones, and there's always someone with an interesting story to tell. Like today I met a couple of people who used to work in scrap yards one of whom was involved in the scrapping of railroad cars! They informed me that it would not be out of place to feature an unfortunate fatal accident scene on the model. But I think I'll pass on that particular feature. You just never know who is looking at your layout and what information they might have to share.
After five hours on my feet by the time the doors closed at 3pm I was well and truly exhausted and headed home for a cup of tea to reflect on the days happenings. It has to be said that the layout operated pretty well considering. I still have some adjustments to do to the Kadee couplers but those that are set up right work excellently. A larger fiddle yard would be nice, even for the setting up of just a three car train. That was something I expected would be an issue. But I can't do that overnight so I'll have to wait for another exhibition to prepare that. All in all that was a good day. What will tomorrow bring? I don't know, but I expect it will be totally different to today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

As a Brit, I have to admit to being rather bemused at times by the concept of Thanksgiving. It's been a totally alien concept to me for the vast majority of my life. So when I moved here and people would ask me what I have to be thankful for I would inevitably come up with some kind of flippant reply concerning the previous weekends football games or similar. Thankful for two days off work was always a favourite.
But I was just thinking and I realise I do have something to be thankful for this year. You lot. More specifically you lot over there in that little box on the right. My followers.
When I started the layout and its blog back in September, the thought of people following it was not on my mind. Heck, I didn't even think folks would look at it. But there you are. There's seven of you. Seven more than I expected.
I'm gratified and thankful that you all feel that there's something here worth checking out regularly. You're all folks whom I'm unlikely to meet unless I get to a model train show near where you live. But our interest in Model Railroads and the marvel of the internet brings us all together.
So a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Almost there

Last night was a test of the exhibition set up.
As I said in yesterdays post I was concerned about the stability of a long thin layout such as this being displayed at a height of around 48" off the floor. However, I just hapenned to find some remnants of a heavyweight plastic shelving unit hidden in the Model railway room (what haven't I got hidden away in there) I assembled the shelf and four legs, stuck it on the dining room table and plonked the layout on top. Everything seemed perfect. It was sturdy and level. I added the drape to hide the legs et voila...
One exhibition layout ready to go. Tonights' task will be to blacken the heads of the very visible fascia screws and pins holding the curtain in place. I am still also searching for a photograph of a building to fill that empty space on the backscene.
It should also be pointed out that I do NOT plan to take the dining room table down to the exhibition hall to stand the layout on. They already have plenty of tables there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

T minus 5 and counting

Time draws on. Thanksgiving is on Thursday, that means the exhbition debut of the layout at the Princeton Train show is very close.
I've been pottering about doing bits and pieces. Making sure all the couplers work on the locos and rolling stock, adding a few details here and there, etc;
Most importantly I fixed the proscenium arch, or picture frame (call it what you like) to the front of the layout yesterday. It looks great. It really pulls everything together and serves to cut the layout off from its surroundings so that you can focus your attention on what is hapenning on the layout itself. Especially with a couple of spotlights in place to help illuminate things. I'm really pleased with the way everything looks. You'll have to wait a few days for a picture I'm afraid as I still have things to do.
Like devising a method to stand the layout at a good viewing height. With the proscenium arch in place it is imperative that the display height is correct. Otherwise it will just look stupid. I could write for ages about the correct height to display a layout. The higher the better in my opinion. I've displayed layouts at over 52" high before. At the moment the layout sits on a shelf at about 48" off the floor and that to me seems pretty good. We'll see what I can come up with. Though with such a narrow layout its would make for something of an unstable structure if I were to mount it too high.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I love my Railboxes!

It's arrived! My Exactrail Trinity Railbox. If I thought the LBF Railbox was good then this is even better. I'm not a professional writer or reviewer so I'll steer well clear of the technical stuff. Exactrail say that their products are made to the highest standards of detailing and accuracy and that is good enough for me. I've looked at my own photos and the pictures on and it certainly captures the character and the looks of the real thing.
If you look at this picture below you'll see the high standard of detail on the model. All that small printing is perfectly legible. It's all very impressive.
One thing that really impresses me is the trucks (bogies) They are equalized (compensated). What?! This is a ready to run model for Pete's sake! I'm not used to this level of engineering on an R-T-R Model. I have actually sat there with my magnifier on just twisting the trucks watching them move. ( I know that sounds rather sad)
I only have one tiny little negative observation and that is that the trip pin on the coupling is too low. The coupler itself is spot on but the trip pin is very noticeably low. Now my uncoupler magnets are mounted below the track so that's not a problem for me not that such a spiffing model will ever got to a scrapyard. But I can see some folks having a little gripe about that. I'm sure its probably very easily corrected. But that really is the only blemish on an excellent model.
I love it. I'd have another one any day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Trackmobile in the wild

Despite having a model of one and enthused about it I'd never seen a trackmobile in the flesh before. Until yesterday, that is. I was out and about driving around the roads around the rail yards in Saint Paul and was just about to turn around as the road was a dead end. When what did I spy just beyond the gates of a small chemical works? A trackmobile! Not the same type as my model a smaller one. But a trackmobile none the less.
I hope to get down there some other time and maybe see it at work.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Scrapyard Vista

I did not plan on making three blog entries today but after looking down the layout after snapping a shot of the rusty wheels I thought to myself
"That view looks quite good". Here is that same view for you to see.
There is definitely a "scrapyard" feel to it. Don't you think? Piles of rusting metal, wagons waiting for the cutters torch. Yup, I think this little project is coming along quite nicely.

Rust in pieces

Time to get on an do some more work on the layout. One thing that I noticed about the prototype scrapyard was the way the wheels were stacked in the yard. I knew that I had to recreate this feature on my model. It was not a problem getting hold of the first set s of wheels. I had after all cut up a couple of cheap Bachmann wagons for the layout. Not wanting to spend another $20 on a couple more wagons, being unable to find any second hand ones. I bought a 12 pack of Kadee non magnetic wheelsets. Here you see them piled up on the layout.
The rusting has still got a little ways to go yet. but it's definitely heading in the right direction I feel as this is the first time I've ever tried anything like this. They are painted with acrylics. On there so far is a base coat of "Sunrise Orange" which seemed to work better on the Bachy wheels than the Kadees. The second coat was a colour called "Asphaltum". I'm liking this Asphaltum colour. It seems to be a pretty good colour for rusting wheels when on top of this Sunrise orange and out of curiosity I also painted some onto a boxcar for weathering purposes, it makes a pretty good dirt colour too. But I digress. I need a third colour on there as well because as it stands the brighter rusting colour is too dominant. I need to bring that down a bit. But what I should use I don't know. Anyone got any suggestions?

Railboxes real and model

I like Railboxes. There's no way to hide the fact. I don't know why I just do. I don't know if its the bright yellow colour or what it is. I've always liked them. In fact one of the first Athearn Blue Box models I bought was a Railbox. So I'm always on the look out for Railboxes in trains and model Railboxes in the hobby shops. I'd been looking around lately to see if there was an excess height model Railbox for sale because there are a lot of them about today on the railroads. They carry the TBOX reporting mark (T for tall perhaps?) I hadn't seen one so I was quite disappointed. Until last weekend that is when in Beckers model railroad supply in New Brighton, MN. There was a Hi Cube box car from LBF models. It was the last one on the shelf so I bought it just in case someone else had the same idea. It looked really nice even in the box it seemed to capture the spirit and the feel of the real things. Compare the photographs of the model and what I think is the same sort of prototype Railbox below.
Be honest that is a pretty good match isn't it?
Now I know nothing about LBF Model Trains. There appears to be no internet presence. But there are strange tales out there that I don't understand so I shan't report them here. Because it would detract from what I consider to be a very fine model indeed. All the correct details appear to be there. The underfloor pipes and rigging are nicely done and all separately applied, as are some hand rails and ladders on the ends. I popped my magnifier on to see if I could read all the details in the printing. I could. Superb. The doors are separately added unlike on my Athearn Genesis cars. Everything is there. About the only thing anyone would want to do (aside from weathering) would be to change out the plastic chain for a length of scale chain down from the brake handwheel on the end and if you're going to do that you probably model in P87 anyway and pop in some scale wheelsets as well.
It certainly won't appear on the scrapping line at Wingetts Recycling. It's too fine a model for that. I paid $21.71 for it and for that price it more than compares with Athearn Genesis.
What is even more exciting though is that I hear the Exactrail Trinity Hi Cube box car is available on Monday despite the website saying "Sold out". I'll be ordering one of them without a doubt. It will be interesting to compare the two of them.
(postscript: It would appear that FBT are no longer in business. That's quite sad I do like the model)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"I love deadlines...

...I love the whooshing sound they make as they pass by"
So wrote the late Douglas Adams. Deadlines are great. They focus the mind on the task in hand. I have many happy memories of the nights before the Annual Mablethorpe and District Model Railway Club exhibition working until the early hours of the morning making sure that my layouts worked.
I even recall one evening where the first time that the layout "Drinkallby and Belchford Road" was assembled to its full 24' length was the night before an exhibition in my friend Steve Coopers garage. Now I remember more of the night I think it even extended out of his garage into his drive it was so long. Ah happy memories, but I digress...
Now the 7 day layout has a deadline. 27th November for the rum River Model Railroad Club train show. Really in all honesty I consider the layout in an exhibitable state right now. But the deadline can get me focussed on the other jobs I'd like to get done to improve the layout. Tasks like adding more rusting wheels to the pile there. Cutting up another wagon for scrap. Adding a rear fence, putting some buildings on the backscene, weathering some wagons, scratchbuilding a GE 23 ton Box cab switcher. Did I just say that last one?
I've got a lot to do better get busy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Making an exhibition of myself

The 7 day layout will be able to be seen at the Rum River Model Railroad Clubs Thanksgiving show in November 27th and 28th 2009 from 10am to 3pm at the Old Great Northern Depot in Princeton, MN.
It's worth coming just to see the magnificent depot building that is on the register of historic places.

p.s. By the way, do you like the new Blue coloured background? I do. So much better than that heavy old Black

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trackmobile is here!

Here it is. Placed on the layout and in front of a ruler to give you an idea of the small size (no more than 2 inches long)
It looks great. When I opened the box and took it out I couldn't believe it. Crisp detail in the mouldings, detailed cab, superb finishing and to cap it all off it runs smoothly and slowly.
I have mixed feeling about the hauling capacity though. True this is a small loco and I shouldn't expect much and indeed I don't want much. Performance depends on the type of car you are switching. I conducted two sets of tests. Now it should also be remembered that these tests were conducted straight out of the box with no running in for the trackmobile.
The first test concerned some Athearn Genesis 60' excess height boxcars. It pushed and pulled one wagon with ease. It also shoved two without a problem but pulling the two was a different story. It wheelspan immediately. These it should be noted are some really weighty cars.
However when it came to my 50'cars. It was a different story it worked up to three of them and a caboose quite comfortably.
As with any short wheelbase loco running over pointwork will be an issue. Indeed the loco runs much better over the live frog point work of Oneota yard than it does over the dead frog point work of the 7 day layout.
So in short the loco does what I wanted it to do, runs as I expected it to and looks great. Which when it comes down to it you can't ask for much more. Can you?

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Christmas List...

It's getting around to that time of year again. When that tubby, jolly red faced man pops down the chimney and leaves me lots of pressies under the Christmas tree (that's if he can find room around the Bachmann G scale train I have running there, that is).
So quite naturally I've been giving some thought to what I'd like him to bring me this year. I
might just ask for one of those Walthers HO scale Ore dock kits and I really would like a set of DMIR Jennies if they are still in production. But that kinda sorta sets me up to build an HO scale ore dock layout doesn't it... Which leads me into a shameless plug for a new blog I've started. This one concerns my fascination for The Ore Docks of the great Lakes. I'm not saying I'm going to build a layout based around a Great lakes Ore Dock. It's more of an exploration of the subject of the Ore Dock and how one would go about modelling one. There are precious few (if any) websites concerning ore docks. So if I've started something all well and good more people need to know about these marvellous structures.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bye-bye Blue

Sad news from Athearn this morning. They are disccontinuing effective immediately their blue box line of basic kits.
I'm sure most US outline modellers around the world began with the Athearn blue box kits. Kits was a misnomer really. There was rarely any serious assembly to do like in the Intermountain TTX flat car kit I still have to make after 4 or 5 years in my posession. They were more of a dis-assembled R-T-R model. It was just a question of putting the body on the underframe screwing the bogies in place and adding couplers. Five to ten minutes work and Bingo! There you had it. One ready to run HO scale box car.
My first layout was totally operated with blue box freight stock and locomotives. I still have some today operating on this layout.
Times however have moved on and there are much much better quality kits and RTR models out there today. It will tak a long time for them to disappear but still the shelves of the local hobby shop won't be the same without that little blue box there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"I'm not dead yet..."

Much like the old man in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" This layout is not done for yet. To that end on Friday before I left for the Whistlestop Marathon a package arrived for me from Walthers that contained a couple of items that could find use on the layout.
The forst is the Walthers Cornerstone Dumpsters. A total of 8 superb injection mouldings of some very typical dumpster styles that when painted and weathered will look great in the yard somewhere.
The other item I bought out of curiosity and am very impressed with is the Shredded Scrap metal pile #2103 from Monroe Models. They produce a range of scrap metal piles for different uses. It comes as a ready painted resin casting. I was really impressed with the look of the pile and the quality of the detailing in the casting. I had some fun scrutinizing the pile seeing what I could recognize. Some nice lattice work, oil drums, ladders, corrugated iron and girders for example. A persons opinion of the "ready painted rust" can vary. But the pile has shadows and highlights worked in there. So overall it's a very reasonable representation of a pile of rusty metal. The detailers amongst us would likely work a few more colours in there and I think a coat "dullcote" to take the slight sheen off would be advantageous. But I really do like it and I would definitely consider Monroe Models again if they produced something that I was looking for on my next modelling project.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


One of the most popular comments on RMWeb (and from my wife too) on how to improve things on the layout concerned the corner and the backscene. Everyone thought that the backscene:
a) needed clouds on it and;
b) the corner needed rounding off (see the picture below)
So, as I thought this was a pretty quick and easy job. I set at it. I removed the backscene, added a thin cardboard flap to one end that I could bend, and then repainted the whole thing and added some clouds. The end result (below) is a vast improvement
Always listen to the RMWebbers (and your wife...)

A bit of a cheat

It would appear I have fooled some people. After posting the final set of pictures yesterday I received several comments about the tree at the l/h end and how did I manage to produce such a realistic model. See the picture below.
Well, I'll come clean it was nothing but a big cheat and some dumb luck as well. The tree is a few sprigs of Woodland scenics fine leaf foliage glued together with my hot glue gun and stuck in a hole in the baseboard. The big cheat is placing it in front of a photograph of a tree with similar foliage texture. The dumb luck comes from photographing it from such an angle that to some people the join between the two became somewhat "fuzzy". Making the model tree look a lot bigger and more realistic than it actually is.
This picture above reveals the truth of the situation. I haven't even finished painting the trunk of the tree yet.
I have to admit to feeling pretty good that I "duped" several people like that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 5 - Mission accomplished!

I'm not going to say finished for what model railway can truly said to be finished. There's always something you can do to any layout. But this afternoon I stood back. Looked at it and said to myself.
"I could take this layout to a show now." That means that to all intents and purposes the project is done. Yes there are still things to do. I've mentioned some of those before. But now, in this state, this layout is exhibitable. So to celebrate I ran trains in a typical operating sequence and photographed it.
1. The mainline diesel brings in a selection of cars to be scrapped
2. The works switcher emerges from the building to pick up a car for cutting up.
3. The switcher detatches one car from the train and takes it on its last journey
4. The car disappears inside never to be seen again.
Without a doubt, I'm very happy the way the project has turned out. Now the long tedious process of detailing begins. Twice maybe three times as may rusty wheels, the scrap pile needs to be bigger, the dumpsters need adding, the backscene detailing need fixing in place... and so it goes on. I'll keep posting more on the layout as I work on it.
But for now, as The Two Ronnies used to say.
"It's goodnight from me"
"And it's good night from him"

Day 5 - the last 20%

That's the theory isn't it?
I believe I heard someone say that the first 80% of a job takes 20% of the time the last 20% of the job takes 80% of the time.
Well I reckon I'm at that stage now. Pretty much all the "heavy lifting" is out of the way. There's one significant part that I won't tackle just yet and that is the procscenium arch or "picture frame" for the front of the layout. That's something to bear in mind should I ever wish to take the layout to a show.
So today it will be a bit here a bit there, adding some details to the layout. I'm weathering 8 axles of freight car wheels to put on there at the moment. I need a lot more of them very clearly. The scrap pile needs adding to. I'm sure I can find plenty to do.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day 4 - insert smug grin smiley here

Oh yes. I'm feeling pretty darned pleased with myself today indeed. Take a look at the pictures below. Today everything just pulled together. This looks like a model railway layout. It operates as it should. Work needs to be done on the left hand side towards the fiddle yard exit. Some of that space will be taken up with the dumpsters I ordered this morning. But there is some blank space there that really does need filling. But for now time to sit back and enjoy the pictures
Above: the building fits in the corner perfectly
Above: an overall view showing that blank area towards the fiddle yard exit
Above: the scrap pile still has a long way to go but this view is so likeable.

A cautionary tale

I've just spent the last 45 minutes or so broggling around with one of the points trying to get it to work.
I just thought I'd better give the track a test run after all that spraying of glue that I did yesterday associated with the ballasting and such like.
I gave the track a pretty serious rubbing down with a track cleaner and hooked up the wires. It worked perfectly except for when the first turnout was set for the straight road. Now this was a puzzlement. Everything worked perfectly before I started spraying and I covered all the pertinent part of the turnouts to protect them from overspray.
Not being electrically minded, anytime something like this happens I get pretty fed up because I know that it will take me an age to sort it out.
Surely enough it did. It took me quite some time to find out that some glue and spray paint had caked up the pivot point between the straight switch rail and stock rail (or is that closure rail). Anyway once I'd found that and cleared everything out it ran perfectly again. Things are back on track excuse the pun. I think I should work on the backscene now.

(as good as) Done

Here we are then just before it gets installed on the layout and bedded in. The main building. I'm pretty pleased with it so far. Once I get it in situ I'll then add a bit of light weathering to it.
To recap on the construction methods and materials used. The main building shell is 5mm foamcore board. The brick base came from some leftover parts of a Walthers low relief building kit The block walling was hand scribed styrene sheet. The doors are left overs from some other Walthers and Pikestuff kits. The Biffy is from BLMA. The Lean-to addition is a shell of 1.5mm card from the back of a desk top calendar faced with Metal roof and siding embossed styrene sheets.
Time for a coffee break I think.


There's something very therapeutic about chopping a cheap freight car up for the scrap pile...
They were only $6 in the hobby shop, they were some really cheap Bachmann cars.
As soon as I took them out of their boxes the wheels fell out of the bogies so I figured that was a sign.
So I chopped the ends off to use like in the header photo and sliced the sides and roof up. The bits are drying after being sprayed all kinds of dirty rusty colours.
Bingo! The start of a scrap pile...

Day 4 dawns

What joys does it have in store for me?
Projects today include the completion of the low relief building. Though I thought that was going to happen yesterday. But I do only have a door, guttering and bargeboards to put on to complete it.
Then I really have to turn my attention to the other blank areas on the layout. The scrap pile for one is something that absolutely has to be developed to call the layout finished at the end of 7 days. Looking round Phillips recycling yesterday I noticed there was a fair few dumpsters lying about. Walthers do a package. Now they are not anything that I have seen on any of the shelves of my local hobby shops so they will have to be ordered. I'm also cannibalising a few bits from Oneota Yard my previous HO scale layout to get a feel for things. Pehaps I'll even get around to adding those trees...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day three nearly done

5pm day three. Time to post some progress photos. Things are starting to pull together I feel. The ground is starting to look like ground. Though I don't think I'll ever get the colour of dried out earth exactly right. The buried track looks OK though.
The building seems to b a never ending job after I thought I had the bulk of it out of the way after yesterday. I decided to make a slight addition, as shown by the plain white section of wall there. I'm now happier with the shape of the building but it does mean scribing another section of styrene sheet.
So things are looking good. Technically I have until Saturday to finish things. But that might be difficult so I might have to be done by Friday. Will I get it finished?

More research pictures

Here's a few other shots from my research trip this morning.
You've already see the WREX hoppers waiting on the cut up line in the previous post. Well here's how they'll leave the yard. In bits in a gondola car. Here three gons are being loaded up by a Caterpillar excavator fitted with a magnetic grab.
The trees are one of the more unusual sights on the property.
Scrapping generally takes place outdoors (unlike my model) These next two pictures show some hoppers halfway through being cut up. A nice detail to note for modelling reference is the reporting mark and running number are crossed out.
Below is one of the WREX hoppers "wrecked"...
Righty Ho back to work...

The joke's on them

Just got back from an interesting research trip to Phillips Recycling in Saint Cloud. Plenty of good photo's. I wanted to share these with you as this is too funny to pass up. There was an line of about half a dozen grain hoppers waiting on the receiving line to be cut up and I don't know how many more were already in pieces. Nothing too amusing in that.
But just take a look at the railroad reporting mark though WREX (wrecks... get it.) It actually Stands for Western Railroad Equipment Company.
I had a laugh to myself when I saw that I can tell you.

There's a berm...

Didn't Peter Sellers utter that phrase or similar in one of the Pink Panther movies?
Well there's a bomb scare in town. In little old Princeton, MN. There are three suspicious packages. One at the post office, one at the high school and one at the Utilities offices.
What the devil does this have to do with the 7 day layout?
Well I've just soaked the track in PVA glue to fix the ballast in place. So that means its coffee time and the coffee shop is in the area of town under lockdown due to the bomb scare.
So I might as well trek out to a Caribou coffee in St Cloud and take some more research photos of the scrapyard while I'm at it.


It's the coldest morning since May here in Minnesota. 34F right here in town. The garage where I'm working on the layout is a tad chilly this morning. Luckily my first task involves some heat. I just realised I haven't fixed the point operating rods in place. So it's out with the hot glue gun.
If I can find the glues sticks. I know they are here somewhere...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 2 the story so far

Right then, after a quick jaunt down to Hobbytown in Brooklyn Park I returned armed with supplies to hopefully see me though to the end of the project.
The first job was to complete my ground covering. Before heading down to the hobby shop I added a little more spackle as described in the previous post so as the layout looked like this. Like there had been a snowfall. It's at this stage of a layouts construction that I always consider recreating a snow scene. But my previous efforts have met with failure so luckily that idea quickly passes.
Upon my return the spackle had pretty much dried so I set to and gave a covering of earth undercoat to kill the white of the spackle. I think that after just one coat of Earth colour it starts to feel like a layout. So I left that to dry and did some more work on the structure.
Oh boy this is going to be a long job. I went to the hobby shop with the intent of getting some corrugated embossed evergreen styrene sheet. But they were out.But they did have something called "Metal Roofing" It's a sheet of styrene with precision milled grooves in it where you place strips of .25mm x 1mm styrene strip to represent the distinctive profile of the roof. I see this style all over so I thought to myself.
"Why not. All you have to do is place the strip into the groove and a dab or two of liquid poly will hold it in place."
That is pretty much it. But there is a technique to doing that and it took quite a while to find the speediest easiest way to do that. lets just say the first section of roofing took longer to do than the next two sections...
So that I could take a photograph for progress purposes I gave the shell of the lean to a coating of grey, so it wouldn't bleach out in the picture.
There you go that's progress for today so far. Not as earth shattering as yesterday. But the building starts to look like a building. Hopefully tomorrow it will get completed and I'll get the ballasting done as well.

A word about spackle

I've mentioned my use of spackle as a ground covering and said that I've always used it right from my earliest layouts. But I don't think I've ever said how I use it.
I use a lightweight spackle. (For the Brits reading this It's kind of like polyfilla except pre-mixed.) I spread it out onto my ground surface much as I would when I'm icing our Christmas cake. It doesn't really matter how roughly you do it. Because lets face it unless your modelling a cricket wicket or something else thats dead flat you can have tiny little bumps and undulations in there. That perhaps later you can fill with puddles of water.
So there you are you have a baseboard that looks like a rough iced Christmas cake. Then you leave it for a while for the spackle to start setting. Mine is a quick setting spackle. So I've just about got time to write this post. Then I go and smooth it out by tapping down on it with my finger... back in a minute then
Right that's that done.
You have to wait for the spackle to start to set because otherwise it sticks to your finger and when even the tiniest bit sticks to your finger then it will pull more off the baseboard. Which is not what we're trying to do here. We're trying to smooth out what we have already done. Just tapping a small area down with your finger is really quite effective.
As I've been burying a couple of sidings in the spackle I've been taking great care to clean the rails off and running a wagon along the sidings to make sure everything still runs perfectly. Which it still seems to do.
Next task I think is a trip down to the hobby shop and get some more materials to clad the wall with. That will take a couple of hours. Plenty of time for the spackle to dry and then on my return I can paint it.

Ready for day 2 then?

When it came to 9:30 last night I was exhausted. That was a lot of hard work yesterday.
I didn't exactly finish after yesterdays last posting. There was nothing on the telly that appealed to me and Top Gear on BBCAmerica was a repeat. So I decided to crack on and fill out some details on the scrapyard building. The basic shell is 1/4" foamcore board and some 1mm card that came from the back of a desktop calendar.
The building shell was "knocked up" very quickly and while the glue holding it to shape was setting I rootled in my spares box looking for suitable materials to clad the wall with. I found a sheet of evergreen metal siding embossed styrene that looked eminently suitable for the lean to addition and from a Walthers low relief building kit I discovered a brick base for the main walls. You can also see a door on the end wall that came from some Pikestuff left overs.

That is all my spares box would give me so I need to get some more siding for the roof of the lean to and something to clad the other wall with.
A trip to the hobby shop may well be in order today.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stumps on day 1

Right then. Pretty much the end of the first official day on the project and here is where it stands. As you know the track was down by lunchtime and working. The track and sleepers were sprayed with track colours to weather the plastic looking sleepers. After that I set out to block out the main structure to see how it would fit.
It looks OK but until I get some more detail on the structure it will be difficult to tell how it will sit in the scene. Don't forget that there will be a big pile of scrap in front of some of it obstructing your view of it.

Next task is to put down the spackle for the ground cover to bury the trackwork. That will be tomorrows task along with more work on the building...

Progress Photo

So he were are then an update to prove the progress.
The track is down and was just about to be sprayed with a mix of cans I found lying around. Dark Earth, Rail Brown and something called "Instant weathering" which looked like some sort of Light Earth. You can see the honking big uncoupler magnet at the start of the curved road. I tested it and it functions perfectly. The curved road will comfortably take 3 cars, the sort middle road 2 and the rear one will also take 2 more. Though that length is intended to be undercover. The feed-in track at the left is intended to be set up for a cassette system like PECO loco lifts
Now I have a choice of things I could do. I could start to put down the lightweight spackle ground cover or I could work on the half relief building.
Decisions, decisions...

Lunch on Day One

Make it sound like a cricket commentary doesn't it?
So my trip to Menards was uneventful the cork tile was in stock and I got a few other bits and bobs too.
Lightweight spackle for my ground cover. The trackwork will be pretty much buried and lightweight spackle is my favourite material for the job. It dries white and takes the colour from the woodland scenics earth undercoat very well.
I also needed some woodworking glue and you can never have enough Stanley knife blades and with a pack of 100 on sale for $5 that was too good an offer to miss out on.
With that it was off home and get on with it.
A couple of hours later and it's lunchtime. The cork is down, the track is laid and a locomotive has run to check the electrics. I even installed the Kadee under the track uncoupler and it works perfectly much to my joy.
So this afternoon I'll spray the track with some dark earth to kill the plastic look of the sleepers. That's a trick I picked up from Lou Sassi's book "A realistic HO Scale layout for beginners" published by Kalmbach. A book I bought several years ago and still refer to to this day.
I'll probably even start on the one low relief building on the layout too.
...and now the batsmen emerge from the pavilion ready to start the afternoons play...

Day 1 part 1

6:30 am. I was thinking that as I'm on holiday from work I'd get a bit more of a lie in than this. But I suppose once your body is used to getting up at 5am during the week then it takes a lot to get out of that.
So what is the plan today?
The first thing is to get down to Menards and get some 1/4" cork tiles to lay the track on to. It has to be 1/4" because I've got one of those huge Kadee #308 under the track uncouplers that I'm going to use on the front siding and they're about 1/4" thick.
So by the end of the day the minimum I want to see done is track down and working with the uncouplers sited. Anything on top of that is a bonus.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Clean up in aisle 8...

So the evening is here and it's time to sit back and reflect on what I've set myself in for.
How do we define "7 day model railroad"? Or more accurately, what do I expect to see at the end of the 7 days?
Lets say a substantially completed model railroad.
Track down, trains running, everything operating as outlined in the previous post.
Scenery wise, structures should be complete, ground cover should be down.
Back scene installed? Perhaps, though I have considered boxing the layout in with a proscenium arch for display purposes which might be stretching it a bit to get completed knowing my woodworking abilities.
Ultimately I'm the only one who will know if I've met the challenge. You're welcome to agree or disagree if you like...

Makin' it..

So, with American football not interesting me all that much this afternoon I split my time between the Minnesota Vikings and the model railway baseboard.
The theme of the project is "winging it" and that's just what I did. No thought to it at all. Just braced the edges of the shape and that was it...
Honestly it was a real fluke. I was just going through my piles of lumber and finding pieces of wood that were the right length. It was a quite a while before the jigsaw had to be fired up to cut anything.
See that strip of ply that is curved to the front of the layout? It was already warped most of the way like that so it was no struggle to bend it to shape.
The carpentry is to my usual standard so doesn't bear close scrutiny. But it is flat.
So, with Brett Favre having just thrown the game winning touchdown pass. I went out and threw some track on the baseboard to get a feel for what I can do with it.
As you can see, not all that much...

But I can see some kind of operation forming...
A mainline diesel brings in a few wagons for scrapping to the front (curved) road and leaves them there.
The rearmost road on the baseboard will be undercover. From here a small switcher, perhaps even a trackmobile, would appear and take the wagons singly into the "breaking shop" never to be seen again. The middle road would contain a couple of Gondolas that would intermittently be switched into the breaking shop to be loaded with scrap metal and wheels etc:. When full these would be switched into the front road to be collected by the mainline diesel.
So does this count as Day 1? I only had a few hours on the project tops.
So tomorrow before I start work I need to slide down to Menards to get some cork sheet and some masonite to use for the backscene.

Spare us the Cutter...

So, I had a piece of wood for a baseboard. But what should I model?
As I said the first things that jumped into my head were rivers and docksides, probably because of that nice flowing curve but strangely I went in a totally different direction.
A scrapyard.
Don't ask me why. Perhaps it's because the wife and I drove past one on our way to dinner on Friday night. More likely its because there is one sited across the track from the St Cloud, MN Amtrak depot. I have lots of photographs of this particular scrapyard. Here's a few for you.
This is a favourite shot of mine. These boxcar ends are being used to hold up a pile of scrap.
There are lots of wheels lying about
Some gondolas being loaded with scrap
A boxcar waits to be cut up
A big pile of scrap stands alongside an unlikely tree. Both would make good view breaks
So really it was too good an idea not to pass up. Rail served at both ends of the process. A perfect subject.
So on to making the baseboard proper.

How did I get here?

The other week I saw this piece of wood in my garage. The shape intrigued me and I felt compelled to build a model railroad on it.
The offcut is some 5/16" ply 5' long by 12" deep at its deepest point. I had grand thoughts about rivers and docksides but in the end I went in a totally different direction of which more later.