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.