Tuesday, August 8, 2017

First Official Op Session in the Books!

Saturday, July 29th, I invited over some of the guys who have helped me in various ways through the years with the layout.  Dave Ramos, Ralph Heiss, Ted Pamperin, Jim Fawcett and Tim Moses came by and ran the Ma & Pa and it's operating scheme through its paces.  We found some small problems that I will address before the next session, but all in all everyone said they had a good time. :)

Dave Ramos consulting with Agent Mulder while Tim Moses is saying "I don't know this guy.."

Ted Pamperin and Ralph Heiss were the yard crew in York.  Here they switch some of the local industries within yard limits.

Tim Moses was the engineer on Train 32.  Here he waits for direction from Conductor Dave Ramos while Agent Mulder looks on.

Cars spotted at York Coke and Coal.

Yard Crew Conductor Ted Pamperin contemplating his next move.

Train 12 arrives in Yoe, PA.

Train 31 is running late and is in the siding waiting on Train 12 to pass.

Trains 12 and 31 make the meet at the passing siding just outside of Yoe, PA.

Train 7, with gas electric number 61 makes its stop in Yoe.

Aside from being nervous prepping for and hosting my first official op session on the layout, I had a blast, and I thank the guys for coming out and making the Ma & Pa come alive again! 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Oh Dollar Tree.. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..

OK so maybe the title is a little over the top, but I do love Dollar Tree!  Over the years I have found so many useful items there for the layout.  From inexpensive artist brushes, to black sand that I use for coal loads and piles.. I always find something there that I use at some point.

A recent trip there scored some more items of use.

 The latest haul shows spray bottles-$1 each, nail polish holders that paint and glue bottles fit in nicely-$1 each, and bags of course black sand/gravel that can be used in scenery or as larger chunks of coal-$1 each.

 In the past I've found these nail polish holders in the clearance section of Home Goods at around $4 but finding them at Dollar Tree for $1 each is even better!

Besides having bags of fine black sand that I use in my coal loads and some scenery, they also carry black course sand which will come in handy at some point.

You can see the paint holders really help organize my work bench with the glues and colors I use most.  I'm thinking about building some kind of rack to stack these holders so they take up a smaller footprint on the desk.

All in all not bad for an investment of $7.00 total excluding tax. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lists or cards?

Two main trains of thought (please excuse the pun) for train forwarding on layouts exist: using car cards and waybills or switch lists.  I've leaned towards the ladder but have always held out the possibility of using the former. It's safe to say about 90% of the layouts I operate on use the car card system. I've also operated on layouts using switch lists.  My good friend Dave Ramos uses both on his NY Harbor RR.  He uses switch lists generated by the yard clerks on both his pocket yards served by car floats, one at Erie's 28th street yard and also at the Lehigh Valley's 27th street yard.  These two yards can be operated like small independent layouts on their own.  On the NYC Highline and 38th street yard he uses car cards and has made them to look like small versions of real waybills. Both systems work flawlessly on Dave's layout.

So, what should I use on the Ma & Pa?  My original intention was to use switch lists.  I've tested this out by having a few trial run sessions using them.

Being that the layout is small compared to others I've operated on, writing out switch lists before a scheduled session isn't that hard to do. Plus it saves having to setup initially all the car cards for each and every car that will run on the layout.  That being said, I always feel at ease just a little more having car cards with my train. It helps me plan out my moves a little easier.  One of the things I've kept in the back of my mind for this layout as pertains to possibly using the card card system is if could find a cheap and easy way of building car card boxes for the front of the layout I might go that route.

On a recent trip to AC Moore to pick up some mat medium for scenery work I found these project boxes.  They sell them for $1.00 each.  Looking at them I realized that they could maybe be made into car card boxes.  I bought 6 and brought them home to experiment with.

I cut one in half on the table saw.  My measurements reveal I can get 3 card spaces per half.  I will cut the sliding top into separators for the spaces.  

Here's the before and after shot of what the boxes started as end ended up looking like.

A quick placement to see how they would look mounted on the fascia.   If a single half is just used I'll have to modify the short end to match the higher end.  I also figure the boxes can be modified by cutting them into single and double boxes.  This just might work.  Not bad for $1.00 each investment.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Proof of life..

It's one thing to say the blog isn't dead, but that needs to be backed up with "Proof of life",  So after some prodding from others I decided it's time to get off my ass and write something.  I know I mentioned in the last couple of posts about other interests model railroad wise, and that I was exploring pursuing them, but they were never more than possible side projects.  One side project gaining momentum is some modern themed Freemo modules based loosely on the B&M in the Guilford era.  But, again, that's a side project.  The Ma & Pa is still alive and well.

I've been working on building up my scenery skills, and when I have some more scenes finished that I'm happy with I'll post some pics to the blog.

Two items that have been causing delays in getting operations started have been addressed: the two potable staging modules have been fitted and are ready to go, and two trouble spots that had been plaguing train operations have been fixed after much time looking for solutions.

This section going into B Yard had a hump in it that would cause cars to uncouple.  I found the solution to be shimming the blue board from underneath one of the cross braces.

I also pulled up some of the track and switches to shave down the cork at the joint between the two modules.

Number 42 and this curved turnout did not get along.  After much testing I finally figured out the gaps at the frog were too big and that's where 42 was derailing.  I filled them with styrene strip and now 42 passes through with no problems.

The staging modules at Red Lion.  Note the manual turntable to turn engines for the return run.

Long time readers will be happy to see El Sombrero is still hanging around. ;)

This shot shows both York and Red Lion staging modules installed.

So, things are still moving along on the Ma & Pa and I'm hoping to schedule another shakedown op session within the next month.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

RPM time again

Just a quick plug for my buddy Dave Owens and his NERPM which is coming up this weekend. It's in a new location this year in Enfield Ct. I'll be giving my Tails From the Helix clinic on Saturday night. 

Check out the website for more info at:


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A crisis of faith and deadlines..

I have to be blunt and honest: Updates have been slow in coming here because I've been searching my heart whether to continue on with this layout or move onto something else.  There are a few problems I'm having trouble fixing, some personal issues that need resolving, and a growing interest in other areas of the hobby that have been effecting my desire to keep moving forward with the Ma & Pa layout.  Long time readers of this blog know I have an affinity for getting sidetracked.  Lately my interest in traction has been blossoming up, and I actual have picked up a few traction models.  I might try my hand in building a small test module to see if I can handle the trolley wire and special track work.  Proto 87 Stores has a bunch of neat products that promises to make it easier to model traction.  All this has played a big roll in sidetracking me from the layout which in turn has me wondering if I should continue with it.

So I've taken the last few weeks off from doing anything on, or thinking about the layout, and also the planning of the test section traction layout.  In the interim I had a chance to run again after a few month's absence on my friend Ted Pamperin's steam era C&O and I took the hostler's job.  I enjoyed doing that as a change from my usual assignment of running the west end of Hinton Yard. I marveled at the steam power big and small and that in turn re-lit a small fire in me to work on the layout as it exists now.  So with the small kick in the ass of inspiration Ted's layout gave me along with the deadline of the joint GSD/NJ Division meet coming up this Saturday in Wall NJ (The Ma & Pa will be open from 1-5pm for the layout tour) I actually cleaned up and organized the layout space, and did some scenery work in Yoe.  

As you can see I finished the basic ground cover on the helix and hopefully I'll be testing out the static grass gun soon.

If you are free this weekend I suggest heading to Wall and participating in the joint meet.  It's usually one of the best meets of the year for both divisions.

GSD Spring Meet
May 14th, 2016
We're having another dual meet with the NJD
and will take place at InfoAge in Camp Evans
2201 Marconi Rd,
Wall Township NJ 07719

This is the location of the Garden State Central Model RR Club.

Clinics & Meeting: 9am to 12 noon
Layouts 1-5pm.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

"The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." Mark Twain

We just returned from our West Coast trip which took us on a Pacific voyage from San Francisco, down the coast of California to Ensenada Mexico, and back to San Francisco.  It was a nice relaxing itinerary, though the weather was chilly for California and Mexico, consistently in the low 60's with temps in the low 50's at night even in Mexico.

Despite it's short comings in it's political state, California is beautiful and it's real hard to justify why I live in NJ when there is such a beautiful place to live like CA.  Santa Barbara was stunning, peaceful and relaxing, and I loved San Diego too.  I was able to visit the La Mesa Club at the San Diego MR Museum and pictures do not do justice to what they have accomplished there. One of the members invited me into the layout and I was able to take a lot of great pictures.  If there is interest I'll share some here in the near future.

San Francisco was the crown jewel of the trip.  Cable cars were fun to ride but the thing RR wise that got me excited was the vintage PCC trolley cars of the F Line.  Being a closet traction and trolley fan I was having a blast photographing the various cars painted for the lines they came from.  One of my favorites was a Red Arrow car from Philly and of course the Newark City Subway car painted in original Public Service paint scheme.  Again, I know this is a blog about my Ma & Pa RR layout and you're expecting an update, so I hesitate to post the pics here but if there is interest, I will do so.


I gave a clinic at the Valley Forge RPM in Malvern PA two weekends ago.  In a break from my usual update on the layout clinic I did one on building helixes, and specifically my backbone helix.  There was Ma & Pa content in the clinic as I covered how I model the town of Yoe on the outer loops of the helix.  I had pictures of how I've done the scenery there.  It was a great weekend catching up with many friends and especially nice to see Dick Bradley and Art Kuperstein again!  

There is a open house coming up in May during the next NJ Division NMRA meet so I need to kick things into gear and get the layout cleaned up and more progress done before then.