Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

"I knew I should have used a Woodland Scenics tree instead."

Merry Christmas!
From my family to yours! 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

This latest delay in construction has been brought to you by...

I've been to busy getting married to my best friend and soul mate Amy. ;)

Me and the Love of My Life!

Layout progress will resume.. Sometime.. ;)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dressing up the Helix..

The latest progress made on the layout has been to finish up installing the last of the fascia and valance, which needed to be installed on the helix.  A couple of problems were causing me to put this off: I had some 3/16th Masonite that I had cut down and spliced together to form the fascia, and I tried to install it one day when a few of the guys came over.  But the stresses from the bend I was trying to make the pieces go around caused the joints to fail, much to the amusement of my helpers.  I had to rethink what to do here.  Eventually I settled on going with thinner Masonite and this time I managed to get it installed (without any help from the peanut gallery). 

Here is a the helix with the fascia, valance and backdrop installed and painted.

The valance presented another problem:  How do I get the valance up without support from up above?  The solution was to buy small angle brackets and attach short pieces of 1x2 wood to them, then secure them to risers that support the backdrop.  I then used left over pieces of curved plywood from helix construction to form the proper radius to match the bottom deck fascia/valance and attached that to the 1x3 angle bracket combo. 

Here we see the curved plywood/angle bracket combo used to form the valance radius.

Next up was to figure out how to get the black foam-core to bend smoothly.  The answer was to lightly score the back of the foam-core at one inch intervals.  That created enough flexibility to bend the foam-core smoothly to the desired radius.

The valance came out good and the curve looks very smooth, no kinks at all.

 Last up was to paint the previously installed vinyl flashing backdrop.  I used the same method used on all the other backdrops. 

Blue hazy skies.

With some black paint for the fascia, and signage installed, the helix will look as good as the rest of the layout. :)

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Action is the foundational key to all success."- Pablo Picasso

The dust has settled and I can say without a doubt the rebirth of the NJ Layout Design/Operations Sig joint meet was a great success!  Over 100 people attended the meet and everyone had a great time!  To think it was conceived and started to be planned just 3 months prior is amazing.  Check out the website for a wrap up and some pictures taken at the meet.

Now, as for progress on the layout:  Nothing spurs you into action to get stuff done like a hard deadline.  My layout, along with 10 others, were to be on the day two layout tour, and I pushed to get some major things done to make it look better.  Valances, the Sign-O-Matic signs, and the remaining LED lighting were installed. 

Keeping with my mantra of using lightweight materials to build non-permanent parts to the layout, I bought 3 of these black foam-core tri-fold project boards from AC Moore and Michaels.  Using their 40-50% off coupons I got these for around $9-$10 each and had more than enough material after separating the 3 boards for all of the valance.

I fastened the short section valance to the low hanging ceiling (there is duct work at that spot) using 3M Velcro Command Strips.  The LED strip was attached to the ceiling.

For the main section of the layout I used 1x3s fastened to the studs.  I used small pieces of 1x3 to make a "T" at the edge where the foam-core would be fastened.  I used black drywall screws to fasten the foam-core to the "T" sections.  Above shows how it turned out.  Furring strips were fastened across the the top and the 5050, 300 per meter LEDs were attached to them.  

Here we have the Ma & Pa logo and direction arrows installed.  Direction indication is crucial since the Ma & Pa was a North/South railroad.  Couple that with the change in direction once you travel from the lower level to the upper level and you can see the potential for confusion if the direction isn't indicated.

Here is part of the layout showing direction and town signs installed.

Lastly, I test fit my Walther's turntable.  The turntable at York was 80' but the Walther's kit is 90'  It's a compromise but once I modify it to resemble the York version I think it will look good.

I've also been working on more backdrops, this time on the helix, and will post photos on the next update.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Things are often not what they appear to be...

Yes I've been quiet.  Things are getting done, but not on the layout per-say.  We are less than one week away from the re-launch of the NJ Layout Design/ Operations Sig Joint meet this Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2nd and 3rd.  

Between last minute preparations for the meet, and getting the layout presentable for the Sunday tour, I haven't had much time to write the blog.  I promise pictures and an update about the meet and the progress made to the layout next week once the dust has settled. :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs..

You may remember a while back I had finalized the sign design for my layout with the help of my friend Jim Fawcett.  I had ordered the signs from Sign-O-Matic sign company: 

which is located in Sweden.  The signs turned out great but I'm realizing I could use a few more to cover other sections of the layout.  Then the other day while visiting their site, I saw a promotion to get a few free signs to bloggers (up to $20 USD worth) and I figured now was a good time to order more signs, get a couple for free and promote their service which I'm extremely happy with.

How the signs looked after arrival.

The sign for York, PA test mounted.

I like how the signs will look on the layout, but now I'm thinking I'd like to get a few more Ma & Pa logos along with some more direction arrow signs and at least one more each of the Red Lion and York signs.  Both towns cover two sections on each deck (remember, the layout is L-shaped) and I'm feeling each section should be labeled along with extra direction indication arrows.  So I'm sending in another order this week, so I'll get the signs with plenty of time to spare to get them mounted before the LD/OP Sig Meet layout open house.

So you say you want in on Sign-O-Matic's offer:  Well if you have a blog you can do the following-

To receive your signs free of charge, (up to $20 USD) all you need to do is to write a post about them in your blog.  

The post must contain a link to their website. Please include a link to one of the following webpages: - with the word signs - with the word name badges - with the word door signs

When you have done this, you may order your signs. Before you confirm your order you must supply the address so that they can find your post.

So click on the Sign-O-Matic link to the right in the links section and start designing your own signs.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Coming soon.. The NJ LD/OP Sig and RPM meet

I've been busy along with a group of other volunteers working on bringing back the NJ joint Layout Design Sig and Operations Sig meet, Novemeber 2nd with self guided layout tour on Sunday November 3rd. The last time we had the meet was 2007.  This time around we will be located at Union County Vocational in Scotch Plains NJ and we have a nice large space for the meet. In fact, we felt the space was large enough to include space for RPM.  

Check out the website for more details and I hope to see you there if you can be in NJ on November 2nd. :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Weekend at Bernie's..

I was able to attend the first ever Mid Atlantic RPM this past weekend in Stafford VA.  Though a massive migraine headache threatened to sideline me early in the morning, I was able to rest most of the day Friday and head out on the road later in the day.  It was by all means a success and I commend Norm Wolf and crew for doing a great job on their first meet.  Norm says they'll be back bigger and better next year and I can't wait!

Located at the Hope Springs Marina, the meet also had the advantage of being right next to the Old RF&P Mailine.  We saw lots of trains roll by during the meet.

The man, the legend, Ralph DiBlasi. :)  The clinic room was actually a boat storage facility with boats stacked over 10 high!

Every so often the clinics were interrupted by boats being brought into storage by specialized fork lifts.  It was interesting watching how they did this.

Sunday, Craig Bisgeier, Dave Ramos, Amy and I were invited to Bernie Kempinski's to check out his O-Scale US Military RR in person.  The layout is just as beautiful in person as it is in pictures.  Nicely detailed scenes and equipment really show off the advantages of working in a large scale like O-Scale.  Bernie handed Dave Ramos and I throttles and we ran a couple of trains across the layout.  :)

Amy really loved the colorful engines and the detailed scenery. She also was impressed by all the figures that populate the layout.  After spending time by the layout, Bernie and his wife Alicia served lunch.  This was an unexpected treat and we greatly appreciated their hospitality.  :)  It was a great end to a fun weekend!

I think our weekend at Bernie's turned out better than these guy's weekend. :p

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nothin' but blue skies from now on.. - Irving Berlin

This week I found a way to get the rest of the vinyl flashing up without any help.  I found the bottom deck was easier to do since its lower.  I discovered a heavy duty staple gun I had bought awhile back (forgot I had it) and it was a better alternative to using the air stapler, whose staples were way to long and overkill for what I needed.

Later in the week I made a trip to Home Depot and picked up one quart of Behr Ocean Cruise Blue and two small samplers of Behr Brilliant White, both colors in flat finish.  I tested some backdrop painting on the 8' long top section just off the helix.  I applied full strength blue to the whole backdrop with one sponge brush, and went right back and put a big strip of white at the bottom with another.  I used a third wide sponge brush to blend the darker top with the white to make a lighter horizon.  It came out OK though not real even.  I actually think it looks a little like those clear days when you get those faint, wispy clouds (which I like a lot) so maybe it'll be OK.  If I like my results better on the next few sections I might go back and repaint it.

Top deck with blue sky while the bottom deck is next to get painted.

A closeup view.  Can you see the wispy clouds?  I meant to do that, really I did.  :p

After my last post, I was told about two more notable blogs to check out.  Fellow Ma & Pa Historical Society member (and the society's Time Table Magazine editor) Art Kuperstein is modeling the Ma & Pa in a slightly later era, and it's set mostly in the Maryland Division (where as I'm modeling a portion of the Pennsylvania Division).  Unfortunately Art's blog doesn't have a feed, so I had to add it to the links section instead of the blog roll.

Another fairly new blog by noted NYO&W modeler Bill Schneider called Modeling the New York, Ontario & Western:

Many of you may know Bill from the many articles he's authored and from pictures of his beautiful layout.  You may also know Bill from his association with Rapido Trains and his former employer, Branchline Trains. 

Two more great reads, so check them out. :)


Friday, August 9, 2013

The 100th Post, and the Sheriff of Bloggingham Rides Again..

Hey!  I've reached post number 100!  Another milestone!  And what better way to celebrate than to clean up some of the dead/inactive blogs on my blog roll. ;)

First let me tell you the first time I announced I was doing this a few people took umbrage with me.  Like I actually have the ability to wipe blogs of the face of the world wide web!  My one buddy even went so far as to call me the Sheriff of Bloggingham.  LOL  Of course I have the ability to close down inactive blogs on the net.  And Al Gore is the father of the internet.  And I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn...  What I can do though is not to promote them on my blog page.  So, without further ado...

Two blogs have gone beyond the 4 month mark so I will drop them in favor of some blogs that are pretty active, and that I've been enjoying reading lately.  

The Georgetown Branch seemed to die again with nothing posted in 7 months and The W & A Civil War Blog hit 5 months so.. Buh Bye..

You'll now find the following entertaining blogs:

Gene's P48 Blog- An interesting Proto 48 blog.

Trackside Scenery- Dave Frary's fun blog where you'll read mostly about trains and scenery, but sometimes Lobster Fishing and occasionally BBQ.  Always entertaining though.

Dan D. Sparks-  Dan D. Sparks has a fun and well laid out blog on his traction layout based on the San Diego Electric Railway in H.O. Scale.  If you've ever wondered what a Grand Union is or how one is built, check out Dan's Blog.

JLandT Railroad-  The last blog on my recommended list is the JL and T Railroad blog.  It's a neat layout based on one of my other favorite northeastern RR's, The Reading.

There you go!  Lost 2 but I added 4!  :p

Update: For those of you who have been following along for awhile:  Jim Lincoln's blog still proclaims he hasn't died, though that was posted over 1 1/2 years ago.  I'm happy to report I saw Jim a week ago at an op session, and he's very much alive. ;)

Oh and Commodore.. Three months and counting..

Can you say embargo?  :p

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I see a red door and I want it painted black.. - Rolling Stones

Part of what I've envisioned from the very start in planning and building my layout was to help a visitor get the feel for some of the nuances of the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad.  Black and yellow/gold have always been associated with the Ma & Pa. thus the big reason I chose black for the fascia and yellow for the signage.  Bellow are the results of the painting effort.  I think it turned out great at first glance and I will go back in a day or two and inspect what I've done and see if I still like it as much as I do now.

I temporarily put up the York sign to see how it looked on the newly painted fascia.  I'm pleased with the preliminary results. :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out.. - Martin Scorsese

Like a scene on a movie screen, or a picture in a frame, or a display in a museum, most model railroaders like to frame in their layouts with valances and fascia, because if it's done right, the valance and fascia help draw in your visitors to the model scene and not the surrounding room.  

A few days ago I made good use of the beautiful weather outside to get out the chop saw and cut the Masonite fascia pieces that I had previously measured.  Today I decided that all the parts for the fascia were small and light enough that I can handle putting them up without any help.  

The method I use to fasten the fascia pieces to the layout edge is to apply Liquid Nails for projects to the Gatorfoam bench work edges, and then I apply the fascia sections making sure to press them on firmly.  I then tack on 2-3 brad staples from my air brad nailer to hold everything in place.  Fast and simple.  The pictures below show the end results of today's efforts. 

I'm still working out the logistics on how I'm going to hang the valances but in the meantime, I can start painting the fascia (black) and installing throttle plugs, throttle holders, and those neat signs from Sign-O-Matic. 


Monday, July 29, 2013

Making Hay While the Sun Shines...

I finally was able to get some time down in the basement to work on the layout.  It's cooled off here in NJ and the kids have been spending more time up stairs, so I had some time to work on a couple of projects that weren't finished before the heat wave.

I worked on laying track on the last two sidings that needed them:  Mitzel Coal located in B-Yard in York, and T.H. Knisely in Red Lion.  I also worked on getting feeders attached, and getting everything tied into the power bus.  I had put off finishing these last two sidings till I made the final decision on how they were going to be handled scenically.   After studying all the photos I had on these two coal dealers I determined I can get away with foam ramps for each.  Mitzel Coal's ramp was located in B-Yard and there was vegetation and a stockade style fence that blocked any view of the actual trestle from the yard.  The coal delivery trucks were serviced on the other side in the coal yard which is not seen from B-Yard.  So, a simple foam ramp and building flats will work here fine.

A view of the ramp going to the Mitzel Coal "trestle" in B-Yard.  There is a slope down to the scale track on the prototype and a stockade fence.  You'll see the coal cars on the "trestle" but not the actual structure.

Mitzel Coal ramp is to the right of the scale track behind the fence and vegetation.  Copyright photo courtesy of Dick Bradley.  All rights reserved.

After studying photos I determined the bottom part of the T.H. Knisely covered coal trestle was obscured enough by vegetation I can get away without detailing the bottom part of the trestle.  Again, the dealer trucks and customers were handled on the other side of the building where it's not visible from the layout isle.  I might use a small photo flat for the bottom so the little bit that might show through the vegetation will be convincing. Also, I'm stretching history a little here because the info that came with the photos said the trestle was out of service by 1940, 3 years before the time I'm modeling.  I'm OK with that, since this adds another place to switch in Red Lion.

Here is the ramp to T.H. Knisely Coal in Red Lion, PA. 

T.H. Knisely covered coal trestle.  Notice the vegetation growing around the bottom of the trestle. The photo was taken in 1963 or 1964, and photographer was standing on front of Ma & Pa locomotive #82 while diesel was pulling a freight train north.

Photo from the Alan J. Frame collection used by permission of The Ma & Pa Historical Society archives. 

Another view of T.H. Knisely Coal from the cab of #82.  Lots of vegetation visible on all sides of the building.  Yes, this is a late picture,1963, which is a full 20 years after the time period I'm modeling, but I think since the east side of the building, the part facing the tracks, wasn't part of the coal yard's workings, it's plausible there wasn't much in the way of landscaping going on there.  The photo was taken in 1963 or 1964, and photographer was standing on front of Ma & Pa locomotive #82 while diesel was pulling a freight train north.

Photo from the Alan J. Frame collection used by permission of The Ma & Pa Historical Society archives. 

The heat wave that had been plaguing NJ has subsided this week and I took the opportunity to get the chop saw outside and start cutting all the Masonite fascia boards that I had measured previously.  I got them all cut and they are ready to go for the next time some of the guys come over to help out.

Masonite fascia sections laid out where they will be eventually fastened to the layout.

More fascia ready to go.

Many thanks to Alan J. Frame for letting me use his images and to Rudy Fischer with helping me to get that permission.  This is another example why belonging to a Historical Society is such a valuable resource! 

Stay tuned for next time as we do some more blog roll house cleaning..