November 25, 2015

Filling The Maw

The Maw
I added the fence gate to the front portal of the pier shed. I soldered some 0.032 inch phosphor bronze and brass rod to create the gate frame. It is very sturdy. I test fit it so it was a snug fit in the portal.

 Then I glued an oversized piece of fine tulle  fabric (veil material) to the frame using CAA. I then trimmed it to the size of the frame.  To trim the tulle  I used a sharp XActo knife. Next I primed it gray and then painted the vertical posts silver.

To simulated the plastic privacy panels I used a piece of construction paper painted the trim color. I glued it to the back of the tulle. I did not weave it in between the chain links as on the prototype. But I like how the tulle is visible in front of the paper.

Lastly I added signs and barbed wire made from lycra string.

November 23, 2015

Pier Shed Almost Done

The blue pipes enter the building
 through the window.
I did some work on the details for the pier shed. I added some of the signs and made the fire water pipes.

The water pipes for the fire suppression and fighting system were probably add-ons to the building. They make a colorful and interesting detail.

Next I need to add the lights, flag pole, some trim, a drain and some fencing.

Yes, that is the little old lady from Pasadena. She now drives a Porsche.

The model pipes before painting
The red pipes before painting.

November 18, 2015

PoLA Op Session 3.5

 Mike Spoor visited the layout tonight. Last we saw Mike on this blog he was getting ready to go to Korea.  He is now stationed in Ft Hood, but is in town this week for Army intel training.

Mike loves to operate, especially switching style layouts. So I set up a op session for him. He is also an excellent operator, so this would be a good test of the layout and ops scheme.

Before he arrived I drew up an "official" switch list document. I copied a Sante Fe style sheet, but modified it for the Pacific Harbor Line. On the right side of the sheet is a track plan showing the track, industry names and the switch spots.

The Sante Fe switch list has a column for "tons" but I changed that to "P/ S " for "pick up" or "set out" to simplify things a bit for the conductor.

I printed the switch list on heavy stock. With a fold in the middle it is easy to hold in your hand or stuff in a pocket.

I filled out sheet with the cars that Mike would be working. Unfortunately, I forgot two cars, but I added them later.

I made a hand written note on the top for the horn signals. Seems like all my  locos have different decoders with their own horn signals. I plan to modify the form with blanks for the horn signals so I don't forget to add them.

Mike seemed to have a good time. He said he "liked the layout." He couldn't stay too long as he had to pick up his boss at the movies. It was nice seeing him again. Hopefully he can get some pictures of Beaumont for my next book once he is back in Texas.

While Mike was operating, I worked on the monitor roof for the pier shed.  I made the pieces from bass wood with laser cut windows. The roof is flat compared to the prototype that has a slight slope. I started to add a slope, but it was so slight that it was barely noticeable. So I opted to keep things simple and made the roof flat.

I glued black construction paper to the roof surface, as I did not want to paint the foam core underlay. I have had painted foam core warp in the past. I did not extend the monitor to the right side of the structure. I think I should, at least as a flat against the wall.

I also tried making some Jersey Wall barrier sections. The prototype photos show lots of them in various locations.

November 17, 2015

Discussing my Books on This Blog

Several people have suggested that I start a blog to discuss my books, especially the track plan book that just came out.  While I have tried maintaining multiple blogs in the past, I now prefer to just have one. So if you will bear with me, I am opening this blog to discussions about my books.

To begin, Trevor Marshall has written a nice review of my latest book, "45 Original Track Plans."  See here. In my view, Trevor clearly "gets it." The purpose of this book is to inspire and entertain all model railroaders, from folks in the armchair to those that have already built  their layouts.  I hope this book does that.

My intent was not to provide detailed blueprints on how to build an exact layout. Very few people will have the exact space that I show in the plans.

I intended these plans as design studies to indicate the possible. As such I use CAD tools to draw the track and structures to make sure that what I draw could be built. I also use artistic software to present the plans in a pleasing way.  Hopefully the reader will enjoy looking at the plans, learning about the prototypes (that is why I included some off-beat subjects) and perhaps find ideas that they can use.  I suspect that most modelers will want to adapt any particular plan to the era and railroad to match their space and interests.

Trevor's comment about building a plan in the next smaller scale is right on the money. I like the example he used. In my next book I need to explicitly discuss this point, as I agree whole heartedly with the concept.

In my first track planning book,  "Mid-Size Track Plans for Realistic Layouts" I had a examples that showed how one could model a given subject in different scales. Thus each chapter took an in depth look at one subject. I used a different approach in the latest book, where I covered more subjects, but with only one plan and not in as much depth. Both approaches have their merits. I think I prefer this latest approach, as I can cover more ground.

Don't forget you can order signed copies of my books from my website at Alkem Scale Models
The books are also available at Amazon,  and the Kalmbach On-line Bookstore.

November 16, 2015

PoLA Op Session 2.5

Sunday Gerry Fitzgerald took a break from writing books about WWI and biological weapons to visit the Aquia line and PoLA.  I put him to work doing a test op session on PoLA.

I set him up with a mixed train in staging. He brought the train out of the staging in the closet (no, I did not say Gerry came out of the closet). He worked the sidings. He must have been having a good time  because he didn't bother me for at least an hour and I did not hear any cars hit the floor.

Afterwards, he said, "that was fun. I can't think of anything to change." But that was not true, his experience as the LSIG editor came through, and he thought of something. Later in the evening he started lobbying for an extension of the layout at the Borax factory to allow better operator access to the siding there. I had actually contemplated that myself, that is why I never added a fascia piece to the layout at that end.  We shall see how the time line goes, but the change is not needed for the book.

He also gently nagged me to get the Aquia Line in operation. All in good time, young grasshopper. All in good time.

While he was playing, I mean testing, I worked on the Pier 181 shed. It is nearly completed. Next is the monitor roof, and then the signs, lights and details. This building has a lot of clutter and detail around it, so it should make an interesting structure.

November 15, 2015

A Capital Idea

I was wondering how to make the capitals on the decorative trim for the pier shed. I tried a couple ideas using laser cut paper and laserboard. But they didn't work out as the side walls of the capitals are too small, and folding the parts was not possible.

So in the end, I used small bits of 0.060 by 0.060 styrene  glued to 0.30 inch wide 0.020 inch thick styrene. I used wood putty to fill-in the small gaps on the sides.

The roof edge trim is 0.060 triangular stryene rod.

This afternoon Jack Brown, from Williamsburg, and his friend, John Carrol, from Arlington, VA visited the layout. John is a real estate developer that is interested in the civil war. Jack has a HO layout based on the Western Maryland.  You can see images of his layout here.  He also wrote one of the Western Maryland Color Guides.  Western Maryland Color Guide to Freight & Passenger Equipment 

November 12, 2015

Test run on PoLA

Work in progress. Here an Athearn SD40 with a TCS Wowsound decoder and  keep-alive  circuit pulls some Atlas and Fox Valley freight cars past the under-construction pier shed on the PoLA.  This is a quick hand-held iPhone video as I was wrapping up for the night.

November 8, 2015

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Work in progress before adding the curbs
Work progresses on PoLA with the addition of curbs, RR crossings and the start of the pier shed.

The curbs were trickier  than I expected. I ended up making them with laser cut 1/16th inch acrylic. I am trying to depict the grade crossing shown in the photo below.

I have run into two problems in developing this scene. First is that the scene has been changed quite a bit since 2005. None of the photos on Google Earth, Bing Maps, nor  my own shots show the same details in the scene. Secondly, the prototype road is 4 lanes, but my model road is only 2. So I needed to pick and choose elements to include in the scene.  I think the end result is coming along nicely. Next I need to select a electric circuit to control the flashers. Not sure how I am going to do that aspect yet.

In the meantime, I drew and then laser cut the basic structure for the Pier Shed. I used 1/8 inch plywood with a foam core roof and bass wood stiffeners. I used a can of off-white latex house paint to paint the basic walls. That worked surprising well.  There will be another layer of contrasting color architecture trim, as well as a central cupola on the roof.

Like how the ship in the background rises above the walls of the shed.

November 2, 2015

PoLA Paving Proceeds Per Plan

Finished section of San Clemente Ave
I finished base coat painting PoLA pavement today. Then I started detailing the San Clemente Ave section of the pavement. I followed the prototype photos available on Google and Bing Street views.
Prototype area modeled. I am omitting the fence as it is on the edge of the fascia.
The avenue in this area has a single lane of jointed concrete and another lane of asphalt, which in many places is in poor condition.

Laser-cut stencil
I used masking tape and acrylics to paint the stripes. I used a laser-cut mask to cut the "STOP" sign painted on the road surface.

Typical pavement section
I used a colored pencil to draw the joint lines and cracks. I applied  Sandstone colored acrylic wash to the concrete area, and a medium gray acrylic wash to the asphalt lane.

Next I added small tufts of Silfor grass in the cracks and along the shoulder.

Finally, I laser cut some manhole covers and storm drains, again following prototype photos as a guide. I trimmed away sections of the task board pavement and countersunk the manholes and drains into the pavement. Thanks to using task board it was easy to remove the areas below the drains. Looking into a 3D drain is kind a cool.

This weekend, I also installed a TCS Wow Sound decoder with the RTG-MB1 motherboard into a Athearn SD40. This board has a keep alive capacitor and associated circuitry. It works great and the SD40 runs smoothly across the layout.

Next, I need to learn how to adjust the sound parameters to get that set up for an SD40.

Countersinking the manholes and drains

October 29, 2015

Weathering Modern Cars for PoLA

Atlas ACF® 23,500 Gallon Tank Car 
One of the things I miss in modeling the ACW era is building and weathering freight cars and other painted steel objects. The PoLA layout gives me the opportunity to do some of that work, which I find very enjoyable.  Here are some photos of the first 5 cars I weathered for the PoLA layout.

Atlas ACF® 23,500 Gallon Tank Car

I use prototype photos to guide my efforts. In particular the Soo Line car had graffiti and I tried to copy it. Yes, graffiti is the bane of  railroads. As much as I hate to look at it when rail fanning or riding the Metro, it is a fact of life. You need some graffiti to make a realistic looking modern layout. I did find it ironic that the graffiti on the right side of the Soo Line car itself had weathered. It was a fun to try to capture that. I painted the graffiti with a small brush and acrylic paint using the photo as a guide. I have no idea what the graffiti is supposed to represent.

Atlas 53' Evans Gondola
 BTW graffiti has existed for a long time. Soldiers from American Civil War to as far back as Roman republic left graffiti.
Fox Valley 7 Post Box car

Fox Valley 7 Post Box car. I used this prototype
photo as a guide for this side of the car.

October 27, 2015

Mr Demille, I'm ready for my close up,

Kent and Ben getting a lay of the land to plan their shots.
Kent Johnson and Ben Lake from Model Railroader Video Plus visited the the USMRR Aquia Line today.  They are in town this week to shoot some local Capital-area layouts.

They spent the good part of the day shooting video of the USMRR Aquia Line and PoLA layouts. The  finished video will be used in a layout tour feature on the Model Railroader Video Plus website. Model Railroader Video Plus is a subscription based service that features dozens of model railroad videos ranging from how-tos to layout tours. I believe this was the first civil war era layout they visited.

Ben behind the big video camera

It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work too. We shot a variety of trains running up and down the line. We even did a short how-to video on converting figures to the Civil War period.

Meanwhile, Kent shoots some B-roll footage.
The layout ran very well. The engine Whiton did yeoman's work. Its battery held up all day. Engine McCallum also got in a workout. Engine Fury makes a brief appearance on the turntable at Falmouth. Yes, BG General Haupt did make an appearance to do the intro.

In addition to the normal video, they shot a time lapse of the whole video process. At one point you'll see Ben sitting on the floor wrestling with my Manfrotto tripod ball head. For some off reason, it decided to permanently attach itself to Ben's handy cam. We did eventually get them separated by taking the ball head apart and the camera base plate off.

Near the end of the day we took some video of a BNSF freight working on PoLA layout as a work in progress.

I am looking forward to seeing how the video turns out

Kent looks dashing in my brigadier's  uniform. It fits him
better than it fits me.

Ben tries to figure out how his Sony Handicam swallowed my
 tripod ball head. We did eventually get it apart.

And yes, we learned that driving a manual transmission with the parking brake on is a no go.

October 25, 2015

First Op Session on PoLA

An historic document, the first switch list for PoLA layout next to the Borax silos.
Paul and Todd bringing the train onto Fries Ave.
Paul Dolkos and his son Todd stopped by today. The actual purpose was to do some graphic work for decals for Paul, but Todd had some containers he wanted to contribute to PoLA.

Since the graphic work needed was very minor, I put them to work doing an op session on PoLA. I made up a quick switch list on a scrap of paper. Paul and Todd then worked for about an hour making pulls and set outs on the layout They used the set of Fox Valley GP60M & GP60B.

Cutting tubes on the chop saw
Todd was happy to be switching some of the DODX cars. Both men thought that the layout was fun to operate. Paul made a comment to the effect that, "why would someone build a huge double deck layout that never gets done, when this is all you need."

AW helps sand the lettering off the tubes. Acetone also helped.
Earlier in the week  I cut the silos for the Borax factory. I was planning on using the Walthers Medussa cement for the silos, but the kit did not have enough silos. So I bought 12 feet of 2 inch PVC pipe and cut 16 silos on my chop saw. I set up a jig on the saw so that each tube was the same length.

Then I laser cut the roof panels to precisely fit the tubes. The roof panel helped keep the tubes aligned and vertical as the glue dried.

I also had finished putting the paving sheets on the layout. I was in the process of painting and patching seams on the paving when Paul and Todd arrived.

Silos and laser cut roof

First ballast section drying

After they left I started ballasting the areas that are not paved. I used sifted dirt from Utah. It seems to have the right color and texture.

October 19, 2015

The road to hell is paved with....

Original loading track configuration
 Paving operations continue on PoLA. Over the weekend I completed about 75 percent of the planned paved area. Just one more area to go. Whew, there is a lot of pavement on this layout!

The paved areas need some tuning to make sure the trains run without interference. But so far so good.

I also received a shipment of Walthers kits. I immediately got the storage tanks and Medussa Cement kits out to mock up.

New loading track location
The Walthers tall storage tank kits are beautiful kits, but were too wide to fit in the planned location. So I moved them to the background and cut some 4-inch PVC pipe for the foreground tanks.

I also relocated the petro-products loading track so that the 4-inch tanks are between the loading track and the "main" track. This does a much better job of screening the hole to staging. It also makes spotting the tank cars at the future loading platforms much easier as they are in the foreground. The second photo shows the new arrangement.
Medussa Cement mocked up as the Borax facility

I plan to kit bash the Medussa Cement into the storage silos at US Borax.  The actual facility is 8 silos long with some doubled and some single.  Turns out that 2 inch PVC pipe is nearly the same size as the Medussa silos, so I plan to use sections of 2 inch PVC pipe to expand the facility.

Mock up of the pier shed.
I made a foam core mock up of the pier shed to get a better feel for how much of the area should paved. I glued a print of the actual building to the front. The final model will use laser cut parts.