July 21, 2016

Model Railroad Layout Deathmatch


After Ramon's visit last weekend, I decided to do a better job of sketching out what a full expansion of the PoLA layout into the rest of my basement would look like. I took Trevor's advice and laid off the coffee too. That drawing is on the right. On the left is the plan for the final version of the Aquia Line. Once this next book is done I will take a breather and decide what I want to work on next. Time for a model railroad deathmatch!

In the left corner is the USMRR Aquia Line. Weighing in after 7 and a half years of on and off work, the layout  is essentially finished from Brooke to Falmouth. It is fully functional. With just a few more freight cars it could do some simple op sessions. It has been featured in Model Railroad Planning and Model Railroad Video Plus. Hundreds of people have visited it and many have taken a train over it. 

In the right corner is the upstart challenger, PoLA. I completed the Mormon Island portion in less than one years time. It is fully operational and showcases some of the magnificent RTR cars and engines produced by today's model manufacturers. It is an excellent test bed for new Alkems Scale Model products for HO modern era modelers. In it current form, it offers plenty of industrial switching. It has already hosted several op sessions despite its young age. I plan to operate it in ProRail 2018. So it needs to survive at least that long.

What to do next? If I proceed on the Aquia Line, then the next step is to start laying the track at Aquia Landing and building some freight cars. I have been looking forward to building the Landing for a long time. I saved it for last, as I knew it would keep me motivated to finish the layout.

If I want to take PoLA further, I would build Phase II as shown the diagram. That essentially occupies the area where Aquia Landing would be. Given that the benchwork is already done, and it is a very simple track plan, using flex track and ready-to-run turnouts,  building Phase II would not take that long. The ship and cranes would be the most difficult part of the job. I have been wanting to build a really big ship model and the container ship on PoLA Phase II would scratch that itch.

Perhaps a hybrid approach is the answer. That would entail building PoLA phase II next, operate it for a few years until I retire. Then salvage it and finish Aquia Landing as my retirement project. Or, if I find I like the PoLA more, then scrap the Aquia Line and build PoLA Phase III.  Either way it will be a lot of fun.

Before you comment, think about what Marcello Mastroianni once told Sophia Loren,  "never cry for something that cannot cry for you." 

July 17, 2016

Photo Shoot with Mr BNSF

Mr BNSF in his Heritage Orange shirt
Today, a day that we have both long awaited, Mr. BNSF, AKA Ramon Rhodes, brought part of his award winning collection of HO engines and freight cars to use as photo props on the PoLA layout.  We had a great time in between tripping on lighting cords and setting up for the next shot.

We got some great shots. Ramon was really digging the PoLA layout. I showed him a sketch I had made a few months ago showing how the PoLA could expand to fill the basement. I think that got Ramon's attention as he immediately started lobbying for the switch.

We learned that double stacks do fit in my staging tracks.

This is the sketch that got Ramon fired up.

Don't worry, it's not time to start panicking, yet!

July 12, 2016

Declaring Victory!

I have finished construction work on the PoLA layout for now. I plan to go back and work on the Borax factory and a possible extension later. But for now, we are declaring victory on this project. Here is a video showing a train coming out of staging past Chase Marine Terminal. The train is a bit longer than normal, but it shows that even a small layout can host a long train.

In the back you can see the windmill turbine blades being off loaded from the ship. Shipping windmill turbines is covered in more detail in the book.

July 4, 2016

Final Photos Test

Chase Marine Terminal - this is the free lanced part of the layout. It is the third layout I have built named
after my son Chase. The ship is named after my daughter. 
I took some shots tonight to test the final scenes.

It's almost ready for prime time. Just some minor details left.
The finished barge named after CINCHOUSE.

Updated PoLA track plan

Here is a drawing showing the updated track plan to the PoLA layout.

I would like to have more spots to set out tank cars. Right now the Vopak spur has three loading positions. So I am thinking about expanding the layout after the book is done.  it might look something like this. The expansion would be removable and perhaps as a  FREMO module.

Bespoke bunker barge build

Bing Birds Eye view showing bunker barges at Pier 181

Damen Bunker Barge
Most of the satellite and aerial views of Pier 181 in PoLA show bunker barges tied up to the wharf. Bunker barges are oil barges that refuel large ships. I decided to build one for the layout as it was a easy model to scratch build.
The model before detailing and weathering
I found a set of plans on line for a Damen Bunker Barge. These barges can be over 300 feet long. The Damen barge was too large for my space, so I shortened and modified it somewhat. I also incorporated some features I saw in other barges, for example the stairs over the central pipes. They were left over from the Walthers Oil tanks kits. 
A prototype oil barge with tug
The barge model is almost done except for some minor details and weathering.

July 1, 2016

USMRR Rules on Signals on Trains

First page - there is no title page

A question on the Yahoo AWCRRHS Yahoo Group list recently came up on signal flags used on trains in the ACW. I have a copy of the USMRR rule book courtesy of D.C. Cebula. It has a section that cover signals. The excerpts below are the pertinent sections.  Note that this is exactly opposite of later TT&TO Rule, where an engine displaying red flags or signals meant that no section followed that train.

There is no mention in the USMRR Rule Book on the use of white flags. 

Page 6
Page 5

Extract from USMRR Rules and Regulations (presumably for railroads in Virginia.)

15. Two red lanterns must placed
at the rear of every train that is on the
road after dark.
16. Two red flags by day, and two red
lanterns by night, shall be placed on,
front of an engine to indicate that the
engine is to be followed by another. In
case, by accident, two red flags or lanterns
cannot be obtained, one flag or
lantern shall indicate the same thing.

The difficulties with this system is that at night red signals would be used on front and rear of the train. That had to cause confusion, though the front would also have a head light.

B&O 1864 Rule Book
For comparison, here is a copy of a page from the 1864 Baltimore and Ohio Book of Rules. This rule adds the white signal on the front of  train when none is following. As with the USMRR, a red signal means that a section is following the train. They also use the term "convoy" of trains.

Again, this is opposite color system of the "modern" practice that started sometime after 1877.

These next two pages are from the B&O Book of Rules from 1852. Note that the rules are very basic and don't address following sections.

B&O 1852 Rule book

June 28, 2016

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Overall view - work in progress.

I painted the pipes with a lot of rust. 
 ....with apologies to Five Man Electric band. I added a bunch of signs to the layout.
Signs to Vopak based on prototype 

More signs to the entrance to Chase Marine Terminal
I took some more photos with my iPhone. Then I used Photoshop to focus stack.

These shots are good for finding flaws and other glitches that need to be fixed before I take the final images.

I have been having a fun time simulating peeling paint using the Vallejo chipping medium. It's quite addicting.

June 23, 2016

Rusty Tanks

Focus Stacking with an iPhone
Google street view of similar  scene on prototype
I finished painting the tanks for the Vopak Liquid Bulk Terminal tonight. The white tanks are Walthers kits. The three gray and one green tank are scratch built from PVC pipe. The painting process took much longer than the building process.

I used Vallejo Chipping medium to add peeling paint and rust metal to the green tank. That was a lot of fun. It is an interesting product. I think the next time I try the chipping medium I will use a very thin coat. I think I may have applied it a bit too thick on the green tanks.

I also made a road sign for the foreground based on an actual sign on Fries Ave. The distinctive sign points to the various berths on Mormon Island. It is another clue that this is the Port of Los Angeles.

The top photo is a focus stacked image using an iPhone and hand held. It is amazing how well it came out.

June 20, 2016

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

Looks like a scene from "Fast and Furious IV"

 Robert Frost may have had mixed feelings about his stone walls, but to a person modeling a modern port, fences are a fact of life. And these are not the charming stone walls of Frost's New England, but utilitarian chain link fences frequently topped with  barbed wire. With normally flat land and few places to get an high viewpoint, fences are the bane of railfans looking for photos near the waterfront.

I have been installing fences on the layout using the photoetched kits from Alkem Scale Models. I will toot my own horn here since I developed the product, but they are a breeze to install, and they look great.

I found it is also easy to make the gates operate using 1/32 inch wire and 1/16 inch thin wall tube from K&S. I solder a 1/32nd inch wire to the edge of the gate that extends about 0.75 inches below the gate. Then I insert a length of 0.75 inch 1/16th inch tube in the scenery, predrilling a hole if necessary. Next I slide the wire into the tube and test the fit. If all is well, a dot of CAA on the tube exterior holds it in place being careful to not get glue on the moving wire. That's it! Working gates.

Note that the Alkem Scale Models fence parts are photo etched  stainless steel. When soldering, rosin core solder and rosin flux will not work very well. I recommend the Superior Flux 71 available from H&N Electronics in hobbyist sizes.  Also, get some solid core solder to avoid having the rosin core contaminate your flux. Again, H&N carries what you need.

John Drye stopped by Sunday to do a bit of work on the layout. He was on his way to chaperone a high school girls graduation party, so he only had a brief time available.  He was able to build a tank in about an hour. It was a Walthers Kit. It will reside in the refinery area of the layout.

In case you don't recognize the title of this blog, it is the first line from Mending Wall by Rober Frost.

The security guard tends to the operating gate at Chase Marine Terminal.

Mending Wall

SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:         5
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,  10
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.  15
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.  20
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.  25
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.  30
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him,  35
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,  40
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors

June 16, 2016

Bollards, Mr Rico. Zillions of them!

Reflection in the "water"
I just about done with the wharf pilings and decking. Adding the wood pilings was a bit tedious, but they look good.

Tonight I made a batch of 15 dual pole bollards to use on the dock. Once everything is dry, I'll add the lines to secure the ship to the dock.

The water surface is done. I haven't decided if I will add some waves using acrylic gloss gel.

June 11, 2016

Locomotive Devereux

Ken Montero stopped by today to drop off a framed print of the USMRR engine Devereux. The print formerly belonged to G. William Hammer, a former judge who was also an avid model railroader. He was a legal adviser to the NMRA. The print was originally a gift to Judge Hammer from a group of lawyers as a token of their respect for him.  Judge Hammer passed away at the age of 92. You can find a copy of his obituary here.

Missing from that obituary (because his daughter did not know it when it was submitted) was that, before World War II, Judge Hammer not only was an Able Bodied Seaman on a Great Lakes boat, but also worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad - on one of the Pennsy's watercraft on the Great Lakes.  Judge Hammer told Ken this story one night after they quaffed some certain beverages.  Judge Hammer got into model railroading after he got through law school. His primary interest was narrow gauge logging railroads in the Deep South - steam, of course (he called internal combustion engines "dis-easels", as if it were some contagious disease)

Jane Hammer, G. William's daughter, asked Ken if he could find a home for the print. Ken asked me if I would be interested in it. Of course I said, "Yes." The print is now hanging in the stairwell leading to the layout room. I am planning on adding an engraved plate explaining the provenance of the print.

J.H. Devereux was the USMRR Superintendent of the railroads in Virginia. He also was in charge of the construction of the Presidential passenger car that I have blogged about before.

The USMRR engine J.H. Deveraux was a 4-4-0 locomotive  that operated out of Alexandria, VA.  It was an 1863 product of the New Jersey Locomotive & Machine Works. There are at least two known photos of the locomotive.  Devereux was a respected and admired superintendent, and the locomotive bearing his name was embellished in handsome and colorful form, even more so than was common for the time. With polished brass, polished iron, vivid red and blue paint, fancy lettering, and elaborate portraits of Devereux on the sand dome, the locomotive was the epitome of 1860s decoration.

June 10, 2016

Over a million visits

It happened while I wasn't paying attention, but this blog recently surpassed a million visits.

The chart shows a break down of the top ten countries for those visitors. I'm a bit surprised that 3 of the top 5 countries are not native English language.

France, Germany and Canada are very close. Russia just edged past UK.

The folks down under also are quite frequent guests. Who would have guessed Ukraine would be number 10?

If you are frequent visitor please leave a comment to say hi, perhaps describe why you visit and what you want to see in the way of future coverage.

Of the 736 posts on the blog, the most popular posts were:

Oct 5, 2012, 5 comments
Sep 29, 2015, 4 comments
Sep 9, 2013, 12 comments

I don't know what it all means, but it fun to think about. The internet makes this a smaller world. Hopefully it will be a better world. 

I don't monetize this blog as I don't like the cluttered look of ads. The internet is already full of enough ads and click bait. Hopefully you can visit here and enjoy a glimpse into the projects that keep me off the streets and hopefully out of trouble. 

So to all of you, sincere thanks, merci beaucoup, thanks ehh, vielen danke, благодаряbedanken, Дякую u.

June 9, 2016

The solution where space is at a premium

I am just about finished with the modifications to the Gottwald Crane. It has been a fun job, but the handrails proved very fragile in handling during the construction. The die cast parts are quite heavy compared to the styrene, so any slip and they crunch the delicate plastic parts.  I'll add a few details and move on.

See this video for more information about this type of crane.

June 5, 2016

When it rains, it pours.

It was a busy week. First, MRVP released the video they filmed last fall. Here is the link to the video. The video is 18 minutes long. They did a nice job in filming and editing. They have an interesting format in that the layout owner is the only person shown in the video except for the time lapse B-roll during the ending credits. To see more than just the first minute or so, you have to be a subscriber to MRVP.

On Thursday CBO released a study I had been working on concerning the costs of scanning and imaging shipping containers for nuclear weapons. You can find that study at this link.

On Friday evening I finished the ship model, though more detailing is always possible.  Here is the bow showing the pedestals and arms for the hydraulic folding hatches.

The stern also has folding hatch apparatus as well as racks to hold containers between the hatch and the superstructure. The engine is typically under the deck in this area, that's why the hatch and hold doesn't continue all the way to the superstructure. Next time I try a ship like this I will show some of the hatches open.

Now I need to decide what cargo to display on the ship. I am thinking of windmill parts.

Prototype portal base
Next project is to detail the Gottwald Mobile Harbor crane. I decided to scratch build a new rubber tired portal base for the crane. Terminal designers opt for  portal style bases when the space on the pier or wharf is tight and they need to allow trucks or rail to pass under the crane. Such is the case for Chase Marine Terminal. I have two tracks pier-side that I want to allow access.

WIP on new HO scale base
I laser cut an acrylic base and the sheathed it with 20 thou styrene. Then I used stairs from a Walthers Blast Furnace kit to provide access. I also made hubs for the wheels. I tried making my own tires with laser cut parts but I decided to use tires from a couple container  trainers. that I had excess. A few more parts and it show be ready to go.