November 18, 2018

The Army of Northern Virginia Invades New Jersey

Jim Homoki's HO layout

This past weekend the Army of Northern Virginia invaded New Jersey, despite a raging winter storm, now called Avery. The invasion had the two prong objective of operating on Northern NJ Railroads, while having a great time.

Advance party bivouacked in 9 inches of  snow in
Scranton, PA on  Wednesday night


Advance elements of the AoNV, my mom and I,  infiltrated Pennsylvania on Wednesday in advance of the storm. We stayed at my brother's safe house in Scanton, PA.  While there we took the opportunity to set up his Lionel Christmas layout and ran his GG1 at a scale 156 Miles per hour. 

By Friday morning, the main body of the AoNV was moving north, while I  conducted a flanking move from the west.

Mat Thompson leading his raiders north.
Unlike R.E. Lee's invasion  in 1862, the AoNV picked up new recruits in Maryland and even a few from southern Pennsylvania as it moved north. By the time it arrived at its objectives in Northern NJ, the model railroads of Jim Homoki  and Tom Piccirillo  had no chance. After sweeping victorious over those layouts, the AoNV continued to Ted Pamperin's gorgeous lake front house to raid his  commissary and put a heavy dent in his liquor cabinet. Ted has some great scotch.










At dawn the next day the AoNV continued its sweep through the mountains of Northern New Jersey, raiding the layouts of Perry Squire, Tony Koseter, Dave Olesen and Dave Abeles. Later that evening, the AoNV withdrew to the Panther Valley Country club along with the various layout owners and helpers.   Everyone enjoyed a wet happy hour, delicious dinner, and great camaraderie.






Steve King dispatching Gerry Dzciedic's layout.
By the next morning, the weary invaders raided Dave Ramos and Jerry Dziedzic's layouts before falling back to the relative safety and warmth  of the south side of the Potomac River. The New Jersey layout hosts and their helpers were too tired to pursue.

It was a great weekend. Thanks to our hosts and their helpers for their efforts. This is just another example of how model railroading is a great hobby with wonderful people.





November 13, 2018

New World Headquarters for Alkem Scale Models



It will never be this neat again!
Amazon Inc isn't the only new HQ moving to Northern Virginia. Alkem Scale Models is building its new world headquarters in our garage. OK, perhaps our project isn't quite as grand as what the on-line retail giant is doing up the street, but it should make my modeling and woodworking projects a lot more efficient.

The first step was purging the garage of stuff. We were quite ruthless, anything that we haven't used in ten years was sold, given to charity, or taken to the dump. Probably the biggest item removed was my Porsche 911. I sold it and purchased a new VW Tiguan with all the latest safety and convenience features.

I had an old oNeTRAK module and a piece of my former N Scale Tennessee Pass layout stored in the loft of my garage. The module went to the dump and I found a person willing to take the layout section for use on their layout.

With the garage freed of the car, old layouts, skis, tennis rackets, scrap wood, and bikes, we went forward with designing the new work space.

Side elevation of the planned workbench
We ended up contracting with a local garage make-over service that specializes in Monkey Bars products. But before they could do their thing, I had to prep the walls for paint. The sheet rock in the garage was poorly installed and suffered from numerous screw holes, stains, and nail pops. I took care of those. Then the contractors arrived and removed the former epoxy floor covering, which was peeling in a few places. That involved diamond grinders and lots and lots of dust. With the floor prepped, they installed a two layer Polyurea with stone flecks finish. That came out very nice.

The next day, they installed cabinets and slat wall. The cabinets are bigger than the old Ikea shelves we had and they now have doors.  The slat wall will hold tools on hooks. Our hooks haven't arrived yet.

Still planned is my new work bench with storage for Festool Systainers, a new electrical outlet, and improved lighting. I may also add a separate HVAC system. Also, I will move the spin caster and the workbench from the basement. This will take that dusty process away from the layout, and open up the aisles near Aquia Landing. I hope to do more spin casting in the future.  I have several customer models for clients coming up, including a 8-ft HO scale warehouse. So the workbench improvements will be quite handy for that job.

The garage wasn't the only area receiving improvements. I also updated the infrastructure on my computer. Adobe offered a sale on a subscription to their complete Creative Cloud (CC) Suite of applications. So I got the whole caboodle for a year. I already had InDesign (Id), Photoshops (Ps) and Illustrator (Ai). However, when I updated my iMac to Mojave OS, the Adobe Creative Suite (CS, the predecessor to CC) aps stopped working reliably. I use AI and PS nearly every day, so I had to upgrade. The sale allowed to try some of their other aps. Those include After Effects (Ae), which is awesome. There is a steep learning curve, but if you know PS, then it comes a lot easier. PremierePro is also great, but seems a little clunky to me in work flow, but that is probably because I am not experienced with it yet.

Test of an animated character in Ch. I drew it
with Ai
The CC also came with other aps including a Character Animator (Ch) that is really neat. I tried it a bit and was able to do some "cute" animations fairly easily. I had no idea this was included, so it was a pleasant surprise.

One of my objectives in retirement was to improve my video making skills. Now I have professional grade tools to achieve the goal. It will be exciting to learn how to make more interesting and compelling videos.