April 29, 2004
Another good session last night. I only had David and Neil (I was amazed Neil came back after getting stuck with the seawall last week) but the two of them did the work of four guys. They worked together on the pilings and pile caps, and by the time they left there were only three more rows of pilings to install, and the only reason all the pilings didn't have caps running across them is that they ran out of stripwood! Way to go, guys. An excellent effort.
I worked on some of the other pier parts that need to be completed before we can pour the water -- I installed the rub strips and planking on the ferry slip "fingers", since a lot of that will touch the water. I was almost finished when I too ran out of stripwood. Needless to say, when I got home from work tonight I got busy cutting more stripwood. Hopefully I have enough to finish the planking on the fingers (1/16" x 3/16"), complete the pile caps (1/8" x 1/8") and install the cross-bracing under the pier (1/16" x 1/8"). All this has to be sanded, dyed and painted before next Wednesday, so I guess this weekend will be more of the same as last week. I cut more planking for the pier deck too (a lot) but I probably don't have enough strips to complete that either. Seems like my life these days is all about making stripwood.
Other projects are moving along behind the scenes, though -- Ordered the gears I'll be needing for the turntable a couple of days ago, and bought power supplies for the railroad from an electronics surplus outfit yesterday -- less than $10 apiece for 12v 3.5 amp open-frame supplies, which will work fine with Rail-Lynx. I also have a secret electronics project in the works with another model railroader which will be used on the rest of the railroad and may be a useful accessory for other operating railroads as well. More to come on that.
April 26, 2004
Well, it was a really good weekend – my family is away on a vacation so I spent the whole weekend in the basement a-working on the railroad. We made some great progress – David came over on Saturday and got a lot of pilings set up, and I followed behind and glued more pile caps on top of them. We're now more than 1/3 done with that job. We'll be ready to pour the envirotex by the middle of May at this rate. And David came over on Monday night too for a couple of hours and turned out even more work. Well over half the pilings are now set. Fantastic!
I also took the opportunity to set up some of the taller pilings, particularly along the forward edges of the ferry / carfloat slips. These came out looking really good. I hope to get some more of the tall pilings around the perimeter of the pier set in place tonight.
Sunday I spent cutting, sanding, staining and painting stripwood for the decking that is to come. Boy, it does take time to make this all happen. Buying prepared stripwood would have been more convenient but the price would have been unbelievable for the quantity I need. Still, I've only prepared enough decking for a third of the pier even after 7-8 hours of work – just in prep time. Got to keep thinking how nice it is going to look when it is all done. Now that I got more stripwood stained, I can move ahead with a few other projects too, like getting the float bridge caissons built and some other 'unpainted wood' details that have to go in before the epoxy pour.
Had one nice time-saver thanks to David – I was trying to paint a series of foamcore panels to complete the seawall this weekend (We only used the balsa 'stones' where they could be seen), and it wasn't coming out too well. David suggested building a sample section of stone wall from leftover balsa blocks and using the computer to scan it into a picture file, and then use printed copies over the foamcore to make it look more like the rest of the stone wall. Well, I tried it and it worked perfectly. I just have to tone them down a bit with a black wash of paint and the printouts will blend perfectly with the actual stone walls. When covered by the pier they will be indistinguishable from the hand-built wall sections. It doesn't look too good on film, but it looks great in person.
April 22, 2004
We made good progress this week, even compared what happened last week. Over the weekend I got to work cutting a lot more stripwood that we will need for the decking, it is a very slow process but I'm making progress with it. (Time to break out the orbital sander...) This week I have to get serious about dyeing and painting what I've prepared sp far. I also got a start on installing the pile caps, or horizontal beams that lie across the tops of the pilings. These are almost impossible to clamp while the glue dries, so I made up weight bags of aquarium gravel that I drape over the pile caps for an hour or so. We'll use these bags again as we glue down the plywood and the basswood decking. They are working very well.
I had a new helper Wednesday in Neil Henning, a local modeler who we met last year at the LDSIG regional meet in Union, NJ. Neil was a real sport and took on the last of the seawall, finishing up the stonework. I hope he will be back again soon. David picked up where he left off last week and laid a lot of pilings. More than were laid last week, it looks like. He's really got the process down, and he only cut himself once! All the new piles will get capped this weekend. At this rate we could be ready to pour the epoxy water by the middle of May!
While these guys were getting through their tasks, I worked on finishing the new benchwork under the turntable and roundhouse, got it covered with plywood and homasote. I hope to work more on the turntable pit this weekend, and maybe start getting it fitted. A little paint on the exposed wood wouldn't hurt either. I also started working on a mock-up of the transfer shed that will sit on the edge of the pier.
April 14, 2004
WOW! We had a great work session tonight. More helpers than you can shake a stick at -- Ted, Wayne, Jay, Tom and David all showed up -- good thing I had a list of projects to work on!
David and Wayne got to work on setting the piles (dowels) into the thousands of holes drilled in the last couple of months. Ted worked ahead of them with the hand drill making sure each hole was not painted shut. Jay worked on the seawall and did a great job, he used up all the balsa stone blocks I had made. Tom and I worked on a few different projects -- we ran the first power buss lines under the layout (used plastic straps to anchor then to the grids) and we built up the new benchwork section for the roundhouse. After many weeks of just David and I working down there it was great to have so much help. Thanks guys!
Here are a few detail shots. The first is a close-up picture of Wayne cutting the pilings to length after installing them into the drilled holes. The Dowels used for the pilings are 6" long 1/8" birch dowels that were previously stained and painted. We use a glue syringe to inject a bit of glue into the holes (about 10-15 at a time), and push / hammer / twist the dowels into the hole. Once an entire row is set, we use a spacer block with a clearance hole that's placed over the dowel, and the piling is cut to length using a flexible cutoff saw resting on the spacer block. The teeth of the saw have no set so the spacer block isn't damaged during cutting. This is working out exactly as I planned it and I'm very pleased with the results.
We eyeballed the location for the turntable and roundhouse and built up an add-on section of benchwork to support it. It isn't modular, just screws onto the two benchwork grids that already exist. Next week I'll put down a slab of plywood and some Homasote, then we'll locate the turntable and cut out the hole for the pit. Hopefully we left enough room to include a 4-stall roundhouse on the south side.
The 60' turntable pit was a project I made this past Tuesday. It's made from two 1/2" sheets of MDF glued together, then cut out using a circle cutting jig I threw together for my router. It worked very well but I should not have used a nail for my pivot, it wobbled a bit and the circles aren't perfect. A little sanding at they should work out fine though. The outside edge was cut on my bandsaw. I will be ordering some parts from Diamond Scale Products this week to install a manual (crank) indexing system. We've determined that the bridge will be a girder and I hope to use Micro-Engineering bridge plates for it. Some other detail parts from Diamond Scale should help with that too.
April 8, 2004
Couldn't sleep last night, so instead of staring at the clock I went downstairs and spent some time looking at photos of Wilson Point's roundhouse and turntable. Not a good picture at all, but it looks like the pit wall is made from stone blocks (matches a Housatonic prototype I have pictures of in Rising, MA), and the bridge is a metal deck truss. I have some ideas on how to model that. Spent some time trying to figure out how to build the pit model, and whether to make a mold of it or not. I'm going to need three or four of these for the entire railroad, so it makes sense to build a master model and cast it, saving fabrication time.
I also finished taking apart my guinea-pig Spectrum 4-6-0 locomotive, and found that it has real possibilities to be transformed into an 1880's Rogers 4-6-0 type. There are definitely some issues but I think they can be overcome. It's also possible that the same model could be reworked to represent a Rogers or Cooke 4-4-0 with extended boilers. I have no idea when I can start this, seems like right now I'm in the middle of twenty different projects and not making much progress on any of them. <Sigh>
April 6, 2004
New paint went down for the water over the weekend -- still too blue, but I think it looks well enough (and they'll throw me out of Home Depot if I try to return another gallon of paint). It's nearly dry enough to start sinking piles, that'll start later this week. I can't wait.
Met up with Jeff Ward last week and we had a long talk about Wilson Point in the Housatonic era. Jeff has been a vociferous critic of my plan for months, he disagrees strongly with my choice not to model the turntable and roundhouse. He presented some very compelling arguments, and I've been thinking hard that he may be right. I did some sketching in CadRail to see what the plan might look like with the roundhouse in place, click the image below to see a "what if" drawing.
This would mean an addition to the already-built benchwork of the scene, requiring some judicious cutting and rebuilding with the deck in place. And of course the turntable pit goes in the worst possible place, across a joint between the two grid sections. But it could be done. And maybe should be done -- operationally it's difficult to take passenger trains and turn them -- locomotive would have to run tender-first all the way to South Norwalk, where the nearest turntable would be otherwise. It also provides some desperately needed storage for locomotives laying over at Wilson Point.
I think I'm going to need to build a turntable soon.
March 28, 2004
Just got back from the Railroad Prototype Modelers (RPM) meet in Valley Forge -- Had a great time and met lots of interesting folks. You owe it to yourself to check these guys out. Many great, informative clinics and a slew of great models on display. Great for getting you motivated.
Anyway, I promised some recent photos of last week's work, so here they are -- a shot of some very, very blue water color (I've already returned the paint and will try again this week) and a detail shot of the sea wall we're building. I think it's pretty close to what was there and I'm having more luck with this method than any of the others I've tried. I like the way it is coming out.
If you look closely you can see some of the thousands of holes in the water to be plugged with dowels in the very near future...
March 23, 2004
Getting ready for the next work session tomorrow -- I finally finished drilling all the piling holes. I can't believe it took a month to finish! Phew, what an ordeal, even with the drilling jig. We wore out the collar spring in the VIX bit! After that I re-filled the divots and cracks with wood putty. The drywall joint compound did not work well. The wood putty worked well enough but next time I will try to use Bondo body filler for filling dips and cracks. I power-sanded all of the water area after the putty dried and put two more coats of poly on it ( I did two coats on Monday night also), and I got down the first coat of water colored paint too! It came out a lot bluer than the sample I was trying to match, apparently those color-matching machines at Home Depot don't work very well on dark colors. I'll try to post some pics tomorrow after the work session. It will probably be all right.
March 21, 2004
Been a while since I last posted. No session this past week, but David and I got together to discuss a lot of critical points we needed to settle regarding the design and construction of the pier. You'll be happy to know it was a good meeting of the minds, as we were able to come up with a plan for the Transfer Shed, determine where the remaining holes that need to be drilled for the pilings go, redesigned the ferry/ carfloat "fingers" that stick out into the sound, came up with a plan and design for the caissons that the float bridges were supported by, and finally nailed down the water color. We also decided where and how we are going to put the staging battleship up. We got a lot done in three hours. We're very close to starting actual construction of the pier.
Also been giving a lot of thought to the design of the rest of the layout -- a list of the changes I expect to make is on the home page of this website. They are extensive, and should really improve the rest of the layout when it starts getting built. It's taking some time to play around with the design and I'm trying not to let it distract me. I hope to finish the hole-drilling tonight, so I can but the first base-coat of polyurethane down on the water tomorrow.
March 10, 2004
This week a lot of work got done. I spent most of the weekend drilling holes for the pilings (well over 1500 I think), and Tim Phalon came over and helped finish drilling the last few hundred. Now I need to go around and drill the perimeter holes for the tall pilings that stand outside of the dock structure. Ted and Wayne were over too, Ted helped get the extra 2-3" section of land in place that we needed along the coast, and worked on a new seawall idea -- still not sure yet how that worked out. Wayne was working on the water color problem -- I tried a swath of "Black Green" paint earlier in the week, but it just didn't look right to me. Wayne tried a few things with some new colors I bought but most of them were too bright, I thought. I'm going to try mixing some Prussian Blue and Black later this week and see if that gives me the effect I want. When I get the color right I'll take a sample to Home Depot and have some gloss latex mixed up in the same color to paint the water with.
Got a few coal gondolas cast too, I'm having some trouble adjusting to the new resin I'm using but most of the parts are useable. Spent some time designing a 'generic' but accurate 28' boxcar based on photos of an 1874 Pennsylvania RR boxcar. I intend to use the drawings to make my next car casting project -- a one-piece boxcar body. It feels nice to be making models again.
March 3, 2004
Well, no one showed up for the work session tonight. I still got things done, though. After collecting information about tie spacing on early-period turnouts this past week, I was able to make a #5 turnout tie jig with variable spacing (tighter under the heel and Frog), using the templates from as a starting point. That turned out really well. I also spent 3 hours putting a gray glaze coat on the pilings I stained last week to tone them down a bit. That worked well too.
Earlier in the week I started some design work on the passenger station and freight house that stood on the pier at Wilson Point. It's a tough job because all the photos are small and there aren't many good views of it. I used a commercial window casting I knew the dimensions of as a starting point and guesstimated the rest from the photo. The first plan was much too small as a crude mock-up showed. I then made some changes and increased the size by about 25-30% and built a second mock-up, which looks a lot better proportionally. I'll make a few more small changes but this is pretty much what it is going to look like:
It's incomplete with some details missing (I didn't get around to making the four dormers that sit on the roof, two to a side) but you can see the proportions and scale well enough. I'm convinced the actual model will be great.
March 1, 2004
A lot happened this weekend. Saturday I was able to build a special jig for my tablesaw that allows me to safely cut full-size boards into thin slivers as thin as 1/32" or even less. After finishing the jig I tried it out making several lengths of 1/16" x 3/8" basswood decking for test pier model. The jig worked great! I found after gluing the stripwood down, though, that the 1/16" thickness was about 4-5 scale inches, and I think the planking for the deck needs to be thinner. So I'll be trying to cut the planking somewhere between 1/16" and 1/32" the next time I try it. Fortunately the jig allows fast and accurate thickness dimensioning.
Dave Ramos and I took a trip out to see Wilson Point as it is today on Sunday. It's completely different, and at the same time remarkably similar. My strongest impression was that it is much smaller than it appears in the old photos.
February 25, 2004
A very good night tonight. We had some folks down who hadn't been by before -- Jim Schweitzer and Henry Freeman stopped in to help out, in addition to Dave Ramos and Jay Held. We got the 'water' sanded and cleaned off, finally, and Henry and Dave plotted the outlines of the pier on it. They also got started on drilling the piling holes -- Henry really liked the jig and Vix bit, said it worked great and made a very quick job of it. He was able to use 1/8" dowels pushed through the jig and into some previously drilled holes to register its position, and didn't have to use tape to hold it in place at all.
Jim and I worked on making 'stones' for the sea wall from randomly cut cubes of balsa wood painted in gray tones, like Iain Rice did in his Roque Bluffs article a couple of months ago in MR. So far I think it looks good but will probably need some touching up. Jay worked on staining the stripwood but ran into some problems -- let's just say we now have enough brown dye to do everyone in the New Jersey area's pier models. Not Jay's fault at all, strictly my own. We'll work on it again next week.
Lesson learned -- a very little bit of leather dye goes a LONG way. A lot of leather dye is nearly impossible to dilute effectively.
February 24, 2004
Over the last few days I've been busy. Took the #5 turnout drawings from www.handlaidtrack.com and reworked them to fit my tie spacing. Figured out the tie length schedule and started cutting ties so I'll have about enough for about 5-6 turnouts. Looks real cool and spindly, like prefab track never will. Reaffirms my confidence in going with handlaid track for early period modeling.
I also broke out the piling drilling jig and made a proof-of-concept test model of my 'standard' pier section. The model is a square section about 6" x 6". I was able to construct it in about 45 minutes, and it seems very sturdy. It is made from 1/8" dowels (pilings) 1/8" x 1/8" pile caps, and a layer of 1/8" 3-ply plywood on top. It's about an inch tall, the actual one will need to be 1-1/4". There is no decking yet. It's missing some details like cross-bracing but hey, it's just a test.
I'm pretty happy with it -- I am now sure the idea will work and I can build this stuff pretty quickly. It sure looks a lot better than only going 2-3 layers deep and putting a black 'curtain' behind it, or a mirror. The detail level will be incredible. And it went together pretty fast -- I think I can probably build a one square foot area in just one hour, including the drilling, once I get into a groove. David Ramos and I both agree that the underlayment layer of decking should be plywood for strength, while the top layer will be basswood strips for its cosmetic properties.
February 21, 2004
Wow, a day where snow is actually melting in the shade! Got my tablesaw all set up today for the stripwood project and made some test runs. After a few false starts I was able to come up with a method to cut pretty accurate strips fairly quickly. I'm using a finishing blade for a circular saw with a 1/16" thin kerf (to minimize waste) and a special zero-clearance throat plate (so the strips don't get sucked into the saw). I made about 40-50 1/8" x 1/8" strips from some scrap maple wood in about half an hour. Thanks to the generosity of some woodworkers who answered my call for help, I have a small supply of basswood on the way and by next week I should have a good supply of milled scale lumber for the project to start. Hallelujah! If there's any interest I'll work up an article on how to do it -- it isn't hard at all if you have the right equipment.
February 18, 2004
No one was able to make it last week, so I spent some time working on some non-layout tasks. I was finally able to try out some new casting resin for building models with. I have also started taking apart the Bachmann Spectrum low-boiler 4-6-0 to see if it can be used to kitbash some of the locos I will need. More on that later.
Got started tonight by taking joint compound and working it into the grain of the plywood in the areas the water will be poured later. About halfway through Ted and Wayne Shortman showed up. Wayne helped finish up the spackling while Ted started laying out the track centerlines for the land areas. (I'd hoped to lay out the edge lines and track centerlines for the pier as well, but I got behind with the spackling and it was too wet. I'll try to do it myself later this week. Later we all were working on the track layout, and had fun doing it. We spent some time brainstorming about how to start the pier construction, which will be soon, and looked over a new photo of a Housatonic 4-4-0 loco (#58) I found at the Springfield MA show a few weeks ago.
This coming week I hope to make a test mockup of a section of pier to see if my idea will work. A lot depends on the weather getting warm enough for me to work in the garage with my table saw to make the necessary stripwood.
February 4, 2004
Had a good crowd tonight, David, Ted and Tom. We got a lot done. First, we cut 3/4" risers to support the land areas higher than the surrounding water. We got the painted plywood panels that support both the water and land onto the benchwork and screwed down securely. Then we got a sheet of homasote out of my garage and down to the basement (an ordeal because it was behind 20 stacked sheets of plywood).
To fit the homasote we made a paper template of the land area by rubbing the edge of the plywood with pencils and cut it out. The template was then used to mark and cut out the homasote which covers all the land area. We spread glue out over the plywood and applied the homasote, then screwed it down like crazy so it will stick well. Next week I'll pull out all the screws and let the glue hold the homasote down. Doesn't sound like much was done but it was a good 2-1/2 hours of work. Thanks guys.
Instead of painting the underside of the plywood sheets black, I left it light blue after a message on the Layout Construction Yahoo Group that noted a light color painted underneath your benchwork really helps you see what's going on when working under there, like soldering feeder wires or routing turnout controls. Sounded like a good idea to me, so primer blue it stays. Of course the tops of the plywood still showing will be filled with joint compound and sanded smooth, and following that I'll be laying out where all the holes are to be drilled for the pier pilings.
January 28, 2004
Did all the black paint touch-ups earlier this week, and got to work on making the zero-clearance inserts I needed for my tablesaw in order to make stripwood. The piling drilling jig is finished, here's a picture of it along with the VIX bit:
It doesn't show that well but the collar around the drill bit has a chamfered edge, and is spring-loaded. When you press the drill down the collar self-centers in the chamfered hole on the jig and the bit sticks out about 1/2". Should work great. Yeah, one or two of the lines are a bit off -- I figured having everything perfectly aligned was probably not desirable. This jig will let you drill 63 holes without repositioning.
January 21 2004
Big day today -- Had a few folks coming over to help. Before they arrived I finished priming the benchwork (whew). Later Ted, David and Tom Callan were all over to help out. They put in a tremendous amount of work and I'm very grateful. We got the rest of the plywood deck cut out and primed, and got all of the benchwork painted black. There are a few dozen touch-ups I need to make but 95% of the railroad benchwork is painted! What a relief.
I also got a chance to get started on the drilling jig for the pilings. I won't be using the router after all, I'll be using a VIX centering bit in my power drill instead. The jig will have chamfered holes in which the VIX bit will center itself and drill holes of the same depth. The drill itself never touches the jig so it can be used over and over again without losing accuracy. More on that soon, as by next week we should be drilling holes!
January 18 2004
Did I mention I really hate painting benchwork?
Spent another 2 hours yesterday painting with a roller and only got 5 linear feet painted. The brush was even slower! I have an HVLP spray gun I bought for woodworking projects -- I am seriously considering breaking it out to finish this job. It's nasty and tedious and taking forever. My one concern is the overspray -- don't want to get paint on the floor or the walls, or create a dust problem. I may try it tomorrow.
January 15 2004
Ted DiIorio and Jay Held were over last night to help out. We got the plywood downstairs from the garage (in 10 degree cold and blowing snow -- thanks guys), and half the decking cut out. No pics yet, will wait till the deck is on. Earlier in the week I got half the benchwork primed (with the sky blue paint), would have finished priming tonight but it's almost 0 degrees as I write this and just too damn cold in the basement! Worst cold snap in 50 years they are saying. Next week when things warm up it'll be time to start painting again.
January 10 2004
Brrr, we're having a cold snap, too cold to work in the garage or the basement right now. Spent a good part of the day planning the next step, which is to put down the plywood that defines the water in and under the pier. Spent a few hours of that online researching how piers and wharves are built (BTW the difference between piers and wharves is that wharves run parallel to the shore, piers run perpendicular or at angles to it). Between the information I found, thanks to the US Army and the photos of the Wilson Point pier, I have plotted the locations for all the holes I need to drill in the 'water' for the piles that will support the pier. I think there are hundreds. I am definitely going to build a drilling jig for my router to keep the holes in-line and evenly spaced. Looking forward to that, and it should make short work of the drilling process. Look for an article on that this spring.
Hope to cut and install the plywood this week or next -- still need to get to the benchwork painting, hasn't happened yet.
January 5 2004
Happy New Year! Not much was happening during the holidays for obvious reasons, but I got the new year off to a good start by getting the rest of the benchwork finished. Nore the south end has changed since the last round of photos (a new beam that sits at an angle). I also built the two grids that will support the layout. I had to deviate from the original plans I gave to Jeff (all of Wilson Point was re-designed once the new maps came into our possession). But he had fortunately provided many extra lengths of ripped-down plywood, and some of the existing pre-cut boards were re-cut to fit.
The grid is constructed from 3/4" plywood (B-C Grade) ripped into 2" wide strips. It is joined with carpenters glue and brads, which makes for a surprisingly strong and quick to assemble frame. Corners are reinforced with nailing blocks that allow you to glue and drive nails from 2 sides. The brads of course are set with a pneumatic brad gun, a great accessory for building benchwork.
This Wednesday the plan is to paint the benchwork to seal it, and move some recently acquired plywood to the basement where it will be cut to make up the base of the water surrounding Wilson Point. Unfortunately it looks like I'm not getting much help this week after all so I guess I'll be painting alone! Anyone think sky blue will work on this???
BTW Here's the updated plan as of January '04: It's been shortened by about 2.5 - 3 feet, mostly on the left side, to better fit the allotted space should the rest of the RR ever get built.
December 5 2003
Grid Benchwork: The grids I originally designed for Wilson Point don't fit since we changed the plan, so today I re-designed them. Next session we will start re-cutting and constructing them. My thanks once again to Jeff Ward who spent a lot of time interpreting my original drawings and cutting and fitting all the grid benchwork to precise standards. These grids are constructed from 3/4" plywood strips cut 1-1/2" wide, and assembled with glue blocks and pneumatic brads or staples. Very strong and fast to build. The scenery base will be supported by this grid from a series of risers.
December 3 2003
Groundbreaking! David Ramos and I spent a few days earlier in the week finalizing the plan and determining how the basic benchwork support will go together, and today we finally, officially got started. Hard to believe after all these years.
Since we already had them, we started with the sixteen foot I-Beams I assembled some three years ago. We kept the original 24" spacing but adding extra bracing, new legs and cut back the end of one beam about 2-3 feet to fit the new plan. A third beam (my original test beam) will be added to support the approach to the layout diagonally and tied into the base structure. We rotated the legs to the outsides of the beams for a wider stance and better stability. (Originally they had been located on the insides of the beams.) Also 2" were cut off the ends of the legs to install T-nuts and bolts, allowing us to adjust the layout for level on the uneven floor. The I-Beams have also gotten 1x4 top flanges, in order to help mount the grid benchwork easier. The flanges should also help straighten the beams and reinforce them. You can see some of the new diagonal bracing to stop the beams from wiggling at the center.