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Layout Construction Journal

Volume Six - January 2006 through June 2006

See other Volumes:  One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight  Nine  Ten  Eleven  Twelve Thirteen

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June 22, 2006

Ray was looking for something to do again tonight, so he came over and we did a little work.  Ray sanded the ties around Wilton he put down yesterday and stained them, while I put together a few turnout tie strips for the last couple of turnouts that go there.  We drilled the necessary holes through the spline for them and then glued down the tie strips.  Then Ray cut one of my turnout starters to fit the curve in Georgetown coming out of the utility room, and he glued and nailed it on.  

Ties down for a Fast Tracks #5 turnout coming out of the utility room. Ray and I reset the risers for the Gilbert & Bennett siding after determining there would not be enough room for the structures without the change.

From there, we looked at the risers Tom had put in yesterday, and decided we would not be able to fit the Gilbert & Bennett structures in there if it remained as-is.  So we changed the orientation of the siding and set it on more of an angle, pointing away from the main track that runs behind it.  We may need to build out the benchwork a bit here but it will be a much better scene this way.

I have to admit that lately I've been feeling a bit burned out on the layout, it seems as though I spend all my modeling time getting ready for the next session, and being a manager when everyone is over which I know is necessary but I don't enjoy.  This weekend I'm going to try and do some modeling, maybe put together some gondolas, and I'm hoping that will help get my interest back up in the layout.  We have a lot to do for October to make sure the layout is running, and I don't want to miss the deadline.

We made up these kitbashed 'kits' last year, now I'm finally getting around to building them!

June 21, 2006

The summer heat has started, and it put a bit of a damper on tonight's session.  Dave was over early and worked on the track back around Wilton.  Ray was hard at work at installing rails in Georgetown, feeders and all, ready to start getting spiked in place.  Later he worked around Dave in Wilton and got some more ties down, especially around the drop bridge in the corner. 

Much trackwork progress is being made in and around the Wilton area lately. Ray got ties down on the drop bridge south of Wilton.  The bridge is there to provide access to the house electrical panel behind it.

Wayne and I worked on getting the new fascia panel up and in place in South Norwalk, which made me feel really good because it was a nagging annoyance to me.  The scene looks much better now with the 'hill' covered over.  It changes the whole appearance of the area.  Later in the session I went to start thinking about laying out the turnouts on the mole yard, but without the flextrack it seems silly to even start with the turnouts.  Jay continued his work on the loading racks for Standard oil.  It's slow work but it is coming along nicely.

Wayne and Craig got the new fascia panel on in front of the Wall St. scene of South Norwalk. The main deck of the Mole staging yard.  Much needs to be done yet but it is a good start. A view of the oil loading platforms Jay Held has been working on for some time now.  I am sure that when they are finished they will look great.

Tom picked up where I left off on the risers for Gilbert & Bennett in Geoegetown, and Wayne gave him a hand with it, making up some new risers to finish the job.  Now it will be ready for some spline work next week, and we'll be able to get the switch in and get the track in there.  Little by little the track between Wilton and Branchville has been falling into place, we'll have it all connected up in a couple of weeks.  Next big thing is to get the track for the staging (mole) yard in, and get it connected up to the mainline in Branchville.

June 7, 2006

This week’s session was a little hectic, I didn’t have time to properly prepare a list of tasks.  I’d intended to concentrate on getting the decking on the new staging yard, but bad weather forced me to abandon that idea (large plywood panels need to be cut upstairs in the garage, can’t move them to the basement before cutting).  Wayne and I got started by cutting a set of support brackets for the new yard that will help hold it level, we assembled them and got them attached.  When Ted arrived, he jumped in to help Wayne finish up.

Jay arrived and went right to work on the oil loading rack.  Neil did me a favor by starting to work on the Wilton area, hand-laying a switch coming out of the utility room and starting to get some more track down.  When David arrived, he told me the rain had stopped temporarily, so we went upstairs to the garage and cut the ¼” plywood into 16” sections.  Just as we were finishing the rain started back up – just got it in.  David and Wayne spent the rest of the evening fitting and fastening the thin plywood deck to the staging yard. 

When we got back down, Ted needed a new job, and I had nothing prepared.  I asked him to put together a foamcore mockup of a structure I designed for the Gilbert and Bennett complex in Georgetown , and he agreed to do that.  Actually that was quite helpful, as it gave me a feel for the right scale of the building, which will help me set the scale for the other four buildings I need to design.  He took paper printouts of the CAD drawings I gave him and glued them to the foamcore, then assembled the parts to make the mockup.

Later after most of the guys left, I helped out David and Neil doing some more trackwork.  They don’t like laying flextrack, so I started putting in the hidden mainline between Georgetown and Branchville on the lower deck.  The code 70 Micro-Engineering track goes down fairly quickly when you know how to bend it, and I got in about 4 lengths before we turned into pumpkins.  All in all it was a good night, but I really need to get organized and have a list of jobs every week, especially when I get a good crowd down.

May 31, 2006

A few regulars could not make it tonight, but we had a really good session in spite of that.  I had Wayne, Ray and David down and plenty got done.  Wayne arrived first and helped me get the sheets of  OSB we picked up yesterday cut up for the staging area floor platform.  Then we went downstairs and started arranging the cinderblocks in the panhandle area to support the floor.  When that was set, we pieced the OSB floor sections together with splice plates underneath and set the floor down on the blocks.  It worked out great; the platform is rock solid to walk on.

This platform rests on a number of cinderblocks instead of a wood frame.  It is very sturdy and doesn't budge an inch.

Ray picked up the wiring where he left off yesterday and continued cleaning up loose ends around South Norwalk.  When he was done there he dove into getting the wiring under Standard Oil started.  He needed to drop some more feeder wires and such, which he did, and he got a good start on it.  Next week we’ll get the sub-bus wires into there, and get the feeders hooked up to it.  There’s a little more trackwork to complete in there which I’ll try to do this weekend to help Ray along.  Hopefully we won’t get in Jay’s way with the wiring work.

Dave arrived as we were finishing up the floor, and he and Wayne got to work on the last grid for the mole yard.  I gave them a hand cutting up some of the lumber, and got started setting the height of the mole yard in the panhandle.  The mole yard is being set lower that its eventual finished height so we can operate the lower half of the layout (stage one through three) once the track is all set in place.  Eventually when the upper level is built (stages four through six), we’ll raise up the mole yard to meet that new benchwork and be able to operate the full length of the layout twice around the room.

We mounted a cleat to the wall and rested the two grids on it, then screwed then to the wall also.  Next week the mole yard will get a layer of ¼” plywood and ½” homasote, and then have the six-track double-ended yard laid on it.  A balloon track will run around to the other side of the panhandle and connect back up to the mainline allowing us to turn whole trains and send them back out again, or pre-stage trains on that track to have them ready at a moment’s notice.

May 30, 2006

Ray was looking for somewhere to come out and play, so who was I to turn him down?  After Ray did some rehab on the wiring around Dock Yard (we had a short a few weeks ago) we went over to Neil’s place to pick up some cinderblocks, which we are going to use to support the staging area raised floor platform.  Neil only had 7 blocks, though, which wasn’t going to be enough.  Ray and I unloaded then and took off for Home Depot, where we bought 18 brand new blocks and a couple of sheets of OSB for the platform floor.  After getting those unloaded and brought down to the basement, I was exhausted and sent Ray home.  Fortunately I was able to fix the A/C in my house after he left so I finally had a comfortable night’s sleep.

May 24, 2006

Good session this week, though I apologize for being unprepared.  Had I done a better job we would have gotten more done. 

Tom and Dave worked on the industry around the south end of Wilton, fitting a bunch of 1” pink foam in there to lay the siding tracks on.  I think they did a pretty good job, though the hot-wire foam cutter they were using to do the job smelled really foul.  Well, I mean the burning foam, of course.  Next week we’ll see if we can get some roadbed down in there and start getting some track laid back there. 

Ted and Wayne were down, and I asked them to work on the grids needed for the mole staging yard in the panhandle.  They did pretty well, considering that I did not have the right nails for them to use in the brad gun (note to self: Buy 1-1/4” brad nails this week) and that the brad nailer was acting up.  Still, they got one of the grids built and I’m sure that next week they will be able to get the other one built too. 

Neil and I worked on finishing cleaning out the panhandle, there was still a lot of paint cans and other debris hanging around back there.  But we got it cleaned, first time I’ve seen the floor back there in 2-1/2 years.  We were all set to start building the 8” platform back there, when Neil and Tom and a few others questioned my plan to use 2x4 lumber to build the supports.  We kicked around a few ideas and decided that resting plywood directly on cinder blocks would make the best and least expensive solution to the problem.  Turns out Neil has a bunch of them in his garage, so this week we’ll go there and collect them, and set them in place so we can get the floor down over them.

After that, Neil did some work trying to improve some of the roads in South Norwalk by coating them with some water putty, and that worked out better than I thought it would.  Hopefully they will dry well and not crack, then they can be painted and rubbed with dirt and that eill get us closer to finishing that scene – until we need to tear it up to put in the new workshop for Hatch, Bailey & Co.

May 16, 2006

We had a Tuesday night session this week (schedule conflict on Wednesday) and I wasn’t expecting many people, but I was glad that Tom, Neil and Ray showed up. We had a really good night and accomplished more than I thought we would. Tom arrived first, and he and I got working on the sidings in Wilton. First we built up the industry siding south of the station from splines, then the house track to the north of the station. We used the turnout starters again and they worked out very well.  It's obvious from the photo that we need to extend the Wilton benchwork into the aisle a bit...

A short side track for the Wilton Station built up from masonite spline roadbed.

Tom and I talked a lot about how to set the industry tracks on the drop bridge in Wilton. We decided to buy some 1” thick styrofoam insulation board for next session and build up the groundwork on top of the bridge panel, then lay the homasote roadbed out onto the foam and lay the track on that. It should work out fine.

Neil arrived shortly after Tom, and I asked him to work on the Branchville benchwork that gets hung over the Standard Oil module. It was built as a full grid, but it was supposed to have a thin edge and tapered cross-members. Neil trimmed it to the proper dimensions with a jigsaw, and then we determined the correct height for it and hung it on the wall. From there he and Tom were stoked, and we decided to forge ahead and build the last Branchville section in place. By the time the evening was done, we had completed the benchwork all the way around to the stairs and established the full circle around the room.

Neil and Tom get started by hanging the front member of the Branchville module, the last to be built for the lower level. Tom carefully fits the benchwork corners together for nailing withthe brad gun. Neil pounds a few brads into the corner of the last lower level benchwork module. The lower level benchwork is now completely around the basement.

Ray was off working by himself, and got a lot of electrical work done on his own. He spent a lot of time hunting out bits of new track that did not have feeder wires and putting them in, as well as starting the programming track wiring and the Wilson Point roundhouse tracks wiring. He has more to do but I’m sure it will get done well. We still need to talk about wiring up the Dock Yard turntable, though.

There was no work session on May 10.

May 3, 2006

A very productive night this week.  We had a lot of fun and got a lot accomplished.  When Ray arrived I asked him to help by building frames on the two drop-bridge sections I worked on last week.  I had originally built them as flat panels, and they were too flexible.  He jumped right in and before the evening was over he had not only framed the two sections, but I helped him re-mount them and put in the supports to hold the parts steady and in alignment.  We even got the spline installed on top of the sections.

Ray works on assembling a frame for the drop-down bridge in front of the electrical panel.

Neil took on the task of installing the flextrack in the utility closet.  I have never seen him so frustrated – apparently this was the first time he had used Micro-Engineering flextrack and it completely stymied him.  I tried to explain the trick I learned a long time ago about scraping a popsicle stick on the ties to help move the track into a curve, but he got so mad doing it he ripped the ties right off the track! 

Later he cooled down and we tried it again, and this time he understood it better.  But between feeder wires popping off and the tight spaces in the closet (that water pipe is hot – Oww!) he did get it done.  He used low-temp hot glue to secure the tracks; I think if he’d had to spike it down he would have killed someone.  Probably me.  I may try to go in at a later date and add a few spikes just to help hold everything in place.

David worked on finishing up the spline and roadbed we’ve been working on for the last few weeks.  Alternately being helped by Neil and Ray, he got all the spline finished from Wilton up to Branchville, a full 6 laminations of Masonite.  He surfaced all the new spline, draped it with fabric (used as a scenery base when it is time to place scenery forms), and got the homasote roadbed glued and tacked town to the spline too.  

David and Neil working to finish up the splines to Branchville A lot of spring clamps get used when laminating the masonite splines together. Craig works on installing fresh ties on the newly completed roadbed in Georgetown.

I followed after David and installed ties along all the new sections, and by the end of the night we had track (not all with rail) all the way from Wilson Point to the outskirts of Branchville.  I expect by the middle of June we’ll have the mainline in and be working on the permanent staging yard – at which time we’ll be able to start operating, if we choose to!  Of course we still need more locomotives and a LOT more cars, but that will come…

Scott continues to work his magic in Dock Yard, which is gettting close to being completely scenicked!

Scott continued his great work on the scenery around Dock Yard, putting in more dirt, ballast and ground foam.  He is really an artist with this stuff, I’m very fortunate to have his help.  I was hoping he would not be upset about the changes we are going to be making to some of the areas he’s already done, and he was actually fine with it.  I recently got new information in the form of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from the period that show what was in the large open area we had by the foot of the stairs (a large window and door sash / millwork company) and we want to make a few changes to the scene to model that.   Scott was excited about it, so fortunately no hurt feelings about disturbing work already done.

April 26, 2006

Bit of a slow night though we had a lot of guys over.  Tom arrived with the hot glue, which was a really good thing.  He and I started working on the station siding in Wilton , installing spacer blocks and fitting splines into the space left by the new turnout starters I installed over the weekend.  Shortly after we began Ray arrived, and he and Tom took over that project.  When they were done, they told me the turnout starters worked very well.

Wayne came in next, and started working on a project we’ve wanted to tackle for months, the fence at Wilson Point .  We believe there was a wood privacy fence between the railroad facilities and the privately owned homes on Wilson Point , and from the beginning we’ve wanted to include that.  Well, thanks to Wayne we’re getting closer to that goal.  He cut up a lot of basswood into planks for the fence.

Jay continued his work on Standard Oil.  The loading platform floor frames are now built-up, and he is ready to start legging them up – as soon as we can find him the scale lumber he needs.  Neil wanted to do some track-laying, and who was I to say no?  He got in about 12 feet of track, all very straight and nice-looking.  When Dave arrived he got to work with Tom and Ray installing fabric over the spline and homasote roadbed through Wilton , and even the flex-track in the utility closet. 

Freed up, I decided to try and pour a couple of the new molds I made last week for the new New York Central boxcars.  Unfortunately it looks like the bottles of resin I were using somehow got contaminated with water vapor, and when setting up started to foam badly.  The molds worked well but the parts were not useable.  I’m going to try again with fresh bottles of resin in the next couple of days and see if it works out better.

Plus I really need to get the drop bridge in Wilton done so Dave and the guys can finish working in there.

April 24, 2006

Well, it was a long but very productive weekend.  Saturday I spent the afternoon on the computer taking photos of the Wilton Station I took back in February and started converting them into line drawings to build a plan for modeling the station.  Later on, David came over and we got a lot of work done with the spline roadbed.  We worked for about 4 hours and got a full lamination (6 strips across) from the old end of track in Winnipauk through Wilton , the utility closet and through Georgetown .  We would have kept going but we ran out of hot glue!  Tom should be bringing more this Wednesday.

Sunday I got an early start, and wanted to try out an idea David had come up with a few months ago.  When installing sidings off the main line, we have had a lot of trouble trying to integrate the new spline in with the existing stuff.  Dave had an idea for a wedge we could glue to the side of the main line, which would allow us to start a new section of roadbed off at the correct angle to support a turnout.  I took the idea a step farther and designed a “Turnout Starter” part that allows all six splines a surface to attach to, making the joint stronger.  I transferred my drawings to a piece of masonite, which I cut into a pattern, and then used the patterns to mark up a few 1x4s which I cut into actual starters, then went down to the basement and installed a few.  They seem to have worked out well, I’ll know more Wednesday when Tom arrives with more glue.

Neil showed up in the afternoon and finished the construction of the windmill, now it just needs to be painted and installed.  After he was done with that, he got started finishing up the scenery supports in Dock Yard, so now that can start getting plastered this week.  That’s good because Scott is running out of areas to scenick. 

I spent a good part of the afternoon working on the drop bridge section around the electrical panel in Wilton .  In order to make the panel accessible without too much difficulty, a double drop bridge design was used, with the two leaves meeting about near the center.  I need to do a little more work on it to get everything well supported and straight, but it seems to be workable.

After Neil left Dave and I continued to work on the new track.  Dave got the spline covered with fabric (this becomes the base for the scenery later on) and then we put down some of the new homasote roadbed I made over it.  This roadbed is very similar to the commercial stuff, but cost me a lot less because I did all the work cutting it.  I’m happy to report it works like a charm.  We put new roadbed in up to the drop bridge at Wilton , and also inside the utility closet.  We could not go farther because we still have to add several sidings in Wilton before we can put on the fabric. 

To finish the evening off Dave and I put in a few tie strips worth of ties on the new roadbed, and after he went home I made more tie strips and finished up what I could before going to bed.  Monday night I’ll sand the ties and stain them, they will be ready to receive track by Wednesday.

April 19, 2006

A major success tonight!  After months (years) of collecting bits and bobs to build a vacuum chamber for de-airing RTV molding rubber, we finally got all the parts cut and made to finish the thing.  The final step was drilling and tapping a hole in the PVC coupling tube for a brass air fitting, and then we hooked up the plumbing bits and gaskets, connected the vacuum pump and voila!  Sucked that puppy down to 29” of mercury in under one minute!  (That’s pretty close to a complete vacuum).   

The newly completed vacuum chamber for de-airing molding rubber. It's made from an 8" PVC pipe coupling and two sheets of Lexan plastic. The large gauge read both pressure and vacuum, we're only using the latter.

So we set up some masters to make new molds from (including the 1880’s New York Central boxcar I’ve been working on for a while) and mixed up some rubber and stuck it in the chamber.  Just as expected, as it got close to 27-28” it rose up and broke with all kinds of bubbles breaking.  And when we poured the rubber into the mold boxes it was great, no air bubbles at all!  This is really going to help us make molds that won’t distort even under pressure.  

One mold for the New York Central boxcar has been made, the second (which includes the roof panel) has just been poured next to it. The roundhouse doors now al have windows, and are ready for paint! Scott continues his great scenery work around Dock Yard in South Norwalk.

Other things got done tonight too!  David didn’t show up so no spline got done, but Neil got all the windows in the roundhouse doors, they are now ready for paint.  And he continued working on the Wilson Point windmill, assembling the Sheepscot brass windmill for it.  Tom and Ray assisted me through the night working with the vacuum chamber and mold-making, and Scott was down to continue the scenery up into Dock Yard.  All in all we had a very good evening.

April 15, 2006

A beautiful day to spend some time outside.  Well, the garage is almost outside, and I had the door open.  Spent 5 hours today milling my own homasote roadbed similar to the product made by the other guy.  I should now have enough to finish my entire layout and then some.  I figured I saved about $150-200 by doing it myself instead of buying it.  Gave my tablesaw a workout and emptied the dust collector twice (and the shop vac once) put it is all done now.  Plus, I have a whole mess of 1/8" cutoffs from milling the roadbed to 1/4" thickness that I can use for shims and for sidings, if I want.  I had to finish up this project because by next week we may well be ready to start putting down roadbed over the new spline, and I want to be ready so no time is lost.

April 13, 2006

I had some time to actually do some modeling tonight.  We've been talking about wanting to get the Wilson Point scene completed so we can take some good photos of it; and I have been wanting to work on some of the details to finish it up.  One thing that's been missing for quite some time is a coaling crane next to the ashpit by the roundhouse.  There was no coaling tower here in real life, and I felt there must have been some way to 'top off' locomotives as the came in to be turned.  I had planned a standalone jib crane, but a few weeks ago I spotted the Durango Press model in a catalog and thought it would make a great solution.  So I went ahead tonight and made a smaller copy out of stripwood to fit the location.  I'm very pleased with how it came out, and while it isn't finished yet I think it will be a great detail on the layout.  A water column needs to be installed here as well.

The unfinished coaling crane at Wilson Point The New but unfinished coaling crane at Wilson Point

April 11, 2006

An unusual Tuesday session this week as I was not going to be available for the regular Wednesday session, and we got good work done.  Henry Freeman, who normally can’t make Wednesday sessions, was able to come down and I put him to work on setting in the new spline roadbed, which he has had lots of experience with.  David worked with him throughout the session and they did a great job, picking up from the current end of track just north of Winnipauk and setting in a center spline all the way from there to the space between Georgetown and Branchville, probably about 40 or so feet.  They sweated a lot of details out, moving a few risers and checking clearances through the utility room. 

David and Henry work on setting the new spline roadbed into exactly the right position The new spline centerline runs all the way up to Branchville! The hole I had to cut into the wall to get by the water heater.

To support the spline moving through the utility room, I made up some brackets from 1x3’s and David hot-glued them to the cinderblock wall.  The hot glue did not disappoint, those brackets are stuck good and aren’t going anywhere.  This is no wimpy hot glue you get at the craft store; this is the REALLY hot industrial-style glue that sticks like crazy.  You don’t want to touch this stuff without heavy leather gloves on, it’ll take off skin!

Simple brackets hot-glued to the cinderblock wall supporting the spline roadbed through the utility closet

Next week David will grab someone and fill out all the additional laminations, and then it’ll be time to put down the homasote roadbed and ties.  I’d better get cracking on the roadbed, since I’m milling my own and have a lot of work to do before it is ready to go – but it’s worth it not to have to buy from the jerk at the prepared-homasote-roadbed company.  I’d rather use paper-mache as roadbed than give that guy another dime.  One of the rudest people I’ve ever met in my life.  A few hours in front of the tablesaw is well worth it.

Neil was over too and did a few different jobs, he installed the rails connecting the turntable at Dock Yard to the ladder track, and trimmed the rest of the roundhouse windows and then installed them in the model.  It really improved the appearance as you would expect it to.  Finally, he grabbed the Sheepscot windmill (an etched-brass model) I recently acquired and started assembling it to go on top of the enclosed windmill model he made last year.  He had a good night!

Neil glues the roundhouse windows in place.  The roundhouse is getting closer and closer to completion! The Dock Yard turntable is now hooked up (all except electrically)

I started off the evening helping out Henry until David arrived, then I went back to backdrop painting.  I wasn’t very happy with the way the sky and clouds came out on Sunday, and spent some time Monday reviewing my notes and watching Bob Ross’ “Joy of Painting” shows I had TiVo’ed until I recognized what I was doing wrong.  Tonight’s efforts certainly helped a lot; it was difficult to work with oil paint that had been setting up for two days but it now looks a lot better.  Later this week I need to start painting in buildings and landforms.

April 9, 2006  

Neil and I got together on Sunday for a few hours.  I worked on extending the painted backdrop past the wall street area and about halfway up towards the Bellinadrop.  I got about 16 more feet painted, but I will need to spend more time on it because I'm not happy with the results.  I seem to have lost the technique I started with, got to go back and review the Bob Ross episodes on the TiVo.  Still, I'm really pleased it got started.  Neil did several jobs, including filling in the approach track ties at the Dock Yard turntable and gluing them down, moving over some of the risers Dave and Ray put in last week (my fault, I didn't have an updated copy of the plan to work from) and also glued the last of the windows and doors into the Hatch-Bailey building and gave it a wash of india ink, which really toned down the yellow windows.   

April 5, 2006

Another well attended session tonight.  We had a gaggle of modelers down and got a lot done.  Scott was here again, he’s becoming a fixture (and I’m very glad of it).  He kept on with adding plaster, ground foam and now even some ballast to the tracks, and it is looking great.  I’m really pleased with how it is shaping up.

Scott begins to ballast the track around the Iron Works and Dock Yard Great progress on Wall St, but whats that in Neils mouth?

Neil spent the first part of the evening working on getting the benchwork / roadbed in under the turntable approach in Dock Yard.  Not as easy as it looked, he had to cut the parts to fit around many obstructions.  In the end it came out well though, I’ll sand the surface over the weekend and install the ties up to the pit.  Later, he got working on the Wall Street area of South Norwalk , and made a lot of progress getting the scenery forms in place between Dock Yard and Wall Street.  

It’s a good thing Neil is keeping an eye on the scenery forms because he’s managing to stay ahead of Scott, making sure he has room to work on new forms when he’s here.  At this rate we’ll have scenery all the way up to the Bellinadrop by the end of May, perhaps sooner, and maybe farther.

I was working with Dave on getting the new risers in, but I kept getting distracted by having to help other guys with finding tools or parts or materials.  That’s life what you are the layout owner.  When Ray arrived he took over for me and the two of them did a great job setting the risers in place, with occasional input from me.  We got around Sunday’s problem by cutting a hole through the wall next to the utility closet and also cutting through a stud, and now we’ll be able to get the track behind the water heater.  All the risers are now in place all the way up through Branchville.  Hooray!

Ray plays Peek-a-Boo with Dave through the hole in the utility closet wall. David and Ray put together a few tall risers for the lower-level tracks running under Hawleyville David and Ray set risers in place on the lower level through Hawlwyville. David and Ray reach the end of the line.  Temporary staging will go in here until phase four can begin

Jay put in several good hours working on the loading platforms at Standard Oil, they are coming along nicely.  And Ted finished painting the windows and doors for the Hatch-Bailey building, and started trimming the window frames on the roundhouse windows.  I’m hoping that model will get finished in the next month or so, but there’s still a lot to do on it; doors, windows, roof, smokejacks.  Ted continued the work on getting the windows and doors painted for the Hatch-Bailey building and then started trimming the window frames for the roundhouse windows.  

Jay thinks about how to build up the oil loading playforms at Standard Oil Deeply interesteing subjects are often discussed during operating sessions, see how Ted is riveted to what Jay is talking about! Ted just got the joke.  No, just kidding, he never got it.

Matt was a late arrival but it was good to see him too, he jumped in and helped by cutting and fitting the girder that will straddle the track over the wall street tunnel.  Came out pretty nice – thanks Matt!

Matt fits the girder over the tunnel portal while Neil works on the River street at Wall Street station in South Norwalk.

April 2, 2006

Sunday we had a short-notice work session because we had plans to visit another modeler that fell through.  Ended up just being Dave and Neil over for a few hours, but we got some good work in anyway.  David and I started getting the next bunch of risers in for the new run from Winnipauk to Branchville.  We got around the corner in the back through the town of Wilton and up to the utility closet when it became very clear we had a problem.  

New risers around the corner and into Wilton.

I had always intended to punch through the closet wall and run the track behind the water heater through to the other side, into Georgetown .  But as we went to line up the hole and trackage beyond, we saw immediately that the water heater was too close to the closet wall to get around it.  Quick consultation with the plan showed a discrepancy – that my contractor took a shortcut and built the wall out too far here to account for a sewer pipe, and did not push the top part of the wall back as he did on the two adjacent walls (which would have put the top part of the wall right up against the concrete block).  Had he done this – as I’d planned for – there would be no problem.  But now it looks like I’ll have to do some serious wall surgery to get the track into the utility room.  I’ll work on that tonight.

Industries in South Norwalk are starting to shape up! The Wilson Point passenger station finally has it's yellow paint.

Neil, looking for something to do, grabbed the Hatch-Bailey building and started installing the windows in it, he got everything that had been painted in by the time he and David had to leave.  It looks good, but I think the windows and the brick are going to need a wash of India ink to tone them down a bit.  I also need to paint the smokestack and boiler house models which I neglected to do months ago when I first painted the building. And finally, I had a warm day this past Friday to get outside and do some airbrushing.  The Wilson Point passenger station has been waiting for months to get done.  Two hours and eight coarts of paint later, it is starting to look really good.  I now need to mask off and paint the chocolate brown doors and windows, then do the slate shingle roof.  A few decals and it will finally be done, almost two years after it was started.

March 29, 2006

Great session tonight.  Earlier in the week I finally got hold of the last parts I needed to finish up the home-made turntable, and spent a few hours getting it all together.  I attached the drive mechanism to the underside of the table and fabricated a crank wheel from some leftover pine and a dowel.  When Dave and Neil arrived, they took over getting the turntable installed in South Norwalk behind the Dock Yard ladder track.  It took them the entire evening, working hard – but they got it done.  I’m very pleased with it.  It’s not quite as smooth as the Diamond Scale turntable in Wilson Point , but it works well enough.  Now we need to finish wiring it up (and I probably should have done that before having them install it – D’oh!).

The home-made turntable finally has a home in Dock Yard The home-made crank used to turn the Dock Yard turntable

Scott once again was down and continued his great work on the scenery in South Norwalk .  He built up some on what he had done last week, adding some coarser foam to represent weeds and new colors, which looks great.  Then he continued working up to Dock Yard, and got a lot more color and texture into the area. 

Before everyone arrived I had taken advantage of the recently arrived warmer weather, and spent some time in the garage making more curbs for the Wilson Point pier.  I asked Tom to give me a hand with them when he arrived, and Tom stained the parts after I had sanded them, them he started gluing them down to the pier.  Unfortunately we ran out of curbs again, I will have to make a few more to finish up the scene, but the pier look even better with the curbs attached.  After Tom needed to leave, Neil finished gluing on the last few pieces we had. 

Jay began working on the loading platforms at Standard Oil tonight.  He is making them out of stripwood instead of styrene which should look really good.  He got off to a good start, making the platforms conform to the clearances established with the rubbings he did last week.

Jay's start on the loading platforms from Standard Oil Paper shingles for Roundhouse roof look too large, and curled when drying

I also showed the guys a sample of a roof panel I made for the Wilson Point roundhouse last weekend.  I took some heavy bond paper and cut it with pinking shears to get a zigzag edge on it, then layered the strips to look like diamond-shaped shingles as I glued them to another piece of paper.  It came out really nice, but the paper warped and curled and it took 2-1/2 hours to make one panel.  I need 16!  So I’m not making more of them, too much effort for too little return.  I’m thinking about painting it with a layer of shellac and trying to make a mold of it to turn out copies (it would be faster) but this doesn’t really sound like a good idea to me.  Plus the ‘shingles’ look a little too large.  Time to look elsewhere for a solution.

March 22, 2006

Big crowd tonight, twice in two weeks -- looks like we are hitting on all cylinders again!  Scott Dunlap arrived first, and got right to work on the recently completed plasterwork in South Norwalk.  He took the ground-colored paint and brushed it onto the ground in about 6” square sections, and then sprinkled a selection of fine ground foams and dirt over the wet paint.  The effect by the end of the night was great, with varying colors and textures, and it actually matches the color of the grass on the opposite riverbank in the backdrop (apparently this was dumb luck according to Scott).  This is just the beginning.  We will be adding coarser ground cover and bushes & trees in the near future to really bring the scene to life. 

Scott gets started on the scenery for South Norwalk

Jay and Wayne arrived next, and they spent most of the evening helping me install the next-to-last section of benchwork along the back wall.  We built an L-girder to mount to the wall, legged up an I-beam and mounted the grid section to them.  They had a few issues but did a great job with it by the end of the session.  Later, Jay and I took rubbings off the Standard Oil sidings to start designing the loading racks that will run down the center of the double-tracks.  Jays says he will be starting the racks next week. 

I get nervous when I see these two plotting together... Jay takes rubbings from the rails around the loading tracks at Standard Oil

Ted was here too, and I asked him to keep working on the roundhouse and Hatch-Bailey buildings.  I needed a number of windows painted for each of the structures (they’d previously been painted white but I felt they were too stark) so he painted the roundhouse windows grey and the Hatch-Bailey windows an ivory color.  This is good because these can now start installing them next week.

(Okay, this is the same Scary Ted picture from a few weeks ago, but the actual picture of Ted working was blurry.)

Neil continued installing plaster scenery base ahead of Scott like he was doing last week.  I’m pleased with the way it is going, but I really need to get back to work on the backdrops so they can continue the scenery work.  They are really pushing me along at this point and I don’t want to be holding them up.  Neil is having better luck with the plastic-bag support method than with the cardboards strip method.  Got to find more plastic bags! 

Neil gets busy with the plaster and paper towels to ensure Scott doesn't run out of land the put grass on Neil tried to stay ahead of Scott as they both work on new scenery around South Norwalk

Ray showed up a little later and we discussed some ideas on switch machines, more on that sometime in the future.  Then he got to work doing some more casting work for me.  We got some more parts made from the iron works molds, and managed to get a successful casting out of the new resin we ordered a couple of weeks ago.  Turns out it works OK when a bit of extra heat is applied, as well as a bit of silicone oil on the mold surface.

March 15, 2006

A lot of folks showed up tonight, great!  Scott Dunlap was down again, and spent a lot of the evening working on the newly plastered scene around South Norwalk.  He chiseled away a lot of the extra plaster around the tracks, which I wasn't even aware could be done, but it sure looked a lot better when he was finished.  Neil spent some time working with him on Scenery so I felt that was really good.  We need to learn to do this stuff and Scott is a great person to learn from.

Ray was down and brought a friend named John, and I set them to work on trying out some of the new casting resin we got in last week.  Unfortunately it wasn't working out too well, though they did make some new parts successfully.  Apparently the new resin like warm temperatures, and wouldn't set up well in the cool air of the basement.  We'll be spending some time learning how to work with this new stuff, I see.

David, Jay and I worked on some benchwork tasks.  When we installed the Standard Oil module, for some reason it sagged badly across the front, like well over and inch over 7 feet.  Tonight we fixed that by placing a new I-beam girder under the platform to support it.  This took 90% of the sag out of the scene, so I'm very pleased by that.  Dave and Jay also moved a few I-beams we've decided needed to be moved under the new benchwork, and next week we'll be able to hang the next to last grid along the back wall of the basement.

Tom and I consulted for a while about pressure pots and vacuum chambers for casting work, and then he and Neil worked on installing Kadee #58 couplers on some of the new cars I bought a few weeks ago.  I bought 20 pair last month at Springfield, now we're out again.  That's a good problem to have!  I'm going to need to order more soon, and a bunch of metal wheelsets too.

March 8, 2006

Quite a bit got done tonight. Before the session, I spent some time assembling some structure kits for the new Wall St. scene. We’ve started to use a combination of IHC Brownstone models and DPM kits, and so far I have to say the DPM models appear out of scale to the IHC models. The IHC models are also better detailed and cheaper than the DPM’s – I may need to consider going all IHC in this scene. Actually I spent a good part of the session working on assembling structure kits.

Neil got to work on installing a new #6 Fast Tracks turnout in South Norwalk that will eventually lead to the turntable there. Neil had cut out the rails and relaid the ties there a few weeks ago, and tonight he got started sanding and dyeing the ties. Dave took over for him when he arrived, and finished installing the turnout and connecting the passing siding tracks back up again. Another project done! 

Neil went on to trying to fix some of the scenery problems we had in South Norwalk. We were having a lot of problems with big cracks in the thickly troweled-on plaster already laid down, so we tried something different – dipping paper hand towels into thinly mixed Structolite plaster, used like papier-mache to cover what had already been done. It worked out great, the area is now ready for a scenic treatment. We’ll definitely continue using this technique as we go forward. He even extended out from the previously covered area and I’m very pleased with how it is going.

Ted was down too, and since he had done such a good job on the painted brick mortar of the roundhouse last time, I asked him to do the same with the other brick structure we’re trying to finish. After a minor misstep (too much brown oil paint in with the white) he did a great job with it. Before he left for the evening he took a lot of the curbs I made a few weeks ago and glued them down to the pier, which looks really good, a nice finishing touch. A few more details and the pier will be finished soon.

After Dave finished with South Norwalk, he wandered over to Standard Oil and saw there was just a little track left to lay, so he went ahead and finished it. Eventually we all ended up over there, trying to tune up the tracks – I soldered in a couple of point throwbars, Dave fixed a rail that had popped off a turnout, and Neil was troubleshooting some of the trackage. We think we’ll be able to start scenicking this scene in the next week or two.

February 24, 2006

Well, I had a free night so Neil came over to do some work with me.  We did a few things difficult to do with others around, like set the height of the new benchwork over zero elevation so we can easily figure out the right heights for the risers, and installed the last few switch machines under Wilson Point.  We also made a new mold of a set of sliding freight doors for the South Norwalk Freight House, which has been on the agenda for a couple of weeks now.  As we were pouring it, we got a chance to use a small personal vibrator I bought for buzzing the mold boxes while the poured rubber is still fresh.  It seemed to work pretty well, many air bubbles in the rubber came up and popped.  Looks like it was a decent investment.

Neil buzzes the freshly-poured rubber mold to release air bubbles

In the last few days we have been going over a lot of new ground with the grids we have recently added.  Changes to the layout design last year and some new thinking about how to use the space earmarked for staging have given rise to a shakeup in the staging plan.  The staging elevator, which was roundly criticized by many of my friends and helpers as too complicated and cumbersome, is now out of the picture.  We are instead going to try to use a fun and different kind of staging operation called a Mole, originally developed by my friend Lee Nicholas (whose fine model railroad the Utah, Colorado & Western can be seen by clicking here).  

Mole staging is a very active kind of staging operation, where only a few tracks are used in a hidden area.  Trains come into the Mole yard from the layout and are immediately disassembled by the Mole operators, with the cars being taken off the layout and stored on shelves or in drawers.  When a new train needs to be sent out, the opposite happens; cars are taken from storage and used to build a new train, which is then handed off to the operator on the other side of the backdrop.  All through the operating session one or two operators are constantly breaking down and building up trains just out of the view of the other operators.

Obviously there's more to it than that, and anyone interested in more information can go to Lee's website and read about Mole Operations by clicking here.  My operation will work nearly the same, except that my mole will only serve one end of the railroad instead of both.  More to come on this.

February 22, 2006

Tonight’s session was well attended! Wayne arrived a bit early, and agreed to help out with building up a few car kits. He got two hart gondolas (Track & Tie) built up, and they looked good. They will need to be repainted when the weather gets warmer, but that’s OK. Tom did a couple of jobs for me, including sawing a couple of inches of plywood and homasote off the end of the freight house benchwork in South Norwalk. As it turned out, that section came out too high for the surrounding scenery, and some extra clearance had to be made in order to make the slope from the street in front up to the benchwork the freight house sits on gentler. 

Over the long weekend, David made the first #6 switch with the new Fast Tracks jig we got, and tonight Neil started cutting it into the Dock Yard switch lead as a route to the turntable we’ll be putting in there. He had to pull up some existing track to make it fit, but it came out fine. New ties went down tonight, they will be sanded and stained next week and the switch can be installed. When he was done with that, he and Tom worked on putting together one of the last grids for the upper level. Except for one grid that has to be built to fit, all the benchwork for phase 3 has now been built and only two grids need to be hung.

Tom and Neil finish up building a new piece of grid benchwork.

Jay was down and nearly finished the trackwork at Standard Oil. We talked a bit about the oil loading platforms that will be built for that location, he’s looking forward to taking on that project. Ted was here too, and decided to tackle painting mortar into the brick surfaces of the roundhouse. I showed him how to use thin oil paint and paint thinner to creep the paint in between the bricks and he was off! He had a good time and the building came out great. The Roundhouse and Hatch-Bailey buildings will get a wash of thin India ink next week and they will be ready to be sealed and have decals applied.

A look at the mortar job Ted did on the Wilson Point roundhouse. Ted is excited about painting mortar on bricks.  Easy now, Ted, there's more to do soon.

Ted is obviously very excited about this. 

David and I finally got around to working up the Wall St. scene in South Norwalk tonight, which was great! Dave put in a set of risers to support a ¼” masonite panel some 3” above the tracks, and we got the reference books out and figured out how the scene should look from the different angles. We covered the panel with kraft paper and worked it for about an hour and a half, trying different models to reconstruct the scene, and in the end I’m really pleased with what we got. Before the end of the night, we got the masonite cut to the proper size (using the kraft paper as a template) and had a good idea of how to proceed with the scene. 

Dave makes a template for the Wall St area in South Norwalk, which the railroad tunnels under. Everyone felt as long as I was taking bad pictures of them and posting them on the internet, I should have it done too.

Finally, since the phase 3 benchwork has reached the ‘panhandle’ in the basement, we’ll soon be ready to start working on the staging elevator. I’m beginning to work up the plans for it and hopefully should have something to show by next month. Since the entire layout design and operating plan depend on this working, I have got to get it right!

February 15, 2006

Well, at least this week David, Neil and I had Jay to keep us company.  Jay spent the night working over in Standard Oil as usual, but he says next week he will have all the track spiked down there!  That's great.  Soon he will be able to start working on the loading platforms for the tank car loading tracks.  A few pictures of a mock-up I made are shown below, the actual model will be a little taller and longer.  Jay will be scratch-building it from stripwood.  We talked about kitbashing an icing platform but Jay feels it will look better to model it as it should be, close to the prototype appearance.  I certainly can't argue with that.

A paper mock-up of the oil loading platforms Jay will be building for Standard Oil A paper mock-up of the oil loading platforms Jay will be building for Standard Oil

Like last week, David, Neil and I worked on some more benchwork, getting the rest of the Georgetown grids built and in place.  I have new engineering drawings ready for the grids at Branchville but they aren't dimensioned yet, so we could not continue from here tonight.  Between last week and this week we've put up at least 40 feet of new benchwork, and the guys can't wait to put up more!  You can see the battleship staging yard laying on the Georgetown benchwork, eventually it will be cut back in at Branchville to serve trains if we can get back to running again sometime soon.

Shot of new benchwork that will support the town of Georgetown Shot of new benchwork that will support the town of Wilton

At the end of the evening David and I spent some time talking about how to tackle the new scenery around Wall st. in South Norwalk, and Neil started making up a list of scenic materials we will need soon from Scenic Express.  It was a quiet session but a fair bit got done, so I can't complain.  Just starting to wonder where everyone else is.  

February 8, 2006

It was a lightly attended session tonight, just David, Neil and I.  We talked about a few things to do and in the end decided it would be fun to get started on the new benchwork for Phase three.  David and Neil got started building the grids for the Wilton area, while I prepared new legs for the supporting beam which Ted and Ray built last week.  A bit of last-minute fitting needed to be done, and I made a design change in mid-construction to accommodate a drop-bridge by the electrical panel, but we had some fun doing the building. 

February 1, 2006

Bigger session tonight than I thought it would be – I went from expecting to be all alone to having lots of company; Jay, Ray, Ted, Wayne and Neil. Wayne was right on time, and finished up the plaster work around the iron works in South Norwalk, getting a lot of open area covered. Soon it will be time to paint it and get ground cover on it. Neil worked on a few odd jobs, tuning the turnouts in Wilson Point and doing a little tracklaying around the new iron works track, until Wayne needed the space. Jay did his usual thing working on Standard Oil, getting a couple of turnouts spiked in.

New scenery base around South Norwalk thanks to Wayne Ted and Ray work on constructing new I-beams to support new benchwork. 


Ray, Ted and I worked on trying to get some new beams built for the upcoming benchwork expansion. We tried to fit the OSB web board into the 2x2’s we cut a few years ago, but they must have shrunk some. We brought them up to the garage and re-cut the slots in the 2x2’s with a dado blade on my tablesaw, and when we were done the webs fit pretty well in to the slots. Ted and Ray got two full 8’ beams done, and left me enough materials to make a few more this weekend. Next week we’ll start building some new grids and getting some new benchwork up! 

January 29, 2006

This past weekend was the big train show sponsored by the Amherst Railway Society in Springfield, MA. I and many of my friends attended and had a great time, but the real thrill of the weekend for me was the photo safari on the trip up. David, Neil and I took a detour and went up to the show via South Norwalk, CT and up Route 7, which parallels the route of the Metro-North Danbury Branch. Of course, over 100 years ago it was the Danbury and Norwalk division of the Housatonic Railroad!

We started in South Norwalk’s downtown historic district, where I was elated to finally see the old Iron Works building with my own eyes. Preserved as part of the Norwalk Maritime Center complex, the structure has only changed a little since its days of making pumps and air compressors. I was delighted to see that it was every bit as large and imposing as we had suspected from the photos, and that the model truly does justice to it. We got nearly everything just right, only a small handful of details were different from what we pulled off the turn of the century photo and drawings.  The tower has a roof today that didn't exist at the turn of the century.

The actual South Norwalk Iron Works factory building, January 2006 The actual South Norwalk Iron Works factory building, January 2006 The actual South Norwalk Iron Works factory building, January 2006 The actual South Norwalk Iron Works factory building, January 2006

Down the block and across the Danbury branch tracks we found another historic building still standing and thriving, the R&G Corset Factory is today a well-maintained condo complex. I was pleasantly surprised to find this building still standing. Even though it’s on the wrong side of the tracks to be represented on my layout, I took a series of pictures of it in case I ever change my mind. It sure would look great in that big piece of real estate between the stairs and the Iron Works in South Norwalk… 

The R&G Corset Factory, January 2006 The R&G Corset Factory, January 2006 The R&G Corset Factory, January 2006 The R&G Corset Factory, January 2006 The R&G Corset Factory, January 2006

And a block over to the south we found the last main building we were looking for, the Norwalk Lock Co. It’s changed a bit since its Heyday -- the tower’s ornate roof was removed long ago, and the first floor has been revamped with large glass-windowed store fronts, but the basic building is still there. I took lots of photos in preparation of drawing up a plan to model this structure. Aside from the Iron Works in will be one of the most important, large and recognizable building on the layout.

The Norwalk Lock Co. Building, January 2006 The Norwalk Lock Co. Building, January 2006 The Norwalk Lock Co. Building, January 2006 The Norwalk Lock Co. Building, January 2006 The Norwalk Lock Co. Building, January 2006

After spending an hour or so in South Norwalk, we drove up to Wilton, and stopped in several places to photograph historic buildings along the way. One of those we found was the old Wilton train station. Sold off by the New Haven and moved several hundred feet over onto Rt. 7, it has been carefully preserved and today is used as a small office building. I was fortunate to be able to take several good pictures of it, as well as some other older buildings nearby. This will make it much easier to design and build a model of the station in the near future.

Historic Wilton passenger station, January 2006 Historic Wilton passenger station, January 2006 Historic Wilton passenger station, January 2006 Historic Wilton passenger station, January 2006

I also took a few pictures of the surrounding countryside around the right-of-way between Wilton and Danbury. I was surprised the so much of the land in this area is steeply sloped and that there is so much exposed rock. This actually plays in our favor and will make for some very interesting scenery in between the towns.

Rock formations around Branchville and Georgetown, CT

The show was great and I was able to get many new kits, scenic materials and detail parts to help build the railroad, but it was the photo safari that got the biggest rise out of me for the weekend. I think I’ll have to go up again before the spring and see if I can’t do some more digging around in places like Georgetown and Branchville.

January 25, 2006

No session this week, had to tend to some family obligations.  But that doesn't mean nothing happened!  I was busy working on the layout all weekend (my wife is an angel) and made progress on several fronts.  First, I got several models painted -- the Wilson Point roundhouse and the Hatch Bailey building both got a few good coats of paint thanks to warm weather on Saturday.  Just base coats, nothing detailed yet.  I also got all the windows for those structures painted too, but I'm not sure if I want to leave them white or not.  While I was at it I built up a Walthers round brick smokestack to go with the Hatch Bailey building.  Not sure if it will stay with that building in the end, but we will surely use it somewhere.

The Wilson Point roundhouse with a coat of red paint The Hatch-Bailey building with a coat of red paint

Before painting, the Hatch Bailey building needed a fair bit of attention.  Being kitbashed from cut-up DPM modular building panels, it had a lot of joints that needed to disappear.  I did my best to even them out on assembly, but there were still some minor ridges.  A bit of generous sanding got rid of the worst of the problems though, and after painting I'm very happy with the appearance of the building.  I'm less happy with the roof, though.  Ray did a good job fixing it last week but now I'm not sure it looks good on this building.  Maybe after painting it will look better, or I'm thinking of adding a wood cupola to it.  Many buildings in South Norwalk had them.  It might be enough to make the roof work.

I also broke out a Funaro & Camerlengo resin craftsman kit on Sunday and started assembling it.  While I've done several of my own resin cars, this was the first commercial craftsman kit I've attempted.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was, I got the basic boxcar (An 1890's Lackawanna boxcar) built in under an hour, it all went together straight and simply.  A couple of parts were missing or broken but nothing critical.  What will take a lot of time will be the grab irons, whose holes all need to be individually drilled.  I need to find the jig I bought years ago for drilling the holes straight and level...

This week I've been working hard on the layout design this week.  We've been getting geared up for putting up the phase three benchwork for a few weeks now (though we haven't actually done any yet) and Tom and I started thinking about how to maintain access to the house breaker panel in the same corner as Wilton, CT.    We talked a lot about making it a swinging gate that would open like a door to allow access, but I couldn't make it work in an inside corner.  Instead I'm going to make it a drop-down section hinged on one side and latched on the other, and the backdrop behind that will be a pull-out section.  I believe this will make a good solution to the problem, and since the layout will be anchored to the walls there should be little problem with maintaining alignment.

Finally I also spent some time this week thinking about milk cars for the Housatonic.  Having no prototype photos of such cars, I plan to borrow the design of another railroad's cars and adapt it to my own.  In this case, milk cars from the New York, Susquehanna & Western and the Lehigh Valley.  Both had milk cars with radial roofs, inside-opening center doors (commont ot early eastern milk cars) and end platforms and doors.  Currently, my plan is to use the Athearn or MDC 50' express reefer as a base, cutting it up to remove the center door detail and end grab irons, then substituting the ends and platforms from either an MDC 50' passenger car or an MDC 30' old-timer passenger car.  Unfortunately I didn't get a big chance to try this kitbash out this week, but I will see what parts I can find at the Amherst Train Show this weekend in Springfield, MA.  If you see me wandering around, come over and say Hi!

January 18, 2006

Nice crowd this week. Tom picked up where Ted and I left off last week and started spreading plaster on the area around the iron works in South Norwalk. He didn’t do everything around the iron works; he was concerned the weight of the plaster would drag down the supports. He did a nice job with that, and then continued putting in new cardboard support strips around Dock Yard. 

Neil worked right next to Tom through the evening building the turnout for the spur into the iron works. He said it had been months since he’d actually built a turnout in place, and he was feeling rusty. So it took a little more time, but he got it in place.

Ray Louis was down, first time in a while. He brought with him a G-scale centerbeam flat he’s been scratchbuilding based on an HO scale car. Looks amazing – really puts your HO scale efforts into perspective! Anyway, Ray picked up on my model of the Hatch Bailey structure and decided to help by straightening out the roof panels (they curled like potato chips). He built some roof trusses and glued them to the roof panels, which got rid of a lot of the curl. When the roof is glued to the building it should take out nearly all of it. 

I spent part of the night soldering feeder wires onto Fast Tracks turnouts for Jay, who has begun installing them in the Standard Oil module. Hopefully that’ll be ready to start wiring up in the next few weeks. I also got in some work on the Wilson Point station roof, getting the roofs on the dormers finally. Jus a few more shingles and this will be done. I’m hoping to get several structure models painted Thursday night after work if the weather holds out (it’s tough to paint anything in the rain or cold, and lately we’ve had plenty of both).

At the end of the evening, Neil, Ray and I spent some time discussing the scene at the bottom of the stairs, and how we want to attack it. We’re now considering doing the Norwalk Lock Co. building as an ultra-low relief model (re: photoshop picture photo-mounted on styrene sheet with added details like cornices) because of track clearance issues. Stay tuned on that. We also talked about using a mirror between the two buildings of the iron works to make the overhead crane and foundry buildings look longer. It might work; the Hatch Bailey building will sit in front of the mirror which will block any direct reflections from the aisle. Neil said he’d bring down a mirror next week for us to test with.

January 11, 2006

Another lightly attended session, I suppose it was the weather?  Got Neil and Ted down, no one else.  Starting to get a complex here.  Good news about the backdrop, I was able to touch it today without any of the paint rubbing off on my finger.  Thank goodness.  I wouldn't say it is dry yet, but I know believe it will get there sometime soon.  At any rate it is dry enough to work around without fear that an errant finger or other object will ruin the painting.  Now I can get to work on painting some more of it.  Boy, the smell of the oil paints and turpentine is pretty bad...

Ted and I worked together on starting the scenery base for the area around the Iron Works in South Norwalk. Ages ago, we draped fabric over the spline subroadbed before we put down the homasote roadbed over it.  The idea was to have the base of the scenery already attached right under the ballast profile edge, and we would go back and fill in to the sides later with supports.  Tonight we began that process.  Using several old cardboard boxes, Ted and I cut up long strips which we hot-glued to the sides of the spline and to the wooden grid framework below.  In fairly short order we had filled most of the void with a lattice of strips.  Finally we took the fabric and pulled it out over the cardboard frame, and hot-glued / stapled it down to the lattice and benchwork.  Neither Ted nor I had done this before, and we were both pleased with how it came out.

A lattice of cardboard strips is built in South Norwalk to support a layer of plaster. The scenery fabric stretched across the cardboard lattice. Ted staples the scenery fabric to the homasote track supports

Neil had a quiet night, working on freeing up some more of the turnouts frozen with ballast in Wilson Point.  He's making good progress on that.  He even managed to fix a turnout throwbar whose foil had become delaminated from the fiberglass tie.  I don't know how long it will hold up, but if it lasts it'll be just fine by me.  He also assembled a white-metal kit of a small crane, but it turned out to be too small for the engine services areal in Wilson Point.  We'll have to scratchbuild one to fit later on.  We'll use the small crane at the freight house in South Norwalk when that gets built.

Neil fixing a broken turnout in Wilson Point yard

January 4, 2006

I was expecting a big crowd Wednesday, but only got Neil, Jay and Tom. What happened to everyone? No matter, we had a good time. The big job for the evening was moving the woodworking machines up to the garage. We got both the drill press and the jointer partially disassembled, and the three of us (Tom, Neil and I) carried all the parts up to the garage and reassembled them. Getting pretty crowded up there... The good thing is that with these machines removed from the basement, we can start moving ahead with the next expansion goal.

I'm starting to get very worried about the backdrop. It's been 3 days since I painted the first panel, and the paint is still wet to the touch.  I know oils are supposed to be slow-drying but I figured after a couple of days it would start getting tacky at least.  How long is it going to take for this to dry?  Some things I read on the internet say it could take months to dry.  That's out of the question.  If it isn't drying by the weekend I'm going to have to wipe it off with a turpentine rag and start over again with acrylics.  I would hate to do that after I've already got 8-10 hours into this backdrop.

My latest order from Scenic Express arrived, including some badly needed ballast to finish up the Wilson Point scenery. Neil got right on that, and also finished spreading the dirt on unballasted areas. After Jay and Tom left, we went over all the new material with a coat of alcohol to wet it down, and matte medium to glue it down. By the end of the evening we had covered all the bare plywood and homasote in the area, and we are ready to start applying scenic details like ground foam and weeds. We're actually going through the real Norwalk Ct. dirt faster than I'd figured -- I may need Jeff Ward to dig me up another bucket sometime soon. We really lucked out on this stuff, it only discolored a little bit when flooded with matte medium. Looks really good.

Jay wasn't happy with some track at Standard Oil he'd done last week, so he went back and straightened it out. Also got some new track laid in too, so progress is being made there. 

Tom and I worked together on getting ready for the new benchwork past Winnipauk, which will be phase three. This will allow us to start working on two or three new towns -- Wilton, Georgetown and Branchville -- and add another 50-60+ feet of running length to the layout. Plus, it will get us around to where we can build and start using the staging elevator in the back corner. This will not be the final entry point for the elevator, but we will use it until the tracks out of Danbury (phase five) finally come around the room again and duck back into this same space (at a higher level). 

We spent a lot of time discussing how to support the new grids, and how to keep good access to the electrical panel in the corner of the room. We came up with a plan to build a dutch-door type of swing-away section that will move to the side and provide access to the panel without having to be removed. Now I just need to come up with the engineering part of it. I have a little work to do over the coming weekend to help move things along, and hopefully we can start getting the supporting benchwork in place next week under Wilton.

January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!  Got off to a great start for me by having a Sunday in which I was able to work on the railroad all day, and just to make it even better Neil was over to help out too.  He decided to work on the details for the Transfer shed, putting in new, taller pilings to support the gangplanks, painting an detailing them as well.  He also did the first wraps of the pilings with thread (meant to simulate the cables used to bind several pilings together -- came out great looking.  Someone will have to do the rest of the pilings this Wednesday, it's been far too long.  He also showed me the large jib crane we are building for Wilson Point's bulk materials pier, that's coming along great.  We need to get some special parts for it (the Sheepscot kit was missing parts) but otherwise it is looking great, and he has done a great job in assembling it.  It will look great there.

 Gangplanks installed in the Transfer Shed at Wilson Point Gangplanks installed in the Transfer Shed at Wilson Point The South Norwalk Iron Works Foundry building, a low-relief flat structure 

Myself, I finally screwed up the courage to break out the oil paints and start painting the backdrop for South Norwalk.  I've been studying the Bob Ross "Joy of Painting" shows for months now, and today I finally got the courage to start painting.  One of these days I'll do a full web page in the techniques borrowed from Mr. Ross, but for now I wanted to show you the results on my days efforts -- a 9 foot by 18" strip of backdrop along South Norwalk, which is supposed to represent the Norwalk shoreline and the Norwalk river.  Here are a couple of pictures.  Please know this is not finished yet, I think I may have gotten the horizon too high and the river as a result is too high too (however it looks good when you are standing and looking down at it).

First look at my oil-painted backdrop in South Norwalk. First look at my oil-painted backdrop in South Norwalk. More backdrop painted at South Norwalk

The color on the second picture is a little more realistic, it isn't quite as blue as the first.  Still I think it sives a good idea of the look of things.  Very exciting, I plan to do more tomorrow.  (The third picture was actually taken Jan. 2nd, when I painted another 12 or so feet of backdrop.)

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