Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rolling Stock Additions

Over the last several weeks I finished several new cars for the layout and re-weathered an old favorite. The first car is an Accurail 50' pludoor boxcar that received light weathering as it's meant to depict a fairly new car in 1976. I used the photo below for reference in addition to several other shots that I found on the internet. I'd give credit for the photograph, but I can't  remember what site it came from. The car was weathered using artist's acrylics, gouache and Windex.

The roof to the kit is a separate piece and the edges of the roof are painted the same silver color as the roof itself. The edges of the roof are too thick and stand out when compared to photos of the prototype. To hide this, I masked the edges and sprayed them with a custom dark rust color that I have that just happened to be almost the same color as the car sides. I used the same paint to cover the U1 wheel stencil that came on the car.

The next car is a Atlantic Coast Line combination door 50' boxcar that I photographed in Cincinnati in August of 1983. Below is a scan of the original photograph.

This car was completed back in the late 1980's and I think the starting point for this car may have been a Robin's Rails 50' boxcar. The car turned out fairly well, but the coloring on the sides seemed to lack depth. So I gave the car a coat of Dullcote and then added additional weathering using artist's acrylics and Windex. The roof was originally done with artist's oils and paint thinner back when I first completed the car.

The next car is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I purchased this Accurail kit from Division 7 of the NMRA this past summer and made several changes, including filling in the roof walk holes and adding cut levers. I then weathered it to reflect a car that was close to retirement. According to the information supplied with the kit, the last car in this series on the V&O was retired in 1982. This car wasn't shopped after the introduction of the Appalachian Lines paint scheme in 1968 and so it still has the original, as-delivered "Ridge Runner" paint scheme.

I used photographs of Great Northern boxcars painted in Great Sky Blue as references for the weathering. The color is similar to the blue on the V&O car and I was able to find several shots of similar type cars to use. I added ACI labels, consolidated lube stencils and "Keep off Roof" stencils to reflect a car in service in 1976.

The last car is a woodchip hopper that was built using the recent Walthers 36' kit. The only changes made to this car was the addition of cut levers and a new woodchip load.

Now that the layout is being operated on a regular basis, I'm going to need a lot more freight cars. I'm continually amazed at how quickly the layout eats cars.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Blessed

This past year has been one of the most enjoyable periods in model railroading that I have ever had in my life. I had the good fortune to meet a number of wonderful people in the hobby and to operate on a number of different layouts. In all, I participated in over 20 operating sessions, including 4 on my own layout. I had the priviledge of joining the Golden Lamb Affiliation, which is a round-robin group that includes Jim Rollwage and his Denver Pacific Branch of the UP, John Miller and his proto-freelanced Kanawha and Lake Erie and Bill Doll and his proto-freelanced Forest Park Southern. I accomplished more on the layout this past year than in any other year prior, and that's largely due to the great people I've met.

In addition to the Golden Lamb Affiliation, I've had the pleasure of operating with and trading great coal hauling railroad information with Stuart Thayer, Anthony Hardy and Robby Vaughn. Stuart and Anthony have become regular members of the crew on the layout and we're trying to recruit Robby. These three have provided invaluable information regarding coal hoppers, tipples, and just about anything related to coal mining and railroads. And it's been a blast.

All of this wouldn't have happened if Stuart Thayer hadn't made the effort to get in touch with me this past February. He was in the process of relocating to Lexington and sent me an e-mail while he was working out of Northern Kentucky. He came over to see the layout, and the rest, as they say, is history. So thank you, Stuart.

It truly is a Christmas blessed, and I am very grateful for all fellowship I have enjoyed this past year. And I'm grateful for those who have taken the time to view this blog. I hope that you have found some helpful information or a little inspiration here.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes for 2013!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Changes- Slight Correction

Good friend John Miller called and offered a suggestion after reviewing the post on the changes at Logan. He thought it would make more sense to have the unloader at the end of the spur with the team track location between the turnout and the unloader. This way crews wouldn't have to move a hopper that was being unloaded in order to spot a car on the team track. After taking a quick look at the area, I agreed. I wasn't completely satisified with the the overall appearance of the area as seen in the photo below.

The area of the team track seemed "forced" and moving the boxcar toward the unloader would make it seem too crowded. I checked with Stuart Thayer and Anthony Hardy and they quickly agreed with John. Stuart pointed out that all of the unloaders that he's seen were either at the end of a spur or on a dedicated track. So here's the new arrangement.

Moving the unloader will provide more space for the team track, and there is still enough real estate to provide an area where the trucks can pull through. Now it's back to working on the unloader...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Changes- Part 2

This past weekend I finished laying the track around Logan, WV. The spur is now complete and ready to accept shipments of ammonium nitrate. The photo below shows how the track arrangement worked out, with a PRR covered hopper spotted at what will be the unloader and an N&W boxcar spotted at the team track location.

The shots below show the overall area along with the new trackwork.

And the two photos below show COXE 24 coming through Logan on its way to Hollister Yard at North Pierce, WV.

Now I need to finish the two Intermountain F7's with Stewart chassis and Kato drives that are sitting on the work bench so I can start on scratch-building the unloader. Stuart Thayer, Anthony Hardy (who started this mess to begin with) and Robby Vaughn have sent photos of a number of unloaders and I'm anxiuos to get started on it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Track Plan Re-Do

At the suggestion of David Lehlbach at Tangent Scale Models, I rotated the track plan and enlarged it just a bit. I don't know why I didn't think to do that in the first place! In any event, I hope this one is a little easier to read.

If you haven't seen any of the Tangent Scale Models offerings yet, follow this link: I recently purchased the Bethlehem 70 ton riveted gondola decorated for the Lehigh Valley and it's beautiful model. More to come on this car in the near future.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chesapeake, Wheeling & Erie System Map

Several of the regular crew members suggested that a system map would be helpful in understanding the geographic location of the railroad and its interchanges with other roads. I had prepared one back in the early 1980's when I first developed the concept of the railroad, but was hand-drawn and fairly crude. In addition, changes have been made to several of the locations and interchanges since that first map was drawn.

The map below is the first interation of the new system map, and it was done in PowerPoint.

I'll make copies of these for the next operating session and have them available for the crew members. Hopefully this will help orient them to the railroad and its connections.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes...

Big changes are under way at Logan on the Chesapeake, Wheeling and Erie Railroad. Several e-mail exchanges with good friends Stuart Thayer and Anthony Hardy earlier in the week pointed out the lack of an ammonium nitrate unloader on the layout. I told them that I had always wanted one but had been unable to find an appropriate location. I pointed out several potential locations and the problems with each. While the issues weren't insurmountable, the locations weren't ideal. Then it hit me- it could be located at Logan. The short spur here has served as a team track during operating sessions, but I had never come up with how the area would be treated from a scenery and structure perspective. Possible options included remnants of a now out-of-service truck dump loader or some other small structure. I was also concerned about the scenery in this area as there is a bit of space between the end of the spur and a small culvert just out of site to the left of the photo.

A quick check revealed that the unloader would fit here and would probably leave room for a team track at the end of the spur. However, the spur would have to be moved and extended. And as long as I was tearing up track in this area, I decided to replace the commercial turnout. While it hasn't given me trouble yet, several others had and I was planning to replace it at some point anyway.

The photo below shows the area after removal of the old spur and turnout and after the new homosote and switch ties were put down.

In the picture below, you can the extension of the spur. There will be enough room for a two-bin unloader and a team track area at the very end of the spur.

I use Micro Engineering wood ties for the track and 3/32" x 3/32" basswood for the turnout ties. The turnout ties are sanded until they are level with the surrounding track ties. Over the years, as I laid new track I pulled out ties that were slightly irregular or damaged  and saved them in a separate bag for use on spurs. I also made a jig for ties that had slightly wider spacing than mainline track. The photo below shows the spur ties, and you can see the slight difference in spacing versus the mainline in the background.

Thanks to the input and prodding from two good friends, I'm fixing a problem area that had perplexed me for years, adding a new industry that I had always wanted to model, and replacing a turnout that had been on the to-do list for a long time. More to come on this as progress continues.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wide Vision Caboose Fleet

Back in the early 1980's I came across an article in Model Railroader about the wide vision caboose fleet of the Soo Line. There were numerous photos and several drawings of the various versions of the cabooses. What was most noticable about the different versions was the changes in window placements. Some had two windows on the side, some had one, and some had none. There were also different window arrangements on the ends. At the time I was just developing the caboose roster for my railroad and I decided to modify some Athearn wide vision caboose kits in a similar manner to the Soo. In addition to providing some variety to the fleet, the changes could represent different orders acquired at different times which would help lend credibility to the free-lanced railroad.

The major changes to the kits included changing the windows, moving the truck bolsters closer to the ends and trimming the bottom of the cupola. In the photo below you can see the original kit and the modified version.

In studying the photos of the Soo Line cabooses, it became apparent that the kit needed some modifications to more closely represent the wide vision cabooses of the era. That lead to moving the truck bolsters out toward the ends and trimming the bottom of the cupola. Other changes included the addition of Cal Scale cushioned underframes, removing the cast-on grab irons and replacing them wire brass wire, and adding a few additional details such as firecracker antennas and vents. New end railings were fabricated using brass wire and styrene for the kick plates.

I also decided to model several different classes of cabooses in order to add some variety to the fleet. In the photos below you can see the Class C6, C6A, and C7 variations.

The small windows on the sides of the C6A and C7 class were cut from the ends of a spare wide vision kit and spliced into the side. The original Class C6 were delivered with roofwalks and ladders, and I added an etched brass roofwalk along with ladders on the end. Note also the different placement of the stacks on the two classes.

In addition to changes in windows on the sides, I also changed the end window configuration on the C7 class as you can see in the photo below.

Once operations started on the layout I needed to expand the size of the wide vision caboose fleet. While the Athearn cars were fun to do at the time, they were a significant amount of work. I had seen numerous photos and reviews of the Atlas wide vision caboose and it seemed like a logical candidate. I purchase three of them on EBay, stripped the paint using 90% isopropyl alcohol, and added a few details. I also blanked out the middle window on each side to give them a slightly different appearance and because the road name wouldn't fit anywhere else. The photo below shows the Atlas and Athearn kits together.

Here's a close-up of the Atlas kit.

The three Atlas cars were weathered in varying degrees as you can see in the photo of the two cars below.

I used overhead photos of Chessie System wide vision cabooses that I took from the Hopple Street Viaduct in Cincinnati back in the early 1980's to weather the roofs.

The photo below shows the whole fleet of wide vision cabooses.

The Atlas kits are beautiful, and I plan to add more to the fleet as operations expand further.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Last of the Hardshell

This past week I completed the last of the hardshell scenery on the layout. I have worked my way around the layout, in a somewhat hap-hazard fashion until all that was left to do was small portion of hardshell where the Wilson Bridge Branch leaves the room and heads to staging. The photo below shows the area with first pieces of cardboard webbing in place and the tunnel portal prior to weathering.

The next photo shows the entire area, including the diesel servicing facility at the east end of Nelsonville. There will be a small stream running beside the engine service facility and four bridges over the stream. I have always been a big fan of the C&O's Cane Fork Yard on the Cabin Creek Branch and this area will look very similar to that location.

To line the tunnel, I used several rock casting that my Stepfather made many years ago using aluminum foil.

The next step was to weather the front of the tunnel portal using artist's acrylics. Once I was reasonably happy with the results, I glued the portal in place and covered the area from just behind the face of the portal to the wall with a piece of cardboard. The rest of the webbing was then added between the fascia, the backdrop and the portal. I'll come back later and add some finishing touches to weathering on the face of the portal.

In the photo above you can see the new panel I made for CX Cabin. This location controls a hidden double crossover just to the left of the picture. You can see the removable piece of styrofoam, which allows access to the turnout, in the middel of the second picture. As I got ready to complete the scenery here, I realized that crews would need to be able to track their progress from the staging yard in the other room through the double crossover. The east end staging yard now has a 6-track upper section and a 6-track lower section. Trains coming from the upper section will need to take the diverging route through the crossover to get the main to Nelsonville. I installed IRDOT infrared detectors in this area and also on the hidden wye in order to be able to know when trains were clear of the crossovers.

The next step was to apply plaster impregnated gauze over the webbing and then cover it with structolite. The photo below shows the area at this point.

The photo below shows the area once the base coat of green paint was applied. I plan to paint the area around the face of the tunnel portal with tan paint prior to installing the finished scenery. And the two spurs behind the branch line will serve a small truck load tipple. I'm going to wait until I have a better idea of what this area will look before I finish applying the base coat of paint.

The shot below shows the recently completed section along with North Pierce, WV, which is across the isle. The area around North Pierce is the first area on the layout that was finished. It's somewhat ironic that this is also the first area that is going to be re-done. The main line here and the yard lead go into hidden staging and as I've mentioned here before, the line then heads to an unusable hidden storage yard.

Also, the trees on the hillside here are from an old layout and I've found a much better way to make polyfiber trees. I attempted to replace the trees in this area but the scenery is just too deep- I can't even get to it with a creeper.

Planned changes include having the hillside behind the factory extend to the wall and the stream curving out of site to the left. The yard lead will now join the main about in the center of the photo above and a single main will cross the stream. The main line will then proceed into a tunnel, through the wall and into the new 12-track staging yard that will be built in the other room. In addition to improving the scenery in this area, the new staging yard, which represents all locations west, will greatly improve the operation of the layout. I'm looking forward to seeing the first train cross the entire layout and head into the west staging yard!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Some Finishing Touches

Over the past few weeks, I have added some finishing touches to several areas of the layout. I installed some black skirting at the bottom of the fascia from just east of Big Chimney, WV around the isle to Logan, WV. The material was purchased at Banasch Fabric Outlet and is held in place with wooden clothes pins. I used a hot glue gun to fasten the clothes pins to the back of the fascia and the bottoms of the control panel and bill box support boards. All of this took about two hours, including the 40 minute trip to the store and back to purchase the material. Here's a look at the finished product.

I also found a permanent (at least I hope) solution for the bill box labels on the layout. As a short-term solution, I printed up the names of the locations represented by the bill boxes on Avery labels and applied them to each box.

For the permanent solution, I printed up the same Avery labels but used a white font with a black background. I think this looks a little less obtrusive but still allows the crews to be able to read the labels clearly. I inserted the labels, without removing the backing, into 3 1/2" clear file tabs and then trimmed the tabs to fit the lael. The tabs were spray painted with a matte finish prior to installation on the bill boxes in order to reduce the reflection from the lights.

The last addition was a schematic drawing of the layout that was mounted at each town, yard and junction. I got this idea from Bob Bartizek and his beautiful Pennsylvania & Western layout which you can see here: The schematic drawing helps the operators know where they are on the layout in relation to other locations on the layout.

These finishing touches have really improved the overall look of the layout and will hopefully help the crew feel more comfortable when operating the layout.