Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Whipped up a Phone System and Finally Finished Water Street Frieght Terminal

I seem to have exited my summer modeling doldrums a few months early and tackled a few projects on the layout.  The most exciting of which is the installation of a telephone system. It turns out, this can relatively simply. I read online that all you need is a 9-volt battery and a 300-ohm resistor. This will allow you to pickup the phones and talk. Unfortunately making them ring requires 90 volts 20-cycles AC current. 

As of right now I have four phones, one at my desk, which will be the Altoona dispatcher. Another is at Altoona yard and serves Alto Tower. The next is at Gallitzin and serves AR tower. The final phone is in Johnstown and serves both J and SF towers. J Tower controls the main interlocking at the throat of Johnstown yard and SF Tower controls the interchange with the South Fork Branch.

Given the railorad will be operated via time table and train order, the dispatcher can relay order to the towers, who in turn pass them to the train crews. Just like the real thing. Of course, this means I will need a large operating group. Any volunteers?

To actually build the phone system, I used a buck converter to step the power from the lighting power supply down to nine volts, added a resister and soldered some two-connector phone wire to it. I crimped an RJ-11 plug on the other end, connected various spliters and ran lines. This essentially gives me an old-fashioned party line, which is certainly period appropriate. As mentioned above, I can't make the phones ring, so I will have to devise some system so the towermen and dispatcher know to answer the phone.

Basic telephony isn't the only thing I've been up to lately. In Johnstown, I went ahead and stained the rocks and planted trees on the small ridge between the main line and South Fork Branch. I also ballasted the main line and did a bit of landscaping.

Oh, and I finally finished Water Street Freight Terminal. Okay, I actually finished it a month ago and never got around to writing it up. I went with Floquil "Oxide Red" for the bricks, "Roof Brown" for the foundation and loading docks, "Grimy Black" for the roof. I used Polyscale "Penn Central Green" for the roof supports, Tamiya "Gloss Aluminum" for the roll-up doors and Testors "Flat Light Aircraft Grey" for the concrete parts.

FOr the brickwork, I used my usual trick of coating it with cheap grey poster paint and wiping most of it off to fill in the mortar lines. After that, it was weather wash, decals,the first round of clear flat finish, chalks and a finally round of clear flat finish. I'm quite happy with how he building turned out. It looks right at home in this part of Pennsylvania. Although the name Water Street seems a tad inappropriate for Johnstown. This will look perfect with a bunch of PRR merchendise service box cars nextto it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hello. Yeah, it's been a while. Not much, how 'bout you?

Wow, four months almost since my last entry. Frankly there hasn't been to post lately. In February, I changed jobs and have been working some long hours. On top of that, my wife and I have welcomed our second child, a beautiful baby girl. Also, as I blathered on in several previus posts this time of year, summer is upon us along with all of it's distractions. So yeah, a lot of time or energy for the layout.

Now all that said, I did manage to make some progress on the layout before all of the craziness started. I'm only just getting to write about it now. I managed to build a few structures. I also built some scenery and ballasted most of the South Fork Branch.

The first building I knocked out was Plasticville's Pink Lady Boutique. Unfortunately, I kind of screwed the pooch with my choice of colors. For the front wall of the building, I used Krylon "Meringue," which is basically Floquil's "Antique White." And just like it's Floquil counterpart, I ended up having to lay on coat after coat to cover up the base pink color. As a result I lost a lot detailing. The rest of the building, save for the roof, which is Tamiya silver, is Floquil "roof Brown."

I decided to turn this structure into a sort of seedy, run down bar that would sit in the middle of the Johnstown industrial area, giving the plant workers a place to grab a cold one after work. I weathered it heavily with chalks, added an Olympia Beer billboard and sealed it with clear flat finish.

Next up was Heljan's Bank Black. The architecture of this building just had Central Pennsylvania written all over it. I still don;t know it if will live in Altoona or Johnstown, but I'll definitely find a home for it. Floquil "Boxcar Red" for the walls, which I then coated with grey poster paint and wiped off to fill the mortar lines. I used Krylon "Meringue" for the doors and windows and with more success than on the previous building. The cornices are Floquil "Roof Brown."

For the roof, I decided to do something a bit different. Rather than paint the roof, I coated it with matte medium and dumped on some Woodland Scenics buff colored ballast. After letting it sit for a few minutes, I dumped off the ballast that didn't stick and I was left with a fairly convincing gravel roof.

Last up was Conrerstone's Brallick Building. I paint parts of the walls "Reefer white" while leaving the pilasters in their stock colors. The windows and doors are stock as well. The stairways are Testors "Flat Light Aircraft Grey." As for the water tower? The tank is "Roof Brown" and the supports are "Grimy black." I decided L liked the look of the gravel roof and repeated it here. Again, I not sure which end of the layout this building will end up on but I will definitely find room for it.

In addition to he buildings, I started building roads in the Johnstown industrial area, finished painting the rails between the Johnstown and Altoona yard limits and ballasted the South Fork Branch. Lastly I built a small ridge between the Main Line and the South Fork Branch to serve as a view block. I also installed lights in the structures.

Most of this was done in late February and early March. As mentioned above, time and energy for the layout has been largely non-existant at the moment. As of right now, I've had a Cornerstone Water Street Frieght Terminal sitting on my work bench for the past month waiting for me to finish it. Who knows when that will happen. Hopefully by the autumn, things will settle into place and I'll be back at work.

And in case you're wondering, yes, this entry's title is a reference to the Dan Seals & John Ford Coley song "I'd really like to see you tonight."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

In broad daylight

The scene illuminated with GE Reveal compact florescent lamps.

Same scene, illuminated with daylight LEDs

It's been pointed out to me that my photos often have a reddish cast to them. I rectified that problem by replacing my GE Reveal CFL light bulbs with daylight LEDs. I figured since trains run outside, ie, in daylight, this made the most since. It's kind of annoying considering GE advertised their Reveal bulbs as showing color accurately. But, the above photos speak for themselves.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Finished the "Cassandra Crossing"

I took the final step in finishing the scenery at Cassandra. This consisted of applying turf to the banks of the Little Conemaugh River. There's nothing really special to report here, so there's really no need for a blow by blow.

In other news, I'm finally getting serious about the layout's operating scheme. In the early days, the main line was operated by time table and train order. There were first class and second class trains. Passenger trains were first class and ran on a schedule. All freight trains were second class and ran as extras with train orders.

Now, this operating scheme sounds quite cumbersome. Indeed it is. But, since signals and detection circuits are still a long way off, it will have to do. On top of that, the South Fork Branch is always going to be dark territory and as such will be run with track warrants. What remains to be figured out is a schedule of passenger trains, both locals and through and the fast clock.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Finished wiring the industrial sidings

The first locomotive to enter the feed mill siding under its own power.

And spotting a car on the Vulcan spur.

Headed back to the main line.

Yesterday I tackled another project I've been dragging my feet on, wiring up the sidings for Vulcan Manufacturing and the feed mill in Gallitzin.  Long-time readers of this blog know how much I love wiring, but withmy goal of hosting an honest to gosh operating session soon, I had to get it done. Anyway, on to the blow by blow.

The first thing I tackeled was soldering a feeder wire to the inner rail of the feed mill siding, which for some reason, I'd neglected to do earlier. This turned out to be rather painless and encouraged by my early success, I went ahead and connected all the feeders to the bus wires.

And here's where things started getting squirrely. I grabbed my Bachman RS3, which normally paired with an Atlas Geep, provides motive power for the local trains. I slowly backed the Alco off the main line onto the siding. As soon as we hit the first turnout, we stopped dead. "Okay, maybe to rails are dirty," I thought and gave the engine nudge. The engine started moving once more until it encountered the second turnout and ground to a halt once more. Still convinced the problem was dirty track, I gave the loco another nudge and she ran in a rather herky-jerky fashion down the feed mill siding.

I followed my gut, grabbed my bright boy and gave the siding and both turnouts a good cleaning. On the siding, the loco ran nice an smoothly, but instantly came to a stop on the turnout again. Long story short, after spending several hours farting around with cleaning the turnouts and even adding another feeder between them, the locomotive simply would not run through them.

Now the turnouts in question are Peco electrofrogs. Unlike the old Atlas Code 80 switched, which used a plastic frog, the switches have powered frogs and the polarity changes based on which way the turnout is thrown. To accomplish this, the movable point rails conducted power from the tow outside rails. This is dependant on them making good contact and in fact neither of these turnouts were. At any rate, the lightbulb finally went on and what I ended up doing was slightly bending the end of the point rails outward ever so slightly. This forced them into contact with the outer rails and solved the problem.

With this project out of the way, I've conquered one major barrier to operating. Now it's time to seriously think about the operating scheme.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Finished Tichy Train Group's "Signal Tower" and Cornerstone's "Steel Water Tank" kits

These are the two structures I  alluded to in my last post. The first is a Tichy Train Group Signal tower kit. I went with Floquil "Depot Buff" on the walls, "Tuscan Red" and just plain "Tuscan" on the windows. The roof is Floquil "Roof Brown," I know inspired choice. The foundation is Testors "Flat Light Aircraft Grey."

As of right now, I not entirely sure where this building is going. It will either be at Johnstown where the South Fork Branch diverges or at the east portals of the tunnels to stand in for MG tower. 

The second kit is Cornerstone's "Steel Water Tank." This was a fairly easy kit to put together. I used "Flat Light Aircraft Grey" for the base and Floquil "Grimy Black" for the rest. I hit the base with some weather wash, followed by chalk. For the tank itself, I limtied weathering to brown chalk along the rivet lines to simulate rust. The kit also came with three water columns. These were panted in the same color scheme. The tank and columns will be located in the Altoona shop.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Cassandra Crossing

No, not the abortion starting Burt Lancaster and Ingrid Bergman, rather the crossing of the Little Conemaugh River at Cassandra PA. Anyway for this first post of 2017, I thought I share the progress on this project.

I stared out by using my hot knife to dig out the river bed. Next I used plaster-soaked paper towels to smooth out the banks. The bridge itself is one half a of a Monroe Models stone arch bridge kit.I painted it with some inexpensive grey acrylic paint. Then I added some Plastruc C Channels painted Floquil "Rust" to simulate the steel reinforcements the PRR added to it's stone bridges after WWII. The actual tunnel under the tracks is a PVC pipe coupling cut in half and painted black. I added a Plastruct Handrail to each side of the bridge and painted them Floquil "Grimy Black."

As for the river bed, I painted the whole thing raw umber to give it and earthy undercoat. Then I used all three sizes of Woodland Scenics Talus to create the rocky bottom and added some "Dead Fall" to simulated fallen trees and submerged logs. With that done, I used some WS field Grass to simulate reeds and bulrushes.

The step I'm currently on is adding water. This phase takes forever because it must be done in multiple layers. For water, I use Modpodge Super Gloss Medium. It's basically the same stuff as Woodland Scenics Realistic Water only it's cheap and readily obtainable at Wal Mart. Once the water is done, I will be adding turf to the banks.

In between coats of water, I've also been working on weathering rolling stock. Nothing too special to report here. I start out with an India Ink wash followed by a coat of Acrylic Matte Finish. Next come the chalks and then another coat of matte finish. All in all I think these cars turned out pretty good.

I've also been working on some structure projects but that's another post for another day.