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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Endless Summer?

One question I get asked from time to time is "why don't you build a winter layout?" Well that's a no brainer. Model railroading for many of us, myself included is kind of an escape from our daily lives. And since most of my model railroading activity occurs in the winter months, where even here in the Palmetto State, the world is a grey, bleak, depressing wasteland; why on Earth would I want to model it? Frankly, I'd much rather come upstairs, flip on the lights and see my favorite part of Pennsylvania on a summer day, and it's warm.

Also, part of the reason I chose this area to model was I spent many a happy hour railfanning there with my dad. And always during the summer. So the summer setting is definitely evocative of those memories.

Now that said, I did briefly toy with the idea of doing an autumn-themed layout with all the brightly colored foliage. However, that would've required making hundreds of different color puffball trees. I never would have made this amount of progress if I'd modeled the fall.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Progress at Cassandra


I've spent the past few nights plugging away at Cassandra and the Danager Coal mine. At the coal mine, I created the large rock outcroping by using Dap patching plaster. I've used it for most of the rocks on the layout. It has a nice long working time and as it dries, it cracks, not unlike real rocks. After it dried for a few days, I stained it with some inexpensive Wal Mart acrylic paints. I must say I think this one came out better than many of the others on the layout.

Once the rocks were finished, I added some lichen to the top of the hill and started turfing around the coal mine itself. I plan on using a lot of cinder ballast as ground cover in the area as well. 

As for the railfan overlook at Cassandra, I added a small relay box I acquired off eBay a few years ago and some more trees. I also ordered some more vehicles off eBay (seller chucktheprinter) and added one to the small parking area.

Unfortunately, I seem to have exhausted a lot of my scenery supplies. So I'll need to turn my attention to other things until I can replenish it. But that's the great thing about model railroading. Can't do scenery? Weather some rolling stock, or build a structure, or do some wiring (yuck). There's always something to do.