Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Major Milestone Reached, The Benchwork is Done!

Well benchwork is finished. All in all I'd say this phase of the project went rather smoothly. The next step is covering the top with a layer of 2-inch thick styroafoam. Originally I had planned on going with four inches of foam. But at $32 per sheet, I realized that was going to cost me a whole lot of Benjamins. At any rate, that will probably happen in the new year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Finished Cornerstone's George Roberts Printing Kit

This Cornerstone kit is a nice, generic industrial building that should look right at home in central Pennsylvania. It took me nearly a week to get this thing put together, mostly because I've become much fussier about painting my buildings since the last layout.

I started off by painting the concrete parts of the walls Floquil "Concrete." Next I painted the brick sections Floquil "Boxcar Red," which makes a nice brick color. I painted the roof, water tower roof and supports and fire escape Floquil "Grimy Black." The water tank got painted Floquil "Roof Brown."

After all the paint thoroughly dried, I used poster paint to simulate brick mortar. Once all that was finally done, I actually put the kit together, hit it with a coat of weather wash applied the decals and sprayed on some Dulcote and called it done. I must say I'm really glad I took my time with the painting. The building came out awesome.

In other news, I finished some more benchwork.

I added the raised section over the "smurf door" and another six foot section along the wall. As you can see this is about as much as I can do until Cherokee is dismantled. Since I have a sneaking suspicion Santa is going to bring me some new motive power for Christmas, I still want to have a functioning layout for a little while longer. As such Cherokee gets a little stay of execution.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Major Benchwork Progress

After taking a break for Thanksgiving, I decided to get back to work on the benchwork. I actually built the narrow section along the wall shortly after the initial 4 x 8 section but just never got around to posting it. Yesterday I built the large peninsula in the center of the room.  Nothing really to exciting to report here, just a whole lot of measuring, sawing, clamping, drilling  and screwing.

The main challenge will be the back corner. As you can see, there is a small white door that leads into the attic space. There's no storage beyond it but it does allow access to the duct work and therefore must be able to open. That particular section of benchwork will be four inches higher than the rest and topped with a thin sheet of plywood. The rest of the layout will be topped with four inches of pink Styrofoam, so it should be seemless.

Now, I would have been well served to remember the old adage about measuring twice and cutting one. It turns out the room was a foot wider and a six inches longer than I first thought. So yay, a happy accident! My railroad empire is even more vast than first thought.

Also you can probably see I added some new track lights. These came from Lowes and are equipped with 60 watt GE Reveal bulbs. I prefer the Reveal bulbs as they show everything in their true colors.

I also decided it was time to go ahead and acquire a fire extinguisher. The one I selected is the dry chemical type. It's rated to put out A, B and C-class fires. An A fire is buring debris, like wood. A B fire is buring oil and chemicals and a C fire is electrical. All three types of fire can occur in train room so it's best to have an extinguisher intended for all three.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Another Trip to Pennsy Fantasy Land

If you thought my last paint job got the rivet counters' shorts in a knot, this one will have them foaming at the mouth and going into palpitations. The Pennsy at least owned Alco FAs. The same cannot be said for the EMD BL2. But come on, it was only $20 at the local hobby shop.

Anyway, when I got the engine, it was unpainted black plastic. I gave it a quick coat of Floquil "PRR Brunswick Green" applied the decals (Microscale for the lettering and keystones, Woodland Scenics for the numbers), and painted the ends of the handrails Floquil "Bright Gold."

I have a few more motive power projects waiting in the wings. But as soon as turkey day passes, it's back to benchwork.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Meanwhile, Back at the Paint Shop...

With the holidays rapidly approaching, work on the layout is on hiatus for now. With that being the case, I've turned may attention back to painting locomotives.

I spent the better part of two weeks on re-painting and decaling this set of Lifelike Alco FA-1s. I started out by stripping off the the original paint and weathering with denatured alcohol. With the factory paint removed, I repainted the unit with Floquil "Tuscan Red." I know, the Pennsy never had a Tuscan red FA, but I thought it would look cool, so I went ahead with it.

I painted the truck side frames and fuel tank Floquil "Grimy Black." I also painted the back of the power pickups Floquil "Engine Black" to conceal their appearance.

The decals are from Microscale with the exception of the numbers. Those are Woodland Scenics dry transfers. Let me tell you, those stripe decals are a huge pain-in-the-ass to deal with. They're almost impossible to get straight. In fact, up close, this engine looks like it was painted by a bunch of drunks!

I finished things up with some Dulcote to seal the decals. The B Unit is still a work in progress, but its the same basic procedure there.

So all in all, not a bad project but definitly not my best work either.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Layout construction begins

Well, the layout is officially under construction. I spent the better part of last weekend painting the walls of my rec room sky blue. Today I built the first 4x8 section of benchwork. I used 2x2s for the legs and 1x3s for the horizontal boards. The whole thing will be topped off with a layer of pink Styrofoam insulation. The layout will ultimately be 48 inches high, which is about waist height for me.

In other new, I've reconsidered my choice of track. When I first started planning this layout, I was excited to use Atlas's newer and nicer-looking Code 55 track (I used the old Code 80 stuff on my last layout). However, I've changed my mind and decided to go with Peco Code 55 instead. For one thing Peco's c55 track is really code 80 rail that's sunk into the ties. This not only makes it more robust but also allows me to run old engines from the deep-flange days with no modification.

Another point in favor of Peco is the turnouts are reputed to be of higher quality than Atlas. Of course I'm going by what I read on forums and other blogs. But what I have read seems to be pretty consistent. Also Peco simply overs a greater variety of turnouts that will greatly simply my track plan.

Now Peco isn't perfect. Being a British product, it's model of British prototype track. As such the ties are too far apart to accurately represent American track. But you know what? That's really a minor quibble when get right down to it. I would much rather have a reliability than accuracy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finished Model Power's Victorian House Kit

Wow, this kit was really hard to to put together. And I don;t mean hard difficult; I mean hard tedious. Being a Model Power kit I was expecting it to be simple, four walls and roof. The walls, window trim, cornices, railings and what not were all separate pieces! It took me well over week to put this thing together.

For the most part I left the building in its stock colors except the roof, which got painted Floquil "Grimy Black," the Cornices that got painted "Depot Buff" and the widnow trim that got "Antique White."

I started out by taking the walls and slathering on gray poster paint and then wiping off most of it. This fills in the mortar lines and gives one a very realistic brick look. From there on it was basically follow the instructions.

I weathered the building with a coat of dark weather wash followed up by a coat of Dulcote.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Expanding the Scope of the Layout

I've decided to try a represent multiple eras on the layout. While I am a huge Pennsy fan, the real Pennsylvania Railroad was long gone before I was even born. When I first went to Horseshoe Curve, Conrail was running the show. Since 1999, the line has been owned and operated by Norfolk Southern.

I Already have a fleet of modern-era freight cars and some Conrail and NS units. All I need to do is take the Pennsy stuff of the layout and put the Conrail/NS equipment on. I can even throw Amtrak into the mix if I so choose. Fellow Pennsy modeller Dave Vollmer does exactly that on his layout.

Okay, there is one little flaw in this plan. My trackplan calls for four tracks; Conrail removed one track in 1981. Oh well, when faced with choosing between accurate for the Pennsy or accurate for Conrail/NS, I choose Pennsy.

I've already started repainting some of my Cherokee Foothills locomotives into Conrail blue.  I will post some photos when they're all done.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Track Plan at Long Last

Well, after being distracted by rolling stock projects and other stuff, I figured it was time to get back to the actual layout. One thing that made my last layout successful was thoroughly planning out every detail. I designed Cherokee using Atlas free track planning software called Rightrack. Unfortunatly, after designing my last layout, my computer caught a virus and I had to format the hard drive. When I went to download a new copy of the program, I found Atlas discontinued the program.

In search of a new track planning program, I found XtrkCAD. As it turns out XtrkCAD is far more user-friendly than Rightrack and whole lot less cumbersome.

Here's the track plan so far:

What we have here is a section of the Pennsylvania Railroad main line from Altoona to Johnstown, PA. I've included Horeshoe Curve, the Gallitzin Tunnels, a short branch line to a coal mine as well as the towns  of Gallitzin and Cassandra.

The the basic main lines are done. The yards, sidings and staging areas still need work. I guess now it's time to decide which structures to include and plan the sidings accordingly.

Monday, July 29, 2013

More Rolling Stock Arrives

No, I'm not going to post every time a buy freight car. Heck, the would get tedious after a while. But I am sharing these three recent eBay scores to show off some of my weathering techniques.

Here's a "before" picture of the three cars:

See how pristine and shiny looking they are? How many real world freight cars look like that? Not very many. I start of weathering by brushing on a black wash made by adding a few drops of India Ink to a bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol. Once that dries I spray on a coat of Testors Dulcote.

After the Dulcote has dried thoroughly, I take some pastel chalks, grind them up and brush on the dust. I start off with a coat of white to fade the paint a bit. I follow that up with some brown for rust, a mixture of brown, black, white and yellow for dirt and black on the roof to simulate soot from steam engines.

After you apply chalk weathering you have to seal it with a second coat of Dulcote. Usually this makes about two thirds of the chalk vanish. 

Chalks Before Dulcote:

Chalks After Dulcote:

As you can see it's always important to go heavy with the chalk. A car my look to decrepit before Dulcote but look just right afterwards.

Here's an "after" photo of the three freight cars:

And a better view of their rooves:

Anyway, that's all I've got for tonight. I'm still working on the track plan and I have a few structure kits I'm working on as well.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Expanding the Pennsy Roster

I've been working on expanding my roster of Pennsylvania locomotives and rolling stock. Here's a rundown of what I've got so far:

Minitrix K4s Pacific:

I picked this one up of eBay about a year ago. It turned out to be quite a custom-painting project. You can read more about it here.

Minitrix B6 0-6-0:

Like it's bigger sister, this engine needed a good bit of work. I custom painted it, added power-pickups to the tender and a knuckle coupler.

Baldwin VO-1000 Switcher:

Well, my southern railfan friends are going to think I'm going straight to hell for this one. I had this Atlas Baldwin switcher sitting around. It was painted and lettered for the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad. Not being a fan of that particular line, I decided to bring it into the Pennsy stable.

I started by stripping off the factory paint with denatured alcohol. I then painted the entire body Floquil "Brunswick Green." I painted the railing Floquil "Bright Gold." I followed that up with some Microscale decals and some Woodland Scenics dry-transfer numbers.

Fairbanks Morse H-24-66 "Trainmaster":

I got a great deal on this one off eBay. It's an Atlas model.

Kato Broadway Limited Passenger Cars:

 The K4 needed something to pull so I picked up Kato's awesome 10-car Broadway Limited set.

N5 Cabin Car:

The Pennsy refereed to their cabooses as "Cabin Cars." This is a Bowser model I got off eBay.

There some more rolling stock projects coming down the pike. I have a pair of Atlas GP9s that I plan on buying PRR shells for. Also, a comapny called GHQ makes a kit to convert a Kato USRA Mikado into a PRR Class L1. I nearly purchased one of said converted Mikados of eBay tonight but was outbid. I also have another Cabin Car, an N5c, on the way along with a pair of box cars.

Unfortunately in N Scale, there just isn't a whole lot of steam available. In addition to the above-mentioned K4 and B6 the only other non-brass PRR steamer out there is the Black River Locomotive Works E6 Atlantic. These very rare and I have yet to find one on eBay or at a train show. Broadway Limited Imports announced a Clas M1 mountain back in 2005. As far as I know they're still taking pre-orders for it and have yet to announce a production run. Kind of frustrating if you're a steam fan but not a lot I can to about it.


The M1 is finally in the works and due for delivery in May of 2015.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Greetings and Salutations

Here it is, my blog's inaugural post. If you're here you're either, have nothing better to do or you're an SPF (Sloberin' Pennsy Fan) such as myself. My current N Scale layout, the Cherokee Foothills Railroad,  models a freelanced railroad in northwestern South Carolina. I had a lot fun building that layout and thought when space became available, I would simply build a bigger version of the CFRR.

But as time wore on, my tastes in model railroading began to change. For one thing, reading Model Railroader on a regular basis turned me on to the whole idea of operating a model railroad. I find the idea of actually having a couple of guys over and simulating the operations of a real railroad intriguing. It seems like a lot more fun than simply watching the trains aimlessly chase their tails around the layout.

Also, since buying new house and acquiring  space for that big railroad I've been dreaming about since I was a kid, I've come to find designing a totally freelanced layout daunting. You have to work your brain to the max planning deciding what goes where and why. That's then the idea of modeling a prototype (real) railroad line started to sound like a winner. Modeling a prototype railroad gives you a guideline to work from when designing a layout.

Initially I wanted to model the Ulster & Delaware Railroad in Upstate New York. I was pretty gung ho about it too. And then I went and bought Kato's Broadway Limited passenger cars to run with my custom-painted Minitrix K4 Pacific. Watching that train run around my current layout put the idea of modeling the Pennsylvania Railroad. in my head.

Truth be told, I've always wanted to model the Pennsy. I've been a die hard fan since my dad took me to Horseshoe Curve in 1996. But  I have been stymied by the lack of steam locomotives available. Unless you want to spend bucu amounts of money on brass models, there just aren't  many PRR steam locomotives available in N Scale. So I hemmed and hawed for a while longer, weighing the U&D against the PRR. Ultimately the PRR won out.

As it stands now, I'm working on a track plan. I'm also acquiring some Pennsy rolling stock.