Thursday, November 27, 2014

More Work at Horseshoe Curve

Well first off, Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Over the past couple of days I've gotten more turf down at the curve, painted the road and touched up the paint on the tunnel portals. The little gravel horseshoe on the hill was made with Woodland Scenics buff-colored ballast. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lots of Work at Horseshoe Curve

Horseshoe Curve certainly took a great leap forward tonight. I started things off by ballasting some more track. Not to kick a dead iron horse, but I hate ballasting. It's always a giant pain in the ass and tonight was no exception. The fun started before I even put a single spoonful of ballast onto the tracks. No sooner did I open the bag, it tipped over and spilled its contents all over the place, which made a mess, which made me angry. Anyway, long story short, I eventually got all the ballast in place.

Once the ballast was in place, I went ahead and installed the Culvert that carries Glenwhite Run under the curve. After that I went ahead and applied a whole bunch of turf to the surrounding hills and the area around the base of hills.

For my last trick I went ahead and dug the bed for Kittanning Run. Unfortunately, all that gouging of Styrofoam left the stream bed very uneven. I used some patching plaster to smooth it out.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fixed the Grade Crossings

I managed to get the grade crossings fixed. I took the center pieces and hit them with my Dremmel until they were just about paper-thin. Now all the trip pins clear them. On the downside, I snapped two of them in half and chipped one of them. But hey, they're installed. Thank God the rest of the line is grade-separated.

Oh and while I was at it, I went ahead and stained the pedestrian crosswalk. I used Minwax "Special Walnut."

Failing Grade, Crossing That Is

Well, it turns out the Blair Line grade crossings ain't gonna fly. Last night, I fired up the layout for some much-needed playing of trains and all seemed fine until a long frieght encountered the newly-installed grade crossing. Sudenly I noticed train had decoupled right at the crossing. When I went to investigate, I discovered that the coupler trip pin on the first car of the decoupled consist was striking the crossing.

At first I thought I'd simply trim the trip pin so it would clear the crossing. But then I realized if one pin was causing problems, there were bound to be others and I was setting myself up for an ongoing battle. I'd used these crossing on my last layout with no problems but said layout was also laid with Code 80 track instead of Code 55.

So what to do? The best solution I could come up with was to remove the portion between the rails and sand them down so they don't sit too high.

Sanding seemed like a good solution in theory. But in practice, the sanded pieces started warping like the were auditioning to be a modern art masterpiece. I tired using glue to fight the warping to no avail. First I tried foam tack glue, then CA and finally hot glue, nothoing would hold the end down low enough for the trip pines to clear.

So it looks like I'm going to have to go with plaster grade crossing, which kind of sucks because I think the wooden ones look so much cooler. But I'll trade asthetics for operational reliability any day of the week.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Work at Kittanning Point

Well, I certainly got a lot accomplished over the past two days. I got the remaining grade crossing installed and stained. I plastered the road in between said crossings. I added the wooden crosswalk to the eastbound platform installed. I also built the remaining platform section from my Atlas station kit to serve as the eastbound platform. For my last trick, I added some blended turf around the outside of the station.

Now this little Atlas station looks nothing like the real Kittanning Point station, which was a glorious old stone structure. However, the real station was also torn down long before 1956. So yeah, more of that impressionist approach I was telling you about. You can see pictures of the old station here (link).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Progress at Kittanning Point

I've finally gotten back to work on the Kittanning Point station area. I paved a small parking lot and installed the first of four Blair Line wooden grade crassings. I can tell you right now I'm not looking forward to putting plaster between said grade crossings. But I might as well suck it up and get it done.

To the right of the paved parking lot, I created a small gravel area. I took a while deciding exactly which color gravel to use. Eventrually, I setteled on black after consulting several prototype photos. I sprinkeled on a little bit of Woodland Scenics "Yellow Grass" fine turf to give the impression of weeds. 

I also felt the area needed one more structure. So I added the small shanty just to the right of the grade crossing. It came from a Cornerstone "Shady Juction Structures" kit. I salvaged it off my last layout. I did decided to go ahead and repaint it to match the depot and give it more of a Pennsy look. I used Floquil "Depot Buff" for the walls, Floquil "Tuscan" for the windows and doors and Floquil "Grimey Black" for the roof.

The PRR Maintainance Truck is a Classic Metal Works model. To round out the scene, I will probably add a nice pile of old ties and a few lengths of old rail.

Other than that, all that remains is to build the remaining platform section from my Atlas station kit and place it adjacent to the eastbound track, install the remaining grade crossings and a Blair Line wooden crosswalk between the platforms. I'll also put down some turf for the non-paved or graveled areas and paint the parking lot dark gray.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Garden Railway Dreaming

My old Garden Railway circa 2001
I've been into model railroading most of my life and have almost always had a layout of one form another since I was at least eight years old. This wasn't easy since we lived in very small house growing up. Since I'd accumulated a small G Scale fleet, the obvious solution was to build a garden railroad. In 1998, I did just that.

The Garden Railway started out as a simple loop of track on a plot of land that had once been a vegetable garden. But it slowly grew from one loop to two, and then stretched it's way across the back yard.

At first, the whole thing actually a bit frustrating. I had very little money and G Scale building are expensive. Okay, G Scale everything is expansive. So yeah, I was always a bit disappointed in my efforts in that my railroad never seemed to measure up to the beautiful backyard empires featured in Garden Railways magazine.

That all changed in 2001, when I got my first part-time job. Suddenly I found myself with a lot more money at my disposal. After I got my first paycheck, I opened a copy of Garden Railways, thumbed to a dealer ad listing all the locomotives and rolling stock I dreamt of owning and realized "hey! I can afford this!" So I started sinking some pretty serious money into engines, rolling stock, track and wiring.

I still made a lot of mistakes with that railroad. For one thing, I used brass track, which is nearly impossible to keep clean, making for some very balky train operation. I also used many sharp curves and steep grades, which also reduced operation reliability. On top of that, the railway had a few electrical gremlins that I never could get squared away. But when the railroad ran, it ran very well.

But then, in 2007, my parents sold the family home and bought a place in South Carolina. So, after nine mostly fun-filled years, the railroad was pulled up. I packed all my G Scale stuff away, only taking it out each year to circumnavigate the Christmas Tree.

Fast forward to today. I now own my own home and have a back yard with a spot that's just crying out for a garden railway. Not only that, but I have my wife's blessing to build a garden railway on said spot. Now money is tight and I have a lot of things competing for my spare time, so said garden railway is still at least a year or two off. But it's never too early to start planning right? I've definitely learned from my past mistakes and have a plan in mind.

To wit:

-Keep it small and simple. One loop with a passing siding and a few industrial sidings. I think the Pittsburgh Division more than satisfies my desire to run multiple trains at once and have complex operations. Plus G Scale turnouts are insanely expensive.

-No brass track! Keeping it clean is next to impossible and nothing kills my enthusiasm faster than balky trains. After trawling around the Internet, I think I'll be using Llagas Creek (link) nickel silver flex track.

-No sharp curves or steep grades. These caused nothing but grief on my last garden railway.

-More bullet-proof wiring.

I've also got a whole laundry list of wants:

-Model a prototype. I originally wanted to model the Ulster & Delaware (Link) in N Scale before deciding to model the Pennsy.

 -A rural branch line feel. I enjoy the big main-line feel of the Pennsy but I also have a certain affection for the run-down, lightly-used country branch lines.

-A Timber trestle.

-A small town

-A mountain range.

Anyway, as I've said, this is still a ways off, but I'll keep y'all posted.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Remembering the CFRR

A little over a year ago, a couple of friends and I got together for the last official run of my previus layout, the Cherokee Foothills Railroad. The CFRR was a freelanced road running from Atlanta to Charlotte, following the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains through rural upstate South Carolina. It was a good little layout, but after four years and two moves, during which it'd taken a beating, the layout was definitly getting tired.

So, on November 9, 2013 me and three friends got together and ran the layout one last time. Motive power that night consisted of run-through Atlantic Coast Line FTs 309A-B leading a northbound high-priotirty mixed frieght transporting perishables. USRA 0-6-0 #487 hauled a local coal hauler while 2-6-0 #330 held down the local on the Clayton Branch.

A high-prioity mixed frieght hauling perishables from the south zips by with Atlantic Coast Line run-through power.
A railfan and his young son take advantage of their last opportunity to see fast freight on the CFRR.

Mogul #330, one of the last CFRR steamers still runningpauses at the Pratt's Hollow industrial area to pick up any remaining cars. This is a short branch line running from Westminster, SC to Clayton, GA
It wasn't a true operating session. Mostly we jsut watched the trains run round in circles whilst we chatted and enjoyed refreshmants. At this time, benwork for the Pittburgh Division was under contruction and the CFRR was increasingly in the way. But I ran the layout a few more times and used it occasionally for locomoitve testing until the main lines of the Pittsburgh Division were fully operational.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Progress at Horseshoe Curve

I'm continuing to make slow but steady progress at Horseshoe Curve. I installed the tunnel portal for the road and began building the road itself. Like the culvert for Kittanning Run, I painted a piece of card stock black and glued it to the inside of the portal. I used joint compound to mate the portal to the hillside and to make the road as well. 

The next step will be to ballast the track, the add walkways and a stairway leading up to the public park inside the curve, add line poles and finally turf. 

I also planted some more goldenrod trees. I have several bags of the stuff down in the garage waiting to get made into trees.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Arboreal Adventures

This layout is going to require trees, thousands of them. Now on my past layouts, I've used Woodland Scenics trees. However, those layouts were also a fraction the size of this one and those trees ain't cheap. So, not wanting to take it in the shorts financially, I saught out a cheaper way to make trees. 

After scouring the web, I found a lot of meathods for tree making that looked good, but were a ton of work. I found some that were easy but produced crappy results. Then about two issues of Model Railroader ago, there was an article on making trees out of goldenrod.

"Well hey!" I thought. "Goldenrod grows everywhere around here!"

Basically, what you do is wait for the flowers to go to seed, which happens around early November here in South Carolina. Then you clip off the the tops, trim them into a tree shape and according to the article, dip them in oil paint. Instead of oil paint, I opted to use spraypaint. Below is the result.

Goldenrod trees, painted from left to right, Krylon "Hunter Green" Wal Mart Green, and  Krylon "Jade."

Since I didn;t wnat a monochromatic forrest, I opted for three shades of green. I used Krylon "Hunter Green," Krylon, "Jade" and Wal Mart green.I imagion I'll spray the majority of the trees with the Wal Mart green since it's $1.50 per can and used the $4.00 per can Krylon for accent trees.

Finished trees at Horseshoe Curve.
The trees look alright on their own. However when clumped together densly in a forrest, they look quite good. I'm very happy with how these turned out and happier still they only cost a few pennies apiece to make. However, now I know why desert-themed layouts are so popular!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Planning Horseshoe Curve

As you can see from the above photo, I've been planning out the inside of Horseshoe Curve. One thing that's become readily apparent is there's going to be a bit of selective compression needed here. Not that that's a bad thing. I find even though I'm modeling a prototype, sometimes a more impressionistic approach is better than trying to force reality into places it doesn't really want to go.

Anyway, the area inside the real Horseshoe Curve is filled with a lot of stuff. For one thing you have a reservoir called Lake Altoona. It;s fed by a small stream called Glenwhite Run, which enter the curve from the southwest. Then you have Glenwhite Road, which links the curve to the city of Altoona. If that weren't enough, as the late pitchman Billy Mayes would say "But wait, there's more!" Another small stream, Kittanning Run enters the area from the northwest and flows into a small, stone-lined canal ruining between the road and the lake.

At any rate, when I started plotting all this stuff out, I very quickly discovered I couldn't fit it all. So in my universe, Kittaning Run will simply drain into Lake Altoona and the road will hug the lake shore. So no, not a perfect model, but as I've said previously, I prefer my models be evocative of the prototype and not 1:160 scale carbon copies.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2013-14 One-Year Layout Progress Report

Well One year ago yesterday, after months of blather about modeling philosophy, and my grandiose plans, it was time to get out the power tools and start making some noise.  I've managed to accomplish a lot in that year's time. So here's a brief progress report.

Benchwork: 100% Complete, 'nuff said.

Main lines 100% complete and operational.

Yards and Staging:
Altoona staging yard 100% complete and operational.
Johnstown staging yard: 0% haven't started yet.
Altoona locomotive facility, about 95% complete. All that remains is to lay track to the back shop,

Industrial Sidings:
0% complete.


About 85% complete. Main lines and Altoona staging wired up and operational.


About 5% complete. I've been concentrating my efforts on Horseshoe Curve and the Altoona area. Only a relatively small area of the layout has scenery of any kind.

Goals for next year:

Scenery: My goal for next year is to finish Horseshoe Curve. This includes installing the lake, lighting, structure, roads, turf and trees. I also intend to finish the Altoona shop complex.

Track: My goal is to get the Johnstown yard installed and operational. Beyond that, I hope to begin installing the industrial sidings and branch line serving several factories and a coal mine near Johnstown.

Wiring: My plan is to wire up a third cab for yard operations at Altoona. I also plan to get the shop tracks and turntable wired up and operational.

Misc:  I plan to sell off the structures I won't be using and purchase a few that I'd like to add.


I have since decided to scrap cab controll and convert the layout to full DCC, rendering my wiring goal moot. See you in about 8 months!