Saturday, January 31, 2015

Finished the Mountains and Ballasting Between Altoona and the Gallitzin Tunnels And the Train Show Haul

Today was quite a productive day on the Pittsburgh Division. The mountains on both sides of the tracks are now constructed from Altoona all the way to the east portals of the tunnels. This required constructing the mountainside in front of the tracks. I started by gluing a trip of cardboard along the top of the risers to give the edge of the paper towels something to rest on. Then I wadded up some newspaper and stared laying the plaster-soaked paper towels over them.

Now, usually when I build the mountains in front of the tracks, I simply have them slope down and away from the right-of-way. However, as you can see in the above photo, I built I small ridge on front of the curve. This ridge happens to be on the opposite side of Horseshoe Curve from Kittanning Point station. It acts as a view block, at least for the camera anyway, and helps give the illusion of distance.

I also ballasted the remaining track between the curve and the tunnels. As usual this job was about as much fun as getting audited. It wasn't the complete cluster *&^% that I had last time but still not pleasant. I have come to learn that it spreads better with a soft brush rather than a stiff one. Although, after ballasting a stiff one always does seem like great idea if you catch my drift.

In other news, I attended the Central Railroad Model and Historical Association's annual train show. Unfortunately there was very little in the way of N Scale but there were a few good buys. Namely these Life Like PAs:

And this Bachmann Crane and Boom, which unforuntaly will not clear the tunnel portals right now.

Bachmann Crane and Boom car, perfect for retrieving the smoldering wreckage of derailed trains.

Friday, January 30, 2015

More Progress at the Tunnels

Scenery is nearly complete to the eastern portals of the Gallitzin and Portage Tunnels. The background trees are in place and the tunnel portals have both been installed.

The next major project will be plaster work in front of the tracks and the ballast. After that, I'll get the foreground painted, line poles installed and foreground trees.

In other news, I'll be headed to the annual Central Railway Modle & Historicl Association train show (link) in Easley this weekend. The amount of N Scale there in recent years hasn't been much to speak of, but it's still nice to go. I'll mostly be looking for rolling stock and/or structure kits and possibly scenery materials.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Model Railrading on the Cheap

               A topic that seems to pop up on model railroading forums with rather annoying frequency is the high cost of the hobby. Yes, model railroading is expensive, what with locomotives costing hundreds of dollars and freight cars averaging about $15 each well, you get the idea. But what hobby isn’t expensive? Have you seen the price of a set of golf clubs? Or fishing equipment? Or tried restoring a classic car? Hobbies cost money, but there are ways to be frugal and do things cheaply. I’ll share some of my cost cutting strategies.

Knowing which corners to cut:

               In model railroading, a lot things are expensive but have cheaper alternatives. However, while sometimes the cheaper alternative is the way to go, other times you get what you pay for. Electronics, train control, motive power, track (especially turnouts) fall into the latter category. This is where you want to buy the best because it will give you many years of good service.

Save on Scenery:

               Scenery materials on the other hand present a great opportunity to save big bucks. Hydrocal Plaster and Woodland Scenics “Smooth It,” are both costly. However, inexpensive plaster of Paris works just as well. You can use it for rock castings and plaster roads. Bear in mind, it is heavier than Hydrocal and that is a consideration.

               Plaster cloth is another corner you can cut. At about $9/roll this stuff can eat up a budget quickly.  Mountains can be built equally well by mixing up a viscous batch of plaster of Paris and dipping paper towels into it. This is a pretty old-school method of scenery construction. But you know what? A bucket of plaster mix and a roll of paper towels goes much further than a roll of plaster cloth.
These mountains were built using plaster of Paris-soaked paper towels, a cheaper alternative to plaster cloth.
               Plaster and paper towel scenery is one of those get-what-you-pay-for deals. I bought some really cheap paper towels at the dollar store and they simply fell apart when I tried to build mountains with them. So buy good paper towels; you’ll still come out ahead.

Buy things when they’re on sale:

               I use a lot of lichen for my background trees. I prefer the natural look of the material. You can buy this from your hobby shop for about $10 per bag. But why? You can get it for $7 a bag at Michaels. But you can get it even cheaper than that. Every week Michaels offer coupons, usually either 20% off your entire purchase or 40% off any one item. Either way, that’s a nice little discount.
The lichen in these pics was purchased at my local Michaels with coupons printed from their web site.
               Use of these coupons is not limited to lichen. Michaels carries just a ton of stuff that you can use on a model railroad. They carry model paint, Dulcote, paint brushes, plaster of Paris, acrylic paints and anything else you can think to repurpose for model railroad use.

The best things in life are free:

               Free is a hard price to beat. Many natural materials for making scenery can be obtained for free. For example I make extensive use of goldenrod to make foreground trees. It grows everywhere around here. All I do is go to a vacant lot, with permission of course, and help myself. The only thing I have to pay for is the paint.

The trees in the foregroub were made from goldenrod harvested from a vacant lot and spraypainted.
               If you live in a subdivision that’s still under construction, odds are there’s a few houses being built. The construction generates tons of scrap wood that would just be thrown out. Now, I can’t stress this enough, you must, I repeat MUST obtain permission to take any scrap materials. Now, odds are they building will be happy to let you take anything that’s going to be thrown out because more often than not, they must pay to dispose of it properly.

               Once you have obtained permission both to enter the site and take scrap, take only what you know is trash. Entering without permission is trespassing and taking anything else is steeling. Anyway, now that I’ve beaten you over the head with that point, you can find a lot of useful material in the scrap pile. Bits of old plywood make great shelves or control panels. Scrap pieces of lumber might save you a trip to Home Depot. You never know.

               Anyway, I hope these tips help you save a few bucks and further your enjoyment of the hobby.

Friday, January 23, 2015

More Scenery Work

I spent most of this afternoon working on the scenery between Horseshoe Curve and the east port of the Gallitzin Tunnels. The first thing I did was finish building the east side of the mountain range. For this I used the old plaster-soaked paper towel method. It may be old school but it's cheap and it works.

Once the plaster dried, I brushed on a coat of raw umber paint. While the paint was drying, I installed the eastern portal of the Gallitzin Tunnel. I've also test-fitted the east portal of the Portage Tunnel. I'll install it permanently when it's painted. The portals are Woodland Scenics double-track.

Once the paint had dried, I set about gluing six bags of lichen to the mountains used Elmer's spray adhesive. Oh and somewhere in there I also managed to plaster up and stain a few rock formations. At any rate, not too shabby for one afternoon.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wiring at Johnstown

The maiden voyage on the Summerhill Branch went to B6 #1670

The bad part of getting all the track work done is now I have to wire it up. Wiring is definitely not my favorite task, it's messy and tedious. But it needs to be done and I got started on it tonight. I managed to get the first yard track and the Summerhill Branch wired up and operational.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Johnstown Track Work Complete

Staging yard entrance.

The opposite end of the yard. There are two run-through and two stub-end tracks. At right is the begining of a short branch line to Summerhill. 

A pair of industrial siding split off the Summerhill Branch.

I got the rest of the track work in Johnstown finished up today. The day's work consisted of getting the four yard tracks and two industrial sidings laid down and installing some Cornerstone bumpers on the dead-end tracks. Admittedly, you don;t see too many track bumpers like these out in the real world as most dead-end tracks simply end. However, after having engine take a nose dive off the layout, I decided all the dead-end tracks needed some kind of capper to keep that from happening again.