Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Early October Update

Pumpkins, apple cider, fall colors, and model trains.....

Well all of those are true in Texas except the fall colors thing like they have up north. But lets get back to model railroading. October is well underway and the Michigan Interstate St. Clair has been a hive of activity as I prepare for a ops session in early November. Nothing like a set deadline to motivate getting those incomplete projects wrapped up. Lets take a look at what has been done since my last update.

While the town is fictional, my goal is capturing the essence and feel like that of Caro or Vassar. Early on in the planning I had decided to try out new products when constructing. One of the items I really wanted to try was the Woodland Scenics Just Plug lighting. I have seen all sorts of reviews, and yes while I could do this myself my time is limited and I am ok with the cost to help save time. When you have a young family time is very precious for working on your model railroad so W.S. makes it pretty dang easy. Drill a hole, insert a coffee straw, feed the wires through, glue light in place, and plug it in.... There are plenty of great reviews on the web, so I didn't want to take away from those, but instead show the product being used on a live layout. 

While night ops is still a dream, I found it much easier to plan and install the lighting as I built the city then trying to go back and add it later. Besides the lamp posts are all apart of the downtown detail. 

Currently Grays Lake hosts 16 lights:
- 3 facility lights at the Propane terminal
- 12 street lights in downtown
- 1 auxiliary light near the railroad diamond

When complete each building will have a lit interior and a few other auxiliary light posts near the fertilizer dealer and east of downtown. All in all it will be 25 to 26 lights operating off the Just Plug system. My local hobby lobby had the light film and block kit for $6.50 each so while again I could make my own for $6.50 I am cool buying the kit. For the interiors I will use a combination of the products in the photo and also try out new lightable interiors from City Classics. Stayed tuned for a future winter post on the install process and results. 

Along with lighting, I needed to finish around the grade crossing in town and overpass scene break between Grays Lake and Gerhard. 

Grays Lake filed a application for a Quiet Zone, and finally the public works contractor got the crossing complete. 
Using styrene I was able to complete a simple but effective quiet zone barrier for Main Street. After cutting the pieces with my NWSL Chopper I used a yellow sharpie to color the posts. These 4' posts were affixed to a curb on 3' spacing. The yellow was a good bright color for the new QZ. 

While work was done on getting the QZ barriers, the road contractor completed paving and striping work on Main Street past the fertilizer dealer. MCIS Signal Dept. lastly installed two new grade crossing gates The road needs a "weathering" still but overall great progress getting this area of the layout closer to completion. 

Having a smaller layout does not mean one should compromise on things like scene integrity or creating "breathing room" between scenes. One way I did this between the close towns of Grays Lake and Gerhard was by installing a highway overpass. Kits like these are great to "break" the scene. I ended up calling the naming the road "Cedarwood Road" in reference to a U2 song I heard and thought "Wow what a good name for that overpass."

The rest of the month will see the highway overpass get its deck complete along with filling in scenery on the cork areas in and around the town bringing everything together. 

Two new business were added downtown off of 1st and Railroad Streets. The unnamed store on the edge of the layout was an interesting build since I ended up cutting 2/3 of the building away. This should make for a interesting interior detail. Across the street is "G's Pizzeria in a former fruit warehouse. Anyone familiar with areas north of Saginaw on the Sunrise side of the state have probably heard of or eaten at a G's. Well what better way to bring modern day authenticity then having one of the layout. 

The back of the restaurant is along the right of way offering a great place to grab a slice of pie and watch trains roll on by. A parking lot will be developed along side of the restaurant and beings it at one time had a railroad spur that went alongside the former dock on the back, maybe I can find a way to bury tracks in the weeds or one the other side of the parking lot to provide historic value. 

A very detailed but brief early month update, check back later this month for more updates and a preview of new business that will be running the St. Clair Subdivision rails. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mid September Update (Railcar Fleet - Part 1)

Just like that summer is a few days away from being a memory. This time of year I know alot of you begin ramping up work on your model railroads. Around here work on the physical layout infrastructure was non-existent, however there are plenty of other items to address on a operating layout to keep it in good working order. This month I am going to take a different approach then my normal all things update and instead focus on the railcar fleet. Follow along as we look at part 1 of Fleet Management, Fleet Statistics, and Fleet Projects.

Operating a roster 226 cars take work.... literally. I don't know how the guys with 800+ cars do it. The past few months have seen quite a few cars added to the roster with a few leaving, it is important to maintain a good record of that change. Cars that were added needed inspections and a waybill holder with car information. Similarly cars that went to new homes whether trade or sold needed to be removed and their waybill card discarded.

Identification stickers printed using excel database of cars added. Each car notes reporting marks, car number, car type, and pool (if applicable). The stickers are affixed to the plastic card shown. These cards then hold the blocking waybill for each car while in operation. 

Not to bore anyone with numbers, but using all of the data from the master database i collected for the active fleet, I was able to look at different charts to tell a story about the mix on the layout. Lets take a look at a few graphs.

First and foremost our data is based on 226 active cars as of September 1st, 2017. We can see the mix of Home Road, Foreign Road, and Private car is roughly split in thirds. Of note the private fleet is the largest which makes sense with growing private owned cars on the rail network in 2017. 

The car type analysis should not be a surprise to anyone since the main commodities hauled are agricultural products (covered hoppers), aggregate/sugar beets (open hoppers), and paper/forest products (boxcars). The "Other" category includes centerbeams, airslides, and reefer type cars that are more "boutique" in the work they perform. 

Going forward what type of trends can we expect to see... 

  • Increase in private ownership cars. Very much a modern era trend. 
  • Decrease in foreign and home road boxcars as older Per Diem era cars age out.

We all that storage spot where good projects go to be put on hold.... Yep I have one of those as well. One Saturday at the end of August I took fifteen minutes to walk through each car and what was needed to restore it to service. All of these cars operationally could operate with metal wheels and good couplers, however their "story" needed to be changed before they were to operate. 

1. Foreign Road Freelance Boxcars:
First project was patching three 50' high cube boxcars for freelance model railroads of good friends that will roam the Michigan Interstate. 

  • NEKR (Northeast Kingdom - Mike McNamara)
  • NNE (Northern New England - Mike Thidemann)
  • WN (Washington Northern - Kevin Klettke)
Patching was done using brown or green sharpie paint pens. Easy to use and fast drying highly recommend. Reporting marks were done using Microscale Railroad Gothic / Compressed Gothic sets of different sizes. Reflective decals are by Microscale, and the grafitti decals are a mixture of Microscale and Blair Line. 

2. Utility Pole Bulkhead Flats
These two MDC kits had been painted by Fred Fogelsinger about two years ago. I had just discovered them one evening going through boxes of train stuff in the garage. Using the CN bulkhead decal set from Highball Graphics I was able to put together all the data required with MCTR reporting marks. The last thing left to add are the PC&F log bunks from Details West and utility pole load from JWD. 

3. 20,000 Gallon Tank Cars
At a train show a few years ago I picked up each of these Athearn R-T-R 20,000 gallon tank cars in the BNSF scheme for $10 each. No box and a little use.... works for me. Well not needing them in diesel fuel service I proceeded to change up the cars to fit geographical needs. Using a modellers license I used the Highball Graphics CGTX 23,000 gallon tank car set. Instead of using black paint or decal solution to remove the print, I instead used a hobby knife with a flat blade and pulled across the logo and marks giving appearance like it had been "sanded off" by the shop shown in photo below. 

4. Plastic Hoppers
The same train show where i found the tankcars also produced two Walthers plastic pellet cars. However the reporting marks on the cars were duplicate to what was already on the layout. In the interim this was not an issue since I would only keep one car on the layout at a time. But needing more pellet cars provided an opportunity to update the reporting marks. I selected Highball Graphics CCBX (Union Carbide) decal set. While I did follow some reference photos of cars close to the ones represented by the decals, some modelers license was used. Graffiti decals are from Microscale and Blair Line. Seeing plenty of examples from the prototype photos, I decided to give drybrushing a try for weathering. Using Andrea Color acrylic paints of various brown and gray, I was able to give the cars some needed character.  

As you can see quite a few fun projects adding nine more cars to the fleet in part 1. The graphs help paint an overall picture that not only provides a story of your operations, but can also help establish discipline when it comes to selling or acquiring equipment. If you have 90 boxcars for one industry but you are short 10 covered hoppers for three industries, then maybe your focus should not be on that $10 Athearn R-T-R FMC boxcar at the next train show but instead a Athearn R-T-R Pullman Standard 4750 covered hopper. 

Towards the end of September we will reflect and bid farewell to the Alco RS27, Alco C424, EMD GP15, and EMD CF7 fleets. Not wanting to leave out whats on the workbench right now, we will wrap up Part 2 of Fleet Management, Statistics, and Projects.

Thanks for stopping by.


Wordless Wednesday #97

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017