Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Sad View from the Rear End

Not sure if the NorthWestern Pacific ever carried paying passengers in their cabeese, but on this day there are a few.  The rear brakeman doesn't seem to mind as he wets his whistle. 

According to the eloquent commentary of Beebe and Clegg, Mixed Train Daily, at a time when short lines were still carrying passengers in their crummies and the practice was still somewhat routine, riders would chat with the crew and enjoy the trip.  It may have been a special occasion that brought country folk into town by rail and people used it as an opportunity to gossip and gab.   But sadly, these poor people on this day are too distracted by their techno-toys to care that they are on a train, in a caboose no less, with other folks. 


These parents sat self absorbed in a tiny virtual world while their kids gleefully chattered away in the cupola.  My own youngest son made fast friends with a kiddo he'd never met while I stood down in the aisle below in case the train should rock and he should fall.  After his seat-mate got down mid-ride, I climbed up and joined him.  It was my first ride in a cupola too.  I will have great memories of that ride.  The other adults, well, I suppose they enjoyed whatever it was they were doing....it wasn't making memories to last a lifetime.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Clean Steam?

Recently Trainmasters TV posted a segment on weathering steam locomotives.  The target locomotive chosen was a UP locomotive and the weathering was applied so as to create the impression of a well-maintained and regularly cleaned locomotive at the end of a working day: not too dirty or grimy, and definitely not rusty, with little sign of any accumulation built up over a long period of time.

This approach makes sense and fits the adage that real working steam engines get dirty, but some are kept fairly clean for the purpose of good public relations.  Another thought is like it - tourist railroads, historic societies and theme parks keep their equipment polished and clean and these locos won't show any weathering effects from oil, smoke, grease, etc. except perhaps at the end of a long day's service.

Of course there is often an exception to even these enshrined rules.  I believe I have found it, in Willits, CA.  Not to criticize in any way - this is a fine engine crewed by caring professionals - but simply to show that even locomotives on tourist lines can exhibit more than just a little running dust, I present these images:

Granted, the locomotive as a whole is pretty clean compared to one that has been in regular service hauling copper ore in Nevada, as this one did.  Both tender and cab sides are clean as is the top half of the compressor, and the white rims and trim are still white.  I hope I look this good at 101!  But the grime, dust, and even rust is there, proving once again that there is a prototype for just about anything.  If you model a tourist line or historic society railroad, don't be afraid to be a little more heavy handed with the weathering.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Labor Day Treasure Hunt

I'm catching up on blog posts, since the last few weekends have been pretty eventful and I've not really felt like blogging.  This post isn't model train related, but there is a model, of sorts included. 

Labor Day weekend my family and I traveled over to Fort Bragg to visit the flea market - a really neat market with real fleas (no commercial sales or miracle products, but antiques, handmade jewelry, old tools, etc.).  I was hunting for a box in which to build a micro layout, but alas, one was not to be found.

After lunch we went looking for a beach.  The boys and I came ready to get in the water - the boys by choice and me by necessity, but only if necessary.  That water is cold.  My wife sat under her new sun hat and didn't tan (she doesn't, as a rule).  I got to use an old friend and its new cousin; my metal detector and pinpointer. 

Here's my haul:
The coins are 2003 and 2005 pennies, badly corroded.  The nails...well, my best guess is that they came from campfires in which people burned pallet wood.  The remaining bits and bobs are just that.  The dull silvery one in the upper left is intriguing.  It gave me a good tone, like silver, but I can't tell what it is.  It is not soft and malleable like lead so who knows.

The car is a genuine Hot Wheels, made in 2015 so it hadn't been there that long.  It is a '77 Pontiac Firebird, for those of you like me who are not really "car guys".  I typically hunt with the "trash meter" off for this very reason.  Yes, you get a ton of rust but on the beach I feel like that's a good thing - better me finding a rusty nail than some kid's foot!  You also get oddball things like this car.

Next post I'll be back on track with some steamy pictures.

Monday, August 28, 2017

New Brushes and a Rant

I'm about to do something, well, almost, that I hate to see.  You came here of your own volition, and I didn't promise you a review, so I suppose I'm not really doing it.  Well, here goes anyway.  I bought these detail brushes on Amazon.  Got a great deal and I like how they look.  I haven't used them yet, so I can't tell you how they work but gosh they look great!

How many product reviews have you read that tell you how nice the packaging looks, or how quickly they arrived, or anything other than an actual review of how the thing does what it is supposed to do?  Drives me batty.  So I'm not reviewing these brushes, I'm just sharing with you that I got them and I'm excited to try them.  They're my first real set of semi-nice brushes so I hope there is a noticeable difference in how they perform.  We'll see, and I'll be sure to report back when I've used them.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

This is Not Benchwork...Yet

Ikea furniture seems to have become fodder for small layout builders as potential benchwork.  It is mentioned in Iain Rice's perennial "Small, Smart and Practical" layout design book (terrific eye candy, that stuff!) and a quick Google search will turn up some fine examples of others who have "hacked" Ikea furniture into all sorts of things.  Bernie Kempinski even used some under one of his layouts and another modeler posted a link in the comments to his use of IVAR shelving as benchwork here:


I have now joined the ranks of Ikea Hackers, though not formally on their website.  My eldest needed a desk in his room but had these "GORM" shelves.  They came with our last house and moved with us to this one.  After a bit of cogitating I determined that I could use the components from the shelves plus a few planks from the store and arrive at a desk/shelf combo for his room.  With the leftover bits I could then create benchwork that doubles as shelving for the layout space in the living room.

Here is the desk/shelf combo (minus the desk top still to come) in my son's room:

And here are the bits left over, some of which will be used in the benchwork:

BTW, I am hoping to make this Sunday afternoon posting a regular occurrence.  I have been successful at fighting my perfectionist tendencies lately...they tend to get in the way of all kinds of productivity and fun.  So these blog posts may not be as polished as they could be, but I will be sharing content and hopefully eventually gaining a few more readers who share my interests.  If you like this sort of stuff, please share with others who do also.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Let there be...


AND, light.  Both are important, almost equally so.  You can have a layout poorly lit and all your hard work isn't shown in its best light, literally.  OR, you can have a well-lit space with no layout, yet.  That's nice but it isn't always the order it happens.  A space might look well lit until you put a layout in it and realize you need more light.

That was the case here in my living room.  I pulled out the timesaver and set it on a shelf unit next to the workbench.  I knew the workbench needed additional light and so I found a terrific vintage fluorescent desk lamp that made all the difference in the world.  Yet somehow I didn't think about future layout space and how it would be lit until the layout was in the space.

After a trip to our local hardware store I brought home a pair of basic T-12 two-bulb four foot shop lights.  A few moments later I had found the rafter above the ceiling, conveniently placed 32" from the wall.  Four holes in the ceiling, four hooks followed, and then...I needed S hooks!  Why is it every project takes multiple hardware store trips?  I've heard three is average.

Eventually I got the lights up with no trouble.  The cords are plugged into a medium duty grounded extension cord that runs down the wall along a strip of molding for the workbench window.  The MRC Prodigy Express came out of its packing and within moments I had a train running. 

Here are three images; before the lights, before with flash, and after (without flash).  Camera set to auto for all three.  Pay attention to the shadows.

I can stand with my head and shoulders over the layout and the area in front is still adequately lit thanks to the broad, even light reflected off the wall.  Eventually some of the old blue backdrop I brought with me from the bonus-room layout will hang here like a picture.  But for now I have not let the perfect stand in the way of the good, and I am having a ball running trains again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Fantastic Beast

...and where to find it?  The Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Let's look inside this beautiful creature:

 Can you guess the species of this truly fantastic beast? 

I captured a few images of the exterior of this tremendous and beautiful thing, but there are far better out there and Google can help you find them, I'm sure.  These images were made with my new Kindle Fire (an early Xmas present), and I'm still learning how to use it.