Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Brass Bug, Part II

As a shared in part 1, I though the brass bug had gone dormant.

This past summer in Orlando, the National Convention had the usual fair, including the silent auction.

I always peruse the auction since you get a chance to look through a wide variety of stuff. Some of it is crap (brass track that looks like it has been pulled up from at least 4 railroads), some of it is a treasure (long out of print books and magazines), and some is in between (slightly older engines, the odd fast tracks jig).

Normally there are a couple of pieces of brass. I normally see a bit more steam that diesel, but on occasion it will swing wildly in one direction or another. I've seen some passenger cars and other brass rolling stock, but engines dominate.

You could potentially see stuff that was imported in the early sixties to stuff that was just imported in the last few years. This means that pricing, quality, detail and interest are all over the map.

At this auction, there was a fair amount of brass offered.

Some of it wasn't great. There was a SAL E6 (I think it was Overland, but maybe not) that had been painted poorly in its past and really made it hard to tell just how good the underlying model was. The starting bid on it was also high with respect to how much work faced the purchaser, even if you wanted to just return to a natural brass model.

Some of it was interesting, such as a couple of interurbans.

The pieces that I took particular note of, where a pair of Overland P40s (labeled by them as the "AMD-103") in their as-delivered scheme that was a modification of the standard Phase 3 Amtrak paint - the stripes faded in a somewhat pixelated way towards the back of the carbody. There was also an Overland F40PH in Phase 3.

All of them had low starting bids at just over $200 each. That was an attractive price point, as that isn't much higher than what plastic sells for (for a comparison point, look at Rapido's asking price on their F40PH run this last year for a DC version, much less the DCC/sound edition!), and one of the units already had DCC installed.

I talked myself into taking a flyer on all the models at the starting bid after I saw the the brass guide showed pricing into the $400 to $500 range. One of the P40s had a few blemishes on the paint, but as I intended to use them to run the Auto Train on the layout, it didn't bother me much at all.

In a surprising turn of events, I was the opening and SOLE bid on each.

So, I came home from Orlando, having now quadrupled my brass fleet.

The bug wasn't dormant anymore.

(Slight edit February 2018 for phrasing and grammar)

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Brass Bug, Part I

Brass Trains.

Anyone who's been in the hobby for any length of time knows about brass.

Brass has a much varied reputation, depending on who is doing the telling.

I could probably spend a couple of pages rehashing all the ink that's been spilled or all those electrons that have been inconvenienced over the years but in the interest of making this post actually useful, I won't.

I've had an interest in brass, but it was an armchair interest, as I'd not been in a place, life wise, where my interest could coalesce.

My father has had a single brass engine, a United 2-10-0 Russian, since the late 1980's when we were living in Meridian. This model in question was professionally painted and he bought it from the painter direct as somehow it became his via a deal with another customer.

The painter was one of the civilian contractors that worked on the base (NAS Meridian, MS). (I'll have to ask Dad which group he worked in.) The name of the painter is Mr. Alexander; I don't think Dad remembers his first name; and in the telling he was a custom, professional painter of some note as his customer base was diverse and included some folks of various levels of fame, to include some country artists.

Anyway,I ran it a couple of times on the 4x8 we had then; the big open frame motor that it has isn't exactly a well running machine that will creep along at a single volt, but it still ran fairly well as I remember.

Be that as it may, as always, time passed.

I became an adult and got pretty established in a career.

First brass model I purchased was at the 2012 National Train Show, an Overland Amtrak P42.

I'd like to note, that at this point, Kato had yet to announce their plastic P42 and the Kato F40PHs did not have (and do not have, even in multiple units) the ability to pull my modeled auto train up the helix on version 1 of the Richmond Terminal. (And they won't be able to on Version 2 either, but there's a workaround for that already in place)

The brass bug got a nibble on me.

I was able to fight the infection off, I thought.

I remember telling Dad after I'd bought it that when I passed, one of my sons would get that Amtrak P42 and the other would get that United Russian.

Turned out, it just went dormant.

While working on this post again (probably for the 5th or 6th time; writer's block), the youtube playlist had clicked over to Nothing More's "Fade In/Fade Out"; that'll hit you in the feelz.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Removable Bridge Building, Part 1 of Unknown

I think I need to expand my amount of construction labels. I'll make that a to-do for sometime in the future.

Onto the content.

The plan for version 2 as it currently sits will require 5 removable bridges to carry track across walkways.

They will only be in place during sessions, and 4 of them surround the staging area so that is only going to be a slight inconvenience to the staging and traffic manager. This same job controls inbound/outbound to staging so he can remove the lower bridge between his job location and the bathroom, so where were we again?

Oh yes, bridges.

The number one rule of fight club removable bridges is sealing them from humidity.

To do so, you must use oil based paints. Latex paints "breath" which will let humidity in. If there is one thing we have aplenty in Virginia, it is swings in the amount of humidity.

Note, you should ventilate VERY well when using such coatings.

Avoid getting any on the cat, BTW. I think the smell kept him away..
They need a second coat, which did not get applied since when I went back out to do it, the skies had gone a rain soon gray so I bundled them back inside and got to stew in the fumes for a bit.


Anyway, hopefully later this week or Christmas week will have some sun I can use to finish this up.

Had to buy a quart of Kilz - the old oil based primer I had from version 1 got frozen or somehow else turned into this liquid plastic-ish stuff. That'll be a hazmat drop off in my future. 😒

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Staging Yard Track Access

A way to get my wife to do anything else around the house is to mention working on drywall.

We finished the last basement ourselves and spent way way too much time doing it, and along the way, absolutely making my wife hate working with it.

I understand her dislike and truth be told, it isn't one of my favorite activities, either.

A part of it that I do hate the fact that you'd think a gallon of joint compound is plenty.

Here's a shot after the 4th coat of mud of the access hole to staging.

Note 1 Gallon Pail on left, ugh!
Take it from me, if you have a project of any size, you might as well as buy the 5 gallon bucket..

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Update on Staging Yard Construction

Benchwork for the upper staging yard is complete, thanks to the work session on the 9th. I only had a single attendee, but I lucked out and got a wood worker, so progress went forward.

Since it was just two of us working, I didn't get a chance to snap any "in-progress" views so what's here is the result.

Framework in
High Angle Shot
Put in the back piece of plywood so homasote could start going down.

Sanded the angled cut's edge to hopefully prevent splinters.

With homasote down, all I need to do now is paint dirt!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Upper Backdrops - 95% Done

Two walls left; about 60 square feet.

Took most of a Saturday, but got the rest of it painted.

Very proud of my work, but man, my arms are still tired.

Revel in the Glory of Blue!
Additional pictures up on the site gallery on the main website.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Note(s) to Self Or How to Keep Progress Tracked, Live

As I've mentioned previously, tagging areas of the layout that are in progress makes it easy to remember what the heck you were doing when it is been a week or more since the last time you were in the layout room.

I've made it a point to keep up on this system, as it also makes it easier to manage work session since you can just point out the to-dos and keep your crew going.

A couple of snaps from before the work session in December to illustrate the idea.

Is the sun trying to tell me something?
Note, homasote is 1/2" thick from the factory. That's a guideline, not a standard, by the way...

Notes of all types. 

Plywood quality...

Friday, December 8, 2017

More Blue Backdrops

In a previous post, I talked about the progress in painting sky backdrops. I've made additional progress on that front, as well as working back to fix a couple of issues that, after some reflection, weren't up to snuff.

You can see the previous post here: Previous Post

Down the long aisleway.
You can tell this area of the room has its original lighting still.

 I'm going to just highlight a couple of things in this post so it doesn't get to loaded down.

Reusing some of the old backdrops meant scraping and re-mudding joints.
 Somewhat against my better judgement, I bought some drywall tape and a gallon bucket of mud. I promised myself it will be my ONLY gallon for the top level.

Center aisle, reusing again.
I did do some rework on places I already painted blue.

At this point, all these patch places have been hit with two coats of Kilz primer so they are ready for take two blue next time.

Additional photos galore are on the main site gallery.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Planning for DCC

One part of the planning process that can get overlooked is being able to wire the layout up so you can run trains.

You need to plan for a place for the wire runs, of course, but don't forget to have space set aside for where you DCC command station, booster(s), circuit breakers, etc are going to go.

Due to the size and nature of Version 2, I'm going to end up with 3 booster districts, broken into a couple of circuit breaker sub districts. Version 1 was powered by a single Digitrax DB150; the current plan calls for one addition DB150 if a good deal can be had on one, or the current generation booster, as well as the top of the line command station, the DC240.

Having three power feeds will allow me to avoid building any sort of bridge to carry bus wires over the lift bridge areas, as well as keep the buses to 50' in length or less.

The central location is inside the middle aisle. I didn't want to deal with trying to mount the various components to the drywall, so a wall field was in order.

An additional 1x4 was put in to complete the furring strips. I also took this opportunity to put in a spacer piece for the lower level backdrop in this corner.

Note the cut around the outlet.
Again, in a waste not, want not, solution, the scrap from building the upper helix approach from version 1 was reused here. That will explain the curved sides. :)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Another hole in the wall

Have I mentioned I hate Pink Floyd?

Anyway, showing this to my dear wife earned a comment about having to patch up drywall when we move, but nothing on how nice it it that I'm just about to complete the benchwork so track laying can start.

You can see the breeze through to the bedroom/staging yard at far right.

The main line track enters staging through this hole after running the length of the upper level; this will be the northern terminus of the modeled line. This particular track in this area is going to be hidden behind a small foam or masonite divider, as to not take away from the track just beginning it's journey on the upper level.

I used the cut pieces from the wall to fill in the gap so there wouldn't be an opening in the wall cavity.
Once I get a finish coat of joint compound on this, it will be time for another coat of primer and then time for the backdrop to go blue.

High level shot
The piece of plywood on that corner was cut from a scrap left over from a different section of the upper level. It was an odd shaped piece and took some figuring on how to best utilize it. It saved me another run to the lumber store and another $25 for plywood. I'll be able to complete the upper level with what I have on hand, which is a bonus for both the train funds, as well as keeping the construction momentum.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Work Session this Saturday, December 9th

Lunch at noon, then we'll work until we are sick of it.

Hope to complete the benchwork for the staging yard so track can start going down around Christmas.

Email if you are interested in attending.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Somehow the camera got set to take lower quality JPGs instead of RAW images.

Working through content currently and discovered this fact. Double grr...

Expect some additional posts over the next week once I can get back to the camera and take some better shots that can be used; even shrunk for the blog or website they aren't up to snuff.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Future Content - NMRA Orlando Convention

Just a friendly teaser as I get a chance to wade through all the pictures I took.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Backdrops Update - A True Blue Sky

Got a chance to get some blue onto the backdrops this past weekend.

On the previous layout, I didn't meld the colors at all, making the backdrops, at best, a horrible caricature of what you see in real life. See the blog post here for what I did for version 1.

Using a couple of Youtube examples to pump my enthusiasm up, I decided to give one of the techniques a try, which I think worked fairly well.

The video I say mentioned just starting with a deep blue and then lightening it up with additional white paint.

Since I still have the two different blue hues from version 1, I decided I might as well keep that same paradigm on the current layout.

The technique is as follows:
Start with your dark blue - pour into your paint try and roll from the top of the backdrop down about halfway to two thirds of the way.

Now, pour some white into the tray and mix with your roller.

With the much lighter paint, cover the part you didn't before.

Use a brush with some of the white to feather the line between your colors.

Then take a dry roller and go over where you brushed to erase the brush marks.

I had pretty decent success using this method, as you can see below.

I think the next time, I am going to have separate trays for my blues and just mix on the roller itself.

A view down the middle aisle where I started. Note the original backdrop at far left from version 1 and the obvious, sharp line between colors.
Down the aisle now. I might need to try and move the lighter color higher up the backdrop on the next pieces I do.

My favorite shot of this batch of photos of the effort.

As I've started lately, additional pictures are on the full site in the construction gallery.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Website Update

Some additional small tweaks to the website have been made.

I'm working through trying to get the track plans into a good format so I can post them up in a way they are understandable.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Progress Update

Got some additional pieces installed this weekend. I mostly worked around where Doswell will be and then around the corner.

 Plywood for subroad has been installed at Doswell.

Sharp eyed readers will note that the benchwork into the corner here is missing. It was taken down to accommodate some work to the basement door by the builder sometime in the near future.

Working around the corner where the Buckingham Branch will enter staging.

Homasote is down around this final turnback curve and heading toward the helix.

Additional pictures can be found on the website:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Working on backdrops

A lesson learned from the first iteration of the layout was putting backdrops in BEFORE anything else.

Accordingly, progress is being made getting the setting ready for the track installation and then the fun part - the trains!
Looking down the center aisle.
I am very proud of that curved backdrop; fit it into place by myself.
As always, check out the main site, for more details and the picture gallery.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Modeling Amtrak, Part V, Models Part III

In the mid 1990's, Amtrak started the process to replace the sleeping cars on the east coast trains.

Due to tunnel clearances north of Virginia, the Superliners were not an option. (Note that the Auto-Train runs from Lorton, VA southward) So something else had to be done.

The sleepers were a mix of pre and post war cars so as you can imagine, by the 1990's, they had significant miles on them.

Amtrak designed the cars and had them produced by Morrison-Knudsen with final configuration at Beech Grove. Of course, nothing with Amtrak could be easy so in the middle of the order, M-K went through bankruptcy and Amerail ended up finishing the order.

I've been under the impression, and it is a mistaken one, that nobody ever produced Viewliners in HO scale.

I am happily wrong.

eBay searching last Month (October 2017) showed a set of Viewliners in plastic (a Walthers offering; pre the seriously detailed offering that run $70 to $80 a car) and a single, Overland imported, Ajin produced, Viewliner in brass.

I missed the plastic Viewliners, but scored the brass model.

It has a bit of wear, but is still a good representation. A couple of sample pictures follows; the site gallery has more of them. There is a link to that at the end of the post.

The fall sun is a fickle thing. I need a lightbox, but don't have the space or money for one.

Vent is present.

The complete gallery is on the picture portion of the website here.

Now that the Viewliner 2 is a thing, I wonder if we will see another run of them produced. Hmm.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Everybody's heard of miniature track gangs, but what about a small carpenter?

Just asking for a friend.

Note the light on, in the base of the impact. This wasn't posed - he's driving screws that Dad presets. He's not quite tall enough/experienced enough to see the pre-drilled holes.

Monday, November 6, 2017

More Fast Tracks Jigs

Recent eBay scores have included a #8 double slip jig and point form tool as well as a 60 degree crossing.

I hope to be able to capture some images of them and test them out fairly soon.

As promised, some snaps of the new jigs:
#8 puzzle switch jig. Current track plan calls for 4 of these inside Acca to maximize body track length

Doswell crossings, here we come!

I've been considering seeing if I can work a trade in on my #10 turnout jig for a #10 cross over jig.

Maybe I should put in a #12 somewhere.. Hmm.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A quick follow up

So, way back in August of 2012, I mentioned I had purchased a Overland Models P42, in brass, and promised pictures.

Never let it be said I don't deliver, but let's agree to not talk about timeliness. 😀

I'll make a promise to put a bigger post about it and some other recent buys in the future. Hopefully, it will be the near future. 😏

Friday, November 3, 2017

Track Planning for Version 2

Editor's Note: Some of this content is going to be submitted to the LDSIG's Journal whenever I get time to finish the article up so don't be surprised to see it again.

I believe the refrain "make only new mistakes" applies to a fair amount of the human condition but let's focus on how it relates to model railroading.

One of the chief complaints about version 1 was the short mainline run.

In trying to fit a super sized adaptation of the original railroad into the new space, I wasn't really fixing that problem, but putting a band aid on it.

 I stubbornly continued to try to make it work; even with some serious contortions, the outputs were never good enough to grab me and say "build this!"

It took multiple people, including a LDSig member during a consult at the Indianapolis NMRA convention to tell me to consider a "one way" approach before I finally listened.

I'm glad I did since I ended up getting a design that have 9.5 scale miles of mainline run, generous curves (40" is the mainline standard), the wye at Acca and the Amtrak station at Staples Mill.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Version 2 - The Space and Environs PreView

As I've briefing mentioned, the original Richmond Terminal is no longer with us.

In 2016, we sold our house in Chesterfield and moved east of town into New Kent.

We purchased a good size ranch that, most importantly to me, included a full size basement. As a bonus, the basement was going to be finished when we moved into the house.

I had to finish the basement or at least make it livable for a railroad at the old house, so that took about 4 years worth of work before I started screwing together the first pieces of plywood.

At the new house, the original design of the basement was cut up into multiple rooms. One of the walls was load bearing which was going to be a complicating factor.

For the space's use as a model railroad, this just would not do.

 A LVL beam was specified and installed and the other walls were removed, giving a large open space for a railroad.

We are looking into the larger portion from the walkout area under the 1st floor sunroom.

These shots are from right after drywall was finished and painted, but before the carpet was put down.

Entry to the basement from the stairs to there on our right. The two doors are a full bath and coat closet, from left to right.
Walk out space; the sunroom was a $12.5K option, but we added space on both levels so it was a strong value.

The bedroom space; the breezeway opening you see above was another request to the homebuilder.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Content Oops

Sorry the promised content failed to appear last summer; it's been 18 months since I posted to the blog and that is my failing. Let me make some notes and try to make this better.