Thursday, March 23, 2017

Finalized Fascia

A few images for you of the final fascia installation, now painted, and awaiting scenery construction.  The railroad has come a long way in the last few months and it's exciting to see it come together! Completing the facia is a dramatic upgrade.

First, an overview of the areas near Iroquois Paper, and across the aisle to the open running areas between Onondaga and Fayetteville:



Now an image showing the Blue Circle Cement plant and Fayetteville up behind:


Next up, a closer view at Iroquois, showing the steps immediately following fascia installation.  I use hot glue to secure a web of cardboard strips, which will form the rough support for the terrain above.


Once the strips are secured, I use plaster-soaked gauze and newspaper laid across the webbing to represent the ground surface.  A second layer firms this up and once dry, can be painted a dark earthy color before installation of static grass or other scenery.



Now that all the plaster is in, the next step is paint and some base scenery - which will be part of another post!  :-)


What a wild and crazy month it has been.  It's a good thing to see that the layout construction has continued despite the many changes that have come lately!  I'm hopeful that I will fit a few more good improvements in before the yardwork season starts.

~RGDave

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A New Addition!

I'm excited again to report some wonderful news - a new baby boy has joined the Abeles ranks, as Peter Auden Abeles was born on February 26!   Mom and baby are doing very well!


As we had hoped, Lil' Pete was quickly adopted by his sister and brother, both of whom are thrilled.  It is a busy, busy time, but we have lots of love and support.


Susie and Teddy both spend a lot of time helping with the new little one, and it's adorable, although Pete could sometimes maybe use a bit of space.


In all seriousness, Susie is a great helper and loves her little-little baby brother!


Darker news, poorly timed, is that I need disc replacement surgery.  I have an acute herniation of the C5/C6 disc which had been causing significant back and shoulder pain on my right side, and recently led to weakness in my hand and numbness in my right thumb.  Scary stuff.  Surgery was urgently scheduled for 3/9, and I am so thankful for the fact that it could not have gone better.  I feel much better already!

More OC progress coming soon!
~RGDave

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fascia and the Creative Process


Long winter evenings - despite many having temperatures akin to April - are good times to make progress on the layout as they allow longer work sessions with the kids going to bed early.  Some of the work sessions recently involved me standing in front of the layout, staring at the areas pictured below, and trying to visualize how the finished product would look given the constraints.

The two levels here are different scenes on the railroad, at different locations - so, while I want the area to look organized, I wanted the fascia to continue to provide a visual cue that the top scene is indeed independent.  Further, since crews need to lean over the bottom level to throw turnouts at Iroquois Paper on the top level, this fascia needed to be extra sturdy as well.

Here's how it turned out:

I use 1/8" tempered hardboard for backdrop and fascia construction.  It is hard and smooth, but flexible so that it can be adapted to the benchwork behind it.  As purchased it is a brown color, seen here after cutting and installation but before paint. 

Layout construction - and all of model railroading - is an interesting juxtaposition of creative processes.  On one side it is very linear and organized.  Mechanical repairs, track laying, wiring, decoder installation - these are all activities that have a defined start and finish, more of a linear approach.  On another side, though, we have a totally different creative process when we are visualizing the layout edge, designing and installing scenery, or applying weathering.  These are much more subjective and decidedly NOT linear, with no definite 'finish' line.  


The shot above does a good job showing the variety of sight lines that come together here, which is a big reason why it took me such a long time to see in my mind.

I decided on a thin strip of fascia on the top level, with a larger one on the bottom, using gentle curves to blend into the larger fascia on the layout edge under the interstate highway scene.  Here's a closer view looking down on the new construction. The image below shows some of the supporting benchwork and bracing - I used a 2x3 stud across the main span, and a smaller 1x2 to the left where less strength was needed, and more clearance helped.


With this fascia installed, the next step is to finish fascia on the last stretch of the layout that remains without it - the new branch line and associated benchwork out of view to the right.  I am hoping to install much of that today and be ready to paint all the new fascia this weekend.   It will be a major visual upgrade and help to inspire scenery construction through the rest of the winter.

All of this is also happening in concert with my family expecting the arrival of our third child any day now.  We will be family of five - a whole new level of chaos!  That promises to stretch layout time, but on the other hand, painting fascia sounds like a fun project for my older two kids.

Never a dull moment here!

~RGDave


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Constructive Criticism: Upgrading An SD50

Feedback from viewers is a critical part of improving a model.  While constructive criticism is never 'fun' to hear, it is an opportunity to tap the knowledge of others and take advantage of what is essentially free research, with the final goal of a better model.

I recently replaced the incandescent bulb headlights with LEDs, and added LED ditch lights to my model of Conrail SD50 #6712.  At the same time I added sound and primed & painted the handrails to better match the color of the body.  I was happy how this turned out, and posted this photo to one of the Conrail modeler groups over on Facebook:


Initial feedback was great!  People liked the work I had put into the stock Athearn model.  It had been released painted in several Conrail paint schemes several years ago.  On the prototype, 6712 was the thirteenth unit delivered, and its original Conrail blue paint was very beaten up by the early 1990's. The SD50's were built around the EMD 645F diesel prime mover, a later version of the tried-and-true 645E in the 3000 horsepower 40-series locomotives.  The 645F ran extra hard, and hot, to develop the additional 600 horsepower over the 40-series.    The paint burned and blistered over the engine block and so many of the 6700's were repainted into Conrail's "Quality" paint job by 1994.

While not a big fan of 'Conrail Quality' lettering, these units were a part of the railroad in 1994 and so I elected to have a few proper units in the fleet.  6712 had been painted in late 1993 or early 1994, allowing me an excuse to run it in new and shiny paint.  I had already added some Conrail-specific details to this one - the correct 'bug-eye' marker lights, the cab signal box, lift rings, etc.  Now, with the ditch light project, I installed the deck-mounted MU cable and plugs.  (Yes, that's the Senior Road Foreman running, I figure he'd like to have had the first run of a freshly rebuilt SD50.)


I decided at this time to also add the brake piping to the trucks:


After a few hours, I quickly got the constructive criticism to which I refer above.  A fellow CR fan commented that the model looked great but that 6712 in this era had a modified snow plow, with edges cut away to avoid obstructions on a rotary dumper at Strawberry Ridge Power Plant in PA.  Whether that is the reason or not, I don't know; but in checking photos online, I learned that I had some more work to do.   Using the photos as a guide I hand-cut the distinctive edges into the stock Athearn plow, finishing the cuts with a jeweler's file set.


The result is just one more thing that makes the model distinctive!  A little feedback can go a long way towards more accurate models if we are open to suggestions.

~RGDave

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BRSE-1, and a typical scene

Many model railroaders model the past and there are some who say that model railroading is one of the better time machines invented, especially when it comes to operations.

Here's a typical scene on the Onondaga Cutoff, with train BRSE-1 (Belt Railway of Chicago to Selkirk, NY, leaving on the 11th of the month) topping the grade at CP282 south of Syracuse, NY.  This models the daily passage of the prototype BRSE, with locomotives and cars that represent what actually happened.


video

You can hear and see the lively conversation that surrounds the activity, and it is much like that on the prototype as well.  Operations brings a layout to life, and keeps the interest high.

Enjoy!

~RGDave

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not

My father used to say it regularly:  "Waste Not, Want Not!"  A self-described 'child of the depression', he was one to eat all the food on the plate, to welcome hand-me-down clothes, purchase used cars, etc.   "Everything costs money, David.  We have to make sure we save where we can and use what we buy.  That way we have money when we need it."

I am taking his advice with the remnants of the photo backdrop that we recently installed around the top level of the layout.   To make those top views fit, we trimmed off several inches at the top and bottom, measuring carefully to keep the horizons level and the backdrops flat.  The bottom cuts were about 5-7 inches high, and thanks to suggestions from other layout owners, I realized I could install some of the leftovers in my staging areas, suggesting a world behind the trains.


Here we see a broad overview of the area around CP282, the west end of Onondaga Yard, beneath which is CP274, the eastern end of the model railroad.   CP274 is the interlocking where the double-track main line spreads out into 5 tracks used for staging.  Prior to this weekend, looking through that area allowed a viewer to see the studs supporting the layout, all the wiring above the tracks, and the tracks over at CP295, at the far end of the staging yard.   Very ugly!  A backdrop and a quick coat of flat black paint on the plywood changes the view for the better.


By installing leftover backdrop pieces along those studs, suddenly the trains seem to be starting somewhere 'on the railroad' as opposed to the always-gray and decidedly not prototypical 'staging yard'.  CP274 is out east of Syracuse, between Chittenengo and Canasota, NY.  Dwarf signals direct westward movements through the interlocking and up the hill towards the rest of the railroad.

After a few ties and some ballast, this will be a neat little scene for crews starting west across the Onondaga Cutoff.  Dad would be proud!  In a way, it is fitting that this project happened on the one year anniversary, as a token of just how much his guidance and vision have meant to me.   Amen, Dad!  Thank you!

~RGDave

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Long Winter Evenings

As the Holidays come and go, we're reminded of good memories and challenging ones, of time with friends and family, and perhaps a nostalgia of times gone by.  Model Railroads can be great time machines and the Onondaga Cutoff is no exception.

Here's a view, courtesy of regular operator Doug Watts, showing Conrail B23-7 1987 idling on the fuel pad at the Onondaga Engine Terminal shortly after 5 a.m. at the most recent operating session. Doug's camera captured the background sky with the light of the coming dawn, and it's looking a lot like the 1990's in this image!



With that sleepy image, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or best wishes for your holiday of choice.  It has been an up and down sort of year for me and my community but a decidedly 'up-year' for the Onondaga Cutoff.  Persistence pays off!

~RGDave