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!


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!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Backdrops Are Complete!

Capping a productive few months on the Onondaga Cutoff, and with a lot of help from Jason and Timm, all the photo backdrops on the top level of the Onondaga Cutoff have been successfully installed!  As you have seen over the past few months, different parts of the railroad have taken on a much different feel thanks to the backdrops and now that effect is fully in place.

Now that there is a some time for other projects, it will be nice to take a mental and physical break from the intensive effort to install the backdrop.  The results as you can see from recent posts are worth it.  Here's a quick iPhone snapshot of dusk at CP280.  This was a neat view before, now it's a already a scene with more to come as ballast and foreground scenery can be completed!

It's a major milestone, and 12/6/2016 will be remembered as such.  And yet it is just the beginning of the magic to come as scenes spring up in front of the backdrop.  The best is still yet to come!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Depth at CP 277

It's not surprising that the look of the railroad changes so much with the addition of high-quality photo backdrops - to me, it's very rare that a painted backdrop looks better than a comparable photo backdrop.  Still, the degree of change from painted to photo in the case of the Onondaga Cutoff is amazing, and the shift in how the scenes now appear is adjusting some of the foreground ideas I have planned.

Here's a panoramic shot of train SEBU stretched out westbound, headed up the hill through CP 277. This is one of the most shallow scenes on the railroad, and yet with this backdrop completed, the eye is drawn to the train, even with no foreground scenery yet completed.  And this is just a quick snapshot!   This was going to be a simple scene along a flat swampy creek, but now it will be a superdetailed scene of its own.  It's a neat change!

Another nice development is that the backdrop has improved some of the longer shots along the railroad, such as here of that SEBU train coming towards CP 280 with the large Iroquois Paperboard plant in the background, with a backdrop of forest and sky.  Again, without any foreground scenery at all, this shot still 'pops' to my eye and will undoubtedly be better with ballast and scenery installed.

Finally, this one's for you, Phil -  had to have a model of the first car I owned, an '89 Dodge Caravan, on the railroad.  It certainly would have been trackside on the OC as much as it was the Chicago Line proper in the mid-90's!  Here it is with a model of my brother's '84 Chevy Caprice on the access road into CP 282.  Just another way to tie the model to the prototype!

Happy Thanksgiving to all you out there, best wishes into the Holiday Season.  This winter will be an exciting and dynamic time for the Onondaga Cutoff and I'll be reporting it here as time goes on!


Friday, November 4, 2016

Another One...

I can't resist adding photos for these new backdrops - they are really changing the whole look of the railroad in some very positive ways.  Here's how the scene at Iroquois Paper looks now, with I-481 in the foreground.

Given the fact that the scene is up near eye-level, it almost looks like I took two side-by-side images and put them together, but this is how the scene looks to the eye.  There's plenty of fine scenery work to follow here, of course, but this is a great addition to a key scene on the Onondaga Cutoff!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Five-Year Anniversary

Today is the day, 5 years ago, that I hosted the first 'official' operation session on the Onondaga Cutoff.  Six guys got together for a night of model operation and a few beers, and it was a great time that started a long line of sessions that will continue as long as we are able.

I did a quick post on the session that night, which you can find in the archives here on this date in 2011.

First, here's a commemorative shot of a few of the guys at the end of the session a few days after the 5-year anniversary.  This time we have, from left to right, Mark, Al, myself, Doug, Rich, and John - the room looks a lot different than it did then.

For the record, here's the 'staff' shot from that night after the session - five years ago and a different time in some ways.  I'm excited to see what the next five years bring!

Here from left to right we have Scottie, John, Nick, Jack, myself, and Mark.  Thanks, guys - more to come!


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More Backdrop Progress

The first photo backdrop installation two weeks back on the Onondaga Cutoff led us quickly to the second, which included the backdrop behind the Island Yard.  As we learned the tricks for this effort, we were looking forward to doing the next one.  The Island is challenging, as it has only a few inches between the backdrop and the track closest to it.  As a result, the effect here is very critical to giving the scene some depth.

Here's the results!

The backdrop here allows the eye to immediately focus on the locomotives waiting for their call to duty as opposed to my simple efforts to paint the backdrop.  I feel it's just as effective from other viewing angles, as seen below.  First, a broadside view:

And, now a quick view down at the bumper block.  These views were completely amateur just a few days ago, and now appear to be part of a layout that is nearly fully sceniced.  

As we worked to hang this backdrop, I took a quick overview shot at Jason's suggestion.  It's neat for how it shows the change in progress.  You can see the rubber cement spread on the masonite backdrop, and the thick wallpaper-like backdrop in the process of being hung.  The cement is strong enough to hold the backdrop while the glue cures.

The immediate visual impact of the backdrops dramatically changes the feel of the layout, and is an incredible change for the better.  It also is the last major step that has held back other foreground scenery progress on the layout.  As you can see, installation requires me to clear all equipment and structures from the layout due to the cantankerous nature of that process.

It's a busy and exciting time for the Onondaga Cutoff, there is a lot of progress coming in a short time!