Thursday, May 31, 2012


A critical thing to keep in mind when building a large layout is balance - the fact that the rest of life keeps going, too.  There is much to do around the house besides the model railroad, as all homeowners know very well!

Currently there is a major project underway at our home - finishing the attic, and adding a staircase to allow for better access to the attic space. 
The Future!

Here we see the ceiling of one of upstairs bedrooms as been removed, as has the floor of the attic above.  The big, rough-cut timber stringers and bearing wall are now exposed and will soon support a new staircase.  I've enlisted the help of a contractor for this heavy work. The attic above will have new power and light installed, then a new baseboard heating system, and finally the space will be insulated and then finished with sheet rock and painted.

All this, while the railroad takes small steps of its own.  While I'm thinking of backdrop or finishing a modeling project, it's important to step back sometimes and realize how important everything else is too!  Our hobby is a wonderful escape and helps us re-engage reality.


Friday, May 25, 2012

What a Difference…

While far from complete, the backdrops on the Onondaga Cutoff are now spackled, sanded, and primed – and what a difference this makes in the appearance of the layout!  The white primer at least provides a uniform background for the trains and trackage.  

Also of note here is the 6807, just finished this evening - a nice Conrail SD50.  The 6807 is from the last order of Conrail SD50's, and as such rides on the EMD 'HT-C' trucks, instead of the older 'Flexicoil' trucks (like 6495 has in this image).  Athearn did a beautiful job with the CR SD50.  I had to add some Conrail-specific details, including the 'bug-eye' classification lights and the cab signal box.  I also added a TCS T-1 decoder, installed some miscellaneous details like MU hoses, lift rings, and a snowplow, and weathered the unit - it's ready for service!

The next step for the backdrop is to paint a sky with some high-level wispy white clouds.  Following my good friend Ken’s advice, I am going to make sure the ‘sky blue’ includes plenty of light gray, since skies here in the Northeast usually contain at least some humidity!!  

In my planning for the backdrop, I spent time looking at the sky – and noticed that the sky at the horizon is almost always brighter, and more white, than the sky above.  There is a gradual but definite fade to darker blue as you look from horizon to sky.  I plan to try and replicate that as best I can.  I am no artist, but will do some experimentation to see where the project takes me.

A very important part of convincing backdrops is the lighting for the railroad.  My plan is to use LED strip lighting to fill in the general space, and to continue to use the halogen track lights to create shadows and add the yellow color that filtered sunlight generally provides.  Any suggestions are welcome!
Signal block detection is continuing, as well as some mechanical department work – building resistive wheelsets, detailing cars, and detailing/programming locomotives.   I try to fit projects into the time I have available for the model railroad – sometimes that’s 5 minutes, sometimes it’s several hours. 

One of these days, I am going to begin work on a pair of Conrail B36-7’s, beginning with the Atlas B30-7 model.  They will need minor body work and extensive additional details, plus a coat of paint and decals.  Each of these is the ‘silver series’ model and as such, they will also need after-market decoders.  My plan is to purchase sound decoders for these models, and give sound installation a try for the first time.  Stay tuned!