Monday, October 30, 2017

Over & Under

Now that the dairy farm scene is largely completed, I am working on the two bridges immediately east of the farm scene - an undergrade bridge, and and overhead bridge, in Conrail parlance.  Bridges on different railroads are noted in different ways.  Some railroads use a 'bridge number' where the structure is numbered beginning with '1' as the first structure, then 2, 3, and so on.

Conrail used the milepost to create a unique bridge number, down to the hundredth of a mile, numbered from a survey identifying the easternmost point of the structure.   I have numbered mine within milepost 279, which is to say west of 279 but east of 280.   The undergrade bridge is 279.17:  two hundred seventy-nine point one-seven miles from the bumper post at Grand Central Terminal in New York City, Milepost 0.0 on the Water Level Route.  This bridge is based on a prototype in Syracuse (and another in Little Falls, NY) on which one could still see the NYC markings beneath the rust and grime.  A heavy dose of weathering is coming soon to this structure!

The girders rest on poured concrete abutments, modeled from the stock Walthers kids, and cut to fit.  Again these are just placed in for now, a test fit of sorts, before full weathering and assembly.  Note too that there will be a second abutment placed behind the one visible to suggest the right of way that used to carry more than two (three) tracks - since the East Lead of Onondaga Yard is present here too.  The drainage ditch is in place, and once the bridge is painted and weathered, it will be glued in place too, opening the door for finishing this scene.

West of 279.17 is overhead bridge 279.89, my ongoing kitbash of a highway bridge from the stock Walthers truss.   You can see here now that it has its railing installed for the sidewalk, the railing being the stock Atlas 'hairpin fence' made for intertrack fence applications at train stations.  For me it captures that perfect 1930's vintage look for an old steel bridge railing.  There will, of course, be several photographers foaming appropriately over the Conrail (and NYS&W, Amtrak, etc) action.

Current efforts are focused on building up the embankment behind that bridge, and finishing it to the same standard as the surrounding territory.   Foliage will come next and then the road surface, after which the whole scene can be detailed and ballasted, a goal of mine by the end of this winter.

Little by little!  Each day counts with progress over and under the railroad as well as along it.  Happy Halloween to you and to all the trick-or-treaters out there!


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dairy Farmin' on the Onondaga Cutoff

Over the last few months, I have been working with a model railroad friend of mine to fill a long-vacant scene with a sight common in Central New York – a dairy farm operation.   The Onondaga Cutoff as you all know by now is a fictional bypass through Onondaga County around the City of Syracuse, NY, and woven throughout the actual Onondaga County are a number of large family dairy operations.  As some of the longest-standing commercial property in the area, I felt that a dairy farm would help tie the fictional route to the region.  Thanks to Jason's talent and time, the results are exciting:

While corn fields and a farm could be many locations, the New York Central standard signal bridge, GRS 'SA' signal heads, NYC 'tombstone' milepost, and the double track mainline on a right of way that used to accommodate more than that all say Upstate New York.

Once Jason and I had started to talk about what scenes I was planning for different spots, he began to research scenes and I started to figure out the details of what would fall where.

Jason and I measured and re-measured the areas, and he did the lion’s share of the work offsite at his workshop.  He returned with almost-finished scenes and we set them in place:

 ...and then I worked to attach them permanently and blend them into the surrounding layout.

While the farm is the focal point of the scene, an irregularly shaped area in front of the tracks was a perfect place to install a cornfield and the associated details.  Since it would also be in front of the tracks, we needed to double check the elevation and angle, so we did a test fit.

Once we confirmed that, I wired the lighting in the barns, finished the ceiling, ballasted the main line track, and worked to ready the substructure for the new addition.  


Once Jason arrived with the field, we set it in place, and with just a bit of modification it was a perfect fit.  The difference in this scene is truly incredible now.

Once the scenes were both in their final spots, I worked to ballast both the main line and the Cazenovia Industrial Track in the foreground, and to add the farmer's private grade crossing between the farm buildings and the cornfield.  

The small crossing is a perfect compliment to the scene, and is shown here while drying:

It makes for a perfect foreground, and when combined with the NYC details and Conrail operations, it’s a very plausible representation of mainline railroading in Central New York.

This is another step in the enjoyable process of including the community in not only operation but also design and construction of the Onondaga Cutoff.  Each of the aspects of this model railroad has been improved by allowing others to be involved, leading to a layout far greater than what I would be able to have accomplished myself.  And then, each month, we all get to enjoy the fruits of the labor of everyone when the railroad comes alive for a 12-hour slice of 1994.

And, of course, we're headed into the winter 'modeling season' which means more progress still.  Also coming soon is an open house on November 4, in conjunction with the 2017 Garden State Division NMRA Railroad Prototype Meet in Clark, NJ.  Details are available at

Maybe we will see you during the open house!