Monday, July 30, 2018

Making Decisions

There is no way around it - with layout construction, sometimes you just need to make a decision, and move on.  It's a leap of faith to jump in and move ahead with certain scenic elements.  While some scenes make sense conceptually, others have taken longer to come to vision.  One of those is the long embankment west of CP 277.

After installing the fascia here last year, the vision started to present itself, but still - how should this look?  Should it slope down to a river?  Should the whole thing be a river, with a retaining wall protecting the tracks?  Should it slope up and be in a long cut?

Sometimes, the best answer is to start putting in the bones of the scenery to see where it takes you.

Scenery in this tough curved area begins with cardboard strips cut to about 1" width and long enough to fit with some arc.  These are hot-glued into place.

After those ribs cure, it is time for webbing to be pulled through and hot-glued into place.

The nice part about hot glue is that it cools quickly, and that means that we are ready for plaster gauze landform to be installed almost immediately following the ribs.

I started out at the west end of the fill, leaving the detail at the bridge itself for later but getting started on the easier part to visualize.  With plaster gauze, so long as you wet down the first layer, you can always add more.  Once it was in place, the vision for the bridge area came to focus.  This would be a great spot not for an overgrown former canal, but for a groomed and well-managed NY State Park System canal park.  These are all over the place up in Central New York and it's another element that helps set the time and place.  A tow path, a few benches, mowed grass, and a historical marker on a sign post will help this feel right.

With that now started, it was time to plaster the area behind the tracks as you can see above, allowing smoother surfaces that can be painted and fully covered with scenery.  This will be a forest area with some swampy grass in the lower spots in front of the tracks.

With the operation of the Onondaga Cutoff fairly well-established and with several open-house events this fall, I am making a push to get more scenery done, and this was a big step in that direction.  Now I need to make time to create a few hundred SuperTrees!


Friday, July 27, 2018

Setting a Time and Place

In many ways, model railroading has a storytelling role.  Our models are set in a time, and are made to reflect reality of that time.  Further, and arguably unique in model railroading, is the concept of operations and sessions dedicated to operations.  Even moreso there than in other aspects of the hobby, the layout owner and the 'managers' that help with the execution of the session are storytellers.

Take for instance this image:

This car has a story.  Built in the early 1970's, covered hoppers like this carried all sorts of bulk materials that needed protection from moisture.  Wheat, rice, oats, flour, malted barley, sugar - these cars could be used for any of these.   This one was purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad - known as the Milwaukee Road by most.  The railroad was a transcontinental, one of the mighty western railroads that spanned the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and crossed the Continental Divide.  Dubbed "America's Resourceful Railroad" as a nickname, this one crossed other ranges too and came down to tidewater at the Pacific Ocean.

Yet, trouble brewed.  One of the most difficult transcontinental routes to maintain and operate, the Milwaukee Road was less profitable than it had been by the end of the 1970's.  Early in the 1980's, the railroad abandoned its westernmost operations.  Soon the whole company was bankrupt and sold to competitors.  It was a sad end of a fascinating railroad.  Cars and locomotives were auctioned off.  Some workers went on to other jobs but many retired.

This car, though, still having some useful life, was purchased and put into service by a new owner without a full paint job.  Thanks to the artistry of Lenny Harlos, it has been faithfully recreated for the Onondaga Cutoff, patched for its current owner - East Erie Commerical, better known as General Electric Corporation.

The Milwaukee was long gone by 1994 but its ghost lived on in cars like this.  This was no longer the glory age of railroads in the early 20th century.  No way.  Dirty, rusted, but with a bright patch of reporting marks and lube stencils, this car looks like a car from the 1970's did in 1994 - part of a rebirth that was just getting some traction.  This car helps set a date and place, and lends a gritty, well-used appearance to the Onondaga Cutoff.  As more cars are weathered for the period, the more it looks like it should - like the real thing.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Long Skirt, Short Skirt!

On the layout, that is.  What did you expect?

As we continue with the 'atmosphere improvement' process on the Onondaga Cutoff, I am happy to say that all the custom skirting for the layout has been completed and delivered to the layout space.  When I have a few minutes, I am hanging the pipe system to support the skirting as we saw recently and then installing the fabric itself. 

...and after. 

 As expected, it's a major change in appearance!   With scenery more or less complete now over the M&E and over the main line from CP282 all the way to the 278 automatic signals near the dairy farm scene, my goal for this part of the effort is to have all the curtains hung over that area before the end of August.

In other news, several newly-weathered freight cars were delivered by Lenny last week, in exchange for a decoder and sound installation on one of his diesels. 

Also, I am making some upgrades to several switch control assemblies in the Island Yard, the locomotive facility that serves to turn power at the east and west end of the run.  This panel requires quite a bit of re-wiring as part of the move but will be a major upgrade in appearance and functionality.

It's hard to believe it is mid-July already.  I have been spending lots of time with the family:

Summer always seems to fly by.  There are plenty of jobs to keep me busy outdoors but the railroad is always calling in the evening, after kid bedtime!  Progress will continue and you'll see it here.