Friday, January 29, 2021

Some Press for the 1:1 Scale Railroad

In a diversion from our regularly scheduled program, I was interviewed at work by Jim O'Grady from WNYC and The Gothamist, one of the papers in New York City.  The topic was Newark Penn Station, one of my professional concerns, and it was fun to bring some good press to the railroad for which I work.  

Take a read and enjoy!  


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Book! Guide to Signals & Interlockings - now available for presale!

 I am excited to announce the presale for my new book - Guide to Signals & Interlockings , now listed at Kalmbach Media:

This book is the culmination of 2 years of effort from a variety of contributors and reviewers, as well as the art and editorial team at Kalmbach.  Writing the text and assembling the photos was a major part of evenings and weekends for me through much of the chaos of 2020 and in many ways was a bright silver lining to a difficult year.  Special thanks are due to many:  Eric White, Lisa Schroeder, Hal Miller and Carl Swanson at Kalmbach, Tony Koester, Jerry Dziedzic, Mark Hemphill, Dave Barraza, Joe Relation, Rich Wisneski, Jack Trabachino, Bill Darnaby, Nick Anshant, J. Alex Lang, to name a few.  The greatest thanks are due to my wife Kristen and my kids Susie, Teddy, Pete, who had to deal with a lot of nights of me being distracted and preoccupied!  I am grateful for all the support of each of these people.  

In a small reminder of life going on, it is listed with a shipping date of March 8, 2021.  March 8 is the birthday of my late sister who would have turned 43 this year, and who without question would have been thrilled with this.  She wasn't a train person, by any means, but she was a family person that would have been very excited for her big brother.  It's something worth reflecting on.

It is still surreal to see the cover for sale online, at a site I have admired for years.  I am really pleased at how nicely the Kalmbach team made this look, and am very excited to see it in print!  I am hopeful it will help readers understand railroad signaling more, and that it will inspire beginners and advanced modelers alike to work and include signals where prototypical on their railroads.  It is an exciting time in the hobby and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute at this level.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

More Live Remote Operations - This Time, Night!

 This coming Saturday, January 16, we will again be doing live operations with remote operators on the Onondaga Cutoff.  Just click on on Saturday night at 9.

This time, we will follow a popular request to film with the lights down to simulate night time.  While that reduces visibility, it does add a different mystique to the sessions, and so we will take a chance and see how it goes!   I think we can all use a break from the political frustrations and selfish chaos we see too often in the news.  There is no better way to do that than to spend time trackside with friends.  

If you miss the live event, the video will still be stored and available for you going forward on the OC Facebook Page.

Hope to 'see' you there!

Friday, January 8, 2021

2021 - May it Exceed Expectations

Happy New Year to you, and to your family and your community.  While it is just another turn of the calendar, this one has a larger feel to it, or at least it seems to be so.  I am excited to share that there are a variety of exciting projects that will be coming to light this year, which we will discuss a bit further down.

Today I think it's important to remember that small steps are the beginning to all of those projects, no matter how much work we have to do to finish them.  Let's take a look at layout photography.  Some of my best shots these days begin with curiosity - just experimenting with a smart phone.

Recently, in developing some ideas for images for a coming submission, I took this shot of TV10X rounding the big curve west of MP 277.  It's a neat wide angle shot, but let's look harder.  The hue (color cast) is too red, too warm.  The 5088 is sharp on front but the depth of field - how much of the different parts of the image are in focus - leaves a lot to be desired.  The foreground and background are out of focus.  The back left is also too dark - underexposed.  

So, there is a lot of room for improvement.  And those improvements are not difficult. But make no mistake - this simple snapshot proves to my eye that the concept of this shot works, and that is a great place to start.

How about this one?

Here we have the daylight yard job, YAON-14, spotting a car.  I added a figure to include a 'human' element, got out the old smartphone and snapped another shot.  Again we see some issues with depth of field, but overall this shot too works nicely.  

Both images were subsequently re-shot, with better additional lighting in place, with my DSLR.  The camera is placed on a tripod and manually focused and adjusted for exposure using a high 'F-stop.'  The higher the F-stop, the better the depth of field.  Then, each of the shots are loaded into Helicon Focus, which takes the sharpest parts of each photo and combines them into one photo with a superior depth of field.  This takes quite a bit of work, but since I had experimental shots, I knew the results would be worth it.  Successes like this help to bolster our spirits against some of the tough energy we see in the rest of the world.

Let's be clear - besides the hobby of model railroading, 2020 had been a challenging year in a challenging era.  Chaos in the news - a continuing pandemic, the continuing restrictions that cause economic hardship, and worst of all now, the descent from peaceful protest to treason in the US capitol on January 6...this is disturbing for all Americans and for many around the world.  There is no question that all of these things take up an increasing amount of our consciousness.  These things tend to divide, and so it is no surprise that the more the negative news, the more the divide.  It's a direct relationship.

So, what is there to do to improve things?  Well, look - it is up to each, and every, one of us to focus on something positive.  What do we have in common with others?  Yes, we must sit with the darkness, and yes appreciate it for what it is, but make a decision to focus instead as your day continues on something that brings people together more than it pushes us apart.  Protests are part of democracy.  We cannot however allow, encourage or tolerate violence in protests.  We also cannot allow ourselves to universally condemn or dehumanize those we don't agree with.  In a nation of laws, we must follow the laws and hold ourselves accountable to perseverance, to working to create community instead of focusing on divide.

Model railroading is a big part of that for those of us in the hobby.  Use it for what it is: creative, thoughtful, mindful, and able to build communities.  It must start with you, and me, and each of us.

In that light I have been pushing myself lately, and have some fun things to announce.  First, I had articles in both the December Model Railroader magazine and January Model Railroader as well, this most recent one on Remote Operations.  I have several new pieces for MR under development and also now have a sample cover for the book which is due in April.  Here's a tiny sneak peak of the cover!

Best wishes to you and to your family for a happy and healthy new year - may 2021 become a year that exceeds expectation!