Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Placeholder to Permanent: Scratchbuilding a Bridge Deck

One of the side projects this summer has been building and adding a roadway deck to the overhead bridge just east of CP 280.   While this green bridge has been featured in a number of videos and photos, its high elevation creates a side view that helps hide the fact it was incomplete.  That will no longer be the case after this project!

I began by purchasing thick styrene stock from Evergreen from the local hobby shop - I used 0.080" thick stock, and could have gone more thick as well.  Still, since it would be cut with an X-acto knife, keeping it on the thin side helped in construction.  I measured the dimensions of the bridge I had kitbashed from a Walthers double-track through truss bridge (https://onondagacutoff.blogspot.com/2017/08/on-overhead-bridges.html as well as https://onondagacutoff.blogspot.com/2017/11/filling-in-blanks.html) and cutting it to fit.

Note the notches - these are needed to fit the deck around the angle braces on the bridge that help keep the prototype structure (and the model structure) square.  These needed to be carefully measured to ensure proper fit.  

I added strips of 0.080" styrene cut to a scale 18" wide as curbing to the deck with Testors Plastic Cement, and joined the additional longitudinal sections with bracing and more glue.  Panels as well as patch outlines, which on concrete decks tend to be located near joints, were scribed in by backdragging the blade with a straightedge at each floor beam per the prototype.  Several test fits also helped ensure all was lining up correctly on the layout and on the bridge itself.  

I put aside the whole deck to cure and suddenly it was three months later.  I'm finding time in my forties can get away with things.  With some time over the last few days, though, each evening I headed down for more progress.  Paint came first, and I used several different sprays with colors I had on hand.  

Aircraft gray primer from Testors was used for the worn asphalt approaches. For the deck, which is modeled to resemble poured concrete, I took a tip from the military aircraft modelers who do a wonderful job with 'marbled' weathering by layering sprayed paints, starting with dark on all the seams and overcoating with several light coats of different grays.  This way the seams have a dark depth that they don't otherwise have.  I also added a layer of Rust-Oleum textured rust paint to give the surface some grit.  I also did the same process for the sidewalks with a different seam pattern per most prototype concrete sidewalks we see.   The result was a nice varied surface that resembled old concrete.  

Another military modeling tip was to use Pledge Future Shine instead of glosscoat ahead of decals.  I gave that a shot, too.

Brushed on per the instructions, the product flattened right out and created a high-gloss finish that was nice and thick.  (Normally I'd have sprayed it through the airbrush, but given the application I wanted it thicker anyway.)  On the curved section, I left the Future coat off, since I am painting those curved lines.

I used a large aluminum 'Brooklyn Brewery' wall sign as a template for my curves - it matched perfectly and gave me a constant curve for the cuts.  Cuts were made with masking tape on glass and carefully reapplied to the road.  A quick airbrush spray with an old bottle of C&O yellow from Floquil gave me good results, and the only paint bleed over was fixed with more hand-mixed gray along the yellow line.  

The remainder of the striping is decals from Summit Custom, and they worked very well.  Over several nights I installed them, again measuring carefully to keep all in line.

The gloss helps you see the nice texture added by the Rust Oleum which, while the particles are a bit large for HO scale, will give a nice 'not-perfect' feel once finished.   

Once the decals cured, I sprayed the whole deck with two coats of Testors Dullcoat and one of Tamiya Flat, to ensure no shine remained.  It covered perfectly and I moved on to weathering.  Roads get most dirty not where the tires roll but where the oil drips from engines and chassis build up over time - the middle of each lane.  I also added a few patches with gray paint mixed to appear like worn asphalt.

To my eye the decals really make it pop!  The weathering helps too, and the deck is coming together well now.  Last night I used canopy glue to cover the floor beams on the truss, where I used files and heavy small objects to hold the deck flush while the glue cures.

Once this cures up, the final step on the workbench will be to scratchbuild the New York State DOT guardrails and install them behind the curbing, and then for the final install on the layout.  That's my next project for the next month!

Each structure and detail takes time and I believe it's better to install items in stages rather than have them sit on the workbench for years.  This bridge is a favorite of several OC regular operators as well as Railroad Model Craftsman editor Otto Vondrak, and has been featured in RMC and MR photographs.  That's proof positive that there are times when it's better to work in stages on big projects like this one - the permanent scenic element can be the placeholder as well!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Day Job is Cool, Too

 Now and again there are snapshots in life that make you realize how cool your actual job is.  We that work for the railroad fill roles necessary to the operation of the company so that front line men and women can move trains.  My role is to set up employees with the people and resources they need to maintain stations, and so when elected or appointed officials come to see stations, my crews are front and center.

On Monday August 9, we prepared to host the US Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, at Somerville Station on the Raritan Valley Line.  Really!  It happened.  :-)

One of the snapshots online shows the crowd with some odd duck tagging along behind.  

Joking aside, I was able to meet him, shake his hand, and thank him for all he's done to push infrastructure investment with a transportation focus.  I offered use of our office space and sure enough, after his security detail inspected it, he used it for about two hours - a bit of fame for our little group!

Here's hoping we played a role in having commuter operations be front and center in his mind.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Surprise! Here's your History...

There are still some wonderful surprises in life!

The summertime is usually one where family and household activities take priority over layout time, and so it is this year.  With some capital improvements around the house it's an exciting (albeit exhausting) time.   We're finally doing a patio outside and a long-overdue kitchen spruce up with painting, new lights, cabinet repairs, floor polishing etc.  

In doing some moving to accommodate the work, I found an old collage from my mom's house, dropped off when Dad's new wife was doing some archiving of old family photos.  Seeing it was a landslide of distant memories!  Christmastime 1977 was held at my grandparent's home in Marcellus, NY, close to where mom grew up and a place of powerful memories for me - after all, this was the destination of many childhood trips, and functionally too the home from which I discovered the Chicago Line for the first time.  The old photos were labeled in some cases with the date and who was whom, but memory served for the latter.  Of course December 1977 found me just week short of one year old, so these aren't my memories; instead they are those of my parents - in some ways, more valuable to me than my own.

Here's my mom, seated, pregnant with my younger sister.  Standing at left is Sally, mom's older sibling, with their mother Rosemary Grimmelsman Dean, and with sister-in-law Colleen Dean at the right.  This is the kitchen of grandma's house on South Street in Marcellus, NY, a place I stayed many times in my youth, and from this place we'd ride in the cars of my uncles to see the trains at Dewitt, NY.

Also in the basement was my grandfather Bill Dean's small Lionel setup, with which I was always fascinated.  Here a few of my older cousins watch intently as Grandpa instructs.

I was too young to remember this gathering, as this photo shows - still learning to walk and almost one year old.  And yet my heart moves with viewing these images because so much of what was to come feels in my memory like these photos of their memories.  So much of my life was looking forward to these trips.  Quite a bit of the the energy around the Onondaga Cutoff is affected by trips to Central New York to see family.  

No family Christmas Eve is complete without a whole-family photo with a timer.  And so I bring you the Dean Family Christmas Eve, 1977, from the warm old colonial home of Bill and Rosemary Dean on South Street in Marcellus, NY.   The baby (me) is asleep but the cheer is alive and cousins are electric with excitement.  All 8 Dean kids are here:  Sally, Susie, Bill, Bob, Tom, John, Peter, and Carol.  

Sort of strange on a summer evening to be reminiscing of Christmastime but in any case I wanted to share these photos as part of the discussion of the true roots of the Onondaga Cutoff.  Yes, it's all about Conrail in Central New York, but that railroad and locale for me are tied up in the wonder and camaraderie of a big family, endless nights of fun, trials and tribulations and subsequent triumphs, and also the balance of loss and darkness that gives it all such a sense of light.  

The Abeles side was more local growing up, and the photos above bring me to want to share one from that side too.  Here's my great-grandfather's butcher shop on Ferry Street in Newark, NJ, in the 'down neck' section of town close to the Ironbound.  That's him on the left; with his son Richard (my grandfather) in Sunday-best clothes for the photo and his wife Ida frowning upon the scene.  

When we say 'down neck' in Newark, this is what we are talking about; north of the CNJ tracks and up to the bank of the Passaic River.  South of the CNJ tracks seen below would be considered 'Ironbound' as it was a triangle bounded by the PRR main line to the west, the CNJ to the north, and the PRR freight main (the Passaic and Harrimus Line) to the south.  

I'm grateful for memories and a sense of place, the notion of belonging to something without conditions, and with the idea that such a series of gifts is a foundation on which to build something for others to be part of.  

Mom's birthday is August 12, and that's a day I always fondly remember each year.  This year we get to be in Skaneateles for part of that. 

Big ideas, nearly limitless thoughts and dreams about life related to a model railroad and refreshed with re-discovery of a few old photos in the attic.  

Enjoy your summertime - more great OC news coming soon!