Monday, April 15, 2019

Revamped Corners

The KLR has a total of three 90 degree corners, only one of which is partially hidden by several industries.  When I first designed the layout, I intended to have all of the corners be rounded, however, upon building the first corner (industrial area) and installing the flexible backdrop, I realized that I was going to lose more space than I had planned.  So the decision was made to change the backdrop and have two intersecting backdrops which came together at a 90 deg angle. Not optimal but no loss of track or switching potential.

The other corners however were simply scenery, and I wasn't too worried about the background appearance as I didn't expect anyone to be hanging around these areas.  However, as I wrote about in the Addressing a Lingering Mistake, I ended up changing the track as it exited the old Eel's Creek module, which was actually the lead in to the curve and the back wall of the layout. In order to accommodate the change in track radius, I needed to rip out most of that corner, although I was able to save the portable rock walls that I was using.  However, after the track was fixed and I put some temporary scenery in place, I realized that I was going to need to change the backdrop.

The past several weeks have been spent removing the corner, including my two portable rock walls, in order to complete the scenery. The photo below is what the second corner just a few weeks ago. Boy when I look at now, I really wonder what I was thinking when I built it. Rocks meeting at right angles is just awful and I had intended to draw trees into the background but never got to that part of the project.  I probably should have built the original corner with a flexible backdrop, but alas, I didn't and there's little reason to go back and try to alter that part of the layout. 
90 deg Corner - still adding some rock castings to make the rock wall
Removable rock castings set onto Luann plywood backing - actually a good idea as this were removable and simply rest on the frame of the module
Here's what the revised corner looks like.  You can still see that it's a corner by looking at the surroundings, but it's a little less obvious.  Ground foam clumps are the new tree canopy and the upper level consists of re-purposed furnace filter evergreens. Still need to add more trees to the top but the scene looks at least a little more plausible.  While there's still a seam where the two sheets of backdrop meet, lots of trees will cover this up.

Removed the house in the foreground and opened it up to just scenery

Rock cuts are the old plaster castings reworked into the scene. Still need to color them some more. Clumps of ground fom were used to simulate the tree canopy while the upper level will completely be covered by trees.  Maybe some day I'll work on painting trees into the background.
Still need to add some fencing and possibly a dirt road to support the idea that folks can drive back to the fishing hole.  But that's another project in the works.

Static Grass Applicator

Every now and then, I get the urge to start some serious scenery efforts.  I've been borrowing my friend Lee's static grass applicator for several projects and really liked the results I've been getting. I liked it so much that when I saw a review for a new and slightly less expensive applicator being made by WWS, a British firm, I did some research and eventually bought one.  It appears that the applicator is also sold under the Peco name as the Scene PSG-1 Pro Grass Micro Applicator. I liked that the unit is slightly smaller than the Noch unit (which seems to have been the gold standard for many years), but has a much more durable feel than the strainer model sold by companies such as MicroMark. I don't doubt that the strainer type of applicator is good, it just feels a lot less substantial than the others.

So I started to lay some grass on portions of the paper mill, as well as ripping out some previously installed ground foam adjacent to the main line as it approached the paper mill. While I still have much more scenery to go, I'm very pleased with the initial results.

I started the process much the same as any area that I cover with ground foam. A latex paint (green base) was installed and allowed to thoroughly dry before coming back with the status grass. I started the first layer with the short, 2 mm static grass to give a short base coat to all of the area. I typically use some diluted matte medium or 50/50 solution of Elmer's white glue to provide the adhesion. I then followed up with an application of 4 mm high static grass, which was a slightly different color than the base coat. I should add that the base coat was a late summer/fall blend that is available in bulk from Scenic Express. All subsequent layers were also fall grass colors, however, they are sold under the Heki ?? name.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Preventative Maintenance

How many of us actually have and implement a preventative maintenance program for our railroad?  I know I have one, as my using the Easy Model Railroading software reminds me that I have entered some dates periodically.  But have I really implemented a PM system?  For those who know me, I work in the chemicals business, where PM systems are taking very seriously as part of maintaining equipment operational and ultimately quality control.

So one of my winter projects was to drag out all of my tank cars, and start performing PM activities on them.  Of course this morphed into adding some weathering efforts and deciding what to do with several of those pesky duplicate tank cars. With a trip to several hobby stores and swap meets in the plans, I ended up with enough new decal sets that I was able to repaint and re-letter all of my duplicates.  So I know have six brand new tank cars available for operations.

What about the weathering?  Well that work will take a little bit more effort, but I have been weathering wheels, trucks and axles as I can.  To date, approximately 1/3 of my 32 available tank cars have had weathering applied this month and I really will try to get the remaining done in the weeks to come.

At the same as I complete the weathering efforts, I have inspected all of the fittings, wheels, trucks, etc and made repair efforts.  Again I anticipate having all of these efforts completed in the next 3-4 weeks.  Not a bad start, but then I look at all of the remaining 120+ pieces of rolling stock and realize that I really need to start a more periodic and routine PM program.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Adding Wood Chip Gondolas to the Roster

New Additions to the Layout

Woodchips are generated by lumber mills and separate purpose built woodchip mills in many areas of the U.S. and Canada. Most are used in paper or cardboard manufacture. While I have a paper mill on my layout, I chose not to model the wood chip portion due o space constraints.  Currently wood chips are received at the mill in the Yard and the loads removed after a set number of days before being returned to the yard as empty's.  Wood chips are received from either an off-site source, or from the Muskoka saw mill (on the layout).  As I discussed in another blog entry, I currently have four wood chip car resin kits manufactured by Alpine Railway Shops of Kettleby, Ontario, which were marketed as being representative of rolling stock used by CN and BCR for saw mills and paper mills. I have several additional car kits which are modeled after the BNSF cars to also handle chips.

A common variation of CP’s woodchip gondolas rebuilt from a 52′ gondola with extended sides.  Bill Grandin photo.

I recently found myself with three 52' gondola kits which I have tried to sell at several railroad shows, but unfortunately no takers. So rather then seeing them sit for months until the next show, I decided to try my hand at kitbashing these kits to resemble a photo I had seen of a CP rebuilt gondola that was placed into wood chip service. These would become lettered in the ONR, although to the best of my knowledge the ONR never had any cars that even approached this configuration.

From what I have been able to research, in the 1970's, CP Rail began to convert some randomly selected old boxcars to woodchip cars; this was done through the early 1980s.  These cars were made by cutting away the old roof and adding an extension. Later cars did not receive the extensions to the sides.  They also took an unknown number of 52' gondolas and extended the sides.

The story for my cars is that CP rebuilt these wood chip gondolas with extended sides from a standard gondola.  After some years of use in the north, CP parked them on a siding for lack of use.  The ONR then purchased them and repainted them to a woodchip only service marks that you see.
Proto 2000 Gondolas getting ready for conversion

Adding bracing for wall extensions. I didn't like the looks of this so the other two cars were done by adding bar stock

No matter how carefully you cut, there are always gaps. Next step some sanding followed by painting

Finished product in chevron scheme
Finished gon in the progressive paint scheme and added Wood Chip Service Only. Note I carried all of the ribs forward on this car after realizing that the gon looked odd with only alternating ribs. Still need to make a load for this unit

Friday, November 2, 2018

ONR Convention - Warm up Trip to White River

With the ONRHT&S convention scheduled for Kirkland Lake this year, I had originally planned for a few days to railfan my way up to the convention as well as to ride VIA's train 185/186, with its two Budd cars that travel from Sudbury to White River.  I have photographed this train several times over the years, but never have been able to ride it.  Bram Bailey and I had decided to jointly make our way to the convention this year, and it didn't take much for me to convince Bram that we should make this side trip to White River.  Somewhere along the planning, we mentioned our plans to Lloyd Leonard and soon we had three ONRHT&S members making the trip.  So the Monday before the convention, Bram and I headed towards Ontario from Ohio.  With tickets purchased long before the ride, Bram picked me up at 0100 (yes that's 0100 dark) to begin our trek east and northward into Ontario and our destination for the day being Sudbury.  As many of you know, Bram lives on the far west side of Cleveland while I live on the far east side.  In a few hours we found ourselves talking to the officer at the Peace Bridge about where we were headed and what we were planning to do. I can only imagine what he thought, maybe something like what kind of folks to I get crossing so early in the morning and going to ride a train?  After passing into Ft. Erie, it was onwards to beat the Toronto traffic and get northward of all of the commuters. A quick stop at Tim Horton's and we were ready to begin our day railfanning around Perry Sound before ultimately landing in Sudbury.  A few trains were caught south of Sudbury, as well as exploring some of the old CP trackage before we decided to head north.  Of course after setting our departure time from Perry Sound after sitting there hoping to catch a shot of a train coming across the CP trestle that spans the river, our railfanning pal Murphy's Law came along and sent a NB CN train while both our camera's were packed and we were ready to leave.

Tuesday morning we met Lloyd at the Sudbury station, and after a small delay, our train arrived and we boarded with about a total of close to a dozen passengers.  As most of you may know, the VIA train shuttles back and forth between Sudbury and White River three trips each week.  The train provides flag stop service to many remote locations only accessible by rail on the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline.  The journey is some 300 miles in length and averages about 10 hours travel time as it treks through Ontario.  The typical equipment are Budd Rail Diesel Car (RDCs), using an RDC-2 (6219) and RDC-4 (6250).  Lloyd mentioned that he had ridden the train when an extra RDC had been included.  While it’s a long journey, there were several stops at established stations such Chapleau as well as the opportunity to photograph some meets with CP Rail freight trains.  I also used the time to take some photos of the landscape, in hopes that I could add some of that Ontario flavor to my home layout. 

Brief stop at Chapleau

One word of advice for the trip is make sure that you make motel reservations prior to the trip and bring along enough munchies for a two-day trip. While White River has a grocery store, selections were a little limited, although a sufficient stash of crackers and peanut butter was available to make the author happy, especially for the return trip. 

So after our return to Sudbury Wednesday afternoon (we actually arrived ahead of schedule), it was on to Englehart for the evening and meeting fellow convention attendees Thursday evening.