Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Blending Progress Together


One of the reasons there is continuous progress on the Onondaga Cutoff is the generous donation of time and effort from several talented modelers.  While the operating sessions require hours of preparation and then the participation of 12-16 people to make the railroad run, I also have several guys that have been a big help with scenery.

Jason W., who built the I-481 Interstate highway scene for me, is one of those guys.  He's been instrumental in helping with backdrops and he built the highway scene off site and once it was completed, he helped me install it.  The edges were left without ground cover, and now I am working to blend in the edges with the adjacent layout surfaces in order to create a seamless scene.


To the left here we see the double-track main line, with I-481 to the right.  The crescent-shaped gap is what needed to be addressed.   I cut cardboard strip to fit the gap, using trial and error to get it close.  Hot glue is a great way to fasten cardboard strip to the plywood subroadbed.   I worked carefully to minimize damage to the surrounding details.


Using a small hot glue gun helps in tight areas like this.  Jason's work in the foreground is really going to 'pop' to the viewer's eye once the scene is blended in to the surrounding territory.


 Here is a view from the other direction, showing the crescent-shaped embankment formed by the cardboard.  This is the rough fit, with some gaps above that are best covered with plaster gauze.


Once the glue cooled down, I used plaster and gauze to overlay the rougher edges on the cardboard.  This will cure overnight, after which I can paint it black, and add the gravel and stone edges with appropriate weeds and ground cover.

Receiving top-notch help from excellent modelers like Jason is a huge benefit to the Onondaga Cutoff and it is a pleasure to showcase his talent along the route on my main line.  Without Jason's assistance, the railroad wouldn't be anywhere near as far along as it is.  Thanks Jason!   And, thank you to all the viewers that take an interest in progress here.  More scenery progress coming soon!

~RGDave

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Step Forward, Then Back, Then Forward Again

I've written here before of my ongoing focus on doing things once - not having to re-do projects due to mistakes or less-than-stellar work.   In a cumulative hobby like model railroading, progress of any sort adds up to great results, but having 'do-overs' sets us back.  Well, you win some, and you loose some.


Here's an image of ML-482 rolling downgrade in the morning through CP 277.  This past week I had to 're-do' the ditch light installation on the lead locomotive, Conrail SD50 6712.  One of the ditch lights had burned out.  Frustrating!  I opened the unit up and found that one of the wire leads had become entangled in the drive shaft, which had sheared it right off.  A simple fix, and a good reminder to tape wires out of the way of moving parts.

However, several hours later, the other light went out.  Now I'm getting really frustrated.  I decided to look at the manual, and thanks to Alex Lang's advice, learned that the resistors on LED lights will only support one LED.  I had wired both bright surface mount LEDs to the same resistor, and burned out the channel in the decoder.  No good!

Thankfully, JMRI's DecoderPro easily allows us to re-map functions to different buttons.  Since there were other light function channels that had not been affected by my mistake, I remapped the ditch lights to that function, and wired each LED to its own resistor.  A test showed we were good to go.

Here too are shots of ON14's power in Onondaga Yard:


And, a shot of the maintainer's view of the CP282 westbound signals, from the cat walk:


Sometimes, even our best intentions can still lead to mistakes, and in those cases we need to take a breath, learn from the mistake, and move on.  Lessons learned can be worth the cost of a mistake, and in this case there is no doubt.  As more ditch lights come to the fleet, this lesson will save me plenty of mistakes to come!

~RGDave

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Moving Trains on the Onondaga Cutoff

Here are a few videos for you all of the last operating session.  These are minimally processed, taken straight off the iPhone I had available, but I think they give a good sense of what we do each month, when we model the operations of a certain day and night in 1994 or 1995.  

First, we have Conrail TV-9, a westbound piggyback train from Boston, coming upgrade through the approach-lit 275 intermediate signals as he approaches CP 277:

video


And, here is TV-556 coming downgrade at CP 277 later that day, with an all-SP (and D&RGW) consist up front as was typical for that train in this era:

video

The operating sessions remain some of my favorite ways to enjoy this hobby, combining modeling with operation and personalities.  We are able to re-create the atmosphere of the railroad on a model of it, and the experience is quite reminiscent of Conrail.  That will only improve as scenery grows more complete and as the crews get more familiar with the operation.   As we say often on the OC, the best is yet to come!

~RGDave

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Seeing the Light


Recently, a few regular operators referred to the area west of CP282 as a 'tunnel.'  I started to think about that a while back, and have long planned to make some changes there to better illuminate the area to suggest the main line curves into the woods.  This image shows the issue - trains disappear into a dark cavern even with the lights fully lit.

This is a challenge given that there are no tunnels anywhere near Syracuse on the Conrail main line.  New York Central called this the Water Level Route, and the only tunnels on the main line are east of Albany!



Based on a few ideas I'd read in Model Railroader in articles written by well-known author Paul Dolkos, the right combination of scenery and lighting behind the backdrop can effectively trick the eye so that it hardly notices the backdrop at all.  The main line looks to continue out of view, but on the far side of the backdrop.   The trick for me was to do that with some sort of dimmable light that was evenly spread through the visible area behind the backdrop, allowing this lighting to compliment the room lighting for my overnight operations.

The Internet revealed a number of dimmable LED light strips - a perfect solution.  Some even came with a kit for quick installation, and remote control operation.   I settled on one commonly available at Home Depot.  After installing a tree canopy on the far wall, and installing the LED lighting in a back-and-forth manner to increase the lumens in an even manner, I turned on the remote and the results really were remarkable.


It is hard to imagine I did without this for so long!

~RGDave


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Finalized Fascia

A few images for you of the final fascia installation, now painted, and awaiting scenery construction.  The railroad has come a long way in the last few months and it's exciting to see it come together! Completing the facia is a dramatic upgrade.

First, an overview of the areas near Iroquois Paper, and across the aisle to the open running areas between Onondaga and Fayetteville:



Now an image showing the Blue Circle Cement plant and Fayetteville up behind:


Next up, a closer view at Iroquois, showing the steps immediately following fascia installation.  I use hot glue to secure a web of cardboard strips, which will form the rough support for the terrain above.


Once the strips are secured, I use plaster-soaked gauze and newspaper laid across the webbing to represent the ground surface.  A second layer firms this up and once dry, can be painted a dark earthy color before installation of static grass or other scenery.



Now that all the plaster is in, the next step is paint and some base scenery - which will be part of another post!  :-)


What a wild and crazy month it has been.  It's a good thing to see that the layout construction has continued despite the many changes that have come lately!  I'm hopeful that I will fit a few more good improvements in before the yardwork season starts.

~RGDave

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A New Addition!

I'm excited again to report some wonderful news - a new baby boy has joined the Abeles ranks, as Peter Auden Abeles was born on February 26!   Mom and baby are doing very well!


As we had hoped, Lil' Pete was quickly adopted by his sister and brother, both of whom are thrilled.  It is a busy, busy time, but we have lots of love and support.


Susie and Teddy both spend a lot of time helping with the new little one, and it's adorable, although Pete could sometimes maybe use a bit of space.


In all seriousness, Susie is a great helper and loves her little-little baby brother!


Darker news, poorly timed, is that I need disc replacement surgery.  I have an acute herniation of the C5/C6 disc which had been causing significant back and shoulder pain on my right side, and recently led to weakness in my hand and numbness in my right thumb.  Scary stuff.  Surgery was urgently scheduled for 3/9, and I am so thankful for the fact that it could not have gone better.  I feel much better already!

More OC progress coming soon!
~RGDave

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fascia and the Creative Process


Long winter evenings - despite many having temperatures akin to April - are good times to make progress on the layout as they allow longer work sessions with the kids going to bed early.  Some of the work sessions recently involved me standing in front of the layout, staring at the areas pictured below, and trying to visualize how the finished product would look given the constraints.

The two levels here are different scenes on the railroad, at different locations - so, while I want the area to look organized, I wanted the fascia to continue to provide a visual cue that the top scene is indeed independent.  Further, since crews need to lean over the bottom level to throw turnouts at Iroquois Paper on the top level, this fascia needed to be extra sturdy as well.

Here's how it turned out:

I use 1/8" tempered hardboard for backdrop and fascia construction.  It is hard and smooth, but flexible so that it can be adapted to the benchwork behind it.  As purchased it is a brown color, seen here after cutting and installation but before paint. 

Layout construction - and all of model railroading - is an interesting juxtaposition of creative processes.  On one side it is very linear and organized.  Mechanical repairs, track laying, wiring, decoder installation - these are all activities that have a defined start and finish, more of a linear approach.  On another side, though, we have a totally different creative process when we are visualizing the layout edge, designing and installing scenery, or applying weathering.  These are much more subjective and decidedly NOT linear, with no definite 'finish' line.  


The shot above does a good job showing the variety of sight lines that come together here, which is a big reason why it took me such a long time to see in my mind.

I decided on a thin strip of fascia on the top level, with a larger one on the bottom, using gentle curves to blend into the larger fascia on the layout edge under the interstate highway scene.  Here's a closer view looking down on the new construction. The image below shows some of the supporting benchwork and bracing - I used a 2x3 stud across the main span, and a smaller 1x2 to the left where less strength was needed, and more clearance helped.


With this fascia installed, the next step is to finish fascia on the last stretch of the layout that remains without it - the new branch line and associated benchwork out of view to the right.  I am hoping to install much of that today and be ready to paint all the new fascia this weekend.   It will be a major visual upgrade and help to inspire scenery construction through the rest of the winter.

All of this is also happening in concert with my family expecting the arrival of our third child any day now.  We will be family of five - a whole new level of chaos!  That promises to stretch layout time, but on the other hand, painting fascia sounds like a fun project for my older two kids.

Never a dull moment here!

~RGDave