Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So Where Do We Go From Here?

The bin is now full of old layout.
The new layout design phase begins. Don't want to rush into this too quickly mind you. Technically we don't own the new house yet. We have to sell this one first. Conditionally offer don't ya know. But I feel positive.
I thought I'd share a few thoughts with you as I consider my options for the new layout.
Things I don't want;
Duckunders. I prefer comfort and it'll save my back when I standup too quickly when passing under.

Helix. I found that the helix on the old layout skewed the running times between stations. The longest run on the layout was the helix, and that was just not fun.

Things I do want;
2 level layout. I like the long mainline runs that I can get. I like looking at my trains.

Narrow benchwork. Single track mainline scenes only need be about 8-10 inches deep. Anything more is eyecandy.

2 7-8 track staging yards at each end. For flexibility in scheduling trains, the dispatcher can't be worried about whether or not there's an empty staging track available.

The wye at Jarvis. I came to realize that ops will be so much simpler if I just make that happen. Keep the 0-5-0 away except for emergencies.

These lists will grow and amend as time progresses, but it's a starting point. Trevor Marshall and I have already had a couple of good conversations about what we can do with the space that I may have, and a basic layout configuration is growing.
We've been looking at a large "island" design that is off of the walls completely. That will allow me to take full advantage of the basement access to the garage, and eliminate any need for duckunders.
A quick scale drawing suggests that I'll have enough running length  between towns to climb between levels without a helix.
I'll be exploring some of the newer LED lighting systems for illuminating portions of the lower levels.
Some things will remain the same.
The prototype. The Wabash in Ontario. I have no special connection to the Wabash. It's just that the operation here in Ontario is perfect for what I want to do. Timetable and Train Order operations with lots of opportunities to show off my freight cars.
Handlaid track. I like the look and the wallet appreciates the consideration. My buddy Tim Warris of Fast Tracks has made it so simple now. There's no good reason not to.

I've been considering backdrops. Lots of press has been devoted to photo backdrops of late. And they are spectacular to behold. But for me I find them a distraction. Trevor employs a simple cloth backdrop of a blue/grey tone and it really works for me. It's a neutral tone that your brain says "don't look at me". I really like the effect. I'm leaning towards a simple Hardboard backdrop, painted a blue-grey.

If this all comes together there will be some novel construction employed to make this work. Be sure that I'll be sharing this as we progress.
Step one. Sell this house.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

From This

To this

In 5 hours.
With a lot of help from my friends, Trevor Marshall and Chris Abbott.
They came down from Toronto to help with the demolition and removal of the layout. A bin arrives Monday, and from there it'll be but a memory.
Funny, my wife, Kate, is more upset about this than I am. I had a lot of fun building this layout. Learned a few things that I hope to apply to the next one. I definitely want to follow the same prototype and operational scheme, just want more distance between the towns. I haven't decided if it'll be another 2 level layout or how it will fill the available space. Have to move in first and get the shop spaces working.
They do come down a lot faster than they go up.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wherever did it all come from?

Yet another full day packing and prepping the layout for demolition.

I'm now at over 24 cartons of stuff! And I've yet to touch the business inventory.
Today was dismount all the lighting for the lower level. Pack all the books and magazines, scenery material, DCC components, electrical parts, signals, sundry paperwork. etc. And disassemble many Ikea Ivar shelves.
The bin is ordered for Monday. Over the weekend I'll be getting some help for the major surgery part of the job. Cutting up and removing the layout proper. I saving very little. Flex track in the staging yards, Bull Frog turnout controls and that's about it. The time required to salvage isn't worth the effort. I've got far too much to do.
At some point soon I have to get all my inventory sorted for Springfield.
Anybody want some 4' single tube florescents?

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Trio of Old Favorites

I just finished assembling 3 of my all time favorite resin kits.
The Railyard Models X58 boxcar.

When Gene Fusco first released these kits, I was blown away by the entire package. Some of the best casting ever done. The quality of the castings rivaled what you could do with injection molding. All the mounting holes for details were  spotted on the car body. Every resin part fit without adjustment.
And then there was the etchings. Brackets and braces for brake systems. Ladders, end platforms etc.
Exquisitely done and made the finished models an absolute joy to behold.
These kits are a joy to assemble.
Gene, in part, provided me with inspiration as to what a resin kit could be and should be. It's kinda too bad he chose not to continue with Rail Yard Models. But at least Intermountain Railway Co is gaining from his talents.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where do they all come from?

Well, you have a Mommy boxcar and a Daddy boxcar and they love each other very much...

I've spent 8 hours now packing freight cars away for the impending move.

Trying to make order out of the chaos. Good thing I kept all those kit boxes over the years. Many feet of bubble wrap is in order as well.

2/3rds of the way through. In the end the assembled rolling stock and locos filled 7 cartons and both of those touring boxes you see in the foreground that hold those awesome Plano boxes. 8 40' cars fit perfectly in them. Go see your pals at Walmart in the fishing tackle section.
Tomorrow we start on the kits. Just mine that is. Customer kits will not be touched for some time yet. I suspect that I'm in for 2 cartons of kits.
I have way too much stuff.
Bonus round, I found a few things I'd forgotten about. And a few things that really should go.
Whose idea was this anyway?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Last Run

I had a trio of friends over today for the last ops session on this incarnation of the Wabash in Ontario.
John Mellow, Roger Chrysler and Mark Hill, who have helped in many ways over the years to get this layout built certainly enjoyed our little session today. Trevor Marshall was supposed to take part in the fun as well, but internet issues on the home front required him to stay home.

Hopefully it won't take too long to get the layout started in the new house.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

One last look

Here's the progress that was made on the layout. Starting on Saturday Dec 13, the great dismantle begins. But one last ops session first.

It'll be nice to move to a basement that has full height. No more ducking under the bulkhead.
This is the furthest along I've ever gotten a layout. It actual runs like it was supposed to.
Kinda bugs me but it's all good.
I've already got the creative team starting on a new layout plan.
But, gotta sell a couple of houses first.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The News you may have been waiting for.

I know I've been waiting.
We are moving.
We have found a house that is priced right and is big enough for my wife, my mother-in-law and me.
So the Wabash layout will be coming down in the next month. But not before one last operation session next Friday.
There will be some upheaval with both Elgin Car Shops and Yarmouth Model Works. The new house has a basement room that is 12' x 18' which will house both operations. The room just needs drywall and paint. And then it'll be off to Ikea for tables and counters. Can't beat their prices.
The new basement has some wonderful option for a new layout. Same subject, the Wabash in Ontario, different arrangement in the basement. Dictated by the shape of the new basement.
From this view point to the bar in the back is about 30'. This part is 12' wide. In the back right of the photo is another space that is about the same dimension. All of which can be put to very good use.
So we're off on yet another life adventure.
There will be a brief period of time where both businesses will be in hiatus, but hopefully not too long.
I'll be sharing the ride on this blog.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"Benchwork in a Day" rides again

While not near as ambitious as previous excursions of BiaD, yesterdays little foray was just as important to the layout owner as my larger jobs.
Yesterday I was in Sarnia helping out my friend, Don Janes, with a little project. As his layout has evolved he's wanted to extend his mainline running options and create some hidden staging.
The first step was for Don to clean out the utility room and repurpose a shelving unit into a staging yard.
As seen on the right in the first image.
That was the easy bit.
From there, I took the reins. First was to create the mounting arrangement for the 6' by 10'0" long shelf on the left. So I just strapped the wall with 2' lengths of 1 x 3 to accept steel shelf brackets. Simple, no?
It would have been simple had the hammer drill not failed on the 2nd hole. I wound up having to drill the remainder of the holes for the Tapcon concrete anchors with a conventional drill. Makes the job 4 times as long and thoroughly unpleasant. But we prevailed.
With that done and a simple frame built for the maniline, a "bridge" was required to span across the open space.
It was important to Don that access to the furnace and water heater be maintained. Should either unit fail it will be a simple matter of pulling a couple of screws and lifting the "bridge" out.
We simply cut a 6" wide piece of 5/8" ply, laid it across the spanned area, cut the ends to right angles and then stiffened the plank with a piece of 1 x 4 on either side. It rests on simple cleats.
Don's happy. He can now lay track to his heart's content.
Stay tuned, dear readers. There maybe HUGE news in the offing in a couple of days

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It has to be done.

After some time spent on layout scenery today, the treeline and work on an orchard which I'll share when it's done, it was time to clean part of the layout.
The tricky part. The 2 staging yards.
It's sort of a mixed blessing task. I hate cleaning. But I hate dusty roofs and balky operations due to dirty track more. So I can accomplish a couple of things at once. Bonus round!
The process goes like this.
1- Move the train on the track out onto the layout.
2- While the train rolls by, dust the car tops with a shaving brush.
3- Use the bright boy block to wipe over the rails.
4- Vaccum
5- Rub a graphite stick over the rails.
6- Return train to it's staging track.
7- Repeat
That's 6 tracks in 2 staging yards.
Step 2
Step 3
Step 5
The graphite puts a film of conductive protection over the rails. It's a trick I learnt from Trevor Marshall and he gave them the stick of artist's graphite.
In a week or so, I'll have to clean the rest of the layout. OPs session coming up, but scenery is underway near Renton, so I'll leave it to the last minute.

Shifting Crap Piles

To steal one of Trevor's favorite phrases.
That was a large part of today's efforts.
The bonus, I found a box of trees from the old layout that I'd kinda forgotten about.
So I planted them.
They're not "Supertrees", but they're large Woodland Scenics trees done for me by my friend Brian Dickey. They lack the open, lacy appearance of a Supertree, and that works for me in this location. The tree line will act as a view block to trains coming and going from the eastern end staging yard.
I do want to get the air brush out and break up the monotone aspects of the foliage.
Wonder what I'll find in the next box I open?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Months of frustration

Have finally ended.
It all started during the last ops session we had here. (no I'm not blaming my crews.) The comment was made that since we're keeping the actual speeds of the trains slow, the digital sounds should be tweaked to at least make the units sound like they are working. A request that actually made a lot of sense to me.
Some conversations and consulting left me with the conclusion that the simplest solution would be to amend to speed curves and/or the Max Volt the motors would see. Things that can be very finely controlled with DCC decoders.
Now the problem comes in that all of the F7s have factory installed QSI decoders and the SW-8s have QSI decoders that I've installed. QSI uses a unique "extended addresses" for amending CVs. Not easily done without a Quantum programmer. Now I didn't need the programmer for the basic programming tweaks I wanted to do, but I certainly did for the some of the finer refinements I wanted to make.
So I went shopping. Much to my surprise, a Quantum Programmer wasn't that easy to find, at the time I was shopping around. But I did find one.
You get this little pc peripheral device, a USB cord, a software disc and a wall transformer for power. I installed the software as directed, plugged in the device and that's where the trouble started.
Turns out I had purchased an older unit, the USB drivers didn't much like Windows 7. I called QSI for some customer support. took 2 weeks of constant calling to finally speak to a human being. Josh, the owner, tried very hard to talk me through the various upgrade downloads required. But we kept running into the same problem. The SiLabs USB Driver software would not upgrade from 3.1 to 3.2. Josh told me that he'd have to talk to his software guru and he'd get back to me.
2 weeks go by and I had not yet heard from Josh. I called him. Took another 3 days of persistence but I got him. He coached me through a "fix".
Full denial.
Josh, very frustrated, told me he'd get back to me in a couple of days. I've yet to hear from back from him.
After waiting a few more weeks, I took the bull by the horns. I called my "Nerds on Site" guy, who has performed major pc surgery for me over the years and has an interest in model trains as well. He came over and looked at the problem. Had it fixed in 5 minutes. Turns out that he had to manually point the software upgrade to the right place to go.
So now I'm reprogramming DCC sound decoders after almost 3 months of frustration. I have to say that the QSI documentation is like reading old DOS manuals. Very poorly done. But fortunately the sound quality makes up for the shortcomings in the paperwork.
I've now tweaked half of my F7 fleet. They sound delightful. At typical layout speeds they growl away just like you'd expect when pulling a Red Ball freight down the main. Now I want to explore the auto brake squeal option, but I suspect newer chipsets might be in order.
I will tell this, if it wasn;t for the fact that I had 23 QSI decoders already in place, I would have happily replaced them all with Tsumani decoders.
The customer support from QSI was poor to say the least. But I do want to thank, Nick Kulp and Bob Menzies, 2 gentlemen from the QSI Yahoo Group who contacted me directly and helped me through some steep learning curve aspects of dealing with QSI products. Too bad they don't answer the phones for QSI.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

As it turned out

This project was actually fun.
A client sent me 3 factory painted O scale brass PRR hoppers to be weathered.
He included rather specific requests for the different looks he wanted for the 3 cars, along with some very useful colour imagery.

These are just 2 of the images provided.
The challenge for me was to replicate the various looks with the mediums I had at hand.
I started by giving all 3 cars an India Ink wash. From there each car was sprayed with different tones of dirty rust colours, varying each car.
Once that dried, out came the artist oils for 2 of the cars. I blotched the sides in a random fashion varying the colour and dirt patterns between the cars and then pulled it together with some more overspray.
The third car wanted that blue/gray steel look from washed away paint. This was the look that I struggled with the most in my mind. It's easy to apply paint, real hard to remove. I made a mask from cardstock and held it off the car side about 1/4" and sprayed a blue/gray mix through it. The mask softened the edge and the thinness of the paint captured the look. The car I worried the most about turned out to be the easiest to do.

I'm rather pleased with my efforts and I've no doubt the client will be as well. That's cause I've been sending him progress images as this job went along.
I'm always careful with "heavy" weathering. So easy to go too far.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Settling a debate

There's a debate on Yahoo STMFC right now concerning the color of the roofs on Swift reefers.
The instructions in the old Sunshine kits is a confusing when you compare notes between the wood sheathed cars and the steel sided cars.
I had the late Richard Hendrickson come to my rescue with a great colour photo.
So you decide.
Great photo. Wish I could remember what year it was taken.
Car #3577 shows a reweigh year of 1951
Car #5428 shows a reweigh year of 1950
This just in, the location is Sioux City, IA.
I should have indicated that the discussion is whether the Swift reefers had Mineral Red or black  roofs. The discussion is aggravated by the colour shifts that can happen in the printing process. This photo is also published in a book where the roofs look far blacker than in the image I show here.
This dialogue has the potential to get as hot as the ongoing debate about what is the correct colour for PRR freight car red. :-)

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Sledgehammer to Crack an Egg?

Maybe, you decide.
I've been having trouble with my Bullfrogs. The devices that I use to control my turnouts. Mechanically they're delightful. It's the micro-switches for frog polarity that are giving me a rash. They keep going out of trim. A week before the last ops session I went around and adjusted everyone of the little devils to make sure all was well.
On the day, 6 of the little beggars were out of alignment and interfering with reliable operations.
Enough I said, time for the big guns.
Time to go shopping with Tam Valley Depot. They make this delightful bit of electronic wizardry called the Frog Juicer which will automatically correct the polarity of the frog as a train crosses the gaps. Ya gotta love DCC. The stuff you can do.
I ordered enough Frog Juicers to do the entire layout.
This is what $580.00 worth of Frog Juicers look like.
Today, my pal Trevor came to town and we installed them all. Took us 5 hours to upgrade the whole layout.
One of the reasons for doing this work is that I'm getting to the point where I don't want to be doing this anymore. Getting a little old and cranky for the crawling around on the floor thing.
Everything now works as it should. Little blinky LEDs under the layout.
And of course Poo, our guard cat, had to make sure that the box of Supertree armatures didn't blow away in the frenzy.
He likes boxes and helping in the layout room when visitors are present.
For some the investment in the electronics maybe overkill. For me it was something I had considered at the outset when I started this layout. Should have listened to my instincts.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's about trust

My business, Elgin Car Shops, relies heavily upon trust.
The clients who send me their kits to build trust that I will treat their treasured kits with all the respect and care they are due. Many of the kits that come to me are irreplaceable.
I respect and honour that trust. And I understand when clients contact me, inquiring as to progress when they haven't heard from me in awhile. I'm very busy, but never too busy to allay the concerns of a client.
On the other side, I trust that my clients will pay me promptly once I invoice them for my work. The nature of a small business working across international borders makes it difficult to bring any real pressure to bear upon a client who hasn't honoured his side of the bargain.
So I have to resort to this forum.
Mat Wobig of Minnesota. You owe me money.
You have ignored my emails. I'd rather not have to create this posting but I feel no other option is available to me.
Send me a check and I'll take down this post

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More new parts from Yarmouth Model Works

In the ongoing effort to offer better detail parts, I'm pleased to offer these new parts.
6 etched stirrups and 2 etched running board styles.
 YMW-206 Branchline Postwar 40' boxcars. Will do 4 cars
 YMW-207 P2K 50' Autocars Will do 4 cars
 YMW-208 P2K Mill gon  Will do 4 cars
 YMW-209 Red Caboose X29 Will do 4 cars
 YMW-215 Intermountain SFRD reefers, includes hatch rests. Will do 2 cars
 YMW-216 Curved leg face mount stirrups. Will do 4 cars.
 YMW-250 40' Apex Tri-Lock with brake step
 YMW-251 40' US Gypsum with brake step

These are currently in inventory. More styles of running boards are forthcoming.
Ordering information is on the website,  http://yarmouthmodelworks.com/details.php