Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Moving them Doggies

Just when you think you know your railroad, you stumble on some new information that is trans-formative.  Pacific Electric and you think interurban and a bunch of old Southern Pacific Railroad freight cars rumbling around downtown Hollywood.  That's a lot of it, but as I've hinted in other posts, PE was more than a downtown guy.  Even if you are not interested in urban modeling there's a portion of a line someplace that is out in the sticks.  Doing research on a completely different project I found a photo of a Livestock Car with a PE placard on it.  Wow...

PE 8501
Well, I can only assume some fresh meat was delivered via these cars and not the pony's given the availability of more specialized Heavyweight Horse Cars.  This car adds a whole new dimension to my layout planning and an interesting business to research.

These cars were part of the SP S-40-4/5 Stock car order placed in 1912 to replace older 36' cars.  Built by a number of Harriman Companies, Standard Steel Car, Pullman and Ralston Steel Car they were considered revolutionary at the time.  Anyway about 900 of these cars were built and most of the SP combined roads had them including T&NO, PE, SPde Mexico, NWP and several others.  So you can see, once you have a kit you have the opportunity to add some interesting freight options.  From what I got from Tony Thompson's book was that PE had 10 of these cars but as expected little in the way of history or movement.  I wonder if I did a search for slaughter houses in Los Angeles in the 1940's what would come up?  

Here is a scan of the drawings out of an old CBC.  These are also in Thompson's Stock Car book.

Now, how to model it.  I was looking for a scratch building project and though this might be the one, but looking at what was available I found that the Red Caboose makes the S-40-5 and that's pretty close to perfect.  So I saved me some work, but I still have to dig around on line and find what stock is still available.  Two or three will work just fine for me.

Next step is figuring out just how to use these and what kind of business it could serve.  There's no shortage of info on S-40's on line and a few years ago a really nice brass model was made available in O scale by RY Models.  

If nothing else these cars marked in PE will be interesting down at the club and make a nice discussion point for those interested.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Thirty two inches of freight house

So I have the left end of the switching layout roughed out and today I turned my attention to the right side.  I needed to both create multiple freight destinations and fill up some wall space and o finally had the opportunity to get "large". I also decided to go about retro and made the whole thing out of card and poster stock.   I started doing models for my GI Joes out of Kentucky Fried chicken buckets and old C Rat boxes my dad brought home.  This was a bit more sophisticated but the tactile pleasure of working with card stock was just as satisfying. 

The warehouse is generic but has a SoCal feel to it and I started with .06 Strathmore for the structure and other thicknesses of Bristol Board for layers and detail.  The roof was art downloaded from Scale Scenes and printed on heavy matt card using the photo setting on the printer.  Great stuff.  So one the two sections were put together I sprayed them inside and out with auto primer to seal from moisture left to dry and then painted white.  
Card models before painting.  
Just primed and set aside to dry 
Color layers and weathering.  I used masking tape on the painted surface to chip and pull up the paint.  You have to do this befor the paint sets. 

Lastly I addressed the end of the module with a bridge over the tracks.  The back wall under the bridge will be fitted with black card stock to mask the end.  The bridge will have a road and sit a flat building to help get rid of the rush of the road as well 

With the large we also need the small.  Here is a small yard structure made from card stock and Grandt line castings.  

Adding details

Friday, January 22, 2016

Switching Layout Ops.

Now that I put the cart in front of the horse, or laying track for a switching layout without thinking about the mechanics of it all, comes Lance Mindheim's "How to Operate a Modern Era Switching Layout".   I think, so far I did alright blasting ahead like I did after a quick look at his book that arrived today.
I think, Lance may have redeemed himself with me with this book.  I've questioned the value of his pubs in the past, especially the book on 8 Realistic Track Plans.  I felt it very light for the cost and nothing really earth shaking.  Seemed the layouts had the same basic concept done 8 ways.  I may have been too harsh, give that I forwarded a design for a friend that utilized one of his track plans, with some minor revisions.  But still, I will be the last person to ever say Lance is not at the top of his game and has much, much more to offer us in the future.  Just remember Lance, use up all those pages...noting more annoying than blank space :)   Looks like another Oregon Winter weekend, ie, driving rain and snow in the hills around us, so I plan on taking time and digging into this tome and figuring out what I can do to make my shelf layout that much better.

A good investment in research materials is the Model Railroader Magazine Digital Archives.  Coupled with their search engine, it is possible to look up articles on switching layouts and ops there, read the actual articles on line (or print) at your leisure.  You have to buy a subscription to the parent magazine, but get that digital as well.  I've taken to printing the pages I want to keep and filing them so I don't need to dig through stacks of magazines for content I need.  I subscribed to both the digital archives and the video archives at the same time and eventually dropped the latter.  I'm not a fan of their video productions as they tend to focus on making the staff member the star of the show instead of the subject...but it is what it is.   I regret ever subscribing to the video content because I get almost daily emails wanting me to re up and calls almost daily as well from call centers in Milwaukee.  I don't answer so I can only assume that's what they are. 

Anyway, my goal is to come up with a Car Card system that is not too detailed.  I doubt I have anything that would warrant friends coming over to do "Ops" at the moment, so I only need the basics.  More to follow.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Switching Layout underway

All of us who are "layout space challenged" wrestle with how much of our imagined empire we can actually build in a way that is satisfying and keep our interest.  I have to confess I'm a habitual layout builder and over the past couple of years started and pulled out more layouts then I want to admit to.  Thank goodness for Homosote and track nails :)  Learned early never glue anything down. 

In my quest I looked at and considered hundreds of ideas.  In a way I pined for the old days in the 1970's when I was a kid, having access to almost not information or the Internet.  Layout decisions were pretty easy back then, no second guessing, no new web blog that pulled you in another direction...  Oh well.

I think there's a sweet spot between the usual "Rat's Nest" switching layout and some of the anemic shelf designs that Lance Mindheim has.  The former is a product of wanting to cover as many options as possible in a small space the the latter a more "dioramic" approach where the scene seems to take over operations.  Both have their place and I am in no position to criticize folks who actually get things done.  Just an observation folks.  Every one has their sweet spot.  I think if I had an outside corner I would have totally ripped off Keith Jordan's "The Patch" and called it "The Patch Too"  lol.  Really, an outside corner really helps block two sections so they can be operated separately and more realistically.
Imaged borrowed from the internet :)

So not having this set up I decided to go ahead and keep my layout more rural than urban and save the Brand Blvd theme until I had a larger place to build it right.  A few years ago I mocked up a layout using the Pike City Layout featured in a hobby mag I had in my pile.  This seemed to have all I wanted given the space I had and things looked good until life got in the way...and a move back to an apartment.  SAD I was.

So this is the Pike City Belt Line drawings and the area I ended up utilizing almost exactly is outlined.  Because this became a shelf layout, I got rid of the structures in the center and will eventually have transfer docks here and there so as to not block the view or operations.  Along the back wall will be the obligatory huge warehouse with a number of businesses  in place to offer spotting challenges.

Here is a rough sketch of what I have built now:

I've begun landscaping on the left side as shown in past posts and will start on the other side soon.  Keeping it basic is the plan here, I just want something to operate on, show off modeling projects and eventually, be able to build this into a home layout.  This is built on two 18" wide bi-fold doors placed end to end and covered with acoustic ceiling tiles.  I'm currently trying to figure out a good way to possibly make curved ends and a staging yard in the back so I can use this like a display layout utilized so much in European trade shows.  That discussion is for later.  

So far, basic operations have been successful...two yards on the right give me both storage and industries to switch to...freight coming out of the right side of the layout are spotted on the run around (which is larger than shown , 2 cars will fit nicely and then pushed into place.    The back long track will feature several spots to place cars making movements out of the Sunkist packing plant a challenge. 

Industries are still in flux at the moment.  I have this ongoing love affair with tank cars and I think I have room on one of the short spurs in the center of the layout to put a small smudge pot oil depot and two cars can be spotted there.  Packing plant in place and shipping and receiving along the back wall to the right.  I have started working on the small gravel drop off installing a Tyco coal unloader in between the rails.  A hole has been cut and a lid for a jar screwed to the underside of the layout to allow collection of the gravel dropped by the operating cars.  These are talked about in an earlier post.  Nice thing about these cars is the opportunity to actually load and off load something.  Per Bruce Kelly, a trip to the coast to get round sand will be a must since normal sand and ballast have sharp edges and tend to bind when off loading. 

I have been researching ways to do operations, car cards, rules and regs and I figure that will be a huge project.  I will need to dedicate at least 20 cars to the layout to make this work.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Planting Trees

Three Iconic Southern California trees; Palm, Eucalyptus and Citrus and modeling any one of these presents a challenge even for the most seasoned micro botanist.  I've been to a lot of layouts and you see some amazing ground work, structures and working signals, but the trees seem like an afterthought.  I propose that they need as much attention and forethought as any industry might require...maybe more.

I've posted before about fabricating Palms and thanks to having a Laser at my side, making them is more an issue of finishing ground work and structures to figure out how many and what size I will need.  I've made a few dozen, some given away to John Signor and Bruce Petty, others stashed away in the magic closet of  "not finished yet" projects.

Eucalyptus trees are very distinctive and will require a good long weekend to figure out the best way to represent the twisted branches, multi colored bark and unique canopy's.  But that headache is for another day.

Orange trees are pretty straight forward.  These are revenue producing and as such are taken very good care of.  You can't approach it like you were doing the edge of a forest, chaos will not work here.  I built a small layout in N scale several years ago and needed a small orchard on one end of it and found wood beads at the local craft house that seemed to be the right size.  I followed the technique that I will outline in this post and within a short afternoon, had more Orange trees then I needed.  They came in handy as trades a few months later.  :)

In HO scale I found your run of the mill Ping Pong balls seem to have the right size for a medium growth orchard.  They are inexpensive and easy to get, plus they are light.  Below is a shot of the materials needed to pull this off.

Here's the list:

Ping Pong Balls
Grey Primer
Gloss Hunter Green Spray Paint
Medium Green course turf
Woodland Scenics Oranges
2" Dry Wall Screws and a couple boards to drive them through
Super 77 Spray Adhesive
Clear Acrylic Flat Spray Paint
Short length medium green static grass and applicator.
Optional.  Practice Tee's and brown spray paint if you want to have some sort of root system.

So this is what we are looking for when we are done.  I've only had time to finish a few of these to this state, but you will get the idea.  I attache these right to the ground with white glue...if you are industrious you can attach pins or screws to affix them too.

The following photo's show the process.  Briefly, you drive the screws through some flat wood to make spray posts.  Drill small holes in the bottom of the ping pong balls and screw them in place.  I made up 4 sticks to keep things flowing.  Be sure to wear gloves and work outside if you will get real stinky, real quick.  Once the balls are on the screws, give them a good coat of Hunter Green.  Working with one stick at a time, respray with another coat of paint and then sprinkle the green turf on all sides. If you paint is wet you will find the turf holds just fine.  I usually give it another coat of green and re-sprinkle to give the tree a bit more mass.  Next I give the trees a dusting coat of Super 77 and add the Oranges.  Set aside and work on the other sticks you have.  By the time you get back to it things have begun to set up.  I give the trees a coat of clear flat spray making sure to dust it at first.  The orange coloring on the scale fruit is water base and will run if they are flooded with paint or water.  A dusting coat keeps the colors intact.  When this is done I give it one more light coat of Super 77 and then using the Static Grass applicator add a little material to fluff things up a bit.  You don't need the applicator to do this frankly, I put it in a large shaker and sprinkled it over the trees and got the same results.  Next, set aside and let dry...usually a day or so before applying them.
Once your set up, these go really quickly.  I think I did 50 trees in two hours to this point.  They still require the last step, the static grass, but you get the idea.  At this point I spritzed on a little Super 77 and filled in holes and gaps where necessary.  These are pretty bright at the moment, once the static grass is applied, they will darken up a bit.

Here are some placed for spacing on the "production" end of my layout.  This weekend I hope to get the static grass on these and then plant them for good.  I also need to change the sign on my re-purposed Yard Master's office.  I scratch built this last year and I think this will work better near the grove actually.