Saturday, September 17, 2022

Model Railroad Goals Reinforced at the AWMM

In my last post, I referenced some personal goals reinforced by attending the Alleghany Western Mini-Meet last weekend; in this post I want to explore how the event, sponsored by Division 12, MCR, NMRA, helped me revisit the goals for the 4th Subdivision. 

Fields outside Wheelerville on Mike Hauk's S&NY

The Model Railroad as a Three-Dimensional Painting

In planning my new layout, my focus on benchwork, electrical planning, and operations are the issues I have been posting and thinking about. Prepping for and giving my clinic on backdrops; seeing Neil Schorr's clinic, Capturing the Commonwealth; and visiting Mike Hauk's Susquehanna & New York all led me to reevaluate an unstated primary goal for my model railroad. Working towards creating the 4th Subdivision as a three-dimensional artwork is a (if not the) major interest, priority, and goal for me as I start construction. To reiterate a "learning point" from last fall's simple shelf: the visual appearance, presentation, and the role of backdrops on my railroad are all important to me and my "vision" of what I am trying to achieve. In my mind, Mike's S&NY is a model railroad to emulate in terms of a model railroad as three-dimensional artwork. 

Operational Goals

While striving for the 4th Subdivision to be aesthetically pleasing and hopefully achieving a realistic appearance, my model railroad is not designed as a static display. Operations somewhere along the continuum between game play and recreating prototypical railroad jobs is important to me. But, what kind of operations should I strive for when I fall towards the novice end on the operator's spectrum? Some of my experiences at the AWMM helped with getting closer to an answer to that question. 

The experience of touring several (but not all) of the model railroads helped me to prioritize a bit. Both Brad White and Ray Brown are planning/building large, multi-deck railroads designed to prototypically represent the trains of a PRR line and a portion of the BLE respectively. I am not that much of a die-hard operator. Ed Cronin's single deck BLE railroad combines scenery with operations in an enjoyable manner, but again, the operational focus is on movement of trains in a prototypical manner. All three of their railroads' operational focus is on the movement of trains and bringing the entire railroad to life with multiple operators required for that experience. While I can appreciate their goals, modeling skills, and smooth running trains, a large, train-focused model railroad is not my goal. A smaller branch line with an emphasis on switching and commodity/industry relationships continues to be what I am attracted to, although I will continue to maintain the caveat of future flexibility.

The assistant yardmaster in the hat, and Jason, the yardmaster on the right
Photo by Lee Farnsworth

Another feature of the AWMM was an operations session at Dale Desser's railroad on Saturday night after the activities at the Ambassador Center. Even though I was somewhat anxious about fitting in with more experienced operators, serving as assistant yardmaster was not only fun but also one of the events of the AWMM that most helped me reinforce some of my notions for planning the 4th Subdivision. Jason, the yardmaster, was great to work with, and although I didn't have much prior experience, I really enjoyed the yard work! Again, the notion of having the option of both switching and classifying cars right from the start mentioned in Byron Henderson's, Fun Ops on a Small Layout post is another priority reinforced by the opportunity to operate on Dale's railroad at the AWMM. I had several other takeaways from that ops session. One was that although I see some definite plusses in using JMRI Operations Pro, the printouts (manifest/switchlists) are not correct for my railroad's time period, and I want to be able to utilize going down the rabbit hole of researching the industries and their suppliers on my railroad. Another takeaway is that I do not want duck unders, crawl unders, or pop-up access, nor do I want trains disappearing for extended times on their way to staging. While I am planning to have staging hidden from the main layout space, I want to have easy access by walking around a corner or into another alcove of the basement. 

Coming away from last weekend's trip to the AWMM, I think that I am clearer about my goals for myself and for my railroad, the 4th Subdivision. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Personal Goals Reinforced at the AWMM


Last weekend I traveled to Erie, Pennsylvania, across the state, to attend the 2022 Alleghany Western Mini-Meet (AWMM). The event, sponsored by Division 12, MCR, NMRA, is probably the last event with my former division with which I will contribute any kind of leadership or institutional knowledge. The AWMM was a one-day mini-convention with model railroad tours, operating sessions, clinics, merit award judging and model displays, and raffle sales. I participated in at least a smattering of all the offerings provided.  In looking back at the event, I realize that it was a valuable experience for me, both in reinforcing or refocusing personal goals for myself as a NMRA member/model railroader and reinforcing several primary goals for my new version of my model railroad: the 4th Subdivision of the Cascade Division of the Great Northern Railway.

Personal Goals:

  1. I do want to take more seriously working towards some NMRA AP certificates. For example, I can use the clinic I gave towards the "Author" category. In writing up the accompanying label for the scratchbuilt bridge that I displayed, I got started with the first of the six non-judged structures for the "Structure" category.
  2. I participated with the judging committee, where we evaluated four entries for merit awards. Without going into details on that, I want more training as a merit award evaluator. I went through training at the 2019 Mid Central Regional Convention at Boardman, Ohio, and I have worked as a part of a judging committee a couple of times since then. In addition to being out of practice, I feel that I would benefit from additional training. As a former teacher, I am aware of the critical importance of reaching congruence in scoring of standardized assessments, which to my mind is what merit judging should be thought of. 
  3. Continuing with the theme of evaluation of merit judging, I want to continue with the development of standards based rubrics for the "Scenery" Achievement Program category. Not only do I suspect that that evaluation has little in the way of documented criteria for determining a numerical score, but Mike Hauk, Division 12's AP manager, recommended that I continue working on that project. 
  4. In the next day's model railroad tours, I had the opportunity to chat with Mike about a number of things. Beyond just comradery, I believe that a large part of my growth as a model railroader has been from interacting with, bouncing ideas off of, and being on both ends of mentoring relationships with other members of Division 12 and the NMRA in general. This leads to another important personal goal. I need to work towards making more connections here in northeastern Pennsylvania and with my new division: The Susquehanna Division, Division 11, MER, NMRA.  

In my next post, I will explore the goals for the 4th Subdivision reinforced by participating in the AWMM. Some of the clinics, ops-sessions, and model railroad tours really helped me to substantiate my priorities in building my new railroad, here in our new home. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

4th Subdivision: Planning for Power Districts

In my last post, I mentioned a number of decisions to be made before installing Nooksack, the first TOMA section. I have made a number of those decisions, but I felt the need to make some long range plans as I started prepping the two modules that will be the core of Nooksack. During last Thursday's modeling night, I shared the plan seen above with the attendees, with my initial questions/plans for power districts. The consensus was clear that with a railroad of this size, one booster will be fine, and four power districts and an auto reverser for the turntable should be quite adequate. In my attic layout in Meadville, I had two power districts, using NCE EB1 circuit breakers. I plan on continuing with the EB1 circuit breakers, but I will plan either physical or terminal space for adding two as I set up the "command center" of the railroad. 

Proposed Power District Plan:

  1. Nooksack: Carnation Plant to Interchanges
  2. Ferndale Jct. Fiddle Yard and Staging
  3. Chikamin
  4. Port Gullick and Curtis
  5. Auto-Reverser at Chikamin turntable

Prepping Nooksack Modules and Planning Ahead:

The intention in planning ahead is to minimize the work under the modules moving forward. So, with the small creek and trestle scene that is attached to Nooksack up on sawhorses, I have started preparing it for installation. I found some bolts for attaching it to the main Nooksack module. I will next screw on some Euro-style double terminals for the DCC bus into and away from this module. I also need to install a terminal for the control toggle for the Tortoise switch motor. Knowing that a separate DCC bus for the future Chikamin circuit breaker and for the Chikamin Turntable reverser will later be traveling through here, I could at the minimum pre-drill appropriate holes. 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Basement Prep for Nooksack: Part Two


In my last post, I spoke of getting my gumption up to spend time to get some painting accomplished in the area of the basement where I intend to locate the Nooksack TOMA section. Well, over the last week, mainly the last couple of days, I did just that. The upper part is my "sky" color and the lower part is SW "Andiron," my fascia color. I still need to install an L girder along the stud wall to rest the back of the Nooksack section on. My plan is to mount the L girder at 46" so that the benchwork top is at 50" at one point along this stud wall, and then to level the L girder (and rest of the railroad) to that point. 

I intend to explore some trial and error with the existing ten-foot benchwork section before permanently mounting it:
  • Will I use legs or a cantilever support off of the stud wall, similar to what I saw my friend, Brad White, do on the Brocton Corner of his new railroad?
  • Will the existing shelf on the stud wall be accessible enough to use for the command station and related electronics once the benchwork is in place?
  • What about backdrop height and valance placement? 
  • What will my final plan for lighting be? 
  • Will I consider some kind of drop ceiling over the railroad in this area?

In addition to the Nooksack area, I also painted the south wall of the basement. The first step was to mask off the area behind the steam pipe, covered with rust and foam overspray, and to paint it with a Rustoleum "High Heat" rattle can. Although it could have used a second coat, I called the first coat good enough. It took several days to dry, and despite my opening a basement window and firing up a fan, the spray paint solvents made their way upstairs. 
After the spray-painted pipe across the wall dried, I went ahead and painted the entire eastern wall and the upper portion of the Nooksack area with my sky blue color. The spray foam is tricky to paint as it has a dramatically varied texture. Spraying would probably be the best technique, but I am not set up with equipment for that. I found a small (three or five inch) roller to work the best, with an occasional poke with a brush into deeper divots. I tried a standard roller with a deep pile in another part of the basement, but with the irregular surface of the foamed stone foundation, the smaller roller is able to better travel  through the bumps and valleys.  

The guys are coming this week to try to feed a new power line from the new breaker box in the basement out to the garage and to finish plumbing in the new "laundry area" in my previous workshop. Once they are done, I will need to clean up and organize, before deciding how to approach painting the basement floor. We will see whether the next post continues along these lines or whether I follow the breadcrumbs back to structure building for Nooksack. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Basement Prep for Nooksack

Well, I really need to knuckle down and spend more than 15 minutes or an hour at a time prepping a section of the basement for the Nooksack TOMA section to move into place. The new grounded outlets are installed and live. We have a new dehumidifier, and the basement tends to be quite comfortable on the hot days. It may be a mistake, but I am approaching the basement prep in a similar manner to TOMA: one section at a time. This section needs me to get on the ball. It is a mistake to continue to leave the sprayed in foam insulation unpainted, as UV degrades the unpainted foam. I just need to get my gumption up and spend a few days painting!

Monday, July 25, 2022

New Workbench Location: Part Two

Although I haven't unpacked some of the railroad boxes from last year's move, the new workbench location is well under way and inspiring more organization to come. The work order with the electric company  is set for this week, and our crew arrives tomorrow to continue work on upgrading our home's electrical system. After that is completed I can install lighting for the workbench and begin prepping another corner of the basement for the Nooksack sections (first TOMA section).

The "cave" under the basement stairs and landing also needs some additional light source. Since my last post, I installed some shelves and started organizing it as a storage area. I purchased some plastic bins/totes that slide under the stairs and installed a shelf for my tool boxes. One box has evolved to hold electrical and track laying specific tools while the other contained scenery tools over the last few years. I still need to determine whether I will use the bay provided by the cave to hold a larger or smaller rolling cart as I have both options at hand.

While I am fairly deep into the rabbit hole of researching and designing the structure for the Curtis Cannery industry for Nooksack, based on the Kale Cannery of Everson Washington, I suspect that my next post will involve the room preparation for Nooksack to move into place.