Monday, February 21, 2011


Continuing our Free-Mo saga, I'm posting a movie from our set up earlier this month with the Capitol Area Free-Mo Group in Timonium, MD.  I shot four short clips from a very old and cheap digital camera and then for the first time ever, played around with my IMovie program on my Mac to make this.  I think I compressed it too much, but I'll get it better next time.  You can see that my Walthers Bascule Bridge does indeed function.  The locomotive is Jimmy's CSX SD40-2.  A Bachmann standard, DCC On-Board purchased at a very reasonable price from Peach Creek Shops.   Not as smooth at the lower speeds as an Atlas or Proto, but he ran it for two days at the show, mostly switching, without any trouble at all.  

I have been down in the basement a bit - the Tichy crane is assembled and painted - just thinking of how to letter it before weathering the whole thing.  Overall came out good but not too thrilled with the thread-cables - it allows you to position the boom but at the expense of looks.  Might trash this nonsense later on and substitute with fine brass wire.  Been also laying some track - installed the Walther's Turntable that has been sitting in a box since Christmas 2009 and tested it.  Finished mainline track two and now working on the yard and the engine area.  As I lay more track, my standards get higher and higher and I am looking at some of the older work on the layout and realizing that it works, but it isn't bullet-proof.  For operations I will need bullet-proof so I am going to go back and revisit a hidden portion of the main that occasionally causes trouble - about 10 feet or so of double track .  I plan to pull up the code 100 previously laid there years ago and put down code 83 and replace a #4 switch for the Coke Works Branch with a #6 or even #8.   I also intend to make this track visible and move the backdrop back behind it.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Another Saturday roadtrip - destination - Jim Thorpe, PA, formerly known as Mauch Chunk.   This nifty little town is nestled in the Lehigh River Gorge only a few hours from home.  The town has a rich industrial and railroad history, making it an appealing destination for me, and for my better half, lots of unique little shops.  We left a bit early as we thought there might be some crowds as it was their Winter Festival weekend - for naught - as the town was mostly empty on a very blustery and cold February day.  Arriving early we first cased the joint, with my Weapon of Mass Consumption choosing her targets, and then sat down for a coffee and muffin waiting for the stores to open at 10am.   The plan was to separate - me visiting the Mauch Chunk Museum, and her, hitting the shops.   The extent of my historical knowledge of the town was:  I knew that it was an important anthracite coal center;  Asa Packer, the founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad lived there; the Lehigh Valley ran along the east bank of the Lehigh River, and the Central of New Jersey along the west bank; and the whole history of the name change and continuing controversy over that.   Some interesting other things I learned at the museum - 
  • The town was the original transshipment point for anthracite coal in the region
  • The coal was transported to the Lehigh River via a gravity railroad, one of the first railroads in America
  • Originally the coal was transported to Philadelphia in ark like boats - using a crude system of locks - the canal was a one way deal so the boats were dismantled in Philadelphia and the wood sold and the hardware brought back to Mauch Chunk for new boats - Much of historic Philadelphia is supposed to be built with this lumber.
  • Eventually a two way canal system was built
  • Once the Lehigh Valley and CNJ and others reached the mines directly, the Gravity Railroad was turned into a tourist attraction.
  • A variety of hotels and the Gravity Railroad and the reputation of the town as the Switzerland of America made it into the second most visited tourist attraction in America, behind Niagra Falls
  • Some of the Molly McQuires were tried in the court house (see pictured) and sentenced to death.  
With the loss of the Anthracite coal industry and then the railroads, the town fell on hard times, however, in the past 20 years or so it has been reinvented as an outdoor activity center and has been ranked as one of the top 10 "coolest small towns" by at least one magazine.  In addition to the shopping, food, and rich history, in the warmer months you can ride a tourist steam railroad, raft down the Lehigh River, or bike the old CNJ mainline.   We had a nice day there - my wife left with a half dozen bags or so under her arm, and I learned a few things, took some photos of the buildings, and bought a few railroad trinkets. 
 We took back roads on our return trip, following the Lehigh River for a bit, and then through cement country and eventually to Easton, PA.  We saw the remains of the former Lehigh and New England bridge at the Lehigh Gap - only some of the piers remain, but visually you can see it was a stunning setting for a railroad bridge.   We stopped in Easton - on our way back I realized that I had not yet purchased the new Bethlehem Steel Book - Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a photographic history, by Ann Bartholomew.   Put out by the Canal History and Technology Press, we made a quick stop at the Canal Museum store in Easton to pick up a copy.   I had some misgivings over buying this book as I feel, maybe wrongly, that not much effort has or is being made to make the Canal Museums massive steel related collections easily available to the public, ie digital images on the net.  I am glad I purchased the book as it is pretty darn good - maybe even better in a way than Steel Giants,   although I have a bias toward Bethlehem Steel.  For you steel mill modelers et al, don't hesitate, pick it up or order it - well worth the $35 price tag.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011


All the major sub assemblies of the Tichy Crane are complete.  Next step is painting and then final assembly and rigging the crane.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


At Timonium this past weekend I bought the Tichy Steam Crane kit, along with the boom car.  Eventually I'd like to assemble some sort of work train.  This crane kit is well made but has a lot of parts - for example, each truck had 13 individual parts.   The first photo show the kit box and the bags of parts.  The second is the result of about 3hrs of work.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011


We've just returned from a fun weekend spent at the Great Scale Train Show in Timonium, MD with the Capitol Area Free-Mo group.   Now you probably remember a month or so my talk of showing up with our Pipe Foundry Module and three new modules, of course with complete trackwork,  structures, scenery, and electronics  - NOT!    We did manage to show up with the three new modules, sans scenery, some electronics and even a few feet of track - oh - and missing and unfinished buildings.  But we still had a great time - I usually set unrealistic goals as you've probably gathered from this blog, and I was managing to get my self a little stressed last week trying to get things done for the show.  When we finally got down there after leaving at 4:30am on saturday morning, and the modules were set up, and Jimmy was busy running trains, I realized all that fuss was just a waste.  I had a great weekend with a great bunch of guys.  The train show is a great place to participate in a Free-mo set up.  Besides working on the modules, running trains, answering questions, and spreading the word on Free-mo, I usually run into model railroad friends from back in NJ, Steel Mill Modeling friends, and new friends that have previously just been an email address.    Also, there are the hundreds of vendors to tempt me with their wares.    I'll get into the new purchases in a future blog as it's late and unfortunately I still have to do a bunch of work emailing before I can rest.  For now some photos from the weekend - 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Busy day - a lot to report.
First off - the newest addition to the Musser family, Chloe Casmira Musser was born this morning in Cape May Court House, NJ.  She is my brother's second child and second daughter.  She is shown with her older sister, Ella.  
Second - As I think I've talked about before, I'm on an eternal search for a new source of corrugated siding material in styrene or other plastic.  I primarily use Evergreen, which is .040 thick with .040 spacing and costs about $6 a piece.  Needless to say large steel mill buildings eat up a lot of this material.   Plastruct makes a thinner corrugated material that comes two to a pack for about $10 or so.  That makes it just slightly cheaper, but it can only be used as a laminate and not by itself like the Evergreen.    So, finally, at Sattlers Train shop in Westmont, NJ I think my prayers have been answered.  The proprietor, Bruce, just brought in a new line of plastic pattern sheets by JTT Architectural Model Parts.  The corrugated material, listed as HO Scale 1:100, comes in slightly larger sheets, two to a package, at the most excellent price of $5.50.  Finally I can clad the power plant and open hearth at a reasonable cost.  I picked up the one package that he had, along with another pack of concrete block pattern, and a curb and sidewalk package.  Slight disappointment set in when I got home and compared this new material to both Evergreen and Plastruct - the spacing of the corrugations is much bigger.  It works out to almost two corrugations per scale foot - by that an outie, and innie, and outie, and part of an innie.  Roughly six scale inches between the high part of the corrugations.  I think it is usable, but I'm going to post my dilemma on the Steel Board and see what others think.   
Third - Free-mo progress.  Well as usual I'm not where I wanted to be in terms of the modules, but that's the way it usually works.  We should have the mains up and running at least for Timonium this weekend and probably will be working on them at the show.  I've posted a photo of the as-yet unnamed module.  With the cold weather we fortunately had a room on the first floor that is being remodeled ,  so it is serving as our warm module construction area.  This module is has a diverging branch line and has three end plates.  We are planing to use it to take the Pipe Foundry module off the main line as it is a little unrealistic having the main go through a building.  (Free-mo rules can be a pain in the ass at times for modeling large industrial structures.  They work best for rural main lines.)   However, this module could also be used to split the module set up into two streams.   And you might recognize the Walthers lift-bridge - yes it does operate.