Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I've been pretty lame in posting anything this past month.  Sort of a blah month with lots going on, but not fun stuff.  Lately I've been feeling that I have reached a crossroads professionally.  It's been almost five years as a "manager" and my craftsman roots seem more distant than ever.   I miss standing in a pile of wood chips all day, with only my own precision to worry about.    All this has led to a lack of motivation in regards to building anything on the model railroad.   I did try to attack the final few items on the Benzol Coolers.  I added the last few sheaves to the gate valves and then focused on the tops of the towers.  The prototype has extremely complicated manifolds that I couldn't possibly hope to replicate.  I did my best at a representative assembly but I'm not thrilled with the results.  I also added small cranes on top of two of the towers.  I will add ropes after painting.   Basically the only thing that remains before painting is to add light posts throughout the structure.  I had planned on making these functional, however, after thinking about the cost and complexity of working with very very tiny LEDs and magnet wire I am just going to add static versions.

Benzol Coolers Top
Crane Detail
We did make our annual father and son trip to the Battle of the Bulge at Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA this past weekend.  It was, as usual, an enjoyable trip, although the public battle wasn't as elaborate as in the past and the barrack tours weren't happening either.    On the way back we stopped at the Cabellas Super Store in Hamburg, PA.  If the economy is slow you wouldn't know it there.  Besides twenty high capacity tactical  magazines for my AR-15 that are illegal in New Jersey,  I picked up a 25 lb bag of bird shot.  (That first part was obviously a joke) I've been looking around South Jersey for this for the past year and no one sells it anymore.  These little lead balls make cheap weights for rolling stock and are easy to conceal.  We also needed them to start manufacturing version two of our resin slag car loads.  After testing the originals on Rick Bickmore's Harrisburg Terminal Railroad the reviews were positive as to the appearance and ease of removal during operations, however, once removed, the cars were too light and became more prone to derailments.  Version two will be a two part casting - the first will be cast in dark grey with lead shot infused in the resin and will reside in the bottom of the slag pot. The second casting, in the orange color will sit on top and contain a steel insert for removal with a magnet.

Enough Weight for 150-200 cars
Perfect Road Rage Vehicle

Saturday, January 21, 2012


As I think I have mentioned in this blog before, we (Jimmy and me) are part of a Friday night operating group, called the South Jersey Operators.  I'm not sure if there is any official status to the group.  Most members seem to be active in the local NMRA Division and some in local clubs.   We stumble upon the group after being invited to the annual cookout that the group has every August.  Basically the members get together every Friday night to run trains.  The host layouts alternate by week, with the same four layouts cycling through, with the occasional substitute layouts added on months with five fridays.  Operations usually last from 7pm until midnight.  We used to make almost every friday night for awhile, however, lately, our attendance has been spotty with work, family, school, boy scouts,...etc... coinciding.  We were fortunate to be able to get away this past friday night for the first time in awhile and had the pleasure of operating on PJ Mattson's Raccoon Valley RR.  PJ's large layout is alway fun to operate on.  With the cold weather and snow predicted there was a light turnout with only 12 of us running trains.   Jimmy ran the switcher in the railroads main yard, while I was assigned to the steel mill.  PJ has a portion of his layout dedicated to a steel mill.  As of late he has added a coke works on a new branch that adds some interest to operations you have to enter and cross the main to get to the branch from the steel mill.  By the time I returned with loaded coke cars to the mill, a local had arrived and was tying up the main waiting for cars from the mill, about half of I had yet to spot.  I quickly picked up the cars he needed and exchanged them for the drop-offs.   I had just enough time to spot the new cars and pull the empty ore jennies before the ore train arrived with ore for the mill.  

Switching out Slag Pots at the Blast Furnace
For those of you coming to the 2012 Steel Mill Modelers Meet, hopefully PJ's layout will be one of those on the tour.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012


A happy belated New Year to all.

It's been a bit since the last post of any substantive modeling.  The holidays, work, a family illness,....etc.  all put most of my modeling on hold.  Also, the train time I did have I devoted to making the basement semi-presentable as I had agreed to host a layout tour for the local NMRA Division.  Most of the work for this involved finishing soffits, finally removing the little historic wiring I had left in my house from the basement ceiling and organizing my piles so people could walk down there.  Necessary work, but not probably interesting to you blog readers.

NMRA Division Meet - Layout Tour - Saturday January 7, 2012  -

As I think I had noted a few months ago, I am now a card carrying NMRA member for the first time in my life, despite being a model railroader for most of that said life.  I also made a point to join the local division as many of the model railroaders from our friday night operations group are members.   In joining the local group I checked the box that I would be willing to open my layout for tours, without realizing I'd get an email within a month asking to do that very thing.  I pleaded my case that I didn't think people would find it worthwhile visiting as the layout is very under construction, but the response was that some find that aspect interesting.  So I agreed figuring not many would show up but at the least it would put some pressure on me to finish some of the uninteresting things and also serve as a dress rehearsal of sorts for when we open up in September for the 2012 Steel Mill Modelers Meet.  
Looking along the Lower Works Branch - Bessemer Site in Foreground,  Raritan Steel HQ just behind that and then Blast Furnaces and Pig Casters in background

Of course the list of to-do items only was about a quarter done heading into last weekend.  We worked through the morning of the event right up to the 1pm opening time.  I put out the signs and just a few minutes past 1pm our first visitors arrived and from that point on we had a continuous stream of people in the basement right up until closing at 5pm, and even then, while I was taking down the signs at 5:15 a last carload of model railroaders pulled up, so we fired things back up.   I hadn't expected much but honestly I had a very enjoyable afternoon.  Jimmy managed running the trains and I did the narrative.  We usually had at least two mainline trains running the loop and Jimmy was variably running different locals and switchers.   We were using a combination of NCE throttles, on-screen JMRI Throttles, and also WiThrottle on our IPhones.  Apparently at the actual meet earlier that day there had been a presentation on JMRI so a lot of the visitors were real interested in seeing it up and actually running a model railroad.  

State Street Pier 

Some things that I learned and to do for the next tour -

  • Better outside signage - For next tour I plan on building a semi-scale crossing buck with lights and all - probably will just mount along my fence permanently but I'll turn the lights on for a tour.
  • Put the handouts down in the basement and not upstairs as I think many of the visitors didn't realize it was put out for them
  • Railings on the basement steps - Need to put some up.  A few folks had a tough time on the stairs and I felt bad as I had this on my list but never got to it.  
  • Holy Cow - We can fit 10 people in my basement.  As I need 8 to operate and 2 of these are back in the pit, 6 should be able to function reasonably well, although the crew lounge will have to be upstairs
  • Model Railroaders are really nice friendly people
I've started working on the precipitator complex and B-Furnace so I'll have some posts on these soon.
Arthur Kill Yard Under construction - 6 of 8 tracks in place