Sunday, October 28, 2012


We are home, and more importantly unloaded and unpacked from our weekend at Timonium with the Capitol Area Free-mo Group.   As usual, we both had a great time,  and it was nice to be back there and part of the modular set-up after a year, non-voluntary,  hiatus.   We had four modules there  (Jimmy's two blast furnace modules), our original Free-mo module - US Pipe, and Rancocas Junction, an odd shaped module with no sidings, but a single #8 turnout and a diverging main/branch on a 42" radius.   Rancocas Junction also features our operating Walther's Bascule Bridge - a model without a home in our basement.   Rancocas was also the module with the least amount of scenery when we pulled them out thursday night.  Unfortunately, lacking space and a real garage, we tend to pull these things out of storage in a shed in the week before Timonium.  This time it was the night before we left.   We quickly cobbled together some basic scenery for part of this module Thursday night - painted track, ballast, some greenery, and a small container terminal to display the paper crane (build described in some earlier posts)
Burning the midnight oil on Rancocas Junction
Early Friday morning was spent doing some patchwork to the scenery on our other modules.  Everything arrived wet to the show and is still probably not 100% dry.   Last minute as usual.  There is a single track for the container terminal that goes nowhere, but maybe, if we can find a larger method to transport our stuff, it would connect to a short module with an approach track.   We did also bring our new staging module.  This 12' long by 10" wide, built from scrap wood the night before module was a nice addition and enabled a brief operating session on saturday.   Track on this was laid with double sided tape as I took it off to reuse on our home layout.  Originally I had intended to have a full four tracks but we ended up with only two and a half due to the complete unavailability of  Code 83 Atlas Flex Track  at the show, thanks to the Chinese manufacturing debacle.
Rancocas Junction the next day - some green and the Container Terminal to the left - also Pizzaland on the curve
Besides running trains, bumping into model railroading and steel modeling friends at large,  stuffing our faces,  watching Predator, Predator II, and Predator vs Aliens, back to back,  with Jimmy at the hotel, while stuffing our faces and reading train books,  we also get to shop for train stuff all weekend.   Besides the fore-mentioned books - A book on Sparrows Point Shipyard, one on LTV Steel, and Narrow Gauge to No Mans Land (a book I've wanted to treat myself to for awhile)  - I picked up some resin detail parts, including another Plymouth Switcher load; 100 metal wheelsets (for the home layout, but Jimmy grabbed a bunch out of the box to upgrade a few cars on the module that were still running on plastic);  a Crow River crane bucket kit; and a TTX container well car and two containers for my new container facility.
Crane Bucket by Crow River - Built it tonight - Pretty straightforward but you will need a pin vise and some small drills to complete.  I will use this on the dock crane.  The kit does come with teeth you can apply but I don't think that was prototypical for unloading ore from ship holds
Usually at these shows, one thing catches my eye.  It's usually something that is hard to find or unique, and also is usually a bit pricy for my blood.  By that I don't mean hundreds of dollars, but rather, a bit more than I can justify spending on that item.   This show it was a GATX Pressure-Slide Hopper aka Whalebelly Cement Hopper resin kit by Q Connection Limited.  I've always liked the look of these cars, but the kit is $67 - more than I would feel good about spending on a resin car kit.  So I looked at it a few more times on Saturday and then sunday I looked again first thing in the morning, and then, near the end of the show, I decided to take one more look - partially hoping they had sold the two of them they had.  They, by the way, is the Atlantic Coastline, Seaboard Airline Railroad Historical Society. They were still there and I looked some more.  The nice fellow from the historical society recognized me from the day before and took pity - the box of one was a little damaged - he could take a bit off for that - upon inspection of the inside, the brass etched sheet was bent - how about $50 - Sold.   It will be a tough build and I will try to post in on here when I am calm enough to tackle this one.

Final Purchase

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Timonium - Saturday

We were in the hall at 7am to continue with the setup. The final module arrived around the same time and was quickly assembled, however, the track power took until almost 10am to sort out.

We had a nice sized setup and had a short ops session using car cards and waybill

Friday, October 26, 2012

Timonium - Friday

Setting up our modules with the Capitol Area Free-mo group. One new addition is a 12' x 10" temporary staging yard we built last night using scraps. We don't have room to store it so it's just for this show. The track will be reused on the home layout. We held it in place with double sided tape

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A short paper entry,....

I'm thinking about using my paper Scale Scenes container crane on one of my Free-mo modules - a partial container yard of sorts.   Plastic HO containers are available, but for the quantity needed to make a container facility look real, it would get costly.  It can be done using paper for much less.   Scale Scenes have files available for 20-40 containers in a dozen or so company names.  Assuming the paper is pre glued to the right mat board backers, the actual cut out and assembly takes about 15 min.  I am out of UHU glue sticks so I used white glue instead - the result was ok, but the roof warped a little from the water content of the glue no doubt.  What's involved,....
All the components for one 40' container.  The thicker mat board has been laminated with  several of the printed parts - shown on white (white pieces)  These pieces will form the core of the container.  The three long parts in the center of the photo are the two sides, wrapped around a medium sized piece of cardboard - on is the sub roof and the others are the sides.  
End wall and roof wraps have been done - ready for assembly
FInal product - definitely convincing from a few feet away

Monday, October 22, 2012


After a year long hiatus from our Free-mo modular setups, we will be headed to Timonium, Maryland this coming weekend to join our comrades from Capitol Area Free-mo and New Jersey Free-mo for a weekend long set-up at the Great Scale Train Show.  Once a regular at the Capitol Area Free-mo set-ups, we have missed the last four events due to work or hospital stays.  We still have yet to pull or modules out of  the shed so hopefully they haven't been eaten or used as a home by rodents.    If you are there, please stop by and say hello.
building the shaker things (sorry, don't know the official term) - 
Unfortunately, due to a small house, the only time we get to work on the modules is just before, or during these shows.  Not much has changed, although we intend to try to touch up some of the scenery in the next few days and maybe some wiring work.  Jimmy will be no doubt running his new 16 and 20 wheel bottle cars from Park Lane Hobbies, but he still doesn't have his BOF built.   I'm trying to add a few details and things like railings, to my pipe foundry.  One of my usual rituals is to pull out the large bag house and work a little on it, only to fall short for the show.  Along those lines, I've been adding some details to the upper walkway, however, with 27 sections, it's a lot of repetitive work
adding motors and actuating arms 
On a different note, for health and fun Glori and I usually try to take long walks when we can.  The two dogs always like these, and our town has progressed from a typical, drive everywhere NJ town, to having a very decent interconnected system of municipal, county, and state park land, with nice paths.   We have so many choices in paths that we can usually make every walk different from the one before, well at least that we can remember (which isn't as much as it used to be)  This past sunday we tried a different route - we walked a few blocks east to the Conrail Shared Assets Mount Holly Branch, and followed it a mile or so north/east, before cutting back across a church yard and street to rejoin the county park trails and then the town paths to home.  Today this railroad line extends from Camden and ends a few miles north of my house at Mount Holly.  The team track operation in Mt Holly ended about a year or so ago, so technically the end of the line now is the Atlantic Wood Industries Plant in my hometown.
I think this is a load in.
This plant receives cut and milled utility poles and treats them with some sort of creosote like preservative.  I believe they also can treat the poles with some sort of cca type preservative too.  The raw poles are received on a  siding - there were three cars in it on sunday - one loaded and two empty.  I know for sure the poles arrive via rail and the finished products are shipped by truck, but I also believe seeing some outbound loads too.  I'm not sure what the ratio is, but I think most of the product leaves by truck.   A few things to note for the modeler -

  • The siding is a good distance from the treating operation itself.  There is a large storage yard for poles between the siding and the plant.  The siding itself looks to extend well through the yard, but it appears that most unloading is now done near the turnout, I guess so not to have to push the cars through the yard.  The track also looks to be mostly buried and maybe from all the heavy equipment, isn't in the best shape
  • Bulkhead flats are used with steel cradles for the logs.  I'm not sure if these are available with the cradles, but they could probably be easily fabricated from styrene strip.
  • As you can see, there are no buildings around the siding and the area is pretty rural in appearance.  The siding could be modeled in a very small space without actually depicting the plant itself.   The rolling stock and loads would add some interest to a modern layout

Captive cars that poles are loaded on and then are pushed into the creosoting pressure vessels.  This concrete pad is the end of this short track and where the poles are loaded.  There is a parallel track for each of the two pressure vessels and just to the left of this picture is a double crossover so either track can be pushed into either vessel.  I'm not sure if these cars are narrow gauge, standard, or wider
When I first moved to town 21 years ago, this line was served by a local about two times a week, sometimes less.  Around the holidays  it would go to three times a week as there is a Gallo Wine distributor in my town that would receive more wine from California then.  The local was usually powered by a single GP15-1.  There were passing sidings at the end of track in Mount Holly and in the industrial park in my town, Hainesport.   If there were cars destined for the Atlantic Wood Industries plant, the train would run past the plant to Mt Holly where the engine would run around the train, sometime leaving a boxcar of lumber on the team track, and then continue back to Atlantic Wood and work the siding.
Another view of the pole loading cars
Operationally, things have changed a bit.  The line is operated every weekday now and the traffic is probably triple or more than 21 years ago.  A large paper processing plant in Mt Laurel receives up to 16 boxcars of mill paper, and a trash to rail transfer facility in the Hainesport industrial park ships 4-10 cars of trash in containers on skeleton flats or loose in very large high side gondolas (maybe woodchip cars?)  Plus the Gallo Wine boxcars,  steel in coil cars, rebar on flats, and lumber in center frame flats - not too shabby for a few miles of railroad on a line that Conrail wanted to abandon in 1978.     Given the larger trains, Conrail Joint Assets almost always uses two GP38-2 to switch the line.  Occasionally you will see a SD40-2 in place of one of the Geeps, and there must be some sort of arrangement on who provides power as it is never mixed, always both Norfolk Southern, or both CSX. With two engines,  passing sidings aren't needed and the train can be run around using just a siding by splitting the engines.  It takes a few moves and would also add some operational interest on a model pike.  Unfortunately this has led to the portion of rail between Atlantic Wood and Mount Holly becoming overgrown - always a sad sight for us railfans.
Aerial View of the plant - I would guess the buildings on the upper left are for maintenance/storage .  You can see the double tracks leading to the long creosoting vessels.  Then an interesting mix of tanks, piping, cooling towers, and no doubt some mechanical and control equipment in the buildings
The elements of this industry cry to be modeled.  There are several different elements, but the overall scale is very compact, and there are commercially available structure for most of the buildings and tanks.  Some of the piping and the creosoting vessels themselves would have to be scratchbuilt.
It won't take you a few years to model this facility.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Window templates - Mat board wall layer shown under
Continuing with the paper backdrop building....

I'm using windows from Scale Scenes.  This is basically a PDF file with an assortment of industrial windows. The windows are designed to be printed onto transparency clear sheets.  This stuff is pretty pricy, maybe since no one uses overhead projectors anymore - if is $50 for 50 sheets for a laser printer or copy machine, and $70 for an ink jet printer.  In addition to the windows, there are brick headers to match the windows, templates for marking out the openings, and a variety of other details, such as bricked up windows, plywood,...etc..   The file itself was very reasonable at 1.99 British Pounds.
Windows cut out and brick sheet glued to the wall - note that I needed to use two separate pieces of brick as the 8.5x11" paper is just shy of what is needed
I used the pilaster piece from the previous post to trace onto a second piece of mat board.  I outlined the spaces between pilasters and the perimeter of the structure.  I then cut out the outsides of the building and marked the window locations, using the prototype drawing as a rough guide.  Scale Scenes had two windows that would match pretty closely the prototype. The tedious work was cutting out the window openings.  Once done, I used Scale Scenes printed brick sheets (again, a 1.99 pound file)  These were printed on just regular copy/printer paper.   There is a free site that you can create and down load your own brick files, however, I think the Scale Scenes brick is superior to all other paper modeling products out there in terms of appearance.    But you be the judge....
The back of the wall, just incase you are interested in how I wrap the brick.  I do glue the paper and not the mat board so there is adhesive on the pieces I fold over.  I also use the handle of an Exacto knife to smooth the paper in the curve of the arch
I laminated the paper brick to the cut out mat board sections, cutting out the windows and wrapping the paper inside, all using a UHU glue stick.  I then applied white glue to the back of the pilaster layer and glued it to the wall layer.  Pins help hold everything in position and flat while the glue sets.
Pinned to a board so the glue up of the two layers can dry.   

To be continued....

Sunday, October 14, 2012


As parts of my model railroad begin to become semi-finished - basic scenery, finished track, and structures - my expansive plain, sky blue backdrops stand-out more.  From what I've scene on other peoples layouts, photographic backdrops and building flats go a long way towards filling in a scene.  Because of bad layout planing, a good portion of one section of my layout only has about a half an inch of space from the track clearance to the sky backdrop.  So along these lines, I'm trying out a building flat using paper construction techniques.  Speaking of paper modeling, be sure to check out Rick Bickmore's thread on Railroad Line Forums (Link on right) as he has finished some very impressive industrial buildings in paper lately - using an interesting combination of techniques and methods.
The prototype structure
For the subject of this model, I choose the Roebling Steel Wire Mill #2.  This is an interesting looking brick structure that seems to be about the right size - not to big to be a distraction, but enough mass to fill up a goodly portion of the background.   It won't be identified as the Roebling Wire Mill, as there is already plenty of steel related structures on the layout proper and I'd like to use the backdrop to convey a sense of the world just outside the mill.    Since the building will be right on the tracks, I won't model the doors or little shed addition - just windows.  I'm also expanding it a bit by putting four of the roof elements together, instead of the three on the prototype.
Four full sized sections laminated to mat board
The drawing is from the HAER site.  I didn't really scale it exactly to HO, just what looked about right - I'm pretty close to scale, maybe off 1' in 20 - and also what basically filled up an 8.5x11" sheet of paper in the landscape print mode. I laminated the large printout to bristol board using a spray adhesive.
Cutting out sections between pilasters
Next I cut out the mat board between the brick pilasters and sills and headers
Starting to laminate the pilasters

Finally, I began laminating paper brick, from Scale Scenes, onto the pilasters using a UHU glue stick.  Because of the angular pilasters and the sills and headers I am laminating the brick in sections to insure a good wrap around each piece.  I started with the foundation and wrapped that - next the pilasters, one at a time.   - to be continued

Sunday, October 7, 2012


With the precipitator complex occupying my main workbench.  Things came to a stop saturday night when I ran out of .020x.040 styrene to build railings.   I'm remiss to move this thing around too much at this point as it's close to being done and I almost dropped it the last time I carried it around.   It will have to wait until I can pick up some plastic.  In the meantime I dusted off the Glass Plant project and started working on that again.

When we left off, very early this year, I had just finished the foundation and the basic silo and silo roofs were cut.  But first, as promised, the prototype photo

Batch Plant, storage silos.
Since my last work on this model, I've decided to model the batch plant silos as shown here, with the center elevator structure.  This is a new configuration, and originally these silos were loaded using two traveling elevators.  The the remains for the brackets that held the rail for the top roller of these elevators  are visible near the top of each silo.  With this former setup, the materials arrived in boxcars and cable drawn scrapers or plows were used to push the material into the hopper of the traveling elevator.   With this system, the cars were spotted in front of the silos that they were filling.   Eventually, probably with the advent of covered hoppers, the method of loading these silos was changed to a central fixed elevator and a variety of chutes and conveyors to fill the six silos.   At this time, the rail siding was raised to facilitate the bottom discharging of the covered hoppers.   The siding is also on an incline, just like mine tipples, so spotted cars can be moved using gravity during the unloading process.  As this is for a model railroad and it's tough to spot model cars on sloped rails, I will model everything level.
new foundation - cut down old
With this newer version of the batch plant, the foundation became partially buried.  Actually it isn't a foundation, but more of a underground track for the scale/batch prep car  which does the same thing as the scale car that runs under the high line in a steel mill.   So I cut down the foundation that I had already made on the table saw.
Silos glued on
Once cut I permanently affixed the silos to the foundation, making sure that the 18 panel roofs all were oriented the same way.   To do that I drew a center line down the top of the foundation and then, using a modelers miter box placed upside down on the pipe that formed the silo, I extended a perpendicular line down the side, on both sides of each silo.  Then, it's just a matter of matching up the lines and gluing.  Using some strip from the scrap box I created ties between the tops of the silo.  The trestle for the conveyor will mount on these ties.  I also cut and fit the foundation of the loading area and the materials dump was a left over part from a Walthers kit.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Art of Compromise

New Hope and Ivyland Steampot
This is a railfan post of sorts.   Model railroading and my interest in railroading isn't something I developed later in life, so for my wife of almost 25 years she has never known me sans trains.  I like to say I broke her in early on, with dates 29 years ago in my basement mixing plaster for scenery.  I know, what a guy, or more likely, what a jerk.  I also have always realized that she is a good sport, so long as there is something in it for her, namely shoes or handbags.   So, we find weekend road trips are fun for both of us, so long as it's a mix of shopping and trains/industry.  This is easier to arrange than you probably think.

A good example is a recent saturday jaunt to Bucks County, PA.   The itinerary of sorts:

Shopping in New Hope - I watch New Hope and Ivyland Steam train while Glori is in a store
Belgium Waffles for lunch - yummy
More shopping in New Hope
Nice drive up the Delaware River
Hiking in Tohickon Creek Park (Have to do something about those waffles)
Shopping in Stockton, NJ
Shopping at the Outlet Stores in Flemington, NJ - I watch Black River and Western diesel and take pictures of an old rail mounted American Crane in the weeds.
Dunkin Donuts coffee - yum
Head home.
Railfaning while Glori is in the Nine West Outlet Store a few hundred feet away

Friday, October 5, 2012


Well, still haven't rotated the model 90 degrees yet to work on the next side, but I think I might tonight.

A furnace dirty gas main and bleeder stack
Work on the platforms of the bleeder stack included some caged ladders and railings.  I've been called to task more than a few times on these platforms as the caged ladders are in line and, what I've been told, they would be skewed right or left at each landing or platform to prevent someone falling all the way down.  I built it as it was on the prototype, and the ladders are inline on that.  They aren't on identical other bleeder stacks at Bethlehem, but on A-Furnace they were.  If you don't believe me, most of the bleeder stack is still there so look for yourself.  Maybe some fabricator made a mistake.
A-Furnace - Bleeder stack on left - top section and one platform has been removed
So far the railings are built from what I can easily reach.  I also worked on the platform that is on the elbow of the dirty gas main from A-Furnace.  It had an interesting structural support structure, as well as a caged ladder on an angle.