Sunday, September 18, 2016

Layout Chronicles: Rails in Aylmer

A major surge in progress, I've started laying rail in Aylmer.
I've been ballasting a few feet, letting that dry and then ballasting a few more feet and while that's drying the rails are getting laid.
Nothing earth shattering, but a nice feeling of accomplishment.
Ballasting has struck me as one of those leap of faith projects. Particularly when you have images like this.
All that glue will actually turn into something presentable? Outrageous!
I'm always pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New and Improved!

I'm retiring my old cordless Dremel tools.
These little guys have performed yeoman service for me for the last few years. But the batteries aren't holding a charge like they should and the bearings are not standing the test of time. Some how I doubt that this tool was really meant for the work outs I gave it.
But that's okay. I found something better.
The Dremel Micro #8050.
A better built tool with an integral battery. The stand is the charger. The bearings feel to be more robust. And those clever souls even incorporated LEDs in the head to illuminate the work surface.
5 speed settings and a nice ergonomic design.
See your local building supply outlet and check it out. I have to go and get another one next week.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I wish I knew who wrote this!

Below is a blog post form "skiloff".
I found it on the MRH website.
It pretty much sums up my feelings about the "state" of the hobby today.
Read it and share your thoughts.

After receiving my NMRA bulletin this morning and reading president Charlie Getz's discussion of Caboose Hobbies closing, I felt compelled to write a response.  First, here is a summary of what Mr. Getz wrote:
Did you notice that the 2017 Walthers catalog combines HO-N-Z in one volume?  Some may celebrate this as it presents more scale options, but this also is another example of the contraction of the hobby.  There simply is not enough product to justify two catalogs, as in past years.  Walthers, like Caboose, is a seminal part of the hobby industry and while far from closing, is an example of changes in the industry. 
The future of Walthers, Caboose-style shops, and the NMRA resides in your hands.  For every product you buy online to save a dollar, you contribute to the Caboose closing or the Walthers contraction.  For every new member you ignore at an event or fail to make welcome, you doom the NMRA.  In reality, the answer to the contracting hobby lies with us all.
And my response that I just sent to him:
I find your commentary from the latest bulletin troubling.  Not because of the closure of Caboose Hobbies, but your continued insistence that the hobby is in a state of contraction using the evidence of Caboose closing and Walthers' catalogs becoming one.  This is looking at a few facts and making broad assumptions of them without really looking at many other facts out there.  Caboose closing and Walthers' catalogs is not a sign of the hobby dying - it is a sign, like the world at large, that things are changing.  It is very frustrating when people in your position in the hobby paint it as dying because of change, but fail to acknowledge or understand that change, perhaps, is renewal, not death.  Is the hobby of the 50s and 60s dying?  Yes, indeed.  Is the hobby of model railroading dying?  Absolutely not! 
In fact, there are many signs that we are in a new era of growth for the hobby.  The current range of products has never been of higher quality, and a broad range of affordable options are still out there for those entering the hobby.  The options available to modelers is second to none in terms of how they want to enjoy the hobby - scratch building, kits, or built-ups.  The real problem is, this is seen by many of the old guard as a negative, because it isn't "as it used to be."  Everything in the world is changing, so why would model railroading expect to be static?  And in fact, if it doesn't change, I would say THAT is the bigger concern, because failing to change (like so many in the hobby) is what will kill businesses.  Just ask Kodak or Polaroid or Tower Records or Montgomery Ward or Woolworth's.
In reality, I feel that the most damage done to this hobby is done by it's leaders who continually trumpet it's death and make statements, such as you made in a newspaper article in the past year that suggested young people are only interested in their phones.  THAT is the kind of nonsense generalization that will drive young people from the hobby.  In fact, there are probably the same proportion of young people in the hobby today than there were decades ago, but they enter the hobby differently.  But this is not understood by leaders, such as yourself, and through this lack of understanding, you inadvertently do damage to the hobby you are trying to protect.
The real issue, I believe, for the NMRA is it's shrinking base of members.  Let's be clear - this is mostly an NMRA problem, not a hobby problem.  Why is the NMRA membership sinking?  In many ways it's because of these out-of-touch comments by it's leadership.  Who wants to join an association that openly generalizes about young people and their cellphone addictions?  Or one that suggests internet shopping is bad for the hobby?  The failure of the NMRA is it's failure to change with the world and understand the world it operates in.  But that doesn't seem to be understood - it's simply blamed on the internet and young people that only care about their cell phones, which are both patently false.  
I hope the NMRA will succeed for the long term, because I believe the hobby is better with it than without it, but there needs to be a sea change in how the NMRA leadership views the world in which we live and the way the hobby is evolving.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

16 turnouts for Aylmer

Yep! A nice little pile o turnouts.
Can't ever say enough good things about our friends at Fast Tracks.
The jigs, fixtures and tools that have been created by Tim have made building turnouts and other track elements an absolute joy.
Now all I have to do is paint the pc board ties and add feeder wires and these bad boys will be ready to install.
Of course, I have to ballast all that Aylmer trackage first

Friday, August 26, 2016

Language is a funny thing

a discoloration produced by foreign matter having penetrated into or chemically reacted with a material; a spot not easily removed.
a natural spot or patch of color different from that of the basic color, as on the body of an animal.
a cause of reproach; stigma; blemish:
a stain on one's reputation.
coloration produced by a dye that penetrates a substance, as wood.
a dye made into a solution for coloring woods, textiles, etc.
a reagent or dye used in treating a specimen for microscopic examination. 
In this case I choose #4.
There you have it. All the ties in Aylmer are stained. We're now ready for the initial application of ballast.
By following this order of steps I avoid gluing points shut on the turnouts. A huge plus for me. I'll have to turn my attention to the backdrop soon. Good thing that goes quick.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

More little bitty bits of wood.

I get asked a lot about how I can build models all day for others and not burnout or neglect my own projects. Well it's not easy, but every now and then I just switch off the custom building and focus on my own stuff.
The last week as been a good example. Before and after the St Louis RPM I was quite busy with a show at the arena and very little model train work got done at all. I was planning on returning to the workbench Monday after we had loaded the Ice Age show onto it's trucks Sunday evening. But I got a "Help me" call from TrainMasters TV. A planned guest called in sick and a quick replacement was needed. So there went Monday. In fact with all the driving to and from the studio and the stress from throwing together a quick few episodes, there went Tuesday as well.
So instead of trying to focus on resin projects I had a few days of me time.
All the ties are now in place in Aylmer.
And in between setting up strips of ties, I  fiddled with some modular wall sections to create a factory for St Thomas. I'll tell more about that once I have more progress accomplished.
With the ties glued in they're ready for sanding and staining. I've also been taking mental pictures of where all the structures are going to go. It's been a very useful exercise.
With the sense of accomplishment I now have, I'm feeling a little more energized and ready to get back to the work bench and take care of my customers needs.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sometimes it's just finding the right person to ask.

There are days when I feel like I'm really meant to model this chunk of the Wabash/CN lines.
It takes time but slowly the little mysteries are being revealed to me.

While drawing out the track plan for Aylmer, using the survey as a major guide, I noticed that there's this little spur in the middle of the yard limits, just north of the freight shed.

As you can see there's no structure associated. Just a pump house and a stand pipe. And maybe long enough for 2-3 cars. Curious.
We know that the railroads don't leave spurs in place for entertainment value. Track switches mean maintenance and possible derailments. If the railroads could find a way they'd do without them all together.
So why is this spur there? Particularly since the team track is just across the main.
This is where my friend Bill comes into the scene. Bill used to work in Imperial Tobacco and is a long time resident of Aylmer. In fact he grew up across the street from the canning plant that is served by the railroad.
I gave Bill a copy of the survey and and asked him to pick the brains of his friends and neighbors.
Bill came back with an interesting answer for me.
Turns out that this spur was used for loading apples onto boxcars. Just to the west of the yard were a couple of good sized orchards. And in the off season occasionally the tobacco plant would use that spur for holding cars.
Not something I would have guessed.
It still leaves me wondering why the team tracks weren't used. But there had to be a reason. Maybe I'll figure that one out one day.
One mystery at a time.