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Saturday, June 8, 2024



"Look at me...♫   I'm as helpless as a kitten in a tree...♫"
-- Erroll Garner Trio, "Misty", 1954

If you've operated at my place recently, you've probably already seen the complete-ish scenery at Misty, W. Va.. (Or if you prefer Led Zeppelin to Erroll Garner, "Misty Mountain".)  

In a me-like fashion, it's been 90% done for months -- have just been waiting on some last-minute details before posting about it.

One of the things that took so long was that I have been recording the process to use as a "How It's Made" page on the permanent blog.  I've been wanting to document (because someone might be interested!) the scenery contour methods on the Suffolk Northern.   They are a bit unorthodox, not unlike most of the rest of the layout, nor the owner himself.  But hey, re-inventing the wheel and tuning it for my own needs and preferences are actually part of the fun.  

I'd appreciate it if you'd take a look at that page and tell me what you think:  Suffolk Northern Ry.: Landforms.  All feedback is welcome -- on the methods, the effect, the page itself, the author's musical taste, whatever you like.    

"On my own...♫  Would I wander through this wonderland alone...♫"

Misty is the helper cutoff point at the summit of the westward ruling grade, and the location of the Cornelis-Imperial Co.'s #3 tipple.  Finishing the scenery here was a boost to railfanning, so the trains emerging from the summit tunnel, instead of just drifting through masonite and homasote, finally have some mountains to conquer.  Or as the Tweeners say, "mouw-ihs".     

"So I'm packing my bags for the Misty mountains, where the spirits go..."
-- Led Zeppelin, "Misty Mountain Hop", 1971

Thanks as always for reading, and please if you have a minute, take a spin through the page at Suffolk Northern Ry.: Landforms and let me know what you think.  

Friday, April 26, 2024

Something Different for Alleghany Scrap

You've probably seen or heard me talk about Alleghany Scrap in St. Amour, and how there are retired locomotives towed in and set out for it by road trains.  Seldom modeled, but a regular occurrence in the Transition Era. **

In the back of my mind I'd also planned on sending freight cars to their demise as part of the process.  I sprang the first one on unsuspecting operators last week, and was surprised to receive compliments, rather than abuse for it being silly as I'd expected.  So I thought I'd share it here.

I wanted a car badly-enough compromised that it needed to be scrapped, but not to a cartoon-violence degree where it would need to be cut up on the spot.  It seemed the best way to approximate this would be with a metal car, rather than melting a plastic car into a glob.  So a while back I picked up a couple derelict remnants from the good ol' days on Ebay for cheap-ish, to eventually use for such a purpose.

All-steel cars actually have a fair amount of structure in the box, ends, and frame.  They crumple by degrees, rather than just being crushed like a beer can.  So I braced the car in the carpenter's vise a few panels back from each end, with some cradles cut from scrap wood to preserve the essential "house" structure - and began delicately beating the crap out of it, trying to mimic the damage one might expect in an accordion-style derailment.  

As I did so, the 60-year-old paint flaked merrily off at the deflection points, leaving acres of gleaming metal, sparkling in its deformity.  So I applied rust in those areas - and other areas where the structure had given way, such as the roof popping off the sides at the far end.  It's probably a little extreme, but I figure it must have rained at least once between the derailment and the salvage op, so a little orange and yellow rust on the newly exposed areas could be expected.  Beats repainting it!  

The flat car was a gift from my friend Bill Doll (Forest Park Southern), dressed up nicely with sprung metal trucks and a beautiful wood deck.  I kind of hated to cover most of that deck, but the car was handy, and not in service yet - so it's now the official conveyance of wrecks.  Not to imply any issues with the FPS's freight-handling ability or anything... 

The destroyed boxcar awaits its turn with the torches at Alleghany Scrap in St. Amour. 

During ops, I generally like to have the scrap item set out at St. Amour by a westbound overhead freight.  That gives the road crewman something to do, and, it allows the white-lined equipment to make almost a full lap of the layout before being dropped off.  Even with an old cast-boilered steam engine, I'm happy to add a helper to shove its fat ass up the westbound grade, rather than just have an eastbound drop it off immediately after departing staging.  

But, that scheme requires said equipment to actually make it around the layout.  

Disaster looms in Claymoor, W. Va., as the scrap load approaches the Cassandra Rd. bridge.

See, the SNR, in addition to its boxcar slogan "The James River Route", is known variously as 

  • "The Shoehorn Route" and 
  • "The Path of Least Clearance".    
Or, as my friend Darren Williamson (IHB) puts it, 

While not technically even exceeding Plate B, the damaged car with those jaunty crumples snagged everything on the first test run - trees, tunnel portals, fences, buildings, standpipes, bridges...  Even turning it around only solved a couple of problems - and created more.  God help me I should ever run a high-wide movement.  

That crumpled roofwalk shoved the highway bridge fully clear of its footings
and collapsed it into the cut, 
causing the further destruction of a beautiful aquamarine 1950 Buick Super,
and the profound irritation of its occupants. 

So in service, the car will have to be dropped off by an eastbound freight only - running about 20' out of Gallipolis staging - and with the big crease facing west only, so the St. Amour crewman can actually fit it into the cut tracks at Alleghany.  Period.  Ah well - it's been fun.  Guess that's why it needed its own post, so somebody could see it!

Thanks as always for reading, and let me know what you think.  Interesting, or silly?  (No need to comment on restricting Plate B movements however, thank you very much!)  


** More info/photos re: Alleghany Scrap, Inc.:



Sunday, January 28, 2024

Bulk Storage for Aidan Castings


I've finally gotten down to working on the scenery around the industries in Bryan Ferry.  But since it takes me forever to actually finish anything, I thought I'd show you first the major sub-project in that endeavor by itself, which is the bulk storage bins for the Aidan foundry.  

👉There's some interesting discussion around it, too - stay tuned!👈

The foundry receives coke, limestone, and pig iron in gondolas, and sand in covered hoppers.  As a small-town furnace, their operations are a bit casual - bulk materials are unloaded with an ancient conveyor, and stored on the ground, and charged into the furnace used a bucket loader.  Scrap is also a major inbound commodity, but being chunky and irregular, it can just be piled in a heap off to the side - no bin required.  

So I've been staring at that odd-shaped blank space for years, knowing what I wanted to build - a set of bins radiating out from a movable conveyor - but stewing over how to terminate it at the layout edge.  Any facility not extending beyond the layout would be ridiculously undersized, even by SNR standards - so an accommodation had to be made. 

Now, I've sliced through foreground buildings before, and I've treated the raw slice in two different ways:


1). At the J.D. Bumhauer Co. in St. Amour, I left the building open at the section, 
since the primary point was to provide a "railfan-through" scene, 
where one can watch rail traffic roll by through the numerous 
steel-sash windows, as I once did at a client in Hartford, Ct..  

2). Whereas, for the sand bin on the Yaeger service tracks, 
I built some mock-fascia to cover the exposure, 
since in real life one wouldn't want to see the inside 
of a giant pile of sand.  Or so I thought at the time.

At the foundry though, I had these odd-shaped walls in irregular alignment, with some interesting material heaps in the foundryman's four favorite flavors.  It seemed a shame to cover it all up with fascia - especially given that the wall slices go all the way to the top.  

So I opted to reverse the sand bin ruling, and leave these bins exposed at the section - as if the material were piled up against a pet's terrarium glass, to be viewed from the outside - along with the pet - by a superior species.  Well - at least a species that thinks it's superior to the pet.

The walls are foam-core, with the edges capped with putty.  All five of them actually follow the same pattern, just being abbreviated in different places based on where they strike the layout edge.

As always with concrete, I painted them with a latex mix, using horizontal brushstrokes which help suggest the casual, small-batch pours that were used in the day.  Initial weathering with washes of India ink highlighted the unevenness.  The sectioned foam-core centers make pretty decent concrete cuts, I think - maybe I should add some rebar!  

I did a quick mod on the Walthers conveyor to align the wheels circumferentially, allowing the conveyor to swing and serve any of the four commodities.  Haven't thought through what the pit is going to look like yet - would they just leave a mix of spillage at the bottom, or clean it out after each unload?  

I shaped the heaps first with foam and a hotwire, then covered them over.  The limestone is ballast, but the sand and coke were done with bona-fide sand and coke.  (For the record, all the coke and coal on the layout comes from nuggets of each I picked up as a kid, along the B&O in Tri-County.  How's that for authentic.)   Those three materials could be added after gluing the foam shapes into the bins.

For pig iron, though - in gondolas I use Chooch sugar-beet loads, which have textures that are surprisingly close in shape to the little piggies.  When painted and weathered with oxides, they're pretty convincing.  No such material exists in aggregate however.  So I approximated it with aquarium gravel, except that had to be painted after heaping and gluing, but before installing.  That was fun.  

And there it is - inbound materials at long last.  Next up, as Paul Harvey would say:  "the rest of the story."   


 👉  Faced with the same dilemma, 
would you cover the section with fascia, 
or show off the interesting stuff 

👉  Is it silly to see the sheer faces of aggregate heaps 

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!