Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"Wordless Wednesday Wrap-up... Numero Uno"

My relative reluctance to embrace the often-used feature, "Wordless Wednesdays," that many bloggers employ may have been evident in that I dipped my toe into the shallow end by running a photograph of ... words. But while I may have had my tongue firmly planted in cheek, I should provide an explanation of that signage, since I'm always asked about it... even if it is a year later!

It's a sign that I made from some scraps that I had in the garage, most specifically old fence pickets that had been out in the weather for many years. When we replaced some sections of our 6' stockade style fencing, I saved a few pickets just in case I needed some here and there in the future. Well, the future has rapidly rushed by and at this point the next act regarding several hundred feet of fencing will be a total replacement. So little pickets, come to poppa.

The homemade sign measures just under 8" x 60" and graces the more visible side of my workbench. It was designed and built quite quickly out in my garage workshop from entirely on-hand materials, with the exception of the letters.

I showcased the real imperfections of the pickets for 'character and realism.' The 3-1/2" high wood letters were purchased at Hobby Lobby and given a spray of flat black before being glued in place. I chickened out when considering whether to distress them.

I ran each of the four pickets down my table saw, ripping off the rounded face so three would lie flat against a 1/4" hardboard backing for easy gluing and screwing. The fourth was then  further ripped into a suitably proportioned surrounding frame. The backside of each picket is what is actually visible.

Any clean edge of the frame that had been ripped on the saw was given an alcohol and ink wash and blended with the twenty year old fencing better than I could have hoped. 

Full disclosure here. I had originally planned to wash the background in white and the surrounding frame in black to more closely approximate a depot sign, but I decided against it for two reasons. One is that I really liked how this looked as is, especially in contrast against my workbench wall. And two is that I really, really didn't want to screw this up trying to weather and age at a 1:1 scale!

Overall though, I'm pleased with the result and the ambience it contributes to the train lounge. I have built a second, similar one from my last remaining pickets and am contemplating how to finish that, including lettering. But I promise to be more adventurous with that one whenever I do get around to it.



Oooops!... seems that some careless CSX track construction caused flooding in this lovely historic town twice within a week. At least it's not on the order of Ellicott City's woes further down the line.

Friday, August 3, 2018

"Too hip to be square?... Nope, that not be us!"

Has it really been a year? Well, it has been a rough one for our family, but nevertheless, I simply cannot let the Old Main Line reach "one year ago" on the blog list. So without further ado, allow me to actually post something that has been sitting offline in my drafts folder for quite sometime.

The Garden State Division of the NMRA has conducted several meets featuring "works in progress" or WIPs that have been very popular for both clinicians and attendees. The low key, informal setting is relaxing for the clinician and extremely engaging for the attendee. A real win-win as they say.
Craig Bisgeier did a nice clinic on tools and techniques for kitbashing and scratchbuilding. But what really captured everyone's attention was the sanding square that he built to guarantee clean,  square  edges for cut materials.

The sanding jig is about 15" square and is predominantly made of 1/2" MDF. It relies on a glued block as a stop, or fence, set at a 90 degree angle to a sliding sander.

The H-shaped sliding sander sits inside a double track that is routed out of the MDF to guarantee an even, consistent sanding to the 90 degree fence.

Like an excited schoolboy at 3 pm, I dashed right home and built my own with a few modest variations in overall size and features using the same 1/2" MDF material. It's 12" square so I could maximize the use of a 24" x 48" piece of MDF.

Rather than routing out the MDF, I simply used two layers overall to create the tracks. All of the MDF pieces were glued and screwed together for a really strong and rigid bond. Plus I preferred the extra heft that the additional layering gave me for added stability.

I used double sided tape to hold the sandpaper to the slider and actually used two different grades on the two sides for added flexibility.

While squaring up corners is crucial in modeling structures, my main use will be in butting together multiple side pieces since I am replicating three major mill structures that require multiple kits to be kitbashed.

Since this was a relatively easy task, and since I had an excess of clear pine from assorted benchwork adventures, I decided to mass produce a dozen 8" x 8" sanding jigs. I used the leftover 1/2" MDF as a base and 3/4" clear pine for the sander and fence. In a moment of sheer madness, I gifted them to my fellow GSD board members as a gesture of kindness.

Even made a few for lefthanded modelers. We're a full service that aims to please!

The underside shows the screw placement to hold the double layer. The four corner self-adhesive bumpers are reinforced with a dab of Goo for better adhesion.

I believe that there are similar jigs available commercially, and knowing Craig, he probably just wanted to save a few bucks while sticking it to the man. But one must admit, it's a neat, little project. I'm considering a few options on how best to build a second sanding slider that will give me a 45 degree angle for corners.

But that's it for now. Back to life's challenges. My hope is to have some energy to more regularly update this blog, because although postings have seriously lagged, work on the layout has only modestly been affected. Later!


We may live just 25 miles from the media capital of the world, but the editors of a local monthly may want to work on tweaking some of their headlines. Duh!... ya think?

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Friendly Fridays... Franklin & South Manchester!"

What better way to kick off Volume II of the Old Main Line than with a visit to everyone's bucket-list layout?   George Sellios' Franklin & South Manchester in Peabody, MA, was on tap as part of a belated Father's Day weekend trip to Boston to see our little millennial. And as part of da-dee's festivities, wife and daughter happily joined in the half hour drive to a non-descript storefront on Main Street.

Anticipation mounted as we climbed the dark stairway to the second floor and then entered through a narrow hallway behind the layout's massive backdrop. But in turning the corner, the expanse of 23' x 42' cityscape revealed itself. The more than 600 detailed structures and extensive scenery was both breathtaking, but overwhelming too. Was I really here, finally? Where should I look first?

There's no mistaking the Sellios aesthetic of a dense and dilipated, depression era urban setting of exquisitely crafted structures.

The ladies were absolutely blown away by the scope and detail. They especially liked the 3-D scissor sign, but I noted George's nod to his childhood favorite, American Flyer Trains.

A deeply religious man, I'm betting that the paint company sign is one of George's little inside jokes. I also suspect that his use of ivy is not out of necessity like it is for many of us.

George says that he wore out the pages of MODEL RAILROADER and was most influenced as a young modeler by masters Frank Ellison and John Allen. He learned his lessons well.

Nothing hidden here... This is the way visible, sceniced staging is handled on the F&SM!

The entire layout is kept clean by its skirting which is pulled up and attached to hooks in the valence when not on display. George says that open houses create the most dust.

The detailed scenes never end. This is one of my favorite ones depicting the depression era. Three Stooges fans should note the tailor shop sign... more subtle than other structures like the not-pictured I.M. Boren Company or R.U. Bawnegan building.

George said that the F&SM has no access hatches even though it is very deep throughout. He relies extensively on the Topside Creeper to reach in, but also swears that he sometimes hangs from the supports above the dropped ceiling and works upside down. I still feel like he was pulling my leg on that one, but a religious man wouldn't do that to me, would he?

Here's a tenement row that would make Earl Smallshaw proud, complete with the requisite balconies and hanging laundry pushed up tight to the tracks.

Allegedly a Batman figurine is planted somewhere in the detailed layout which we could not find in person, nor in the 100+ photos that the three of us took. I assume that such a device is a good trick to help visitors focus on the micro rather than the macro.

Want to do eroded roadways and faded signage? Look and learn, people. Look and learn!

Whoa, wait a minute. What's that middle building doing here? Isn't that the old Atlas/AHM/Tyco Burns Engineering Company? Looks like George fancied it up with a scratchbuilt roof and customary debris. I reckon we can let him slide on this one.

Here's the man himself explaining how he does what he does. The former Minnesota Twins farmhand started Fine Scale Miniatures in 1966 and then the layout about 20 years later.

My pick up line, "Hey babe, wanna be in my blog?" went nowhere with this hot chick. "Better watch it," she deadpanned. "I'm married to a crazy man."  Ouch! That's harsh.

Gina, Kendall and I spent a couple of hours marveling at the workmanship and chatting with the shy craftsman. A proud customer of his brought in a completed diorama of the final FSM kit, I.M. Dunn coal yard. George studied it carefully, looking at it from different angles. The new retiree then proclaimed, "It's perfect... better than mine." High praise indeed!... and very classy.
The Franklin & South Manchester is open one Saturday morning most months. Photos are obviously allowed, as are smart-ass wives, but small children are not. Admission is $5.00. Afterwards, we concluded that two visits are really recommended. The first is just to get one's bearings and take in the overall scope. The second is when you can really relax and appreciate the individual scenes. We look forward to a return in the not-too-distant future... to find Batman!

But it was time to say goodbye and thank George for everything he has meant to the hobby. Now, on back to my daughter's north end neighborhood for a nice Italian meal and then one more stop that evening for another first. This was shaping up to be one heck of a day!

Another bucket list item checked. Fenway Park and the Green Mon-stah on a beautiful summer night. And we got to see the ump toss Sawx manager John Farrell for a tirade that was wicked awesome.