Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Again?... A Sunday Morning's Rude Awakening."

An unwelcome text came in from our friend in Maryland early this morning with news and video of the overnight flooding in Ellicott City. Readers of this blog know that this has been a habitual problem for the area and it is what ultimately rendered the Old Main Line all but obsolete. 
The National Weather Service reported that more than six inches of rain fell in less than three hours. More than five inches fell within 90 minutes! It has been deemed, "a thousand year storm." 
The charming downtown is built on the side of a hill and its main street runs from top to bottom, punctuating with a meet at the Patapsco River. Higher hills on each side of Main Street funnel all water run-off onto it. This area, pictured in happier times, suffered significant damage.

Twenty four hours later damage was still being assessed. This stretch of Main Street is considerably higher  than the area adjacent to the Patapsco River. It did not escape harm.

News is still filtering in about the extent of the devastation. Two deaths have been reported so far. Our family is absolutely gutted, having visited this historic place so many times and always enjoying our interaction with the friendly residents and shopkeepers. Prayers!

BTW, for more photos of Ellicott City and its downtown architecture, see my post on selective representation.

UPDATE: August 1, 2016
Buddy David Olesen sent this update from the Washington Post. The videos emphasize the danger and helplessness that powerful, cascading water presents. The damage is such that there is now the very real fear that some of the historic buildings may not survive. EC will never be the same. So heartbreaking.


Friday, July 29, 2016

"Friendly Fridays... Cheshire Branch Revisited."

On one of several recent trips to Boston to help our college graduate settle into her "second floor closet with natural sunlight" in the city's historic north end, I had the opportunity to ultimately rendezvous with Jim Dufour and check on his progress. I hadn't visited in about three years and I was long overdue.

After a fortuitous meet at a nearby grade crossing, I arrived and we got right down to business... cold beers and gossip, plus a quick check of some workbench projects. But it was the work one level below that I was most anxious to see.

I have featured many images of the Cheshire Branch, some from my original visit, but many received via email, and I was excited to see the updates in-person. Aside from the expected rave reviews, one dominant impression struck me repeatedly. Jim's mainline 'rolled,' gradually climbing and descending around the layout, meeting at its run-through staging, despite his protestations that it was level.

"At least it's supposed to be," he pleaded.

Like my New Year's trip to Sykesville, I was one pick-up truck away from perfection as a CSX local rumbled by on the former B&M Worcester-Ayer line one block from Jim's residence. Alas, I did miss the motive power hauling a real assortment of graffiti-covered cars but there were some genuine blasts-from-the-past like this yellow one...
... and this blue one! (BTW, great prototype photo for aging roads.)
Jim's handiwork is exceptional and it comes from a modest table set up in his kitchen with nice sunlight. Here, my beer dwarfs the gas tanks for a fuel facility that he will be installing. Note the naked little people on the napkin that Jim is in the process of dressing.

The undulations of the terrain and the crossing lines of the track, road and river not only convey the impression that the railroad is not flat, it creates an illusion that the track is most definitely undulating itself.

I know that land forms built above and below track grade disguise the fact of a level railroad, but Jim's somehow goes beyond that, forcing the viewer to accept that the track is either gradually ascending or descending.

I got you now! I actually used my iPhone's level app to prove that this stretch north of  Troy was climbing. It wasn't.

We ran a couple of trains and I enjoyed the perceived rolling undulations. And then it was off to a local pub for New England clam chowder and a lobster roll. What else? But even over a nice meal, Jim couldn't explain how he had created such an illusion. I wish he could because I would like to steal it!


A photo may be deceptive, but it's just as deceiving in person. C'mon now, tell me that the track isn't gradually climbing as it weaves through the cuts and curls around the end of the peninsula in the foreground.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Just what the doctor ordered... 500mg of Fukitol!"

If you read Marty McGuirk's Central Vermont Railway blog, then you already know about Randy Laframboise's Rutland Road presentation at the recent NERPM... and his reliance on 500mg of Fukitol in designing and building his very large multi-deck layout with Mike Sparks. (So, that's how they do it!)

But that was just one of the many humorous, yet insightful,  moments presented at this annual event. In that vein, Mike Rose detailed how he can delicately fine-tune benchwork with a reciprocating saw and Kip Grant showed his radio roots by imitating the sound of an RS-3 in start-up mode. And of course, there were no shortage of wife anecdotes from various presenters that gave support and comfort to a room full of basement-dwelling model railroaders.

Several hundred attendees had 3-4 clinics to choose from in each of the seven slots from early morning through late evening this past Friday and Saturday. Here Neil Schofield discusses his latest layout and some quick scenery techniques to a rapt audience.

Marty McGuirk presented a nice piece on his latest layout efforts focusing especially on fall scenery and backdrops. He recounted that several areas have been redone on multiple occasions. (Music to my ears!) Plus, I got to finally meet Marty face-to-face after several years of only  on-line communication.

Who knew there was such a story about those two nuns loitering in downtown Sonnyvale on Kip Grant's D&H branchline? In addition, he recounted a story of a modeler who had seen his GMR 2011 article and called to ask for a visit. "Hi Kip, you don't know me, but my name is Dick Elwell..." Good stuff!

Moving the meet from the senior citizen's center in Collinsville, CT to the Holiday Inn in Enfield, CT provided many advantages, not the least of which was a larger room for vendors and model displays. This photo captures about one half of the space which was filled with plenty to gawk at between clinics. Truth be told though, the lighting could have been better in this room. Or is that my age rearing it's ugly head?

A tremendous amount of motive power and rolling stock was on display illustrating various talents in building, modifying and weathering including Butch Eyler's graffiti-filled goodies. Fellow bloggers Ryan Mendall and Pierre Oliver, plus Jered Slusser, had similarly very nice displays which my terrible photos unfortunately do no justice.

This HO scale scratchbuilt structure was the unofficial fan favorite of the meet and builder Ron Poidomani's presentation explained his process from design to finishing details, including interior  LED lighting  and weathering techniques. It is breathtaking.

I regrettably missed this clinic in order to heckle Kip Grant in his, but heard that it was very well-done. Likewise, I had to attend Jersey buddy Ted Pamperin's C&O New River Division in lieu of Chris Adams' presentation on his New Haven branch line. Decisions, decisions!

And of course food was a highlight, although I did not expect braised short ribs, truffled mac and cheese and fresh asparagus washed down with some local IPAs. This certainly beat a burger and beer, four-fold, which was about the cost ratio.
A word of thanks and congratulations to Dave Owens and his crew at the NERPM. A great time and wonderful event! What I've presented is just a fraction of the weekend's events. So many other clinics and model displays could have been covered here, but I'm certain that they will be in other blogs, websites, etc. Click on the above for photo galleries.
And a sincere thanks to my roomie, Jim Dufour, who shared great banter and some real neat discussion about theory and philosophy in constructing his prototype. His presentation on detailing the B&M's Cheshire Branch was a highlight. The NERPM is just few miles down the road from the annual Springfield show. If you can get to this region for that, you should do the same for this event. You'll be happy that you did. Cheers!
Although I'm not quite ready to pull a George Costanza and declare, "I'm back, baby," the NERPM was a needed shot in the arm for me and hopefully will get me going again. Just what the doctor ordered!