Friday, November 20, 2015

"Friendly Fridays... the Garden State RPM."

The third annual Garden State RPM was held this past weekend right here in bucolic Scotch Plains. A few of us north Jerseyans help Ted DiIorio each year with organizing and staging the event. Ted is an instructor at the county vocational school where the meet is held. In return for getting the venue for the day, Ted donates some proceeds back to a couple of student organizations, so everybody wins. It's a neat two-day meet with about a dozen clinics, model displays and vendor tables on Saturday and about a dozen layout tours Sunday.

Serious motive power was the order of the day! James Auriemma had two tables of beautifully weathered diesels and rolling stock for attendees to drool over. The number of models on display increased dramatically this year which is a welcome trend for the event.

NYSME member Fred Wadleigh displayed several dozen prototypical trackside structures that he scratch-built in HO scale. This freight house was in fact built three times depicting three different time periods during the 20th century. Here, the all-wood model shows the most recent version and the ravages of time per the photograph.

Any clinician's worst nightmare is a technological snafu prior to presenting. Dave Ramos (seated) came to first-timer Dave Olesen's rescue by switching out laptops and some wires to get the venue's projection system to cooperate. It was deja vu for me as I had the same problem in the same classroom last year. Dave rode in on his white horse then, too.

South Jersey's Ralph DeBlasi gave a very informative Power Point presentation on weathering rolling stock and then devoted several more hours to small-groups in a hands-on clinic stressing three key points: 1- Always work from photographs; 2 - Weather in layers; 3 - Fading is not about what you put on, but what you take off.  See The Weathering Shop link on my sidebar under References & Resources for amazing work and techniques.

Travers Stavac (right) of the Layout Design SIG was available to critique track plans throughout the day. Here he and attendee John McCluskey  discuss some ideas. Travers and group founder Doug Gurin have traveled from the Baltimore/DC area each year to help out.

RPMs are great places to find research materials. Jay Held and son Nick do a tremendous job promoting the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society  schlepping an endless supply of magazines, maps, manuals, timetables, etc. to these types of meets throughout the year.

Daylene Wolf and her main squeeze Alfred, let hubby Norm tag along from Fredericksburg, VA where Norm coordinates the very popular Mid-Atlantic RPM each September. They cheerfully peddled Scotty Mason's products in his absence, while Alfred chilled out all day.
By all accounts, the 100+ attendees had a great time and the student organizations made a killing selling coffee and doughnuts throughout the day, not to mention pizza and drinks at lunch. Imagine? I do regret not getting a photo of the exceedingly long line of modelers anxiously awaiting their slices as the pizza boxes depleted at a furious pace. I would've enjoyed putting a caption to it.

If you've followed this blog, you'll understand why I chose not to open my bench work or do my Old Main Line Power Point detailing the conversion from single deck to multi-deck. As Roseanne Roseannadana used to say, "Never mind!"

He may not have gotten the Iwata airbrush or PanPastels kit, but who has two thumbs and parlayed $40 in raffle tickets into this $35 B&O Wagontop, generously donated to the meet by ExactRail?
...This guy!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Noodling... Can the entry gate be salvaged?"

It was reassuring to see that I was not alone as the "welcome to the club" congratulations poured in from fellow model railroaders over my gaffe with the entry gate. But while many have had their own "been there, done that" moments, it still didn't mitigate the fact that I had a problem of my own creation that needed to be rectified. Did I have the goods to figure something out or was I indeed a free agent going to the village with the winning bid?

Aside from lowering the cellar floor, per my buddy Chuck Diljack's thoughtful advice, I needed to shorten the length of the span or increase the height of the drop. My priority was whatever would be easier without a loss of effectiveness.

The early morning sun poured into my favorite coffee-sipping, jazz-listening, newspaper-reading lounging spot. Meanwhile, the defective entry gate mockingly disrupted my view into the train room. But could it be that the stop plate extension was the sole issue?

Measurements showed that it was very close whether the stop plate was the only issue, so it was removed, but the gate still didn't quite clear the floor. Like my Mets, close, but no cigar. 

The stop plate was mounted to the top of the bench work and a reinforcing 1" x 3" support was switched from the end of the span to the edge of the bench work. Combined with the 1/4" expansion gap that was no longer part of the span's framing, I picked up a full 1".

The sash locks were now placed inside the end of the span while still being assured of perfect height alignment by the stop atop the bench work.

Success! The gate now swings freely and will give me maximum clearance adjacent to the entry. I may add a hydraulic closer similar to what is used for storm doors to assure that the gate drops in a controlled manner.

Here's the reworked version. Still  perfectly level, but 1" shorter and awaiting risers for the sub-roadbed. Scroll down to compare this photo to the first photo in Sunday's post.

It remains to be seen how this will work out once track is laid, but it is very solid. Hopefully the expansion/contraction cycle will be minimal since my basement is climate controlled and the kiln-dried framing has been here for a year already.

I will need to be careful as I build up from the bench work to an overall depth of about 12". The meeting-edge of the span will need to be angled back slightly to allow for clearance when the gate drops down in its pendulum arc. I will do some mock-ups to make certain that that clearance doesn't become an issue. But for now, mission accomplished. More on this down the road, I'm sure.


I'm just saying, but if a recording tells me how much my business is appreciated by the companies that I sometimes need to call, why do they make it so incredibly frustrating to reach an actual human being?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Revealed and confirmed... I are such a idiot!"

Somewhere a village has a job opening with my name on it! But before we get to that, here's the backstory. It was long over due that I get back to the layout, and task numero uno was deciding upon a method for the entry gate. Just design it, fabricate it, install it. No real worries. For me, the keys were simplicity and durability. It was imperative that it remain out-of-the-way when not in use while still allowing emergency egress when it was in place.

It seemed that a simple 36" span that could drop down out of the way was a good way to go. I had some old door and old window hardware on hand, not to mention ample 1" x 3" framing from the discarded helix. Design, construction and installation went very well and all necessary parts were indeed available. I quite possibly had the single finest model railroad gate ever known to man.

The 14" x 36" span was actually cut from the helix frame and used as is. The ends were beefed up with extra 1" x 3" members for added mass to better accept the hardware. It is hinged on the left side so it can hang alongside the wall beyond the path of circulation. The right side is assured of vertical alignment by a 1" x 3" 'stop' screwed to the bottom of the span. It butts up against the fixed bench work when it is in the raised, fully level position.

The span is locked into these two sash locks from some old windows that were replaced. I saved the hardware for the slim possibility of some unbeknownst future use. Bingo, baby!

The heavy duty brass hinges are from old solid wood doors... the ones that they just don't make anymore. Ideally the hinges should be set flush by routing or chiseling out 3/16" giving them added strength, but the gate won't take the repetitive perpendicular force that a 'cantilevered' heavy door would, so why knock myself out, right?

The sash locks are shown here... one in the locked position and one in the open position. When fully secured, the gate is as rigid as the fixed bench work, even though there are gaps at each end for expansion/contraction.

And now, drumroll please... Presenting the finest model railroad entry gate (that does not clear the floor.)  No 'splainin' this. How could I have possibly screwed this up so royally?

Somehow I had neglected to carefully measure the vertical clearance versus the length of the span, including the 1" x 3" stop extension with its hardware. I had previously known that a gate would not be an issue when my bench work was at its original height. But I did not fully consider the impact of the 7" loss when the ill-fated upper-deck was installed and this deck was lowered.
I've walked away for a day or two to gather myself. There are a couple of ideas I have to possibly salvage this. We'll see how that works out. Meanwhile, I have to get the phone. I suspect a village is calling. To be continued...

Boy oh boy... model railroading can really be fun sometimes, can't it?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Honoring our veterans... a word of thanks!"

A quick word today on Veteran's Day. I can never grasp the horror of combat or even the disruptions to one's personal life while serving in peacetime. But it has never been lost on me that the life my family enjoys is due to the commitment of so many brave souls who always have, and always will, protect our nation.

It seems like the observance of today's holiday has gained some traction this year, but the cynic in me wonders if such promotion is ratings and profit driven. No matter I guess, if it results in greater awareness of our veterans and of the sacrifices each and every one of them have made to maintain our freedom.

What if the proliferation of commemorative camouflage apparel in professional sports reached our hobby? Hmmm... Should the Old Main Line salute our nation's veterans with this one-size-fits-all cap?  I'll check with NFL Properties for a suggested retail price and potential licensing fees, because after all, they are the bastion of  social conscience. 
I'll honor my dad today with a phone call and some small talk about his time on Guam with the Air Force in WWII. His memory is vivid about the old days, including never wearing camouflage, although sadly he can't recall what he had for breakfast, or if he even had breakfast. Be well and enjoy the day.

Is it possible that a not-too-sharp hunting enthusiast misses the point when professional athletes compete in commemorative camo?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"An organized workspace to call my own..."

As part of my recent pillaging and organizing, I was determined to set-up a full-time work station that would blend into the finished part of the basement, and do so using as many components that were already on hand. Two file cabinets, two hollow-core doors, some left over bead-board from household projects and 1" x 2" framing from the former upper deck did the trick. Throw in an extra extension lamp from my drafting table and plastic bins saved from our favorite take-out restaurant and I was in business. Only some cheap plastic letter holders needed to be purchased, plus a chair mat to protect the carpet.

The hollow core doors were stained and coated with several coats of urethane. One serves as the desk top while the other serves as a screen for the lower portion. They were attached to the file cabinets with heavy duty Velcro squares, so the entire assembly can be taken down quite easily. The bead-board surround is screwed to the desk top from below.

The view from the stairs upon entering the basement won't be affected by a cluttered workbench while projects are in progress. The entry to the train room is to the immediate left. The former helix yielded to a new lounge configuration and allowed for the workbench.

The work enclave is segregated from the rest of the finished basement and includes my library, drafting table, computer area and workbench. The left-over bead-board gives a nice railroady touch, but I'm not sold on the color. We'll see, but it is just the basement!

Weeee!... I can swivel my chair back-and-forth between my workbench and computer.

Most importantly, I can see the TV from the workbench! The flat-screen will be raised and mounted to the wall with an extra mount that we have on hand. Note the power strip, recovered from a 'computer stuff' storage box. It provides needed outlets for my work tasks.

The key to organizing and storing my tools, parts and materials are these plastic containers from a local take-out eatery. The larger one measures about 6" x 9" x 2-1/2". The smaller one is about 4-1/2" x 6" x 2". I've saved in excess of  50 through the years.

Serendipity! Two containers fit perfectly into each letter tray. BTW, even the peel-and-stick lettering was on hand from long ago art projects. The 1" lettering might be overkill, but it's what I had and someday might be appreciated by aging eyes. You may not understand the labels, but I do. I had to get creative based on what was available and what would fit!

I'm pleased with the revamped man cave. It suits me for all of my own personal uses and provides a great lounge for railroad guests as well as for Garden State Division board meetings. The workbench is a major upgrade over my previous use of a table that served multiple family needs, but it does still need a little fine-tuning. I'll be adding some storage for all of my styrene and wood strips with stacked PVC tubing which is currently stored in my garage. More consolidation, more pillaging and more organization! I'm lovin' it.

And I'm about done with two track plan variations for the single deck layout. I'll get those drawn up nicely for review shortly.
Can you identify this location?  (Really big hint: Trains are caught here regularly. Baseballs?... not so much!)