Friday, December 25, 2015

"Friendly Fridays... Merry Christmas!"

There's little debate that trains and Christmas have gone hand-in-hand for many years. Many of our earliest childhood memories of this holiday involves trains and train sets. An article was sent along by Garden State Division board member Tom Wortmann recently. It discusses the relationship between trains and the holiday. Click here to read. In the meantime...


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Harvest time... and my own field of dreams!"

Since it's the season of Chanukah bushes and Christmas trees, why not take a quick look at the potential foliage for the Old Main Line depicting mid-March when trees in Maryland are a mix of still-barren and just-blooming.

Modelers have always sought cheap (free) and plentiful natural specimens that can be applied for scenery-making purposes. Horseweed or Mare's Tail, Oak Leaf Hydrangea and Sedum seem to be the most popular and most effective.

This massive field of  horseweed is in my neighborhood here in north central New Jersey. It is typically ripe for harvest right around Thanksgiving, but the continued warm temperatures this year has lengthened the time before it has gone dormant. BTW, this looks like it would make a great photo backdrop, doesn't it?

The weed looks like this throughout the summer and typically grows to about three high. It tends to flourish along side roadways and highways. Its eventual transformation during late fall is pretty significant.

A supply that was harvested a year ago seems to have kept just fine in one of my trusty boxes. The items can be straightened out by holding over steam, but seem to be a little too dry to use the soldering iron method that works with Super Trees.

The top of each bush can be clipped to look like this and then carefully trimmed back to yield several potential trees. The key to harvesting is to wait until most leaves have dropped leaving only the seedlings. A few leaves are still evident here, but they'll fall off easily.

The trees on the right are the result of simple clipping of the top armature that is pictured above. The trees on the right come from the process of dragging through a clawed hand so the fingers knock off the seedlings.

The plan is to experiment with various treatments of matte medium, spray paint and even A/I wash. Most trees will be left bare, but some will have a hint of new growth using the traditional dip and sprinkle method. They look best when clustered closely together as background trees. But since I'm modeling a wooded river valley, I'm going to need an awful lot of that type, so why not give it a try?

But that won't be for awhile. For now, warmest wishes to everyone this holiday season. May your trains be on time and always remain on the rails.
Update: January 13, 2016

Where'd it go? The old adage says, "You snooze, you lose."  So much for my field of dreams!
What do you find is your favorite part of the holiday season?
A) Finding a non-handicapped parking spot in the mall parking lot.
B) Finding the absolutely perfect Christmas tree with your wife.
C) Finding a suitable box in which to pack and ship odd-sized gifts. 
D) Finding which outdoor decoration has shorted everything else out.
E) Finding peace on earth and goodwill towards man.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Knock, knock! Who's there?... Redemption."

A few months ago when I evaluated my first 50 posts here in blogger's paradise, I reluctantly revealed which entry was the least popular with readers in the interest of full disclosure. It was my kitbash of two inexpensive Atlas rural station kits into a representative version of the Ilchester depot. I could live with the result since it was a not-yet-completed project and was really only undertaken as an inexpensive way to redevelop skills that I hadn't used in 30+ years.

But a funny thing has happened since then. The post has slowly been gaining momentum with readers. I've received several emails with questions about the project. And I even was engaged by a reader at a local meet recently about that specific piece. So without any further ado, here are a few more photos and some additional information about the task. Click here for the original April 26th post for the complete background in, 'Practice Makes Perfect... Really?'

The rear of the depot will actually be the side that is featured on the layout as it sits on the south side of the railroad putting it right against the aisle. The window configuration is distinctly asymmetrical so I felt that it was imperative to duplicate such.

The green putty at the base of the structure gives away the six different sections that were cut and spliced together to achieve the window arrangement. Four of the six windows have gotten their upper sashes replaced with some scrapbox extras that I was able to trim into the distinctive B&O look. The other two windows may get boarded up. The white styrene strips are plugging cavities in the kit wall that held the roof brackets.

The eastern end of the depot featured two half windows that were ganged together. This 1959 photo gleaned from the B&O Historical Society archives shows the three different siding materials of the depot which I did not worry about for this entry level project.

Cutting out half of the wall horizontally was tricky enough due to the vertical board and batten, so I did not try to gang the two windows together. A stone foundation should add to the overall look as the structure will be sited on a slight grade leading up to the tracks.

Much of the reader interest has been in the process of evaluating the wall components, deciding where to cut and keeping track of all necessary parts. This is what works for me.

I typically lay wall sections on my color copier, make multiple copies and then start marking up and cutting. Once I have arrived at a formula that maximizes the available inventory, I make a master with notes and cut marks and then go to work on the styrene.

The project is still exactly where it was several months ago while I devoted my time and energy into converting my single deck layout into a multi-deck one... and then right back into a single deck again. But I do promise to do a final post when the structure is completely built, painted, weathered and detailed.

And BTW, we all know what the response should be in the title line, but I couldn't come up with a clever reply to, "Redemption who?" But that's OK. I was never really a knock, knock joke kind of guy. Give me a good light bulb riddle any day!

Update: February 23, 2016
Boy, no one gave the light bulb joke a shot. The answer, albeit to the rhetorical question is: "Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change." ... Ba-da-bum!

How many clinical psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"Friendly Fridays... Some nods to blog buddies."

While I'm appreciative of so much that I have learned from various bloggers and their "do this, but definitely don't do that," type of postings, today I do need to highlight a few authors specifically, but for rather tangential reasons.

If Marty McGuirk can occasionally post his 'Wordless Wednesdays' on something other than hump day, then I reckon that it's more than acceptable for me to issue a 'Friendly Fridays' missive a few hours after the mark... Right?

Pierre Oliver and Trevor Marshall each recently posted delightful entries about hosting a visit from model railroad enthusiast and actor Michael Gross, detailing a full day of hobby-related operating, shopping and dining. Certainly I was familiar with Michael from his television, stage and film roles as well as his work as spokesperson for the "World's Greatest Hobby." But I forgot something very important, especially for someone depicting B&O's Old Main Line.

Actor Michael Gross has served as the celebrity spokesperson for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. Just click on the sidebar link under References & Resources to see his personal message, videos and full biography. How could I have forgotten?... My bad!

To their credit, Trevor and Pierre reported on their enjoyable day not as star-struck fans, but as participants marveling at the many worlds that our hobby crosses. Check out their blogs on the sidebar if you somehow haven't already.

And if you do watch the latest video that Michael narrates, you may recognize the topic, The War Came by Train: 1865, a very familiar topic per Bernie Kempinski's extensive work. Enjoy.
How did those Thanksgiving travels work out for you last weekend?
We New York area travelers know that it's not about 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles,' but  rather, 'Holes, Tolls and River Crossings,' that leave one feeling trapped with no way home.