Friday, November 25, 2016

Clearance Train

With the helix installed I wanted to make sure there was ample clearance for the rotary, so I ran a rotary train. I could have just pushed the rotary around to see if it would rub any of the supports but this was way more fun. Plus the sound of a double header is really cool.
This is a section of the old layout from the other house that was saved. I still need to remove the trees and paint the backdrop.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More Bridge

Here's what it looks like today. The backdrop has been painted and I'm starting to add more details to the scenery. The scene is starting to come together, even though the photo is a bit overexposed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bridge part 1

Same bridge, now with the plaster painted and some dirt added. Later this week I'll add more dirt and start adding ground cover.

Monday, October 17, 2016


When Caboose Hobbies shut it's doors, they were scavenging everything to sell, including this Central Valley bridge. This bridge was on the HO scale layout that was located in the scenery department. By buying it (for cheap), I figured I could retain a bit of Caboose Hobbies history on my layout by rebuilding it for Sn3. Since whoever removed it from the layout wasn't very careful, it needed a bridg-ectomy anyway.
Once I pried off the girder section from the deck, I removed the rails and scraped off the molded on tie plates meant for HO scale. I added new rail gauged for Sn3, gave it a good scrubbing and set it aside. The girder section required more work. One side was missing the rods and stringers so I added new brass wire and styrene to replace the missing parts, scrubbed it down to remove years of dust and set it aside.
The next day I fitted the bridge into place; I changed some of the bench work, added a piece of plywood for the stream bed, added Chooch bridge abutments and added new approach rail. Once I was happy with the fit, I removed it from the layout and airbrushed on a new coat of flat black and let it dry. While it's not built perfectly, I think it's cool that I have part of the old HO scale layout in my basement. Eventually I will add some weathering so it won't look so new.
I have also added an additional 10 feet of plaster using the same method as before, dryer sheets soaked in hydrocal over drywall shims. Once I get the scenery finished along this wall, I can start building the yard.

Monday, October 3, 2016

New Scenery

I started adding scenery to the upper level of the layout about three weeks ago. Once all the webbing was in, I added the hard shell using used dryer sheets soaked in hydrocal. One to two layers is all that's needed. Once dry, I painted on a thick coat of flat latex paint, that was close to my dirt color, and sprinkled on sifted dirt that I picked up off Hwy 285 just west of Denver a few years ago. After I let that dry overnight, I then added more dirt to cover any spots that needed it. I do this by spraying the ground with "wet" water while adding the additional dirt so it sticks, then I use a syringe to cover it all with diluted white glue. With the glue still wet I add different colors of ground foam. I then add lots of rocks and some other foreground materials and glue them down using the same technique.
I still need to add a bunch of forest floor junk made from sticks, leaves and other stuff from the backyard that I'll grind up in an old blender. The rocks also need more color and some vegetation, and mostly I need to add trees. But for now it's fun to see a train run over something other than plywood.

Test Results: Cardboard versus Drywall Shims

Here is a photo of the same area from the previous post, now with some scenery. The drywall shims held up just fine, so no more cardboard for me.

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Technique for Scenery

After a great time of 2 foot narrow gauge in Maine last week at the 36th National Narrow Gauge Convention, I'm now motivated to start some scenery on the Jakes Creek branch. In the past, I have used several techniques for the webbing that supports the scenery. I've tried foam, chicken wire, screen wire and cardboard strips.  While all of these have their pros and cons, I thought I would try something new; drywall shims. They are already cut into strips, they are very easy to work with and readily available, plus I had a ton of these left over from house remodeling. A pack of these run around $10. Although I have always been able to get cardboard for free, it's time consuming cutting it into usable strips. I was concerned however that the shims might not hold up when they get wet.
I will mention that I do not use plaster cloth for my scenery. Years ago, a fellow modeler shared with me his technique for making scenery. Instead of using plaster cloth or paper towels, he uses dryer sheets, used ones of course. You only need two layers, because when the plaster infused dryer sheets dry they are really strong. You simply use them the same as using paper towels, plus they're free. So instead of throwing the used dryer sheets away when the laundry is finished, my wife saves them for me and has for years.
I have put on a few of the sheets in the photo and the drywall shims seem to be holding up. They really don't get that wet from dryer sheets as the sheets dry very fast. Plus there's no static cling...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Caboose Hobbies

"All good things must come to an end..."
Caboose Hobbies in Denver was the largest model train store in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, but no longer. In July, the owners of the building decided to sell the property, probably due to Denver's booming real estate market. Instead of moving to a new location the owners (Duane and Joanna Miller) have decided to retire. I can honestly say that it has been a joy working for the Miller's. Joanna especially made every effort to treat everyone with kindness. She was sweetest boss I'll ever have.

After working at Caboose for 8 1/2 years, I will now have more time to spend on my layout. Not to mention spending more time on the upcoming 2017 National Narrow Gauge Convention that will be here next August!

There will be many things I'll miss about the store closing: employee discounts (the Caboose Hobbies salary re-cooperation plan), doughnuts or Duffy Rolls on Mondays, watching customers in the store on their very first visit with their eyes wide open (just imagine adults looking like little kids in the giant train toy store at Christmas) or talking with customers from all over the globe who have become friends over the years.

Mostly I will miss working with the wonderful people that were the Caboose Hobbies family.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mining Module

I've started laying out the track for the mill that is at the end of the branch on the upper level. I've decided to build a module that can be set into place instead of standing on a footstool. Here are two photos of the progress.
The first photo shows the three way stub switch I built on Thursday afternoon. I decided to use a three way switch at the beginning of the track work so as to make everything fit. No I didn't use a fast tracks jig, I built it with PC ties and rail using my own templates. I will say that my Hottip soldering station was awesome for this!

The second photo shows the module in progress. I can now sand the roadbed and start laying track. The entire upper level of the layout uses flex track and hand laid turnouts. (I've hand laid three complete layouts in my lifetime, I'm not doing a fourth). However, the entire yard on the lower level will be hand laid.

The module isn't very big and since there isn't room for a switch on the end of the siding I'm using a turntable to both turn the locomotive and act as a switch. For operations, a five car train will enter the module, take the siding on the right with the locomotive pulling on to the turntable. The engine will turn, runaround the train and proceed with switching the mill, starting by shoving the caboose on to the turntable. The mill has a three to four car capacity. The side track will hold a gondola of coal for power and heat, plus there's enough room for the occasional reefer of beer for the miners.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cheap Structure

I picked up this Micro Engineering HO scale Grogers Grocery kit for nothing! To make it work for S scale I simply replaced the doors with Grandt Line S scale commercial store front doors. I could have also replaced the windows on the sides but I thought they looked fine.
Instead of using the goofy looking brown shingled roof that comes in the kit, I wanted to add tar paper that I make using newspaper spray painted black, a trick I learned from Jon Addison. However, after unsuccessfully searching high and low for my stash of tar paper, I ended up just using masking tape instead. Once the tape was on, I masked everything on the building and air brushed flat black on the new roof. I also went ahead and used masking tape for the window shades like my brother and I used to do when we were kids.
The kit comes with all the main parts of the building molded in white styrene, I chose to paint it SP lettering gray with white trim. After adding some chalks for weathering I think it turned out pretty good for what will essentially be a background structure, especially considering I got it for free. But I'd still like to know what happened to all my tar paper!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stick with the plan!

I spent over a year designing the track plan for my new basement, only to change it (on a whim) when I was overcome with stupidity.  Well, after another two months of rebuilding, the layout is back on track per the original plan. I'm back building Jakes Creek instead of the following the prototype.

I've lowered the staging yard on the peninsula four inches (one more helix turn) so now the staging yard is way more accessible. No more reaching in and knocking over cars. I've finished running the buss wiring on the three levels and have started adding feeders.  The track work is by no means finished but at least the main line is in.  The second peninsula won't be started for several more years, for now I'm leaving one side of the basement open. Still left to do is to design and build the yard, add a track near the stock pens for the branch and relocate the coal mine and add the track. Plus I still need the build the bench work for the large mill at the end of the branch, per the original plan.

However, I can now run a train from the "yard" up to the town of Jakes Creek, do all the switching, turn the locomotive and run back to the yard. This all takes about an hour. An operating session should require about 4-5 people. This will include two separate branch runs, the coal mine, plus all the trains on the lower level.  


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Switch Stand

What says "I'm a narrow gauge train nut" more than your very own narrow gauge switch stand?  This stand is off the D&RGW narrow gauge 4th division. It's a bit odd as it has two targets, not just the red one. Joanna Miller of Caboose Hobbies tells me this came from Durango. Apparently Duane Miller's step dad got this from the railroad in the 1960's.

How cool is that!

The lamp on the top has been modified so it can light up.  Some of the kerosene parts have been replaced by a 60 watt light bulb. While it's not original, it makes it much easier than pouring kerosene in when I want it illuminated.  It also has an Adlake lock on it that takes a Rio Grande switch key.  My plan is to run new wiring to the lamp and to install an outlet behind it on the house with a switch.  It should make a great conversation started when sitting out on the deck in the evening.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Modelers License

I've had this mill for several years and I was determined to put it on the layout somewhere. I know that this kit is not a prototype (it's the Burnside Mill from Finestkind) and I also know that there weren't any stamp mills along the D&RGW main line. I still think it's cool, plus it adds revenue for the railroad. I spent some time Friday and Saturday adding an elevated track to serve the mill near the top of the grade.

The photo also shows the C-19 #340 I've been working on (I really need to stop using my phone and get out the Canon SLR). It needed some TLC; a few parts were missing or broken and the weathering wasn't in the best shape. It was a PBL Foreground model so it did have PFM sound.
I installed a Tsunami and TCS KA1 in the tender and put a TCS FL4 in the boiler for the lights. I like using this arrangement because this requires only 4 wires between the boiler and tender. Once the locomotive was put together, I fixed the broken parts, made some new ones, touched up the weathering and added a few details. By the way, a PBL Hot-tip is a must for working on brass! Even though this is a late Samhongsa model, it runs like a champ.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ready to Paint

I have been accused by some of my closest "friends" of building freight cars but never painting them. The conversation usually goes something like; "Gee Patrick when are you going to actually FINISH the cars you build?" Now it is true that I have several dozen PBL kits that are built but not painted, decaled or weathered, but I have had an excuse for the last two years.  Tearing down a layout, moving, building a new layout (all the priorities of course) has put the car department on hold.

Well, there are no more excuses now. Tuesday afternoon was spent putting new electric on the spray booth and hooking it up with new ducting. The old method was a simple matter of turning on the light switch and both the light and blower went on. Now however, there is a separate switch for the light and blower, plus I've added an outlet so the air compressor is always ready. This is connected to the new electric I put in my work room where with one switch I turn off all the electric power to everything around the workbench.  I also added a dryer draft vent on top of the blower, so when the booth is off a damper closes to keep cold air out. The booth was built using a sheet of available plywood I had on hand years ago, not ever sure what size it was. No plans, just what looked right. I also added a light to the inside. The cabinet it sits on was cut down from an old desk I got from a Denver Public School sale. That's a story in and of itself.

Now where did I leave all those assembled kits?...

Friday, January 15, 2016

1st Cumbres Turn

Here's a video of the first train with a helper. I'll admit I was pretty nervous running a train like this without scenery (nothing to stop the train from hitting the floor should gravity take over). This has given me a big incentive to get more of the mainline finished. I can't wait to actually run a train from Chama to Cumbres!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

YEE HAW, Progress!!!!!

I just love Christmas vacation!  What a great time to work on the layout.  The new staging yard was complete for an entire 6 days when I decided to change the track plan and get rid of the helix. So on December 30th the staging tracks came up, I recycled the plywood and instead built a continuous grade from the lower level to the upper level. New Years Day was spent cutting and installing new roadbed and risers. The grade is the same as the helix, about 2.5%.
The biggest change however is the entire layout concept. I had planned on continuing the old layout concept by freelancing, something dictated by the lack of space in my old basement. However, since I've acquired more real estate I have the chance to model something I've always wanted to model, Chama to Cumbres Pass on the D&RGW in the 1940's. The lower level yard will be Chama, NM, Cumbres Pass will be on the upper level. Staging for both north and southbound trains will be in a storage room.  The length of run is 310 feet.
Here are a few shots of the weeks progress.