Landscaping begins

Untitled by BGTwinDad
Untitled, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

I’ve actually gotten a little bit of work done on the layout.  After what seemed an enormous amount of fiddling I finally got the sand tower arranged so that locomotives will fit between the hoses, so I permanently attached that.  Then I filled in with a bit of lightweight spackle and painted the ground with a burnt sienna.  In retrospect that color is a bit too dark and red, but I was going for a wet red clay… I think I need just a bit lighter and more tan next time.  Add some fine turf in a mix of green and yellow, and things start looking like something.  Next up, here, I need to permanently install the fuel tank and add some piping, and then do something to make the road look decent.  I’m going to have to paint it darker, and then add some striping (again), as the tape I was using didn’t work.

The road into town begins to take shape.

Over on the other end of the layout, I’ve installed the road and the first grade crossing.  I’ve got a lot of work to do to make this look right…  I didn’t count on the grade crossing being narrower than my chosen road width, and I made a mess of the road when putting spackle around the edges to blend the grade… but I’ve got the basics in place, and with some work I can make it look like something.

Again, with the burnt sienna paint and some fine turf ground cover, this begins to look like something.  I need to fill in some holes, add some gravel and stuff on the steeper slopes, and continue to add detail… I’ll have to trim the road back a bit and add a gravel shoulder, and blend it into the grade crossing better.

After I took the photo, I went back with the  lightweight spackle and began filling and blending in the grade on the upper hill… very soon the Woodland Scenics Risers should begin to disappear.

Finally, I also began adding ballast to the main line across the front.  This is Arizona Rock & Mineral rock ballast – real crushed rock! – and is very interesting to work with.  It lays very nicely and has a very fine consistency and a wonderful color blend.  I’m glad that Fifer Hobby carries this in single bags, as it’s quite expensive if bought direct from the manufacturer.  I like the way the mainline color (grey, right) differentiates nicely from the yard ballast (brown, left)… should help guest operators see more quickly which tracks are which.

One thing I did notice is that it’s easier to be sloppy with the cork roadbed with Woodland Scenics (crushed walnut shells) ballast. as it’s a bit more forgiving when trying to form a nice slope on the ballast.  With the AZR&M ballast, I’m going back and cutting a slope into the cork instead of leaving it messy.  This is a good Best Practice anyway, so it’s not so bad, and is fairly easy with a sharp razor blade.



Fernwood Revisited

  by BGTwinDad
, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Today was a very fun day, train-wise.  I spent most of the morning at Pete Birdsong’s place.  First we did a dry-run of my upcoming demo of the Virtual Sound Decoder project at the next NMRA Division 10 meeting.  We’ll be using Pete’s new N scale switching layout as part of the show-and tell.  It’s based on a published track plan (can’t recall the name) and is built on a sheet of Masonite with an aluminum angle frame.  Very lightweight and portable.  It also has Peco turnouts, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen them in person.  I am now a HUGE fan, especially in places where manual operation is desired and one does not want to use over-scale ground throws.  Here’s a helicopter-shot of the layout.

Pete has only just begun the scenery work, but the layout is fully operational and he’s already integrated it into his operations software. He also has it hooked up to a benchtop-mounted sound decoder and a PC speaker to provide neat sound effects.  It was interesting and educational to compare the operation of the commercial sound decoder with my VSD software.  I have some work to do, but I think mine held up pretty well, if I do say so myself.

After our testing, it was time for Pete’s monthly operations session, and the gang arrived in droves.  I first took the “milk run” which involved an RDC with a passenger car and a boxcar all the way from Camp 2 all the way to Fernwood.  By the time I finished there was a long line waiting for trains, so I took a turn at switching the N scale layout.  It was quite a challenge using the old U-boat to shuffle cars up and down the hill and get them all in the right spots.

By the time I finished that job, the crowd had thinned just a bit, and I had time to squeeze in one more run, using a weatherbeaten 2-8-0 to haul a short cut of boxcars from Fernwood to Magnoila, switching out for two different cars, and shuffling on to Camp 2.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable morning, to say the least.

To top things off, Pete introduced me to one of the club members who owns a local hobby shop that I was not aware of – and who was able to cut me a sweet deal on a decoder for my new SD35… so by bedtime my birthday present was off the display track, through the shop and ready for revenue service!

You can see more photos of Pete’s layout in my Flickr set.  I hope you enjoy them!!





CH&FR Tests Six-Axle Diesels

  by BGTwinDad
, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Residents in Glover’s Bend were awakened by a new Diesel rumble from the nearby Nolan Yard. The CH&FR, in its search for improved efficiencies in its crucial coal hauling operation, has leased two six-axle units from the GPF&F Railroad for testing and evaluation on the Glover’s Bend Division’s steep grades and tough curves.

Arriving yesterday evening were EMD SD35 B&O#7414 and EMD SD50 C&O#8625. With their weight distributed across more contact points on the rail, thanks to the three-axle trucks, these engines can start a heavy train easier and drag it up the tough grades in the Glover’s Bend area more effectively than the four-axle Diesels currently on the roster. With shipments on the rise, this will be a critical change to operations.

The two units will be tested extensively over the next few days operating trains in a variety of situations, and will be studied and evaluated by the maintenance crews as well. If the tests are successful, the CH&FR plans to either purchase or long-term-lease two or three units for regular use on the mine runs. Initial reactions were mixed.

“That SD35 is a sweet machine… good power, good traction, and a comfortable ride. But that SD50? It’s just too darn big. I don’t know how we’d get it into the maintenance shops. It’d be a bear to run it all the way to Frost River every time we need to fix something!” , one engineer was quoted as saying.

The next several days should certainly be interesting for railfans in this area, as these two big engines ply the local rails.