CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Monday, July 10, 2017

WW&F #3 coach build (part 2)

I went to the store and bought three quarts worth of 91% isopropyl alcohol and a plastic shoe-box sized container. Then, I put all three frames (one lengthened) and all the roof parts (including the scraps) in the bin and covered them with the alcohol. I snapped the lid on and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, not only was the paint coming right off but the glued-together frame hadn't fallen apart or warped. I used a toothbrush to strip off the old paint and it took a bit of time because it was red paint on top of red plastic, which is hard to see. Then, I set everything aside to dry.

I had taken the time to measure the wooden frame piece from the kit (9+3/4" long x 1+7/16" wide) before soaking the cars, in case it warped horribly and had to be replaced. The truck mounting screw clearance holes are inset 1" from each end and about 1/4" in diameter. With those dimensions in mind, I looked in my supply stash and pulled out some 0.060" styrene sheet. I know people who love working in wood and have large inventories of stripwood but I prefer styrene and always have tons of it around. I had some 0.125" thick stuff that I thought about using but I was concerned it might be too thick and raise the interior up an unacceptable amount. After cutting and using methyl ethyl ketone (MEK, or "Methel Ethel kill me quick" as some of my friends call it) to attach the floor to the ends I confirmed the 10" spacing between steps. Then, I attached the middle portion of the frame and made sure it was in line.

I noticed the frame was sagging a bit. Clearly, the styrene wasn't as strong as the wood, nor as thick. I then cut 0.060" styrene pieces to fill in the gaps in the underframe, thinking it might help. It didn't but it didn't cure it. So, on top of the 0.060" I laminated a piece of 0.040" styrene. But, when I glued it on I took care to gently bow the frame and then I glued it on. Once the glue cured, the bend counter-acted the sag and the frame was straight. I help hold it in a bow while the glue set, I suspended the frames between two paper cups with a glass on top to add a little weight. It was a pretty scientific method.

I then used small square styrene strips to rebuild the frame members on the underside. I didn't bother to do the ones along each side of the frame, as they will get cut off in the table saw. Once the frames come back, I will glue styrene strips along all of the edges to restore them.

I wasn't sure about what to do with the original metal weights that were installed in the floors. The kit has that area cut away for the wooden floor to allow for the weight, but I didn't want to remove that much from the styrene and jeopardize its strength. Per the NMRA, the recommended weight for an On3 car that is 11" long is 9.75 ounces. If I want to include any sort of interior (and I do, because there are a lot of windows, I won't be able to just glue nuts or lead shot or anything else. I could cut thin lead to cover the entire floor below the seats, and perhaps even scribe it to look like wood. But, I will try something else. I noticed the underside of the molded interior has hollow seats. I am going to fill them with lead shot hope that this will do the trick. Since motive power will be tiny Forney engines it isn't in my best interest to make the cars too heavy.

While that was drying, I decided begin working on the body. It consisted of of 10 pieces that made up the sides and ends, plus some interior and roof braces. The wood is super thin and the laser scribed nice board detail, and I had to be careful not to break or crack it. I had heard that wood kits warped like crazy so during the painting stages I tried not to load up one side with paint, or use a really "wet" paint mix. I used wood glue to assembly the two-part sides and ends together. Then, I took a plastic ruler I had and laid it along the entire length of the side or end and evenly applied pressure to get out any remaining air pockets or excess glue. A toothpick proved useful to help scrape away any excess that seeped out.

One of my strongest impressions of the cars was of the heavily varnished, ornately carved interior walls and trim. To that end, I painted the insides of the cars with a brown paint. Actually, I drybrushed them to build up color because I didn't want too much paint to seep onto the front or cause the body to warp. The brown I picked is actually lighter than the real wood, but because the car doesn't have interior lighting (I removed it) and will be dark inside, I think it will work. I don't want it so dark that it appears black. I may spray it will Glosscote to represent varnish, but I doubt it will be readily visible anyway.

The exterior of the pieces were give several light coats of Krylon #7733 "Dark Hunter Green." I think this is the right color under most lighting conditions. They had a Hunter Green that wasn't as dark which would probably look good if I was representing the sunniest of days, but it bugged me. We all have been there while looking at a paint rack, going back and forth between two close colors. I am happy with what I picked though. It went on well even without a primer (I was concerned a primer coat might fill in the laser-burned wood board detail) and without warping anything. It is really shiny which matches the well-kept appearance of the prototype, but I might apply Dullcote down the road.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Open Grid Benchwork: corner sections

I took a week off from work and part of the time I decided would be used for my layout. I knew I was going to need to build some corner sections for my layout... four specifically. They wouldn't have to be super fancy, but the framing would definitely not be like what I had built for the main sections. Since I have a tendency to not only over-think things but also make careless mistakes when I rush, I decided to combine these two impulses together by drawing a full-size plan of the corner sections on some poster board I had.

Not only could I identify each piece and where it fit into the plan, I could also take measurements directly from it and double-check my numbers to ensure that everything added up. And, since it didn't sound like it was going to be a lot of fun to build I also decided to make all four at the same time. That meant I needed to cut four of each piece, pre-drill all of the required holes for the wood screws and any wiring clearance holes, and label them to keep them from getting mixed up. It was an enjoyable 4-5 hours spread out over two days.

Then, I built them up in an assembly-line fashion and discovered that for the most part things went exactly as they were supposed two. A couple of wrinkles did come up though. First, one of the boards I bought from the store was too bowed to use and so I laid out everything else to make it all fit on the remaining 7 good boards and some scrap 1"x4" I had on hand. Second, I cut all the pieces correctly but one didn't look like it fit right so I assumed I messed up on measuring it and I cut all eight small boards a 1/4" shorter. I then tried them and discovered they were 1/4" too short. I don't know how I made that mistake, but I suddenly again found myself short on lumber. So, I used one piece of 2"x4" in each corner section instead of two 1x4" pieces. I labeled it "UP" to keep track of which side of the corner module is supposed to be oriented up.

I had the lumber yard cut more 15/32" plywood for the corner tops. I discovered I could get three 30" square pieces from a standard sheet, and hopefully the remaining pieces can be used to make the fourth. I may need to add additional bracing for that one to support any extra joints. Before I attached the plywood, I needed to cut and install the diagonal piece on the front of the corner sections. I discovered that some of the plywood was cut a little short in length (they apparently did not factor in the width of the saw blade), and some of my joints weren't perfectly square. Since I own a right-angle clamp, I should probably use it! So, I had to do some judicious sanding with a sheet sander I borrowed and some 40 grit paper.

Total cost for the four corner sections: $85 for the 1"x4" lumber, and $19 for the plywood, for a running total of $586. I have often wondered if I should have bought pre-made Sievers benchwork. For each of the 7-foot modules the cost would have been about $106 (a 48" long piece and a 36" long piece) and I would have needed four sides for a total of $425. Four 30" corner modules would have been $225 total. Shipping would have been $130 (20% of order). So, about $780 and that doesn't include the plywood top, or the legs, or the L-girders. I would also need to adjust cross-brace spacing and angle the corner sections. But, the benchwork would be perfectly square. Did I make the right decision? I don't know. Quality benchwork is an investment, and it isn't all about dollars and sense. Because I am making mine sectional, there are a lot more joints and plenty of room for error. But, I wanted to be able to say I built it myself. Before I lay any track I will finish all the benchwork and take stock at whether it is to a high enough standard to proceed. If not, Sievers it is.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WW&F #3 coach build (part 1)

My wife was visiting family over the fourth of July break, but I had to work so I was home all alone. With all this free time available, I cleaned off my workbench (mostly) and decided to try and work on this kit from Deerfield River Laser. My goal is not to construct a nut-and-bolt accurate model of the coach, but instead a "good enough" representation of the car we rode in. I am not a Maine 2-foot expert, nor is my wife... the two people who this car is for. Ironically, despite going to the WW&F and knowing I was going be building a model of this coach, I didn't take a single detailed picture of it. Idiot! The other coach in the WW&F train was B&SR #11, loaned from the Boothbay Railway Village.

Online Resources
As for online resources, there are two great links. Scot Lawrence, a railroad historian and modeler with many diverse interests, bashed to Bachmann coaches together to come up with a SR&RL RR coach of the proper length. His coach construction website contains many helpful tips and tricks, and he has also offered to help me with my project. Eric Shade, a frequently contributor to Garden Railways magazine, is building the same coach in 1:13.7 scale to run on Gauge 1 track. His build thread contains lots of pictures as well as some great drawings he made. Blue Mount Model Co. also makes some WW&F freight car kits which might be a fun diversion too in the future.

Beginning Construction
With that being said, I had to make a pretty big decision upfront when ordering: do I build it a scale 7.5' wide which will match the other Bachmann On30 equipment, or 6.5' wide to match the true Maine 2-footers? The engine I plan to use, a Bachmann Forney, is a scale 7.0' wide which is just right for a medium-sized Forney. D.R.L. offers the kit with ends of either width and you need to specify when ordering. I choose the "narrow" ones. I will mount the cars on standard On30 trucks (which will allow me to run the car on HO track) but should I ever decide to convert the cars to the proper On2 it will just mean swapping trucks.

It is a really nice kit, and only the second laser-cut wood kit I have built. It uses Bachmann On30 coaches as donors for parts. Specifically, for each 2-foot coach you needed one and a half Bachmann coaches. This is because the Maine cars are 46' feet long, but the Bachmann coaches are much shorter. The kits essentially involve taking the Bachmann cars apart, splicing the roof together (4 roofs will yield three finished 46' long roofs), and also splicing the frames. The kits come with instructions on where exactly to cut to do this, and they provide wooden spacers for the frames. But, it all relies upon those Bachmann coaches and I had none. So, after looking on Ebay I was referred by D.R.L. to the On30 Swap Meet Yahoo group. Bingo.

I saw a listing by someone there for cheap ($20 each) On30 coaches, but they were painted in various unrealistic "Collector" schemes. I didn't really care what I got, but I did want them to all have the same color clerestory windows (thanks Scot for the head's up!) I bought three cars- it doesn't matter if they are coaches or combines- from the seller and waited to see what arrived. When I opened the box, I was surprised to find McDonalds cars. Apparently, they must have authorized a special train set. The cars were decorated to celebrate different eras in their history, and there looks to have also been a caboose offered. I used to work as a manager at a McDonalds, and I got a kick out of them. 

I disassembled the cars and then followed the directions to cut the frame at the two locations required. The spacing between the two sets of end steps is supposed to be 10", so depending on how accurate you cut and how much you remove when filing and cleaning up the edges you may need to adjust the filler pieces accordingly. My steps were about 1/16" over 10", and not knowing how accurate I had to be I filed some more of the steps down. Then, I carefully attached everything to the wooden floor piece. I started at one end and worked my way down, using a straightedge to keep the plastic pieces straight. Upon final measurement, I had 10" exactly. I used a combination of super-thick superglue from Loctite and wood glue to attach everything together. The kit is designed to reuse the metal weight which I secured to the floor.

Then, the kit provides you with small pieces of wood to glue to the bottom of the frame spacers to represent the floor beams. They were a nice gesture though they seemed a bit oversize for what they were supposed to do. I still used them, but likely once everything is painted black and hidden in the shadows of the car they will not even be visible. The kit is also designed to reuse the existing truss rods and end railings, but I elected to just clip them off. The railings were bent anyway, and trying to remove them was tough. I figured I would break them anyway, so I will replace them with Grandt Line parts (#3821) and wire in the future. All in all, this part of the project went pretty smoothly.

The roofs were going to be a bit more complicated. To end up with a scale 46' long roof, I needed to combine two. Also, since the cars are going to be narrower than the stock Bachmann cars, I would then need to slice the roofs lengthwise and remove portions, and then glue everything up. I knew I didn't have the knife skills for the narrowing, so I contacted Scot (he had the website linked above) and talked with him about it. He has a miniature table saw that he purchased when he was building 2-foot coaches, and he readily agreed. The cuts to the roof are specifically called out, and the final roof is supposed to have the same spacing along the clerestory sections. Using those as a guide, I put some tape on the roof and then used a machinist's square to start the cut. I tried to hold the saw as vertical as possible.

The first cut went pretty well, and I labeled each roof piece so I wouldn't mix them up. Because Scot was gracious enough to help, I figured I might as well make a second roof up in case I built another car in the future (or screwed this one up)! The second one didn't come out as nice. However, plastic putty and some sanding should take care of hiding the seams for the most part. I then used some styrene from my supply to reinforce the roof joints. The kits come with a piece of wood to be superglued in place, but I wanted to use styrene because the plastic welded joints would be stronger than the superglue. I didn't want the roof coming apart while being put through the table saw. I also reinforced the sides of the roof.

I was feeling pretty good at this point when I decided to read the instructions about narrowing the roof. That is when I realized they weren't in the kit, and a sick feeling came over me. I rushed to my computer upstairs and went to the DRL website and found the instructions on not only narrowing the roof but also narrowing the frame. At this point, my frame was pretty well put together and I didn't want to take it all apart to remove a 1/4" strip down the center. The only other option I had was to just build the cars the same width as the Bachmann cars (7.5 scale feet) and order wider ends from D.R.L. However, Ed talked me off the cliff and suggested I just remove 1/8" from each side of the frame. While not an easy thing to do, Scot again offered to do it with his table saw. So, I think I am back on track. While the instructions for narrowing the roofs and frames are on the website, it would have been helpful if D.R.L. had included in the kits with narrow ends. Perhaps in the future?

Also, I plan to strip the paint before sending the pieces to be sawed. The roofs should be easy to do in 91% isopropyl alcohol, but the frames are another matter. I should have stripped the paint BEFORE building them. If I soak them now, the thin wood will warp and twist. However, I may risk it anyway because if it warps I can always replace the wooden pieces with styrene, which I prefer over wood anyway. And, the weld joint will be stronger than the superglue joint. Many things to consider...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

New Book: Building a Sectional Layout

I was flipping through my most recent issue of Model Railroader magazine and they had a full-page advertisement for a new book by Pelle Soeborg titled "Building a Sectional Layout." Hey, I thought, I am building a sectional layout! While I think much of what is in this book probably has appeared in MR already (I remember an article from a couple of years ago by him discussing his benchwork), it seems that I might get some useful bits of advice from him.

Specifically, I am really concerned about my benchwork joints. Some of my sections didn't come out perfectly square, though until I clamp them all up I won't really know the extent of the problem. If I were going to cover everything with a layer of foam then I could hide the joints below. While I will certainly be flipping the sections over to do the wiring, once that is done I probably will never take the pieces apart again except for rare situations (moving to a new house, remodeling the basement, etc.) Certainly not on a regular basis like an NTrak module. So, it might be easy to hide the joints with scenic "Ground Goop" and just let it be.

But, the track joints will still be an issue as far as expansion and contraction. I have seen several methods ranging from removable track pieces to soldering rails to PCB ties at the joint. I have an idea what I am going to do, but I want to do some more research. This book will help with that.

Admittedly, he models the west and mid-west regions of the USA. I think he does a fantastic job of it, but that area of the country doesn't really interest me. I think it is because I find Union Pacific railroads to be somewhat boring and overdone. But, I have several of Pelle's other books on freightcar detailing and weathering and he is a good author and excellent photographer. In short, I can't wait to get this book!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Arcade and Attica Railroad - 50th anniversary

This past weekend my wife and I went to Arcade, NY, to celebrate the Arcade and Attica Railroad's 100th anniversary. This is a railroad that is near and dear to my heart. It has been a part of me for at least 30 years. When I was younger, my family used to come to ride the train every year. In the past fifteen or so years, I haven't been able to make it back as much but I try to ride it when I can. However, as a shareholder of the company, I also usually attend their annual meetings so sometimes I am back for that occasion too.

Originally a three-foot narrow gauge railroad in the late 1800s, it went through a series of corporate changes (and a widening of the gauge) until 1917, when it formally became the Arcade and Attica Railroad. Primarily a freight hauler, in 1962 the railroad decided to reacquire some steam locomotives and began running excursions using ex-DL&W "Boonton" coaches and combination cars. Those combine are, that from what I understand are pretty rare. The A&A still uses the same coaches to this day, which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

So successful was the conversion from steam to diesel power in 1941 that General Electric famously featured the A&A in their promotional material for their 44-tonner engines. In 1988, and the A&A decided that it didn't make sense to keep two steam engines running for excursion trains so ten-wheeler #14 (former E&LS RR) was holed up in the engine house and consolidation #18 (former Boyne City Railroad) became the primary motive power for the passenger trains. They have four centercab diesels: two 44-ton engines (#110, 111); one 65-tonner (#112), plus an 80-tonner (#113) that was recently purchased. Though two aren't used anymore, it is still a large stable for such a short railroad. Their primary freight hauled is agricultural products for the area farms, usually in covered hoppers and tank cars. 

I have been riding and photographing the line for years, even though it hasn't changed all that much. By now, I pretty much know all the good photo opportunities. Rarely do the train consists change either (I would love to see a boxcar in the mix sometime) and the steam engine always faces the same direction. However, after rebuilding of the wye train arrangement in Arcade recently the railroad decided to turn the train engine around for a couple of weekends. One was their official 100th anniversary celebrations during Memorial Day weekend (sadly, I was in Maine), and this July weekend was the other. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

My wife and I decided to take pictures of the first train of the day, and ride the second. It was raining off and on during the first trip, and I questioned our logic. But, a decision is a decision so away we went. There had been a lot of rain over the past week and various areas were flooded, making some pictures challenging and others impossible. But, we made the best of it and my wife has really turned into a great helper for me. She will have the camera ready for when I jump out of the car, or point out good places to shoot from. She has connections to the railroad too, as her grandmother lived a couple of houses down from the enginehouse. 

I rode the second trip and spent nearly the entire time in the open-air gondola. It was the same car that I rode in 31 years ago, and just as loud! My wife had to cover her ears for every road crossing.  I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of people have ridden in that same gondola and watched the steam engine at work? It used to be open at the top and you would get covered with water and coal bits that came up the stack. That reminds me of the time we rode it as a date ten years ago and she wore a lovely white sweater... oops! The roof also provides some shade from the hot July summers. Besides my lovely wife, fireman Dean managed to sneak into our picture!

Everyone has a "dream house" that they would like to live in. Some picture castles, or mega-mansions with huge swimming pools or built in movie theaters. My dream house has always been a little place in Arcade, with a railroad that cut across its driveway. It doesn't look like a dream house, but the idea of seeing a train every day always made me smile. The large parking lot next to the house belongs to the Arcade Fire Department, so I imagine the homeowners get to hear a lot of loud noises between the trains and the fire alarms. The steam engines burn wood while in town to cut down on the black smoke from making the houses and laundry dirty, which is a nice gesture.

The picture on the right shows me riding the train in 1986 on #14, resplendent in solid black with yellow trim. You can see the wooden steps just behind the fireman, which were used to allow passengers to walk through the cab and get a tour of it. They recently brought that back, which is pretty awesome.

All in all, it was good to be back.  I also got to talk to my friends down there and meet up with people I knew only from online chat rooms and such. This little railroad is one of the most important things in my life. It is impossible to be in a bad mood when riding the train. It is my favorite place that I have ever been to. Even as I step off the coaches I fondly look forward to the next chance to ride it. A big "thank you" to Brad, Dean, Pat, Brian, Matt, and the rest of the gang at the A&A! 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Maine Trip - MNGRM (part 3)

Sunday (day #2) of our trip looked to be sunny and warm, but not too hot. It also happened to be my birthday. We decided to go to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and walk around for a bit. Apparently, it was "Maine weekend" and anyone who lived in Maine got in for free. As a result, it was busy. And, they were under construction so the whole road and parking situation was torn up. That being said, we managed just fine. We took the "tram" around the park to get an idea of what was there, which turned out to be quite a lot. Sadly, the tram came in the form of a golf cart... no train. The gardens were lovely, and they had a Children's Garden area that was especially enjoyable. They also had lots of hiking trails, a rose garden area, and several quiet areas where it was possible to get lost among the plants. I believe my wife really enjoyed it too, and it was more for her than for me. After an hour, a plant is a plant. But, they also had a kettle corn vendor on hand originally from Utica and we had fun talking to them about that.

Then, in the afternoon we went exploring for a lighthouse. Specifically, we went to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park. I mean, why not. It is Maine, after all! We arrived in the mid-afternoon and walked through the fisherman's museum at the base of the lighthouse, then walked along the rocks. It was startlingly beautiful, and my first real impression of "the ocean." I have been to Boston a lot and seen the water, but this was different. The rocks on the shore were really cool looking, and we searched for some small shells to bring back. Along the way we slipped and got our shoes wet, but I suppose that is how it goes. It was pretty neat to see the dozens of buoys marking lobster traps below the water. Then, after a dinner of leftover pizza (from my birthday lunch) the sun set over the inn and I passed out exhausted from all of the walking we did.

Monday, Memorial Day, was another matter. It was rainy, gray, and cold. I believe it was in the fifties, and we did not pack winter jackets though we saw some people in them. However, it was the last day of our trip and we planned to explore Portland and walk around the shops. The first stop was the Maine Narrow Gauge Railway Museum. Located along the coast, the museum ran along tracks that originally were standard gauge belonging to the Grand Trunk Railway. When Edaville closed in 1992, the MNGRM stepped up and purchased a lot of the trains and shipped them up. They have quite a collection, housed indoors in a formal museum, as well as at least 8 coaches outside which they use for excursion trains. The ride isn't all that long, along the coast and back, and today proved to be especially difficult for them.

We arrived around 10AM expecting to miss the train scheduled to depart that hour, but were told that their regular engine wasn't working, their operable steam locomotive had been loaned out for the summer, and their back up engine wasn't starting up. So, there was no 10AM train but they hoped to get things working by 11AM. Despite having much to photograph outside, I only took a couple quick shots and headed indoors to the heat. Their collection consists of several coaches (including the only Parlor car in existence in the USA, the "Rangeley"), some freight cars and cabooses, and a steam engine.

Actually, they have two steam engines that originally ran on the Monson Railroad. A special note about them was that after the Monson closed the engines were sold to a scrap dealer in Rochester, NY, where they remained until found and sold to the Edaville Railroad. One engine as I said was on loan, and the other was on static display. They were located in Rochester in a junkyard only a few miles from where I lived as a kid. Pretty neat, if you ask me. Two-footers in Rochester yet! 

My wife and I love riding the open-air cars, but today it was just too cold to do so. Despite that, we enjoyed our little trip out. We ventured close to an old swing bridge that was taken out of service in 1984. Then, we were allowed to disembark and walk around. Kids could sit in the engine (I think only kids could fit in it) and ring the bell... a nice touch. Then, after everyone had boarded again the train made its way back to the station. All told, the trip was about 45 minutes though it felt like a lot longer. On a nice day, I bet it would have been enjoyable and perhaps refreshing to ride along the coast and feel the spray from the water. Instead, we were subjected to cold water and our views were of a few boats and a lighthouse in the distance.

The staff were extremely pleasant considering the unfortunate situation they were placed in with the engine not working. There is a movement afoot to relocate the museum to a place that is better suited for it, and I do hope that they succeed. Everything we saw was in good shape and it really is a shame that they are located in what amounts to a run down warehouse in seemingly the middle of nowhere.

We took a bus tour around Portland and the driver/narrator told us all about the city. It was a bittersweet trip, as we wanted to enjoy it but it was so cold and miserable out. Plus, it was our last afternoon in Maine before a 6 hour drive home that evening. We went to another lighthouse, which was much nicer than the first even though we didn't walk around much outside. Then we checked out lots of little shops including a candy store, a popcorn store, a toy store, a potato donut shop (yum), a cooking supply store, and a general tourist trap.

I had a wonderful trip for my birthday and saw a lot of trains. It is a shame that there are four or five places scattered around Maine with two-foot trains and it just isn't possible to see them all in one weekend unless you really rush. We skipped the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad entirely but that too is a railroad being rebuilt on its own old roadbed. Frankly, it would be nice if everything combined into one place but that just isn't realistic. The WW&F, Boothbay Railway Museum, and SR&RL have history where they are and aren't going to move. The MNGRM should somehow become centered among the three, which might be the best of all worlds. I hope to make it back up to tour them again someday.

Maine Trip - Boothbay (part 2)

After leaving the WW&F, we headed through Wiscasset on our way to the next train destination. Though I am admittedly not a big fan of seafood and have never to my knowledge eaten lobster, a vacation in Maine and a trip through Wiscasset wouldn't be complete without stopping at Red's Eats for a lobster roll. While waiting in line, we met a great chap from Canada (Wendel) who was touring the USA. The 20 minutes in line went by quick and the weather was perfect for socializing and taking in the views. I ordered the fried haddock sandwich with cheese, lettuce and tomato. It was huge. The bun underneath barely held half of the fish and it tasted wonderful even though I ended up using a fork to enjoy it. My wife had the lobster roll and she said it was fantastic. Wendel had the lobster roll and scallops, which were huge (The scallops were as large as an Oreo cookie)! However, the real show stopper for me was their fried mushrooms. They were incredibly good.

Then, we lounged around on the pier in Wiscasset and took in the sun. While my wife talked with someone in the information booth, I looked at the ocean and noticed the remains of the pier where the WW&F came into town and interchanged freight with the Maine Central Railroad. By now, there was little left of the piers. as 80+ years of salt water had broken them down. 

We then headed off to the Boothbay Railway Village. This was arguably the first restored 2-foot gauge railroad in Maine and was started by a gentleman who wanted to own his own 2-foot railroad (who doesn't?). He built some track on his property and over time developed it into a tourist attraction focusing not only on trains. The photo at right shows that the track follows the land, with sharp curves and steep grades. 

As it currently stands, it is a restored village of sorts with houses, barns, a blacksmith shop a town hall from 1847, a chapel from 1927, and several train stations. Restored inside these buildings are treasurers from a collection of housewares (including dozens of salt shaker sets), antique firetrucks, and farm equipment. However, I came for the trains so I was focused on them. 

They have several areas with trains to see. There is an old porter and some boxcars and a coach under shelter. They have a room with an extensive train layout that really got the kids excited (though the loud music and noise from all of the running trains gave me a headache. They had a barn focused on 2-foot trains, with models and pictures devoted to each of the five railroads. They had an old 2-foot train that people could play on and in. They had some exhibits such as a boxcar gifted from France after WWII, and a caboose. But, the highlight for me was the 2-foot gauge train that encircled the museum grounds. 

Surprisingly, the star of the railroad are engines that weren't built in Maine but originally were constructed in Germany by Henschel & Son. Boothbay currently owns four of them- two operating, one for parts, and one on static display- and a member owns a fifth engine under rebuilding. These engines were made famous in G scale by the company of LGB. The train consists of a small coach that looks to be in excellent shape and which I suspect is a reproduction (it is too short to be an original 2-foot coach, likely a concession to the sharp curves at Boothbay) and a second car with benches. 

The weather was perfect, so we chose the second car. The train runs around the grounds past the car barn, workshop, through a station, into a covered bridge, past a pond, and then back to the original station. The trip is two laps around, though during the second loop the train stops at the far station for 5 minutes if people want to get off or back on from an earlier trip. It saves about 5 minutes of walking, but is a nice touch. I chose to get off at the 2nd station to set up for some photo opportunities. While I was waiting for the train, I saw several frogs and a turtle in the pond. 

After the ride, we talked with the crew briefly (it was their last trip of the day, and I didn't want to hold them up from going home) and they offered to let me tour the shop the next day. Sadly, we had other plans. The gift shop was nice, but aimed more at the general tourist than the railroad buff. Sure, there were railroad things there but lots more "Maine" stuff in general. We heard about Moxie soda, and though they didn't sell it I vowed to find some to try. 

All in all, I had a much better time than expected. I thought it would be a bit childish and to be honest, in parts it was. But, trains bring out the child in me so I don't mind. The train alone was fun to ride and though it didn't evoke feelings of riding in Maine it certainly was enjoyable. It felt like an amusement park train ride, but a train is a train. Since we passed this museum every day to and from the Inn where we were staying, I got to see the train depart multiple times. I wish I had an extra hour here to see everything, as 2 hours just isn't enough if you care to read and see it all. 

Maine Trip - W.W. & F. (part 1)

We drove up to Maine after getting out of work on Friday evening, which meant that by the time we actually crossed over the border into Maine it was pitch black outside. Along the way, my wife looked at the GPS on her phone to see that we were crossing over inlets, railroad tracks, and other points of interest. As I was concentrating on driving and couldn't see anything, I could only nod. Hopefully, tomorrow I can actually see something!

Our room at the Beach Cove Waterfront Inn was absolutely perfect. They had recently renovated half of the rooms and the bed overlooked an inlet out the window. Though the scenery was more reminiscent of the Adirondack Mountains than coastal Maine, it was beautiful and relaxing. We checked in late around 11PM, and we could smell the pastries that they were preparing for next morning's breakfast.

The history of Maine two footers is a convoluted one, with there being five original 2-foot lines developed to bring railroad service to the smaller communities of Maine at a much cheaper price than regular 4', 8" (standard gauge) railroads. However, as one after another began to fail in the 1930s and 1940s some of their equipment was purchased by surviving railroads. Then, in the late 1940s much of the surviving equipment was purchased by Ellis D. Atwood and transported to Carver, MA, to run on a loop of track surrounding his cranberry farm. He also built from scratch some cars for his visitors to ride on. His passed away in 1950 in a boiler explosion, his successor passed away in 1967, and the Edaville Railroad struggled on until 1992 when it was closed and most of the equipment was sold to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railway Museum.

As a result, some equipment I saw this weekend could have been: (1) original to one or more 2-foot railroads, (2) replicas of equipment built by Edaville, (3) cars built within the last 60 years purely to carry passengers without regard to historical accuracy, or (4) authentic reproductions built in the last ten years or so. As someone whose knowledge of 2-foot railroads is pretty thin, I just planned to take pictures and enjoy the ride.

When we got up on Saturday morning, we headed off to Alna, Maine, and the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway Museum (WW&F). The real WW&F operated from 1894 to 1933 when it folded. However, as fate would have it portions of the old roadbed were acquired by a gentleman and in 1989 a museum and foundation were established to rebuild the track along the former roadbed. At the time of our visit, they had over 2 miles installed and were quite proud of the fact that it was all done by hand. They have several steam locomotives in various stages of repair, as well as a railbus, a diesel engine, a tractor-powered engine, some coaches, a couple of boxcars, a caboose, and what looked to be a tank car body. Their facilities consisted of a reconstructed station, car barn, turntable pit awaiting construction of a roundhouse someday, water tower, and a small yard.

The train ride was pulled by a steam locomotive that originally ran at one time on the WW&F, and I was told that this is the only existing situation where an original 2-foot engine is running on the railroad that it originally worked on. There were two coaches, one containing (B&SR #11 loaned from Boothbay) full-length benches and one (WW&F #3) containing seats with backs that flipped over depending on the direction of travel. We sat in the chair car, which was unique in that it consisted of one seat per side of the car. There just wasn't enough room for two chairs per side in this tiny coach! The interior detail was beautiful, with the carved woodwork and trim. Despite their small size, the builders clearly took pride in their work.

The train ride lasted about 20 minutes or so, traveling through the woods and past streams, and also going through one station area with a passing siding. We ventured to the new end of track which also had a passing siding and a clearing for a future sawmill exhibit. The train rocked back and forth and at times made me concerned (and I am a train buff, so I should have known better). I suspect it had more to do with the suspension in the trucks than the condition of the tracks. I have no idea how fast we were going, but had it been at night I would likely have been a bit uneasy. One can only imagine what it was like to travel at night in the 1920s when maintenance of the line was down and there was only an oil lamp to provide any visibility.

The engine ran around the train, coupled up, and back we went. It was cool to see them couple up. We stopped at the middle station where the railbus (referred to on the schedule as a "second class train") was waiting for us. We didn't ride it, but it would have been fun. When we got back we wandered around and took some pictures and then visited the gift shop. Though small, it has an extensive collection of railroad books on Maine 2-footers, as well as the usual magnets, pins, etc. We saw a print on the wall for sale that we wanted to buy, but sadly were told it was out of stock. I did come away with the book The Maine Two Footers by Linwood Moody, which I planned to purchase to read during the trip.

The staff were friendly and in abundance. I am not sure if it was their first public run day of the year, or a training day, or all the volunteers just wanted to "play trains" but there were probably 8 people on the crew for a two-car train. They were instructing at least one person in the duties of a brakeman, which was important here as the coaches are controlled with handbrakes.

All in all, the WW&F was fun and represents a lot of hard work by its volunteers. We didn't stay much longer as I am not sure what else there would have been to see, but when they put in the sawmill and provide demonstrations it will add something else to do. I was quite impressed with the place and wish them luck in the future.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Open Grid Benchwork, (part 1)

My L-girder "supporting" benchwork is done on three sides. The remaining side, which will contain the entrance to the center of the layout, is on hold for now because I need to think it through. However, I now have the lumber needed to begin working on the layout sections themselves which will sit on the L-girder benchwork.

My layout will consist of three sections, each roughly 2' x 7'... a dimension I believe is large enough to capture a scene without having to have a joint in the middle of it, while at the same time not being too large to prevent removal from the basement if necessary. The plywood for the tops of each section was cut at the lumberyard before Christmas, and it is interesting to note that 7' long plywood sections that Home Depot cut for me are not really 7' long. The difference is 1/8," which I suspect was the width of the saw blade, and while very small it is important to keep in mind because I don't want gaps between my layout sections. I cannot plaster or otherwise fill them with scenery easily if I want the sections movable, so I am building the open-grid shapes to this shorter dimension. It also means that sections opposite each other on the layout have to match in length, or everything might not come out perfect.

That being said, it shouldn't be a tough job. I spent an hour with my dog in the basement pairing up 1"x4" lumber to be the sides for the two of the sections. I then marked locations for the cross braces, which will generally be spaced every 16" apart though because of my 7' length one gap will be 20" apart. This might be too much, but if it is I can always add a small 1"x2" on the inside to support it. I planned the locations of the cross braces around where the track switches will be, as I plan to install under-the-table switch machines and don't want to get into a situation where they interfere with the benchwork. It is smart when possible to consider these things up front. I then pre-drilled the holes in the sides using a #6 drill/countersink. Cutting the cross braces went well because of my new chop saw. I set it up outside and let it rip. I drilled three holes in each cross brace with an 11/16" bit, four pieces at a time, with the bottom piece resting on a scrap of wood to prevent blowout.

The section I built for the Colonie Liquor sidings was the simplest of all because the plywood surface is flat. I may add hills and a tree line along the back, but the ground won't drop lower than the plywood. I assembled the 1x4" boards first and then glued and screwed the plywood on top. It went super quick and everything came out square.

Since my wood glue bottle's nozzle broke, I bought the cheapest mustard bottle I could find to replace it. After washing it out, I filled it with wood glue and it worked great.

Slightly more complicated, the section for the Keis/Norlite sidings features a pond between the two areas and for that I notched two joists to allow for the bottom of the water. As you can see, "notched" isn't really the correct word. If I had a jigsaw handy, I would have just used that. But I didn't, so I didn't. Another tool to get down the road...

Unfortunately, when it came time to glue the plywood to the 1x4" frame I saw that my frame was rhombus shaped, meaning the corners were somehow not square. I couldn't physically shift it enough to match up with the plywood, so I removed the end piece on each side and shifted it in to match the plywood. Then, I used a saw to remove the overhanging plywood. The net result is now a section that is slightly shorter than 7'. When I frame up the opening side, I will need to keep this in mind. More importantly, in the future I will build the rectangle frame of 1x4" lumber, screw on the plywood top to keep it square, and then add the cross braces. 

I also started to design the area that will be home to the Mohawk Paper plant. There, the track siding in front drops down a bit and many of the cross braces will need to be notched. I still need to figure out things like the grades, vertical curves, etc. I drew in the roads, as this area is full of roads, and there will also be lots of small houses crammed in. I can't wait to do them, as I will finally be able to build model kits instead of scratchbulding. In fact, the whole Paper plant will be represented by a small area in the front corner.

The long side pieces for these two sections were cut by a friend, and the cross braces I bought and cut from lumber from Lowes. Togethers, these added up to $122, so my benchwork total is now $482...