CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year!


If I were going to write a caption for this slide, which has no information on it, it would be: "D&H in a winter wonderland." I believe it is somewhere between Albany and Binghamton which runs parallel to I-88. It makes for a pretty winter scene. 

2022 was an interesting year filled with lots of ups and a few downs. Harrison has proven to be a real blessing in my life, and he certainly keeps me on my toes. I didn't have as much modeling time as I used to, but I did get a few projects completed such as my Southworth building finished for my layout. My custom Lionel train project turned out nice, though it was a bit more work than I expected.

Hopefully, my wooden engine house will earn enough points in merit judging so that I can earn my MMR certificate. If it does, I can work on something else besides scratchbuilding structures! (I have built 20 structures for my layout or my MMR in a little over two years). I am a bit burned out at the moment.

I also got to attend several train shows, ride a real train, and see a few more while railfanning (including Canadian Pacific, the Batten Kill, and Amtrak). I would like to think that things are back to normal, at least when it comes to my hobbies. 

What isn't normal is trying to eat trains, but I suppose when I act like Cookie Monster around him all the time he is bound to pick up bad habits!

Here's hoping 2023 is even better! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

A Tale of Four Roofs

I hit a road block with my engine house project. While the first part went together pretty well the roof has really vexed me. I want a removable roof to show off the detailed interior, and it had to be strong enough to withstand handling. 

So, I first purchased a sheet of 0.012" thick brass on Amazon for about $15 which was 10" x 12" wide. I cut it to size on a paper cutter, and then bent it on a homemade "press" consisting of my desk edge, a 2x4 piece of lumber, and a tiny hammer. 

I over bent it, and then opened it up a little to match the pitch of my engine house roof. It looked good, so I roughed it up a bit with some 40 grit sandpaper so that glue would stick to it better and laid out the skylight window holes. When it came time to cut them out, I discovered my Dremel tool has a worn bearing and whined like a Banshee. Without it, I couldn't cut the openings in the brass for the windows. So I set it aside.

My second option was cardstock. While rummaging through our pantry looking for a suitable donor, I found my new roof masquerading as a cracker box. A suitable piece was cut to size, and then I laid out the skylight window openings. 

These were removed with a chisel blade, and some 4x12 stripwood was stained and attached. I glued on a couple of strips and then weighed everything down to prevent warping. However, despite my best efforts it started to twist and bow anyway. How the British do such excellent work in cardstock is beyond me, but they are experts and I am not. Dejected at the lost effort and wasted stripwood, I ripped up part of it and threw it to the side. 

Plan number three shuld have worked. I assumed that the individual pieces of stripwood were causing the roof base to warp, but what if I started off with scored wood sheets like I had used for the floor of the engine house? I could then add bracing strips to match the roof's interior pattern, and things would be fine. So, another order for wood was sent to Northeastern Scale lumber and when the scribed sheet arrived I colored it with my dark alcohol stain. I did both sides, then set it under glass and weights to dry flat for the weekend. And for the most part it did. But, it started bowing a little so I added some perpendicular roof braces. Despite adding weight to hold them flat while the glue cured, they not only broke free at the edges but caused the wood to bow in the opposite direction! How, I couldn't say. Very upset, I threw this attempt to the side.

Dejected, I finally turned to styrene form my fourth approach. I had avoided using it because I wanted to build an all-wood structure, but there was nothing in my arsenal that stayed flat like styrene. I took a piece of" grooved 0.040" thick styrene and cut it to size. I oriented it with the grooves on the outside where they will help later with laying out the courses of shingles. 

On the inside, I marked out the skylights (for the fourth time) and cut them out, and then glued down 2x12 pre-stained stripwood. I used tacky glue instead of wood glue and didn't use much, as I wanted the wood to float as much as possible. 

So far, so good...

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!

I hope that all of you have a wonderful Christmas and a safe and blessed new year in 2023.

While I set up our usual Lionel train under the tree this year, come Christmas morning a special visitor had arrived! Harrison received his very first "train set" in the form of a Lionel Thomas the Tank Engine. I had to search long and hard for a new-in-box set featuring the older style conventionally-controlled Thomas, but it was worth it. When I was a kid, I loved Thomas, and he has already shown an interest in the cheeky blue engine too.

And now, for the real reason for the season...

Matthew 1:18-24 

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Richmondville derailment (1974)

Bad things happen at bad times. Here are a couple of shots of a D&H freight train wreck in Richmondville, NY that are dated December 21, 1974.

It is nice to see that the "big hook" crane was still used for these types of recovery jobs. I have many pictures of D&H cranes from the 1970s-1990s and may eventually post them on here. For another shot of a D&H crane train, see here.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Digging through the Snow

Albany is supposed to be receiving a lot of snow today. How much that will be depends on where you are located, what radio station you ask, and what hearsay you want to believe. I am supposed to be driving on a trip to Rochester this evening, which will no doubt be problematic. But, I think I can make it.

Here is a shot of a D&H passenger train from April 1976 with its own set of snow-related problems. But the trains got through. Can you believe that this was in April! 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Organizing my detail parts

Whenever I am building a model or working on my layout and I want to add extra details, I first turn to my parts bins. I am probably obsessive compulsive when it comes to this, but I really like my things sorted neatly. For that, I turn to those plastic bins with the movable dividers on the inside. When I found the brand I liked (some don't have enough dividers, some are too small, some don't latch securely) I waited for a sale and then I bought a dozen throughout the tri-county region. Then, I sorted my stuff into bins.

I have one for my HO scale detail parts, such as figures, barrels, tools, vehicles, etc. I have the same for my N scale detail parts (which sometimes pass for HO scale parts when required). A third holds my HO scale train parts like metal wheels, brake details, couplers, etc. Separate containers hold electical parts and components, On30 parts, miniature metal nuts and bolts, and other random things.

When it comes to window and door castings, inevitably I need something I don't have a good substitute for. I don't maintain an inventory but instead buy what I need and hope that whatever leftovers that go into the bins will be useful in the future. I keep the paper package labels and attach them to the dividers so I remember what they are. 

It takes a lot of diligence to keep up the system. But, I have found that just dumping everything into one big parts box doesn't save me time because I can't remember what I have. I spend more time digging through pieces of sprues when I could be focusing on modeling. And, I really enjoy listening to a football game on the radio while sitting at my workbench clipping leftover parts from sprues. 

Everything is saved for "someday". And when you are superdetailing a model and needs lots of interior details... "stuff"... they are perfect. At HO or N scale, who can really tell what the little bits are? Diesel M.U. parts become small tools and boxes, N scale barrels became some HO scale garbage cans, N scale parts become HO scale toys for houses. And garages and scrapyards always need junk of any kind. Never throw anything away! Besides, what is easier to use: the storage bins or the pile of stuff shown above? 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Structure - Wooden Engine House (part 1)

I have scratchbuilt twelve structures for my M.M.R. certificate, but only five qualified for "Merit" (meaning, they earned at least 87.5 points). That wasn't a total shock, as some were simple structures and some involved me using new materials and methods and the results weren't perfect. But I did want to get this award, and I knew my two regular judges really liked old, worn out wooden structures. So that is what I decided upon for my last, 13th, building.

I first considered building a model of John Allen's famous engine house. It has been offered by several companies in kit form such as Fine Scale Miniatures, and it looked like a fun model to build. 

But a kit wouldn't qualify as a scratchbuilt structure so I searched online for plans. Then I discovered that John Allen actually published articles for his original building in The Model Craftsman magazine (October - November 1948) and featured it on the cover of the September issue. I tracked down the issues on Ebay and jumped to the articles, only to discover how basic they were. The "plans" called for hand-drawing and then coloring the entire building on a large piece of paper, scribing the corners, and folding it up like a box; windows were drawn on pieces of clear acetate! If John did this for his model I am impressed because it looks stunning, but this simple and crude cardstock building would never pass judging muster today. 

So, I searched my 30-years' worth of Model Railroader magazines for an article that was more suitable, and found one in the March 1995 issue. In it, Gerald Gilliland had built a wonderful engine house out of wood and it had the right combination of "old time but not "ramshackle" characteristics I wanted.

After looking it over and reading it a couple of times to make sure I understood everything, I took a highlighter and went through the article marking all the places where dimensional stripwood was mentioned. That way, when building it I wouldn't confuse things and use the wrong size in the wrong place. Next, I sent the shopping list to my local hobby shop. One thing is for certain: scratchbuilding isn't necessarily cheaper than buying kits and scale stripwood costs can add up in a hurry! Finally, I waited until my Southworth Machinery building was finished because I told myself I wouldn't start a new project until I finished the last one. 

Upon receipt of the wood, I clearly marked their scale sizes (ex: "2"x4") on the top of the label. That way, I wouldn't mix them up.

The article suggests starting on the floor, which is a good idea. Because my model would eventually be mounted on a wooden base and I knew it wasn't perfectly flat, I purchased a piece of 1/4" thick black Gatorfoam off of Ebay to use as the foundation for my model. I then cut it down to size, leaving a little around the perimeter in case my building ended up slightly larger than called for. 

The rails that run into and through the building are pieces of brass code 100 rail. I wanted perfectly straight rail so I went with sectional track. I needed code 100 so that it would rise above the wood floor (which is 1/16" scribed wood). Unfortunately, I had no nickel silver track available though a friend had some old brass track. I stripped off the ties, cleaned the rail with lacquer thinner, and then blackened it with some brass blackening agent I had on hand. Once that was done, I glued the rails to the Gatorfoam.

I marked the location of the rails in pencil and then glued one down per track, using thin superglue all along the joint. For the second rail, I used a NMRA gauge and glued the end, then the middle, then the other end. The track doesn't have to be perfect for a static model, but I wanted to do it right. Finally, I flowed superglue once more all along the base of the rails and let it sit for a couple of hours to dry. As a last step, I mixed up some rust colored paint and ran it along the sides of the rails. 

The floorboards of the engine house are scribed Northeastern Scale Lumber #368. This is plenty long for the engine house's main room but not wide enough, so it two pieces were used side by side. I cut pieces to fit along and between the rails, and used my actual base (and not the drawings) for size. But, once each was done I set it on the plans so that I wouldn't mix them up.

Based on a tip from Dave Frary, I modified a knife blade to be the exact width of the boards. I ground the end sharp and used it to emboss board ends. They were pressed in (squished), instead of cut, so there was no chance of cutting too far and going into the next board. 

I then experimented by adding nail holes using the pointed end of a compass and with a metal scribe. I did two nail holes per board with the scribe because it was finer and I liked the results.

Then, the boards were given a wash of brown and black alcohol on both sides, which settled into the joints and holes I had made.

To keep the wood flat while the alcohol dried, I weighed it all down.

After I glued them to the Gatorboard base, some of the edges wanted to curl a little. An evening with a C-clamp and some and superglue fixed them right up.

The walls were first cut from large pieces of Northeastern board-and-batten siding. Three pieces were needed to make up the full length of the wall. It is really good lucking stuff on the front, but the back is just plain wood.

NOTE: if I were doing this again I would simply glue pieces of code 100 nickel silver sectional track to the base and then build up the floor around the track with individual pieces of stripwood. I really wanted to use the scribed wood for the floor per the plans, but it caused a lot more work than was really necessary.

Since I wanted the interior to be detailed, that meant adding board lines to the inside/back of the wood. The article called for scribing them with a pencil, but I misread it and used the back of a knife blade. I cut them by eye, though that resulted in a slanted board here or there. Unfortunately, these cut marks eventually led the walls to bow and warp uncontrollably. As I posted here a while ago, things didn't go the way I wanted and I ended up scrapping the walls.

Starting over, I decided to build my model board-by-board. After fighting the previous warping wall assemblies for weeks, it was nice to start off with something flat again. I took the plans and then transferred the important dimensions and locations of bracing to some graph paper. I placed this under a piece of glass from a cheap picture frame (the glass ensures everything is perfectly flat) and then glued up pre-stained pieces of 6x6 lumber into a basic wall frame.

I then cut up scale 2x12 wood for the vertical wall boards. I cut them a little oversize so that once glued on the top and bottom of the wall could be trimmed flush. I have a NWSL Chopper, but found this system quicker and more in keeping with the rough nature of my structure.

The boards were stained as a group with a homemade black/brown ink stain. Then, the wood was divided into piles and stained again in various mixtures of black and brown ink for some variation. A few boards were treated with a heavy brown stain. I also dipped a few boards into a really strong stain for contrast but again I wanted to keep things mostly consistent. I wish I had left one or two boards "raw" to look like replacement boards but the idea came to me too late. But, I will use it later on the extension. 

As I went along, I would occasionally use my knife blade to whittle away a corner of the board, or add a split or knothole. But, I was conscience not to over-do this effect. Just a few here or there were good enough. Then, the overhanging wood was cleaned up, though leaving it rough might have been more prototypical.

Once the sides were boarded up I then had to cut out the window openings. I used Tichy #8100 engine house windows for the large side windows on the main building. I will also use them again, with the top portions cut off to shorten them, for the roof skylights. Those windows also had additional thin strips of styrene glued on to bulk out the cut edge and make it look complete. 

Then, the window castings were primed with tan paint and drybrushed with various shades of brown to give them a mottled appearance that hopefully looked like wood and matched the wood I used on the walls.

To cut the holes in the walls, I made a template using some very thin, clear styrene I had. I traced the back of a window casting's opening onto the styrene and then cut it out. Once the opening was perfectly sized to allow a window casting to drop right in, I used the template to mark and open up the holes on the sides of the building.

It was a simple matter to slide the clear template to where I needed it to be and then chop out the wood with a sharp chisel blade. I really love chisel blades and use them for nearly everything.

Once the openings were done, I added additional horizontal 6x6 framing, as well as vertical 1x6 framing around the window openings. It was really starting to look like a wall.

I couldn't frame out the exterior door until I knew what I was going to use for it, and eventually I settled on a Tichy casting (#8125). It looked the part but was a bit thicker/deeper than I wanted. Making the matter a bit more complicated, the building sits on a raised stone foundation and the door had to extend up into the wall and down into the foundation. So, I had to make sure all the dimensions were correct.

The door was primed and painted similar to the windows, and I scribed some wood board detail onto the plain styrene backing. The pattern doesn't match the front... but at least I kept my sanity.

Then... I ran out of 2x12 boards! So, I had to stop on the walls and move onto a different part of the project.

The ends are a bit more complicated than the sides, and they feature door(s) which I will need to scratchbuild. But, the ends started off with frames built from 6x6 wood. Again, the glass over the plans ensured a flat surface and I cut and glued one piece of wood at a time. 

It was really starting to come together. 

The three end doors (two on one end, one on the other) were built from 2x8 stock. To make my life easier I cut all of the vertical boards for one door to about the same length and then squared up the bottom of 9 boards with a single-edge razor blade. I then put one of my weights on the top of the row and glued a horizontal board along the bottom edge. Once dried, I removed the weight on top and added another horizontal board. After that, I used a straightedge and my chisel blade to cut the upper corners at their angles.

The additional diagonal and edge framing was then cut and installed. The doors were supposed to be matched pairs, but I wasn't terribly concerned if they looked a little "rustic". In fact, that would only add to the look I was after. 

I later discovered that I made the doors slightly too small... they fit inside the openings of the walls instead of overlapping them slightly. So, I remade them. They say the road to Master Model Railroader is paved with a good scrap box (or at least I say it)!

Finally, more 2x12 lumber arrived and I stained it various colors. Then, I went to work sheathing the ends. I started by attaching vertical center board(s), using a square to make sure that they were perfectly perpendicular to the bottom.

The edges were next, and I installed those boards overhanging the sides so that they would cover the side walls when it was all assembled up. Then, I set everything under weights to cure.

Throughout the day I went down and glued on a couple of boards and added weight. I didn't bother to measure the boards to length before installing because I knew I could trim them later. I did try to make rough cuts so I didn't waste wood unnecessarily. I center gaps were finally filled in, and thankfully only one board had to be slightly narrowed. 

Once the glue was set, a chisel blade and some sanding sticks cleaned up all of the edges. I then touched the newly-exposed parts with some weathering solution to help blend them in. The very bottom horizontal board under the door openings was left intact for now to strengthen the assemblies.

As a last step, I added nail holes to all of the walls where appropriate. A straightedge was helpful here (labeled with my name from when I was in grade school). 

The internal door which leads to the building extension was made from some 2x8 (vertical) and 1x6 (trim) boards, which were actually salvaged from the failed engine house end doors. Then, an opening in the side of the wall was cut and the door was glued on. Hardware to make it slide back and forth will be added at a later date.

Finally, I took a very weak brown oil paint wash and went over the outsides of the buildings. The oil paint settled into the nail hole depressions and made them stand out a little. Because they are not to scale I didn't want them to really "pop", but I know judges want this detail so I made sure they could find it if they looked. 

It was finally time to glue up the sides. The side door stuck down below the lower edge of the wall and made gluing that side difficult. Thankfully, the walls were so lightweight that it didn't prove to be a real problem. The walls were glued up into pairs on glass, with graph paper underneath to aid in alignment, and then finally connected together into a building. The cutaway in my cutting boards allowed the side door to protrude down and thus everything laid flat. 

The fieldstone foundation under the walls of the main building needed something to actually support the structure. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some 3/8" tall, 1/4" thick, basswood strips. I really wanted 3/16" thick, but they didn't have it. I used my small miter box to cut a piece at a 45-degree angle, then flipped one piece over and glued them up into a 90-degree joint. I then did the other piece the exact same way. I think this might be the first time I have ever used the miniature miter box, and it worked like a charm.

Once dry I cut the assemblies to length by making two more angled cuts on each end. The resulting two L-shapes came together to form a perfectly sized rectangle. Of course, I then had to cut away portions for all of the doors on the walls, which meant that in the end it might just have been easier to do each piece of the foundation by itself. 

The article called for setting the engine house on a foundation of fieldstone walls, and it used an embossed vinyl sheet by a company called Holgate & Reynolds (item #HO-122). I found it on Ebay and it wasn't cheap but it was a large sheet. They are out of business, and internet searches revealed a drug addict stole their metal dies and sold them for scrap money. Very sad.

I cut it into strips that were three-stones tall (about 1/4" total) and then painted them with gray and tan spray paint. Then, I individually painted random stones with various shades of gray, tan, yellow, and white. It was a bit tedious and I had to force myself not to go in some sort of pattern.

Once the paint dried, I gave them a light black ink wash. Two of the bottom rows received a brown/black ink wash as an experiment, but I like the others better. They still look a bit garish, but hopefully once installed they will be better. (I also made another set that are dark gray, and when it comes time to install them I might use those instead).

I checked the height of the foundation by placing a piece of my fieldstone next to it, and it was perfect.

Part of the foundation where the door will go was notched to provide clearance. In real life, I suppose they might have had to chisel or chip away in a similar manner.

The foundation was painted gray to match the fieldstones which would be glued to it and then secured to the bottom of the engine house. I made the outsides flush, but left the excess (a result of the store not have the thickness of the wood that I wanted) on the inside. It will be capped with wood... but I am currently out of stock.

At this point I realized my building was extremely fragile (only a few horizontal 6x6 beams held the ends from breaking apart) and hard to hold safely, so I decided to glue it to its finished wooden base which I had previously stained and polyutheraned. Once that dried, it was a bit more akward to maneuver but at the same time it was harder to accidently bump.

I then glued the fieldstone pieces on. I had to use spring-handled cutters to hold various pieces in place while the Tacky Glue cured.


In other areas, I used knife blades with the handles falling down to lever the pieces into position.

Finally, I mixed up some stone paint colors and touched up any corners or exposed areas as best I could. Upon reflection, I am not sure a lumber railroad would take the time to build a proper fieldstone foundation for an enginehouse but I am glad I added one to mine.

I am excited about my progress, a lot of which was in a few minutes here or there that I managed to steal from whatever else I was doing. Since it took a lot of time to stain the wood, and then let the wood glue joints dry, there was no real way I could do it all in one big chunk of time. Little bits here and there were exactly what was required. 

I consider myself about 1/3 through the build. The second part will be the roof, which I hope to make removable. That will involve fabrication of trusses as well as shingles. The third and last part will be the building extension and final detailing.

Until next time...