Monday, January 6, 2020

Focus Stacking Experiments

These are my first tries at using focus stacking for photographing the Old Line Corridor. The foreground marsh is in as good focus as is the background. I've also got my new light set going here as well.

Another focus stacking experiment-again, everything appears to be in good focus throughout the image. I used the focus stacking feature built into Photoshop. There are other software solutions for focus stacking, such as Helicon Focus, but for this initial test I used what I had at hand, which was Photoshop.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year Old Line Corridor Video

Testing out a new light set, running trains, thought I would shoot some quick video on my smart phone.

Monday, December 23, 2019

What's new on the Old Line Corridor

Junk and vehicles add life to the big factory

Signal heads and right-o-way clutter

More signal heads, dumpster bodies and a port-a-potty

Piles of stuff 

More stuff

And even more stuff.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Michael Murray’s Classic Photo Take on Modern Electric Action

Amtrak ACS-64 639 leans into the superelevated curve at Newport as it overtakes a Norfolk Southern tank train near Wilmington, Delaware on November 11, 2019 in this excellent photo made by Michael Murray, who originally posted it to the Amtrak Northeast Corridor Railfans Facebook group. Michael’s dramatic photo is reminiscent of the Pennsy-era photography of that famous chronicler of electric railroading, William Middleton. When this image surfaced in my Facebook feed earlier this month, it inspired me to reach out to Michael, and now I look forward to seeing his photos on the regular. Photo used with kind permission of Michael Murray

Monday, November 4, 2019

New Takes on the Ol' Helix

The World's Lightest Helix on display at the recent train show in Timonium, Maryland. The subroadbed and vertical risers are laser cut from Gatorboard, making this helix very light and dimensionally svelte. The smoothly operating helix sports 11" radius curves and an approximately 2 percent grade, and is roughly the size of a laundry basket.
Track helices and multi-level layout plans have always seemed too complex for my typically minimalist approach to model railroading. I'd never seen one in real life until I visited fellow Rockville Model Railroad Society member Ben Sullivan's Georgetown Branch layout, and his helix confirmed what I had noticed in the magazine depictions helices: they typically require what is arguably among the most elaborate and dense possible benchwork of any layout feature. Model Railroader magazine's recent N scale Canadian Canyons project layout--which features a helix--required such complex benchwork that the project went over the magazine's production schedule. In short, a helix seemed like a daunting prospect, with a very specific payoff in terms of modeling satisfaction. As a result, I was cool to the idea of ever incorporating a helix into my own layout construction.
But helices have repeatedly worked their way into my model railroading ideation over the past few months. Most significantly, Ben pointed me to an innovation that addresses the complex and dense construction challenge of a helix: the use of digitally-cut Gator Board for helix construction. Ben passed me a link to this entertaining video demonstrating a compact HO helix built from Gator Board, which also links to the makers of this helix. Then I encountered both the HO and also an N scale version of the "World's Lightest Helix" featured in the video on display at the train show in Timonium, Maryland. The light, elegantly constructed, and reliably operating helices have caused me to reconsider how I might actually incorporate a helix into a future layout.

* * *

MIBA Special 122 - "Pro-
jects with Flair" image 
courtesy MIBA/Verlag
Gruppe Bahn
Meanwhile, Trevor Marshall planted another helix idea in my head during a conversation on my growing interest in European narrow gauge, specifically the electrified Swiss narrow gauge Rhaetian Railroad, or the RhB. He mentioned that he had helped a friend plan a multilevel RhB layout, but that the multilevel concept was ultimately shelved due the complexity of helix construction. RhB operations, with short-ish trains and mountain goat-like locomotives, would have been particularly well-suited to small, steeply graded helices.

Further helix inspiration surfaced in a recent special edition of the German-language model railroad magazine MIBA. In an article that would be right at home in Kalmbach's long out-of-print Creative Layout Design by John Armstrong, MIBA detailed a layout concept featuring a scenicked vignette or stage flanked by two helices built into a Schrank, a large wall cabinet/book case console very common in German living rooms. The helices, and a yard below the vignette stage, would serve as staging tracks.

* * *
Ilustration from MIBA showing the multilevel vignette/stage
concept image courtesy MIBA/Verlag Gruppe Bahn
A minimalist helix might be in my future as a I contemplate my post-retirement model model railroading. For example, perhaps the stage or vignette could be sized to fit T-Trak-compliant modules. The maker of the World's Lightest Helix is currently planning to offering the Gator Board product commercially, but perhaps modelers could produce their own custom-sized helix components with a Cricut or similar digital craft cutting machine. I look forward to seeing the product and design concept evolve in the years to come.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Old Line Corridor on Facebook

Facebook users, I've set up an Old Line Corridor Facebook page. I will be crossposting over there, and also sharing interesting and relevant Facebook-based content. Hope to see you over there!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Quick Snaps: Finishing Touches on Old Line Corridor Scenery

More trees, weeds, vegetation, signs, vehicles. Hard to believe I have finally reached this level of completion on the Old Line Corridor.

More trees and vegetation, plus signs and weeds. 

Looking down the road on the street side of the substation. Trees and weeds and a railroad
 A weedy, swampy area under an embankment, instead of just scrubby lawn
Under the expressway

Another view of the cattails and swampiness under the expressway


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Heritage Units...WITH PANTOGRAPHS!

NJ Transit has jumped on the Heritage Unit bandwagon with Tuscan-and-Pinstripe ALP electrics. Intriguing meeting of old graphics and new lines. Go read about it at Railway Age.

Monday, October 7, 2019

611 Sighting at Strasburg

Norfolk & Western 611 on the nose. The J-class streamliner is doing a "residency", kind of like Celine Dion in Vegas, for the months of October and November. Rachel had railroad business at the Strasburg kickoff event and I tagged along. 
611 oriented the right direction, tiptoeing back into the Strasburg station. This extended visit to Strasburg is reportedly her first venture north of the Mason Dixon line.


The 'other' N&W locomotive that lives at Strasburg, 475, with a string of cars approaches the station/shops complex.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Whirlwind Work Travel + Trains + Interesting Light

CSX action in downtown Nashville at night, captured with my iPhone. I had been cursing the crack-o'-dawn flight that cut short an evening of Broadway honky-tonking, but this scene put a smile on my face. The iPhone excels in low-light scenes like this; I'm surprised at how well this image turned out. 
The destination of my zero dark thirty flight out of Nashville was the New York city area, where a meeting ended late in the afternoon. The Long Island Rail Road was my path back to Penn Station, but the off-peak inbound schedule is thin, occasioning a wait of over an hour for a train. During my wait at Westbury, a dozen or so LIRR trains swooshed past in the beautiful late afternoon light, including these MUs.


In the quickly fading light, a DE30AC screams past with bi-levels, headed to the island's non-electrified territory. Had never noticed that LIRR's DE30ACs and bi-level cars had a more-or-less matching profile, giving these trains a European look. With memories of my trip to the Netherlands still fresh, the look and feel of Long Island railroading is reminiscent of how they do things on the Continent.   

Monday, September 23, 2019

Renewed Man-Crafts Campaign

The Old Line Corridor needed another couple of dozen trees, so I made a few dozen Supertrees. (Some rules of model railroad trees: you will always need more trees than you think; your trees are probably too small) The weather has been particularly nice, so I worked outside. I also used matte medium to bind the foliage instead of 3M spray cement--much neater and more pleasant smelling, as the spray cement seems to get everywhere and is extremely difficult to cleanup and deodorize. The Aqua-Net super duper hold is a final coat to mitigate the inevitable "shedding," and imparts a vaguely hair salon-like whiff to the undertaking.

Monday, September 16, 2019

More N Scale Electrics: A Little Joe!

Click through to http://milwaukeeroadtrainshop.com/home to see an actual N scale Milwaukee Road Little Joe electric locomotive in action. Not sure if this guy is custom making these models, or what, but his model looks great. Reminds me of the persistent--and to my ear, dubious--rumor that Kato is/was contemplating an N scale Little Joe to go with its Hiawatha passenger set.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

All Things Must End: Last Days of Black Mesa Electric Ops



Black Mesa & Lake Powell, the Four Corners robot coal carrier ceased operations late last month. Apparently, the railroad's sole "customer," Navajo Generating Station, is a notorious emitter of greenhouse gases, and has long been a target for closure. BM&LP was essentially a sort of large-scale conveyor belt between the Navajo Generating Station and a large mine 80 or so miles away. Thanks to YouTube user SouthShoreTrain for the video, which he shot--impressively--with a smart phone and a drone.

BM&LP's closure draws to an end the last electric freight operations that resemble--after a fashion-- what big Class I electric mainline freight ops would look like, if we had that sort of thing here in North America. Indeed, when the BM&LP opened in the mid-70s, around the time soaring diesel fuel prices prompted UP, Conrail, and others to contemplate mainline electrification, it and other single-purpose electrified coal haulers in the Southwest and Ohio were seen as glimpses into a electric railroad future that ultimately never came to pass.

The first HO electric loco model I ever owned was a BM&LP E60CF by American GK, and an early post to this blog featured some of my own photography of the BM&LP from 2005. Sad to see one of my great electrified railroad inspirations reach its end within my lifetime.

Monday, August 26, 2019

N Scale Electric Scratchbashing in Railroad Model Craftsman

High-fidelity N scale electric modeling made a rather auspicious appearance in the August 2019 edition of Railroad Model Craftsman. The monthly RMC/Dremel Kitbashing Award went to Bryan Busséy's excellent New Haven EP-3 model. The model is exemplary: it is a zero-compromise representation of this steam-era electric box cab, notably reproducing the gnarly, steampunk-ish running gear and end porches. Bryan also posted this video of his EP-3 in motion:

Although Bryan's kitbash is based on Kato's excellent GG-1, which shares its 2-C+C-2 wheel arrangement with the EP-3, it is not as simple as fitting a new shell to the Kato drive. Bryan used 3D printing and photoetching to not only build a new shell, but also a new split frame, truck sideframes, and end porches.  I look forward to seeing more of Bryan's work in the future.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Old Line Corridor Progress and New Photo Lighting

With trackwork and catenary in a relative state of completion, it was finally time to add trees and vegetation to the corner southwest corner hill of the Old Line Corridor in the upper lefthand corner of this photo. The 'canyon of trees' effect is similar to the Stemmer's Run or Odenton areas of the Northeast Corridor in Maryland. I used a new photo lighting set and backdrop for this photo; this photo was a kind of test shot taken with my smart phone. Will try some similar photos with my 'serious' cameras in the near future. 
Over in the northwest corner of the OLC, structures and associated parking areas are finally installed. Not particularly loving the big factory building; may be replacing it with something better but not sure what that might be. Final scenery details--shrubbage, weeds, road signs, etc.--are next up. Will need to whip up a few dozen new Super Trees to fill in these edges and marginal areas. Note also the backdrop and lighting.

Another view of the new structures and parking areas. Lots of opportunities for weeds, shrubs, and other scenery details, as well as man-made detailing to add life and character.

Especially enjoyed building and finishing the tractor supply in the rear and the grungy fence in the foreground. That hillside behind the buildings will be covered with vegetation and shrubbage.