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 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.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Netherlands: the whole country is a hot spot!

That most iconic of Dutch trains, a Koploper, slowing for the station in the mid-sized city of Amersfoort, Netherlands. Rachel and I visited the Netherlands in early June for a rail safety conference. Steps away from our hotel in Amersfoort, 15 or 20 minutes of trackside loitering yielded eight or so trains in glorious late afternoon light. We rode a train very similar to this directly from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to Amersfoort.

A Bombardier TRAXX locomotive in the colors of Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, the national railway of the Netherlands) pushing a passenger train out of Rotterdam station. I liked the NS TRAXX so much, I bought Arnold's N scale digital version as souvenir, along with a suitcase full of Gouda cheese.

A tram in Rotterdam, just outside the train station. Rotterdam boasts beautiful green spaces, modern architecture, and like the rest of the Netherlands, bicycle paths and lanes everywhere. Tram right-of-way in Rotterdam looks like lawns with rails and overhead wire.

A westbound Koploper enters the Amersfoort station. Nary a hassle or second look from security personnel or passengers while photographing Dutch trains. 

In the Amsterdam Centraal station, a Thalys high speed train bound for points south in Belgium and France. By the way, I didn't go out of my way for any of these photos--Rachel and saw trains, trains, and more trains just minding our business as tourists.

Across the station, a Germany-bound ICE train, jointly operated by the DB (Deutsche Bahn, German railways) and NS. Both the Thalys and ICE arrive on special tracks equipped with high-voltage AC catenary. The NS system runs on 1500 VDC--like the South Shore!--and as a result, it's unusual to see electric locomotives from other AC-equipped European railways on Dutch rails.

A Valleylijn Stadler car departing Amersfoort. Valleylijn is a private railroad operating branchline passenger service in central Netherlands--a kind of latter day interurban. Had we a few more days in the Netherlands, we would have ridden the Valleylijn to Arnhem and Nijmegen to see the sites of the WWII Operation Market Garden, the allies's ill-fated push across the Rhine in September 1944, immortalized in Cornelius Ryan's book A Bridge Too Far and David Attenborough's epic film of the same name.

A Belgian TRAXX drags a grungy freight through Amersfoort. Note the four pantographs; this a dual-mode AC/DC locomotive. One of maybe three freights I saw during a week or so of intensive train riding and observation.

The purpose of the trip was an international rail safety conference, and NS staged a tour of notable grade crossings around the Amersfoort area. This particular grade crossing is a rat's nest of safety challenges: it cut through an active station, is adjacent to a school and an al fresco restaurant, and the roadway has motor vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian lanes. NS is using some sophisticated sensoring and AI-enabled video to appropriately monitor and signal this crossing. But that wasn't what interested me most--I was intrigued by those cement arch catenary towers, which appeared to be unique to this line. Our NS host explained that this line was built in the middle of WWII when steel was in short supply, so these concrete arch bridges were used. They are currently considered 'heritage' architecture, which means that when one of them was damaged in a recent traffic incident, NS had to replace it with a custom made structure using WWII era techniques and materials.

The older iconic NS electric MU, the Hondekop, or 'Dog Face', on the museum track at Amersfoort. The banner on the side is leftover from a fan trip sponsored by Pijp-Lines, a major Dutch hobby shop. I bought Piko's N scale edition as a souvenir.  

The Hondekop is such an icon of Netherlands' beloved railroads, that this cartoon 'Dogface' is a stand-in for NS workers. This statue adorns the entrance of the NS training facility in Amersfoort, where Rachel' rail safety conference was held.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Trains I See, Delmarva Edition

We're spending more time out on the Delaware shore, and our drive out is crisscrossed by a number of short lines. Here are two Delmarva Central MP15ACs idling under an elevator at Seaford, Delware.
Judging by the number boards and offset headlights, these are ex-SP units. The air conditioning units on the cab rooves add more gnarly visual interest to these handsomely liveried MP15ACs. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Things You Don't Realize About N Scale: Vehicular Slim Pickins

What does every vehicle in this photo
have in common? German prototypes,
including the Siemens ACS-64. That
might work for the contemporary North-
east Corridor Region, but probably not
for Appalachia or the rural midwest. 
Vehicle modeling is an important hobby-within-a-hobby in model railroading, and I'm learning fast that vehicles might be among the final frontiers of successful N scale modeling.

Last summer, while wandering around Chicagoland, I visited Desplaines Hobbies, which has a large selection of S scale and also die cast vehicles in 1/64 scale. It occurred to me that the selection S scale vehicles must be one of the attractions of that comparatively rare scale. My favorite S scaler, Trevor Marshall, confirmed to me that vehicle modeling is part of the fun of that scale, and that vehicles provide an excellent visual queue for setting the era and mood of a layout.

That's better--a railroad police Ford SUV--that most American
of vehicles--prowling the right-of-way for trespassers.
A few months later I visited John Sethian's O scale Pennsy layout. I raved about his catenary and fleet of O scale electrics on this blog, but another feature of his layout that impressed was the vast population of era-specific trucks and automobiles.

The importance of vehicles to a visually engaging layout isn't really new news to me--I have already put more than a few hours into finishing HO vehicles for my Dunes Junction layout, and I'll also point out that era- and region-specific vehicles in realistic poses were one of the impressive elements of Tim Nicholson's modeling, which I covered in a recent post.

* * *

With the Old Line Corridor nearly fully scenicked, I've arrived at the detailing stage. I've been thinking about signage, wayside details, weeds, and yes, vehicles. A recent visit to a New York area hobby shop with what counts as a deep stock of N scale vehicles yielded just under a dozen or so vehicles, which I immediately placed around the Old Line Corridor.

The long distance bus is a UK model with the steering on the
wrong side, but it represents one of the ways I casually railfan
the New Jersey portion of the Northeast Corridor,  which
is through the windowz of one of the cheap buses Rachel and I
often ride into New York and Connecticut. Also, that white
Rover Defender is something that would likely only ever be
seen in the Tri-State area, or maybe somewhere in Northern
In the process of researching and then accumulating my small fleet of N scale vehicles, I came to realize that the overall smaller array of N scale products in comparison to HO is particularly exaggerated in the model vehicle space. The selection of N scale vehicles is small and focused on European and Japanese prototypes. For modelers of anything other than the modern era, there are precious few automobiles, with the late 70s through mid 90s particularly poorly represented. And for modelers who are focused on the rural midwest or the south--where foreign cars are still comparatively scarce--creating an accurate representation of the population of typical vehicles would be particularly problematic, with unpainted white metal and 3D printed offerings being the fallback options for most late 20th century North American vehicles in N scale.

Atlas markets some of the only 60s/70s era
vehicles, seen here in the lower part of the
photo, while that 70s/80s Herpa VW Golf
in the upper part of the photo hasn't been on
the market for some 15 or 20 years
About those white metal, 3D printed, and commercially available N scale vehicle models: assembling a fleet of N cars and trucks for even a modestly-sized layout like the Old Line Corridor requires a significant investment. I am loathe to hear and particularly make complaints about the high prices of model railroad products, but N scale vehicles indeed seem rather pricey to me. They are quite tiny, which creates, at some level, a preconception that they should cost correspondingly less than their HO counterparts. However, the German-manufactured N scale vehicles are particularly detailed and well finished, and probably require as much or more manufacturing effort as larger scale models, thus explaining the high prices. While the effect and appearance of vehicles on the layout adds significantly to the layout, I would ultimately be more pleased to spend that effort and money on something that adds even more to my hobby enjoyment. For the moment, however, I appreciate the life that my little cars and trucks add to the Old Line Corridor.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Thinkin' Things About Big Ol' Narrow Gauge Diesels

I always wondered if an Atlas C-628 could be used as the basis for an HOn30 DL535E . . . looks short overall, and the trucks are very short in comparison to those lanky Alco C narrow gauge trucks. But still . . .

Monday, April 29, 2019

Finished Island Model Works Silverliners Spotted in the Wild

I nearly spit out my decaf when this stunning photo graced the top of a recent Model Railroad Hobbyist blast email. The models and photos are the work of Tim Nicholson.  The modeling alone caught my eye: the colors and textures alone capture the look and feel of the Northeast Corridor in late spring or summer. Then I realized I was looking at an electric MU car under wire! Woo hoo! Photo and models courtesy of Tim Nicholson and Model Railroad Hobbyist. 

There's a lot of great modeling going on in Tim's deceptively simple vignettes. In addition to doing a bang-up job with a tough Island Model Works kit--the lights and the little details like wipers, marker lights, hoses, safety chains, of which modern passenger equipment seem to be full--the right-of-way and structures show remarkable craftsmanship. Details to look out for in this photo: concrete detail, station windows, and joint bars. Photo and models courtesy of Tim Nicholson and Model Railroad Hobbyist.  

And those poles and that wire. Notice the fine gauge wire, and the compound catenary (the prototypically correct double contact wire). The cantilever poles and insulators are also prototypically proportioned. Hoping to see more of Tim's work!