I recently tried my hand at using Google's free SketchUp software to make some 3-D renderings of the Dunes Junction Layout. Mostly, I'm using to figure out my scenery and structure placement. Here's my first cut.
My one hint for anyone who wants to use SketchUp to plan scenery and the 'look' of things is to work in full size rather than in miniature. In other words, my 5' by 1 1/2' layout became a 444' by 130' layout.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
|William D. Middleton (Railway Age photo)|
Middleton wrote about a wide range of railroad topics--including co-authoring a well-regarded railroad encyclopedia--but in my estimation his most notable contributions were his several authoritative books on electric railroads, trolleys, and interurbans. When the Steam Railroads Electrified is really the singular account of electrified mainline railroads in the U.S. Originally published by Kalmbach in 1974 and then revised and reissued by Indiana University Press in 2002, When the Steam Railroads Electrified followed up on his earlier electric-focused encyclopedic works, The Interurban Era (Kalmbach, 1965) and The Time of the Trolley (Kalmbach, 1971). Middleton's books have gone in and out of print, but most can be found via Amazon's used book resellers.
Meanwhile, I had that South Shore book checked out from the Lake County, Indiana, Public Library for something like a year straight during that time. The glossy plastic cover applied by the library saved it from the weatherbeating taken by Dr. Roebuck's WTRSE.
Over the years since, my travels and experiences have brought me into contact with the subject matter of Middleton's books. In addition to my childhood adventures on the South Shore (first train ride ever, got to hang out with the motorman between Ogden Dunes and Michigan City) I've been all up and down the Northeast Corridor under wire and on the third rail. And I've seen the Black Mesa and Lake Powell out west. Through all of these experiences, I've thought of how Middleton introduced me to these great sights and magnificent machines.
Today, I own the Indiana University Press editions, as well a couple of other Middleton titles, such as The Pennsylvania Railroad Under Wire. I leaf through them all often to get ideas and inspiration for Dunes Junction. And just because I like electric trains.
Bill Middleton will be missed, but his work will forever be a joy to me and many others who love trains.
Posted by Steve at 11:35 PM
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
|Ikea Summera keyboard shelf=Dunes Junction control center|
I thought about various hinge and drawer arrangements. I especially liked what the Model Railroader magazine crew did with its N scale Salt Lake Route project railroad last year: that layout's Digitrax Zephyr slid into a drawer in the layout fascia (link requires a password). But I didn't want to alter the 1"x2" grid framing foundation of Dunes Junction or append a (relatively) massive box or drawer to the underside of the layout.
I shied away from a hinge, partly because I didn't want to eat up space on our pantry shelves to accommodiate the swing of a hinged panel, and partly because I didn't want to drill holes or otherwise void the warranty of the Digitrax Zephyr Xtra with double sided tape, velcro, or the like.
Meanwhile, at my workplace, I recently noticed a mouse pad-sized platform on an extension arm mounted to the underside of my desk. Mouse pad-sized is also Digitrax Zephyr Xtra-sized, so this appeared to be a possible solution for retracting the DCC system under the layout when not in use, but unfortunately, a quick web search showed that these 'ergonomic mouse shelves' cost in the hundreds of dollars!
But that same web search turned up the Ikea Summera pull-out keyboard shelf, a paragon of spare Scandinavian styling priced at a reasonable $9.99. I rushed to my nearest Ikea store with tape measure in hand to look at the Summera shelf in person.
(An important note here, if you've never ventured into an Ikea store: you aren't allowed to rush, because the Swedish overlords of cheap, stylish home furnishings have engineered the store so customers may only can meander slowly through a highly controlled labrynth, the walls of which are formed by every piece of merchandise offered by Ikea. Also, if you are visiting an Ikea in the Metro Washington area, our 24-hour rush hour will similarly prevent 'rushing'.)
All digs on Ikea and the Capital Beltway aside, the Ikea Hackers web site offers a continuous feed of ideas for using Ikea products for something other than their intended purposes--I know that others have successfully used Ikea book shelves for layout benchwork, and I suppose there lots of other ways that Ikea stuff can add value to model railroading.
I bought the Summera keyboard shelf and mounted it to the underside of the layout with two scraps of 2"x2" lumber. When it's pulled out, there's enough room there for a beverage and an instruction manual (necessary cuz I'm still trying to figure out this DCC thing). When the shelf is pushed in, the Digitrax Zephyr Xtra is snuggled up under the layout, allowing unobstructed access to our pantry shelves. When I eventually apply a fascia to the front edge of the layout, it will have either a cutout or a hinged panel to clear the DCC controller.
But the best part: it was only $9.99. And it doesn't look too bad.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
|Amtrak AEM-7 'Toaster' at Baltimore Washington International Airport in 2006|
Apparently, AEM-7s are dropping like flies--fires seem to claim them with alarming frequency. Amtrak recently placed a giant order with Siemens for replacements. Look for decidedly Euro-looking ACS-64 locomotives in 2012 or 2013. (See below for an artist rendering)
|Siemens ACS-64 (image courtesy Amtrak)|
Just darin' to dream here . . .
Sunday, July 3, 2011
First, the excuses: there's work (got promoted, so now I write other peoples reviews and answer to even more people); there's family (#1 son placed in full time, salaried work; #2 son looking at colleges and studying abroad) . . .
And there's that other hobby (see photo at right--that's a pale ale I made recently).
Nonetheless, all of the trackwork and wiring is in, Digitrax DCC is up and running, and I 'hacked' an Ikea accoutrement to make a swell control panel. Look for a details on all of my progress in coming posts!