Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some South Shore Video, Courtesy of that 'Other' South Shore Model RR Blog

Over at My South Shore Line in O Scale, Jay Beckham is chronicling the construction of his O scale South Shore railroad.  He just posted a link to this YouTube video of the South Shore in action back in the 70s. 
Thanks for the tip, Jay, and hope to see you around!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Models From My Eighties Detroit & Mackinac Memories

Detroit & Mackinac N5 caboose and Alco C425M locomotive:
 Modeling my memories of a ride behind the best-looking diesel I can think of
July, 1981: I was a bored teenage dirtbag, driving my parents crazy because I was bored on a boring family vacation with my boring family in boring old Northern Michigan, with two things on my fevered adolescent mind: girls and trains.

Of course, no teenage boy wants parental 'assistance' with girls, but my my Presbyterian minister stepfather is still able to smoke out trains and other train enthusiasts wherever he goes. One of his Michigan-based minister colleagues pointed us in the direction of a round-robin group of railfans and model railroaders.

We drove up to Cheboygan, Michigan for a meeting of the group.  Before the kick off of slide shows and running of model trains, the gang filed out and walked over to the nearby Detroit & Mackinac yard to watch the sunset departure of a southbound freight, mostly boxcars loaded with diapers from the local Procter & Gamble plant.

Two D&M Alco C425Ms, freshly shopped and painted by GE, were on the point--exotic locomotives with a flashy but tasteful paint scheme, followed by 50 or so boxcars and an ex-Pennsy N5 caboose. The D&M train snaked out of the yard, and that old caboose stopped in front of our railfan group.

"You guys wanna ride down the line?" hollered the conductor.  One of the group instantly volunteered to drive his station wagon down to Topinabee, Michigan to bring us all back up to the meeting in Cheboygan. 

We piled on the ancient caboose and rode 20 or so miles on down to Topinabee.  It was an awesome, unexpected treat to ride in a grungy old second hand caboose behind the best looking locomotives in the US--almost as exciting as hot Detroit girls also on boring family vacations in Northern Michigan!

My D&M train ride is among my most cherished railroad memories, and it was made possible by Jim Uttley, my stepfather, whose persistence and patience I have come to admire--especially now that I have had two teenage boys of my own.  The HO models--that's an Atlas C425, a Bowser N5 caboose, and Athearn boxcar--are my modest commemoration of a memorable evening with family and trains. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

American Electrics: The Mighty G

The mighty GG-1 is the quintessential North American electric locomotive--and maybe even the quintessential Pennsy locomotive (The T-1 would be the other 'Pennsy' loco, but it was a dirt-burner). These art-deco beasts-designed by Raymond Loewy, same dude who designed the Empire State Building-toiled for nearly 50 years on what we now call the Northeast Corridor.  4935 lives indoors in a nice museum in Strasburg, PA.

Pennsylvania RR GG-1 #4935 at the Pennsylvania RR museum in Strasburg, PA in 2005 (Steve Lee photo) 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Such a little thing (as paint) makes all the difference: track weathering

Track weathering. It's awesome! What a difference 5 minutes and a spray can of Floquil Rail Brown can make!
Kalmbach's old Small Railroads You Can Build featured a 4' x 6' layout called the Yule Central that featured several innovations, such as extruded styrofoam scenery and weathered sectional track.  Author and Kalmbach Books Editor Bob Hayden's track weathering technique was simple: flat brown spray paint, then clean the railheads.

It was a stupendously revolutionary technique back in the 70s when that book came out--it could make sectional track actually look presentable.Still a great technique that dramatically improves the look of model railroad track in just a few minutes.