Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Mystery Marin County Milwaukee Road Electric Layout

Behold the majesty of electric railroading in the mountains!

Milwaukee Road box motors cross one of those epic Pacific Northwest chasms on the mystery layout.
Photo courtesy Interacting with Miniature Railroading
Milwaukee Road electric models have been offered in a number of scales over the years, but it's rare to see a Milwaukee Road electric layout. John Armstrong even offered a relatively compact Milwaukee Road electric track plan in his out-of-print Creative Layout Design. This prototype offers some really model-genic features: spectacular scenery, powerhouse motive, power, and occasional appearances by steam and diesel power.  Milwaukee Road even MU'd Little Joe electrics with GP- and SD40s in the 70s! 

So it caught my attention when I stumbled on this Milwaukee Road electric layout on the Interacting with Miniature Railroading blog. Unfortunately, IWMR didn't tell us about the owner or offer a track plan.  The layout is apparently located in Marin County, California.  Would be awesome to know more about this model railroad.

This layout gets me wondering: the Great Northern and the Virginian also had electric lines in the mountains of the US--so are there any GN or VGN electric layouts hidden away out there? As much as American model railroaders love their Applachian coal haulers, I'm surprised we've never seen a VGN electric layout. There was that VGN track plan in one of Kalmbach's planning annuals 15 or so years ago . . . did that layout ever get up and running?

But meanwhile, click through and get to beholding some of that majesty.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sidetracked to San Diego for a Few Days

If there are pantographs and wires, I will find them. Here's the San Diego trolley at twilight, an hour or so after
our arrival.
There are regular ol' trains
too-- this is San Diego's
downtown Amtrak station.
My wife had a conference in sunny San Diego, California over the past week, so my son and I flew out for a long weekend. Everyone thinks San Diego is a Navy town--but it's really a railroad town too. The city is served by Amtrak, a world class light rail system, and is host to a world class model railroad museum.

The MTS--San Diego's trolley--is slick, not just in appearance, but in operation as well. It has a distinctly European feel, far more than the other US light rails I have known in Baltimore and Denver.

Oldest (left) and newest (right) MTS cars at Old Town station on a sunny Friday afternoon. 

San Diego MTS yard and shops at night.
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is host to five model railroad clubs and features a few small exhibits of important early model railroading artifacts, such as Minton Crokhites's excellent, early Santa Fe streamliner models (aged but impressive) and a few sad surviving relics from John Allen's seminal Gorre & Daphetid layout. The five layouts represent scale and tinplate O, N, and HO

The huge majesty of the La Mesa exhibit at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.
From the standpoint of model railroaders (as opposed to the viewing public and little kids), the majestic main attraction is the La Mesa Model Railroad Club HO layout. Go visit the club's website to learn more, but my in-person impression is that it is HUGE! And MAJESTIC!

Dudes running their trains on the La Mesa club layout. Those are HO F-units, to give an idea of how much layout
is going on there! My wife, by the way, graciously pointed out to me that Dunes Junctions trees are superior to these.

How the sausage gets made.  The in-progress portions of the La Mesa layout are fully visible, and club members
chat with visitors of all ages and interest levels about how the layout is built and operated.
A scale-radius curve on the La Mesa layout

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SuperTree Assembly, AKA 'Man Crafts'

Nothing says Appalachian modeling
like a wall of foliage. This is Tony
Koester's old Allegheny Midland--a
great look, but it won't work on the
Dunes Junction!  Photo: Allegheny
Midland Historical Society
The state of the art of model railroad scenery has really improved over the past two decades or so, with miniature trees and foliage textures getting better and better. Early on, I decided that my small Dunes Junction layout would have late-generation scenery textures--no sawdust, lichen, or monochrome blobs of green foam. That's a practical issue, really--the layout is small, and my Northern Indiana prototypes never had walls of mountainous rock of Western layouts or forested hillsides of Appalachia as backdrops. So treelines--as opposed to hilly, forested vistas--and weed fields (coming later) are the order of the day at Dunes Junction.

On top: gigantic SuperSage trees!
On hangers below:
SuperTrees that have been
dipped in matte medium, drying
and awaiting bark-colored paint.
A tree line in front of my photo backdrop was thus my first major scenic texture effort. My tree building adventure took off around five or six years ago when I bought one of Scenic Express' SuperSage starter kits, which contains SuperTree foliage, a few sage trunks, various green foliage and leaf  flake materials, and matte medium.

I broke out the SuperSage kit a month or so ago and one of the first things I discovered is that the SuperSage trees, when completed, are freaking ginormous! After assembling a couple of these gigantic trees--they would be at home on an S or O scale layout, or as a 'landmark' tree in front of a plantation--I realized they would dominate my planned background treeline.  Fortunately, SuperTree foliage can be worked into smaller, less iconic trees, so I picked up a box of SuperTree material and got to work.

My objective was two or three dozen trees, 2" to 4" in height. I carefully separated the SuperTrees (actually a weed from Scandinavia) and removed large, skinny, out-of-scale leaves with tweezers. Then each SuperTree took a dip in matte medium for strength and to seal them.

SuperTrees before leaf flake . . .
The SuperTrees dried on hangers, attached with clothes pins.  Upon drying, I sprayed all the SuperTrees with Montana Gold Manila Dark spray paint, which I found at a local art supply store. Montana Gold comes in a large spray can, and the line includes hundreds of colors, including several good tree bark tones in addition to Manila Dark.

After letting the spray paint dry for a few days, I removed the trees from their clothespins and hangers and stuck them in floral styrofoam.
I sprayed each with matte medium from a pump sprayer and sprinkled on ScenicExpress coarse foliage from the original Super Sage kit. On smaller trees, I used Aqua Net super extra hold unscented hair spray before and after sprinking on the foliage. I switched up dark and medium green foliage for visual variety.

After the first layer of ScenicExpress coarse foliage dried, I sprinkled on a layer of Noch leaf flake, which was included in the original SuperSage kit.  These flakes really add a lot to the texture of the trees, as well as introduce very slight, but noticeable variation in hues.

. . . And after application of leaf flake.
The hairspray, floral foam, and delicate SuperTree material caught the attention of my wife, who noted the un-masculine smells and the 'craft-iness' of my tree making endeavors. She wondered it there wasn't something Martha Stewart-ish about the whole thing.

My reply: "This is man-crafts, dang it!"

The dirt
ment is
full of
She was impressed by the first stage of results. Delicate, whispy trees with realistic foam foliage caught her attention.

So did the crumbs of foliage that accumulated under my workspace. Which leads me to that one last  essential tool to tree making: a vacuum cleaner. Best to have one on hand for this kind of project.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Scenery Progress Odds and Ends

The holidays are passed and progress at Dunes Junction continues. The past few weeks have seen construction of trees (of all sizes), a start on the Mineral Springs Road grade crossing, and a preview of catenary span bridges to come.

First, a preview of the reason for all this rush to get in scenery: catenary! Dunes Junction will eventually be under a web of wire, which will make scenery construction very difficult. A test-shot catenary span bridge hand-made by Oberleitungsbaumeister Don Silberbauer of Model Memories arrived this week, and I've had loads of fun posing it around Dunes Junction. With clothes pins holding up the poles, it sits a little high, but Don did an outstanding job of getting the lines and proportions absolutely perfect.
Model Memories South Shore catenary span bridge. Excellent capture of the proportions and shapes of the proto-
type by Oberleitungsbaumeister ('Catenary Construction Master') Don Silberbauer.

SuperSage and SuperTrees in progress.
The smaller SuperTrees have been dipped in
matte medium and are drying.
Assembly of ScenicExpress' large 'SuperSage' trees commenced a couple of weeks ago; I've since obtained a box ScenicExpress 'SuperTree' material. By 'SuperTree' material, I mean magical dried weeds from the great north beyond the wall.  These will make up the bulk of medium and small trees in front of the backdrop. The SuperSage trees are so large, I'm afraid they may visually overwhelm--stay tuned for some experimental placements.
SuperSage trees in progress.  Building these
takes time and patience

Blair Lines laser cut wood crossing test fit into position.
Blair Line laser cut wood crossings have been prepped and stained.  Several coats of A-West Weather-It gave the crossings a weathered, stained look.  Once these are fixed into place and the adjacent track is ballasted,  Mineral Springs Road will go in.

Stay tuned for more progress!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Traction Comes to the Model Railway Show Podcast

Something I missed over the holidays was the appearance of traction and electric railroads on the Model Railway Show podcast. Tom Piccirillo, the famous traction modeler who is also the owner of MicroMark Tools, talked with Trevor and Jim via telephone.  Tom discussed the roots of his traction interest and traction/electric modeling in general.

Jim cited Bob Hegge's Crooked Mountain Lines as a principal inspiration for Jim's excellent Somerset County Traction System, which features O scale traction operations under pantographs. The Crooked Mountain Lines--an HO version in the 50s, more famously in O scale into the 70s and early 80s--appeared on the pages of Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman during those years, as well as in at least one long-lost coffee table book on model railroading. By the late 70s, the CML appeared in the background of Bob's lavish construction articles, such as a monstrous four-truck freight motor piece that ran in the October 1979 MR. Turns out though, that the CML was actually a fairly modest layout in terms of space and simple track plan. Bob reportedly passed away sometime in the early 80s, before images of his work would have found their way on the the web.

Bob's influence on the Somerset County Traction System shows--especially in the way stout-hearted electric locomotives just seem to be passing through the beautifully executed and proportioned scenes. Unfortunately, I cannot offer a link to photos that show why the CML seemed to have such a great impact on so many model railroaders.  As a testament to how beloved was Bob and his CML, the National Model Railroad Association offered a limited edition 'Heritage Car' in CML livery a few years ago.  It's too bad we don't have more to remember Bob by, but Tom's Somerset County Traction System is doing a bang-up job of carrying on the Crooked Mountain tradition.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sneak Peek: South Shore Catenary Span Bridge by Model Memories Catenary

Test shot of South Shore catenary span bridge made by
Model Memories. Photo by Don Silberbauer. 
Coming up at Up Dunes Junction: catenary construction featuring components from Model Memories, North America's premier supplier of prototypical mainline catenary products in HO and O.

Don Silberbauer, the big boss at Model Memories, and I have been emailing and calling back and forth about pantographs, custom South Shore catenary bridges, and the state of the world for a few months now.  Based on our exchanges, Don crafted this span bridge, which will serve as a test shot for a few more that MM will make for me.

The real thing will be mailed to me this week--this photo has me very, very excited for Dunes Junction.  Few things say 'South Shore' like a lattice span between two poles, and Don's awesome work will make Dunes Junction look like the South Shore.