M&K Junction Railroad

M&K Junction Railroad
Another train of eastbound coal crosses the Cheat River

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Model Rail Radio Show 100

This week I  will be in almost continuous motion until late Sunday night the 18th. First up, I will be on a business trip to Florida ( Yes, yes, I know...boo hoo for me, leaving the Northeast in a cold snap to go to Florida!).

On Wednesday I return, switch bags, and head for San José to record Model Rail Radio show 100. I know that most of my followers here know what Model Rail Radio is all about. However this post is directed at those people who do not.

Model Rail Radio is the creation of Tom Barbalet, and I've been a participant from some of the early shows.  What Tom has done in the virtual world is recreate the local hobby shop; except that this hobby shop is worldwide. Remember when you could hang out at the local hobby shop on a Saturday afternoon to just chew the fat (remember when there were local hobby shops)?  Model Rail Radio is the modern day replacement for the vanishing hobby shop.

A bunch of model rails gather via Skype on a Saturday evening and just talk model railroading. Occasionally, "famous model railroaders", names that you would recognize from the magazines, drop in. And, unlike some other model railroading podcasts, MRR is strictly noncommercial.  You are free to participate or just listen. Of course, you can be totally passive and download the podcast after the fact and listen at you leisure. Model Rail Radio has almost 100,000 downloads a month; so we must be doing something right!

I've made friends all over the globe in this way. And when I do get a chance to meet them,  we meet and greet as long fast friends. I had heretofore pooh-poohed social media; now I'm a firm believer.  Participation in MRR has opened new vistas for me. As a technologist by trade, I have long eyed 3D printing and the application of microcontrollers to model railroading. MRR gave me the confidence not only to plunge ahead with these technologies, but to popularise them through a series of clinics. And I've made the contacts to present these clinics at the NMRA national through MRR.

To my fellow O scalers, we have a somewhat deserved reputation as grumpy old men, set in our ways, practitioners of archane rituals and resistant to change. I remember an article that Lorell Joiner did for Model Railroader in which he described O scalers as "hitting their cast bronze boilers with ball peen hammers and listening to the bell-like sounds.". The article was accompanied by a cartoon of someone attacking his O scale model with a full-size welding torch. Exaggerated maybe, but with a ring of truth to it.

So I invite my fellow O scalers to join us for show 100 and shed the technophobic curmudegon image. Tom is a nacent O scaler and Jim Lincoln (P48) and I will be sharing hosting duties from time to time during this marathon show.  Let's have a good turnout of O scale for this show!

You will need to install Skype on your computer (instructions can be found all over the web). You'll need a microphone if your computer does not already have one. Clicking on the MRR logo in the left column of this blog will take you to the MRR website for more detail. The show will be recorded on Saturday Jan. 17 from 10 am to 9 pm, Pacific time; so there must be some time when you can tune in.

For those who are attending in person, Friday there are a whirlwind of activities planned. Layout tours, a DCC lunch, an operating session and a dinner.  I hope that I make it to Saturday!

Since this post will be up long after show 100 is in the record books, join us for subsequent shows. Shows are recorded about every two weeks on a Saturday evening (eastern time). I think that you will find it enjoyable time with friends sharing their projects and experiences. There are layout design contests and MRR swag. You'll pick up new techniques along the way and get pumped up for you next model railroading project!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All Major Backdrops Are In

Yesterday and today were reasonably productive.  In spite of continuous rain for two days, I was able to finish installing Masonite backdrops on Graveyard Curve, which completes all of the major backdrops and you can no longer see basement walls unless you peek-a-boo below track level.

To do this I had to violate my rule of not cutting wood indoors because of the dust that it raises.  Had I not done that, two valuable vacation days would have been lost.

Here's a panoramic photo of Graveyard Curve with it's unpainted backdrops.

While I should have gotten these in before the subroadbed went into place, at least they are up before any of the track structure was laid down - unlike elsewhere on the layout.  With a little bit of stretching into the first 4 days of 2015, all of the backdrops went up in 2014; that's my major accomplishment for the year.

Now comes the really distasteful job of taping the joints!  After that, a coat of sky blue paint (as you see at the two ends) and it will be ready for photo backdrop prints.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Happy New Year to you all!

The twelve days of Christmas in the title does not refer to the traditional Christmas season - not exactly.  It refers to something that I have not had since the late 1980's - Christmas week off!  This is a feature of my new job, the company closes for Christmas week; Christmas eve through New Years.  Because of the arrangement of Christmas and New Years this year, by adding a vacation day on Jan. 2, I can get 12 days off!

I've been looking forward to this for months as an opportunity for intense work on the layout.  Unfortunately I'm batting less than .500 on days in the basement - way less.  However, progress has been made nonetheless.  

Today, the final piece of subroadbed for the main line went into place.  Graveyard curve (so named on the B&O as the location of an actual graveyard) now connects with the top of the helix.  When track is installed, a complete circuit of the mainline will be possible.  The only significant part of the layout not yet started is upper staging - which replaces the upper return loop in the original plan.

Here's what the upper level looks like.  First, looking back towards the track coming up the helix:

That's camper tape in the foreground, which is the first layer of my roadbed.  Further back you can see cork roadbed on top of the camper tape.

Turning around and looking downgrade from the top of the helix:

Continuing downgrade, that's my workbench and cabinets in the background.  They'll be hidden by the backdrop.

Continuing around Graveyard curve; which at this point is at final grade and ready to begin to receive roadbed and track.

I took these shots standing on a step stool.  What's not apparent is that this roadbed is above the sweeping "S" curve that leads into lower staging.  Several of our local group have encouraged me not to cover this graceful curve so I have been trying to devise a support structure for the upper track that does not obscure the lower level.  I've built and rebuilt the support structure at least twice.  I started with 1x4 framing - much too thick, the lower track appears in a narrow slit.  1x3 framing was not much better.  On another section I tried to experiment with a framework made out of 1 1/2 inch slotted angle.  This was better, but not what I'm searching for.

Here are some photos that make the lower track more prominent.

The camera's wide angle setting makes the opening for the lower track seem more spacious than it is when viewed in person.  The 1x2 lumber holding up the front of each section supporting the upper subroadbed would be removed after the grade was established, the track laid and suspension wires tied to the floor joists above.

As I said, I'm not happy with this arrangement, but I have an idea for a thin subroadbed built along the principles of a through-plate-girder bridge.  Stay tuned for how it turns out.

Here are a couple of video walk throughs so that you can see the arrangement.  First, the upper level:

Now the lower level: