Sorry about my little faux pas there. The video is now available.
Well heres something a little different. I have been designing the layout in SCARM and decided to make a video, walking through the layout. You will see all the industries and sights as they might appear if you were inside the layout. Hope you enjoy.
First of all, welcome to the new followers. Glad you are here and hope you’ll stay interested. One of the things I have read about concerning blogs is how do you keep your followers interested and coming back. And attract new followers. One sure way is to make sure your blog is regularly updated with new and interesting stuff.
That would be good, if I had a layout that was under construction and needed periodic blog updates. Unfortunately I won’t begin building the new JAM for at least another 4 to 6 weeks. And that brings me to my first point.
What the heck is JAM anyway? Well glad you asked. JAM is Johnstown and Maryville. JAM is a truly fictional railroad. It has no basis in any prototype whatsoever. Its merely my creation from my own mind. That way I am not restricted as to what I can or can not run. I don’t mean that I’ll run anything from a 4-4-0 steamer to an Acela Express. Or have locomotives from 5 different railroads and eras. I am a diesel man. Always have been. Always will be. But I do try and be somewhat prototypical. I currently run Milwaukee Road diesels exclusively. Why Milwaukee? Because that is the wifes’ favorite railroad, having grown up near Bensonville Yard outside Chicago. Happy wife, happy life.
I also try and run my railroad in a way that simulates the real world. My cars pickup and deliver to my industries along the line, running at a moderately slow speed of 20mph. Every movement takes time. Example. Arrive at an industry. Conducter dismounts, walks to the switch, checks to make sure no debris is inside the points, throws the switch, checks again to make sure nothing is inside the points, then calls for the engineer to back up the train. All of this takes time in the real world, so it takes time on my layout. Scale time, of course! But doing all of these things the way the prototype does it, makes even the simplest switching tasks much more enjoyable. And you’ed be surprised how quickly you can get so absorbed in the process that you lose all track of real time. That’s why its so enjoyable and relaxing.
When its finally up and running, the JAM will be a point to point. Or more accurately, an out and back. Trains will leave Thomas Yard and head either east to switch the Johnstown industries, south to switch the Crockery industries or west to switch the Maryville industries. Once completed, trains head back to Thomas Yard and turn over to the yard crew who set out the cars to be delivered off line. But for those times when I want to relax, drink a cup of coffee and just watch the train go round, there will be a lift-up bridge in the gap that actually separates Johnstown from Maryville. Very clever, huh? When running out and back, none of the trains will actually use the bridge. Its as if each end is actually the end of the line. That’s why I have 2 long passing/run around tracks in both locations.
So that’s it, in a nutshell. This is going to be great fun to build. And I hope that this, my eighth layout, will be my last.
For many years I have been using Atlas track and turnouts for all of my previous layouts. Mostly their Code 83 flextrack and Custom Line #6’s. But I wanted to see if going to all Micro-Engineering or Peco track would be any better. I know several modelers who swear by ME track and turnouts, mostly for their more realistic appearance.
Before I invested any money in dumping all of my Atlas track, I wanted to see if using either ME or Peco would drastically change the layout that I have drawn up. So I went online to a website called SCARM. Simple Computer Aided Railway Modeller. The Atlas Track Planning software is basically the same product and what I used to draw up JAM 3.0. Its written by the same guy but only has Atlas products. SCARM has over 200 different track libraries, in all the popular scales.
Unlike Atlas, which is free, SCARM does cost about 40 bucks. Still a good deal considering what you get.
Anyway I drew up the same plan using only ME track and turnouts and then only Peco track and turnouts. And the result is….not a noticeable difference in overall design. Some of the track centers moved a hair one way or another. But everything that I had fit into the Atlas designed plan fit perfectly in both the ME and Peco plans.
With those results in hand, the decision was a lot easier to make. Stick with Atlas track and Custom Line #6 turnouts. I had also thought about using just the turnouts from ME or Peco and using Atlas Flex Track. But I was advised against that idea due to the differing rail profiles. Even though they are all Code 83, the rail profiles are manufactured differently.
After much discussion and input from a great number of good people, I have decided that I am going to use the layout inspired by Lance Mindheims Downtown Spur. I like that it goes around the room but is not just a plain loop. Its also simple to build with no complex trackwork or elevations.
As we continue to march towards the end of June 2020 and a move to a new house with a large basement, I have been drawing up track plans that will fit in a 12 by 16 foot space. That’s the amount of space I have allocated. There is also a space next to the planned area that I will use for my working area, so I can also use some of that if I need.
So far, 3 different track plans have been drawn. One features a peninsula without using the additional area. The second eliminates the peninsula but does use the additional area for a yard. The third is a totally different configuration and also includes the additional space. Its actually based on Lance Mindheims downtown spur layout.
So there you have it. 3 different layouts all in a 12 by 16 space, more or less. I’m sure I’ll have a few more ideas before I finally settle on one that I like the most.
Its been a long long time since I have updated this blog but I will try and do better in the future. Its been a wild and crazy past 9 months. Started a new job. Quit the new job. Built a layout. Tore it down. Built another layout. Tore it down. Bought a new house with a full basement. New layout drawn up. 12 by 16. Now just waiting to get moved into the new house so I can start building again.
Been a while since I have had a chance to update the blog here. Been busy with a new job. Yes thats right. Got tired of being retired so I decided to get back into the work force. And what better job for a railfan and model railroader than working for a company that transports rail crews. Hallcon is the name of the company. My home base is Grand Rapids Michigan, although I live in West Olive. I have been doing it for about 2 weeks now. And while the hours are long and its required to be on call 24 hours a day, the stuff I have learned in just those 2 weeks has been awesome. I have had a chance to get up close with not only the trains, but the crews and the facilities. For example I learned last night that in this area, clearance points in yards are marked with white or yellow paint on the OUTSIDE of the rails rather than on the ties themselves. Reason being, its easier to see them at night. Duh!
Basically my job consists of picking up a crew and driving them to their waiting train. Or to their hotel. Or assisting with switching operations in the yard. Whatever they need. And of course I am taking advantage of the opportunity to snap some cool pictures.
I recently joined the Grand Rapids Model Railroad Historical Society. Beautiful double deck layout depicting Western Michigan and The Pere Marquette Railroad, circa 1945. One area that is being modeled is Manistee Michigan and the Manistee and Northeastern Railroad. The Pere Marquette served Manistee after the M&NE. Two primary structures that will be featured will be the Manistee Iron Works and the Manistee Depot.
The Iron Works will be a fairly easy structure to build, but the depot is going to be a challenge.
Lets take a closer look at some of the finer points. Heres a photo I found online of the depot that I will model.
I see this as 5 parts. The main structure, 1st and 2nd floors, the covered area over the door, the columns which will have to be scratchbuilt, the pediments above the windows and the cornice.
The walls and windows will be fairly easy. Brick veneer is easy to work with. And the windows will come from Tichy Train Group.
So with all that said, its time to get down to it and start the process. Sub assemblies first. Then attaching the subassemblies to each other to complete the structure. Stay tuned!
Well its been over a month since I have updated this blog. Thats because its been over a month since I have done any work on the layout. Its summer here in West Michigan, and unlike my former home in Florida, summer does not last all year round. Its important to utilize as much of the warm weather and clear skies as possible while they last, as they don’t last long.
Once it starts cooling off, it’ll be time to get back in the man cave and get to working on the myriad of projects I have lined up and waiting.
On another note, I have been busy with several other model railroad related projects. I am a member of the Grand Rapids Model Railroad Historical Society. We have a very nice two level model railroad, that features the Pere Marquette Railroad circa 1945. I am learning to be a dispatcher on the layout which is quite an intense endeavor. I am also the photographer and videographer for the club.
The club is part of Division 4, The Grand Rails Division, in the North Central Region of the NMRA. As the Division was without a website for a long time, I have created a website as well as a Facebook page to get the division out into cyberspace. And on top of all that, I have also done some volunteer work for the National NMRA. So no shortage of activities for this boy!
There are a couple of modelers whos’ work I admire and who have inspired me to be better. One of them is Thomas Klimoski. Thomas spent hours with me on email and in person discussing my layout plans and suggesting ways to make it better. I can’t thank him enough other than naming Thomas Yard after him.
The other big influence was and is Lance Mindheim. If you are at all familiar with Lances’ work, you know one of the most important things he stresses is space. Space between scenes. Space left to simple scenic elements. Too many times I see layouts that have squeezed track and trains into virtually every square inch of space. Mostly beginners do this. Grab some of Lances’ books if you are guilty of this.
One of my favorite scenic elements on just about all my previous layouts has been a dog park. Since I am a dog lover, its only natural for me to find a space to fit one in. I love the openness of a scene like this. In honor of a good friend whos’ husband passed away several years ago, and who were both dog lovers, I name the park The Frank Young Dog Park.
The chain link fence is from Busch. It was not as hard as I thought it would be, once I figured out I needed to put wax paper under the fence when attaching the posts with CA so the glue would not stick to what was under it. The trees are Woodland Scenics although I’m not real happy with them right now. Soon as I figure out how to do Supertrees correctly the WS trees will come out. For now, they will do. I think I might add a small pond, as well as a few more dogs. Some benches. A few more dog owners.
Ahh, the onset of old age. Or at least older middle age. Joints ache. Hearing goes away. And vision deteriorates. But what if we still want to operate our model railroad using car cards and waybills? Well you can, in a new way.
Its called car order cards and its really quite simple. Instead of having car cards for each car on the layout, there are cards for each industry. You print them double sided.
Car movement is generated by an order from an industry to deliver or pick up a car. At the yard there is a stack of car orders requesting a particular type of car be delivered to a specific spot. There is (usually) one and only one Car Order Card for each delivery spot on the layout. Car order cards don’t need car numbers or even railroad names. In the above example, J&J Freight House needs a boxcar. They don’t care whos’ boxcar.
When a through freight comes into the yard, the yard crew inspects it for any car that matches the description on one of the Car Orders. These cars are pulled from the freight and placed on a siding for delivery by a local. The Car Order Cards are placed in the appropriate holder for the local crew to take on their assignment.
Okay so now what? A local crew picks up their train and the stack of Car Order Cards. There is one Car Order Card for each car. At the customer, the car is placed in the proper spot and the Car Order Card is placed in the Delivered Holder. When the local crew arrives at the customer’s location there will be some Car Order Cards in the Pick Up holder. The local crew identifies these cars, and picks them up to return to the yard.
After the cars are brought back to the yard and set out, they can either be added to the next through freight, or in my case, delivered to the car ferry which takes railcars offline.
Thats a summarized version of how it works, but thats the basic idea.
Working on the layout doesn’t always have to be something large, like a mountain. Or laying track. Or wiring. Sometimes working on some small things can make a big difference. Heres some examples.
I needed some scrap metal bales for my scrapyard. I took a piece of 13mm basswood, which scales out to 4′ by 4′ in HO scale, sprayed some spray glue onto a sheet of wrinkled aluminum foil, then carefully rolled the basswood over the foil and wrapped it about 3 layers to give it some depth. Once the glue was dry I cut the basswood into 4′ wide squares and voila, nice scrap metal bales.
Now of course they don’t look much like scrap metal at this point. A little too shiny. Some rattle can spray paint, black and brown, and then some pan pastels to add that nice rusty color and now they look a lot better.
I glued the bales to a piece of .040 styrene that fit snugly inside the gondola. That way the load can be easily removed when the gon is “delivered.”
A simple easy project that took only a couple hours and adds another element to the scrapyard. I made a few extra bales that will sit on the ground as well.
Sometimes after you’re done working on a project, you sit back and look at it for a few days, and go nope. Don’t like it. Such was the case with the fence around my oil recycling plant. I just didn’t like the way the aluminum foil corrugations came out. Even adding some growth and vines didn’t do it for me. So I ripped it all out and put my thinking cap on. How to make it better?
The answer came by way of the internet. A website called cgtextures.com has thousands of downloadable jpg files that are free to use once you register. I found a couple of pictures of real corrugated fence that I liked.
I opened my paint shop pro picture editor, resized the picture to just over 1″ high which scales out to 7′ in HO scale. Then made several copies of the picture so I would get multiple pictures on one sheet of paper, printed them out, trimmed them down to size and used Elmers glue sticks to glue them to .40 sheet styrene.
I added a .80 by .80 piece of strip to the bottom for a glue surface and marked where I wanted them to go. The result, I think is much better.
If you look close you can see where the glue seeped through the paper and discolored the fence somewhat. This was unintentional, but I think it gives it a bit of a weathered appearance.
I will add some vines and weeds but not near as much as I did before. I think this looks much better.
I have been experimenting with using paper buildings made with Model Builder from modeltrainsoftware.com. It takes some practice to get everything just right but if you do, I really think it is an easy and inexpensive way to add some structures to a model railroad. Once the building is printed I mount it on foam core board. Then I make a second printing of the same facade and cut the window and door openings and then glue that right over top of the first one. It does give it a somewhat 3D appearance.
This is not meant to be permanent but will fill a small space nicely until I can get around to either scratch building a building or finding a kit that I like.
As I am new to Western Michigan, finding anything railroad related is always the highlight of my day. Case in point, a structure I have driven by numerous times but never really paid any attention to it until the other day. Something about it caught my eye so I decided to do a little research.
Turns out this building, located in Muskegon, is the former Grand Trunk Western engine house! Having lived in Florida for 40 years, I knew the name, but not much else about the GTW.
Grand Trunk Western has a long and storied history in this part of the country, too long to detail here. But suffice it to say, it disappeared many years ago. But this shop survived and is now used by the Michigan Shore Railroad as it’s engine shop.
I wish I had the room on the J&M to model this building, as it screams to be modeled. But I just don’t have the space. Maybe someone else will.
A bum knee kept me out of the train room for almost 2 weeks but I was finally able to get back in there today and get back to work on some projects. I wanted to keep working on the Oil Recycling plant and get it done. Its not quite done yet but getting there with the addition of the fencing and vegetation.
Another little project was to start building a board fence, one board at a time. I have not worked with wood and found out a couple things that I was not happy with. More on that in a moment.
I bought some scale 1×6’s and 4×4’s from my local hobby shop. Started out by cutting the boards to scale 12′.
Once I had enough to start, I then super glued the 4×4’s cross ways as supports.
After adding 2 more cross braces, I cut the fence horizontally right down the middle so I had two 6′ high by 14′ long sections.
Okay, discovery #1. Super Glue soaks right through basswood. Fencing was glued to the cutting mat. After several very careful minutes prying the fence loose, as you can see, it left its mark on the left hand piece. Thats discovery #2 which actually might not be that bad as it adds some weathering affects. Now just have a couple hundred more feet to go.
I am using the fence as a little training ground. Like I said I have not worked much with wood to scratch build. But if all goes well, this will be my next wood scratch building project.
Its a building I found not too far from where I live. It has some great character so should be interesting to build. But NO MORE CA! I’ll have to hit Lowes and get some yellow carpenters glue.
Hello again. I have not done an update in a while as I have been quite busy. But I wanted to show you a small sample of something I have been working on. Call it a “proof of concept”, if you will.
Several years ago my wife bought a computer program called Model Builder. It lets you create your own buildings with windows, doors, whatever you want, then print them out and put them on cardboard or foam core or whatever medium you like. I have not had a chance to use it until this past week.
I thought I would build a simple structure to see how it would look. A two stall engine house was the perfect choice. After doing several print outs to get the size just right, I printed the front of the building in grayscale. No sense wasting color ink until I know it’s going to work.
I think I like it. Now I have only done the front wall, so you will have to use your imagination to see the rest of the walls. And picture the brick in a normal brick color. But I think you get the idea.
I finished the side and back walls and added a simple roof to complete the mockup. Again, just printed in grey scale to get an idea of the look. I did print two copies of the sidewall and cut out the windows of the top wall so the windows underneath would show through and give a 3D appearance. Maybe needs to be thicker to stand out a bit more. I also need to print the pilasters separately and add them to the top wall so they stand out. All will be done when I make the final build using .060 styrene and full color walls. But for now, here is the “finished” structure.
No matter how much you dread it, eventually to make your railroad complete, you have to give the right of way a finished look. That means spreading those fine grains of stone carefully between your rails and along the sloping edges of your roadbed. Over the years I have used what I call ballast in a can. Faux stone paint that you can find at the big box home stores. Comes in several different shades. The biggest issue with that, is that it is paint. Once its down and dry, that’s the way your track will forever be. There is no straightening of the flex track. If you don’t ever plan on changing, then that’s a good, fast method. But how many model railroads are built and then never get changed? Show of hands? Yep, thought so. But applied correctly, faux stone paint really looks terrific.
But not this time. I decided, being retired and all, that I was in no rush to finish the J and M. So I decided to ballast the old fashioned way. The railroad is not overly large, so ballasting a few feet every day or every other day, will eventually get the job done.
I had several different colors and varieties of ballast but all too uniform in color. Heeding the advice of Lance Mindheim, I tried mixing the different types together to see what I could come up with. So a teaspoon of this one, a teaspoon of that one, a teaspoon of another, and I was able to create a mix that I liked.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about the ingredients as I had bought the material over several years and its not labeled. I can say there is some fine gray, some black cinders, some buff ballast and a package of already mixed from, who knows! Sorry about that. But everyones tastes are different. Your ballast won’t look like my ballast. But like I said, a few feet a day or every other day and eventually it’ll all be done.
On another project, I have been working on the oil recycling facility over the past few days. Yesterday I was able to get the .040 sheet styrene cut and placed so it butts up to track height on the outsides of the rails. Today I used some .015 sheet styrene cut to a scale 4′ 6″ for the inside of the rail. It’s thin enough that it does not interfere with the wheel flanges but still looks finished.
Next step will be to cut grooves in it like you would see in a concrete lot and then paint and weather it. Still have to finish the building, build more corrugated fence and get that installed, build a working gate similar to one on Tom Klimoskis Georgia Northeastern and on and on.
Thanks to my wonderfully understanding wife, I was able to place a large order last week with Walthers for a number of kits that I need for the construction of the J and M. Well today the post office delivered a very large box to Casa de Buckley. I think I will have enough to keep me busy for a good portion of this year, at least well into spring.
So what do we have?
A farm house and barn for Juniors Farm.
A diner for Alice’s Restaurant.
A gas station for Zach’s Service Station
A scrap yard conveyor for Crancer Bros Scrap yard along with a 40′ gondola.
12 Hayes bumpers for spur tracks.
A plastic pellet storage facility for my porta-potty factory.
In the foreground is Drachus Oil Recycling that I have been working on. Just finished fabricating the concrete surface around the property. Needs to be painted and weathered. Also need to fill the space between the rails and finish the building. Then it’s on to the kits!😀
Been experimenting with a new toy I just got this week. The Digitrax PR4.
The PR4 is a computer to Loconet interface. In other words, it allows you to talk to your layout using your computer, long as you have the proper software installed. In my case, I am using JMRI or Java Model Railroad Interface.
With JMRI Decoder Pro, you can program CV’s very easily. You can also build switch lists using Operations Pro, download and install sound files using Sound Pro and even build a complete control panel on your computer using Panel Pro. I probably won’t go there but the other things I will use.
There is a bit of as learning curve as there is with most computer things so its wise to download the manual that is on the JMRI website and read it carefully.
So far I have programmed all 3 of my locomotives to run at scale speeds no more than 25mph. I was also able to program my yard switcher for very nice, smooth slow speeds very useful for moving cars around.
I will be using Operations Pro soon to build switchlists for dispatching my trains. Thats another learning curve that I am working on.
All in all, I think the PR4 is going to be a very important piece of my railroad.
In my last blog I showed how I use aluminum foil to make corrugated fence. Now I’ll show you one way to take the shine out of it. This is by no means the only way or the best way. Just the way I do it.
Okay, Pan Pastels. I was turned on to them last year by a fellow modeler and was glad I did. They work very well. But I also use Bradgon powders as well.
First order of business is to spray the fence pieces with clear primer. This gives the powder something to bite into.
Once it’s dry the first coat is the Raw Umber. Liberally applied it really knocks down the shine and gives a nice dirty look to the fence.
Then we brush on the red oxide and the burnt sienna. This gives the fence the rusty look but don’t overdue it. It doesn’t have to have rust over the entire surface. Streak from the top down in a few places.
On this section I added just a little bit of graffiti and used a bit of black to make it a bit darker. When you see all 3 fence pieces side by side you can see the difference. But, that’s okay. They don’t all have to look exactly the same.
You could even leave a small section totally unweathered as if it had just been replaced. I may do that in the next section I build.
I hope this gives you a few ideas to try on your railroad.
Over the years I have seen a number of different ways of simulating corrugated fence like you would find around a junkyard or some industry that needed to keep trespassers out. All of them were good, but I would like to share a method that I have used with success using just ordinary aluminum foil.
First thing to do is purchase the Walthers Corrugated Fence kit.
No we aren’t going to make our fence from a kit! Well sort of we are. Okay let’s show you some more. This is 2 pieces of the fence that comes with the kit. We are going to use these is our template. Tape them down to your work surface so they are nice and square to each other. Then since I didn’t have any heavy duty foil for this project I used regular foil and fold it over to give me a double thickness.
Once it’s doubled over, lay it across the template and tape down the ends so it doesn’t move.
Now this is the part you have to be slow and gentle with because it’s very easy to tear the foil. Using the end of a paintbrush, gently press the foil into the grooves of the template starting at the top and move downwards. Gently.
When you get to the end go back over it again and make sure you have nice definition of the indentations in the foil. Once that’s done carefully remove the tape from the foil and inspect your work. It’s okay if the foil has some minor imperfections as most fences do anyway.
The foil is not sturdy enough to stand on its own so we are going to use .040 styrene sheet as the backing. Cut a piece of styrene 1 and 1/8th inches wide and exactly half of the full length of your foil. Mine came out to exactly 8″ long so my styrene was cut to 4″. Using a spray adhesive or super glue or any type of adhesive that works on metal, apply the glue to one side of the styrene backer. Lay the foil over it and press it down good, once you make sure it’s even on both side. Flip it over and do the same to the other side.
You may need to do just a bit of trimming to get the fence and the styrene even.
You should now have a section of fence that’s about 29 scale feet long and 7-1/2 scale feet high. Repeat the process for as many feet of fence that you need.
But wait, I hear you say. It’s too shiny! Yes indeed it is. In part 2 , I’ll show you how to use pan pastels to give the fence a nice rusty, weather worn look. Until then..
It only took one time to spill a bottle of paint all over my new work surface that I realized I need a sturdy paint bottle holder. Had plenty of pieces of 2″ extruded foam leftover and that seemed like the ideal candidate for a home made bottle holder. A 1″ spade bit made quick work of drilling the holes.
Then just a hobby knife to clean up the edges and we have a very sturdy paint bottle holder. The holes are very tight and that’s good.
Guaranteed not to flip over as the base is about 6″ by 6″.
One of the many things I enjoy about this hobby is scratch building. Anything you scratch build is going to be unique to your layout. Even if you get an idea from someone else there are ways to make it your own.
In the January and February issues of Model Railroader, there is an article from Pelle Soeberg about an oil recycling facility that he built on his layout. The article included scale drawings and I was able to use those to build my version. But when it came time to paint the structure I did mine a little different and thats what I am going to show you here.
First up, lets take a look at the unfinished structure. This is the front facade.
I want to make the surface appear to be stucco. To do that I use titanium white oil paint.
Using a liberal amount of paint I coat the surface completely. Then using a stiff bristle brush, I start dabbing the paint using quick, short dabs so it raises small points of the paint to give it texture. On the left is the texture I want and on the right is the paint before its worked. You might have to do this several times, cleaning the brush as you go to make the points stand out but not so much that they are out of scale.
Heres a look at the front facade after dabbing multiple times. Even this needs a second coat to fill the gaps and smooth the face so it appears to be one solid wall. I will go over this again once the paint has had a chance to dry.
Since I didn’t want to spend a lot of time and effort cutting, hammering and building benchwork, I hired a company called Benchridge Benchworks to design and build the 2′ by 4′ modules that would bolt together to make a very sturdy support structure. And boy is it ever.
Once that was completed, I was able to install the 2″ extruded foam that would be the base on which to lay the cork roadbed and the track. When that was done, I was then able to add the masonite backdrop. Gaps between the sections of foam were filled with patching plaster and then sanded smooth.
I started designing the J&M way back in March of 2017 and went through a number of revisions before finally getting it to where it is today. At first I was trying to squeeze in all of the things that I wanted in a model railroad but realized quickly that it was going to end up being way too compacted and I wanted room to have some scenic elements. So things like tracks in the street, a huge horse farm and roads going everywhere were cut out or drastically reduced. The result, I think is much better and lends itself to some fun operations.