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Layout Construction Journal

Volume Five - August 2005 through December 2005

See other Volumes:  One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight  Nine  Ten  Eleven  Twelve Thirteen

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December 28, 2005

Light turnout tonight but good work done. Neil brought down a couple of projects he has been working on for me, including the foundry building for the Norwalk Iron Works, and the crane shack for the pier at Wilson Point. both models are coming along nicely and should be done in the next few weeks. He spent some time getting the crane shack located in place and starting to assemble the large jib crane (being kitbashed from a Sheepscot Models kit), but quickly determined he'd be better off working on the crane at home. He went from that to working on setting the last of the timber frames into the roundhouse model, and by the end of the evening he was working with Dave starting to pattern roof panels for the roundhouse building. 

Unfinished model of the Wilson Point crane shack used to unload coal from schooner barges Neil has finished installing the timber frames in the roundhouse.

Dave tried an experiment, building a Fast Tracks turnout with weathered rail instead of bright. He and Neil have been thinking it would make more sense to do this since it would cut down on time and trouble having to paint the rails after the turnouts are built and spiked down. He managed to do it, but it was not easy. As he explained to me later, "the weathered rails don't fit as well into the fixture, and it's more difficult to solder the ties to the bottom of the rail because the weathering doesn't conduct the heat well." Still, he managed to finish the job and it looked great when he was done. We'll talk again about it and see if it is worth continuing to do it this way. If it saves time and trouble later on it may be worth the extra effort.

Dave's weathered turnout

Jay got to work on Standard Oil as usual, getting a pair of rails spiked down in the complex. I need to help him get some of the turnouts located and apply feeder wires to the rails for him so he can spike them down and into place. As for me, I worked on a new building for South Norwalk, the Hatch-Bailey Co., a three-story brick building which sits in front of and between the Iron Works and the Norwalk Lock Co. I am experimenting with DPM modular walls re-cut on a table saw to fit together with no pilasters and equal spacing between the windows. Photos of buildings from this region and time frame show that the 'standard' wall section of two windows between pilasters so very popular in railroad structure models was not done in 19th century New England buildings. So I'm trying to 'cut and paste' together a more appropriate building from DPM parts. I'm not yet sure how this will work out, but I got two of the three walls cut and assembled last night and it looks good. I'll know more once I'm able to sand and scribe the joints and get a coat of primer on it. I'm encouraged so far.

In-progress structure for Hatch, Bailey & Co. building in South Norwalk. The shell for the Hatch, Bailey & Co. buiding and the benchwork that will support it.

December 21, 2005

A better turnout than I expected right before the holidays, I was surprised but really glad to see everyone. My wife made hors'durves for the crew for the holidays which were well received and everyone was in very good spirits. The first person to show up was Ralph Heiss, who hasn't been down in a dog's age. Ralph and I talked shop for a while (we are both interested in unusual methods of actuating turnouts) and when other folks started showing up he started clearing out ballast from the switchpoints in Wilson Point. Neil has been doing a great job laying down the ballast but it gets everywhere you don't want it to go. It will take some time to get all the trackwork running well again. We've broken a few throwbars which will be difficult to replace now, but we'll do what we have to do.

Ralph Heiss helps scratch ballast away from the ties in Wilson Point Neil helps scrape extra ballast off the ties in Wilson Point.

Neil put in the last few rails at the roundhouse, so now it's time to build the power panel for that and wire them up. From there he went on to spreading the rest of the ballast around the yard until he ran out. He spent the rest of the evening working with Ralph to clear extra ballast from the tops of the ties and around the switchpoints. Unfortunately we ran out of cinder ballast so he could not finish the scene, but hopefully we'll have more soon. It will be on to ground foam and weeds soon!

Wayne and Ted were down, both were feeling better after being under the weather the last few weeks. Ted once again did me a huge favor in making more switch machines, finishing up the ones he started a couple of weeks ago. We'll be able to use these right away on Standard Oil. Wayne went ahead and spread a layer of plaster over the styrofoam hill I built earlier in the week at the base of Wilson Point, and did a great job of integrating it with the surrounding terrain. Fortunately he was not too upset that I'd reworked what he'd done a few weeks ago, I just wanted to make the hill shallower. I actually used several of the peices he'd cut away from the original form to build it up. I'm pretty happy with it now.

Ted enjoys a mini hot dog as he works on building new switch machines. Wayne coats a styrofoam hill with Structolite plaster.

Tom was kind enough to remove the stone bridge at South Norwalk for me, which was not an easy job. This past week I've been looking at a number of old maps and photos of South Norwalk and changed my mind about modeling Wall Street. I'd originally decided it would be too difficult to do, but that was before we had the scene built up in three-D. Now I see the space will support this interesting feature. (Wall St. was built on the crest of a small hill, which the railroad passes though. The street is built over the railroad making a block-long tunnel the tracks pass through.) We will re-use the bridge as the exit of the tunnel, and I'll start mocking up the new Wall St. scene right after the holidays.

Tom helps to remove a bridge model from South Norwalk after a design change. Dave is losing his mind trying to build a weathered Fast Tracks turnout!

David was only supposed to be down for a short while but ended up staying through the entire session. Working by himself, he managed to get one turnout finished. Amazing how much more productive we can be when we have two people working together on that like last week. Still, he did a great job and we will need more turnouts as we go forward. I finally ordered the new #6 turnout fixture from Fast Tracks earlier this week, with any luck we'll have it by the middle of January. That will be nice, having a choice between #5 and #6 turnouts.

I managed to get home early one day this week while the weather was warm and there was still kight outside, so I took Jay's transfer shed model outside and gave it a coat of primer paint.  These colors are actually pretty close to the finished colors, and everyone seems to like them.  Once the weather gets warmer the final paint and decals will go on.

Jay Held's transfer shed finally in primer paint

Jay arrived a bit late but stayed until the end, working on Standard Oil. He was really pleased that we got all his turnouts finished last week, and got started fitting them into place. We discovered a couple of minor problems fitting things together (we're so used to building in place we're not prepared for fixed-size turnouts!) but we'll get through them just fine with a wiggle here and there, and maybe a replaced tie or two. Mike Sicurella was down too, great to see him, and he spent a lot of time with Jay talking shop (they are both AutoCad draftsmen). He wasn't able to do much but we were glad to see him nonetheless. Hopefully in a few weeks he'll have good news about his health and be able to start participating more regularly.

Next week will be the final work session of 2005, and I recently took a look back through the journal to see how far we've come in two years. We've made progress beyond my wildest dreams in that time, and yet as I look back on the pictures from week to week it seems like it's all just happened yesterday. Mostly what I remember though is all the fun we've had getting here. It's a wonderful thing to have friends and to be able to see them and hand out and work with them every week. At this time of the year, I feel much like George Bailey from It's A Wonderful Life -- I'm the richest guy in town thanks to my friends and family. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and I hope We'll make even more progress in 2006!

December 14, 2005

What I thought would be a bust of a session turned out well tonight.  Several of my regulars who initially said they would not be able to attend showed up anyway and we got a lot done.  Neil had errands to run but worked around them to come down and help out, and Tom had his plans change.  So between the two of them and David and I we had a very productive evening.

Neil pulled off all the blue tape on Wilson Point, revealing that the rail painting went well for the most part.  A few areas we skipped by accident and a few spots where the rust paint crept under the tape.  No matter, it can all be touched up.  Tom went right to work on leveling out the areas in Wilson Point, prepping the depressed areas of Wilson Point for a slathering of Structolite to level things out.  Then he got to work making batches of the plaster like material and filling in all the low spots.  The structolite was a tip I picked up from W. Allen McClelland (of Virginian & Ohio fame) this year at the NMRA National convention.  It's what he uses for his landforms on the V&O, and when I visited there I thought it looked great.  It has a nice sandy / grainy appearance that sets it apart from regular plaster.  I think I may ask Tom to continue with a really thin coating over some of the rest of the homasote next week to draw the surface textures together.

When Neil came back from his errands, he got started laying down cinder ballast at the entrance to Wilson Point.  He had a bit of trouble with it at first adjusting the thinness of the matte medium, and trying to figure out how to work around the ties and switches, but by the end of the night I think he figured it out.  Looks pretty good IMO.  Later we'll come back with some ground foam and weeds and dress up the edges even more.  We'll see tomorrow if the switches are glued in place or not. ;-)

David and I decided to team up and work together on making turnouts, since we needed a lot of them to finish up Standard Oil.  I took the PointForm filing jig and made frog points and switch points, notching, filing and bending them, while David cut and gapped PC ties and soldered the rails to them in the Fast Tracks jig.  This turned out really well.  I made and soldered in the throw bars after he completed the turnouts.  By taking the repetitive tasks involved in building a turnout and grouping them together, we were able to turn out more parts and assemble turnouts faster than making them one by one.  We were able to make five and a half turnouts in the time it would normally take one of us to make just two.  Obviously this turned out to be a really successful strategy, and we agreed we will now try to make turnout parts and 'bank' them in a container ahead of time.  That will certainly help speed construction of new turnouts down the road.

After David finished up with the turnouts I started get the area around Standard Oil ready for them.  I drilled holes for the under-benchwork switch machines and started to trim the turnouts to fit into their assigned places.  I didn't want to get too far ahead before the new turnouts have their electrical gaps cut and are tested to ensure there are no shorts in them.  All in all I think we did really well and got some cool new things accomplished.  We won't meet my goal of having Wilson Point scenicked by the new year but we're doing pretty well, I'd say.  Certainly I expect it to be done (or close to it) by the end of January 2006.  Can't be too unhappy about that.

We'll be having another session before the holiday next Wednesday, but I want to wish all of you out there who are following along with us via the internet a very happy holiday and best wishes for the new year.

December 7, 2005

I've noticed I write "Another good session tonight" at the beginning of nearly every update, which is starting to get tired I think.  From now on, let's just expect that it was a good session unless I write otherwise, OK?

Neil arrived first and got to work right away on the new trackwork for the Iron Works.  He cut out a section of rail from one of the team tracks in Dock Yard in preparation for installing a new handlaid turnout, shimmed a high/low area in the new homasote, and glued down ties for the industry track as well as the new turnout.  When that was done he picked up where David left off and continued installing roundhouse rails at the Wilson Point turntable.  Six tracks down now, two to go.  Soon I will need to build the control panel for the turntable.

Neil look like a disaster looking for a place to happen... Tom Callan works on painting the bright rails with rust colored paint. Closeup of Tom painting the rails on the Wilson Point pier.  Be careful, Tom...

Tom arrived shortly after Neil, and he and I got to work on finally painting the rails in Wilson Point with rust-colored paint.  This turned out to be more work than expected, but by the end of the session we had given nearly every bright rail a coat of dark brown paint.  This is great because it means next week we can start spreading cinder ballast around all the land sections of the scene.  Now we have to mask off South Norwalk  Good thing I bought more masking tape!

Ted graciously works on building more switch machines Dave takes a load off and work on making some Fast Tracks turnouts. Jay Held works on Standard Oil, figuring out where the loading tracks need to be placed.

Ted was down, and I asked him to help out making more switch machines since hes the closest thing to an expert on them after me..  He was able to nearly complete 5 new machines before he ran out of parts I guess I know what Ill be doing this weekend.  Making parts for more switch machines.  We really need the machines soon for the work Jay is doing at Standard Oil.  Jay got in almost all of the rest of the ties tonight, and stained all the ties that went down last week.  Well need to hit them with dye once more after they get sanded, but thats fine. 

Dave was actually already over before the session started (we were fixing a dead battery in his wifes car) and wasnt feeling up to working on the roundhouse tracks, so instead he started making up some Fast Tracks turnouts.  It took him a little while to get back in the groove but he built a right-hand turnout by the end of the session.  Seems I forgot to tell him we dont need right-hands, but we have immediate need for at least five left-hand #5 turnouts right now  Oh well.  Well get those started next week.  Well use the #5 RH at some point.

November 30, 2005

Another nice session.  Tom and Neil got cracking right off on the new Iron Works benchwork.  They cut out the plywood sections, set the new risers in place and screwed it down, them cut a matching piece of homasote for it and glued and screwed that down too.  Not long after that Neil placed the almost completed model of the Iron Works on the new section, and boy does it look good.  I'm really proud of him and all the work he did.  There are dozens of hours in this model and it really shows.  You can learn more about how this model was made by clicking here.

Neil spreads glue over plywood before attaching homasote The guys place and screw down the homasote for the Iron Works benchwork Neil's model of the South Norwalk Iron Works is nearly done!

Jay was over and I worked with him and Ray on the Standard Oil module quite a bit.  Since Jay finished up the mainline and siding through here a couple of weeks ago, it was time to start thinking about the industry tracks here.  We spent some time looking at the CAD drawing (which I wasn't completely happy with) and eventually just decided to wing it and see where things would end up if we just laid it out...  And it turned out OK.  We marked off all the turnout locations and glued down ties for all the rest of the turnouts.  Now all I have to do is make up another four left-hand #5 turnouts and we can continue working on this!  Where am I going to find the time...  In between working with Jay and I, Ray finished up the roundhouse frames he started last week.  Unfortunately by the time he was done we realized I had given him the wrong templates to build from, and the new frames were 1/4" too short!  My bad.  Fortunately it should be very easy to fix (for a change).

Jay sets turnout ties into place on the Standard Oil module Ray and Jay check out the new roundhouse frames

November 23, 2005

(Okay, I'm writing this one two full weeks after it happened.  I hope I don't forget anyone.)  It was a good session just before thanksgiving with several new projects starting up.  First of all, Wayne began working on the scenery at Wilson Point.  Starting with a very large hunk of styrofoam, Wayne quickly carved it into many thin strips of styrofoam with a hot-wire cutter.  Unfortunately that wasn't what he set out to do.  In the end he came out with a thin strip of angled foam, which will need to be trimmed yet again because it's too steep.  Eventually it will represent the edge of a hill the sits behind the yard at Wilson Point, mostly unmodeled.  Tom and I got a good start on the benchwork for the new track at South Norwalk by the Iron works building, which is nearly completed.  We measured and figured how wide and long to make the new section, which will support not only the Iron Works building but also the track that will serve it.  We're going to cut in into the team track in Dock Yard and lead it back about 5-6 feet.

Wayne does his best to carve a shallow hill out of stryrofoam. Tom measures for some new benchwork near Dock Yard.

Dave continued his work over at the Wilson Point roundhouse getting the new rails in place.  He's just about ready to kill me because we put 1/8" plywood under most of the roundhouse and it's nearly impossible to spike into.  Tonight we tried using Pliobond to glue the rails doen instead.  It seemed to work all right but Dave isn't thrilled by it.  He prefers spiking.  Frankly I think he's a bit masochistic (he is the one who put in nearly all of the 2,400 pilings under the pier, after all).  Ray showed up late (these young guys!) but jumped right in, starting to cut up more styrene strips for the roundhouse roof frames.  He used up every bit of 1/8" x 1/8" strip I had but he got them all cut.  Nice going.

Dave works on new rails at the Wilson Point roundhouse Ray cuts stryene strips for the post and beam frames of the Wilson Point roundhouse

Jim Schweitzer stopped by on his way to do some holiday railfanning and stayed long enough to do a bit of work too.  He helped out by cleaning a few rails and soldering feeders to them to help Dave out with the roundhouse.  It was good to see him, he was impressed with all the work done since the last time he was out.  And finally, Neil and Dave worked on masking off the bright rails all through the yard at Wilson Point so we can go ahead and paint them.  It was a tough job and they nearly finished it in one evening.  Thanks guys, have a happy thanksgiving.

Jim Schweitzer takes a few moments from his busy schedule and solders some feeders for us! Masking off the ties to paint the nickel-silver rails brown.

November 16, 2005

Good session last night, a good turnout and we got much done.  A theme this week we bantered back and forth with was improving skills, so a few of us tried some new things.  Ted was one of those folks, he agreed to cut in the new turnout for the South Norwalk Gas Works siding.  He took the Fast Tracks turnout and located it on the mainline, and cut out the rails where it needed to go.  Then he ripped up the existing ties and put in new switch ties to replace them.  He also put in the ties that run down the rest of the siding.  When they were dry, he drilled the hole in the spline roadbed for the switch machine to reach the turnout throwbar.  Next time he's down he'll put on the rail joiners, attach a couple of track feeder wires for power, and install it by spiking it down in place.

Ted works on inserting a turnout into the mainline at South Norwalk for the new Gas Works siding. The new Gas Works siding at South Norwalk Jay spikes track at Standard Oil

Jay got more work done at Standard Oil, finishing up the mainline and siding tracks.  Next session he can get started working on the industry tracks inside the facility.  Neil picked up on the "finish Wilson Point before Xmas" plan and started masking off the bright finish rails through the yard and pier so we can airbrush the tracks.  David hasn't been feeling well, but came down anyway and gave Neil a lot of help with  this project.  I did a little bit too.  We tried using the Micro-Engineering chemical to color the rails, but we were finding it went on poorly and gave an uneven finish, and tends to corrode the PC ties of the Fast Tracks turnouts.  We're going to paint the rails instead.

Neil masks off the ties so we can airbrush the bright switch rails in Wilson Point. David and Neil work on masking the ties and pier so we can airbrush the rails

Ray was over again, and picked up where he left off with the roundhouse.  He brought over his small modeling tablesaw and we were able to cut the back walls of the roundhouse to fit properly.  He then assembled all the walls together, and using the interior frames I started building last week, started the basic assembly of the building.  By the end of the night he'd used up nearly all the components I could throw at him.  We placed the model on the layout for a test fit and I must say, it looked pretty good.  I'll have to get busy and make the last 4 frames before the next session to keep him going.  Patterns for the roof sections are also going to be needed soon!

Ray works on assembling the Wilson Point Roundhouse Ray is proud of the work he has done in assembling the roundhouse

November 15, 2005

Well, it looks like it has been a few weeks since I updated the journal, for which I apologize.  November has been a month where I promised to catch up on household chores I let slide when we were pushing for the open house last month, so Ive been painting rooms, fixing things, etc for the last couple of weeks.  Not much time for website updates!  So no excuse, but thats where Im coming from.

In spite of all this work, we have still been having regular work sessions (though we went out to Teds L&HR a few weeks ago and had some fun there).  Some of the guys have been over in dribs and drabs, for instance a few weeks ago Ray poured the molds for the Wilson Point roundhouse, and since that time Neil and I pulled all the parts needed for that model (except the doors, which were almost done with).  Ray came over last Wednesday and got fired up about the model, and put together all the door frames for the front of the 8-stall building.  Well, he got me fired up about it and over the weekend I put together 3 of the 7 post-and-beam frames that go between the stalls to support the roof.  So that model is coming along nicely thanks to the efforts of many.

Jay was over last Wednesday night too and continued to work on Standard Oil.  Hes nearly got the mainline and siding completed through there now.  I myself was doing odd jobs throughout the evening, including sanding the putty on the new backdrops, soldering up some rails with feeders for Jay, and doing a little work on the Foundry building for the Iron Works.  I found a PVC coupling at Home Depot that was just the right size, so I took an extra end wall casting form the Norwalk Iron Works and carefully cut a round hole over the top window, and replaced it with a ring cut from the coupling.  I scribed mortar lines in the ring with a razor saw, and the overall effect of it came out nice a large round window in the top of the gable end.  We plan to place a large fan in it, and maybe even animate it.

Other things that have happened Neil was over a few Saturdays ago, and as previously mentioned he pulled a lot of wall castings for the roundhouse that night, but he also got the new siding for the Norwalk Gas Works in at South Norwalk.  We now need someone to cut in a new switch at this location so the spur can be completed and scenicked.

And speaking of scenery, weve decided were going to try to finish up the Wilson Point scene before Xmas.  Were going to place a few guys on this for the next few sessions, masking and painting the track, starting some ground cover and finally ballasting the tracks there.  I suppose this means Ill have to finish the station and paint the freight house soon too.

October 26, 2005

Wednesdays session was busy, we got a good crowd and much was done.  Jay continued his work on Standard Oil, getting a turnout spiked down and some new rail too.  Ray and Matt came down together.  Ray did me a big favor by working on the molds for the Roundhouse that Neil had started over the weekend, they are now poured and will be ready to use soon.  Matt worked on smoothing the remaining track problems in Dock Yard, fixing some low spots that were causing derailments over certain switches.

Neil did a couple of jobs, including completing the #6 turnout at the throat of Standard Oil (which was good because Jay can now continue to build off of it).  David Picked up on the roundhouse tracks at Wilson Point, and cursed me repeatedly because of the Durhams putty used to level the scene months ago.  Apparently its very difficult to spike into  Later Neil helped him out by soldering feeder wires to pre-cut rails.

Ted and Wayne were down and started off the evening puttying the seams of the new backdrops for me.  After that, they helped me upstairs cutting parts for the new Phase III benchwork.  It was a little too crowded and cold in the garage to do any assembly, but we got the parts cut for four of the new sections.

Tom and I and Matt spent some time talking about the new additions to Dock Yard and South Norwalk.  We spent a lot of time going over where to place the new turntable.  Id planned to place it down by the South Norwalk station (foot of the stairs) but we all agreed that is was a poor location, too far away, even if it was prototypical.  We pulled out the Valuation map and found there was indeed a turntable in Dock Yard adjacent to the yard lead, and between the yard body tracks and the industries to the north (Armour, Jerome Paper and Bishop & Lynes).  A quick examination showed the existing 60 turntable pit would fit in the available space, and so the decision was made to place the pit along the yards ladder track and access it from a switch off the yard lead. We can only fit one lead (inbound) but it will have to do.

We also spent some time trying to decide how to run a siding out to the Iron Works.  In real life, the Iron Works was rail-served by a series of sidings on the back (unmodeled) side, but we decided it would be operationally interesting to have a siding where wood and pig iron would be delivered, and cars of outbound loads could be generated.  Ultimately it was decided a switch will be placed off one of the team tracks, allowing a spur track to reach out across the front of the building to an overhead crane that will sit between the factory and foundry buildings.  Everyone agreed this was better than trying to bring up a siding track from the foot of the stairs

October 23, 2005

I had a productive weekend, working around chores for the wife.  Earlier in the week I started prepping the ground around the Wilson Point roundhouse, filling cracks, sanding and painting the surface.  I also took a full-size (HO) plan of the Wilson Point roundhouse and plotted out where all the roundhouse tracks would go.  So Saturday I picked up where I left off and started the work on the inspection pits.  I marked out two of the tracks for pits and cut through the plywood base with my dremel tool down to the homasote.  When I had cut down about I removed the material all around with a chisel.  Then I sealed the sides and floor of the pits and put down ties on all the roundhouse tracks.

Neil came over in the early afternoon, and we decided to replace the backdrops.  (Tom had picked up the necessary styrene earlier in the week for me at the supplier.)  Tearing down the floor vinyl turned out to be pretty easy, as the caulk used to hang it hadnt stuck very well.  It peeled off pretty easily and we were left with the original backdrop frame in just a few minutes.  So we found an open piece of floor and started cutting the .060 styrene for the project.  It hung much more quickly than the vinyl had, and the splices worked great too.  In just a couple of hours we were well into it, running like a well-oiled machine.  David came over and helped Neil finish up while I continued working on the tracks around the roundhouse.  We got all the backdrops replaced before the two of them left that evening.

Sunday I felt like doing a little tinkering, so I pulled out the old home-made turntable Id started a year ago.  This device had been intended for Wilson Point but turned out to be a failure, fatally flawed in its design.  After building a Diamond Scale turntable kit (which replaced the homemade model) I understood what Id done wrong.  So spent some time trying to fix the model and eventually tore the whole thing apart, rebuilding it almost from scratch.  Following the design of the Diamond Scale model, I made some new parts, cut old ones to fit, and reassembled it.

I even pulled out the gear and worm drive mechanism Id built and fiddled with it.  I was able to do a better job this time drilling out the worm gear, leaving it almost concentric around the axle (the old one wobbled terribly).  By the end of the evening Id fixed a lot of the problems with the old turntable, and after a few more alterations like lowering the pit edge a bit Im looking forward to installing it in South Norwalk at some point in the future.

I should also mention Neil had some extra time on Sunday too, and started working on the molds for the Wilson Point roundhouse.  Well hopefully get around to pouring those shortly, like this Wednesday.  It will be great to get that project going!

October 12, 2005

Wednesday night was a good session in spite of me.  Normally I try to have a list of jobs to do for everyone who comes down, but after this past Sundays activities I was a little burned out and hadnt given things much thought.  So when people started arriving, it took a while for us to figure out what to work on.  One thing we did was move one of my butcher-block workbenches out into the aisle between Wilson Point and South Norwalk in an effort to try and stop using Wilson Point as a workbench.

Jay spikes down track at Standard Oil Dave starts work on many switches needed in the coming weeks A custom number 6 turnout being constructed at Standard Oil

Jay continued his work on Standard Oil (laying down rail), and Dave started working on making more Fast Tracks turnouts for Jay.  Neil couldnt fine a project for a while, but eventually I asked him to make up some #5 turnouts in the tie jig for Jay.  He also made up a #6 and started cutting rails to lay that turnout in place.  I even worked over there for a while, drilling holes in the tabletop for turnout throws and gluing down some of the turnout ties. 

Scott and Tom begin working on the Hardshell scenery at South Norwalk Applying the plastered gauze to the fabric panels More application of plastered gauze to the fabric covering Tom works up to Dock Yard in South Norwalk with new hardshell scenery

Scott was down for the first time since the National convention in June, great to see him.  He and Tom immediately got started laying down hardshell scenery around South Norwalk.  Im so glad he came down Im not very experienced with scenery and need to learn as much as I can from him. 

Ray does some more work on "Franken Engine", a baldwin 4-6-0 being converted to a Rogers 4-6-0

Ray's Diabolical creation on the workbench -- very cool!

Ray was down too, and brought over a project he was secretly working on for me (so secret even I didnt know about it) He took one of my Bachmann Spectrum 4-6-0s and hacked it up as Id described to him, trying to make the boiler look more like a Rogers boiler of the era than the Baldwin boiler the model is based on.  (Basically, remove boiler section at back until steam dome almost touches cab roof, mill out the cavity inside to allow the casting to be slid back and still clear the motor mechanism, and cut off the smokebox and insert a section there to extend the boiler.)  Very exciting!  And he managed to move the rear set of drivers back to a spot under the cab too.  Its still very much a work in progress but so far it looks very promising!

As the night went on, we discussed what projects should be coming up, what we should be working on next.  A major project ahead is getting Danbury Yard started; were planning to build it as we did Dock Yard in South Norwalk.  Well build it in smaller modules with most of the switches installed on the workbench, then set it into place and connect it up.  Plus, were ready to get started on the next round of benchwork to extend the layout from Winnepauk all the way up to Branchville.  The plans for those grids are ready and once the weather clears we can get started on that.

But we also determined that other projects need to be done sooner, like installing another turntable at the foot of South Norwalk (at the bottom of the stairs), and a new siding across from Dock Yard that will serve a gas works.  These have to be in place before Scott can continue doing much hardshell around these areas.  Plus, several of the guys are pressuring me to include a siding for the Iron Works.  They present good arguments the building was rail-served (but in the back where we cant see it), and its foolish to have such an impressive manufacturing building on the layout and NOT run a siding up to it.  It would provide several more spots to work, and we could use the extra activity.

But Im nagged at by the fact that it isnt prototypical, when I placed this industry on the layout as a background flat I knew it would not be served because I could not get tracks around the back.  Since then weve moved the building farther from the backdrop and it has become more prominent.  And on the other hand, Ive always said that in a conflict like this between prototype accuracy and operational features, Id side with the operational features.  So I guess we will try to find a way to get that siding in, but it does bother me a lot.  Im sure Ill get used to it.

Oh well, I now have a list of tasks for next week and Im sure everyone will be busy now!


October 10, 2005

Well, it's finally over.  Come and Gone.  The Open House for the NER Stamford CT convention was yesterday and I felt it was a huge success.  It was lightly attended (only 10 visitors all day) but for those that did make the trip, they said it was well worth it and really enjoyed the visit.  I tried to take many pictures, I'll try to let them speak for themselves for a change.  This was the very first time we have 'operated' the Housatonic in the sense that many trains were run back and forth from one end to the other for fun instead of testing.  So the day was yet another milestone in layout history for us.  

Tom Callan runs the switcher at Wilson Point Dave Ramos runs his locomotive onto the Wilson Point turntable John Montenigro and Tom Callan share a light moment at South Norwalk's Dock Yard Ted DiIorio turns his loco on the Wilson Point turntable

Tom Callan served as the Wilson Point yard crew for the whole session, and his responsibilities included serving the freight house and coal pier with cars, and working the car float.  During the afternoon many trains came to call, including a passenger train (finished the night before at 1 am), a coal train and a couple of different freights.  Here we see Dave Ramos and Ted DiIorio both turning their engines on the Wilson Point turntable (completed earlier in the week) while Tom continues switching cars around.  A few times Tom did a shuttle move from Wilson Point to South Norwalk bringing cars up for classification to John Montenigro, who was running Dock Yard.  It took a while for the road crews to realize trains should not go directly to Wilson Point, but they were sure having a lot of fun.

Jay Held talks with visitors More visitors during the NER Convention Open House Roger takes the passenger train out for a spin

Like I said, there were a few visitors who really seemed to like the railroad.  Some stuck around for quite a while, asking lots of questions or just looking around, we even got a couple of people in on the act and let them run a train!  Roger (right above) had a good time, and may come back again to help out sometime.  Elliot (in the hat in left picture, gesturing at Jay) is another rail-marine modeler, and just loved our pier.  Elliot is quite a modeler himself, and displayed a very impressive Lehigh Valley float bridge diorama at the NEW convention.

Dave Ramos runs the balky 4-4-0 and tried to figure out what's wrong with it Tom Callan prepares to pick up some cars on the carfloat The temporary carfloat built by Neil and Tom for the NER open house

Ray spent some time the week before getting a few more engines ready for the open house.  Unfortunately Tony's Train Exchange screwed up on my last order of sound decoders (Delivery promised mid-September, waiting over 3 weeks and counting still) so he managed to find a few silent decoders and get a few more locos running.  Two more 4-6-0's and an even an experiment with an IHC 4-4-0 American.  It runs, but bounces around something awful.  It's going to need some extra care to make it run well.  

A freight train pulls past the Dock Yard freight house at South Norwalk A freight train pulls into Wilson Point after a run down from Winnepauk The 4-6-0 Tom Callan used as a switcher for Wilson Point The South Norwalk Iron Works building, still under construction but looking very impressive!

Here's a look at some of the models:  A freight train swings by Dock Yard's freight house, with a view of the Norwalk Iron Works building in the background;  A local freight pulls into Wilson Point after a run down from Winnepauk; The Wilson Point yard switcher gets ready to place some freight cars on the carfloat, and a view of the still under construction but still very impressive South Norwalk Iron Works building, which is Neil Henning's pet project.  .

a 28-foot Housatonic RR boxcar in fast freight line service A 28-foot Housatonic RR boxcar, based on the only known photo of one of these cars A 32-foot Housatonic Railroad coal gondola a 28-foot Housatonic Railroad coal gondola

And some more models, most of which just got painted and decaled in the last 96 hours: A 28' boxcar in service with the Blue Line Fast Freight syndicate, a 28' Housatonic Railroad boxcar, a 32' Housatonic Railroad coal gondola, and an older 28' Housatonic coal gondola. The only car we know for sure is correct is the red boxcar, with decals designed from the only known picture of a Housatonic boxcar taked at Fishkill Landing in the latter part of the 19th century.  The Blue Line car is a best guess, based on other cars in Blue Line service, and the gondolas are what I expect would be a standard simple paint and lettering scheme of the time.

So we're all really happy we made it and met all of our goals for the open house, and exceeded many of them.  These guys put in a lot of hours and I hope it shows.  I'm so proud of them, and it was great to see everyone grinning and having a good time playing with the layout for the first time.  They are already asking when the first ops session is going to be.  We'll get there soon enough, but for now we've got more layout to build.

And for the next month or so, I'm an indentured servant to my wife, to catch up on all the chores and tasks she let me slide on for the last few months.  Small price to pay for where we've gotten to, in my opinion.

September 28, 2005

Where to start?  This past week has been a blur.  There have been people over to work on the layout nearly every night.  Friday 9/23 I had Neil and Ray over until two in the morning, and it was a really productive night, getting all the turnouts on the main tracks new switch machines and having most of the fusees installed around the layout.  Saturday I finished installing all of the knobs and pushrods for the turnouts in Dock Yard and on the main, and got all the knobs on the layout painted too.  Sunday evening Neil was over again and got all the fusee and throttle plugin panels mounted all around the layout.  Monday Ray was over again to show me some new electronic circuits hes been working on for the RR (Stay tuned on that), and he helped me get my ALPS printer installed and running so we can make decals.  Tuesday I took the night off and played video games (I needed a break). 

Which leads us to tonight, Wednesday 9/28.  We had a great turnout, with everyone getting into the act and getting great things done.  John arrived on time and got right to work wiring up the switch machines we had installed since last week.  Ray arrived shortly after, and went to finish up the rest of the fusee installations.  Wayne came down (without Ted ???) and jumped into cleaning up and organizing with me.  I had been at it since 5:30 pm and made progress, but Wayne really cuts through it and works about three times faster than me on things like this.  In what seemed like no time most of the layout had been cleared and as time went on new paths through the junk were cut, lumber scraps thrown out, and tools were back in the cases and toolboxes. 

Tom Callan arrived and worked on cutting gaps in the last few turnouts laid in Dock Yard, and filling the gaps with plastic.  He also trimmed up many of the other turnouts plastic gaps which needed to be done badly.  David arrived a little later and did a number of tasks, including building a few turnouts on the Fast Tracks jig, and spiking some rails left floating after gaps were cut for electrical isolation.  Jay was down and continued the work on the Standard Oil module, getting some more ties down and even getting some rail spiked to the section he started a few weeks ago.  David spent part of the time working with Jay, trying to solve some issues that were cropping up.

Mike Sicurella was down, good to see him again.  Mike and I worked together most of the evening on installing some temporary battens on the upper-level benchwork for safety reasons.  We needed to cover up all the protruding points and corners left by the joists we but up before installing the backdrop months ago.  With visitors coming down all I need is for someone to walk into a board and poke out an eye or something.  Other than working with Mike, I spent a good deal of time cleaning and organizing with Wayne, and later fixing some other problems around the layout, including adjusting a switch machine that had gotten installed poorly on the mainline at Winnepauk.

Later in the evening after the crowd started thinning out, Neil and Tom worked on a temporary carfloat for the open house.  They took a scrap pine board about 5-1/2 wide and about 2-1/2 long, glued some masonite strips to the bottom to make it thicker and rimmed the edge with styrene.  Then I took it outside and painted it primer red.  Not the greatest model ever, but it should get the point across.  Neil is just going to put down some code 100 rail on the top to get it working.  Thatll be enough for now.

Finally we cleared the tracks to make sure there were no shorts on the newly installed tracks / wiring (there were not) and a few of the guys started running and switching a train in Dock Yard.  Theres a fair amount of work that needs to get done in there to get it working smoothly; thatll be a priority at this Sundays session, the last before the open house.  Frankly Im amazed that we did get that yard in before the open house, I really didnt think it was going to happen. 

This will likely be the last update before the open house, so let me just say how grateful I am for the help of everyone who has come down in the last few months, especially those who have been coming over two or more times a week.  We would not have made our deadline without all of you and your efforts.  What people will see next week is more your work than mine, as I could never have equaled whats been done by myself.  I hope you are as proud of your efforts as I am.  Thank you.

September 22, 2005

Good session tonight -- a lot of the guys were over.  Ray arrived first with yet another surprise, almost a dozen new 32' gondolas based on the original Tichy kitbash I'd done some months ago.  Ray took my model home last week and made a 5-part rubber mold from it, and cast a bunch of them during the week.  I'm very impressed!  He left tonight with all the castings plus a number of detail parts and the rest of the gondola models built up in the last few weeks.  By the time I see them next most of them will have needlebeams, queenposts and truss rods with turnbuckles on them, ready for paint. I don't know when he sleeps, and I don't know what I did right in my life that brought him to me, but I'm keeping this guy around.  I wish I had half his energy.  Most of the other guys think I must keep him locked up in my basement.

Before he left, he and Neil worked on getting the remaining throttle panels and most of the fusee panels installed around the layout.  Everyone is really excited about the fusees all around the mainline, and agree that it is going to be one of the cooler things about this railroad.  I'm so glad they feel this way, and that My and John Smith's work on that project is being appreciated.  I knew it would be really cool, but there's a part of me that worried the reaction might be "... Eh.  Next."  Nice to know the guys like it.  Earlier in the evening Neil had completed working on the stand-in car fleet, all of which now have kadee couplers.  He also brought down about ten of the MDC old-timer boxcars we'd cut down to 28' years ago, nearly ready now to be painted.  Good thing I almost finished the spray booth this past weekend, I'll be needing it this weekend!

Jay was down and so was Tom, and they worked on finishing up the fascia around Winnepauk.  That was important because we need a place to hang the throttle panels and fusee switchplates, as well as to support the switch throws.  Jay also brought down the freight transfer house, and finally it sits on the dock in its rightful place.  Can't wait to get this model painted, it looks great.  Jay did a great job.

John continued the work on Dock Yard, finishing up the switch throws.  It was a bit involved because he needed to drill out not only the throw knobs that stick through the fascia, but also a bunch of 'splice connectors' cut from 1/2" dowels.  The splices were epoxied first to the short pushrods underneath the yard, then pushrod extensions were added.  Finally the knobs were placed on the ends and fed through the holes I'd drilled last week.  He nearly completed the job, and left with homework -- make more needle beams for Ray's gons!

John worked around David, who got in late but spent the evening getting the last trackage in place in Dock Yard.  I'd installed the last of the ties over the weekend and Dave got right to work on finishing it up.  I'm sure by the end of the next session (which will be the next to last before the open house) that will all be in.  Then it's just one more switch machine to install and Dock Yard is ready to go.

Ted and Wayne were over too, it was great to see them.  Ted helped John out cutting dowels when he first arrived, then he and I brainstormed for a little while about installing my switch machines on the mainline (made of Masonite spline).  We kicked around a few ideas and in the end decided to go with a larger wood horizontal tongue than we are used to, and that we'd drill up into the sub-roadbed with a single screw to mount it, adjust it by twisting it back and forth, then gluing it in place with a fillet on either side to hold it in place.  Unfortunately I was so distracted by everything going on that we weren't able to complete that task, but I'm sure now it will work, and I can install them myself if necessary this weekend.

Wayne, as usual, was a white tornado and helped clean up the basement again, which was truly a mess.  I'm honestly so grateful for him taking on this otherwise thankless job.  I hope he knows how much it really is appreciated.  Don't worry Wayne, after the open house we'll start building more benchwork and you won't need to be manning the broom all the time.  I promise.

So all in all a big crowd and a huge amount of work done.  I'm very confident that we'll have the whole (as-built) layout operating in 2-1/2 weeks, and actually running trains back and forth, with a little switching here and there.  We're going to make the deadline, and for that I'm really happy for me and everyone else who's worked so hard.  Kudos!

September 16, 2005

It's Friday night, so it's time to work on the railroad, as usual.  Neil and Ray came over to play tonight, which was great because there's still so much to do.  Wednesday we were talking about how we needed more cars to put on the layout so we'd have some cars to drag around.  I remembered I had a bunch of Central Valley boxcars I bought years ago at swap meets, so I pulled them out of the cabinet I had them stored in and put them on the layout.  

While I was in there, I also found a dozen or so 'Early Period' freight cars by IHC that I'd bought just for this purpose.  So I dragged them out too and put them on the layout.    However, only a few of these cars had Kadee couplers on them, so Neil volunteered to dig into them and fix them up for use.  Most of these cars will be stand-ins until better cars can be made or found, but we could be operating with them for a long time.  So it's worth the effort to make them operate well.  He got about a dozen done working at a leisurely pace.   

Ray has been raring to go on the fusee project, so I gave him all the materials and let him go.  By the end of the evening Ray had installed three of the circuit boards provided by my friend John Smith, had hooked them up to the power supply, and installed an LED and toggle switch on the layout just south of the siding at South Norwalk.  Before the night was over, we powered it up and had a ball flipping the switch and watching the LED come on, and automatically turn off,  Everyone agrees this will be one of the coolest features of the layout.   

Myself, I finished the switch machines I started on Wednesday last night, and tonight I worked on getting the most difficult remaining switch machines installed under Wilson Point, and almost completed getting one in.  I also helped out Ray by hooking up the 12 Volt power supply for the fusee circuits.  I'll be working on the layout most of this weekend, so hopefully I'll get a lot more done before next Wednesday.

September 14, 2005

As the clock ticks down we are continuing to rush headlong into the night.  We had a handful of guys tonight, and everyone got something useful done.  Neil was over and continued to tune up the turnouts in Wilson Point; I believe hes about done now (though I still need to get under there and make a few more adjustments to the linkages).  He also finished up the wiring under the Battleship at the end of the evening, and we ran the work train all the way up to the staging yard and back down again to Wilson Point.  Pretty cool.

Ray brought down a second 4-6-0 with a sound decoder in it that makes two, hooray and we have more sound decoders coming soon.  The original locomotive he picked was having some problems (slipping drivers we cant figure that out yet), so we just opened another box and found one that ran smoothly.  Well have to do some work to tune some of these balky locos after the convention, but not now.  Matt was over for a little while and tried to work on the recalcitrant iron horse, but without grease there wasnt much he could do.  Ill try to pick some up soon.  Matt also did a bit of work on a couple of turnouts, getting the turnout at the bottom of the stairs running well. 

Ray and John got to work right away on the Dock Yard module, getting the pushrods for the turnout controls installed, and then hoisting it into place.  John had a good idea we were struggling to get the long pushrods we cut in place, and he said Why not cut them short and then place a splice in them to extend them afterwards?  A good idea well be able to simply take a 4 dowel with 1/8 holes drilled at either end, fill them with epoxy and reattach the long leads the same way we currently attach the pulls on the fascia.  Saved us a lot of trouble wish Id thought of it.

And me, I spent most of the night working on building up a new crop of switch machines, which we ran out of last week, and need about a dozen more of.  I didnt complete them but got most of the work done before the session ended.  They will be done before the weekend, though.  In between pounding the chisel to cut the openings in the switch machines I helped John and Ray complete wiring up Dock Yard, and did a few other tasks around the room. 

At this point were two weeks from the stop of construction before the convention, and Im confident well have enough done to make things look pretty decent. 

September 11, 2005

Well, if we arent ready for the open house in October, it wont be from lack of support.  There were folks here working on the layout all weekend, and we got a monster amount of work done.  I could not be happier about how things have been going lately.

Where to start, even?  John was one of the Ironmen this weekend, he completed the wiring for Wilson Point , even making time early on Sunday morning to come over and finish before his kids birthday party.  .Even when some tricky wiring problems came up, he stuck it out and finished the job before he had to go.  Thanks so much, John, I really appreciate it.

As ample of the wiring under Wilson Point, plus the switch machines

Ray Louis too was on the Ironman squad, here all three days.  Got a few of the gondolas nearly completed on Friday, they are just awaiting a few more details before they will be ready for paint this week.  Saturday, he finished a big surprise he and I cooked up a few weeks ago he was able to get a sound decoder into one of my Spectrum 4-6-0 s.  It came out great, and everyone was really psyched about seeing it on Sunday when they came down.  And he was here again on Sunday, helping clear up loose ends on the electrical system, literally.  He installed feeders here and there where necessary, and before the end of the session he completed hooking up the wiring for Dock Yard.  

The new sound-equipped 4-6-0, outfitted by Ray Loius, pulling a small work train. A few of the nearly-finished coal gondolas Ray Louis and Craig Bisgeierhave built, almost ready for paint.

Its a good time to mention here that if you are using the jigs by Fast Tracks to build turnouts (or any prefab turnout), you really MUST place a continuity meter across the rails before you spike them down to the layout and wire them up.  We had a short in the yard module that took over an hour to find, it turned out to be a PC tie that had not been gapped in one place, causing the north and south rails to short.  A moment of testing at the workbench can save you hours of troubleshooting on the layout, folks.  You can be sure that in the future Im going to be testing every turnout before it goes on the layout.

Back to the crew:  Neil was here on Friday and Sunday.  On Friday he tackled getting the switch machines installed on the Dock Yard module, we had barely enough to finish the job.  But it all went in well; it certainly is easier to install these things when the layout is upside down and resting on a couple of cabinets.  He started working on the electrical system up around Winnepauk all with David on Sunday.  They got all the feeder wires on the back side of the peninsula connected up to strain relief nails, added 14 ga. drops and connected those to the sub-bus running under Winnepauk.  I completed the job by making and installing a new cutoff panel and wiring it up to the sub-bus and the power feed from the circuit breaker.  Except for the battleship, I believe that now hooks up every track on the completed portion of the railroad!

Dock yard on its back, being wired up where it's easy to get to everything. A closeup of the switch machines installed and wired under Dock Yard. The fascia is now cut to reveal the bridge by Wall St. in South Norwalk, CT.

After he was done with the electricals, Neil started working on tuning up the turnouts in Wilson Point, some of which it turned out needed a bit more work to get operating properly.  I think he got a half-dozen or so turnouts running well.  I worked with him for a while adjusting some of the previously-installed switch machines, even replacing a throwbar that became stuck.  That little 4-6-0 is running thru those tracks a lot better now.  I think Neil really enjoyed running that thing back and forth thru those turnouts, chuffing away

Jay was over on Friday, and in between working with Neil to get the switch machines installed I was working with him to build turnouts in the Fast Tracks jig.  We werent able to get all the way through it, but we got a good start on a couple of turnouts.  I think he will like using it; hes going to need a lot of turnouts for his layout and Im sure the best way to go there to save money and get good results will be thru Fast Tracks jigs.

Matt Clemchalk was over with Jim Schweitzer and Ray on Saturday, and what was supposed to be a simple tour quickly spun into a surprise work session their idea, not mine.  Matt worked on the last section of track between the battleship and Winnepauk; getting a single rail in place nice and straight (David completed laying the second rail on Sunday).  Jim took some track tools and started tuning up turnouts in South Norwalk s industrial area, and Ray completed work on the ten-wheeler as previously mentioned.

Matt Klemchalk and Dave Ramos combined to finish up the trackage through the north end of Winnepauk. The 'Bellinadrop' is a high viewblock that sits around the end of the turnback loop. Its purpose is to hide the end view of the peninsula and to force a scene break between the two sides. The Bellinadrop also allows the use of very tight return loops since they can't be seen from the outside.

And finally, my friend Nic Platas came out from Long Island on Sunday to help out.  He and I worked on the fascia and the Bellinadrop around the Winnepauk peninsula, which was a great help.  The Bellinadrop came out great, exactly as I hoped it would (but it is going to take some getting used to).  He and I also spent some time cutting down a few sheets of plywood into 1x3s for future benchwork lately we havent had too many cool days with sunny skies so it was a good opportunity to get that work done.  Now if we get an overflow crew in I can hand them a benchwork diagram and say, Build this.

September 6, 2005

Well, John is making a liar out of me in the last two sessions hes taken a job I thought would require most of the month and nearly completed it.  As of tonight we have completed wiring of the main yard area at Wilson Point .  We can now run the test locomotive all the way from one end of the yard to the other.  Next session hes sure to finish up the engine services area and the coal loading track along the pier, and then the wiring at Wilson Point is done!

John Montenigro troubleshoots the wiring of a turnout in Wilson Point's main yard John does single combat with a forest of feeder wires

John gave us all quite a complement at the end of the night, noting the reason it is going so quickly is because we did a really good job in all of the prep work when we were building Wilson Point and installing all of the track.  All he needed to do was hook up the feeders to the bus wires; there were no surprises to deal with.  That made me feel really good and gave me a lot of confidence in my choices of how to approach the wiring.  I guess paranoid attention to detail motivated by fear of a major screw-up worked well!

And Neil and Tom surprised me as well, they took on building the four-track battleship North of Winnepauk, and got it all in with track and switches (prefab components, its just temporary staging after all) in one night.  We went from behind schedule last week to a week ahead of schedule this week!  All of a sudden it looks like maybe we will be able to get Dock Yard finished and installed before the open house!  The guys are psyched about it; they want to get it done.  It may not happen, but they really want to try.

Neil and Tom (not shown) work on the Battleship North of Winnepauk Tom needs some rest! The New Battleship Winnepauk

(For thems that dont knows, a battleship is a temporary staging yard, usually placed at the end of track on an unfinished layout that will allow the crew to test run whats been built and even operate a little bit.  Were still quite a ways from operating, but when were ready itll be ready too.)

Ray Louis has been a casting fiend, and boy am I glad!

Ray was over too, and managed to turn out a bunch of castings through the evening, we now have enough gondola sides to complete the gondola models weve been working on for a few weeks.  And if the new queenposts come in from Tichy Train Group this week, we should be able to build up these models by the middle of next week.  Now that will be exciting.  Plus, Neil is almost finished with the cut-down MDC boxcars too, so it looks like well have some rolling stock to push around for the open house.  Woo-Hoo!

August 31, 2005


So tonight was a really big night we reached a major milestone.  A train moved under its own power from the base of Wilson Point yard all the way up the main line to the South switch at Winnepauk.  It wasnt the smoothest ride, but we were able to finally prove the wiring and DCC system were installed correctly and working.  Thanks to great advice I had from friends and internet chat groups, most of the wiring work perfectly on the first try.  I was so relieved when we turned on the DCC system for the first time and there were no short circuits!  Myself, John, Tom and Ray have been working hard on the electricals for the last week or so and it was very gratifying to see that locomotive moving back and forth on the main.

Now comes the daunting task of getting the wiring done in the yard at Wilson Point .  John will be heading that up; he seems to really have a good head for it, so well take advantage of that.  Im sure that I and others will be doing some supporting work to help him out in the next couple of weeks.  At this point it does not look like we will get Dock Yard wired and connected by the convention, so Ive decided to stop putting time into it and re-direct the efforts of my crew towards projects that will help get the rest of the railroad up and running.

David and Neil worked on the tracks around Winnepauk tonight, with David continuing to lay rails down through town, and Neil put in a curved handlaid turnout at the north end of Winnepauk.  Well soon be ready to put in a small battleship (temporary staging yard) past Winnepauk so we can do some simple operations for the NER Convention and afterwards.

Siding and mainline have been laid in Winnepauk, all the way up to the battleship

Jay continued work on Standard Oil, since we had the mainline up and running we got his approach track through the wall tested also.  Seems to work well, he put a lot of effort into making sure the tracks there would be level.  Next week he should be able to start putting down ties for the tracks on this section.

And Ray put more work in on the coal gondolas.  We worked hard earlier in the week making master models and molds for the gon sides, and he started to pour some tonight.  The results look encouraging, well need to pour a bunch more to get enough parts for the cars.  Weve just over a month now to finish these cars and get them painted, I hope well make it.

August 28, 2005

Sunday we had several projects going.  David was over early and put in a full day, building a turnout in the Fast Tracks jig (came out great) and then laying more ties and starting to spike down rail through Winnepauk.  Poor guys back was killing him when he finally went home, but he really stuck it out.  Thanks Dave.

Dave Ramos sets the last of the ties down on the homasote roadbed at Winnepauk With tie strips dangling from his fingers, Dave resembles the Swamp Thing The ties are glued down through Winnepauk!

Ray was also over and we continued the work on the coal gondolas we started on Wednesday.  We thought it might be a good idea to build a complete gondola side and then make a mold of it and cast many copies, that it might be a faster method than trying to fabricate new sidewalls (boards, stakes, stake pockets) for each car.  So we gave it a shot.  Got as far as building the first part of a 2-part mold, Ill try to finish that up in the next day or two and then well see how it goes.  I hope it does work out; it would save a lot of time in the next couple of weeks trying to finish these cars.

Ted turns out mre desperately needed switch machines Ray pounds on car weights to make them fit under the gondola sills

Ted dropped by and I was really happy to see him.  I asked him to get to work making more switch machines (hes the only one who knows how to make them besides me), and he was kind enough to oblige.  He got 7 more machines built, which gets us a lot closer to where we need to be.  I dont know if we will have time go get Dock Yard running before the NER convention, but if we have any chance at all well need these machines to do it.  Big help, Ted.

And John Montenigro stopped down for a few hours.  He was amazed that weve gotten so much done since he was last over.  John was able to help me get the last few switch machines installed under Wilson Point, so were now ready to start wiring it up this week.  Hooray!  It was great to have his help because its really hard to get these things installed by yourself, its a two man job.  Glad he was able to make it over.

August 24, 2005

Tonight was good, more progress was made.  Neil was back after his vacation, and did some more work on Dock Yard, installing turnouts and connecting up sections.  Next week he'll be working on wiring there.  Neil was amazed that the lintels for the iron works model were finished, he's been teasing for weeks that I wouldn't get them done before Christmas.  David finished up the work he was doing Sunday, and got the roadbed and homasote in for the second mill in Winnepauk.  Monday night I had put in the ties on the work he did Sunday, and I sanded them tonight, so they will be ready for him to start laying track on this Sunday.  

Neil solders feeder wires to turnouts leading to Dock Yard in South Norwalk

Tom was down, and continued the electrical work he and I were working on last week.  it's all very complicated, hard to keep straight even with it all written down.  I made plastic tags to identify each pair of wires as it snakes around the room, and already I've made mistakes on every tag I've put on.  Fortunately we're figuring them out and fixing them before we get too far.

Jay worked on the bridge panel between Standard Oil and the approach under the stairs tonight, carefully crafting the part and laying it into place, filing it to minimize any serious vertical bumps.  I know nothing will derail under the stairs when he's done with it.  Ray was over too and got another four gondolas started.  If we can finish them in time, we'll have a full train of gond to pull up the hill in October for the convention.  I believe they will be done in time.  

August 21,2005

Had a un-official Sunday session today.  One or two of the guys told me there was interest in folks coming over to do some extra work, so who was I to say no?  I got started early -- I made up the long-awaited mold last night for the end beams for the 28' boxcars and 32' coal gondolas (which I made the masters for months ago), and this morning I started pulling castings from it and also from a second mold I made a while ago -- window lintels for the South Norwalk Iron Works model.  I spent all day making castings, pulling over 20 shots from the molds, and made enough end beams for 10 gondolas and ten boxcars, plus over 100  lintels, more than enough to complete the iron works model.  Phew!

David arrived around 11 am and went right to work on the roadbed around Winnepauk.  For months the mainline and siding through that town have sat unfinished as we worked on other areas of the layout.  David fixed that today, placing shims at each of the entries to the siding, and then putting down the homasote roadbed along both routes.  He ran it all the way up to the curve back around the peninsula.  Then, he put in the two industry sidings in Winnepauk, one each for two mills.  I will get ties down on these areas for him before Wednesday, and he will start laying track on it then.  Great job, Dave.

Ray arrived around 1 pm and picked up where he left off on Wednesday with the gondola kits.  We made a surprise discovery that the side sills of the Tichy flatcars have different stake pocket spacing than on the gondola kits.  Wouldn't be so bad if we hadn't cut all the parts off the 25 kits we were working on and threw like parts into the same piles...  Guess we will need to do a little sorting.  Anyway, Ray got four cars started (3 flats and a gondola) and about 70% completed over several hours of work.  The new end beams for these cars seem to have worked out very well.  I also found that by flattening the weights with a hammer a bit they will fit inside the 'wood' stringers of the model, which will help give them some badly needed weight.  I'm so glad Ray is working on this, at least we'll have some rolling stock to move around the layout in October.

August 17, 2005

Two sessions with light turnouts -- I've been spoiled by the previous few sessions where we had huge turnouts of folks.  This week it was just Myself, Tom, Jay and Ray.  Still, I'm grateful for the help and we got a lot of work done.  Tom picked up where he left off last week and finished building and wiring up the power panel, while I changed the location to make it possible to distribute power around the layout more equally.  It's now located in the corner of the room where Wilton will be located, and should easily be able to reach all areas of the layout with equal-length power cable runs.  I realized this week that once we had changed the location and orientation of Danbury late last year, we never took into account how it would affect the length of the power runs.  That oversight has now been corrected.  I've also included a few pics of the cutoff panels I built over the weekend.  I think they will work great and look pretty good when they get mounted.  

Tom works on wiring up the circuit breakers for the layout The DCC system and circuit brealer panels ready to be wired up! Front view of track power cutoff panel Back view of track power cutoff panel

Jay was not able to stay long, but worked on the approach to Standard Oil through the staircase wall, and started to prepare the homasote for earth-colored paint.  He spent some time pulling out the screws that held the homasote down while the glue dried, then filled the holes with wood putty.  I'll try to get the surface painted for him before next week.

Jay fills holes in the homasote with wood putty

Ray brought down his Proxxon mini table saw, and over the 2 or so hours he proceeded to take 25 Tichy flatcar and gondola kits and cut them down to 32'.  This is great, because now I can hand off a handful of kits to him and Jay to take home and work on without requiring them to do a lot of heavy cutting.  That little tablesaw works nice.  I'll spend some time this week getting all the parts together and after next weeks' session a few people will be going home with goodie bags!  Of course, this also means I have to get jiggy with building up the cast end beams for these cars since they will be needed very soon.  I need more hours in a day!

Ray Louis carefully cuts up flatcar kits for conversion into 1890's gondolas Closeup of the Proxxon saw in action

Oh, and here's a view of the Wilson Point station, which is now sporting slate shingles (though it isn't quite finished yet).  Coming along nicely though, I think. I hope to have it finished for the NER convention in October.  Where I'll find the time -- I have no idea.  There's so much to do between now and the convention.  I think my wife will forget what I look like!  

The Wilson Point station now has a slate roof

August 15, 2005

This past Wednesday (the 10th) we were not supposed to have a session because I was to be out of town, but I got back a day early and put out the word.  I was fortunate to get Tom Callan and Neil Henning over for a couple of hours.  Neil did some more work on the track around Wilson Point and South Norwalk , while Tom and I worked on the power system.  Some time ago, I purchased electronic circuit breakers for the layout and we got started installing them.  We took apart one of the power panels Ted DiIorio had built for me last year (we since changed power supply solutions) and used it to install the breakers onto.  Were now ready to run the primary bus lines out to the local cutoff panels. 

Over the weekend I was able to put in some time on the layout.  Between Saturday and Sunday I was able to get a few local power cutoff panels built, and actually installed one in the fascia in front of South Norwalk .  I expect to be wiring it up before this Wednesdays session, ready to go when the main bus lines get to it.  I hope to get a similar panel installed under Wilson Point before the session too.  

Since I had to hang the fascia panels to get the power cutoff panel installed, I went ahead and painted them black while there was no one around to walk into the wet paint.  It really helps to make the layout look a little more finished even though theres still plenty of work to be done.

Oh, and I completed getting the throwbars installed in every last turnout in Wilson Point on Monday night.  Just in case anybody was wondering...

Also last week I forgot to put up Ray Louis' website address -- it's

August 3, 2005

Let me tell you, the number of people weve been getting lately of work nights has been severely taxing my organizing abilities.  Including myself, last night we had ten people working on the layout.  I was hard pressed to come up with tasks for everyone to do, but I think it worked out all right.  Its a good problem to have.  

A full house tonight with ten guys! Looking down on a Wilson Point float bridge The Wilson Point turntable is coming along slowly

Jay is now finished with the float bridges, and Ive given him the Standard Oil module to work on.  I really appreciate Jay because like David and Neil he is one of these guys who I can hand a large-scale project to and he will handle it with minimal guidance.  But hes also careful to understand whats needed and is sensitive to what Im looking for before he starts off on his own.  Its nice to know that project is in good hands and it allows me to concentrate on other areas, especially on a night like this.

Tom and Wayne were working together on a thorny problem at Dock Yard; the ends of the main yard module and the yard throat werent lining up vertically.  They eventually worked it out by removing and trimming a few risers.  They almost permanently mounted the two sections, which would have been a disaster we would not have been able to install the switch machines in the yard and finish the wiring.  Fortunately we narrowly avoided that problem.  After they finished that work, David did some more work on the track around Dock Yard.

Neil jumped right in and got going with Wayne and Tom on running the sub-bus wires under the Winnepauk peninsula.  They ran two sub-buses, one for each side (so they can be cut out independently) and then Neil started connecting the drops along the finished side of the peninsula to the sub bus with ScotchLok connectors.  He said he was really getting the hang of it by the end of the night.  That completes the wiring along the finished parts of the mainline, now we need to jump on wiring the two yards (which means we really need to get going on finishing up the switch machine installs).

And speaking of switch machines, Chris and I got a few more installed under Wilson Point.  Naturally while drilling thru the fascia we hit more screws, which took time to break and dig out, but we eventually did get them installed.  Having Chris help out with the switch machine installs is great, because now someone else besides me understands how they work and get installed, which means they we can get them done twice as fast now.  Chris also spent time wiring up the 1156 tail-light bulbs to the built-up switch machines while he was waiting for me, which will save a lot of time going forward.  Ed Majury was down for a little while and helped out with this too.  

Dammit, I hit another screw trying to drill holes for the turnout controls!

Ted arrived and saw that we have gone through most of the switch machines he made a few weeks ago, and offered to get to work building more of them.  Huzzah!  Another major timesaver.  Unfortunately, this time the components werent finished to the same level of completeness as the last time, so he spent more time fabricating parts than he expected; but by next session he will turn out close to another dozen or so.  Thats good because we will be needing them soon.

Matt did such a good job last week trimming the ABS plastic gap fillers at all the switch frogs, that I asked him to go over the rest of the yard at Wilson Point and finish them all up.  Its my intention to cut gaps and install gap fillers at Dock Yard this week, and hopefully next session hell be able to get those done too.  And after Id seen the work Ray was capable of (see his website here) I asked him to help work on some of the rolling stock we need for the layout.  He took four Tichy flatcar kits and started work on converting them to 32 cars like the one I did a few months ago.  Hes quite a talented modeler and Im really looking forward to getting a few more cars to run around on the layout.

This week's photos by David Ramos

Go back to Volume Four - January 2005 through July 2005 

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