Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting Back To Modeling

Time sure flies by when the holidays are upon a person! Here it is, just about at the end of the month and end of the year and I'm now just getting back to doing some modeling at the work bench. I've been working hard to get our new old house in ship-shape after the move-in...building, painting most of the rooms, doing minor repairs, hanging mini blinds, etc., plus getting ready for Christmas!
So, what's been happening? Well, here's a quick run-down.
The biggest surprise was receiving the January 2012 issue of Model Railroader Magazine and seeing a 7-page feature article and photos of my HO-scale Big Island Rail layout in living color! Wow! I was brought to tears as I held the magazine in my hands realizing a life-long dream to have a layout feature in MR! Please check it out when you have a chance.

My wife and I were able to sneak in a quick side trip to a hobby/train shop in St. Paul during a Christmas visit to family last weekend, so I tried to stock-up on parts and a few scratch building supply items. Ouch! Expensive! Spending money was not as easy as I thought, since this shop did not have much 1/4-inch (O-scale) or On30 detail parts. I did purchase a set of On30 arch bar trucks for the tender of my HO-to-On30 Bachmann 2-8-0 saddle tank conversion project. With a little modification, I now have the appropriate size trucks under the tender and it now has that cool "look" to it. Hopefully the power pick-up wipers will "work" and I'll be able to keep the stock set up with those. I rearranged the DCC components inside the tender to allow more room for the sound system and speaker, so that better. I still have to solder the two power leads from the sound module to the DCC board.
Before Christmas, I had the steam and sand domes and a water fill hatch cemented to the top of the saddle tank, but realized I didn't leave enough room for the bell, a steam power generator or water fill hatch. (Ooops!) So, luckily I was able to pop those details off and reposition them better. The photo above shows the new arrangement with space for the bell between the taller steam dome and the sand dome. Not being a "Steam" guy I'm kinda prodding around in the dark with this locomotive. I do have a lot of great photos of plantation-style saddle tank locomotives in the Hawaiian Railroads book, plus a few downloaded from Internet searching, so I'm using those as my guide. The nice thing about NOT following any specific prototype is I can develop and create this locomotive as I go. As long as it looks like it would "work" in the real world, I suppose that's all that's needed. There were so many variations of equipment and shop repairs and rebuilds to these old steamers, that I would think anything goes!
To place the domes on the saddle tank top, I used the "discarded" section of PVC pipe as a sanding guide to shape the bottoms of the domes to fit the curve of the tank. Works pretty well, as seem in this image, above. If you are wondering what "part" I've used for the steam dome, it's actual an antique of the film camera days. In the old 110mm pocket camera film cassettes were these geared spools that the film wrapped around. Back in the days when I worked at One-Hour photo labs, I snagged a handful of these spools, thinking at the time they might be cool for logging "junk." Well, I spotted the reel in the parts bin and bingo - steam dome. I removed the geared top and replace it with an O-scale lamp shade. On top of this will go the steam whistle.

I couldn't find a O-scale steam generator detail part at the hobby shop so I when off to my scrape parts bins to find stuff to scratch-build a reasonable representation of one. Using what looks to be some type of HO-scale barrel, along with a HO-scale locomotive brake system component, I fashioned a steam generator taking my cue from several photos. All I need to add is an exhaust tube, bent to follow the contours for the loco's stack, and get the unit mounted on top of the saddle tank right behind the stack. You can see the detail part in the upper photo showing the saddle tank. The part is sitting on the work mat in the upper right hand corner by the sanding stick.
One of the coolest things I have purchased for this project are the rivet decals available from Micro-Mark. For the $12 you get two large sheets of the raised rivets in curves and strips, plus louvers and a few other details that I wish I had when I was building my Diesel swamp logging critter! So before I get too far along with add items to the saddle tank, I will next add some of these rivets to the tank. I'll let you know how they work!

Well, that's 'bout all for now. As soon as the final home projects are wrapped-up, I'll head to the basement to get that area prepped for rebuilding my double scale, double deck layouts! Then the real fun begins! Thanks for reading and following this blog, Tell your modeling friends about it. Please feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Progress. Slow, But None-the-Less Progress

With projects around our new digs, I've spent only a few moments at the workbench with my On30 steam locomotive project. But I have been able to make slow and steady progress on converting a Bachmann 2-8-0 HO scale loco into an cool-looking On30 narrow gauge logging 'woods' engine for my future On30 Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Company "Swamp Logger" layout.
For a quick run-down of the project so far, please check out my previous blog postings. Here's what's been happening in the past week or so. This, belive it or not (seen above), my friends, is the new "saddle tank" for the new woods steam engine. The discarded piece of PVC pipe was cut just off center with my power miter saw, then cut to length.
In this view, above, 'mounting planks' are cemented to the trimmed pipe. These styrene pieces will help the new saddle tank attach effortlessly to the stripped-down HO scale boiler and serve as front end platforms for the engine's walkways, as seen in the photo below.

The tank sits on the boiler on the HO walkways which were left on the model (not seen in this view) and just clears the smokestack opening. You can see I have cut piece of flat styrene to fit as the front section of the tank. I have since trimmed and sanded this to match the curvature of the tank. Here's how it will look on the locomotive boiler, below.
The running gear and motor housing just squeezes, and I mean SQUEEZES, up into the boiler with nearly zero-clearance. So, it will be interesting to route the headlight wires to the front of the smoke box! I will next test fit the steam and sand domes to the top of the tank. I am still trying to decide if I will use the small HO scale ones I pulled of the boiler or make something from the scrap pile. I will use a section of the same PVC pipe with sandpaper attached, to form the proper curve to the bottom mounting areas. OK, I know, I could have shelled out $20 and bought them in 1/4-inch scale, but what fun is that?

I also need to fashion and new exhaust stack and mount a smoke arrestor on top. I'm eyeing an old plastic ink pen on my work table that seems to have just the right taper and diameter to it. Hmmmm.
The new cab will mount to the rear of the new saddle tank and extend towards to back of the engine with the cab roof overlapping the tender slightly.

The O scale rivet decals I ordered from Micro Mark arrived today in the mail. I can't wait to see how these look on the new saddle tank and the tender. So - as I wait for the UPS guy to bring me the other O-scale detail parts I ordered, like the bell, handrail stanchions, headlight, etc. - if you don't mind, I have a cab to scratch build!

Comments are always welcome! Thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back To Scratchbuilding, For A Moment

(Announcer) "When we last left our newly moved model railroader, (me) his layout was in sections piled-up in his new, smaller basement and the pre-snow-outside house -projects "Honey-Do"list was growing by the minute...."

Well. I'm happy to report the outside projects are done, so let the snow far the weather has been sunny and cool - go figure! The inside projects list is getting addressed with caulk, Spackle and paint. In the spare moments of the day (ha) I have had a chance to work on my On30 2-8-0 logging locomotive conversion from HO scale. (See previous posts for background info.) I have had the forethought to actually document the process with photos so if I ever get around to putting together another "how-to" article for a modeling magazine, I'll have the "beginning construction" shots done.
To update the project, I have completed the locomotive's tender to the point of doing final gap-filling, detailing, testing the DCC and finally painting. I started by building an extended frame around and over the HO locomotive tender chassis using styrene strips, so the new 1/4-inch-scale width tender frame measured-out to about 7.5 feet. I'm still toying with the idea of replacing the small HO trucks with a set of On30 trucks and then somehow adapting them to pickup power from the rails like the HO ones do. In the meantime, the HO scale trucks will do just fine.
With razor saw in hand, the tender body was cut in half and all the un-needed plastic was cut, filed and sanded away. I cemented the sides to the new extended frame. The "stock" loco's wiring and DCC plug-in can be seen as well. Now, the fill in the gaps.
Above you can see a filler section bridging the gap between to two original rear tender sides. I also cut and added sand bins from an old Shay tender to this section to add interest and take the eye away from the gap. I did the same gap filling in front, but with more pieces to create a "walkway" over the mini plug that connects the loco wiring to the tender. (See other photo below) Once this stage in the construction was done, I tested the DCC and sound components into the enlarged tender body to see how everything would fit.
In the background of the above picture, you can see the tender's top deck section. This was built to be removable to access the DCC system. I cut a section of the old HO tender's top and water hatch and glued that to the new tender deck, as well as adding a fuel oil hatch. I want to get some of those Micro-Mark rivet decals to add details to the new tender and locomotive. Has anyone used them yet?
I'm going to have to mount a coupler pocket to the rear, but I guess I'll wait on that until I decide on the taller On30 trucks or not. The tender will get an operating rear headlight, as well as coupler lift bars, grab irons, steps and all the other detail goodies to bring it to life.
This tender has given me an opportunity to get my feet wet in the new scratch building project. Now onto the actual locomotive with the saddle tank, new cab, walkways and all the other doo-dads. I guess that means a trip to the on-line hobby shop!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Modifying A Concept

Pardon me as I hop-scotch back to the HO layout this time, as this seems to be the way my mind is working lately as I ponder the new twin scale stacked layouts.

With the impending Minnesota winter weather looming just around the corner, my efforts have been to complete outside projects at our new home before the snow flies. So modeling has been confined to working on the On30 steam saddle tanker conversion and keeping the pencils worn-down as I work and rework plans for the new layouts.

My latest thoughts for the upper-level Hawaiian-theme modern HO scale shortline railroad is to downplay the Big Island Rail concept and play up more of the gritty industrial sugar company railroading concept. In my former layout, the Puna Sugar Company sugar mill complex never was built. In it's old supporting role,  the mill's bulk sugar and sugar cane unit trains had trackage rights over the BIRR to the 'mill' from the cane fields and from the mill to the Hilo Harbor area with bulk raw sugar for transfer to ocean-going ships. Other than that, a mill switcher would have shuttled cars around the mill.

In this new concept, the BIRR takes on the supporting role and the PSCX takes center stage. With a much smaller layout area to build in, I'm trying to develop a plan that will offer a lot of operation possibilities as well as my desired continuous running loop.  One of the features of the HO layout will be a compact Puna Sugar processing mill (built over the workbench in the basement) where fresh-cut sugar cane is brought in - with unit cane trains (using my cool see-through cane cars home-built from retired boxcars - a la U.S. Sugar in Florida) - to the dump for crushing. Bulk sugar is loaded in covered hopper cars and back hauled to the BIRR interchange for shipment to the Bulk Sugar Transfer Facility at Hilo Bay (which may be located on a long spur to the back of the staging yard over the washer and dryer in the basement.)

With my current track plan for the HO layout, the sugar mill would be reached via the diamond at "Sugar Jct." where the track squeezes passes through beside the AC/Heater unit. The mill will, as stated earlier, have a cane dump track, as well as the bulk sugar loader. If there is room, bagasse loader and molasses pipe spurs will be worked into the mill facility. PSCX transfer runs will connect the mill with the BIRR interchange in Hilo over branchline rails. Cane trains will run from staging to the mill via "Sugar Jct." A mill switcher will work trackage.

Big Island Rail crews will have some work to do as well on the branchline with a possible ethanol plant (or maybe a HELCO power plant or intermodal ramp), plus the Hawaiian Fruit Exchange cold storage spur and maybe a spur into Hilo Auto Recycling to switch in the "Sugar Jct." industrial district. BIRR will offer "Live Interchange" working the South Hilo interchange tracks to set out cars bound for Puna Sugar and hauling outbound cars to the BIRR Hilo yard (staging) or the C and H / Puna Sugar Bulk Sugar Transfer.

All this and continuous running to boot!

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you'd like!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sketching Continues

As we work on all the projects that need to be done on our recently purchased home before winter hits our corner of Minnesota, the basement home of the future On30 and HO layouts is basically a storage room for the old HO layout sections, boxes of rolling stock and structures and a lot of bins with parts, tools and other model railroading junk.

I have started to tinker on my conversion project to make a On30 Logging steam engine from a HO scale Bachmann 2-8-0 loco. After totally taking the loco apart, (above) I have started rebuilding the tender, widening the frame and cutting the tender body apart in half lengthwise in order to widen it to a scale 7 1/2-feet. That is the progress report on the loco conversion for now.

Of course the pen and paper sketching continues on the proposed On30 and HO layouts. Following a session with a tape measure noting basement dimensions with a bit more 'reality' than I had before, I have been able to get a better idea of what will fit in the new space.

Not to exact scale, these track sketches are more accurate than my earlier efforts.

Here is my latest effort to design the On30 Swamp Logger layout. The space is roughly 11 x 10.5 feet. The track that exits the layout area between the wall and the AC/Heater will head to a small staging yard over the work bench in another part of the basement.

As I've noted in previous posts, the logging layout will be the lower of the two layouts in the space. I'm looking at building this layout at about 44-inches above the floor.

Below is the proposed Big Island Rail/Puna Sugar Co. HO scale layout that will be mounted above the On30 bench work. Despite what the drawing shows, this layout will hover at about 64 to 66 inches above the floor.

The track that leaves the layout area at "Sugar Jct." between the AC unit and the wall will head to the Puna Sugar Co complex, to be above the work bench in the basement.

Comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading and following this blog.

Friday, October 7, 2011

More Inspiration

While packing books for the move, I rediscovered a fine hard cover logging book about the Caspar Lumber Company railroad called "Mallets On The Mendocino Coast." I forgot how cool this logging operation along the rugged Northern California coastline was! The standard gauge rail operations lasted into the late 1940's with an array of steam locomotives including a small shay, a Climax, a few small tank engines and two massive articulated Mallets with tenders.

Thumbing through the book provided additional inspiration for my planned On30 coastal "Swamp Logger." The Caspar had a fleet of compact coastal steam freighters that hauled rough-cut redwood to the San Francisco Bay Area docks. With my planned harbor trackage, I would love to build one of these steamships and tie it up at the Pier One complex.

I've also found a few photos of narrow gauge steam engines to base my HO-to-On30 2-8-0 tank engine project on. A couple nice shots showing all the piping, domes and cab structure as well as the tender to tag onto the tail end of my new logging engine. As much as I'd like to say I can fab all the parts for my steam engine conversion, but I will have to make a trip to the hobby shop, which is a couple hour drive from where I live. Of course I can order parts over the Internet, as well. What's on the parts list? Lots of details typical for the classic steam loco - 1/4-inch scale back head details, piping, whistle, bell, headlight casting among other goodies. I also need to mount a pair of On30 trucks under the loco's tender which will be widened and contain the power pickups, DCC decoder and sound system components as mentioned in my last posting.

Thanks to the Internet, researching logging photos and history is relatively simple and provides lots of inspiration for these types of projects. Yet, I'm an analog guy in a digital world, and like to have a piece of paper, magazine or book in my hands. One of the other inspirations I garnered from the Caspar book was how woods crews switched out loads and empties using a wye and a single run-around track at the interchange between the woods and the run to "town.". What's cool about this is I had planned a similar track arrangement for my On30 logging layout. Reading about how they used the woods switcher to help the woods road engine set out and exchange loads for MTs and be in the clear to head back with the MT's to the log landings and have the loads ready for pick-up for the trip to the mill was very interesting. This insight helps reinforce how to operate my On30 models in a prototypical way.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Next On30 Locomotive Project

With the start of construction on my new layout combo project unknown at this moment, since all the other "new home" projects superseding hobby pursuits, I hope to at least have my modeling work table up and running very soon. Besides taking measurements of the new train room and beginning track planning to scale, I have another locomotive project I'm itching to get underway: A sound-equipped 2-8-0 logging tank engine/tender conversion - from an unused Bachmann HO-scale engine into an uber-cool woods switcher.

With my On30 logging Diesel "critter" just about completed (save for weathering, final detailing and decals) I am ready to start the steam engine project. I have "stripped down" the HO steamer as much as I possibly can, leaving a box full of parts and components. Armed with a fist-full of photos and scale drawings of a number of logging locomotives, I'm feeling confident I can build a convincing On30 loco "On-The-Cheap" for my planned On30 Swamp Logger layout.

I know I'll likely need to purchase a few commercial detail parts for my logger, like generator, air pump, bell, headlights, whistle, stack, back head details and a set of On30 tender trucks.  I'm thinking of using a section of PVC pipe as the base of the wrap-around saddle tank adding front and back plates with added rivet details. I will add the steam and sand domes from the HO loco, unless they look overly small for 1/4-inch scale. I have a few cigar tubes on hand that I can use as the larger-sized domes. I'm also planning on scratch-building the open-air cab typical for the hot and humid environment of the swamp. Converting the front pilot and walkways are still under R & D.

I will keep the tender with the loco to use the extra "space" for the power pick-up, DCC components and speaker. For the tender, I'll split the tender body apart lengthwise to widen it to a typical narrow gauge 7-to-8 foot girth. I will bridge the gap with filler pieces and mount body onto a widen chassis. Since the loco will be an oil-burner, I will have to fashion a bunker for the fuel oil to fill out the tender, adding sander bins, toolboxes and a rear headlight mount. Drilling some air holes to the floor of the tender will allow sound to 'escape.'

One of the things that has changed my "Diesels-Only" modeling mentality, especially for this new Swamp Logger layout to include steam engines is sound! Having worked on and around a life-size operating Shay and 2-8-2, the one thing I remember is the "breathing" of the engine...the sounds of the air pump, and generator, the escaping steam. Any steam loco that goes onto this On30 layout will have sound.

Working on a limited budget, I'm hoping to keep the final total cost way under $70. Since the loco has been in a box, unused and the DCC decoder sitting in the parts bin as well, I'm ahead cash column. When I shop the websites and ebay listings for sound-equipped On30 steam locos and see the prices upwards of $200 -$300, scratch-building a few logging engines to get my layout up and running is the only way to go!

If this scratch-building project goes as planned and I'm pleased with the results, I might want to purchase one of those awesome re-released HO-scale Mantua 2-6-6-2T logging Mallets and convert it to On30. Banta Model Works makes a laser-cut cab for that engine which would make the conversion a piece of cake.

So as I plan this On30 Swamp Logger, I am happy the contrast will be huge compared to my modern-era HO scale Big Island & Pacific RR layout that will be built above the larger-scale pike. This will give me a lot of opportunity for model railroading hobby variety!

Please check my BIRR website:

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 26, 2011

All Moved In. Now, the "Work" Begins

Well, it seemed like the day would never get here and now it's in the history books. The move into a new home has happened and sections of my HO layout, plus dozens of boxes filled with locos, freight cars, structures, track and details have been transferred and fill the new, smaller basement where they will be reconfigured and reside for many years to come.

Now that my wife and I are actually in the house and the trains are in the basement, I will be able to get a more accurate idea of how feasible my plan to have a double deck, two-scale, two-theme layout room really is. Just from seeing the space without the previous owners "stuff" in there I'm feeling pretty good about being able to make the concept work. Funny how a long-time model railroader can look at a future layout space and visualize how a layout will work within the confines of the walls, furnace, water heater, washer and dryer, posts, piping, vents and all the other stuff in the way!

So, until I can get down there into the future basement train room and start up-grading the space to be move "layout-friendly" I'll still be plugging along with my HO-to-On30 2-8-0 logging tank engine conversion project at the workbench when not working at the other homeowner projects to get the other parts of the new house up to snuff. Hmmm... Looks like I'll try to put my multi-tasking skills to use...painting the master bathroom and framing in a new wall for the layout room, tearing out a old deck and sealing the basement walls. I'll keep you posted on how things are going!

Thanks for reading these blog posts. Please tell your model railroading friends to check-in every once in a while. Please become a follower of the blog as well. Drop me a comment, as they are very nice to receive and I love the feed back and ideas!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The End of One Layout, The Beginning of Another Two

Well, it's finally happened, a new house is officially ours! The transition and move is now underway. My modern-era Big Island Rail HO-scale shortline has been dismantled and is ready to be moved to it's new basement home. With a new "older" home, there's a lot of non-model railroading projects to do to get comfortable in our living quarters and a lot of work to do to get the layout room ready for the new creation of a double decked, double scale layout room concept.

While waiting for the real estate deal to go down and slowly taking apart my HO layout, I had the chance to think about the good and not-so-good aspects of the layout. It started out as a "temporary" layout while in the rental home and was built with temporary construction methods to not "damage" the basement, yet give the layout a sense of permanence and sturdiness during our stay. Due to the concessions, so to speak, and not wanting to put a lot of money into a layout that would be torn apart at sometime in the future, I found I did not design the layout in a way that would hold my interests over the long haul. I guess it didn't have to. I feel I accomplished several really good scenes on the layout, but I think my operational goals were too lofty for the layout and the time and funds I had to "play trains" each week.

I've pinpointed a couple things I think are to blame for losing interest in the old layout (way before the move became a possibility). My concept for a modern-era shortline railroad on the Big Island of Hawaii (based on the premise that the old standard gauge Hawaii Consolidated Railway remained in business into the 20th Century long after the 1946 tsunami wiped out a good portion of the railroad) is a good one...different than anything I've seen or read about in the model RR'ing press...but I was thinking too much on the feasibility of the line being operational on the Island as it is today with no industry to speak of to actually support a freight-hauling railroad. Even though my BIRR is purely fictional, I seemed to put way too much pressure on myself to make the model railroad uber realistic. For me this meant the"fun" went out the window.

The other reason the layout didn't really make it for me was the lack of a continuous run option to off-set the point-to-point operations when I just want to run a train and kick back with a layout project and enjoy watching it.

Modern railroading means long cars, long trains and longer staging tracks, yard tracks and passing sidings. Even with a layout of the size I had in the rental basement, it wasn't "big" enough. I had to keep usable space around washing machines, furnace, water heater, stairs and bathroom, not to mention needing to make a "movable" layout. The  put a number of restrictions on the layout design.

With an 'operations only' concept, I over-developed the operation scheme for the pike, adding different locals, switch jobs, plant and industry switchers, unit trains..... with all that, it was hard to remember what train I ran or what cars were just dropped or needing pick-up the last time I was in the train room. I just would look at the layout, look at my switching lists and walk back upstairs.

The plan for my new layouts in the smaller basement space of our new home is focused on adding enjoyment and variety to the hobby in a way that will beckon me down to the train room and keep me there for a while. Two different scales and two different concepts for each is a strong start to adding interest to the model railroad room. With a On30 narrow gauge swamp loggers concept on the bottom and a modern standard gauge Hawaiian Island shortline shelf-runner on top, I hope I'll always have something to capture my attention for years to come.


Friday, September 16, 2011

On30 Layout Revisited and Logging Critter Update

I'm getting anxious to get started with the new layout(s). My goal is to take the "limited" layout space and make the best of it for both my HO scale Big Island Rail layout and the new On30 Logging/Harbor pike.I think the concentrated space will help me centralize layout plans and keep me in check. In my Colorado bedroom HO layout (before the move to Minn.) I was able to zero-in on the limited space and get the layout  "close to completion." Good enough to take some great photos and get a layout feature accepted by Model Railroader Magazine (not yet published). I'm hopeful I can accomplish the same with my combo layouts concept.

I'm thinking of using the top HO scale layout as a valance, so-to-speak, for the On30 layout below. I want the room to look beautiful, finished, comfortable and a joy to spend time it. Since this is going to be a "permanent" layout(s) working on room finishes and lighting will be a must. I plan to finish the front fascia of the layouts in a nice "bead board" paneling, painted in a nice "Depot" green and trimmed to add a touch of class to the finished layout room. I want a seamless, curved background panel as well. Lighting the On30 layout will come mostly from fixtures under the HO layout bench work with additional lights in the room to highlight extended section of the On30 layout.

Pondering a Change of Theme 
The more I ponder my new On30 project during the countdown to a new basement, I'm starting to think about dropping the whole "Sugar Plantation"  railroad concept and unifying the layout into an "All Swamp Logging and Lumber" railroad. I've modified my operations concept to have logging trains run through from staging wing through the woods camp and then into "town/harbor" and off to the other staging wing to the "mill." This will add more actual running of the trains along the layout.

With this idea, my thought is to use the Pier 1 portion of the layout as a tidewater harbor. Instead of handling mainly bagged raw sugar, I would run lumber cars from the "mill" to the Pier 1 area for loading onto cargo steam ships for travel to market. General freight shipments will also head to the harbor to keep the local trains busy.

I think this is a better concept for the layout so I can keep the backwater Bayou feel to the entire layout giving better continuity and purpose and not dividing the small layout into two even smaller parts. I can still use my On30 scratch-built sugar boxcars as lumber company supply cars between mill and woods. I will run passenger trains or mixed trains to the harbor and rail bus operations from harbor to the woods camps for added interest and operations.

Critter Nears Completion
Interspersed in this blog dispatch are the latest snapshots of my scratch-built On30 critter. Still to do - run the lights into the headlight housings, add some "steps" at all four corners, add 'No. 6' to the cab sides, weather the loco a bit more, add a bell and more detail parts and goodies in the cab and on the engine itself. When funds allow, I'll purchase a small speaker that will squeeze into the short hood and a sound unit for the DCC.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hand Lay Or Flex Track

My original plan, with the early concept of a portable modular train show On30 Swamp Logger layout, was to hand lay all of the track and the three turnouts that the minimal track plan included. But now with a proposed full narrow gauge layout in a new basement, I'm starting to back off that lofty goal. I'm more about using track materials on-hand or, I should say, leftover, from the reconfiguration of my HO scale Big Island Rail layout into the new basement as a shelf layout above the On30 layout. This is a plus since both layouts will use the same gauge track.With the increased size of the new On30 pike, those leftover turnouts will come in handy expediting track laying.

I'm not a fan of using HO scale track under On30 equipment since it does not give that irresistible "narrow gauge" look that I love or the proper "scale look" to me. It still looks like too big trains on too small track. But with that said, I offer 'The Coast Line RR' as an exception to the rule. Creator Mr. Trois Kirk has built a beautiful On30 layout using HO gauge flex track exclusively. Only in a few areas on his layout do you notice the small, closer-spaced HO scale ties.

I am pondering a couple different ways of modifying or disguising the HO flex track. The new On30 layout will utilize a large section of the HO BIRR layout's harbor and pier area where the Code 83 rail (track) is buried in the "concrete" surface of the pier. Since I will likely have quite a few leftover turnouts from the revamped HO layout, I plan to use these in the new On30 layout. My idea is to totally bury as much of the "out-of-scale" HO flex track as possible under dirt, weeds and ballast. I plan to remove a number of the plastic ties in each section of flex track that goes down and replace them with On30 wooden ties that will stick out at prototypical length. This will give the impression of hand-laid track in those areas of the layout.

I would like to hand-lay track in "signature" areas of the layout, such as the log landing, logging loco engine shed and shop, turntable area and loco service scene in "town," plus bridges, trestles and other "key" areas that will get a lot of visitor and photography attention.

So, with all that said, it seems I will ultimately use a blend of both hand-laid On30 track and "disguised" HO-scale flex track and turnouts to help me quickly get trains operating as I build my new On30 "Combo" Swamp Logger/Sugar Plantation layout.

Please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment regarding this blog. Pass the word about the Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co. Thanks!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Layout Height, Part 2

With a new layout on the drawing board...well, actually TWO new layouts in the planning stages, figuring out  track height is going to be a critical aspect of planning. My one limiting factor of the "lower-level" On30 layout in the new basement was a planned staging yard "wing" I envisioned over the laundry area of the basement on a narrow shelf. I have planned the same type staging yard wing for the HO "upper-level" layout where height will not be an issue at 65-inches above the floor. I measured our washer and dryer and they stand at just shy of 48-inches (4 feet) with the dryer sitting on a foot-tall platform adding to that height. That measures-out to be taller than my estimated On30 layout height of about 46-to-48-inches from the floor. Doing some quick math, this leaves about a foot and a half between bench work of the HO layout and rails of the On30 layout. Hmmm? Is this enough space between the two pikes?

Since the HO layout will be mostly narrow shelves above the On30 layout, it might not be as much of a concern as I think it might be. If I lower the On30 layout to say...40-inches...that will give me about 2-feet between the two layouts, better separation so the On30 layout wouldn't seem so "squashed" and wedged into too small of a space. But, with the On30 layout that low, I would run into issues in the laundry area staging getting it over the washer and dryer.

After pondering this, I have come up with an idea. Since I plan on building a new wall to separate the layout room from the rest of the basement and the laundry area, I could wrap a gentle curve through the new wall and mount the staging yard and turntable along the outside of the wall. Since I would like to include a turntable in the staging yard to spin steam locomotives for return trips into the main layout room, the wider shelf would work better along the new wall rather than over the washer and dryer area. With this plan, I would add a backdrop and scenery to the staging yard since it will be a predominate scene in the basement. This will give "visitors" a glimpse of what awaits behind the walls.

With that said, I could place the layout height at whatever I feel is comfortable for working and running trains. I'm still thinking about having the On30 layout operable from a rolling stool or tall office chair. That will make spending time in the train room more comfortable and enjoyable. Now, I need to start shopping for chairs or shop stools with a tape measure in hand to find one at the right height. Then I can zero-in on the final height to build the On30 layout bench work when I get to that phase of the new layout construction.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Critter Progress Update

Well, with all the other stuff going on I have been able to spend a few minutes at the work table this past week. Progress continues, albeit slowly, with my critter.

Using the Atlas HO scale S-1 power chassis, I've been spending some enjoyable hours scratch building the super structure for what will be a On30 logging switcher or possibly, with my newly developing layout scheme, the Pier 1 harbor docks switcher.

I don't claim to be an expert scratch builder and this little guy, although a far cry better than attempts at loco conversions from years past, will never pull in a blue ribbon at the modeling contest. But it's not being build to win contests. It's being built to operate and convey the hardscrabble life that early gas-mechanical and Diesel locomotive had in industrial settings. I would never attempt to scratch build a loco in HO scale for my Big Island Rail. Creating a cool, funky 'critter' for a imagined railroad. So far it's been a very fulfilling project and a test of my building and problem solving skills, for sure. Plus, the big challenge is building an locomotive with very few commercially produced, store-bought parts. There isn't a hobby (model train) shop anywhere to be found for miles. And with a very limited budget for trains right now, I've been searching my parts and junk drawers for everything and anything that would work on this engine.

As much as I'd love to spend a hundred bucks on this rebuild with all the "right" detail parts, etc., I'm almost imagineering a proper locomotive with shapes, forms and a few on-hand parts to convey that feeling described above. I have borrowed (scavenged) a few HO scale parts for the project, including air tanks and a pair of SP style barrel headlights which look right on scale with this loco. Everything else is styrene sheet stock and shapes ( "L" angle "I" beams, etc.).

For the loco "crew" I am re-purposing a 1/48-scale (?) Germany Army military seated figure for the engineer. I mean how many logging Hogheads carry side arms? Well, I'm actually going to have a rifle in the cab...just never know when you might encounter a big 'gator sunning itself on the tracks! The brakeman will be a commercially available O-scale figure left over from my On3 modeling days. He'll be leaning back against the cab bulkhead.

With the open cab of this critter, I had to build a three-sided box over the chassis to hide the motor and DCC stuff. It looks OK but does cut down on the spaciousness of the cab's interior. The cab has received a first coat of industrial green that looks pretty good and will hide some of the "flaws." I plan to add a lot of details parts to the interior, like the rifle, oil cans, chain, water jug and tools to help pull the eye to those items and not so much to the big motor box inside. Plus on a logging loco, the more clutter the better, right?

There won't be any "glass" in the window frames of the cab, since in the hot and humid environs of the swamp, the more air circulation the better. I might add some "screen" material to the openings and a tarp or two to help keep the rain out.

I'm installing the handrails now for the side walkways and the front and rear platforms and hand grabs for the cab. So far it's looks pretty good. I've also added some "nut/bolt/washer" details to the frame and pilots, some angle stock to the engine access doors for hinges and an exhaust stack from scrap and a hood air intake (winterization hatch) from one of my HO scale Diesels.

I'm itching to get it finished so I can get a coat of paint on the body. Not sure yet what color...yellow? Maybe orange-reddish? Something that kinda stands out in a realistic way...and certainly not black.

Then all that's has to be done is lengthen the headlight wire s to mount them in the headlight castings, (maybe put a light in the cab?) and install a sound unit and speaker (still scratching my head on how to get that speaker in the cab roof) and my On30 logging/Harbor switcher is ready for revenue service on my new layout!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Determining Layout Height Part 1

Each day brings me closer to a new layout concept coming to reality. So the planning and dreaming continues, tempered with the reality of all the "other things" that will need to get done 'first' before layout reconstruction begins.

Since this proposed "combo pack" layout will be my first double-decker layout and also my first attempt at combining two different scale layouts in the same space, I'm going to be doing a lot of  "...Put that section up there and see how works out..." kind of decision making.

As I've stated in previous posts, I plan on mounting my HO scale Big Island Rail on top and the On30 combo logger/sugar plantation railroad below. I want my HO layout to be about at eye-level, which for me, at 6'3" tall, is way up there compared to most folks. Since I seldom have had visitors to my layouts, I haven't had problems with building my stand alone layouts at a taller height. Currently track height on my HO layout is at 55" and I'm looking at mounting the restructured HO layout at around 63" above the floor. This is a few inches lower than actual eye-level for me.This will help see all the tracks and throw switches without having to feel my way around the layout. I'm probably going to adjust this height as I get in and see how much ceiling room I have and how tall I want the On30 layout to be (more on that in a minute).

How much space I'll end up with below the HO layout's bench work and how tall the new On30 layout will be will, obviously, have to be worked out. How much "Sky" do I need above the On30 layout (for photography, in-person viewing, etc.)? Some thoughts....
I will likely build some roller platforms for myself to stand on so I can work on the taller HO layout and have "height-challenged" visitors stand so they can actually see trains! I think a solid base with those cool retracting rollers like on library step stools would work well. Since the main focus of the new Big Island Rail HO layout is continuous running around the room with limited switching operations,  I'm hoping the taller stature of the narrow shelf-style layout will work just fine. I do plan to have some industries around the HO layout to switch - such as the large bulk sugar trans-load facility that is currently located on the large Hilo Harbor peninsula. I also plan to build a sugar mill complex off the layout room above the work bench that is already in the basement in the new home. This will also contain a few staging tracks for inbound trains and act as a small yard for the sugar mill.

In the past with my taller layouts, I would have loved to have spend hours unending in the train room, building or running trains, but a lot of times the thought of spending a few hours on my feet after working all day (on my feet) just wasn't something I looked forward to. Plus, the older I get, the thought of sitting and running trains sounds better and better all the time! The thought of putting this new On30 layout at rolling stool or drafting chair level is pretty inviting!

More on the new layout to come in Part 2.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chosing the "Right" Era

I've always been a big fan of First Generation Diesels and fascinated by all those industrial gas mechanical critters and switchers. Plus, add to that a selection of steam-powered, oil-burning logging locomotives like Climax, Shay and the massive saddle tank Mallets, the list begins to fill. But I love those plantation tank engines from the glory days of the sugar cane and pineapple industry on the Hawaiian Island...Man, that's a pretty big range of eras and likes.

I'm also a fan of some WWII military vehicles, so mix that all together and what do you get? Obviously my new On30 layout will be set in the post-WWII era.Some brief research these days few days has uncovered that steam and Diesel worked side-by-side into the late 1950's even as late as 1960 on some logging and industrial railroads. In Hawaii a few of the remaining sugar mills and plantations operated railroads up into the late 1950's as well.

Since my "combo" plantation and logging layout concept is placed in "out-of-the-way" locales, time has stood still and the old steamers are still plugging side-by-side with the "newer" Diesels and gas mechanicals on the same narrow gauge rails along thanks to a good loco shop foreman and crew!

So...I'm zeroing-in on 1948 to possibly by birth year of 1955 as the era my railroad will "live" in. We'll see how things progress as all the elements begin to come together in the weeks and months ahead.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Motive Power Ideas In On30

OK - With home ownership yet another step closer after an early morning phone call from our bank's loan officer, the excitement level has peaked once again about the possibilities of the new layout plans. (I have to stay focused and geeked about the "New" layout, otherwise I'll get totally bummed over having to tear-down my current HO scale layout very soon!)

One of the way to stay motivated is to look at some possibilities for motive power on my planned "combo" sugar plantation/swamp logger layout. (I am going to order a couple back issues of the Gazette to read Boone Morrison's 2-part article on the logging railroad that once operated on the Big Island of Hawaii to see if I might want to move in that direction and really tie together the two themes)

I'm planning on having at least a couple steam engines on the layout. I'd like them modified to reflect the tropical locale of my railroads, with open air cabs, etc. like these Backwoods Miniatures conversions kits.  Here's some more "eye candy" of possible engines for the new pike.

For the logging segment of my combo layout. I have a HO scale 2-8-0 that I plan to modify into On30 saddle tanker with tender ( for hiding the DCC and Speaker)

I'm, sorry to say, a bit "burned out" on the Shay nowadays. I love the gearing and flywheel of the Climax. Bachmann's seems like a great loco. This is with the Backwoods Miniature's dress-up kit! But that Bachmann two-truck Shay is pretty neat if modified.

I will need a "mainline" steam engine for the passenger and freight service to the Pier 1 harbor area... A couple suggestions. This one could work as the harbor switcher (below).

For passenger and freight trains maybe one of Bachmann's cool locos like this ol' gal...

Gotta have "Critters" and Diesels on the layout... Love the U.S. Navy open cab loco (above top). Besides the small handful of converted HO Critters on my shelf that need updating, I'm planning to add one based on the Bachmann Gas Mechanical side rod loco.
This Whitcomb model is atop a SW-1500 HO chassis (below).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Swamp Logger Concept Gets Bigger

With a move to our new home becoming more of a reality with each passing day ( the loan is moving swiftly along through all the red tape), my thoughts are grinding away to conceptualize what my new layout room will hold.

Armed with rough basement dimensions, a ream of scratch paper and fist fulla pencils, I have been brain storming and thinking out loud on paper what I want to do with the limited new space I will have for model trains. The little experiment to get back into O scale narrow gauge railroading with a modular logging concept is growing, with my thoughts now locked in on a full-blown On30 layout that combines vintage 1950's-era sugar plantation shortline with my original rough and tumble "Swamp Logger" railroad concept. What about my XXL HO Big Island Rail layout? Well, I will still have that as well, this time converted into a narrow shelf layout, stacked above the floor-standing On30 pike. It's the ol' Combo-Pack I talked about in my previous post.

The more I think about this concept, the more appealing it's becoming to me. I can mix and match sections of my HO scale layout, converting a few into On30 (such as a part of my massive Hilo Pier 1 complex) and retain a couple key "scenes" on my HO layout into the new shelf concept (a detailed single track swing bridge scene and a truss bridge and gulch scene). This is a real change for me, since I've been a "Diesel Guy" for a long time. But with the outstanding (and relatively inexpensive) On30 steam engines on the market from Bachmann, it's hard to pass up. Plus, I blame Troels Kirk's On30 Coast Line RR incredible layout for the change of Diesel heart! Check it out if you haven't already.!/pages/The-Coast-Line-RR-page/127409483958090?sk=wall 

I hope these links work. If not go to Facebook and Search "The Coast Line RR."

Overview Operations in On30
I know it's hard to see in the scan of my pencil trackplan sketch, but this is what I envision for the 12 x 11 foot space with two "wings" at each end for staging. I will utilize the "main" portion of my HO scale "Hilo Pier 1" in the new On30 pike, with the large pier complex anchoring the right side of the layout room. The small yard that is part of the lead tracks to the harbor area will also come along into the On30 layout since all the tracks and switches will work in On30 and all the pier track is buried in "Concrete" and I don't want to destroy all that work. To the "south" (left) of the pier will sit a small depot and a turntable and small locomotive servicing facilities to turn steam engines for the return trip "North" into staging.

Trains will arrive off of the North staging wing (above the washer and dryer) with boxcars and bulkhead flatcars filled with bagged bulk sugar from the sugar mill (not modeled) to Pier 1 for loading onto ships. A warehouse will be located over one of the three pier tracks. A sugar molasses storage tank farm could also be part of the area. I might also add another industry or freight car destination in that area to add some more switching possibilities. A daily passenger train - loco, combine and coach -will also serve this area coming to and from staging, with loco getting turned and taking water before the return trip.

A bridge or wooden trestle will mark the transition between the plantation shortline and the swamp logger areas. On the angled peninsula will be a log dump and single stall engine house. Further up the line a small camp and log loading landing. Continuing from here the track would head around a corner and into a small staging yard.

I plan to "blend" the two railroads, by having railbus passenger service from "the woods" to the harbor depot. The railbus would also pick-up mail, supplies and groceries for camp. Occasional rail shipments of bridge timbers, logging equipment and fuel would arrive for the logging camp at the harbor yard. Logging trains would make the trip to the harbor to pick-up those cars and set out any out-bound cars.

Logging Critter Update

Coming along slow but sure.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Looking At The "Combo Pack" Layout Scheme

I've been spending a lot of time this past week with paper and pencil in hand, doing much head-scratching, racking my brain on how to fit my rather sprawling basement-size HO scale Hawaiian-theme railroad into a drastically reduced new 12x11-foot basement of the home we are buying. (Waiting on all the paperwork to get approved by the bank now.) The more I tried to "save" the sections of layout and fit them into a cohesive, yet smaller new layout space, the more I was drawing a blank. The current 18-foot Kuhio Yard won't fit in 12-feet, no matter how much pencil pushing I do, and the large Hilo Harbor pier complex, a "Y" shaped peninsula, would consume most of the open floor space in the room. What to do?

Well, this idea might change once we get moved in to our new digs, but for this moment I'm going to "Shelf" the HO-scale Big Island Railroad and build a permanent main On30 layout instead. By "shelving" the HO layout, I don't mean getting rid of it totally, I mean put it on eye-level shelves around the layout space, preserve a pair of key layout sections, and build it into a mostly "around-the-room" operations concept with a few industries to switch. This is one of the things lacking in the existing "point-to-point" layout. I want to run a train and let 'er run while I'm working on other projects, and not have to always be "working" the railroad.

For the "main" floor standing On30 layout, I'm thinking about combining into one pike my 1940's-1950's Swamp Logger concept with a similar-era island sugar cane plantation railroad. Since the whole idea of this model railroading hobby is to have "fun," I'm tossing out MY rule book and trying hard to let the creative thinking flow. These two industries - sugar and lumber - are pretty compatible. Actually on the Big Island of Hawaii back in the day, there were several sugar railroads that co-existed with a hardwood logging operation complete with Shay locomotives...Yes, I said in Hawaii!!!

The layout would be divided in two distinct parts connected with a transition section to blend the two. I still love the 'Swamp Logger' concept and will likely continue with this idea in the new permanent layout. I like the mood and the look of the backwater railroad with home-made equipment, "Critter" Diesels and saddle tank steam locomotives winding through moss-draped trees and across low trestles. The "Sugar Plantation" side would have an ocean-island vibe to it. The railroad would use more "mainstream" equipment to bring goods and passengers to the pier over well-maintained track.

Since HO and On30 equipment use the same gauge track, I will be able to use the Pier 1 side of the large harbor complex in the new layout scheme. This will become the new sugar pier. It has three long spurs with the track embedded in the concrete of the pier, with plenty of room for a few O-scale structures. Plantation trains will arrive with boxcars and bulkhead flatcars filled with bagged sugar. The sugar gets transferred onto ocean-going freighters and inter-island ships. I should be able to use a small yard section of the HO layout that connects to this pier section with minimal reworking for On30. I plan to have an open-air passenger depot located near the pier where passengers de-train and walk to the pier to board the inter-island passenger ships. This portion of the layout will also include a molasses transfer facility that recieves the sticky stuff in tankcars,  a turntable and a small engine service facility to get those steam engines ready for the return trip (onto a 2-track stage yard "wing" above the laundry area of the basement.)

The logging side of things will feature a log dump on a slightly angled self-standing peninsula, as well as an engine house, logging camp, log landing and lots of swampy water, fireflies and moss-covered cypress trees. This side of the layout will also have staging that will wind between the HVAC equipment ductwork into another section of the basement about an existing workbench area.

I'll post a rough track plan soon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Old Equipment Will Get New Life In Swamp

I didn't realize just how much 1/4-inch narrow gauge "Logging Stuff" I still had hidden in a bin in the layout room until I started unpacking to 'snoop around.' Several years ago I sold off most of my On3 Westside Lumber-based craftsman kits and made a pile of money on Ebay to put into my HO scale layout. But a handful of O gauge models survived to live again in the swamps of Bayou Country!

After photographing the remnant, I see how my scratch building skills have vastly improved over the years.

 Two logging locos, one of which (the centercab) was featured in a How-To article many years ago in the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette Magazine. They seem rough around the edges compared to my work nowadays. (Good sign) I will need to regauge the locomotive's trucks from converted On3 back to their original HO/On30 gauge. The center cab loco was built over a Bachmann HO chassis and the other engine on an old HO Walthers loco.

A few years ago I got the bug to scratch build a few "plantation-style" boxcars in On30 based on some old shorty HO-scale flatcars. And those look pretty good, so they will head directly onto the new layout, with the possible change to On30 trucks and wheel sets.

And then this On3 logging crew speeder!

This was a example of too many beers before heading to the workbench! This interesting contraption is a WWII German half-track model set on a HO loco power truck (rear) and a dummy loco front truck. At one time I had it filled with loggers heading to the woods. The back is filled with crates of fresh produce heading to the cook shack... I can't remember if it ever actually ran, but I was trying to hook up a headlight to the front hood... I think Gazette editor and publisher Bob Brown is still shaking his head over this article submission!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Building A Critter = FUN!

I have to admit, working on my scratch-built On30 Diesel "critter" locomotive is very enjoyable - dare I say, even...FUN?!?!?!?

Discovering a single vintage photo during a Google search has provided the inspiration to create a very plausible representation of a 30-ton narrow gauge Diesel switcher. What make? What model number? When was it manufactured? You know what? It really doesn't matter. What matters is the 'fun factor' and it has shown me the whole On30 portable, modular layout "exercise" needs to be fun. No pressure, no prototype, no exacting dimensions...just fun.

Using the styrene sheets and a few different structural shapes in styrene I have on hand and that single black and white Internet image, I am creating this little locomotive purely by feel and looks and thinking what could be plausible if it was an actual locomotive built by some long-defunct manufacture in the 1940's, design solely to toll away year after year in the muggy, damp swamps hauling logs, supplies and workers.

Now, mind you I have my O-scale rule firmly in hand to check dimensions and keep things "real" and with-in scale, but for the most part the "critter" is coming together straight from my imagination, and it's actually looking pretty cool. I'm sure the rivet counters would pop an artery, but so what? I'm having fun.

It all is part of an effort on my part to free-up my creativity in the realm of model railroading, which has gotten pretty stuffy the past many months. With the "Swamp Logger" layout concept, I may or may not actually get to build the whole designed modular layout, but so what if I don't? The layout is getting my creative juices flowing once again, which I hope helps my creativity to loosen-up in other areas of my life, such as my photography, my art, music and my radio gig.

I was getting bogged down with my HO scale standard-gauge layout, trying so hard to make each and every loco, car, structure, palm tree a perfect representation of the Big Island of Hawaii, even though the last flanged wheel on rail to roll in revenue service was in the late 1940s. And even though my "what if" layout concept for continuing the legacy of the Hawaii Consolidated Railway is pure conjecture, I have been putting loads of pressure on myself to "get it right!" And with that, I somewhere along the (right-of) way lost my joy and creative freedom.

I'm not going to drop that Hawaiian HO layout for a new On30 swamp pike, but following the possible move to a different home, I will rethink the concept as I rebuild and assemble saved segments of the current layout. Maybe I'll begin to take more artistic license and work some "fun" into the plan.

So back to the work table to finish that cool swamp logger "Critter."  And like they say at the Outback Steakhouse..."No Rules, Just Right!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Move In Our Future

One of the reasons I have put off any progress with my "basement-size" HO-scale modern-day, Hawaiian-themed layout and have been tinkering with my On30 swamp logger modular layout is because of the recent "rumblings" of a possible move out of our rental house and into our very own home somewhere in town. With the thought of an impending move, I put the brakes on any desire to continue building when a move would mean the current layout will have to be dismanteled and reconfigured in it's new location.

Well, it looks like a move may well happen very soon. My wife Kim and I have put an offer in on a vintage home (and basement) in town and we're now waiting for the seller's response. In the meantime, work continues at the bench and out in the garage on On30 projects for the Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co.

The first "mini-module" for the planned portable layout is coming along. This is the 'Enginehouse' module which will feature a detailed, scratch-built single stall wooden engine house with machine shop, locomotive bunker fuel tank with a 1950's-era tanker semi-truck making a delivery, and a hillside water tank for the steam locomotives. Beside these highlights, the 18-inch-wide by 3-foot-long module will include hand-laid ties and code 83 rail, a segment of the namesake Moquito Creek and a good amount of moss covered trees and swamp foliage. A low deck trestle will cross the Mosquito Creek between the enginehouse and the next module.

The landforms have been roughed in with my ceiling tile base and the roadbed is ready for track. The 1/8-inch hardboard backdrop has been painted a grey-sky blue and now in place and "experimental" facia/backdrop support framework is done.

Yes, I'm happy with the progress. Now, about that new basement....

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Progress Report - Critter and Layout

The past few days I have been able to get some work done on the scratch-built Diesel critter I'm creating as motive power for the Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co. 'Swamp Logger' On30 modular layout. I'm not a blue-ribbon craftsman when it comes to exacting standards...I just build 'em 'til they look good! That's why working in the realm of a fictional Louisiana backwater narrow gauge logging operation in 1/4-inch scale is so fun. With my modern-day HO-scale Big Island & Pacific Railroad Hawaii-based layout, the need to be "within certain realism standards" is desired. ( But with this new venture in On30, the main desire is to have fun, be creative and try new stuff.

The loco is beginning to take shape as I cut, trim and sand the styrene sheets to form the superstructure I'm placing atop an Atlas HO scale Alco S-1 chassis equipped with a DCC decoder and soon to have sound as well.

The first actual On30 module has been the object of a lot of thinking lately and I plan to do a bit more construction on the layout section this afternoon and then begin to get my chops back in hand-laying track! Before the rails go down, I'll need to order a few more track laying tools to help keep everything in gauge... but it's going to be fun! And that's the main point of all this!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Naming My Little Swamp Logger

Naming model railroad layouts can be easy or they can pose a challenge. If you model a prototype railroad that actually exists (or did in the past) naming the line can be relatively simple. HO scale modeler Jim Six is building a branchline of the former New York Central through the Midwest. While researching he discovered the line was actually nicknamed "The Michigan" by the railroaders that worked that section of the NYC. Another outstanding modeler Troels Kirk of Sweden is modeling coastal Maine in the mid-1930's. Troels named his On30 scale work of art "The Coastal Line R.R." His layout concept is from research combining everything he's seen in that area of the eastern U.S. and creating his own world. The name really sets the tone for his model railroad. Without seeing it, you know it's setting is along the rocky coastal waters.

I want my pint-size modular On30 swamp logger's name to convey a feeling of locale as well. After filling a few sheets of scratch paper with brainstormed name ideas and variations of them, I landed on one combination that struck a chord. The name is totally "made-up" but at the same time sounds like it could have been an actual logging railroad. Since for me, that's the main objective to a layout name, I grabbed it as the name for the new pike.

Here's the story behind the name Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co. layout.
The moniker comes from a pair of "memories" so to speak from my past and present. The "Blackwater" part of the name comes from the 1975 Classic Rock song from the Doobie Brothers by the same name, always a favorite of mine. And since I work as a DJ for a Classic Rock radio station and play that song, it seemed very appropriate. I did toy with the idea of using a Credence Clearwater Revival song, since John Fogerty's music has that gritty swamp sound, but the titles didn't seem to have the right "ring" to them.

As for the 'mosquito' part, that goes back to a time when I lived on Mosquito Road in Placerville, CA. I also had an logging layout at the time with the Mosquito name. I actually just found a saw blade that I painted back then. (See photo above) That's weird because I finalized the name BEFORE I discovered the saw blade buried in a bin with my old On3 stuff! The Mosquito Creek name also congers-up the mental picture of a dank, dark, steamy swamp filled with millions of the 'man-eating' little buggers. Pity the poor fellow who has to cut timber day-in and day-out in along it's mossy, bug-invested creek banks deep in the backwaters of Louisiana. Plus, now living in Minnesota, it's also appropriate since the unofficial 'state bird' is the mosquito! See, it's all coming together!

So with the name in place, I have created a mental image of what the new swamp logger layout will be like. I love a model railroad that has a distinct mood or feeling to it. I hope the mood of the Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co. will seem very obvious when the layout is complete and people are able to see it operate in person at train shows or in photos on-line and in model RR publications.

Monday, August 1, 2011

File Folder Loco Mock-Up

As they say, "When the Narrow Gauge Logging Bug bites, it bites hard." After discovering a vintage photo of a cool Diesel "critter" during a Google search, I had to try and build a On30 version as part of the loco fleet for my under construction Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co. On30 modular layout.

Using a HO-scale Atlas Alco S-1 chassis, I built a new deck from sheet styrene which overlays the original HO frame.

That's where I stopped with the styrene and began with file folders to work-up the cab and hoods for the new On30 "Critter." I used an O-scale ruler, pencil, scissors, a hobby knife and tape to form a mock-up of the new loco.

I'll let this sit for a day or so until I feel the dimensions and proportions are they way I want them. Right now I think the cab needs to be trimmed in lenght, narrowed on the sides a bit. Then , when I'm happy with the look, I'll start cutting styrene for the actual superstructure.