Thursday, August 18, 2016

Webless Wednesday

Sorry folks, no new links this week, the hobo one car back should have told ya.
In fact, this may become a bi-weekly or even monthly feature, we'll have to see.
In other news, sources close to this reporter say that you're not a real model railroader unless you're an NMRA member and are trying to become a MMR. Hmmm, seems I better hit the eBay then.......
Enjoy your August, and stay classy,

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The most "N"-gauging "Web Wednesday" post yet!

Well, in this week's late entry in the "Web Wednesday" weekly spotlight, we're gonna put Sheldon's theory to the test!

There's a lot of ground to cover, so I won't waste much more time getting to the point.
N Scale holds a certain amount of nostalgia for me, as one of my first train catalogues (after Lionel, and Walthers of course) was a Arnold/Rapido catalogue from the early 1980's -  

Even though 90% of what was inside was of European prototypes, there was some North American stuff, and by looking at the cover, they made it seem so detailed....Not to mention, look at how many trains you could get into a tiny space! My first practical encounter with N Gauge was my friend David Wojotowicz's 4x6 layout (David was my first model railroading "buddy" when I was in seventh grade in 1982, the year I "discovered" railfanning). Being N gauge of the 1970's/80's "technology", it didn't ever run very well, so we all but lost interest in it. However, when his dad got transferred the next year and they had to move (thus, "everything must go!"), I could have bought it, but I remembered the crappy running characteristics, plus, I had already dove well into HO scale the year before with my Athearn SD-45 set, so I passed. Oh, did I mention I read and re-read my copy of Kalmbach's "How To Model The Clinchfield RR in N Scale" book so much, it fell apart? It opened the door to prototype model railroading to me, and if it hadn't been for the level of modeling (out of touch for a 16 year old, and even this 46 year old!) and the sheer size of it, I think I would have begged my father to let me switch over to N right then and there.

Now, here we are 30+ years later with N gauge engine (and cars) that not only run like Swiss watches and have much better molded on detail, but hobby industry that fully supports the scale, unlike having to suffer buying things like buildings and details that looked like they were straight out of the UK or Germany (which they were) anymore, so.......

There have been MANY times that I've said to myself, "Self, what would it take to sell of all the HO equipment you have, just so we could REALLY model the Lehigh Valley like you mean it?!?".....And even though companies like Atlas have SEVERLY tempted me with products such as this -
And even though companies like Atlas have SEVERELY tempted me, such as this -
and even this - 
I have remained "true to the HO cause".......For now......
Anywho, that's my personal run-in with N Gauge, and you're not here to listen to me wax poetic, but rather to learn about the neat layouts I've discovered as of late, that I think you should be checking out, NOT just because they're N gauge, but because there's something to be learned from them regardless of scale, am I not right?
First up, Greg Johnstone's L&N RR Knoxville Division at -
Yes, from Australia! While not updated since 2014 (and I know a thing or two about not updating things, now don't I?), there is still a lot of good stuff to read up on here.
So, keeping the coal hauling theme going, check out Lee Weldon's WM Railway at -
This guy is doing some impressive prototype model railroading in N!
How about Ken Borowski's Clinchfield? You remember the Clinchfield from the pages of MR, right? Well, Ken has taken a different approach on what is basically the same section of railroad and this is the result -
There's just something about the Clinchfield that resonates with me (I guess its that darn book!), but I also love the scenery-to-train ratio that makes things look like you're really in the mountains of North Carolina!
And then we have what is essentially a MR project layout re-born, but is none the less interesting and well done. Check out Dave Vollmer's PRR Juniata Division layout at -
Though not on the same scale, this layout reminds me of Bill and Wayne Reid's WM/N&W/PRR-themed Hagerstown layout from the pages of MR. It also reminds me, a well done layout CAN be an oval, and still be engaging. Some of us are "runners" and not "operators" (but why WOULDN'T we WANT to be?!?!?).
Last but not least, the "Mac Daddy" of N scale layouts (at least lately in the hobby press), and that would be Mark Dance's CP Rail prototype, Columbia and Western layout at -
You've probably seen this before In the pages of MRP, but I mean this layout takes N scale to the next level, with innovative staging, double mushroom decks, and two kinds of swing gates to cross isles with. oh, did I mention it has a carfloat operation?
Well, I could keep going, but you get the idea. N gauge model railroading is leaps and bounds on the reliability and detail scale from what I had when I was growing up, and I have even had the opportunity to operate on a proto-freelanced "N" layout here in New Jersey that actually "operated" with car cards and lot of switching. So yes, it CAN be done!
So maybe, one day.....But I'm happy with my HO stuff for now......
~ Ralph

Thursday, August 4, 2016

And now for something completely different.......

That's right, it's another week, and just because it's Thursday, that doesn't mean we can't have a "Web-tastic Wednesday" on a Thursday, especially since "Thinkful Thursday" sucks even more for a name for this feature than the one I'm using now........
So........I said last week that I'd be showcasing a blog or two this week that was outside my "modeling comfort zone".....Which is to say, that it's a layout or prototype subject that has absolutely NO relevance to what I model or have an interest in normally, but yet is something that even I can appreciate from a creative standpoint. Just because I can't fathom why anybody would build a layout populated by Thomas The Tank and Friends on the moon in the year 2436 and done in Z-n3 scale, doesn't mean I can't appreciate the hard work put into it.......OK, maybe that example is pushing it, but you get the idea....
So, with that being said, let's take a look at this week's "out of the box" links, and I'll explain why I think they're worth a look.....
First up, we have Darel Leedy of Colorado and his Colorado & Southern in Sn3 layout at -

OK, so what's so neat about Darel's layout? Well, I have to admit that normally, not a thing about it would ever get me to look twice at it. I'm not a fan of narrow gauge Colorado (or other Western locale) railroading, and I'm not an S Scale'er. That aside, let me tell you why I DO think Darel's layout is neat. I DO think S Scale is a neat scale to model in (narrow or otherwise), and I DO have a certain level of appreciation for Eastern narrow gauge after visiting the EBT a few years back, but I like it mostly (and especially so) because it's different! Yes, exactly, different! I never in a million years would be able to model, as it appears he has done so from scratch in many instances, all the cars and other buildings with such prototype fidelity and finesse as Darel does. Now yes, a company called PBL makes a lot of kits and engines in S narrow gauge, but the engines are brass, and the kits are of the craftsman nature. What that comes down to is skill, patience, money and time to model it all, four things that are NOT in my wheelhouse! Case in point, this model -

And THAT'S why I think Darel's layout and choice of prototype is neat! (that, and for some crazy reason he features my blog in his roll!) Thanks Darel, keep up the good work, I'll be checking back regularly!
Now, on to link number two.........Do you fancy a spot of railway modeling from across the pond, Guv'nor?
Chris Nevard shows us why and how European (in particular, UK) model railroading in an insanely small space is so neat! Typically done in OO scale (their version of HO, if I recall correctly), these shadowbox model railroads are short on track and equipment, but not on detail.
I mean, good Lord, look at that, and all done in a approximately 14 foot by 2 1/2 space! As I'm sure you are aware, our European brethren are not blessed with basements, so they instead prefer large meets on do FREMO-style layouts, or small self-contained modules, or as I call them "exhibition-style" layouts. Apparently, Chris is a "serial module builder", as the one featured above, called Combwich, is his oldest (begun in 1979) and has been added onto and upgraded over the years, and he's constantly building more modules to add to his collection. I mean, he must have a warehouse somewhere to store all his modules with what he appears to have on his blog!
Yes, I know the engines look like Thomas and Friends, but the modeling is top notch, and I think we can all learn a thing or two in realism from these guys, and that less is more! (something I have CERTAINLY come to realize over the last year or two, or three)

Oh, and honourable mention, Chris is a Uke player, so he gets bonus points from me for being a musician AND model railroader!

So go! Go now and check out Darel and Chris' layouts, and get out of YOUR comfort zone and just enjoy it for what it is even if you think it's "not your thing" - Model railroading at it's neatest (and finest!)

Next week - Just because its smaller, doesN't meaN its any less fuNNer.......


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Web-Tastically Web-Full Wednesday

Yes, the name for my new Wednesday "feature" sucks, but it got your attention, didn't it?
More than that, I think that both you who are reading this right now, and I who am typing this, are amazed that I remembered to follow thru with my "threat" of an every Wednesday post!
OK, you're not here to see my witty  and sometimes badly chosen memes (or are you?), so let's get on with this Wednesday's featured websites, shall we?
First up, Tony Thompson's "Modeling The SP" at -
Now, I'm not an SP fan, and I am certainly not a fastidious prototype modeler, but Tony has a way of explaining how, why, and what makes a particular model "prototype specific" for a particular date, via paint schemes, details, etc. Now you might recognize Tony's name due to his articles on prototypical waybills in RMC, which is of course, why I like reading his blog. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's recently featured some stuff from my paperwork collection on his blog. But I digress......
The second, but not any less important blog is Eric Hansmann's "Notes On Designing, Building and Operating Model Railroads" at -

Like Tony, Eric (whom I know personally from operating groups here in the east before he moved West), is also another well spoken modeler, and not only is his layout a switching one much like mine is (the B&O's Wheeling Terminal), he really focuses on the details of cars and the history behind them (like when said parts were put on cars, and when they were taken off!). I really admire his attention to detail, especially since I don't have that kind of patience! He features some great work not only from his own workbench, but from other like-minded modelers as well.
Now, these two blogs are by far, the ones I feel that you should be reading often, if not daily, ESPECIALLY if you are into accurately modeling the prototype in HO scale. Too much good info to pass on, and it's not difficult to ready and digest, or come off sounding "highbrow" like some others can and do.
Now to answer your question (because I can already see it coming), yes, I do already feature this week's featured blogs on my blog roll, and the intended purpose of this feature is to showcase webpages and blogs that I do NOT regularly carry on my roll, but I make the rules around here, dammit! OK, now that I made that clear, seriously, this is good stuff, and since I'd like to always have a "theme" to my "Web Wednesdays", this week's theme I guess you can say is "You've Seen The Name Before, Now Look Closer!".
I mean, sometimes just we don't click on stuff because the name or title just doesn't attract us at first glance (judging the book by it's cover?), and I am definitely guilty of that, and that can be our loss sometimes. Don't ever let the titles scare you away, especially in regards to Eric's rather long blog name, LOL! In fact, next Wednesday's post will focus on just that, "The Click Less Taken".
So go on, check them out, and I hope you come away having learned something and continue to visit them in the future. I think you'll end up approving of my suggestions!
I'll see you back here next week with something completely outside of my comfort zone to share with you! And oh yeah, feel free to suggest a better name for this feature, please?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

All hands on deck, this is the Commodore speaking.......

You know what really frosts my carfloat deck? I mean, besides reading people's endless Facebook posts on how "evil" guns are, that is......
Well, no sense in holding out on y'all........It's the endless proliferation of "Wordless Wednesday" posts.
I don't know WHY it bugs me, but it does, I guess because it's the "cool" blogging thing to do, and everybody does it. It reminds me of what our moms used to say to us growing up when you tried to justify doing something that all your friends were doing, too - "And if your friends all decided to jump off a cliff, would you follow them?"
"Of course ya do it. Everybody does it. I just did it, and I'm ready to do it again" -
Mel Brooks as King Louis in History Of The World, Pt. 1
Granted, it's not like people are clamoring to read THIS blog (regularly or otherwise), but I've taken blogs off my roll because I was sick and tired of the constant "WW" posts every week. (don't worry Chris, you're safe! LOL!). If you're gonna post a neat picture (prototype or otherwise, but ESPECIALLY of the prototype), I want to know more about it! I mean, I can't know EVERYTHING there is to know about the South Park, Baton Rouge and Pittsburgh Navigation Railway, now can I? And I will fully admit that the idea behind it isn't all bad, but the trend and the proliferation is, and I'm here to bitch about it, dammit!
But, you aren't here just to listen to me bitch. (Surely you must be joking. I'm not joking, and don't call me Shirley). So you might be saying right about now, "OK Einstein, what do you propose to do to fix things, then?" Well, I'm no trend setter, but what I'd like to propose instead, is to start "Weblog (or webpage for those who don't "blog") Wednesdays". This is where I do the work for you by finding  interesting layouts or discussions or "proto stuff" to share with you that may be otherwise off your radar (or, that I just think is cool and worth sharing, weather you think so or not!). Plus, it helps keep this blog regular (Yes, Ted DiIorio, a bowl of raisin bran will do that, too), which is a good thing. Now, I inadvertently started doing this a few weeks ago by blowing out a few weeks of Wednesday content by sharing five neat layouts and their blogs with you, but I did miss one that I REALLY want to share with all of you.......
Rick De Candido's Filmore Avenue Roundhouse at -
Instead of trying to describe Rick's layout to you, I'll let him do it in his own words -
"Welcome to Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse, a blog about my HO Scale New York Central System model railroad.  Freelanced, but set in Buffalo, NY (June of 1942), Fillmore is two layouts in one.  The first, and primary one, is a full steam-era engine terminal.  The second one is a passenger car and express car switching operation as part of NYC Central Terminal."
Rick De Candido
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

I mean, this layout is incredible! You may have seen it first in the pages of the 2015 issue of Model Railroad Planning, but Rick's attention to prototype detail and creating prototypical "operational jobs" is amazing and great food for thought. I'm not going to sell it anymore than that, so read his blog (even if you aren't a slobbering NYC freak!), and you won't be disappointed.
OK, so that's it. I hope you grow to enjoy "Webblog Wednesdays". Or, Webpage Wednesdays". Or, "(Inter)Web Wednesdays". I dunno what to call it, but it's here to stay, at least until I forget to update it.....



Monday, June 20, 2016

Check it out!

While I'm not sure if Dr. Steve Brule likes model railroading or not, but today I'd like to make reference to some great new blogs I've added to the blog roll last week, since there's been nothing doing on the layout front lately (gee, shocker there!)

I've always had a interest in the New Haven RR (is it because the NH was such an important interchange partner for the LV in New York Harbor? I dunno....), but please take the time to check out these great NH-themed layout blogs ( + two other non-New Haven ones!).....

Randy Hammill's New Britain Station blog at -

Randy is modeling New Britain, CT on the New Haven's Highland Line in the Transition Era, and is focusing on pretty much one town for the entire layout, which is a cool concept, one that I myself had thought about doing years ago when I was new to the hobby.

Chris Adams' Valley Local blog at -

Chris is modeling the New Haven's Connecticut Valley Line in 1947, and along with Randy, is doing some DAMN fine modeling! Watching the build/shakedown/troubleshoot process that Chris shares is good stuff!

Joe Smith's Signal Station 199 at -

Joe has chosen to model the Berkshire Line of the New Haven, and in his latest blog post, he shows us how he kitbashed (or scratchbuilt, depending on how you look at it), the NH's interesting and rare GE DEY-2 switcher! (Do I REALLY need to say, "Check it out"?)

So, I mentioned there were two non-New Haven-themed layout blogs, didn't I?............

First up is Matthieu Lachance of Quebec who is doing a model of the Erie's 149th St Bronx terminal at -

It's worth following, if for no other reason that because it proves you can have a lot of action in a small space, even if the prototype track design is boring. (C'mon, you have to admit it is, but it's still cool!)....Looking back, I actually wish I had realized that "simple (or small) can be cool" when I started my layout.....

And finally (save the best for last?), while it's not NH-themed, I just HAVE to make mention my good friend Dave Abeles' 1994 era Conrail Onondaga Cutoff layout at -

Dave is an all-around a good guy, a good musician, and he puts up with this old guy at his ops sessions, so his blog is worth the time to visit, LOL! His layout is proto-freelanced, meaning that while the line he chose to model never really existed (an ex-NYC bypass line around Syracuse, NY), but all the trains and equipment are spot on for Conrail on the Chicago Line in 1994. My prediction is you'll be seeing this  layout in the mainstream hobby press in a year or two.....

So that's all for now, but keep on checking in, you never know what might happen!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Submitted, resubmitted, and then re-resubmitted for your approval........

Huh?!? What does that even mean?!?

Well, first off, hello! Yes, I'm still here.....

Due to circumstances (many within my control, some not), I have not worked on the layout since my last post dated April 9th of LAST year. In the interim, as I had alluded to in that post, I have considered scrapping it all and rebuilding it as another Lehigh Valley-themed layout, but set in landlocked Allentown, PA...See this post - and this post - for more on that. Huh-huh, I said moron........

Seeing as that I still have a warm spot for the Lehigh Valley's waterfront operations (or is that a damp spot? No, no, that's just not right....), three things I did just this last week made me think about the old layout (and yes, I had all BUT made the decision to scrap it and start over, just in case you were wondering).....

(a quick snapshot of how I've felt about the layout for the last year or two.....
Never you mind that it looks like that's Richard Dreyfuss from "Close Encounters"!)

The first thing was that I happened to be reading one of my favorite blogs (Tony Thompson's Modeling The SP Blog at -, and he had a post about a subject on routing cards, (which I just so had planned to use for routing cars on my layout, too) at -
I wanted to help Tony by providing more prototype examples, so I posted a comment telling him that I had some route cards to share, hidden SOMEWHERE in the deep, dark recesses of my basement, and that brings me to point number two......

So after I read Tony's blog post that afternoon, I started to go back and read all my old blog posts to see if I had something about route tags that I could share with him (I knew I did, I just had to find it!), and in the process, took a nice stroll down "Blog Memory Lane"....Ah, the dreams of a young (33 yr old?) layout builder! Al sorts of prose full of hopes for a nice layout some day, discovering data that inspired the layout building process, yadda, yadda, yadda.....Seriously, it was fun to read, and while it helped to reinforce the thought that yes, I really DID bite off more than I could chew (especially for a first real layout), it also proved to me, hey, this really WAS fun (once), and that a LOT of work went into it to get it to this point and to run smoothly (though that's a relative term), and most importantly, that maybe, just maybe, it COULD do so again, or damn close to it.

I know you're dying to know, just what could be the third (and biggest) thing? Well, I made the mistake (?) of going into the basement that same night when I got home from band rehearsal (one of those "things" that has kept me from playing with trains, btw), and took a look around to see what could be done to save this behemoth.....And what's really scary, (well, besides my friend "Scary" Ted DiIorio and his associated blog at - is that I now have some (possibly) good ideas of how to "rekindle the love affair" between myself and the layout, or at least we can work out some of our issues, and "remain friends" even if we still end up going our separate ways down the road.......

Now before I talk about that in any detail, if you are a close "associate" of mine and already know too well the trials and tribulations of myself and the great "Allentown/Jersey City Debate of 2016", you might be saying, "Why are you flip-flopping on your decision, AGAIN?" Well, I have ALWAYS clearly said that one of (OK, maybe two) biggest "guilty trips" is that there is a lot of work by myself, my father and my friends that we put into what I already have built here (and thus, the associated good memories), and I can't seem to break myself away from that feeling of impending "guilt" should I decide to "shake the Etch-A-Sketch" and start over. The other point being that I STILL think that I did not give this design its due (and I REALLY want to institute using the route cards to move traffic, btw!), so I THINK, that I while I may still very well "pick up and move on", I really want to put in (by taking out!) the track changes I came up with as described partially in the April '15 blog, and a few more too boot.

HOWEVER, seeing as that I have a penchant for going on.....and on.....and on with my blog posts, I am going to break this (already very wordy) post up into some follow up posts and not blow all my steam out of my stack at once, if I may be so blunt!
I'll follow this post up as soon as I can with a refresher of what I have already eyeballed back in 2015 that I'd like to change out, and then follow that with a detailed look at the massive infrastructure changes that I have planned for trying to "save" the LVHTRY, if only for the short term.

"So, having re-re-disposed of the monster..."
Thanks for hanging on this long and reading everyone, and I hope to talk to you all again very soon!
aka "The Commodore"