Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Weather Or Not", or, "Better Late Than Weather"

is it dirty enough for you?

So, after a few weeks "off" (yeah, let's go with that excuse), I'm here to promote my next "appearance in model railroading" at this year's Garden State RPM meet this Saturday (November 5th) at Union County VoTech in Scotch Plains, NJ -, as my pumpkin-headed pal, Ralph DeBlasi -

who knew Uncle Fester models the LV!
and I go head-to-head as we weather anything that isn't nailed down or at least that runs on two rails, in a no-holds-bared weathering showdown! Ralph and I will both use different weathering techniques and mediums...........
no, neither one of these mediums will be appearing, sorry.....

to achieve different results to make our models look that much more like the real thing. I have been buying weathering supplies on Amazon for the last two weeks to try out this weekend, so Ralphie Boy better bring his "A" game! We want to show you how easy it is to turn your models from this -

to this -
OK, OK, maybe not THAT extreme, but close!
Ralph loves his oils, and is awesome at taking on trucks/underframes and locomotives, while I love my freight car fades using Pan Pastels and other "tricks" borrowed from the military modeling guys (you'll just have to come see for yourself if you want to know more of my "secrets"......Thanks in advance, Eric Hansmann! -
So, join us, won't you? For this kind of "modeling entertainment", you can't beat that with a stick (or a pumpkin....did I mention Ralph D. LOVES pumpkins?) for only $20.00!
And besides, who would you rather look at? The guy with all his hair, or him?
I hope we'll see YOU in the "Weathering Octagon" this weekend!
~ Ralph

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Knowledge is a powerful tool.....

...And a double-edged sword.
And by that, I mean that in our pursuit of modeling (particularly in that of a specific prototype), that in our quest for knowledge (sometimes of the most infinitesimal and inane detail), we overthink and over plan things. I've been guilty of that, having rebuilt the leads to my float bridges when I came into possession of a Port Authority print showing me EXACTLY how the track was, and EXACTLY how wrong I had gotten it! Then again, later at the opposite end at the throat of the yard, when I discovered that operationally, what I had wasn't going to work very well. But I digress........
Today, I refer to my particular desire to know how things are done (or were done) operationally on the railroad, not just on the Lehigh Valley specifically, but also in the 1940 to 1950 period, generally speaking. I enjoy learning about how the "everyday working man" went about his job, and also the more esoteric activities of how cars were routed and billed, and etc, etc.....
So as I mentioned at the end of last week's blog, I was going to focus on some books that I've recently collected that tell the tales of various former employees in the 40's and 50's about how they performed their jobs (and the stories of others that inevitably went along with them), as well as some of the more "scholarly" books that explain the details of the operations and the paperwork that follows it all. But I'm not gonna do that this week. Why? Because I forgot to gather up said books and take some pictures of the covers and write up a little sumthin' sumthin' about them, rather than just say "buy this book, it was good". But I DID find something just as interesting in my daily interweb travels that I think is a worthy replacement........
As it turned out, my Google search today came up with an interesting link to something called "Carknocker, Railroad Stories", and I just HAD to click on it! A gentleman by the name of Walter Parks who I believe worked for the Southern Ry, began this site as a way to tell us minutia-obsessed operations folk about his experiences and Southern-centric railroad interests (as well as those of his fellow railroaders) during the course of his and their careers.
Now, it's one of those basic websites that looks design-wise like its straight out of 1999, and contains more than just railroad stories (a lot of pictures and "fluff" take up some room) but that's fine, its not trying to be anything other than what it is, which is Mr. Parks' way to share his experiences with the rest of us. If you enjoy reading (and thus learning) what the job and experiences of a "carknocker" was (and to a certain extent, still are), then budget a little time and click, click, click away and have some fun.
I only just learned of this webpage today (hence this "replacement post"), so I haven't had time to really draw anything from it, but links with subjects like "Closing and Opening Railcar Doors", "The Derrick is Called", and "What is or was a Rip Track" sound full of interesting tidbits that are worth checking out.
So there you have it.....Give it a look, I know I've enjoyed what little I've had time to read of it. Maybe we'll take a look at those books I promised in my next update, unless I get distracted by something else again, that is....

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Friday is the new Wednesday" or, "Be Pacific, ship Union Specific"

If you're old enough, you'll get the title reference.......
So, this week's "web highlight" is brought to us courtesy of Rick De Candido of Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse fame (you know, THAT Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse! -
I received an e-mail from Rick asking if I had seen a particular exhibition-style layout that was also has an engine service theme.....But there was a catch! Actually, a few catches......
One, it hails from the same country as this guy -
Second, (and third, because I can kill two birds with one stone here) it's the scale version of this engine and railroad -
OK, enough already, it's the English,1:48 scale, UP version of what Rick is doing.....
It's Peter Kirmond's Laramie Engine Terminal!

Watch the video on his home page, and I swear you can smell the smoke and the grease, and feel the bulk of the 4-8-8-4 as it runs out onto the turntable (no, really, you can see it go THUNK!). The fact that this is O scale means that the sheer size of these Big Boys and Turbines really gets the point across that this is SERIOUS heavy-duty railroading! Not to mention the coaling tower really "coals" the engine! Giggity!
So enjoy, and next week, I share some interesting books from my collection that I think should be in your collection, too
~ Ralph

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wax on, wax off.......

So in my overzealous attempt to clean up things in my Admin view of the blog yesterday, if you're a regular, you might notice a missing "Web Wednesday" post from last week. Oops, my bad.......
Anywho, this week, I really haven't come across anything new and exciting to share, but I DID come across this on eBay yesterday, and wanted to share......
("then" view, circa for a larger view)
("now" view, circa for a larger view)
Ya know, there are some bloggers who'd post a photo like this and provide absolutely no explanation on a particular day of the week, but no, no, no, not me! So, what ARE we looking at?
Well first off, it's what I'm modeling (or at least trying to!), and a little more. To the immediate left, you see a ferryboat of the CNJ's terminal, with the station and train sheds directly above the ferry headhouse. Then, a boat slip and a building on a dock (both property of the CNJ), and then, everybody's favorite waterfront "element", the float bridges! The finger piers of the LV are clearly visible in the Big Basin (called "The Gap" by locals, Mill Creek on topo maps, and is NOT, as usually erroneously noted in many books or in historical presentations, the Morris Canal), and then downtown Jersey City, historically known as Paulus Hook, and primarily the domain of the PRR and the factory complex of Colgate. The large double smokestacked building is the American Sugar Refining company, and if you enlarge the photo, you'll see this was where the Morris Canal ended and entered the Hudson River.
So enough of the history lesson, let me use my crude photo editing skills to show you what I am selectively modeling. The "amorphous blob" that surrounds the area in the photo close up below is pretty much the main part of the layout, or should I maybe say its "raison d’ĂȘtre", the Jersey City Yard (as referenced in LVRR docs), though more commonly referred to by employees and fans alike as the "Washington Street Yard" (for the city street that, by law, had a right of way that bisected it in half) or simply as "Johnston Ave" (no "yard"), for the city street that ran along it lengthwise (today's Audrey Zapp Drive, the main access road into Liberty State Park).
 (go ahead, click.....if you dare!)
Obviously, the "main attraction" are the float bridges (I'm going to model three of the six), and model four of the five piers shown in the photo (there were a total of eight located here). The pier at the bottom of the circled area is Pier B (or B Dock as the RR called it) and if I had a "favorite pier", this would be it....As you can see, there is a tower at the end of it, and that tower is actually a coal tower for the tugboats. Neat, huh? I think so......Later on in the mid 1950's, they also built a covered shed off the side facing us in the photo, to pneumatically unload cement into covered barges. More neat stuff! This pier shed also had the track along the bulkhead (as seen in the photo) and one that went inside as well (see below). I don't have the actual dimensions here to share at the moment, but my (clearly) foreshortened model is approximately one foot in width by two feet in length, which is just enough to give the impression of a substantial building, but not overwhelm the scene, and of course be a hindrance to the operators!

Of course, there's so much more to this photo AND of course to the layout, but I'm not going to bore you with all that errata, as I've probably already done it already many, many posts ago! Besides, you can always ask me more questions about things in the comment section if you want! (hint, hint!). My only wish is that this photo was clearer! Imagine the details one could make out if it wasn't so grainy, which is why I probably won't bid on it, but it's a good reference photo none the less.

So for now, enjoy, and we'll see what next week brings us!



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?