Saturday, March 9, 2019

Rumors of this Blog have been greatly exaggerated

As promised (OK, maybe only to my friend Eric Hansmann), here is my first blog post in two years, three months!

Why so long you ask? Well, mostly because of "life stuff". But, since about January, I've been gandy dancing all over the basement!

Ya gotta be careful with that Micro Engineering track....

So what was so special about January? Nothing really, but I did get the urge again to get the railroad running towards the end of last year, and I also really wanted by friends Chris Barany, John Zelehoski, Doug Burrell  and Dave Abeles (yes, THAT Dave Abeles of Onondaga Cutoff fame  - - to come over and see the layout. The problem? It hadn't seen an op session since 2013, AND the basement was a wreck!

 Not an actual photo, but not far from the truth, either

Coupled with that recent epiphany to see the layout through and not go for a total rebuild, I took stock of the situation to rebuild some trackage that had been bugging me for years, and go forth with a ton of improvements. I'm not going to get into all the key points in this 
"return to blogging" entry (I've been using Facebook to keep my friends updated - 
Look for the layout on FB under - Ralph Heiss' Lehigh Valley Terminal Railway
Of course, that’s assuming that you're a Facebook'er, but I am going to probably “dueling posts” different from each other, so…... 

So in the month since the guys were over, I have been rebuilding most of the key points of the layout, things that have bugged me for months, if not YEARS! Literally NOTHING has escaped the track crew, be it the Washington St. Yard throat, the CNJ's Jersey Ave Branch, or the LV's Edgewater Branch! So in today's post, I have come seeking your thoughts, suggestions, comments and whatnot......I have worked by way around the layout and the small (but very important) Grand Street/West Yard, and am looking at several possibilities to redesign access to the yard. I will say that I have departed from strict prototype track arrangements and instead am going with "what works best with model railroad operations" plan, and I'll try to impart those differences first by using some visual aids. 
First, the prototype, from a hand drawn map issued by the railroad -

Not exactly finely drawn, but it WAS part of a circa 1960's vintage Company-issued document, so I say i can be considered canon. The spatial representations of things is what is wrong with the drawing, not so much any actual tracks or buildings, which are accurately represented. The view looks compass north (main yard is to the lower right to the right, horizontal to the Hudson River), and the large arc of parallel lines to the right of the yard represents the Holland Tunnel extension of the NJ Turnpike, aka my backdrop.

Now, here's a photo from my era dated 1956, showing the West Yard and the new TOFC ramps, and looking in roughly the same direction as the map shown above - 

Too bad the angle wasn't a little higher up so we could see if there was a runaround where those four boxcars to the left are sitting. Honestly, in this era (a post 1954 photo, but probably before 1960) this yard was used for the LV's new TOFC operation, and cars would be backed in from the main, so there really wasn't a need for much flexibility in the trackage. The track running off to the left side and ducking back under the Turnpike bridge in the far distance served the Edgewater Branch and the Grand Street freight station and team tracks, probably still used in the 1950's (but not for much longer). Of course, in the model railroad world, most of our yards and other such distances are horribly foreshortened, and what worked for the railroad may not work out so well in model form. Case in point, my Yard throat is not the same as the prototype, so after the first few shakedowns many eons ago, it was suggested to put another through track across the yard to help expedite movements, so, like a good Terminal Superintendent, that's exactly what I did - 

Not only did I loose a yard track by doing this, but it does kind of 
stick in my craw that it's not 100% prototypically correct, too

There are possibilities I'm exploring, and I'd appreciate you, my faithful readers, for help. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let you see for yourselves.....
First, I'll give you a "photographic tour" of the yard, starting at the Edgewater Branch, looking compass north and railroad east, and then turning around and facing south and west....

So, as you can see in this last photo, the "unprotopypical" through track is the track directly to the right of the gray building, leading to one leg of the wye into the main yard, and to the noth or westbound side of the main float yard at Washington Street, while the wye track with the boxcars on it in the distance leads to the south or east side of the yard. You can see the connecting pair of turnouts between the two legs, which, if I had had the room, would have both come to a point BEFORE the split in the wye legs.The other or west leg of the wye comes in from the upper right out of the shadows. So from right to left, you have your main running track to the Edgewater Branch, a runaround siding, what could be another through track, and/or access across the two diamond crossings into the Grand Street freight station and Monmouth St. team tracks (as seen in the first and second pictures beyond the lolly column), three stub ended yard tracks, the "east through track", and then the two TOFC ramp tracks.

I'm currently suffering from "which way do I go, George?" in regards to the track arrangement, and how to achieve a good level of "correctness" and operating flexibility. I thus present you exhibits A thru D with track just kind of plopped in to represent the possible routes, with each pair looking right/left.

First up, Version "A" get the most flexibility out of the yard, with what amounts to four separate through tracks across the length of the yard, two separate routes to/from the branch, and the ability to run around a cut of cars in three different places.

Version "B" eliminates that foreground curved connecting turnout, but is otherwise the same.

Version "C" is yet another variation of the above, except we now loose one through track and now GAIN a new stub storage track, but otherwise everything is the same.

And finally, Version 'D" is the most "scenically pure" version of the yard. In the first photo, you can see I lifted the mid yard through track, which now gains me back a TOFC ramp track, AND elimination of this track and associated turnout lets be extend a siding to that factory JUST that much more, which is always a good thing. I still keep two routes in/out of the yard (that come back together at the entrance to the branch next to the column), but also now just ONE runaround and that re-acquired yard track from the last version above. Only drawback? I have to buy a new turnout.

In the last photo above, trains can come off the western leg off the wye, and trains can come out of Washington Street on the east leg, and stay on the next track in, which is the runaround track.

So, I said it would be a long post (what entries of mine AREN'T?), but I hope you stuck with me through it all, and I'm REALLY gonna try to keep the updates regular so they stay a manageable length.

As always, thanks, and I hope to hear from any and all of you on this, and it's great to be back!

~ Ralph

Friday, December 23, 2016

Its a Christmas Miracle!

Well, since its Christmas Eve Eve as I write this, and its unlikely that I'll be posting again before 1/1/17, I was inspired to post again today by my fellow PONY modeler (that's Port Of New York for the rest of you people) Mr. Riley Triggs (please check out his Port Of New York RR blog), who favorably commented on my weathering activities (thanks, Riley!). After I explained to him briefly about how I did what I did, I realized that MAYBE, just maybe, I should have explained things, in detail, in the original post to begin with! So instead of going back and annotating my last post, I figured, why NOT start a new one? Let's begin, shall we?

So as you can see in this photo -

(AHHH! My eyes!) the car comes right out of the box, this Accurail car, painted in what I call "PFE Orange"(even if its not officially called that), is too damn clean looking! Now, if you are a fan of Tony Thompson's Modeling The SP blog (and if you aren't, you should be!), PFE reefers could be seen in all variations of "clean" and "dirty", as shown here on Tony's blog -, and instead of simulating a car that is all worn out or never having ever seen a washing, I just wanted a car that has seen a maybe a little too much California sun -

(mmmm, Dusty.....)

So, in order to achieve what in the "weathering biz" we call a "fade", instead of using a VERY thin white or orangey-white acrylic paint wash (which is S.O.P., by the way), I decided to be a rebel and plunked down a few $$ to buy a tin of orange Pan Pastels -

As you can see, it's a "lesser shade of orange" than the 'PFE Orange", and I actually went back over the orange Pan Pastels (PP for short from here on in) with the "Raw Umber tint" later - as to tone down the orange-on-orange effect, and to fade it just a little more, as well as also add a slight "smoky/muddy/sooty" tint to things. Oh, before I go any further, let me say that before I began any of this, I coated the car with a shot of flat matte spray, and then again after my initial PP fade to "lock in the freshness" before I attacked the lettering and the door details.

Now, to do the streaking/fading of the ATSF herald and El Capitan lettering, I took a white (and black, respectfully) artist's watercolor pencil like this -

.....and simply drawed down (drewed down?) the lettering to create a fade or run of the lettering/paint, and then blended/burnished it in so it didn't just look like hard white (herald) and black (lettering) lines over things -

(would you ship your veggies in this?)

You'll also notice in the above shot that I also highlighted the door hardware and some of the grooves between the wood paneling, also using the "pencil technique", just with different shades of rust/brown. Now, I'm notorious for only ever doing the car sides, but never the ends or roofs, so I still have to go back and do those parts (I did a little work on the roof, but I'm not satisfied and want to do some more) -

(raise your roof in the air like you just don't care!)

I also still have the underframe, trucks and wheels to do, too. I'll cover those in subsequent posts if anybody is interested. I am also covering all my work - and in more detail, if you can believe it - on The Rustbucket Forums (see Wednesday's post for the URL).

Since I've gone on too long (again), I'll skip the DL&W boxcar, except to say that I did the same "PP procedure", just with different PP colors/tints -

....but it needs improvement in the lettering streaking effect, as per this prototype photo -

.......which I think I'll accomplish using oils....But that's another post for another time, I promise!

Once again, I hope everybody has a Merry Christmas (or whatever you chose to celebrate) and a joyous New Year!

~ Ralph

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dirt, rust, and all other kinds of dust inbetween....

So, after my "weathering appearance" at the November garden State RPM meet, I slithered back into relative model railroad obscurity, except for the odd op session on somebody's layout, and the itch to keep weathering some cars. I mean, since I had to put them all away anyway, I might as well do SOMETHING with them!

So, lacking any "artist direction", I went and visited the finest of the fine's website for all things weathered, The Weathering Shop. These guys are the undisputed masters of the craft. Now, if you take the time to click and visit (and I hope you do), most of what you'll see there is all modern stuff, so you might be wondering why the heck am I gushing over it? Well, just because its modern stuff, DOESN'T mean you cant use the techniques they use to your advantage. I mean not only techniques and effects, but tools and supplies, too. But the BEST part of the site is
The Rustbucket Fourms, and while you have to register to look and participate, and the camaraderie and help that I've personally experienced and gotten in the month that I've joined is second to none. The ONLY thing you have to be concerned with is that these guys take things SUPER seriously. If you don't have an open mind and don't have a thick skin, then don't bother! These guys will go out of their way to help you, answer your (stupid) questions, and explain in detail to you, what is to them a basic procedure to do something that usually seems like "weathering sorcery"! But as I said, be prepared to have your work scrutinized and picked apart to the last brush stroke. They aren't afraid to say your work sucks, but its meant as "tough love", not to be mean for the sake of it. But I will also say, please do NOT let that scare you! There are many (much like myself) that are noobs and are learning (crawling?) along with others and our "weathering masters" to scale the "sacred weathering mountain" to achieve "artistic enlightenment".  Like any segment of the hobby, there are levels of participation, like recreating EXACTING models from a photo, not only the model but the weathering patterns as well. And then, you've got guys who just want to weather a model realistically, even if it's a AHM Burger King reefer! Well, OK, maybe not quite that unprototypical, but you get the idea.

So, since I've waxed poetic far to long about he Weathering Shop and The Rustbucket Forums, let me leave you with a few shots of my (unfinished) projects thus far.....(and, like the guys on the forum, feel free to shoot me down and pick my work apart!)

**Updated with "BEFORE" and "AFTER" photos

"After #1"

"After #2"

 "After #3"


"After #1"

"After #2"
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and thanks for sticking with me during all the "lean times"!
~ Ralph

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