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 Kind 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

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