Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Successful Shakedown

Yes, I'm sure some of you have been wondering where the evidence of last Friday's Shakedown #4 are, so here's the proof!

But before I let the pictures do the talking, let me say that despite the nasty rain and wind here in New Jersey last Friday, the guys did their best to slog through it and the ensuing traffic and pile into the basement, with one operator in particular coming from as far away as Hershey, PA! (that's a good 3 hours away if you aren't familiar with the NJ/PA area).

We identified some new trouble spots and more than anything, identified that I need to spend the summer working on my engine and car fleets, making sure coupler "airhoses" aren't too low (they just LOVED picking the crossings and turnouts the other night!), and that the cars are properly weighted. As crew member Tom Callan liked to yell at me across the room last Friday, "I found another Helium Car!" (his crafty name for cars with absolutely no weight, if you haven't already guessed)

So, without further ado, enjoy the photographic hijinx!

It takes three to tango.........Float yard switcher engineers Neil "The Happy Viking" Henning and Ted "C&O" Pamprin are under the iron fist of Washington Street Yardmaster Jim Dalberg , aka "Herr Dalberg"

"Where's my train?"......Oak Island/East Claremont staging Yardmaster Dave "NY Harbor" Ramos takes a tour of the property during a lull in the action.

No, it's not a hobo........It's Harbor Master Craig "1892" Bisgeier, who is the guy in charge of staging the carfloatsfor the evening, seen here keeping the chair warm, and the beer safe in between carfloats (I think he was really busy Facebooking or eBay'ing....Slacker!)

"We gots ourselves another Helium Car, Ralphie!......Here we see West Yard switcher engineer Tom "Scotch" Callan hard at work rerailing......Something!

"MORE cars? Just where do you want me to put them?" Here we see West Yard Yardmaster and Communipaw Ave. Block Operator (the guy who controls trains going into and out of the yard on the other side of the backdrop in front of him) Jim "I'll go anywhere for an op session" Schweitzer, hard at work directing the transfer of cars between his yard and Washington Street Yard.

Apparently, I'm not keeping these guys busy enough........"Scary" Ted DiIorio and Dave Ramos are seen here busy debating the finer points of car forwarding.....Yeah, sure they are.

Is it me, or does Dave look like he just saw a ghost train? That, or Ted just dropped some LCL, if you catch my drift......

A busy crew is a happy crew. Neil, Ted P, and Jim D are hard at work at Washington Street, while straight ahead, Bob Rose is seen working the CNJ Henderson Branch.

Team work at Grand Street....Seen here on the new connecting track I recently installed in this location, Ted assists Tom in cutting off some TOFC and reefer cars to place for loading.

Well, that about wraps it up. The guys had fun, I had fun, and I have a nice big bunch of things to fix before the next session in April! Yay me! Until next time..................

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Countdown To Shakedown

With only 4 days left, I got a lot done these past two weeks to get ready for this Friday's Shakedown #3. And there's still plenty to get done.......

The trains are getting longer! And the Staging is getting BIGGGGGER!

In regards to making my crews happy, after the last session when my West Staging Yardmaster said he was forced to put 10 pounds of train into a 5 pound track (so to speak), I took time to extend staging another 3+ feet. Now the maximum train length (12 cars on the Main Line to Oak Island, 10 to East Claremont on the NDR) can be run, and trains do not need to double onto a staging track. And yes, this is a active staging yard, not only by the nature of busy terminal railroading, but lack of room for a dozen or so tracks! This weekend, my father helped me drop 18 track feeders to provide the staging tracks with ample power conductivity the length of the tracks, which was also a problem before, and would be even worse now that everything has been extended.

Here's another track addition since last session, the new trackage between West Yard and Grand Street in the back end of the layout. The tracks leading up to the top and to the right along the backdrop is the Edgewater Branch, a approx. 9 ft long industrial branch serving 7 industries. I simplified the track leads to the LCL freight transfer and team tracks, and also installed a runaround/escape track for the yard, even though one didn't actually exist. However, sometimes ya just gotta bow to what makes operating a model better, as opposed to what the real thing was like or operated. I mean, it COULD have been like this, it just WASN'T!

Here's the real yard, almost same orientation as the photo above. Edgewater Branch curves off to the right at top, the Grand Street freight station towards the number "43", and the National Docks Branch straight up, towards the NYC at NJ Tower and Weehawken. taken from a Sanborn Map.

The last major track addition is an extra runaround track on the Jersey Central's Henderson Street Branch. I though the flexibility of another siding would come in VERY handy, as I plan to have a lot of cars being constantly switched on this 8 ft long branch with 9 industries. I figure the guys would run out of room real quick, so it was easy enough to put in, and it just LOOKS right.....Again, it was never there, as seen in the Sanborn Map below......

There were plenty of tracks here at one time, just not the one I chose to put in! The extra sidings would be alongside the one that curves down to the bottom of the map.

So now, all I have to do it spend my next two evenings soldering......YAY!.......Among other things, like cleaning and staging the layout.......But as long as I don't get distracted by episodes of NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, and other such nonsense, I think I'll be OK...Besides, I have Friday off!

Wish me luck.........

Monday, February 13, 2012

LV Harbor Terminal Ry On Tour - 2012

Yes that's right, your favorite Cornell Red-colored harbor railroad will be one of the many great featured talks at this years Valley Forge Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet in Malvern, PA on the weekend of March 23-25.

I will be doing a talk about how I model seven railroad interchanges in only 4 feet (give or take). with carfloats and active staging. I'll discuss the prototype, the model and how we model those operations during a op session (and of course all the paperwork that goes along with it!) Did I mention there will be giveaways?

I'll be just ONE of a few rail-marine themed presentations, so make sure to clear your calendars now in order to attend.....You can find out more by visiting their web page at -

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jersey City, April 1959

Before I head to the basement to put some track feeders in and clean up for the next shakedown, I thought I'd share an image I recently aquired of the Washington Street Yard. Even though I'm modeling 1951 (or thereabouts), I think I might have to purchase some old NY subway cars to "deliver" once in a while.......Oh gee, another thing to research!

Enjoy the view....................

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Layout Sunday

This post was originally going to go up last Sunday, so if the references to Sunday confuse you, that's why......

So, what does one do when he doesn't care about watching football? (Yeah that's right, I said it!) Well, he works on his layout! Or to be more precise, he tears chunks out of it.......

Around these here parts, the saying goes "If there aren't any pictures, then it didn't happen", so with that, I bring you pictures!

Umm, sir, please close the layout behind you, your letting the cold in.....

Now, sane minds would ask, "When you have 50 other more important things that you STILL need to complete before your next shakedown in two weeks, WHY are you tearing your backdrop out NOW?!?" Well, it's like this.....Ya know how certain things about your layout just bug you, maybe not enough for you to take action, because you figure that the aggravation of the time and effort of fixing it will probably overshadow the enjoyment you'll get out of it (at least I do!). That, and that it's always the one thing that EVERY SINGLE TIME you go into the basement and look at that part of the layout, it jumps up and down and points it's evil finger at you and says -

"Fix me, or when people come to see your layout, they will laugh and point at me and your shame will be eternal!"

No you say? Never happened to you? Gee, it looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue....

"Johnny, what can you make out of this backdrop?
This? Why, I can make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl....."

OK, OK, I'll be serious now, no more Airplane references......I guess I was bored, and I guess I just didn't want to get involved in another more tedious project that night (dropping track feeders), so I took on the beast and pulled. Then, I said, well, now that I ripped it, let's go full out........

Here's the 'before" shot. As you can see, it appears to smoothly flow around the corner, but looks can be deceiving....

See, I told you it looked funny!.......I recreated this "before" shot to show you a side view of the "wave effect" after I pulled at it and snapped the plastic. The shadows that play across the backdrop as it bends doesn't help any, either!

Up until then, the joints themselves were attached to the 1x2's with double sided foam tape from 3M, brad nailed, and then the joints spackled. This is probably why I had to pry it lose, and it snapped as seen in the very first photo!

Now, I'm sure some of you are wondering what I used for the backdrop, and that's easy. It's a non-vinyl PVC material called Plas-Tex, made by Parkland Plastics - http://www.parklandplastics.com/polywall.shtml. It is sold as a backsplash wall material, and comes in 4x8 sheets. I ripped them in half long ways, and since it's decently heavy enough, it kind of supports itself, so minimal framing was required. One side is smmoth, and one slightly texured, and it's the textured side I put "out", and with some early paint tests, it not only took the paint well with no priming required, but also the slightly textured surface worked to increase the "depth".

Now, can you see why I thought this had to go? The "double wave" effect of the backdrop HAD to go. So, I guess I should explain WHY this came to be like this, hmm?

When I was laying out the CNJ Henderson Street Branch on the other side of the back drop here, I found that I did not have enough room to all ow for the Jersey Ave. Freight Station tracks after the railroad made the bend around the curve of the layout. (see below)

As you can see, I needed more depth here, and the only way to do that was to push the backdrop back. After I opened up the continuous run of the backdrop sheeting to get at the 1x2 wood framing, I eliminated the support framing, and pushed the one side of the backdrop up against the other. (sorry, don't know where the pix of that debacle are). This what caused the backdrop on the LV Edgewater Branch side to bow out. had I thought about that, I would have fixed the problem then. In fact, I guess it didn't bother me too much at first, because it's been like this for at least 4 years now! The effect of the bow is not, for some reason, objectionable to me on the CNJ side, go figure.

In the above view, you can not only see the new joint(s) where the filler piece was installed, but in the lower right, the darker piece of "filler" foam in front of the building that needed to be installed to close the gap once the backdrop was pushed back. Originally, the backdrop continued straight across and through where the freight house is now. All in all, I gained only about 3-4 inches, but that made a difference, not only in track length, but also visually to allow for the proper track alignment as per the valuation maps I have of this area.

Surely, you didn't do all this just to get 3 inches of room! I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

OK, so I lied.........

So, here is where we stand currently, and where it will stand until after the next shakedown. It doesn't affect operation, and heck, it's like "The Invisible Layout", to put a positive spin on things. The job to fix this is gonna be a doozy, but it'll be worth it, 'cause I ain't gonna sleep well until I fix it!

And that's that......


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thoughts On Interesting Proto Paperwork

You want me to fill out what?!? Where?!?

Amongst my friends, I am known as a paperwork "junkie" who gets the biggest kick out of tracking down and buying the most mundane piece of railroad-issued forms and whatnot. Of course, if you ask my girlfriend, she just shakes her head and asks me why I feel the need to buy more dusty old train papers to fill up the basement with. And then of course, there are the model railroaders who find realistic paperwork (and the operations that go along with them) as needlessly boring and "anti-fun"....The common cry of "I work all day, and all I want to do is come home and run my trains, not push paper" is the often heard (and IMO, weak) reply.

Sometimes, in my search for LV or CNJ paperwork, or even other RR's forms for inspiration to design my own for my layouts' ops, I come across paperwork that never, in a million years, could be used to even REMOTELY represent or assist a job or activity on my layout. Not everything can be "scaled down" or even justified for use in realistic operation, since we just don't have to recreate certain activities that the real railroads did (I'm not about to do seat and baggage checks on my passenger trains, are you?!?). After all, there is a limit to what can be simulated on even the most prototypically-operated layouts, and I've operated on some pretty paperwork-centric layouts, let me tell you.

One of my favorite "prototypically useless" forms is the "Nothing to Report" form -

I have nothing, absolutely NOTHING to report! Now let me go back to sleep!

Yes, it's a real form, and I've seen many variations of them, but the point is, there is no need to model this kind of paperwork, no matter HOW realisticaly you like to operate your layout, unless you LIKE to keep your operator friends away, that is...........

But I digress........The reason I wrote this entry today was that I recently came across two LVRR pieces of paper recently that while they certainly fall into the "can't be modeled" category, can still be brought out once in a blue moon just to have fun with. Whats that you say? Paperwork is FUN?!? Why bother going to the trouble? Well hold on to your trainorders there, Negative Nelly, and let me show you.........

Sir, please pull your locomotive over to the siding and show me your FRA Blue Card

OK, I know this is for issuing a citation to trespassers and autos parked where they shouldn't be parked and whatnot, but c'mon, there's no denying you can't have fun with this one with your buddies. It's definitely one of those every once in a blue moon kind of jokes you can pull on one of your crew, or a visitor, just to have fun with. Not convinced? OK, fine, here's another one I found on eBay that can actually be a bit more useful during a session.

Did I just hear the sound of breaking glass?

This is 4x4 card is something akin to "situational cards" that some people like to use on their layout to add "excitement" (not for nuthin', but I find a regular op session has enough excitement with bad DCC decoders, broken turnouts and other such insanity to keep things "exciting"). But if you ARE into that kind of thing, this is perfect. You can go around randomly slapping these on cars to make sure your crews are paying attention while switching. If nothing else, it's another "gag" card to pull out when things are going well (ie: boring) to spice things up little bit. Right now, the LVHTRy operations crew doesn't need any more distractions!

So, I guess my point is, extra paperwork can literally be fun. You can either copy and paste an image (like I did with these) and make multiple paste-ups to copy, or recreate them in Word or Excel (I've done that to for samples that were already filled out, or damaged in some way). Personally, I think I'm gonna bust out the traffic violation card at a session very soon, just to get some good laughs at the expense of someone other than me (for once!)!

"Write" On,