Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Workin' on the (Model) Railroad

I took the last couple of days vacation since I have time to burn before the end of March-use it or lose it. Turned out to be just about as busy as working, what with Doctor appointments, trips to the courthouse and City Hall, discussions with a Realtor, and a stop at the CPA, but I still managed to fit in a bit of modeling.

I'm trying to split my time between working on the rest of the train room installing ceiling tile and lights, and working on phase one of the layout. The layout won the last couple of days. I've been drilling holes for turnout controls, gluing down track, painting track, cleaning track, soldering feeders, and sometimes playing with trains. Thought I would share a couple of shots of what a layout under construction looks like at my house. First, the east end:

East End of Paper Mill/Dog Food Factory

And here is the west end:

West End of Paper Mill/Dog Food Factory

I titled these "Paper Mill/Dog Food Factory". Not with the intent of feeding the dogs paper, but rather, I am having a time deciding what industry this should be. I figure that a dog food factory needs grain, and would give me the excuse to deliver a few covered hoppers in some exotic paint schemes. Heaven knows I have them. Then again, the kaolin cars would look good at a paper mill.

Decisions, decisions. At least I have made one-the 19 degree crossing I was planning on using earlier is gone, replaced by moving a turnout into a different location. It seems to work OK for operating the layout. Time will tell if it was a good change or not.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Looking for (and Finding) Trains

Today after church, Mrs. L4T and I arrived at a consensus. The time had come to go looking for some trains. The sun was out, ATCS showed some movement, and it was a gorgeous afternoon, so off we went. After a quick stop for gas and food, we headed across the bridge to BNSF's Superior engine terminal to see what was waiting for assignment. Got a pretty nice selection of EMD's.

I suspected an inbound taconite train, and so we headed south out of town. I passed what looked like another railfan near Saunders, and found the pellet train was already past Boylston. A quick u-turn brought me back to Saunders, where I was soon joined by the Carney clan. Interestingly, at this very moment the CN decided it would be only proper to run a stack train through the area. Scott and I both made comments about how close we came to duplicating the situation Kevin recently got here, with a beautiful over/under.

 'Twas not to be, though. The BNSF train was couple of minutes late, and coming from the wrong direction anyway. Still a fun site to see.

Scott had informed me of a UP train off the Hinckley right behind the pellet loads. For once my ignorance of the area served me well. I was waiting at Saunders for the train that would never arrive (he was going into Pokegama instead of Itasca) when Mrs. L4T looked east and announced the arrival of the train. After explaining to her it wasn't coming from that direction, I finally looked and sure enough she was right. As usual. Here's a transfer with an SD75 running long hood forward. The Mrs. said this didn't really count as a train but I set her straight in short order.
 Next stop was Stinson, where the only shot to be had was a long range attempt at a nicely painted GP that didn't really turn out well. After that I decided to swing through the BNSF yard once more in the hope of a transfer leaving. Instead I got this, approaching 28th Street in nice light:

And then back to the engine servicing facility, where the switch engines featured in yesterday's post were found today. They're such a cute pair I couldn't resist one more shot.

Since it looked quiet on the BNSF, I proposed we work our way home via Proctor. I noticed a pellet train on the dock when we crossed the bridge and so a detour was called for, which allowed me the chance to catch the PRS as it waited to back the slightly steaming loads out onto the dock. It's hard to get tired of this view.

And then it was off to Proctor, where a pellet empty was creeping up to the overpass as we arrived, while the yard switch job paralleled him. I'm counting this as two trains in one shot, for the second time today.

Finally, having heard a train blow for the Midway Road crossing while on the overpass, we chased a CN manifest north to Munger, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a BC Rail cowl the second unit on this long train. The gorgeous blue skies are something I have come to treasure living in Duluth. Seems like clouds are more often the order of the day.

And that's the story of a couple of hours along the tracks in the Twin Ports. There seems to be no end to the excitement if you are just will to get out and look.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

An Hour Out and About

After lunch on Saturday I headed out to do a bit of railfanning sans Mrs. L4T. In the back of my head there was an idea that I may head to Superior to try and catch a CN train, but with Haines Road closed for the duration it seemed logical to travel by way of Proctor, just in case something was happening there. Sure enough, an empty was perched just south of the overpass, and the yard switch job was engaged in the never-ending task of shuffling cars to and fro.

If you look at the background very carefully, you can catch a glimpse of one of the remaining marron SD's working as part of the switch job. They didn't get any closer during my quick stop, so no better shots.

Next stop was Mike's Yard, in the hope BNSF would be switching the paper mill. They weren't, but I got a glimpse of the Rices Point switch engines to the west and went hunting. That power set proved to be elusive, and after a thorough search I came to the conclusion they had either vanished or headed home without me seeing it. I still had some intention of going to Wisconsin, but I followed the tracks up the interstate and sure enough, caught up to the light power returning to home base. A shot from the 27th Ave overpass.
You can see the tail end of a cut of cars in the upper right corner. That turned out to be a transfer behind a pair of GP's, pulled up to the yard office. My targets stopped right beside the transfer power, and I walked up on the Garfield overpass and shot the power sets from there.
By that time the hoped for sunshine was pretty clearly not going to show, and I was homesick, so after a stop at the hobby shop I headed for home. It was an entertaining hour or so. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rising like a Phoenix

It seems like a lifetime ago that I did this.

Over the last few weeks I have been working to undo that, a little bit at a time. Yesterday I shared a shot showing a bit of benchwork and some backdrop. Today I painted the backdrop. It's blue now, hardly worth posting a picture yet.

Readers might be interested in what is planned for the area, though. The basic idea is one side of a paper mill, with tracks for loading boxcars and unloading tank cars of chemical and kaolin clay. The paper mill will be modeled using building flats, just a few inches deep. First attempt at a trackplan looked like this:

It seemed like too little room for the spurs. I just wasn't happy with the arrangement. Since one spur was facing point and one trailing point, a runaround was needed. Then I was paging through Lance Mindheim's book on designing small industrial switching layouts and stumbled upon his idea of using a crossing to gain some space. That changed things up some, to this:

Now that's more like it. Keeps the runaround, but gives the spur more breathing room. I even added in one more track, for "off spot" boxcars. The loading area is on the left and tank car unloading will be on the right. Now to find an Atlas Code 83 19 degree crossing...
Next time I will try and share some more of the track plan, and outline the operating theory of the layout. Here's a hint: my track plan and operating concept have been heavily influenced by exposure to the Twin Ports. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Progress in the Basement

Long time, no post. Thought I would share a little of what I have been working on lately. The layout room isn't done, far from it, but I do have the studs up all the way around, the ceiling installed in about a third of the room, and lighting operating in that portion as well.

I could no longer resist the siren call of an operating section of track, and so I have knocked together a bit of benchwork and started on a backdrop in the hopes of putting together the beginnings of a paper mill scene. The grand plan is for this to play a part in the larger layout, so it's not wasted effort. Here's a look at what I've accomplished to this point:

The theory this time is to use Code 83 track and turnouts for their better appearance. Having grabbed a handful of Walthers/Shinohara Code 83's some time back at what I thought was a great price ($10 each, new in box) I was a bit dismayed upon realizing that they were the old style power-routing turnouts, and not at all DCC friendly. Following a bit of internet research and toying around with an ohmmeter, out came the rotary tool, styrene, and super glue. It didn't take long to cut gaps and fill them with strip styrene, then file the plastic to the shape of the rail.

I think this will take care of the DCC issues. Basically I am creating dead frogs, which shouldn't be much of a problem as the Atlas turnouts I normally use also have dead frogs. We will see after I get some track down and feeders installed. These don't feed past the frog after surgery, so I will need to press the soldering iron into service before I can make any final judgements.

All for now, soon I will try and get some track plans posted and describe the operating scenario I have developed.