Dec 19, 2013

More progress on RGS #20 - smokebox being added, tender truck details

Some nice photos and description of the ongoing restoration of Rio Grande Southern #20:,255964

The Colorado Railroad Museum is still looking for donations, to fund this restoration work.  If you're interested, more information on donating is located here.

Nov 16, 2013

Enterprise and Hesperus scenery update

So, I've been trying to maintain progress on the layout (although I admit to neglecting some other web updates... but something has to give, right?).  The focus lately has been mostly rockwork, and trying to finish roughing in scenery and rockwork on the Rio Grande Southern's Enterprise branch, Hesperus and Wildcat Canyon, and Ophir.

In the process, I've been casting a LOT of rocks (using Durobond 45), and using a good deal of StructoLite plaster for basic scenic forms.  I thought you might be interested in a couple 'tools' for handling plaster.

First up is storage - I buy plaster from Menards (Durobond 45 in 25 lb bags, StructoLite in 50 lb bags) and then store it in these tightly-sealed buckets:

In mixing plaster, I'm using 1 quart paint bucket liners, part of a system for paint that Menards sells.  They're cheap, flexible, and reusable.  I rinse the liner between pours, and because I don't fancy the idea of plaster in our plumbing, came up this approach - a mining seive, some paper towls, and another 5 gal bucket.  This lets me rinse the used liner, then dump the plaster into the bucket.  The seive and paper towls catch most of the plaster, and the water is then clean enough to dump:

But let's move on to the layout, eh?  Here's a progress sequence of the Enterprise branch area.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm really trying to create realistic landforms, but am also playing with sightlines, to hide portions of the track, and create interesting visuals.

So, let's go back to the really early work, and move forward... just for fun.  Here's the beginning - showing the (mostly hidden) turnback loop, and the risers for the actual branch trackage moving thru the middle.

It's a little hard to believe - but this kid is now taller than I am!  But he was still little here.  We're looking down the branch from the Blackhawk mine location.  The switchback to the higher-elevation Enterprise mine is on the right:

The PROPER use of the layout in those days:

And here's the cardboard web and roughed-in landforms from a month or two ago:

And finally to the state of the branch today.  As I said, this is a deep portion of the layout (because of that turnback loop), so I had to create some type of access.  As I did at Ophir, access here is via a mostly hidden opening.  By controlling the sightlines, this opening is nearly impossible to see from normal viewing angles, and that's w/o any trees or finished scenery to further mask it.  I much prefer something like this, rather then messing w/ a liftout hatch.

Hopefully it's also apparent that the branchline appears to weave thru a steep mountainside.  It's visible enough to make operating managable (a prime goal here), but also create the effect of the mountain being there first, and the railroad having to cut / blast / dig their way through the terrain.

And finally, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I simply couldn't resist creating a view into the underground mining tunnels below Enterprise Mine itself.  Although the prototype entered the hillside horizontally (which I am modeling), I'm going to add a vertical mineshaft as well.  Here's the beginnings of that area - the below area (nice high fascia here to work with) and the mining area above (currently well defended by Lego guys - I mean, this is a GOLD mine, right?):

Then there's Hesperus... some of the many rocks are ending up here.  Yes, I know RGS fans, Hesperus-the-prototype was nothing like this, but operationally Hesperus fits here, w/ a single (abandoned) siding to the Porter Coal company holding the depot-become-coach that served there in later years.  But on my layout, there's the yard lead and entrance to staging at Durango above this area, and I had to scenically come up w/ something.  So - canyon scene!  And just beyond, the track twists thru Wildcat Canyon, which really was on the RGS a bit north of Durango.  A good deal of modeling license here, but it fits the overal scheme well enough for me.

And I do need music or podcasts to help w/ the work... on this day it was Model Rail Radio, although I also listen to Model Railcast, and Scotty Mason, among others.

Nov 14, 2013

More progress on RGS #20 rebuild

The rebuilding of RGS #20 continues - this time w/ extensive work on the trucks, frame, and firebox supports.

Some amazing photos - this is the most complete rebuild I've ever been aware of.,253051

Nov 13, 2013

Illinois RR Museum to install solar power

It's not model railroad related, but this is pretty cool news - the Illinois Railroad Museum is hoping to install solar power, thus powering it's traction railroad w/ solar.  If this is completed, it'll have solar power plus operating steam (assuming 1630 is finally ready, which is the plan) next year, and a great showcase for both for school groups, etc.,-with-your-help.html

Oct 27, 2013

Quick but rocky update

This fall continues as one the busiest I can remember (good stuff, mostly - but a lot of it).  Still, I take my sanity breaks w/ the layout when I can.  I've gotten nearly all the surface-coat plaster completed now, for the scenery that I have (about 2/3rds of the layout).  This is all structo-lite.

And I'm back to casting rocks (three pours today, maybe 54 individual mold pours), and hanging rocks on various canyon and vertical walls.

In the Enterprise branch area, I also took the plunge and cut a couple of slots into the fascia, w/ the intent of creating some underground viewing of mineshafts below the Enterprise mine.  The model (above-ground) is laid out to match the prototype, mostly - so there's a ridge with the mine trackage leading into a tunnel opening.  But the fascia in this area kinda begged for an underground view as well.  Given that the Enterprise didn't have a vertical shaft (at least not that I know of, and not in the area I'm modeling, relative to the mine structures)... still, too cool to resist.  I'll add a (non-prototype) hoist house at the far end of the property from the tunnel, and model the tunnels below that hoist house.  Should be fun.

Sep 24, 2013

Silverton Northern - new narrow gauge rebuilding in Colorado - needs funding

There is a serious effort to rebuild a portion of the narrow-gauge Silverton Northern, running north out of Silverton Colorado to Howards Fork.  They're looking to raise $10,000, and have about $3800 raised so far.

More details are in this article:

If you'd like to help, there's a crowd-sourcing project where you can donated located here:

Here's a little history on the line, from the above article:
The original Silverton Northern was built by Otto Mears, operating from 1895 to 1942, serving the mines between Silverton and Animas Forks.
It began at Silverton with two miles of Silverton Railroad track, and reached Eureka in 1896. It was extended up a 7 percent grade to Animas Forks in 1904 for a total of 12.5 miles. 
The branch up Cunningham Gulch was built in 1905. A few trains ran occasionally on the Animas Forks section into the 1920s and regularly on the lower section to Eureka until 1939, when the Sunnyside Mine closed. The SN ceased in 1942 when the U.S. Army drafted three SN locomotives to serve its needs in World War II on the White Pine & Yukon in Alaska.
The San Juan County Historical Society announced its ambitious plan to rebuild the 2-1/2-mile section of the old Silverton Northern Railroad from the Powerhouse Industrial Park to Howardsville in August 2010.
Historical society officials said the idea underlying the rebuilding effort is economic development — to develop a locally operated passenger-excursion train based in Silverton.

Sep 2, 2013

Ophir scenery work continues

As I think I mentioned before, I'm using drywall shims purchased from Menard's for my cardboard strips.  A box of 5 of these bundles costs about $32 - fast, pretty cheap, and far easier than collecting and cutting up old boxes.

After lots of hot glue, photo references of the prototype, and head-scratching, here's what the area looked like before the plaster cloth went on.  It's a complex area - in that first shot you can see the 3-track staging yard under the Elmer's glue - it'll remain accessible from the access hole (which is framed out here).  That track is at about 52" high.  Below that, at 47", is a return loop running under all of this.

Then there's the creek, coming into the scene near the speaker (yes, I know, perhaps I'll move it much later when this scene nears completion).  I had to figure something interesting to do w/ it, while evoking the prototype's sense.  Using the actual creek's route, I copied that and also managed to route the creek around the access hole, twisting and dropping below the town and eventually under the big 45-A trestle.

 And here's a number of shots of the scene after the plaster - where you can see the landforms emerging from all that cardboard.  I'm playing with a number of variables here - blocking nearly all views of the access hole from normal viewing angles, adapting the prototype's landforms to my space, and giving the eye lots of interesting nooks and crannies to follow.  The creek will - I hope - really draw the eye into the scene.   And the fact that parts of that creek will be hard to see to only add to the visual interest.

These first couple of shots are from really high viewing angles - which you can't see in real life without a ladder.  But they show how the creek, access hole, and everything else fits together.

Here is a view from slightly below normal viewing angles.  The hill behind this bridge is higher than on the prototype, but it's hiding the access whole.  And I think it'll work pretty well - evoking the very rugged terrain as you move away from the town of Ophir slightly and down under this bridge.

The bridge, btw, is about 65% of the prototype's size.  The creek twists down and exits between the two right-most foundations.  These are the three heavy footings for the lower bents of 45-A - they support their own set of heavy stringers over the creek - then the actual trestle bents for the bridge above were built on those stringers.

And another fairly high-angle view, showing the creek meandering below the town.  There's also a dirt road coming up the left side of the creek, crossing narrowly thru a couple of bents of bridge 45-A.  There's timber retaining walls supporting this road above the creek.

If you'd like to see photos of the prototype town and bridges, I have an extensive set of details & links on my Route Summary page - just scroll down to milepost 45 or so.

Sep 1, 2013

Enterprise scenery begins

Starting another mountain area... this is a steep switchback (the old Enterprise branch).  The main line here is curving below, and eventually entering a hidden area.  Above, the switchback leaves Rico and leads first to the Blackhawk mine, then continues climbing & reversing to reach the Enterprise mine.

Yeah yeah... I know... this branch was long gone by the time period I'm modeling, but switchbacks are really cool, both visually and for operations, and provides a great operational focus out of Rico that doesn't interfere w/ the main line.

There's an access hold in the middle of this (since that's a 30" radius curve on the main, making this scene almost 6' deep).  I plan to create the scenery to both break up the switchback visually, and hide the access hold from normal viewing angles.

There's a river running to the left of the mainline, which is already partially covered in plaster cloth (hard to see in these shots).  First step for the rest is some lumber framing to support the cardboard web.

These photos show where I'm starting from.

Aug 27, 2013

Galloping Goose history

A nice article on the history of the Galloping Geese - with a bunch of photos.

Aug 21, 2013

Big Boy is a movin'

UP re-purchased a Big Boy from a museum, and has plans to restore it to operation.  Big Boys are the largest steam locomotives ever built, and there's a only a few left.  None are operating.

The locomotive recently began it's trip to UP's shops... have a look!

Aug 12, 2013

Photo backdrops !!!

So - three new photo backdrops are installed now, and I am really pumped about them.  All are from LARC Products, who's quality and service is superb.

Here's the first area.  It's a tiny little open in the bathroom, giving a view and access to a 3-track staging yard, the main, and the yard lead.  It was small, and seemed to be begging for a little something.  I decided to start here w/ the photo backdrops, and see how it went.  Just for yourself, but I'm pretty pleased:



Then it was time to move onto the Ophir area.  I was happily building rock walls in the area (lots, and lots, and lots of rocks!) and realized that right behind the loop, there was literally no room at all, and that photo backdrops would be needed.

To size the backdrops, I created a large 'ruler' and photographed everything, then sent it all off to LARC Products, who were able to photoshop and customize an image to fit, then printed it off.  I opted to not include the sky, so I did need to remove the area above the photo - a few evenings of very delicate scissor work.  Not hard; kinda relaxing actually.

So here's the before and afters of this area (complete with one of my helpers!):

And finally, the largest and most complex of the backdrops - behind the Ridgway yard.  This area is below the basement stairs at one end, and has a cutout entrance into a bathcloset & staging at the other.  Here's the before shots:

For the cutout into staging, there's actually the yard lead and a cross-over in there - visible (with the LED lighting I added) through the opening.  That's important for operation.  But how to handle it scenically?  My idea was to overlap and extend the photo backdrop right into it.  Here's some details of that little area.  As you can see, I extended some masonite over the switch machines (just screwed in place, thus removable if needed) - to provide a surface for the backdrop:

From there, it was tape the backdrop in place, then slowly remove the backing and roll it into place.

And finally - a hearty thank you to my helpers!  These backdrops really require three people to install, and these two were amazing: