Sunday, December 29, 2013

Snapshot Sunday - #3

Milwaukee Road NW2 switcher mid-train headed west in Harlowton, Montana yard during the mid 70’s.

Photo Copyright Rick Luther 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Layout Construction - #18

Update to the Montana Grain Elevator
I have been working on the grain elevator located in Geraldine. The roof for the annex building is finished and I added the extension pipe from the head housing to the roof of the annex. Decals and weathering have also been added. I am pleased with the results so far, with the exception for some of the decals that I created. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see what I mean. The decals were created using HobbyCal decal paper from Model Train Software. The decal paper is too thick to produce some styles of signs. It worked great for the Sapphire/Ceretana sign. The Montana Elevator Company sign did not work as anticipated. If the light hits the sign in a certain way the thickness is not that noticeable. The company sign will probably be removed at a later date and another attempt will be made with custom printed decals. The weathering is a combination of chalks and acrylic craft paint. Just enough to give the building age but not as if it were ready to fall down. The round bin on the left hand side is a place holder from another elevator in Denton. I just haven’t gotten around to ordering one for the elevator. After it is built an additional pipe we’ll be brought down from the head house to the top of the bin roof.

Click on the photos for a larger view.




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snapshot Sunday - #1

Looking west bound on the Milwaukee Road mainline at Martinsdale, Montana in the mid 70’s.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Layout Construction - #17

Denton Gets a Better Train Order Signal
For a long time I have wanted an operating train order signals for the Denton and Geraldine stations. Although there really isn’t much need for train order signals during the era I’m modeling, they were still present. Below is a photo of the Denton station taken during the late 70’s or early 80’s. I would love to credit the photographer, but unfortunately I don’t remember the site where I found this photo. Thanks to whoever you are. Most of the time you see train order signals located on the station or next to the operator’s bay. These signals can be easily set from inside the station. I’m not sure about the story for the Denton station. Perhaps the station was of a much larger design in the past. It may have burned down and a smaller station was constructed farther away while the old station was being demolished. A mystery yet to be solved.

Denton, MT Depot and semaphorePhotographer Unknown

I found an inexpensive alternative from J.L. Innovative Designs (photo on the left). While this made a nice stand-in for an operating signal, I really wanted something better. A trip to Warren’s Train Shop in Ogden over a year ago, I noticed they had reduced the price of a Tomar Upper Quadrant Train Order Signal which made it irresistible (photo on the right). Now that I had the signal I always wanted, how to go about getting it to operate. Looking at various sites on the internet did not produce results that made me feel comfortable with my current skill level.


The March 2012 and October 2013 issues of Model Railroad Hobbyist eZine had some great ideas for operating the train order signal using servos from Tam Valley Depot. A nice step by step article was what I needed to give me the confidence to finish this project. The servos for the semaphore arms can be controlled from either the panel switches on the fascia or by DCC remote from my NCE PowerCab. In the first photo below, you can see the control panel for the two servos mounted on the fascia board. There are controls for each semaphore, one west bound and one for east bound. The black button above each LED controls the movement. I programed the LED’s to indicate green (no orders) or red (stop for orders). The small switch to the left turns the signal light on and off. I will label everything once the fascia gets painted.


The photo on the right gives an overall view of the controls in relation to the signal position on the layout. If I had to do it over again, I would move the throttle panel over to the left more. It doesn’t bother me enough to replace the entire fascia board on this side. The photo on the right gives you a view of the servos and power for the signal LED. I used a plastic tube through the foam board and layout base to make it easier to fit the small wires for the signal. I decided to use a battery holder with two AAA batteries to power the signal LED. The light will only be on during operating sessions and I could also avoid soldering a resistor to the fine magnetic wire. If my information is correct, these signals were only lit when a train was approaching the station. Yes, I know the wiring looks like a mess. There are still some adjustments that need to be made and then I will tidy up the wires.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Layout Construction - #16

The First Industry in Geraldine
I get scattered brained when it comes to working on the layout. I think I should work in a more logical manner. Create a list of things that need to be worked on and organize it by areas of the layout. That way you don’t miss things and you know what needs to be done first and the supplies needed to complete the task. Ya, right! That maybe how I do things in my work life. In my hobby life, when I decide to enter the train room, there are very few rules. I do whatever strikes my fancy at that moment. This is suppose to be a fun hobby. I never want it to become work. OK, enough of the soapbox!

Montana Elevator Company
The largest industry in Geraldine is the Montana Elevator. This elevator is based on the Valley Growers Association Steel Elevator from Walthers. The original kit is nice, but it is something that you see on a lot of layouts. It is time to modify the kit slightly to give it a unique appearance. The first task was to modify the width of the structure. There is not enough room from the track to edge of the layout for the entire structure including the truck unloading area. Easy enough to do. Next modification is take the extra grain storage building and add it to the main structure. After doing some research on the internet, this was a common practice as farm output increased additional storage was added. I will add additional piping from the elevator head house to the bins on the left and right. As you can see in these photos, I haven’t completed the structure. Hopefully, the next time I enter the train room, I will have more done for a future blog post! Now where did I put that box car I was building last month…..




Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Layout Construction - #15

Tunnel Scenery Completed
While looking over the last blog post, I realized I that hadn’t talked about the completion of the scenery around the tunnel portable in the helix area. For your reference you can click HERE for a review of the before photos. I will go back at a later date and add a little detail to the back drop. It won’t be much since the sky is hard to see with the upper swing bridge in place. I included a new scenery technique that I saw on Rob Spangler’s layout. Instead of the usual lichen or clump bushes, Rob creates very nice sage brush using a scouring pad and sage colored ground foam. The technique is simple and creates a nice effect. To quote Rob from a post on the Model-Railroad-Hobbyist forum;

“It's a gray scrub pad material from 3M sold as either synthetic steel wool or paint stripping pads (the latter are what I'm currently using as they are coarser).  Chunks of that are sprayed with Super 77 adhesive and then coated with ASMI "Eucalyptus" coarse ground foam.  Accurail "Sagebrush" foam is almost the same.”

You can click HERE to see his results in the last photo on the first page. I will include more photos of the sage brush in later posts as they keep popping up everywhere.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Layout Construction - #14

Let There be Light!
The lower swing bridge from the layout to the helix has always had one problem. It is very dark when compared to the rest of the layout. While there is really nothing there that needs a lot of light when viewing, it still looked wrong. One day we were shopping at Costco and needed to get a pack of light bulbs to use around the house. On the lighting aisle I found these flexible LED lighting strips made by Sylvania called Mosaic. The price could not ne beat at $30 and included 8’ of lighting. If you can’t find them at Costco, Lowes also sells them for higher price.


The nice thing was that the strips were broken down into four 2’ strips with connectors, power supply and a remote control. The strips have an adhesive tape on the back making installation easy. While the light color does not match the rest of the layout, it was an easy answer to complicated problem. I could have used the under cabinet fluorescent lights that I used on the rest of the layout, but installation would be difficult and added weight to the upper swing bridge. Below are a few photos to illustrate the results. First a before and then an after. The before shot has been lighten up for more detail. It really looks darker in person. I ended up only using 3 of the 4 strips. The light produced by just three strips did the job very well. Now to work on hiding the “sun light” in the tunnel.




Layout Update - #13

Another Rolling Stock Update
One of the industries on the NML is Fergus Gravel just outside of Geraldine on the way to Falls Yard. This industry loads hoppers and gondolas with ballast, rip-rap and other grades of gravel for various uses.


The gravel pit is actually off the layout and accessed by a road that will go from the ramp to the edge of the layout. I have always liked the empties-in and loads-out part of operations. The only way to make it work realistically enough is with removable loads. Time to build some loads!

Removable Loads for Cars
After searching local hobby shops and the internet, I have not been able to find ready to use loads that have the look I want. Then it hit me! The NML uses ballast pulled from the Fergus Gravel pit. The loads should have a similar look also. I created the loads using the most common method that most modelers use. A pink foam base covered with your favorite material. While the one photo below with the load sitting on top of the car shows a lot of pink foam, once it sits down in the car it doesn’t show.



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Layout Update - #12

More Rolling Stock Updates
The fabulous Lee Nicholas of the Utah Colorado & Western layout fame gave a great clinic on weathering cars quickly and easily using various techniques with acrylics and chalks. It was a good learning experience. What I found interesting is that not every car needs to be weathered as if were a contest quality model. Prototype railroad cars are just dirty. Some a little more than others. The idea is to get your rolling stock looking like models of working cars. Not just a bunch of cars fresh from the paint shop. This helps add to the overall realism of your layout. So, here are a couple examples with before and after views.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.



As you can see in these views, the photos on the left are taken with an older camera and the photos on the right are with my new Nikon. A good camera really does make a difference. Both cars received new couplers and metal wheels. While the change is not as drastic as you might expect, a little can go along way to the overall effect.

Time to Toot My Own Horn
To help raise some revenue for the 2013 Wasatch Rails Show put on by the Northern Utah Division of the NMRA, I was asked to create the artwork for a car they could sell. The decision was made to create a refer car for Wasatch Breweries “Polygamy Porter”. I love their slogan, “Why have just one!”. What could be any better to sell here in Utah. After receiving permission from the wonderful people at Wasatch Breweries, I set about to recreate the logo and develop the overall design. Accurail was commissioned to produce 48 kits. I think it came out very nice. All but one of the kits sold prior to show in November. I am sure it won’t be long before the last one is gone.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.


Layout Update - #11

or How I Spent Time While on Vacation
Besides taking the time to update this blog, I planned on some evening modeling activities. Yes, I brought model railroading with me on vacation. It’s kind of like work, you never ever really get completely away from it. It is always there sometimes as a friend and sometimes as reminder of the things that you haven’t yet done. The nice thing about the model railroading hobby is that you can spend as much or as little time you want. It’s always there like an old friend waiting to say hello.

This year for our annual trip to Island Park, Idaho, I packed the tool case and three freight car kits that have been on the to do list for a long time. For the necessity of space and time, I choose three kits that would not require a great deal of work. Simple kits that could be easily assembled in one evening. Additional time will be spent in the future doing the final detail work and weathering. For now they are ready for use on the layout.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.



So you maybe asking yourself why a Louisville & Nashville car for a railroad in the middle of Montana? I have spent a lot of time viewing Milwaukee Road videos to see what types and whose railroads were part of train consists on the the railroad. As I watched the videos, I made notes of these other railroads for future rolling stock purchases. This list is taken with us when we attend shows. So remember, the next time you are out taking a video of a train, video the whole train. Not just the locomotives. In the future someone will be needing to do some research for this era!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Layout Construction - Update #10

Falls Yard Updates
The yard tracks for Falls have been completed. I guess this means that all trackage for the layout is complete. I probably should have some sort of celebration for a golden spike ceremony, but I am just glad the track work is completed. Now it’s time to begin planning some real operating sessions. I do need to run some trains on a regular basis to discover where the flaws in my track work are and make needed repairs.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.


Locomotive Storage Area
Now that operations are ready to begin I needed someplace within easy reach to change out locomotives. Rolling stock is stored in moveable drawers at the far end of the layout. Locomotives were being stored in some additional drawers on the opposite side of the room. A situation that is not very convenient for the person in charge staging trains. To solve this problem I installed small shelves above the staging tracks. This also helps to remind me of  work that needs to be done to some of the locos. Details, DCC decoders, paint, weathering and more are just waiting to done, No more out of sight and out of mind!


Layout Construction - Update #9

Changes to the Helix Entrance and Swing Bridge
Construction of the tunnel portal at the lower helix entrance finally began. This will act as a view block to helix. I decided against building a tunnel liner to allow easier access for derailments. It does kind of ruin the illusion, but easy access sometimes should trump realism.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.


I added ballast and static grass to the swing bridge area. That area will not receive much detail. A few bushes and possibly a small tree or two and maybe some telephone poles. The movement of the bridge will prevent much detail. At least it doesn’t seem so naked anymore.


Layout Construction - Update #8

The Milwaukee Scale House
Scale houses were common at terminal/yard tracks along the Milwaukee mainline. I have not been able to verify if Great Falls had a scale house at Falls yard or elsewhere in the area, I’m sure they must have, just no proof. I do have photo documentation of a scale house next to the yard in Lewistown. Unfortunately there is no room in my Lewistown yard for a scale house. I do however have room on the Farmers Union grain elevator track next to Falls yard on the layout. Walthers has produced a kit with two types of scale houses based on Milwaukee Road designs. The hard work has been completed for me. For now I am using the single track design. In the future I plan on building the scale by-pass track.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Scale House in Lewistown Yard-1978DSC_0072_1


Layout Construction - Update #7

The Cows Are Finally Coming Home


The Northern Montana Line was known for hauling a great deal of wheat and other grain commodities from Montana’s “Golden Triangle”. Up until the mid 1960’s cattle was another commodity that was prevalent on the NML. Even though cattle by rail had stopped during the period that I am modeling on the NML, it is something that I remember well. Growing up along the Milwaukee mainline you would see stock cars in many trains. The photo above was taken from the top of loading gates at the stock yards in Martinsdale, Montana. On the day this photo was taken there were six stock cars waiting to be loaded. The cattle had yet to arrive, so I had free rein of the yards and stock cars. Memories…

My version of the Northern Montana Line will have stock yards located at Denton and Geraldine. Most cattle shipments will be sent to Great Falls where there was large cattle exchange/auction. The Great Northern and Milwaukee supplied cattle to this industry. The cattle pens for Denton and Geraldine will not be to difficult to build. Walthers stock yard kit will produce pens for each town. Stocking these pens with cattle could be expensive. Woodland Scenics makes a nice set of Black Angus cattle. The only problem is out seven pieces only five represent mature cattle for market. While my stock pens are small it would be cost prohibitive to fill with Woodland Scenics sets. Ebay to the rescue! I found company in China that sells a large bag of unpainted cattle for about $25. With a little trimming, paint and time I can fill those stock pens with ease.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

              Tools and supplies ready!                                    Six poses. The horns will have to be trimmed.

                   Ready for painting.                                     The purple cow is in honor of Seth Goddin’s book.

Home made vs. Factory made