Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Moving On Up!

It's been nearly a year since my last significant update and unfortunately I have accomplished nothing of interest during that time. What I have been doing is preparing to put my home on the market which is both exciting and a bit scary.  I'm the kinda guy who would be perfectly happy to "turtle up" in one spot to avoid the dreaded "What if?" that comes with entering the housing market, but the prospects of a larger basement and more comfortable workshop for my many hobbies is just too irresistible to ignore.

What this means for you all is that there will soon be a series of posts appearing here as I document the process of moving my layout from one location to another.  I did originally designed the layout to be moved, but as I measure things now, I'm finding that might actually be easier said than done.  We will soon see and you will be coming along on the journey with me!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Other Hobby

I've been pretty quiet around here for the last few months, the reason being that it is now summer and my other hobby of building and flying FPV RC aircraft has taken over my free time. My workbench is now overflowing with foam wings, servo wires and carbon spars! I do have a few new things completed on my model railroad I have not shown off yet and I owe you all a video on that soon. Until then, you can find me with my head in the clouds!

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Tedious Work of Ballasting

Just a quick update this week. I'm nearly done ballasting my track. I'm now on to that tedious step of cleaning all of the ballast off the top of the ties and off of the rails.

Ballasting is something that takes quite a bit of time for me.  I work at it very slowly ensuring that the application is neat and tidy. (but not too neat and tidy)  I've seen quite a few examples of model railroads who have, frankly, pretty poorly done ballast and it always seems to ruin the effect of realism for me. The problem appears to be that many people tend to rush through the process.  In my mind, trackwork is one of the most important and often most overlooked models on a layout and it's worth the time it takes to get it right.

I'll probably be doing a short tutorial video on preparing and ballasting track sometime in the future to show my technique. It's simple, but it works well for me.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Grass is always Greener...

I spent the weekend laying down grass on a large portion of the layout.  I wanted very nice looking grass and I knew that ground foam was not going to cut it, yet I did not want to spend a ton of money on an expensive static grass applicator. Luckily I discovered a product from Scenic Express called "TuftGRASS".  It is essentially a sheet of larger clumps of static grass affixed to a thin layer of silicone which can be cut and arranged on the layout as desired. I purchased the savannah grass and when it arrived I was surprised to find that it was much greener than expected. Seeing as how I was wanted a look of early, early spring just after the snow had thawed, I really didn't plan on using something that was so predominately green, but I laid it out on the layout and darn it if I didn't like the look!

The secret to TuftGrass isn't actually the tufts themselves, but rather the short areas of lighter colored static grass that surround the tufts.  This stuff does a good job of representing dead (or mostly dead) grass from the previous season.(see bottom photo for more accurate representation of color) I tore the short pieces off the sheet and glued them to the layout in large irregular patches and filled in with the greener tufts to achieve the desired effect. Once that was done, I added brown tufts of silflor to break up the color a bit and hide some of the more visible seams.

The only real downside I see to this product is that at 13 bucks a sheet, it is affordable for a small layout, but anything larger and it gets pricey quick.  You'd probably be better off just bitting the bullet and picking up a static grass applicator at that point.

I'll be adding more variety of grasses in the coming days, but this is a pretty good start!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


This is not good.... Last night I installed CurrentKeepers in my Athearn GP15-1 and GP38-2.  I started with my GP15 first.

Problem #1  The Tsunami board in the model did not match the supplied directions.  I had to do a bunch of searching on the web to finally track down the board model number so I can figure out where to attach the wires. Turns out the board is a TSU GN-1000. This webpage provides an illustration of where the wires need to be soldered: http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/mainnorth/alive.htm

Problem #2 I can't solder apparently. I didn't have an issue soldering track work, but for some reason I could not get the wires to solder to the board at all.  Took me many tries to get it to finally adheir. I tested it on the layout before I attempted to reattach the body and everything worked perfectly! However...

Problem #3 The locomotive comes equipped with headlights, a Mars light and a beacon as well.  These are really cool, but they also mean that there is a mess of wires that won't allow the shell to fit correctly once the CurrentKeeper is installed.  I tried it maybe a half a dozen different ways but no dice.  There is just not enough vertical clearance in the body to make it happen for me.  If I was diligent I could probably re-arrange the wires in such a way that there is enough clearance if not for my last problem...

Problem #4  The screw to the coupler box is stripped and I can't open up the locomotive now.  That's right. When I purchased the locomotive "new" from the online retailer, it came with a partially stripped screw in the coupler box. (along with a handrail that had been broken and glued back into place, but that is a different story) Anyway, that was annoying, but with the right screwdriver and a light touch, I had been able to work around it up to this point. However, last night with the constant assembling, disassembling, rearranging the wires, assembling again, seeing that the body still doesn't quite fit as it should, disassembling again, etc, the screw finally gave up and stripped away completely.

So now I have this locomotive that I can't do anything with. I can't get the body off the frame, I can't close it up completely.  I'm VERY frustrated right now.

By the way, after I ruined my GP15, I installed the second CurrentKeeper in my GP38-2. It went in just fine. No problems at all. Figures.

So, not all is lost.  Truth is I secretly hated that GP15 as it has given me nothing but problems from day 1. Part of me is glad it is gone from my layout. I also think I can spin this into part of the "lore" of the railroad. Something like:

A catastrophic engine failure has placed MFTRs GP15-1 out of commission for the foreseeable future. This comes at a fortuitous time however, as the railroad has seen a decline in rail traffic the past several years. Trains in the Pend Oreille Valley have become shorter in length and less frequent. The extra pulling power has proven to be less economical than beneficial. The crippled GP15-1 now sits at the rail shop in Sandpoint Idaho awaiting it's ultimate fate.