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Category: Structures and Scenery

Kimberton 2016 Meet “Report”

I’ve just returned home from this year’s Mid-Atlantic Narrow Gauge Guild Module Meet (affectionately know as “Kimberton”), and thought some of you might want to know how the meet went. I enjoyed seeing many long-time friends, and shooting the breeze, both at the fairgrounds and on the porch at the French Creek Inn.

Attendance was down a little over last year, which was disappointing, and most dealers reported slow sales. As usual, since I go into a show with no expectations, I consider that I did quite well — I was able to go to the show and sell or barter off a number of items that I’ll never use, come home with a few items of higher value that I will use, and also bring home the same amount of cash I left with. Aces!

Wes White Spends Money!I didn’t take any pictures at the show — except for capturing this rare occurrence:

For those who are not sure what you’re looking at, I can understand. It’s something most people have never seen. It’s a rare sighting of Wes White spending money at a train show. Even I, The On30 Guy™, have only witnessed this three times in the past 16 years. Do notice, though, how tight a grip he still has on the cash!

2016-05-22 17.09.11In another news flash, the French Creek Inn has remodeled, and also increased the number of non-smoking rooms available in the process. The new decor borders on swank! They did, however, retain the strange, square toilets, and internet access there is still pretty bad.

I mentioned above that I picked up a couple of items at the show, both of which will find homes on the layout. First, I acquired another structure from the bench of Al Judy. This building will mostly finish out the collection of structures for a small town in a corner of the layout.


The arrangement features three structures built by Al — a “general store”, a re-purposed sawmill structure, and this new business (I’m not quite sure what it’s going to be just yet). With all the buildings built by Al here, I’m thinking this town may get the name “AJ’s Corner”. The town still needs a structure or two between the tracks and the wall. I’m thinking that they’ll be low-relief buildings, probably the backs of one or two residences (Al, are you reading this?), and I’ll need to add a loading dock or shed to the back of the general store building.

As part of the same deal with Al, I picked up an old Madruga Model Works kit for an SR&RL flanger. It’s designed to be an On2 kit, so it will require a little modification for On30. As with a number of the kits I’ve picked up recently, it’s anything but a “shake-the-box” kit. It’s not even a laser-cut kit.2016-05-22 17.49.09 “Box of sticks” is a more apt description. But, it will make a perfect companion to the much-more-recently-released Portland Locomotive Works snow plow on the MOW track in Corinna.

One thing I’m struggling with is what to do with a couple of high end HO-scale kits. These were expensive, Micro-Scale Models craftsman kits, that build into beautiful models. I’ve got them priced very fairly, and yet I’ve been dragging them around from show to shows for at least fifteen years now. I really can’t believe that no one wants them. I’ve snapped some pictures of the box labels, which you can see below. If any of these look interesting to you, contact me. The prices are what I’ve been asking (all are discounted, some significantly), and some may be a pain to ship, but I’m sure something can be worked out.

True Scene Trials … and Tribulations

A few years ago, I wrote about a scenery product called True Scene. To re-cap, it’s a fibrous material that you mix with water and slather on your layout to give some scenic form and as a base coat for your scenery. This past weekend, I decided to give it a try, as I have a module that needed to be sceniced quickly, for a train show this coming weekend.

module temp

After mixing and coloring the True Scene material per the instructions, I applied the material to the module, and followed it up with my base coat of scenic materials. In the photo above, it’s the right-most section — where the track isn’t ballasted, and all along the back edge.

The True Scene folks say that it takes 24 hours for the material to dry. I finished up on scenery yesterday about 3PM, and so I would expect that by 6:30 this morning, there should be some change in the consistency of the “batter.” However, that is not the case. It still feels just as gooey as it did when I spread it out yesterday. As we know from the past, I’m not the most patient fellow when trying out new things (remember my experiences with Woodland Scenics’ water products?). Although heavier, hydrocal or spackle or Cell-u-clay or any number of other materials would have been fully set up by now, and I’m kinda wishing I’d gone with a known quantity on this.

At this point, I’m hoping against hope that I won’t have to scrape all this stuff off the module and start over when I get home, as I frankly don’t have the time. I still have two other big projects for the show that I need to complete before departing for the show on Thursday morning — converting a Bachmann On30 Davenport to battery operation, and a new 1-hour presentation on Dead Rail.

Return of Ol’ No. 5


Corinna &Searsport 0-4-4 Forney #5 was returned to service today, and is shown here already back at work shifting cars in Corinna.

I went to Steve Sherrill’s annual mini-meet today, and picked up #5 from Les Davis. Once again, Les has done a superb job of painting and weathering. Also shown here is a quickie composite of part of a background from Trackside Scenery. I got to see one of these backgrounds installed on Steve Sherrill’s layout to day, and they’re fabulous. Joey at Trackside Scenery can do a fair amount of customization of his backgrounds, and I’m thinking that they could be just the right thing for some or all of the layout.

Considering Photo Backgrounds

As you’ve seen from the photographs of the layout so far, I’ve still not done anything about backgrounds. And for good reason. I’m a horrible painter. I’ve also commented in the past that I’m not necessarily fond of photo backgrounds. However, I’ve stumbled across a supplier with what looks to be a really nice product.


A page from the SceniKing catalog site. These four scenes can be connected end-to-end to create a background that's up to 41 feet long!
A page from the SceniKing catalog site. These four scenes can be connected end-to-end to create a background that’s up to 41 feet long!

SceniKing has a range of rolled backgrounds that are made to go together in various ways to form seamless backgrounds that are really long — examples in their catalog are as long as 55 feet!

While they’re not cheap, they’re certainly worth a look. They’ve got a set that looks like it will be just right to try stretching from the south end of Plymouth all the way through to Corinna.


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Growing the Corinna Mill

In a previous post, I gave a hint about what the mill at Corinna Mill would look like. The structure is based on two MTH Granary buildings, butted together. Today, I got up the nerve to cut into a pair of $65 buildings to see if what was in my mind’s eye would actually work — this would either be great, or a $130 disaster!

IMAG0218I started by completely disassembling the “right” half of the mill, removing all the detail parts from the sections that wouldn’t be used or seen in the completed model, and saving them for use in later projects. There are only a few major parts to the building. I was surprised by how much was molded as a single piece — the tooling for this building must have cost a fortune! For instance, the part in the foreground is, except for windows, doors and electrical bits, a single part.

IMAG0219I started each of the cuts by scribing a line with a square and a sharp hobby knife. After several passes with the knife to act as a guide, I switched to my trusty Dremel tool with a large fiberglass cutting disk to hack the end off the building. I had to cut into the end at an angle to avoid damaging the parts of the building I wanted to keep. The interior supporting structure was eventually cut away with a rail nipper.


In the shot here, I’m working on the top part of the building — also a single molded part.

The roof panels were marked and cut similarly. Once all the cuts were made, I snapped off any melted plastic globs, and sanded everything smooth using a large sanding block/foam shaper from Berrett Hill Trains. Then, I reassembled what was left of the first building.


The left half of the mill didn’t require such drastic cutting, as I wanted to leave the end wall in place to use as a support for the roof. It did still require a complete disassembly, to remove and cut the roof panels flush with the end wall. I also needed to sand the edges of the building smooth where the two buildings would be glued together.

IMAG0223The result of the project is shown above. I still need to do the final work on the seams in the roof. The joint in the stone wall is almost perfect, and will pretty much disappear when I repaint and weather the structure.

Obviously, the loading dock also still needs to be added. I had originally thought that a large wooden platform was in order, but the more I look at the buildling, the more I think a poured concrete affair would be more appropriate.


To get an idea of the size of the finished structure, here’s #4 pushing a 30-foot boxcar into the siding, and a view from the far end of Corinna yard, looking back at the mill.


This is gonna look really great once there’s a background in place!


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Various Updates

Again, it’s been some time since I last posted. It’s been busy, and there’s not been a huge amount of time for actually working on the layout or playing with model trains. Which is a bummer.

With that said, I’ve been busy with a couple of projects.

Cool Controls for Turnouts

First, I’ve been working with Kevin at Berrett Hill on a new system for turnout control. The goal was to replace the toggle switch with something easy to install, wire and configure. It’s very cool, and the first phase of products is available now, for folks using Tortoise and other 12V stall-motor switch motors. Next up will be a control board for people like me who use servo motors. Also on the way are versions for twin-coil switch motors. Keep an eye on the Berrett Hill web site for information.

The Bridge at Mount Harris — Common Hill

I finally got around to ordering a bridge for the end of the peninsula. Hunter Line sell an 81′ trestle, and while the kit is for a straight trestle, I have been assured that it can also be built on a curve. The S-scale version is appropriately sized for On30 (or On2 or On3, for that matter). I should get it some time next week, and will start on construction pretty quickly.

Modules and DCC

After the last couple of train shows, I came to the conclusion that if I never setup another modular layout, it would be too soon. I think it’s mostly because of late, there have only been two of us around for setup and tear down. Really, it’s just too much. Subsequently, I no longer have a “portable” DCC/programming system. My NCE Powerhouse Pro system is now permanently installed over my loco and rolling stock bench, along with a nicer Dell computer system for decoder setups and programming. I’ll have a programming/test track there as well.

For the layout itself, I have a pair of Digitrax DB150 boosters that, in “dumb booster” mode work fine with the NCE command station. And, while I’ll certainly be running a throttle buss out for NCE cabs, I’ll also be taking full advantage of the capabilities of J/MRI to allow people with smartphones to operate the layout. There are two ways to accomplish this — there are Android and iOS apps available for free or cheap. For those who don’t wish to install the apps, I can define custom web-based throttles for each locomotive. Slick.

More DCC — Sound Decision

I also decided that, going forward, all new locomotive sound installations are going to use ESU/LokSound decoders. There are several reasons behind this move, which include great sound quality, excellent pricing and a great feature set.

Some of the key benefits to the LokSound decoders are that the sound set can be changed. For instance, today I ordered two of their Select Micro decoders. One is a generic small steam loco set, and the other is for a diesel using an Alco 6-cylinder prime mover. The steam sounds will be fine as-is, but I know that I’ll probably want to use a “Galloping Goose” sound set in the other one when it becomes available for the new series of decoders. When the time comes, I’ll buy their programmer (or borrow a friend’s) and download the sound file.

In addition to changing out sounds, I can “roll my own,” if I want to. That includes things like changing out the whistles for recordings of the exact whistle from a prototype engine, if I want. I know full well that’s not exactly trivial, but having done that kind of work for several years, I got pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.

Another advantage is that there is no modification required if I want to add “keep alive” electronics. A keep alive will keep the engine moving and making sound over dirty track and dead switch frogs. Unlike Soundtraxx, ESU provide handy solder pads on the decoder circuit board to ease the task.

New Passenger Equipment

At the recent Mid-Hudson On30 Meet, I picked up a new passenger car shell kit for the railroad. The Mount Blue Model Company has issued a few new kits recently, including this really nice RPO designed to fit on a Bachmann coach chassis. They also have a “private” parlor car kit that I wish I had picked up, but I thought I was running a little short of cash. I’ll probably order the parlor car in the next couple of months.

“New” Addition to the C&S Locomotive Fleet

I’ve been waffling about adding one more locomotive to the C&S roster, and after a little more soul-searching (and a little drooling) at the Bunker Hill Model Train Club show last weekend, I finally decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on that project.

I have had sitting around a Bachmann outside-frame 4-4-0 for some time. It’s a Mexican prototype, and as such, has an overly-tall cab profile. It’s a neat loco, but I have no idea why I bought the thing (except that it’s a neat loco). Anyway, some time ago, I saw pictures on the web of a model modified by Don Mason (I think it was) that had much more of a “Maine look.” The gist of the conversion was moving the cab back about 1/2″ and lowering it by a bit over 1/4″. Since then, Alan Carroll has been making similar models for sale through John Weigel’s Peterboro Railroad. John had one at the recent shows, and I had a good chance to look at it (and also, to talk to Alan at the Mid-Hudson meet). I decided that this would be a pretty easy conversion. I already have many of the parts on hand, so it’s mostly a matter making the time to do it.

So, that’s about it for now. As we settle into late fall and winter, I’m hoping that there will be more time for modeling — and more regular updates here.

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