Friday, July 17, 2015

Reality Check Friday

Railfanning in Vegas is... different. Around town there are some great spots around town. South of town there is one of the coolest spots, Sloan. The old tunnel has been abandoned in favor of the new cut through the side of the hill here. Because of the grade, the trains are easy to pace.
South of Sloan is Erie. This passing siding provides a long trailing or approach shot. Here is looking South at the departing Ringling Brothers Red Circus Train (I saw an elephant).
Looking North at Sloan is a great banked corner with desert landscape all around. I was standing on the shoulder of Las Vegas Blvd. when I took both the Erie shots.
This is Aware country. His tags are everywhere from here to L.A.. I've seen some great shots and am looking forward to more.
Arden Yard: Home of the Vegas SD40Ns. These SD40-2 rebuilds are everywhere and pull all the locals in town. Maybe someday they'll try some more creative paint schemes.
This last shot is how I often see Vegas. This shot summed it up well. It's open, airy and a little on the dirty side. One of the Locals was heading North on Monday. The crew gave a friendly shot with the airhorn, that helped.
Vegas is more than the casinos and the lights. It has many faces, and there is one that will match whatever mood you are in, you just have to know where to look.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Skally Changes

It was so nice when I was a half hour south of the Skally, but now it would take me a three hour plane ride to get there. Google finally updated the satellite maps and Rush City was as I had seen it last, just more complete. I was there as the engine house was being built. An old NP well had been found and was being capped on the day I was there last. So there wasn't much for surprises there. The Ardent Mill (new name as of last year) look the same as ever, with the new engine house and speeder shed in this picture. This picture has north to the left.
The surprise came on the south end of Rush City. My friend HK had asked me about a siding south of town and I thought he meant the tiny spur to Federated Coop. I couldn't have been more wrong. There is a new passing siding (2400 feet long I'm guessing) with a long passing siding (2000' maybe) turning West to the south end of the commercial park. There is a crossover so the siding can be accessed from the main. Interstate Energy will be building a new propane transfer station on this site. Propane will come in by rail and be shipped out by truck. This photo is orientated with North at the top.
I am planning a trip back to MN next year, but I'm not that patient to see what's going to be built.

Friday, July 10, 2015

MILW GP20s and GP40

I bet you didn't know the Milwaukee Road used to have trackage rights over the Skally Line. It is true! I can only image what it would have been like to watch MILW rebuilds slam the Hinckley diamond back in the day.
I just finished a few units for a friend and I thought I would post some pics on here for everyone to see. For the GP20's (MILW 981 and 957) I modified two Atlas GP9s by chopping the noses, adding etched grills and a whole slew of other details. The drop steps were removed and the solid handrails were built for the ends.
I have scratch built the Horst Air filters for other engines, but I chose to use some that I found on Shapeways. They aren't cheap, but they saved me some time. These GP20 took more than a little research as the great MILW had no consistency from engine to engine. I think that made these even more fun. I had fun creating the rusted fuel tank on MILW 957. It's these details that really appeal to me.
The GP40 (MILW 2058) was detailed out, getting the same handrail treatment as the GP20s and then it was weathered to look like it did in the Mid-80's. It was starting to rust and plenty faded by then. The shortened fuel tank was another MILW feature added to this unit.
I hope these serve my friend well!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Turning A Corner

I did it, I made the first 90 degree corner. This will allow my to hook all the Skally Modules together in my train room (garage). This corner has FreemoN compliant trackage, so it will also work for me at shows. This one will go between Tiller (North Branch) and Rush City. It is a 22" radius, with 4" of straight track on each end. I built the benchwork and set the landforms one day, laid and painted the track, added the fascia and applied the ground foam on day 2 and ballasted on day 3. All I have to do underneath is build the legs and add the bus line wiring. Up top I need to add static grass and trees. Life is easy when you don't have switches to worry about. 43" more mainline are good to go.
I raided the hill about 3/4" at the back of the module and lowered it 1/4" at the front. The hill will have trees and i will use a short static grass up front. This should give me a good photo backdrop for roster shots.
I will build one more 22" corner to match this one and then I will build one larger (30" or so) corner to connect to the future North Branch Peterson Mill module set I'm planning. It's not much, but it is progress. I'll post more pics once I plant trees.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Silicon Valley FreemoN at NSE

I had the great pleasure at NSE of hanging out with and running trains with the Silicon Valley FreemoN and Sacramento FreemoN groups. I had been planning on brining a couple of modules, but the space they were given at the show was pretty limited, so I will take the Skally Line to NorCal next time. A special thanks to Steve, Ryan, Rick, Spuds, Eric, Lawrence and the rest of the crew. A fantastic group all around.
 From Lockhart, Texas with it's cool operating crossing gates to Wye Knot, the layout looked great.
My eldest sister should get a kick out of the construction site by the CalTrans Station. Cool mirrored buildings!
 Passenger trains ruled the day, but there was a fair amount of freight traffic too.
The scenes varied from scenic to urban and they all flowed well together.
 I wish my photos did the layout justice.
Again: thanks to the FreemoN guys for the great hospitality. I'm looking forward to meeting with them all next time. Check them out at or search for them on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Anything you can do I can do better.

Well, not me, but Trainworx sure is on fire with some new releases. I just got back from the National N Scale Enthusiast Convention in Sacramento, California, where I got to meet up with the Silicon Valley FreemoN group (great bunch of guys, more on them in my next post), as well as a host of other people I have been in communication with for a while, among the notable mentions: Rick and Marshall from Modutrak, Kirk Reddie and Sandy Smith from N Scale Railroading, Mike Fifer of Fifer Hobby and Matt G. from FVM. I could go on and on, the people made the event worthwhile.

I did make sure to stop and visit Pat Sanders from Trainworx at the show. Pat makes some of my favorite detail parts and I had to get one of his new semis before he sold out. I also picked up some more parts. Pat is raising the bar. When I got home I actually tore a plow off of a GP40 I am working on, just so I could replace it with the new Trainworx 179-1 weed cutter. Here is why:
You can see the Sunrise weedcutter I had on there. It is huge compared to the more accurate Trainwork version. Score one for Trainworx!
Now my semi comparison: There hasn't been a whole lot as far as modern trucks go in N Scale. Trainworx is changing that in a hurry. I picked up the most generic of the first run trucks. I wanted to use it as a wheat hauler on my layout. I'm glad I did. I'm going to compare it to a couple of trucks I had already. Here it is with a Shapeways semi:
You can see the Trainworx is far superior in every way. First off, it comes finished. The grey truck I picked up finished, and it was ok, you can see the details on the new truck make it look like a toy. The Trainworx truck even has lenses on the front lights and a steering wheel.
The paint on the Trainworx semi is crisp and sharp, even the mudflaps came decorated.
This was a detail I was not expecting, the TW Kenworth W900 has a detailed engine compartment. This makes it useful for a variety of scene options: maintenance at the shop, broken down on the side of the road, or just getting checked over by the driver pre-trip.
Here you see the W900 next to my Kato semi, which I upgraded with some decals. The Swift truck seems lacking now, I'll have to go back and upgrade it.
I posted on Facebook some of the trucks that are coming out soon. The next truck is a Peterbilt 379 with a livestock trailer: I am looking forward to it. These trucks will add to the scene and really help set the location for the Skally in farm country.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

More Skally Progress

I've been focusing my time on some engine builds. I've almost wrapped up the SD60F, I'm just waiting to get the decoder back from MRC (small headlight issue). While I was waiting I did add another detail to it, you may get to see that in an upcoming N Scale Railroading Article. I have also been working on some MILW GP20's that I am hoping to post pictures of when I get my next weekend.

Thinking I was going to be taking my Hinckley modules to Sacramento for the N Scale Enthusiast Convention, I have been spending a little time on them every day. As it turns out, there wasn't room for me, which may be a good thing for my time management right now.

I brought the 3 modules (yes, Hinckley grew by one module) out into the fresh air to check to see how they fit together.
The new South HIN module (old North end of Rush City) is re-ballasted and both tracks line right up to the Center HIN module.
Here is the Hwy 61 bridge over the Skally. I was primering some engines so I shot it with the same paint. Piers and bridge abutments are coming soon.
The fitment issue I ended up with was the joint between the Center and North HIN modules. It looks like I will have to do some work on the left side near rail. It broke loose from the PCB ties. The humidity and temperature differences between Nevada and MN took their toll. I don't think the movers were very gentle along the way either.
Looking down from above the old NP main line you can see the completed Skally Main Line and Interchange Track. Now that I know they fit I will finish the ballasting on the Center module. Then I will redo the ground cover and plant about 400 trees.
On the North Side of the North module I made the track that runs to the small BNSF MOW yard and to Federated Gas, which is served by the Skally. I was thinking of modeling the yard and Hinckley Depot that direction, but I am probably just going to run the track to the module edge and drop LPG cars behind the section house.
It's not much, but it's progress. I'll get the newly discovered problems fixed and be back to new stuff soon. Maybe next time I'll have one of my corners ready to show you!