Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Skally Line at the RiverCentre

In the previous post I over-viewed the whole MN FreemoN Layout. I also wanted to talk about the Skally Line. The layout was designed so the Skally could be set up and operated like it is in real life. This helps me see what I need to add or build next. There hopefully will be some video coming in the next few weeks too! First the photos, then the revelations.
Here is another overview shot of the layout, this one is from the opposite corner as the last. You can see where Hinckley branches off just to the right of the closer corner.
Looking from Hinckley South you can see just how straight the Skally is. While that is how it sits in real life, it does makes things a little odd from a modular stability standpoint. I ran out of code 40 track, so the spur to the Hinckley Depot got cut short for now, but it still gives me a spot to park a tank car.
Right now the Hinckley (HIN) interchange track and the Rush City Yard track are one in the same. I will fix that in the month to come.
The North side of the Horizon Mill. While I tried to operate the line realistically, one operator in particular kept bringing incorrect cars to the line. Once we get the car card operations up and running it will take care of that issue.
Looking North at Rush City. This scene is coming together well. I am making progress on the buildings and I have the crossing gates to install for the next show.
Down in North Branch I got some ground cover down, but I didn't make much in the way of structure progress there. Next time I have spare time I may put some ballast down on the green sections. The
As Zinpro is a South facing spur, I had to build a short layout extension so it could be switched out. At only 2 feet long, this kept it so operators had to plan how many tank cars they were going to pull and how they were going to use the buffer car.
So here is my list of revelations:
1) Progress is coming along nicely. All the track work is working well, so that is good.
2) I need to switch Rush City (RUS) over to the keyed switches that are used for turnout control on the rest of the layout. I like the look and feel of them better. Currently RUS is digitally controlled switches. The keyed switches will allow someone with a Utility Throttle to operate the line.
3) I need some separation. I'd like to add a scenic section between HIN and RUS, I have a couple spots in mind, one is a small culvert outside of Beroun.
4) I need to build corners. Not that they are on the Skally, but for stability and options in a future home layout or at shows it will be helpful. A 36 foot long straight peninsula has a little more vibration than I would like.
5) Once I add the extra trackage, the run around track in North Branch will be a must do for operations. I can't be doing shoving moves for 20 feet, I need options.

There were more things, but I think that will cover it for now...

Monday, December 30, 2013

MN FreemoN at the RiverCentre

I am exhausted today. This weekend was the big Choo Choo Bob Train Show at the RiverCentre in Saint Paul. MN FreemoN made its largest layout to date, measuring in at 65' by 35'. I'll get a layout plan posted as soon as I can get it. My rough math puts our main line between 5 and 6 scale miles long.

I want to say it was awesome getting to meet those of you that frequent by blog this weekend. I think it really is the people that make this hobby fun, so thank you all for tracking me down. For those that didn't make it, I'm going to split this topic into a couple of posts. In this one I'll overview the layout we had, the other will be more Skally specific. MN FreemoN is not a "club" per say, we are a small group who build our modules to the FreemoN standard and then bring them together for shows like this.

Here is an overview shot of the layout. I'll start the tour on the module right in front of the camera. That is the coal loop, built by our youngest member, Joe B. It needs a little tuning, but our trains get around it.
Moving down the line we get to one of our anchor yards. Chris K. built Valley Park, based on the UP yard in Shakopee, MN. This yard is great for flat switching, building trains and having meets between trains. It also includes a small engine service are and a couple of industries to switch out.
A short train ride through the countryside brings us to University. Chris also owns this module set. This is the largest Wye on our layout. It also includes the large elevator on the left. This is a great representation of the popular railfanning location in N.E. Minneapolis. It also gives us the ability to have a branch line or just turn engines and trains as we did this weekend. The passing siding here is also a popular spot to plan meets.
Around the bend from University is Imperial Paper. Here there is a small passing siding and a couple of industries to switch out. Imperial Paper gives us plenty of business moving boxcars. As you can see we had a nice mix of freight and passenger service over the weekend. The passenger trains are always a hit with the younger model train fans who like to see things moving briskly down the main lines. The switching action seems to keep the attention of the operations minded model railroaders.
After Imperial Paper you come to my Hinckley, MN module. This weekend it was the junction onto the Skally Line (as it was built to be). I'll show more of the Skally pics in a later blog posting.
The corner brings us to Chris's Bender Grain module. This rural elevator supplies grain in small cuts to the large elevator at University, which in turn supplies wheat trains to the Skally Line.
South of Bender we roll past my old MN Transload module (now owned by Chad S.) an into Oakland California, where Peter K. is recreating (exactly to scale) Jack London Square in a 30+ foot module set. Like the Skally, this is a work in progress. Peter just finished hand laying some #12 crossovers for the ends of the large siding here. This double track section really helps keep traffic moving.
 Here is a shot of a skyway Peter just mocked up.
And here is a close-up of his signals and some of his building work. Each building is being CNC'd in styrene to to an accurate representation of the prototype.
After leaving Oakland, we pass Ted M.'s Beaver Lumber, one of the main lumber customers on the layout this weekend.
The final corner brings you into the Roseville Yard. This gi-normous yard is our other anchor and has 14 tracks of fun that let us hold trains up to (and over) 20 feet in length. Here you can see most of the MN FreemoN crew, well worn from a weekend of running trains. An hour after this picture was taken, the layout would be packed up and out of the RiverCentre.
This is a great bunch and I am glad they let me run with them. The layouts have certainly grown in the couple of years I've been hanging with the crew. If you didn't make it this week, parts of this layout will be on display in Eagan in March, hopefully we'll see you there!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Sorry I haven't been posting more this month. I just finished a big road trip for work, and now Christmas is upon us. We all know what that means, more time on the road, getting caught up with family and all that jazz.

I have been making progress on some projects. The Hinckley modules are ready for the big show next weekend at the River Center in Saint Paul. You can check out more of the details at: http://stpaultrainshow.com/. Our FreemoN group is looking at a layout about 35 feet by 65 feet. It should give us some decent room to spread our wings.

As an offshoot to the FreemoN group, some fellow modelers and myself are starting a DMIR themed set of modules. Earlier this week we built 10 five foot long modules to get the project going. I'll post more details about that as we progress.

The day after that I helped my friend HK with his 6 foot long FreemoN module that will represent Osceola, WI. We were hoping to have it in next weekends show, but the switches didn't arrive in time to pull it off.

I've been working on another locomotive build article. It is coming along nicely, I'll give you a couple teaser shots:
You'll be seeing more of that one later...

In preparation for the train show I also sat down today and speed matched all my engines. It may seem like a small task, but ti was nice to get the JMRI up and running, and to get that done.

On that note, Happy Holidays to everyone! I hope you all enjoy the season and have safe travels of your own!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Skally Track Plan

In preparation for the big show later this month, Peter K. was working on the digital renderings of my Skally modules. He drew up the Skally Line as it will sit in the upcoming event. I will have a small extension off the south end so we can switch out Zinpro, but otherwise it shows what I have built for layout so far. There will be additions coming next year, but I'm pretty happy with what I have so far!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Two Train Day on the Skally!

On Monday I made a run up and down the Skally, I was a little pressed for time, but I had a couple shots I wanted to get. I waited for a bit in Hinckley, but the BNSF Hinckley Local was running behind schedule thanks to a bunch of slow orders on the subdivision. I had enough time to catch the St. Croix Valley bringing todays interchange cars up and putting them on the siding. The clouds broke as ILSX 1345 and 180 came under the Hwy. 61 overpass. These are the higher HP engines on the line and the larger car counts are certainly letting them flex their muscle.
I headed South and got to see a wonderful thing. It was a 2 train day on the Skally! SCXY 1352 and 1363 were switching out Tiller and Zinpro on the south end of the line.It looked like they would have the cut ready to run to Rush City shortly, but I couldn't hang out any longer. I am happy business is going so well on the line.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hinckley Part 4

It has been almost 3 months since I posted any real layout updates. With a little time to spare over the holidays, I'm getting the modules ready for a big show in St.Paul the last weekend in December. I got Hinckley set up in the garage and I went to work. I finished the facia, wired the track (I still have the frogs to wire up, but you know how that goes), got the switch machines in and wired to the keyed switches. I laid a little more track, got some ground cover down and ballasted a little more track.
Here is a shot looking South. The BNSF Hinckley Sub is in the foreground, the Skally is away from the camera. You can see the keyed switches in the not-painted-all-the-way facia. All the ground cover on the closer module went on today.
Here is a little BNSF section house I made. I did paint it after I took this shot. Hopefully tonight I can find my BLMA A/C units and get those installed. I'm also working on some awesome Showcase Miniatures MOW trucks that will be stationed here. Keep an eye out for those in the next week or so.
This is looking North (NE by compass) on the BNSF line. The ballast is still wet in this shot. The track behind the section house is the north end of the Skally Line. I transitioned that to Micro Engineering Code 40 track. That line will terminate at the facia for now. Other than a bone yard, there is a LPG dealer that can take one car. For now I will spot that LPG car toward the edge of the layout.
Here is another shot North. The un-green area will get a road with grade crossing and a gas station. I hope to have more of the smaller details ready by the big show. So you can see progress was made. For the show the Skally Line will be set up as a branch line to the main FreemoN layout. That will let me test out the operations and help me decide what I want to build next.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday at the Bluff

I finally had a little sunshine on a day off, so of course I ran down to Daytons Bluff. Any day at Pigs Eye is a good day. I followed a BNSF Oil Can down the hill. I got set up in time for the DPU, it was BNSF C44-9W #4955.
Waiting to come into the Pigs Eye was CP SD30C-ECO #5005 with DME SD40-3. The look of the new ECOs is growing on me.
I've noticed DME 6095 has some interesting modifications. The blower intakes are patched over and there are some extra louvers at the rear of the long hood. I like it, a lot.
 The BN-UP Transfer came down the hill with some good looking power on it. BNSF SD40-2s #1832 and #1922. These two are still flashing the Cascade Green.
 CP ES44AC #8863 was getting a little tune-up at the shops.
And a special surprise hidden on the BNSF side of Pigs Eye, BNSF GP35u #2639 was working the auto unloading facility. There were 6 tracks full of autoracks in the yard, it looked like it was going to take a little time to sort it all out!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Feeling Depressed?

I'm not, but I caught a couple of big depressed center cars recently. The smaller car (only a 12 axle) was hauling a transformer through St. Paul, MN.
The larger 16 axle car, KRL 16801, is a pretty new car, designed to haul up to 810,000 lbs! It was waiting at the Rice's Point Yard in Duluth. I'm guessing a large load is inbound by ship to the Port of Duluth.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Little Oversized Work

Recently I was asked to build an HO scale SD70M for a UP engineer. I will say this scale is very different to work in than my usual N Scale. The project was a challenge, but I think it turned out well.
This was the engine that the engineer had certified in, I started with an Athearn unit, redid the roof details, added cab shades and mirrors, renumbered the engine and weathered it to look like the prototype.
It was fun, but I won't be switching scales any time soon.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Little Buffer Zone

The Skally Line brings HCl to one of its customers. These tank cars are hazmat and need to be handled carefully, which involves using a "buffer car" to separate the cars from the engine. Today out on the Skally I found SCXY 1363 making a run south to Zinpro with a single tank car to drop off. The buffer car of choice was one of the new BNSF "Heritage Hoppers", this one with the BN logo.
The BNSF Trinity hopper is an Intermountain hopper I stripped, repainted and decaled using a couple different Micro Scale decal sets. I have an undecorated Trinity hopper on it's way. I plan on making that into one of the BNSF NP Heritage hoppers (If anyone knows what their road #'s are that would be a huge help, thanks!).
The tank car was an undecorated body I picked up off ebay. I used a Gold Medal Modals detailing set for all the etched metal parts you see attached to the car. I replaced the brake cylinder with one from a Red Caboose covered hopper. Then I painted the car Polly Scale Reefer white and decaled with a few different sets from MS again.
I needed several of these cars to fill out the amount I need to switch out Zinpro in North Branch. To get the Athearn version of this car was costing more than $30 a car. I was able to build this one for about $10. The detail level is better and I can say I made it myself. I have 3 more of these I need to finish painting and decaling, but I wanted to get one done to see how it would look.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Welcome ILSX 180!

The Skally Line is booming, so another engine was in order. I heard ILSX 180 was in transit from the ILS shops in Holt about a month ago. I waited patiently and then estimated an arrival in Rush City I figured the 29th of October would be a safe bet. As I passed the stored cars in North Branch I noticed some movement. SCXY 1352 and 1363 with ILSX 1345 sandwiched were pushing a large cut of cars south. It was nice to see the three amigos working together.
Once in Rush City, ILSX GP38AC #180 was waiting. The weather was overcast with snow flurries. I grabbed a bunch of detail photos (you know I have to build it in N Scale now, I already have all the parts, I just need the paint). An ILS mechanic was prepping the engine and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, thanks Terry! But my scenic shots would have to wait.
Flash forward to today. Heading south from Rock Creek, I caught up with ILSX 1345 and 180 heading north to interchange with BNSF in Hinckley.
I ran ahead to Rock Creek and grabbed some shots in one of my favorite spots.
The lighting was much better today as the two approached the bridge.
SCXY 1363 was sitting idle today in Rush City. This well worked engine has earned a little break.
SCXY 1352 was sitting down at Tiller, waiting to pull sand North. Eventually there will be two engines stationed here for sand power and two in Rush City for flour power. It's a good time to be a Skally fan.