Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Michigan Interstate Railroad.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mid December Update

Well it has been a "few" weeks since my last post. No doubt this time of the year 
is the busiest with the holidays and when you add in a vacation, time speeds up 
very quickly. Getting the layout prepared for the operating weekend can take a toll 
on you, especially when there is a big project in progress that requires completion 
for the session. Case in point the ABS Signal system install which began planning in June and ultimately wrapped up the week prior to the Interchange. It is always good to take a break, step back from your work, celebrate the accomplishments, and refocus for the next project. There is no need to get burned out on something that is a hobby... 

Anyways my break is over and I want to share some inspiring photos from my vacation and show what I have been up to the past few weeks with the St. Clair Sub. 

One of the most enjoyable things about Walt Disney World besides the fantastic 
family time is how the Disney Company has done a great job capturing Walt Disney's love of trains and how it is reflected around the property. Any modeler who needs inspiration should have no trouble getting a jolt from visiting the Parks and Resorts. 

Magic Kingdom:

Main Street USA Station @ The Magic Kingdom in full Christmas decor

Roger E. Broggie @ Fantasyland Station (Daytime)

Roger E. Broggie @ Fantasyland Station (Nighttime)

Roy O. Disney @ Fantasyland Station (Nighttime)

Absolutely the best themed bathrooms on property are in Fantasyland adjacent to the Station. They are themed like a three stall roundhouse in reference to the Casey Jr. train from Dumbo. 


My little boy absolutely loves the G scale garden railroad at the Germany Pavilion. 

I have posted many photos of this setup before, but it never gets old as there is 
always change / updates happening to the trains running, scenery, and structures. 

Hollywood Studios:
While there is not alot of railroad or train related items at Hollywood Studios I did want to focus on inspiration and ways to help immerse our visitors and operators more into the scenes we strive so hard to create. Case in point this photo of a large soundstage at this years Jingle Bell - Jingle Bam celebration. 

What I want you to notice is projections being cast onto the building.... It is falling snow that occasionally will blow around when the wind blows in live person. Additionally you can see the snow is beginning to pile up on building ledges. Remember this is a projection, but Disney does a great job immersing us and tricks our senses to think it is snowing in Central Florida. Obviously they have a large budget and cutting edge technology but this makes me think about the new Lightning / Thunder effect system released by Broadway Limited. Another example was while we rode "Living With The Land" boat ride at Epcot's The Land Pavilion. During the ride there is a scene with lighting and thunder. I told my wife - "yea we can do that on the layout" and it really peaked her interest. Immersing our guests / operators even deeper in the scene whether it be night operations with blue rope lights or lightning/thunder effects is another layer to our story. I believe we have just dipped our toe into deeper scene immersion. Not to mention the projector technology used for Christmas lights on homes and the show at Hollywood Studios could usher in really neat concepts like stars, fireworks, or weather effects on our backdrops and even trees / buildings in the scene. 

Just some thoughts from a guy re-inspired..... Anyone with me on this?

Working with Kevin Klettke (Washington Northern Railroad - and Dean Ferris we resurrected the logo of Graystone Cement out of Grays Harbor, WA. In doing so a new backstory was created for the company. Long story short Kevin did a fantastic job creating the logo and printing on adhesive film for use on buildings, equipment, and railcars. While it is not water slide decal thin, the setup is perfect for intended uses. 

Graystone recently established a terminal at Bay City for water/rail/truck operations. This terminal will allow the company to expand their footprint in the Great Lakes region. For this growth, new Trinity 3281 cubic hoppers were setup on lease from GE Capital. MAC Rail Services recently installed the newly printed logo plates onsite at Bay City. Decals for the NRLX marks are still on order at time of press.  

Over the weekend I completed install of a TCS WOW121 kit in a friends Atlas GP40.

Replacing the factory board with the motherboard and soldering all wires to it really makes sound install a snap. If only all of the manufacturers created their 21 pin decoders and boards to allow interchangeability.... Along with using all TCS sound products I also gave their SME LED's a try with good success

Photo above shows the motherboard installed in place of the factory board. Once the 
power pickup, motor, speaker, and lights are soldered to this board it is a matter or re-assembly and testing. TCS has a very well done website with install photos step by step and information/support for their products. Not to mention that for $129.95 MSRP getting a motherboard/keep-alive, decoder, and speaker as a kit is a very good deal. One vendor I use often for DCC supplies (Mountain SubdivisonHobbies), offered the kit fior $98.95, so even more savings for you the modeler. Shop around with competition in the sound market we have great choices and competitive prices.

Had a railfan send me photos of MCIS ortner and greenville hoppers on the Virginia Midland Railroad. 

This set of cars had been shopped at VMS for the upcoming aggregate season. We expect 2017 to be a big year for rock trains on the MCIS and we are preparing the fleet to meet our customers demand. Not only will webe handling rock for construction projects, but also handling rock for new power plant emission scrubbers. The cars got new doors, grab irons, FRA reflectors, and re-patched markings as necessary. Great work by the VMS team! The cars should be on home rails to make a nice homecoming in the Late December Update. 

The ortner fleet (100 cars) is mostly second hand with just a small fraction of the 
fleet actually in MCIS paint. Most of the cars are patched up from their 
former owners Wisconsin Central, CSXT, and Florida East Coast. 

Our greenville fleet (50 cars) is roughly half new builds in MCIS grey and half 
secondhand purchased from Wisconsin Central.

So as you can see a little vacation from the layout was needed and now back in the 
modeling groove.  On my list to Santa I had asked for the Tsunami2 PNP EMD Diesel 
decoder for my SD45-2 repower to SD40-3 installs. We will have to see if I get my wish or a lump of coal.... But even if its coal, I can crush it up for hopper loads.

I hope everyone has the opportunity to spend time with family and friends this holiday season. Don't forget to spend some time at the workbench or on the layout. 

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! 


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Take time today to give thanks and spend time with family and friends. I am thankful for you the reader.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Early November Update

Happy Election Day! Just like that October is behind us and we are running full tilt towards the holiday season starting with Thanksgiving.

This past week things have been the quietest on the layout in probably six months. After the Lone Star Region Ops session in June, I began the ABS signal project which is now 80% complete, followed by hosting two sessions at the 2016 DFW Interchange. Sometimes a little break is nice before getttig back to the layout. That being said let's look at the Ops Weekend, Industry Changes, and future posts.

Z-BKPH-28 departing Bay City after making crew change

DFW Interchange Weekend
On October 29th I hosted both am and pm operating sessions during the operating weekend. The layout operated very well during both sessions with only five railcars going bad order. I was honored to host guest operators from Houston, Austin, Dallas, Tulsa, and Kentucky. That evening everyone had a chance to meet up and have a group dinner at Uncle Bucks in Grapevine. I put together some quick stats of the days operation: 

Operators Hosted: 10 (5 am session, 5 pm session)

Trains Handled: 25 
Car Movements: 263
Bad Orders: 5 (Tight Trucks mostly)
Operating Hours: 6 hours, 15 minutes 
Donuts Eaten: 5

Provided are a few photos from the day with commentary. Thank you to all who participated and operated on the Michigan Interstate St. Clair Sub. 

Y-BA04-29 pulling across Saginaw River to clear switch to River Spur

L-PBBA-28 awaiting authority to take West Wye Switch and proceed to Bay City

Inbound M-PHBA-29 on Yard 1 to classify. In the photo you can see four sugar beet loads
RCL Operator on front platform of MCIS MP15DC #153 at Bay Yard. 

Every type of boxcar in modern era is pretty much in this photo at Bay Yard

West end of Bay Yard - Sugar Beet harvest is in full swing no doubt

Y-BA04-29 spotting two loads of Bitumen at Interstate Asphalt

Towards the end of the afternoon session we had enough traffic for Michigan Sugar at Grays Lake that we ended up running an extra L-BAUH-30. In this photo we can see the inbound traffic shoving into the plant storage tracks.

Industry Changes
Always looking to continually improve the layout, a few industries will have their locations changed. 

Bay City Station
The history of this location has been altered and the station no longer existed here. The station from its construction has been located on the mainline at Grays Lake. Accompanying the move is a neat history that we can explore along with providing a great architectural add to the downtown of Grays Lake. The location clicked almost instantly and where I placed it was actually a coincidence while I was working on the lower deck. Imagine that....
Grays Lake station looking west

Grays Lake Station looking east
View of station from an eastbound train. The station adds alot of character to this scene,

GEM Bakeries
The bakery has moved from the River Spur (West Switching Zone) to the Elevator Spur (Central Switching Zone) located where the Bay City Station was located. This new location will allow for a facility that will located on the edge of layout while providing three car spots for flour, sugar, and corn syrup unloading. I plan to cut in the switch and industry track over the Christmas holiday
Bakery adjacent to MAC Bay City Terminal

Graystone Cement 
In place of where GEM Bakeries had been located will be Graystone Cement's Bay City Terminal. This cement distribution terminal will receive inbound lake freighters of cement from Graystone's Superior, Wisconsin Plant. From here the cement will be stored then transferred to outbound railcars or trucks for delivery to batch plants / smaller distribution facilities. Using photos, a lake freighter will be added to the backdrop behind the terminal. Base model will come from the Walthers Medusa Cement kit. Ever since a kid I have loved the look of this kit, glad I will have the opportunity to add one on the St. Clair Sub. A single track will serve the plant allowing for 3 cars to be stored at one time for loading. 

Having a little fun clearing the lot before silos went in... 

Stand in silos for Graystone Cement. A simple print out of a lake freighter was used to get a sense of the scene.
Overall the changes in industries will net an extra 6 to 10 car movements per session in the form of GEM Bakeries gaining two extra car spots, and adding Graystone's new four car track.

Tank cars for Interstate Asphalt
A friend in Virginia snapped photos of three Interstate Asphalt cars coming out of VMID after receiving new markings and tank maintenance. The railcars were waybilled empty to Bay City for loading. Those cars sure look fantastic!

Steady progress is key.... it may not be alot but it is still progress. Always remember to continue moving forward with your hobby no matter how large or small the gain is.

Have a safe month.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Here's to the Weekend

While staging the layout for this weekend, snapped a great photo of the M-PHBA-27 between Gerhard and Grays Lake.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Late October Update

There has been a flurry of activity on the layout with the approaching DFW Interchange this weekend. Let's take a quick look at the projects that will be enjoyed by the operators.

With progress on the sugar beet plant at Upper Huron, I realized an important LOC (layout operations characteristic) would be modeling the sugar beet campaign and the traffic that comes with it. In building the layout I captured an important LDE (layout design element) with the processing plant. The beet season known as a "Campaign" starts in mid-late August which is the timeframe I model. Like the Huron & Eastern Railway which hauls beets from the thumb to Bay City in large cubic hoppers, the MCIS was going to do the same thing but selectively compressed.

Using the existing fleet of MCTR/MCIs marked bethlehem 3 bay hopers, a portion were removed from Illinois Basin coal service and cleaned. The plant will still burn coal for sometime but will lease RDL 5 door type hoppers which are readily available. The HESR prototype uses large former coke / woodchip GMO cars but we are going to compress with a 3 bay hopper. Saves track space but gives us the feel of beet hauling.

Back to our beet loads, let take a look at how I created them quite easily in just two days.

My base is plaster coal loads, the ones that need some work to look like a load.

We will use Modelmaster Light Earth and a Rustoleum almond colors to paint the loads.

        Generous base coat of Almond 

               Dusting of Light Earth

Overcoat dusting of Almond to tone it down. I then allow these to dry overnight in a well ventilated area. The porous loads soak up the paint quickly.

With the loads dry I then apply a generous coating of white glue then followed by sprinkling of Fenugreek seeds. Use a pan so you can collect the extra seeds not used. I also set the loads on foam or cork risers to keep them off the pan while being worked on. After an hour of letting the glue setup I then drizzle scenic cement over the loads to secure any loose seeds on top. Let dry overnight, it is ok if the beers are piled high as they would be in the prototype short haul move. 

     Loads drying post scenic cement 

    Finished loads dry ready for ops

Finished load ready for delivery to the processing plant. The loads are removable for load / empty flipping between sessions. Later on I will add a light coat of an India ink wash to highlight details and give them a dirtier look. Overall the effect works for me and is a pretty cool loads right behind the power on the M-PHBA manifest.

One side effect of installing signals at the west end of Grays Lake was realizing the signal mast fouled the Grays Industrial Spur lead. In short order I decided to use Sunday night to refurbish the spur. While no customer locations or tracks changed, I did a two run around with engine escape track allowing the R-GEGL room to work without inferring with the mainline. Truthfully I was not very happy with the track layout and knew there was a better setup.

Old configuration, no run around meant the R-GEGL "Grays Local" would have to use the main and passing siding to make a run around to serve the industries since two are facing point and one is trailing point moving east to west.

The best part of using track nails is ability to change without ripping up track. I wanted to keep the track footprint very similar to what I had used before, just differnt layout.

Track reinstalled, Cooperative Elevator to our left, Crop Production Services to our right, and runaround with escape track in the middle.

Looking west at same industries above. Adding the run around track gives the local a lot more flexibility

3M track, Grays Spur, Run-around, and mainline

Industrial spur lead relocated to the right to clear westbound ABS signal. 

We can expect to see a single 3800 series EMD GP38-2 assigned on the R-GEGL out of here. 

We are around 80% complete with the ABS signal project. While I will save more detailed discussion of the last install phase, I did want to give you a sneak peak of the kitbashed signal bridge installed on the East end of GRAY/GRAY SDG DTC block in Gerhard.

R-GEGL-24 with GP38-2 (3833 and 3827) returning from Kincaid, Michigan. Kincaid is not modeled but is represented by fiddle storage in east staging where I will or remove / add cars for this station. The local runs east to Kincaid on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

In November we will wrap up the signal install project, recap the DFW Interchange Ops weekend, and look at some new projects on The Clair.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!