Tuesday, October 2, 2018

August - September Update

Here it is October 2nd and I am now just getting the opportunity to write my update post of August and September. Since my last post documenting the retirement of EMD GP30s from service, there have been quite a few changes to the layout that everyone needs to get caught up on. 

July saw the departure of MCIS EMD GP30 and GP60 fleets. To help offset MCIS had purchased a three unit fleet of EMD SD60Ms in 2016 when they had been parked. At the time the units were stored for overhaul and eventual re-activation.  MCIS 6085 and 6086 released from MAC Rail in September and went into service equipped with Soundtraxx Tsunami2 sound. MCIS 6087 expected to be in service January 2019. 

All three motors came from BNSF and have been equipped with PTC equipment to operate over CN trackage rights and GPS for e-DTC operation on home rails.  

 MCIS 6085 (Full repaint by Fogelsinger Rail)

 MCIS 6086 (ex. BNSF patch by VMS)

Both motors were hard wire rebuilt from the trucks up to improve performance. 

For sometime I have struggled to find the right fit of industries for my Bay Industrial Spur. While it did host a river side cement terminal, asphalt terminal, and corrugated box plant it felt too crammed. After reading Bernie Kempinski's recent Waterfront Terminals and Operations book I was inspired to make changes, all due to modeling a boat...... A good friend and modeler told me earlier this summer "While you have the generic midwest theme going on, a lake freighter would firmly plant your layout on the Great Lakes", and he was absolutely right! Seeing that Deans Marine model on Bernie's layout sold me, now to figure out the plan. 

Part 1 - Location
So like a good plan I started to sketch out ideas on napkins or printer paper to get a feel of what would work. 
Lafarge terminal in Delray, Michigan (Detroit River) - Google Earth 3D

Sketching up the idea

Using the prototype, a common boat / rail served industry all over the lakes is cement. I already had the Graystone Cement terminal but it was against the backdrop. Trying to weight all my options I looked at placing a lake freighter on the backdrop behind the silos but the mock-ups didnt look that good. So how about a full scale model... 6" wide x 56" long.....will need some real estate. 

Mocking up where boat would go with culprit inspirational book.....

After reviewing the space needed for a smaller cement laker / barge slip I was comfortable with sacrificing the space to help create a more immersive industry. It was not until this point that the area finally felt balanced with only having one industry. 

Using my jigsaw I made quick work of cutting the 2" foam out from the river crossing up 60" to the entrance to the layout. I ended up cutting a width of 8" to allow for room for pilings / piers and placing a good backdrop behind where the ship will go. Using the cut foam I traced onto OSB and replaced back in its place. The neat part is the river scene and boat slip are connected bringing a better waterfront feel. 

 View west towards Saginaw River

 View east towards cement terminal

Sheet piling from Walthers, Piling from ModelTrainStuff

This fall will see the completion of the dockside scene with painting the OSB and deciding if I will use water or just clear coats to show water depth. 

Guess with the work done, now I need a boat.... hope I can find something maybe even a barge / tug combo ever so present on the Great Lakes now. 

Part 2 - Find a Boat 
Searching for a 1/87 is not exactly easy and there are kits but to get a modern like boat I needed some help since Bearco Marine does not appear to be in business anymore. Low and behold I found a kit on Ebay that was of the Amoco Indiana tanker. I had talked with a few modelers who had kitbashed the Sylvan laker and gave me their opinions to consider based on what I wanted to accomplish in the end. Taking all the input and being a modern era layout, the Bearco kit seemed like the best choice. Thanks again to Mat Thompson, and Ken Larsen for answering my questions on the lake freighter path. 

The box for the kit was well big.. Ended up doing UPS customer pickup so I could take the directions on vacation and read through them no less than a dozen times. This was a craftsman kit, and the opportunity to build was going to take my modeling skills to a new level. 

Kitchen table for reference...... lots of extra plastic

Selective Compression..... hehe

Part 3 - M/V Graystone Conquest (Launched)
Suppose the easy part of figuring out the location and buying a boat were done. Now came the task of putting my modeling skills to use and build the laker. 

After reading the instructions no less than two dozen times by now, I started on the ship. First thing to do was trace the bow - deck - stern as the hull has alot of excess vacuum formed plastic. 

 Beginning the journey, tools of the trade

 Tracing the bow / drilling out the portholes

Working with a good friend who is a woodworking shop, we used a dremel mult-max to cut down the hull to the right height. From there it was going to be old fashioned sweat to get the ship level and prepared for moving further with the build. The directions are well done and keep you on task in order. Mind you this is all happening outside during the heat of August in Texas.... Call it exercise. 

Ensuring stern / main deck / bow all are even and level - good ole visual check

 "Power" tools and plenty of plastic shavings

Test fitting the deck and hull (two complete pieces)

After sanding with 250 / 400 / 1500 grit, time for primer

Part 4 - M/V Graystone Conquest (Outfitting)

First details added (16 watertight door castings)

As I was installing the door castings, I realized that even with a good smooth back the door had a gap between them and the rear cabin wall. For this project I used the Vallejo plastic putty in the fine applicator packaging. This stuff is great. Once the door were properly sealed I painted the forward and rear cabins flat white. The forward, main, and rear deck received aged concrete color with a weathered chalk effect from Rustoleum. The hull received a satin winter gray which was slightly darker than the primer. 

Boat is beginning to take shape

Once the hull and deck are cut to size, test fit, glued together, and painted it now becomes a process of detailing out the boat to the modelers preference. The kit comes with a great assortment of white metal cast pieces that I will be using. Since this is a freelance cement laker, the walkways and vent stacks for the intended tanker kit will not be used. 

From here the kit comes with stripwood and styrene sheets needed to fashion different parts of the boat. I decided to use Microscale Krystal Kleer for the port holes versus the clear plastic sheet. I forgot to mention this has to be done after painting the sections, but before the deck and hull are glued together. 

Woodland Scenics dry transfer decals and self adhesive logo by K. Klettke

The next step was putting down the stripwood along the sides of the main deck for the handrail stanchions which were to be a made from piano wire supplied. I wanted to have a more detailed ship so in short order 1/96 scale brass stanchions were on there way from Maine curiosity of BlueJacket Shipcrafters. This model company does some amazing work and stocks everything needed to detail out your ship. Once stanchions were received used the appropriate size bit to drill holes on 7/8" intervals. I fashioned a styrene template to help keep consistent spacing. 

Keep it simple - use a black sharpie to color the handrails keeping the holes clean for the piano wire

Each side of the main deck has 40 stanchions for a total of 80 on main deck. Additionally threaded through the stanchions are two solid 3' pieces of piano wire for 12' in total on the main deck. 

 Port side main deck completed 

First of twelve liferings placed on stern cabin wall. These are white metal castings painted with inexpensive white and orange craft paints. 

With work completed on the main deck handrails, the next area of attention is the stern. This is where I am currently working. I began with the template supplied in the kit and traced out the shape onto styrene sheet supplied. From there it was a matter of cutting out and trimming to fit. Once in place there are lot of details that will be added. Based on the directions, the stern will be completed before moving to the bow. 

 Template over top of stern with styrene rough fit. 

Styrene sheet cut and fitted. 

This gets us caught up on the work happening on the layout. I expect to have the stern mostly completed by November. This month is travel intensive for work so time may not be as readily available, luckily temperatures are beginning to "cool" off here in Texas. 

Alot of great things to come this fall with the cement terminal and lake freighter. I didnt even mentioned where the corrugated box plant and asphalt terminal went.... until next update.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Farewell Electro Motive GP30

July 27, 2018 marked the end of service for the EMD GP30 fleet on the MCIS. Over 43 years of service this fleet was the last survivors of Michigan Interstates rocky start.

M-BADE-30 at Upper Huron with MCIS3080 and MCIS3085 picked up in consist for new owners via NS at Detroit

The Beginning
Back in 1975 things for American railroads were down right rough. One of Penn Centrals subsidiaries known as the St. Clair Western was spun off in the midst of bankruptcy procedings. As part of the spinoff the new shortline inherited an eclectic mix of Alco and EMD diesels. One specific fleet was six EMD GP30s with "Eastern" heritage. This fleet would soldier on as some of the more modern units until the mid 80s used in every service imaginable. 

1985 saw the acquisiton of Grand Trunk Westerns "Mackinac Northern" subsidiary which created what we know as the Michigan Interstate Railroad. During the acquisition, EMD GP38 and GP9s were added to the fleet but the GP30s found plenty of good work hauling rock and locals around the MCIS. 

The winds of change were beginning to blow as the MCIS began to acquire Dash 2 power in the form of EMD SD40-2, EMD GP40-2, and GP38-2s. The six motor fleet however was knocked down to only five units after MCIS 3084 was wrecked beyond repair after a grade crossing collision with farm machinery. The five units soldiered on earning their keep hauling rock and locals. 

Following a mechanical failure MCIS 3083 was sidelined and scraped at MAC Rail Mount Pleasant. This now left four engines in the EMD GP30 fleet. During this same time the only other surviving motors with 567 prime movers were the EMD SD35s. It was decided to convert two motors using Electro Motives ECO program. Around this time the GP30s were put on reserve LUGO status (Laid Up Good Order) and could be brought from storage if necessary. As time wore on it appeared that only two motors MCIS 3080 and 3085 would survive. The other two, 3081 and 3082 were kept as parts sources to keep the last two healthy. While a potential slug conversion had been discussed the arrival of EMD SD70ACe caused a fleet cascade that ultimately never called these motors out of storage. A year ago MCIS 3080 did come out of storage to handle shop switching at MAC Rail. 

Early July of 2018 MCIS began looking for rail carriers interested in acquisition. July 27th a deal was inked with Delmarva Central to acquire MCIS 3080 / MCIS 3085 in operating status and parts stock from MCIS 3081 / MCIS 3082. 

Just for the railfans the motors were brought out to Upper Huron to get a final photo as a pair with their new reporting marks before pickup. 

Like that an it has come to an end. Thank you EMD GP30 for fourty three years of faithful service to Michigan Interstate. 


Sunday, July 22, 2018

July Update

Just like that we are a little over a week from July being over. In my opinion the month of an ops session always seems to go really quick, especially when there is work to do in preparation for the session. Lets take a look at work done on the layout this month along with a quick recap from my Friday operating session. 

In my last post I briefly discussed the work planned to install the backdrop for the Upper Huron Scene which would allow me to begin full foreground scenic work. As tempting as it was, its important to always work from back to front in a scene... trust me I learned the hard way on others. 

Working with Dave at Backdrop Junction I selected his GEN-033H scene which was required for around 16' of wall. In short order it arrived promptly and I wasted no time unrolling and planning work to be done. 

The backdrops are offered in three different materials, I chose the adhesive vinyl which is pretty awesome sticks really well to my Eucaboard backdrop that is painted with latex paint. 

Pre-Install Prep
First thing once out of the box was roll out and take a look at the amazing print. The price in my opinion is well reasonable for the good quality pictures, material, and support from Dave to help deliver what I was looking for. The scene came in two rolls which had overlapping scenes on the end to allow for seamless blending. I prefer no sky, so with sharp scissors I cut it out.

Once the sky was cutout, I then used a sharp hobby knife and hold punch to cut out the leftover sky that is close to the trees and buildings. When I used my knife it is important to have a piece of glass behind to keep a hard surface when making the cuts. I did not do any of this on my couch as the photo shows above... Instead I would unroll about 2' of scene at a time and keep the rest rolled up. 

The backdrop board is actually made up for 3 section of which the middle is removable to access my "East Staging" if necessary. In doing so I was able to install the first 8' of backdrop starting from the sugar beet plant working west at my workbench. Following the online video - align, peel the backing, and apply. I had to make a few slight adjustments but it applied really easy and as I worked right to left removed the air bubbles.... This is a great backdrop product!!  

Off-Layout Transition
From this photo you can see the backdrop is installed all the way past where the legs of the wye go "off-layout". Part of why I chose this backdrop was having the trees where the track left the scene. This allows me to use scenic trees and materials to help blend with a "tree canopy" type transition. 

Town Transition
Since I had leftover material I actually ended up removing some of the Sceniking crop scene I had to the right of the road and replaced with more of the field/tree backdrop from Backdrop Junction. Using Sceniking buildings I had cutout, foam board, and a foam hill I will have a nice blend from woods to the town of Upper Huron. 

The end product turned out great, I am looking forward to my next backdrop project which is a secret, but will no doubt help convey a better sense of location. Stay tuned to Fall posts to see whats in store. 
** Note the opinion of this product is my own as I purchased it and did not receive discount or compensation for this blog entry **


Intermountain - GE ET44
While north of Denver for work I had a few extra hours, so working with my contacts facilitated a meet and greet at Intermountain Railway in Longmont, CO. Needless to say after meeting the great people there, seeing great work, and getting a tour I could not resist buying one of their new GE ET44s decorated for CN. What a great product, and it looks and runs great my Intermountain CN ES44. There are probably plenty of online reviews, but the detail is really well done on this motor along with the lighting. Currently it does not have sound but will be getting a 21 pin Tsunami2 later this fall. 

Folks as why not LokSound.... here is my response: with over 95% of my fleet Sountraxx equipped I am happy with their product offering. The product is plenty for me and I know the nuances of programming with JMRI to get the performance, reliability, sound, and consisting I expect. Competition creates innovation so I welcome and look forward to what Soundtraxx, ESU, and others continue to develop. 

Broadway Limited - DCC Trackmobile
For fathers days - the wife and kids picked me up a DCC equipped trackmobile by Broadway Limited. This is a cool little machine and as a friend of mine who has one noted "Folks either love it or hate it." Yep I concur with that statement. This unit has a home at Michigan Sugar's Upper Huron plant and will become more apart of operating sessions in the future. 

Great modern products offered in the marketplace that are superb. Well done to both manufacturers.

**Note opinion on Intermountain product during visit is my own. No compensation was provided for either product** 

Wow I finally had my first ops session for 2018.... Only seven months in. None the less it was a great session with five operators and fourteen scheduled trains. This session was the first time folks got to see the work done on my Cass River and Upper Huron scenes. As a layout owner I enjoy having new things for my operators to experience so its not just the same ole M-BAPH train. One cool comfort item I added was the fold-down cup holders from Blue Point. Added five on the layout in key locations, and it was nice to see them used to make a session a little more relaxed. 

The whole crew - minus me troubleshooting a minor JMRI Ops issue.. Yes we had 6 guys in a room that is 13x12 essentially. 

Planning.... Planning.....BSing........

R-GEGL-21 switching up cars left by the M-BAPH-20 from day earlier. We didnt have a chance to run this one during the session, so I marked up and worked the customers at Grays Lake and Gerhard today. 

Michigan Sugar Plant at Upper Huron is now in full operation. Took me three years but finally got a good trackplan that gives the essence of big time operations in a selective space. Plant is serviced daily by L-BAUH out of Bay Yard which then spots / pulls in the storage yard. Trackmobile then switches cars into their respective locations for molasses loading, sugar loading, pellet loading, coke unload. We will look at this facility in more depth on another post, but due to space requirements sugar beet loads just stay on the storage track and are unloaded "off-layout" between sessions. 

Needing a refresh - updated my consist cards after seeing different folks and their formats. Consists are divided by YARD, LOCAL, or ROAD power pools. Single motors use full four digit address while two or more use a two digit advanced consist.

Since implementing JMRI Ops earlier this year, this was the first live session where it was used for train movement and switching. I had to say we were about 80% accurate on moves, reporting, and losing cars. Based on folks who use it, they told me - print out the entire online guide, read it once, read it again, and then read it a third time. No doubt complex, but achievable and customizable for your operation no matter how big or small. Between now and my next session will be making tweaks, but I wanted to show some of the paperwork involved.

Yard inventory - I printed this after the session was over and all trains terminated to reconcile cars. As you can see there were a few messed up or missing. 

Linehaul Train Manifest - an example of how I print my linehaul train manifests. Still some customizing and verbiage to change, but it gets the job done on a live paper manifest. 

Local Train Manifest - not wanting to deviate on the formating based on others best practices I have seen, the manifest notes what work is to be done for the R-GEGL.

So busy month, hope you enjoyed the update. Alot of great stuff in the works and will continue to share monthly on the happenings around the MCIS St. Clair Sub. Thanks to my operators and friends in other geographic locations who continually help make my model railroading experience one worth sharing with you. 

Stay cool - its 100+ here in Texas 


Monday, June 18, 2018

April-May-June Update

Well no doubt I am slightly (3 months) behind on update posts. While life around these parts has been no doubt busy there have been plenty of model railroading, just lacking the time to write about it. This post will however catch you up with all the happenings around the MCIS St. Clair Sub since March. 

MCIS 7052.... Is this a new add to the roster? Read on to find out. 

When we left off in March I was chin deep (upper level @ 66" off floor) into creating this scene. This specific setup featured a through truss bridge over the Cass River with deciduous vegetation flanking the banks along the right of way. 

After a few more weeks of work the scene is now 95% complete, the last bit to complete is ballasting the bridge approach. 

On previous layouts I have used Magic Water to create my water features but after seeing alot of good reviews on the Woodland Scenics Deep Pour Water system, I wanted to give it an honest try. Specifically the Cass River from the google street view is pretty murky so the pre-tinted murky water was on point. I ended up using two kits together to get the depth and coverage required. Using the product was as easy as the instructions provide, there are a good videos on the web showing step by step. 

As a base layer I did end up using Quikrete general purpose paver mix screened to get the rock I wanted in the middle of the river with a light blend of Missouri river pebbles provided by a good friend to provide alittle more color along the banks and in shallower water. Of course good scenic cement soaking is key in making this all possible. 

Quick Money Saving Tip: If you have a Hobby Lobby close by, you can get alot of model railroading products there, and even better use their online 40% one item coupon to help bring down the cost of items like the Deep Pour Water, tools, or Just Plug lighting. 

Paver and rock base in place, ready for scenic cement

 Water Pour 24 hours later - great results! 

Google Street View - Cass River 

With the water hard as a rock, it was time to begin adding in foilage on each side of the river. From the photo above, its pretty thick so I really wanted to layer the trees to draw the operator into the scene. 

 West bank of river at UPPE / LACE DTC block boundary

Zooming out a little more from the same shot above

 Canoers gliding town the Cass towards Caro, Michigan

 What is a Michigan river bank without a weeping willow

View west from DTC block boundary looking at the main (left) and east leg of wye (right) 

With Cass River scene just about done, I will be turning my attention towards Upper Huron. This scene encompasses the Michigan Sugar plant, Upper Huron branch wye, and the Town of Upper Huron. From the photos below basic terrain with paint and dirt base layer are in place. The next step before continuing to develop this scene is installation of backdrop. With Sceniking out of business I needed to find another vendor who created scenes to fit Mid-Michigan. After searching I came across Backdrop Junction and in short order working with Dave Burgess a backdrop will be on its way. The mockup looked great, cannot wait to get the finished product installed. 

We will return to Upper Huron later this summer to see how the scene development process is coming along. 

 Bare dirt.... Did I start modeling west Texas?

If getting work done on Cass River wasn't enough, I decided to jump head first on quite a few backshop projects. Lets take a scroll through each of the projects completed and underway.

Contract Projects
The MAC Rail Sales rep has been busy as April saw the completion of three Soundtraxx Soundcars and a UP EMD SD50 with Tsunami sound and ditchlights under for a contract customer. 

Some say the soundcar is too much, done right it does add another level of immersion.

Paint Shop 
In addition to completing contract work, MAC Rail also opened up a paint shop for Michigan Interstate Railroad. Birthdays are always great when you get a portable spray booth. For the amount and scope of work I do, this is perfect with my Paasche H.

Michigan Interstate recently purchase two SD70ACe's from CSX. As part of opening the new paint booth, one of the units MCIS 7052 received a fresh paint job by the MAC Rail.

Motor was primed with Tamiya Fine White Primer and painted with Scalecoat II Reefer Yellow and Conrail Blue. 

  • Rail Graphics (MCIS logo, numbers, and lettering)
  • Microscale (SD70ACe data)
  • Highball Graphics (American Flag, Operation Lifesaver, Smart Start)
  • Shellscale (Numberboards and rear numbers)
  • Smokebox Graphics (Side Sill yellow reflective tape)

 Reefer yellow ends complete

 Conrail Blue applied

 Conductors side markings done (7051 as reference)

 Motor equipped with Tsunami2, Currentkeeper, and two fuel tank speakers

Completed motor in active service - nice work MAC Rail

EMD SD60M / SD70ACe Overhaul Project
With MCIS 7052 in service complete with new Tsunami2 sound/control system, MCIS management decided it was time to continue with the momentum and update the other EMD SD70ACe's (7050, 7051, 7053) for fleet commonality and efficency. While under way the two unit fleet of SD60M's which had been on MAC Rail property since last year awaiting updated electronics also received Econami sound/control. Project is on track to bring the three ACe's online by July 01 in time for the late summer demand coming into the 2018 sugar beet campaign. 

Lined up in Building 3A.

This year marked our 10 year wedding anniversary.  Building on a tradition that we started the year we got married, the CFO purchased this fantastic undecorated Proto 2000 Heritage 2-10-2 with QSI sound from the consignment cabinet at DMT. What an amazing present to commemorate and whole lot of fun to operate. Using gold dry transfers, I was able to do a convincing job marking it up for Michigan Interstate #2018. Maybe a call to Matt Welke at Circus City Decals is in order to setup a gold letter package for the excursion fleet. Don't think doing a ton of dry transfer work is for me. 

This engine will be kept along side MCIS #2008 at their Mount Pleasant base and used for passenger excursions throughout the year

Lastly MCIS 4051 (EMD SD40-2) has made an appearance on the Bay City Division. Since purchased used from the MR&T, this motor was assigned up on the North Division working between Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, and Detour. Using floquil acrylics and makeup applicators from a Model Railroader Cody Grivno weathering article sometime ago I was able to give it a touch of the elements.

Pretty lengthy post, but there you have it three months like that. The summer looks to be pretty busy with the installs, ops session preparation, and of course a few other cool adds to the mix. I plan to get a monthly post out around mid month and expect to stay that course the rest of the year. Thanks for stopping by.