Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Taking this Thing National

To borrow the phrase the Milwaukee Brewers used when they moved from the American League to the National League...We're Taking this Thing National.

The 'Thing' being my Free-mo module. National, being the Free-mo layout to be built at the National Train Show in Indianapolis this coming July 6-10.

After successfully participating in two NE Free-mo layouts, I'm ready to expand my horizons. I'm so thankful to NE Free-mo for giving me the opportunity and I've learned so much from being able to set up with them. The chance to see modules and talk to Free-mo modelers from the entire country is too good an opportunity to pass up. Not to mention ready access to sales specials from the manufacturers and vendors  :)

The convention falls during my summer break, so no need to ask for time off. A day and a half drive each way to Indianapolis and back by myself is do-able. Work to complete on the module so that it's presentable and standards-compliant at the show; manageable in the four months I have available. That work includes:

  • Create foundations, roads and sidewalks out of tile grout, including road markings
  • Grade crossings
  • Complete scenery on the west side of the module and around the roads/foundations
  • Spray gray paint to age the track and then ballast it
  • Update wiring to new standards
  • Double check wiring and loco net connections
  • General clean up of the module including painting the front and back
  • Second UP5 (loconet connector) on the opposite side from the first
  • Build shelf for 'interior' side of module
  • Adjust location of top brace on legs
  • Build shelf for legs
  • Create signs on foamcore
  • build test/programming track

While there's time to build a second module, I'm being realistic as we're probably going to move between now and the show.

Would love any suggestions for preparation that my readers might have.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Going Modern

One of the things that I looked at during the show in West Springfield was the rolling stock other people were using on the layout. The vast majority of rolling stock in use was from the modern era. Aside from Stuart's NYC Passenger set, I saw no other rolling stock of my vintage (mid 50s). Pretty much everything was late 60s on up to today. 

So, I started thinking, maybe I should acquire some modern rolling stock so that when I interchange with others (at the National Train Show?) I'll be more in line with what other people are using.

My plan, long-term is to acquire 32 specific freight cars, in eight categories for very specific industry service, eventually building a small layout/modules with these industries.

The industries/car categories: 
  1. Food processing plant/warehouse (box cars, vegetable oil tank cars, corn syrup tank cars, reefers)
  2. Propane Distributor (propane tank cars)
  3. Plastic Factory (covered hoppers)
  4. Shipping Company (well cars)
  5. Scrap yard (gondolas)

I bought a few pieces of rolling stock at the West Springfield show. Another couple of pieces came from eBay and Trainworld. Rather than doing what I've always done (just buying whatever was marked for the New Haven and was the correct vintage), I have specific plans for which cars to look for and I'm constantly looking for sales and underpriced cars on eBay to keep costs down. Tim Moran was a huge help in narrowing down what to focus on. I don't plan on having all 32 cars by the National Train Show (or even afterwards, as I'll buy a few there) but it's kind of fun to review some of the better car makers modern offerings. I can spend a little more on quality-per-car as I won't need quantity.

And of course, there's one more thing. My locomotives are all mid-50s era New Haven. That won't do for trains running in 2016 (and 2017 and 2018...) so I thought about which modern locomotives made sense. I want to do some switching and Lance Mindheim has covered that topic pretty well with his "Downtown Spur" layout. I'd love to build an industrial park layout set somewhere in the tri-state (NY, NJ, & CT) area. A four-axle EMD loco makes a lot of sense. The road? Well, CSX is the current successor to much of the New Haven's territory and there are a lot of affordable choices in that road's colors. A GP-38-2 or GP-40-2 seem ideal. Atlas makes the former and Athearn makes the latter, so that makes that easy. A single GP38-2 or GP-40-2 with DCC (and sound, if I can scrape together the extra cash) will be all that I need to run something modern at the N.T.S.

More as plans (and purchases) come together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Happy Recap

The late Bob Murphy, one of the original voices of the Mets' broadcast team, used to say "we'll be back with the happy recap" after a Mets win. That's kind of what I feel like writing after the Amherst Railway Society show, January 29-31, 2016. A very happy recap.

First of all, I can't thank NE Free-mo enough for organizing the setup. A main line over 250 feet long (about four HO scale miles), a branch of over 75 feet. Extensive operations on both Saturday and Sunday. Plenty of free time (and space) to run trains. What an amazing event and what an amazing group of people. See the .pdf of the layout.

Setup on Friday took about eight hours. That didn't include a couple of wiring issues, but when you're building a layout that size, you have to expect a couple of glitches. The postmortem after the show highlighted a few things that they're going to do differently next year. Break down on Sunday took about two hours. I was packed in about half an hour, but stayed to help out; there was a lot to do and everybody pitched in.
Overview of the layout - photo credit Mike McNamara
A great panoramic shot of the layout - photo credit Mike McNamara
There were modules (and owners) at the setup from Canada; Albany and Westchester New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut; nearly 30 people in all. And every single person was more than willing to share information. As much as I learned from my two previous trips to this show, I learned so much more this weekend.

My module was by no means complete, but was in much better shape than the previous year and in addition, I gained plenty of knowledge to give me confidence that I can complete it before the National Train Show in Indianapolis in early July (yes, I'm planning on going). I still have to put down real foundations, sidewalks and roads, as well as finish scenicing the western half of the module. I also have to do a little wiring to bring the module up to the new standard.

Overview of Naugatuck North - my photo

Two nicer shots of Naugatuck North - photo credits Mike McNamara
I was on the branch, somewhere between Cedar Hill and Yardville. The branch saw a lot of action as Yardville and Woodstown Junction initiated a lot of traffic.

With respect to operations, I ran several trains including the New England Fast flyer; a passenger train that covered the entire layout twice.

The New England Fast Flyer; my power, not my equipment :)

Here's a video (taken by Art Brearton of Albany Free-mo) that gives a good feeling of the size of the layout.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two Days to Judgement

Not nervous. Not nervous. I'm not nervous. I have one of the most talented scenery artists helping me. The fact that I've known Roger since junior high doesn't hurt either.

So - huge amount done over the last couple of evenings; all in the middle of Roger campaigning for somebody named Bernie Sanders.
Foam and putty pre-paint and ground foam

Take a look at the photos, one more night and there should even be roads :)
Overall view of the module after Wednesday night
An interesting comparison between completed scenery and that still to be finished.

A few more things to do, but the module should be mostly done ((save ballasting) tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

One Week Out

One week to go to the Big-E show in West Springfield. NE Free-mo has an incredible layout planned. Main line over 200'; I'm on the branch again this year by request.

So, things have been crazy in the Zaretsky household. Plenty of school-related work as well as normal stuf around the house, but today saw the return of the reversing toilets. Oh yeah, hours of literally cleaning $#!+ from bathroom, bedroom and basement. Where am I working on the module? Basement, of course.

Painted the track, cut out, installed and painted foundations, did some Loconet work. Tomorrow, making up Sculptamold to put down some landforms; hopefully, it'll be dry in a couple of days so that I can start putting down grass.

More to come tomorrow...

Roger helped me place the structures.

Kuch Packaging and Yoyodyne Propulsion in place.
Foundations cut out and hot glued in place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to change your plans...

So, there I was last May, minding my own business, when I had a heart attack. No seriously.

It was mild, but bad enough to cause damage. I had two hospital stays; one in early May to assess the damage, one in late May to fix it (quadruple bypass). A few days before my surgery, we had to put our beloved dog Rosie to sleep.

Needless to say that nothing got done on the modules (or much of anything else) this summer other than me recuperating. We did add a new family member in July, Bennie the puppy. More on him in the future, perhaps.

Now that my meds are fairly normalized and since it's still warm enough to work outside, I'm getting back to the drawing board. Literally.

Below, my "refinements" to the two primary Naugatuck modules (north and south). Moved a couple of industries around and added a spot for a team track. It's a universal industry, easy to add minor infrastructure to the site and it's a sound addition to the plan. Worth the time I spent in Illustrator.

 The tail to the north end of the module (above) is a tail track to let me run-around an engine and car when the module set isn't part of a larger setup. It'll be removable, of course. I moved Sprague Meters to the spot previously held by Fox Theater Scenics (which goes on a later module) and used the remaining space for the team track.

Not any real changes to Naugatuck South. I'm happy with the design.

So, the plan is to hit Home Depot this week to get more 1/2" plywood for tops and sides and some 2" X 2" for legs.

If I can get Naugatuck North updated, and Naugatuck South built, I'll work on module number three: Naugatuck Center.
One more industry (moved from the Naugatuck Chemical Module), space for my growing collection of shops and a four foot extension to the siding, making it quite usable for larger setups. Moving Kuch Packaging here allows me to create a Naugatuck Chemicals module that's more prototypically correct.

So - on to the 4:26 and the hope that I can get to Home Depot tonight :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Few Good Photos

Thanks to Mike McNamara for taking these shots of my module at the NE Free-mo setup during the 2015 Amherst Model Railroad Society Show at the Big-E in West Springfield. The second photo is particularly amazing in that it hides the bald spot. :)