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.