Monday, December 20, 2010

Stratas Foods, F/K/A Quality Oils:

Stratas Foods, F/K/A Quality Oils:

One of the Housatonic Railroad’s steady customers in New Milford, CT is Stratas Foods.  This was formerly known as the AH Humko/Quality Oils packaging plant.  It takes in tank cars of vegetable oils and repackages them for various national name and store brands. 

I am disappointed by the small size of most available N scale kits, so I decided that this would be the candidate for my first scratchbuilt building.  I exercised artistic license once again with this project, in relocating the truck loading doors to the gable end of the structure for visual interest.  The doors are located on the side opposite the tracks on the real building.  I also added in box car loading doors for cardboard deliveries and outbound product, even though there are no such loading doors on the prototype building.  This adds to the variety of switching for this industry, which in reality only takes in loaded tank cars. 

The model representation of this building is almost full scale size.   Since this was my very first attempt at scratchbuilding a structure, it was slow going, along with some errors (learning opportunities).  I am pretty happy with the progress so far.  The first photo shows the roughed in building, with roof panels needing trimming and bracing.  The second shot is nearing completion.  I will add final details, like loading dock “pillows” around the truck bays, drain pipes, vegetable oil tanks, with piping, etc, as I get closer to finishing this scene.  I still need to add in the paved areas to bring the trailers up to the proper loading door level and add signage as well.   (Click on the photos for a larger version)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early Construction

I decided to use shelf brackets to cantilever the layout in a way that left the floor space under it free.  I had to bridge three windows in the room and leave them accessible.  That required removable backdrop panels in front of the windows.  I chose to use tempered masonite for my backdrop.  This was glued to 1x2 furring strips that had been screwed to the wall studs in the room.

Once the masonite was up and dried, I painted the masonite with two coats of a sky blue color.  I added 1x2 supports to the shelf brackets and a stringer running along the side facing into the room to tie it all together and to provide a mounting surface for the future fascia.  1 1/2 inches of extruded foam insulation board was then attached to those supports with adhesive latex caulk.  I was now ready for track, however, the layout languished for about 2 years, as I was never satisfied with my freelanced track plans, nor the code 80 track I was using at the time.

The turning point came when my friend Brian convinced me to look at a prototype, and to convert to Atlas code 55 track.  The die was cast and I now had a focus.

Once I finalized the track plan, it was time to jump in to track laying.  I decide to try to paint a background scene prior to doing any trackwork.  The idea was to represent the rolling hills the Housatonic RR passes through in CT and MA.  I had never painted a landscape before, but figured I could always paint over it and start again. 

I made my own cloud stencils and misted on Rustoleum white primer (no airbrush yet).  I then used green craft paint mixed with the sky blue for distant hills, followed up with closer hills, using the green craft paint only.  I used a fan brush to make indications of a distant tree line, including conifers.  A few suggestions of fields and distant buildings and I was done.  The plan is to have most of the hills hidden by trees, but with distant views appearing here and there between the trees and forground hills.  Since the layout is located near eye level for most viewers, I wanted to keep the horizon low.

I painted the entire 58’ linear backdrop, from clouds to hills and fields in one eight hour marathon session.  Here is the backdrop and foam base, with a coat of tan paint to hide the blue color.

Next up comes the track.

I purchased the needed Atlas code 55 flextrack and turnouts.  Trackwork began in the staging area that would represent the interchange with CSX, in Pittsfield, MA.  There is a through track and four staging tracks in this area.  Here are a few shots of the very first HRRC test train running on the staging area tracks and partial main line.

Since this was the first large layout I had built, there was some trial and error along the way.  At least the layout was finally started.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Track plan

Here's the most recent Phase 1 track plan.  Phase 2 will eventually be the Maybrook line and Danbury on two levels.  (Just click on the plan to enlarge it.)

Purpose of this Blog and explanation of the N scale Housatonic RR

I have been a model railroader for many years, but this will be my first attempt at documenting the progress of my layout.  After building freelanced model railroads, a good friend of mine suggested trying to use a prototype railroad for inspiration.  It seemed like a good idea and I decided to finally settle on modeling the Housatonic Railroad Company (HRRC).  This is a railroad that begs to be modeled.

The Housatonic Railroad Company (HRRC) is a local short line that operates in the western part of Connecticut along the Berkshire Line (50.0 miles),  to Derby/Shelton via its Maybrook Line (33.5 miles) and in western Massachusetts, where the HRRC serves a number of customers and interchanges with CSX in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  The P&W also runs stone trains over the HRRC's Maybrook line trackage to service the Tilcon stone plant, in Danbury, CT.

HRRC operates trains between Pittsfield and Canaan on Monday through Friday, and between Canaan and New Milford on Sunday through Thursday, and a local switching train on Monday through Friday, as needed. There is a switching yard in New Milford and a yard plus an engine maintenance facility in Canaan.

The HRRC handles approximately 6,000 railcars a year of commodities that include lumber, limestone, pulp, paper, and waste. In addition to serving several large industrial customers and smaller shippers, Housatonic also operates a bulk transfer facility located at the intersection of I-84 and Route 25 in Newtown. The Newtown facility has the capacity to load/unload cars within its lumber terminal and on its bulk track with total capacity of approximately 30 car spots as well as additional capacity for car staging.

The size and actual operations of the HRRC make it a prime candidate upon which to base my layout.

The layout room is the 13'x 21' bonus room over our garage and is a multi use room by the whole family. The layout will be built on 24" to 32" wide shelves running around three walls of the room and extending into two closets via tunnels through the walls. (I have a very understanding wife! ) The single deck shelf places the railhead height at about 54" from the floor. The space under the cantilevered benchwork is used for a large TV, computers and craft tables.

I am not a rivet counter by any means, but the track plan is designed to reflect accurate track arrangements in most industrial switching areas. I am building it with a continuous running option for fun, although operating sessions will be run as point to point via staging. The key signature scenes will hopefully convey a sense of the actual locations to those familiar with them. I have also added in purely fictional scenes for my own enjoyment.  For example, there will be a large steel trestle spanning a gorge.  There are no bridges anything like this on the actual HRRC, but I like bridges for scenic value and photos.  Hey, it is my layout anyway.

I have about 400 pieces of rolling stock and the entire roster of 5 GP-35's that the HRRC runs .  I will also be kitbashing an Alco RS3-M to represent the unit the HRRC has on loan to the Berkshire scenic Railroad.  I have purchased appropriate P&W locomotives and the distinctive former FEC ortner hoppers for the stone trains.

The track will be all Atlas code 55, with 15" minimum radius curves and super elevation where appropriate.  The turnouts will be #10 on the main line, with minimum #7 turnouts in industrial areas. I will be using Lenz DCC for power and control.   I have purchased a large number o servos and decoders to power the turnouts as I make progress.  There will also be bi-color LED turnout position indicators on the fascia.

I will update this blog following the progress on the Housatonic RR (HRRC). This will be a long term project, but an enjoyable one.