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Archive for the ‘Other Items of Interest’ Category

Viking Ship

Here is a little model of a viking ship that I have spent over three months working on. It is from a kit from Artisania Latina. The ship is approximately 11″ long from prow to stern and 11″ tall from keel to top of mast. I wanted to build this ship for display in my library, and because I have ancestors who were actual Vikings.

This picture shows the model in one of my lighted display cases.

There were a number of challenges to the construction, which explains the lengthy assembly process. Almost every piece of this kit had to be cut and/or shaped from the raw wood supplied. There were some exceptions like the stand beneath the ship, which was part of a laser-cut sheet.

The most time consuming process was shaping and installing the strakes (boards) along the sides of the ship. Each one of these has between seven and nine points of attachment to the underlying hull formers. The brass nails are only for visual accent; the strakes had to be glued at each of the 7-9 aforementioned points, and I could only do two to three of these points per day. The work had to be clamped and set aside for the glue to harden over night. I usually work on several models at a time, so I can move on to other projects when I have to wait for steps like this. This photo also shows the side tiller at the rear of the ship. This was one of the few steering mechanisms these ships had.

I modified some elements of the kit to create a more realistic model. The most visible modification is the sail. The stripes were my addition. I don’t know of any Viking sails that were not colored or decorated, and a stripe design was the most common. The colors identified the ship’s owner. I also wanted the sail to look like it was billowed out with a nice following wind, so here is what I did. First, I carefully stretched the sail on a flat surface, and drew in the red stripes. I used a permanent marker because the technique for filling the sail with wind would be using water based products. Then I sewed the top of the sail to the yard arm, and blew up a balloon. The sail and yard arm were carefully stretched across and secured to the surface of the inflated balloon. The next step involved using a diluted mixture of white glue and water. I used construction glue so that it would give the “white” surfaces a bit of an eggshell color. In the theatre, this kind of a mixture is called “dutchman glue”. I think this term came from the trade war that was waged between the English and the Dutch in the mid-1600s. At that time the island of Manhattan was a Dutch colony. When the English won the war and took over Manhattan, they either obliterated anything connected with the Dutch, or created derogatory terms for it. We still have sayings like “Dutch-treat” which implies something cheap. I think watered down glue acquired the same kind of demeaning appellation. If you are interested in learning many other fascinating facts that emerged from this period (including how the New York Mets got their colors), I highly recommend reading “The Island at the Center of the World” by Russell Shorto. Back to the sail: I gave it several coats of this glue over many days, and when the glue had thoroughly dried, voila! I popped the balloon and the sail retained its shape! The next picture shows minor modifications I also made to the ship’s rigging to keep the sail positioned properly. I guess you’d have to know a lot about Viking ship rigging to know what’s correct and what isn’t.

The other major modification was to the shields along the sides of the ship. The shields in the kit had no decoration on them. For the Vikings, their decorated shields were part of their pride and their identity, so I found pictures of Viking shields on Google, sized them, and printed them on glossy photo paper. It’s a technique I’ve used before to make signs for structures for my model railroad.

I glued the photo paper to the plain shields. Then I found some small stick-on jewels at Michael’s to create the shield boss on each shield. The shield boss was a cup-like steel projection at the center of the shield that protected the warrior’s hand as he (or she) gripped the back of the shield. The Roman Legionnaire’s shield had the same feature. This boss was also used as a “butting” weapon. The edge of this otherwise wooden shield was then clad in a steel “tire”. I have some little Viking figures on order to complete the scene.

 

 

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From June 24th to July 1st, I was in Chama, New Mexico, along with Steve Mitchell of Yard Goat Images. My daughter, and a friend of her’s accompanied us to help with the videography. We were completing shooting on a DVD Steve is going to develop for marketing next spring. The video will focus on the “Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec” program at the C&TS. Volunteers who are interested can sign up to go to the C&TS in the summertime, and spend a week at a time working on the railroad.

 

We had wonderful weather, and came home with hundreds of hours of beautiful video of the trains. We shot the volunteers working on their projects, and did interviews with them in which they discussed their backgrounds and their experiences with the “Friends” program. As far as we know, this will be the first C&TS video that is primarily focused on this extremely important volunteer preservation program.

 

On my birthday, my daughter and her friend and I took the train ride from Antonito to Chama. To do this, we took a short bus ride from Chama to Antonito, and boarded the train there. The train ride lasts from 9:30 in the morning to about 4:00 in the afternoon. I wanted to be traveling from east to west, so that we had the best light for morning photography. This photo is from Osier, Colorado, where the trains from Chama and Antonito meet for a lunch stop.

 

Here our two talented videographers disembark from the train when it arrives in  Chama in the late afternoon.

 

This is the 487, the locomotive we rode behind, waiting in the yard the next morning. It was getting ready to take that day’s train from Chama to Antonito.

 

Out along the line, my daughter and her friend shoot a passing train. It was an incredible trip, and so rewarding to share it with my daughter, who had never been around steam locomotives before. I am really looking forward to the finished video next spring. It will be available at Yard Goat Images.

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Yard Goat Images has a change in their web address. Please update your files. You must now use the letter “s” after the “http” at the beginning of the address. We are going back to Colorado at the end of June to complete a video on the C&T Scenic Railroad. It will be focused on their “Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad” volunteer program. It should be available for purchase next fall.

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This past spring, while not actually doing anything on my layout, I decided to keep my modeling skills sharp by working on some other kinds of models. These were all kits, but required varying degrees of craftsmanship and finishing techniques, all of which transfer quite readily to the model railroading world. Pictured above is a Mantua wood and brass kit made in Italy. The label describes it as "Cannone da Costa USA 1780-1812" or American Coastal Cannon 1780-1812. The base measures 6" long by 4.5" wide, and the cannon is 1:17 scale. To weather the barrel, I used Micro Engineering Rail Weathering solution along with various colors of dry brushed enamels. For coloring the wooden parts, I used the same shoe dye and isopropyl alcohol mixture that I use on basswood on my railroad structures. To pull the surfaces together and give everything a nice finished look, I used Testor's Glosscote.

This past spring, while not actually doing anything on my layout, I decided to keep my modeling skills sharp by working on some other kinds of models. These were all kits, but required varying degrees of craftsmanship and finishing techniques, all of which transfer quite readily to the model railroading world. Pictured above is a Mantua wood and brass kit made in Italy. The label describes it as “Cannone da Costa USA 1780-1812″ or American Coastal Cannon 1780-1812. The base measures 6″ long by 4.5” wide, and the cannon is 1:17 scale. To weather the barrel, I used Micro Engineering Rail Weathering solution along with various colors of dry brushed enamels. For coloring the wooden parts, I used the same shoe dye and isopropyl alcohol mixture that I use on basswood on my railroad structures. To pull the surfaces together and give everything a nice finished look, I used Testor’s Glosscote.

This model of a naval 24 pound cannon is by Palmer Plastics. It is roughly 7" long by 3" wide, but the exact scale was not specified. Plastic models present some different challenges from wood and brass kits, namely that the raw plastic has to be painted to look like other materials. Here the elevating block, the wheels and the ratcheting handle are painted like wood, the barrel is made to look like brass, and the cannon carriage like heavy cast iron. Everything here started out as plastic, and was assembled with Plastruct Plastic Weld solution.

This model of a naval 24 pound cannon is by Palmer Plastics. It is roughly 7″ long by 3″ wide, but the exact scale was not specified. Plastic models present some different challenges from wood and brass kits, namely that the raw plastic has to be painted to look like other materials. Here the elevating block, the wheels and the ratcheting handle are painted like wood, the barrel is made to look like brass, and the cannon carriage like heavy cast iron. Everything here started out as plastic, and was assembled with Plastruct Plastic Weld solution.

Back to another Italian brass and wood kit, this one by Areopiccala-Torino. It is called a "Cannone da Marina" or Marine Cannon. It looks a lot like the cannons that were on the Swedish warship, Vasa, which sank in 1628. The wood parts in these kits are often oak, and require a lot of drilling and edge-finishing in addition to staining. The brass fixtures are all very new and shiny, and require varying degrees of rail weathering solution to make them look more realistic. Another challenge in assembling some of these kits is that the instructions are all in Italian (which I do not speak). A glue which I find that connects wood and metal parts quickly and securely is Aleene's Quick Dry Tacky Glue.

Back to another Italian brass and wood kit, this one by Areopiccala-Torino. It is called a “Cannone da Marina” or Marine Cannon. It looks a lot like the cannons that were on the Swedish warship, Vasa, which sank in 1628. The wood parts in these kits are often oak, and require a lot of drilling and edge-finishing in addition to staining. The brass fixtures are all very new and shiny, and require varying degrees of rail weathering solution to make them look more realistic. Another challenge in assembling some of these kits is that the instructions are all in Italian (which I do not speak). A glue which I find that connects wood and metal parts quickly and securely is Aleene’s Quick Dry Tacky Glue.

This is another completely plastic kit by Encore Models for a revolutionary war cannon. Note the different painting techniques for wood, brass and iron. The scale of the model is 1:24 and measures about 8" long by 5" wide.

This is another completely plastic kit by Encore Models for a revolutionary war cannon. Note the different painting techniques for wood, brass and iron. The scale of the model is 1:24 and measures about 8″ long by 5″ wide.

Here is another version of a naval 24 pound cannon, this one by the Italian company, Artisania Latina. The scale was not specified, but the base on which the cannon rests is only 5" long by 2.5" wide. This presents the challenge of working on something which is so diminutive; the cannon balls in the boxes in front of the cannon are about the size of shotgun pellets.

Here is another version of a naval 24 pound cannon, this one by the Italian company, Artisania Latina. The scale was not specified, but the base on which the cannon rests is only 5″ long by 2.5″ wide. This presents the challenge of working on something which is so diminutive; the cannon balls in the boxes in front of the cannon are about the size of shotgun pellets.

These final two kits took the most time to construct. They are sold separately, but go together to form a cannon with its accompanying limber. The 1:16 scale models are by Guns of History/Model Shipways, and represent a James Cannon, 6 pounder, Model 1841. These guns were used in the Civil War. The cannon measures approximately 8" long by 4.25" wide, and has wood, brass and cast metal parts, just like many model railroad craftsman kits.

These final two kits took the most time to construct. They are sold separately, but go together to form a cannon with its accompanying limber. The 1:16 scale models are by Guns of History/Model Shipways, and represent a James Cannon, 6 pounder, Model 1841. These guns were used in the Civil War. The cannon measures approximately 8″ long by 4.25″ wide, and has wood, brass and cast metal parts, just like many model railroad craftsman kits.

The limber was used to harness the horses which pulled the cannon, and to store the materials used to fire the gun....cannon balls, powder charges, etc. The soldiers of the artillery corp also rode on the limber, until they discovered that opposing artillery forces could target the limber, and blow up everything thus rendering the cannon unserviceable for lack of a crew.

The limber was used to harness the horses which pulled the cannon, and to store the materials used to fire the gun….cannon balls, powder charges, etc. The soldiers of the artillery corp also rode on the limber, until they discovered that opposing artillery forces could target the limber, and blow up everything thus rendering the cannon unserviceable for lack of a crew.

 

 

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As I promised some weeks ago, I am posting an account of my visit with Troels Kirk on a recent trip to Sweden.

As I promised some weeks ago, I am posting an account of my visit with Troels Kirk on a recent trip to Sweden.

Troels lives in a small village not far from my Swedish cousin, and he graciously received us at his home on Thursday, July 9th. The thrill I got from spending an hour or so with Troels must be somewhat equivalent to the excitement felt by modelers who visited the famous John Allen during the 1970's. I was also reminded of the afternoon I spent with the late Paul Scoles in Seattle in 2013.

Troels lives in a small village not far from my Swedish cousin, and he graciously received us at his home on Thursday, July 9th. The thrill I got from spending an hour or so with Troels must be somewhat equivalent to the excitement felt by modelers who visited the famous John Allen during the 1970’s. I was also reminded of the afternoon I spent with the late Paul Scoles in Seattle in 2013.

Troels beautiful layout, the Coast Line RR, housed in a small out-building, was everything I expected it to be.

Troels beautiful layout, the Coast Line RR, housed in a small out-building, was everything I expected it to be.

Despite living in Europe, he has captured the feel of the Maine seacoast in the 1930's to perfection. An additional attraction for me is that Troels models in the same scale that I do, On30.

Despite living in Europe, he has captured the feel of the Maine seacoast in the 1930’s to perfection. An additional attraction for me is that Troels models in the same scale that I do, On30.

The artistry and craftsmanship of this layout is everything you would expect of a talented painter....

The artistry and craftsmanship of this layout is everything you would expect of a talented painter….

....with imagination.....

….with imagination…..

.....an eye for detail......

…..an eye for detail……

.....and the patience to recreate such a magnificent miniature world.

…..and the patience to recreate such a magnificent miniature world.

The front edge of the walk-around layout is almost exclusively devoted to coastal scenes; the trains generally follow a route through the  middle ground......

The front edge of the walk-around layout is almost exclusively devoted to coastal scenes; the trains generally follow a route through the middle ground……

........and the water modeling is spectacular.

……..and the water modeling is spectacular.

Troels' railroad not only features locomotives with sound, but there is an elaborate system of speakers below the layout to provide sounds for specific scenes. These sound tracks were custom made by a sound artist who worked for the Walt Disney organization. Troels told me an interesting story about seagulls. You would naturally expect the Coast Line RR to feature many calls of these ubiquitous birds, but after having lived on a boat near Paris for some time, he grew so tired of constantly hearing seagulls, that he asked the Disney artist specifically not to include the sound of seagulls. Troels subsequently removed almost all of these birds from his layout. The bird pictured here is one of the few remaining.

Troels’ railroad not only features locomotives with sound, but there is an elaborate system of speakers below the layout to provide sounds for specific scenes. These sound tracks were custom made by a sound artist who worked for the Walt Disney organization. Troels told me an interesting story about seagulls. You would naturally expect the Coast Line RR to feature many calls of these ubiquitous birds, but after having lived on a boat near Paris for some time, he grew so tired of constantly hearing seagulls, that he asked the Disney artist specifically not to include the sound of seagulls. Troels subsequently removed almost all of these birds from his layout. The bird pictured here is one of the few remaining.

All the structures on the layout are scratch-built except for the engine house by the turntable, which is kitbashed. These feature the creative use of card-stock and painted paper. You can see more details about this process on Troels' DVD, "Realistic Color for Railroad Modeling", which is often available on eBay.

All the structures on the layout are scratch-built except for the engine house by the
turntable, which is kit-bashed. The buildings feature the creative use of card-stock and painted paper. You can see more details about this process on Troels’ DVD, “Realistic Color for Railroad Modeling”, which is often available on eBay.

While scenery on the Coast Line RR is virtually complete, Troels continues to re-work certain areas and add details.

While scenery on the Coast Line RR is virtually complete, Troels continues to re-work certain areas and add details.

Troels shared a secret of his for keeping trains running smoothly. I'm not sure I had ever heard of this product, but Troels says he learned about it from a man at a museum who has to keep a large layout running flawlessly. It is applied to both track and wheels.

Troels shared a secret of his for keeping trains running smoothly. I’m not sure I had ever heard of this product, but Troels says he learned about it from a man at a museum who has to keep a large layout running flawlessly. It is applied to both track and wheels.

When I got home, I looked it up on the internet, and found that Home Depot carries what looks to be an American version of the same substance.

When I got home, I looked it up on the internet, and found that Home Depot carries what looks to be an American version of the same substance.

One feature of Troels' railroad I've always admired is his dramatic treatment of the sky. It has an energy that suggests that at any moment it might suddenly storm, or burst forth into radiant sunshine.

One feature of Troels’ railroad I’ve always admired is his dramatic treatment of the sky. It has an energy that suggests that at any moment it might suddenly storm, or burst forth into radiant sunshine.

While Troels uses mainly Bachmann On30 equipment, he paints, weathers and details it in a way that makes it look very much at home in a New England setting.

While Troels uses mainly Bachmann On30 equipment, he paints, weathers and details it in a way that makes it look very much at home in a New England setting.

Forneys and rail buses abound........

Forneys and rail buses abound……..

.....as you might expect.

…..as you might expect.

Small vignettes reveal interesting stories wherever the viewer looks.

Small vignettes reveal interesting stories wherever the viewer looks.

Having spent 60 years of my life in the theatre, I was especially pleased to see his rendition of a small town theatre with the cast for Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" posed on the front steps for an opening night photo.

Having spent 60 years of my life in the theatre, I was especially pleased to see his rendition of a small town theatre with the cast for Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” posed on the front steps for an opening night photo.

After looking over the layout with us for some time, Troels bent over and picked up a small sketch book that was lying on the floor under the bench-work. When he opened it, here were the famous concept sketches that we have all grown accustomed to seeing from him.

After looking over the layout with us for some time, Troels bent over and picked up a small sketch book that was lying on the floor under the bench-work. When he opened it, here were the famous concept sketches that we have all grown accustomed to seeing from him.

Following the better part of an hour in the railroad "house", Troels led us into his painting studio, or atelier to use the French word. It is housed in the shell of an old theatre/movie house.  Entering through the lobby, we passed the ancient ticket office.

Following the better part of an hour in the railroad “house”, Troels led us into his painting studio, or atelier to use the French word. It is housed in the shell of an old theatre/movie house.
Entering through the lobby, we passed the ancient ticket office.

When looking at Troels' paintings I have always admired the amazing realism he conveys with a limited color palette.

When looking at Troels’ paintings I have always admired the amazing realism he conveys with a limited color palette.

His works are Scandinavian scenes, but the connection with his American-based railroad is unmistakable. Incredible though it may seem, Troels says that he gets up at 4:30 in the morning, and paints until around 9:30 at night.

His works are Scandinavian scenes, but the connection with his American-based railroad is unmistakable. Incredible though it may seem, Troels says that he gets up at 4:30 in the morning, and paints until around 9:30 at night.

On the small stage of the former theatre is an elaborate rig that Troels designed to photograph his paintings. He uses these high definition photos of his originals to have prints made for sale.

On the small stage of the former theatre is an elaborate rig that Troels designed to photograph his paintings. He uses these high definition photos of his originals to have prints made for sale.

I'll leave you with a few more of his beautiful paintings.

I’ll leave you with a few more of his beautiful paintings.

His scenes of nature are hauntingly powerful.

His scenes of nature are hauntingly powerful.

I can't wait to return to Sweden, and see what Troels Kirk has got planned for the future.

I can’t wait to return to Sweden, and see what Troels Kirk has got planned for the future.

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D,D&SRR Update

First of all, I want to apologize to all my readers, both new and ol

First of all, I want to apologize to all my readers, both recent and long standing, for having gone so long without a post.  I have been dealing with some health issues that have not only preoccupied my mind and time, but also kept me out of the train loft.  I have two conditions, spinal stenosis and diabetic neuropathy that cause me sciatic back pain, which results in insomnia.  I have been seeing a dozen doctors for the last several months.  There is no cure for these conditions, short of surgery for the stenosis, which they are not recommending at this time, but I think we are finally getting to a solution that is allowing me to sleep.  I wanted to post my picture here because I am attending the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City next week (September 3-6), and I would love to meet with any of you who follow this site.  My wife and I will be staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is right next to the Convention Center.

Here is the current state of the loft on the west end.

Here is the current state of the loft on the west end.  One issue with the railroad is that the more track work I complete, the less storage and work space I will have.  To some extent, things which are now boxed up, will eventually live on the railroad, but I’ll need to make my workbench smaller and more mobile.  In the end, the workbench may have to move to a weatherized space in the garage.

At the eastern end of the pike, I still have Durango on a moveable piece of benchwork.

At the eastern end of the pike, I still have Durango on a moveable piece of bench-work.  This needs to be cross-braced and secured to the 2x2s on the wall.  My Topside Creeper is lower in this picture than it will go; it is possible to position it so that I can reach all of Durango.  It’s not comfortable, but it works.  However, I am still considering bringing all of Durango down a couple of inches.  I can work the elevation into the grade to Silverton without any serious issues, and I just feel it might be more comfortable to access Durango without the Creeper, as in operating sessions, if it were a little lower.

The Durango unit is still more or less a storage piece, although a lot of the track and structure locations are correct for future use.  Bringing Durango down some will also help with the transition to the photo backdrop.

The Durango unit is still more or less a storage piece, although a lot of the track and structure locations are correct for future use. Bringing Durango down some will also help with the transition to the photo backdrop, because it will allow me to create a little berm in the space between the track and the backdrop.

On another note, I have been working with an old high school classmate of mine on some archival audio tapes and Super mm film that he rescued

On another note, I have been working with an old high school classmate of mine (Peoria High School, Peoria, Illinois) on some archival audio tapes and Super 8mm film that he rescued from disposal when an even older friend of his went into assisted care.  The audio and video dates to the 1960s and 1970s, and does include a lot of narrow gauge activity.  I am hoping that some of this material may eventually be available to the public through Yard Goat Images (www.yardgoatimages.com).  When I’m down in Illinois, as I was last week, I usually stay with my sister who lives outside Pekin, Illinois, across the river from Peoria.  Going to Peoria, I always pass this end of a power plant yard, so I stopped to shoot a picture.  Enlarge it to see the incredible detail.

 

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I have completed the 1914 Model T Ford Fire Engine that will go with my Durango Fire Hall.

I have completed the 1914 Model T Ford Fire Engine that will go with my Durango Fire Hall.  It was made from a cast metal kit by National Motor Co., and is about 3.5 inches long.

This kind of fire engine fought fires by pumping a chemical on them, much like forest fires are fought today.

All the parts had to be painted and then assembled with ACC.  This kind of fire engine used a chemical mixture, similar to hand held fire extinguishers, to generate the pressure that propelled the water on to the flames.

The engine was lightly weathered with AIM chalks and Dullcoat.  I have posed the engine in front of the fire hall drawings.

The engine was lightly weathered with AIM chalks and Dullcoat. I have posed it in front of the fire hall drawings I made two weeks ago.

The figure in the driver's seat is from Railroad Avenue.

The figure in the driver’s seat is from Railroad Avenue.  I bought the engine kit on eBay, and it was missing the seat, but fortunately I was able to substitute a seat from an old Matchbox Models of Yesteryear car.  Now I have to work on the horse-drawn fire wagon that will occupy the lean-to part of the fire hall.

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For five years, from 2004 to 2008, I had a Christmas train layout under our tree using Bachmann's On30 equipment.  That's where I fell in love with the scale.  The only problem was that each January, the layout had to be packed away until the following Christmas season. Although it had a pretty complex track arrangement, and two levels, it was made with Lemax Village buildings and people.  Their buildings are OK for what they are, and are generally speaking quarter inch scale, but their figures are closer to G-scale, and I had some 1:32 scale automobiles on it.  All in all, it was OK for a Christmas display, but it wasn't a real model railroad.  I had done some video pieces of it every year because I like doing that kind of thing. In January of 2009 I knew I was going to be able to start on a real model railroad, so I made a farewell video, using all of the tricks at my command.  I arranged special lighting for all of the scenes.  I placed theatrical gels over the camera lens to simulate dusk and night.  I had a small fog machine that generated a pretty good blowing snow effect, and I did some "camera-on-flatcar" shots.  I even plotted the suggestion of a story. Jump forward to July of 2013.  My friend Steve Mitchell, of Yard Goat Images, e-mailed me to see if I'd like to make a commercial release of my 2008 Christmas train video.  I pounced on the idea, and we spent the next five or six weeks re-editing the video, tightening up the story, re-scoring the music, and adding all new sound effects.  The finished product is the DVD, "The Last Train to Christmasville", which is now available on Steve's web site, yardgoatimages.com. The running time is about 30 minutes, and the price is $15.00. The preview of it can be seen on the web site, or at U-Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbu1Qyr-C3k Young children love to watch trains, and I really think "The Last Train to Christmasville" turned out to be a delightful product for young children, ages toddler up to middle school, so if you have any kids that age in your life, your own, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, I'd strongly urge you to consider it for a Christmas gift.

For five years, from 2004 to 2008, I had a Christmas train layout under our tree using Bachmann’s On30 equipment. That’s where I fell in love with the scale. The only problem was that each January, the layout had to be packed away until the following Christmas season.
Although it had a pretty complex track arrangement, and two levels, it was made with Lemax Village buildings and people. Their buildings are OK for what they are, and are generally speaking quarter inch scale, but their figures are closer to G-scale, and I had some 1:32 scale automobiles on it. All in all, it was adequate for a Christmas display, but it wasn’t a real scale model railroad. I had done some video recording of it every year because I like doing that kind of thing.
In January of 2009 I knew I was going to be able to start on a real model railroad, so I made a farewell video, using all of the tricks at my command. I arranged special lighting for all of the scenes. I placed theatrical gels over the camera lens to simulate dusk and night. I had a small fog machine that generated a pretty good blowing snow effect, and I did some “camera-on-flatcar” shots.  I used backgrounds, so my living room furniture wouldn’t loom large in the distance, and I even plotted the suggestion of a story.
Jump forward to July of 2013. My friend Steve Mitchell, of Yard Goat Images, e-mailed me to see if I’d like to make a commercial release of my 2008 Christmas train video. I pounced on the idea, and we spent the next five or six weeks re-editing the video, tightening up the story, re-scoring the music, and adding all new locomotive and train sound effects. The finished product is the DVD, “The Last Train to Christmasville”, which is now available on Steve’s web site, yardgoatimages.com.
The running time is about 30 minutes, and the price is $15.00.
A preview of it can be seen on the web site, or at U-Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbu1Qyr-C3k
Young children love to watch trains, and I really think “The Last Train to Christmasville” turned out to be a delightful product for young children, ages toddler up to middle school, so if you have any kids that age in your life, your own, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, I’d strongly urge you to consider it for a Christmas gift.

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The DVD that Steve Mitchell of Yard Goat Images and I shot last January in Colorado is finally ready for a pre-release.  I met with Steve today, and he gave me a number of copies at what he calls his distributor price.  He also gave me permission to sell these at a discount to friends and family.  For obvious reasons, he requested that I not advertise the discounted price

The DVD that Steve Mitchell of Yard Goat Images and I shot last January in Colorado is finally ready for a pre-release. I met with Steve today, and he gave me a number of copies at what he calls his distributor price. He also gave me permission to sell these at a discount to friends and family. For obvious reasons, he requested that I not advertise the discounted price, but if you would like one, please contact me at my e-mail address <markpaulson@comcast.net>   Some of you saw the DVD that I made from my video alone; this finished version, with the work of both cameramen, is twice as spectacular.  If you like steam trains and western scenery, this is one DVD you are definitely going to want in your collection.

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The Winter Train

I just got back last night from a wonderful trip to Durango, Colorado.  I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday video taping the Durango & Silverton Winter Train for Yard Goat Images.  In the winter months, the train only goes a little more than half way to Silverton, to the wye track at Cascade.  It stops here so everyone can stretch their legs and have a picnic lunch.

I just got back last night from a wonderful trip to Durango, Colorado. I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday video taping the Durango & Silverton Winter Train for Yard Goat Images. In the winter months, the train only goes a little more than half way to Silverton, turning on the wye track at Cascade. It stops here so everyone can stretch their legs and have a picnic lunch.

The railroad couldn't have been more gracious.  They gave us access to everything we wanted to shoot....the roundhouse, machine shop, etc.  We had three perfect days with the weather; hardly a cloud in the sky.

The railroad couldn’t have been more gracious. They gave us access to everything we wanted to shoot….the roundhouse, machine shop, etc. We had three perfect days with the weather; hardly a cloud in the sky.

The town of Durango was much bigger than I expected, but most of the photos I've been viewing for research date back to the early 20th century.  The Hotel Strater, pictured here, is one of the more venerable establishments that dates back to the very first days of the town.

The town of Durango was much bigger than I expected, but most of the photos I’ve been viewing for research date back to the early 20th century. The Hotel Strater, pictured here, is one of the more venerable establishments that goes back to the very first days of the town.

Here's engine #473 approaching the famous high line curve.

Here’s engine #473 approaching the famous high line curve.

I rode the train on Thursday and Friday, and did the chase with Steve Mitchell, owner of Yard Goat Images, on Saturday.  Steve road the train on Thursday and half of Friday, and chased on the other half of Friday and Saturday.  The DVD he's putting together should be available in a couple of months.  Keep watch on  for news of it's release.

I rode the train on Thursday and Friday, and did the chase with Steve Mitchell, owner of Yard Goat Images, on Saturday. Steve rode the train on Thursday and half of Friday, and chased on the other half of Friday and Saturday. The DVD he’s putting together should be available in a couple of months. Keep watch on yardgoatimages.com for news of it’s release.

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Today I drove over to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, about an hour and a half from where I live, to visit my friend, Steve Mitchell. Steve runs Yard Goat Images, a company he started several years ago to make DVDs of steam locomotives that are still running in this day and age. I have helped Steve on a couple of video projects the last two summers, so some of my video work is on the DVDs as well. In addition to his web site <www.yardgoatimages.com>, Steve sells his DVDs at model railroad shows like these. He looks like he has his “game face” on here……ready to engage in some serious salesmanship.

Steve is now using two 8 ft. tables to display his tapes. This also makes room for things like this enlargement of his business card image.

Model railroad shows like this usually feature one or more kinds of displays. They almost always have layouts in many scales that have been built by various clubs.

Here is an N-scale layout with many tiny details.

This layout is HO scale, still the most popular scale for home layouts, although you see a lot of N scale layouts at shows because they tend to be smaller and more transportable.

Almost all show layouts are what are called “modular”, because they can be separated into short sections for transportation. Quite often you see some very nice detail modeling like this lumber facility.

Another fascinating feature of some layouts is movement in some of the scenic elements. Here two young modelers marvel over a circus scene with lots of action.

Another feature of model railroad shows is hobby shop or dealer displays. Sometimes items may be purchased at shows for a bit less than the usual going rate, but you have to know your prices. The other two things found at some shows are individuals with items to sell in a “flea market” manner, and manufacturers with new product displays. The flea market tables are the places to look for the real bargains; the manufacturers are usually only found at the largest train shows. In my volunteer work for the Minnesota Transportation Museum, I have attended train shows of all kinds, promoting the museum and their real train rides on the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway.

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My Top Ten

I have been meaning to create a “Top Ten” list for my favorite railroad modelers for some time, now. Note that this list is not hierarchical; I have equal admiration for the work of all these modelers. Furthermore, I do not intend to limit this list to just ten, or replace names on the list if it exceeds ten.  Another restriction I have imposed upon myself is to list only people who are currently alive and modeling.  This is not to minimize the contributions of past giants in the hobby like John Allen or John Armstrong; their work was the foundation on which today’s modelers build.  I just feel that they belong in a separate “Top Ten” list.  I have also included only indoor modelers;  I know there are a lot of fantastic “garden” layouts, but again, maybe they belong on a list of their own.  While I am always looking for new inspiration, I have no interest in debating the merits of modelers who are not on this list.  I am just saying that these are a few of the artists that I hold in highest regard, and whose work continues to be an inspiration for me to improve my modeling skills.  This photo is from the Coastline Railroad of Troels Kirk, who models New England narrow gauge in On30 scale, but does it from southern Sweden, not far from where some of my relatives live. Troels has invited me to visit his layout the next time I’m in Sweden. Troels is an artist who paints and sketches professionally, and you can really see how he has applied that talent to his layout.

Here’s another shot from Troels’ layout. Try to visit his web site at <http://coastline.no13.se/#home&gt; He also sells DVDs about his techniques for painting scenery and structures that are excellent.

Paul Scoles is an American modeler who works in Sn3 scale/gauge. His layout, The Pelican Bay & Navigation Co. is an 1895 period, free-lance style work, set in coastal Northern California. Inspiration largely comes from the North Pacific Coast Railroad, and the South Pacific Coast Railroad. The line extends from the coastal communities of “Redwood Country” east to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Paul lives in the northwestern United States, so he is close to the territory that he models.  I have found this proximity factor to be an inspiration to many of the greatest model railroaders.   Paul has been extensively covered by the model railroading press, and he also has DVDs of his layout featuring all aspects from scenery to operations. You can get started looking at more pictures of his fantastic work at <http://www.paulscoles.com/&gt;

I grew up in central Illinois, and as young people we couldn’t avoid developing an interest in, and a love for, Civil War history. When I was commissioned by the Minnesota Transportation Museum to create a Civil War themed layout and power-point presentation, I discovered the O scale work of Bernard Kempinski.

He models the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Fredericksburg line in 1863.
His research and attention to historical detail and accuracy is phenomenal, not to mention his considerable modeling skills. He also lives near the area that he models in northern Virginia. I look at his web site every day after breakfast when I read my e-mail. <http://usmrr.blogspot.com/&gt;

I first discovered the work of John Olson back when I was modeling in N-scale. I was recovering from some surgery, and I read a copy of his book on building his Jerome & Southwestern layout. This was just one of many imaginative layouts created by John. I often felt the sense of fantasy, humor and personality that he brought to his work came from the years that he spent designing for Walt Disney’s theme parks.

I can’t find a web site that he himself maintains, but a lot has certainly been written by him and about him in the model railroading press. I think all of his books are still available through Kalmbach Publishing.

Next on my list is another European modeler named Pelle Soeborg. He is an exception to my observation that proximity to the area modeled yields great results. Pelle models the American southwest, and does it with such photographic fidelity to reality that you have to look twice to see that you are looking at a model, and not the real thing.

Pelle is a graphic design artist and professional photographer.  Maybe that should be a second common denominator for great modelers….some background in the arts!  You can start looking at one of the many web sites devoted to his work at <http://www.soeeborg.dk/photogalleryeng.html&gt;

Another inspiring model railroading artist is George Sellios who lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Back in the 1960’s he established a company called Fine Scale Miniatures, which produces exquisite model railroad structure kits. George fits into my theory about living in the area you model. His Franklin & South Manchester (FSM….Fine Scale Miniatures….get it?) layout depicting northeastern urban scenes in the steam era is one of the most famous model railroads of all time.

George’s work has been highly featured in both press and video for decades. There are numerous web sites and videos on line. Try <http://www.allenkeller.com/videoPages/GMR02.php&gt; for a start.

The work of Dave Frary and Bob Hayden first caught my eye back in the 1980’s, and may have been my first exposure to narrow gauge model railroading.

Their layouts depicting New England narrow gauge were superb, and their many publications on all aspects of model railroading became a constant companion to my early work in N-scale modeling. I think that all of their books are still available through Kalmbach Publishing.

Another modeler whose work and service to the hobby is outstanding is Joe Fugate. His layout is called the Siskiyou Line, and models some west coast operations of the Southern Pacific.

Not only does Joe have a terrific layout, which he shares with a great series of DVDs, but he has created a revolutionary new way to publish material about model railroading with his on-line magazine, Model Railroad Hobbyist. It is published on the web once a month, and can be read and saved on your computer. It features great articles, and clickable links to advertisers home pages…….and it’s free!

<a href=”http://mrhmag.com”><img width=”468″ height=”60″ alt=”Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine – Totally electronic, totally interactive, totally free – Each monthly issue, 100+ pages!” src=”http://mrhmag.com/sites/model-railroad-hobbyist.com/files/users/MRH_news_desk/MRH_banner1.jpg&#8221; /></a>

For my ninth layout of note, I have picked the Ruphe & Tumbelle, created by Kim Brown, Dale Olson and owner Rick Reimer.  It is wonderfully detailed, scenicked and weathered.

Three things I find interesting about this layout: First the name is suggestive of the manner in which the great John Allen addressed his layout, The Gorre & Daphited, and second, the creators have chosen to go with a stylized background painting technique rather than attempting something realistic, or using photographic backgrounds. This works for their layout because of careful color coordination with the coloring on the rest of the layout. The third reason I am attracted to this layout is that it features mountain narrow gauge railroading, which is, of course, the theme of my Denver, Durango & Silverton.

For number ten on my list, I’d like to recognize a number of accomplished model railroaders from Australia. You might not think of Australia as a hot bed for model railroaders, but everything that I’ve seen, from train show presentations and magazine articles to on-line postings suggests otherwise. Not only are the Australians great modelers, but they do more work in balsa wood than we do. In this country, balsa is traditionally thought of as material for model airplanes because of it’s light weight, but “down under”, where balsa is a native forest product, the Australians do some incredibly nice railroad modeling with it. Here is a modular display layout where the structures are largely built with balsa. It is called “Muskrat Ramble” and depicts a swampy little town in Louisiana in 1925. This is another example of wonderful modeling of an area in which the modelers don’t actually live.

Muskrat Ramble was created by the Tuesday Night Modelers Group in Sydney, Australia. Members of the group are: Ray Walter, Geoff Nott, Keith McCarron, Dieter Chidel, Michael Flack and George Paxon.  Geoff Nott also does numerous clinics on structures and layouts, using balsa.  You can see some of his presentations in YouTube videos; just search under his name.

These four photos of the layout were taken by Ian Chadwick and Rob Goslin and edited by Mario Rapinett. To see all of the pictures in this set, go to these two addresses:
http://www.modvid.com.au/html/body_muskrat.html
http://www.modvid.com.au/html/body_muskrat_ramble.html

Laurie McLean is another Australian who has done some absolutely revolutionary things with animation. You can’t really demonstrate animation in a still photo, but if you go to:     http://www.youtube.com/user/scoopmmr     you will find 160 different animation videos that he has posted. A great number of my N and HO scale structures that I have sold on eBay are now residing on model railroads in Australia.
Once again, I am open to suggestions for future additions to this list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I started work on these, a couple of days ago, I wasn't intending to use them for photography, but I kind of like the way the light works here. I will definitely have to get a new background sheet. This one is just too wrinkled up for photo work. I just stuck it up there because it had been lying around for years.

From a higher angle, you can see the track ballast, which is half commercial Woodland Scenics medium beige ballast, and half some of my sifted paver base. The granules are about the same size, and when it dries, the colors are fairly close.

The trees are from my old N-scale layout. Mature trees in N-scale; young trees in On30-scale. Trees are trees and rocks are rocks.

This dead tree is a root structure turned upside down. The car is my scratch-built coal car.

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Videos on DVD

Eventually I plan to make videos of my layout including scripts with stories, characters, music, etc., but that’s still a couple of years in the future.  In the mean time, I worked on two train video projects last summer and fall.  The set of three DVDs pictured above were produced by Steve Mitchell of Yard Goat Images.  The whole set contains video of steam locomotives that Steve shot over the course of the entire summer of 2011, but my contribution, mainly on volumes two and three, covered the 2011 Railfest in Rock Island, Illinois.  My first assignment was to drive down to Newton Iowa, and chase two huge 2-10-2 steam locomotives that belong to the president of the Iowa Interstate Railroad, as they made their way to the festival in Rock Island.  These locomotives were built in China in the 1980’s.  The temperatures were over 100 degrees every day we shot, but it was still great fun.   Once at the festival, we shot material on all the trains and locomotives that were there, followed and rode trips out to Walcott, Iowa and back, and covered trips to Bureau Junction, Illinois.  The videos are available, singly, in pairs, or the full three volume set, from Steve Mitchell at <yardgoatimages.com>
Last fall I made a video on the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway, which is operated by The Minnesota Transportation Museum.  The picture above is the front and back side of the DVD case cover.  The 90 minute round trip train ride passes through some beautiful countryside as it travels down to the St. Croix River, across to the Minnesota side, and on to Marine on St. Croix.  I wanted to catch the train on the best day for the fall leaf color, but it only runs on the weekends.   As it turned out, I was very lucky with the weather, and I got some gorgeous shots.  You can purchase the DVD at The Minnesota Transportation Museum, or I can make you a copy.  The cost is $9.75 plus shipping.

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Business Cards

People I meet often ask me what I am doing in my retirement. Sometimes it can be rather lengthy to explain that I am building a model railroad in my garage loft. I thought that if I had a business card I could hand them, it would simplify the explanation, and lead them to explore this web site.  This is a rough draft of a card I took to the printer. The finished product will have a yellow drop-shadow on the reddish letters, and a black drop-shadow on the yellow letters.  I can also use it at model railroad shows, and other places where I want to invite viewers to come to my site.

Here is what the finished card looks like.

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Books

I have referred to Google Images many times when discussing research photos, but there are great books out there, too. It doesn’t matter what area of the country, time-period, prototype or fictional railroad you have chosen to build, there are books available to fire your imagination and guide your modeling. Look at model railroad shows, on eBay, at bookstores…particularly used book stores like Half Price Books…Amazon.com, and so forth. If you search carefully, you can usually find what you are looking for at reasonable prices. Cinders & Smoke, Doris B. Osterwald, Western Guideways, Ltd., 1965, mile-by-mile guide to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, great maps and many very nice B/W photos. Still available from Amazon.com’s used book sellers. I found mine on eBay. Either source is very affordable. I just love this book. As you can see from the menu down the left side of the cover, it contains just about everything you’d ever want to know about the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Since my fictional railroad follows the path of the D&S, this book is a great research tool.
There are also detailed maps of the whole length of the line, marked down to a tenth of a mile, with references using the old D&RG mileage numbers. The maps are accompanied by detailed descriptions of the geology, flora and fauna, and history of every inch of this railroad. Despite its age (it was first published in 1965) the material is timeless, and the historic photos are priceless. Many DVDs on the market claim to give you a “ride” on the railroad, but as far as I know, there aren’t any that actually document the entire route from Durango to Silverton. This book helps to connect the pieces you can see in the videos.
Ticket to Toltec, Doris B. Osterwald, Western Guideways, Ltd., 1992, like Cinders & Smoke is a mile-by-mile guide to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, great maps and many very nice B/W and color photos. Also available on Amazon.com. I found mine in the gift shop at the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California (one of the finest railroad museums I have ever visited, by the way).
This book, also by Doris B. Osterwald, is a more recent companion piece to the first book I wrote about, Cinders & Smoke. It follows the same useful formula with maps and notations for every inch of the C&TS line from Antonito to Chama over Cumbres Pass. Interestingly, it follows it Westbound, all the way from Antonito to Chama, and then turns around, and follows it Eastbound, from Chama back to Antonito. I am not specifically modeling this territory, although it is technically a part of my layout, because I run “off stage” as far Southwest as Farmington, New Mexico, and as far East as Denver via Alamosa. When the D&RGW abandoned its narrow gauge lines in 1969, the states of Colorado and New Mexico purchased and preserved the run from Antonito to Chama, and it became the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. The D&S has no tunnels, so I will be modeling the C&TS tunnels known as “Mud Tunnel” and “Rock Tunnel”. I will probably borrow other scenic elements found on the C&TS.
Rails Around Durango, Alan C. Lewis, Arcadia Publishing, 2006, part of a series of books on the history of places all around the country. Available from Amazon.com. I got mine for Christmas from my oldest daughter. This series of books is filled with wonderful historic pictures, and a subset of these books deals specifically with railroads, the “Rails Around……..” set. Each photo is accompanied by helpful text, and there are a few maps, too. I highly recommend this series for research on your particular modeling project.
Narrow Gauge Pictorial, Vol. II, Passenger Cars of the D&RGW, Robert L. Grandt, R/Robb Publications, 1982, also part of a series of books of excellent prototype photos. Available from Amazon, eBay, and Grandt Line Products. This book is a part of an eleven volume series on Colorado’s narrow gauge railroads. The books are organized by subject, and this one deals specifically with the passenger cars of the D&RGW. I bought this book for detailed reference photos of the San Juan and Shavano passenger trains. I knew I was going to have to make some modifications to Bachmann’s narrow gauge passenger equipment to get something like the cars I needed, and the photos in this book were perfect. I should say that these books are photo books, and just that. The full-page photos are accompanied by very brief identifications, the location of the picture, and the date it was shot, but for visual reference documents, they are great.

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I am a retired teacher of Theatre, theatrical director and designer, who has been active in theatre since 1955. In retirement, I have been working at times as a theatrical consultant, but I have also been spending a good deal of time on this model railroad layout.  I also volunteer for the Minnesota Transportation Museum, at the Jackson Street Roundhouse in St. Paul, Minnesota.  This roundhouse was once operated by the Great Northern Railroad, and much of my work there is for the Great Northern Historical Society.  I also go to train shows around the region to promote the museum.

Like many model railroaders, I had “trains” as a child in the 1950s, but didn’t start building a real layout until 1983. That first layout was in N-scale (tracks nine millimeters apart). Our family moved in 1992, and that layout had to be taken down. The new house didn’t have any unfinished living space for a railroad, so my hobby languished for over 20 years. In that time, the scale of On30 (O-scale narrow gauge trains that run on HO-scale track) saw tremendous development from manufacturers, and many more modelers began to work in On30. The level of detail that can be realized in 1:48 scale, or quarter-inch to the foot scale, is very satisfying, and by working in narrow gauge, layouts in O-scale can be built in spaces that used to only be suitable for HO-scale. As it turned out, there became an unfinished space in my house when I built a storage loft in my two-story garage. Initially it was an open space, but I saw that by adding a short hip wall, I could enclose the space, and make it comfortable for year-round endeavors. A passage was also created into our master bedroom by opening up a wall, and installing a door. This way I don’t have to go into the garage to get to the layout space.

So, why did I create this web site?  My life in the theatre was very social, and I developed hundreds of friends and acquaintances over the years.  I knew when I started this layout that I was committing myself to several years of a hermit-like existence.  I felt this was a way of staying in touch with my non-model-railroading friends…..letting them know what I was up to.   I didn’t want them going about saying, “What ever happened to…….?”  One thing I am NOT trying to do with the web site:  I am not trying to show how great a modeler I am.  I am not bragging or showing off.  If you like what I’ve done, that’s great.  If you feel you can learn a few new methods from the way I build things, that’s even better.  I like to learn new things every day, and I hope that you do to.

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Hi Railfans,

Click on “Track Plan for the….” in this same category to see the latest version of the track plan. I have used a program called Empire Express to do the drawings. It works well on my MAC, and has as many features as I need, without being too complicated. I keep working over the plan to conform to prototype practice, as my research continues. If you have seen earlier versions of the plan, you will notice considerable changes in both yard areas. If you are looking at the plan for the first time, the total space is 23 feet by 10 feet, and the little gray squares on the plan are one square foot each. The scale is On30, which means it is O Scale (1/4″ to the foot), but runs on HO Scale track, which represents 2.5 gauge or “narrow gauge” in O Scale.

If this is the first version you are looking at, my railroad, the Denver, Durango & Silverton, will be modeled on the narrow gauge operations of the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Rio Grande Southern in the southern part of Colorado. These narrow gauge lines flourished in the late 1800s, and gradually died out in the mid 1900s, as the resources they carried, primarily lumber and silver and gold ore, decreased. The advent of better highways to serve these areas also contributed to their demise. Some sections of the line are still run as tourist railroads, notably the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and the Cumbres and Toltec.

My railroad will model the line from Durango up to Silverton, about a 45 mile run through the amazingly beautiful Animas River Canyon. I will also have an off-line hidden return helix that will function as Denver (and possibly other destinations). Basic traffic on my line will come from Denver to the yard at Durango, and then on to the yard at Silverton. Return trips to go the other way. The locals will serve the various on-line industries, as well as taking loads and empties between Durango and Silverton. The mines and the lumber camp will be served by little 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 Porter steam engines. I also have a two truck Shay that will bring logs down to Durango from the lumber camp. Two other Porters will serve as yard goats, and the main line will be served by two 4-6-0 Moguls, a 2-8-0 Consolidation, a 4-4-0 American, and a 2-4-4 Forney. These last four will handle the local duties, and the run to Denver. These lines also carried passengers, mostly miners and tourists, so I will be using a few coaches for these.

One unusual feature of the layout will be what I am called a “roll-under”. As opposed to the traditional “duck-under”, access to the west (or right hand) side of the layout on the plan will be via some kind of a seat on rollers (rails?) that goes under the central cross-over section.

The small numbers in parentheses on the plan refer to reference photos I have in files that I will use for modeling.  See the posts on the reference photos for the various parts of the track plan.  The index here lists thing alphabetically, not chronologically, so you’ll have to create your own chronology; I’ll try to record the posting dates accurately, that may help.

I hope you enjoy looking at this, and I welcome comments.

Mark

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