What is Protocrastinator?

A Protocrastinator is a person who puts off finescale Railroad (and railway modelling) for no good reason.
Originally for me it was 1:87 (HO) scale. Problems with acquiring the bits and pieces led to extreme dissatisfaction and the project stalled. Now I've acquired an O scale boxcar and I intend investigating Proto 48 as a finescale project.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Here comes another one!

With the old year drawing to a close and a new one appearing over the horizon, it is customary to offer up some sort of resolution. Something to do in the new year. Quite why you need the arrival of a new year to resolve to do something is something that I've never quite understood. You can resolve to do something anytime you like. You don't hear of many folks offering up a birthday resolution though do you? So I might as well jump on the bandwagon, even though it is probably very full with well meaning overweight, unfit, smokers etc: and offer up something. By this time next year. I'd like to see track down and trains running on the P87 experiment whatever form it takes. I'm not going to make any rash promises about a full detailed working exhibition layout. For only having converted on freight car and soldered up a P87 frog I know there's still a long way to go. But with the Model Railroad worksops at Lakeside hobby to look forward to. Positive progress would seem to be assured. If only I can decide what to do...
So a Happy new year to all of you. May your new year turn out to be as successful as you wish for.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

H0 Scale agonies (part 2)

As well as things seem to be going with this P87 experiment. It is still very apparent that the whole thing is floating around in some sort of limbo for I have no concept for the layout. I've thrown a few ideas out there in the hope that one of them might stick, but all to no avail. I know that it would be a mistake to copy Wingetts recycling in P87. Why would I need two of the same layout?
The layout will likely be used as a demonstration piece for the Micro layout workshops over at Lakeside hobby so it needs to be simple. You might well question the wisdom of using P87 for this purpose. But the workshop is all about techniques and ideas so what scale I make the model in is immaterial. Besides it will be an education to most to learn that Ho scale is not the be all and end all.
So a simple test track, easily transportable. About 4-5' long that isn't Wingetts recycling.
The inglenook style trackplan has been proven time and time again to produce interesting layouts in a small space.
So an inglenook track plan then as a basis. How to treat the plan to produce something interesting is the quandary.
Wingetts taught me that if you can create a story with the action on the layout people will get interested and watch. The story on Wingetts was the scrapping of wagons. Though we never saw what hapenned. The actions around lead the story to form in the imagination of the watcher.
So I need to tell a story too.
What about an Oil depot as a subject? No story there. Tankers arrive, tankers depart, ad infinitum. Model railway equivalent of the music of Phillip Glass...
Warehouse? Much the same situation. Plenty of variety of you like box cars though. But no story.
Independent Locomotive works? Better. Battered, broken down and dirty locos arrive. Nice clean repaired ones depart. Great if you've got lots of model locomotives. I do have lots of loco's but I'd have to re-wheel them all for P87 to be effective.
A Sawmill? Ooooh hang on a bit, this might be it. Here's a modellable story Logging line brings lumber down to Sawmill where it is processed into various wood products. To later leave the mill on Centerbeam cars, Bulkhead flats even in Boxcars too. Could even have wood chips loaded somehow. This I like. I've long been fascinated by logging lines. The more modern ones in particular. I like to see pictures of logging line switchers that have airtanks and dynamic brake housings added to them.
So I may well have talked myself into some kind of logging line scene. I have no problems with that at all.
Now all I have to do is find some inspirational imagery. I know of some very inspirational video of the Hull-Oakes sawmill in Oregon you can find that at the Dawson Station blog along with other interesting photos.
So I could be onto something here. We'll see.
I hope you enjoyed this ramble through my scheming mind.

More first P87 steps

Following my old friend Yan's first steps in converting an R-T-R loco to P4 standards you'd think I'd be inspired to do the same. That I'd get out my Ultrascale 08 conversion kit and convert it.
Well I was inspired but not in the way you'd expect.
I decided to try to see if I could convert a Micro Engineering HO scale #6 turnout to P87 by dropping in a Proto87 stores frog. I just hapenned to find a #6 turnout for cheap in Hub Hobby on Sunday so I thought it doesn't matter if I ruin it testing the method.
The first step is to make up the frog. I followed the instructions at the P87 stores website. Which I was most nervous about given my soldering skills (I am wont to refer to instructions as destructions to give you an idea of my abilities) But, I had a nice new soldering iron and set to, following the "destructions". On reflection I should have used my new 40W Iron instead of my new 25 watter as it would have heated things up quicker. But apart from that everything went as per the instructions. I looked at the finished item. It was then I got my first inkling of just how fine P87 standards are. The flangeways are barely there through the vee area. Still, I was most amazed that I had managed to construct such a piece. It did wonders for my confidence.
My confidence was so boosted that I then took the ME turnout in hand and ripped out the old coarse scale frog and wing rails. "Ripped" is a slight exaggeration. You have to exert some force to remove them but use careful force. They come out pretty easily. Then I had to file some protruding bits off of make the frog sit smoothly and level. The new frog is pretty much a direct exchange for the old one on these ME turnouts. I placed the frog in situ and carefully pushed a P87 truck through the vee...
Now good readers you'll have to wait for part two of the story as after that I had to go and start dinner.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My lost masterpiece?

In the preface to his extremely funny classic work of modern literature "Lake Wobegon Days", Garrison Keillor describes the early draft of a story called "Lucky Man" which he lost (on a train journey no less) and has never been able to recall or recreate in the intervening 35 plus years since its disappearance in the toilets at Portland Railroad depot.
Well I, like Garrison, have lost an early draft of a idea from many years ago. The fact that I have lost an idea is extremely galling. I normally file them so well.
My idea though was a concept for a model railroad layout and there the similarity ends. But it was a good idea. Actually time having blurred my memory insists it was a bloody good idea. But as hard as I try I can't recreate the niceties of my original sketch. I've tried below. The basic idea is there but it's not quite right.
The half relief water tower in the background isn't there and the cutaway multi-storey car park (parking ramp) is a 21st century addition. It's close. It recreates the feel and spirit of the original design.
But it's not just the design that is lost. It's the scribblings that would be on the paper too. Those probably told me which DPM buildings to use. Every time I see a DPM building kit I am reminded of this idea. Other observations too. All gone.
Sometimes when I'm operating at a model railway exhibition I hope that the full idea will come flooding back to me or that one day when rootling behind the back of a bookshelf I'll find a crumpled up yellowing piece of paper that has all the details and scribblings that will enable me to make this layout how I saw it in my minds eye many years ago...

H0 Scale Agonies...

So having got that last rant off my chest I feel better now. Though it might mean I'm never featured in the pages of a Kalmbach publication again.

But it does raise some interesting points towards this Proto87 experience of mine.
There is no doubt that Lance Mindheims' turnouts look superb. I hope mine will look half as good when finished. Well, they look good until you look at the crossing vee area then you see what I have termed "the grand canyon of crossing flangeways".
So here is my H0 scale agony I want scale accuracy of track and pointwork as easily as possible.
But how?
If only there was a way to just drop in a P87 vee arrangement to an R-T-R turnout. So you could convert an R-T-R tournout to P87 just like that then. I'd be on that train so fast you wouldn't see me for dust.
Guess what?
There is.
Proto87 stores carry the turnout vee by itself so that you can just drop it into an RTR turnout they claim. I must admit that I missed this when looking through the P87 stores when looked for turnout kits to buy.
I am going to have to try this out. It would make thigs so much easier I think. Much of what is in Lance Mindheims article will be useful. I'll just have to cross reference it with the instructions on the Proto87 stores website.

Time for a moan

Yesterday I bought a copy of Model Railroders special issue "How to build Realistic Reliable track"
I'm quite disappointed. The title can be seen to be somewhat of a misnomer. "Reliable track" OK so it seems to cover that aspect pretty well with plenty of sound advice and ideas on how to lay track so that trains run well and quietly.
As for "realistic" I'm sorry Messrs Kalmbach but by no stretch of the imagination can 3 rail O scale be seen to be realistic. There are three rails on the model track where there should only be two. How can this possibly be seen to be "realistic"? (In fact how come three rail O scale is still about? It should be consigned to the scrap heap or the model railroad museum.)
But my bigger gripe with this issue is relevant to this blog. Is how can a magazine that claims to cover "realistic" track not mention Proto87 standards?
The magazine starts with a very nice article by Lance Mindheim (who's work I am a big fan of) about superdetailing turnouts, it's why I bought the magazine in the first place. Very decent piece about all the details you can add to an R-T-R Micro Engineering turnout. The painting/weathering looks excellent, I shall try it myself. But you look at the frog/vee of the turnout and there's that RTR "Grand Canyon" of flangeways. Once you notice it the first time it screams out at you at every model turnout you look at.
Go and look at a real turnout. It looks nothing like how things are depicted on a model turnout. Nothing at all.
There are many, many modellers who could have put forward a decent, informative article about realistic trackwork standards. I don't know wether Kalmbach didn't approach anyone or no one knew about this magazine to actually sit down and write a piece.
But as a leading model railway magazine MR has a duty to let modellers know about all options to them. With Modelling realistic reliable track I feel Kalmbach dropped the ball in a very big way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting beyond the train set

Now Terry at Lakeside Hobby has gone public with this announcement
I can talk about it.
I will be presenting a series of workshops on building a micro layout for under $100 (or thereabouts).
The sessions will cover everything all the way from design all the way through all aspects of building a layout that should end up not much bigger than 4' long.
In order to "put my money where my mouth is" I think I should be building a layout along with everyone else.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Watching the trains

Here's another idea from "way back" that might just have some possibilities for my P87 dalliance. Called "Watching the Trains" it was designed for regular H0 scale as a layout for operating modern, large box cars and Big loco's like C-44's. The interesting view blocks of a car park (parking garage) and box car ends have always appealed to me and I'd like to try them out.
The layout did start to get built. The unusual traverser with a turnout on it worked perfectly but C-44's struggled to navigate the curve that I increased to 18" radius at the right hand end. So that would be a no-no for P87. But I think that the scheme could be adapted in some way. Or at the very least I could use the parking garage view block on the layout.

A bit daunted

I had sometime over the weekend to review the Proto87 turnout kits that arrived.
Daunted was an understatement.
I was positively "bricking it" as we Brits are prone to uttering when things look dire.
Some lengths of rail, some track bases and other detailing bits and frogs that were in three pieces! Worst of all. No instructions!
"What have I let myself in for?" I asked myself. I kind of expected a bit more organisation in the way the kit was presented to the buyer. In that regard these kits do not compare very favourably with P4 track company kits or even C&L kits. Instructions abound with those and they are excellently packaged.
However I am saved by the instructions on the Proto87 stores website.
These are excellent. Step by step, clear, well explained photographs that remove pretty much all fear of messing the job up. Having read those several times I'm not so scared now. But I am thinking that perhaps I should have put a new soldering iron on my Christmas list.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Support your Local Hobby Shop

My 7 day layout Wingett's recycling is currently on (non working) display at Lakeside Hobby in Zimmerman, MN. I'm hounoured that Terry, the owner thinks it worthy of display to hopefully encourage other people to consider small model railway layouts when getting started in the hobby.
But that's not what this post is about.
With the opening of Lakeside Hobby I am now very lucky to have a truly Local Hobby Shop. In these days of internet shopping we all tend to go for where we can get the best deal when buying stock for our model railways and forget about how important the L.H.S. can be. Lets not forget that until very recently most of us bought just about everything from their L.H.S. Then internet traders with no premises and low overheads started to offer things at ridiculously low prices that the L.H.S. couldn't compete with. I've seen hobby shops nearby shrink to a shadow of their former selves in the last 10 years.
But the hobby isn't just about buying trains cheaply and running them on your model railroad. There's the interaction with like minded souls at exhibitions, clubs and hobby shops. Your L.H.S. owner is very likely a keen modeller too. You can probably learn something from him, he can learn something from you. Buying stuff at an L.H.S. is a social experience.
"Come in, take your coat off and pour yourself a coffee" is the sort of atmosphere Terry is after. I'm all for that. I might just spend more money that way.
Of course Terry can't supply me with much in the way of P87 bits and pieces but Loco's, Freight cars and scenic doodads can all come from there and they will. Track too, I want some Micro Engineering Code 7o flex track. Terry doesn't have any in only just having opened but it will be here on Wednesday. Fine no problems. It was a pleasureable experience buying it. Much more fun than inputting my credit card details into a screen on my computer monitor.
So go buy something from your local hobby shop over the holiday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My first P87 car

Well, I now have my first P87 freight car. My LBF models Hi-Cube Railbox. What I thought of it was covered in the 7 day model railroad blog.
Today my order of turnouts and wheelsets arrived from the P87 stores. The turnouts will have to wait until another day. But converting a freight car to P87 was simplicity itself. It was so easy even a character from a Geico car insurance commercial could do it...
All I did was take the old wheelsets out and replace them with the new. A two minute job. Here follows now the cliched picture of a car truck with one standard HO scale wheelset and one P87 wheelset in it for comparison.
There is nothing more to say. P87'ing a freight car was a doddle. I should have bought more wheelsets so I could have converted more of them...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is this the beginning of the end for the Protocrastinator?

Well, I've done it.
I've placed an order over at the P87 stores for a couple of turnouts and some car wheel sets.
It will be interesting to compare the construction of the P87 turnout and the P4 Track Company turnouts in fact I might even build one of each side by side as a direct comparison.
"Superfine and Easy" is the name of the type of kit.
Easy. I like that word. Very reassuring word, easy.
The last P4 Track Co. kit I bought was not difficult but it was a bit fiddly. What with having to thread chairs onto the rail. Not difficult just fiddly and time consuming. I wonder what the Superfine and Easy kit will have in store.
I also ordered a few wheelsets to place in one of my boxcars. Specifically my Exactrail Railbox. Such a fine model is more than deserving of the P87 treatment.
So the stuff is ordered and shortly will be on the way. So is this it? Will actually doing something signify the end of the Protocrastinator?
We'll wait and see...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Concrete Canyons

Concrete Canyons is another idea I've had in my head for quite some time. I can put it's inception down to about 10-11 years ago when I arrived in the States and lived in Plymouth MN not far from the I-494 business park indeed my first job as also on the outlying fringes of the park. This is the more modern aspect of American Railroading Large industrial parks on the edes of cities with many rail served industries. You can read more about it here.
It's another idea I like. But I am currently railing against long thin layouts (shelf layouts) where the tracks all run paralell to the front and rear edges of the baseboards. I know that to a certain extent that is unavoidable given the constraints. But its not too difficult to try and treat the plan to disguise the fact. I tried by using cut-away buildings so you could watch the cars go in and out of the warehouses.
So it appears to me currently that a good plan would be an amalgam of the Rat Hole and Concrete Canyons. Not surprisingly I am working on that. It will be while before I get back with something as I head down to Dallas tomorrow to run the Whiterock Marathon. Who knows what might happen down there? I might turn a corner and discover an inspirational scene I have to model. We'll have to see.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Rat Hole

The paper is dog eared and yellowing in places and the paper feels old. This is an old plan entitled "Rat Hole". Quite how old this doodling is I don't know. Over 11 years certainly. It was first sketched out when I had this notion that American railroads were all street running and sharp cures with lines appearing between houses and crossing roads at will. This view was bought about by seeing some of the steam-era layouts in Magazines such as Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman. Once I moved to America and experienced Modern US Railroads for real I saw things weren't necessarily like that anymore. I still think its a good idea. Thats why I've kept the plan for over 11 years.
So, here's a close up of the sketch. I visualised it as something of a small layout perhaps 4' x 2' and quite intensely scenic. Locos and cars would appear and disappear between buildings. Definitely a moving diorama type layout. It has everything that I mentioned in the previous post. Wether it would actually translate to P87 I don't know perhaps the curves are a bit too sharp. I don't know But it's food for thought and has got the creative juices going.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Notebook Jottings (1)

I keep a notebook beside me at all times, ok so not all times but a lot of the time. I use it to make notes doodle sketches so I don't forget them. To be honest the notebook one of the mostvaluable tools I have. I've been doodling ideas for countless years. I never know when an idea will come in handy. Those who follow 4mmscaleagonies will know that those ideas are over 25 years old and they're all in my notebooks.
So here's some first jottings about my P87 scheme. Some of the stuff is pretty blindingly obvious but sometimes a statement of the obvious will lead me somewhere else entirely.

1. Small, easily portable. I like to put up and take down at shows with minimum of fuss.
2. Enclosed cabinet, integral lighting
3. Auto coupling "hands off" operation
4. If it's finescale you should show off the features that emphasise this fact i.e have a turnout close to the viewers and be able to see the wheel profiles. IMHO, if you're watching a train go past in profile then its difficult to see that those are finescale wheels on the car. A car sat in a siding viewed end on it would be easy to see the more accurate wheel profile.
5. Fiddle yard - sector plate. Yep, need one of them.

And it just so happens that there is in my vast history of notes and sketches there is a concept that covers much of these points.
But that is for another day...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The journey begins with a single step...

Protocrastinator. I don't know if it's just a bad pun or have I invented a new model railroading/ railway modelling term?
I've been a railway modeller since my early teens and I've been a frustrated one since I discovered the concept of finescale. I had a dabble in EM and P4 in my late teenage years but I didn't have the patience or skills back then so I quickly returned to ready to run trains. Over the intervening years I have developed more skills and I figure its about time that I turned my modelling attentions to finescale.
My recent HO scale layout Wingetts recycling could have so easily been built in P87 and as the layout progressed I began to feel more and more that is what I should have done. But that would have got away from the original concept somewhat. The positive reactions to this diorama-style, switching layout by the exhibition viewing public did nothing to quell these feelings.
So I made the decision that my next US Outline layout would be P87. It will probably progress faster than my P4 layout as work on that will at times be dictated by exchange rates between the US and the UK whereas the P87 bits will all come from here in the US.
So there we are that's a bit about my history and motivations. I hope you'll all come along for the ride with me and follow as I build my first Proto 87 layout.