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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What "wood" you do?

This Sunday just passed I handed over a couple of sheets of 1/4" ply to my father-in-law for him to slice up into 3"-ish wide strips for the framing of the baseboard.
But exactly what I will do with them when I get them back? I don't know.
There's two courses of action open to me:
1. Turn them into "I" and "L" girders to frame the baseboard. A method poularised by Iain C. Rice.
2. Make some ply/softwood beams the preferred methos of Barry Norman. Here you take two of the ply strips and every foot or so place some peices of 2x1 pine between them to lmake the beam.
Both methods are said to be strong and light.
I don't know which to use. I've never tried either. Let's face it for me even using wood is something of an adventure.
I'm going to end up flipping a coin I think...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Copping a quick feel...

... for the design...
Yesterday I had a move around in the model railway room and allocated a space for the layout. With that done I could move on to the next stage of the designing progress. Confirming that what I had on paper was going to fit. I threw some track down to the approximate plan, found some old buildings and boxes and scenic bits, placed them where I thought they looked OK and checked the siding lengths with some cars. Now I can really see how everything will come together. Take a look...
1. A general view of the middle of the layout. To give you an idea of the depth here a couple of the trees are over 1' away from the bulkhead flat car.
2. Left hand side. I was a tad concerned that there wasn't going to be enough room for the building between the two tracks. That worry was unfounded. This will be a nice vignette as I first thought.
3. The business end. The main building and wood chip loader. Again I think things will come together nicely here. It looks like there will be more of the low relief structure than the sketches had envisioned.
All in all the pictures give me a good idea of how the whole thing will come together and I think I'm on to something. It gets me all fired up to start work properly.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ploughing the lonely furrow

Or is that plowing? All depends where in the world you read this I suppose. Plowing looks really, really wrong to me...
So I'm coming to realise that this P87 malarkey is quite the lonely field to be in. I've posted my P87 intentions on a few message boards and for the most part have been met with silence. Perhaps I just picked the wrong message boards.
Just my luck.
I have though, managed to find out that there is one more P87 modeller in the great state of Minnesota. Though I do have hopes for one more. You might also notice that the links section to your right is growing slowly too. This is all down to the members of the Yahoo! P87 group. So if you're interested in P87 I guess the only place to be is there.
This has to be contrasted with the adoption of more "proto" standards (EM, P4) in England. There, the interest is staggering by comparison. There healthy societies manufacture a huge range of bits and pieces for the aspiring finescale modeller. It is no exaggeration to say that when a new Ready to Run diesel locomotive is released that within a matter of perhaps weeks Ultrascale will have the P4/EM conversion kit for it released.
So why is this such a lonely furrow to plough? Why is it that so relatively few modellers in the US adopt "Proto" standards?
It can't be that they don't appreciate the details. US modellers are renowned the world over for their attention to detail in their locomotives, rolling stock and scenery. Then why on earth don't they adopt that same standard in their trackwork?
The arguments for changing from H0 to P87 are exactly the same as if you were to change from 00 to EM/P4. (Cost, time, yada, yada, yada...) I've heard them all before and I bet they are plastered all over the internet too. Of course there is no reply to the "I just don't care" argument. You can't beat that and that's fine by me.
But there's no two ways about it though if you desire a truly "realistic" model railroad then your trackwork has to be to proto standards. You can have a high level of realism in your models without them being realistic.
I think that deep down a lot of modellers realise this too. How many times have you marveled at a picture of a great model in a magazine only to realize the train is photographed so that you can't see the wheels and it is covering up the turnouts so you can't see "the Grand Canyon of crossing flangeways"?
You know I'm right...
But we're still not answering the question 'Why are there so few P87 modellers out there?"
It must be that most people are ignorant of what it takes to be a P87 modeller.
That's fine. So am I. I'm less ignorant than on Sunday December 6th when I started this blog. But I still have astounding levels of ignorance about P87-ing. However I figure that with my enthusiasm and the small band of P87 modellers out there I can solve the problems that come my way.
Perhaps you think P87 is deadly serious and that I'm being too flippant about it. Perhaps Proto modelling is perceived as a deadly serious branch of the hobby. Maybe I can help put that straight for when it comes down to it this is only a hobby and hobbies are about having fun. If as a result some more of you come over to the world of P87 that will be a bonus.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Page from my sketchbook

I said I could see a vignette in my minds eye concerning the front left hand corner of this layout. It wouldn't go away so I had to sketch it out on paper to get it out of my head. Maybe to create some more room for a few more ideas too...
Looks pretty reasonable to me...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Plans and problems

Well then, here we go another round of planning inspired by the baseboard.
First things first, when I sketched out the first plan back here. I drew a nice smooth arc between the two front corners of the triangular baseboard. When I cut it out of the wood I cut the arc to the circumference of a 4' radius curve. That is how I ended up with over 3' of depth.
This opened up a whole new track of thought for me. The front siding now no longer parallels the front edge of the baseboard and I gained a lot more space to sit the railway into the landscape, (away from curious little fingers at a train show).
(OK I know I drew a tree as the scenic break front left, a real cop out. But I can see a really nice vignette here for the train to pass through with the tree, the lumber company office and the premises sign there by the roadside)
However I immediately started to see problems.
I plan to display this layout as a "stage set" with a proscenium arch picture frame front. Similar to Wingetts. So I immediately began to wonder if a 5' 8" long curved front fascia board would be practical. Is that length too long? would it sag, or even worse topple the layout with the weight from the lighting inside it? I could add supports from the rear. But where would they be sited? Has anyone got any ideas or experiences on the matter?
So the idea develops and more problems emerge. I'm sure they will all get resolved before long though.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January Thaw

The January thaw is a wonderful thing. It is a welcome respite from the bitter Minnesota winters. It is that brief period of a week (perhaps two) when the temperatures approach and even pass freezing. As the week previous to the thaw had seen temperatures as low as -30C todays passing of freezing point was greeted with much jubilation. So, with a rush of blood to the head I ventured into the garage to cut the baseboard surface for the layout from an 8' x 4' sheet of 1/4" ply I had. The reasons to do this were:
Reason 1. So that I could see the size of the layout. It's all very well sketching an idea on paper and liking what you see. You can even work your plan up with the most detailed track planning software and come up with superb 3D CAD renderings. But when it comes down to it things still have to look right full size and I maintain that the only way anyone can do that is working full size. Some people make scale models of their layouts which is great for your basement filling opus but this one is only 4' long so it doesn't really matter. Now I can take this baseboard down into the hobby room and place items on it to see if everything will work as I envision it.
Reason 2. It's the January thaw! The past few years I've been building baseboards in the depths of winter when it's been in the low teens in the garage and the fluorescent lights have struggled to come on (and make funny noises when they do), and I've had the heater on at my feet and still had to come inside to warm up every 30 minutes. The joys of working in temps above freezing had to be celebrated. By heck! I even had a lighter weight jacket on and no hat to boot!
Now my woodworking skills are not the greatest but after some careful marking and cutting I ended up with this that you see below which will probably pass muster as the baseboard surface.
My first thought was.
"Oh my! It's much deeper than I thought, It's three foot four inches deep I didn't expect it to look like that"
My second thought was...
"Oh Ho ho! It's three foot four inches deep! Belter!"
I've always a wanted a layout with real depth too it ever since I first saw Barry Normans' "Petherick" (about half way down this linked page) at a model railway exhibition many years ago. Now here is my chance.
Both Barry Norman and Iain C. Rice have both espoused a layout presentation theory of 3:1 of length to depth this one at 5' 8" x 3' 4" isn't even 2:1 so it might look a bit unusual. But heck! It's a triangular baseboard anyway. So I'm breaking new ground there. Looking at it now it could have its depth reduced by six inches and still look pretty good.
That then, is it so far. I'm going to get my father-in-law to cut me some nice square straight 3" deep strips of 1/4" ply for the framework. Because he's a craftsman woodworker and has access to the equipment to do that sort of thing. To be honest though when I get them back I'm really quite undecided wether to use those 3" strips as "L" girders or with softwood spacers to make "Barry Norman" beams, where two strips of ply are spaced apart by small pieces of softwood to make a strong, lightweight beam.
Anyway thats a thought for another day. For now I can look at the baseboard and dream of what I want this layout to be...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Icicle Works

Some of you will have seen this already if you're on your toes.
Otherwise http://railwayeye.blogspot.com/2010/01/ice-to-see-you-to-see-you-ice.html
What I find fascinating is that the icicle is pretty much shaped to the loading gauge...

Exhibition news

It is somewhat remiss of me to forget to mention that Wingetts recycling my regular HO scale layout is now confirmed for the Granite City trainshow in Saint Cloud, MN on April 24th at the National Guard Armory.
The Granite City Train show is a very good show, one of the best that Minnesota has to offer. Those of you who are familiar with the layout and its accompanying blog will know that it is inspired by a Saint Cloud location I'm looking forward to attending and seeing if the residents recognise the inspiration.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sorry I no speak Ameri-can..

"England and America are two countries separated by the same language" So wrote George Bernard Shaw.
Never was that statement so true as today when I emailed Terry over at Lakeside Hobby wanting "Two Micro Engineering Code 75 points" for this layout.
When I got home from work there was a message on the answerphone (voicemail) waiting for me. He didn't know what I was talking about.
American railroads don't have points they have switches. On top of that the Mico Engineering switches I wanted are in Code 70. If I remember correctly I reckon I used to scratchbuild my switches/turnouts/points for my E.M.Gauge layouts from Code 75 bullhead rail. Very common place in England.
So now everything is sorted and two Micro Engineering Code 70 switches are on order...
To be honest though you'd think that after 11+ years of living here I'd have this sorted out by now.

Waves of Nostalgia

You never know what you're going to get from me here sometimes...
Today, a friend at work emailed me a link to the failed NBC TV series Supertrain.
I knew of this show though being English I had never seen anything of it because I don't believe it ever made its way to UK television screens.
What it prompted me to remember though was this. Casey Jones*. Starring Alan Hale Jnr.
"Casey Jones, Steamin' and a rollin'
Case Jones you never have to guess
When you hear the tootin' of the whistle
It's Casey at the throttle of the Cannonball Express"
The show was made in 1957-58 in good old black and white. No HDTV then. No colour either. The show must have been a good 10 years old when I saw it on the BBC during the school summer holidays along with shows like The Virginian and Branded. I remember Alan Hale Jnr. as a rather large, chubby, gentleman with his hat and big old engineers gloves on. Quite unlike the pictures of the real Casey Jones and he never met the same fate that I recall. But that is by the by.
It was one of my earliest exposures to railways and railroads the undoubted first is mentioned over there to the right in the about me section and in greater detail here.
Is it why I'm keen on US railroads? I doubt it. Casey never drove an SD70ACe or even an F-7. But it's there lurking in the back of my mind waiting to jump out at me...

*However when most Minnesotans think of "Casey Jones" they recall the lunchtime TV show "Lunch with Casey" that ran from 1954-1972 with Roger Awsumb as Casey Jones.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A proper plan!

So, with the sketch whizzing around in my head it was time to put pen to paper and try to work out how plan it out on a baseboard.
The first and most important thing for me these days is to avoid rectangular baseboards at all costs. I also knew that having watched the trains on the curve on Wingetts Recycling. I liked that and wanted to have that feature on the new layout too. The curve would have to be really generous working in P87. One thing lead to another and before I knew it I ended up with this triangular based scheme.
Quite how I came up with a triangular based layout I don't know though I have always been fascinated by Roy C Links Crowsnest Tramway and in particular the third incarnation which is would you believe it, is a triangular based plan. So that must have come back out of the depths of my mind to haunt me. So I just dropped my previous sketch into a triangular baseboard and everything seemed to fit quite nicely.
The numbers by the pointwork indicate the frog size and hand (6L is 1 in 6 left hand) the 6L's will be converted Micro Engineering points, the 5R will be built from one of my Proto87 stores kits, though of my turnout building fails there is plenty of room there to replace it with a 6R. The two sidings disappearing off to the right will enable me to load and unload cars in the loading shed and fill up a woodchip car by the loader. All in all the layout is about 5'9" long by 2'4" deep or thereabouts. For a Mk1. its a pretty good start.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ExactRail Concern

Concern runs through the body of the Protocrastinator this morning.
Yesterday saw the releaase of the HO scale Thrall gondola model in a variety of liveries.
I wanted one in the Railgon livery. I like Railgons as much as Railboxes. There are less of them on the railroads and as a consequence are more difficult to see.
ExactRail models are superb. The best there are. I suppose its a testament to their quality that they sell out so quickly.
I placed an order with Terry to get me one last weekend. I hope he managed to get one...
Update: No he didn't. Terry is rather frustrated that as a retailer he can't even get hold of the stock. Me? I'll have to keep looking...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine

About time I put in a good word for Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine. It's a Model Railroad magazine with a difference.
It's free! Totally and utterly free.
It's an e-zine (I do so loathe these "e" prefixed phrases that signify intenet content myself but I have to move with the times) So it is a magazine that you download from the internet. With all the advantages that the internet and modern computer trickery can throw at you. Direct links to the advertisers website for example.
Have you ever looked at the pictures in a model railway magazine and thought.
"That looks neat I wish I could see it working". Now you can. For the "e-zine" has video in there too. A quick click and you can see a video of a train running on someone's layout. Want to see that working colour light signal work? Click and there you go it changes from Red to Green.
It is a great magazine, though it can be a bit strange at first when you compare the experience to that of looking through Model Railroader for example. I'm still not entirely used to it myself. But it is well worth a read and in these environmentally conscious days just think how many trees you're saving by having a magazine on your hard drive. Not to mention how easy the back issues are to store!
I like Model Railroad Hobbyist. I recommend that you take a look yourself.

Interesting Video

The following video at the link below came to my attention.
For those of you who think that finescale layouts are slow running layouts that have trouble with stock staying on the track. This video of the "Mostyn" P4 (the finescale version of 4mm scale -British 00 scale) layout disproves all that.
The trackwork is excellent and the running is outstanding. There is nothing more to say.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Rev.Peter Denny

I am saddenned to report the passing of the Rev. Peter Denny age 92. Railway modeller and pioneer of finescale railway modelling.
His EM gauge Buckingham Great Central layout was an inspiration to us all who aspired to "go beyond the train set". I would encourage any of my American friends who read this blog to Google him and find pictures of his Buckingham Great Central layout. This is a layout that was started some 60 years ago. His influence on the Hobby in the UK can be compared to John Allen and his Gorre and Daphetid Railroad layout.
He was a founder member of the EM Gauge Society.
I can still remember how taken I was by the pictures of his Buckingham Great Central in one of the first issues of the UK magazine "Railway Modeller" that I bought in the late 70's. The layout had everything, detail and atmosphere.
Reflections of the man and his legend will fill the model railwaying internet soon from people more knowledgeable about him than I.
I'm just going to remember a very influential modeller. If anything I ever saw in his layout has manifested itself in my approach to modelling, then I'm very happy and I'm sure he would be happy that he ideas were being taken up too.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reliability test.

I've just taken delivery of some Micro Engineering Code 70 flex track from Terry at Lakeside Hobby. As soon as I got home I joined up some lengths of track either side of the P87's turnout to see if it really did work properly and didn't derail the P87'd boxcar. I'm pleased to say that the car went through both roads of the turnout time and again in both directions.
Score one more confidence building point to my abilities.

Another Plan

Since the idea of a logging line crossed my mind the other day my mind has been somewhat busy coming up with ideas. That the concept should be centered around an inglenook track plan was a given. How I should present it was the problem. The Hull Oaks sawmill featured at Dawson Station has an inglenook track layout. So I started there. I also wanted to operate a diesel logging loco conversion of sorts so I needed a seperate logging line in there as well. This started off as just a seperate unconnected line at the back that just ran to the rear of the sawmill building. I envisioned a converted SW1500 with a couple of flat cars running along there the loaded cars would disappear behind the building to reappear empty and head out again.
"None to exciting" I felt as the music of Phillip Glass started to play in my head...
Once I connected the single logging line at the back to the mainline railroad at the front things happened...
This then is the Sawmill of R. Scend of Nowhere, Minnesota. (Some Brits may well have burst out laughing as they said that to themselves and trust me it is totally and utterly intentional). There really is a Nowhere in the state of Minnesota and it was established for the logging industry too. Once I discovered the name Nowhere I just had to use it.
Back to the trackplan. A 5-3-3 inglenook at the front is linked to the single logging line at the rear in front of the building entrance. This would enable the logging loco to work the inglenook too. There would be a lot for it to do as well with switching the lumber cars and pulling a car through the wood chip loader that you can see at the end of the middle siding.
Operation would be sort of like this. The mainline railroad would bring a selection of cars into the front siding where it could either switch them about in a typical "inglenook game" or it could leave them for the logging line loco to work. Otherwise the logging loco would shuttle along the rear siding bringing flat cars loaded with lumber into the building and taking empty ones up into the forest.
So lots to do on such a simple trackplan and with a name like this one. It would be too much to pass up.
Wouldn't it?

Extreme Close Up!

Wifey does like to sleep in of a morning at the weekends. I, unfortunately, do not. So with Lorrie still firmly ensconced in her slumber. I headed into the model railway room to finish off the conversion of the Micro Engineering Turnout I had started a few days earlier. This time I added the rest of the guard rail clamps. This task was much easier the second time around. I think it must be a case of experience revealing a passable technique. Buoyed on by this success I added the frog bolt head detail. This is just a plastic strip of bolt head detail the you can just superglue onto the rail side. That was all the detailing for the frog that comes with the ME turnout. There is still some detailing to add at the switchrail end. This is what it looks like. (bear in mind these are extreme closeups of a first attempt)
Above: Here you can easily make out the added detailing. The guard rail clamps and the frog bolt head details.
Above: This for me is what its all about. Scale clearances. This is a scale model of a turnout. Not some half-arsed mass produced attempt at a model turnout. The close up does make some of the rail alignment look bad but a P87 truck does run though it OK. I will be testing further to see how reliable it is.
Some of it looks a bit clumsy my supergluing technique needs some work but I expect that will come with experience. But once again my confidence eases up a notch.
Still a bit more work to do. With some work on the switching end of the turnout. Plus I do have some P87 stores superdetailing to add as well.

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's fiddlier than T scale!

New Years day and I start the year the way I mean to go on. Wifey was still in the land of nod when I awoke at 7:30 or so.
Looking for something to do I decided to work on my ME turnout conversion. When I left it on Wednesday I had run a truck through the frog just to see if it would work. This morning I fixed the frog in place with some CA. I then added the guard rails.
To my delight my LBF railbox runs through this turnout perfectly. A HUGE confidence booster. Next comes the work of adding the details. This is going to be a long job methinks. In the time I had available to me I only added the guard rail clamps. This was a rather interesting task. I have modelled in T scale so I know a thing or three about gluing fiddly small pieces of plastic together. But this was a bit more difficult than I expected. I just couldn't find the right tweezers for the task of putting the clamps in place and believe me I have a goodly selection of tweezers. Angled, bevelled, needle point none seemed perfect for the task. I muddled though though and got four of the eight in place before brekkers called. I'll try some more later.
Confidence is building though with every tiny piece that I successfully add. I think that the P87 idea was a good one.