Tuesday, February 25, 2020


It's what can happen when my honey decides to go visit one of her friends for more than 4 days... INVITE THE CREW! In addition to DC and Andy, a very good friend and contributor was able to visit as well, LeBron Matthews. One day we will feature his remarkable modeling as he too models the W&A, referenced as the south branch. LeBron is from Columbus Georgia.

This crew was here on Wednesday working on different projects as well as to help prep for the Thursday night ops session. DC continues to scenic the new section. More on this section and DC's work in a future post.

 LeBron scenicing Atlanta; grass was more likely in many areas around the tracks and yard than I considered. Where there is no traffic most likely there'd be grasses. Needless to say, the added greenery has a few effects. 1) it pulls the elements of Atlanta together, the green is the connector to the structures. 2) it fills out the area of Atlanta; makes it "pop" as some like to say.
3) the color adds a pleasing invitation to the eye.

Andy took on his first structure, a Woodlands Scenics casting of the Tack Shed. The door off the hinge was his intention!
Six other fellas came by for the session. Adding LeBron and Paul, we grouped them into four 2-man crews, one engineer and one brakeman. In addition to operating the loco, the engineer handled the way bill/schedule. Brakeman had responsibility for coupling, switching. Here Lebron, engineer, along with his brakeman Paul, maneuver the Dr. Thompson consist into Big Shanty. DC and I were trouble shooters.

Engineers and Brakemen
Left to right, LeBron, DC, Ray, Paul, Bill, TR, Dave, Hilmar, Ed and Andy. Paul, Ed and Hilmar are from our local RR club, Garden State Central. Paul is building an HO scale W&A layout, focusing on the Battle of Mission Ridge. Ray has a MASSIVE HO multi-level layout, Norfolk and Western. Bill and Dave contribute to his layout and all three are members of the Model RR Club. Andy is our resident photographer and videographer. He excels at tree making ,and during this visit apprenticed with LeBron on scenic work.
Lessons learned or reinforced
1) Prior to ops session, have a friend review the schedule/way bills. We found out, 30 minutes prior to people arriving, the schedules included the same cars! During staging this was most apparent as one person set up a consist, went off to do another, only to return and find the cars he set gone!  
2) Always invite guests to offer feedback. Most often they will not offer input to avoid offending. This also shows them that your intention is to improve the efficiency and fun. 
3) Just because a person has done the brakeman job a few times does NOT mean they know how to engineer a locomotive! Although we are familiar with shorts, we had an excessive number this time. Speaking with one engineer at the end, I realized this engineer did not know that he could not run a loco into an adjacent turnout if the rails were not aligned to the track he was exiting! Good news is that this one breakdown indicated that we did not have a massive, layout wide, short issue to untangle.
4) Coupled with number 3, invite operators who are familiar operating on your layout. Then be sure to partner the most familiar with newest guests.
5) The realization that metal wheels can cause a short when the stub rails are either too close or wheel sets are too loose and hitting both rails simultaneously.


Since the layout expansion I have been quite busy laying new track including 4 stub turnouts, one being a 3-way. The latter is quite the challenge in finding a workable solution for switching the single fly rails as the typical machine throws one way or the other. Mike Prokop of our NMRA Division suggested, and confirmed by my good friend Ray Russel, that a "servo" is the way to go. Of course I have NO idea what that is or means. However, with the 2-way stubs I am most familiar. 
I use assembled stubs by BK Enterprises, known today as Trout Creek. Although you can ask for a #4, 6, etc., they typically come with longer rails than needed; they are also adjustable given the frog size you may require.
These come with metal plates that hold the switch together. You need to unsolder the plates, then align, gauge then spike the rails. 
Simply apply your hot iron and separate the rails. There is an advantage to having the turnout nearly cut to size, most so the frog. My track, however, required modifications of these by either adjusting length and curve  to meet the already laid track, and then of course ensuring gauge and flange gaps were accurate...

In all, two curved, one straight and one 3-way were installed. Unknowingly, I used #4 templates thinking that's what I needed. However these were too acute. I used closer to #6. 

Above photo also shows the initial positioning of the 3-way. Ray fortunately laid the ties using a jig. I simply spiked the rails. However, I had NOT considered the foundry being a visual impediment to the stub; therefore I needed to move the stub!

 I made a variety of cuts and end shapes for the ties. Photos of the times show everything from milled to roughly hewn, different lengths and naturally weathered since there was no creosote then.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Expanding the Aisle and Filling the Gap

Long time its been! I've had a few questions about Chattanooga Car Shed dimensions, contacting me and Musket Miniatures. My email address is thomradice@gmail.com. I'll be sure to follow up if you wish to post your questions there.

I started hosting operating sessions last winter/spring. A large realization was the narrow passage at the head of the peninsula. This past May I decided to open it by making a cut between the south side of Kennesaw and the Confederate Redoubt. The two following photos show DC installing the new section and its completion.
The outlet was repositioned in the corner. Adding the new section now allowed for a new siding and the aspiration to add the Schofield Rolling Mill. The remains are in the photo below. General Hood, abandoning Atlanta, was forced to destroy his ammunition and supply trains here which caused the destruction of the mill.
A significant feature of this industry is that it was built along a rail line. Most industries were not. My space allows for one track. I'll TAKE IT! 
Next step was to layout a couple of turnout templates. The layout being set in 1863, installing stub switches was a given; but I had not done curved let alone a 3-way, the latter allowing for greater operational possibilities. Here are two shots, one of the curved templates then the 3-way. Ties were preset for the 3-way by my friend Ray Russel who has been a valued contributor. On blog home page, got to Labels, scroll to Videos. The first one should be "Atlanta Shift", a time lapse by Andy Salcius of the adjustment where Ray is cutting the layout and about 12 club members are moving the 14' section that expanded the aisle.
You'll notice sections of Homasote inlaid. This is to both hold the spikes as well as ensuring a level deck.

Once the 3-way was installed I realized I had inadequately planned for the Rolling Mill! It blocked accessibility to the entire 3-way. Hence, the turnout needed to be removed and relocated!
A key step however, prior to spiking the rails, is to solder the "headblock", the long tie, to the "fly rails" , the two rails that were operated by the switch stand. The headblock will be attached to a throw bar connected to the Tortoise switch machine. It also keeps the rails in gauge.
Photo below, the Homasote is laid-in and rails are still attached to their metal sprue which is soldered. Next pic is a close up. These turnouts are from BK Enterprises, the only source I know.
These next two photos show the ties being positioned for one of the curved turnouts, then the rails being positioned.

Next was to uninstall the 3-way. I spent some time thinking about the easiest approach as did NOT want rip out the rails, etc. and re-spike the entire configuration. As the Homasote was glued into the pink insulation foam, I considered cutting away a section of the insulation foam the length of the Homasote to undermine it.

The section out, the caulk I used fortunately was ease to pry loose!
The open space was relatively easy to refill with other insulation foam.
Here is the placement of the rolling mill footprint. As progress continue I'll be posting more photos and text.

Sunday, September 8, 2019


Kennesaw Mountain was one of the more fortified areas protecting northern approaches to Atlanta as shown is these tow period photos and the Don Troiani painting "Thunder on Little Kennesaw" 
My dear friend DC Cebula, who has been an ongoing contributor to the W&A, is depicting a scene combing these three images. As recently as August 30, here are images of his work. As you can see a significant element to completion is adding the dense foliage.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

West Coast Visitors

This past Thursday we had the great pleasure and honor to host two friends from California. Mark Richardson is a member of our ACWRR Historical Society and has attended several of our annual meets. He is well versed in the miniature military modeling including N scale ACWRR T-Trak modules, HO rolling stock and currently he is building a 1/130 scale aircraft carrier! Man of many talents, Mark is also a Civil War Re-enactor. He was on an east coast trip with his friend Rick who had two speaking engagements, one out near Valley Forge and the other in Albany. Rick's topic is based on his book of a NY Volunteer regimental history. Being this far east, Mark asked for a visit and if we could accommodate an operating session. A few of my reliable friends came with short notice. If you been here before you have seen Martin, Dave and Jimmy.
Left to right... Dave, Jimmy, Martin, Rick and Mark!


Saturday, May 11, 2019


After two operations sessions it came to pass that one aisle was unacceptable. Although I thought I had planned the scheduling efficiently enough, the reality of UNplanned consequences take shape. I discussed a few possibilities to minimize and not overcompensate to expand the aisle. After some consternations and reassurance from a couple of reliable friends, we decided to cut!First I took a few days to clear the deck underneath the section. Fortunately I have plenty of friends including members of the Garden State Central Model Railroad Club and those who have been contributors over the past 10 plus years.
Here is a time-lapse shot by good friend Andy Salcius of the ATLANTA SHIFT. You will see initial planning, then Ray appears with his saws-all... it felt extreme, like being at a field hospital and the doc says, "Just amputate!" Shortly after, you see the crew appear. Not knowing how difficult the shift would be I invited about 10 fellas. At first I though 4-6 would be sufficient. But given all the unexpected shift encounters I could conjure up, 10-12 was best. This was an affirmation on good planning... hours, and it paid off as the actual maneuver took about 1 minute.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Musket Miniatures

I have a had a couple of inquiries about Musket from this blog and an email. I want to see if I can offer some explanation for the lack of response from Kris.
I have been speaking with and emailing Kris since he purchased the business a couple/few years ago. I know he was having some health issues and would go dark on occasion. But eventually I would hear from him. He purchased a loco from me and a few structures as he was very intent on wanting to provide ACW RR items in HO. I have received figures from him in the past and many years prior from the original owner. Kris asked, or I offered I forgot which, to use photos of my layout with MM figures in scenes, etc., for his web site which he did. However, several months ago we spoke. He was going to ship me some items but they never arrived. I have sent him a couple of emails since but no response. I do know that he was getting heavily involved with creating O scale figures, artillery, etc. as he was in a new venture with someone. He did say he would start up the HO ACW figs but apparently has not. My biggest concern is that something has happened as Kris was eventually responsive. Truly sorry that some of you have had this unfortunate experience with MM. I for one know of very few other sources for these figures.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Operations Session

February 21 the W&A hosted its first official ops session! Long time coming it has been. We were honored to have six friends partner up in crews of two, one engineer with a brakeman. 7:00 PM crew members arrived to orient themselves to their schedules and plan their ways of working. 7:30 the clock started and everyone was completed by 9:15. Of course there were many breakdowns that were communicated to the superintendent, providing LOTS of maintenance work orders. But this is to be expected, although he (I) was more disappointed than expected. Bottom line is that it appeared all had a fabulous time.  
Engineers were responsible for operating the locos. Brakemen had responsibilities for coupling, re-railing cars when necessary and ensuring switches were set accurately. 
The schedules were challenging in that the timing of arrivals caused negotiations in order to ensure that their respective time tables were successfully met. 
The image below, with a Yankee who somehow infiltrated as a brakeman, shows Paul with Jimmy at the throttle. Shortly after this shot, another consist came barreling through with DC at the throttle causing one of those "challenging" situations. However, when considering this is 1863, trains were constantly running at all times in order to meet both military and civilian demands. Hence, this was quite prototypical. However, schedule adjustments will be made for the next session.
This next photo has brakeman Christopher questioning engineer Martin's instructions on how best to build their consist in Chattanooga. Martin is a veteran engineer and Christopher... well, this was his first time in this role. He had a steep learning curve, and did quite well.
Below, my good friend from high school and college, Dave Eberhardt, is on his maiden run as a first time brakeman with DC at the throttle. Dave had a layout in the '70's, my first experience helping to build structures and learn a few basics. Here they are building their consist in Atlanta. 
This one below is the opening of the session, two crews setting up their respective runs.
Prior to this evening, one of our favorite modelers and friends, Brian Kammerer visited. It had been quite some time since his last appearance. He did not like a bird I had set into the backdrop because of the shadow. So in his nature for clean imaging, we were able to get him to add a small flock of crows to the backdrop, the latter which he had painted in the early days of layout construction. So good it was to have his rare visit to the W&A. Here is a link to his art work http://www.cwbattlemapart.com 
DC arrived early to complete his scratch build of a prototype fire house in Chattanooga. "Look what I did!" And it is ridiculously exquisite! 
Shorty after, he wanted to see the cars he had built for his own future layout run on our W&A. All was well until he begin to uncouple. He pulled the pins, however, the links were a bit tight in the coupler pockets. As he pulled one car off it pulled the next... HO dominoes resulted! Although there were a couple of casualties, they were easily repaired. Lesson-do NOT uncouple on elevations!
This ops event was a much welcomed achievement given we've been at this since 2003! Using the hindsight factor, I would have ... but hindsight also says there is only so much planning; best is to get into it and be open to learn, adjust and have great friends to share the joy along the way.

Monday, May 28, 2018

NMRA Joint Division Meet of the New Jersey and Garden State Divisions

May 12 was our meet that brings our two state divisions together. Although most members know one another, it is a great occasion where we get to spend time with brethren and wives from each other's model railroad communities. Here are a few pics from my good friend, Andy Salcius, during the open house. He actually got to run a train at this open house... probably because they were actually running!