Saturday, May 16, 2015


After receiving several requests for a photo or two of the entire layout, I thought I'd share this in the traditional MRR format.

November 2003: The Benchwork, of which there are 25 sections, was built by RailDreams out of Wisconsin. They laid 95% of the track and wired the layout with the DCC system.

Size: 21’ x 35’      Height: 48”

Prototype: Western & Atlantic RR, Atlanta GA to Chattanooga TN

Era: 1863, August

Style: Walk-around; point-to-point

Benchwork:  1.5” pink insulation foam board over ¼” Luan

Track: code 83 Flextrack

Mainline: 130’

Minimum radius: 18”

Minimum turnout: no. 4; Shinohara; stubs by BK Enterprises hand laid

Scenery: Plaster, Sculptamold over plaster cloth or cardboard strips. Ground cover – GA red dirt… yes, from GA

Backdrop: painted ¼” Masonite

Switch machines: Tortoise

System: NCE DCC tethered and wireless

Structures: BTS, Railway Design Associates, DPM, Bar Mills, Main Street Heritage, Branchline Trains. 36 are scratch built from photos and illustrations.

Figures: Musket Miniatures, Prieser, Airfix, Thomas, Merten, Model Power, Life-Like

First off, the reason for calling this the 'North Branch' is that fellow modeler and contributor, LeBron Mathews, also models the W&A… in Georgia. Hence we refer to his layout as the  ‘South Branch’. 

Additional contributors include:  
  • DC Cebula (MANY, MANY scratch built structures, bench work modifications, scenery)
  • Christopher Eldridge (Lee & Gordon’s Mill, Barnsley Gardens, blockhouse)
  • Brian Kammerer (backdrops) 
  • Andy Salcius (trees, structures, videos and fascia skirt)
  • Chris Comport (structures) 
  • Brent Pearson and Pete Culos (figures)
  • Garden State Central Model RR Club, in particular Jim Judge, (track work and electrical) 
  • Ku’uipo L. Radice (trees and crew vittles)
Here is my design after about 30 iterations back in 2003. Last month Bernie Kempinski took this plan, which was done in pencil, and using a graphic software drew up the table top with track. 

Below Bernie did a beautiful job adding scenic contours, towns, etc. which gives the viewer a more complete sense of the floor plan.

In the beginning... DC and I cut away two areas of the bench. The first photo below shows the original Wye bench work as delivered and reconstructed by the folks from RailDreams. I contracted with them to complete the tables, install track and wire the entire layout. I knew relatively little then and thought this would speed up the process. It did. However, you know the story, knowing what I know now I... 
Here the reach was clearly too far and required change.
This next photo shows reach enhanced by trimming the bench and re-routing the track, all with the help of my good friend DC Cebula.
Track heading to the top of this photo is going south to Big Shanty and Atlanta. Track heading to bottom left goes north to Dalton and Chattanooga. Bottom right goes to Rome, GA. The Rome RR is one of six interchanges built into this layout including ET&G (East TN & GA), the M&C (Memphis and Charleston), N&C (Nashville & Chattanooga), A&WPt (Atlanta & West Pt.), GRR (Georgia RR) and M&W (Macon & Western). One plan is to build a gate to provide staging from Rome. We'll See!

Due to the selective compression requirements, you can get an idea on how we needed to alter the plan based on this diagram. This also shows the placement of locomotives during The Great Locomotive Chase. The General might very well have made it back to Union lines had it not been for the extra trains coming out of Chattanooga, marked here as the Second and Third Sections. Locomotive William R Smith did participate in the Chase until Bill Fuller met up with the Texas.

Two of my favorite people and contributors, DC and Lebron, April 12, 2007 conducting a test run.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Water Tank Detailing

We are near the end of the line, Chattanooga, regarding completing structures and basic scenicing. Although there is one nasty electrical issue haunting the Kingston area, we are switching to adding details to a moderately detailed model railroad. This includes everything from more figures and lighting to structural detailing and scenic elements at Kennesaw. We have also begun conversations for operations. My big to-do is adding more locos! More on locos and operations in the near future.
One obvious detail in waiting was a spout for a water tank built many years ago. Although a spout can be purchased I thought I'd try carving one from balsa as I wanted to get this project done asap.
Using the tank built by a very good scratch builder Chris Comport,, as a reference, it was quite easy to fashion a spout. I took a block of scrap balsa and drew the spout profile. Making a few cuts to remove excess wood, it was then a matter of fine sanding, comparing, sanding and comparing, many times over until it looked about right.

Next was to build the spout's supporting frame which I also modeled from Chris' design. Although I combed the web for images and found some cool examples, this activity was after I began mimicking Chris' tank. I continue to remind myself of my impatience!! However, I wanted the spout configurations looking more similar than not for continuity. In the end it worked out reasonably well.
The one difference between Chris' model, foreground, and mine is that his is wood, the other is styrene. Originally I painted it grayish colors. It was my attempt to fashion weathered wood; and it looked just like that... an attempt. This photo shows it after it was scored and carved with a #11 and a wire brush. Mixing burnt sienna and tan colors, some yellow ochre and a touch of black brought it closure to this look which has a more wood-like appearance, to me at least. 
The weights and channels I believe are iron made; hence the colors chosen were intended to look like weathered iron. The 't' frame holding the channels appeared to be wood and were painted as such. All parts however are styrene. 

Here is the styrene tank with all her parts, ready to be assembled. Details West brass wire has been inserted into pre-drilled holes and glued with Loctite (a super glue). The wire attached to the weights will receive chain end links. The wire is small enough receive the tiny link which is then glued in place. Once dry the wire is trimmed down to the link. Same for the wire extending from the top beam. A link will be attached to it. I did this to ensure reasonable tension and a consistent look between the two, vs having the chain drooping... very untidy that way.
The spout also has a brass ring where the chain is attached from the weights. Wire is same size and simply wrapped once around the spout then twisted with needle nose leaving the tiniest end for the link.
The finished product...