Some will recall that the Purple Line folks intended to preserve and display the old girder(s) from the Talbot Ave bridge. They have just posted an artists rendering of what the old girders will look like at the Lyttonsville Station. Pretty neat. I’m just glad they were preserved!
After another marathon weekend of working on the layout, I’ve made some great progress. Nearly all of the tracks in Bethesda are in. All of the drops are wired and nearly all of the turnouts have Blue Point manual switch machines installed. I cleaned off the table to get a look at the overall layout:
I couldn’t resist doing a bit of operating. Man, this felt good!
One thing that has really struck me is that over the span of eight years working on this project I have accumulated a lot of stuff to put this layout together. Much of it is piled beneath and around the layout itself. As I work, stuff gets shifted around. I’m at a point now where I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone to try new things. Some of these things include simple things like soldering feeders to the bottom of the rails instead of the sides up to more complex things like hand-building complex curved turnouts. I couldn’t do this without help and encouragement from friends and family who push me forward and answer all my stupid questions.
Lately I’ve been learning how to install turnout machines. I mentioned above that I used Blue Point switch machines in Bethesda. This decision was primarily based on the fact that I owned five already (that I had in a box of turnout stuff) and I realized a fascia would be nigh impossible with the way this section of the upper deck of my layout is built. There is no real room above or below it for toggle switches, I don’t want to cut big holes in the benchwork, and I don’t want to protrude out. Solution? Blue Point turnout machines. They use a push-pull rod/handle and can sit right on the fascia with minimal intrusion. Perfect. I’m quite happy with how they have been working for me. Bonus, I can wire the turnout frogs right to the machine.
Another project that has been in the hopper for a while are eight Iowa Scaled Engineering MRServo-1 units I purchased a couple years ago. (unfortunately, this product has been discontinued!) These nifty little things use a board that controls a micro servo mounted to a 3D printed chassis. Wiring up a DPDT switch and attaching to a power bus gives you a nifty little slow-mo turnout controller. They have a few different bases including a slim profile one to allow for remote installation in tight spaces. The MRServo units came in three types with additional features. This is the most basic of the three, featuring only turnout motor control. For now, it’s all I need. I plan on adding a Frog Juicer eventually to handle the frogs. These MRServo-1 units will be used on the upper deck from Chevy Chase all the way up to Georgetown Junction, as there is ample space below the track to install a fascia with toggle switches.
I am progressing my way through projects that have loomed over me for years. It feels great to burst through and make real progress on this layout and I’m learning so much along the way. I ran a train all the way from one end to the other with no issues whatsoever. Like so many things, when you break a project into smaller pieces it takes away some of the mystical difficulty, making it a bit more manageable. I have been crushing these small hurdles left and right. I am hoping to have a video in the next few weeks showing off the progress.
And then, once the upper deck is done… it’s on to the lower deck! Woah!! But first, I gotta do something about all that JUNK! (ha)
It has been a busy last week of working on the layout. Last weekend I spent much of the time getting the three curved turnouts that lead into Bethesda in place and working properly. This involved quite a bit of work; test fitting, cutting ties, staining them, painting the turnouts, installing tie templates, installing ties, sanding, laying in the turnouts, fitting them, cutting them to length, attaching feeders and drilling holes for them along with holes for the switch machines. Once in place, lots of sighting and adjusting was done with the tracks in Bethesda before spiking things down and testing some cars on the track. A bit of filing here and there and we are in business.
The three turnouts are sized as follows from top to bottom: #8 50″ outside radius, 35″ inside radius, #8 60″/40″, and #10 60″/46″.
Soldering Feeder Wires
Some folks have asked me how I do feeder wires, so here is a quick illustration. A good friend, Matt R., convinced me to solder feeder wires to the bottom of the rails instead of the sides. This method leaves a clean look with no unsightly wires poking out, globbed onto the rails. It does take a bit of extra work, but once you get into a rhythm it goes fast. Here is my setup:
I will typically mark the locations on the roadbed where I want the feeders to drop. This is done by marking each side of the rail and then the tops of the rail. Remove the piece of rail and drill a hole for each feeder. Flip the rail over. With the X-Acto, snip the small plastic spacers between the ties where you will solder the feeder. Strip about 1/8″ of insulation from the end of a feeder and bend it 90°. Using a micro-applicator, put a tiny bit of flux on the wire and the bottom of the rails. Straighten the wire and clip it in the helping-hands, positioning it so that the bare end is just barely pressed onto the rail. Now, using your soldering iron, place a tiny bit of solder onto the end of it. Then, press the iron and your solder into the joint and release after it flows onto the rail itself. This should only take a few seconds, most. You don’t want to melt the ties!
Back in 2017 Matt R. and I took a trip to the B&O RR Historical Society Archives in their wonderful new home in Eldersburg, MD. I used to frequent the Archives about 15 years ago when I was really getting into researching the Branch, but once my kids were born, things changed and I was unable to make time to get out there. Matt wanted to check it out, so we hoofed it out there to check it out.
We were rewarded with some awesome finds. Me, well I snapped a bunch of photos for reference and wanted to share them now, since my intentions to write articles and updates for the blog never really materialized nearly two and a half years later. So here they are:
Some of the highlights include plans for the original freight house in Georgetown (ca 1910), track arrangement in the “old yard” ca 1940, some modern Rock Creek trestle drawings and the best finds of all, some dispatcher sheets showing train movements in 1959. Now, if only I could find some waybills and rosters! Enjoy!
OK FOLKS, here is Part deux of my update on what’s new in with my model RR progress, and more! Who else is finding lots of spare time to work on your layout and hobbies?
C&O Canal Bridges
I scaled and printed some blueprints of the three bridges across the C&O Canal on the Georgetown Branch. These were printed and had been laying around for the last couple years. I finally got some time and made mock ups using foam core and 3M spray adhesive. The goal is to get as prototypically accurate as possible when recreating the bridges, but I know some selective compression will be necessary, as I simply do not have the space. I have already done a virtual mock-up, and in the near future I hope to do a physical one.
A lot going on in this area of the layout as I completed the backdrop, painted it and removed tracks to do mock-ups.
The three turnouts are sized as follows from right to left: #8 40″ outside radius, 30″ inside radius, #8 50″/35″, #8 60″/40″, and #10 60″/46″.
I have also been busy with various modeling tasks. A couple years ago I bought a large lot of HO scale vehicles, mostly die cast, some resin. In retrospect, I think I bit off more than I can chew and what I purchased are models that are going to take a lot of work to get where I want them for the layout. I’ve been prototype research on the vehicles in the hopes I can do some better paint jobs than the previous owner did. Here is one example:
After consulting with my model RR Club, the consensus is they are Wiseman Model Services (ex Walker Motor Works) International KB-11 trucks. These models were made back in the 70s, I believe, and have gone through various iterations over the years. They are made up of several parts, are really fragile and don’t have a ton of detail. I did some research and decided to try some Super Clean for stripping these metal frames. The results were fantastic. Not only did the cleaner strip the paint, it also dissolves the glue after a few days, which allows me to get the models back into their parts form for reassembly and detailing.
For reassembly, I’ve been using the ZAP PT-36 Z-Poxy Quick-Shot 5-Minute Epoxy. This stuff is fantastic, old-school epoxy. Squirt out a bit from both tubes, mix and apply. The VERY nice thing, for this application, is that being 5-min epoxy means that it’s just enough and it gets just tacky enough to allow for me to put the truck cab parts together and rearrange them carefully as I go, until I’m satisfied, at which point it hardens. Once set, it’s rock-hard. I find that with CA, you kind of set it and forget it, with little room for adjustment as you fit things together. I ordered some BSI Insta-Set to help with getting the CA to cure quicker where I need it to.
Airbrush Tune-Up – About a year ago I did an overhaul on my old Badger airbrush. I took it apart and checked all of the parts. Cleaned everything carefully and reassembled it. I decided to add a regulator to the compressor. I noticed a bit of a clunk when operating the compressor under load, so I took it apart. Inspected all of the gaskets and parts and found no issues. I reassembled it and adjusted the bleed valve. A friend from my model RR club, Greg (who you have seen here before) gave me his old air tank which I will press into service soon. I need to figure out what piping/tubing I will need. I have also been upgrading my paint supply with some proper thinners, new paint and other goodies.
Testors 1:72 Stuka Model Wrap-Up – Another interest I have is military aircraft and armor modeling. I have many unfinished projects, but this one has been floating around my workbench for about 12 years. I decided it was time to wrap it up.
Hope you enjoyed these updates. I know it’s just a lot of rambling, but it feels great to make some progress on all these things. There are so many other items I’ve checked off lately, and really the layout room is coming back alive after being dormant for about a year. I am reinvigorated to get moving and hope to have more updates later this month. Anyone else out there getting stuff done these days? Sound off in the comments.
I figured it’s been a long time since an update on my layout & modeling progress, so here goes, in two parts. Like so many right now, I have been productive with my hobbies. I’ve chosen to spend time in the basement getting back into the layout construction and finishing up some old projects. It’s been a lot of fun, and hard work. Here’s a [long] report of what I’ve been up to:
Rock Creek Trestle
I got the plans to place I was satisfied with and decided to start doing some work. *A quick note about this – I ended up spending another few days modifying the plans because I wasn’t pleased with them. More on this later!
I ordered the lumber a few months back from Mt. Albert Scale Lumber (FastTracks) and Northeastern Scale Lumber and decided to laser cut some jigs for the bridge ties. I even picked up some tie plates, spikes and joint bars from the folks at Proto:87, which I will use to detail the bridge track.
Next up was the stain. I did some testing with about 5-6 different Hunterline Weathering Mix stains and eventually settled on Tie Brown with a bit of Driftwood mixed in.
Fast forward a couple months and I’m picking back up where I left off with this project. I was doing a mental and physical inventory of the trestle project to get back on track. As I started to go through my notes and compare them with what lumber I purchased last Winter, I realized I screwed up. I missed a few things in my order. Oops! A quick trip to FastTracks’ website and the order was in.
So now that I am waiting for that material to show up, let’s get busy staining the wood we DO have! But how do you stain 2′ long x 1/8″ pieces of wood? I had to figure out a solution, so I designed a trough out of foil, but that failed catastrophically. (Cleaning up stain is NO FUN.) I cut a rigid paper tube in half, lined it with foil and used some old clay to create ends that are adjustable. I then laid a sheet of plastic wrap in and held it in place with clay blobs. The whole thing was rubber-banded to a piece of wood to keep it steady. This gave me a nice place to hold the stain while I dipped wood in and set to dry on drying racks I made from old Snap-Track. In the future, I may try to get some Flex Seal to spray on the tin foil and make it a bit more robust, as I worried the tweezers or the wood itself could poke a hole in the saran wrap and cause a leak.
Tichy makes a 40′ plate girder bridge flatcar kit load, that is a very close approximation of the same sort of bridge span across Rock Creek. The major difference is that this one is 1’6″ taller than the B&O prototype.
Story time. I spent a good while putting this post together, and when I got to this point, I stopped and realized there was a problem. I sat looking at the open deck girder bridge model and realized it looked a bit tall to me. I quickly opened up my drawings and reference materials and looked a the B&O plans. They clearly indicate that the trestle is to be 40′ long, 6′ 6″ wide (girder to girder) and 4′ 6″ high. This Tichy kit is 6′ tall. I then went down the rabbit hole for several hours while I tried to figure out what to do.
I opened up the plans I had drawn and started to modify the sections where this 6′ tall center span would sit. I had to lower the bents and adjust all the cross bracing in those areas. I did not like it. Some of it looked a bit odd and threw the whole thing off. I was not happy. I decided to keep digging.
Months ago, when searching for a deck girder bridge for my model, I had a very hard time finding a nice 40′ long kit in HO scale. The Tichy kit really fit the bill, but I didn’t pay close attention to the height of the girders. Micro Engineering makes a 30′, and a 50′ bridge, but not a 40′ one. The 50′ bridge is just over 6 scale feet tall. Just like the 40′ Tichy model I already have. The 30′ bridge, albeit too short, is a scale 4′ tall. I have decided that this will be my way forward. I feel that a scale 6″ is easier to forgive and blend versus a scale 1’6″ which is quite a bit more and really changes the characteristics of an iconic part of the structure. Now, some will say “there are only a small handful of people in the world who will know the difference. Who cares!?” Well, being that I’m making this model for me, and I care, I am going to spend the time to do the best job I can. I’m already knee deep!
So I then set out to RE-adjust the plans for the trestle, now with this 4′ high girder. I will have to kitbash two kits into a 40′ span, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. I’m going to add slightly taller blocks under the bridge to add to the height just a couple more inches, to hide the disparity between the prototype and my model. In the end, we’re talking a few inches difference. As I went through the plans, I realized some other errors I had made, and I cleaned them all up. I also reformatted the plans to fit on 8.5×11 paper, so I can print at home, since I think I will be in it for the long haul. I will share my progress on the plans soon in a future post.
So, phew! This was a doozy. In a long period of time, not a lot has happened, but such is my life. I have been busy with other projects… *ahem*
So, yeah. Been a lot going on. Second update coming SOON!
Back in 2002 my then-fiancee, now wife, and I went for an adventure to explore and film remnants of the GB between Georgetown Junction and Rock Creek. We managed to capture several scenes along the way, much of which is atmospheric in nature. I was just starting to get interested in the history of the Branch and figured doing a short documentary for my video editing class would be a perfect way to dig in. Unfortunately the documentary was never completed, but I am thankful that I have this footage from eighteen years ago to reflect on how the right of way has changed and what was there. This is very much uncut footage and is presented as such. Enjoy!
This is another long-overdue update on a project. This time I’m going to show off progress on the Bethesda freight station as a laser-cut model that I created. As long-time followers will know, I drew up blueprints for the station as a basis for a laser-cut model. I am still working on some details but after a few major revisions I’ve arrived with what I feel is a good design. The first version was incorrectly scaled horizontally, but was close. The second version is right on the money, as far as I can tell. The third version is largely just a change in textures and layout to allow cutting to work better. I am hoping that with this pandemic lockdown I will have time to give a go to putting this together.
These two photos showing the current state of Jones Mill Rd and the Rock Creek Trestle approach are incredible. There is an underpass going in at Jones Mill and the new bridge crossing Rock Creek will be significantly lower than the old historic trestle (now gone).
Went to the big Railroad Hobby Show in Springfield, MA this past weekend and wow, it was a doozy. The show was massive and loaded with great stuff. I picked up a few cool things for the Georgetown Branch, including a Sylvan Scale Models HO Barge with Coal resin kit. I also checked out the Sea Port Model Works tables and took a good hard look at some of their models. Just lovely. I have my eye on one of the harbor tugs for my own layout.
But, the whole thing got me thinking about what the barges looked like in Georgetown in the heyday of production down at the waterfront, by Smoot Sand & Gravel. Here are some cropped aerial images to get the juices flowing and get some ideas going. Enjoy!
Unfortunately I don’t have dates for these images. They are part of a book that was loaned to me by H. Smith and now resides at the B&O RR Historical Society Archives in Eldersburg, MD. The images seem to date from the late 1940s to the early/mid 1960s. You can view these and more images from this collection, in full size, in my Gallery.