Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bedroom-sized layout, version 2: Walla Walla Valley #1

WWV Alco heads onto street trackage on Rose Street.

Walla Walla Valley, version 1.0
The more I learned about
the Walla Walla Valley railway, the more my modeling shifted towards adopting a stricter prototype adherence. In the short term, that meant rebuilding portions of the WWTCo. to closer emulate the WWV. The layout shifted from a freelance to a "prototype freelance"--the locomotives and some of industry names copied those found on the WWV, but the track plans, rolling stock, and structures still had little basis in reality. But the layout was a blast to operate--and it ended up being featured in Kalmbach's "Great Model Railroads 2005", which was quite an honor. By the time the magazine appeared in print, though, we'd already moved to a bigger house, and a more fully realized prototype-based WWV layout was underway. . .

There's more than you'd probably ever want to know about the Walla Walla Valley Railway, prototype as well as model, on my website. Lots of historic photographs. A fairly extensive history. Equipment rosters of both the electric and diesel fleet. Recollections of those who worked for the railroad. And tons of stuff about my modeling the WWV, including how the layout was operated and sample paperwork items. . .all right here.

WWV's two HH660 Alcos ready for a day's work at the carbarn.

Leased Northern Pacific Baldwin works the cold storage spur.

WWV leaves Potlatch mill and enters Rose Street, passing the Baer scrap yard.

Side-by-side switching on Rose Street and the cannery lead.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Before I Modeled NSW (part one). . . .

Union Pacific GP9 interchanges with freelanced Walla Walla Traction Co. SW-1 at the WWTCo's small yard.

A good deal of this blog's readership are modelers from Australia, who likely aren't very familar with my modeling interests prior to taking up NSW outline in 2008. So, here's a bit of a recap of the long-ago modeling days of 2000-2004, back when Mary and I were newlyweds and new parents, and a 10 X 12' bedroom in our old home contained my modeling hobby.

A good narrative of these early small bedroom railroads with lots of illustration are available on my Walla Walla Valley website, so I'll just share a few photos of the earliest layouts.

Walla Walla Traction Company
2000-2002: The original bedroom layout, a freelanced former interurban railroad in eastern Washington, making its trade much like the actual Yakima Valley Transportation (but without the steeplecab electrics) hauling lumber and fruit in the late 1960s. Originally, Bachman 70-Ton GE's were used, supplanted with Walthers SW-1s. The layout occupied three walls, hung from shelving brackets 63" off the floor. On the left wall was the Potlatch lumber mill, with three staging tracks (representing Union Pacific and Northern Pacific) hidden behind the mill. The middle wall featured WWTCo.'s ice house, small yard, and engine house. The right wall portrayed the cold storage and packing sheds which loaded mechanical and ice reefers with apples and varied vegetables. As enjoyable as the freelance concept was, what I came up with was so close to the actual Walla Walla Valley Railway that after a couple years decided to just devote my modeling and research time on a prototype railroad, and converted the WWTCo. to the WWV, rebuilding some of the layout to a still highly freelanced version of the WWV.

Silver-trucks on WWTCo 60 were a short-lived experiment. "Too flashy," declared management.

An overall view of one wall of the WWTCo.

Snazzy SW-1's purchased to replaced the GE 70-tonners pose for the company photographer.

WWTCo. interchanged with Union Pacific, which used SW9's like this Life-Like model.

For a small bedroom layout, there was enough work to keep two two-person operating crews busy for an hour or two.

The Potlatch Lumber mill was a major customer.


That Static Cling. . .

Thanks be to all who pointed me to the directions for the Grassinator or sent me instructions or PDF files of the actual Grassinator website pages. Seems the US supplier of the Ion Generator is selling these no more--no doubt some sort of "homeland security" concern. I'll try to source them from Australia, where apparently they're still available.

One More Photo?

Though during my era 44 Class weren't operated out to Wee Waa, I can't resist messing with reality just this one time to depict 4464 delivering a rake of shiny new WHX aluminum wheat hoppers to town, as the branchline goods waits patiently in the loop. The photographer was apparently riding in one of many colorful balloons in the yearly Wee Waa Hot Air Festival. Don't you believe it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wee Waa progress: Dirt and rock

Rail motor set makes its station stop at Wee Waa; 47 class and guard van for the branchline goods train take refuge on the old stock track.

My guilt is somewhat assuaged. Trackwork and wiring last week at Wee Waa has given way to an initial layer of dirt ground cover and ballast, and by golly, Wee Waa is starting to move beyond the "Plywood Pacific" stage it has languished in for the past couple of years.

The dirt is. . .dirt. It's been sitting in a big bucket in the garage the past couple of years, and while it isn't true Australian dirt, it isn't the usual Texas kaliche. The ballast is Arizona Rock and Mineral Great Northern Basalt ballast, N-scale (the HO stuff looked too coarse). It matches the shade of several photos from the North-West. I'm going to assume it was from the pit in Ardglen? Or possibly from the small ballast quarry near Bellata?

I'd be all hot to get going with static grass and various green shades of weeds and other ground vegetation, but it seems the website that for years had carried instructions for making a cheap static grass applicator--the "Grassinator"--is in "rebuilding" mode. . .which either means it will someday return, or it will be lost to the ether. Hopefully the former, for I didn't bother to download instructions on building the device!

I've shunted the goods train at Wee Waa a couple of times since completing the track and wiring, and it's good fun. Stick a home signal just short of where the tracks disappear through the wall, and it makes the work that much more entertaining not to go beyond the safeworking limits with long pulls or run-arounds.

IDR Delivers. . .

Another fun little box from Australia arrived this week. My order from Hobbyland in Hornsby, specifically several resin kits from Ian Ratcliffe. Beautiful stuff! I purchased a KHG guard van, 1957 fishbelly MLV, and a pair of KF four-wheel flat wagons. The castings are first rate, the instructions clear and well-illustrated. I was quite tempted to put forearm on workbench and with a mighty swipe clear off enough room to get started on them, but I resisted and worked on Wee Waa instead. I'll certainly be a return customer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday afternoon piccie. . .

Somewhere north of Narrabri. . . an empty block of grain wagons bound for refilling at Moree wait out a cross with an up load during harvest season in the North-West, circa 1974. Two new WHX aluminum hoppers on the head end compete with the relatively clean 44 Class in reflecting the rising sun. All's quiet except the occasional stirring of the Alco 251 powerplant, the call of birds and the occasional hum of rubber tires on the parallel Newell highway.

Of course, all is not as it seems. It's a photo on the layout, of course, but taking advantage of "glinty light" helps pass it off a little more as the real thing. I had cleared off the Wee Waa section of the layout to paint track and base scenery and while leaving the room looked back and saw late afternoon light from a southern exposure window nicely lighting up the scene in something approximating the right at sunrise or sunset "glint" lighting I like so much.

With the usual fluorescent layout lights on, there's nothing special with the scene:

But with just indirect ambient light, there's definitely something to work with. Maximum depth of field (f29), a low camera angle, and long exposure (10 seconds, ei 200) with a 1 stop under-exposure EV value deepens the shadows and keeps the highlights from blowing out. There's not much color in this scene, but there's enough contrast to work with:

From here, it was all a matter of manipulating the color, cropping the scene, and merging the photo with an appropriate sunset view (for the record: Soldier Summit, Utah, 1979). I'm happy with the results. The harsh lighting goes a long way to hiding the fact that I've got no ballast or real sceney down yet. Actually, that's what I should be doing rather than making photos of the layout!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wee Waa: a country branchline station

Looking down-bound (towards end of branch) at east end of Wee Waa, 1981. Photo from flickr, courtesy opsbooks,used with permission.

Ice and snow in Fort Worth--brrr. Quite extraordinary, actually, though last year we got one big storm with 14" of snow. The past week has brought us three blasts of winter--ice, a bit of snow, and another shot of ice. It's been enough to keep me inside and brought me back to working on the railway! Quite a change from summer in Australia, where it's quite toasty warm and the sun beats down when there isn't a bushfire or cyclone or torrential flood to deal with.

Ah yes, Australia. And specifically, oh little town of Wee Waa.

I want to get at least one "scene" relatively completed in the next couple of months, so bit off the smallest chunk I could, the 9-feet of benchwork in the upstairs office containing the branchline town of Wee Waa.

Most of the track had been in place for over a year, but I'd had a couple of points left to build and wire to truly finish the trackwork off. And in studying the prototype plan a bit more closely, I decided to add a crossover off the loop in order to allow shunting the goods shed without disturbing the load bank. Such an extravagant use of points would be considered "unprototypical" in the states, where railroads do whatever they can to avoid maintaining trackage like extra crossovers and the like. But that's part of the point of a Yank modeling Australia, isn't it? To build a railway that clearly isn't the same as Bob Santa Fe or Jerry Union Pacific's pike.

Newly-revised Wee Waa.

All that's left is a few feeder wires and adding the point control rods and I'll be ready to get crackin' with scenery, a dash of paint on the backdrop, and finishing the goods shed, station and load bank before tackling the rest of the structures: there's a grain silo, the water tank by the level crossing, and a cement flood control weir where tracks pass through a levee on the up side of town, in deference to the often-flooding Namoi river.

I'm looking forward to getting the wiring and point rodding in tomorrow, so I can fire up the DCC and run a short goods train into town and give this track arrangement a test drive!

For a little vignette of what this part of the Walgett branch looked like in 1974, check out this link to a travelogue by Brian Ayling. Cool stuff.

And thanks to John at for permission to use the photo at the top of this posting of Wee Waa. Wonderful view, eh? He's got a ton of other great photos of Australian life in his flickr account, which I can't recommend highly enough.

The Roster Groweth

Last month, I became the quite happy recipient of eight Austrains WHX grain wagons, which are all new and shiny silver and quite noticeable on the layout. Once I fire up the Iwata brush, I hope to put an end to that! That was followed by six nice RACE containers by SDS--perfect for the OCX/OCY flats I constructed in 2010.

It's been about a year since I splurged on much equipment for the railroad. Now that the WHX's are safely aboard, I'm now waiting the postman to bring one more Train-O 44 Class, and a few resin kits from Ian Ratcliffe's IDR product line--a pair of KF flat wagons, a KHG brakevan, and a MLV louvre van for the mail train.

And then it could get ugly (or, rather, expensive). There's the Train-o MHG brake vans next month, then a pack of Austrains FS/BS/BSR coaches for the mail train after that, and more RACE containers to get from On Track and SDS, and a pack of SDS's OCY's, and, oh my, at least three packs of those tasty Tulloch tanks from SDS as well.

Like I said. It's going to get ugly. But you either have to get them now, or miss them (or end up paying high $$ from some clown on e-bay). Thank God the 48's aren't here now, or Eureka's DEB sets! It's going to be tough enough to scrimp the $$ together for airfare down under early 2012 without all these models. I'm going to have to pray for more snow and start shoveling driveways for my neighbors!