Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Great Lakes Northern

I want to get off to a good start modeling wise in 2017, so this post is something that I hope will give me some extra motivation to work on the layout this year. While it wasn't one of my goals for the year, giving my layout a name seemed like a good idea moving forward. The name "basement layout" just wasn't all that cool.

A while back I put together two posts about my ideas for a future freelanced model railroad. This was back before I had started design and construction on the "basement layout". I had a good general idea of the theme, location, and era of this fictional railroad. I even came up with a name (Michigan Consolidated) and a paint scheme. Well, fast forward to now and I've done some tinkering with these ideas and made some changes.

I decided that I actually didn't like the name I came up with so it was back to the drawing board. I wanted to stick with something Michigan related because that's what I would like to model on my layout, even if it is a fictional representation of it. That being said, the new name for my layout and model railroad will be Great Lakes Northern. I'd like to loosely base my layout on late 80's to mid 90's northern Michigan, hence the Great Lakes part. Here's the logo:


I designed the logo and word mark myself using the graphics design software Inkscape. It is not overly complicated and even looks good in just black and white. I'll have to work on the color scheme as that is something I need before I can start applying this to any custom painted locomotives.

As far as the logo itself, there is some symbolism by design. The pentagon shape and the five trees are meant to represent the five Great Lakes. The trees themselves represent northern Michigan forests and could even be seen as arrows pointing north. The lines along the bottom, at least the negative space inside them, are supposed to represent the two main lines of this fictional railroad. I'll have more details on that later.

I may even change the name and address of the entire blog to Great Lakes Northern since that sounds nicer than the current name. We'll see though, for now I'm just going to refer to the layout as the Great Lakes Northern.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Goals for 2017

The goals I've laid out for 2017 are similar to the ones from last year. They aren't anything crazy, just some things that will help move the layout construction along. I'm hoping to at a minimum have the track and wiring done this year so I can focus on building a locomotive and rolling stock fleet. This whole model railroading thing is a long term project to me so the rest can always wait until I can find more free time for it.

Goals for 2017
  • Finalize the track plan for the basement layout
  • Purchase and install the rest of the track and cork roadbed
  • Complete wiring and DCC system hookup
  • Be able to run trains and basic operations
  • Purchase and build another structure kit
  • Add to my Detroit & Mackinac collection

Knowing that I wasn't really able to meet any of my goals for 2016, I'm going to use these as just a rough guideline for the upcoming year. I'll be happy as long as I can find some free time here and there to work on the layout. I'd really like to at least have some trains running so I can share that with my two sons. I'm also really looking forward to working on the structure kits for the city and industrial scenes.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 2016 Update

Well, this year has gone by quickly. I haven't posted as much as I would like as life has kept me plenty busy with everything but model railroading. For this post, I wanted to do a quick update before the end of the year just to check in on the goals I set for myself earlier this year. Click here for the original post from back in January.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to really meet any of the goals I set for myself. That's ok though as I'm not in any rush to get these things done. At least they give me something to shoot for with my model railroading. I'll put together a post for tomorrow that focuses on my goals for 2017.

As far as an update on the layout, I've actually taken a small step backward by tearing apart the center divider I built recently. I found out that the two long sides were actually different lengths and that was causing some warping. To fix this, I've decided to rebuild the center structure with a bit more sturdy design. Because of that change, the layout looks pretty bare right now. As soon as I have this thing built back up I can get going on some more layout specific projects.

Probably the cleanest the layout table has been in a long time, I doubt it will stay like this much longer.
The only progress I've made lately is adding the small extension to the one corner to accommodate the wye I've designed into the track plan. It came out nicely and just needs a leg added to it for some extra support.

The new extension for the wye. Just need to add a leg and it will be all set.
Another side project I've started is adding some light to the layout room. Currently, the side of my basement where the layout is at only has one overhead light. I've got the ceiling tiles removed and I plan to add at least two more light fixtures directly above the layout and possible three more along the other side of the room.

The lighting (or lack thereof) in my layout room. I plan on adding two more of these right above the table .
Now that 2016 is in the past, I'm hoping to spend a bit more time on the layout in 2017. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

August 2016 Update

It's been over seven months since my last post here. I haven't completely given up on model railroading, its just become a lower priority the last few months. I've been busy with summer household projects and we have another newborn at home to take care of. I've still been thinking about the layout occasionally though and have even reworked the track plan several times in SCARM and done some minor construction. 

Another problem was that because of all the work around the house, my layout room was completely trashed up until recently. Now that I've got it cleaned up a bit, I'm more open to spending some time down there planning and working on the layout. I'd still like to get a track plan nailed down this year and at least be able to start running some trains on it. I just need to find a way to keep myself motivated. Cleaning the room was definitely a good start. 

The reason for redoing the track plan is primarily because I made the table a little too wide. I thought the reach would be comfortable for getting to the middle of the table, but after messing around on there for a while it's just too much. To alleviate that, I've decided to block off a rectangular section at the center of the table. This reduces my available space a bit, but will make for an easier modeling experience. Plus I don't have to dismantle the entire table this way.

I also decided to go back to having a wye, rather than a turntable. This wouldn't fit the way I wanted to at first, so I decided I must add a small 1' x 2' section to one corner of the layout. 

Here is the current iteration of the revised track plan with the center blocked off.

Revised track plan with the center blocked off.
To block off the center of the table, I built a simple structure using some hardboard and 1x4's. Once I have the exact location figured out, the plan is to sink it into the foam down to the same level as the plywood.

A look at the basic structure for the new center of the layout.
As far as the goals I laid out back in January, I don't need to change any of them. I just need to actually work toward them a bit more. I've still got a good chunk of the year to work with, so hopefully I can be writing a post four months from now showing that I've completed at least a few of them. Only time will tell I guess.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Goals for 2016

Goals always help serve as motivation to get things done. Over on my hockey card blog, I used to put together goals each new year and would use that as something to work towards. They weren't anything set in stone, but at least a guideline to help keep my focused throughout the year. It worked pretty well there so I'm hoping it will help with my model railroading hobby moving forward into 2016.

Goals for 2016
  • Purchase and install the rest of the track and cork roadbed needed for the basement layout
  • Complete wiring and DCC system hookup for the layout
  • Be able to run trains and basic operations on the layout
  • Purchase and build another structure kit
  • Add some locomotives or rolling stock to my Detroit & Mackinac collection

While none of these are earth shattering, they are attainable and will give me a bit of a guideline for the next year. I've learned over the last six months or so that this hobby takes a lot of patience, but is well worth it in the end. I am giving myself the entire calendar year to just get the basement layout up and running, so hopefully I can meet these goals and then some. Just the fact that I am writing this post tells me I am in better shape than I was going into 2015. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Prototype Pic of the Day #24

NS #1031 | Image courtesy of Steven McKay via RailPictures.net
Its about a week from Christmas here in Michigan and there has been a noticeable lack of snow lately. I was browsing RailPictures.net and came across this great shot of some Norfolk Southern power rolling through a snow covered Cohoctah, MI. I've actually driven along side these same tracks in the past so its kind of neat to see them with some unique power. According to the photographer, this was the first time in 15 years a NS train was on that line.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Basement Layout: Roadwork

I still don't have all of the track I need to finish my main line run yet, so I've been working on some smaller projects for the layout lately. One of those is figuring out how I want to do the roads and grade crossings. In my last post I showed some work I started with foamcore poster board. Now I've had some more time to play with it and I think I will be using this for sure on the layout.

I've cut a few more test pieces and started experimenting with striping using acrylic paint. I took some frog tape and used two pieces to create a straight line along the center of the road. Then it was as simple as brushing on some yellow in the opening. For a first shot at this, the results are pretty good. I missed on the centering a bit, but this was just a test piece so that's ok.  I'll just have to measure before I put the tape down next time.

Experimenting with road striping.
The straight sections are the easiest so it took a little more effort to get any curved lines to work. To do this, I cut some thin strips of frog tape with my xacto knife and placed them gradually along the bend. The hard part about that was keeping a consistent gap between pieces of tape. I got as close as I could for another test piece and threw down some paint. This one also came out pretty nice.

Painting curved road markings with painters tape.
So far I like what I see with the painting method, so I might just do this for the entire layout. Beyond that, I still need to figure out exactly what I want to do for the grade crossings. The picture above kind of shows what I'm thinking so far. I have both the road and sidewalk coming to the exact same elevation just before meeting the ties. This will leave space for a pre-made crossing to be inserted.