This image appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on 8-11-2017 and it once again reminded me of what an architectural gem the train station in downtown Pittsburgh is. I have always admired this building and only feel more that way as I grow older. Here is a bit about the station. Note: It has been suggested that the cap from a bottle of Crown Royal would make a decent decoration in HO scale for the center of the rotunda roof. ~ Andy
A number of years ago a lawyer acquaintance agreed to let me take a photo of the station from his office suite on one of the upper floors of the Gulf Building on Seventh Avenue. This is a view you could never get from street level, showing the building's atrium. I am told that this was often done in older buildings (before air conditioning) to help with ventilation, so that more offices had windows.
Passengers take an escalator from the waiting room up to the platform level. There are three stub-end tracks on the right and two through tracks on the left. Here passengers board the Pennsylvanian, Amtrak Train #42, which has spent the night at the station and will depart for Philadelphia, New York and points east at 7:30 am. The train is a popular and economical way to travel for the elderly and college students.
This bird's eye aerial views shows the station relative to its surroundings. The Fort Wayne Bridge crossing the Allegheny River is at the lower right. The two mainline tracks make a pretty tight bend coming into the station. This view also shows the train sheds over the station platforms, which were cut to allow construction of Interstate 579.
Any way you look at it, this is a magnificent building. While it is a shame that it no longer serves the number of trains it once did, at least it is still here and the interior office space has been converted to apartments/condos.
As a quick weekend project, I decided to make a trio of Bowser F30 flatcars look a little better than they did out of the box. The main objective was to paint the molded plastic deck to look like weathered wood instead of yellow plastic. I'm pleased with the results of the project and look forward to replicating it on other flatcars and gondolas. See the pictures below for a step by step look at what I did.
I had assembled these kits long ago, but decided it was time to put together a decent Maintenance of Way fleet as the warmer months for track work approach. As you can see, the yellow deck doesn't look too realistic. The first step I took was to remove the wheelsets to prevent the cars from rolling around. I also put a dab of super glue around the bottom of the brake wheel stand where it contacts the deck. I forget how I had attached this piece before, but it was incredibly loose and prone to being broken.
The decks were painted using a technique shown in a Model Railroader video. I kept my brush wet and applied four colors of acrylic paint working from lightest to darkest. I was careful to apply the paint sparingly. Especially towards the last shades, I applied the paint unevenly to show natural variation. With each application, I worked quickly with little wet paint at a time. I would pick up some paint with the brush, deposit it along the middle of the deck for a quarter inch or so, then drag the paint towards the sides of the car before it dried. I masked the areas of the deck that are not meant to represent wood.
One major deviation I took from the MR video was not ordering the $40 paint set they used to achieve the same technique. I instead bought four bottles of paint at Joann Fabrics for around $5 that worked just as well. I applied these colors from right to left, starting with a base coat of Mississippi Mud and ending with Burnt Umber. The specific paint colors aren't critical, as long as they are a variety of tans and browns.
Upon checking the cars' weights against the NMRA standard, I found that they only weight a measly 1.8 oz, less than half the standard weight of 4.5 oz. I glued lead shot into the underframe to add as much weight as I could, but this still didn't put the car up to 4.5 oz. I used 50/50 white glue/water applied with a pipette. The cars have some tracking issues, but a heavy load would resolve this.
We're pretty excited with these HO scale laser engraved station signs which arrived yesterday. I found them on eBay. They are sold in pairs, made to order with the station name of your choosing. They sell for $9/pair under user name: scalecitydesigns. I need to investigate the best way to finish them, but just having them is a great start to making our station platforms realistic.
On Black Friday last year, Charlie and I were invited to attend an all day op session at the Coshocton Model Railroad Club in Coshocton County, Ohio. Apparently this is an annual event with lots of trains, food and fellowship. We were invited to bring anything we wanted to run, or just run the trains in their huge staging yard. We had stopped to see this club on the way back from the NMRA MCR Convention in North Dublin a few years ago and were amazed at its size and scope. The club has free rent in a large building at the County Fair Grounds in exchange for holding a daily open house during the annual county fair. Sounds like a good deal to me! There are lots of videos of this amazing layout on YouTube - check them out. It takes over 20 minutes to complete a full revolution of the layout. Perhaps the best feature of their layout is the realistic and consistent scenery throughout - I often see scenery as a shortcoming on a lot of club layouts, but not here. Their scenery is an inspiration for me. I took almost 250 photos, but here are some of my favorites. Sorry it took me a year to post these!
These two photos will give you a feel for the size and type of the club's layout. It is a single level, a little bit higher than waist level, with wide aisles where two people can easily pass.
There were lots of railfans taking photos of the action.
If you ever get a chance to visit during one of their open houses, it is well worth the trip - amazing layout and a real nice bunch of railroaders.
We have been struggling with how to model a small section of Swissvale to include the Parkway East (Interstate 376), Union Switch & Signal, Kopp Glass and of course, the Triangle Bar & Grill! US&S is pretty well set as a building flat with a rail siding, and we had planned to model the underpass where the highway passes beneath the railroad right before the layout passes into the new room. Charlie came up with a better idea however, by pushing the underpass closer to Wilkinsburg, thus giving us a bit more room going around the bend to mimic the local topography. With daylight stretching well into the evening, it was a great opportunity for a site visit to Swissvale!
Although the bridge has been repaired and painted a teal green color, the distinctive oval openings are still there. Vertical bars have been added as I'm sure it was a great temptation for kids to lean through the openings...right into the side view mirror of a passing car. We believe that these openings exist for the sole reason of allowing vehicles coming up either side of Palmer Street to see if vehicles were coming across the bridge so they knew if they could pull out onto Washington Avenue.
The east side of the bridge has not fared so well. It appears the original sidewalk was removed at some point after the bridge was painted since the teal color only extends 3/4 of the way down the plate girder. The extra width on the abutment confirms that a sidewalk was part of the original bridge. Looking back through pictures I've taken, I found that this sidewalk was still present in November 2013.
In addition to our photos, we got some measurements of the bridge to assist in modeling it. The builder's plate from the Pennsylvania Steel Company, Steelton, Pa. shows 1907 as the year of construction.
Although it is NOT served by rail, we can't pass up the opportunity to model the interesting wedge shaped building that is home of Triangle Bar and Grill and their famous Battleship and Destroyer sandwiches!
So it was an interesting evening of research for the layout and we caught The Pennsylvanian as a bonus. Until next time, may you run on good signals!
Last December I embarked on a project to start making models of a few passenger cars of the Norfolk Southern Office Car Special (OCS) to go with my F units for this executive train. The most detailed of these cars is my model of NS #26, the New York. This coach was built by Budd in 1947. Prior to its ownership by NS, it served as Conrail #27 as a part of its regular OCS train. The New York serves mainly on Operation Lifesaver and Steam Special trains. See the photos below for photos of how I completed this project.
Photo credit to Lance Myers of Altoona Works. http://www.altoonaworks.info/ Their website has plenty of information and photos regarding all projects of the Juniata Shops and its predecessors. Here is a photo of the prototype New York on a Steam Special in Altoona. I tried to mirror the prototype as closely as possible.
About a year ago, we purchased a Model #220S ground throw made by Caboose Industries. We have used their ground throws on many of our turnouts - essentially all that are not electrified with Tortorice switch machines. I had seen the ones with contacts advertised, but never really understood how they worked, so I bought one just to experiment with. These are ingenious little devices! They are useful for powering turnout frogs or operating dwarf signals to indicate turnout position. Essentially, they are a SPDT switch built into the ground throw. Here are a few photos showing how they work. If you've not understood how they worked (like me), this may spark some ideas for how you could use one.
This installation is to power a long frog on a #8 turnout. We have another location where it would be helpful to know which way a turnout is thrown viewed from 10-12 feet away, and one of these could be used to power a red/green dwarf signal. It is a pretty clever idea.
This past Saturday was our NMRA Keystone Division's Annual Jamboree - an unusual name for an unusual event. This event includes modeling clinics, model contests, door prizes and raffles, modular layouts and a white elephant table. The $25 registration fee ($35 for non-NMRA member) even includes a continental breakfast and lunch, making this an unbeatable bargain. An optional banquet and speaker are offered Saturday evening. On Sunday, there were layout tours, although we did not participate this year. I didn't take very many photos, but here is my report. Jim Sacco (City Classics) and his committee do a fantastic job planning and running this event.
As in recent years, the Jamboree was held at the Sewall Events Center on the Robert Morris University Campus in Moon Township. This facility is a perfect venue for our event, but sadly this was the last year we will be there as they are tearing it down to build a new facility. We will have to find alternate space next year.
The banquet always provides an opportunity to catch up with old friends, as well as make some new ones. Andy and Charlie (left photo) enjoyed the company of another father/son team, Steven and Neal Schorr (right photo) over dinner. We made friends with some new members as well. Vagel Keller took a number of "official" photos, which I am sure will be posted on the division's website soon.
If you live in the tri-state area, this is an event you should not miss. Heck, we had one guy who came from the State of Indiana! It is held every April and details can be found at www.keystonedivision.org.
For the second year, Kevin and I traveled to Springfield, MA on the last weekend in January for the famous Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show. This show has the best of everything. It is larger than the Great Scale Model Train Show in Timonium, MD, and arguable rivals the National Train Show held in conjunction with the annual NMRA Convention. It is a challenge to try and get through this show in one day (and yes if you return for a second day, you need to buy another ticket. No hand stamping here).
The show is held at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield and fills up four buildings. Most of the major manufacturers attend, as well as hundreds of dealers and many historical societies. There were certainly bargains to be found. There were also a number of modular railroads in all scales and my favorite, the 1/87th Vehicle Club.
A number of local hotels offered discounted room rates (<$90/night) for the weekend. It is a solid 8-hour drive from Irwin, plus time for pit stops and a meal, so we drove up on Friday and back on Sunday, leaving all of Saturday for the show. Here are some photos.
These flexible, pre-weathered sidewalk and brick street sheets from Chooch Enterprises were interesting.
Railroad wall art, including these illuminated locomotives were offered for sale. Sadly, no Conrail EMD units.
Here are some of Ralph's resin kits of Mack trucks that he has built. Wow...
Here are two really nice highway underpass scenes from the many modular layouts.
Two very large industries on a modular layout: a power plant (left) and a brewery (right).
Well, hopefully I've whetted your appetite to attend this show sometime. See you there next year?
The Train Nerd's Blog is dedicated to bringing you the latest railroad news and railfanning adventures of Andy and Charlie!