Holy Cow! He wasn’t kidding about the trains…

Believe it or not (no, you can actually believe it), I finally managed to get the first table for the model trains built. Not perfectly, mind you, and I have made a decision to make one final adjustment on this one, but considering I haven’t done anything like this in 5 years, I’m pleased with the outcome.

So of course, you’ll probably remember the design I came up with for tables a few weeks back.

The design for this was pretty good, and I went ahead with the minor modification, based on a suggestion to use 4 foot legs, since that is apparently a standard in clubs. I’m not saying I regret that decision. It was a worthwhile tryout, but it’s just too hard to reach across to the opposite side of the table, which is up against a wall for me, let alone my kids, who are only 5 foot tall at this point. So In a week or so, I will take the tables, remove anything from them, turn them on their side and cut about a foot off of each leg. 36 inches is sufficiently high enough for what I want, and well within range for the kids to work on things with me.

At any rate, Eli ad I got started a week ago, cutting the legs. But before we could, I had to mount the miter saw onto the stand we built.

We encountered a small design flaw later on, but the current table performed reasonably well, so Eli and I proceeded to do a simple clamp down / stop-block and cut the 4 legs down perfectly.

We did the exact same thing after that and made the 6 foot long rails out of 1 x 3 x 8s, again, using stop blocks.

Right after that, we cut the 4 cross rails and put all of these aside. Because the next thing I wanted to make were the 4 corner reinforcements… These also serve as mounting points for the legs later on. The mounting / reinforcements are more 1 x 3, cut into 4 – 1.5 inch long segments, and 4 – 2.25 inch long segments, and then glue and brad nailing them to form L shapes. After that, we left them to try for a bit and had some lunch.

After that, we attached the sides, counter-sinking the holes for #10 screws. The only problems we had here is that the #10s were a bit large for the boards, and given the less than premium quality on the screws and the lumber, we had a few small splits. Still, it was reasonably successful, so we took the final step of cutting down the top panel, and getting it attached. That was the last time we had last weekend, and so there we stopped for the time being. That was on Friday evening (August 16th). We had a bunch of parties to attend, so we didn’t get back to it until this weekend.

But in between, I did get a few new things for the collection.

Two more GEVOs to match Eli’s original #800, and a new Conrail SD70MAC to go with the other I have, #4134. I also received in 2 sets of SBTX Bethgon Protein Hoppers by KATO, for a total of 16 of those cars. A feed mill is intended to be a central piece of the layout, so it was only fitting for this layout. As you can see, that set is long… I couldn’t even fit the entire thing on my desk, which is a solid 5 foot wide work space… good thing I planned for a larger layout, right?

So yesterday, I got up and got back to work on the table. With help from Eli and Caidi, I was able to get the 4 legs drilled out, get supports in place and get the bolts for support and the ones for leg levelers all in place. It was a good 6 hours of work, but in the end, we were happy… well, except for determining that we need to make the table shorter. That was the original plan, but I got some advice to consider 4 foot tables. It was worth a try, but frankly, that’s just a bit too tall for what I want at this point, so I’ll be satisfied with the tables when we take them down just a bit.

I think you can see why the table is just a bit too tall… but it’s OK, the adjustment to the leg height is a small matter, and perhaps 10 minutes of work, and I can’t complain – it was a worthwhile experiment, but just not the right thing to do here.

And so, today, for the first time in almost half a decade, I am running model trains of my own. Big thank you to my children for helping me, and an even bigger thanks to my wife for putting up with my insane obsession. I can’t wait to involve her in the scenery!

Sorry for a bit of static and shakiness in these videos… I did these with my phone.

At any rate, there will be more to follow soon, I promise.

Where The Heck Have You Been?

I’ve been pretty busy for the past weekend. I didn’t get to quite as much as I hoped to, but such is life. Still, I’m not going to complain, because a lot of people are far worse off than me.

As for my lack of updates, here’s what’s going on. My wife has had some… health issues… and taking care of that was the top priority. While there are still issues to be resolved, I’m hopeful that the answers she is starting to get will help her out in the end. It’s always a challenge for her – not because she does anything to purposely make herself unhealthy. She has a few health issues that came from straight-up biology, so she has to make an extra effort to take care of herself, and she’s often put aside her own concerns to take care of the children, friends… and me.

So it’s no surprise that sometimes it really can take a toll on her. But one of the things I admire most about my wife is that she pushes on, endures… and works to conquer challenges. She has already started on another art piece, and I’m hoping to keep her encouraged to work on it more.

And of course, I am grateful that she is still working with me to encourage better living as well. I face some health challenges of my own, though mine were caused by my own stupidity over the years. I’m fortunate that she works to keep me on the right path now, a bit late though it was in getting here. That’s on me, and no one else.

Anyhow, it’s not like I didn’t get ANYTHING done. No, I have managed to get my first train table started this past weekend with Eli’s help. I’m hoping to finish it up at the end of this week and at least have some track temporarily on it while I work to save up for part 2, which will consist of two more tables, purchasing track, and eventually, the final table, which has that additional feature for some scenery I will do.

Once I am finished with table 1, I will post up pictures from the build and maybe a quick video about the results. It’s been a learning experience, but thankfully I have a lot of help from a great son.

That’s the update for now. Stay tuned and check back often!

Train Table Construction – Part 1: Design (Drop Frame)

While working through material costs and considerations, two points kept crossing my mind. One was the point that Earl Hamil raised to me about the height of the tables the other day. I realized that he was right: a 4 foot height actually made the most sense. So I adjusted all of the table legs to be 47.5 inches long. This allows for the leg levelers to fit in and adjust to get the tables level, yet avoid needing to have anything more than, approximately 1/2 inch of each leveler extending from the foot.

The reason for this was really driving by the second thought: I have originally planned for my track to be 4 inches off of the table top. This would allow for the desired river / waterfall area I plan to incorporate at the edge of the layout. The problem is, that’s a lot of foam to have to cut and stack… and realistically, I’d rather have to only use 1 inch or (maybe) 2 inch risers for the majority of my track work. The solution? I modified the connection between the two sides of the layout to incorporate what I am calling the drop frame: a 1 foot by 1 foot area that will allow me to only need to do extensive foam work in a small area, as opposed to large chunks of foam just to get the base of the layout set up. So I still get the height I desired, but don’t have to muck around with making excessively tall foam risers for most of my track work.

Here is the drop frame table.

And here is the entire table set with the drop frame piece in place.

It means a bit more work on the table setup, and a bit more material, but ultimately it gives me a better way to work on this. I will probably take some cut-off material to seal the spaces, but that’s something I can worry about later on, and I don’t need to go overboard with drawing those out in SketchUp.

Train Table Construction – Part 1: Design (Revision)

A quick bit of thank to Earl Hamil who suggested I make the legs taller on the table to get them to a 48 inch height. After looking at the design, I opted to go from 34 to 44. The reason for not going all the way to 48 is that I intend to have the track on a 4 inch riser system, made predominantly from foam. I’ll try that out first, and if I don’t find that feasible, I can always go up to 48 at another time – I just have to recut the legs. Here then, is the revised design, with the 3×6 tables next to the smaller 2.5×6 tables, so the entire table set is now visible.

Train Table Construction – Part 1: Design

Well, after a lot of work over the past month on designing a track plan that would work, and not have my wife ready to strangle me (as much), I finally settled on what I am doing, and with that completed, I could set down and design tables that’ll support it. As I only have about 1/4 of the track I need at this stage, I am building the tables in phases. The first thing I needed to do was take the desired dimensions and produce a plan.

Table one is 3 foot deep and 6 foot wide. All of the legs will be 34 inches long, so with the top and leveling hardware, the tables should be approximately 35 – 36 inches in height when set on the floor. I didn’t bother designing in the supports, just because that was too much time for too little a detail. Basically it’s:

  • Drill hole
  • Install t-nut
  • Push in foot bolt

Likewise, I didn’t draw out the individual screw holes, but after my experiences with building my work benches, I will be using #2 construction screws and drilling out and counter sinking all the holes, so I can later mount fascia boards for a cleaner appearance. The legs will be attached using bolts and washers, so in the event that we are to move, I can remove a few key pieces of track that jump tables, remove any buildings, pull the legs off and everything can make it out of the basement with a fair amount of ease.

Tables will join with a pair or quartet of bolts with washers. Fascia won’t be mounted for a while, as I need to do scenics before I can get to that stage, but at least it’ll be prepared for when I get there.

So here is the draft design of the 3 x 6 table. The other 3 will be similar, except they’ll be 2.5 x 6 instead. This should give you the idea.

My goal is to get this built and into the basement by Saturday, so I can at least run some stuff, and maybe do a bit of cleaning of track that’s sat in storage for the last few years. More to follow!

A Portrait of Dexter

I’ve known my wife since my 3rd year of college. At the time, she was studying for an Arts Administration degree, a Bachelor’s from SUNY Fredonia. It’s a degree that combines fine arts skills and knowledge with business skills so that a person is well versed on the fundamentals of handling administration of art related facilities; museums, galleries, and businesses that deal with art as a primary product or service.

It’s a tough field to build a career in, because sadly, these days, there’s not the appreciation given to art that existed in other times. It’s not to say people are uncultured, but the appreciation to really allow for the skilled artist isn’t strong enough for many people to build a career on, even if they have the talent that should allow for it. And likewise, the number of gallery and museum jobs aren’t that diverse. Realistically, you almost need to have a Master’s degree.

Fortunately, my wife had the business skills that made her a candidate for some varied jobs in other industries. Combined with the mind she has, she has pursued a career path in the medical industry, and she’s done quite well, working her way up. All this in spite of any form of medical knowledge from college.

It started with working for Quest Diagnostics for about 5 years, and has since lead her to a higher position as a clerical staff member at a hospital in Buffalo, NY. She makes me very proud with what she does – it’s not a position that people always respect, but the simple fact is, if she does wrong, people can be hurt by it, as much as if a doctor screws up.

But sadly, that means that she didn’t get to build the career she really wanted; to be an artist. It’s something I want to change for her, even just a little. Because frankly, she has a talent that so many people simply do not have. She brings life to beautiful art pieces, and gives soul to the subjects of those pieces. Maybe it can’t be a full-time career for now, but I would love to see her transform her talent into something that has serious opportunities, at least as a side-job in the near-term.

That leads me to Dexter. One of our two Siberian Huskies. The big, bad-ass, strong… baby. No, really, he is bigger than usual, he’s a pretty tough dog when he wants to be, he’s very strong, even an effort for me to control sometimes because of his musculature. He’s also the biggest baby – thinks he’s still a puppy, scared out of his mind of loud noises like fireworks, and he is so much a momma’s boy.

But for all that, he is also a beautiful animal, and when he has the chance to run, or is out for a walk, he does so with his head high, his tail wagging, and an excitement that is nearly unparalleled. He’s an awesome dog, if somewhat mischievous. And he was the subject of my wife’s latest art piece. It was a piece that took her some time. Our move interrupted her work for quite a while, as it took time to find all of the necessary stuff for her to resume her work, and other health and personal issues got in the way for some time.

In the end, though, Kelly finally managed to get this piece done, and it is absolutely gorgeous, as is all of her work. I am hoping this will remind her that her skills and unique talents are absolutely breath-taking, and if she really wants to do some more with this work, I support it. I hope you will, too. If you enjoy her work, you can reach out to me and ask to see more. She is working towards setting up a site for her own portfolio, and I know she’d be happy to do the work for contracts – she has the talent, and doing this truly gives her happiness and a good feeling.

But for now, cast your gaze on the beauty of this image. I’ll try to get a higher resolution version soon, but this was all I had for the moment.

Gardening Hydroponically

OK, I’m not sure if hydroponically is actually a word, but given that I’m not getting a spelling error from a proofreading application, I’m guessing it is. So to start off, I will state that I am no green thumb. I mean, I have successfully grown plants in the past. When I was younger (maybe 12), I had a small garden I raised in my parents back yard with some basics. Tomatoes, onions and (I think) some herbs.

It was a pretty rewarding experience, and given that I actually followed through on that and maintained it all summer, I feel pretty good saying I managed to do OK. But beyond that, I’ve never really tried my hand at gardening.

The fact is, it’s kind of hard to maintain a real garden of that nature when you live in a rental unit and have dogs that would likely tear everything up. Not to mention wild animals eating your crops. So after due consideration, I’ve had the crazy idea of trying to do a bit of hydroponic gardening.

I won’t lie, I am NOT experienced with this in the least. But one thing I love about the internet and YouTube is that, if you want to learn, there are ample opportunities to do so. And it’s a nice break from the usual garbage that makes up political discourse, religious nonsense (not that faith is a problem, just people who are hypocritical about their supposed faith) and the general insulting and condescending nature of Social Media.

At any rate, I found a few great videos on YouTube and it inspired me to look much more seriously at the necessary efforts to do some hydroponic gardening. My big takeaway is: yes, I can probably manage this, with a bit of effort and some minimal to moderate funding.

So in the next few weeks, I plan to set up, with my daughter’s help, the basics of an indoor, hydroponic garden… as soon as I figure out where we will do it, that is. The first planned crop will be strawberries. If you haven’t heard, I have cut out a large portion of foods that are not beneficial to my health; candy (not that I ate tons), ice cream, fast food (again, not that I ate a ton), and most other carbohydrate-heavy foods that contain added sugars and starch. I also cut out pop, which was the only real thing I had a hard time controlling myself with, but that’s a whole other topic to discuss. One thing I don’t have to cut out, according to my doctor, is fresh fruit. But have you seen some of the prices for that? Man, sometimes you end up paying $4 for a small container of strawberries – and either you consume them in two days and have to shell out more, or you get to day 3 and… wait, they’re already spoiled or getting moldy? REALLY?

So gardening it will be. I’ll be starting a new section on the topic soon, and as I work through the process, I will be trying to document it here. So watch for a new set of articles coming soon on my experiments with gardening.

I Guess I Spoke Too Soon

So the ads are back. I’m not really sure why they disappeared and reappeared this way, but I am also not going to bother asking any more questions, I am just going to be glad that whatever the culprit was, it’s not anymore.

So with that said, I’m not going to tell you to click with wild abandon. I am going to ask that you visit frequently, as impressions and views count, too, it just takes more; like a few thousand visits a month turn into revenue as well. But if you DO see something that really seems interesting, I urge you to visit from the ads on my site, as legitimate clicks will definitely help me out. The more action I get on here, the more I can justify doing on the site and the more I can actually handle in putting together new content.

Oh, and to anyone who happened to give feedback on my latest design for the WSVRR, I greatly appreciate it. It was uniformly positive, so the anti-racetrack crowd seems to think I should get plenty of operational value, and the pro-racetrack crowd seems to think I’ll be able to have some nice trains running through some nice scenery. Some family members are (apparently) excited to see that they will have their name immortalized (I guess) on my layout. So yes, Tiffany, one of the names you hope to see may appear on there. It might only be on a billboard, but that still counts.

I, myself, see this taking a while, because the track costs alone are going to be a decent chunk of money, and my family has it’s goal of buying a home.

Still, there’s progress, right? That’s what counts. That’s kind of it for now. Not really an update in the general sense, but it is new content, so make sure you check back regularly – which means, not just when I make a post about it on Facebook. If you’re prompted, too, remember to sign up for announcements and notices. I hope to make a bit more use of that, soon.

Yay! Post 50 – And I’m done with this design thing

Ok, so very quickly, I’ve reached post 50 – that’s something of an accomplishment for me as I’ve actually not managed to stick to a plan on this stuff in years. At any rate, I have 50 posts up and hopefully I can have more meaningful stuff in the future.

Finally, I’ve finish what is my FINAL design for the West Seneca Valley Railroad. This took me a while and some serious reviewing, and I finally came up with something I am pleased with. I am not changing anything else about this because frankly, I just want to get going on it, but here it is in overview format.

PS – The names and locations on here are all derived from the names of family members, but not everyone is represented on here yet. That’ll come later as I actually map out the towns / cities.