Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lighting Considerations

Seeing the photo of the "restored" basement in my previous post reminded me of just how few light fixtures I had in the basement ceiling.  
Yes, I know there are exceptions, but I've seen more than enough model railroads lit with a couple of lights on a pull chain fixture to know how little we as model railroaders think about lighting before starting a layout. 
I thought there was sufficient recessed can lights situated over the planned layout when I started. Remember, the railroad was planned and built as a double-deck layout. I lit the upper level with the aforementioned installed can lights (equipped with daylight LED bulbs) over the railroad and the lower deck with a seemingly endless string of thin profile (and pricey!) under-cabinet light fixtures. You can see the result by looking at the lower deck to the left of Bernie: 
The result was sufficient and even lighting. 
When I took the upper deck off the room suddenly looked dark. So I installed two-tube fluorescent light fixtures, wiring them to the recessed can light fixtures. Over time I added more and more lights where I could (being careful not to exceed the capacity of the circuits). They certainly shone sufficient light on most of the railroad, but there were still places where the layout was noticeably back-lit - especially in Waterbury. 
The aisle-side wall of the cannery in Waterbury was always buried in shadow.
The problem was the lights were over the peninsula and the finished ceiling (to the left of the peninsula in the overall view above) encased some duct work, resulting in a kind of valence that cast shadows and caused some extremely noticeable back-lit areas in spots.  
A few weeks before I took Christine out shopping in Gainesville (a trip that included "let's take a look at those new houses ...")  I'd actually purchased an LED track light fixture - and planned to install it over the aisle just in front of Waterbury to see if that addressed the back-lighting problem.  
I never installed the track light (it's currently packed up in storage) - but I'm determined to avoid some of the cobbled together solutions from the previous layout. 
As we approach the rough wiring phase of the new house project I've been thinking about layout lighting. Three considerations: 

(1) Making sure there's sufficient, even light 
(2) Ensuring the fixtures are placed to prevent, or at least minimize back-lighting
(3) Distance from the light fixture to the layout.

To address the first two, I'm having the builder install extra can lights over the layout area - but I have a feeling they won't be sufficient. At least know how to get more light onto the center of the layout, although this time I'm going to use some better looking fixtures and try to arrange them with some sort of order so they don't look quite so hodge podge. 
Some of the local guys have had some luck with strip LED fixtures - these pump out huge volumes of light, weigh practically nothing, and stay cool. I might even be tempted to play with adjusting the colors of the LED fixtures to produce nighttime effects -  ("Moonlight in Vermont"?). Not unlike this layout (left) from the Portland NMRA National.
 I'm also placing a number of can lights above where I think the layout aisles will be - hopefully that will address the back-lit problems - and if not at least they'll be sufficient connection points to hard wire other light fixtures. 
Item #3 is a unique one for tall basement ceilings - ours are nine-foot ceilings - so the light has be strong enough to actually reach the layout surface!
  

Friday, November 17, 2017

Move out complete - 1/2 there ...

I snapped this picture Tuesday night just before I turned off the lights for the last time:

You can't even tell there was a model railroad in here just a few months ago. 
It's been a crazy week of moving the last few items out of the house and into the apartment (if you've ever wondered how much stuff you can cram into a small apartment, the answer is a lot more than you might think!). Wednesday morning we closed escrow on the house, turned over the keys and were feeling pretty good about things. 
That is until our realtor sent us a note thanking and congratulating us, adding "just think, you're half way through the move!"
Ugh, that's right - we still have to move out of the apartment and into the new house. I suspect that will be less of a hassle - we've learned in the last six weeks that we're too old and set in our ways for apartment building life.  
In the meantime, I'll stop the moving and new house updates on here since they're not really model railroad related. 
I will, if anyone is interested, write about the layout design process. 

Blog Notes: 
After considering what to do with this blog I've decided to keep it pretty much as is for now. 
I spent some time the last couple of evenings adding a "Manassas Layout" label to any post that was specific to the old layout. I also deleted any truly outdated posts (things like "I'm having an open house this weekend ..." etc. ) To see every post on the layout I was building, and rebuilding, from 2009 until now, click on the "Manassas Layout" label at the bottom on this post. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

New railroad = New Blog???

One of the first photos on this blog - almost eight years ago. Time for a fresh start? 
As I start (in earnest) the process of planning and eventually building my new layout I wonder if I should put this blog aside and start a new blog, one either focused on the new railroad or a more general "modeling" blog. 

Why?
  • I started this blog in December 2010, as I was starting construction of the layout. So this blog has always been about that layout.
  • I don’t want readers seeing posts and photos from the old layout and confusing them with the new railroad.
  • There’s something to be said for a fresh start. 
  • I've learned a little about blogging in the last 8 years - to the point that I cringe at some of the earlier posts. A new blog would make it easy to implement those lessons. 
  • Currently I have three blogs, although I really only update this one on a regular basis. 
A new look for a fresh start? 
Why Not?
  • This is an “established” blog – with a 8-year history and over 500,000 unique visits.
  • People know where to find it, and therefore, me.
  • Starting a new blog may require more effort and time than I want to devote to it at this point. 
Another approach would be to not tie the blog to any one prototype or layout and instead to create a new, more generic "My Model Railroading Blog" (obviously the title needs some work). 
That way if the next layout, or the one after that, is based on some other prototype/region of the country it wouldn't seem odd to have a Carolina railroad described on a blog with the "centralvermontrailway" in its URL. 
I could simply retain this blog and cull through the old posts and photos to remove those specific to the old layout (photos of benchwork and the like, such as the one shown above!), retaining the true modeling, prototype information, and photo posts. 
But that sounds a lot like effort.
Just something to contemplate on a dreary Thursday. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New Basement Footprint

NOTE: I've added this drawing to a separate page (see tab directly under blog header). Ultimately that tab will include the track plan for the new layout. 
After the previous post discussing moving walls and the like I realized it might help put things in context if I shared the diagram of the new basement. So below is a drawing showing the key elements of the basement in the new house, with approximate dimensions. 



Monday, November 6, 2017

Catching Up and a Quick Side Trip to "The Curve"

Perhaps I should title this post “Catching my breath” – since it’s been a whirlwind three weeks or so since my 14 October update. (Well, I have done a couple of Wordless Wednesday posts, including one showing exciting shots of basement walls without a house attached!). Happily that's changed - see photo below. 

Out with the old
As I’ve mentioned previously we moved into a small apartment at the end of September, and put the house on the market fully intending for it to be a few months, at least, before it sold. We had an offer in less than two weeks, from a couple who wanted – no needed – to close on 15 November. Naturally, we accepted the offer but we've had to go from the "we have 3 or 4 months" mindset we were in to "we have less than a month!" 
It’s been a whirlwind of negotiations, inspections, dealing with the items we hadn’t moved out of the house – yet – and the like. Some of which have gone smoothly, others... let's just say I'll have to tell you over a cold one some time. 
I’m thrilled to report as of today everything is still on track to close on the 15th – and fingers crossed – once we get past that milestone we can focus on the new house. Which is a good thing since ....

You’ve got to watch them… 
Like a hawk. Builders that is. 
When we signed the contract for the new house we included a finished basement (it was an option at a price that would be impossible to meet if we’d waited to have it done by another contractor after we moved in). The builder has a “standard” way he finishes the basement, but you can (for a price) add to the finished square footage. The standard basement includes three unfinished “storage areas” – I opted to use one of these for household storage, one that will become my model building shop and the third – well, the third seem superfluous so I paid the extra coin to have it finished, specifying that it not be a separate room but instead should be part of the main “family room.” And, since there no wall between the storage room and powder room the basement powder room wall was supposed to shift about 12 feet to the right. 
All was well and good – until last week when I stopped by and noticed the rough plumbing for the powder room was located in the same place as that wall that we'd eliminated. Meaning a few pipes would just be jutting up into the middle of the finished basement. 
A quick call to the sales agent produced a run around about how they knew what they we’re doing, the pipes were in the right place, etc… I might not know much, but I can look at a diagram and walk off basic measurements. 
I called them since I figured it was something they’d want to fix now as the basement floor hadn’t been poured. 
A message was delivered to the site supervisor, who was on vacation that day. Turned out that later that same day a cement truck poured the basement floor. 
The next day the builder acknowledged the error – it was a case of the plumbers coming in and putting the pipes “where they always go…” 
A jackhammer and a second visit from the plumber fixed the problem… but you really need to watch these guys…sometimes they seem to go so fast they get ahead of themselves. 

A Little Time Off
Despite the craziness I managed to take a couple of days this past weekend and Stic and I headed up to the Finescale Modelers Expo in Altoona, Pa. Although there were some fine models on display, I would have to say the clinics as a whole were not as good as other meets I've attended (I might have more to say on that at some point in the future). The models on display, even those a little fanciful for my taste, were outstanding examples of craftsmanship - I especially liked this O scale diorama - the various elevations and the way the buildings and trees were arranged created some neat vignettes. 

I even managed to find a couple of things to purchase in the dealer room - most significant of which was a couple of BEST Trains kits. I have a number of these, including the now famous "barn in the curve" from the previous layout. I like them because I think they are reflective of typical New England architecture (mostly because they are based on real structures) and are only minimally "compressed."

Highlight of the trip was a visit to the Altoona Railroaders Museum, followed with a visit to the Horseshoe Curve. The weather was outstanding and the colors were just at or slightly past peak - and Norfolk Southern was keeping the rails polished. Well worth the trip.