Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Friday, July 10, 2009

HN2009: Day 5 - 7/10

Friday in Hartford and it is time for the National Train Show (and agreeing with Tony Koester that this should be the NMRA Train Show really). The first 3 hours are just for the NMRA attendees, so we all have a chance to walk the floor before it becomes crowded with the public. After the Digitrax forum last night, I checked out (and picked up) equipment to switch over to Duplex Radio. Nice to have Digitrax right there as they were able to update the software on the throttle right there at the show. I also picked up the Erie Cafe model from Stella Models that I want to use in Whitefield as cafe along main street.

I must say that there were not as many manufacturers and dealers as I thought there might be. Still plenty to see but not as much as I thought there might be. Nice to be able to talk to some of the people behind the manufacturing of the products we use. I was able to see preproduction models for the Rapido CP caboose coming later. These will look good on the CP freights on the layout! There were also some pretty good display layouts from various groups.

After about 5 hours of checking out the floor, I was ready to sit down, So I headed upstairs to catch the afternoon clinics. I decided to find out more about JMRI and DecoderPro. I really came in cold, even though I feel pretty comfortable with computers and DCC. I really knew nothing about JMRI and using it with DCC. Well, I must say I am really looking forward to trying out JMRI when I get back home. Some software on the computer, an interface to the Digitrax command station and I will be ready to go. The best thing is programming decoders via DecoderPro. It makes it real easy to make changes and save them to a Profile. This way you can make all the settings without worrying about actual CVs and hex values. Nice. And you can save the settings so you can easily reprogram to copy the same settings to another locomotive. Also lets you do Ops Mode programming and do locomotive speed matching. Also a nice demo showing the software in action and having it run on a Mac laptop, so I know it will work OK and not require a Windows machine.

This is one of the great things about conventions - coming home with some information to make your model railroading better and more enjoyable. Another great aspect is the people you meet. All week it was great to see familiar faces as well as meeting new people. People I see regularly at Division Meets, people I only see once a year at regional conventions and also new people I have met just this week. I look forward to seeing some of these new acquaintances at future conventions.

After another walk around the show floor and a little rest in the hotel room, I headed back for the evening clinics. I dropped in on the craftsman kits clinic. Next up I figured I would drop in on the Forced Perspective clinic along with a room full of other folks. Well, it seems the presenter was missing in action, so I ended up re-presenting my clinic on designing and building the layout. I hope it was a nice fill-in for the people in the room. I definitely got good mileage out the clinics this week!

That pretty much wraps up HN2009 this year. I will be heading home on Saturday. I would have to say this convention was a real success on many levels. The committee did a great job overall, the venue was first class and John McGloin is to really be commended for putting together and running a great track of clinics.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

HN2009: Day 4 - 7/9

Thursday at HN2009 is all about clinics with no other excursions planned. Plenty to chose from with 3 morning, 3 afternoon and 3 evening time slots with about 6 different clinics going on at any one time. Great job by the convention committee on what they have put together.

I attended a clinic on building an HOn30 module based on a Maine coastline scene. No, I am not planning another module diversion, but interesting to see some building and scenery techniques. The presenter, Sam Swanson, is from the Great Lakes area and is part of a modular group there. The influence of Hayden and Frary on their HOn30 articles from the 1970s continues, even outside of the New England area. Of interest was his use of Gator Foam for benchwork.

Next, I headed over to the large community area that was set up for breakfast and lunch to get some food. This was a great idea as it means you can eat locally between clinics and it also a good place to meet other people and have some conversations. I had Tony Koester join my table and I was able to find out a lot about the NMRA future plans, including the NMRA branding campaign, internet future directions, plans for the headquarters and the NMRA presence within the California State RR Museum.

The afternoon I volunteered to help oversee the clinic rooms, to help with any issues and help get rooms set up between sessions. After that I was able to drop in and catch Dave Frary's interesting clinic on building a museum display for the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Great layout he built and a neat time-lapse photo section showing the install into the museum.

Now, many people complain about the aging of the hobby and lack of newer modelers. I guess that is generally true, but I must say I do see a good number of younger folks here and also a good number of women modelers. Meeting both requirements I helped set up a room for a clinic entitles Model RRing for Women. The presenter was a young woman in her twenties who brought a complete layout in 2 sections, featuring a narrow gauge steam train with sound, operating on DCC! She is the modeler and her fiancee does not model. An interesting twist!

I attended a clinic on modeling rocks. This is from the guy that sells the rubber rock sections (not molds, actual ready to install rubber rocks. In addition to his product there was a lot of good tips for modeling rocks, cuts, debris and other scenery elements.

A little time to head out to get some dinner, than back for presenting my 2 clinics again tonight. After the first presentation, I had time to get in a clinic and I went to the Digitrax forum. I was able to learn about the new Duplex Radio products, what they do and what the new features are. I must say the room really ranged from experts to novices as far as DCC and Digitrax were concerned. I guess it was good for the newer people to get some questions answered, but unfortunately it stalled the presentation and I had to leave finally before the presentation ended in order to get back to my room for the final presentation I was giving.

A long day with lots of information gained and shared. But that is what it is all about!

HN2009: Day 3 - 7/8

Tuesday morning, up early to head to the Danbury Rail Museum, it is an hour or so bus ride before we arrive. The museum is located in the depot for Danbury. The track arrangement here is very interesting with the old yard that now houses the museum collection circled by a multi-track reversing loop. It is like something right off a model railroad really. There are also some unused tracks of the Housatonic that pass by the opposite side of the depot as well.

The museum collection is housed in a fenced in area on the old yard tracks. They opened up the gates for us and we had a guided tour of the equipment on site. Lots of interesting pieces on display, some very unique. I particularly enjoyed the MEC caboose #681 that we were able to walk through.

A Conn DOT commuter train came around the reverse loop for a crew change so I was able to get some pictures and video of the clean locomotive in a New Haven inspired paint scheme.

Pretty neat also was a refurbished PRR RPO. The inside was restored giving us a look at how the mail was handled and sorted aboard the train.

After looking around inside the depot we were taken on a short ride through the yard on a coach pulled by an SW unit. We headed out to the turntable, detrained and then took a spin on the turntable. Then it was back to the depot and onto the bus for the ride back to the convention center.

In the afternoon I checked out a few clinics before heading back to the hotel to recharge, get some dinner and get back to the convention center for the evening clinics. At 7pm I attended a slide presentation on the Bangor & Aroostock and Maine Central prototypes. Then it was time for my two clinics. First up was a look at the prototype railroads of Northern New England, followed by a look at my layout and the design process I used to incorporate 5 railroads onto 1 layout.

A note about the convention center - it is a great location for presenting clinics, but I do find the opening and closing of the rear door distracting and noisy. Before I started I propped the door open to prevent this distraction. It seemed to work out OK and there was not to much noise from the outside hallway. I guess there isn't too much you can do about people coming and going I suppose, but it would be nice if the doors worked in such a way to not be so noisy. A small nit I suppose. Otherwise the convention center is a good location, clean and modern. Very nice are the abundant displays with up-to-date information on clinics throughout as well as outside each clinic room.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

HN2009: Day 2 - 7/7

An early morning departure by bus takes us to Thomaston to the RR Museum of New England, home of the Naugatuck RR. A small collection of equipment is at the station along with our train, lead by an ex-P&W U23B with a New Haven logo applied. We board for a trip up to the runaround track in Waterville and then the locomotive switches ends and we head back to the station.

Next we ran back to the shops for a walking tour to see the rest of their equipment and their new shop building. Inside they are working on various pieces getting them back into running shape.

Out in the yard area, there are many pieces of rolling stock. Particularly interesting for me is the Maine Central boxcar in its rebuilt paint scheme. Very nice!

We got back to the convention center in the afternoon and I had time to catch a clinic before going to the Op Sig room for instructions on the night's operating session. The clinic I saw was on Phil Monat's layout, how he designed it and how he rebuilt it. A good introduction before I get to see the layout on Saturday.

After heading back to the hotel to get changed, I headed east to Rhode Island to operate on Don Irace's P&W modern day layout. What a neat layout and a great one to operate. I got the yard job at Worcester and this kept me busy all night. I was pretty much on my own but I did have a coach nearby to help out and explain things as they came up. It was a great time and well run by Don and his crew. Here is a look at the Worcester yard, with Fresh Ponds yard below (run by another operator.

One last picture: Here is a shot of the dispatching panel on Don's layout. He also uses a dispatcher in Georgia to control half the layout. Wow!

Time to head back to the hotel. Early call again tomorrow as we head out to Danbury for a look at the museum there.

Monday, July 06, 2009

HN2009: Arrival - 7/6

Just got up to Hartford, having driven up this morning. About a 4 hour drive, uneventful and not too much traffic. Great weather for a drive today. In fact the weather looks pretty good all week, continuing the great weather we had this past holiday weekend in Philly. I just got settled into my hotel room and now I am going to head over to the convention center to check in and see what is going on.

Arrived at the convention center, very nice building and great place for the NMRA. I immediately ran into a few Philly and NJ Division members. Before registering I had to get to the OpSig meeting area to coordinate driving to the layout I was assigned to for the evening. Turns out Jim Dalberg and Dick Foley, regulars who I operate with on a layout back home, were assigned to the same layout, so I was able to catch a ride with them. As the layout was located about 1-1/2 hours to the south, we needed to get on the road in order to have time to stop for dinner. I quickly picked up my registration packet and we were off.

The layout is called the Boston & Maine Central and the host is Franklin Lang. The layout is nice, featuring somewhat freelanced design but using prototype B&M and MEC equipment and locations. Wide aisles and a laid back operating scheme made it easy to quickly get into the session and have fun. Here are two pictures of the overall layout.

Franklin says he has only been building the layout for about 3 years and is just getting operations going on a regular basis. He is off to a great start. His layout is operated with a yard at each end and a center yard (where I was stationed). Of interest is his town of Relief, pictured below.

The session ended around 10pm, but we did have an hour and a half ride back. We nearly hit some bad traffic approaching Hartford, but using the GPS we got off and diverted around it. Then it was back to the hotel. So day one went quickly and I did not see too much of the convention or the clinics, contest room, etc. yet. Tomorrow is an early day with a trip to the RR Museum of New England and a ride on the Naugatuck RR.