About the MFR

The Metaline Falls Railroad (MFR) is a proto-freelanced model railroad based on the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad located in northern Idaho and north eastern Washington State. For the very latest on the layout, please visit my YouTube channel and follow along with my Instagram account.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Movie Mondays #10

The Seaboard Central is one of my favorite layouts to be found on Youtube and a beautiful example of what can be done in a small space. This video is a tour of the layout in it's current, stunning state. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018

Heavy Haulers on the MFR

In the past I had resigned myself to the fact that I'd never get the opportunity to run big, modern road units on my home layout. I was mostly fine with this as my interests in the hobby at that time revolved around short lines and small switchers. Thing changed however, when I started watching railfanning videos on Youtube. I found myself more and more wanting to replicate even just a little bit of the big time railroading I was seeing on my own model railroad.

Luckily I was able to work some mainline operation into my new layout and so, being too excited to wait, I went ahead and splurged on a pair of Athearn Genesis ES44ACs in both UP and CP Liveries.

These units are beautiful and come equipped with LED lights and Tsunami 2 sound decoders. They look and sound great idling on my little module and are the perfect motivation for me to get moving on building my layout so I can get these babies running!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Track Plan

(Note: Some minor changes have been made to the track plan since creating the video. See the image attached to this post for the latest schematic.)

Whelp, I've done it. I've finally landed on a track plan for my new layout. This plan is the result of months of design and deliberation. It incorporates nearly all of the features I love in model railroading and should provide me many years of enjoyment. I go in-depth into the design of the track plan in the following video:

The plan is simple, but allows an operator or two plenty of operational enjoyment. If I'm not in the mood for operations, I can even sit back with a beer and enjoy running a couple of trains around in circles. I've included a yard, a nice industrial area, and a couple nice, unencumbered areas where I can enjoy my favorite kind of modeling: Scenery.

True to proto-freelance modeling, the towns and industries located on the layout exist in real life. (though I've taken plenty of liberties with the locations and track arrangement to best serve my needs) The town of Usk stands-in for several towns found in the Pend Oreille Valley and just like on the prototype, the yard at Sandpoint is the valley's connection with the rest of the world. I've also included a few key scenic features found on the prototype including the old Great Northern Depot at Sandpoint, the bridges over the Pend Oreille River, Blueslide tunnel near the crossing of Highway 20, and the iconic Box Canyon Bridge.

(click to view larger)

Let's take a moment to look at the industries represented on the layout and learn about their mostly freelanced (i.e. pretend) histories:
  • Lehigh Cement: With operations beginning in 1911, Lehigh Cement is the oldest rail-served industry in the valley, This historic factory once towered over the town of Metaline Falls however, the factory's advanced age along with rail service concerns required the owners to shutter operations at it's original location and build a new, modern plant south at Usk Washington. The factory ships 5-6 2-bay covered hoppers an operating session. 
  • Ponderay Newsprint Company: Ponderay has been the one of the valley's largest rail customers since it began operations in 1989. The plant ships around 2-3 boxcars loaded with newsprint an operating session and receives boxcars loaded with recycled paper materials as well as tank cars loaded with kaolin and other chemicals on an as-needed basis.
  • Vaagan Bro's Lumber Company: Part of the Idaho Forrest Group, this mill has been supplying America with high quality wood products for decades. Due to a recent lull in the new construction market, the mill only ships 2-3 loads of lumber on center partition cars each operating session. 
  • Tri-Pro Poll Mill: The mill Generally ships around 1-2 custom built bulkhead flat cars loaded with poles an operating session.
  • Pacific Steel and Recycling: A small employee-owned recycling facility which receives loads of scrap steel and other recyclable products via boxcar and gondola only on occasion.
This plan is sure to change a bit once flextrack meets plywood, but I'm pretty happy with where it stands right now. It was a lot of fun to put together and I can't wait to get started building benchwork!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

What is Best in Life?

What is Best in Life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to find your favorite layout on the cover of a magazine.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Construction Begins

Just a quick update today. I borrowed my dad's truck and ran to Menards for what it sure to be the first of many, many trips related to this railroad.  I purchased all the lumber needed to frame the wall that will separate the room in two. I also purchased a pre-framed and finished door along with a bunch of new tools needed for the job. Things are starting to move!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Good Lord This Hobby is Not Cheap!

Earlier this month I decided it was time to start ordering all the track and turnouts I'd need for my new layout. I jumped on my favorite hobby store website and began clicking away!  Many hundreds of dollars later I realized I had filled my shopping cart with less than half the amount of stuff I'd need to complete my railroad.

Good lord this hobby is not cheap!

So, I'm going to have to spread out my purchases over the next few months with hopefully having everything I need to get a good ways into this layout project purchased by the end of December. In the mean time my plan is to get the doors and walls up next month, the ceiling painted, and just have everything generally ready to go for when the winter hits and I am in full model railroading mode.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #12

"On a crisp, early autumn day, a trio of Montana Rail Link SD45s power a BNSF freight westbound into Algoma, Idaho, only moments after crossing the bridge over Lake Pend Oreille from Sandpoint, on October 3, 2014." Photo by Mike Dannerman

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Bitter Creek Ground Throws

I wanted to do something a bit different with my new layout. I had used Fast Tracks Bullfrog switch machines on my old layout and although they worked, they never worked great for me. I think that temperature changes in the basement might have contributed to their inconsistent performance. Plus, installation was quite difficult though that might have just been due to my inexperience with the product.

So, with my new layout I was determined not to use those again.  This meant using Micro Engineering turnouts across the entire layout. These turnouts come with sprung switch points which holds them firmly against the rail. This allows the user to operate them with simply the flick of a finger. Simple!

So this solution should hopefully work great, but there is one curved switch on the layout and unfortunately, I couldn't find a sprung switch in the radius I needed. A Walthers #6.5 curved turnout would fit the bill here, but I'd have to find a way to hold the switch points in place when the switch is thrown.

My initial thought was to use the tried-and-true Caboose Industries Ground throw.  These little mechanisms are commonly used, however they are VASTLY over-sized and do not look too great because of it. That said, If I'm only planning to use them on one place on the layout, maybe It won't be so bad?

A search for an alternate solution lead me to a blog post discussing Bitter Creek ground throws. They looked promising so I ordered a couple pairs to check them out for myself.

I haven't installed the turnout to test it's performance, so I can only really comment on the looks and build quality of the ground throw at the moment. Looks wise, It's a bit of a mixed bag. Although the profile is much, much smaller than the Caboose Industries ground throw, it has an overall larger footprint. That said, much of that footprint can likely be hidden with some careful ballasting so that issue is likely remedied. The spring and pivoting mechanism of the machine itself is also not very prototypical, though I'll admit that I'm not so sure the Caboose Industries mechanism looks like much of anything you'd find on a modern railroad these days.

Build quality on the Bitter Creek ground throws appears to be quite good. They are all metal in construction which is nice. They do feel a bit delicate compared to the Caboose Industry throw though and that might have a lot to do with the design of the moving parts, the spring, etc. Once securely mounted, that delicate quality might just go away.  That spring does give it a nice, strong feel when thrown so I've got a good sense that electrical connectivity will not be an issue with these throws. Apparently the original design dates back to the early 70's so it's already had plenty of long-term testing on other layouts by this point. That said, I've played it safe and purchased four total so I have plenty of backups should one fail.

At the end of the day, (and again, this is only my first impressions) I'd say it's a bit of a toss-up between the Bitter Creek and the Caboose Industries ground throws.  Each appear to have their strengths and weaknesses. For me, the Bitter Creek ground throw has the edge on looks so I'll be installing that one on my railroad and I'll be sure to report back in the future on how well it performs.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Movie Mondays #9

I've never really been a fan of club layouts. It's not that there is anything wrong with them, they just aren't for me personally. I've heard plenty of complaints about the politics surrounding a club layout and I just don't have the energy to deal with that kind of thing. Plus I'm way too particular in my modeling standards and I would never be satisfied putting a ton of energy and money into something that looked like it was designed by committee and built by some well-meaning people who's artistic skills may be a bit lacking.

That said, if my local club layout looked like this one... Well, that might be a different story altogether!


Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Needle in a Swap Meet

This past weekend I attended a local model railroad swap meet. My kid was really excited to attend but I warned her that it wasn't going to be a big show with display layouts or anything like that.  That didn't seem to deter her excitement. (I think she was just excited to do something with me.)

The show was as expected. Small and featuring mostly overpriced "blue box" equipment and sketchy looking Proto 2000 locomotives. Nothing I really found interesting unfortunately. One issue I find with modeling such a specific location and era is that my "shopping list" is so particular that finding something I could use at a swap meet is like finding a needle in a... well, swap meet.

I was able to pick up a few vehicles though. I haven't purchased many of those up to this point so it was cool to grab a few.  My kid even helped me pick one out. (I think she made a good choice)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #11

The crew waits for over two hours for permission to enter the Union Pacific mainline at Dover Idaho.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Am I even proto-freelancing anymore?

I've finished the final version of my track plan and am very happy with it. (a walkthrough video detailing the plan will be coming shortly) The plan is the result of many, many hours of design and research as well as many additional hours of laying awake in bed thinking about that design and research.  The end result is a plan that incorporates all of my "givens and druthers," takes into consideration cost and time constraints, and very closely aligns with the prototype that I am using as inspiration...

...perhaps too closely?

I've always been drawn to proto-freelance-style model railroading. Creating a model that looks and acts like a real railroad without the constraints of having to match a particular prototype seems perfect for me. I will admit that much of my draw towards the freelancing side of the hobby can be attributed to my lack of knowledge about how real railroads operate. In the past, this knowledge gap could have been attributed to the fact that research was so much more difficult and time intensive. As relevant information has become more and more available online, that excuse holds less and less water.

The very earliest iterations of the Metaline Falls Railroad can be traced back to a small LEGO Trains layout I built on a table in my basement over 11 years ago. The layout was very small and limited in it's operation, but I wanted to give it a real-world location and a bit of "legitimacy".  At this point in time, all I was really looking for was a real-world location that had three key features.
  1. A Bridge
  2. A Tunnel
  3. A Cement Industry so I could include my favorite type of railcar: 2-Bay Covered Hoppers
With these three features in mind, I started my search online. Soon enough the old Metaline Falls Branch of the Milwaukee Road (currently owned and operated by the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad) grabbed my attention and an obsession was born.

One of my custom-built locomotives now relegated to display duty on a shelf at the office.

When I finally decided to jump back into more traditional model railroading, I tore down that LEGO layout, but the inspiration that was Metaline Falls survived. I started to research the area more in-depth and found myself fascinated by the history and industry of the area. Although I was very limited by space constraints, I wanted to do the prototype justice. I decided to model the industries on my little layout around the "industrial theme" of the area. Thus, the cement factory took prominence, The real-world paper mill became a paper recycling facility, and the small-diameter lumber mill became an off-layout representation of a pulpwood mill. I even made an effort to include the Box Canyon Bridge and Dam at as close to full-sized as I could for a layout so small.

At this point I really felt like I was leaning into this whole "proto-freelancing" mentality really well.  I was taking inspiration from the real world while going my own way. It's easy when you are working at such a small scale. So many compromises are forced on you that the decisions about what you can and cannot include are pretty much already made for you. It's easy to be a freelancer when being prototypical is completely out of the question.

All of that changed when I decided to expand the layout to fill a decent sized room. Suddenly I had the room to include a respectable representation of the paper mill. I had the room for the lumber mill, and that tunnel, and a more scale representation of the bridge, and don't forget the interchange yard, or the old Great Northern Depot, or that one lumber yard down the river a bit, and while I'm at it I might as well include a trestle, or two...

Before I knew it I found myself collecting images of the real-world grade crossings from every angle I could find in order to correctly model the angle and rise of the road leading to the tracks. I'd watch vacation videos posted to Youtube by people who visited the area in order to get an idea of the variety of types of trees found along the mountainside. I began studying timetables of trains that pass through the interchange yard and used Google Earth to following those routes to their destinations in order to get an idea of where those trains go and what they haul. I've collected engineering drawings of key bridges. Heck, I even read through the past two years of meetings and minutes of the prototype railroad in order to get an idea of the real-world challenges a railroad in that part of the country faces on a monthly basis.

This is not what a freelancer does... These are the patterns of a madman... A prototype modeler.

How could I call what I'm doing "Proto-Freelancing" anymore when the plan for the model railroad has become such a carefully considered representation of the real thing? There are plenty of small changes I've made for mostly artistic reasons. I consider myself an artist first and foremost and I do think of model railroading as an art form. That said, the only really major departures from the real world I've designed are:
  1. I've included a cement industry that hasn't existed on the prototype in many, many years and added rail service to an industry that in the real world doesn't have any need for it.
  2. I've omitted a few industries and mashed three or so small towns worth of industries into one town for the sake of compression.
  3. I've re-ordered where many of the signature scenes are located because of space constraints.
  4. I secretly hate the paint jobs on the prototypes locomotives (I also find the name of the prototype railroad to be difficult to read if you don't know the proper pronunciation) so I've come up with my own name and color scheme.
That's pretty close to being it. Those first three points are things that EVERY modeler does. Even those rivet-counting freaks! The fourth point is really just an example of how that creative part of my brain won't allow me to accept something I find artistically displeasing.

So I'm not Freelancing, nor am I really prototyping. I'm only sorta proto-freelancing.  Maybe I've got to come up with a new term? Free-Protoyping? or maybe Creative Prototyping? Oh, oh that's it! "CREATIVE PROTOTYPING!"

Serendipitously enough, Lance Mindhiem just released an article while I was coming up with this post where he explores some of these same ideas I've been struggling with.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Old URL going away soon. Update your bookmarks!

Just a bit of housekeeping folks! The old web address for the blog (mftrailroad.com) is going away soon. If you are still linking to this site through the old address, you'll want to update your bookmarks accordingly. The new permanent link for the blog is now mfrailroad.com. Curious why I dropped the "T"? You can read all about it here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Movie Mondays #8

I've been watching a lot of layout progress videos on YouTube recently. One thing I've noticed is that most of the best railroads are in spaces that have been designed for the layout and finished with appropriate walls, ceilings, lighting and electrical work.  I'm a big believer in the idea that the space a model railroad exists in is nearly as important as the modeling itself. If the floor is cold, the walls are bare and not insulated, the ceiling is exposed and there are sewage pipes, ductwork, and wiring running everywhere it takes away from the overall effect and is frankly, an unpleasant place to spend many hours in running trains or carving scenery.

That's why I really appreciate the video updates of YouTube user BArailsystem. He's been working on his layout room for over an year-and-a-half now and is only just getting to the point where he can really run trains. In that time however, he has created an exceptional space for his model railroad. I've throughly enjoyed his series of layout updates for this absolute monster of a railraod. I've spent the weekend binging on his videos and they are great so make sure you check out his past videos to see just how far the space has come.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Local Railroad Gets a Fresh New Look

The Metaline Falls Railroad (MFR) continues it's celebration of 20 years of operation today with the unveiling of a brand-new logo. This is the first time the logo has been changed since the railroad's inception.

"Our previous logo was the result of a contest amongst students of the Pend Oreille County School District." says Matt Forcum, Chairman of the MFR. "Though we all appreciated that logo, we never really made much use of it.  As we approached our 20th anniversary, we saw an opportunity to re-invigorate our brand."

Those with an eye for detail might recognize similarites between this new logo and that of another popular railroad. "The BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) have been good business partners of ours for many years now." Forcum explains. "We worked closely with them to design a logo that calls attention to this relationship while highlighting the important contribution the MFR makes to the success of the larger network of railroads operating in the Pacific Northwest."

The new logo is decidedly fresh and modern, but it also evokes a sense of the past in it's meandering blue line. As Chairman Forcum puts it, "The curvy blue line is a representation of the Pend Oreille River which has played an incredibly important role in the history and development of not only our little railroad, but also the many industries and people the railroad serves along the river valley."


I had a heck of a good time designing this logo. I was inspired to do so by other freelance railroads with fantastic logos such as the Washington Northern, Utah Belt and the Virginia Midland. Hope you all like it! I can't wait to find ways of using it on my layout!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #10

A 2-6-6-2 rolls north up the beautiful Pend Oreille River Valley on the Metaline Falls Branch

Monday, September 17, 2018

Layout Update Video #1 - Surveying the Space

Here is the first of many new videos for the new layout progress series I've started on the new MFR. I wanted to take a moment to share the space and my plans for preparing the room for the layout.

Upon reviewing my video, I'm not a fan of the shaky footage. For future videos I'll be getting an iPhone mount so I can lock my camera down for a nicer viewing experience.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

End of an Era

I stepped away from model railroading for a couple years to take care of a few life events and was was sad to learn upon my return to the hobby that an imaginary development I had created for my tiny freelance railroad had come to pass in real life. The POVA was forced to abandon the trackage north of Usk to Metaline Falls including the fabulous Box Canyon Bridge.

I had created this very scenario for my railroad back in 2013 as a convenient explanation for why I didn't model the railroad as far north as Metaline Falls. Having just a small shelf-style switching layout, there was no way to include both the bridge and the cement plant all the way at Metaline Falls.  Using the justification of "It was just too expensive to maintain the line north of town" seemed plausible at the time and unfortunately it's become a reality.

I'm really sad to learn of this development as I had hoped to one day take that railfanning excursion along the old Metaline Falls Branch. Now that it is gone, I almost want to find a way to work the town of Metaline Falls back into my model railroad as a metaphorical middle finger to the gods of eventuality. I don't think I can make that happen and still meet my goals for this layout however, so for the time being I'll continue including the abandoned trackage north of Box Canyon (while being able save the bridge itself) as part of my freelanced scenario.

I do feel a bit better however knowing that I will still be able to watch trains lumber over that majestic old bridge in miniature on my own little piece of the pacific northwest.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Movie Mondays #7

Youtuber aurthorhouston3 brings us another update to the BNSF Fall River Division.  This railroad keeps getting better and better and these videos are what inspired me to include a just a little bit of "big time" mainline railroading to my new layout.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Up All Night

You know those nights where you are awake until 4:30 in the morning wondering how to best represent modern utility pole manufacturing on your model railroad? These are the things that haunt me these days.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Starting over from Scratch

After spending some time with my current layout in it's new space and trying to come up with a design for the expanded railroad that would include those original modules, I've come to the conclusion that they just would not fit the space well and I'd be better served starting over from scratch. 

With that in mind I dove into researching and designing a brand-new layout that would make best use of the space available and would allow me many, many years of enjoyment. I don't ever plan on moving from this home, so this layout will be my fourth and FINAL layout. My dream railroad.

The track plan above (click to view larger) is still a work in progress but it incorporates just about everything I enjoy in model railroading.  The plan is simple, but allows an operator or two plenty of operational enjoyment. If I'm not in the mood for operations, I can even sit back with a beer and enjoy running a couple of trains around in circles. I've included a yard, a nice industrial area, and a couple nice, unencumbered areas where I can enjoy my favorite kind of modeling: Scenery.

True to proto-freelance modeling, the towns and industries located on the layout exist in real life. (though I've taken plenty of liberties with the locations and track arrangement to best serve my needs) The town of Usk stands-in for several towns found in the Pend Oreille Valley and just like on the prototype, the yard at Sandpoint is the Valley's connection with the rest of the world. I've also included a few key scenes found on the prototype including Blueslide tunnel near the crossing of Highway 20, a trestle, and the iconic Box Canyon Bridge.

Designing this track plan has been a challenging and rewarding experience and I have to thank the many talented people on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forums for their expertise in helping me come up with this plan. I'm excited to get started and I cant wait to share my progress with all of you!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #9

A train on the main line of BNSF’s Kootenai River Subdivision crosses the Pend Oreille River in the evening hours heading out from Sandpoint ID.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Welp, my old house is finally on the market and I can take a moment or two to relax and collect myself before I roll up my sleeves and get to work prepping my new layout room. It's taken longer than anticipated to get to this point, but I'm glad I am here now!

I haven't done much model railroad-related in the last few months unfortunately, but I did purchase a couple of box cars. Now, I've told myself for some time that I have more than enough freight cars for my railroad but, as many of you probably know by now freight cars are like skittles; One or five of fifty five is just never enough.

The first car I purchased was an Exactrail Trinity 6275 Boxcar. I actually owned one of these already and I absolutely loved it. I wanted another for years, but Exactrail had sold out of stock completely and second hand models were going for ungodly amounts of money on eBay.  I held off buying one for many years hoping that Exactrail would re-release the car and Thankfully they did!  I snatched one up as quickly as possible (which was a good idea because they sold out again in an insanely short amount of time) and now it sits on display next to my original car. Both are waiting patiently for me to get around to weathering them.

The second freight car I purchased was a Pend Oreille Valley (POVA) Boxcar. I was turned on to this car by a fellow Pend Oreille Valley modeler who reached out to me one day to say "Hi!"  He lives in the area and has a wealth of knowledge on the railroad as well as a large library of old pictures and maps of the region. (I'll be sharing some of that in future posts).  I'm very thankful and lucky to have met him as I can now count the number of modelers I've found besides myself that are modeling the POVA area on exactly one finger!

The freight car was advertised on Ebay as "New in Box" and in classic Ebay fashion, It arrived as anything but.  The axels were broken off, handrails were busted, coupler boxes were missing, etc. I am glad to have it as part of my collection, but it will need quite a bit of work to get it back in shape.

Both of these freight cars are special to me though as both of them are cars I never expected I'd one day acquire.  It just goes to show that good things come to those who wait!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

You Might Be A Model Railroader If...

You might be a model railroader if you walk around your yard collecting leaves from last fall in a garbage bag... and then you store that garbage bag in your basement.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Movie Mondays #6

The Grimes Line by James McNab was one of the most beautiful representations of modern model railroading and a huge inspiration for me as I work to design my new layout.. Sadly, The Grimes Line is now gone, but the videos live on!

Monday, April 30, 2018

A guest at an Ops Session

About a month ago I was invited to join an operating session at a home in my new hometown.  I was excited to have an opportunity to operate on another Modeler's layout as most of my experience seeing other Modelers works in-person has been through small, modular displays at various train shows.

The layout was a fantastic point-to-point style double-deck layout that focused on mainline running and featured a large steel mill.  This steel mill would be my station for the evening.

The job itself was described to me as "easy" and indeed, it was very straight forward. Using my choice of two small switchers, I pulled ignot cars, slag cars, coil and coal cars from spots and placed them at their required locations.  I set out cars for pickup and replaced them with fresh cars from staging.  Over the course of a few hours I actually got to try my hand at a wide variety of operational techniques that were new to me and I only screwed up a few times! (despite having to navigate no less than TWO double-slip switches.)

By the end of the evening I had learned a lot.  I'm very thankful for the opportunity to run on someone else's railroad and it has given me a lot to consider as my designs for the MFR 2.0 continue to evolve.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Railbanking or Abandonment?

Much of my inspiration comes from the Kettle Falls International Railway and in 2010 the KFR. (just to the west of the imaginary MFR) experienced a bit of an upset as a large portion of it's line connecting Kettle Falls to Canada was declared for sale or abandonment. Discussion immediately begain around turning the line into an international bike trail, but many wanted to invoke "Railbanking" to preserve the line for future use.

It appears the line has been preserved and is still in use thankfully, but this moment of uncertainty reflects the type of railroading I'm looking to recreate on the MFR. Check out these articles for more info:


Monday, March 5, 2018

Movie Mondays #5

Of all they youtube videos I've watched over the years, this four-part series on operating model railroads by Chris Lyon and Mike Hamer has done the best job of introducing the concepts of operations to those of us who know little about how a model railroad should operate.  I found their videos to be invaluable when designing my own little layout. Here's part one, but be sure to check out the other videos in this series as well.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Critique my Track Plan

There is an interesting discussion going on over in the Model Railroad Hobbyist forums where I've posted a couple of track plan ideas for an expanded version of the MFR. There are a lot of really knowledgeable guys there offering some great advice and I am learning a lot. Head on over to my post to check it out and maybe jump in the conversations!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #6

A Union Pacific train crosses the Pend Oreille River Bridge just west of Dover, Idaho

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Happy Accidents

Just for kicks, I went on Google Maps the other day to check out the Pend Oreille Valley area where I'd be placing my proto-freelance line and was delighted to find that Google had updated their aerial views with new higher resolution photography.

This new photography made studying the paper mill in the town of Usk much easier and to my surprise, the trackage around the mill matches up with my current layout fairly well!

I sat there for a while considering the possibilities. Could I actually build a faithful representation of the paper mill? One which would allow me to operate it in a prototypical fashion? It didn't take me long to decide that this happy accident was just too good not to take advantage of.  I MUST model this mill.

With that decision made, a new problem arose.  Where do I put the cement plant, yard tracks and all the other industries that were originally crammed into that tiny little module? Looks like it is finally time to seriously consider expanding the layout!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

You Say Train Fair, I Say Swap Meet

The annual "train fair" (more like, "swap meet") was this weekend and I went for the first time in a few years. Unsurprisingly and a bit disappointingly it was the exact same vendors in the exact same locations selling the exact same stuff they always had. There was a bit of comfort to be found by this however.  I might have stepped away from the hobby for a bit, but I've come back to find everything perfectly in it's place. 

Among the items I picked up were a few old magazines and a couple of cheap cars to practice weathering on.  There was very little there that really caught my interest. Perhaps this is a result of having already collected just about everything I'd ever need for my railroad years ago.

I also pick up this really lovely Oregon Pacific and Eastern boxcar from a vendor.  I really adore the deep blue color and especially the lovely goose on the side, however I did a bit of research after bringing it home and it turns out that the OPE appears to have been a shortline tourist road for much of the 80s and is all but shutdown today with the hopes of opening again soon for tourism.  These box cars were a result of a collaboration with the Current CEO and model manufactures. They apparently did exist in real life at some point though as evidenced by this single image I've found online:

How I am going to justify it's existence on my little freelanced version of modern shortline railroading is yet to be seen. (Perhaps a patch job?) You WILL see it running the rails though, it's just too pretty to keep in a box!

UPDATE: I just discovered this image below of a POVA boxcar in the exact same scheme.  The significance here being of course that the POVA is the REAL shortline that operates on the trackage I'm modeling my freelance railroad on deep in the Pend Oreille Valley.  Ok, so I'm feeling much better about my purchase but the question remains, why the same scheme?  The plot thickens...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Terminating the Terminal

I'm an idiot.

I arrived at the name "Metaline Falls Terminal Railroad" after much care and consideration. (as outlined in this blog post here.) You see, naming a model railroad is important to me because a name can evoke an image or feeling in the mind of the viewer.  For artists (and yes, all model railroaders are artists) These images, these feelings become integral to the model.  Just consider what wells up inside you when you hear names like: Gorre and Daphetid, Utah Belt, Grimes Line, and Downtown Spur.  These names not only describe a location, but also evoke a sense of the type of railroading the viewer can expect to experience.

And so, before laying one bit of track, I buckled down and worked to come up with a great name.  One that would be unique, yet memorable and would evoke a sense of a tiny short-line struggling to survive with few customers, isolated and tucked away deep in the mountains and forests of north eastern Washington; The Metaline Falls Terminal Railroad...

...which is why I'm an idiot.

The word "Terminal"  Originally chosen because it "does well to both describe the type of railroad I'm modeling and evoke a sense of inevitability that seems to be so common with modern-era short lines" does NOT, infact mean what I THOUGHT it meant.  I thought "Terminal" meant "End of the line" "This railroad does not interchange with any other railroads besides the one." Nope. Not even close. Turns out "Terminal" means "Railroad that operates and interchanges cars at a railroad terminal."

So, I'm forced to change the name which also meant changing the blog URL which sucks because once you change the blogspot URL, anyone who has that original address saved will have no way of getting to your new one. It does not forward to your new URL nor does it inform the reader that the blog has moved and offers them a link to the new address.

This probably isn't as big a deal as I am making it out to be as I stopped blogging years ago really and whatever readership this thing once had has likely given up on me and moved on.  I also have not re-lettered any of my cars yet, so that saves some headaches and embarrassment there as well.

Anyway, lesson learned. Moving on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018

Layout Progress Video February 2018

I've posted a new video on youtube discussing moving the model railroad to it's permanent location as well as expanding it a bit.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Moving a Model Railroad

Over the years I've often read in model railroad magazines harrowing tales and wild adventures of moving model railroads from one basement to another.  Often these stories would speak of circular saws and crowbars and garbage cans full of broken plaster and ground foam. Usually the modeler would end their story with a solemn warning: "It's just not worth the effort."

I read these stories with interest and took their warnings to mean that if I were to try to move my own layout one day, I'd best be sure to plan for that move from the beginning.

The very first steps I took in designing my railroad was to measure doorways and stairwells.  My house was built in 1930 which means the stairwell was constructed in such a way that it essentially runs smack into a wall, thus making it impossible to carry anything larger than a basket of laundry up and down those stairs.  That being said, after careful measurement I was pretty sure that if I built this layout just right, I'd be able to squeeze short modular sections up those awkward stairs.

The layout is actually two 2 x 5 foot free-standing modules bolted together in the middle. The scenery, trackwork, backdrop, everything was designed and built with the plan of simply removing two large bolts and pulling the two modules apart for transport. For the most part, that element of the design worked well.  In the beginning I had assembled the trackwork carefully along that center seam using insulating joiners where the two modules met. I believe these gave the trackwork some flexibility which allowed the modules to "breath" at that joint over the years. It also allowed me to wiggle the two modules apart without causing damage to the trackwork itself.  Scenery had been applied to hide the seam between modules, but a quick swipe of an Xacto knife took care of that. Dealing with the ballast laid across the seam was simple as well. pouring a bit of water mixed with a drop or two of dish soap on the ballast was all that was needed to loosen it enough to allow it to come apart safely.

Having previously removed all models and trees and with the layout now in two sections, (and the staging yard and lead tracks removed from the surrounding walls) it was time to remove the legs... This is where my original plans fell quickly apart.

Originally I had planned to simply unscrew the legs from the tabletop and transport those separately which WOULD have worked except that I had added the fascia and bullfrog turnout control rods.  These rods were fished through holes drilled in the fascia as well as the leg supports.  In order to access the screws to remove the legs I'd need to carefully and delicately remove those control rods before removing the fascia and supports.  Folks, believe me when I tell you that installing those control rods and getting them to operate smoothly in the first place was a HUGE pain in the you-know-what. I was not about to try to carefully and delicately removing those rods only to have to re-install them again later.

So, out came the circular saw!

I cut through the each leg just below the supports and lifted the layout free. I found I also had to unscrew and remove the backdrop as well as it was now just a bit too tall with it's stubby little legs to clear the narrow stairwell. My poor little layout was now in 8 separate parts.

Transporting the disassembled layout to it's new home 30 minutes away in a borrowed van was very easy and took only two trips. I was careful not to jostle the pieces around much as I drove but that layout is built like a tank and suffered no damage along the way.

Once it arrived in it's new location I, with the help of my father, moved it into the basement. (which was a breeze thanks to more than 50 years of human progress on basement design) I then carefully re-attached the backdrop and re-attached the legs securing them in place using short lengths of 2x2 wood and a few drywall screws.

I've still got a bit of work ahead of me before I can run a train across the length of my layout again. I've got to level and re-align the modules and re-wire the bus line. I'll need to re-attach the lead track and find some way to snake the staging yard around a recess and a closet door. All of that will be addressed in due time. (I've got a 90-year-old house to sell first.)

So in the end, how did moving a model railroad go? After years of planning and months of worrying, was it a success? Well, there were no garbage cans full of plaster and ground foam. No crowbars. There WAS a circular saw though and while I was sawing away at my precious layout and sawdust was flying, for the briefest of moments I thought to myself "It's just not worth the effort."

But that moment passed quickly enough...

...By the way, if you are interested in a wonderful little investment property in West Peoria, Illinois, boy have I got a deal for you!