Author Topic: Rockport Junction: A Refurbished Micro-Layout  (Read 7067 times)

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DKS

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Rockport Junction: A Refurbished Micro-Layout
« on: June 07, 2014, 07:13:02 AM »
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Back story: a while ago I built the Trenton Transportation Company as a source of amusement while I oversee a large building renovation project in South Jersey--which has just started. "Crazy busy" does not begin to describe what the project is like--we have an insanely tight deadline, so I'm on my feet doing work and coordinating contractors and unskilled help from 6AM to 9PM every day. I haven't even had a chance to bring the layout down yet.

But then something remarkable happened. Being non-profit, we tap resources such as Habitat for Humanity and other organizations for donations of supplies, and a few days ago our director rented a truck to stuff it with anything potentially useful. When she arrived at the site, she informed me that she had a present for me, whereupon she and a volunteer extracted from the truck a very old little N scale layout that had been dropped off at the donation center. Knowing I'm a model railroader, she thought it would be a great "thank you" for my efforts--and she was right.

The little 2 by 4 foot layout looks to have been built in the late 70s or early 80s, and its condition was a mixed bag. The switch machines and controllers were badly rusted, some of the buildings were either trashed or missing, and all of the greenery had literally turned to dust. The white beaded foam scenery, however, was all intact, and the layout itself was quite well built: a light wooden box frame topped with lauan plywood and surrounded by a plywood backdrop.

It was obviously a first layout for some budding model railroader, and while there are plenty of flaws, the builder got far more right than wrong--heck, the curves are superelevated! The weakest aspects were the wiring (a classic rat's nest) and the structures. At first I'd thought of doing a renovation, but as I got into it, I decided instead to refurbish it, and preserve as much of the spirit of the original as practical. My favorite part of the layout is the painted backdrop along the back--it has an earnest charm, and demonstrates genuine skill.











So far I've only been able to spend a couple of hours working on it. The first thing I did was strip off everything but the track, patch holes in the scenery, and lay down a fresh undercoat of textured paint to mimic the original construction style. I also painted all of the filthy, scuffed pale blue fascia with dark brown paint.





Next I'll apply a final coat of texture paint to bring the color under control; then I'll re-ballast and paint the track. I've also ordered replacement switch machines and controllers from eBay--thankfully there's a bunch of vintage machines available right now. I will be using a new throttle for better train control, although I just might install the electronics inside the old power pack shell just for giggles.

So far my only quandary is structures. I'm breaking with the original since this is the layout's weakest point--at best, the construction was shaky and choices were odd, not to mention finding exact replacements would be a tall order. At first I thought Woodland Scenics prefabs might be the ideal choice, but I'm not yet convinced because they're stylistically very different. However, I also have a healthy collection of vintage kits, and I could be convinced they might be more appropriate. I welcome the observations of fellow asshats on this point.

One other split from the original I'll make is with scenery. I'm not about to glue blobs of lichen and patches of ground foam in random locations, but I'm also not giving it the rock casting and Supertree treatment; my plan is to use basic Woodland Scenics materials, including prefab trees and ground foam. Yes, it'll be something of a challenge to dial back the realism level and go totally "generic," but I think the end effect will be more cohesive, and have a non-offensive, amateurish aesthetic.

If nothing else, this little gem is a perfect way to unwind from the brutal work schedule. I noticed that I actually sleep better at night after an hour or so of modeling--it takes my mind off of a thousand and one issues.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2019, 01:50:42 PM by DKS »
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MichaelWinicki

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2014, 07:50:27 AM »
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Wow!


What a great story!


I'm sure the final result will be outstanding.  I know "realism" is not the goal, but I would bet even using more generic items the level of realism will be quite good.

Catt

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2014, 08:11:08 AM »
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Looks like fun David. :D
Johnathan (Catt) Edwards
Sole owner of the
Grande Valley Railway
100% Michigan made

davefoxx

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2014, 09:19:53 AM »
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I will state that if you're looking at this project as a "refurbishment," then I would go with vintage structures.  You could also just scratchbuild basic (not super-detailed) structures easily and inexpensively.

Also, I don't know how you would advertise it to reap the most reward, but perhaps you could auction the layout off when complete and donate the proceeds to your non-profit venture.  It may not bring thousands of dollars, but whatever you get will surely be important to the cause.  When it comes to non-profit small businesses, every little bit helps.

DFF

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Member: ACL/SAL Historical Society
A Proud HOer

VonRyan

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2014, 10:11:56 AM »
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I agree on the vintage stuctures. Looking at the pictures, you can buy a truck load of those structures at train shows, only problem is that they're always already built (and overpriced).

Dave's idea to auction (or perhaps raffle) the layout off for charity is a superb idea.
It could certainly help to raise funds for the organization as well as create a bit of publicity.
Cody W Fisher - Modeler of the PRR, PRSL, GWR, SZD, and DRG

WWII Clerk/Administration Historian

Switchboard Technician - 33rd Signal Construction Battalion (reenacted)

Squadron Clerk - Capital Wing, Airmans Preservation Society

glakedylan

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2014, 02:28:03 PM »
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David
What a wonderful restoration project, along with being such a thoughtful and apropos gift to you.
I see already that you are working your magic with this layout and I applaud you.
Will be following the process and progress along the way.

Thanks for sharing...
Gary
"...that each may live for all,
and all may care for each..."

Chris333

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2014, 06:36:45 PM »
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Reminds me of the G&D layout. It looks smaller than 2x4. I'd slap an Atlas station down:
http://fiferhobbysu770.corecommerce.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=11726

jimmo

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2014, 01:27:58 AM »
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I would donate my three N-scale structure kits but they're not exactly vintage. But if you're interested...
James R. Will

packers#1

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2014, 01:33:47 AM »
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I dig the basic trackplan, at least up front; it has some semblance (in a VERY passing manner, to me anyways) to Seneca, SC. I'm looking forward to seeing the refurb and what you pull off with the Woodland Scenics supplies. I have some large armatures back home that I could send you in a couple weeks when I go back; if you're interested, PM me, I'll probably never use them.
Sawyer Berry
Clemson University graduate, c/o 2018

Chris333

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2014, 03:40:18 AM »
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I would donate my three N-scale structure kits but they're not exactly vintage. But if you're interested...

Yeah James kits would fit in on that lil' layout.

DKS

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2014, 07:20:35 AM »
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Thanks for the offers, everyone, I have just about all of the structures I need--and they're all vintage kits, some still sealed. Some of them are exact replacements for what the original builder used, others are similar, and the rest are different but more appropriate than the originals.

Curiously, the kit I first thought about for the station is an ancient Pola kit, "Rockville" (also sold by AHM, Model Power and others), and which is also the genesis of the much more modern Atlas version Chris suggested. However, I don't know if it will fit (I'm currently two hours away from the layout, on a short and sorely needed break), so I also have a kit identical to the original builder's, which comes from the "Ramsey Junction" set sold by many including Postage Stamp.

The builder did some rather clever kitbashing, turning the old Pola gravel tower into a coal mine. I have the gravel tower kit, plus the venerable old coal mine that Model Power now sells as "Blue Coal." Using the coal mine instead would require shifting the siding, and I'm not sure I want to do that, so I may replicate the kitbashing that was done.

As a collector of vintage N scale, it's something I'd always thought about doing for kicks: taking ancient kits and building them with little or no tweaking, and just using painting and finishing effects to see how good they can be made to look almost stock. It's also a way of stepping back to one's modeling roots, back to your first layout and feeling that little thrill of adventure over again.
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pwnj

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2014, 10:53:21 AM »
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Wow David, this is just awesome! And man, I wish I'd seen the thread sooner. I've got a bunch of the switches with metal switch machines just looking for something to do.  I just recreated my very first N-scale train set (including one of the actual original pieces of rolling stock) and your plan just brings me back.


peteski

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2014, 02:14:29 PM »
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Ahhh...another nice mini-layout project from DKS.  This one promises to be as captivating as the other ones - looks like a fun thread to follow!  :)

Quote
Model Power now sells as "Blue Coal."

On the sad note Model Power is out of business.  Get yours while you still can, before these show up on eBay for three times the list price.

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Chris333

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2014, 02:17:51 PM »
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I forgot that station was an older kit before it was re-freshed. I remember a small trackside shanty that is no longer available.

DKS

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Re: The Gift
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2014, 06:50:39 AM »
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I forgot that station was an older kit before it was re-freshed.

Alas, that station won't fit, and even the little one will need to be cut down. The platform along the front must go bye-bye--the original builder had done the same surgery.
"Life's a piece of sh!t when you look at it."
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