Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Well, it's been awhile, but we're back!

It would seem that some catching up is in order.  A lot has happened in the last 16 months since something happened on this blog, partially due to technical issues, and partly because in posting things on Facebook, I'd forgotten temporarily that they weren't showing up here.  So... a quick review of some of the more interesting happenings on the Slate Creek Railway in the last ... well, year or so.

Getting Plastered

The guys you met in the last post, Steven and TJ, have become the regular scenery crew at the SCRY.  Which is to say that on a semi-regular basis, they come up and help me make a mess, and mountains tend to appear.  Here's some of our recent work ...

Progress in the Canyon area:


There *is* a real bridge on the property for this location, but until I have it detailed, and the scenery around it finished, the temporary one is easier to remove, and it won't matter if it ends up covered in paint, plaster, and scenery materials while the area around it is finished.

Progress in the Mill area:
And, the area from the Tunnel to the Mill:
Progress in the Mine area: 


If you're keeping score, you may now realize that this means there's hardshell up on ALL of the mountain areas on the railroad!  I could not have done this without all of the folks who came in to help, and were willing to work for the price of some bad jokes, some good food, and some flying potatoes (don't ask...) and who even without owning even part of the railroad continue to be dedicated to my actually finishing something ... someday!  Thanks guys... really!  Now let's talk about finishing techniques, and SCENERY!

Motive Power

While there are a lot of very interesting projects in the works on the Slate Creek, two bear mentioning at this point because they are either operational, or at least making good progress.  First is the arrival of Slate Creek #6, the heavily modified Bachmann 2-6-6-2 featured just before the long gap in articles here, and the Diesel project.  Number 6 has arrived on the property, and awaits final detailing and decals, but after some initial tweaking is serviceable, and can pull trains of impressive lengths, even around the many curves on the Slate Creek.  Here's a demo video, which, while poorly lighted will give you the idea . . .

As to the Diesel, it's been a learning experience from A to Z.  Well, ok, from A to about M right now .... still with M-Z to go!  Mr. Alan Friedland of Great American Locomotion ( ) has been an enormously helpful and encouraging resource and supply of parts, spare parts, replacement parts for ones I broke, and patience as life interferes with the project which has now taken a year or two longer than expected!  We *are* making progress, though, and I'll show you a couple of photos here:

There was a problem with the deck discovered after these photos were taken, requiring that I start over again and ensure that the "donor" deck was sanded perfectly flat ... there should be photos soon of the new improved version soon (and by "soon" we mean before another fourteen months go by!)

For those of you just catching up to this project, Alan has helped me realize a concept of making a new superstructure for the Bachmann 45 tonner that makes it into a 1:20.3 sized diesel made from the plans for the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge #1 (The "Little Giant") that is quite close, except that the shorter 45 tonner frame means  the locomotive is a bit too short, over its length.  Stay tuned ...

So Many Projects .... So Little Time ....

The last year has been very busy, and provided several interruptions to all things Slate Creek.  From family emergencies to work projects (you know, at work...!) there has been a LOT to do, and very little time for the basement.  Currently the sidings at Midway are being rebuilt.  The original plan had a very short passing track at the station, with two stub sidings.  As pointed out by Doug Matheson nearly 10 years ago, the passing track was too short, and the stub sidings weren't going to hold much... what I needed was a longer passing siding running all the way through Midway.  Well, the old has been pulled up, and the new is going in!  Photos from that change will follow in their own article, as soon as it's done.... hopefully soon, as until it's finished, we're back to a point-to-point operation.    But at least this time we can try to keep the blog a bit more current, right?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

There Be Steam Here!

Well, it's not much of an update, and it unfortunately shows the "boy have we got a long way to go" part of the layout more than anything else ... but hey, we *do* have a steam engine in working order, so it seemed a propos to put up a video of it working.

So, without further ado, here's Slate Creek Railway #9 on its first full test run ....

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

And, Speaking of Steam ...

Slate Creek #9 is currently in transit from its former home in California.  When it arrives at the end of this week, it should be ready to go into service, and is already fitted with Radio Control and a chuff resonator.  Plans eventually involve some cosmetic work, working headlights, a whistle, and SCRY graphics on the tender; it'll remain #9 and trade places with #3 in the SCRY lineup, which will now be assigned to the Bachmann 2-4-4T Forney, still under reconstruction. Live Steam has been absent from the SCRY lineup since 2004 when the 0-4-0 "Ruby" met with an unfortunate accident and was removed from the roster.  When #9 arrives there will be more photos and hopefully some onboard video added to this page . . . stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Building Steam

There are big things happening at the Slate Creek!  Thanks to some new helpers, and some new resolve, there are now plaster hills and cliffs on about 70% of the railroad.  My new "crew" has a particular knack for speed and completeness, and I'm guessing in the next couple of sessions, we're giong to have the hardshell bascially done for everything that is ready for it.  My next big track project is to cut in the switches and sidings for the mine and the crush plant, and to finish the hillside for the one section of the layout that not having those in place has held up. 
(A *BIG* thanks to Paul Weiss, my senior scenery engineer, for the suggestion regarding using basketballs cut in half as plaster bowls ... the necessity of using multiple buckets (and banging on them) has all but been eliminated!  Once the hardshell is up, we'll start landscaping, and then, there will REALLY be something to see. 

Other projects include staining all of the ties for the high bridge, and assembling the bridge deck ... hopefully by the time that's complete, the gap and abutments will be in place, and the terrain installed around them.  For those of you following from the beginning, that means that for nearly one whole side of the layout, the scenery will start a foot or two above the floor and go all the way to the ceiling!

In the rolling stock department, there's also big news.  The last live steam on the Slate Creek never actually saw service on the "Mark II" layout.  The Accucraft Ruby brought from Connecticut was last run as a school demonstration, and shortly thereafter fell into the "Old Richmond Gorge" and was written off as a loss by the SCRY's underwriters, who felt that without the proper boiler testing facilities, that steaming up the potentially damaged boiler would be a mistake.  So, for the last 8 years, there have been several steam locomotives on the roster, but no actual live steam engines, with the idea that live steam would one day return, in a form suitable for pulling actual full size trains with its stablemates. 

We're pleased to report that negotiations are now underway to obtain what would become SCRY #9 (the former designee for #9, the 2-4-4T will become SCRY #3, originally reserved for the next live steam engine) Considerably larger than the previous Live Steam locomotive, it's expected that #9 will be large and reliable enough to pull the same caliber of regular trains as her stablemates.  As soon as arrangements are finalized, there will be photos and information here!

Oh, and watch this space:  While it probably won't be done in time to qualify as an official part of the Large Scale Central winter build challenge, we do have an "also ran" entry coming, for your consideration.

So, at last, there's lots going on!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Slate Creek #6 nearing completion

Several years ago, I purchased one of the very first available Bachmann 2-6-6-2's.  At the time there was a great deal of discussion about the locomotive, it's prototype (or absence thereof) and a number of technical details that meant, all politics aside, that I'd need to make some changes if the locomotive was going to be what I wanted it to.

Because most of those changes were a bit over my head, with respect to actually accomplishing them, I found some experts who were willing to help.

The result is ... well, stunning ... and it's not even finished yet:

Slate Creek #6 now has a new cab and tender (from a B-mann 2-8-0) and a lowered cab deck, modified trailing truck, and has been altered to lock the rear engine assembly in place. The front engine has had the motor moved back to the rear of the block, and pivots on the front engine (effectively converting the locomotive from a "Meyer" style to a true "Mallet" style locomotive.) The eccentrics have been reset, and the eccentric rods replaces with custom fabricated stainless steel ones that alter how the valve gear action works, and looks.  The locomotive is now equipped with battery power, radio control, and sound (with magnetic triggers,) and is currently being tested to optimize the new systems.  Left to do:  Lettering, and details, which will happen once the locomotive arrives on Slate Creek rails ... an event that will quite possibly be the longest trip EVER for a model from point of sale to user!

I've got a thread over on Large Scale Central on some of the nuts and bolts of the conversion ... you can see "how it happened" at

That's enough for one day.  More soon, including a preview of coming attractions in the Diesel department, lots and lots of plaster and dust, and some heavy metal ... well, bridges, that is.

Some news now, and more to come.

It's been a long time since I posted here.  So long, apparently, that the blog changed hands (and now belongs to Google like everything else on the Internet) and so did how to write articles, and, maybe most critically, how to sign in!  But ... after quite a long time trying, we now have full control again.  There's been quite a lot going on at the Slate Creek lately, so I'll do a quick couple of posts now, with more to follow soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


It's been a long time since much noteworthy progress happened on the Slate Creek, at least that could be published here. Certainly there have been model railroad projects in the works (some of which will soon appear in these pages) but the railroad itself fell behind mostly because of the overwhelming size of the task of building the hardshell scenery. The Slate Creek takes up most of a 40x40 foot basement, and has a hardshell "hillside" from one to three feet high for most of its length!

This week, we had a visit of state from Mr. Paul Weiss, who has the distinction of being the Chief Civil Engineer from the Slate Creek (Mark I) and with his help, we finally have something to show you!

Now, the Slate Creek is primarily a loop railroad, so, starting from the pier and working clockwise around the main line is officially "Timetable North." Place names are simply working titles (though some will probably stick) and for now are really only designed to help visitors figure out where they're standing!

The scenery construction started at the "North" portal of the tunnel, entering the canyon area, and has now progressed through the "Big Cut" at the end of the canyon, around the curve to Midway, past the turn north of the station, and along the back side of the layout to High Bridge, and around the curve to the south switch for the Mine area. The south portal of the tunnel is immediately opposite the south Mine switch on the layout (though, in the "real world) the two would not be near each other, and when the scenery is complete will look like the two totally different places they are.

So, without further ado, the tour!

Here you see the line immediately north of the "Big Cut" This is roughly the area seen in the last couple of photos in the previous post, and has some difficult geography; the hill had to be specially shaped to allow a hatch in the "ground" to allow access to the central air unit for the second floor of the house which is directly above this area on the ceiling!

In these two photos, you see the area to the north of the Midway Station, from two different angles, and, a kind of "Before and After" effect. The hillside is made from wire mesh screen on a wood framework, which, once built has layers of Hydrocal (plaster) soaked paper towels applied, and then a finishing layer of Hydrocal. The "before" photo also features our Chief Civil Engineer hard at work ... Thanks Paul!

This photo shows the area just north of Midway and toward High Bridge. The track, for the most part is out of range of this particular shot, being below the photo and to the left until it starts to come back in toward the wall just before the bridge. This area will have the depot rd, and possibly the church... time will tell. The missing corner section has been screened in, and is awaiting plaster along with the rest of the scenery north of this point.

Here you see the future location of High Bridge, one of the few locations on the layout with scenery to be built significantly below the grade of the track. As the plaster is not yet installed, you can also see into the tunnel interior, which comes out at the bottom of the "canyon" area.

The screen currently ends here, at the south switch for the Mine area. The lower terrain makes it possible to see people coming down the stairs when I'm in the shop area, and is one of the only places on the railroad where you can see "someplace else" from any other area ... even if that's not supposed to be possible. It also allows some scenery elements that might not otherwise be available because most of the "walls" are so steep elsewhere on the layout. I kept it this way because it reminds me a little of the old Edaville, where if timed properly, outbound trains could see the inbound trains as they rounded the sharp turn at the Rusty River... even if, for purposes of the layout, those two places are miles apart and would never actually be in view of each other. I think it'll afford some interesting "railfan" opportunities nonetheless!

This last photo really should be the first, before the ones in the last entry, even. This is the south portal of the tunnel, as viewed vaguely from the hilltop I described above, and, imagining this with plaster shell, scenery, trees, and other elements, I think it's going to be one of the more photogenic locations on the railroad. No hikers in the tunnel, please! The north switch for the Mill will be located approximately in the foreground of this photo.

The rest of the layout has some of the wood framework installed, but will have to have the sidings for the mine and the mill installed before the screen can be applied... though the design of these areas is a lot futher along now that I can see exactly how much room I have to work with, and what I can make work with respect to track geometry. Stay tuned!

Altogether a fantastic week's work! A particular vote of thanks to Paul for making this all possible, and to the folks at work who let me have a couple of days off to participate ... I'm beginning to believe I might just get this thing built after all!

And... I promise, it won't be another eight months to the next update!