Found In the Woods

April 24, 2011

Wiring, insulation and framing is nearly done

Filed under: Projects,Railroading — bsullivan @ 1:22 am

With the incredible help of my father in law and my buddy Kelly we’ve been able to make amazing progress on the workshop/layout room. Framing is nearly done as is electrical and insulation. Doing drywall and installing fixtures are the biggest jobs left. Very excited!

April 8, 2011

Some basement progress pics

Filed under: Projects,Railroading — bsullivan @ 1:39 pm

I know these aren’t that exciting, but for me they are. 🙂 Also, it’s hard to see here but all the old wall along the back and side walls of the house are gone. Also, the wiring in the room has been removed. Next step is to make some calculations, remove a few more wall pieces, clean up some stuff and get framing the new walls and roughing in the electrical. Stay tuned.

March 29, 2011

Workshop Update

Filed under: Projects,Railroading — bsullivan @ 9:30 pm

My father-in-law Bruce came over today and helped me knock out some serious work on the workshop room. My model RR will be in this room, along with the HVAC unit, the water heater and my work bench/storage. The room was originally part of one large basement room. At some point in the last 30 years the previous owner split the room in half and turned this side into a workshop. He was a serious woodworker and had some large tools (evident by the 220 40A circuit we removed today and bolt casings in the floor) so it’s plenty big. I decided to strip it down and turn it into a combo model RR room and workshop.

When we moved in I set to work removing some of the old storage units, shelves, walls, etc. Unfortunately, there were also some circuits that needed removing around the room and due to a lack of funds after being laid off, this sort of got put on the back burner. Thanks to the generosity of some friends and family I’ve been able to get some building materials and make a go of getting this taken care of. Back to today, Bruce & I traced out circuits, chased wires, rerouted one circuit to combine some lights and removed a lot of old wire. I was even able to remove all the remaining studs from the room (finally) and get things cleared out a bit. The next step is to continue removing wires, random nailed boards and some other shelves/cabinets still in the room. Things are moving along really well. More pics next time. Thanks!

March 27, 2011

LRDG redux

Filed under: Projects — bsullivan @ 3:47 pm

The original Tamiya LRDG 1/35 scale kit fetches a premium these days. I put one together back in high school and at the time it was one of my prized models. It was also one of the few that survived the great “younger brother knocking over the shelves that held all my models” tragedy.

I was recently inspired to take stock of some of the older projects I have and see if I can complete them. The LRDG stood out to me as a really neat kit that could use some work. Yeah, by high school standards I did an OK job, but the model deserves so much more. Much of it was unpainted, poorly weathered, half-done and a little rough around the edges. Finding a ton of really amazing builds online has inspired me to redo this build.

I first took the pieces that would come off and set them aside. I next started with some of the glued-on bits. Thankfully I didn’t do a very good job gluing things back then, so some of the details came off without a fuss. Others required a little bit more persuasion and will require some filling & sanding. Probably the biggest problem is the wheels – the rubber ones that Tamiya supplied were glued and then mounted to the hubs. This invariably caused them to crack as the rubber shrank over the years. None of my original wheels survived this fate and it makes the model look tacky no matter what you do. I found some replacement resin wheels on eBay and snatched them up. I also sourced some decals for the instrument panel. Here are a few photos of the teardown. Expect more soon!

March 4, 2011

Lt. Slug, welcome to the Tiger’s Claw

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 2:45 pm

Recently, digging through old files on my backup drive I came across this gem, ca. 1990:

Wing Commander 1   PASSWORDS

On a whim, I Googled Wing Commander and found the app & a DOS emulator. Both worked and within minutes I was back on the Tiger’s Claw fighting the Kilrathi. I just loved this game (and WCII) so much.

February 16, 2011

Building Building

Filed under: Projects,Railroading — bsullivan @ 10:16 am

Since I was laid off back in November, things have been different. Suddenly I’m playing Mr. Mom while a tenacious Ms. Dad has gone back to working full time to pay the bills while I search for a job. In my rare spare time I’m trying to finish up some modeling projects. I cleaned up the basement workshop room enough so that I could sit down at my table and take a stab at finishing a few projects. I did!

Life-Like Proto 2000 Hopper kit nearing completion

The P2K War Emergency Hopper Car is one I have had for years. It is a pretty nice kit. The details are exquisite. Lots of really well molded detail parts, grab irons and  a nice overall appearance. I brought this kit to Cape Cod with me last summer and never completed it because I ran out of time. It sat on my workbench all Fall and I finally picked it back up. I only had about 20 minutes of work left to complete it and the finished model looks great. Now it just needs a little weathering and it will be good to go.

Suydam 4 track car barn kit

This Suydam kit has a bit more history attached to it and I’ve decided to make it my next project to complete. This kit belonged to my father until I absconded with it years ago when he left the hobby for the most part. It’s identical to a kit that I destroyed as a child (a story for another time) and one that I’ve had half-built for about 12 years now. I picked it out one day many years ago and decided to try out the task of soldering the metal roof sections together which is something that I’d never done. It turned out so well that I painted and lightly weathered the roof. When I assembled the side walls, construction stopped. When this kit was produced, back in the 1960s and 70s, it was really nice. Card stock walls with printed brick patterns and lucite windows with printed on mullions were all relatively good looking. Now, they just look silly. In this day in age when superdetailing is at a mind boggling level, just putting a little effort can take a model like this to a whole new level.

What I’ve decided to do is complete this kit with a few modifications based on a prototype that interests me. This kit is modeled after some Southern California traction car barns. My layout/interest is with the Georgetown Branch of the B&O. I have a photo of the Chevy Chase & Kensington Electric Ry. car barn that once existed at the crossing of Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase, MD. The car barn was later repurposed as a car dealership and probably a host of other things before it was eventually torn down and replaced with an apartment building. My goal here isn’t to model the car barn exactly as it appeared but build a car barn model that will represent it with some degree of semblance. As such, even though it’s a very different design overall, I’ll be using this Suydam kit as a basis and adding some details that will give it a feeling of the old Georgetown Branch structure.

First up I’m ditching the old card stock walls. I’m going to replace them with Evergreen Scale Models styrene clapboard siding. The windows and doors are going to be represented with laser cut designs from Rusty Stumps doors and windows. I’m not sure how this will all turn out in the end, but if I can pull it off I think this will be a very nice model with lots of detail appeal on the layout. Who knows, I may even try to squeeze a traction line into the layout plan!

June 18, 2010

Movin’ on up, to Brookeville, Part 1

Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 3:17 pm

Most of you are aware that we have moved. Then again I don’t really know who the audience here really is, so let’s assume that all my wonderful friends and family are tuned into this blog, awaiting each post with bated breath. Sound good? April 15, nigh eight years to the day we moved into our first house on Thornden Rd., we left Rockville for the town of Brookeville, MD which is about 20 minutes to the North via Rt. 28 & 97. Kris in particular had been looking for houses avidly on Redfin and other real estate sites. She pored over listings, checking a few times a day for months, looking for possible places for us to relocate to. The whole thing happened so fast and furious and we’re so thankful that we came out on the other side nearly unscathed.

Rockville had gotten a bit to clogged for us. The city is growing and traffic in and around just keeps getting worse. Intersections that several years ago were just a bit difficult are now nightmares most rush hours. Our neighborhood saw more traffic and the overall flavor of the area just didn’t appeal to us. We had done research on the elementary school and made the decision years ago to find a new one for our kids. It just didn’t match up with what our expectations were and what our own personal ideas were for where our kids would have their education. We decided a few years back to send them to Oakdale Christian Academy for preschool & kindergarten which worked out nicely because it gave us a rough time frame to consider moving. And now, the time had come. There were also some wonderful tax incentives being offered which we knew would expire soon if we didn’t take advantage of them and that turned into a big motivator for us too.

Our decision was guided by a few factors. Schools, housing costs, neighborhood, accessibility to name a few. We discussed moving to places as far away as California and as near as elsewhere in Rockville. Ideas of moving up to New England or Delaware didn’t pan out after we realized the complications with family proximity (we want to stay near our folks, who are mainly in the DC area) and house values. Also, job markets haven’t been to hot lately so that was unappealing to me particularly since I have an excellent job which I’ve been at for over twelve years. (for those of you keeping score, that’s more than a third of my life) We couldn’t really afford to move into Potomac, which was also high on our list. Despite housing prices coming down quite a bit the P-mac market stayed relatively out of our range. Virginia was also an option but that was the opposite direction of our friends and family. Moving up Rt. 270 also was an option, but the idea of moving into one of the really crowded neighborhoods along the exploding corridor didn’t appeal to us. I also didn’t want to move WAY up North to, say, Frederick county.

Olney/Brookeville appealed to us in many ways. The land out there is underdeveloped. There are still working farms out there (yes, a few dairy, but mostly turf, but hey! I’ll take what I can get) with just incredible amounts of park land and opportunities for exploration. The schools are great, the neighborhoods are bursting with children and the area overall is very friendly. There’s a laid-back feel to the area that many of the other nearby towns don’t have. Olney/Brookeville is isolated  – it’s sort of in the middle of a triangle between 270/495/29. It has proximity to DC/Frederick/Columbia in different ways. It sort of leans in a few different directions, which means it offers opportunity for work and commuting. (more on this in a later blog post) The houses are relatively new (aside from the ancient farmhouses dotting the area), infrastructure is good, cost is reasonable for the region and when were looking the market was favorable for us. It also allowed us to keep decent proximity to our family and friends in the area which we really liked. So this became our target.

Selling our house was a rough process to begin. I have to be honest, Kris really fronted this effort from the getgo. She lit the fire under my ass to get the house sold, she had the get-up-and-go to start things moving and then keep them rolling. All of the years of watching home improvement shows on TV was about to pay off. Like a force to be reckoned with she swept through the house, planning out a course of attack for each room and area. What was going to stay, what would go into storage (thanks Mom & Dad!), what needed repainting, what needed removal, what needed dressing-up, and so on. She had a really good eye for staging the house and set about doing so in as much of a frugal manner as was possible and what a job she did. In a period of a few weeks she had the house read to go on the market. And so we did.

Our realtor, Beth League, was a client of Kris’. She had cared for Beth’s father and they had forged a friendship over the time she worked with him. Beth was wonderful from the get-go. She really helped us take baby steps from the beginning and not get overwhelmed with the process as a whole. She started by outlining the rules of the game, talking about how things work and explaining what we could and couldn’t do. I fired a ton of questions at Beth and she was able to give me good answers across the board, something that is important to me. If someone who is in a service position blows me off I tend to do the same to them. It’s not worth wasting my time unless it’s a very special person. She did a great job and maintained that throughout our time working with her. We filled out a lot of paperwork, got the house listed and went to bed. Mind you this was right in the midst of what would be dubbed the “snowpocalypse” when we received over 2′ of snow! Our house wasn’t exactly “show quality” at that point. The trees were bent, there was an 8′ high pile of snow at the base of the driveway alone. You could hardly see the place from the street! Ice everywhere, pathways carved out of snow around the house, sore backs and worn-out lungs. But, the inside of the house was immaculate.

Maggie had moved out weeks before to keep hair & dust down. We were on high alert. A regimen of cleaning up dishes quickly, vacuuming, neatness, care and upkeep was the norm. We had just got used to it. So when the snow storm came right when we planned to list the house it was kind of a bummer for us. We had to push it back a couple days which was a bummer since we were so jazzed to get going, but we pressed on and the house went live on Wednesday night. The call came in on Thursday morning that we had got an offer. And it was a good offer. We scheduled time with Beth to go house hunting in the snow on Saturday and to sit down with the seller’s agent on Friday evening to review the contract. It was happening so fast. After reviewing the contract, we really felt good about it and we were ready. All the stars were aligning, now we just needed a house to move into.

April 9, 2010


Filed under: Blogging — bsullivan @ 9:53 am

Why is Metro so broken? That’s a question best left for the pundits and the blowhards. For me, it’s a few things.

  • No through trains. If I want to get from Wheaton to Crystal City, I have to stop at every single one of the 15 stops between those stations, including a transfer. In many major cities like NYC there are “express” trains that skip stops in order to take those who are traveling long distances to their destination faster. Locals. Expresses. It’s basic public transport logic, right? Well, not for Metro. Apparently the ridiculously elaborate and fancy designed system is too good for express trains. Way to plan for the future, Metro. There are no express trains that I know of on the Metro system. As a result my train ride today took just over one hour on the rails. This includes waiting for trains to clear platforms and the train stopping at my station (Crystal City) and the doors not opening. No announcement, no warning, the doors just didn’t open. The train continued to the next stop where I had to transfer and ride back to my stop.
  • Lack of coverage. As far as I’m concerned the DC Metro area screwed the pooch back in the 50s when they decided to rip up the DC Traction rails and convert to buses. Much of the old DCT system rode on dedicated right of way, that is to say that it didn’t have to contend 100% with the flow of traffic as the buses do. Of course the system had its own problems and much of it did in fact run on city streets with cars. But what troubles me is how we have reached a quite saturated suburban population as far as infrastructure load is concerned, yet we have no right of way left. In order for Metro to get a train line in place now it involves years and years of money wasting deliberation and meetings. And then there’s the astronomical costs. It’s ridiculous that these people actually argue with people. What happened to eminent domain? Putting in public transportation projects is something that must be done. Do it.
  • Cost. I had to break this one down for you a bit. Now keep in mind that I like driving. I like being in my car. I’m a big gearhead. I like to be able to open and close the window. To turn the music up or down. To put the heat or the AC on. I don’t mind traffic that much and I sit in traffic nearly every day. My commute usually takes from 40-60 min door to door driving from Rockville, MD to Crystal City, VA which is ~18 miles. I pay for parking, which costs $7.75/day. My car does about 24 MPG which roughly comes to $4.16/day in fuel costs. That’s $11.91/day so far. This does not include the cost of wear-and-tear on the vehicle, which I’d have to figure separately *. I walked from my mechanic’s shop to the Wheaton, MD Metro at about 7:38am and arrived at my office at about 8:53am. That’s 1:15 total travel time door to door. Cost round trip today is $8.90. So the way I see it, for a few bucks more per day I get to roll down the windows, keep my hands clean, turn up the music and enjoy the breeze. No bums to breathe at me, no rude boys to stare. No tourists to get in my way (GET OUT OF MY WAY). No freaks. I don’t have to squish myself into the sardine can seats and I get to come and go as I please from the office.

It’s a no-brainer for me. No wonder Metro is struggling so badly. Putting too much money into a super-fancy system, poor route design, trains that go no where. Astronomical costs (it’s a good thing I didn’t have to pay $10 to park for the day at a Metro lot) don’t help. Unreliable trains and broken escalators abound. Until the system gets its shit together and starts to put their service first, they are never going to succeed.

* The astute among you will notice that I left out a key item in my car’s daily cost. The operational costs. This includes wear-and-tear, depreciation, insurance, etc. GSA has a figure of ~$18/day for my vehicle which I think is a little high. For one, I don’t really see the need to include the depreciation value of my vehicle as I don’t see it as an investment, per se. I didn’t purchase the car to make any money, I bought it to perform a task. However, like any tool used to perform a job, it still has a value. But I’m not sure the depreciation costs need to be figured here. Anyway, this does bring the daily costs of my commute quite a bit higher, but the freedom of driving still supersedes doing the Metro dance for me .

April 7, 2010

Your Name In Lights

Filed under: Railroading — bsullivan @ 2:31 pm

Years ago I helped the B&O RR Historical Society Archives out by scanning, tracing and redrawing an old B&O RR logo. The impetus of the project was a friend and fellow member needed a decent version of the logo and the iconic font for use in a B&O caboose restoration. Up in Sykesville, MD there is a B&O caboose that houses a model RR and some other exhibits. My friend Jack wanted a nice digital vector file to work with instead of the really crummy reproductions that were floating around. So being that we were involved with the B&ORRHS Archives at the time, we located some original blueprints and go to scanning. The rest of the story can be read here.

I did this project out of a love for the subject matter, largely. The B&O has held a special place for many years to me, being the main focus of my own personal model railroad and research project, the Georgetown Branch. Since getting involved with the B&ORRHS I have met minor railroad celebrities, shared ideas, heard stories and enjoyed the love of all things B&O. I’ve received praise and thanks for collaborating on the font/logo project but nothing compares to seeing the designs we created end up on a final product. I’ve had folks contact me telling me about the logo going on flags, mugs and even HO scale model railroad cars! How cool is that? But, nothing compares to the joy I get when folks share their stories of how they restored an original piece of B&O rolling stock and used our logo & font to make it happen.

This week I got a letter from a gentleman in Indiana:

Thanks guys for your font work. I wanted to attach a photo of a restored caboose I helped with in a park in Indianapolis using your fonts and logo. I do have at a higher res. if you are interested.

Pretty cool. I got a few more high res photos a few days later. Here they are, shrunk down to fit:



April 2, 2010

Look at the Sky

Filed under: Music — bsullivan @ 11:12 am

Today’s choice, like so many other days, this song sets the scene. One of my all-time favorite remixes of one of my all-time favorite artists, Ulrich Schnauss. Anyway, this remix is by Rob McVey, from Long-View, and is found on the Quicksand Memory EP by Schnauss. One amazing track. Enjoy!

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