Sunday, January 30, 2011


It should come as no surprise that I spent the day up in Springfield yesterday at the Amherst Railway Society Train Show. As always, it was quite an event. Chris and I worked our way through pretty much every booth meeting up with a number of the guys through the way. We go through pretty quickly, so we typically caught up with folks multiple times when we'd see them.

We had a very successful day of shopping, acquiring mostly new resin kits at great prices. Chris was a master at getting a few dollars (at least) of of every sale, except one. The best had to be the one where the dealer charged him $5.00 less than Chris offered for three kits!

Of course, we hung out at the NHRHTA table for a bit, and harassed Ted Culotta and Bill Schneider for a while as well. Afterwards, a group of us, headed over to the Steaming Tender Restaurant for the highlight of the day. Great food and even better company, plus 5 trains passing by - the first with 9 locomotives (several deadheading) in a power move hauling a long string of empty auto racks.

If you haven't been to the show, or the Steaming Tender for that matter, both should be on your list if you're in the area.

Chris, Pete, Darren, Dick, Bill, Dan, Matt, Me and Bill Schneider's coat.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moving the site continues

So it's only taken two days to transfer all of the city information from the old to the new site. This has included reformatting, rearranging, and rewriting portions of it. I really like the new organization of the information. In general I'm trying to provide prototype information in the left column and layout and modeling information in the right column. There are certainly a lot of areas that could use a little more information, but as I'm primarily in modeling mode, or at least researching for models, it might be some time before I flesh it out.

The rest of the information will probably require a more comprehensive overhaul in presentation and may take more time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Britain Station v2.0

Warning: Technical website ramblings ahead. This probably won't be of much interest to most model railroaders unless you're looking at creating your own website.

I've wanted to update my site for some time, but was running into some complications upgrading to version 6 of the underlying content management system Drupal. I had attempted a direct upgrade that failed, which meant that I'd have to do a lot of work to manually do it. Now, earlier this month, version 7 was released. This also means that support and updates for version 5 has been discontinued. While there were still a lot of potential updates and changes I could have made, the big concern of remaining on version 5 is site security.

So, last night I looked at the possibility of porting the site to Google Sites. This also requires a manual transfer, but the engine is very easy to work with. I won't have to worry about upgrades to the underlying technology. It's not anywhere near as flexible as Drupal, but it also means I don't have to spend as much time and effort learning it. I never got into much coding on Drupal, but there are thousands of modules available and it always took some time finding the ones that were right for what I wanted to accomplish. Two particular issues I had were the lack of a good photo management system, and adding tables to the site. I understand that version 7 now has a native photo handling capabilities. I had also found a separate module I liked, but was not compatible with version 5.

Google Sites has a similar photo management capabilities (with it's own shortcomings), and table creation is built in. It's entirely wysiwyg as well. Although there were a couple of wysiwyg modules for Drupal, they never worked really well for me. On the other hand, I got to be pretty proficient with basic HTML commands instead. So creating a hyperlink might take me a little longer here, but it's still pretty easy.
So, the only way to know if I could really make this work is to try moving a some of the old site. I love it. I've had to change a bit of my old design goals, and the options are more limited but that's not always a bad thing. So it's not perfect, but it's certainly more than good enough for what I need. And the best thing - it's free. Which means that I can save some money too.

So it will take some time to recompile and represent the info from the old site. In the process it also gives me the opportunity to correct errors and update the pages with new information. Of course, I'm trying to get some modeling done as well. But since I didn't have to fork out any cash, I'm actually getting started with this project well before the November deadline for renewal of the old site.

For now, will continue to route to the old site. Most of the data will reside there, but updates will only occur here. Once the transfer is complete, then I'll reconfigure the URL to come to this site.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A picture

OK, so my buddy Dick has pointed out to me that I have not provided any new pictures of the layout. So here's one:

The stitching isn't great, but it gets the idea across. You'll also see a whole bunch of incomplete resin models. We're rearranging things and I had to put them someplace...

Plus, it gives me an idea of what a 17-car train will look like on the layout. That's currently the longest staging track that I've got, although I have some space for a couple more tracks if needed.

But, that's where the second bit of news. Thanks to Dick, Chris, Charlie, John and a few others (as well as too much time organizing pictures at the photo library), I'm now modeling steam. Observent readers may have already noticed the Bachmann light mountain in the panorama photo. I've had that for a while. Actually, it's my second. I bought one, sold it, then eventually bought another. That, however, was the easy locomotive to get.

Along with that, I actually bought a brass locomotive. I know, I said I wouldn't do it. Well, I found that I could model some steam by running operating sessions in 1948 as well as the other years I'm planning. I can use an R-1-b, and I should have an I-2. The I-2s are a bit much...for now. In the meantime I have a few photos of an I-4 in New Britain or on the Highland. A fellow modeler was liquidating his collection, and sice the price was 'reasonable' and it was helping out a friend, I went ahead and picked up one of the Custom Brass I-4s. I'll be redetailing it quite a bit, but it's a nice locomotive. Of course, once I've started I know that more steam will follow...