Buying a Mini Mill

Way back in my early teens, my interest in model railroading progressed from a casual pastime to a much more serious sort of pursuit. As I read about railroads and their equipment I swiftly came to realize that my models, even the reasonably accurate (for the 90’s) Athearn Blue Box GP50 in BN’s Tiger Stripe scheme (my pride and joy), were not actually that accurate. I noticed all the usual things: the flat metal handrails, the thick inset window glazing, the horrible (or complete lack of) draft gear. However my main hang up was always the frame. It seemed like every model I could afford (brass being so expensive it might as well have existed solely on the moon) had a frame that made absolutely no attempt to simulate what was actually there on a real locomotive.

Though cutting plastic wasn’t exactly easy, it didn’t take long for me to figure out how to modify a locomotive shell. Cutting a pot-metal frame was a different story though. I eventually figured out how to use a rotary tool and file but I was never satisfied with the results or the amount of time and energy it took to achieve them. Having no experience with metal work and not being the sort of kid that took shop class in school (much to my current self’s disappointment) the path forward remained murky for years. At some point though I became aware of a machine called a “Mill” that could quickly and accurately cut metal. After that I learned that a mill could cut more than just metal and that there were much smaller versions of the giant Bridgeport machines I’d seen pictures of. Finally, the clouds parted and I discovered that other model railroaders had these little machines and were doing exactly what I wanted to do with them. That’s when I decided that someday, as soon as I had both money and a place to put one, I would buy a mill, I would learn how to use it and my models would finally live up to my expectations.

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Building a Model Railroad – Part 4: Setting up the workshop.

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We’re in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic as I write this.  My wife and I are healthy and almost completely isolated at home.  We’re fortunate to be able to work remotely and so far haven’t experienced the financial worries that so many others are faced with.  In other words, we’re doing fine.  For the moment.

I sincerely hope you’re all well and able to get by.  If you happen to be a first responder, or working in a hospital, or employed at some other “essential” task (like say, driving a delivery truck full of toilet paper), you have my undying gratitude.

Anyway, as promised, here’s the next installment in my layout build saga.  Still no actual layout but the prep work continues apace.  This month I’ll go over the fitting out of my new workshop.  It has turned into a terrific space that I’m really happy with.  As you can see from the photo above, it’s a big improvement over what I had before.

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Building a Model Railroad – Part 3: Renovating the basement.

Basement_Plan

After all the planning in the last two updates I can finally share some actual work.  As of this writing the basement is around 75% complete but I’ve already got too many photos for a single post.  So this month we’ll start at the beginning and work up to the point where I was able to move into the workshop.  Next month we’ll go over the fit-out of said workshop and the month after that we’ll finish everything up in the layout area.

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Home at last

house

Milepost 15 HQ.

Happy New Year.  It’s that time once again when I buckle down and try to get Milepost 15 on a regular update schedule.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

There’s been a lot going on over the past year but not much of it was model (or real) railroad related. Last February Beth and I bought a house which meant that most of 2016 and most of my money was dedicated to moving, unpacking and renovations.  The house is a small cape with a single car garage and a large addition off the back. It’s not exactly what we wanted, I would have preferred a two car garage and a basement with full-height ceilings, Beth wanted a colonial (because she wasn’t going to be the one perched two stories up on a ladder when the gutters needed cleaning). That said, the house is in excellent condition and apart from a few incidental things just needs a bit of updating.  We got it for less than we had been planning to spend and were able to put 20% down. All in all I think we did pretty well.

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Workbench Reorganization

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My new under-layout workbench. Where everything is organized and within easy reach.

I didn’t do much modeling over the summer.  I’d been increasingly dissatisfied with my little workshop and storage system.  A big issue was the fact that I never seemed to have the correct paint, detail part, styrene thickness, etc. when I needed it.  Earlier I had begun a process to list everything I thought I should have “in stock” but while I was prepared to spend the money for all this new stuff, I had nowhere to put it.

With that in mind, I made a few changes…

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