I've been thinking about starting the model railroad thing over again (having given away the previous half-finished layout in the renovation move).  One of the things I want to do differently this time around is build it in modules that I can take apart and put away somewhere, or rearrange to really take over the basement, or whatever else, and that I can start with a string of "I nailed track to plywood" modules so I can just run trains.

It turns out the subject line Googles reasonably, and comes up with at least three companies willing to sell things very much along these lines, at what seems to me to be an insane price.  Doing this requires a little bit of engineering design, some extremely basic woodworking skill, and a trip to your choice of wood store; or I can order a predesigned, precut, some-assembly-required kit for about $300 for a 2'x4' module (which may not scale the way I want).  This matches the last time I looked at electronics, which seemed to be similarly ridiculously marked up and wrongly featured for things I could build with some microcontrollers and motor drivers, though the electronics at least requires some technical knowledge.  I just don't understand this market and pricing, apparently.
Actually got to relax over the long weekend. This is kind of unique; I seem to spend a lot of Mondays saying "right, I haven't relaxed all weekend". On Saturday, I went into the city without much of a point, but wound up wandering around the South End. The three SW corridor tracks inbound from Back Bay have a three-light-over-two-light type of dwarf signal I hadn't seen before (showing yellow over flashing red, medium approach, on two tracks); this doesn't really match up with the position-light dwarves at South Station, or the two-head tower signals inbound on the Worcester tracks. Visited Filene's, where there was lots of most things at 30-50% off but notable shortages in the shoe and luggage departments.

Sunday my plan was to play my game for a bit (Heritage of Kings: The Settlers), except I realized I was in a no-win situation against the scenario; I'll actually need to play this one again, building up a much huger force before charging in. But then Thor called and told me that there was a model train show at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington. This turned out to be Northeast N-Trak, a localish group that does N-Trak modules, so they had all of their modules set up. Many of them I had seen before at the Amherst model railroad show. Being neither a 6-to-10-year-old or a parent thereof, I was also right in the middle of the age range. They noticed that I was paying attention to them running things and mentioned that I should join; I might. observations )

There was also some gaming. I rode coffee to victory in Puerto Rico! (Though I should have ended the game sooner, and not needed to be mayor to activate a large building.) There was a very close game of, erm, Inca Rails, the bizarrely communist not-actually-a-crayon-rail game (for one, the Incas didn't have trains; it also has oddnesses like the "wilderness road" card that lets two of the four players build roads that don't line up with the map). I still think it's much easier to draw east or west than north or south, since the side players can easily build to both north and south but north and south can't build to each other and there's a lot of value in the game to being connected to cities you didn't necessarily build.

So yeah, that's pretty much a weekend. I didn't do a whole lot of work on my own train (I did a little), I didn't read a whole lot of Quicksilver, but I did get to do enough sitting on my butt and enough socializing to be content with it.
I spent most of today wandering around; it turned out to be a really nice day to drive from Malden to Sudbury by back roads, and also a nice day to do work outside. The first morning stop was at Charles Ro Supply Company in Malden. I don't go there that often, but now that I've got a little more context on model railroad stuff, it's clearer that they have a little of everything, possibly with a pretty good selection in G scale, but that means not very many interesting things (largely engines and few-fiddly-bits track and building kits) in N scale.

Right, train porn. So the front corner of the store had a TV, and they were playing a "PCCs in Boston" video (for all I know that might have been the title). And thus the realization: train porn video does nothing for me. Seeing PCCs on Comm Ave, and on the Highland Branch, and on the Tremont St grade, is all well and good for the first thirty seconds, but then it's time to turn the page and move on to the next thing. I know where to find the Boston PCC train porn in the Rotch Library, even, which includes more exciting things like "overturned PCC on the A line", mysteriously not appearing in the video.
As promised, I made my way out to the Amherst Rail Society's Big 2005 Railroad Hobby Show in Springfield. It was...big, taking up three buildings at the Big E. There were many, many booths of people selling model railroad paraphernalia. I decided I didn't need any of it (right now my shopping list is just small things, my wish list is the MEC GP40, and I want to build my own DCC system) and so saved myself potentially vast sums of money.

But the big highlight of the show was the layouts. It looks like there were 14 layouts, in N, HO, O, and G scales. They were all very modular (which actually kind of makes sense if you're dragging things to shows). [livejournal.com profile] astra_nomer: there were a few booths that sold S-gauge things, I picked up a flyer from Port Lines Hobby Supply.

(All my pictures)

Favorites out of the pictures, plus more commentary )
Took the day off to run around and do a little shopping. First stop was μCenter for poking around, and discovered that they had 256 MB of PC133 memory for $25 (after rebate). This made me happy. Watertown now has a vaguely reputable amount of RAM.

Then off to Peabody. I visited North East Trains. It looked like they had a pretty nice selection of O and O27 gauge stuff, and an okay selection of HO, and a tiny shelf of N which it looked like they were desperately trying to get rid of. Even at half off, nothing looked tempting. Time to kill, so orbited malls (there are two just off of 128 in that area, and the one further out has the Best Buy). Looked longingly at an empty hanger labelled for $60 (post-rebate) 1GB CF. Discovered that the clever elevator 20-ounce soda machine handily shakes the bottle enough to make a big mess.

So then I went to Ken's, because I haven't been there in a while. Bought a big bag of trees (36, it says), and some water, and a couple more box cars, and a track-cleaning car (complete with 20-minute attempted demo). Ogled, but did not buy, the book of signal porn and the MEC/GRS GP-40 (I already have two engines, even if I can't use the 4-6-2 Pacific, I don't need a third).

Then got stuck behind a slow truck on Route 20. Even with a 30-minute extension returned the car 10 minutes late. Oops. There weren't angry people standing around trying to extort money from me so I think it was okay.
No longer having the on-campus photo dealing via LaVerde's and having too much pride to send my film through CVS or equivalent, I tried sending film off to York Photo Labs, on the basis of a comment in [livejournal.com profile] davis_square. They seem to have done a reasonable job, and it was pretty cheap ($20 for processing on three rolls of film, plus a CD); I probably want to apply some GIMPage to the result, though, to make it more suitable for monitor display.

At any rate, for those who follow [livejournal.com profile] chooblog, there are albums from before I made the table totally cluttered, the current state of the world, and the scenery demo track. There's also pictures from wandering around the Big Dig and North Station.

Samples )
I finally fed a couple of rolls of film through LaVerde's and the SIPB scanner. So now there's some pictures of the T, Brookline and ET, and the benchwork for my model railroad.

Some samples )
Being a modern geek, I set up a blog for my model railroad stuff. Last night I got as far as getting the woodwork done, after some minor intermediate disasters. I need to spend more time with the crumbly pink foam to actually get to the point of thinking about laying track.

EDIT: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] obra, this is now [livejournal.com profile] chooblog. (Well, that gets everything on that blog, anyways, though there's not much else there now.) We'll see if I can make the RSS behave.
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