Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ACL #77034 flat car

ACL #77034, a 50-ton AAR Standard Flat Car, in New Britain Yard. I completed the Proto 2000 model one evening last week (a very quick build). It came with a pipe load which I'll build later when I'm working on loads for open top cars. I didn't make any modifications to the base kit.

In general, I'm building kits as they come, with a few exceptions (primarily running boards and handbrakes). This is basically because they are no different at this point than the RTR versions. When I pull the car for weathering I'll add missing details (uncoupling levers, etc.) and change the couplers and wheelsets if needed.

In addition, there's a new video on my YouTube channel of NY-4 in New Britain. As I continue testing the layout, I ran this train forward both eastbound and westbound with no issues or derailments at all. I'm very happy with my trackwork so far. The Atlas S-2 is a pretty good puller as well, which is good because this will be the regular locomotive for this train. At least until I can get a better quality S-2 model. I may just work on the shell, since the chassis works pretty well. I'll also eventually have to replace the MRC sound decoder. I'm happy that I have sound in it, but from what I've been told, it just doesn't sound like an Alco.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First test session complete

Joseph came over to run some trains and see how the layout is operating. We ran trains for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours with a quick break in the middle to meet somebody new (more about that in a minute).

I had staged the deliveries from the night before on the siding. I had NY-4 staged to come online during the session. I did not run any passenger trains, but noted when they would come through. Joseph did the switching, with me as a brakeman since I don't have extension panels or wireless yet.

The session went very well. One turnout in the yard derailed a couple of cars. I tweaked it a bit this evening and it seems to be functioning better. Everything was in gauge and I wasn't really able to identify anything specific wrong with it. But I peeled the glued portion off of the roadbed to let it self-align and it seems to be OK.

One track had a loose feeder that I'll need to fix. All tracks worked, although it's clear that I need to power the frogs.

About 2/3 of the way through the session, Gary R. stopped by. Gary bought and RDC I posted on eBay, about 2 minutes after I posted it (I hadn't even received the confirmation email from eBay that I posted it yet). Gary lives in Waterbury, so he decided to come by and pick it up. He's a great guy, just starting to determine what he'll be modeling in and around Waterbury in the mid to late '50s. He's also an avid Trainz (virtual) modeler and has modeled the entire Naugatuck line virtually in the late '40s. Joseph also uses Trainz. So I'm looking forward to seeing what both of them have done in the virtual world at some point.

So I'm sure we'll be hearing from Gary again in the future, and it certainly sounds like his layout will be very interesting too. In the meantime, everything seems to be running very smoothly on the layout, so I'm thinking that I'll be picking up some scenicking supplies at Springfield this year to get moving.

Friday, December 9, 2011

All tracks are operational

I completed adding feeders to all of the industrial tracks that are currently in place. Everything works (including the crossing I built), and will be tested more thoroughly.

Joseph is coming by tomorrow to run a test session. I have the cars left overnight staged, and in addition to having him run the local switching job I'll bring in a passenger train or two and NY-4 to drop off additional cars.

I will try to get some paperwork assembled for a test run tomorrow as well. So far the consensus is that it looks good, although I think I'm going to go for a larger size than Tony Koester or Tony Thompson uses. Chris and Dick agreed with that direction, Pete was fine with the smaller ones.

We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

AO-5 has been dieselized

AO-5 came through New Britain with a thirty car train hauled by an FA-1/FB-1/FA-1 set. The locomotives are so new they haven't even been painted.

This is the first time I've tested the P2k FA-1/FB-1 sets. These are the undec version which will be painted in the delivery scheme. I have to add dynamic brakes (available from Bowser/Cal Scale), get rid of the Mars light which also requires filling in the headlight in the door, and install DCC sound.

To give you an idea of the scale of this train, the locomotives are just over Main Street in the picture. On the layout, the station is about 6' away from Main Street (where the single stub siding is). If I modeled it 100% to scale it would beabout 7' 9" long. So the layout in this area is only compressed about 23%.

AO-5 hauling loads and empties to Maybrook (and the only scheduled train to do so in late '47) typically hauled 80-100+ cars. So a 30 car train is compressed over 50%. But it has the right sense of scale, since it blocks all of the grade crossings on the layout.

The white building mockups are the Russell & Erwin factory, plus the Embassy Diner (just past the end of the box car).

I haven't decided if I'm going to run this train this length, but it will look considerably longer than the other through freights if I do. It is stopped in New Britain to pick up additional loads and empties for Maybrook (blocked at two different points in the train) and comes through town after the switchers are off duty. YN-1 coming eastbound is due in about 25 minutes to pick up additional cars bound for Cedar Hill. Following only 20 minutes behind YN-1 is train #472 to Hartford. It will pick up the storage mail car that has been loaded on the station siding and is the last train of the session.

If I follow the 1947 schedule strictly, then this is the only Maybrook freight that will operate during the session. OA-6 drops off cars at about 1:00 AM. I might add OA-4 which ran at various times from 4:00 PM, 7:25 PM, 10:30 PM, and 12:30 AM. If I do, this train will be the shorter of the Maybrook freight and hauled by an L-1.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fleet and operations

I haven't had much modeling time over the last couple of days, but I have been working through more of the details of my roster and operations, particularly the associated paperwork. For those who haven't seen it, I highly recommend Tony Thompson's blog as he has a number of very detailed posts on both subjects, among others.

I'm generally following the Nelson-Gilbert hypothesis that free-roaming cars like box cars should be represented on my layout in roughly the same ratios as the national roster. To that end I'm planning on roughly 1 box car per every 5,000 rostered. So using a spreadsheet that was posted on the Steam Era Freight Car Yahoo Group that compared the national box car rosters to the cars represented in the NMRA Charles Winter collection of photos, I compared the number of cars in my planned roster by road. As it turns out, with the models available on the market today, I'm right about where I should be with my planned roster. I have a number of extra cars planned, but the basic ratios match very well. While this does not address the mix of types of cars (single-sheathed vs. all steel), nor does it mean that the most plentiful classes of cars for a given railroad are always represented, it does show that I can develop a very representative roster using only the highly detailed models that are currently available without a lot of stand-ins.

In conjunction with this I've been looking at the operations paperwork. Tony's approach is very much along the lines of what I want to do. On the Model Railcast Show, Craig Bisgeier has also been talking about an operations application he's working on called 'Here to There' and his descriptions are also very close to what I'm thinking.

What I'd like to have is:
 •Paperwork with a prototypical appearance
 •Waybills properly generated by the loading road, not based on the car.
 •Paperwork is generated based on shipments, not a specific car.
 •I will select appropriate cars to account for ICC rules, rarity of cars, etc.

I'm finding that not only is this acheivable, it actually simplifies things. I have tried a number of applications, some quite expensive, to accomplish what I'd like. But they all require an enormous amount of input to approximate an accurate operational scheme. While some applications do feature loads, and fill 'orders' based on shippers and consignees, they don't account for ICC loading rules, or maintain a proper mix of cars other than your general roster.

Most of our rosters aren't balanced well as a whole. For example, some relatively rare cars are over represented -  Atlas 1932 ARA, Proto 2000 50' Box and Auto Cars, Proto 2000 Mather Box Cars, etc. Other more common cars may be underrepresented, such as the NYC USRA Design steel box car (formerly available only as a Westerfield model, soon to be available from Broadway Limited.

Writing a program to account for the general ICC loading rules, how rare a car is, etc. is very complicated. In addition, all of the waybill programs I am aware of base the waybill on the loaded car. While this is accurate some of the time, the reality is that the waybill was generated by the loading railroad. Since the ICC Interchange rules requires a road to load an available foreign car first, it's just as likely that the New Haven would be loading a car bound for Texas in an ATSF box car as a NH box car. But the waybill will still be a NH waybill.

So right now I'm working on creating my potential waybills in Excel, and using a Word document with the waybill images set up using a Mail Merge to populate the data. Although it has taken quite a bit of thinking through, it's coming together nicely. Now the challenge I have is identifying what the various industries in New Britain would receive, and more importantly, what they would ship and where.

By doing it manually, all I have to do is populate relatively repetative information - The Household Fuel company receives coal of various types and grades. Once I've identified that, I simply duplicate it for the various railroads that might have shipped coal to New Britain, CT, and voila! I have all of the potential waybills I need for that industry. I don't need enter all of my roster, trains, interchanges, etc. nor do I need a complicated program to fulfill the order. I just need the waybill and then take a look at the available cars in storage to select an appropriate car to put on a train in staging.

What's even better is that I'm gaining a much better understanding of how all of this worked, and it actually makes sense, and gives a purpose to the layout.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

NY-2 in New Britain

J-1 #3012 struggled to haul NY-2 into New Britain today. Initially 15 cars, it was still having some difficulty when reduced to 10 cars. I have not done any sort of performance improvement on the locomotive yet. It is still just DC, and I haven't added any weight either.

I should be able to improve the performance considerably with DCC and weight. But like the L-1, it will never pull as many cars as three to four RS-3s on these trains in later years, or an FA-1/FB-1/FA-1 set for the Maybrook freights.

Because I'm using diesel and steam power for 1947, I have a plan to handle these descrepancies. Based on the freight timetables, it appears that in general the trains bound for Holyoke drop off cars in New Britain, and trains bound for Cedar Hill pick them up. This mirrors the Maybrook freights - Hartford bound drop off, Maybrook bound pick up. My operating sessions will be an extended daytime session.

Three of the five trains that drop off cars in New Britain run at night (between midnight and 5:00 am). So I will 'run' these trains off session, and the cars are staged on the sidings. The switching crew starts the day just like on the prototype, with a string of cars to work. The last through train to drop off cars is already hauled by a diesel (DEY-5) which was a prototypically short train because of the motive power at this time. The last train to drop off cars is HDX-5, the New Hartford local, which is also a short train.

The afternoon and evening trains pick up cars in New Britain. These trains will be primarily steam hauled, and shorter trains, until they pick up cars in New Britain. But these can be much longer since they will only have to go down the helixes.

So this will allow me to continue to run both steam and diesel locomotives, with the limitations imposed by the two helixes, and keep the trains looking 'right'.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

NY-4 in New Britain

I just ran NY-4 through New Britain behind DEY-5 #0615.

This is one of the scheduled trains, with the correct locomotive, at least until I get a better detailed S-2 than the Atlas one. I started with a 15 car train, but it was just a bit too much for it on the helix. I have the decoder set to a maximum of 30 smph (the prototype's top speed). Of course, with a full train it was slower, particularly up the helix. But the prototype would be as well. So I'm not sure if I'll bump it up a bit or leave it.

In the end, it hauled a 12 car train up, with only one location on the helix where I had to give it a push. I'll have to test that point on the helix (last turn before the Berlin Line branches off).

It came up the Berlin Line as appropriate, and I was even able to stop it before the turnout for the crew to throw the switch. There was no problem restarting on the curved grade. It then proceeded and dropped off 5 cars before continuing west to Plainville.

I'll have to remember to bring a camera next time...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Testing commences

Over the last few days I have completed laying all of the mainline track. In addition, I've added enough feeders to test all of New Britain Yard and the associated industries. The industries on the east side of town (on top of the helix) are not wired yet. As yet there are no tracks for the west side of town.
The most difficult track to navigate is the long siding on the north side of the westbound mainline. Entering this track is via a curved crossover that also goes up a fairly steep grade. The track is then a pretty much continuous curve with 6 turnouts. The I-2 and L-1 successfully navigated this track (westbound), although they will never have to do so in an operating session. But I'd like as much of the track to function with as much equipment as possible.
Test Session
So this morning I tested a portion of an operating session. 
  • I staged on the siding 22 cars representing the cars left overnight by OA-6, NY-2 and EA-2.
  • I was only operating one switcher to do the work.
  • I did not run any through trains; expected were two eastbound trains and I did not foul the eastbound main.
  • I did not run NY-4 or HDX-5 which presumably would have dropped off another 10-15 cars.
  • I was operating at fairly prototypical speeds, and allowing time for the crew to work (walking to turnouts, etc.)
  • I did not make allowances for train lengths. I was using the DEY-1b, and the T-2-b and DEY-4 probably won't reliably move more than 5-7 cars at a time, at least up the grade. I have not determined prototypical train lengths for these switchers yet, although photographic evidence shows at least 6 cars. On level track either model will handle at least 10 easily.
In about 1 1/2 - 2 hours of operating I was able to:
  • Block 11 cars for west side industries (to be switched by the other switcher crew)
  • Sort and block the remaining cars.
  • Switch out Armour, Swift, Landers Frary & Clark, New Britain Lumber, Cohen Williams, Carlson & Torrell, and Household Fuel, and sent cars to the Freight House and Team Tracks.
In total I sorted 22 cars, dropped off 11, plus another 11 set out for other switcher, and picked up 15 cars.
The loads and empties picked up were blocked in groups for Maybrook and Cedar Hill freights for later pickups.
In a full operating session there would be another 2 trains dropping off 10-15 more cars, plus 5 trains picking up cars, along with 8 passenger trains.
The end results - mechanically things worked pretty well. The track needs cleaning, more feeders, powered frogs, and I'll probably need to add jumpers to the points of the turnouts as well for reliability. No derailments.
Operationally, it looks like the planned amount of work will be plenty. I didn't have any waybills, nor did I add any additional work (empty requests, car moves, etc.). It's possible that I might be able to add a few more cars when I have a Stanley Works operator as well, but we'll have to see. The yard will probably be fairly congested with incoming trains and blocks for outgoing trains.
But so far things are going better than I expected. I have more tweaking and testing I'd like to do before having an 'official' test session, but it won't be long.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Modeling time since the storm has been spotty. It seems like we've been trying to catch up since then. But I have been able to get some work done, and here's the evidence.

The first picture is looking west from New Britain Yard. In the distance are some mock-ups for the Russell & Erwin factory to work on size and spacing. All of the track is in place for New Britain Yard here, the stub end to the left side of the mainline is the station track where a baggage car frequently sits.

Two reefers sit at the end of the track where the Swift and Armour distribution centers are. The hoppers and the yellow Mather box car are on two of the yard tracks. The covered hopper, gon, tank car, and hopper are on the yard lead/industry siding. These are cars that were left by a through freight to be worked by the local switchers.

The second photo is taken looking east from about the Russell & Erwin factory. As you can see, there are a handful of cars in the yard, and additional strings of cars waiting to be worked by the local switchers.

The third photo is looking west from the east (Hartford) helix. The industry tracks represent several of the east-side industries. The tank cars are on the Texaco and Atlantic Refining sidings.

Immediately to their right is Cremo Brewery (which was really on the Springfield Line), continuing away from the camera is a siding for Household Fuel plus Carlson & Torrell, the next siding is the grocery wholesaler, and the siding going up the grade is Stanley Svea. The Whiting Street Yard is in the distance to the right, where I've added a scrap of 'sky'.

The final photo is looking over the helix to New Britain Yard in the distance.
If you look closely in the third photo you'll notice that the double track main remains to be connected around to New Britain Yard. This is the extent of the mainline that remains to be completed. I need to add feeders to the industrial sidings for testing.

You can also see in the pictures that Chris and I completed the bulk of the fascia. My design requirements have changed quite a bit since starting the layout. I may be adding pockets to the fascia, or I might be going a different direction for working with waybills.

I have been doing quite a bit of basic mechanical testing. While I've still had a few minor derailments, it's less than 1/2 dozen and I haven't been able to replicate a number of them. At one point (using DC) I had the I-2, J-1, and L-1 circling the layout at the same time. The J-1 was pulling a track cleaner too. Both the DEY-1b and DEY-5 have also had extensive runs. This has been particularly successful since I haven't really had any sound decoder drop outs.

Although I probably won't complete the mainline by the end of the month (although there is still time), I'm certainly close. Next will be more feeders, more mockups and more testing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Quick update

It's been a very hectic couple of weeks. We lost power for about 5 days with Nor'Easter Alfred. There was an incredible amount of tree damage, particularly in northwest CT where we live. With a fireplace (and firewood thanks to Chris), the ability to charge Emily's equipment down the street at the shelter, and filling bottles with hot water to float in Jessica's fish tank, we survived.

With cleanup and getting caught up, the autumn session at RPI (I dispatched again), and the 49th NHRHTA Reunion the following weekend I haven't been getting all that much actual modeling completed. But there has been progress. Once I clean up the room a bit, and complete the last stretch of mainline I'll have some updates and regular pictures (and perhaps some more videos). It could be another week or so before I get that far.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm on YouTube

I just set up a channel on YouTube:


The first video is of the L-1 going through the New Britain Yard crossovers. This was one of the major tests (along with the I-4) to ensure that the layout as designed would work with steam. It does! Not a great video but it works well enough for this. I don't have a tripod for the Droid, but in the future I'll probably use my regular camera.

So I've been gluing down track, adding feeders, and I can now run trains through a complete loop from staging, up the Berlin Line, through New Britain, and back down through staging.

Dick has trimmed the last pieces of the helix, which I'll be picking up this Thursday so I can complete the full mainline. All that will remain is the west side of town, consisting of the Russell & Erwin sidings, Farm Yard, PF Corbin sidings, Fafnir Bearings Sidings, and Stanley Works. I also have to complete the staging tracks and feeders in staging, but all of the key turnouts are installed.

This last week John Pryke, Chris and I pretty much completed our Steam Presentation for the NHRHTA Reunion in November. We still have a few tweaks and work left on it, but I think it's going to be Awesome! It's been a lot of fun, anyhow, and we're psyched. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

Chris and I also had a great visit and dinner with Bill and Cosette Dulmaine. Great stories and fun, and truly wonderful people.

So we've been busy, but it's that time of the year - the fall visit to RPI is the week before the Reunion this year. I wonder if I'll get roped into dispatching again...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Testing, testing, and more testing...

I know it's been a while since the last update. Modeling time is coming in very short periods right now. But with a few minutes here and there I've managed to complete a full loop. The Berlin Line is in and fully operational, both helixes work, as does the wye at the bottom of the east helix.

Until I get some more feeders installed, I can run a train from Elm Street going east on the Berlin Line and down the helix, all the way through staging, and up the west helix to Main Street.

Testing has commenced, including running a train forward and backward through the entire layout. That works fine. What has found a handful of trouble spots is running the I-4 with two Osgood Bradley cars. Particularly backwards. Fortunately, these trains won't need to run reverse, but it helps determine trouble spots. They even make it up the Berlin Line, which will never see passenger service once the mainline completes the final revolution on the helix.

I have found that the I-4 is a better test than the L-1 due to the 4 wheel pilot truck which can short on the cylinders. I also found that with the J-1 tender I have to use the longer drawbar connection because the cab roof can short on the top of the coal bunker otherwise.

Overall I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the layout runs, particularly with steam.

While I work on completing trackwork, feeders, etc. I will continue to test heavily. The goal is to be able to run every locomotive, with an appropriate train in forward and reverse on the entire mainline and major passing sidings. The industrial areas will be off limits to large steam (as they were on the prototype), but I'll still probably test them to identify the limitations.

The biggest trouble spot, not surprisingly, is the turnout for the exit of the east helix. It wasn't intended, but after I had to rotate the helix I had no other option. After quite a bit of tweaking today it's better, but not 100%. Well, I guess that cars are no longer derailing but I can still tell that the risk is higher there so I'm working to alleviate that.

The biggest issue with this is that I have to work in the tight confines of the helix, with about 3 1/4- 3 1/2" clearance. Had the wye and turnout been planned, it would have been installed before continuing with the next level of the helix.

Once I complete the last revolution of the helix and the remaining small section of the mainline (including feeders), I can also test all of the trackwork in New Britain Yard and the east side of town. Testing can also include small operating sessions with two throttles. I'm hoping to complete the trackwork portion of that by next week.

We'll see...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Next steps

Here are some pictures of the progress so far. The pictures start on the west end of New Britain Yard looking east, the remaining pictures are continuing around the corner, but looking west.

New Britain Yard looking east

New Britain Yard looking east. The passenger cars are sitting on the station track. Landers, Frary & Clark is the track that runs into the backdrop.
New Britain Engine Facilities

New Britain Engine Servicing (gon and T-2-b), Landers Frary & Clark, City Coal & Supply.
New Britain Lumber and Shurberg Scrap

New Britain Lumber (far right siding), Shurberg & Sons Scrap & Coal (two gons), Household Fuel and Carlson & Torrell Building Supplies.
East side switching

The Texas Company (Texaco), Cremo Brewery (maybe), Cohen William Grocers, Household Fuel, Carlson & Torrell, and Shurberg & Sons.
Sooo...I'm about 10 pieces of track away from completing the mainline. It might take a couple of weeks because I've got to find a good block of time to work on it since it includes finishing the helix and the two upper connections. I will also be adding just enough feeders to get power to the whole layout so I can start testing.

I didn't expect to have all of the trackwork on the east side of town completed (since I hadn't even really laid it out). But it's done, and includes 5 industries. Cremo Brewery is included. It was in New Britain, but on the Springfield line. It also includes Texaco, Cohen Williams Grocers, Household Fuel, and Carlson & Torrell Building Supplies. I was hoping the fit Stanley Svea Coal & Grain at the end of that siding with its curved trestle, but it just wouldn't fit and still be accessible.

I could probably fit a little more track, but it would be crowded and isn't really needed. All of the industries from New Britain Yard east can take a total of at least 19 cars. That doesn't include the Berlin line. Not all will be at capacity, and not all will switch each session. But I think that's a good starting point.

So what's next? It might take a little time to pick up the remaining track. I'm estimating at least 20 more pieces of flex track, and 11 more Micro Engineering turnouts, plus a few more hand-built ones in the Stanley Works. But it's hard to believe that I'm posting this exactly one month after the report that I've switched to Micro Engineering turnouts for most of the track work and I'm this close to completing about 75% of the trackwork.

But it occurred to me that with the modeling season approaching (whenever it arrives, it was in the 80's this weekend), that to prepare for initial operating sessions I need to figure out which locomotives and what rolling stock to start working on. 

My eventual roster will be quite a bit larger than I originally planned, since I'll be covering operating sessions over a wide era. But at this point I want to get most of the steam running, with perhaps a few diesels.

So the initial goal will be to shoot for autumn 1947. That means I'll need to get the I's, a K, J, R, and a T-class operational along with a DER-1, two DER-2a/b/a sets, a DEY-4 and a DEY-3 or 5. It will be 14 locomotives and that will allow me to run a full session.

Freight trains would be OK now, if perhaps a bit short. What I'm really lacking are passenger cars.

I've only got two of the Osgood Bradleys, and none with full skirts (I wasn't planning on modeling this early when they were released). I need some more heavyweights too. I will need to complete the two NHRHTA kits (a baggage and an RPO) as stand-ins as I really need to kitbash a 15' RPO and some wooden baggage cars.

A second option would be autumn 1953. If I went that route I'd basically just need DERS-2c and Shoreliners for motive power. And with the Shoreliners I wouldn't need any passenger cars. I'm not sure I have enough RS-3s yet, though.

Until I find a job my budget is basically gone. So these will be good projects to work on over the winter. That's in addition to all of the freight cars I can start (and finish) building.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Update

Sorry for the lack of updates weekly. We've been very busy for the last week or so now that Emily is home. I have been able to work on quite a bit here and there though. The staging, west helix, and mainline are complete and operate up to the first turnouts. I've been doing a little testing before I glue down the track and install feeders on the upper level. I'll be working on the east side as time allows too.

In testing I found that every locomotive made it up the helix and onto the scenicked deck, including the L-1 but not the I-4. The four wheel pilot truck was shorting around the final curve in the helix that leads to the exit curve There was no way to avoid an 'S' curve here. But that wasn't the issue per se, apparently the final track was leading into it was too sharply curved. I just had to pry up the track (it was already glued down), and adjust it slightly. Now everything runs fine.

I also just installed my first DCC decoder. Well, actually it's the second attempt. It's just the MRC 16-bit drop in for the Atlas S-2. Eventually I plan to replace the Atlas S-2 with something that has better detail. It's a relatively easy install. You do have to mill two ridges off of the weight, and there are 4 solder connections. I had one already, and the motor control worked, but not the sound. It was the older 8-bit version. This one works just fine.

I'm well aware of the reputation MRC has for their decoders, and from what I've read and experienced they did have a lot of issues with their earlier decoders, but the newer ones are OK. I have to admit, when I first tested this one I didn't like the sound at all. It's better with the shell on. I still need to find the correct horn and bell. But it will work for this application and I wanted something relatively simple. The speaker is attached directly to the board, and it would take quite a bit of work to fit a standard sound decoder and speaker in this model as there is very little room.

In the process, I also took a look at the rear power truck. There was a rather loud 'click' (actually, more like a thump) in a stead rhythm. My guess was a problem with one of the gears in that truck. I managed to disassemble it enough to take a look and didn't see anything obvious. I ran a thin blade through a couple of the gears that seemed to have too much gunk in them. I'm not sure I really did anything, but I tested it without the wheelsets and it sounded fine. After reassembling it's much better. There is still an occasional click (and it's really a click this time), but it's much, much quieter. So for the time being I'm satisfied.

It will pull 10 cars up the helix without a problem, and it will struggle with up to 15. That's workable, because I'm sure the Holyoke freights that used the DEY-5 locomotives hauled a lot less than with a J-1 (or the later DERS-2b or 2c pairs).

So, a little progress here and there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Remotoring the K-1-d

How many modelers does it take to remotor a locomotive?

Thanks to Pieter for the pictures.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trackwork pictures

Here are some pictures. The first one is a crossover I built from two Micro Engineering turnouts. My track centers are at 2", so the ME turnouts were too long on the diverging rail to use as crossovers. So I cut down the length, but I did it in a manner so I could create a single unit.

I trimmed ties off of the end of each turnout, then I have three ties that are cut in half. That way I could slide the rail into the ties of the other turnout. The short piece of rail past the frog has been slid into the other turnout. I had cut the rail short on that turnout (about to the guard rail) to allow me to slide the two turnouts together. I then soldered the connection instead of using a rail joiner. The spike detail kept the rail aligned very well as is.
I also removed the other short rail past the frog and trimmed the flex track to allow me to slide in one of the rails all the way to the frog. I've been doing this on all of my turnouts now. While I had built the crossover before chatting with him, Joe Smith suggested running the flex track all the way to the frog. I've also been using the same basic technique to stagger the rail joints, also at Joe's recommendation.

The second picture is looking east through New Britain Yard. A lot of the track is in here. What's missing are a few of the yard tracks, and the eastbound mainline. The westbound mainline is there, and to the left of that is the siding that will eventually go to the west side of town (Russell & Erwin, Fafnir Bearing and Stanley Works).

In the distance you can see the mainlines curving left to Newington Junction, then back to the right to fit into the room. The Berlin branch is on the white Woodland Scenics foam ramp to the right. Between the two are the three tracks for the Maintenance facilities. Around the turn of the century there was a turntable here. After that was removed there was still an engine house, and for a while locomotives for Bristol and Plainville were also stored here.

By my era, all that was left was a shed and one of the engine house walls. The crane, two locomotives, and and maintenance equipment use these tracks. In addition, the left one is an RIP track.

The track curving toward the backdrop on the left goes into the Landers, Frary & Clark factory. I obviously don't have the room to model the tracks in the factory, but due to the necessity of curving the mainline in the opposite direction, the track leading to it is longer and I'll simply use that track as the siding for the mill.

The turnout in the immediate foreground is not a crossover. The eastbound mainline (without track so far) jogs to the right here. This curve used to be a crossover to the track that ran immediately in front of the station. That track is just a stub now (it's the short piece of roadbed in the picture). The turnout right at the edge forms a parallel track to the curve, and continues as the mainline track. The straight leg continues as the west New Britain siding, and the third track to the left connects just beyond the end of this picture.

All of the trackwork here is Micro Engineering on N-scale cork roadbed. The wide pieces of roadbed were intended for the crossovers. But since I used the ME #6 turnouts instead of hand building #8's they took less space. But the Osgood Bradleys track fine through them (although they'll never need to).

The last picture is two ME turnouts running into a crossing I built today. It's the only one I've built (and luckily will probably be the only one I need). I built it purely by hand, trial and (lots of) error. It's not perfect, but cars track through it OK now. I cut down some of the Central Valley guardrails for the short ones (they're the black plastic ones in the picture), but everything else is cut and filed (freehand) from rail.

This is actually set back against the side wall, so it won't be terribly visible. I'll complete the missing ties, of course, but I probably won't worry too much about super detailing it. The left leg goes to New Britain Lumber Co, and the right to Shurberg & Sons Scrap Iron & Coal.

It took the better part of the day to build, and I ended up having to grind some of the rail because some of the tolerences were off and I couldn't easily desolder the rails I needed to fix. The two turnouts were shortened slightly to move them closer together because it's only a short tangent on that wall. I started by making the joint between the two diverging rails. The sidings are just short sections. I didn't have any full length flex track left, although in the end it would probably have been a bit unwieldy to try to build it with two long pieces of track.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Don't try this at home

I have quite a bit of progress to report. It has been a busy week, so although I've been able to squeeze in some modeling here or there, I haven't had time to update the blog.

But the most interesting news is the saga of the K-1-d. I can't possibly do justice to the great amount of fun and laughs we had with four of us trying to get this locomotive to work. But I can at least explain what we did. Pieter took a few pictures and I'll post them when I've got them.

I picked up this locomotive on eBay, and it didn't have the box, etc. The seller said he had used it for years, but I couldn't get it to run. I gave it to Chris to operate on it on his test track. Even when applying power directly to the motor it wouldn't work. So Chris started to disassemble it, but it's a somewhat complex process on this model, so he decided to wait until I came over to continue. He had also chatted with John Grosner, who thought he might have an extra motor for it.

So most of the crew was there on Thursday, and John started to take a look at it with me. It was clear the motor was dead, so we decided to see if we could get the worm gear off of the shaft and put it on the new motor. No big deal, but it's press fit and we didn't have the proper tools (a Puller and a press would have been good...)

Did that discourage us? Of course not. How hard could it be?

John locked a pair of pliers on the shaft below the bearing and worm gear and rested the end of the pliers on the edge of the table. He put as much downward pressure as he could to minimize bounce.

Dick then held a mill file end flat on top of the shaft, also with as much downward pressure as possible.

I hammered the mill file, driving the shaft down. It actually worked. Once the shaft reached the edge of the worm gear we used a nail set, a tiny screwdriver, and finally a nail that would fit inside of the gear. Dick held whatever implements were needed along with the mill file on top while I hammered. Chris and I went to find a suitable nail, and the first one was slightly too large and we widened one end of the gear, which also introduced a small crack. But we got it off with a smaller nail without any other issues.

Of course, now that we had it off, we decided that we ought to be able to put it on the new motor. Obviously, the 17 minute drive to Dick's for his press was out of the question, so we made do. In this case we needed to find a way to push the gear onto the shaft. This requires pressing on only the shaft at the other end of the motor, as pushing on the motor itself would destroy it. Our solution? Turn the motor upside down, on top of the worm gear, use the nail set on the back of the shaft, and hammer from there. Dick liked the cutting mat on Chris' workbench, and we couldn't be bothered to move the piece of glass out from underneath it.

Believe it or not, it worked. And we didn't break the glass either. We put the shaft in the gearbox, and tried it out. It hummed. We wiggled it around a bit, and got it to run. But the problem was that the shaft was shorter than the old motor. As a result, only the bearing closest to the motor was actually on the shaft. Without the other bearing, the motor and shaft could wander too far and it would bind up.

But, what if we reversed the gearbox? The bottom of the gearbox was wider on the side closest to the motor. If we reversed it the motor could be placed closer and we might be able to get the second bearing on the shaft.

That's right, more hammering, test fitting, them more hammering. We were able get the motor close enough to use both bearings. And it works when reassembled.

So the next test is to put it back in the locomotive. So we attached the gearbox to the chassis, turned it on and...

It hummed. John isn't so sure we can reverse the gearbox. We loosened the gearbox, and when it's loose enough it works, but as soon as it's tightened enough to mesh with the driver gear it binds. Until I wiggle the motor into a slightly different position. It works! And it's smooth, too.

Now we have to try to assemble it in that position. However, you have to take off the gearbox cover, because the motor and gearbox have to be slid into the boiler before attaching the boiler to the chassis. Chris and I managed it with four hands. It worked, but the placement of the motor needs some adjusting, and that requires us to take it apart several more times. The screw that holds the motor into place is at a very awkward angle and lining everthing up is difficult because the hole on the bracket doesn't actually line up with the hole in the chassis. Of course, we're too lazy to drill and tap a new hole, because if we tilit the motor up we can get it. We need to do that in order to get the backhead to fit anyway, plus it's the best position to get the gears to all mesh properly in the new configuration. To complicate matters, the screw is too long and hits the bottom of the motor. We were going to cut it, but then half of the head broke off making it useles. Then we figured out it was really the screw to hold the chassis to the boiler through the cylinders. I should also mention that there are six additional screws that were missing when I aquired the locomotive.

So, the motor is now attached with double-sided foam tape. Works great, except we'll have to disassemble the whole thing again to attach the wire for track power (John didn't like the wire that the guy had put in it because it was huge). I actually want to use smaller gauge wire myself, and it needed to be longer anyway.

It's still at Chris', partially assembled, waiting for the wires to be installed and we'll need to retap some holes and reassemble it. But I can say at this point that it's working, and has decent low speed performance as well. The paint job is pretty good, although I'll have to reletter the tender (the 'New Haven' is huge). I probably won't have it operating for DC because I'll run all of the wires I need for DCC now so I won't have to take it apart again.

Of course, I'll need to take apart the K-1-b to install DCC in that one, and Pieter and, if all goes well, Chris each have a 'd' that will need decoders too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick modeling update

I'll post a more comprehensive update later in the week, but I've been moving along on a few things.

I've done a little work on several F&C box cars I started a while ago. I basically started building all of the single-sheathed box car kits I had waiting at the time (some Speedwitch and Westerfield ones as well). So I'm progressing with the F&C ones first. The Wabash 40' Auto Car is an interesting one. The end ladders are composed of drop grabs attached to ladder stiles. So they were a bit of a challenge. Speedwitch has several kits for these prototypes as well. This one is the earlier version with Murphy ends and wood doors. I'll pick up one of the Speedwitch ones with dreadnaught ends and steel doors to see Ted designed the ladders in his kit. For some reason I think they are etched brass. In any event, I've mostly been working on digging up prototype info and installing the grabs on these kits when I get a few minutes here or there.

I've also completed running the bus on the left side of the staging and to the helix. Not all of the feeders are in, but all of the feeders that Pete dropped are connected and I can now run trains through that half of staging and over the turnouts. Among other trains, I tested a DL-109 with a couple of Osgood Bradley's to see how they would run through the turnouts and up the helix. No problems at all.

I've also been laying track, and tweaking my method for doing so, and utilizing several ideas that fellow NH modeler Joe 'Hacksaw' Smith passed along. I plan to put together a comprehensive page detailing the techniques.

I also picked up a project box and I'm ready to install the Tony's PSRev autoreverser on the wye. I'm waiting to verify that DC power won't damage it. I also hooked up a manual switch so I could easily run DC or DCC at this point since most of my locos are still DC. I'll move it to the programming track when the time comes. But it's working well for what I need and has an off position between the two powered sides as well.

More to come, with pictures, but probably not until Friday or Saturday since tomorrow's Photo Library. We'll probably see if we can get John to take a look at the K-1-d and see what we'll need to do to get it running. He thought he might have an extra motor for it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More brass-bashing

So along with laying additional track and reorganizing the basement a bit, I'm continuing with a few projects. I'm still waiting for some parts to arrive for the cabooses, so here's what's left of a Nickel Plate Products brass box car. The box says it's a 50' X-32 box car, but it's really an X32a. There were numerous detail issues:
 •The doors were too short and had primitive door tracks (so they would operate).
 •All of the grabs were straight grabs, the side and one of the end ones should be bracket grab irons.
 •The running board was attached directly to the roof with no supports. I haven't been able to get the lateral running boards off yet.
 •The underframe consists of a center sill and rudimentary bolsters.
 •The brake gear was just the basic components.

My original intention was to rework this as a N&W B-3 class. I have a couple of pictures of one in New Britain yard in 1949. They are at an angle, though, and I didn't have any good pictures or information other than the fact that they were similar to the PRR X32a cars. After asking the experts at the Steam Era Freight Car group I have learned that it is not a good match. The model has a door opening of about 12 1/2', close to the early PRR X32a of 12' 1". The B-3 class cars had a 14' 6" door opening which also means that the side panels are incorrect.

So, the question is, how will I proceed? I know I'll be substituting a Bowser underframe, and I can use the Bowser doors if modeling a Pennsy car. I could get rid of the rivets on the sides and replace them with Archer rivets. Fortunately the model doesn't have panel lines so I wouldn't have to contend with that.

Another option is to make a casting of either the whole car body, or perhaps just the ends. If I do the ends then I could scratchbuild the body for the B-3 (and maybe some other cars) and then finish this one as a PRR X32a.

So we'll see. At this point is doesn't surprise me that it won't be as simple as I thought it would be. That's nothing new. At least I know I can get the correct coil-elliptic-coil trucks from Tahoe Model Works. In any event, it's been fun disassembling the car. And if you haven't guessed, this one may go back on the shelf for a bit while I work out the details.

In the meantime, more turnouts are on the way so the priority work (building the layout) can continue...

Shifting priorities

Yeah, that's right. I'm using commercial turnouts. Here's a picture of the nearly completed New Britain yard (I need one more turnout).
New Britain Yard under construction
For the two of you that have followed this blog (and prior ones) for a while might be wondering what's going on. When I started this project several years ago, I was seriously considering building it to Proto:87 standards with all handlaid track and using Sergent couplers. Well, I'm not.

Adding Steam and Sharing EquipmentThe steam and equipment sharing evolved at about the same time. Hanging out with the guys on Thursday got the steam bug rolling, and we decided that at the very least we could run a partial or full steam session by having the guys bringing their models along. Of course, Grosner could populate the entire session if he wanted to, he wasn't attending at the time we were discussing this.

Sharing equipment made it essential that I used HO or HO:Fine Scale standards. I was wary of swapping out the diesel wheels anyway. In addition, I had been waffling between Proto:87 and standard HO because of this and because of the need to be more precise.

We could potentially swap couplers or use a transition car if using Sergent couplers, but that didn't seem worth the effort either. Bill uses the 'scale' Kadee couplers and clips off the 'air hose.' When actually operating a layout it looks just fine and you don't really notice them.

It's the Operations, StupidThat leads to what is probably the main reason, and the others support it. My real goal is to get this up and running so we can run operating sessions. And from experience operating on other layouts (including a couple of 'plywood centrals'), the details become far less important. Sure, I enjoy modeling in great detail, and for contests, display, or photographs, I can add the Sergent couplers and even the P:87 wheelsets if I'd like. I also realized that the standards I had were somewhat flexible in my own mind. For example, the many RTR cars I've got don't have the same level of underbody detail I would have if I built it myself. But it helps get a roster running and closer to operations. In the future I might go back and upgrade these models. But for now they look just fine.

My (lack of) Modeling SkillsMy modeling skills led me to look at other alternatives. Although I found that building the turnouts was pretty straighforward, it's not something I really enjoy doing. I don't hate it, but it's not my favorite thing to do. So I don't, for as long as I can. Because basically I can do it. It's just not something I do really well.

In addition, the prototypes I made worked just fine, but once I had some to install on the layout I found that things didn't work like I had tested. Some of this was my consistency. So I worked on simplifying the approach by using the CVMW tie base as a jig (see Joe Fugate's approach to this in the current Model Railroad Hobbyist). I started using more PC board ties to strengthen the turnout since they were easily falling apart when Chris or I were making them at the bench. This wasn't a factor when they were built in place.
But the main area where I've had difficulties is in actuation of the turnouts. It worked fine on a couple of prototypes, but there was little margin for error on my initial approach. Then I found that under table actuation wasn't as straightforward as I though either. Nor was the layout designed with that in mind.

Up to this point I also hadn't ever seen the Micro Engineering turnouts. Once I tried one I found I was OK with the detail (not as good as the handlaid, but workable), and it was easier, of course, to just install a commercial turnout.

It wasn't until I learned of the frog juicer, and ultimately realized that the combination of just flipping the points of the turnout combined with the frog juicer was about the same price as manual or eletric actuation options. The final contenders I had settled on were the Bullfrog or servo controlled. But the ME turnouts with the frog juicers are about as simple as it gets for a powered frog and turnout control. I also found that the handlaid turnouts have enough friction to flip the points in the same manner, but not enough that I'd be comfortable using them on the mainline.

So Chris and I were discussing the possibility of a friction spring, but finding a way to install it under the throwbar to hide it. But this would have required more experimentation...

Anyway, I'm comfortable with my handlaying abilities that I can build some special trackwork if I need it. But for most of the layout, I don't. And it's going so much faster that I'm out of supplies (turnouts and track right now). And I really want to get this up as soon as I can.

So 80% of staging is done. I can add some additional staging later, but for now I want to complete the main deck of the layout. New Britain yard requires one more turnout, and there are about 20 turnouts left to complete the main layout. The east side switching areas and the west side industries aren't included. But once I get the main portion up I can start testing all of the locomotives to make sure I don't need to change anything. The switching areas only need to work for the T-2-b's and 44-tonners which is easy. I'm using the L-1 and the Osgood Bradley cars as the test for the rest of the layout.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

9-5-11 Work Session

On Monday, Chris and Pete came by for a work session. Pete got a bunch of feeders in, and Chris laid track. Chris and I also worked on completing the wye at the bottom of the east helix.

That turned out to be the biggest project. It wasn't too bad working out how to support the second leg and we got that finished before Chris and Pete left. For simplicity in operations, Chris suggested an Atlas #4 turnout for the other leg. The diverging leg is a pretty good match for the 28" radius, and the points are flexible enough that we can leave it set for the mainline, and locomotives turning on the wye can come through the other leg as a spring switch so we won't have to worry about actuation on the other side of the helix.

So, I picked up the Atlas turnout, and found it was a real pain to install. Of course, I hadn't planned on this, so the track was already installed, and I had to do it all in the space between two decks of the helix. It took some work, but it's in. It works OK with a box car, but it's clear that I'll have to tweak the alignment a bit when I glue it down to get the L-1 to work consistenly through it. But the L-1 works on the other side (after some tweaking there as well), so it looks like the wye will function as needed. There wasn't any issue through the mainline leg coming off or on the helix. Oh, and the L-1 just clears the next deck on the helix here...

The three of us also spent some time discussing how we thought I should continue with the rest of the trackwork. I really want to get the layout operational, and I'm extremely happy with the combination of the ME turnouts and the Frog Juicer. It turns out to be about the same or lower cost than other options for actuation, and I really like the idea of just flipping the points instead of any sort of actuation on the fascia at this point.

The handlaid turnouts actually have enough friction to stay in place, at least for something like the Whiting Street Yard where they are all installed. We discussed that for future hand built turnouts I could make a tension spring under the throwbar so it's less visible. The issue with that is it will take time for more experimentation until I find an approach that works. Another option is the switches that Mike Rose is installing on his turnouts built by Jim Lincoln. Those would probably be cheaper than the other options, but again it's going to take me time to get it up and running.
So for now we landed on using the ME turnouts for the layout. If I decide that I can't detail them to my satisfaction, then I can replace them with the handbuilt ones later. The only real downside is that the ME turnouts only come as a #6. So I did some testing and the #6 crossovers seem to be acceptable for reliable operation.
So that's the current plan of attack. There are still a few custom turnouts that I'll probably have to build, but for now I can work on getting the layout running.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Updates and work session tomorrow

Chris and Pete are coming over tomorrow to lay some more track and drop feeders. It's been a busy day so I'm not sure I'll be as prepped as I'd like, but we have plenty to work on. I did pick up more rail joiners.

I'm also trying to find a color I like for the NE (and later an NE-4 when I get around to that). That quick paint job was with Floquil Boxcar Red which seems a bit too dark and too red for my taste. I got some of the Floquil So Freight Car Brown which I like a little better. I'll have Chris and Pete take a look tomorrow to see what they think.

Next time I'm at the Hobby Gallery I'll look through the Tru Color paints to see if they have one I like better as well.

I did replace the running boards on the NE-5. I had ordered some Plano Apex brass sheet without realizing I had some. So I was able to use that and it worked great. Of course, I managed to break another of the end railings. I glued it for now, but I'm sure I'll need to replace the ones on that end with brass ones too. I have extra Trout Creek Engineering/Taurus ladders on the way. If I decide to replace the ladders I'll go ahead and fix the railing. I'll probably replace the air hoses as well. At the time Hi Tech Details hadn't released 22" ones and now that they have these look a bit long.

If I get a chance to do anything else tonight, it will probably be cleaning up the basement for tomorrow. At least that's the plan...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back to the NH single sheathed box car

Well, it's been a very, very busy day. Our daughter Emily finally came home after living the first 8+ years of her life in the hospital. So we had a number of different people stop by with equipment, supplies, etc. She's doing very well, and Jessica couldn't be more excited.

But I did get a chance once everything had settled to work on the NH Single-sheathed box car some more. The door, a couple of the ladders (I decided to use the resin ladders from the kit) and grab irons are installed. Of course, I had to try something different, and I used Canopy glue for everything. It dries faster than I expected, but much slower than ACC, of course. That gives more time to ensure things are lined up, and also plenty of time to clean up any excess. It certainly seems durable enough so far. I did use it a little bit on the NE caboose, in particular the running boards. I found that it worked well to use 90% Canopy glue, and leave a small place open for ACC so it would adhere quickly when needed. The best of both worlds that way.

So for now I can say I like the results so far and I'll probably continue assembling this model completely with the Canopy glue and see where it goes from there. I'll post some pictures when I'm a little further along with the kit.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Modeling continues

I'm a little behind on posts. Although we lost power from Irene for a couple of days, I was able to get some modeling done during the day. Here are several pictures showing the progress of the NE-class caboose.

I've got ladders (Trout Creek Engineering aka Taurus) on order, and I need to decide which trucks I'll use. Once I receive the ladders I'll do the railings. It also needs the Bethlehem Car Works lavatory vent. I hit it with a quick spray of box car red from a can, principally for the roof and underside of the running boards (Chris found that a challenge since he had already glued them on). I think this color is a bit dark and a bit too red for this car though, so I'm hunting down an appropriate paint as well.

Utah Pacific markers and stack. The markers are cored to be lit if I feel like it. I know they should be red to the rear, but I'm not sure what color they should be to the side and front, so that will take a little research. I've seen pictures with brass markers, as well as black (or possibly just sooty). This is an old hack, so I'll be going with the latter. Otherwise it's pretty close to completion.

I almost airbrushed something!
I've finished the detail upgrades to the phase III 44-tonner. I went down for the inaugural paint job using an airbrush...and one of the hoses sprung a leak. It's the one between the compressor and the air gauge/moisture trap. So, I'll be picking up a replacement from Scott Mason and hopefully painting it in a week or two. In fact, the plan is to paint the two 44-tonners, the NE and NE-5. The NE-6 still requires some work so it's not quite ready yet. I'll have to decide if I'm going to replace the running board on the NE-5 by then as well.

So it appears that I might actually have two 44-tonners and two hacks to display at the NHRHTA Reunion this year. What a shock. I can't enter the modeling contest since I'm a judge, but that's OK. I don't have decals for the hacks yet anyway.

I've also been continuing my research on some of the steam modifications. I think that I can probably start with the Bowser K-4 chassis for an I-1, I've forwarded some info to John Pryke and Dick for their thoughts. The Bowser 2-10-2 also has Southern valve gear that I may use as a starting point, or to acquire some parts for the R-1-b and K-1-d conversions.

And that's about all I've been able to squeeze in here and there.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Well, it's a model...

Jessica wanted to work on a model I got for her at a flea market in South Carolina. It was a great find (manufactured in 1983). Even the decals were still good. Of course, it didn't take long before she decided that I was going to build it.

So here's R2.

Time to get back to the railroad...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back home again

We went to Myrtle Beach for (most of) the week, so I'm getting back to things at home now. I finally found the reference I was looking for regarding the 44-tonners. All of the information about 'phases' and such was published in Extra 2200 South #51 and #52 from 1975. So I can now confirm that the NH had phase Ib, Ic, III, and IVa 44-tonners of which I will be modeling three of the phases. The single phase Ib (#0800) had been modified to phase Ic by my era.
I also started to experiment with replacing the Baker valve gear on the Bachmann light mountain with the Southern valve gear from a Bachmann 2-10-2. It will require some modification, particularly the shortening of the main and eccentric rod. I will most likely cut the rivets to these parts and, once modified, see if I can use screws to reassemble them. This project is also a trial run before I try to replace the Baker valve gear with Southern on the K-1-d.
Speaking of the K-1-d, Chris has it to see if he can get it running. He said one of the leads was not attached, but it still doesn't work. John Grosner may have a replacement motor. If not, I'll see what I can get from NWSL. I also discovered while looking through pictures that the K-1-d that Chris is most likely going to model (#356) was still using the road pilot instead of footboards right up through 1948. So if the pilot I got from Greenway brass doesn't work I may be able to get one from him eventually.
Since Irene is coming this weekend, I'll see what sort of modeling I can get done. I should work on a few crossovers so I can get the mainline in service. But I may see how far I can get on the NE. I'm modeling a different road number now, C-2??, based on a photo I picked up of K-1-d #479 in Plainville, 1948. There's an NE in the background with cast sideframe trucks. So I need to scan it in and figure out the rest of the road number.

I'd also like to finish the modeling work on both 44-tonners. The W&R one just needs a few replacement door handles now. The phase III needs another short hood hatch cover, hinges for both covers, and probably a little better patching on the short hood where I filled in the old hatch. The hatch covers could also use a support underneath the raised end. Then those two, the NE-5 (should I replace the running boards with the correct Apex style? I think it will eventually be a 'yes.') and in short order the NE will be ready for painting. That might be a good project to set up a work session along with dropping feeders on the layout. I can get some painting tips and assistance from the guys, and get the mainline and staging operational.
Hmmm. Just looking at an unmodified Bachmann 44-tonner. It's actually a phase IVb, with the end railing attached to the front of the frame, instead of the side. Looking at the W&R model that's where it's attached as well. Do I want to hassle with attaching it to the side?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rainy day modeling

So we were just hanging out on a rainy day and I decided to start the F&C NE-Class hack that I picked up on eBay this week. This will probably be lettered as C-111 so I can use cast sideframe trucks.

Not bad for an evening's worth of modeling, eh?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A question of weight?

So, I went over to Chris' to help he and Pete complete some electrical work in his paint booth room, as well as to do some scenery on the modules he's got. It was a lot of fun, particularly since I've never done any real scenery work before.

While I was there, we were talking about locomotive weight and pulling power. In earlier conversations, Dick seems to believe that the weight of the locomotive is more important than the specific motor. Chris agreed (within reason, since too much weight will pull too much amperage). But he suggested that it's also important how that weight is distributed on the drivers.

The locomotives in question were the Atlas RS-1 and the Custom Brass L-1. I was telling him how the Atlas can pull at least 7 more cars than the L-1 up the helix. But I haven't added any weight to the steamer yet, nor have I optimized wheelsets, etc on the freight cars. He suspected that the L-1 might be heavier than the RS-1, even though it can't pull as many cars.

Soooo, I checked. The RS-1 is 12 5/8 oz and the L-1 is 12 3/4 oz. So he's right, it's heavier (although just).

Next I hooked up the L-1 to the front of the train that the RS-1 had hauled up the helix, and simply started stacking some weights on top of the boiler. After about 5 more oz, it could pull the same train. There were a few places where it was slipping quite a bit (clearly the helix is not a perfect, steady grade). But it would pull it.

So the next real question, which won't be answered for a while since I need to put sound in the L-1, is where can I add the weight? Even a little more than what I had today would seem to be beneficial. But it's good to know that adding more weight will improve the performance. Maybe I'll take it over to Chris' again to try on his test track to see if the added weight greatly changes the amperage draw too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Moving Right Along

Over the last two days I've been working on figuring out the status of my motive power. There have been a number of issues that I wanted to address since Chris and I have been making progress laying track.
The Atlas S-2 has some sort of bind in the rear truck or gearbox. We didn't disassemble it yet, but that's where the problem lies.
The P1k RS-2 doesn't run at all. We tested the motor and that works, so once I replace the board with a DCC sound decoder that should be OK.
The Athearn RS-3s (I have five of them) all run differently, none of them well. I had read about the 'Six Fix' on the Atlas forums. Jim Fix found that if you shortened the brushes by about 1/3 that took care of any running issues. Sounded simple enough except for, 'what's a brush?' Between Chris, Pete, Dick and I we figured it out. Chris performed the minor surgery, and wouldn't you know it, it worked! I'll do each of the others as I install decoders.
The Atlas HH660 stalls frequently. This is also related to the fact that I couldn't get any locomotive up the helix without stalling. I cleaned the track well and this has taken care of the issue altogether.
So motive power looks like it will be OK, and now that the helix was working I figured I might as well see what I can pull up it.
  •  HH660 - about 8-9 cars plus caboose.
  •  L-1 - 10 cars plus caboose.
  •  RS-3 - 9 cars plus caboose.
  •  Atlas RS-1 - 17 cars plus caboose! (Maybe more, that's the length of my longest staging track so I stopped there.
Dick insists that the biggest factor on pulling power is weight. I haven't added any weight to any locomotives yet. But I'm optimistic that if one locomotive can pull 17 cars, then I can add weight to others to at least come close. The L-1s and the R-1s need to be able to pull a sizeable train. Of course, starting in 1947 the L-1s are replaced by FA-1/FB-1/FA-1 sets, and all three are powered so those should be just fine.
On a side note, at one point the leading driver on the L-1, and at another point the leading truck derailed. Neither stopped the locomotive or seemed to interfere, but I'll have to watch it go up the helix more closely to see where and why that's happening.
Overall I'm pretty happy with the progress. I know there's room to add weight to the steam locomotives, and I'm OK with a relatively short train for a single RS-2 or RS-3 locomotive, because the longer trains will be double-headed. Plus, I haven't tuned any trucks or wheelsets on the cars yet either, so I'm guessing that will help performance too.

We did what!?!

What we have here is a very interesting project. Chris is (will be) modeling the Valley and Air Lines on the New Haven. The Air Line local was frequently hauled by J-1 class #3022. Sometime c1947 the tender (which originally came from an I-4 class) was converted to a clear vision tender. At least two other J-1s and one J-2 also received clear vision tenders.

When I picked up my Custom Brass I-4, Chris needed an I-4 tender. I need a J-1 tender for my I-4. So the idea was that we'd just swap. However, since I need a couple of J-1s anyway, I really don't need his tender.
In any event, it was just about a year ago when I got the I-4 and we started looking for a tender for 3022. I told him to chop up the tender that came with my I-4. Chris wasn't sure about cutting up a brass tender. So we hunted around and, long story short, found that there wasn't really a suitable model available.
So last month I picked up one of the Precision Scale I-4 tenders. I now have a very nicely detailed I-4 tender for a future J-1 (the Custom Brass one needed quite a bit of upgrading anyway).
So Chris finally started cutting up this tender. Before Photo Library night Chris cut through one side of the coal bunker, although it was still attached to the front and back.  I wasn't there that week, but it was in the same state last night. So Dick and I gave him some encouragement. That is to say, we started cutting up the tender ourselves. By the time I left last night, the coal bunker was gone, and Chris had done some impressive dremel and pliers work on it to get the Proto 2000 coal bunker on in a rough fit. With this photo he just sent, it appears that he's completed that part of the project.
The goal is to complete as much of 3022 before the NHRHTA Reunion in November. I think he's well on his way. And he's now entered a very small group of modelers - brass bashers.
Wait, I just remembered something - I need two I-4 tenders!

Almost famous

Chris was listening to the June Scotty Mason Show (http://themodelrailroadpodcast.com), and Mike Rose discusses the ongoing work for an addition to his layout. Jim Lincoln has built some fantastic trackwork (some of it in his car!) for the layout.

At the NE Proto Meet (right down the street), after Mike's clinic, I cornered the two of them because I wanted to talk to Jim about his experiences trackbuilding. A lot of what he is doing is very similar to the way I've been building track.

Anyway, I had them come on over to check things out, and showed them how I was modeling throwbars with z-scale PC board ties. He had seen some stuff online - about 4 years ago Joe Fugate and I had a long thread on his forum about building CVMW turnouts, and I posted some information and pictures (http://siskiyou-railfan.net - go to the forums). It's still hard to believe I built that prototype turnout over 3 years ago...
Anyway, they have been very happy with the results, and Mike featured it in a column in Model Railroad Hobbyist too. (Which interestingly enough brings it full circle since Joe Fugate is the publisher.)
It's actually pretty cool to see an idea I came up with not only end up in the article, but in use on another layout. Mike and Jim came up with a cool way to use microswitches to throw the z-scale throwbars (also covered by Tony Koester in a 'Train of Thought' article in Model Railroader).  One of these days I'll get up to Mike's to check it out in person.
So from now on, you can just call me 'That Guy'

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Choose your poison

Well, it has been a great, but very busy day today. I was in the mood for doing something 'modely' this evening, but wasn't prepared to get involved in something that would require some real focus. Then I went up to the bedroom to get something, and remembered that I had left a Branchline kit up there the other night.

I had been working on organizing little projects and kitbashes I had printed out. I liked the Cocoa Beach Shake 'n' Take from 2006, a KCS Rebuilt Box Car. I haven't made it to Cocoa Beach yet, but I figured I'd build the projects appropriate to my era.

Anyway, this kitbash uses an Accurail Postwar Box Car with an Accurail Double Sheathed Box Car underframe. Greg Martin notes in his instructions that these are great kits to work with, since they are the only accurate kits on the market that have a separate floor instead of roof. As such, it's easy to model a rebuilt box car by substituting an older underframe.

This does require, however, carving off all of the detail parts on the box car shell to apply separate parts. So I figured I'd use a Branchline kit instead. So I had brought one of the undec kits I had on hand up to see how that would work. It looked like a good option, so I prepped it with the parts I'd need (it also comes with the correct 8-rung ladders), and put in the instructions so it would be ready to go when I got to that kit on the shelf.

Because I'd much rather cut out the floor than try to carve off molded on details. Obviously Greg feels otherwise, but my demolition skills are still rather primitive.

So when I went up tonight, there it was. So I figured what the heck, let's see how hard it is to remove the floor. It looked like it would be pretty easy to use a razor saw just inside the sides to cut along the length of the floor. Since the ends are dummy ends I wasn't worried about damage to them. Unfortunately, I found that I could cut through the floor pretty easily, but the thickness of the side sill tabs was less than that of the sides. So once I made it through the floor I was sawing straight down the middle of the sides.

So I figured I'd use a technique that Ted Culotta pointed out in one of his Essential Freight Car articles for a Sunshine mini-kit. I believe the Sunshine instructions recommended the approach - you score the floor along the edges, then cut a big 'X' across the middle, then snap out the triangular pieces. I used the Dremel to cut the big 'X' which was much faster. It still took some work to break off the pieces, but overall it worked pretty well.

Of course, it will go back in the box at this state, because tomorrow I need to get back to the important things, like laying track and the 44 tonners. But it was fun to make some progress on something and not have to really focus or be very precise. I have a lot of these sort of unfinished projects around, and when I get the necessary parts, etc then I'll be able to finish a bunch all at once.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

DCC, horns and Canopy Glue

Well, I managed to complete a few things so far today.

First, I installed my first decoder. It's just the MRC drop-in sound decoder for the Atlas S2. In the long run I won't be using this as a primary locomotive since I'm hoping to replace it with one with separate details (like the forthcoming brass one from Key Imports). We'll see.

In the meantime, this is Jessica's locomotive and we'll try it out tonight once we finish watching Prehistoric Park (we're on episode 3).

In addition to the decoder, I finally picked up some canopy glue to try. I keep hearing about it (particularly on the Scotty Mason Show), but there was a recent discussion on the Steam Era Freight Car list about it. It works similarly to a white glue, dries clear, and works very well to bond dissimilar materials. It also remains somewhat flexible after drying. At least those are the advantages I've read about.

I used it to glue a brass horn I picked up for the Bachmann 44 tonner project. So we'll see how it does.

I also need to install two more lengths of track tonight to connect the staging to the east helix. Once that's in place, I can test running trains up the helix. Parts are also on the way to complete building the crossovers on the mainline which will allow me to complete a full mainline loop to staging through both helixes.

So back to work...Oh, and I have to figure out which horn and bell to use on the new decoder.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Working on the Phase IIa (really Phase III) 44 tonner

After pulling out the 44-tonners, I was surprised to see how little remains to be completed on the one I started modifying a few years ago. So I sprayed on a coat of gray primer to see where I needed to smooth out some of the modifications. Most of it looked pretty good.

So tonight I completed the uncoupling lever, and replaced the large grabs across each nose. Since it's so easy to drill with the Dremel Stylus I recently picked up, I actually drilled holes to mount the NBW castings above the end grab irons. Now that I'm writing about it, I probably need to do a few on the nose.

Next I wanted to figure out how to complete a detail that's visible in a photo in Diesel Locomotives of the NHRR. Originally I thought that it was some sort of extension of the stack onto the roof. They look like a mirror image of the shape of the stack. After looking more closely at the picture, I think they are actually hinged covers for the stacks. When the locomotive is in use, they are obviously open, and rest on the cab roof.

Anyway, to model these, I cut off the very top of the stacks from a spare 44-tonner, then sanded them very thin. I sanded the bottom and the top, to make it as thin as possible, but still retain the shape including the interior circle. I think they came out pretty well.

Even if I complete it this year, I doubt I will be entering it into the NHRHTA Reunion modeling contest, since I agreed to be a judge again. But I'll at least be able to display it. I should try to complete the modeified NE-5 and NE-6 models as well...

Note - I have since verified this is a Phase III 44-tonner.

Friday, August 5, 2011

44 Tonners

W&R brass and two Bachmann 44 Tonners

So here are three GE 44 Tonners. The New Haven had (at least) 4 different phases of 44 Tonners.

The first (0800) was a very early phase with one set of steps on each side of the locomotive, in the middle of the running board. It was later modified to have the steps at each corner.

The second was seven phase Ic locomotives (0801-0806). The W&R brass one is this phase. At least I think so, the box was labeled Phase IV, but it's clearly a phase I. But I have yet to find a resource that details the differences between all of the phases. So I suppose it could be a phase Ib. The prior owner moved the horn to the roof. I will have to move it back to the hood.

The next group (0807-0816) are unclear to me. Someplace I picked up they were phase IIa. Visually they are similar to the phase IV (see below). The differences that I can see is the cover over the hood, and that the two small vents along the top of the hood near the end are smaller than the later locomotives.

But I've seen a W&R model for sale that states it's a phase IIb. It does not have the small vents at all. It seems odd (but possible) that the small vents were added for phase IIa, removed for IIb and reappeared for phase IV. I don't have any info about phase III locomotives.

The final two locomotives are phase IV. These are the only two that match the Bachmann model. I will still replace the stanchions they used for the uncoupling lever, and I may replace the door handles with wire like I have on the phase IIa one. The W&R model has cast brass door handles separately applied (with two missing).
I have since tested the W&R and Bachmann on the layout. The W&R seems to have just a little more pulling power. And there is a lot more space to add weight as well. Of course I need to add sound first. In any event, it appears that either will pull at least 8 cars up the 2% grades (curved) which is plenty for operating the layout.

I'll paint the W&R in the delivery scheme of all Pullman Green. The phase IIa will be in the 1947/8 scheme with a Hunter Green cab and Warm Orange hoods. I believe this was the delivery scheme of the final two as well. By 1956 this also included a green top of the hood as well as a thin band along the bottom of the hood.

I am not sure when this variation was applied. I have pictures of 0802 in this scheme in New Britain in 1956. It appears that the hood and cab are Hunter Green and not Pullman Green or 401 Exterior Green, so it had to be painted prior to 1950.

So further research is required, but my initial plan is to paint the phase I in the delivery scheme, the phase II with a Hunter Green cab with Warm Orange hoods, and the 0817 or 0818 in the later variation with the green band and green hood top. I hope to pick up a second phase I at some time as well, also in the delivery scheme, since the first record I have of a phase II locomotive being assigned to New Britain is 1952. In any event, after the T-2-b locomotives are retired ('47-'48) there are always two 44 Tonners assigned to work in New Britain.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back from vacation

We just got back from a vacation at Dad's in South Carolina. I do have some updates that I plan to post tomorrow.

In the meantime, I do have a train story. I usually see quite a few down at Dad's (Norfolk Southern), but I only saw one this year since we spent most of our time in the lake and on the boat.

But on the way home we stayed at the Staunton, VA Comfort Inn. I didn't notice that there was a cut just past the end of the parking lot. So I was having trouble sleeping, and at 3:30 am I was half-asleep and startled awake by the noise of a train outside. It was LOUD! We were on the 5th floor and I checked out the train, but by that time had missed the locomotives.

This morning we were just about to take off, when another one came by. Two CSX locomotives with a hundred empty coal hoppers. Very cool, and just as loud. We had the perfect vantage point since we were parked looking straight at the tracks.

Anyway, we had a great time, and I'm ready to get back to some modeling.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The track gang has been hard at work

Well, if two is a 'gang.'

Chris came by this afternoon to start laying track in staging. In the picture is half of the staging. The other half is a mirror image. The longest track is about 17 cars and, as we found out today, the passing siding is about 20 cars.
Basically all of the turnouts (Microengineering) are in place. Half of them are glued down, and they are all prepped (tinned) for feeders.
I'm not sure how much time I'll have to continue over the next week or two, but the next steps are to complete gluing the track in this half of the staging, then lay the remaining track for the other half of staging.
After that's all in place and glued, I'll just have to add the connecting track to the west helix (seen curving to the left in the picture), and determine the configuration of the wye to the east helix. That will complete the staging level.