Friday, October 12, 2018

Scale Track

So I decided to plan ahead and build the scale track before I permanently install the Whiting Street Yard tracks. Shocking, I know.

In my case, it's a relatively easy track to make. Since it's a stub-ended track dedicated to the scale, I'm assuming there's no gantlet track. I don't actually have any pictures of the scale track, but my research indicates that (in 1915 anyway) it was a 42-foot, 100-ton scale. I don't actually recall where I dug up that information, nor do I know if it was upgraded to a higher capacity.

We do have a picture of the scale track in Middletown, thanks to John Wallace. I don't know think he intended to get the scale track in the shot, but we've got it. This was (in 1915) a 34-foot 50-ton scale, and again I'm not sure it was ever upgraded. Nor am I aware if it was still in use in 1947. But it looks like it's in good shape in this 1947 photo, although the tracks beyond it don't look like they are well maintained.

If it was, I would guess it would have to have been upgraded above that capacity. We do have a track plan dated May 27, 1959 indicating the track is to be removed.

My guess is that the track scale here was used much like the one in New Britain. In New Britain, I'm convinced that the most use would come from shipments of trap rock from Lane's and Cook's Quarries. Perhaps there's some coke being shipped from New Britain Gas Light Co. In Middletown, there were brownstone quarries across the river in Portland, or just beyond. A 50-ton scale would be insufficient in 1947, and 100-ton barely so. I wouldn't be surprised if both had been upgraded by then.

In this case, you can see that it has a gantlet track, because it was built as a double-ended track, unlike the one in New Britain. Looking at the picture, the rails run along the top of the scale beams, and there are small metal rain shields that keep most of the rain out of the scale pit. between and outside the rails is wood decking that is at the same level that ties would be.


For a quick overview of track scales, they were situated at various yards on every railroad. Major yards would have one, and sometimes smaller yards, as is the case with New Britain and Middletown. L.C.L cars were not weighed, since the goods were weighed before loading. Regular loads from an industry, such as Stanley Works, were probably not weighed either. Instead, standard weights would be predetermined for their goods, such as a case of hammers. Bulk goods, on the other hand, such as coal, coke, or stone, would need to be weighed. Cars loaded at the bulk tracks would probably need to be weighed too. They would be weighed at the first scale en route to their destination.

The scale itself is housed in a concrete pit, with the rails (or one set of them if there's a gantlet track), running across the scale bridge itself. This is connected to a scale that is inside the scale house, and the operator uses weights and a slide, much like the old doctor scales, to determine the car's weight. They could do this very rapidly, even weighing cars in motion on some scales. Periodically, a scale test car with a known weight would be used to calibrate the scale.

The pit is covered by wood planking, and there are rain guards along the rail to prevent too much water from getting into the pit.

Railway Prototype Cyclopedia Vol. 12 has an excellent article about weighing freight cars and track scales.

Operationally, in my case YN-3 will drop of hoppers of stone to be weighed and then blocked for YN-1. For some sessions, the scale test car will be brought in and the scale calibrated.


I didn't want to just put wood planking on top of the ties on the track, it should be lower than that since there are no ties used. But how do I keep the track in gauge across that distance? Well, it's going to be similar to how I keep the track fixed and in gauge at the edge of the liftouts.

I started with cutting a 2" x about 6" piece of PC board. This is laminated with copper on only one side instead of both, but that's all I need. It's a very tough material to cut. The guy at the shop told me to just score and snap it, but that wasn't working for me, and I was afraid it would splinter. I took it to Chris to show him and get his opinion, and he just snapped it. I'm still having trouble snapping it, but I've found that if I score it on both sides and use pliers, I can get it to snap. I also found that after I get the score started (and all the way through the copper) with a utility knife, that a razor saw works better to get the cut deep enough.

The PC board is a sub-base that will have PC board ties soldered on top, and the rail will be soldered to those. For the lift out, these ties will replace the plastic ties. In this case, though, in addition to replacing the plastic ties, they will run parallel under the rail, instead of perpendicular as railroad ties. This is what will maintain the gauge through the scale track.

Note that on my layout, I have a thin layer of craft foam that covers the entire deck. When I first started laying track - in the helix no less - I used N-scale cork to reduce the noise in the helix. I continued that onto the main deck, since the roadbed in New Britain is pretty flat. As it turns out, I probably shouldn't have used roadbed at all. So I needed to fill the spaces around the track to bring the ground up, and started using the craft foam.

When building Whiting Street, instead of using cork at all, I decided to just use the foam for the entire deck. It works well, and I think will help reduce noise. 

It's important in regards to this project, because it's the same thickness as the PC Board, and I'll cut out the foam where the scale track will go. As long as you're using roadbed for your track, this will work, although you might need an additional layer of material under the PC Board to bring it up to the correct height.

Here's the PC Board 

Here's the JMD Plastics rail alignment guide with the PC board ties mocked up. The alignment guide has convenient holes (for nailing track down) that allow me to see the gap I filed and align everything. Fast Tracks makes a similar alignment guide.

It's not pretty, but here are the two rail lines tinned. I'm using a no-clean flux, something I recommend every model railroader has because I'm finding that for some of my feeders the solder joint and plastic ties have been eaten away by flux that wasn't fully cleaned.  

It's hard to solder and take pictures at the same time!
Tinning the ties is a challenge. I found I could put flux on the length of the tie, put a blob of solder at one end, and use a small file as a stop. I could hold the file in place, and smooth the solder down the length of the tie without burning my fingers. This approach of smoothing the solder also worked on the larger board.

I had some scraps of scribed wood, and used that as the deck. It needed two layers, and for now the top layer is wider and longer since it should be 2" x 6" decking, not 4" x "6". Most likely this will be cut back when I build the concrete edging that surrounds the pit.

You can also see a test piece of track with the ties removed. I found that the PC board ties are right along the inside edge of the rail base. It will work fine, but if I were to do it again I'd move the PC board ties in slightly to better center it beneath the rail.

Normally I'd probably try using the Proto:87 Stores etched tie plates. But since they would be hidden by the rain guards I don't need to worry about them here. I'll use a similar approach to build the engine servicing pits and will try them there.

After gluing the decking with the usual Aileen's Tacky Glue, I turned it upside down and weighted it with a power driver. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Hayes Bumping Posts

Years ago, when laying track, I needed to get some bumping posts. Of course, being rather unglamorous, they don't show up in photos much. What kind to get?

In this photo (cropped from one taken on the other side of Main Street), we catch a glimpse of one just behind Embassy Diner. It resembles a Hayes bumping post, although it's not.

I then spotted this one in Plainville, near the old Cook's Quarry:

It's not the same as the one in the photo, but it's on old New Haven track. That's no guarantee that it's from my era though. I also found one at Waterbury Station:

So with two (and a part) prototypes to start from, I needed to see what I could find in HO scale. Since I don't have any complete pictures of any actually in New Britain, I decided to go with the Hayes type like in Waterbury. I haven't found an HO scale model of the Durable one that's in Plainville.

I knew that there were close matches to the one at Waterbury Station, and sure enough, here are models from Peco and Tichy:

The Tichy one is quite nice, and even comes with small bolt plates that go on the outside of the rail (not pictured). But I think the head (and strap) looks better on the Peco ones, and it also has the bolt attachment where the strap wraps around the head (not difficult to add though).

The issue for me, though, is that I need them in a number of places where the track ends at the edge of the layout. I'd prefer a brass one that I can solder to the rail to make them truly work as a bumper. The Tichy one might be sufficient with the crosspieces between the ties, but it's still assembled from several parts and I wanted to be sure they would hold up. If the Peco ones had included the crosspieces, I might have tried that since they otherwise look fantastic.

I'm probably overthinking it.

Regardless, Tomar does make a brass model.

The biggest issue with this, though, is that there is no head. Just a flat piece of brass in its place. My solution? Remove that (it's easy enough to do by grabbing a corner with a pair of needle-nose pliers and rolling it to peel it off), and I replaced it with the head from the Peco model, along with adding a nbw-casting to the strap. This also has the advantage of making sure the bumper itself cannot cause a short.

I then desoldered it from the piece of rail it's attached to, and soldered it to the end of the track I'm using so I can avoid the difference in appearance from the ties and the need for rail joiners here. I cut a gap in one rail to avoid shorts. To fill the gap, I use strip styrene of whatever size is a tight fit (or several pieces if needed), glued with CA. Once that's dry, I trim with a scalpel to the shape of the rail. Once painted and weathered it's virtually invisible.

You can clearly see the gap in one rail in these pictures.

I've noticed that some prototypical installations have the two short pieces of rail like the Waterbury Station one does, others do. I also added the bolt plates to the outside of the rails.

The finishing is basically the same process I use for the rails. Everything is sprayed with Rustoleum Camouflage paint, then weathered using Pan Pastels. Mostly black, dark gray, and primarily raw umber (including shade and extra dark). I used sparing amounts of the various iron oxide colors. They look too red to my eye compared to photos, but I think a small amount works well for variation.

I also used this as an experiment for rust finishes, particularly with adding some additional texture and areas of newer rust to contrast with the old rust. To do this, I dabbed on a bit of Future floor polish, then sprinkled some very find sand, into the Future. I also dabbed in Pan Pastel colors while it was still wet, and did multiple layers in a few places.

The two short pieces of rail were painted first with a couple of coats from a Woodland Scenics paint marker to see if that base would work differently, and it is slightly different. 

Looking at the pictures more closely, I'll probably lengthen the short rails that are inside the bumper.

I also didn't do anything to model the interior brackets that connect the bumper to the rail. If you wanted to include those, I'd probably use small pieces of brass, bent to shape, and soldered into place between the rail and the bumper. But they aren't very visible. Note that the Tichy one also includes the brace/spacer/connector that runs between the railroad ties. Those would also be easy enough to include, either of styrene or brass. I should have also paid a little closer attention to the location where the various components connect to the rail, since the rear of mine is over a tie instead of the space between them where this connecting piece would be.

Regardless, I'm happy with the results, and it highlights my general approach of treating the rail infrastructure as among the most important scenery on the railroad.

Friday, October 5, 2018

All You Have To Do Is...Part II

Subtitled: When Will The Madness End?

So looking at the corner where the lumber and supply companies are reminded me that Chris and I still hadn't gotten around to finishing the connection from the helix backdrop to the main layout backdrop. This has been a project that has been lingering simply because the back drop appears to need to be connected together in a place where it's quite a reach, and not really going to be that easy to do. So I looked at it again, and "All I need to do is get the helix backdrop behind the other backdrop" and the tension between the two will help set the location, then we can figure out how to attach the two together. So can I do that?

Working from inside the helix, with some work it seemed like I should be able to do so. Getting it all the way behind the other one put quite a lot of tension on it, and not only popped behind it, but all the way around that corner and lodged it's place into position. It completely changed the equation.

It totally opens up the corner. So much so, that I can add another missing siding, for P.F Corbin. you can see an upside down turnout on the right corner that I placed where it would go (I didn't have an extra right-hand turnout). But wait, there's more! "All I have to do is pull in the masonite across that side of the helix some more," then I can add at least one more industry to the layout. And it's one that receives reefers which is kind of neat.

This is going to take a bit more work, because I'll have to cut out that portion of the frame that's holding the backdrop up. In addition, the turnout will be a curved turnout on the inside of a 24" radius curve. So once I've got that together, I'll look at doing the backdrop. It's conceivable that I might be able to add a second industry here, but it's a turnout facing the other direction, with the track crossing the first. I'm not sure I can build that inside a 24" radius curve, and I'm not sure I really have enough real estate to fit it.

But could I do similar things to include other missing industries? Well, on the other side of the helix I could fit one additional one by cutting the corner where the Berlin Line and helix benchwork connect. That one's pretty easy because there's almost room for the siding already. "All I need to do is make enough room to model the coal dealer."

I've just found a way to add three missing industries to the layout, without crowding them in (it will actually improve the appearance as you come around the helix).What about the other corners?

While it would open the scene a bit, it won't have nearly as big of an impact. But I'll consider it in conjunction with the opposite corner:

In this corner there's also been quite a bit of compromise. The track that curves off to the right next to the backdrop goes into the Corbin Screw building. There should be a second siding to that small freight house mock-up, which is part of the Fafnir Bearing property. "All I need to do is push the backdrop back into the corner more" and I should be able to add that second track, and still have room to spot 3 cars on it. The short siding in front of the Corbin track receives tank cars for Fafnir, and would move slightly to the right. I've mocked up an (extra) set of the Micro Engineering Yard System turnouts, and it fits well.

This doesn't add an industry, but it does correct the operation a bit.

So yes, I've just added a bunch of work that will ultimately improve (greatly in my opinion) the scenic element of the layout. As a bonus, I can add from 1 to 5 additional sidings that are currently missing, depending on which projects I choose to do. Right now I'm planning on 4 of them.

Another model railroad truism?

By the time I finish building the layout, I'll know how to do it.

Monday, October 1, 2018

All You Have To Do Is...

Subtitled: Blind Spots

There's a running joke among our group of friends that somebody (it's usually blamed on me) will find something that could/should be changed. Most of the time this is something that has been not been noticed by the modeler in question.

Chris, of course, has been a frequent victim. Not because he misses a lot of things, but because he has a bunch of us helping on the layout, frequent visitors with their own experiences and expertise, and his (and our) constant research on the railroad and the Valley Line.

One thing I've heard many prototype modelers lament in one way or another is that it's often better to have less information. Because once you know something, you also know when it's wrong. For example, take a closer look at the builder's photo for a NH RS-1 (DERS-1b):

If you've read Chris's blog or mine, you might know where I'm going here, but notice anything unusual? Something different from RS-1s on, say, every other railroad?

Right, the number boards on the short hood are larger and mounted higher. This is on the first 10 (of 12) RS-1s owned by the New Haven. I haven't seen it on any other locomotives, and of course there isn't a model manufacturer who is likely to do the same. It's a blind spot if you don't know it's there. We often don't see such things because it's a small enough detail that it doesn't jump out at you, and our brain looks right past it because we don't expect it to be there.

Is it a big deal? No, probably not. But it's something small like that that is obvious to you once you know about it. Now you do too.

"All you need to do is, extend the number board up with a new frame, and fill in the bottom of the older one." Simple right?


To show that I don't exempt myself from discovering my own blind spots (and making changes as a result), today I was looking at making slight modifications to some trackwork so I could start to figure out the dimensions for the lumber sheds at Swift & Upson/New Britain Lumber (I've seen it listed with both, I think ownership changed during my era, but haven't researched extensively yet).
Essentially, I wanted more room to model the sheds, and it occurred to me that I could swing the tracks for both City Supply and the lumber company closer to the mainline. There's a lot of compromise in this corner because not only did I have to swing it around a corner, on the prototype it's a curve in the opposite direction.

I've moved the City Supply track closer to the mainline, and was experimenting with pulling the lumber track in that direction. You can see the cork roadbed from where the lumber track is currently.

Detail from Thomas Airviews aerial photo from 1955.

I want to leave room for modeling the City Coal & Wood building that will be removeable since it was torn down in the middle of my era. But I'm not quite sure how to do it, or exactly where it should be located.
The City Coal & Wood coal bin is the large gray building behind the L-1 #3229 in this capture from a Paul Wales video c1946. So I went to look at the Sanborn map (which is hanging on my wall) to get a closer look, and there it was:

Sure enough, the coal bin is right there on the map. And it reminded me that there were oil tanks there as well. This is later replaced by a gas station. It was a blind spot to me because I didn't expect that "coal bins" meant "huge building? But since I had never seen a picture of the coal bins until I had this video, I had never realized how large a structure it was. Looking at the aerial photo above, you can see the footprint from the building.

Is it a blind spot? Should I have known it was there? Sure, it's clear as day in this Kent Cochrane photo of an L-1, c1946:

I've picked out all sorts of detail from this photo, looking at the trackwork, ballast, speed limit sign, water pipe, the switchman's shanty, Union Manufacturing coal bins behind the shanty, the line poles, and of course the freight cars. But I never really noticed the City Coal & Wood coal bins because I just attributed it as a background building that won't be on the layout. I didn't see it in any other photos, and if I noticed it at all, I had no idea what it was.


So that building is on the City Supplies track, and City Supplies used to be City Coal & Wood. So the lumber track has to remain closer to where it is to allow room for that building. Ah, but there's another option. "All I have to do is push the backdrop further back into the corner." By reducing, or even eliminating the curve in the masonite, I have a lot more room for the scenery. It opens up the scene, but won't affect operation, since I don't really need to put any track farther back than it is. I could extend the lumber track a small amount, but it's probably not needed.

But it doesn't end there...