Sunday, May 1, 2022

Walthers Heavyweights on 24" Radius

My main track minimum radius is 26" and 28" radius. When I first got the Walthers parlor cars for the 600-series conversion, which note on the package that they will navigate 24" radius curves, I was surprised to find that they didn't even like the 26" radius. They would get hung up because something is rubbing on the underframe, or occasionally derail. I found that they were reliable on about a 26.5" radius, but I wasn't going to be rebuilding the helixes, so it meant figuring out how to modify the cars.

Now that I've decided to utilize the Walthers curved turnout in one location, I need to get them to work with the advertised 24" radius since that's the radius of the inner leg of those turnouts. Otherwise, lazy or not, I'll need to handlay a replacement with a proper 26" radius. However, the cars would still require some tuning to run reliably.

Restrictions to Minimum Radius

As modelers, one of the biggest restricting factors we have to deal with is space. As a result, we have to use much sharper radius curves than the prototype would. In addition, due to manufacturing limitations, many of the operational parts of are cars are overscale. Regardless, it's typically longer cars, like passenger cars, that have issues navigating our model curves.

From a design standpoint, modelers prefer broader curves because they look better, especially with longer cars. The amount of visible overhang is particularly obvious with older layout design approaches, such as waist-high benchwork where you're always looking down. In my case, the 26" radius curves on the inner main track looks acceptable since the benchwork is high, and it will be even less of an issue as structures are built. The switch that I need to be concerned about operationally is just at the entrance to the helix. It's not a very visible location and appearance is a non-issue.

There are two things that can affect what the minimum radius is. One is that the corners of the car themselves touch, and force one or the other car off the rails. This is unusual but is easy to fix by using couplers with longer shanks. These cars are designed with a coupler box that moves toward the side of the car to effectively lengthen the draw, so that's not the limiting factor.

The second, and more common, is truck swing. A car without a center sill would be able to handle very sharp radius curves, whether it looked good or not. But most cars have center sills and, as the car gets longer, that sill restricts that truck swing more.

Modifying the Cars

In this case, there are four locations where there is contact between the trucks/wheels and underbody that are contributing to the problem. Since I don't want to remove the center sill above the truck entirely (leaving an unsightly open gap that's visible from the side), how much more swing we can get is limited.

The backs of the wheels (circled) touch the center sill just before the brake beam (arrow) does.

You can also see that the mounting screw is offset. This offset increases the truck swing against the center sill. Relocating the mounting hole to the center of the truck would help, but is a much more involved solution and thankfully we don't have to do that here.


The wheels can also touch the plastic centering springs on the extended coupler box.


The tricky one is that inner truck assembly screws can also hit the center sill, even though there is a notch designed to accommodate them.



Here we can see the notch that is cut in the center parts, and also the portion that is molded into the underframe as part of the bolster. The arrow points to the plastic centering spring.


The centering spring is a simple matter of cutting them off. These cars will always be coupled in their consists, so there is no need to worry about them self-centering. Furthermore, I don't mind manually centering a coupler on a car if needed anyway.


I measured the center sill to just beyond the truck and shaved off the flange along the top. There's no need to remove anything else, the center sill itself allows enough truck swing. These flanges are what the wheels/brake beam can hit. Once painted, this (lack of) flange is virtually invisible when viewing from the side.


I used a Dremel to make the notch for the screws deeper. I left the center portion so there won't be a visible gap from the side.

Other folks have also filed any burrs off the screw, so I did that too. 



It only takes a matter of a few minutes, none of the modifications are visible when viewing the car from the side when on the track, and they very reliably handle 24" radius curves now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

600-series Coach Interiors

For the 600-series coach conversions, like the New Haven, I need to modify the interior and remove the rooms and parlor chairs and replace them with walk-over coach benches.

Before I get to how I'm detailing that, it probably helps to get there first...

Disassembling the Walthers Parlor Car

The model is ingeniously designed, and, except for a few screws and the windows, everything snaps together. There's an inner plastic frame and roof and sides simply snap in. To get the roof off I used a plastic painter's palette knife to pry the sides outward to free it. You can see the notches at the top of the false side, with the slots underneath them. That's where the roof attaches. The round holes are for small alignment pins on the car sides.

The sides attach the same way, into different slots. You'll note that this side doesn't fit. The slots are spaced in a way that each part only fits one way. I'm not terribly concerned about the slots for the car sides. I'll probably glue those in place when I'm done and leave the roof as just a snap-in part.


The subfloor is two metal weights sandwiched between the floor and the chassis. 
These are held in place by plain old clear tape from below.
The bulkhead is a snap in piece, and the ends also snap in.


To take out the interior you must remove three screws.
Two are under the trucks. One is in the center.
I'm not using these screws.


There are two thin metal pickups for electrical.
I won't be using these. They just pull out with a pair of pliers.
It requires a bit of effort, as they are taped in place.


Once the screws are removed, you can take out the interior in one piece.


There is some double-sided tape holding it in place in the middle.
This is also used to hold the chassis on when the screws are removed.
The steps are held into place by the chassis.


If you aren't going to use their lighting system, you can remove the connectors.
This requires removing the end and the chassis.
You can see the double-sided tape that held the chassis and pick-ups in place.


The floor itself is notched to fit around the snaps for the sides.
It also has small squares in an asymmetrical pattern, so it fits one way.


Building the Interior

I used the seating inserts and partitions from the Branchline (now Atlas) coach kits. You can get these parts from Bethlehem Car Works. I started by matching the thickness of the original floor with .030" styrene. I then cut out the four new floors I would need.

After a quick test, I found that it isn't necessary to cut the notches to fit around the snaps for the side. Instead, the floor can just sit on top of them. I will probably add a couple of pieces of styrene to the bottom so I can use double-sided tape to attach it to the subfloor so it will stay put.



I drew a center line, then marked out the aisle for reference: 23-3/4" from the plan, or 12" on either side is fine. Precision isn't necessary here since it's not going to be very visible from through the windows.

The women's saloon is on one end of the car and is 6' long. This is on the same side of the car as the car side that required the window arrangement to be modified.

At the other end, it is split into two parts; the lavatory is on the same side of the car as the women's, and the lavatory is on the opposite. These are both 4'-91/2" long. These are very close to the size of the Branchline lavatories so I just used those.

They consist of two pieces, but the partition is designed to fit into the Branchline side. I removed this long tab to make a simple partition.


I use a UMM scribing tool to mark the styrene part, rather than a knife. This carves a 'v'-shaped groove and leaves little squigglies of styrene. It is much smoother than using a knife and cuts faster. It's actually removing material, as opposed to a knife squeezing between the parts it's separating without removing anything. You can get a straight cut on the ruler side by tilting the tool.

A couple of passes is all you need before snapping the styrene, but in this case it's a small section that's tough to get to bend over. Instead of my usual scalpel, for thick styrene I'll use a utility knife. The scalpel blade is too flexible to use a lot of force (they can snap) so this is faster. A couple of passes with a file to square things up is all that's needed.


For the women's saloon, I used the stock branchline part, and glued an additional section of the partition to lengthen it to the required 6'. If you look carefully at the parts, the edges are slightly beveled. This is to facilitate them being removed from the dies. I make sure the bevel is the opposite direction between the two parts so it will be nice and straight when glued. Then I cut it to size and remove the tab.


With this ready, I mocked it up inside the car body.


The important thing at this point is to make sure the partitions are where they belong.
You don't want one in the middle of a window. As expected, these are perfect.



The seating needs to be rearranged a bit.
I remove the two ends (where the lavatories are) first.


The seats have a notch at the bottom of the sides.
This fits into the Branchline side, but is too long for the Walthers car.


I just snip them off with sprue nippers.


Three of the models I'm doing were built to the same plan. I had to deduce the plan for the fourth. In Wayne Drummond's excellent article Butterflies to Caterpillars (Shoreliner 21.3) are several pictures of the conversion process of parlor car "Gertrude" into coach 633. There are photos of each side, which made converting the car sides easy, and several interior photos while it was being modified.

It's clear that there is a single women's saloon, on the left side when looking toward that end of the car, and two rooms at the other end of the car. Looking at the exterior, there are two windows with frosted glass at the left end of that car side, the same as the other floor plan. In one of the interior shots you can see that there is a water cooler just next to the women's saloon, also like the other floor plan. And they are both 88-seat coaches.

With this information, it's clear that the interior arrangement is the same, and the men's saloon doesn't have a window. That makes it easy, since all of these cars have the same interior.

The Branchline seating is spaced 3' or so apart. The Plan shows a 3'-1/2" spacing. At either end are seats spaced slightly farther apart. I didn't do anything other than just get the arrangement correct with using a spare seating part.

My initial plan is to not glue the seats in yet so I could paint the floor and partitions separately from the seats. However, I also want the floor section of the Branchline seating. So now I think I will glue the seats in prior to painting, and hand paint the seats.

These cars (like most, if not all, New Haven coaches) have walk-over seats. At the end of a run, the conductor would reverse the seats in each car. Of course, we can't do that on our models. I will be installing passengers in the cars. While this probably won't be noticed by anybody while operating, it might show up in photos. Since these cars aren't turned at the end of the run, and I want to feature the car side that has been modified, I installed the seating in two of the cars facing the women's saloon, and the other two facing the other end of the car.

This interior is correct for coaches 600, 602-606, 608, 612, 619, 621, 622, and 627-37, or 22 of the 60 cars. Nine of which could have been assigned to trains running through New Britain during my era.



Thursday, April 14, 2022

More Passenger Cars

Yeah, a lot more. 

I was looking for some parts for the 600-series conversions, which led to me going through the passenger car parts that I have. Of course, that meant I started organizing and looking through other projects. Once something was out of the box...

It only made sense to look at several other projects in more detail to see what other parts I need to order.

Which lead to this:


You can look forward to some posts on the 7800-7950 series of rebuilt coaches (two in progress), a 60' baggage car with 15' mail compartment, and two 60' steel baggage cars in addition to the rest of the work on the four 600-series coach conversions. In all there are nine models in progress, and by the end of the month I should have everything I need to complete them.

I might as well, so I can bring them to the Prototype Meet this year. I might as well plan on a clinic too.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Amazing Finds

 It still amazes me that after all these years that new information, photos, videos, etc. continue to crop up.

In a thread on the NHRHTA Forum, somebody had pointed out a video by Joe Landry that has footage of the New Haven in and around Franklin, MA. Obviously, I love to check these out just to see more footage of the NH in action, but I hadn't gotten around to checking it out until now. It includes some phenomenal color footage from the early to mid-'40s. Even more surprising was a couple of the subjects captured.

Here's a still I captured from a run-by of a passenger train headed by a DL-109 on September 9, 1942. It's great footage, but what's nice is that it's from an overpass so we get a good view of the roof details.


But what I didn't expect was that this unit in September 1942 had not received winterization hatches yet. The first ten units were delivered this way, and an article from 1943 indicated that the NH had determined (as reported by P.H. Hatch, Assistant Mechanical Engineer) immediately after the first locomotives was placed in service that they were needed. Locomotives 0700-0709 arrived on the New Haven between December 1941 and April 1942. The second group arrived from Alco with the winterization hatches installed, starting in July 1942. I'm not sure I've seen an in-service photo without them.

Shortly after this in the video was another pleasant surprise. Color footage of Alco No. 1500, one of the RS-2 demonstrators that was built in December 1945.


I've seen a number of photos of this locomotive and knew it had been tested on the New Haven (photographed in Waterbury, among other locations, if I recall). But I've never seen a color photo, much less a video.

The whole video is quite interesting, with lots of info and more fantastic footage, including the Comet.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

More NH 600-series coaches

 I decided I could probably improve the car I had done a while ago that looked like this:


Part of the reason I decided to do it is the piece came out when I was removing the window glass (since I'll eventually have to paint these). The I had damaged the upper drip rail and the key joint that needed work is the one on the left, next to the other window. I concluded the best solution was to square up the left side and remove the drip rail entirely since I can replace it with strip styrene.


I test fit while working to ensure that my filing work was sufficiently square.


The new windows should be flush with the back of the side, but there are mounting pins at either end (I had already "removed" the ones in the middle). So I used a piece of Masonite between the pins as a workspace and glued the windows along the bottom and left side. As I applied the liquid styrene cement I pressed the windows toward the left to make that joint as invisible as possible.


Next was to replace the missing drip rail. A piece of .030" material fit, but was too tall for the drip rail.

I tried a scale 2" x 6" for the drip rail and 1" x "4 for a filler piece, but it was still a little tall.


So I split the difference with .015" x .060" for the drip rail and .015" x .040" for the filler. It's important to have a good supply of strip styrene for projects like this. I make a point of always purchasing something when I go to a hobby store, and styrene is always a good choice if they don't have anything else I need.


Here it is glued in place.


All that was left was to fill the small space to the right. I had filed this square as well so it would easily take strip styrene. As it turned out it was a bit wider than .030" and narrower than .040". While I could have filed that a little thinner, I went with a piece of .020" and .015" and that made a nice, tight fit.


Looks much better, and didn't take me very long at all.