Wednesday, June 1, 2022

More Passenger Cars - 15' RPO

I've been working on a number of things getting ready for the NE Proto Meet so I'm a little behind on posts. In addition to the modifications for the 600-series coaches, I've been working on an RPO.

A year or two ago Belthlehem Car Works released a NH Baggage car with 15' RPO apartment. Joe Smith detailed how he scratchbuilt a car with a 30' apartment on his blog.

The kit has a cast resin roof, injection molded ends, and 3D printed resin sides, with the original CAD by John Sheridan. The floor is a piece of styrene with injection molded fishbelly center sills. It's a pretty easy kit to assemble, although I felt the instructions could have been a little clearer in regards to building the floor. I'm not sure my approach matched what was designed, but it worked for me. 

Here's a picture of one of the cars in Danbury. One of these cars was regularly assigned to train 131/136 so it's a key car for my layout.

In examining photos it appears that by my era, the mail catcher bar isn't used, or at least not by the time the train gets to New Britain. It may be stowed after passing stations that use a mail crane. I didn't really like the etched parts either, so the simple safety bar seems like a good option.

Regardless, I needed to make the brackets used to hold either of the bars in place. To do this I glued a couple of 1"x2" strips at one end, and then put a piece of wire between them.

I then glued it on the other side, and used tweezers to squish the top piece to fit tightly around the wire.

After doing this at the other end, I trimmed them to fit. The wire is moveable, since it's not glued by the styrene cement.

That allowed me to glue one side on first...

...then the other.

In these photos you can just make out the 3D printing lines which are very, very fine. This is not a resin casting of a 3D printed part.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Visiting an Old Friend

A couple of weeks ago we ran a test session on Bill's new layout. I'm terrible at taking photos while doing things, since I'm more interested in being in the moment. But we had a great time, and it's a lot of fun working the different jobs so we can help Bill fine tune the operations.

However, since I arrived a little early, I did take some photos a couple of days later when Bill and I went to Bruce's house for an inaugural test session there on his layout. What makes it special is that Bruce's layout is actually Bill's old layout.

It was nine years ago (!) that we dismantled Bill's O&W layout that was in an upstairs bedroom. I don't remember exactly when, but our last ops session would have been shortly before that. Since then, we've been helping Bruce reassemble it in his basement. Long time readers may be familiar with how much of an influence Bill and this layout has had on my modeling. I cover it in more detail in this clinic.

What's most interesting is that it feels both like the same layout, but also like a new layout. Since the decks are no longer stacked, it opens up the scenes in a different way. And Bruce's additions to tie them together, plus an additional freelance town yard, also add operational options that we didn't have in the past. I started pulling out of staging into the new yard so do some quick switching first, then run through the entire layout. There were a few hiccups but overall, it worked well. This is where it really felt new, with a through train that no longer had to traverse a helix.

After that I ran the Roscoe local, and that felt just like old times - switching in Roscoe, plus a little in Livingston Manor. Once you're focused on the actual work, whether there was another deck above the town didn't really matter.

The biggest change is that Bruce is running mostly steam. Because of the helix and the tight curves to accommodate the small room, Bill hadn't designed the original layout for steam. Bruce was able broaden the curves and has made some additional modifications to the track arrangements to accommodate this.

It was enormously fun to be running on this layout with good friends (and a few good beers). It was like visiting an old friend that you haven't seen in years, and I'm looking forward to when Bruce is ready to host regular sessions.

Livingston Manor


The new yard.

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.