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 (, 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 ( - 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.