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.