Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year!

Well, the last part of the year has gotten ever busier, so my modeling (and blogging) has been reduced. That's OK, it would have set a high bar to do three posts a week for an entire year. 

The busy schedule continues, as spent the day ballasting the Armory Line (and will probably do so tomorrow as well). It was unseasonably warm today.

You can make out the old passing siding (I think) to the left.
Probably 13' track centers. I'll have to measure it.

They replaced these ties, and we're filling in the ballast.

The compressor didn't feel like working today. So no tamping, just some old-fashioned manual labor with ballast forks, and then we used the Trackmobile to bring up a car full of ballast to dump along track. This section of track is still disconnected and requires work before it will support a locomotive anyway.

We also had a fantastic Christmas, and I got quite a bit for the railroad. A number of books, new tools and weathering pencils that I look forward to trying.

I'll report back on the tools and weathering pencils in future posts as I try them. I'll also need to look at where I stand on my current goals and how I'll address them in the new year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

New Haven Traffic Density

I recently subscribed to Trains Unlimited, which provides digital access to every issue of Model Railroader, Trains, Classic Trains and other Kalmbach train magazines (including new ones as they are released). And I found something interesting in the March, 2002 issue:

They have a map of traffic density on the New Haven in 1955. There are two similar maps in the Characteristic Charts (once published by NHRHTA), but they are for 1918 and 1919. I won't reproduce the Trains map here, but let's look at the data for New Britain.

The maps in the Characteristic Charts indicate the number of trains and average daily tonnage:


  • 6 westbound, 3624 tons
  • 6 eastbound, 5592 tons

What's interesting, though, is they indicate the traffic in each segment. In this case, between Plainville and New Britain, and vice versa. By looking at the next segments, we can deduce the traffic in New Britain:

New Britain to Hartford is:

  • 6 westbound, 3221 tons
  • 6 eastbound, 4846 tons

So on the westbound run, an average of 403 tons was added in New Britain, and on eastbound trains 746 tons were dropped in New Britain.

The Berlin Line doesn't have any traffic noted, but there's an arrow that indicates "Switching Service."

I can't do a similar calculation west of Plainville because there are 7 trains each way.


  • 8 westbound, 5826 tons, 1657 tons picked up in New Britain
  • 8 eastbound, but I can't read the tonnage. 

Number of Cars

I don't know what the average load was for each freight car, but I do know that the average load was less than the capacity of the cars based on other research. So here are two estimates using the 1918 data:

  • 30 ton cars, 13 cars westbound, 25 cars eastbound.
  • 20 ton cars, 20 cars westbound, 37 cars eastbound.


So how does this compare to 1955?

The cool thing about the map in Trains magazine is that it gives the number of cars instead of tonnage.

  • New Britain to Plainville: 3 trains, 101 cars, both ways
  • New Britain to Berlin: 3 trains, 113 cars
  • Berlin to New Britain: 3 trains, 121 cars

Since all trains route over the Berlin Line, that gives us 12 cars dropped and 20 cars picked up.

One thing to keep in mind is that this shows us the net change but hides equal numbers of drops/picks. In other words, it could be 32 cars dropped and 40 cars picked, with a net 12 and 20. Those three trains in 1955 served the Canal Line north of Plainville or the New Hartford Branch.

  • New Hartford Branch is 1 train, 8 cars both ways
  • Plainville to Westfield is 2 trains, 88/86 cars
    • Williamsburg/Northampton is 1 train, 14/15 cars
    • Holyoke is 1 train, 51/34 cars

The imbalance in Holyoke is probably outbound cars being interchanged.

So it won't actually give us a specific count of cars to/from New Britain, but it does give us some more information to help make sure that the amount of traffic looks right. As modelers I think we sometimes have the tendency to run more cars during an ops session than is prototypical. That's fine, of course, and it's often because we want to have enough to do during a given session. In the near future I'll explore an alternative to adding additional traffic to provide enough work for your operators.

Friday, December 10, 2021

New Tool - DSPIAE Sprue Nippers

For my birthday I got a new tool. This is from the same company that produced the bending tool I recently picked up. Since I received a free Amazon gift card I decided I'd see how their other tools are.

It's packaged in the Apple approach, with a very well-designed box and inner packaging. Although I don't particularly care (and environmentally-minded types probably wouldn't like it), it does give the feel that this is a high quality product.

It really is. It works considerably better than any other nippers I have, including a couple of types of Xuron nippers, and some other brands I don't even recall. Although they are sharp, I think the real key to their performance is their design.

In the regular Xuron nippers, the blades meet rather than sliding past each other. This makes it possible to get a flush cut. But they tend to have relatively large wedge-shaped blades that push apart the material when cutting. Like track cutters, it means that one side of the cut is flush, but the other side is more "squashed" and not square. Even worse, if you desprue fine plastic parts in the wrong order, you can break some as the blades push apart the material.

These nippers are similar to the typical Xuron flush nippers. But it has one blunt blade that is a similar thickness to the usual nippers, and a second cutting blade that is nearly as thin as a razor blade. The blunt side works as a cutting surface for the razor. As a result it makes a very clean, stress-free, flush cut.

I'm sure this isn't the only brand that makes a nipper of this design, but this is the only one I'll need. The ultimate test for a nipper for me is an old Branchline sprue. The plastic for a lot of these kits has turned brittle over the years. They were tough to desprue cleanly before, but now I've even had an entire passenger car side break just from the force/stress of cutting it off the sprue. These cut it cleanly, easily, and no significantly noticeable stress to the parts. 

It even comes with written instructions (in addition to the ones on both sides of the inner packaging), and a cleaning cloth.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Rapido X31A - Trucks

I've been continuing my work on the Rapido X31A box cars, but I've seen (or been told in person) several comments about the quality of the casting of the trucks. I found that interesting, since nothing jumped out at me. At least two have mentioned they will use the superior Bowser ones intead.

That piqued my interest, and since I have both I thought I'd compare.

Which do you prefer? I put the same wheelsets in both

Here's a prototype photo:

And after I painted them with raw umber oils and stippled in raw umber Pan Pastels.

The other side:

I'll do additional weathering, but I like this as a base.

My thoughts? The Rapido is superior. It's the one on the right.

First let me point out that the Bowser truck is at least a decade old. I don't know when they first produced the car, but it is a very well tooled truck.

It's not easy to see in the photos, but the brake rigging is cast as part of the sideframe, while on the Rapido trucks they are separate parts and in line with the wheel treads.

The bolster is different, with the Rapido one a better match for the prototype, as are the journal box covers.

The Bowser truck is also lacking a spring plank. It's the U-shaped steel sheet that can be seen under the springs in the prototype photo. This spring plank spans the truck between the two side frames. A patent was issued in 1940 for the spring plankless truck design, with the application from 1939, 3-5 years after these cars were built. 

Another comment I've heard is that there is no raised lettering on the Rapido truck. Well, there isn't any on the Bowser truck either. But I also haven't been able to find any prototype photos where it is anywhere near as obvious as it is on other types of trucks. 

The Bowser truck isn't a bad truck at all. But the Rapido one is quite a good match to the prototype photo. At least to me.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Next Layer of Weathering

An important part of, well pretty much anything you learn, is figuring out how to recover from a mistake or when a problem arises. I wasn't completely happy with the last layer of weathering on this car, but I don't think it's easily removeable. If this was a model I cared about, how would I fix it?

I went back to oils. Since the tinted clear coat should have sealed the initial layer (which is pretty invisible now anyway), I should be able to do this without affecting it. Regardless of whether it's having the effect I wanted, I could at least test this theory...

I picked up a couple of other colors, and worked on a layer using primarily the raw umber as a sort of wash/filter to tint the grime, and also to add a bit of rain streaking from top to bottom.