Wednesday, February 22, 2023

No Rail Joiners

These are KV Models compromise joint bars. On the left is Microengineering Code 55 track, and the right is a Peco Code 83 curved turnout. The KV Models joint bars can be soldered to the rail, so I figured I could go a step further and eliminate the rail joiners at the same time.

You can also see one of the reasons I personally don't care for Peco track and turnouts - their tie plates and spikes are significantly larger (out-of-scale) than Microengineering. I'll be able to reduce this with painting and weathering and, of course, it would be less noticeable on a layout that is all Peco track.

Although I'm not doing this everywhere, I am using the approach throughout New Britain Yard and other newly replaced track that will be close to the fascia. Especially in cases like this where the rail code is different.

The basic process I'm using now:

  1. Use a Dremel with a wire brush to polish the backs of the joint bars while still on the fret.
  2. Tin the backs of the joint bars while still on the fret.
  3. Clean/use a Dremel with a brush to polish the rail.
  4. Apply flux to both sides of the rail.
  5. Apply solder paste to both sides of the rail.
  6. Apply solder paste to the back of the joint bars while still on the fret.
  7. Cut the joint bars from the fret and apply to both sides of the rail.
  8. I lightly squeeze the joint bars with a pair of tweezers in place, then touch the iron to the top of the rail.

I polished and tinned the entire fret at one time. I apply the solder paste only to joint bar just prior to cutting off the fret to install. The flux/solder paste is sufficient to hold the joint bar in place in the web of the rail, I squeeze them just to ensure they are securely soldered to the rail web. The extra tie in the photo above was to raise the Code 55 rail into the correct position. In addition to the shorter rail, Microengineering ties are shorter than Peco.

This is the only Peco turnout on the layout, and I have four Walthers turnouts too. Despite the enormous flexibility in modifying Microengineering turnouts, they can't be used for everything. The track geometry here needed a 28" radius diverging track, which is a close match for the Peco turnout. The Walthers ones are also on this track around the top of the helix for similar reasons.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

DL-109 clinic on March 4 Hindsight 20/20

 I'll be presenting a clinic on the details and paint schemes of the NH DL-109s on the Hindsight 20/20 virtual meet on March 4.

I've been unearthing additional information even as I finish preparing the clinic, so I'm excited to bring some new clarity to the pre-rebuild DL-109s and their many variations and paint schemes.

It's free to attend, sign up here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The new New Britain Yard

Thanks to John Drake switching back to N-scale, I was able to get the turnouts I needed to rebuild New Britain Yard.

I covered the reasons I did this here, but I'll summarize in no particular order - 

  1. My modeling skills have improved, and the ground cover and ballast of this section (the centerpiece) wouldn't match or be up to the standards of what I'll be doing now.
  2. I wish I had used code 55 track for the yard.
  3. I need to add switch machines to the main track switches, which is easier to do when they aren't already in place.
  4. I need to separate track 1 and 2 into individual electrical blocks for signaling.
  5. I was very happy with the 1-7/8" track centers in Whiting St. Yard. which would also allow me to add the missing track to New Britain Yard.
  6. Other track arrangement issues, I was able to make more room for the crossing shanty, for example.

Here's a few in-progress shots. Because I tore everything up, instead of using N-scale cork roadbed I used the craft foam I used for Whiting St. Yard. Although just a smidge shorter than the N-scale cork coming into the section, it's not a huge difference. I can draw on it to lay things out easily.

To mock it up, I have 3/4" wide strips of masonite (left over from the prior layout when I had cut them for spline roadbed). I prefer to work from the edge of the track, rather than the center line. I think it's more precise (at least for me). The 3/4" between the edge of the ties sets the track centers to 13'3" with the NH standard at 13'. Close enough for me. I think it looks better too, with another bonus being that I can fit the missing Track 13 and have a slightly wider spacing before tracks 15 and 17. 

I didn't pull out the tracks in the asphalt. So Track 1 and Track 2 are still on 2" centers. Although by the time I was finishing this up I realized it wouldn't have been too difficult to deal with that, It will work fine as is.

The switch shanty has an appropriate amount of room now. Still tight, but not much more than the prototype. It also required reworking the engine servicing tracks, also code 55 now.

Is all this worth it? I think so. Here's a picture of the original arrangement:

Note that the yard proper is only 3 tracks. Track 13 should be a long track that crosses Elm St. Without the fourth track, the crossover between the two is missing too. Here's the prototypically accurate arrangement:

Not a huge change by itself, but operationally I think it may be. In addition, the yard tracks are now Code 55 rail. I'm also not using any rail joiners in this section. Instead, I'm using KV Models joint bars, which can be soldered.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Gift of Model Railroading

 As much as I enjoy modeling, it's the modeling community that I enjoy perhaps even more. Of course, this past weekend was the Amherst Railroad Hobby Show (aka the Springfield Train Show). Although last year was the first post-covid show, a combination of omicron and a blizzard meant it was not quite the return as intended.

Not this year. Attendance was over 21,000 and it certainly felt like it. I don't typically need much, so I prefer to be involved. 

The reality was, in part because of Emily finally coming home from the hospital after a 4-month visit just a few days before the show, I wasn't well prepared. I didn't have a shopping list ready, barely had things to sell, and didn't get the things ready to display what Chris Z. and I have been up to. Since I didn't have a table this year, I helped Dale (not much) at his, but did sell a few of the trucks that Chris and I made.

Of course, I saw lots of folks, and that was the most fun for me. We had a great return to the Steaming Tender parlor car for dinner, even if the new arrangement isn't very conducive to moving around to see people. Shows like this really help motivate me to make some progress on my layout.

I did manage to get a couple of things, though. Dale handles the table for the Amherst club, and this year most of the table consisted of cars and buildings from Dick Elwell's layout, who passed away a few months ago. Of course, Dick was a master modeler and well known from features in Model Railroader and elsewhere. I had the pleasure of operating on his layout in the past too.

I managed to snag a couple of Tangent tank cars Dick weathered. Like the Russwin smokestack my buddy Craig Bisgeier made, Dick's modeling will live on, not only on my layout, but many, many others.

And they aren't the only ones. Probably the highlight of the weekend for me was a generous gift:

A mutual friend of Bill Welch gave me this Sunshine Rock Island box car built by Bill, who also sadly passed away last year. It appears Bill hadn't quite completed the car, it's not weathered yet, and I'm torn between leaving it as is, and weathering it as my contribution his beautiful work.

It's not really the freight car itself that moved me. The real gift of this hobby are the thoughtful and generous friends we make. I love going to the shows, not just to see my many modeling buddies, but to meet new ones too. It's a hobby that only grows richer the more folks we know, and it's a community built on helping each other reach their modeling goals.

I'm not sure I'll be quite as influential as the Dick Elwells, Bill Welches, or Allan McClellands, who also passed last year. I often wonder what I can offer to my friends who are such accomplished modelers. Over the years I've found that I do have ideas, research, and many other things that I could provide to even them. But the real lesson that they have passed on is that it's not what we can offer them, but what we can offer others. 

They were inspired by those that came before them, just as we are by them. And just as they have passed on their love of the hobby, their excellent modeling, and how they did what they did in clinics, articles, and sharing directly, we can too. The richness of model railroading can be seen in their work, but that's the past. The hobby grows by sharing what they have done, and we do, with others and building upon the foundations they and those before them have built.