Sunday, April 15, 2018

Solar Panels

Do your remote lineside buildings and signals need a power source? Make your own solar panels! Here we see a panel installation on a section maintenance shed.


These are made by layering the following materials:
1. thin styrene base 
2. vinyl electrical tape (for black color)
3. clear packing tape (for a shiny surface)
4. fiberglass mesh drywall tape (for individual panels)



Stick the layers onto the styrene then cut around the desired size panels. That's all there is to it. Light 'em up!



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Lineside relay enclosures

New HDMI cables come with protective plastic dust caps over the ends. These make handy HO scale lineside relay enclosures. These are painted off-white or aluminum, and the doors are drawn on with a fine-point Sharpie pen. They rest on a couple of small nails poked into the layout, so they stand up a bit off the ground, like the prototype. 


Passenger car before and after

I primarily use rebuilt Tyco passenger cars. They are rugged, and shorter than prototype so they fit and look better on the layout. Here is the before and after the rebuild: Stock Tyco car on the right. A rebuild is on the left. Rebuild includes removal of the man-with-pipe-reading-newspaper silhouettes, replacing old light bulbs with constant intensity LED lighting, new diffusers, new paint, and decals. Note the advantage of the new lighting: this train is standing still. The bulbs on right car are off. The LEDs on the left car are at full brilliance. This is a DC layout, no decoders needed. Pickups are wired through a bridge rectifier so the LEDs see consistent polarity independent of direction of travel, and a keep-alive capacitor keeps them immune to dropouts. 





Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Hole for Mr. Dremel

Who knew a 1.5" hole could improve life so much? Anyone who ever uses a Dremel tool knows there is no easy way to just set it on the workbench, it wants to roll away, fall on the floor, and bust up the cutting wheel. Today I got a bit fed up with it and cut a 1.5" hole in the edge of the bench. Now I can just plug that baby down in the hole, attachment and all.



Friday, March 30, 2018

A Spray Paint Cosy

The Model Railroad Luddite does not have an airbrush. All painting of rolling stock is done outdoors using spray cans, in an area sheltered from wind. Spray paint can be used successfully if the paint is warmed up first. This thins it for a more even application,  increases the available internal pressure needed to propel the paint, and makes the nozzle less prone to clogging. The can is placed in an old baby wipes container, then the container is filled up with hot tap water. After 15 minutes or so the paint is nicely warmed up and thinned. After some shaking it is ready to use.



I only use Rustoleum brand "Painter's Touch" line which is marked as safe for plastics. Be careful, the regular Rustoleum is not! I also write on the can which roads that color is used for.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Blog split!

This blog has evolved into a catch-all, so it will likely be an improvement to split it into two. This blog (The Model Railroad Luddite) will focus on ideas for low-cost or no-cost model railroading, and keeping the hobby simple and non-technical. The new companion blog, Railfanning the Cape Ann Rail System, will be more a tourist feel, and will focus on "railfan photos" of locomotives, rolling stock, and railroad operations. Hope you will follow both and enjoy! - Rick

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to search for blogs by topic!


Finally, and totally by accident, I have found how to search for blogs of a given topic, and how to collate new posts from them onto one page for easy reading.

It turns out that terms you add to your profile become LINKS, and you can click on them to search for bloggers using the same terms in the same boxes - whether it be interests, location, books, movies, industry, occupation. You are really searching for bloggers (not blogs about a given topic), but the result is essentially the same.

To search for a blog about a topic:

So just add your desired search term to your own profile as an INTEREST, then click on it. Or click on anyone else’s listed interest.

To collate new posts from followed blogs:
  1. Follow blogs of interest.
  2. If the blog you like does not have a FOLLOW button, copy the blog's URL to your clipboard
  3. Go to Dashboard (from some pages, the link says DESIGN)
  4. Go to Reading List (in left column)
  5. At BLOGS I FOLLOW click the pencil,
  6. Click ADD
  7. Paste in the URL
  8. On your DASHBOARD (also called DESIGN on some pages), click READING LIST.
  9. There they are!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Oasis

The Oasis is a little bar across from the Amtrak station in Shelby, Montana. It is quite photogenic, especially for its sign offering casino, bar, dancing, and live bait; apparently all at the same time.


photo by Jim Roth

So of course, Kenton has to have one. I picked up a similar little building at our local NMRA meeting's swap table. After some mods and a coat of paint, and some signs cropped from the prototype photo, we give you the The Oasis of Kenton:





Thursday, March 15, 2018

Section work car 992

The Cape Ann has two section work cars in MoW service. Each is assigned to one end of the layout. These are used for day-to-day routine work that does not require a full work train. This Tyco 50' flatcar has a caboose body to provide a place to ride and shelter, and the 20’ intermodal container provides secure storage for tools and supplies. They do require special handling - the locomotive must always couple to the caboose end, so there is unrestricted access to the doors of the container. Like all non-revenue equipment, it carries a 9XX road number.




Nick Cook found this similar prototype!


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Blue flags at Bolton

Bolton Shops now has blue flag lanterns in place for use when servicing equipment. The shops has five "parking spaces" for equipment - two inside, three outside. A pair of blue LEDs has been installed between the ties at the end of each space, wired to a panel switch. The top of the LED has a cap of black paint to give it a lantern-like appearance. Now when a loco or car is being serviced, the blue flag lanterns can be switched on to alert workers.




Thursday, February 22, 2018

Video runby of the intermodal train

Video runby of the intermodal train. Two modified AHM GP-18's lead a string of Tyco 40 footers with intermodal containers.


More containers on Tyco flats

The start of the project. Probably can't get 4 well cars from Walthers for $14.49.


This uses good old Tyco 40' flats which normally hold 3 pipe sections. First the divider tabs which separate the pipe loads are ground off with a Dremel tool. Then the flats are painted (here I used red auto primer) and decaled. Closed stirrups are painted open with flat black paint. Pay no attention to the "48" behind the curtain - the length designation, common on well cars, is just part of the illusion that the cars are 48 feet long. An Athearn blue box cover is handy to hold them on edge for this work.


For scale size containers I use 1" x 1" SFS (Sanded Four Sides) wood molding, sold by the foot at Home Depot. An 8' piece will yield about 24 containers for less than $10. Now to simulate sitting down in a well car, I am going to trick the eye with a shorter container. I had a friend with a table saw rip the molding down to 1" x 3/4". The length is a fudge also, they have to be 34' long (not 40) to fit inside the molded in tray on the flat.


The container sides are prepped for the wood blocks, and the blocks painted to match. Details on this technique, and links to container side images, are found here >> http://rickmillsproject.com/mrr/containers.html



How the illusion is done. Normal height container on the right. Shorter container on the left. When the short one is set in the flatcar tray, it will appear to be sitting down recessed within the car. HA HA HA! So much easier than cutting out the floor of the car!


Normal height container on left. Shorty container on right, appears to sit down inside the tray of the car. Can be double stacked with a normal container on top too.








Saturday, February 10, 2018

Opening car hoods

Opening the hoods on HO scale cars on the used car lot by optical illusion ... the hoods are painted flat black. A second hood is cut from styrene, painted to match the car, then propped and glued on top of the SALE signs, lettered with leftover decals.



Thursday, February 8, 2018

Lifting 20' containers at Kenton

The crane operator at Kenton Freight Forwarders has just placed a 20' intermodal container on a flat for delivery. This Tyco 40' flat has had its center dividing tabs ground off so the container rests within the molded tray. The lift rig is made from scraps of brass rail soldered together.


Containers are scratchbuilt from 1x1 wood molding. Details


Monday, February 5, 2018

Garbage - before and after

Some acrylic paint brushed on makes this Matchbox garbage truck a bit more garbage-worthy.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday night at Kenton

Sunday evening and the Kenton station is a madhouse when the Amtrak Downeaster and Cape Ann's Acadian are at the station simultaneously.


Diner prototype

Here is the prototype for the diner. Note the AC unit and ductwork on the roof has been copied on the model.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bill & Irene's Diner

What to do with a dummy trolley that is way too old for your layout's era? Add some lights, signs, details, and tack on a kitchen out back.


An AC unit has been hoisted onto the roof, with ductwork from a scrap plastic sprue. The rooftop HVAC unit over the walk in cooler is a Lego block with washer fans on top. Wood furniture screwhole buttons make the two domed vents over the grill. #24 wire forms the plumbing vent stacks over the kitchen sink and rest rooms. 

The diner is named for Bill Sweet and Irene, model railroad friends from Lockport NY.

No more dark territory

June 28, 2016 was a momentous day. On that day, four years after the first rail was laid on the Cape Ann,  the last of the temporary coffee-stirrer block marker flags was removed and tossed in the ditch. By the end of the day, there would be no more dark territory as the layout became fully signalized. This required the installation of 40+ signal masts and 2 signal bridges. All are controlled automatically as blocks are selected from the control panels and comparator circuits beneath the layout compare adjacent block assignments to light the correct aspect.

Signal masts are scratchbuilt from brass tubing, LEDs, ladder from plastic canvas, and bases from old computer keyboard keys. Details >> http://rickmillsproject.com/mrr/signals/signals.html


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tyco flats with containers

Tyco 40' flats have been repurposed from carrying those little pipe sections to carrying intermodal containers. This required grinding off the divider tabs on the floor of the flats. The molded-in tray holds the containers nicely!


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Simple Car Cards and Waybills

Simple Car Cards and Waybills



Routing on my layout is by homemade car cards and waybills. 

Each industry or destination is assigned a three letter code. 

The car card (yellow) and the waybill (white) are tucked together in a baseball card sleeve. The waybills can be 2 cycle or 4 cycle - these are 2 cycle - pull it out of the sleeve and turn it over to reveal the next destination. Destinations are written in large red letters for easy visibility. The destinations also appear on the U-channel which runs along the fascia. The U-channel is vinyl molding made for bathroom tile, and has a flange which is tacked to the underside of the fascia. The U-channel makes a handy spot to store the cards.

These two cars have just been spotted at PTC. After the session, one of the housekeeping tasks is to go around and advance the waybills so the next destination is showing.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cab-eye view at Cascade Pass

Rugged landscape on the Cape Ann. This is as we come around the curve at Cascade Pass heading into a long 3% downgrade to Kenton. Be ready to apply the brakes.




Cable spools and pallets

Some quick yard details … found some clear plastic sewing bobbins at W-Mart. Some grayish paint and a little wire made some nice cable spools. I used some scrap stranded #24 AWG from CAT5 network wire. The pallets are glued up from flat toothpicks.




Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tight quarters at Marias Industrial Park

Switching at Marias Industrial Park is a bit of a challenge. The park is a simplified version of a John Allen Timesaver layout. It has one entry, and has a mish mash of facing point and trailing point spurs, as well as several industries which share a spur, often requiring moving a car temporarily in order to service the other industry.




Action at Quinn Intermodal

Quinn Intermodal Yard sees a lot of container movement. This yard primarily serves 40' containers, but there are a few 20's stacked up at the moment. The double stack train in the background is being offloaded. Here is an article on how the Quonset hut was scratchbuilt >> http://rickmillsproject.com/mrr/quonset.html



Monday, January 8, 2018

Davis station

The passenger station at Davis is a Tyco kit. It has been painted in the railroad's color scheme, and the roof painted with flat dark grey. The window have been glazed with translucent plastic from a milk bottle, and a light placed inside.




Thursday, January 4, 2018

Plymouth Shop Switcher #207

Here is cute little Plymouth switcher 207, used as a shop switcher at Bolton Shops. We see it poking along with Wheel Storage Car 916, which the shop crew jokingly refer to as a "Grade Indicator Car".


Alco 1000 #273

Here is Cape Ann 273, an Alco 1000. The railroad got it in a trade for some surplus gondolas. It has not run since it was towed in. Now it is parked on the rear track of Bolton Shops. When the shop crew has nothing better (meaning, revenue producing) to do,  they tinker with it. If they can get it running, it will serve as their shop switcher. So it is unlikely to ever get cleaned up and repainted in Cape Ann colors.




Tower KT - Kenton Tower

Kenton Tower (KT) controls movements at Kenton Yard, a small fright yard; and Kenton Passenger Station, seen in the background. Kenton is the only stop for the Amtrak Downeaster on the layout, and Cape Ann's passenger traffic transfers at Kenton for points served by Amtrak. 

Cape Ann's passenger system is not a part of Amtrak. Being entirely an intrastate system (operating only within the State of Maine) it opted out of joining Amtrak in 1971.


Tower DT - Davis Tower

Tower DT, Davis Tower, controls movements in Davis Yard (foreground) and the lead to Quinn Intermodal passing behind it. 


Tower ST - Sanford Tower

Sanford Tower is sometimes - incorrectly - referred to as "South Tower", as it controls the south interchange tracks. It is at the end of the scenic'd portion of the layout. Note the train order signals. If an operator encounters a red train order signal, they must stop and inquire of the tower operator for their train order. This is done by rolling the dice. Here a 5 has been rolled. Referring to the posted card, the train must back to Kenton Yard for minor RIP needed on the loco.

Note Emma the Stegosaurus, Organic Switcher #13. A tribute to John Allen, her job is to inspect incoming interchange for hot boxes.





Tower MT - Marias Tower

This little no-frills tower is smack in the middle of Marias Industrial Park, which can be a switching nightmare. If you are familiar with John Allen's Timesaver switching puzzle, Marias Industrial Park is a simplified version of it. One lead in, with a mishmash of facing-point, trailing-point, and shared spurs to negotiate. 


Tower GT - Glen Cove Tower

Glen Cove Tower is the busiest tower on the layout, as every train passes by it. It serves the junction of the "high line" mainline up to Cascade and Pamola, and the "low line" serving Glen Cove, Cape Ann and Davis. To add to the chaos, Kenton Freight Forwarders, the busiest customer on the layout, is served by a spur here shared with the Bolton Shops; so traffic is constant here.

Glen Cove Tower also has the dubious distinction of having the worst record in switching moves. Not a session goes by that a train winds up on the wrong track and has to back up.



Tower PT - Pamola Tower

Remote Pamola Tower (PT) and section house. Pamola siding is in the background. The black signals in the foreground are train order signals set by the tower operator. If a train encounters a red (stop) train order signal, they must inquire with the tower operator - by rolling a dice and reading the (random) result from a card posted nearby.



Tower QT - Quinn Tower

Quinn Tower (QT) which controls movements in Quinn Intermodal Yard, off to our left. Behind we see Davis Tower (DT) which controls movements in Davis Yard (off to our right).