Friday, April 28, 2017

Railbox Before and After

Tyco Railbox 10000 before and after - unweighted to spec, all-black arrow logo colored with acrylic paint, mounting tab holes filled in, closed stirrup steps painted open with flat black paint, ACI label, COTS stencil, weathered, door hardware highlighted with a Sharpie pen. Before photo courtesy of eBay seller baseballtraining, used with permission.

The Gastrodome

Here is another Life-Like Silver Inn 8053, after conversion to a trackside diner - shown here with the dome removed. It has been repainted, window glazing and LED lighting added. It is now permanently moored at Kenton Junction, where the locals call it "The Gastrodome".

The Tables are Set

Here is a Life-Like passenger car, originally Amtrak Silver Inn 8053, after a rebuild for the Cape Ann. The detail molded into the dining area in the dome is quite amazing, but generally unnoticed since the entire interior is all molded grey plastic. A careful repaint reveals that each table has four place settings, silverware, coffee cups, napkins, and salt and pepper shakers! Here the carpet has been painted yellow, chairs Cape Ann green, tablecloths purple. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Random Number Generator

Most of my freight cars live off the layout in a storage rack, and cycle in and out through the interchange tracks between sessions. The puzzle has always been how to select them randomly to get a realistic mix, and not just gravitate to selecting my "favorite" cars over and over again. (I have tried rolling dice and using the last digits from a column in the phone book). This Random Number Generator tool makes the task easy. Just type "Random Number Generator" in the Google search box to get to this utility.

Set the "Max" value to the number cars in the storage rack. Each time you click "Generate" you get a random number in the range. You don't need to actually apply numbers to the cars to find them - I quickly indexed them by inserting a numbered card every 10 cars. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Conrail hoppers at Marias

Before and After. A couple of Tyco "Old Dutch Cleanser" hoppers after a repaint and lettering for Conrail, seen here at Marias Industrial Park. Before photo courtesy of eBay seller baseballtraining, used by permission.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

9 Volt mini muffin fans

I was scrapping out a projector and salvaged two 12v fans. They run just fine on a 9volt battery. I use one at the soldering station to pull the fumes away from me, and the other on the paint bench. My weathering is all done with washes of acrylic paint thinned with isopropyl alcohol, and the washes dry almost instantly with the little fan blowing across. I can apply the next layer of wash right away. Sure speeds up weathering.

In the hole at Cascade

Work train stopped by a red signal at Cascade, waiting on a meet with the fast approaching Acadian streamliner. 

This is a DC cab control layout. The layout is fully signalized using 40 block signals. The signal aspects, however, are not like prototype practice. Signal indications have nothing to do with whether a block is occupied by a train or not! They only serve to tell you if the upcoming block is set for your cab.

There is a pair of signals at every block junction. They are connected across the insulated rail joiners to sense if the voltage is the same on either side. A green signal indicates the block beyond is set to the same cab as the block you are currently in - so you can proceed past the signal. A red signal indicates the block beyond is either set to the other cab or neutral (not powered at all).

If you come upon a red signal you must stop. You cannot run through it, as there is no power available for you beyond it. You have to claim the block by turning the appropriate panel switch before proceeding into it.

The goal of the system is to allow you to operate a train without removing your eyes from it. You keep one hand on the throttle knob and just observe the signals as you travel. This has a more realistic feel than constantly pressing buttons on a controller. 

Power is a Tyco GP20. Bunk car and Kitchen Car are old Train Miniature kits. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Global Warming

We have definite evidence of Global Warming appearing on the layout. These three penguins floated in on their little ice floe.

There are a dozen or so goofy little scenes like this on the layout. I keep some papers with a list of them for kids to do a scavenger hunt when visiting the layout.

Rockland Line

The Rockland Line is a short line connecting with the Cape Ann. Here we see two freshly-painted Fairbanks-Morse C-Liner A units heading up the ridge.

These are AHM units with the stock 5-pole vertical shaft motors, producing a pleasing growl as they head upgrade.

CP Rail arrival

Two CP Rail locos arrive on the layout with a cut of interchange cars coming in from Quebec. These are Bachmann pancake-motor locos which have been rebuilt, painted, decalled, and sooted up.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Twilight at Cascade Pass

Twilight falls on the Cape Ann. This is a trick shot - the headlight-shining-on-the-rails effect is really a LED penlight lying on the roadbed behind the stationary loco.

Maintenance Yard

The maintenance yard just had a couple bundles of replacement ties dropped off. These ties are cut from kitchen matches, glued up in bundles of 16, painted brown, banded with black pinstripe tape, and set up on spacers from flat toothpicks. The big cable spools are sewing bobbins, the little empty spools are glued up from washers and spacers.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Thrall Door Car - before and after

Before and After as this Illinois Terminal Thrall-door car is turned into Conrail 493048 and placed into service.

Selfie Stick

A Selfie Stick comes in handy for getting a new perspective, and taking photos from otherwise inaccessible areas. Here is a photo of the setup, and the resulting photo taken from the beach area way back in a corner. You would never know that drainage ditch was there otherwise!

GP-18's and F7's

The Cape Ann has chosen the AHM GP-18 and Bachmann F7 as "standard" road power. This takes into account cost (this is a low-budget operation, and we need quite a few - all locos have been purchased used on eBay for $15 or less), availability of used units from eBay, and ease of service. The back story is that CAX management likes to buy older, used power and rebuild them as needed in their own shops.

Bachmann F7A is the power for all passenger service . This 4 wheel pickup / 4 wheel drive pancake motor model is plentiful and cheap. Most modelers detest the pancake motor but I find them easy to use and reliable as long as you can get power into them uninterrupted, and they leave plenty of room for other mods. 

AHM GP-18 is the power for most freight service. This 4 wheel pickup / 8 wheel drive GP18 can be operated either-end forward, so we don't need to turn the loco.

Western Pacific 17653 a long way from home

One of my favorite layout photos - Western Pacific 17653 is dusty and a long way from home as it trails behind a pair of Cape Ann F7A units coming downgrade from Cascade.

This is a Tyco boxcar which has been repainted, decaled, and lightly weathered. The closed stirrup steps have been "painted open" with flat black paint to create the illusion they are open. The door hardware is touched up with a silver Sharpie pen.

I especially like this photo for the strong light and sharp shadows.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Model Railroading and Chess

Model Railroading, particularly operations, has quite a similarity to chess.

  • All pieces (cars) are always visible.
  • The goal is to move the pieces to certain destinations in as few moves as possible.
  • Moves must follow certain rules.
  • No two pieces can occupy the same space.
  • Some pieces are superior to others.
  • Series of moves must be planned in advance.
  • There is no time limit.
  • It is a game of strategy, there is no element of chance.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Train 60, The Merchant Express

Cape Ann’s midday train 60, the Merchant Express, rolls into Davis Yard. The crew had a lot of work back at Kenton to get this train organized. After dropping their southbound interchange traffic, they had to gather the cars destined for local delivery. The railroad likes pickups for the same destination to be blocked together, so it took a lot of switching moves to get cars in the proper order. Plus, to complicate matters, one pickup was a loaded tank car which cannot be coupled next to the locomotives for safety reasons.

The manifest:
BO 76893, LCL for Kenton Freight Forwarders.
BN 100458, LCL for Kenton Freight Forwarders.
BAR 5226, specialty paper for Chronicle Press.
CA 4722, machine parts for Chronicle Press.
EXX 1121, fuel oils for Glen Cove Fuels.

The crew will break for lunch as the yard switcher (visible above GP40 826) adds any additional local delivery cars. The hostler will run the engines around the train so it will be ready to depart as train 61, the Kenton Turn. There had better be at least one more car tacked on the end, to avoid the tank car restriction.

Getting the train put together and to this point was a good session’s work.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tied up for the night

It's been a long afternoon of switching interchange traffic on the Cape Ann, and shadows are creeping across the scene. The crew of 826/842 has tied up for the night and checked into Hotel Kenton. It's a bit seedy but clean. The Kenton Diner across the street, converted from an old heavyweight combine and a retired dome car, puts on a great steak dinner. The locals call the dome the "Gastrodome". Up early tomorrow with a string of cars to haul up the hill to Pamola.

Scratchbuild shipping containers

Here's how I scratchbuild shipping containers (no, they are not fold-ups) for HO or N scale, about 30 cents each. There's probably 100 in service on the layout. Link

Rockland short line

The Rockland Line is a short line connecting with the Cape Ann, bringing seafood down from the Maine coast bound for the Boston market. Here are two FM C-liners just repainted for Rockland.

F7B 453

F7B 453 has been evading the paint shop for quite some time. It is one of the few pieces of motive power still wearing this old paint scheme. Seen here passing by Pamola Siding, with a glimpse of Lonesome Lake in the background.

Styrofoam Scenery Clinic

Preview of the clinic on Styrofoam layout construction coming up Saturday, April 8 in Rochester NH. This is the "pass around" example piece to illustrate techniques of using Styrofoam for above-grade scenery, roadbed, and below-grade scenery. This piece shows the techniques progressing from left to right. Hope to see you there!

Two new CP Rail locos appear

Two Bachmann F7 units idle at Kenton Yard - after a repaint and decal job for CP Rail. These are pancake motor models which have had a rebuild, and constant intensity LED lighting added.

Styrofoam Benchwork

Hmmm, what is this? It is a MODEL of a MODEL RAILROAD. This is the demonstration section for the presentation on Styrofoam layout building for April's meeting of the NMRA Seacoast Division. Come see it happen Saturday April 8 in Rochester NH.