Tuesday, March 29, 2011

American Electrics, Out West Edition

We've mentioned here before that we like electric trains, especially those that run under catenary.  Here we have Black Mesa & Lake Powell E60CFs, including two ex-National of Mexico E60Cs, somewhere in northern Arizona in July 2005.
BM&LP E60s in northern Arizona, July 2005. Steve Lee photo.
My first-ever HO electric-prototype locomotive was an American GK BM&LP E60CF, which turns out to have been a somewhat inaccurate model of these single-purpose robotic coal haulers. Regardless, seeing these 50,000-volt beasts in the wild was geeky tween-age dream come true.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ballast Removal Done, Now DCC Wiring and New Turnout Controls

Ballast removal from the Dunes Junction layout is now complete! Woo hoo!
Newly acquired SW1500 IHB 9213 on the de-ballasted interchange track at Dunes Junction. Steve Lee photo
Completion of the de-ballasting project clears the decks for some new layout renewal projects, which Dunes Junction management have dubbed the 'zen electrical simplification program,' the goal of which is less wire, more fun. Look for future posts on my zen electrical simplification program which will involve joining the Digital Command Control (DCC) revolution and mechanical turnout controls.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sadness at the Passing of Small Layout Guru Carl Arendt

Over the weekend came the sad news of the passing of Carl Arendt, a tireless promoter of modestly-sized model railroad layouts. Ok, some really tiny layouts, ones that make Dunes Junction look like a basement empire.

Carl's quirky but always entertaining and informative Micro/Small Layouts for Model Railroads web site is a pioneer of do-it-yourself model railroad journalism. He published photos and track plans of little train layouts from all over the world. (We namechecked him in an early Up Dunes Junction post) He covered lots of stuff that escaped the notice of big old model train magazines--but did a lot to make the hobby accessible to people who don't have the time, or the money, or just the interest to have a DCC-powered basement empire with scores of locomotives, hundreds of cars, epic scenery, and monthly operating sessions.

I especially enjoyed his coverage of what I would call super-narrow gauge models--1/22.5 and 1/24 models that ran on 16.5mm, AKA HO, track and running gear.  I've always had a soft spot for the narrow gauge thing (not as soft a spot as my thing for catenary and pantographs, though) and really enjoyed the innovative ways Carl featured these little tiny industrial, agricultural, and mining trains.

I never met Carl but I feel like he is a model railroad buddy.  I've spent many an hour perusing the Micro/Small Layouts site, and gleaned plenty of inspiration from the treasures he gleaned from around the world. I am sad he is gone, and our hobby will miss him.  Here's wishing his family condolences and many helpings of the good cheer he brought to the model railroading community.

Micro/Small Layouts for Model Railroads

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Daily Commute, Part Deux

The morning commute, if you must see

Arriving so I can board . . .
. . . Arriving so I can step off

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ballast Removal, Part 567

Removal of my unsatisfactory ballast from the Dunes Junction layout is proceeding. Slowly. Very slowly.

I started out by using various scrapers, putty knives, and narrow screwdrivers to chip and scrape away the old ballast.  That was some tough sledding, so I started thinking, 'how did I glue this stuff down?'

Ballast removal: very messy.
(The Zatarain's is for eatin' not model railroadin')
Water soluble glue is how I glued it down, so I had the brilliant idea of wetting the ballast back down, just to see if it softens up, or in my wildest dreams, just flows away and goes gently into the night.

Sure enough, a 50/50 mix of water and 91% isopropyl alcohol, heavily misted on to the ballast, softens the dried ballast right up.  Helps to let it soak for five minutes or so before getting in there with various picking implements. Taking a cue from dental hygienists I've seen plying their trade, I keep a paper towel handy to wipe balllast chunks off of my picking tools. Then I vacuum now and then.  Only thing missing is getting the layout to rinse and spit.

It's slow going, but not as slow as chipping out the dry stuff.