Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Video: Peter North's Electified Virginian Exhibition Layout

A post or two ago, we covered how Peter North's electrified Virginian Railway display layout recently graced the pages of Model Railroader magazine.

Here's some video of Peter's layout taken a French model railroad show in 2012. It starts off with steam, but most of the footage shows jackshafts, a monstrous EL-2B 'Streamliner', and EL-Cs (Penn Central called them E-33s) dragging coal and general merchandise around the layout.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Almost as good as actual electric locomotives . . .

. . . are a half electric locomotive and a model electric locomotive at the Danbury Railway Museum in Danbury, Connecticut, at the end of the Metro North commuter line.
Metro North/New Haven FL9, EMD's hybrid diesel-electric/electric locomotive. The third-rail collectors on the trucks and mini-pantographs seem to have been removed, but brackets and other hardware are nonetheless present.

Looking all diesel from this angle, the FL9's EMD lines and New Haven's modernist paint scheme reek of 'Mad Men'-era styling and cool.
A New Haven EP-3 in HO! Under catenary! in a diorama at the Danbury Railway museum.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Catenary in the Past Couple of Model Railroader Magazine Issues

Model Railroader magazine (available digitally from Kalmbach, AppleNookGoogle Play, Kindle, or Kobo online stores, in addition to news stands and hobby shops) covered two different heavy electric-themed layouts in the past couple of months. Considering that the magazine has been known to go years with nary a trolley or interurban article, let alone a mainline heavy electric, this is remarkable.

The May Model Railroader featured Brent Monahan's Pennsylvania Railroad layout, which features electrified New York city and New Jersey vistas. Brent's layout has also turned up on the Model Memories site, as his catenary was built using MM components.

Peter North's Virginian layout was mentioned here a couple of years ago when it was covered in the UK Continental Modeler, but it recently got the Model Railroader treatment in the in the July issue.  MR's photo choices downplayed the electric parts of the layout as the story was focused on the layout's small size. Nonetheless, Peter gives some good insight into his Virginian roster, and there is a good view of a Jack Shaft motor on the spread photo. This layout is apparently intended for exhibitions in the UK, and I would like to figure out how to see it at some point.

Friday, July 18, 2014

More Island Model Works South Shore Car Progress: Pilots, Steps, Pantographs, and other details

Test running what we've got done so far. Pilots and steps epoxied in--note the stirrup step and taper profile on the end of the pilot next to the steps. CustomTraxx SCTC-40 Automatic Traction Couplers and Details West 191 Leslie Air Horns test fitted, and Sommerfeldt 968 single-arm pantographs mounted. End details like the gong bells, marker lights, and grab irons have been removed to be replaced by more delicate detail parts. Those vertical railings on the sides will of course be replaced with .015" brass wire.
Test fitting and mounting the delicate looking but tough and functional Sommerfeldt 968 pantographs. They are based on a French SNCF prototype. The provided mounting screws are long and were trimmed so as not to interfere with the lighting/DCC circuit board. I ordered mine from Euro Rail Hobbies
Pilots under construction.  I used Evergreen dimensional styrene strips and sheet and liquid cement for strength and delicateness. The 'foundation' (bottom beam) is a big fat .060" x .080" styrenes strip joined to trapezoid-shaped .020" styrene sheet. .040" x .040" strips are going in here; a small gap will form the stirrup step that that appears about half way up the side of the pilot.
 Building up the pilots. The .040" x .040" strips have been sandwiched between the .020" sheet and .040" x .060" strips, and a stiffening bit of .040" sheet has been added. Once dry, the sandwich of sheet and .040" strips will be shaped into a taper and smoothed.
The pilots, vestibule floors and steps epoxied in place. The steps, salvaged from the Walthers RDC that provided drive components are a little short and probably should be shimmed with .040" or .060" styrene strips. Live and learn! Also, the finish on the RDC steps is not paint--it is plating, which gives that RDC model such a lovely finish. Sanding and smoothing these components yields varying layers of stainless steel and copper colors (which are quite tough, by the way) but there is black plastic underneath.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Smelling That Ozone-y Heavy Electric Railroad Smell on the Northeast Corridor

Northbound Toaster goin' fast at Odenton.
My photography project this year has been to home in on electric railroad operations on the Northeast Corridor.  There's lots of exciting stuff to see during this time of transition. AEM-7 'Toasters' and HHP-7s are on the way out, shiny new ACS-64s are on the way in, and the Acela just keeps on keepin' on.  Plus there's MARC commuter traffic.

Photographing the Northeast Corridor is a challenge.  The trains are fast and really, really quiet. As in rarely do they ever sound a horn to let you know they are near, thanks to grade separation and local noise ordinances.  My leisurely rustbelt railfanning senses, geared to grade crossing gongs, long pulls on horns, clackety track, low speeds, and jarringly loud diesel blocks, proved inadequate for my first few outings around the Corridor. 

But I've gotten better! That ozone-y burnt electric smell keeps pulling me back to the tracks. Here are some keeper images from Odenton, Maryland on the Northeast Corridor over the past couple of weeks.

Blinkin' ditch lights and looking like it just came out of an Ikea catalog, a southbound ACS-64 goin' fast at Odenton.

Keeping with the theme, Acela goin' fast (and North) 

North- and southbound MARC commuter trains running late on a weeknight stop to pose for a meet at Odenton.

HHP-7 also goin' fast.

Monday, July 14, 2014

IMW South Shore/NICTD Nippon Sharyo Drive Complete and Lookin' Official

The Island Model Works Nippon Sharyo South Shore/NICTD drive more or less complete. The IMW sideframes were sawed off their bolsters and carefully thinned with a mill file. Meanwhile, the Walthers Proto 1000 RDC plastic sideframes were trimmed down to the metal skeletons that serve as bearings and electrical pickups, and the remaining plastic also thinned down to 1 mm/.040" or so with files and sanding boards. The outer IMW and inner RDC sideframes were epoxied together, taking care to ensure perfect alignment.  1/4" x 3/4" basswood topped with a piece of K&S 3/32" brass channel support the lighting LEDs. Barely visible are holes to accept 2-56 mounting screws for mounting the body shell. A coat of Tamiya German Gray spray paint (fine texture but good old solvent based, easy to find in hobby shops) on the chassis, light supports, motor saddle, and sideframes make it look official.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Stumbling Across Metro Testing New Cars

Stumbled across this test of new Washington Metro testing new cars during my travels in May. Train was packed with test gear and engineers. Barely visible in this photo are the rivet that cover the sides of these new cars. Note also the fluting on the bottom quarter of the sides.

Friday, July 11, 2014

3D Printed Traction Models are in the House

Model by Volkmar Maier and Paul Mayer. Courtesy of
Interurban Railways
Check out the 3D-printed Fort Wayne-Lima interurban combine built by Paul Mayer over at Volkmar Maier's Interurban Railways blog. Holy smokes!

What's remarkable here is the combination of the new technique--3D printing--with good old fashioned craftsmanship. Paul did a remarkable job with the finish on this model, which Volkmar designed for 3D printing.

Doubters, beware: 3D printing is working its way into model railroading as a craftsman technique, particularly for low-demand and esoteric subjects. Small wonder, then, that traction modelers and the small community of micro-manufacturers that serve up traction stuff have ventured into the 3D printing game. For example, Imperial Hobby Productions and Island Model Works both offer 3D printed traction bodies and components, and/or use 3D printing techniques for manufacturing and tooling.

Exciting stuff!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

IMW Nippon Sharyo Construction Progress: Building and Testing the Drive

The Island Model Works Nippon Sharyo South Shore/NICTD car is coming along. As noted in the first post on this project, the Walthers (formerly Life-Like) RDC drive and lighting/DCC board are providing the guts for this drive.

The Walthers RDC drive components installed on the IMW South Shore car floor. RDC sideframes still in place, and the steps and pilots sawed off. Note the heavy brass stock, which adds weight and stiffness. If I build another of these cars, I will use a longer piece of brass so that it extends over the truck and can be used as its bolster.
The RDC drive comes apart in a fairly straightforward way via several metric screws and clips. Remove the ingenious plastic clips that hold on the wires from the lighting/DCC board, and then unscrew the board from the frame. The brown plastic motor saddle/seating insert come out next.  The motor mounts are rubber, and can be wiggled out by pulling on the motor/motor cradle assembly and pushing up on the mounts from the bottom of the floor.  The non-drive truck is tricky to remove; the bottom plate comes off, exposing the screw at the top of the hollow inside of the truck. The drive truck comes off via a snap-on clip that also secures the worm and bearings, similar to a good ol' Athearn drive.

According to IMW's web site, the kit is intended to 'accept' RDC drive parts. The RDC drive parts hardly 'drop in', but IMW gets the builder most of the way there.  The motor mounting holes, for example, are spot-on, but need to be carefully drilled out to accept the soft RDC motor mounts.

The drive truck mounting hole in the IMW needs very careful reshaping--it should be identical to the mounting hole in the RDC floor. Its 'length' is correct, but its 'width' is not. This may be a leftover from an earlier, Life-Like iteration of the RDC drive, but it was not correct for the drive components from my Walthers RDC drive. The position of the truck mounting hole and the motor mounting holes allow use of the motor and the universal shaft without any modifications to those components.

One of the included bolster adapters or sheet brass or styrene should be used for the non-drive truck. I used .080" styrene sheet plus a bit of styrene rod as a boss for my non-drive truck bolster. Were I to do this over again (or build another one of these kits in the future), I would use a long piece of heavy brass stock as bolster, stiffener, and weight.

Speaking of stiffening and weight, I epoxied heavy brass strips between the motor and and non-drive bolster to give the floor some rigidity and heft.

I used the brown plastic motor saddle (minus most of the seats) and a block of 3/4" x 1/4" basswood as supports for the lighting/DCC board.

Once wired back up and circuit-tested, the new drive worked quite well. I installed a Digitrax DH165IP decoder. Check out the video below to see the drive and the partly assembled coach in action.
With the drive tested and operational, the next steps for this project will focus on appearance elements, such as replacing the RDC truck sideframes with IMW's Nippon Sharyo sideframes.

The car body will now be the focus. In addition to adding pantographs and various other appurtenance details (horns, bells, wire grab irons,  etc), I will rebuild the pilots and steps as part of the coach body. The cleanly-molded and prototypically thin RDC steps will be recycled here. Also, the pilots will be scratchbuilt from styrene to replicate the 'flat face' look of the prototype--the kit as engineered has a large seam between the car end and the pilot, which doesn't look right to me. Then on to window glazing, painting, and finishing.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Side Project: Mom's Old School Bus, a 20 Year Procrastination

Stop Look and Listen! Duneland Schools #13 waits with stop sign deployed at
Mineral Springs Road for a South Shore freight to completely pass.
This project has traveled all over with me for the past 20 years. It's an old Herpa Bluebird school bus lettered for Duneland School Corporation. The decals were made using Testors decal paper and Pages on my Mac.

My mom drove for Duneland for a time, and her bus was #13. Hence my prototype.

If we wanted to get all true to period and all of that, I think I would have to locate an old late 60s/early 70s International-based bus, the kind with a curved hood. But this is a late 70s/early 80s Bluebird, which will do in a pinch. By this time, mom was driving for a different Indiana school district. But I did want to keep with the Dunes theme. I think I can live with the compromise.

13 on the boards at Mineral Springs Road after the lights and bells stopped. Mom was a stickler for safety.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Excellent Northern Indiana Layout in May Model Railroad Hobbyist

If you haven't seen it already, go check out the May issue of the online-only (and free!) Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine featuring Tom Johnson's Logansport & Indiana Northern.

This shelf layout features a fictional yet reality-based northern Indiana shortline of the 80s.  Check out the excellent flatland scenery, which makes effective and convincing use of backdrops. Not a surprise that Tom is an art teacher, what with the excellently composed and executed vignettes around the layout.  The structures and vehicles certainly capture a time and place still vivid in my memory of growing up in northern Indiana in the 70s and 80s. The weedy track and grimy rolling stock capture this particular moment in US railroading.

Tom's rolling stock is expertly weathered, and his freelanced paint schemes uncannily seem more railroady and true to life than the prototypical Erie Western (an actual post-Conrail shortline) locos and cabooses that appear on the layout (see the MRH video below).

The Logansport and Indiana Northern is an inspiration to any modeler of the late 70s/early 80s and/or of the flat midwest. Tom's work certainly raises the standard to which the Dunes Junction aspires!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014