Friday, October 28, 2011

South Shore at Hammond/State Line, 1994

More from my shoebox archive: South Shore Sumitomo cars at State Line/Hammond in 1994.  I was in graduate school at nearby Purdue Calumet at the time, and shooting 35mm film with a Canon AE-1 Program I had inherited from my late brother Chuck.
CSS&SB #23 leads a westbound train out of Hammond, sometime in 1994. Steve Lee photo.
CSS&SB passenger train crosses Indiana Harbor Belt at State Line. IHB yard throat in background. Steve Lee photo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

UPDATED: UK Electric Models With A Little Extra Spark

Feast your eyes on this YouTube video of UK heavy electric models dashing across some of those display modules of which our transatlantic modeling colleagues make such good use.  The modeler, Dave of Westcoast Miniatures, is using fixed-height pantographs that don't contact the catenary wire.

But that arcing effect is awesome, awesome, awesome, and brings the drama and excitement of electric railroading to life.

UPDATE: Don Silberbauer of Model Memories tipped me to this product from Germany, the 'Pantographen-Blitzer' ('pantograph flasher') offered by Viessmann Modellspielwaren.  Not sure if this circuit is intended to work with DCC or straight DC, but I suspect that this manufacturer has set it up so it works with either.  Euro Model Trains and a few other outlets here in the US might be good sources for this product.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quick Snaps of Road and Tree Line Mockup

Here are my latest bits of mock-uppery. The forest is a photo of a treeline near Ocean Pines, MD, and the road a stock road texture photo. The South Shore flag stop passenger shelter began with a drawings from the June 1981 Railroad Model Craftsman, which I extensively Photoshopped into a cut-and-fold papercraft model. (Look for a future post with a download of the graphic).

South Shore #802 with a very short NIPSCO (NORX) unit train crossing Mineral Springs Road at Dunes Junction
I printed it all on stiff matt photo paper with my trusty free-after-rebate Canon IP1600 inkjet printer, The tree photos are stuck to poster board with rubber cement--cheap model railroad fun with stuff from an office supply store.

Unpainted Nickel Plate Products South Shore combine #100 at the mock-up Dunes Junction flag stop.
Dig those seventies-era cars!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fast Tracks on The Model Railway Show

Tim Warris of Fast Tracks, maker of Bullfrog turnout controls, is a guest this week on my favorite model railroad podcast, The Model Railway Show.  Bullfrog turnout controls were featured here back in May--they're still working great and their simplicity is keeping the zen in my Dunes Junction layout.

And if you haven't checked it out already, go subscribe to Trevor and Jim's outstanding podcast:

The Model Railway Show - The Fast-Paced, Thought-Provoking Podcast!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Instamatic Snaps of the South Shore, 1979

From the archives (actually an old shoebox), comes a few Instamatic 110 snapshots of the South Shore from 1979. This is some of my first railfan photography, ever.
CSS&SB combine #101 at Dune Acres flagstop, looking west toward Miller, June or July 1979. Steve Lee photo
Switchstand and right-of-way detail at Dune Acres, summer 1979. I was anticipating building the Dunes Junction way back then, so I snapped this one for future reference. Steve Lee photo.
Randolph St. station (now Millenium Station) from above, summer 1979. Steve Lee photo.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Juice Modeling in the Wild: Heavy Electric Railroad Modeling

One of my goals for Up Dunes Junction is to become a resource for modelers who like their electrics, and so I am kicking off 'Juice Modeling in the Wild', an occasional series on examples of big traction models on the web.

Heavy electric modeling is fairly rare.  There's a whole model railroading world out there of Union Pacific, narrow gauge, Appalachian coal haulers, circus trains, late model diesels, and lot of other big and small niches that get a lot of play in the big model railroading magazines and web sites, but catenary and pantographs don't get no respect.

The last ten or fifteen years have seen a lot of manufacturer interest in American electrics--Atlas' AEM-7, Bachmann's modern Amtrak and EL-C/E-33 offerings, and a steady stream of 'premium' big electrics from MTH, Broadway, and even Trix. For cryin' out loud, for as many GG-1s have been offered in the past ten years (MTH is doing one this year), one would think there's a closet heavy electric modeler in every county, though there are probably several states that don't have any.

There are a couple of notable online resources for heavy electric model railroads. For a great start, check out  this page at Model Memories.

For the first installment of 'Juice Modeling in the Wild', let's have a look at Rick Abramson's outstanding New Haven layout. Model Railroader magazine featured Rick's layout in its August 2004 issue (not linkable, unfortunately) but luckily there are several ways to get a glimpse of it online (try Model MemoriesMetro North NMRA, and Rapido Trains ) including this preview video for FOS Scale Models' new DVD:

Know of a heavy electric layout or modeler that should be featured here? Let me know!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mocking Up Stuff and Testing Ideas

Over the past few days, I've made some mockups of various scenic ideas for the Dunes Junction layout.
The overpass mockup at the west end of Dunes Junction.

I wasn't happy with my old highway overpass on the west end of the layout, and I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to get catenary under it. So I sketched a new one out on posterboard, glued some blocks along the bottom to make it stand up, and voila--a mocked-up over pass.

The other thing I've been thinking about is catenary.  I've been corresponding with Don Silberbauer at Model Memories, going over ideas about how to make functioning South Shore-style iron lattice and wood pole span bridges.  These span bridges have a distinct look that says 'South Shore'.

But while I wait patiently for Don to work some modern model railroading manufacturing magic for me, I feel like the Joker in Batman as played by Jack Nicholson when he's cutting out pictures and says, "It's so hard to stay inside the lines!"

So I made a mockup of an iron lattice and wood pole catenary span bridge from some Rix Products telephone poles and 1/8" Plastruct lattice I-beams.  I posed the span bridge on the layout with a pair of self-closing tweezers.
Mocked up South Shore catenary bridge, sans paint

I plan to mockup some more features in the next few weeks: the tree line that will go up against the rear back drop, a road that will cross the tracks at the east end of the layout, and a passenger shelter.  With these mockups I'll be able to test out ideas for compostion and placement of scenery and structures.

Look for future postings on my mockup progress.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

American Electrics: The Little Joe, A Direct Current Monster

South Shore Little Joe #803 at the Illinois Railway Museum. Photo by Sean Lamb/Courtesy Wikimedia
South Shore Little Joe #802 (MTH Model) at Dunes Junction
If Pennsy's mighty GG-1 is an artifact of the era of classic art deco design and New Deal mega-projects, the Little Joe is a souvenir from the interlude between WWII and the Cold War.  GE began construction on 20 of these 300-ton direct current monsters as part of WWII lend-lease, while the Soviets were still America's friend.  By the time GE finished construction of these 2-D+D-2s in the late 40s, the Cold War was in full swing and the Soviets had dropped their iron curtain across Europe.  GE never shipped them to Mother Russia; instead, the locomotives were re-purposed for use on US and Brazilian railways.  Milwaukee Road got 12 for its electrified mountain routes in the US northwest, and the South Shore received three.  Brazilian FEPASA took delivery of the remaining five.  All had originally been built to run on Soviet 5' gauge track and were regauged for their new homes (4' 8 1/2" for Milwaukee Road and South Shore, 5' 3" for the FEPASA).  South Shore's Little Joes, or 800s, lasted into the early 80s; by that time they were little more than very large switchers, working local freights in Gary and East Chicago, Indiana.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Model Catenary: Real or Fake?

My electric train fascination began early, and my obsession with correct-looking catenary wasn't far behind.

Fixated on that contraption on the
 roof: South Shore in the Dunes,
 1970s photo
My first train ride ever was on the South Shore when I was about five years old, when Mrs. Hroma's preschool class took a train ride field trip from somewhere in the Indiana Dunes to Michigan City. What I really remember from that trip: the top of the train. I asked the conductor what that thing on the roof was, and he told me, "That's the pantograph. It collects electricity from the wire to make the train go."

So before I knew what a coupler or any other part of a train was, I knew about pantographs and catenary.  These components are what makes electric trains electric, after all.

Not long after that South Shore ride I saw HO trains with catenary and pantographs during a Christmas outing in downtown Chicago--the Marshall Fields department store's elaborate Maerklin HO train display featured German-prototype electric locomotives and MU cars operating under model catenary.

My tween-age mind was blown by HO catenary and pantographs! Shortly thereafter, I came into the mentorship of a Chicago-area O scale traction modeler, and stole glimpses of heavy electrics in model railroad magazines and catalogs. Vic Roseman's photos of Northeast Corridor HO subjects (these 2005 photos from Railmodel Journal  nicely capture Vic's magic) especially caught my eye.