Monday, 27 February 2012

Marking the Roads Out

This is the longest train I can handle on my arrival and departure track. The presence of one longer car not making any real difference to the overall length of the train that can be handled. In fact there is just enough room for two 50 foot cars in a consist of this length. However the important point is that I can handle five car trains with ease, as this is the standard length of trains that I intend to run, which matches most of the shots I have of North Shore freight trains.

Since the above photograph was taken I've been marking out where the roads go on the layout. I've shifted them slightly from the plan, a couple of inches left of where I thought, as it fits the physical location of the track better in my mind. Marking the off staging come reversing loop and scenic background area of the layout we see below West Institute Place.

The next picture pans right to look across West Chestnut St., and the newly built Chestnut Warehouse (provisional name) is standing in the background dominating the space.

Moving the camera viewpoint further to the right brings us to West Locust Street and the edge of the team tracks with Walton/Whiting crossing them.

Finally, Walton/Whiting bisecting the North end of the layout and the team tracks, which is going to make operating this quite interesting.

Onwards and upwards as they say.

Chestnut Warehouse

Yesterday I didn't feel like working on track, or freight cars, but wanted to do something about the buildings on my layout. So the afternoon was spent cutting apart and re-assembling a Walthers kit on the fly. Not even a back of an envelope drawing, I just winged it.

It has to be said that this kit was originally bought for my P&SR project, got reassigned, and worked on for my Sands End project (click on the link and scroll down to the picture of the Walthers Tire Plant kit to see what I did before).  

First thing I did was re-assemble the walls that I had cut out for the goods shed entrance. I then assembled up one corner of the building, as can be seen above.

I knew that the I had to shorten the overall length, and it was just a matter of where to do so. I cut one set of bays off the long wall.

I then used the piece I'd cut off as the end wall to the left hand side of the building. I added the roof from the original kit, though I had to modify one piece, and it will require a further piece to make up the width shortfall. The back of this building will be made out of Kappa board (a foam cardboard composite material available from art shops).

So this is as far as I got with Chestnut Warehouse my Burnham Yard project on one Sunday afternoon. Ironically, I'm having to rebuild parts I modified the first time around, but waste not, want not.

Friday, 24 February 2012

CNS&M 250: Jewett Built Combines

I rescued this model from eBay. It is a Suydam CNS&M combine car. The paint scheme is all kinds of wrong  for this post war scheme, while the number is just plain wrong. The more Eagle eyed of you will note that this model sits too high on its bogies. In fact all the Suydam North Shore cars do. The giveaway is that one could mount Kadee couplers on them and that they would be at about the right height to couple up to freight cars. The real cars couldn't do this as the coupler was lower, so when they were being transported from the builders they had to be jacked up to match standard railroad coupler height.

Anyways, the North Shore has seven combine cars numbered 250 to 256. Number 251 was rebuilt into a Silverliner car in 1953, while car #255 vacillated back and forth over years having its seats removed so that it could carry extra baggage on trains transporting sailors to the USN base, to having them reinstalled during WW2, only to for them removed again after the war.

The other four cars had their baggage area extended by removing seats, not two alike it seem, again for accommodating sailors baggage, while #256 remained as built.

So the plan is to put her into the stripper, rebuild the drive using parts I've commissioned from Mousa Models, which will lower all the cars to the correct height, and then repaint her as #256 in the post war red and green scheme.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

C&NW 46557 Flat Car

This is a Proto 2000 ACF 53 foot 6 inch, 50 ton flat car. I assembled this model about ten years ago, and it has been in storage awaiting further TLC ever since.

I replaced the original trucks with Kadee ASF Ride Control sprung trucks, as I like the fact that they twist and therefore compensate for any track irregularities. The springs are too strong to act as springs, and many people dislike the look of the springs. Personally I can live with the way the springs look, and if it bothers you that much then I suggest that putting a small piece of paper behind the springs to stop seeing through them would sort out that problem, since in my opinion trucks that can follow the track irregularities are really useful. YMMV.

This car is underweight as built, so the first thing did was pour liquid lead into the underframe, and fixed it with down with matte medium. As you can see there is plenty of room to get this car up to the recommended five ounces (Shout out: or 4.5 ounces depending on if you round up, or down the 7.5 inches, as per Charles Hostetler's blog).

I've started to weather this model, the first American freight car I have weathered in over 20 years. Doesn't time fly? I mention this in passing, as I remember Rod Welch telling me that the one thing he recalled, from the days when the Capital Model Railroaders use to meet, was seeing me bring and run a whole string of weathered freight cars. I have a bit of a reputation for weathering my models.

Back when I first assembled this kit I broke the brake wheel shaft, and in my haste to repair it I had shortened it. I therefore corrected this mistake by replacing the shaft with a piece of brass wire. I shall have to straighten out that hand wheel.

The car needs some more work done on it too, as my first attempt at weathering the floor it hasn't turned out as I would like.

The floor of the car doesn't really pop for me, which I think is important for a flat car as it is the first thing you really see.

And I still need me to add some coupler levers.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Tad Tricky

How hard can it be to fettle a few tank cars? Down at CLAG the perrenial reply would be "go on then".

Let me list what I did by the end to get those troublesome tank cars running.

1. They sat too high with the replacement Kadee trucks, and the bolster were slightly domed, so I cut them off, and filed the surface flat. I then used a washer to raise the height of the tank car back to the correct height.

2. There are moulded on spring details around the coupler pockets. The overscale flanges were brushing on them as the cars went around the hidden 14 inch reversing curve. I carefully trimmed the moulded spring detail, halving the thickness in a way that means it can't be seen from normal viewing angles i.e. the top, or side on (in the latter case because the channel of the solebar hides what I have done.

3. I disassembled the coupler pockets, filing the edges to remove burrs, and then replaced the pan head screws with a counter-sunk head one's. As I only had screws that were too long I cut them down to size and hand finish them to fit. Then I had to modify the coupler lids so that the screw would then fit in flush.

You can see where the axle was rubbing on the old coupler pocket screw in the picture below.

So all in all, a tad tricky.

Troublesome Trucks

Oh bother said Thomas...

This has been the most bothersome set of cars to fettle and get running reliably on the layout. It took a lot of filing and to get the trucks to swivel freely. Then making sure that the Kadee couplers weren't drooping, or the glad hands hitting the rails on turnouts etc. To add to the problems I found that one of the Kadee trucks wasn't settling back to flat, when it moved, on the UTLX car. So I got a new set of trucks out of my reserve and put them on instead. I will have to disassemble the sticky truck and find out what is causing it to behave as it does. I suspect flashing on the castings.

I also took the opportunity to take off the Kadee ASF ride control trucks that I had used by mistake on the SPHX tank car, replacing them with standard AAR double truss, Bettendorf version.

GATX 17638, in particular been extra bothersome. Therefore I've named it "Oily", leader of the tank car gang that seems determined to derail at every opportunity.

Part of the problem is that the front axle on the trucks of these tank cars lies directly over the top of the screw for the coupler box. Thereby being in the ideal place for the axle to foul the screw as the truck twists and turns when riding over any irregularities, or when conforming to curves etc.

For some reason Oily is the worst offender. Initially I found a twist in the frame, which required me to disassemble the model. For reasons that elude me, it remains recalcitrant and a first class derailer. So it tasks me. Therefore I shall pursue this tank car to perdition's end before allowing it to beat me; just to mix Audrey and Melville metaphors in one post.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Freight Car Fettling

I've been working through the cars sorting out the issues that have been causing my freight cars to derail one-by-one.

First I asked myself  do they all derail in one place, or are they derailing for another reason? I had both. Derailing at turnouts in general, and on my reverse loop in particular. The latter causing me to fret somewhat, as the whole premise of the layout is based around a very tight 14 inch radius loop that all trains have to take to enter the yard.

Another problem is that such a tight radius acts like a grade and reduces the amount of freight cars a locomotive can pull.

However, one confounding variable, as it turned out, was the fact that the drive train of my only operational locomotive (operational being defined as painted and chipped) was failing, and failed during some of the tests, which perplexed me a little until such point as I figured it out.

For me there are a bunch of obvious thing that I find cause derailments.

1. The freight car is too light, but that needs to be defined.
2. Trucks are not swiveling properly.
3. Coupler pockets are sloppy and allowing the coupler to twist when being pushed.
4. Track is out of gauge
5. Wheels back-to-back is not right, or the standard is different to the turnout check gauge.

Let me start with number one, and refer you all to the NMRA Recommended Practice RP-20.1. This recommends half an ounce per inch plus one ounce for HO freight cars etc.

So a standard 6 inch long (a scale 40 foot box car), should be 4 ounces. Weighing my box cars I find that all my Kadee PS-1 cars are 3.9 ounces (I have a very accurate set of scales). In practical terms they are spot on. My Proto 2000 C&NW 40 foot stock car on the other hand only weighs 3.5 ounces, and is therefore half an ounce too light. Also running at an ounce light is my Intermountain AT&SF Caswell gondola. However, my Intermountain NYC 1937 AAR 40 foot box  car came out of the box at 4.4 ounces, and is nearly half an ounce too heavy.

Given that I've managed to get these to run round my layout my guess is that the NMRA recommendations are conservative, and that one can run lighter cars reliably, even on stupidly tight 14 inch radius curves. This fits with what I know about how the formula for the weights were arrived by; namely empirical testing and heuristic analysis.

Looking at my longer freight cars I have a C&NW 53 foot flat car (7.5 inches long) that should weigh 4.75 ounces, but only actually weighs 3.4 ounces. My Proto 2000 WP mill gondola is 8 inches in length and should weigh 5 ounces, but hefts in at 6 ounces, so an ounce over weight. Whereas my PRR War Emergency gondola, which is 8 inches long should weigh 5 ounces, but actually comes out of the box weighing in at 2.6 ounces, which is nearly half what it should be.

Looking at my shorter cars, I have a couple of Kadee 50 ton coal hoppers that weigh 3.5 ounces, which is bang on the recommended NMRA weight  for their length. My two Intermountain 2 Bay AAR hoppers both have different weights out of the box. One weighs 1.35 ounces, the other 2 ounces, go figure. My Proto 2000 tank cars all weigh around 3.8 and 4 ounces out of the box, which makes them nearly half an ounce heavier than the recommended 3.5 ounces I estimate they should be.

The longest train I can run at the moment is eleven cars, its all I have that have been fettled.

So I pushed this train backwards through my reverse loop with the longest and lightest car by the locomotive, and the heaviest longest car at the other end, with a random mix of lighter than recommended, or heavier than recommended cars in-between them. Outcome, random derailments of one of the trucks on either the C&NW flat car, or the PRR War Emergency gondola, with a tendency to derail when pulled. However, both were consistently pushed around the tight curve with no problem.

In summary, weight is not the issue that people make it out to be. Yes too little is not good, and yes too much reduces what you can haul, but by and large it is not the what keeps the models on the rails.

So what have I found to be the biggest cause of unreliable running?

Trucks that don't rotate freely, with wheels that are not free rolling, and couplers that twist and foul on turnout check rails and crossing vees.

One thing I would like to mention is that the received wisdom that one truck should just rotate, while the other should be loose enough to rock as well as rotate needs to be judged carefully, as my experience shows that rocking trucks can cause freight cars to derail when pushed.

The amount of rocking needed is very small, around 0.5 millimeters in total, or for those of you who are metrically challenged, about 1/50th of an inch. I shall now get back to sorting out all my Proto 2000 tank cars, which have yet to be fettled.

NB: One final comment to the NMRA recommended practices, which is more of a question. How is it that the prototype can run an empty car at the head of a consist a mile long, and switch empty cars etc without derailing everytime? Not all things scale.

Terms and conditions apply. Errors and omissions excepted. Everything said here is based on extrapolation from a limited set of parameters. Remember everything is bigger in Texas, and eleven freight cars is hardly representative of longer train lengths.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Golden Oldie

Got this of eBay and thought it might be useful for digitising the sound for a sound chip, maybe? Anyway, listened to the recording tonight on the deck and it sounded pretty good. Geek or what?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Mistress of the Return Loop

At the weekend I completed the wiring of the reverse loop and on Sunday night I ran my first train from the right hand side staging entry point, through the reversing loop and into the yard and up to the buffer stop of the switch lead.


That was the good news. The bad news is a list of growing problems that need fixing. Two broken power feeds, one turnout that is going to need a rebuild as the mouldings that hold the rail have broken, and freight cars falling off the rails, like leaves falling off the trees in autumn.

Oh yes, model railways are fun...

Just to cap it all locomotive #452 just disgraced itself with a universal joint to one of the bogies slipping.  I took her apart for some TLC. What they did to the universal joint to make it fit is at the heart of the reason why it failed, and quite frankly I'm thinking rebuild. On the whole I think I could do a better job with the transmission, and get a flywheel into the locomotive too.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

LMS Brake Van chassis build

This project started as a request by me for an etched replacement chassis for the Hornby LMS Stanier brake van.

I had a drawing of what I thought was the right brake van, which was produced to use the etc. I started by separating the solebars, their overlays and the foot boards from the etch.

I used super glue to assemble. Rinse and repeat for the other side and then remove the floor from the etch.

Fold up various bits and glue together.

Admire the neatness and I then placed one of the two Hornby Stanier brake van bodies I had on the chassis to test the height of the buffers, which are Bachmann sprung buffers that are just right..

I then added the brake gear and connecting rodding and prepared the lower foot board for attachment.

Side view all looking pretty hunky-bunky to me.

First signs of trouble ahead came when I started looking at attaching the lower foot boards. I ended up making up this strap hangers from staples.

I then soldered them onto the lower foot board. and afterwards glued plastic strip to thicken the foot boards as i thought at the time that they looked too thin.

It all went Pete Tong- wrong...

So I stripped my model down and soldered the fabricated hangers to etched angle parts that were supposed to run down the front facing of the solebars.

Difficult to describe, but it also meant that I had to solder the solebars and overlays with the top foot boards all together as one piece.

Finally, everything rebuilt. This chassis was made using a combination of gluing and soldering the etches together, which worked quite well, once I ironed out the assembly sequence.

An end shot, cruelly enlarged showing finished product.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Weathering Private Owner Tank Wagons 1

Tank wagons are not just black and unloved, they are black, or silver, unloved and dirty too.

Berry Wiggins was a Southern Railway petroleum products wagon owner and so I just had to have a couple of their wagons to represent their fleet on my railway.

Quite pleased with the black, though perhaps a bit too dusty and not oily enough looking.

This Esso tank wagon as the very first one I weathered and I'm not completely satisfied witht he finish. I think I over did it a bit, if truth be told.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Seven Pillars of Model Rail Wisdom

On the Model Railroader forums there was a post about the three pillars of model railways. I thought to myself, surely you must mean seven, as I immediately thought of T. S. Lawrence, whose book, part autobiography, and part novel sprang to mind?

So what do I think the seven pillars are?

First a desire to build a layout I guess, because without that you wouldn't get anything done.

Second the money to spend, as no hobby is without cost, and it seems to me that desire and money make for a potent combination.

Third would be time, because without time nothing will get done.

Fourthly space to build, or set up your layout, which should be easy enough if you have enough money, but harder if you don't.

Fifth a plan, as it is always good to have a plan, and it is always good when a plan comes together.

Sixth, patience, as without this one is going to become frustrated by the time it takes to achieve your goal, because even with more money it still takes time to have things built for you.

The seventh pillar would be the ability to learn from your mistakes, because you will make them. They will cost you time, money, involve changing your plans, finding that you need more space, which will sorely try your patience and test your desire.

No wonder so few layouts actually get built.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Second Stage Wiring

Spent this afternoon getting the bus bars for the centre baseboard connected and sorting out various blocks for frogs and the reversing loop.

Above is a picture of the main central baseboard. From left to right you can see the connector block for the frog, which is going to be sorted out with a hex frog juicer. In the middle and to the right are the two bus bars made from halogen lighting neutral bars available from electrical stores.

So everything is screwed together, and no hot solder dropping on yours truly as she wires this all up.

Above is a picture of the left hand baseboard showing on the left hand side the frog block and on the right the connector block for the reversing loop. Not yet done the bus bars. I tested the wiring and so far no shorts from the cable runs, but all the turnout are shorting when the blades are switched over from straight. Puzzled at this point. Partner, electronics design engineer, is looking into it for me. I fear I may have damaged something when soldering the droppers on.
I'll be glad when this stage of the layout is finished and I can get back to building models.

NB: Sorted the short out on the turnouts. It took about an hour and a half of head scratching and using a multimeter, but in the end it was simple to solve. I had wired in a short by pairing up turnout frogs. Doh!