Saturday, March 18, 2023

Time Marches On in March

I leave a lot of threads unfinished....and I am now 79 years old so many will probably never get done. 

Just the same I have started two new rolling stock projects without finishing any of the previous projects. 

One project starts to stall and another arrives in the mail...
I have been working this past week on converting an HO Accurail plug door refrigerator car into an fairly accurate PFE R-40-26.  A lot of the time has been building a photo library of prototype R-40-26 cars and digging deep into my copy of Tony Thompson PFE  book along with articles by Ted Culotta and others that have specific information about this class. A recent Hindsight 2020 clinic by Ted that included his etching for correct side ladders for this specific PFE class also spurred my interest.  

Now I am faced with the dilemma of waiting for those etchings to become available  or plowing ahead with a "good enough" model . Thus the stall on one project.  Note that I found the Moloco TRK3 50t Ride Control FB trucks are an excellent match to the prototype trucks shown in prototype photos of the car. I have added Tangent Code 88 wheelsets as shown in the photo.  Kadee #158 couplers (or are they now #178) are also used.  I would have to scratch build a new  underframe to correctly match the prototype but have not yet committed to that level of unseen detail. 
In the mail Friday (3/17/2023) was a throwback kit from LaBelle Woodworks (I can remember LaBelle wood kits from the 1960's) for a 1901 Day Coach that will be added to my little SP Port Costa 1950's layout as the grounded Barney and Smith 1886 SP (Central Pacific) coach that was used  behind the  round house as an  employees locker and wash up facility.  

This is a fine milled wood kit that is going to require me to reach back into my very long ago wood kit building skills (If I ever had them.)  I had originally planned to just splice some old MDC Overton Coaches but would still have had to add vestibules as by the mid- 1880's the SP had moved on to closed platform passenger cars.  I can only imagine that the 19th century long skirts women wore would make it difficult to go between cars on open platforms of moving trains.  Closed vestibules were certainly a marketing advantage in getting ladies to take the train.  Anyway this Labelle kit is now on my workbench along with the 1951 built PFE R-40-26 plug door refrigerator car. At least no trucks or couplers will be required for this car.  

Most of the above is in a post earlier today on MRH as a a What's New on Your Workbench topic under my old English railway modeling forum name  "Autocoach". 

I have found a storage spot for the LaBelle kit in the new 10 drawer/tray rolling stock projects storage cart. 

This is now full of kits except for the top drawer which has the SP 2-8-0 from Bachmann Baldwin 2-8-0 engines and their tenders project. 

My work environment has been upgraded as well. The other new additions to my modeling environment are a new work bench illumination source in the form of a tri light source LED bench lamp which replaces a rather broken down floor lamp on the right of the workbench and a Pine64 Pinecil Smart soldering iron.

I still have to add a rechargeable battery pack for the Pinecil soldering iron which when fully operationable replaces an unmendable 15 year old ISO-TIP iron.  

The moveable parts and supplies storage racks on the far right are a series of 5 wheeled storage carts that I added to my environment after the early 2019 water damage disaster that forced me to build the new Port Costa layout.  There is a lot of scenic construction "stuff" under the layout right now but it was built high enough that each all of the 5 carts can eventually be rolled under the layout. The project storage cart in the photo above will fit under the 3 foot layout fiddle yard extension. Again, scenery construction stuff must be moved to roll it into its intended location. 

Ultimately I plan to extend the un-prototypic lead behind the roundhouse structures above the workbench through a narrow shelf to mount the house wifi routers and making an 90 degree turn onto a pair of 18 inch wide modules topped with a truncated Walnut Creek station diorama.  The modules will be on cart wheels and removable for access to the built in bookshelves drawers and cabinets of my train room. Right now it is all still in the dream stage.  

So much has been inspired by Kevin Phair's English GWR layout "Little Muddle" built in an 8 foot by 8 foot English home 3rd bedroom. Google "Little Muddle Layout" to see what can be done in a tiny layout space.
Something's got to keep me going through my 80's. 

That's all for now folks...

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

UN-Blogging of the lazy mind

Oh do I restart...

There are unfulfilled promises of further comments on the HO nickel silver caboose ladders.  Unfortunately these remain unfulfilled.  They are now available from Leadville Designs. 

More on the SP tenders for the Bachmann 2-8-0 project will be on the site.  I now have 4 tender options. 

  • A 100-C-1 Sunset Brass Vanderbilt tender which I finally managed to open and check that it can be modified to have a small decoder or the LocoFi receiver.  I have some more body repairs to do and repaint and decal the tender
  • A 100-C-? Bachmann Vanderbilt tender which needs re-assembly and decision whether it will house a DCC decoder or another LocoFi receiver I will need to buy. The tender is actually a UP not SP prototype but is close enough with the oil bunker top for the "stand-in" C-? SP Consolidation.
  • A 90-R-7  Heavily modified rectangular tender with high narrow oil bunker. I am still working on the modifications using styrene shapes. When I finally get the shape right, I will use Archer rivet decals to model the surface correctly.  I have been working with Arnold Menke and obtained his drawings for the 90-R-7 preserved in Bakersfield 
  • A 73-SC-1 3D printed shell that I have working with Ken Harstine to develop to fit over the Bachmann rectangular tender underframe. I am also working on a version that is lower to match the height of the Sunset whaleback tender that came with my Sunset C-9 Consolidation. 
On the Port Costa layout there have been a few baby steps.  I have been working on the ground cover for the area south and east of the roundhouse and am starting on details for this area. 

The area was almost completely bare of vegetation being hardened adobe clay and still is as a parking lot. The steam pipes and servicing supplies about the garden tracks are a modeling challenge. 

The SP tender development has re-awakened my interest in the LocoFi Wifi Control system and  I have been playing with using the new LocoFi version 3 receivers I plan to use in Bachmann 2-8-0's and Mehano 2-6-0 M-4's. I already have one of the earlier receivers installed in a Stewart/Kato SP F-7 and plan to experiment with batteries to be mounted in B units.

I have recently built a Wifi locomotive receiver/controller test facility for the LocoFi units. I have an ESU tester for DCC decoders.   the design wasn't original but I have plans to expand it to cover testing planned configurations with commercial Keep Alive/Stay Alive devices without having to mount them in a locomotive. 

The lever connectors are used to easily change LocoFi receivers on the test stand. The fan has since been removed as it burned out not being rated for high enough amperage. I need to work on setting up one of the 12 volt motors seen in the background as the normal test load and adding a LED light stand for testing forward and reverse lighting.  

I have already successfully tested the receiver with the motor block from a dismantled Bachman 2-8-0 that is awaiting the parts to model the Harriman style angled cylinder block and Stephenson style simple running gear. 

The light from the blinds created a reflection on the Fire tablet which I am using for the LocoFi Android app. I visibly checked the belt and mechanism under the block to see the power was turning the motor. The LocoFi equipped Stewart/Kato F unit can also be seen on my workbench. LocoFi is still working on changes to the Android app for steam engine functions as opposed to diesel.  

This LocoFi test stand project being successful, it will now go back into hibernation until the rest of the Owl Mountain Harriman 2-8-0 Stand-In conversion parts become available.  

The turntable and the water tank are constantly in my thoughts. The mainline trackage is the other very big project. 


Sunday, September 11, 2022

September and the HO SP C-30-1 Caboose ladders are consuming most of my time.

The SP C-30-1 (2, 3) end ladder project is a bit vexing as my skills constructing and soldering the new nickel silver etch ladders have lost a lot over time. They look beautiful still in the etch:

This is a reminder to keep them taped to the 3x5 card being used to protect them when you drill the rung holes. I am using a Starrett drill and #79 drill bit. 

Keeping the ladders straight on the silicon rubber jig I had proposed is not working. This was the second result. The ladder sides are not parallel. Anticipating an attempt to straighten the right side ladder I have not trimmed the upper ladder rung ends completely.  

This caboose lost the ladder and the hand rails and I am bending new ones from brass rod.  

After the SPH&TS convention, I will get back to writing a type of basic instruction manual to be found  on this site in PDF form. I will include the SP standards drawing for the ladders and the C-30-1 handrails in the instructions PDF.  

I plan to use the Plastic Freight Car Model Builders group on for a discussion topic where we can share methods and help building the ladders. I own that group and can both moderate and not step on the toes of any other group.  (The Walthers SP C-30-1 was a plastic justification.)

The initial distribution of the ladder etches for a $5.00 contribution for each etch will be at the SP Historical and Technical Society convention in Modesto, September 14-18, 2022. Any remaining ladder etches will be distributed at the September 25, 2022 NMRA Coast Division meeting.  If there are remaining etches after the NMRA meet distribution, I will let the forum know how to obtain them.

Note that the $5,00 contribution just about covers my costs for having a professional etch designer draw the etch and have a sheet of 72 etches made as a single sheet in the UK. We could not find a North American etcher for small projects like this. By going to the UK we used an etcher who is familiar with model trains and making etches out of nickel silver which has become the preferred UK material for scratch building locomotives.   

I have made arrangements with the designer/vendor of etched kits who helped me with this project as a personally funded commission to order and carry the ladders in the future through their online store so additional ladders will be available with me out of the picture. 

More on this blogsite and to come. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Bloggers Block Unleashed a bit for July and August and related Modelers Block Too

Another month has gone by and I have little to show for it.  Now the dog days of July have extended into mid-August. 

A few minor adjustments to the station area have been made. 

A hedge now disguises the foundation of the Section house. A new pair of Oxford 1950's passenger cars have been added to the congestion around the back of the freight house.  Otherwise not a wheel has turned on the engine service tracks or yard tracks of Port Costa. 

The westbound mainline trackage around the curve at the west end of the layout has been tentatively laid out and tested with hand pushed freight cars. It is not yet powered.  The layout for the turnouts for the crossover between the eastbound and westbound mains has been also laid out at the far left of the photo.  The radius is a little tight at about 27" but what's a poor boy with only and 14 foot long layout to do.  And the curved ramp from yard level to mainline level trackage works. 

On the freight car building front, I have finally completed the painting and decaling of the UP A-50-16 automobile car from an early 2000's Trix RTR version. National Scale Car formerly Speedwitch decals were used to correct the incorrect Trix all yellow scheme and other lettering issues.  The paint used is a base Taimiya Red Oxide primer with a hand brushed mix of 3 parts Vallejo 70.982 Cavalry Brown and 1 part 70.953 flat Yellow. Pledge Floor Gloss was brushed on the decal areas and then Tamiya Clear Flat spray used to seal and return a flat finish. 

The A-50-16 is the obvious UP car in the above photo. The floor and underframe are still incomplete as I have been unable to locate a plan or photo that shows the very prominent Evans loader chain storage cylinders that protrude below the sill line.  

I am awaiting the delivery of a nickel silver sheet of 72 sets of etched the distinctive SP C-30-x caboose end platform ladders. I hope to have these available at my cost reimbursement price ( estimated at about $5) at the SPH&TS convention in Modesto September 14-18.  I have been practicing assembly of the ladders using the UP brass ladder set I received earlier in the year from Bill Lugg of the UP modelers group. Bill helped me get in touch with Bill Meridith of Leadville Designs who has handled the design and production of the ladders as a custom etch.  If there is sufficient demand I will fund the production of additional etch sheets (72 ladder sets per sheet.) 

This is the etch which shows the two part ladders that were bolted through a flattened section of the end handrails.  These are intended as replacements for the ladders on the Walther's C-30-1 model which tend to break over time. After soldering buyer supplied .020 brass rod ladder rungs in place they can be attached with canopy glue to the existing Walthers hand rails if they are intact.  I am also working on how to build new hand rails if they are broken as are the hand rails on one of my Walther's C-30-1 cabooses. 

More on this once the etch arrives. 

The change to of at least two of my active steam locomotives control from DCC decoders to LocoFi WiFi control is still on hold as LocoFi has not completed the and released the Android app upgrade with steam locomotive type cab controls and wav files for steam exhaust, bells and whistles.   I am also not particularly fond of using the Amazon Fire mini-tablet for the Android app and may change it over to my old Galaxy S8 now that I have bought a Pixel 6 

I guess that's all for now folks.... 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

This post should be little noted nor long remembered.

I have not touched the layout or any motive power projects in at least 40 days.  I have had health issues that have taken much of my attention and strength from April through into July. No Covid but other debilitating maladies that are partly driven by aging.  

I have looked at the scenery and trackage every day but have had no impetus to work on any of the 30 or so projects that I have started or contemplated. 

The addition of LocoFi to the two active plastic steam engines has been stalled over how to add a Keep Alive to the wiring flow between the rail  pickups on the engine and tender and the LocoFi receiver. 

The best I efforts I seem to have any drive for are freight car projects such as were detailed in my last post . I have another project for repainting and adding a new floor and underframe to a Trix RTR UP class A-50-16 double door automobile/box car.  This too has stalled as I have been unable to find the definitive brake gear arrangement and locations of the 12 chain cylinders from the Evans loader system that are visible below the car on most photos of the A-50-16 prior to or in the modeling period 1950-54. 

I do have one other project which I have been pursuing for the last several months and is now into the actual production stage.  Early this year I became interested in the efforts of a group of UP modelers to obtain prototypically accurate replacement ladders for the UP CA-1 cabooses made by Walthers. I actually ordered one and have worked on soldering it together although I have not completed it. 

This lead me to Bill Lugg. the UP modeler who created the UP ladder project.  Bill helped me find a US based etcher and designer, Bill Meridith of Leadville Designs,  who was able to take the photos of the SP Common Standard design drawings for the C-30-1 caboose and create a brass etching design for the HO version.  I have just paid for that design work and the initial sheet is going to the etcher today or tomorrow.  The full etch sheet has 72 pairs of ladder styles (side rails).  This is what the artwork for an individual etch looks like:

I The etch has all the holes for the ladder rungs which must be cut from .011" brass wire to be supplied by the modeler. The ladder styles etch is .003 thick. 

I have had the etch design work reviewed by Tony Thompson (the SP freight car guru) to get a second opinion and he agreed this etch would be useful for accurately replacing the Walthers caboose ladders. In the past I have built brass wire caboose end railings. 

These ladder etches are in two parts as the bottom rung and the upper part of the ladder with 3 rungs were separate. These were bolted together through a flattened portion of the end rail. Tabs to be bent for the mountings on the deck, bottom and top of the rail and the roof are included in the etch. 

I will have to look at a soldering jig and instructions to build brass rod handrails for the replacement of the old Walthers SP C-30-1 caboose ladders. 

This is the Common Standard design drawing for the C-30-1 on which the etch is based, It was used for production of the C-30-1 possibly earlier wood cabooses. The attachment plate for attaching the ladder to the edge of the roof shown in the drawing was not included. a piece of brass or even pieces of plastic angle could be used to replicate that feature. 

This has taken a bit of mental energy. I was originally hoping an 3D print would be good for a replacement but the ladder thickness would have to be significantly overscale to provide sufficient robustness. 

I hope to have the first sheet and a built up sample by the Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society convention in mid-September.  I think I can find someone with an e-store to handle any subsequent distribution as I really do not want to be in the mail order business.   I am looking to just recover my costs if possible and have maybe 5-6 etches for my own needs.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Here it is the middle of June and I finally blog Again

This should be the final blog about the construction of the Tichy Pittsburg and Lake Erie rebuilt USRA 40 foot 50 ton capacity box car. I am finally complete to the point of diminishing returns for doing any more. I could have added air hoses and a Carmer lever uncoupler but that would take me weeks at my current pace.  I have Yarmouth Carmer lever etchings but the attachment is quite fiddly. Ask long as I am leaving the coupler trip pin on the couplers an air hose connection would sort of look redundant.  

The object attached to the sill just to the left of the door on this side only is a NYC cover for the AB valve. It is fairly common on 1950's NYC system box cars. I have not seen it on any other roads. 

Nearly everything added to the model came from Tichy although not in the kit. The grab irons are Tichy 18 inch drop style and the sill steps are from a separate set. The NYC decals are from National Scale Car as are the chalk mark decals. 

The paint process started with a Tamiya grey primer coat that was used in construction.  When I was satisfied with the boxcar's body I used the Tamiya red oxide primer as the base box car read coat. The car was then decaled.  I then hand brushed diluted wash coats of Vallejo Panzer Aces #302 Dark Rust until it reached a dirty dark color representative of steam era freight cars. The running board was washed with Vallejo 71.121 Light Gull Grey to achieve more of a weathered wood effect. Highlights to the running board were added with diluted Vallejo Panzer Aces #310 Old Wood. I used Vallejo's airbrush thinner to dilute the paint instead of water. 

The trucks were a bit of a problem to find. There are lots of versions of Andrews 50 Ton trucks in HO. But the closest match to the prototype is a now out of production Proto2000 truck. I managed to locate a 2 pair on eBay at a reasonable price (less than new Tahoe trucks.) It was fortunate I bought 2 pair as the side frame broke off one truck while testing to see if Tangent Code 88 wheel sets would fit.  In the end they didn't as the axel was a bit loose in the Proto2000 trucks and I went back to using the wider wheelsets that came with the truck.

The car is not quite correct as there was a significant error in placement of the reporting marks on the side shown. The previous blog post covered some of the problems of construction. But now It is ready to be shown publicly. If my mojo is right I will take it to our local RPM meet, the Bay Area Prototype Modelers meet this Saturday in Richmond, California. I just have to type up a description.

Note on the photo. I am working with my new phone camera on a Pixel 6. I am also working on modifying the color saturation of photos that I am publishing.  

This is a builders photo of the original rebuild fresh out of the shop as it was originally lettered for the PMcK&Y. It was re-liveried for the P&LE and New York Central System about 1940. 

Photo from the NYC Historical Society Collection

As Porky Pig would say at the end of a Walter Lanz Cartoon film....Thaaats Aaalll Folks

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Port Costa Layout in Stasis for April 2022

Nothing much has happened on any layout improvement projects for the last 6 weeks.  Four of those weeks I have been fighting a combination of sinusitis and bronchitis that has left me mostly unmotivated. 

I have been pecking at a project to build a Tichy Rebuilt USRA boxcar following the closest prototype to the kit, a PMCK&Y/P&LE/NYC 50 Ton car.  

This has been a bit frustrating as the kit requires 36 separate grab irons mounted in 72 #78 drilled holes. In the process I have gone through at least 12 #78 drill bits. But I am finally done with that phase.  I have 72 3/4 " NBW castings from a Grandt Line set to cut off and mount above the grab iron holes. 

I have completed building the underframe and mounting the AB brake parts as far as I will go (I don't do the detail piping.) The trucks are Proto 2000 Andrews trucks and Kadee 158 couplers in narrow draft gear boxes. 

I have modified the Youngstown 1930's style doors to follow the Richard Hendrickson 1990's MRJ articles. The Speedwitch kit for the correct doors is no longer available. Assembly, brake end detail and other body details still to go before painting and decaling.  

That's all for now.  I am focused on this kit and then another Tichy kit for an 1943 52 Foot War Emergency gondola.  I like building car kits but for now I will in future stay away from freight cars that require grabirons instead of ladders on the ends.