Wouldn’t It Have Been Easier…

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I have been working on the background scenes along the lower level. Noticing an uptick in work on the actual layout, my wife asked what I was working on downstairs. When I explained that I was finishing the background scenes after having all the foreground scenes in place.

She just looked at me and said “wouldn’t it have been easier to do the background scenes before finishing the foreground scenes?”

As I have said before here, yes, it would have been. But when planning and building the benchwork I had pretty much envisioned the foreground but not the background. So that’s what got done first.

The biggest hole was at the north end of Jackson. The biggie here was the support post that came right up through the benchwork.

The problem support post, seems like everyone has at least one.

As you can see, it is right up against the backdrop. The track plan for Jackson was lifted right from a Model Railroader track plan. I had changed out a lot of the industries as they didn’t fit my local. The spot where the post is was a mobile home park.  That wasn’t going to work.

Going through my stuff I came across a Design Preservation kit that I had gotten and never done anything with. It was their #35500 Tera Surplus Window Warehouse. Design Preservation is now a division of Woodland Scenics.

Initial layout and construction…

It was a big bag of modular pieces. I started by laying out the pieces along the backdrop and around the post. This gave me an idea of how many modular sections I would need. Height was determined and what each wall would look like – blank, windows and door locations. I then determined what I had and what I needed. And than off to the LHS for the missing wall sections. Being rail served was out of the question. There wasn’t any way to squeeze a turnout and track in there.

So it would be a large (tall) industry that was not rail served. I came up with a design that had a south wing three stories high. The section around the post was five stories and the north wing, shorter than the south wing, was also was five stories.

Assembly went quickly. If you haven’t worked with these, a straight edge is all important to keep wall sections even. As with  with the caboose, progress outpaced photos. The first photo is of the raw walls assembled and set in place.

Basic construction done and doing a test fit. Also planning on where the cork base will be needed.
View from the other side.

You can also see the sheet styrene that acts as the foundation and extends out as the driveway. I then added the outside steps, base for the external tanks, smokestack and loading docks. Once those were placed or figured out I trimmed the base styrene. Then I placed it along with cork sheet (to bring it up to level to match the roadway)  and marked the cuts. That done I cut the cork and nailed it in place.

Adding the cork base to bring it up to height.

With that done I started adding more details. I added a roof over the loading dock and cut and fit roof sections to the different parts of the building. I also planned out external details and drilled holes to mount them. These included roof vents and blowers, external wall mounted blowers and duct work. Additionally, there is a pair of external tanks with piping.

On the bench trimming the styrene to size.
Test fir after cork install.
Alternate view of test fit.
The foundation for the outside tanks. Numbers aren’t measurements, but number of windows needed.

The last photo is the base for the for the tanks. The numbers there are not measurements, rather they are the window count. Yes, there are 82 windows as well as  2 exterior doors and 2 dock doors. The actual roof over the dock was not added to the frames at this time to make painting easier.

Off to the spray booth…

Then it was off to the paint booth. The building was bigger than my paint booth and made painting interesting. As the primer was drying I cut the windows and doors off of their sprues. I cleaned up all the flashing on the parts and then they headed to the spray booth also.

Primer coat on, waiting for it to dry. Then it’ll be time to paint.
Alternate view of primed building.
The 82 windows, 2 doors, 2 dock doors and details in the booth with primer coat on.

After the primer was dry I airbrushed the building the final color. I also airbrushed the windows, doors and details. I hand painted the window sills (concrete under window frames). The smokestack was painted at the same time. I then masked off the side wall for the company name (sorry, should have shot pictures for this). This is done by masking off a large section and painting it white. I then mask off the white border and I then apply vinyl stick-on lettering for the company name. It was then over coated with the black. I let the black dry for maybe 15 minutes and then start peeling (carefully) the lettering and masking tape off.

And here is the painted building on the bench.

Painted with windows and tanks installed.
View from other end with tanks installed. Other details will be added to external walls.

With the paint done and before the final details were installed it was time to install the lights. Instead of any kind of interior details I decided to use the Woodland Scenics Light Diffusing Film. The instruction aren’t as straight forward, but once you figure out what they want you to do they made sense. I would add that you should wipe down the interior to clean any paint dust off the surface so the glue dots (supplied) will stick. I use Polly S plastic prep, but as the whole Polly Scale line of paints is gone you would have to find an equivalent. Also, I found the supplied glue dots did not hold well and bought some “heavy duty” glue dots that worked better.

The first piece installed:

Applying the Woodland Scenics light blocking sheet.
What it looks like on the outside. No lights on.
Lighting it up…

After applying the film to the first section, I had to figure out lighting. I had ordered from Amazon a pack of wired LED lights. They are surface mount warm white lights. They are mounted on a 1cm x 1cm circuit board with a resistor and are rated 12v to 18v. There are 20 LED’s for $14.00. Here is a link. For the back wall I used white 1/4″ foam core board. It’s easy to cut and glue in place.

The question was where to mount the lights. The original plan was to mount them to the rear wall facing the front walls. I tested this by mounting a couple with doubled sided tape. There were very bright windows with the light fading to the other windows. I then mounted them to the front wall facing the back white foam core wall. The lighting was more balanced through all the windows.

With the lights on.

There are four LED’s mounted in this section evenly spaced. Like I said the light is evenly distributed with no bright spots.

With that figured out I finished applying the window film to the rest of the walls. I mounted the rest of the lights to the inside of the walls and cut and fit the foam core to the rest of the building. I additionally used two of the lights mounted up in the roof over the loading dock. In total there are 12 LED’s lighting the building. I also added two goose neck lamps over the two exterior doors, these are from Woodland Scenics.

Finished view from north end.
The finished building with all exterior details added and “powered” up.

And with the overhead lights off.

Lights on looking from the north end of building.
Lights installed, looking from the south end of building.

As you can see before these pictures I had also added the rest of the detail parts. These included all outside ducts and blowers, fire escape, roof access ladder and external tanks and piping. I also did some light weathering, dirt, dust and light rust.

And then it was done.

Finished building in place, scenery time.
Finished building in place awaiting scenery.

Haven’t decided yet as to wether I’ll pull it out and paint the upper portion of the support post sky blue yet. Just happy to have it done.

With this building done, all the buildings for Jackson are done along the backdrop. Now it’s time to start completing the scenery along the backdrop.

Up next, we start this process.

Till then, stay safe and happy modeling…

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest For A Caboose…

I had mentioned before (about 6 years ago) my wife had gotten me a MTH DM & IR 2-8-8-4 Yellowstone for Fathers Day. Now you may be wondering what the heck this has to do with anything. Well I’ll tell you.

For the last six years I have been going through all the “stuff” in storage around the basement looking for a DM&IR caboose that I received as a child. That and a S & S Hobbies RR crossing stencil that a came across just before I needed it. But to no avail.

My next thought was to just buy one. Again to no avail. You would think someone would make one, but no. Won’t even mention the fact that no one is making DM & IR oar cars anymore. In my search I did come across a Monroe Models laser cut caboose kit, but I just wanted simple.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and order the Monroe Models kit.

It does not include couplers, trucks or decals.  The couplers and trucks weren’t a deal but the decals were.  I found a set from Microscale, their part # 87-854. The problem was they deal in minimum orders, so I ended up ordering decals for containers that I didn’t have (I have since found some undecorated kits).

The Monroe Models Kit # 2214 is a work of art. It is a model of the the DM & IR standard wood caboose produced from 1909 to 1921 and lasted into the early 60’s. You can build it in it’s original configuration or as a “Modernized” version with the rear generator with access door, exhaust stack and vent. In addition, steel side frames were added. I opted for the “Modernized” version as it seemed right behind a Yellowstone.

First, the engine without a caboose:

Father’s Day gift from my wife.
Finally, the kit build…

The kit comes flat packed in a plastic sleeve.

The Monroe Models DM&IR caboose kit.

And in that sleeve is a lot. There is the caboose core with outer wall veneers. Clear plastic for windows, a cast metal sprue with vents, stacks and marker light. There is also wire for the grab irons and rails. In addition there is a jig that needs some assembly for bending all those grab irons and rail. It also has a spot to hold the ladder frames to add the rungs.

Unpacking, whats in the kit.

The laser cutting is excellent, as the pieces released from the scrap wood with minimal cutting. The instructions are very well written and logical with minimal exceptions (will touch on one later).

I started with the caboose core and frame. They went together quickly (again fit is great) and I probably should have slowed down and gotten more photos, but…

Sub walls and frame assembled.

When you assemble the subframe you have to already know which version you’re building. The cross pieces on the frame are tapered to outside walls if building the standard version and not tapered to support the side frame on the modernized version.

A step out of order…

As I had said, the instruction are laid out logically. That said, I noticed that where the caboose truck mounts looked a little low for clearance. There are two thick spacers and four thin spacers that looked like they would attach at this point for wheel clearance. I glued on the thicker spacers and tried the trucks, I ended up adding the other four to get proper clearance and coupler height.

Bolsters added to frame, in addition to these I had to add a couple of additional shims for wheel clearance.

I found in the very last step of the instructions they are mentioned. It is said to add these if building the modernized version. This would be better mentioned when doing the frame, before paint. Additionally, for proper wheel clearance the cross brace (where the arrow sticker on the left side is) had to be tapered. It would have been better to use the the tapered pieced here initially.

Back to the build…

 

Next step was to start adding laser etched side wall veneers. I started with the ends. I added the veneers and then built up the end doors and added them also.

Outer end wall installed, laser cut starter holes for the grab irons can be seen in this photo.
The door installed.

The doors are built up three layers plus the window sill. Next was the side veneers and the side windows. On the left side I used the side veneer with two windows and the space for the generator compartment. The side windows are comprised of a frame and sill.

Side outer walls on and window trim added.

Side note: the instructions flip back and forth with the caboose body mounted to the floor/frame assembly and separated. I had decided not to mount the body to the frame until after it was all painted. The instructions show mounting the clear acetate to the windows when you are initially building them. I left the body off so that I could add the glass after painting.

The roof was next. This is done as a sub roof and then a finishing skin that is added to the sub roof. I also built the cupola at the same time so that I could test fit it into the hole as I added the roof. When installing the sub roof, because of the curve, I glued into place and held it with rubber bands until the glue had set.

The caboose with sub roof installed, cupola is off to the side.
The finishing roof wrap added to the body and cupola.

As mentioned in the photo captions, all grab iron and grab rail locations are laser etched. Took all the guess work out of where they go and it also eliminates Monroe from including templates for those locations.

Time to paint…

Then it was off to the spray booth for primer.

A caboose in white, primered and awaiting paint.

While waiting for the primer to dry I took the time to assemble the grab iron jig. The jig is a laser cut piece of acrylic. Some assembly is required. There are angled and curved pieces that are glued on to aid in bending the various grab irons and rails.

Assembled jig for grab irons and grab rails. The gap on the bottom right is for ladder assembly.

After the primer had dried it was time for the finish paint.

Painted and awaiting final assembly, weights added.

With the paint on I added the window glass and assembled the basic caboose. Copula to body and body to frame. Then I did a test fit of the various cast metal parts.

Adding the cast metal parts, the smoke jack up front and the exhaust stack and intake for the generator in back.

I then started making the various grab irons and rail parts. Side note, in places where I could use commercially available pieces, I did. As I added the parts I painted them as I went.

Smoke installed and painted, started to add the wire parts.
Working my way around adding the grab irons and rails.

In the last photo you can see the ladder. This is also assembled in the acrylic jig. I had some concerns how well it would work, but as everything else, it is well thought out and works beautifully.

Assembling the ladders.
Time for decals…

Once everything was added and painted it was time for decals. My preferred method is to cut out all the decals for a side.

Decals cut and ready to apply on this side.

Then, it just applying the decals.

Decals on and ready to do the other side.

One other side note, there are decals for the red and white stripe on the curved grab rails. I opted to paint them and save myself the frustration of trying to apply these.

And then it was done. On the workbench, it seemed kind of small for  caboose. But behind the engine it truly is a rather diminutive caboose.

The new caboose behind the Yellowstone.

I loved the kit and the build. Now I just need to find a bunch of ore cars to fill in between the engine and caboose.

With the the caboose done it was on to the next build.

Till then, happy modeling …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projects…

So, here we go with catching you up with the various projects that I’ve been working on. I believe that they should be pretty much in the order that I worked on them, not that it matters.

I started first with the kits from Scientific Models that I had received for Christmas in 2020. As I had mentioned before, they were the Protestant Church #89545 and The Parson’s House #89546. I had built a couple of smaller kits from them, a corn crib and bleachers for the ball park and enjoyed them enough to try some of their larger kits.

Starting with the church. The fit was very good except for two things, will touch on those in a moment. Since I was trying to recreate a childhood memory, I was hoping for a church with the steeple centered on the front of the church. The steeple in the kit is offset to the left of the church. Thought that maybe I could modify the kit once I had it, but not so. The left side wall (looking at it from the front) is shorter because of the steeple and I would have had to track down matching siding and make a whole new wall. So I went with the kit as is.

As they always say in reviews, the fit was excellent and the order of construction is logical. The problem I ran into is the steeple. In particular the roof. The roof frame is two pieces that slide together to gives you a base for the for the roof panels to glue on to. At the bottom is a tab that fits into a slot on the top of the steeple base. That slot is the first problem. It should run on the diagonal from corner to corner. It does not, but is offset. Which then means the roof section is not square with the base. I had to enlarge the slot to get the roof to set right.

The tab on the steeple roof.
The hole on the steeple needed to be enlarged for the roof to sit right.

My first thought was that this was a “one off” problem. But thinking about it, since this is a laser cut structure, the CAD drawings had to be wrong. And since they had one assembled for the artwork, they would have caught the problem and corrected it for production. At least that’s the way it works in my world. The second problem was the actual laser cut roof panels for the steeple. There is a gap on all four sides. Looking back, I should have taken a bar sander and created beveled sides and then the panels would have sat better. Despite the gaps, this should be easy to cover with shingles.

Other than that everything fit well. If you look at the picture of the top of the steeple, you can see everything fits well and tight.

The church assembled and painted.

Scientific Models Protestant Church.
The church waiting for windows.

With everything painted it is ready for final assembly and shingles. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to go about making stained glass windows.

I was also working on the Parson’s Home kit at the same time. I could work on one while the glue dried on the other.

It was full steam ahead on the Parson’s Home when I quickly realized a minor problem and stopped.

The house is built around a core structure, with all the outer walls glued to it. What I realized was if I had taken it to the point of the church, I would not be able to add lights to it when done.

Two of the “rooms”.

There are basically four rooms with an additional two with the front and back extensions. I stopped because I want to figure out the rooms and add lights accordingly.

The house as it is and a preview (of sorts) of what it will look like.

The rear of the house.
The side wall in place.

You can see from the photos that the porch and porch roof structures a quite heavily framed. The upside is I should easily be able to hide a light in the roof structure to act a a front porch light.

And that’s where I stand with these two structures. I have researched the stained glass windows. I found an Etsy site that has a downloadable Jpeg for them. Probably the way to go.  Haven’t moved forward as I have been refocusing on finishing the lower level (mostly) and these are for the upper.

As I said, love the kits. The kits from Micro-Mark’s Scientific line of structures are of very good quality and fit. And there is a great selection of railroad themed structures.

Till next time, stay safe and happy modeling…

Hello…

Hello and welcome to 2022. I meant to do this in the beginning of January, but I am only getting to this now. Why you ask, there are the usual things. Work, life, home improvement projects, family… the list goes on. I will explain.

Work…

In January of 2020 my contract with the company I was with ended. In looking to extend it, COVID settled into the country. The company decided at the time not to renew it.  While I was unemployed I probably overcompensated by taking on all house work (my wife was still employed).  I finally started a new job last August. That’s the upside, the downside is that after sitting all day looking at spreadsheets and Zoom calls, sitting and writing at night isn’t high on my list. Though I find it relaxing and therapeutic, it’s not  want I want to do at night.

Life/Family…

Then there was the puppy (already covered this).

Last is our parents. While my mother has aged gracefully, she is 97, my wife’s parents have been not as fortunate. Though I do spend time with my mother who has been able to stay in her home, we have been spending a lot of time caring for her parents.

Upside, my son and daughter-in-law have new jobs (remote) and are moving from Kansas City back to Minneapolis in the spring.

Home Projects/Etc…

I covered the projects from last year and there are more on the horizon for the coming spring/summer. Some are things I will be taking care of and the others are things that my wife decided should be handled by others. There will be prep work for those but nothing to involved.

What you care about…

All of this doesn’t mean that I haven’t had time to spend downstairs. In fact I have been able to get some quality time downstairs. Early on, if I was downstairs the puppy wanted to join me. The problem was I had to be ever vigilant as she was constantly looking for something to get into/destroy. As time went by she has no interest other than popping downstairs to see what I’m doing and to say hi. Which means when I’m down there I get more done.

Which I’m looking forward to sharing with you. I have mainly been working on projects that have to do with finishing scenes. This means working on the background projects. Also, I have been working  on some structure builds and a caboose project. All of which I will be reporting on soon.

So…

Thank you again for stopping by during this drought. I know you have been checking in to see if there was something new and there hasn’t been. Please check back soon for new updates. I hope not to disappoint.

Again, thank you…

 

Roomettes…

I finally received the interior rooms from Roomettes Lighting. I didn’t realize that the company was located in Ontario ( and no, I don’t have a problem with Canada, I used to work for a company based in Toronto ). It’s just mail between the two usually takes awhile. In this case, almost two weeks. So if you want to order, you should know this in advance.

The other thing you should know ( and it’s not a big deal ) but they only accept payment by Paypal. Again, not a big deal, I’ve had a Paypal account for years and it’s usually one of the payment options on all websites. Just was a little surprised when it was they only option.

The sets that I ordered were the Broadway Apartments set for the Walthers Parkview Terrace Background Building( 933-3177 ). I had bought and assembled two of these quite awhile ago and was getting ready to throw some lights in them when I came across the Roomettes Lighting website. I thought individually lit rooms with interiors showing would add far more interest. Just took awhile to get around to ordering them.

Finally here and what you get…

I ordered them on May 25th and when I got the confirmation and shipping information a day or two later I was surprised to see the estimated arrival date of June 10th. In addition I was a bit thrown when I saw the tracking info from Canada Post. That’s when I did a quick check of where the company was located. If you’ve ever tracked a shipment ( and who hasn’t now that everyone gives it to you and it’s easy ), you’re going to find Canada Posts tracking info a little vague and even more so once it hits the States.

But, it finally arrived.

They finally arrived.

Opening them up and it’s what I expected as they have a pretty good description of what  you are getting, plus pictures of the rooms.

So what was included in this set? Well you get ten rooms plus ten Woodland Scenics LED Stick-On Lights ( JP5741 ). The four sheets of rooms are glossy and printed on heavy paper ( cardstock ). There are kitchens, living rooms,  bathrooms, bedrooms and an entry (I think).  They are die cut and release form the sheet with a quick pass with a razor blade to cut the little tabs holding them in place. In addition the rooms are perforated along the fold lines.

The Roomettes set Broadway Apartments for the Walther’s Parkview Terrace Background building.
What’s included: the rooms.
What’s included: the Woodland Scenics Just Plug LED lights.
Putting them together…

In the instructions they note that there are column numbers by each  room. In this case, 1 through 6. This matches up to the six columns of windows (from top to bottom) on the building. I decided to place the rooms as displayed on Roomettes website for the first building. I’ll mix it up on the second building.

As I said, they pop out pretty easily. A quick fold of the tabs, a little white glue and they were together. OK, so I had to hold the tabs while the glue set, but they do go together pretty quickly. They also suggest running a little glue along the perforated edges for strength and light blocking. Did this also. I numbered the rooms with a column number and a floor number just to make placement easier.

The assembled rooms marked for where they are going.
the rooms assembled, pre light installation.

I thought about ( and they suggest it in the instructions ) of adding some 3Dness to the rooms. An example would be there is a headboard in the bedroom, I thought about adding the rest of the bed. Or adding addition chairs in other rooms. Seemed a bit much for something that is against the backdrop. And the rooms have a pretty good 3D look on their own. Would do this on something with bigger windows and near the front.

I added the lights. Their suggestion is to use a high quality tape to hold the lights in place. I opted to glue them in place. They also suggest painting the outside of the rooms black to block light. I decided to wrap the rooms with painters tape. Reinforces the lights and blocks light. Probably not necessary, but did it anyhow.

The rooms – lit and ready to install.

The last step before installation was to dress up the rest of the windows, the ones without actual rooms.

Adding window treatments to the “unoccupied” rooms.
Adding the rooms…

After the other windows were taken care of it was time to add the rooms to the apartment building.

Nothing special here, I used Elmers Tacky Glue to glue the rooms in place. The fit was perfect. This is evident in that the corner rooms have cut outs in the side walls for the windows on the building sides. They lined right up.

The rooms with the lights and the outdoor lights ready to be hooked up.

In addition to the room lights I also added the Woodland Scenics Just Plug Entry Wall Lights (JP5655).  Roomettes had shown these on their finished model on the stairway landings and I liked the look. This is something that would have been far easier before the stairways were added. Spent a whole night getting them fitted in place working around the stairways and support posts.

Next up was what to do with the wires. With ten room lights and four wall lights there were plenty of them. First thought was to simply pull them through the floor and hook up everything under the layout. Bad idea, as the underside of the layout is always pretty congested. Looking at the empty space in the building I began wondering how much I could fit into that space. My plan was to hook everything into 3 Port Sharing Devices (JP5681) and then wire those into a Light Hub (JP5701) . From there the Light Hub would wire into an Expansion Hub (JP5702) for power.

What I could fit into the back was the three Port Sharing Devices. This cut down the number of wires from 14 to 3. Acceptable.

wires bundled and plugged into the port sharing devices.

Hooked the 3 wires into the Light Hub and then it was time to power it all up. I used the Woodland Scenics Power Supply (JP5770) and this is what it looks like…

The apartment building lit.

In planning the lights I had looked at a couple of options. One was to add the Sequencing Light Hub, but I felt that the lights would sequence far more often than normal. The second thing I thought would be cool that is offered by Roomettes is a LED RGB module to simulate a TV.  The module itself is inexpensive, not so much the controller for it. At $100+, I could buy a real TV.

And it’s ready for the layout.

Now on to the other building. And after that I will look the layout over to see if I can add a set to something close o the front with larger windows or open doors to show off the interior. The kits are reasonably priced and I would encourage you give one a try.

I would like to take this time to apologize for the amount of time it took to finish this post. Between the actual work and committing the work to the written word, it has been close to 2 months. For whatever reason, the number of household projects has been far more than usual this year. And there are still plenty to go. I will update you as I find time to get things done. If nothing else fall and winter are on there way and that is definitely a return to the basement.

Till later, stay safe and Happy Modeling …

Missing The Little Things…

Missing the little things. By that I mean that for all the work that I have done I still haven’t gotten to the little things. The details that make and finish a scene.

This became apparent back when I was laying down the first ballast around the peninsula. I had gotten the ballast down and smoothed out and stood back to inspect it for any irregularity’s. Just for fun I grabbed a track gang figure set I had and set them into place as if they too were inspecting the ballast job.

Looking southbound, ballast in waiting for glue.
Looking northbound past the farm, ballast awaiting glue.
Ballast down, awaiting approval before applying glue.

I have found that as I had planned the layout I foresaw the different scenes but not really the backdrop scenes. So as I have finished the different areas and towns I have filled in the basics in the foreground but have not done the area by the backdrop. And because the background scenes aren’t done, I haven’t wanted to finish the scenes in the foreground because they would be prone to damage as I reach across it to finish the back sections.

A few examples…
Overall station scene put in place.
Make up of the track cleaning train.
Basic scenery done up to Main Street in Jackson.
So….

The only scene finished front to back is the farmhouse scene, though no figures and the rest of the details need to be placed. Otherwise all the towns have foreground scenery and buildings but little along the backdrop. The exception would be the town of Jackson where I have the backdrop buildings done. Just need to be lit. Although I came across the Roomettes website and now thinking about interiors for some of the buildings. The hill scene/view block between Jackson and the downtown New Brighton scene has basic ground cover down but is awaiting trees. As is the pasture scene for the farm.

Which got me to thinking. Last fall I bought a Scenics Express Supertrees starter set. I watched a video on working with the set. The first thing they suggested was spraying the trunks with Rust Oleum Camouflage brown paint. Being as it was a bit too cold to spray outside and although I have the spray booth, I prefer not to spray oil based paints inside, I figured I would wait for spring.

Well, the temperature outside is warm enough now. And it’s something I can accomplish outside (remember the demon puppy). So one of the next things up will be to do the trees. And then start finishing the various scenes around the layout.

I also will be ordering a couple sets of the Roomette interior sets. When received will give you a run down  on the product.

Long story short. I need to start finishing things before moving on. Which is actually a good thing to realize as I keep looking at the upper level and thinking of all the great scenes to come.

Wish me luck. Till next time, Happy Modeling…

Puppy Interuptus…

February 9th, 2021. That’s the day the new puppy came home. Since that time I have spent maybe a total of an hour downstairs. And that was staging and taking pictures for the last several posts.

It’s funny how the mind erases things that are somewhat unpleasant. I don’t remember either of our last two dogs being this much work. I only seem to remember the positive things. But this little hellion is something else. When she’s awake you have to have one eye on her at all times. And when she’s asleep is when I can get things done for work and around the house. Basically, my model time is now keeping track of the puppy time.

But, things are improving. She’s now housebroken, so there is no more mad dashes to get her out. And for the most part she is self entertaining and will play with her toys or our older dog. But you still have to watch her as she will suddenly disappear and will inevitably find something that she shouldn’t be in.

The funny thing is I swore that our older dog was the last. But then Covid hit and we stopped going to the dog park almost daily. That was something we had been doing for almost six years and she had become very social as we had a regular group of people/dogs that we would walk with everyday. Without the daily park visits she became noticeably lonely.

So, in a moment of madness (or perhaps too many adult beverages) the decision to get one more dog was made.

The reason I even bring this up is because I am quickly running out of things to post about. But like I said, things are improving and I find more time to get extra things done. Unfortunately, most of those things are outside as the weather improves. This also works out as the dogs can be outside and I don’t have to worry too much about what the little one is getting into.

But, as I said things are improving with more time for things I want to do. I’m sure that by the time it gets to hot to enjoyably be outside I will be able to get back downstairs. Till then please be patient, I do have content that I want to share with you.

The pup…

The new pup, first day home.
Recent picture, they grow quickly.
This pretty much sums up where we all rank in her world.

Like I said, I have things to share. Please continue to stop by for projects and thoughts.

Till then, stay safe and Happy Railroading…

 

My First DCC Conversion, PT. 1…

This is my first DCC conversion as opposed to my first decoder install as the early Athearn, Bachmann and LifeLike engines came DCC ready. All you had to do was pop out the jumper plug and add the decoder. All were without sound. Ah yes, a project for another day.

As I had mentioned before the test subject is a Athearn Blue Box SD 40-2. I also had mentioned that I had started this project about 10 years ago. Not much was really accomplished, I had gotten a couple of things for the conversion and started working on the shell.

What I had accomplished at that time was cutting out the front radiator fan and fitting a winterization hatch to it. Not sure of the brand but it has an etched metal grill. Perfect for a speaker to be mounted under it. I also had built the baffle for the speaker. Again not sure of the brand of speaker, though I suspect it is from Sountraxx. In addition to the speaker the other purchase at the time was a better motor than the stock Athearn. It is from Accurate Lighting and a quick web search shows that you can still get them from HobbyLinc.com.

The Accurate Lighting motor upgrade, I had picked up two of these.

The speaker baffle and winterization hatch.

Baffle and hole for the speaker, will be covered by the winterization hatch.
Speaker installed into baffle.
Hole cut for the speaker, speaker installed.
Winterization hatch installed over speaker.

Once I do the final install on the speaker I will close up the enclosure. Also the four wires on the motor are for a an install on a standard DC locomotive, one pair to each truck. I will clip one set when hooking up.

Having the motor in place and the speaker ready to install the next step was to get power from the tracks. Using wire on hand, I soldered wires directly to the trucks. Red to the high side, this would be the one on the BB Athearn that had the metal bar running across the top of the motor and black to the low side on top of the truck.

The trucks wired for pickup, unfortunately the wire was to brittle and already had broken off the top of the right truck.

Unfortunately the scrounged wire was too brittle. A little handling and one broke off right away. So, off to the internet, specifically Amazon where I found a very flexible 28 gauge wire. Unsoldered the old and installed the new.

Trucks wired motor installed, ready to start the final hookup.
Let there be light…

Part of the conversion was adding new lights to the engine. I believe one of the reasons I had not gone much further with the project was that I needed to add new lights to the engine. The old Athearn incandescent bulbs were to big and I knew that even smaller incandescent bulbs ran hot, so clearance was needed as to not melt the plastic of the cab.

Well in the time between then and now, LED’s have really come into their own. I stumbled across LighthouseLED’s. Their selection is quite complete. Everything from 5mm down to pico size bulbs. Didn’t even know there was a pico size LED. And you can get any of them prewired with a resistor. Saves a lot of time and frustration. My first order included a white SMD LED mounted on a small resistor board with leads. It was hard to tell the size of the board from their diagram. It turned out to be about 1/4″ by 3/8″ (sorry, didn’t feel like running down and measuring). Which meant the it would show if using to light the front headlight. But it fit in perfectly to the rear of the engine for the rear light.

LED board with resistor installed for the rear light.
Rear light lit.

For the front I ordered a prewired 3mm bulb. I made a bracket out of styrene to hold it up in the headlight/number board housing. Still working on fit, will get you a couple of photos when placed. In addition I ordered some prewired pico sized bulbs that are amber. These are for the beacon on the cab roof. My thought was that when I got the bulb I would drill out the beacon and slide it in. Turns out I didn’t need to as Details West had already done this.

Thought I was going to have to drill these out. Luckily they are already cored.
The unlit pico sized LED for the roof beacon.
The amber pico sized LED for the roof beacon.
The pico sized LED in the strobe housing.

The decoder that I’m using is a Sountraxx Econami ECO-PNP. I chose this one primarily based on price and basic functions. It has standard motor functions, sound and front and rear lights. In addition it has several extra programmable functions. One of which is a Strato-Light beacon function. I have to image the decoder will make the beacon flash like the original. My dilemma now in seeing the size of the pico LED’s is do I want to add front wheel slip lights and step lights. Or keep it simple for first install and go with what I planned.

At this point I think I’m going to go with simple. I have all the parts ready to install. Just a little afraid after reading posts of people whose installs didn’t go as planned. But I’m ready to muscle past that, as I’m really wanting to see a diesel with a flashing beacon, something that doesn’t seem to be on many factory diesels.

As of now that’s where I’m at, will update in the near future.

Till then, happy modeling….

 

 

 

 

Christmas in April…

My wife and I are at a stage in life where if we need something we generally just get it. Doesn’t mean that we’re out constantly shopping, It just means we don’t have to think about it. In fact, we’re also at that stage of life where we are looking around and thinking we got too much “stuff”.

So apparently when my wife asked before Christmas what I wanted, my reply of “I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it” wasn’t the correct response. I answered incorrectly to the follow up question also, which was – “what about for downstairs?”. Meaning the layout. My answer was “I don’t really need anything right now.”

Let me explain. Early in our marriage, when money was tight, we would shop together and watch what the other would longingly look at knowing that it was out of reach at the moment. That was how we built gift lists for each other. As our situation improved there was less hesitation in buying things and the advent of the Christmas wish list came into being.

So after she “suggested” that I think about and put together a list so that she and the kids had some idea of what to get me, I started to look around and see if I was missing anything.

Turns out there were a few things that I had wanted but hadn’t gotten around to getting.

I follow several groups on Facebook and one of the popular topics that pops up often is track cleaning. Answers range from bright boys and gleaning to one of several track cleaning cars. As I now was running a bright boy over the rails on a regular basis the thought of a track cleaning car over the rails was appealing. But which one?

In the groups this is like asking which is better? Digitrax or NCE? Loksound or Soundtrax? HO or N scale? And the list goes on and on. It is, as I know, a matter of personal choice. Something that you started with, like and stay with. The intriguing answer was “one of each”.

And that was what went on the list. On the list was a CMX Products track cleaning car, a Centerline track cleaning car and a Walthers track cleaning car. Each operates a little differently. The Walther’s car has an abrasive pad spring mounted on the bottom. Much like a bright boy. The Centerline and CMX car use a cleaner and pad system. The CMX car is an actual tank car that you fill with your preferred cleaner. It drips this onto a pad that cleans the railhead. The Centerline car has a cloth covered roller that also runs on the rail head.

Of course just because I asked doesn’t mean I received all three. I did get the Walther’s and the CMX cars. The Centerline car will be in the future.

The cars…

Walther’s 40′ plug door track cleaning car
CMX Products Clean Machine Track Cleaning car.

And they work great. The cars are both very heavy and offer a lot of rolling resistance. To get them around the layout I am using two BLI SD-9s. These engines are heavy in themselves and have great pulling power, The setup is one engine pulling the two cleaning cars in the middle and the other engine pushing.

Make up of the track cleaning train.

Even with the two engines, you have to give them more throttle than you would normally use. Otherwise they can get hung up on high spots like switches and mainly road crossings. But it is fun to run and the amount of dirt they pick up is surprising. I look forward to adding the third car to this consist.

The other things I had on the list and received were a couple of buildings from Micro Marks Scientific line. They are the Parson’s Home #89546 and the Protestant Church #89545.

Couple of new laser cut kits for the layout.

They are for a future town on the upper level and remind me of visiting my grandmother when I was little. I have had a couple of their kits and though the fit is great, I had some issues with the wood being a little brittle. Of course knowing this going in helps. When I get to them I will update.

Next up, my first actual DCC conversion/install.

Till then, stay safe and enjoy…

 

The Evolution of a Paint Scheme…

As you may (or may not) remember that the reason I model a freelance railroad is an off hand comment made to me by an experienced model railroader friend of my fathers. He was over once visiting my father and stopped down in the basement while I was running trains on my older brothers layout. My transgression was (as far as I know) running an engine from one road with the caboose from another. He told me I was doing it wrong and that wasn’t the way a real railroad would do it. No offense, but I was 6 at the time of this heinous crime. That comment always stuck with me.

When I was about 11 or 12 I became a more serious modeler complete with a subscription to Model Railroad Craftsman.

It opened my eyes to all the hobby had to offer. And yes it showed me that railroad A would not run a caboose from railroad B. I also became aware from the letters pages that there were a lot of people who were ready to point out that someone had not done something prototypical. That old comment came back to haunt me and I was afraid to do something wrong.

I also became aware of the “Freelance Railroad”. One that had their own way of doing things, but within the context of what was prototypical for that region. The most famous was the Allen McClelland’s Virginian and Ohio. It’s still talked about like it was an actual railroad. My favorite though is Frank Ellison’s O scale Delta Lines. Frank would remove the pilot trucks from steam engines because they caused derailments. Though a well detailed and scenic layout, operations were more important than scale fidelity.

So I decided at 12 that was the way to go. Came up with a semi plausible name and a totally hideous paint scheme.

When I returned to the hobby I decided to stay with the freelance theme. I refined the name to the Grand Forks and Western Minnesota, DBA the Grand Western. From there I started work on a paint scheme. The early attempts sometimes bordered on circus like. I think I kept the local hobby shop in business just buying undecorated Athearn diesel shells. A big part of the problem was that they were too intricate for someone with no airbrush or masking skills. It was spray can and hand brushing.

I finely landed on a scheme, that looking at it now was very close to the Southern Pacific’s. It was a light gray body with a red cab, nose and rear end. The roof was painted black with the thought that it hid the diesel exhaust along the top. A basic utilitarian scheme and easy for the shops to keep up. And I could use a spray can for the gray and brush paint the rest.

The original diesel paint scheme, kept it simple and utilitarian.
A change of name and paint…

First of all you will note the change of name. I went from Grand Western to Continental Northern because for what ever reason people couldn’t understand the Grand Western name, but will go Oh, OK when they see Continental Northern.  The black patch below the cab is where the GF&WM reporting marks were. The gray paint is no longer available so I removed the reporting marks and left the black patch.

But before we talk new engine paint we have to look at cabooses. I had painted one in the gray and red scheme to match the diesel scheme. It never struck me as very caboosy. (I know, not a word). The scheme I landed on was the basic red caboose.

The older wooden cabooses of the fleet.
Side view of the older wooden cabooses in the traditional red paint scheme.

When I started painting the modern steel cabooses I wanted something a little more modern and interesting looking. I remembered a paint scheme from a video a rented from the LHS from Model Railroader. It was on airbrushing, as my wife had gotten me a vey nice/expensive new airbrush. I found the process daunting with prepping the surface, mixing the paint with thinner and clear coating the finished car. Add to that the clean up with oil based paints and it was a lot. I held off airbrushing until acrylics came in to their own.

But I always remembered the finished caboose that Jim Hediger painted in that video. Bright red with yellow ends. With my airbrushing and masking skills greatly improved I decided to recreate that look for my road.

Side view of the modern (steel) cabooses in the “Safety” paint scheme.
Rear view of the modern cabooses in the “Safety” paint scheme.

Side note, I have found a great resource for LED’s. It is Lighthouse LEDS. I found them while gathering supplies for a different project. They have prewired flashing red LEDs. I plan to equip the cabooses with rear red flashing lights powered from the rails.

So when it came time for the diesels I figured I would just carry that scheme forward to them.

And this is the look…

The new “Safety” high visibility paint scheme. Wanted to update the look of the diesel fleet.

The Continental Northern refers to it as their “High visibility Safety scheme”. The diesel itself is a Athearn BB that I have been converting to DCC/sound (for like the last 10 years) and is the subject of an upcoming post. I had the shell ready for paint and it became the test bed for the new scheme.

More found stuff…

The reason this became something of a priority was that as I was digging through the shelves looking for cars that needed to be put together, I came across two Broadway Limited Import SD 40-2s and a Bachmann GE 8-40c that were undecorated. The BLI engines are DCC/sound and the Bachmann will need to be converted.

So loving the new look I went ahead and started the BLI engines, held off on the Bachmann as I need to check out decoders for it.

Fresh out of the paint booth. Last color applied, soon to be unmasked.
Fresh out the spray booth, time to put them together.
The BLI SD40-2’s front view. Painted and assembled, waiting for decals. Then final assembly.
Rear view of the BLI SD40-2’s. Ready for decals.

And that’s where I am with them at this point. They just need decals and then final assembly. After that it’s off to the programming track and then the layout. Will keep you updated.

Till next time, stay safe and happy modeling…

 

 

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