Thursday, July 24, 2014

Done, done and done

The pilot model for the next kit from Yarmouth Model Works is done.
The kit features custom etched details, a new etched running board design and custom decals from Black Cat Publishing. Included in the kit will be Kato ASF A-3 trucks.
The side panels were carefully created to recreate the ripples that occur when sheet steel is welded. The effect is subtle but very much there.
The prototype was built in 12-48 by AC&F and was the first welded side boxcar purchased by the Wabash.
These kits will be on the website just as soon as we have some inventory. Stay tuned.

28 down

84 to go.
Adding tank bands to the Vinegar tank cars.
A tedious, but necessary process. The kit provides a pile of brass wire for this, but I followed Bill Darnaby's suggestion and have used mono-filament instead. With any luck I should be able to paint all 4 cars before the weekend is over.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


As I alluded to yesterday, the final parts are in and I can now build the pilot model for our next kit. The Wabash 40' welded 12 panel boxcar.
For now all I'll show you is the underframe. Yes the component layout is a little odd, but we have photo and drawing documentation to support what we've done here.
I'm particularly pleased with how the crossties, with their tapered flanges and the Universal slack adjustor turned out.
A release date will be announced soon. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Institutional Paranoia

I have to share this "adventure" with you.
As part of a series of diagnostic tests I'm undergoing, (the joys of getting older), I am undergoing a MIBI stress test. The first stage involves an injection of some radioactive isotopes as a tracer into my blood stream and a few images being taken shortly there after. Step 2 will involve an exercise bike and other torture devices as they try to establish if I have some blocked arteries.
As the nurse was reviewing my history and such in advance of the first step, she asked if I was planning on traveling into the USA any time soon. I told her that I planned to go there immediately after we were done. Some key parts for the next kit had finally arrived at my PO box in Michigan and I needed to get the pilot model built.
She said "Then you'll be needing this." She handed over a card that described what the procedure was and the dosage and what the actual materials were that were being injected. She informed me that I should expect to be questioned at the border as they maintained Geiger counters at the crossing points and I might set them off.
In my mind I had a hard time believing that the relatively small amount of nuclear material that was in my body would set of an alarm. So away I went.
Arriving at the border at noon on a Friday, the volume was pretty much what I was expecting. But the traffic was moving through the check points fairly well. I was one car away from advancing to primary screening when suddenly everything stopped and 8 CBP personnel were walking around the driveways with little handheld devices. I knew what was up.
I rolled down the windows and waved, calling out, "I think you're looking for me!" The first agent came to the window and asked, "Did you have a medical procedure today, sir?" I told him I had and handed over the card I had been given.
From there I was quickly through primary and into secondary inspection and instructed to drive the van through some form of detector, and they then had me exit the van and move away. I was then scanned by a more sophisticated Geiger counter while the agents were busy filling in paperwork. The one agent with the counter asked me when I had had the procedure done. I told him "Just this morning." To which he responded "That would explain why you're so hot!" I smiled and said" It's been along time since anyone has called me that." He didn't smile back. ( no sense of humour these guys.)
Any way they were all very polite and I was on my way fairly quickly. But I am rather astonished at how sensitive the radiation equipment is at the border. Remember that the initial reading was taken while I was inside a steel box and that medical isotopes are fairly low level items.
Are they really that afraid of a nuclear device being smuggled into the USA? A certain amount of paranoia is a healthy thing, I've been told, but this is a little much I think.
Oh and the really weird part, coming home an hour later, no alarms were set of returning to Canada.
You may draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My favorite pattern maker

At least in O scale.
I just completed 2 of these stunning reefers from Chooch. The patterns were created by Jim Zwenerman. Beautiful piece of work, right down to the nail holes in the car sheathing.
It's too bad that we can't see more of this kind of work, what with Chooch seemingly out of the resin car kit business.

Beating the Sunshine Models Vinegar Tank Car kit into submission

This resin kit is considered by many to be the one of the more challenging kits ever produced by Sunshine.
While there's nothing in the kit that is overwhelmingly difficult, save for one task which we'll cover shortly, the kit is rather intimidating just with the shear volume of parts to be dealt with.
3 different tank saddles/supports, 14 handrail supports, 4 handrail corner fittings and 44 tank band couplings along with many other detail parts. You get the picture.
To date I've built 3 of these kits, my first one is pictured above. I like to think that I've gotten better over time with these kits and have figured out the most challenging part of the kit construction. The actual tank.
The tank is built using a cast resin wrapper, but no core is supplied. I always found that it was a bit of a fight to get the tank to the right diameter, and adding weight was a challenge. So for this time around I tried a different tack.
I had my local machine shop dress down a piece of steel pipe to 0.965" dia x 5" long.
I slipped the pipe into the tank body, glued one edge to the pipe using Loctite 496, which is meant for metal bonds. From there it was to the kitchen and the big pot. I immersed the assembly into very hot water for about a minute to soften the resin, then pulled it out and held the wrapper tight to the pipe. A near perfect fit resulted.
Before heat on the right, a cooling assembly on the left. From there it was back to the shop and I could glue the seam closed.
And then use the finished tank as a guide, I could sand the saddles to the final shape and get it all to fit properly.
And no, your eyes are not deceiving you, there are indeed 4 of these kits on the bench right now. Yes I am a glutton for punishment.
Tomorrow it's tank band time. About 30 bands per tank. Who has more fun than us?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More happy customers

They should be happy, since I'll be shipping them their finished cars.

More Chooch Ultra-Scale O scale  resin kits.
There is something about the larger scale cars. But they do take up a lot of real estate.
I'll stick to HO for my own modeling madness.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Operations are dangerous

In part as a result of the last ops session here and in part a result of a conversation with Barry Silverthorn while shooting an episode of TrainMasters TV, ( ) I've been thinking about Wabash F7s.
I've been reviewing whether or not I should try and acquire another pair of units for the layout. As time goes by, I'm getting more comfortable with all the tasks I wish to have done in an ops session. Another pair of units would allow me to run another extra or add a section to an already scheduled train.
Currently I own 9 pairs of F7s. They are Proto 2000 factory painted units, which I've added winterization hatches to and renumbered to match the Canadian assignments. The Wabash maintained a fleet of 10 pair in Ontario through the 50s and into the 60s. An eleventh pair was bought in 53 to replace a set that were wrecked in a horrific wreck in Simcoe, which killed the crew and burnt the locomotives.
As far as I can tell the models are out of production and not likely to be repeated, so acquiring another pair may be a challenge. And then there's the potential cost. Equipped with DCC and sound the models sold for $200.00 each when new. Ebay can be brutal!
It can get dangerous around here when I start thinking about options.

Does it look like I need more F7s!?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

That's just weird

I finally had a chance to get back into the layout room and have a look at where to go next with scenery and I was presented with this.

Little tufts of fungi!
I've never seen this before. And no, my basement is not dripping wet. A quick spray with alcohol knocked it all back.
Does make me wonder what's going to turn up next, mind you.
Ask Trevor about the critters he found when he used a large amount of Woodland Scenics field grasses. Turns out the product is goat hair and the little bitty bugs love to lunch on it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dealing with glue blorts

For many years the common wisdom for gluing down scenery texture was to spread your material, sawdust, groundfoam or what ever, soak it with "wet" water and then dribble in thinned white glue.
Whenever I worked that way this would result;

A not very interesting cross between moonscape and Passchendaele. And not the desired result.
So a little thinking and experimenting followed and I've come up with this approach.
I start with filling in the open spaces with extruded polystyrene, I used to use a cardboard lattice and plaster bandages, took too long.

That can be shaped, sanded, carved to one's hearts content.
Over top of that I apply a thin layer of Sculptamold. I really like this product. It has a reasonable working time and when dry has just the right amount of texture. It can be troweled while wet and it sticks well to the foam.
Over the Sculptamold I'll apply a coat of "earth" coloured paint and let that dry.
Over that comes the first layer of texture and colour.
I brush a coat of thinned white glue first and thin sift "Burnt Grass" over the entire area. Sort of a primer coat if you will.
Note the lack of "blowouts".
Once that dries, another coat of glue is brushed over the surface.
Over this is sifted a brighter green foam and a light scatter of dark green and a controlled application of yellow for weeds.
Once this dries, we're getting closer to the desired result.
This is now my base coat of colour and texture. I really like the variations and the randomness of the colours. Over this will go static grasses, poly fibers and other textures before the right of way fences, telegraph poles, trees get placed. And the final layer of ballast.
All that for another day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Richard Hendrickson

This is not how one wants to start their day;
This morning I was presented with this email;
I have just heard the terribly sad news that Richard died in a fall a couple of days ago. I don't know any details. Richard was a marvelously well-informed historian and modeler, and always very generous with his time and information to anyone who needed help. An awful lot of us will miss him greatly.
Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA

Like so many in the modeling community I was shocked and saddened by this news. I considered Richard a friend and mentor. He was a source of so much prototype data for modelers and manufacturers and was always gracious and  generous with his knowledge. He was always supportive to new model train business ventures. I received much unqualified support from Richard over the years.
I also had the privilege of having Richard as a client. I have built a number of ATSF resin kits for Richard. For me it's an honour to be asked to do work for someone as high profile as Richard.
I first met Richard at the 2003 NMRA National in Toronto, where we had a lovely chat and over the years whenever our paths crossed many pleasant conversations ensued.
Our hobby as suffered a tremendous blow with this news, the likes of Richard may never be seen again in the world of prototype modeling.
The only upside to this sad news for me is that at least he passed quickly. I would rather go from an accident than linger in a bed for months or even years.
I'm sorry to see him gone.
Thanks Richard. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hex Frog Juicers

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm having issues with power routing to the frogs on the layout.
I use Fast Tracks Bullfrogs for turnout control. They feature a micro-switch for power routing to the frog. After the first 'Sea Trial" I went around the layout and carefully tweaked any turnout controls that weren't behaving properly. Sometimes the micro-switch needed a tad of adjustment to "click" over to the other route. But on Thursday last I had a number of turnouts that were not working properly. The micro-switches were out of "trim" again.
This mis-alignment was discovered when a unit would attempt cross a frog and short out due to incorrect polarity at the frog.
Occasional shorts on a layout may not seem like a big deal for some, but when running multiple units with sound decoders, restart can be an issue. On my layout, more often than not there are 4 or more sound equipped F7s occupying a power district. Under normal running conditions 5 amps is plenty of current, but if a short is created the breaker trips and when it tries to recover the inrush current for the sound modules easily exceeds the breaker capacity. Requiring that units be tilted to get them off the rails to allow the breaker to recover.
I gave this a great deal of thought for the next couple of days and discussed the issue with my guest.
Here's what I suspect. My basement, which is in a 110 year old house, is not the most stable environment in terms of heat and humidity, and with the winter like we just had, both the walls and the floor move some. Which can easily through many things out of alignment. I suspect then that keeping the Bullfrogs "trimmed" will be an ongoing issue. Which I'm not prepared to continue struggling with.
Tam Valley Hex Frog Juicers

This little baby is a brilliant solution to my problem. It maybe a little like using a sledgehammer to crack an egg to some, but for me, if I can stop fussing under the layout with linkages, etc, the happier I am. These units are available for 6, 2 and single frog control.
I should have these in hand next week and will certainly have them installed by Sept. They are dead easy to wire. 2 leads to the track bus and a single wire to the switch frog. The unit senses and automatically maintains the correct polarity for the frog/s in question.
The funny thing is that I first considered using these all over the layout when I bought the first 2 of these I have for the staging yards. Should have listened to my instincts back then.
Happy Canada y'all!

Sea Trials Part Deux

This Thursday past, 4 friends were over and we had another kick at the can of getting TT&TO operations working on my Wabash Cayuga Sub layout.
Trevor Marshall, Don Janes, Mark Hill and my overseas guest Thorsten Petschailles were all willing subjects in the ongoing working up of the operations scheme. I'm pleased to say that for the most part things are coming together.
We discovered a couple of points in the timetable that require further revision. In both cases it is an error in math that has trains sitting in stations awaiting their departure time for overly lengthy periods of time.
Don Janes bids his time waiting for the clock to advance, so he can proceed safely east of Aylmer. Poo-foot carefully guards him.

The operations require at least 2 west bound and 1 east bound extra every day to keep the motive power balanced between terminals. So both despatcher and road crews have to keep an eye on things. Another option available to me is the use of sections. Rather than looking for slots in the timetbale to fit in extras, I can order trains to run as multiple sections. Which should be easy to do, I just have to create HO scale white and green flags a make flag holders for the locomotives. That is something I want to have in place for the next session.
The other thing I may have in place for the next session in letting the way freight run between through trains. As I get more comfortable with the travails of despatching I will continue to add levels of reality.
No matter how hard you try, it seems that everyone winds up in the same place at the same time.

The layout behaved fairly well with 2 notable exceptions.
I'm noticing that the some of the cars with Kadee trucks and Reboxx wheelsets have a greater tendency to derail than say plastic trucks. I'm not sure what the deal is here. I have to sit down and review every piece of rolling stock and see if I can't get certain cars to track better. More details when I know more.
The other issue is power routing to the frogs. But I'm going to cover that in my next posting.
I'm overall very pleased with the performance of the layout. And the operators all enjoy the tasks that have to be done.
Looks like the idea I had 6 years ago is working. Imagine my relief!

A rather frenetic week

So much so that today is the first time I've had time to sit down and generate blog posts about much of the activity.
It all started on Sunday, June 22nd, with my traveling to Toronto to meet up with my friend from Germany, Thorsten. He had come over earlier with some other friends for a hockey junket and stayed an extra week to visit my wife and I and get a full dose model railroading Canadian style.
On the Sunday we visited my pal Trevor Marshall and ran trains on Trevor's Port Rowan layout for the afternoon. That fun was well described in Trevor's blog, as well as Chris Abbott's blog,
Thorsten very quickly got the knack of Canadian style paperwork and had a great time moving S scale trains around on Trevor's layout. Many thanks to Trevor for opening the door and letting us see his stunning layout.
Some more hockey and then home to ST Thomas on the Monday, which was followed up with a visit on Tuesday to the World Headquarters of Fast Tracks in Port Dover. There Thorsten picked up a few choice items made by Tim Warris and we got to see the stunning Bronx Terminal Railway layout that Tim has built. The layout was out being prepared for it's annual trip to the NMRA National Train Show, so our timing was perfect, allowing Thorsten to see some of the finest trackwork out there.
The bonus of going to Port Dover was that the drive parallels the Cayuga Sub that I model, so I could show Thorsten the LDEs (layout design elements) that I've used on my layout.
On the Wed. we traveled to Sarnia and visited Don Janes. Don free-lances New England railroads in the 50's and since Thorsten plans to build a layout centred around Bellows Falls, the visit was useful as well as inspiring. You might know a bit about Don as  he has written many feature articles for MR and RMC over the years.
Thursday was the second "Sea Trial" for the Wabash Cayuga Sub. More about that in another post. For now, suffice to say it went very well and my overseas visitor got his first dose of TT&TO style ops.
I'm happy to report there were no "incidents" on the railroad from a failure to follow the schedule or orders.
We finished the week with a little shopping in London and a day of scenery work on the layout. Sunday was drive to the airport in Toronto and back with the added bonus of my having lost power steering in the van. I'm rediscovering certain muscle groups as a result.
Yesterday was another 22 hour work day for a concert, so this is the first time I've been able to catchup. There are a couple more posts to follow today.
Stay tuned!