Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wabash War Emergency Boxcar Models

Like many US roads, the Wabash was in need of more boxcars to haul wartime goods, but steel was in short supply. Pesky tanks and ships, etc. So compromise designs were evolved to reduce the amount of steel required.
Thus the "War Emergency" boxcars were born.
Intermountain Railway Co offer a kit of these cars which presents a very good starting point from which a very good rendition of the Wabash version can be created in HO scale.
My friend Jim Hayes took the time to make notes on a copy of the above photo as what changes are required.
From there it was simple.
A quick paint job and decals and a little weathering.
Ta Da.

Up on Kettle Creek Part II.

More Evergreen H beam stock was acquired last week, so work could proceed on the truss span.
I made the 2 truss sections in a jig, then created cross bearers from 0.020" sheet stock and braced that up with Plastruct angles. Glued those to the trusses and then added bags of angles for spacers along the bottom and all the cross bracing. All the bracing has little gusset plates where they join to the primary H beams.
I'm very happy with how this has turned out. I feel it really has captured the flavour of the prototype.
Next will be a pile of Archer rivets and then paint.
I'm not going to go into too much more detail about this project at this time. I intend to write a full feature article for RMC on this project.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

This is plain weird!

Add it to the list of things I don't understand.
I love these things. Insulation Displacement Connectors. Suitcase connectors to some.
They make connecting track wiring to the DCC bus a breeze.
What's got me confused is that they are significantly cheaper at Micro-Mark, than they are at industrial outlets and wholesalers, like Digi-Key or MSC.
I would have expected the exact opposite.
Either way I'll be ordering plenty soon enough.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

7 turnouts,

Does not a layout make.
But it's a heck of a good start.
This is the yard ladder for the west end staging. All turnouts secured in place and flex track ready to lay for the yard tracks.
Once I collect supplies from Fast tracks, like ties and such, I can proceed laying track in the what will be the sceniced portions of the layout.
Sure feels good.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

That should keep me out of trouble for awhile.

I built another 8' long section of benchwork for the St Thomas yard today.
And that'll be it for awhile now.
I have kitchen work to be done which precludes advancing any further on benchwork. I need access above for plumbing, electrical and gas line upgrades.
But that's okay, I've got plenty to work with now.
I can start laying track in the yard.
I can lay track up to the bridge.
I can finish the bridge, once I get more H-beams.
I can lay the track for the staging yard.
The turntable will have to be installed once it gets here.
And then there`s all that wiring!
And turnout controls.
It`s all progressing nicely.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Layout Chronicles; Backdrops

There's lots of options available for creating backdrops for model railroad backdrops. Masonite, roll aluminum, floor lino, to name a few.
I've used Masonite in the past, but this time I've decided to try sheet styrene. Masonite requires a lot of fasteners, thus much puttying to fill all those holes up, as well as it's not very stable with temperature and humidity shifts. Every joint on the old layout cracked in spite of the taping of the joints. I'm hoping/expecting that the styrene will be more resistant to seasonal changes.
Much credit for this decision must go to my friend Trevor Marshall. Basically he talked me into it. Trevor and I bounce ideas off of each other on a regular basis and it was he who said why not use 0.060" styrene. After considering the idea for about 2 minutes, I said "why not indeed?".
So first I bought 3 sheets of styrene and cut it into 16" wide strips.
The stuff handles just like modeling styrene, score and snap, you just need a lot more room.
I then sawed up some 3/4" square stock and made some rudimentary frames which will support the plastic. These were secured to the rear of the benchwork. You can see that I didn't bother creating support for the actual corners. I believe that the material will do an adequate job supporting itself.
Time will tell.
 With the frames up, the next thing is to prepare the styrene for the butt joints.
I simply cut off a couple of 2" wide strips, shorten them enough to fit between the framing members and glued to the first sheet with solvent cement.
Now we're ready for the big event. I ran beads of this stuff;
along the members of the frames I created. The glue grabs very quickly, and I only had to had a few nails in the top to hold things in place as I created the coved corners I was after.
Adjoining pieces on both sides were measured and cut and secured in place with the butt joins getting solvent cement flowed into them. A larger frame was cobbled together for the Kettle Creek valley and a sheet was attached to it as well.
The seams are being filled with spot putty.
Once that is dried, I can sand and refill as required and then a base coat of sky blue will get applied.
You'll note that I've kept the backdrop down from the ceiling. It tops out at 64 inches, which is just below eye level for me. I've done this for a couple of reasons.
The basement gets lots of daylight and I don't want to lose that. I also don't want to restrict airflow with a 35' long additional barrier.
And lastly, the backdrop is there to control the view of the layout and the chosen height will do that nicely with the benchwork height I've chosen.
The actual painting of the backdrop will be rather "neutral". I do not subscribe to the current fashion of photo mural backdrops. Backdrops should not upstage the layout, but rather assist in focusing attention onto the primary subject, the trains and the immediate surrounding scenery.
I would have followed Trevor's lead and hung a neutral grey cyclorama all the way around, but this room and this layout doesn't lend itself to that approach.
Once I get some blue paint flung, I can return to the driveway and mill more Homasote. Who has more fun than us?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Layout Chronicles; milling Homasote

I like handlaying my track. Particularly now with the Fast Tracks system which makes building turnouts a breeze.
One of the criteria then is for the roadbed to be capable to hold tiny spikes while being soft enough to accept said tiny spikes without too much effort. Which is where the old standby, Homasote, comes in.
Made from compressed paper fibre, it's dense enough to hold spikes without being to hard to spike into. It really has only one major drawback. It's filthy stuff to mill.
Now I like to mill a bit of a profile into my Homasote roadbed. Just as you see below.
When I did this for the old layout, I cut those rabbets on the table saw and then slit across the strip every inch or so, which would allow me to bend the roadbed do the desired radius'. I could do this at work where we had big machines and dust extraction.
No such luxuries for me now. Also the slitting required that I fill the cuts with spackle which added another step and offered up locations where the spikes wouldn't be as secure.
So this time around I'm cutting the roadbed into the desired shapes and milling rabbets into the edges to help get the ballast profiles I'm after.
The first step was finding the right router bit. Which turned out to be more of an adventure than I had prepared for. The right sized bit was found in the 5th store I went into.
With the bit in the router and the strips sawn, it was time.
Now let me caution you on the biggest caveat of all when doing this.
Do it outside with a mild breeze. "She who must be obeyed" will end your layout building career in a flash if you mill Homasote in the house. The dust is as insidious as the little white balls that come from sanding white beadboard. And there will be clouds of it!
With that done , a touch of sand paper to knock of the fuzz and we're ready to glue and screw it down.
8 feet down, 80' to go, more or less.
Before I paint the roadbed, which will seal it against moisture, I have to get that pesky backdrop up.
I have a plan and it's cunning.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Layout Chronicles: So it begins

Seven turnouts in what will be the west end staging yard. All built using the Fast Tracks system.
A couple of the turnouts in the middle of the compound ladder will be operated using the Bull Frogs from Fast tracks, while the turnouts on the outside will use conventional ground throws. It's just staging, no need to get carried away.
I will be using Hexfrog Juicers for all the polarity control through the entire layout. They are simple to install and require no fiddling to keep going.

The actual staging tracks will be flextrack left over from the old layout, while the balance of the layout will be handlaid. I like the look of real wood ties and enjoy the zen of laying track.
I have to create Homasote roadbed sections before I can get going on any of the main portion of the layout. And I have to get a backdrop in place first.
Coming soon!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

If you know what this,

You might be a model railroader.
The first 4 of about 12 sheets of 1/2" Homasote I expect to use building the new layout.
Along with large expanses for the yards and towns, I have to mill strips and curved sections for the roadbed.
Rather than create flexible 2" wide strips, like I did on the old layout. I'm going to cut 90 degree curved sections, like I did for the sub-roadbed. It's a little more wasteful, but it'll make far less dust in the long run. I no longer have the luxury of a professional woodworking shop to do my milling in, and it's doubtful that either the nieghbours or my wife would appreciate the clouds of dust that could get generated.
Details when it cools down a bit and I can spend some time at the saw.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Up on Kettle Creek...

With apologies to The Band.
I had thought that I had taken benchwork about as far as I could for now. Turns out I was mistaken. I spent a few hours today taking things a little further.
Now this is the scene I'm trying to replicate.  A steel trestle crossing a wide valley with a small water course running through. The actual creek is below the truss section of the bridge. Now I don't have the length to model this in full but what I have planned will certainly capture the essence.
I've taken a pile of Micro Engineering parts for the bents and the short girder spans. And I've started to scratchbuild a truss bridge for the span over the creek.
Details on the girder span will come later, when the project is complete. But I have enough to determine the length of the bridge and I will recycle the piers and abutments from the old layout.
From there I built the "valley floor" and then started on what will be part of the St Thomas yard.
For now a length of plywood will suffice to show the run of the bridge.
However I did discover that I have designed myself into a corner on one pesky little detail.
How am I going to get an actuator wire up through that abutment? I was feeling a tad smug about progress until I noticed that. Stopped my dead in my tracks for about 30 minutes while  I reviewed my options. And yes, the prototype has the head block ties that close to the bridge.
I have a solution that I think will work which will also get applied to a couple of other turnouts that have landed right on framing members.
There are no problems, only solutions!
I really need to think about getting some Homasote in. Anyway tomorrow will be a day building turnouts.

They're a lot of work,

but well worth the effort.
Cabooses that is.
These are 2 S scale vans I've just completed for a client. They just have receive a touch of weathering and they're off to the client.
Assembling caboose kits can be tricky. You have to plan your moves like one of Patton's campaigns.
Patton has been described as the best military traffic cop ever. But that's another whole set of debates/discussions.
One has to take care not to proceed too far before painting. In this case I had to paint, decal and flat finish before the glazing could go in. Certainly don't want flat finish on the glass.
And I'll have to be careful with weathering not to spray the glass.
And once the glazing is in, CA can not be liberally used to assemble the final components. The fumes, if trapped, will fog the glazing. I used canopy glue to bond the floor to the body, the cupolas to the roof and took care as to where CA was applied to attach the roof to the body.
There are days, I'm thankful that there isn't a better selection of equipment in S scale. I'd be sorely tempted.