Thinner Throwbars in RMC

I have a story in the October, 2017 edition of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine about how I built the head rods (throwbars) for my turnouts.

RMC October 2017 cover

I hand-laid my track and built my turnouts using the assembly fixtures and other tools offered by Tim Warris at Fast Tracks. I love the reliability of using copper-clad printed circuit board (PCB) material for holding rail securely in a turnout – especially around the frog.

But the traditional way of making a head rod always bothered me, because the rod would end up being as wide as a tie – for the very good reason that one would simply use a PCB tie.

My approach results in a head rod that is much thinner in appearance – more like the metal bars used on a prototype turnout. The article provides step-by-step instructions to make your own.

In preparing this article, I took some photos of the switch points on a turnout, part of the ex-CNR – now Trillium Railway – industrial trackage in St. Catharines, Ontario. Here they are, for context:

Head rod and back rod
(Head rod and, further up the points, a back rod. Note the size of these rods, compared to the ties.)

Head rod and stock rail
(The head rod projects only a couple of inches beyond the stock rail.)

Head rod and switch stand
(A pipe connects the head rod to the switch stand)

Click on the RMC cover, above, to visit Railroad Model Craftsman online. You can order a copy of the magazine via the White River Productions online store.

Fresh perspectives and little details

This morning I needed a photo to illustrate something on my layout in an email, and while I was in the layout room I decided to try to find some fresh perspectives from which to shoot images. I was particularly pleased with the two images here – both taken near the station in St. Williams.

Turnut study - St Williams

Turnout study - St Williams

In both, it’s the little details that stand out for me: The red waybill box on the station wall. The door handle. The telegraph service sign. The rail braces on the stock rails of the turnout.

Often, I overlook these details when I’m running trains. But they show up in photos, so I’m glad I made the effort to include them.

I have many more details to add to the layout. Some will require a fair bit of time and effort to build. But it’s photos like these that remind me why I want to include them.

In-street turnouts for Regan

 photo InStreetTurnouts-Finished_zpslwh5oarr.jpg
(The finished turnouts, ready for Regan’s layout. Click on the image to read more)

In my last post, I mentioned that I’d been working on a project for a friend’s layout. The project was a pair of in-street turnouts for a layout I designed for Regan Johnson. They feature full-length guard rails and a single point.

Click on the image above to read more about the turnouts, and the layout design, on my Achievable Layouts blog. Enjoy if you visit!

Fighting Dirty Rails

The May, 2015 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine is now online and ready for reading – including an article I submitted on how I use graphite on the rails to improve electrical performance.

 photo DirtyRails_zpsxmncjnps.jpg

While I certainly didn’t come up with this solution, I’ve been using it for many years and am an enthusiastic advocate. It’s made a huge difference to how well my layout runs.

Click on the image, above to start reading the feature online. To complement this feature, I also produced a short video* to show how I apply the graphite to the rails. Enjoy if you watch!

(*I’m not sure I would’ve called this solution a “miracle”: It’s science, really…)

Laying track on The Roadshow

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-2015-03act2_zpsqomdwdbo.jpg

I’ve written many posts on this blog about how I hand-lay track. But if a picture is worth a thousand words than a 38-minute video must be worth about 68,400,000 (at 30 frames per second).

On the latest episode of The Roadshow – which documents the construction of two Free-mo style modules for use with The S Scale Workshop – I demonstrate my track-laying techniques. These are the same techniques I used for my Port Rowan layout.

Click on the image, above, to watch the episode. You need to be a subscriber to TrainMasters TV to see it, but membership is quite reasonable.

Thanks as always to Barry Silverthorn at TrainMasters TV for letting me be a part of his show!

“Leather Brown”

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-TrackPainted-01_zpsccc78d86.jpg

Today I airbrushed the rails on two four-foot sections from the Judge Farm module that I’m building for TrainMasters TV.

“Rail Brown” is hard to find these days as traditional railway hobby paint lines dry up. Instead of fretting about this, I grabbed a bottle of “Leather Brown” from Acrylicos Vallejo – item 70871 in the “Model Color” line – and used it instead. These paints spray well and dry dead flat – and I think it worked just fine. I’ll have to grab another bottle, though – the one I have may run out before I finish all the track.

Sharp-eyed readers will note the joint between two rail sections in the foreground rail, just to the left of centre. I notched the top of the rail head with a fine saw before applying the joint bars to either side of the web. The paint gets into the notch and does not get removed when cleaning the top of the rails after airbrushing.

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-TrackPainted-02_zpse7150adf.jpg

These two sections aren’t yet finished – there’s a lot more scenery work to do. But they’re now close enough to finished that I can show them as part of the S Scale Workshop modular layout at The North Shore Train Show in Laval, Québec in a week and a half.

That’s the good news. The bad news is I still have two more four-foot rectangle sections – plus four small trapezoids – to wire. And then I have to sling scenery, ballast and more “Leather Brown” paint. I’ll get there – and my friend Chris Abbott is coming over tonight so we can work on more wiring together.

But I’m going to spend a lot of time in the workshop between now and next Friday morning when I hit the road…

Division Street :: Spiked!

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-Track-02_zps64563501.jpg
(Progress ensues…)

I spent a few hours today in the workshop, spiking rails on the Free-mo-style modules I’m building for the S Scale Workshop, and documenting for TrainMasters TV.

The lead photo shows one of the two four-foot long sections that make up the core of the Division Street module. Today, I spiked both sections of Division Street – every second or third tie. I’m feeling a little cross-eyed right now and my plier-wielding hand is feeling pretty angry. But I’m pleased that I’m almost halfway there: Between the two modules, I have 21 feet of track to spike, and I’ve done about 9 feet so far.

Rails are soldered to PC board ties at each end, with expansion gaps in the middle of the modules. While it’s not obvious in the lead photo, I’ve also applied joint bars to the rails. And I’ve installed some rail segments on the abandoned interurban track that parallels Division Street:

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-Track-01_zps5b245cb4.jpg

I added the interurban as a way to demonstrate some more heavily weathered ties. I’ve even added rust streaks to the tops of the ties where the rails used to be, by masking the ties and then brushing them with rust-coloured weathering powder. I’m pleased with the effect.

My work table is silting up…
 photo TMTV-Roadshow-Track-03_zps5241d417.jpg

… so before I tackle the next set of rails I’ll have to do a sort’n’store. But I’ll do that tomorrow, once the eyes and hands have had a break. The bottle of Mad Tom IPA in the photo is an essential part of the spiking process. Sadly, it’s also empty: I think another adult beverage is in order…

TrainMasters TV: I like spiking, really!

 photo TMTV-RoadShow-TrackIntro_zpsc4ca1e25.jpg(Yes – it was actually jacket weather yesterday – at least yesterday morning. So much for summer: Fall – and train shows – are approaching fast!)

I spent the day yesterday at the TrainMasters TV headquarters, working on the modules I’m building for an upcoming series.

After several work sessions that looked more like Carpentry for Dummies, I’m finally onto something directly railway-related: namely, ties and rail.

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-Tracklaying_zpsfbde9b8c.jpg

I got a lot done in front of the camera – demonstrating how I prep, distress and weather ties (hint: dice are involved) and how I use the wickedly good steel spikes from Proto:87 Stores, which I’ve also used on my Port Rowan layout.

Now that's a small spike! photo Spikes-01.jpg
(Click on the image to read all of my posts in the “Spikes” category)

Here’s how spiking goes:

1 – Roughly gauge the rails
2 – Twist a spike off the fret
3 – Spike one side of the first rail
4 – Twist a spike off the fret
5 – Spike the other side of the first rail
6 – Check the gauge
7 – Twist a spike off the fret
8 – Spike one side of the second rail
9 – Check the gauge
10 – Twist a spike off the fret
11 – Spike the other side of the second rail
12 – Check the gauge

Repeat about 50,000 times – or until you’re ready to shoot caulk up your nose:

 photo TMTV-Roadshow-CaulkNose_zpsbc1b592b.jpg
(Professional clown. Closed course. Do not attempt at home.)

That said, I love to spike track. I find the Zen-like state required mentally relaxing. It’s a great break from thinking about work, deadlines, social commitments, chores, or other things that sometimes cause one stress.

And isn’t that what a hobby is for?

Excuse me while I blow my nose…

Barry Silverthorn is a great host. In addition to putting together a program with first-rate production values, he buys me lunch every time I visit to record a segment. Yesterday, we went to a neat fish restaurant on the water. Thanks, Barry!

Chris Abbott also stopped in to the studio, briefly. He was in the area to visit family, and we had some goodies to exchange. Chris – thanks for helping to unload the vehicle, and thanks for sharing the photos.

Great as always to see you both!

Ties at Division Street

 photo TieSanding-01_zpse67ecc98.jpg
(“Why yes, my wife is out of town: How did you know?”)

I’m running out of time to get my two S Scale Workshop modules prepped for the group’s next exhibition at a Montréal-area train show in October. The fact that I’m also documenting the process with Barry Silverthorn at TrainMasters TV, while a most enjoyable experience, also complicates the process: Either I can’t work too far ahead between recording sessions, or I have to create demonstration materials to illustrate what I’ve been doing on the modules.

Laying ties will be a mix of these two options. I’ll have to show some of the initial steps in laying ties in the studio, then move to the modules – with ties already in place – to demonstrate later steps like distressing, staining and weathering.

Yesterday, I realized I needed to set up a complete multi-section module in order to properly sand the tops of the ties to ensure there are no jarring bumps. For this, I needed a space big enough for the modules, with a floor that’s more level than the one in my basement – and since my wife is currently travelling, the kitchen came to the rescue.

The main feature on this module set is a level crossing. At one time, an interurban line ran along the side of the road, but by the 1950s era of the Workshop’s modules, this has been abandoned. I’ll include a strip of extensively distressed ties in the overgrown former Right-of-Way to demonstrate a full range of tie-finishing techniques. (Meanwhile, I’ve done a test stain of the ties on the still-active route through this crossing. These will represent relatively new ties, laid when the crossing was removed. They’ll make a lovely contrast.)

While I had the module on its legs, I posed a short freight on it to get an idea of what a train will look like on the very broad radius curve through this scene. The back-lighting in the photo below emphasizes the shape of the train, rather than the details, and I really like how it’s looking:
 photo TieSanding-02_zpsb8b118b3.jpg

The ability to incorporate such broad radius curves – in this case, a radius between 33 and 34 feet – into modules is a huge advantage of Free-mo style standards. I’m very glad the S Scale Workshop adopted such a standard when they decided to build new modules.

With just over a month to go before the show, I’d better get more work one.

Realistic Switch Control in MRH

The August 2014 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist is now available online, and it includes an article on how I use garden scale switch stands to control the turnouts on the Port Rowan layout.

It was great working with Joe Fugate at MRH. I’m looking forward to sharing more articles with his readers.

Click on the image to read the article (if you enjoy it and want to see more like it, be sure to give it a good rating on the MRH website):
 photo MRH-2014-08-ArticleLead_zpsaeb95645.jpg

(If you’ve just found this blog via the article in MRH, then welcome! I hope you look around and enjoy what you see…)