Wickham Car

Wickham Car

My recent post about the lovely speeder that my friend Stephen Gardiner printed for me reminds me that at some point I want to model a Wickham car, like the one shown above.

I believe the railway museum in Smiths Falls, Ontario has examples from both the CNR and CPR (at least, they did about a decade ago, but I don’t know if they’re still there*). I think it’s a handsome piece of non-revenue equipment and – in S at least – it would be straightforward to motorize it.

I’m a member of the Wickam group on Yahoo so I’m already doing my research. But if anybody has information about these cars – especially drawings – I’d love to hear from you!

(*UPDATE: Thanks to Guy Papillon, who shared a link to the museum with more information about the Wickham cars in its collection. It appears the museum has CP M-297 and CNR #23.)

Roll-by inspection

A member of CNR’s section gang pauses on the siding in St. Williams to give a roll-by inspection to a passing freight:


Roll by

Roll by

On Wednesday, my friend Stephen Gardiner visited for an operating session – and left me with a nice present. Stephen had drawn up a speeder for a 3D print job in HO scale, and wondered how it would turn out in S. So he revisited his drawings and the result is what you see above. While I’ve posed it on the siding in St. Williams, Stephen’s modifications for printing in 1:64 included providing pockets for extendable wooden handles so the speeder can be posed with a figure hauling it on or off the rails, if I so desire. Thanks Stephen – what a great little detail!

The ops session went well, considering that I haven’t run the layout in a while. Stephen took on the conductor’s role, while I clambered into the engineer’s seat on CNR 80. We had one derailment – possibly due to the freight car truck seizing up a little since it hasn’t been moved in many, many weeks.

Our biggest problem came from misaligned couplers – my fault, for not stopping ahead of coupling to let Stephen do a visual inspection. I don’t use the centring spring that comes with the Kadee 808s – I don’t like how it makes the draft gear bounce in and out, and I don’t really mind that the couplers sometimes need to be aligned manually. I just need to remember that all-important and most prototypical pause before attempting coupling.

Of course, I also need to run my own layout more often: I was pretty heavy-handed on the throttle and was guilty of some pretty hard couplings as a result. I’m sure that the conductor is going to give me a proper dressing down for spilling the coffee in the van!

A few days earlier, I’d updated the files in the LokSound decoders I use – from a beta file to the full production file for SOO 1003, which is my current sound file of choice. The 80 sounds better than ever, although I need to tweak a few volume settings and substitute a different air pump sound file. All in good time…

Stephen is currently planning a new, prototype-based switching layout for his home office space, and is writing about it on his blog. You can following the link to his latest post on the Liberty Village layout – and I highly recommend that you follow along.

Stephen and I have been talking about traffic density a fair bit – specifically, about finding the right balance between realistic appearance and sufficiently engaging operations on a small layout. It’s often tempting to fill a small layout with track, but there are other ways to boost the play value – which is something I’ve been demonstrating (I hope) on my model of the line to Port Rowan. It’s a medium-sized layout, at approximately 14×30 feet, but has just eight turnouts and lots of space devoted to a single track running through the landscape. It doesn’t work for everybody but it does for me.

Ops paperwork and throttle - 2017-11-08
(The work desk at St. Williams: The switch list shows there’s a lot of traffic today)

Because of these discussions, I set up the layout with a bit more switching than I normally do. In addition to several cars to drop and spot, I placed an off-spot car on the run-around in Port Rowan, which added some complexity to our switching duties. I’m pleased that even with the extra work, the session went smoothly and we had a fun time.

Afterwards, my wife joined us as we retired to Harbord House for dinner and drinks. The newest item on the menu – dill pickles breaded in cornmeal and deep fried – are out of this world delicious.

Great to see you, Stephen – and thanks so much for the speeder!

Big Sound for a BURRO

(You may also watch this video directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)

I upgraded my River Raisin Models S scale BURRO Crane with a LokSound decoder and two speakers. I wrote a feature on this, which is the cover story in the September, 2017 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. Check out that issue for details:

RMC September 2017

In the above video, you can hear the sound. (I’ve cranked the volume on the decoder for the purposes of recording this video. In practice, I run the crane at a lower volume – more suitable to the layout environment.)

The sound is not correct for a BURRO – it’s the EMD 567A six-cylinder diesel that’s found in an SW-1. But it’ll do just fine for now – and when ESU offers a correct BURRO sound file, I can simply reload the decoder (and post a new video, of course). That’s pretty cool…

For more details on the BURRO Crane, follow my BURRO category link.

(If you’ve just found my blog through the Craftsman article, then welcome aboard! Have a look around – perhaps starting with the First Time Here? page – and enjoy your visit!)

The view from the cab (or the cupola)

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(CNR T-3-a 2-10-2 number 4205 leads a coal train on company service on the S Scale Workshop layout. The photo is actually a screen capture of a video, shot with a small but powerful camera mounted on a flat car)

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to view my hobby, and to capture and share the effort with others. I’ve taken a lot of photos of my layout – and even some video – using a variety of image capturing hardware.

Now, thanks to a conversation with my friend David Clubine, I’m able to capture the view from the cab in video, too.

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(Is it a circus cannon? The Prime X from Replay XD, mounted on an S Helper Service flat car and ready to capture on-track video of the S Scale Workshop modular layout. The plow-shape lets the camera capture more of the layout, and less of the ceiling…)

As the members of the S Scale Workshop prepared to exhibit their Free-mo style modular layout at this year’s Copetown Train Show, we were looking for a way to share our effort with a wider audience. Someone had suggested we should some trackside video and I thought that would be a novel way to see the layout. But what to use?

One of our members suggested an iCar – a laser-cut car that holds an iPhone and allows one to aim the camera down the track. But they’re not available in 1:64, and I was looking for something that would shoot better quality video. A GoPro was also considered – but while they’re small as cameras go, they can be quite large.

Then David suggested the cameras made by Replay XD. David runs a company that serves and supports professional racing teams, and he uses the Replay XD to capture high definition video of the cars in action. It’s small yet rugged, and its “lipstick” shape doesn’t compromise a race car’s aerodynamics.

While we don’t need to worry about drag coefficients in the railway modelling hobby, I realized the small size of this camera might be just the ticket for mounting on a flat car to capture video from the engineer’s perspective. So I ordered one from the California-based company.

At just over 1″ in diameter and under 4″ long, the Replay XD Prime X is smaller than a GoPro, and weighs just 3.5 ounces. But this small camera packs big performance – capturing high definition video and audio, and it’s WiFi enabled so it can be controlled from a smart phone with the Replay XD app. One can start and stop recording, and the camera will stream what it sees. Pretty slick.

 photo ReplayXD-Copetown2016-Meta_zpsimtnosfo.jpg
(With the Replay XD app installed, the iPod Touch is linked to the camera via WiFi and displays what the camera sees – including my friend Stephen Gardiner, who is taking the photo: That’s him to the right of the mainline in the screen of my iPod Touch!)

The camera arrived Friday and I got to work building a suitable mount so I could secure it to the deck of an S Helper Service flat car. (These are great candidates for this as they’re all metal: their weight means they track well and glide smoothly on the rails.) At first, I mounted the camera mount on a piece of 0.060″ thick sheet styrene. I marked out and drilled four holes in the corners, arranged to line up with stake pockets on the flat car, and glued short lengths of .025″ phosphor bronze wire into the holes. This worked well: the camera was easy to mount on the flat car, it stayed put, and I didn’t have to modify the car in any way.

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(A good start: the mount doesn’t flail about, and there’s no damage to the car itself)

I did some testing on my layout but I found that the camera – equipped with a wide-angle lens – captured too much of the ceiling in the layout room. So I went back to the workbench and built a wedge – like the front of a snow plow – so that I could mount the camera pointing down at the track. This worked much better, and is the version shown in the photos of the camera car at work on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

 photo 4205-Copetown2016-02_zpsvvnslsno.jpg
(The camera car attracted a lot of attention from attendees at the Copetown Train Show. Here, several people grab shots of it as it shoots video of CNR 4205. This image is a screen capture from the video.)

I took the camera car to the Copetown Train Show on Sunday and shot several minutes of high-quality video. The camera and app are easy to use and I’m very pleased with the results.

I’ve posted two videos shot with the Replay XD to the S Scale Workshop blog. Click on each of the photos, below, to visit the Workshop’s blog and watch the videos. I hope you enjoy them.

Cab Ride at Copetown
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CNR 4205 at Copetown
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And yes, I plan to press the camera car into service on my Port Rowan layout, and elsewhere. Stay tuned…

(Thanks to Stephen Gardiner for the photos, and David Clubine for the lead on this big little camera!)

More on the scale house

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Further to yesterday’s post about the scale house project, I have some more progress to share.

Having sprayed the entire scale house with CNR mineral red, I let that dry and then I brush painted some pale grey on the back wall and the ceiling, to lighten up the interior somewhat. (It’s easier to see the scale mechanism now that it’s not so dark inside.)

I also painted the scale and stained the floor:

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I mentioned the ventilator pipes in a previous post. They’re scratch-built from styrene tube sized to match some HO scale white metal castings for mushroom-style roof vents from Scale Structures Limited.

Finally, I added a latch to the door, made from a rectangle of paper (cut from one of the “Train Shop Wish List” pads from a local hobby shop, which I thought was entirely appropriate) and a bent-over Details Associates eyebolt:

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Still lots to do, but I wanted to get a good start on the project so I would have something to show at Hunter’s place this past Saturday – and the in-progress model was well received. I’m looking forward to tacking the next piece of the scale house…

Scale House project underway

Having recently completed a second CNR scale test car, I’ve decided it’s time to start on a third aspect of this project – a scale house:

 photo ScaleHouse-01_zpscajryval.jpg

Back in the summer, I acquired a Moffett Models kit for a CNR scale house. I thought I’d get to the project sooner, but other things came up. Regardless, this project is now on my workbench (or, more accurately, my kitchen table).

The kit is very nice, but consists largely of cast-resin pieces and I prefer to represent wood with wood. So after careful consideration I decided I would use the pieces as patterns to scratch-built my own structure. I’ve used the kit’s laser-cut window mullions, but in my own walls, building them up board by board.

The kit is based on a CNR scale in Brantford, Ontario. I also worked from a photo of a similar structure in Palmerston – this one showing clapboard on the rear wall, with novelty siding elsewhere.

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I built up my own clapboard, using a piece of clapboard styrene sheet as a sub-wall, to which I glued individually distressed boards. The styrene clapboard creates an excellent guide for laying in the boards. I also created my own novelty siding by scraping and sanding down the top edge of each board to represent the narrow edge that goes underneath the board above. These were glued to thin plain styrene sheet. The window frames and the door were built from pieces of stripwood of various sizes.

I built each wall as a flat. Then, I carefully introduced each wall to the spinning disc on a workbench sanding station to bevel the sides of the five walls that make up the front of the structure, so that I could glue the angled sections together with tight corners. After the six walls were assembled, I equally carefully sanded the angle into top of the structure so I could attach the sloped roof. (I must admit this took nerves of steel and very steady breathing…)

I airbrushed the assembled structure with Scalecoat CNR mineral red, while the roof is a piece of thin styrene sheet covered with masking tape brush-painted grey-black to represent tarpaper. I cut microscope slide covers to size for the window glazing, and secured them in place with Microscale’s Krystal Klear.

With all the windows in this structure, some representation of an interior is called for. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Volume 12 of the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia includes a terrific feature on weighing freight cars – complete with drawings of several track scales. I worked from this information to fashion the visible portion of the scale using styrene rod and strip, brass bar, Details Associates eyebolts, and two queen posts from a Grandt Line set for O scale, RGS boxcars:

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It doesn’t look like much in its raw state, but when it’s painted and installed inside the scale house it’ll do the trick nicely…

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The lead photo for this post shows that I’ve added two stacks behind the scale house. These are often mistaken for stove pipes – but are actually the ventilators for the scale pit. I’ve also fabricated the tops of the concrete pit walls from strip styrene, and added a door next to the scale house to provide access to the pit for maintenance. Scrounging in my Home Hobby Shoppe turned up some O scale boxcar door hardware and hinges to detail the door.

I will build the top of the scale pit – including live and dead rails – on a piece of styrene that will fit between the tops of the concrete walls. This will make it easier to secure the rails without damaging the structure.

There are still a lot of details to add to this track scale, including working lights to the scale operator can read reporting marks on the equipment being weighed. As I work on these details, I’ll ponder what to do with my scale house. I still like the idea of creating a small module for the S Scale Workshop exhibition layout. Meantime, I’m enjoying learning about these important pieces of railway equipment.

Special move

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The daily freight extra out of Hamilton included a special move in the consist – a pair of test cars to calibrate a track scale. Here, they’re crossing Chartolleville Street in St. Williams.

Apparently, the crew thought it would be easier to lift them en route to Port Rowan, so they’re along for the ride.

The scale test cars have no air brakes – just hand brakes – which means they have to be hauled in front of the van and the train can’t exceed 20 mph – but it never does, anyway…

Earlier this week I realized I had spare time and nine pieces of equipment to weather, so I spent the afternoon spraying dust, dirt, soot and grime. My second scale test car – to the right in this photo – received a light coat of road dust. The cars were kept in good condition and kept fairly clean, since dirt would affect their weight.

While I do not have a track scale on my branch, these will look great on the S Scale Workshop modular layout.

More on the other weathering projects in a future post…

Scale Test Cars are like peanuts

You can’t have just one!

 photo CNR-2ScaleTestCars-01_zpsz8cuzsmk.jpg
(CNR 52247 is painted and lettered. It will receive very light weathering – as shown on CNR 52274 – before entering service.)

Actually, you can – it’s your railway, after all.

But when I researched these prototypes so I could finish my first scale test car, I learned that they were often used in pairs to calibrate railway scales. Many prototype photos show them running in pairs, too – right in front of the van, as required because they are not equipped with air brakes.

So, as reported earlier on this blog, I acquired a second example of these South Wind Models brass imports. I had purchased extra decals when I did my first car so I had everything I needed to finish my second model. (To read more about my models, check out the Scale Test Cars category on this blog.)

I finished the second car like the first, although I changed up some of the lettering – especially on the ends:

 photo CNR-2ScaleTestCars-02_zpsf66llest.jpg
(CNR 52247 – on the left – includes a “DO NOT HUMP” warning)

I did run into two slight problems while lettering the second car:

First, I discovered I had run out of the “CANADIAN NATIONAL” lettering, which I pulled from a set of Black Cat Publishing decals for an HO scale CNR van (caboose). A trip to the local hobby shop – combined with other errands – solved this issue.

Second, the lettering set from Andy W. Scale Models only includes one road number – 52274 – and no number jumble. Since the cars would likely be in the same series – specifically, “522##” – my only choice was to letter this car 52247. An extra line of numbers on this otherwise excellent decal set would’ve been much appreciated – especially since these cars often ran in pairs.

This was a terrific little “kitchen table” project to work on while most of my tools and materials are packed away (and the renovation continues on schedule, so I should be able to unpack things soon). I’m looking forward to building a scale house – likely as a module for the S Scale Workshop – so I can put these neat little cars to good use.

A second scale test car

In doing my research while preparing to finish my first scale test car, I learned that these important pieces of equipment were often used in pairs to properly calibrate a track scale. That means, also, that they would often travel in pairs. I mentioned last week that I was looking for a second model and within hours I had a lead on one. (Thanks to Sam McCoy for the lead!)

I placed the order and the model arrived today:

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When I did my first scale test car, I bought extra decal sets for it – so I have everything I need to tackle this project as soon as I can unpack my tools and rebuild my workshop.