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.

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(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.

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(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:

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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!

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(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:

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(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.

“S” is for “Someday Spreader”

While out and about this week, I stopped into a local hobby shop and came out poorer – yet richer – because of this little gem:

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I’m a fan of non-revenue equipment and have acquired a few pieces for my layout. For example, I’ve built a CNR wooden snow plough from a much-modified, vintage Ambroid craftsman kit, and kit bashed a (static) model of an MoW gang’s speeder. I’ve painted and finished a Burro crane, including DCC, and painted and finished a scale test car.

These are all fine examples of non-revenue equipment, but none of them is as versatile as a Jordan Spreader. Sadly, nobody makes one in 1:64 – the Model A Jordan Spreader pictured above is an HO scale model imported by Overland.

I’ve actually been collecting data and photos of the Model A Jordan Spreader since seeing photos of one in an article in Issue 60 of CN Lines, the magazine published by the Canadian National Railways Historical Association. The article features the HO scale models of CNR non-revenue equipment built by the late Ron Keith and included both prototype and model photos of a Model A Jordan Spreader in CNR livery. (Coincidentally, this was the same issue in which I introduced my layout to the magazine’s readers.) When I saw that tiny, cab-less Spreader, I knew I’d have to build one.

This HO scale example will make an excellent study model as I tackle that project. The HO model is tiny – less than five inches long – but my digital photos are revealing many details not readily visible to the naked eye:

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I’m not yet ready to start this project because scratch-building any piece of equipment is a huge undertaking and I have other, more pressing things on my to-do list right now. But the lack of a good reference from which to work was a major stumbling block to getting started – and now that I have one, that barrier has been removed. Between the model, the data, and the photos I’ve collected, I’m confident I can proceed. And when I’m finished the S scale model, I can either sell off the HO version (it won’t be harmed in its role as a study model), or paint it up for the CNR and display it on a shelf.

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CNR 52274 :: Scale Test Car

The decals arrived this week for my CNR scale test car, and I couldn’t wait to letter it. In fact, the car is finished and ready for service:

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I pulled the road name (“CANADIAN NATIONAL”) from a set of Black Cat Publishing decals for an HO scale CNR van (caboose). For the rest of the lettering, I used the HO scale CNR Scale Test Car decals from Andy W. Scale Models. While the lettering may be a bit undersize, I think it actually works quite well on this S scale model.

I lightly weathered the lower part of the car with some beige paint, applied with an airbrush. The rest of the car is relatively clean – these cars were designed to shed water and dirt, which could affect their weight, and they did not see the kind of use that a freight car would see, so they didn’t get as dirty. That said, I did apply some weathering powders to the walkway, and dry brushed some points on the handrails with silver to represent worn-away paint:

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I’m very pleased with how this car turned out. It was a fun diversion. At some point, I will build a track scale and scale house to go with it. Since I have no space for this on my layout, I will probably do this to the Free-mo standard used by the S Scale Workshop

Weighing Freight Cars : RPCYC 12

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(Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia… Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia… Always check the Railway Prototype Cyclopedia…)

Earlier this month, I wrote about a model of a scale house that I plan to build this summer. I mentioned that I’ve been collecting information (and many readers offered suggestions on sources: thank you!) but there’s one place I should’ve looked right from the start.

The Railway Prototype Cyclopedia – now at 29 volumes – is a marvellous resource for prototype modellers. While scanning the covers to look for information on another project, the words WEIGHING FREIGHT CARS jumped at me off the cover of RPCYC-12.

Inside, I found 45 pages of terrific information on Fairbanks-Morse and How track scales, the test cars, and more. (For a full description of the contents, click on the image above to visit the issue’s information page at the RPCYC website.)

There are several drawings of the scales themselves, which answer many questions about how to model them. And I didn’t even know about the scale tool car – a car that would often accompany a test car to calibrate and maintain the scales being tested. The examples in this article are from the Baltimore and Ohio, but I’m now going to keep my eyes open for similar cars on the Canadian National Railways.

I really do need to remember to check my own resources. In the case of the RPCYC, I should make a habit of checking the covers whenever I embark on a new project – especially one involving rolling stock.