Heavy Haul

The postman brought a box of 1:64 trucks today, ordered from Diecast Direct.

No photos yet – but I’ve unboxed them and they’ll add some much-needed commercial road traffic around the few industries and the team tracks on the layout. (I’ll try to add some images this week, time permitting.)

The models are die-cast – so finished in some indestructible paint akin to nail polish. They also have cutesy lettering on them, since many seemed to be produced for companies like Hershey’s. That’s fine – I’ll either figure out how to add some tooth to the existing paint or strip them, then repaint them. Some will require a complete repaint, while others will need spot painting – for example, to remove lettering that’s USA-specific so I can substitute Canadian lettering.

Now, I’ll need lettering for trucks, I suppose. Canadian lettering. Perhaps I’ll have to call upon Nelson Allison at Aberdeen Car Shops to see if he’s interested in adding some truck lettering to his growing decal line.

(If you visit Nelson’s page, be sure to check out his printed box kits for S scale. He has sets for general LCL freight and for wine/liquor.)

What’s in the box?

What’s Trevor got in the box?
Sherline Mill Stuff photo Sherline-02.jpg

I had a question from my friend Terry Smith about the accessories that came with my recently-acquired, lightly-used Sherline Mill. A partial list of the box contents includes…

3013 – Step Block Hold Down Set
3052 – Flycutter
3079 – 3/8″ End Mill Holder
3090 – Metric Milling Collets (it’s a metric mill)
3551 – Milling Vise
3570 – Rotating Vise Base
3700 – Rotary Table
3750 – Tilting Angle Table
4360 – Chip Guard
8160 – Digital Readout

… plus some Centre Drills and a set of six End Mills, a Jacobs chuck, a dial indicator, a Starrett edge finder, and other goodies.

Also, a leather-bound copy of Tabletop Machining by Joe Martin.

I’m looking forward to putting these to good use.

(No, no cheese straightener, Pierre…)

Oh great: ANOTHER diesel!

My friend Andy Malette has an interesting collection of S scale goodies. At the recent S Scale Social Andy mentioned he had a number of surplus S scale models of CNR RS-18 diesels – and at lunch on Friday he brought one for me:
CNR RS-18 photo RS18-Brass.jpg

This beautiful model is a product of the Ajin shops in Korea and was imported by Overland, back in the days when Overland served the S scale market (specifically, 1989 – according to a date stamp on the bottom of the fuel tank).

Now, I need an RS-18 for the Port Rowan branch like I need another head-hole. I already have a model of CNR 1 – a GE 44 Tonner – and it has been a work in progress for more than a year now. But how could I refuse? So, next time I see Andy I’ll give him a cheque. Sigh…

Here’s a finished model, captured while switching cars on the S Scale Workshop modular layout:
SSW-RS18 at Port Dover photo SSW_JimMartin_zps450ea518.jpg

I’m looking forward to seeing this model in the CNR’s classic green and yellow, as on this prototype unit at the Canadian Rail Museum. And installing one of the Soundtraxx Tsunami units in my model, which features a number of see-thru (and hear-thru?) grilles along the long hood that are perfect for letting out the sound, will really bring the engine to life.

One correction that must be made on the model: the cab interior is installed for short-hood forward operation. With the bell on the end of the long hood (and the “FL” on the frame of the preserved CNR 3684), it should be set up for long-hood forward operation. I hope it’s as simple as unscrewing the cab interior and flipping it 180 degrees. We’ll see…

(Thanks Andy!)

Tool Time

Sherline Mill photo Sherline-01.jpg

I visited a friend yesterday who’s downgrading his involvement in the hobby, and I ended up buying a couple of his tools – including a really nice, gently used Sherline Mill, plus a big cardboard box full of accessories:
Sherline Mill Stuff photo Sherline-02.jpg

I have zero experience with mills or lathes for model work, but my friend Chris Abbott is well-versed in their use, so I’ll be in good hands. I’ve admired the work that others have done using such tools and look forward to exploring the new possibilities for modelling that this mill opens up to me. And I believe that one of the greatest things about a hobby like model railroading is its ability to force you to learn new skills and rise to new challenges – such as learning about tabletop machining.

I already have a couple of small projects in mind. First, though, I must find a place to permanently mount the mill.

Pick-up line

I’ve written quite a bit about the turntable I built for Port Rowan, and I’m still really happy with the kit I used as a starting point – an HO turntable from Custom Model Railroads.

But I did notice that electrical pick-up from the pit rail has not been 100% reliable. It’s been about 85% – which is great, except that with sound-equipped locomotives the 15% of the time that power is not going to the decoder is really noticeable.

The problem – a problem, by the way, that CMR acknowledges – is that the bearings used as wheels on the turntable bridge do not reliably conduct electricity. If I recall, CMR suggested adding wipers to the wheels. I did this when I built the bridge but the wipers have proven to be reliable only most of the time – not all of the time.

So, today I soldered together a pair of sliding pick-up shoes using phosphor bronze wire and some flat brass stock. The work took less than an hour, including adjusting the pressure of the shoes so they would not drag excessively on the pit rail and brush-painting the new shoe assemblies black so they’d disappear in the shadows under the bridge. Sharp eyes will spot a slider on the pit rail between the two wheels/bearings in this photo:
CNR 86 on the Port Rowan Turntable photo CNR86-TT_zps01eb4c0d.jpg

There’s another slider at the other end of the bridge, too. Now, power for each bridge rail is collected from two wheels plus a slider.

I’ve tested the turntable a half-dozen times now – rotating in both directions – and power is now being delivered to the bridge rails (and therefore the locomotive) 100% of the time.

While it’s never fun having a problem with a layout, it’s always satisfying to solve it.

Go run your trains – often!

Curtain Call photo FullStaging-01_zps7487614a.jpg

I really like Lance Mindheim‘s thoughts about layout design, layout operations and the hobby in general. I encourage as many people as I can to check out Lance’s blog. (Unfortunately, the blog does not appear to have an RSS function, so one can’t have new postings delivered automatically. One has to remember to check in regularly to see what’s new.)

One posting that I’m thinking about a lot lately is his September 30, 2012 entry, called How to “Play” with Trains. Lance notes that somewhere in the evolution of layout operation, modellers started embracing the idea that operating sessions had to run several hours, involve many trains, and require many operators. Operating the layout solo is almost (or entirely) impossible because moving any equipment outside of the formal, multi-hour operating session would disrupt the traffic flow on the layout. In essence, everything would need to be reset before the next big session.

At the same time, when he’s hosting these big sessions the layout onwer/builder (the brass hat) is so busy looking after the layout and his guests that he doesn’t have time to pick up a throttle. The end result is that the the brass hat never gets to run his own layout.

How messed up is that?

What’s more, fear of messing up the layout can inadvertently lead layout owners to leave a negative impression of the hobby on others. I’m reminded of a friend’s story about the time he was invited to visit a Famous Model Railroader (it doesn’t matter who, so I will not name names). My friend took along some beer as a thank you for imposing on the FMR’s time and after a tour of the layout room tour in which he ooohed and aaahed appropriately, my friend asked, “So, FMR, why don’t we run a train or two?”

The answer was, “No, I don’t think there are any trains scheduled to run on the railroad today.”

As you can imagine, my friend was ready to take back his beer – perhaps to help wash out the sour taste the experience left in his mouth. Now imagine how this attitude would go over with someone who is not already in the hobby. After an experience like that, chances are they never will be.

So, what’s the solution?

Lance’s answer is to design a layout that can be operated frequently, in brief sessions. Without consciously setting out to do that, it’s what I’ve done with Port Rowan. Now, having read Lance’s thoughts on this, I’m making a point of ensuring that I run the layout four or five times per week.

Now, The Daily Effort takes about 75 minutes to complete a run from Simcoe (staging) to Port Rowan and back, with work in Port Rowan and St. Williams. And I don’t have 75 minutes, four or five times per week. But the thing is, the entire run does not need to be completed in a single session. Instead, I am splitting the run over several sessions. Five 15-minute sessions will get it done. (So will one half-hour session plus three 15-minute sessions, or three 20-minute sessions, a 10 and a five, or…)

(Note that even larger, more complex layouts would benefit from having a section that could be operated in this way with minimal disruption the overall traffic flow – perhaps a branch, connecting shortline, waterfront area, or industrial park would serve the purpose.)

When I run out of time to run trains, I simply make a note of where I am in the operating cycle, shut off the power and walk away. The next time I can run, I can quickly pick up where I left off. Having done this for a couple of weeks now, my goal is to never again run a train back and forth at random – even when non-hobbyists visit. Instead, by replicating the real work on the Port Rowan branch – even just a little bit of it – I can help explain to casual visitors why so many of us find this hobby so compelling.

In addition to keeping my interest high, these short but frequent operating sessions help the layout too: They keep the rails clean, they keep the switch mechanisms and switch points limber, and they help me identify any maintenance issues that need to be addressed. That’s good news for when I am hosting formal operating sessions with a friend or two, because it means the layout is always in the best shape it can be. And if I want to give friends the full experience of running a train from staging to staging, that’s easy enough to set up at a moment’s notice.

That’s why I encourage everyone to read Lance’s blog entry on how to play with trains. And then, I encourage you to head to the layout room and do just that. Have fun – I am!

Tractor loading (thanks, Doug!)

A flash of red photo WAB-Flat-04.jpg

My friend Doug Harding left a useful comment on a posting about my flat car loaded with tractors. Since it might be missed by those who might benefit from the information, I’m paraphrasing it, below:

Tractors were secured to flat cars in various configurations, depending upon the size of the tractor. The 1944 AAR tie down instructions separates by weight. The 1952 AAR instructions do not. Small tractors are loaded crosswise, if short enough. Tractors are also loaded lengthwise (side by side) or at a diagonal. Extremely large tractors, ie today’s behemoths, are loaded end to end, sometimes only two per flatcar. The idea was to get as many units per flatcar, without exceeding the weight limit of the car or exceeding the clearance limits. I have photos showing as many as 10 units per flatcar.

Thanks, Doug, for the additional information!

Additional photos of the S Scale Workshop

Going through my computer, I recently found some photos I’ve taken of the S Scale Workshop‘s Free-mo style modular layout at various venues over the past few years. Enjoy!

Beet loader siding – Chris’ module
Before beets photo SSW-TCTS-2009-01.jpg

Depot on Pete’s module
Depot on Pete's module photo SSW-Copetown2012-07.jpg

Road crossing on Pete’s module
Road crossing photo SSW-Copetown2012-06.jpg

Hornby Mill on Pete’s module
Mill on Pete's module photo SSW-Copetown2012-05.jpg

Brewery, eh? Andy’s module
Brewery, eh? photo SSW-Copetown2012-04.jpg

Stone fill on Andy’s module
Swamp photo SSW-Copetown2012-03.jpg

Church on Jim’s module
Church at Culverhouse photo SSW-Copetown2012-02.jpg

Cannery on Jim’s module
The Cannery photo SSW-Copetown2012-01.jpg

Cooperage on Jim’s module
Culverhouse photo SSW-2010-05.jpg

A busy day at Culverhouse – Jim’s module
Busy day at Culverhouse photo SSW-2010-04.jpg

Water tank – Pete’s module
Another look at Pete's module photo SSW-2010-03.jpg

General Store – Pete’s module
Pete's module photo SSW-2010-02.jpg

Beet loader – Chris’ module
Beet Loader photo SSW-2010-01.jpg

Railfanning a Freight Extra

I felt like running a train today… and since the camera was in the layout room, I shot some video.

Please excuse the soft focus if you watch a Freight Extra heading to Port Rowan:
Freight Extra - Video photo Extra-VideoCapture-121018_zps4d5f9fdb.jpg

The video runs 4:18 – about the same length of time it takes to run from the staging area to the end of track. I have loaded custom speed tables into my locomotives, so what you see in the video is about as fast as they go – perfect for the branch’s 15 mph speed limit.

Enjoy the trip.