“PE brakes” for CML 1952

CML1952-Brakes-Painted photo CML-1950-Brakes-03_zpsb9a55fd0.jpg

In September, I wrote about acquiring an S scale version of the NMRA’s tribute to Bob Hegge and his Crooked Mountain Lines. This tribute takes the form of a PRS boxcar decorated for Hegge’s famous freelanced interurban line, inspired by the likes of the Oregon Electric.

I was fortunate to find an unbuilt kit:
CML 1952 photo CML-1952-01_zps7239915d.jpg

While I’m a prototype modeller at heart, I’ve noted before on this blog that I have a soft spot for Hegge’s work. It greatly influenced my own journey in this hobby. So I’m happy to break my from prototype-mindedness, enact “Rule One”* and let this model roam the rails. I’m not sure what it’s doing in Port Rowan – possibly, it delivered a load to Montreal or a point further east, and it’s been grabbed by the CNR to deliver another load en route to its home in the northwestern United States.

I’ll figure that out. In the meantime, now that the kit has had a couple of months to “acclimatize” in my layout** room it’s time to build it. When I acquired it, I decided that this car would look really neat with what I’ll call “PE Brakes” after the Pacific Electric, which used a modified brake rigging system on some boxcars to allow them to negotiate tight curves. The big change from the conventional arrangement is that the rod connecting to the brake staff does not run through the truck (between the wheels) to the B-end of the car: It’s mounted along one side sill to allow the truck to rotate freely. This required an extra lever and a bunch of hangers and adds visual interest when the car is viewed in profile.

Sunshine Models produced an HO resin kit at one time for the Southern Pacific B-50-13/-14 series of boxcar, and they did a PE version that included instructions for building the PE brake rigging. The kit is no longer in production, but I was fortunate that a reader of this blog came forward with a scan of the PE brake rigging instructions for me. I transferred these to my iPad and got to work:
CML1952-Brakes photo CML-1950-Brakes-01_zps749da5dc.jpg

The rigging took most of yesterday afternoon – in part because I had to translate instructions for a wooden prototype with fish-belly centre sills to a steel car with no fish-belly. The PRS kits come with a brake-rigging system that’s injection moulded in a single piece – piping, rodding, appliances, levers, hangers, etc., all in one. I cut away the piping and rodding, drilled holes in the various appliances to accept wire, and rearranged the pieces while trying to follow the PE instructions as closely as the different styles of frame would allow. I cut and sanded my own levers, and employed the common trick of cutting turnbuckles in half to use as clevises. There are three levers and a lot of clevises on this car.

CML1952-Brakes photo CML-1950-Brakes-02_zpsbf10c139.jpg

As the lead photo shows, I masked the sides to protect the CML lettering (which is the whole point of this particular car, after all) and then sprayed the frame (and the trucks, not shown) with tarnished black to blend everything together. I can now move on to building the rest of the car in the more conventional manner. In no time at all, this unique tribute to a personal influence will be rolling on my layout.

(*Rule One: It’s my layout)

(**Yeah, that’s it. I wasn’t ignoring the kit. I was letting it “acclimatize”…)

The sharp-eyed will note that the NMRA’s tribute car includes a build date that reads “NEW 11-33” – quite remarkable on a style of boxcar that didn’t exist until 1937! I always knew Hegge was ahead of his time…

Diecast and Decals

I was reading the cover story by Bob Smaus in the current (October 2013) issue of Railroad Model Crafstman magazine and Bob mentioned that he’d had some lettering produced for an HO scale truck by a company called Diecast and Decals.

It’s the first of heard of this company and I’m intrigued so I thought I’d share it here. I’m going to get in touch with owner Joe Schulte to see if he can do some S scale lettering for CNR express and freight vehicles.

Stay tuned…

Swanning about

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The Magic Water two-part resin has cured and I’ve been able to restore the swans to their proper place in the Lynn River.

I like the reflection of the swans in the water. To keep the water surface nice and shiny, I will have to remember that the vendor, Unreal Details, recommends cleaning with an “anti-static plastic cleaner”, which can be found at a hardware store near the plexiglass.

And that’s one of the reasons I write stuff like this down in a blog…

You GET to build it!

This is one of my favourite model railway ads, and I’ll tell you why:
You GET to build it photo FastTracksAd_zps23f9656d.jpg
(click on the ad to visit Fast Tracks on the web)

Before I do, in the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that Fast Tracks owner Tim Warris is a friend. We’ve broken bread together (or, at least, sushi) and I’m looking forward to having him visit sometime when we can run an operating session on my layout.

That said, I’m also a customer – I’ve bought several turnout building fixtures from Tim, plus the ancillary tools such as the Point-Form and the Stock-Aid. There are several of his Bullfrog manual switch machines under my layout. And he’s even done some custom work for me on a couple of occasions.

But all of that is irrelevant. It’s a coincidence that I like Tim’s ad. If it had been created for any other company – even one whose products I had never used – I’d be posting it here. Because I love the message:

You don’t have to build it: You get to build it!

This speaks to the heart of why I’m in this hobby.

(Of course, regular readers know I don’t build everything for my layout. To cite two examples, I happily engaged in “chequebook modelling” for my locomotives, and I often have resin freight cars built for me. But I do that because I know my limits: I don’t – at this point in my life anyway – have the patience to build my own locomotives. And while I’ve built resin freight cars in the past – and even several scratch-built boxcars an flatcars when I modelled in On2 – I’m slow at doing rolling stock and it’s not my favourite aspect of the hobby. Given that I’m also trying to build a layout, I’d prefer to focus on the things that aren’t as easy to farm out: It’s one thing to hand over a freight car kit – quite another to say, “Here’s a chunk of my layout: Can you take it home and add scenery?” I also enjoy building structures and scenery, so for now, that’s where I prefer to invest my energies.)

As I’ve progressed in the hobby, I’ve learned to be comfortable taking on more and more tasks where I do the work. Track is a good example. In the past, I’ve used a lot of flex track and ready-to-plant turnouts. But even before Tim started his business – before I knew him at all – I started hand-laying my track. My first attempts were a disaster, but I got better – and when Tim’s tools and aids became available, hand-laying track went from something I had to do, to something I enjoy.

This week, I also learned that acquiring skills has helped insulate me from some of the troubles that have beset the hobby:

I was in a local hobby shop and as the only customer there at the time, I had plenty of time to chat with the owner. He confided to me that his biggest challenge right now is getting reliable sources of stock. I assumed the problem would be related to smaller, mom-and-pop shops folding their tents but even the large companies are causing him grief. He told me that for the past several months, he’s been unable to get track from one supplier – no flex, no turnouts, nothing – because the company has had issues with its overseas factory.

I won’t identify the hobby shop or the manufacturer, so don’t ask. But there have been plenty of examples of this issue biting manufacturers and making life difficult for hobbyists. S scale enthusiasts will remember that the supply of rolling stock from S Helper Service dried up after their manufacturing partner in China booted them out. (I mention S Helper Service because with the sale of the company to MTH, this issue has presumably been resolved.)

Anyway, back to track. As I listened to the hobby shop owner’s tale of trying to stock track for his customers, I couldn’t help but think, “Boy, I’m glad I hand-lay my track, so this isn’t a problem for me. As long as I can get ties, spikes and rail, I’m set.” (Knock wood, but so far that hasn’t been a problem.)

Obviously, hand-laid track is not something people tackle if they’re building a “train set”. And of the relatively few who graduate from the train set to become model railway enthusiasts, the first serious layouts will probably also be built with commercial track. In fact, many hobbyists will never tackle hand-laid track – just like many will never build a resin freight car kit, or scratch-build a boxcar or a structure, or twist their own tree armatures from florist wire. And that’s fine.

But for me, learning these skills has not only been satisfying, it’s also given me a degree of freedom to pursue the hobby on my own terms. My layout – my hobby – will not come to a grinding halt because a factory on the other side of the world has decided it would rather produce toasters and televisions than toy trains.

Best of all, learning these skills has been pleasant because acquiring the knowledge has changed my attitude towards the hobby in ways that are nicely summed up in Tim’s ad:

I don’t have to build my trees, structures, track, bridges, rivers, meadows, roads, fields, etc.

I get to build them.

I still have plenty of things to do on the layout with the skills I have already acquired. But I also have a list of projects that will require learning new skills. I look forward to learning those skills, and gaining more freedom.

Muddy Waters

No, not the blues legend…

Lynn River - Poured photo LynnRiver-Poured-01_zpsfc5f65f8.jpg

 photo LynnRiver-Poured-02_zps9d10c782.jpg

I’ve always been hesitant when modelling water. I’ve tried several systems that have failed me for various reasons. But last night I decided it was time to Man Up and pour the two sections of the Lynn River depicted on my layout.

This time, I decided to use Magic Water – a two-part resin from Unreal Details. It was my first experience with this product, and I’m really pleased with how the water has turned out – so far. (I say “so far” because the resin is still curing. It takes about 24 hours to set, and it’s only been about 12 hours as I write this.)

I mixed the resin and hardener in several small batches, adding a few drops of Burnt Umber acrylic artists ink from Daler-Rowney to each batch prior to mixing.
Lynn River - Poured photo LynnRiver-Poured-04_zps1ff39d8d.jpg

As the Magic Water instructions say, mix well: I set a timer on my phone and kept stirring until the alarm went off, to ensure I didn’t shortchange this part of the process.

The instructions also warn that this stuff pours like water. It’s actually a little thicker: it pours like cooking oil. But I believe the instructions when they warn it will find even the tiniest hole in your river bottom and flow out. That said, even before I installed the riverbed I knew that I would be trying this system – so I planned, from the start, to create a water-tight riverbed. Here are some of the steps I took:

– I made sure the riverbed was as level as I could make it – not only front to back, but also side to side.
– For each section of riverbed, I used a single (un-spliced) piece of 3/4″ plywood as the base.
– I made sure there was plenty of plywood to either side of the actual, modelled piece of river. This gave me ample space to which to attach the foam board that I used to create the riverbanks.
– When the riverbanks were installed, I coated everything with a couple of layers of hydrocal.
– When adding scenery to the riverbanks, and detailing the river bottom, I used generous amounts of thinned Weld-Bond to make sure everything was solidly glued in place. The Weld-Bond also sealed the plaster and any holes I may have missed.

I obviously did a good job on my preparations, because the Magic Water stayed on the layout. When I checked this morning, the floor was resin-free under both sections of the river. Phew!

There’s very little wicking, although when the resin has cured I will have to add some bushes along the shoreline in a few places where the resin did wick into the adjacent scenery.

I’m especially pleased with the brown tint. I think the ink was a good choice. And I like the reflections I’m getting off the river.
Lynn River - Poured photo LynnRiver-Poured-03_zpsff953bf5.jpg

The truly magic part? I had just enough material in one package of Magic Water to do both sections of the river. It couldn’t have worked out better if I’d planned it!

Troublesome Trees Trimmed

(The alliterations continue…)

I’ve been having misgivings about the trees behind the St. Williams depot. I’m very happy with the trunks and branches, but less happy with the canopy. A couple of off-line discussions with friends confirmed that there was something wrong – and they suggested I thin out the canopy to give the trees more of a see-through effect.

I revisited Gordon Gravett‘s first volume on Modelling Trees, and that is indeed a major part of the problem. Yesterday, I decided to do something about it.

Here’s how the trees looked before I started:
3 Trees at St Williams photo 3Trees-StW-02_zps32555903.jpg

The canopy is quite dense – it looks like giant clumps of packing foam have been stuck into the trees. Worse, it hides a lot of the work I did to fashion the armatures in the first place: Why go through all that trouble if the end result is going to look like a ball on a stick?

I spread a rag over the road to protect it, then pulled out all of the foliage material and saved it in a container. I then started rebuilding the canopy – using about half of the foliage I did before, and teasing it out even further. The redone trees now look like this:
St Williams - Trees Trimmed photo Arborist-02_zpsccfe3c74.jpg

Much better, I think.

Here’s another before and after pair of photos – looking along Charlotteville STreet:

Before… and clumpy:
Charlotteville St in the Shade photo 3Trees-StW-01_zpsddf79296.jpg

After… and airy:
St Williams - Tree Trimmed photo Arborist-01_zps879d28b3.jpg

Again – much better, I think.

I’m still not completely satisfied, but as one of my sounding boards noted,

I would say that you have taken Woodlands Scenics foliage about as far as it can go, and any further attempts to approach the peak of Gravett-inspired perfection will need alternative materials.

I agree. I really like the netting material that Woodland Scenics uses, but the ground foam is not as nice as the leaves I have from the Selkirk Leaf Company. I would love to get the Woodland Scenics netting without the foam. In fact, I think I’ll email Woodland Scenics to see if that’s possible…

(UPDATE: I’ve just checked the Woodland Scenics website and they offer a product called Poly Fiber. I’ve emailed to ask whether this is the material they use as the netting in their foliage products. Stay tuned for an answer.)

(AND A FURTHER UPDATE: A customer service person at Woodland Scenics replies: “The Poly Fiber is made from the same fiber material (netting) as Foliage, but it is put through an additional process to make it more fluffy (for lack of a better word). Poly Fiber can be pulled thin and lacey and then sprinkled with Turf, similar to Foliage.”)

Thanks to my sounding boards for the reality check!

Terrific TractorFab Trusses

Tractor Fab Trusses photo TractorFabTrusses_zps8485dd90.jpg

In early September, I mentioned on this blog that TractorFab would be offering custom roof trusses in laser cut wood.

I followed up with TractorFab’s owner, Jeff Schwank, and a couple of weeks ago I placed an order for two sizes of truss. I’ll use the first size for the five tobacco kilns in St. Williams, and the second size for the garage behind the feed mill in Port Rowan.

For each size, I provided Jeff with the S scale height of the peak, the S scale width of the structure, and the number of trusses I wanted. Jeff then quoted on each of the two sizes, providing me with a PDF of the CAD drawings so I could see exactly what I would be getting.

The price is quoted based on the size of the truss required, and I think it’s quite reasonable. Jeff currently offers one style of truss but more are on the way, and if you have a custom design he can do those, too – for a modest set-up fee. And while these are designed for 1:64 structures, the trusses would be useful for other scales as well.

As shown at the top of this post, Jeff sent me a photo of some of my trusses before he boxed them up. The box arrived today and the trusses are exactly what I wanted. Thanks Jeff! Service was excellent and all of my trusses arrived damage free. What’s more, I tested some of the trusses in the joist setting jigs offered by Rusty Stumps Scale Models, and they fit beautifully. Being able to use these joist setting jigs for the trusses will make short work of spacing them consistently as I build a structure.

These trusses will make building structures a lot easier. Roofs will be well supported, rafter tails will be consistent, there are no jigs to build for cutting and gluing up trusses from individual members… you get the idea. Highly recommended!

Tim Truck Testing

There’s something very different about this passenger car:
Compensated Trucks - Installed - Normal View photo Trucks-Warris-05_zpsa3d21a78.jpg

It’s not at all obvious in the photo, but the car is staying on the rails, consistently – and it no longer leans to one side. That’s because over the weekend I upgraded the running gear on this car (and the adjacent combine) with Tim Trucks.

I visited Tim Warris last week at Fast Tracks World Headquarters, and collected three pairs of the rigid beam compensation units that he designed and laser cut for me:
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Compensated truck components being cut from very thin plywood by the Fast Tracks laser

The two photos below show the compensation units in place:
Compensated  Trucks - Combine photo Trucks-Warris-03_zps39ee3131.jpg
(Under an MLW Services combine)

Compensated Trucks - Baggage-Mail photo Trucks-Warris-04_zps876e1685.jpg
(Under an American Models baggage-mail car)

The combine was the easier of the two to convert. The model has a small brass post soldered to the floor as a body bolster. I unsoldered this, then built up a replacement bolster from styrene strip.

On the baggage-mail car, the body bolster was a square plastic block, injection moulded as part of the floor. I drilled a series of holes around this block, then cut from hole to hole with a cutter in a Dremel Tool, until I could remove the body bolster. I then cut a large piece of styrene sheet to cover the hole. Before installing it on the car, I added a couple of blocks of styrene to the top side of the sheet, and drilled through all three layers and tapped them for a 2-56 screw. The added styrene blocks go inside the car, and provide extra depth for the truck screw. I glued this plate in place, then fashioned a body bolster on it.

In both cases, once the modifications were made and the new body bolsters fabricated, I screwed a styrene plate to each bolster and left it loose enough to swivel. To this plate, I then screwed the compensation unit. This allows me to remove the trucks without having to access the screw that’s directly above the centre axle.

The side frames from the American Models trucks are now cosmetic. I pulled the side frames from the AM truck bolsters, then cut away the mounting posts and filed/sanded the backs of the side frames smooth. I then used a cutting tool in my drill press to grind away some of the plastic inside the journals to create a vertical slot. This cavity allows the ends of the axles to move freely behind the plastic side frames. I then secured the modified side frames to the sides of the compensation units with CA. Tim cleverly designed the units to be exactly the same width as the space between the side frames on the stock trucks, so no spacers were needed.

I received some questions about the appearance of the cars with the compensation units installed. As the lead photo for this post demonstrates, during an operating session one can barely see the trucks – let alone the compensation frames. But in the interests of full disclosure, here’s a photo taken from track level:
Compensated Trucks - Installed - Closeup photo Trucks-Warris-06_zps24572241.jpg

In this photo, I have not painted the wooden sub frames. Even so, they’re barely visible. I will brush-paint them black and then dry-brush some more weathering onto the plastic side frames of the trucks, and the sub frames should completely disappear. In any case, I’m pleased with the appearance – and very pleased with the improved performance of the trucks. As a bonus, they better support the cars: the cars do not wobble, and they ride level – which was a challenge before due to the sloppy engineering of the American Models trucks.

They also reduced derailments considerably. Yes – reduced: not eliminated.

When I started running the mixed train with these new trucks, I still experienced a few derailments. I had far fewer derailments than before, but some of the derailments I experienced were new – they were in places that the old trucks had negotiated without any problems.

I spent a fair bit of time on the weekend troubleshooting the new trucks and learned several things:

1 – With the axles now held perpendicular to the side frames, instead of being able to wobble in loosely drilled holes in the backs of the side frames, I no longer experienced derailments caused by a wobbly wheel set picking a rail joint or a turnout frog.

2 – I initially mounted the trucks with the trapped axles closest to the ends of the car. I had a fair number of derailments. I rotated the trucks 180 degrees – putting the trapped axles towards the centre of the car, and letting the car lead with compensated axles. That solved 90% of the problems.

3 – The ride is a lot smoother and quieter with these new trucks, as all six wheels on each truck are in contact with the rail at all times. The compensation unit takes up minor variations in rail height. (Actually, when Tim demonstrated the units to me he said “You can go offroading with these things” – and he’s right!)

The new derailments were in three spots:

4 – One trouble spot was due to the track gauge being slightly too wide. This allowed one wheel to drop enough that it would send the wheel at the other end of the axle up and over the rail. The non-compensated factory trucks probably rode over this spot with each wheel doing a bit of “hang time”, but the new compensated trucks will ride all the ups and downs. Once I determined the problem, a couple of spikes fixed it.

5 – One trouble spot was due to the track gauge being slightly too tight. Since two axles in each truck are compensated, they’re quite happy to ride up and over the rail at a tight spot. Again, once the problem was identified I was able to fix it with a couple of spikes. I’m not sure how the factory trucks made it through this spot. As an aside, the train slowed significantly at this spot as the tight gauge created enough additional drag to slip the drivers on the mogul. Fixing the tight spot fixed that problem, too.

6 – One trouble spot was due to a slight misalignment between two adjacent pieces of rail on the outside of a curve. The lead wheel would hit the end of the misaligned rail, and the compensated axle would deal with the issue by riding up and over the railhead. The factory trucks probably hit the misaligned rail and bounced away from it, instead of riding over it. Again, a few spikes fixed the issue.

I’ll continue to do my testing. I’m running the mixed train the length of the layout – forwards and backwards, while facing both directions – and at top speed (which isn’t all that fast since I have put custom speed curves into my DCC decoders). But early indications are this has been a great success for me. Thanks again, Tim!

Dinner and ops with Andy and Mark

Last night, Andy Malette and Mark Zagrodney visited for dinner and an operating session.

I’d been doing a fair bit of work on rolling stock lately, and apparently I wasn’t as careful as I should’ve been when I put equipment back on the rails, because we had a number of derailments as X1560 West pulled out of Simcoe into St. Williams. Three lessons learned:

– Double check that rolling stock is on the rails
– Double check that rolling stock is on the rails
– Double check that rolling stock is on the rails

I also haven’t been running the layout much lately – there have been other things to do. Some of the turnouts and some of the equipment was a bit sticky as a result. Regular running – even short, partial sessions – solves most operating problems. Three lessons learned:

– Run the layout regularly
– Run the layout regularly
– Run the layout regularly

Andy enjoyed seeing one of his CNR eight-hatch refrigerator car kits built up and running on a layout other than his own. And Mark had us in stitches at dinner with a story about a modeller who managed to CA his hands – and pieces of the kit he was building – to his forehead.

Good to see you both!

It was a wet night outside, but we braved the weather for the short walk to Harbord House. We met my wife there, as HH is halfway between home and her place of employment.

Despite the weather, the pub was quite full – so the four of us lined up along the upstairs bar for dinner. The up side: We had excellent, attentive service and could simply point at the pint we wanted pulled. The down side: Sitting in a row, it was hard for all four of us to engage in conversation.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my portobello mushroom soup and reuben sandwich with fries and slaw… washed down with a couple of pints of Stationmaster’s Stout from Junction Craft Brewing.

Own a piece of Ontario rail history!

 photo JarvisStn-ForSale-01_zps7a8420d6.png

I went through Jarvis, Ontario yesterday afternoon and not only is the old station there – it’s also for sale!

$169,000 (Canadian) gets you a 1,500 square foot station on 0.89 acres, zoned industrial. Here’s a link to the listing – keeping in mind that once it has sold the link will probably be broken.

The agent’s web site has this to say…

An excellent opportunity to own this local landmark! Set on .89 acres, this former train station is character filled with beautifully high tongue & groove ceilings & hardwood floors. This unique building offers many business opportunities including restaurant use. Municipal services & natural gas. Lots of parking. Located in Jarvis with high exposure from Highway #6.

Jarvis was the junction between the Hagerville Sub (from Hamilton to Simcoe, and thence onto Port Rowan and Port Dover) and the Cayuga Sub. The Cayuga Sub was owned by the CNR, but most of the trains on it were the Wabash Railroad’s Red Ball fast freights, which cut across southern Ontario to shave time off the Detroit-Buffalo run.

This is not the first time the Jarvis station has appeared on my blog. A model of the station is the first thing one sees when entering Pierre Oliver‘s HO scale Wabash layout:
Jarvis: 19 East, copy three photo Wabash-TTTO-03_zps81e31d7c.jpg

This model was built by the late Richard Chrysler for his own, excellent HO scale rendition of the Hagersville Sub. I photographed Richard’s layout earlier this year, before it was torn down. Here are a couple of pictures of the Jarvis station from that photo shoot, showing a CNR freight about to enter the Cayuga Sub en route to Simcoe:
RichC-Layout-JarvisStn photo RichC-JarvisStn-01_zps255432df.jpg

RichC-Layout-JarvisStn photo RichC-JarvisStn-02_zps921f4a33.jpg

Here are a few more photos of the real station:

JarvisStn-ForSale-2013-WaitingRoom photo JarvisStn-ForSale-03_zpsd4f50bfe.png
Waiting room

JarvisStn-ForSale-2013-Office photo JarvisStn-ForSale-07_zps9ece792d.png
Office with operator’s bay window

JarvisStn-ForSale-2013-Freight Room photo JarvisStn-ForSale-08_zpse3d05d7e.png
Baggage room with elevated platform

If this inspires you to buy the Jarvis station, let me know!