Doodlebug details

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Yesterday I put the finishing touches on my CNR gas electric, and this morning I applied a coat of weathering to finish the model.

Details included MV Lenses in the class lamps, secured with Miscroscale Kristal Klear. I also added some Kristal Klear around the LED headlight to fill the gap between the LED and the headlight housing:

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Other details include glass (cut from microscope slide covers) in the windows, and window shades made from a cream-coloured envelope. Window glass and shades were installed using Kristal Klear, which does a terrific job at this sort of thing. There’s no glass in the baggage doors, as they’re the location through which the DCC sound system is ported:

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Working through a hole in the bottom of the rear vestibule, I was able to add seven panes of glass to this area, although I did not attempt to add window shades. I don’t think they’ll be missed…

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I weathered the model with a mix of powders and airbrushed paint. I like Vallejo military colours for weathering since they dry dead flat. Some black powder did a nice job of dirtying up the air intake louvres at the front of the model, while some rust powder – oversprayed with Vallejo’s black-grey – created a subtle exhaust and rust look on the roof:

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I’m really pleased with how this model turned out – and I enjoyed learning about the CNR’s fleet of self-propelled vehicles in the process. I look forward to putting CNR 15815 into revenue service in the near future!

Update :: How about a CNR-specific GS gon?

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(Will we get these in S? I hope so! Photo from the Canadian Freight Cars site. Click on the image to visit)

Jim King at Smoky Mountain Model Works has sent me an update on his GS gon project

The SP/UP cars that folks want me to produce have 5-foot sides; the CN cars are shorter and show much of the door mechanism. SP cars do not. I really don’t want to get into a wide variety of cars BUT if you “Canada guys” can pool your interest to justify a CN-only car, I will consider it. I need at least 50 car kits reserved to justify the time and pattern cost to make new sides, etc.

This would be a better option for those of us working in 1:64 than the detail kits discussed earlier. Even the detail kits would be grand, but actually having a CNR prototype-specific model can’t be beat.

If you are interested in these cars, then now is the time to speak up! You can contact Jim directly, or you can use the “comments” section of this blog post to provide input and I’ll forward it to Jim, with your email address so he can follow up.

Jim is also looking for more information on the CN versions – specifically…

1 – The differences from a standard GS gon (such as the UP/SP model he’s doing).
2 – He could also use help with the artwork to get lettering produced – for both CNR and CPR models.

Again, if you can help with these two requests, you can contact Jim directly, or you can use the “comments” section of this blog post to provide input and I’ll forward it to Jim, with your email address so he can follow up.

Can we make up 50 orders, as a community? I think so. I like to build permanent loads in open cars – I think they look better than removable ones – so I could easily justify 10 on my own to create a five-car loaded and empty block of cars from the quarry in nearby Hagersville.

Think about it, and let Jim know…

Letter’d ‘lectric

In addition to tweaking the chassis, over the weekend I also lettered my gas electric. Click on the images, below, for larger views…

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I had a couple of choices for the lettering scheme for an all-green self-propelled CNR unit. The more common arrangement is the one seen on my model of CNR 7184, with CANADIAN NATIONAL spelled out above the windows:
CNR Combine from MLW Services Kit photo CNR-Combine-Header_zpse6af9c7c.jpg

But in reviewing the photos in Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR by Anthony Clegg, I noted a few images of equipment adorned with the red wafer instead. The general rule about this wafer – or so I’m told – is that it was only used on wooden passenger cars. But it appears some paint shops made an exception for self-propelled equipment.

I decided to use the red wafer scheme for several reasons:

1 – I like the splash of colour the wafers add to the gas electric.

2 – I already have two steel passenger cars in the solid green scheme with CANADIAN NATIONAL spelled out above the windows. This adds some variety.

3 – In the Clegg book, all of the self-propelled equipment with the CANADIAN NATIONAL spelled out also featured two car numbers on the car sides – one number at each end. The equipment done in the red wafer scheme had a single car number on each side, centred on the side. Since I needed to build each instance of my desired car number out of multiple pieces of decal, eliminating two instances of that saved time and reduced the chance of applying wonky decals. Sometimes, the practical solution wins…

As mentioned previously, the CNR had only one EMC gas electric – an RPO unit (15805) that operated on the Grand Trunk Western. Comparing the number jumbles on my decals to the roster list in the Clegg book, I discovered I could easily create 15815 – a number originally carried by a Ledoux-Jennings gas car that was scrapped in May of 1930. Since there are a few examples of numbers being reused, it seemed like a good place to slot in my doodlebug.

I used lettering from two sources for this model. The gold lettering and the red wafers came from an S scale set – CNR passenger cars (1930-1961) – from Black Cat Publishing. I needed a smaller font for the black numbers on the front of the doodlebug – and found those in an HO scale set for Canadian National passenger cars, produced by Microscale for the CNR Historical Association (set 300-006).

I’ve sealed the lettering with a gloss coat so the unit is now ready for the finishing touches. Stay tuned…

Gas electric :: chassis tweaks

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I’ve tweaked the chassis on the gas electric to make a few improvements, as noted on the above image (click for a larger view).

Here are some notes on the tweaks:

1 – I “painted” the flywheel black. Actually, not painted: I inked it black with a permanent marker. I did this because the flywheel lines up with the baggage doors on the body shell and I noticed that when it was bare brass, the spinning flywheel would “flash” behind the windows.

2 – A little bit of weight over a trailing truck never hurts, so I’ve added 28g (approximately 1oz) under the decoder. Electrical pick-up is already good with this truck – but could be better.

3 – The driver’s seat is a lump of brass. I realized that the seat back rubbed directly against the inside of the body shell – and that this would interfere with adding glass to the driver’s window. Some work with a saw has provided clearance for the glazing, while a bit of paint covers the damage.

To do these tweaks, I had to remove the driver – a plastic figure I glued in place. In the process, I managed to pull his head off! Whoops! Fortunately, it was a clean break and some CA fixed him up, as good as new. But his new name is “Humpty”…

On a technical note, I moved all of the gas electric photos to a new album on my photo-sharing site. I think that I have updated all the links – but if you experience any broken links, try refreshing your browser. If they’re still broken, let me know. You’ll find a handy contact form at the bottom of this page. Thanks in advance!

CNR GS gondola in S scale?

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(Will we get these in S? I hope so! Photo from the Canadian Freight Cars site. Click on the image to visit)

Jim King at Smoky Mountain Model Works has become a great source of rolling stock for those working in 1:64 – and his latest potential project will be of interest to Canadian railway modellers.

Jim is looking for expressions of interest for the GS gondola – in all-steel and steel-wood composite designs. He writes:

Based on an $80 (US) price including couplers and decals, how many would you buy? Be specific. This is a make/break decision time based on YOUR interest.
1. Tell me how many steel sided cars in SP, UP or other roads you’d buy.
2. Tell me how many composite sided cars in SP, UP or other roads you’d buy.

The all-steel version will be a good starting point for CNR GS gons. In fact, Andy Malette from MLW Services has raised this possibility with Jim, and Jim is open to doing a set of add-on details to create a Canadian car – providing there’s sufficient demand.

So, now’s your chance: Visit Smoky Mountain Model Works and drop an email to Jim to tell him now many you would take. Do it soon!

I’ve already told Jim I’m in for five of the all-steel kits – and more if he offers the Canadian detail sets.

Among their many duties, these cars would be ideal on company service, hauling ballast from quarries such as the one near Hagersville. So I hope Jim gets the numbers he needs to go ahead with this project.

UPDATE: Jim at Smoky Mountain is looking for information about the CN and CP versions – specifically:

1 – The differences from a standard GS gon (such as the Red Caboose model in HO scale). The additional side details (ribs? stampings?) is an obvious one. Any others?
2 – He could also use help with the artwork to get lettering produced.

If you can help with these two requests, you can contact Jim directly, or you can use the “comments” section of this blog post to provide input and I’ll forward it to Jim, with your email address so he can follow up.

Jim reports that as of Friday, he had more than 80 reservations (combined) for the GS gondola and the Canadian version. This is good news as it means the project is likely to go ahead. If you’re working in 1:64 and interested in the Canadian version, let Jim know!

Ready To Run

No, this isn’t a post on equipment that’s ready to go, straight out of the box – and how it is either killing or saving the hobby. I’ll let somebody else write that diatribe (on your own blog, please!)

Rather, I’m pleased to report that yesterday I was able to convert back all of my test equipment to the Kadee 808 coupler. After a few months of testing coupler alternatives (including the Sergent EC64 and Kadee 5), the layout is once again ready to run as it should – with all hands on deck.

Although it appears I have some dusting to do first…

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(A representative sample of my equipment roster, lined up on the sector plate. Additional equipment is stored in drawers below)

In all, I’d converted more than a dozen pieces of equipment to Sergent couplers for testing. And from that group, I further converted almost a dozen pieces to Kadee 5 couplers to test that alternative. Restoring the Kadee 808 couplers took all afternoon, but the marathon session paid off. As a bonus, I found some additional work that needed to be done on some cars, and struck that off my to-do list.

I’m looking forward to my next operating session – the first in a long time in which I won’t be thinking about couplers!


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(They belong under bridges, but have NO place in this hobby)

Unfortunately, Trolls exist – and Jim Gore of Florida was recently on the receiving end of their wrath. His “crime”? He enjoys his hobby and built a layout.

Jim’s On30 Jemez and Rio Grande is featured in the December, 2014 issue of Model Railroader:

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As the MR article notes, Jim envisioned his layout as a freelanced branch line of a famous three-foot gauge railroad through New Mexico known as “The Chili Line” because many of the locals would hang bunches of hot peppers outside their houses to dry.

While enjoying dinner with Chris Abbott this week, I was distressed to learn that after Jim’s feature appeared, he received insulting emails and – worse – phone calls from idiots who complained that he did not model the Chili Line “correctly”. Chris learned about this from Jim himself – via the Model Rail Radio mailing list. Here’s Jim’s post to that list, in its entirety:

Dear All,

First, I want to thank so many of you who have said nice things about my layout feature in Model Railroader. Never intended that to be one of my goals in model railroading – it just happened because a friend of a friend talked with Lou Sassi who needed some place to visit in Florida during the winter.

I have always believed that this hobby of ours is exactly that … a hobby. It is something that gives us individual satisfaction and a certain amount of contentment. Ultimately, there is only one person that has to be satisfied, the owner of the model railroad; the rest being “gravy”.

It seems that my fictionalized railroad, as a branch-line of the Chili Lines, has sparked outright hatred and animosity among a group of prototype modelers, presumably who are strict Chili Line adherents. If you know any of these persons, can you tell them to stop sending me nasty emails and phone calls. Good gravy … it’s a hobby !!!!


To start, what a gentleman. I would’ve been much angrier. Jim: The Canadian in me feels compelled to apologize for the trolls. Nobody should have to put up with this type of abuse – for any reason, but especially not for a choice they’ve made in the hobby. Period.

I know that I have strong opinions on what constitutes a “successful” layout and when I share that philosophy on this blog and elsewhere, I know that not everybody agrees with me. I consider debate in the hobby to be a positive thing – and I’ve enjoyed the discussions that my posts have generated, even when we haven’t all seen eye to eye.

In three years of writing this blog, I’ve only ever had one person be a dunderhead. He’s been banned from commenting here – and I’m pleased to see that whenever he raises his head over the parapet to snipe at others (on newsgroups, other blogs and so on), he’s quickly and forcefully slapped.

With that one exception, the tone has always been civil and respectful. I’m grateful that I don’t have be heavy handed about policing this blog. Thank you – all of you – for that.

I know trolls exist in the hobby – and that it’s easy, with the pseudonyms and avatars of forums, to say things that we would never, ever say to another person’s face. But I can’t even begin to imagine what “right” somebody feels they have to directly attack another person for their approach to railway modelling.

The idea of emailing somebody to tell them they’re “doing it wrong” offends me.

The idea of phoning someone to deliver such abuse? Words fail me.

I have posted to the Model Railroader Facebook page to let the editorial team know that such abuse makes me angry, and that it should not be tolerated. I’ve encouraged MR to address this in a future issue – I think it’s an important editorial for editor Neil Besougloff to write. It’s disrespectful to hobbyists, and bad for the hobby as a whole.

What a great way to encourage people to never share their work with others.

What a great way to encourage people to abandon railway modelling in favour of a different hobby.

To those who engaged in this behaviour, I have three words:

“Well done, idiots.”

If you agree with me, I encourage you to get in touch with Model Railroader and let the editorial team know how you feel.

And you blog, or run a forum, or otherwise engage with the hobby community online, I encourage you to share information about this incident.

Together, maybe we can publicly shame the trolls and encourage them to go back under their bridges.

Boxcars and gas cars :: A visit with Chris

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(What do you see?)

My friend Chris Abbott visited last night, and with his help I was able to make a final decision on my choice of couplers. As the lead photo suggests, I’ve decided to standardize on the Kadee 808 – the S scale coupler (in brown) that I used when I started this layout.

When I look at equipment on the layout, my eyes are drawn to things like the logo, the reporting marks, the roof, the weathering and so on. The coupler is really an afterthought – and when a car is part of a train, the couplers are practically invisible. The bottom line is that visually, the larger-than-life 808 couplers don’t bother me.

Operationally, however, they’re much easier to use than my alternate choice, the Kadee 5. Chris and I switched two trains in St. Williams – one equipped with Kadee 5 couplers, the other with Kadee 808 couplers. Chris and I both found that the 808s were easier to uncouple because they are easier to see and there is more room in the knuckles to position an uncoupling tool. Since I’ve determined that for me, a reliable coupler is The Least Disruptive Option, the 808 is the obvious choice.

I’ll start to convert back my equipment this week.

That said, I’m also glad I investigated other coupler choices – including the Kadee 5 and Sergent EC64. I learned a lot in the process, even as I confirmed that my original choice was the correct one. (At least, for me: I encourage everyone to do their own experiments and make their own choices in this hobby – for couplers, DCC systems (or even whether to use DCC at all), scenery materials, and everything else.)

As with everything in this hobby, what works for me may not work for you – and vice-versa.

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(The doodlebug hauls a two-car train through St. Williams)

Chris and I also had fun running my in-progress gas electric. Before Chris arrived, I was able to get some of the fine detail painting done. I’m particularly pleased with how the orange window frames came out. I also finished the headlight by adding some Kristal Klear around the LED to fill the gap between LED and headlight housing.

I’d read that these models could not pull the skin off a pudding – and the gas electric has only a single power truck. So we were both quite surprised when, during testing, the doodlebug walked away with two of my passenger cars in tow. They’re not only heavy, but the compensated trucks add a fair bit of drag – so much so, that my CNR 10-wheelers* have trouble pulling a train. But the gas electric had no problem with them.

In fact, it ran better with the additional weight in tow. We think the train brought more weight to bear over the rear truck, which improved electrical pick-up. As a result of this testing, I’ll add some weight over the rear truck next time I have the unit apart.

(*My CNR 10-wheelers are currently with their builder, Simon Parent, because they need a tune-up – and one of the issues identified is that they’re not riding on their springing properly, so that may have something to do with their tendency to slip their drivers when pulling the passenger cars.)

We ended the evening, as we often do, at Harbord House. We discussed many things over pints and dinner – some of which I’ll share in future posts…

Thanks again, Chris – great, as always, to see you and your help in coming to a coupler decision was greatly appreciated!

The new RMC

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My copy of the back-from-the-dead Railroad Model Craftsman arrived in my mailbox yesterday – and what a return to life!

The first thing I noticed was the better paper. The magazine is heavy now, with terrific glossy stock that feels wonderful in the hand and makes photos look great. Regular features have also received design nudges – from the addition of colour to the column headers to a fresher look for reviews and new product announcements.

These are definitely steps in the right direction, and editor Chris D’Amato notes in his column that there will be additional tweaks in coming issues.

What I find really exciting, however, is an interesting bit of data in the letter from publisher Kevin Eudaly, who notes that White River Productions now produces 22 magazines – including publications for specific railway historical societies, the NRHS Bulletin, and the NMRA Magazine, plus of course Passenger Train Journal, Railroads Illustrated, Model Railroad News and The Railroad Press.

This represents a terrific base of knowledge upon which RMC can draw, as well as a great source for material. As an example of the types of synergies this enables…

If someone writes an eight-page modelling feature for their favourite historical society publication (for free, no less), White River could easily approach them to do a four-page version for RMC (and be paid for it). And of course the RMC feature could refer back to the historical society publication for those who wish to explore the subject in more detail.

I’m looking forward to seeing how RMC develops and grows in the coming months. And I’ll have to pitch some features to Chris…

Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR

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I’ve mentioned this book a few times recently as I’ve shared the work on my CNR doodlebug. This is an excellent resource for anybody interested in the development of self-propelled cars in Canada.

I’ve been aware of self-propelled alternatives to traditional, locomotive-hauled passenger trains almost as long as I’ve been in the hobby. But for me they were always a footnote or a sidebar. Until I read this book, I did not appreciate the variety or the ubiquity of these vehicles on the CNR, its predecessors, and its subsidiaries.

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While I’d heard of gas electrics – and I’ve even owned several models, in various scales, over the years – the CNR experimented with a lot of other approaches. The most successful early cars were diesel electrics, which paved the way for later acquisitions of Budd RDCs. But I was surprised to learn that the CNR also rostered – at one time, anyway – rail buses, Brill model 55 cars, Evans Autorailers, and others. And this book introduced me to the Storage Battery Car: Think of an interurban, but with a rack of batteries under the floor instead of an overhead wire.

The greatest variety of self-propelled equipment was found on the CNR in the 1920s and 1930s. This is a period that relatively few hobbyists model: We favour the “steam-diesel transition era” or more modern settings. But having read this book, I have a new appreciation for just how interesting an earlier-era layout could be. Not that I’m going to rework Port Rowan, mind you. But the addition of a variety of self-propelled vehicles would certainly help one create a unique layout.

Meantime, this book has proven valuable to me as I work on my own doodlebug. I’m glad I grabbed a copy.

If you want to know more about Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR, click on the book cover (above) to visit the publisher’s website.