GATX 6000 gallon 3-dome tank car

Some interesting news out of Jim King at Smoky Mountain Model Works. On his “S Scale What-If?” page, Jim is now taking reservations (with no money down) for a GATX 6000 gallon three-dome tank car.

This S scale model would use the CAD drawings developed for the highly-praised HO scale model recently offered by Tangent Scale Models:

 photo Tangent-3Dome-Tank_zpsodsg5fa1.jpg
(Click on the image to visit the Tangent web page and read more about these cars)

While these are not the most common tank cars on the rails, they are nifty looking and they did haul a variety of commodities. The three, 2000-gallon compartments made them ideal for delivering several grades of liquid to a smaller customer, too – like the customers that my branch would’ve served. So, I’ve placed a reservation with Jim and can envision delivering agricultural chemicals or various grades of fuel to the team tracks at St. Williams and Port Rowan.

As Jim notes on his website, he typically needs about 80 reservations before he can consider producing a car. I like that he shares the number of reservations on the “What If” page, so his customers have an indication of whether a car might be produced. I’m sure in some cases, seeing “75” reservations will encourage people to add an extra car to their order to help push a project over the final hurdle.

Thanks, Jim, for continuing to support the S scale enthusiast!

A riot of colour

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(CNR RS18 3640 at the St. Williams station)

There’s no real reason to share this photo, other than I like the colours: The white house and RoW fence… green and yellow locomotive… red station… and blue truck. They combine to really catch the eye. Those LED headlights sure help, too.

(Hmm: I just noticed I need to paint the stove pipe casting on the station. It’s been raw white metal since the station was built. I’ll add that to the to-do list…)

Truck Lights

Quite a few readers commented on the truck lights I added to my recently-wired RS18. I thought I’d share a couple more photos of these.

Here’s a truck light (and the cab interior light) with the layout lights on…

 photo RS18-TruckLights-02_zpsmdmcnj00.jpg

… and with the layout lights off:

 photo RS18-TruckLights-01_zpsmiwps0rq.jpg

It’s a small detail, but easy to install in S scale and well worth the effort. At least, I think so…

(The photos remind me that I need to reconnect the hand brake chain between truck and frame: always something to do!)

Finescale Expo on TrainMasters TV :: Part 2

As I mentioned in a previous post, Barry Silverthorn and I did a two-part report for TrainMasters TV on the 2015 Finescale Model Railroader Expo.

TrainMasters TV subscribers can now view the second part of our coverage, in which Barry and I cover a highly unusual kit-bashing contest, and learn about the influence of the late Brian Nolan on the craftsman structure-building hobby.

Click on the image, below, to start watching Part Two of our report:

 photo TMTV-Finescale-Pt2_zps94kc1adb.jpg

If you missed Part One, you’ll find it here.

You need to be a subscriber to TrainMasters TV to watch this report, but membership is quite reasonable.

CNR 3640 :: Factory Fresh

Over the weekend, I finished the DCC installation on my RS18.

I also added lights and cab window glass, and built and installed number boards. Then, I assembled the locomotive – hopefully for the last time.

There are a few details to brush paint, a few final details to add, and some weathering to apply – but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…

 photo X3640W-StW-Day_zpszj2c6hvp.jpg
(CNR X3640 West pauses in St. Williams)

In the photo above, the unit shows off its headlights, class lights, and number boards. Each operates on a separate circuit. This allows me to light the number boards at night, and light the class lights when running as an extra. The headlights are directional, but unfortunately I ran out of functions and wires to make the class and number boards directional so they’re on/off at all four corners, regardless of which way the locomotive is travelling. I can live with that.

In addition to the Tsunami for sound, motor and four light functions, I added an FL2 from TCS inside the short hood. This is a two-function accessory decoder, which allowed me to add a couple of neat features (which I’ll describe below).

The lighting represented my first experience with surface-mount LEDs. But a lot easier than it could’ve been, thanks to some nifty pre-wired LEDs from Evan Designs, which I picked up at The Credit Valley Railway Co (a local hobby shop).

The LEDs come five to a package, wired into an assembly that includes the appropriate resistors and a bridge rectifier so there’s no need to worry about input voltage or polarity. (The ones I acquired work on an input of 7-19 volts). I was able to simply wire them to the decoder and go.

Well, not “simply”…

 photo RS18-Nest_zpsrzrcazxw.jpg

The DCC installation was one of the most complex I’ve undertaken. There’s a seven-wire cable between frame and body shell. And the body shell has 15 LEDs in it, as follows:

– Two nano LEDs for each twin-beam headlight (4)
– One chip LED for each number board (4)
– One nano LED for each class light (4)
– One nano LED for each truck light (2) – running off the FL2
– One chip LED for the cab light (1) – running off the FL2

Fortunately, there’s plenty of space in each end of the shell to hide the electronics that regulate the LEDs. This is one of the (admittedly few) advantages of S scale over HO (Hey – we have to have some wins, right?)

The LEDs were positioned and secured with two adhesives. First, I used a dot of CA on the connecting wires to hold each LED in place. Then, I applied a coating of Microscale’s Micro Kristal Klear over the wires and around the LED. I also used Kristal Klear to form the lenses for the class lights and headlights, and to secure the microscope slide cover glass in the cab windows.

When I started this project, I knew I wanted to do something special – and adding working truck lights seemed like a good way to do that. These are the lights that the engineer can turn on at night to see the roadbed – often, the only way to judge movement and speed when one is in an area with no artificial light sources. Since the cab has a control stand and a couple of crew members in it, I decided a cab light would also be a nice touch:

 photo X3640W-3640-StW-Night_zps3udvulqk.jpg
(I’m no O Winston Link, but…)

The above photo reminds me that while a factory-fresh paint job is nice, some weathering below the frame will really bring out the details – especially under layout lighting conditions. So that’s the next step. Stay tuned…

Spam, two ways

A couple of tech notes about this blog…

A crazy amount of Spam photo WallOfSpam.jpg

1 – I use a spam filtering service called Akismet. It’s not resident on my blog’s server and it appears the blog server and the Akismet server are not talking to each other – haven’t been for a week or so. I have my ISP looking into this – but I mention it here because it means that all comments are being automatically held for moderation – even those from readers who have had previous comments approved by me. Since I get a crazy amount of spam attempts on this blog, and since I don’t always sign into my computer (which is a better device than a smart phone for managing this type of problem), it could take a few days for your comments to clear. I do try to look for new comments whenever I publish a new post, so those comments shouldn’t get held in moderator jail for as long…

2 – I recently had a reader contact me to ask whether he could link to this blog on his own blog. The answer is an enthusiastic “Yes, of course”. But I can’t get in touch with the reader to tell him that, because he uses Comcast as his ISP. Comcast has some of the strictest Spam blocking I’ve ever run into, and doesn’t like my ISP for some reason (possibly, because I’m in another country).

The perils of the Internet: It could vacuum up all of one’s modelling time!

Finescale Expo on TrainMasters TV :: Part 1

As I reported previously, Barry Silverthorn and I attended the 2015 Finescale Model Railroader Expo a week ago in Scranton, Pennsylvania to cover the show for TrainMasters TV. We’re doing a two-part report.

TrainMasters TV subscribers can now view the first part of our coverage, in which Barry and I tour the contest room and the trade show.

I was really inspired by the work on display and I think the weekend spent at the Expo will encourage me to do better as I start to add more vignettes to my layout. Who knows – down the road, I might even enter a structure or two in the contest. My Port Rowan section house might be a candidate. Or maybe a tobacco kiln from St. Williams. Both structures will need more work to bring them up to Expo contest quality, but that’s a good goal to have in mind.

Click on the image, below, to start watching Part One of our report – and I hope you enjoy this virtual visit to the Finescale Model Railroader Expo:

 photo TMTV-Finescale-Pt1_zpscokpryb2.jpg

There’s more to come in Part Two, in which we share the story of an extraordinary modeller who, while no longer with us, continues to inspire structure and diorama builders. We also cover a highly unusual kit-bashing contest.

You need to be a subscriber to TrainMasters TV to watch this report, but membership is quite reasonable.

The next 1,000

This marks the 1,000th post I’ve made on this blog. Thank you, everybody, for reading along!

Rather than do a recap of favourite posts and so on (I tend to do that on the anniversary of starting this blog), I thought I’d look ahead and list some of the things I’d like to do in the future – things that (if all goes as planned) I’ll be writing about in the next 1,000 posts.

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I have a number of projects that I’ve started (and written about on this blog) that have fallen off the radar. I also have a number of projects at the “dreaming and planning” stage. In no particular order, they include:

Consolidate my workshop:

Right now, I have a couple of work tables in my home office where I build things. Or, more accurately, where I used to build things: My home office doesn’t have a lot of storage space and as horizontal surfaces, the work tables have silted up pretty badly.

In addition, since my home office is two floors up from the layout, it’s a long haul back and forth when working on a project. So I tend to work on things at the kitchen table.

But, there’s hope: There’s a room adjacent to the layout space, and I can convert part of it into my hobby workshop. It needs to be cleared, and then I need to build work benches and storage space in it. But it can be done.

Set up the Sherline Mill:

I bought my Sherline Mill from a friend a couple of years ago, and since then it has been sitting under its dust cover on one of those tables in my home office. I intend to build a dedicated work space for it in the hobby workshop, so I can start learning to use it. I’ll plan for the future and make sure the work space is big enough to hold a small lathe, too.

My CNR 40-foot double-door boxcar:

I’m not sure why, but this boxcar has taken far too long. I’ve worked on other pieces of rolling stock – I’ve even built an Ambroid snow plow, for goodness sake! – while this boxcar has languished on the bench. I haven’t touched it in ages – and I just need to get on with it. Obviously, I’ll do that when I’m in the mood to build boxcars…

Terminal structures:

At the end of the Port Rowan peninsula, I have several structures to build – including a feed mill and the station. The good news is, I like doing structures. And I am working to a master plan for these – working on smaller structures first to hone my skills as I work up to the signature scene on the layout.

Rethinking St. Williams:

I’ve written about this before and I’m mostly happy with St. Williams as I’ve built it, so this is on the back burner. But since I’m doing such a faithful reproduction of Port Rowan, I continue to ponder whether I can rearrange elements to allow me to more accurately model St. Williams in my layout space.

More trees:

I have added trees to the Lynn Valley and St. Williams. Port Rowan still needs more – a lot more. Trees are nice projects to do between more intensive modelling, such as working on structures. And they often need to be planned and planted in conjunction with the structures to create believable scenes. In addition to larger trees, I also want to boost the detail under the canopy with saplings, as well as ferns and other ground covers.

Details, details, details:

A layout can never have too many details and mine is still pretty spare. I have ideas for vignettes I want to build – stories I want to tell – and since I’m working in S scale I’ll be creating many of the details needed for these projects from scratch. Even when detail parts are available, there’s always work to do to turn them into believable scenes. I also have more figures to place, and a lot of work do to on some of the “finished” buildings to really bring the scenes to life.

Patterns for rolling stock:

There are a couple of S scale freight cars that I’d love to see on this layout – and since it’s unlikely a manufacturer will create them for me, I’ll have to build my own. I’ve never built freight cars from scratch, although I have friends in the hobby who have so I have resources upon which to draw.

If I’m going to build my own rolling stock, I’ll consider doing them as patterns for resin casting, rather than as one-offs. I’m sure others will be interested in the cars – especially since in S scale, the advanced hobbyists tend to find any excuse they can to buy a kit and support a manufacturer. I know I do, which is why Port Rowan sees a lot of visitors from southeastern US roads. Doing my cars with an eye to offering kits represents an opportunity to give back to the hobby.

Beyond Port Rowan:

There are so many great ways to enjoy this hobby that I find it hard to constrain myself to just one scale, gauge, era and location. While my layout may be based on the branch to Port Rowan, I have lots of other projects in my “someday” file, including my interest in garden-scale live steam.

In addition, there’s my work with TrainMasters TV… articles for various hobby publications… my interest in layout design issuesThe Model Railway Show podcast, which I would love to bring out of hiatus at some point… and training my border collies to work sheep (including a new puppy, on the way).

Whether directly or indirectly, all of these activities and interests influence my approach to the hobby and to modelling Port Rowan in 1:64, so I’ll continue to write about them here.

I hope you’ll continue to read.