A frame for D-1

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Thanks to my friends Stephen Gardiner and Ryan Mendell, I now have the beginnings of an S scale model of CNR D-1 and its trailers.

As I wrote last summer, Stephen has been drafting the artwork to 3D Print an HO scale model of this one of a kind train set, and I’ve encouraged him to re-scale and tweak the artwork for a model in 1:64.

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(Click on the image to read last summer’s post about this model. Note that the 3D Print rendering is of D-1 at a later phase in its life than the photo at the top of this post. Most noticeably, the cooling vents above the cab are taller.)

One stumbling point for us was how to power an S scale model. Stephen’s HO version is based around the frame and mechanism from the Bachmann (Spectrum) doodlebug. But there’s no mass-market equivalent for an S scale project.

The good news is, the D-1 is powered only by the front truck – and that truck has the same wheelbase as an EMD switcher. The side frame even looks like something you’d find under an SW. So, I asked around and purchased an S Helper Service SW-1 from my friend David Clubine at Ridgehill Scale Models. That donor engine provided a power truck and a motor. Now, what to mount them in?

That’s where my friend Ryan joined the project. Ryan, like Stephen, is handy with CAD programs. He also has access to some pretty incredible machinery. So he and Stephen put their heads together and last night, Ryan presented me with a frame:

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As should be obvious, the frame is crafted from a solid piece of brass. Ryan drew the frame then cut it out using a water jet cutter – a machine that blasts a fine stream of water at Mach 3 (!) and makes short work of work like this. The frame took about five minutes on the machine.

Ryan added pillars to support the motor, then cut specific parts from the SW-1’s cast metal frame to complete the D-1 mechanism. These include the motor mounts and the truck mount. Machine screws hold everything together. A NWSL universal kit will provide a new drive shaft linking motor to truck.

A line of small holes along the frame will provide mounting points for the body. Stephen will be able to add blocks of material to the shell before printing it, and we can then drill these blocks for more machine screws.

The large square hole at the back of the frame gives us some flexibility to mount the unpowered truck: We’ll figure out the specifics of that mount once we have the truck in hand. (If I recall, Stephen has drawn up side frames for the rear truck, plus the trucks under the two trailers that this self-propelled baggage motor hauled. A simple truck bolster should do the trick. ) In the meantime, I propped the rear of the frame on the SW-1’s fuel tank to take the above photo.

I’ll have to scratch-build tanks, equipment boxes and other details for belowdecks, but since this streamlined train set was converted from one of the CNR’s conventional doodlebugs, I’ll base the details on those found under my CNR gas-electric, and I’ll be more than happy with the result.

Stephen is still working tweaking the D-1 body (and has not yet re-scaled the trailers, C-1 and C-2), but there’s no rush. This never ran to Port Rowan – it’s a project for use on the S Scale Workshop modular layout – and I have plenty to do while I’m waiting for the body shells. But I feel that an important hurdle has been cleared, so that this project can go ahead.

Thanks, Stephen and Ryan, for your work on this. I really appreciate it, and I know that those visiting the S Scale Workshop layout at future exhibitions will too!

Save the date: Algonquin Turn

I’m looking forward to catching up with friends in the Ottawa area at Algonquin Turn – the Niagara Frontier Region NMRA convention, taking place May 6-8, 2016. I’ve been asked to speak at the convention’s banquet on the evening of Saturday, May 7th.

Click on the banner, below, for more information – and I hope to see you there!

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Also, a reminder that the Toronto Prototype Modellers Meet is coming up soon – in fact, just two weeks from now. Follow this link for more information – and again, I hope to see you there!

“From the cab” perspective

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(A fake cab to enclose a camera might provide a more realistic view of a layout – by controlling what we can see and eliminating some of the things we don’t want to show)

My post on the Cab ride to Port Rowan generated a lot of feedback – thanks for the kind words, everyone!

I found it interesting that a number of people commented on how the “from the cab” perspective changes how one views a layout. Specifically, people noted that it’s not the best way to view a layout, because we design them to be viewed from the aisle – and I agree!

Viewing a layout from the track tends to expose the things we don’t generally see during normal operations. Layout lighting is a big one: we tend to aim lights at the track, and then hide them from our view as we’re standing in the aisle. Putting a camera on a flat car often puts the lights right in our eyes (and it certainly did in my cab ride video).

I’m not overly concerned about that. I think it might help to enclose the camera in a fake cab – for example, by framing what the camera sees so the viewer appears to be looking through the window of an F-unit. Done right, it should reduce the non-realistic surroundings that one sees in a video.

When I look at the image at the top of this post, I’m struck by just how little I can see of the world outside the locomotive’s window. I’m also struck by how easy it would be to mock-up the window – one can’t even see the nose of the F unit, and the interior of the cab disappears in blackness. It’s too easy to not try, so a mock-up window is something I’ll create at some point. Adding the wiper blades would be a nice touch.

(A similar thing could be done with the mock-up of a rear-end observation car for taking video of a following train.)

What I really liked about the video I shot of the layout is how well it connects the various scenes together. This is something I haven’t been able to share with others in the past.

Oh sure – I could publish a layout plan (and I have), and then take photographs or video from the aisle, and mark the plan with numbered photo locations – much like one sees in hobby magazines. But either approach would have its own set of shortcomings:

– A series of photos would still leave questions, like “how long does it take to get from one scene to the next?”

– Video from the aisle would have to consist of a series of static scenes with trains running through them if I wanted to control what the viewer saw, to minimize unrealistic distractions like layout lighting and fascia – so it would be much like a series of still shots in that regard.

They’re both worthwhile approaches – and I’ll continue to share perspectives taken from the aisle. But the cab ride perspective answers a different set of questions for me, and lets me enjoy the layout in a different way, so I’ll continue to share those, too…

StealRat Infection

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Tonight, my outgoing emails started bouncing back. Spamhaus is blocking things, saying that my ISP’s servers have something called the StealRat Infection. I can receive email, but not reply.

I will call them in the morning to figure out what to do next.

But I wanted to let everyone know that if you’ve emailed me, I’m not ignoring you. I’ll respond when I’m able.

Cab ride to Port Rowan

I continue to experiment with my video camera from Replay XD, which rides nicely on a flat car.

Having had a successful test run on the S Scale Workshop layout over the weekend – with two videos shared to the Workshop blog – I’ve now also done a test-run on my Port Rowan layout:


(You may also view this directly on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in larger formats)

This trip is looking into the sun, so everything is somewhat backlit. I will do an eastbound trip – with the sun at my back – when time permits.

I’m still learning about what this camera can do, but I’m enjoying the results so far…

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!)