Passenger car diaphragms

Today, a big box of passenger car diaphragms arrived in the mail from “S”cenery Unlimited* and, since I was in the mood, I immediately got to work installing them on some passenger cars.

The diaphragms are quite nice. They consist of a flexible rubber bellows, fitted with steel plates inside, and a brass striker plate on the end.

Some quick dry-fitting made me realize I would have to modify the stock diaphragms. For one thing, the brass striker plate includes interlocking tabs that connect adjacent cars. It also includes etched “Made in Korea” and “Scenery Unlimited” markings. Obviously, these are intended for passenger trains that run as units, without switching. On my layout, the exposed ends of the passenger cars would look odd with tabs and writing. Also, on my layout, the 42″ radius curves are a little tight for full, working diaphragms.

Once I decided how I would modify the parts, the work went quickly. I had four cars fitted in about two hours.

I started by determining that I would use the brass striker plate as the mounting plate for the car. That would require removing the two tabs designed to interlock with an adjacent diaphragm. I clipped these shorter with a side-cutter, then carefully filed away the remaining material:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm on the left. Modified diaphragm on the right)

Each diaphragm has a bellows with three folds. They were too deep for my purposes, and I determined that I would have to remove one of the folds. I carefully sliced the rubber between two of the aluminum plates with a sharp knife to remove the fold farthest from the brass plate, then trimmed the rubber with a pair of scissors:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm at left. Sliced diaphragm at right. Remove the aluminum plate from the sliced-away rubber and save it)

I repurposed the aluminum plate from inside the third fold as my new striker plate. I blackened the edges of the plate with a permanent marker. I noticed that one side of the plate has sharp edges, while the side is smooth. I glued the plate to the thinner diaphragm with CA, so that the smoother side is facing outward:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm on the left. Modified diaphragm on the right, ready to install on a car)

I glued the diaphragm to the end of a car with CA, positioning the brass plate adjacent to the car end. At this point, I realized that despite removing one third of the thickness of the diaphragm, it still projected beyond the coupler. This, I knew, would cause no end of problems:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Asking for trouble)

Since I already modify all of my couplers, the fix was pretty straightforward. Normally, as part of my coupler tuning procedure, I replace the spring in the draft gear with a piece of styrene, as shown here:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Standard installation)

This prevents the coupler from sliding in and out of the pocket, thus minimizing the slack action. (There’s still a bit of slack, but it’s all in the coupler knuckles – not in the shanks.) I realized I could solve my diaphragm clearance problem by moving the styrene spacer to the other side of the draft gear post, as shown here:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Extended shank installation)

The coupler works the same as it did before, but it now enjoys a longer shank – and it now projects sufficiently to solve my diaphragm clearance problem:

Passenger car diaphragms
(All clear!)

In addition to preventing the diaphragms from pushing passenger cars off the rails on my curves, I’ll also be able to get a manual uncoupling tool into position between a passenger car and a freight car or locomotive.

In operation, adjacent diaphragms don’t quite touch. This photo shows two cars equipped with modified diaphragms, and with the slack stretched:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Mind the gap…)

I can live with that gap. It’s certainly better than the space between cars before the diaphragms were added. In addition, my mixed trains only had one passenger-carrying car on them, and I’m not sure the diaphragms would even have been hooked up between the combine and adjacent express car during normal operation on the line to Port Rowan.

I’ve now done the four passenger cars that I regularly run in mixed train service, and I bought extra diaphragms for future projects.

I think they look rather striking…

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)

77 boxes

Some assembly required:

Workshop in a box (77 of them)

The cabinets for my hobby workshop have arrived.

I ordered these last week and prepped the basement space for them. Delivery was within the window promised. Well done!

Work on assembling and installing them will progress promptly, as the boxes have overrun the dining room:

Workshop in a box (77 of them)

Last night at our regular monthly dinner for area hobbyists, I lined up a couple of friends to help with the installation. That’ll happen early next week, unless real life interferes.

I’m excited at the prospect of finally having enough, well-organized, storage space.

Brian’s S scale adventure

My friend Brian Nicholson is one of the newest members of the S Scale Workshop – but membership comes at a price. When the Workshop members met Brian, he was happily working on an HO scale layout. But the lure of 1:64 was strong:

Brian Nicholson's S scale adventure
(Destined to be repainted. Click on the image to find out more)

Brian has made tremendous progress on an S scale, modular switching layout, designed to fit over top of his HO layout in a spare room. The rest of the story can be found on the S Scale Workshop blog. Enjoy if you visit!

Dan Kirlin

Dan Kirlin - Obit photo

I was shocked to learn that Dan Kirlin passed away last Thursday, of a heart attack. He was 60.

Dan was well known in the Canadian railway historical and modelling communities, as a wonderful source of information. I certainly benefitted from this in many ways – from drawings of CNR RoW signs to information and photos of CNR Jordan Spreaders. Dan also provided me with a CNR paint chip sampler. If I recall, this is something he helped develop for the CNR Historical Association as part of the creation of accurate paints for modellers.

CNR Paint Chip Sample Board

Dan’s knowledge – both in his head and in his files – was remarkable. And, most significantly, everything he shared with me he volunteered. I had never asked him, directly, for anything. He would read about what I was doing, via this blog, and I’d get a package in the mail, or handed to me at a show…

I think that speaks volumes about the man.

Dan was less well known as an S scale enthusiast. He’d done some brass importing, and detail parts manufacturing, in the past – but always in HO. But his true love in the hobby was 1:64.

Dan’s funeral is today. Details here.

Thank you, Dan, for your friendship and your knowledge. You will be missed.

Donnie at the Throttle!

Years ago, before I started my own business, I worked for a large telecom company. And another guy on the team with me – Don (“Donnie”) Blair – was one of the best colleagues anybody could have at work. Hardworking yet easy going… creative… and funny as hell. (And he still is.)

Don is not, however, a model railway enthusiast. He likes trains – just not in the same way as those of us in the hobby do.

But Don recently got in touch and wanted to see the layout, so we arranged a time. He came over last night after work. I gave him a tour of the layout with help from Ian Wilson’s book on the line. Then we ran a freight extra to Port Rowan – and we had a blast:

Don Blair at the Throttle

Don has never run a train on a “serious” model railway, much less taken part in an operating session. I can’t imagine the learning curve involved with that.

I gave him a quick lesson on using DCC – not much more than “This makes it go faster, this makes it go slower, this changes direction, this is the brake, this is the bell, this is the whistle” – and then set him loose in the engineer’s seat. I worked as conductor. We switched St. Williams and then headed to Port Rowan – then decided to break for dinner.

It was tremendous fun. Don did a great job at the throttle, and I think the look on his face in the photo collage above says it all.

After our session, my wife joined us for a trip to (need I say it?) Harbord House, for pints and dinner. Harbord House is as much a part of my ops sessions as a throttle and a switch list. It’s a great chance to sit down, away from the trains, and talk about life (which may or may not include the hobby). And last night was a perfect example.

Thanks for coming over, Donnie! Come again soon…

Workshop prep

I have a lot of tools and materials, and – right now – no place to put them.

That’s about to change.

Earlier this week, I went to IKEA and ordered a set of kitchen cabinets (just the lowers) to fit into an L-shaped space in the room adjacent to my layout space. The order – 77 boxes, IKEA tells me – will arrive Monday. Meantime, I’ve cleared space in the room so that I can start assembling and mounting the cabinets:

Workshop Prep

There’s still some work to do. Most pressing is the need to get rid of an old sofa, which is no longer required:

Workshop Prep

Fortunately, the Furniture Faeries are pretty reliable in our neighbourhood. If I curb the sofa, it’ll be gone within a couple of hours.

The above photo also shows my Festool multifunction table (the aluminum framed table in the foreground, with all the bench dog holes in it). This will form an important part of the new work space. The stack of stuff at the far end of the photo is for donation or disposal too.

Until recently, the room was filled with boxes of tools, supplies and projects. I’d loaded up the space with stuff from elsewhere in the house when we started our renovation upstairs. The good news is, the boxes mostly contain things that will go into the new cabinets once installed, so I’ll be able to simply unpack each box as I return it to the room. (Once I’ve unloaded boxes into the lower cabinets, I can decide later whether I require upper cabinets and in what configuration.)

The bad news is, I’ve had to store the boxes in the layout space until the cabinets are installed:

Workshop Prep

There will be no ops sessions until my workshop is set up. But I’ve already bribed my friend Ryan Mendell into helping with that, with an offer of pints and a meal. It shouldn’t take too long…

CNR 8789 :: First Run

CNR 8789 in train
(The Daily Effort rolls through St. Williams, Ontario. Those green over black passenger cars sure are handsome!)

I’ve installed glass in the windows, added the roof vents (kitbashed from Pullman Vents – Part 02442 from BTS), and airbrushed some more black paint to blend them into the roof. With that work done, I was able to reassemble the car and put it on the rails. It’s a handsome addition to the mixed train service:

CNR 8789 in train

My passenger cars still require diaphragms – I ordered some from “S”cenery Unlimited and I’m told they shipped a couple of weeks ago, but they haven’t yet arrived. They’re not overdue yet – I’m just playing the International Postal Game. Once I have those installed, I can weather this car. But in the meantime, I do a lot of test-runs with it.

This is the first time I’ve cut into a brass model to kitbash it. It was a bit nerve-wracking to make that first cut – but now I’m really glad I did.

CNR 8789 :: the express car is lettered

That was easier than I thought…

CNR 8789 - lettered

I spent a relaxing few hours at the kitchen table this week, and applied the decals to my CNR express car. It’s now officially “CNR 8789”.

CNR 8789 - lettered
(Applying decals is a clean project that can be done almost anywhere)

When doing the CNR post-1954 scheme, there’s a lot of lettering to apply. In addition to the road name and number, there are round shields, the car type (“Express”), and three sets of yellow stripes. The decal set (CNR#PASS-DS from Black Cat Publishing) provides all of this, and I’m impressed by how well the yellow stripes turned out on these decals. They’re opaque, and it’s possible to overlap the stripes without having a stronger yellow spot show up in the line. That makes it a whole lot easier to apply stripes: I worked with pieces about 3″ long for the most part.

I sprayed a clear coat over the decals yesterday, so today I can install the window glass. I’m still waiting on some details but I can carefully airbrush them after application, so I’m not letting that hold up progress…

Railfanning in Woodstock

Last week, Bob Fallowfield, Barry Silverthorn and I visited Woodstock, Ontario to do a bit of rail fanning. We saw many things, including a pair of F units in revenue service and a CN crew working a feed mill.

I’ve posted about our day in Woodstock on my Achievable Layouts blog. Click on the images below to read relevant posts – and enjoy a bit of video, too.

OSR F Units at Woodstock
(Bob bags the F units. Click on the image to read more about these survivors)

CNR switches Purina in Woodstock
(The CNR switches Purina in Woodstock. Click on the image to read more about this)