Sunday, July 1, 2018

Life always gets in the way.

It's been awhile since I last posted anything, I thought I'd take a minute to let everyone know that things are just in a holding pattern for now on The Little Rock Line. 

Since getting back to work this past March, I've been just plain busy with work and now the family is in the process of cleaning up Mother's house getting it ready for an estate auction and then try to get the house sold for her. 

We got Mother moved into and assisted living community back in January and it's been quite a bumpy ride for all of us. Not many problems, just trying to get the bumps evened out. With any luck I should get back to my trains by late summer or fall. 

The last post was about the "Winds of Change". This change is still coming and I'm still looking forward to seeing how this change will progress, as well as a little bit of scenery in Haskell.

Thanks for hanging in there with me...

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The winds of change are blowing...

across The Little Rock Line.    

But fear not, the layout ain't going anywhere just yet.  With another session in the books, it has solidified my thoughts in the fact that I need to rethink my directions.

While this last session went off pretty much without a hitch and we all had a good time, there are a couple things that's causing me pause and rethink things.
1- is the staging yard, 2- is the amount of work needed to get all the trains readied for a session verses the lack of attendees.  (Now before anyone gets upset at the last concern, I understand that life bestows changes on us everyday.  I get that.)

1)  The Staging Yard.

As said before this yard was constructed for the use with our Bend Track modules so that all the members could build or tear down their trains in the yard without shutting down or fouling the mainlines.  I rebuilt it in 1996 to its current state before we took our modules to Madison, WI  in 1997 for the NMRA meet.  I kind of rushed through it and also didn't have the budget to use PECO turnouts at the time so Atlas Snap turnouts had to do.  They've worked surprisingly well over the years, but they are just not as reliable for me as PECO have been.  So I end up worrying about derailments in the yard during each session, kind of takes the fun out things.

What I really need to do is to the re-lay the entire yard but that will take some serious coin and an extended amount of time and effort.  At this point, I'm just not sure I want to take the plunge based on several things.  The Cost, the Time and if what I have planned takes shape, I may not need this large of a yard anymore.

2)  The Amount Work, the main issue.

When the layout first became operational, there always seemed to be a lot of interest and participation.  But lately it's seemed to have dwindled.  Not sure the exact reason, could be several or it could be my imagination, but one thing is for sure, when I restage the layout for a full session, it takes me several nights to get things readied, it's part of the game.  But if we have a short crew, like we've had in previous times, over half the trains sat unused.

Now like I said, I'm not trying to guilt trip anyone, life has a way of changing, I get that and I have no problem with it.  So instead of complaining about it I figured it was time for life to make changes on the layout as well.

On a normal full session we will run around 22 trains:

Four Manifests.
The two Turns (locals).
The El Dorado Switcher.
The W&OV Malvern Switcher and the W&OV Razorback.
Then there's the ICG Interchange and finally the 12 Through Freights.

I will say this, I added the 12 through freights only for the fact that I had the yard space and then if there were enough crew on hand, they had something to do or if they only wanted to RUN a train and not WORK a train.  So not all of these trains run every session anyway.  But it still takes time to make sure they will work and run if and when they're needed.

After some discussion and soul searching, I think I'm going to plan on reducing the number of trains and jobs that actually run during a session.  This will also result in the need for fewer crews during the session.

Here's a list of trains that I'm thinking of reducing to:

The two locals: Haskell and Winnfield Turns
The W&OV Malvern switcher and the W&OV Razorback
The ICG interchange
The El Dorado Switcher.
The two Mail trains (optional at this point)

This works out to be 8 trains.
The overall operations will still work pretty much the same way as they do now, but with less trains and less crews needed to operate them.

The biggest change will be the two Turns.  These would now originate out of the staging yard instead of El Dorado as they have before.  This will eliminate the need for the four Manifests.
Not only will the Turns haul the cars needed for each side of the layout that they'll be working, they'll also carry the cars that will be bound for the W&OV, the ICG and the industries in El Dorado proper, which the Turns will drop off in the yard at El Dorado.
Only one crew should be needed to run each of the two Turns.
The rest of the trains will be manned as they are now.

The way I see it now, I'll be able to reduce the amount of tracks in the staging yard, as well as the yard in El Dorado.  Since the Turns will be pre-staged in the staging yard, there won't need to be as much switching done in El Dorado.  The way it is now, the El Dorado job can keep one crew busy throughout the entire session.  I will still keep a single unit on hand at El Dorado to handle shuffling the cars from the two Turns to the Razorback and ICG as well as working the local industries.  Because the two Turns will originate in the staging yard, the engine tracks in El Dorado will more than likely be removed as well.

The Malvern Switcher and the Razorback could be handled by one crew, which mostly is the way it's done now.  So a single crew could handle the small amount of work needed in El Dorado as well as run the ICG interchange.  If things work out, they could also run the two mail trains if they have time or the desire.

This would total only 4 crews needed minimum to run a session.
2- One for each of the Turns.
1- The W&OV Malvern Switcher and The Razorback
1- The El Dorado Switcher and ICG interchange, and possibly the two Mail trains.

My hopes is that I can reduce things down so that we'll only need a crew of around 4 to work the layout and get everything done in one session.  The time needed to stage the layout should also be reduced.

Now in case you're wondering, if a larger number of attendees do show up, we can still accommodate them by having them team up as an Engineer/Conductor for the two Turns, the W&OV Malvern Switcher and the Razorback as well as the El Dorado Switcher and the ICG interchange.   

If I rebuild the staging yard, which I would like to do if for no other reason than to make it more reliable, I plan to keep at least 6-8 through tracks to hold the two Turns and the two Mail trains, which would still leave 2-4 open tracks if more would be needed.  For the time being I'd leave the 8 rear tracks in the Green yard for now, but I'd like to use the rear most track as the run through so the loop at the far end would be a bit broader than running down the two By-pass tracks in the middle.

But this is all still in the planning stages.  Before any of this happens I want to try a couple of dry runs to see how things will play out first.

Monday, March 5, 2018

#1337 - The final GP18 - Finished

Last night I finally got the #1337 finished up and added it to the roster.

A week before the 15th Ops session I was in the process of wrapping it up and applying the number boards.  A buddy texted me asking what I was upto, so I snapped a couple of pics of the half applied number boards.  He replied "I hate to tell you this, but the proto pic has black numberboards and white number" 


So I stopped right there and ordered a new set of Shell Scale decals for black number boards.  They arrived Friday afternoon.  I didn't have enough time to get them on before the session, but I did get them on that night.

All in all I'm pretty happy the way it turned out.

And the group shot.

I do have one more GP18 that I was planning to do in the Blue and White, but after finding out that there were only two GP18's that wore the Blue (they were actually GP18M's) which looked more like GP9's, so I passed doing one up.  Since this last one is in the maroon with white stripes scheme, I may just weather it as it is because I did find a couple pics of this scheme that was dated in 1979.  So it will be close enough for me.  But that'll be for another time.

With this being the last Bench Project and the Ops session behind me, it's time to get back to the layout.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Ops Session #15 March 3rd, 2018

Today's session went off pretty well with only a few minor glitches.
Towards the end of the session most of the throttles seemed to be losing contact with the command station, I think the culprit was my choice of using some cheap batteries in the hand helds since most of my good rechargeables were dead.  I was hoping that they would last for a few hours?  If it wasn't that, then there was some kind of interference with the radio signals.  So the guys wound up plugging their throttles into a port and kept going.

We had a decent crew this round but wound up not running all of the through freights since we had a couple of newbies who got doubled up with a seasoned crew to show them the ropes.  Other than that things went good.

Tony was the newest, he's never played with model railroading before but caught on just fine and had a blast.
Matt is fellow N scaler but it was his first time operating.  Like Tony, Matt caught on quick.
This was Coy's third time with us.  The first time he joined us he took on the Winnfield Turn and it got the best of him.  This time he decided to give it another whirl and did much better this time! Congrats Coy!

Quin, Jon and I rounded the rest of the crew.

I'm helping Tony as he brings one of the trains back into the yard. 

Coy is getting ready to run one of the Manifest down to El Dorado.

Quins cleaning up the yard after getting the Haskell Turn on it's way.

Jon teamed up with Matt who has the throttle and ran the Haskell Turn, seen
here as they're finishing up at Fordyce and heading back towards El Dorado.

Just about done, they're working Calion Lumber, the last stop for the Haskell Turn.

I think the smile on Matt's face tell the whole story?  

Myself, Quin and Tony taking a quick break before the Haskell Turn arrives back at El Dorado.

The Haskell Turn finally arrives as Quin keeps a wary eye on things. 

Quin is showing Matt the ropes as they break down the Haskell Turn.

The look of stress or relief after a long day working El Dorado, 
then he decides to have a go with his favorite support column.

By the smile on Tony's face, I don't think we worked him hard enough?

Late in the session I was able to catch a little action in El Dorado as Quin shoved the last of the cars away in the yard and tied down for the night.

With this session in the books and an abundance of smiles, it's time to start working on the layout again.  I'd like to get some ballast laid down but first I need to get a few buildings sized up in Haskell. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

#1337 - The final GP18

Finally getting back to working on my GP18 fleet.  This will be my fourth and final GP18 as I decided not do one in the Blue and White.  There were only two GP18's that went through the CRP (Capital Rebuild Program) and when they emerged, they were classified as GP18M's.  About the only thing that they retained were the unique intake grilles of the GP18, other than that they were basically GP9's.
I chose the #1337 due to the paint scheme, it'll be in the late 60's maroon with yellow ends and this case it'll be wearing the bill board speed letting that usually adorns the Rock Island Red and Yellow units from the 70's.  I was not able to find and image of any GP18 in the maroon and yellow that carried the 60' Block lettering?  If they did I have not seen any pictures of them.

The previous three were factory painted, this one started out as an undec.  Last night I got the spark arrestors and the horn glued on.  This afternoon I got it painted using TCP paints.
It feels like an eternity since I've actually ran paint through my airbrush.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two more GP18's join the fleet.

These two were the first of the GP18's to join the roster, but it wasn't till now that I got around to weathering them.

Again as I did with #1351 I replaced the factory LifeLike DCC ready chassis Atlas DCC ready chassis.  I only had to add a few detail parts to bring them close to the prototype.  It's tough finding good shots of Rock Island locos at times, but I did manage to find a couple that told the story.

The 1343 wound getting a pair of flared spark arrestors and five chime horn and firecracker antenna.
The 1346 only got the five chime horn and the firecracker antenna.
Only the 1343 got cab shades from what I could tell in the pics I found.

Both of these came factory painted in the 70's Red and Yellow speed lettering. The trucks and fuel tanks were also painted gray as per the prototype, but the gray waaaaay too light.

Once all the details were applied and painted to match, I sealed both units with a healthy coat of Dull Coat, I mention heavy as I was hoping that it would give more tooth when applying the Pan Pastels.  I ran into the issue of the Dull Coat dissipating the pastels on the #1351, which made me re-apply several coats of the pastels after spraying the Dull Coat.

I'm thinking it helped? I only misted a light coat of Dull Coat once, then another full strength to seal it all a short while later.  The Pastels didn't seem to dissipate much at all like it they did on the #1351.

Anyway here are the results.  I'm kind of diggin the Pan Pastels.  If you're going after a real rust bucket, I think Oils are the way to go, but for just a faded dusty look, the Pastels seem to do a good job.

When I did the 1351, one feature I really liked was the wide, black streak under the rear grilles.  What I found out was it seemed to be a common trait on the GP18's.  So I added to the twins as well.

And just for fun, here's the 1351 joining in...

I've got two more GP18's planned so I'll see if I can get them done before the layout pulls me back to it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Another Rock Island GP18 #1351

Well it's been two weeks since my knee surgery and things are progressing well.  

As mentioned in my last post, while I had the mill out I decided to get a few more Atlas GP chassis prepped for the rest of my GP18 fleet, 5 total.   The two Red and Yellow 18's are ready to have chips installed and programmed and I still need to get MTL couplers installed.  Then they'll at least be serviceable for the next session. 

The next GP18 I worked on is one that always caught my eye.

Not sure of the whole story behind this one?  It wasn't a wreck rebuild.  I read somewhere that the shops must have had some extra yellow paint laying around and needed to use it up?  Either way is it a sharp looking unit that I've been wanting to add to my fleet mainly because it adds to the Character of the Rock Island in my eyes.

I didn't need to do too much customization to this unit other than add the flared arrestors, a firecracker antenna, cab shades, new cab numbers, number boards and then I needed to fabricate the air filter on the top.

This was done with a few scraps of styrene.

Not perfect, but it gets the idea across.

Then I added some small scraps of extruded screen to the flared arrestors.

Before I painted the yellow or started on the weathering, because I was not able to remove the glazing, I used some liquid mask to cover the windows and headlights on both ends.  The last bottle I bought was dried up so I tried some Humbrol Maskol this time.  This stuff worked very well!  

As I did on the ICG units, I used primarily Pan Pastels for the weathering medium.  I also used some P3 Armor Wash to darken the grilles and to make the dark stain under the rear intake grille.  I was able to get crisper lines with the P3.

As I was afraid of, the Pan Pastels did dissipate a little after I sprayed the first coat of Dull Coat on the unit to seal it.  I went back over the model with a bit heavier coat of Pastels then reshot the Dull Coat.  This seemed to help but I wondered if I had not gotten a thick enough or rough enough coat of the Dull Coat to help hold the Pastels in the first place?  Another thing I did was to mist several light coats on and let them dry before spraying a heavier sealer coat to protect the weathering.  It seemed to work?

In this shot I grabbed an Intermountain F7A that was originally built by flight2000 (Brian K).  He built this F7 for a customer in Germany who later sold it on eBay and I was lucky enough to score it.

Three GP18's down, 2 to go...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A knee, a mill and some new power

Back in late August I slipped on air hose at work and tore my meniscus and fractured my leg bone and I've been off work since then.  Well this gave me a lot of modeling time that I put to good use.  Most of which time I used to finish up the trackwork, held an op session and worked on the backdrop.

They finally decided to scope my knee and do the repairs on Nov 8th.  I was laid up for several days and had to stay off my leg, which about drove me stir crazy, cause I'm not one to sit down too long.  By the 12th I couldn't watch anymore TV and was jonesing to get downstairs and putter around, just to be doing something!

Up until the surgery I knew I wouldn't be able to stand and work on the layout so I decided to switch directions and clear up some locomotive projects I've had sitting on the shelf for a long time.  At least I could do this sitting at the workbench and not be on the leg.  Hey, it was better than watching a bunch of mindless shows on Netflix.

The first project on my To-Do list was a pair of LifeLike GP18's.  Not being a fan of the LifeLike chassis's, even the Walthers Proto version with the split frame DCC versions, I had started to fit an Atlas GP7/9 frame under the LifeLike shell several years ago when I friend asked me to try a similar project with a couple of Bachmann GP7's in this post

After getting the units out and refreshing my memory of the original plan, I drug the mill out and got it setup.  The plan had been to do some minor milling to thin the top edges of the Atlas frame since the inside of the LifeLike shell was a bit narrower at the top due the removable section where the exhaust stacks were at. 

I milled a small notch down the length the outer top edge of the frames and then another pass across the side of the frame, about 3/32" down from the top.  I needed just a bit of clearance for the thickness of the shell. 

Next I used a large grinding disk in the dremel and eased the angle of the chassis so it would slip inside the front and rear of the shell.  

After a couple of test fittings, the chassis slipped right in and the bump-outs on the Atlas chassis, lined up with the dimple holes on the inside of the LifeLike shell.  But it was still a little snug so I flattened the bump-out with a file and Voila!  It fit like a glove and everything lined up!

Here are the first two less their fuel tanks.

Since things were setup, I scrounged up two more Atlas chassis and repeated the process.  If I can find one more chassis I might get it milled too as I have another shell spotted. 

While digging out the GP18 projects I stumbled across another long ago shelved project.  A number of years ago I scored an Atlas GP35 and a GP38-2 that was painted in the ICG Orange & Gray scheme on eBay for a very good price.  These turned out to be a pretty decent paint job except that the painter had used some sort of paint that was extreeeeeeemely glossy, which might have been Scale Coat?

The GP38-2 already had a DCC frame and was pretty much ready to run, but the GP35 had the older DC frame that I wanted to swap out for a newer DCC ready frame.  Both units needed a few details, couplers and chips added, nothing major so I added them to the short bucket list. 

The Orange and Gray scheme started showing up in the early 80's so I didn't want these units to be rustbuckets, but anyone who knows the ICG, knows that dirty locos were just part of the ICG, just as they were to the Rock Island.   

A couple of quick squirts of Dull Coat cut the gloss and now I was ready to start getting them dirty.  This time I decided to use nothing but Pan Pastels and see how well they worked.  More or less I just wanted them faded and weather worn just enough to show road grime to show a little age.   

I'm waiting on some Shell Scale number board decals and need to add a few minor details, but for now they're ready for service.

Until my knee is back to normal, my plan is to get some more Bench Projects done like this.  I've been itching to get back to working on my loco fleet and I've got lots of locos to run through the paint shop.