Monday, December 30, 2019

A few months have gone by....

and a new year is almost upon us.

I haven't been posting much lately which is due to the fact that I started a bathroom remodel back in the beginning of October.  In doing so I had to move a lot of stuff in the basement to allow room to have some of the plumbing reworked and things got shove up against and on the layout for the duration.

A few weeks ago the major portion of the remodel work is done and all that's left is to construct the cabinets and get them installed.  This may take a little longer than expected, actually the entire project has taken a bit longer than expected, but that's remodeling for you.

In the meantime I've kind of gotten back into my rail photography since I couldn't get to the layout.
I'm hoping that this helps to regenerate the modeling juices as I still was getting kind of burned out after all the work that I've done on the layout in the first half of 2019.

I still am looking forward to progressing with the scenery and additions to the layout.
So I'll try to get back down there once I wrap up all the work on the bathroom.

Stay tuned...  

I hope everyone enjoys a happy and prosperous New Year!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Repurposed Jewel Cases

Awhile back when I built my first GP18, the GP18 came in one of those long LifeLike jewel cases with a cheap plastic nest that was cracked. I also had one of the typical Atlas rectangular jewel cases with the nice gray foam liner that the GP7 chassis came in.  Since both locos were similar in size, the GP18 with the Atlas chassis dropped right in the Atlas jewel case.

The next one I built, I didn't have a spare Atlas jewel case to use.  So I snooped around on the internet and found some spare cases from a guy on eBay.  I picked up 10 for about $6 each that had the grey foam but they were meant for Atlas RS3’s.  Since the RS3's were smaller I figured some quick cuts with a sharp knife and I could get the GP18 to fit nice and snug?  Worked like a champ!

So after finishing my GP9r I was going to need a jewel case for it as well.  Grabbed one of those cases…

Made a rough trace and using a sharp X-Acto knife I cut those areas out……

 A new foam lined case…


Then like I do with all of locos, I labeled the end of the case using a Avery label.  This tells me what loco, what road and what chip I have installed.

Why go to this trouble you ask?
Having all the cases the same size if a plus for stacking or packing, plus the gray foam liner is much nicer than the cheap plastic inserts. 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Revised Car Tabs

I've really come to enjoy the use of the Car Tabs for car forwarding on my layout, but there were two things that always annoyed to me.  The first was that every time I’d drop one while placing them on the car, they would inevitably fall face down and you had to fumble with them to flip it over.  The second was placing them on empty open hopper cars like my woodchip cars.  The best place to put them was in the bottom of the cars, but since my layout is set at 52” you sometimes had a hard time seeing the tabs.

Recently, a member on a forum I frequent started using tabs and his method was to print his labels on Avery labels and stick them to the “C” channels because he didn’t have a spray booth.  After reading this I thought it might be a simpler method than painting the tabs like I had before.  As I started drawing up the tabs in CorelDraw, I realized that if I used a styrene “I” beam instead of a “C” channel that I could place a label on both sides, then regardless of how it landed you could always see a label. This would take care of my first annoyance.  So I printed up twice as many labels.

Using a 3/16” “I” beam I did a little measuring and came up with a label size that would fit nicely between the webbing and was still big enough to easily read. 

The second annoyance was the tabs for the open hoppers.  I tried using a strip of clear plastic to create a bridge that sat across the car and would allow me to sit the tab on.   While this worked, you had to be careful as it was a little tricky,  when placing the tab it could slip and end up in the bottom of the car, face down.

Now for the empty open hoppers, I was chatting with Greg one night he suggested something using something that would hang over the sides of the cars instead of on top.  What we came up with was to use a strip of Evergreen #258 rectangular tubing and cut off one end of it so it looked like an inverted “U” channel.  This was one of those head-slap moments because it was so obvious. 


Monday, September 16, 2019

Rock Island GP9 #4424

After way too many years I finally got around to pulling this project off the shelf to finish it.  N scale has always been lacking in low nosed or chopped nosed GP7's & 9's, luckily Rock Island only had two on their roster.  GP7 #1275 and GP9 #1321.  As far as I know only the 1275 made it through the Capital Rebuilding Program and came out designated as a GP9(r)  #4424 wearing the new Blue & White scheme in December of 1976. 

Rock Island #4424 and #1351 are in charge of the NB local as they throttle up
through Haskell, AR. on a hot, muggy July morning.

I did some horse trading with a friend who needed some N scale locos and I need a little kitbashing done in the form of a chopped nosed GP7, the trade was agreed upon and set in motion.  I sent him his locos and all the parts he needed to complete my project:
An Atlas GP7 non dynamic shell
A Lifelike GP18 low nose shell
An Atlas GP7/9 analog chassis
A Digitrax DZ120 chip.
About a year later I received my chopped nose GP7, but was bummed to realize that with the modifications he was unable to give the unit any headlights which meant it would be regulated to a trailing unit only.  So there it sat.... for years.

A few weeks ago while I was rummaging around looking for something to work on, I grabbed the box that held these parts and opened it up to take another look at it and contemplate whether or not I should get started on it?

I took it to the bench to inspect the chassis again for a possible replacement of the old DZ120 with newer DZ126T.  As it happened, I had a newer DCC ready Atlas GP7/9 chassis sitting on the bench in the process of being cleaned and lubed when the light bulb went on!  The GP18 low nosed shell fit the newer chassis with only a tad bit grinding needed on the end to match the slope of the nose, and the "drop-in" DN163A4 with its surface mounted LED's fit with more than enough room.  So the unit would now have headlights! 

With the hard work done for me, I got started adding a few detail parts and then painted it.  I used TruColor paints, Micro Scale Decals and Pan Pastels for weathering.  The grills and fans were darkened with P3 Armor Wash.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Construction in Fordyce

After sticking a fork in the scene at Gavilon, I decided to move on to the town of Fordyce.  Instead of trying to get all the fine details wrapped up at Gavilon I figured I try to get more scenery roughed across the layout and cover up the brown paint and ceiling tile.

To start with I got the mainline ballasted through town and then started on the buildings.  The first one is the new Walthers Modern Concrete Warehouse that I'm using for the processing and cold storage building for the Flappers Chicken complex.

This is a pretty nice kit, the parts are clean and well designed, though the instructions are kind of lacking.  Once I got the walls laid out how I wanted them, the kit went together pretty fast.  One thing I really liked about this kit were the rail doors.  They were pretty much spot on where I needed them.  The truck doors I just kind of winged them into place.  

Before seeing this kit, I had planned to kitbash and scratch build a building for this location.  One thing I was going to add was a Pike Stuff add-on truck loading kit, but I was able to make use of the truck loading doors on the backside and end with this kit and was able to keep it a little more compact than originally planned.

Not happy with the molded color, I found a Krylon color called Sandy Pebble that is close to beige.

Once painted and assembled I got the details added then I started working on the roof.  I was looking on Google maps for ideas of how to paint the roof and found some on a large local industry here in town.  While studying the images the thought occurred to me that I should try my hand at printing it off and fitting it to the kit.  It took me a bit of doing but I think it turned out OK.    

I built the four rooftop AC units from the kit and then used some larger cast AC units that I found eBay a few years ago.  It wasn't until later after getting these home that I realized what I was looking at.  These are exact copies of the MTL load from a few years ago,  roof top AC units that came on a flatcar, but they worked good for this build.  I also added a bit of ductwork to them for the freezer rooms.

I still need to add a few more details to the building, and will do so once I get the other buildings assembled and sat in place.    

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Helicon Focus software

I've known of this software for several years now and have always wanted to play with it.  Now that I've got some photo worthy stuff on the layout, the narrow depth of field really shows up.  So the other night I ordered the Lite version of it.
Last night a I did a couple quick samples to see how it worked?  I took between 12 and 15 shots of scene with different focal points by tapping on the screen of my iPhone then ran them all through the software.  The first two are some of the raw photos, the third is the completed shot which I then touched up with a simple editing software to clean them up.

I think it took less than 10 seconds for the software to do it's magic?  Pretty simple to use to.  This will make my pictures a little more enjoyable to look at.

Here's their homepage:  

Sunday, August 11, 2019

"Next stop: Fordyce, AR"

With Gavilon to a stopping point, I want to move down the line to the next town: Fordyce, AR.  My plan now is to keep from getting bogged down with details like I did with Gavilon, so I will get the buildings built and painted so that I can get the spurs positioned into their final position, then I'll get the scenery roughed in before moving onto the Calion, AR.

This is Fordyce in the rough.

Not a lot of rail activity in Fordyce but there are two larger industries on this portion of the line.  Flapper's (on the left) is a chicken Processing plant much like Tyson's Chicken.  This industry receives live chickens (yeah I know, they mainly come in via truck, but for now, they come in via stock cars as well) at the older original building which will be the slaughterhouse.  I plan to start with the Walthers Water Street Freight Terminal for this building.

Right directly behind the slaughterhouse is a new addition to the plant.  This will be the actual processing house and cold storage facility.  Walthers newest building release should work pretty good for this.  I was planning to try my hand at bashing one of the Walthers Superior Paper kits, but with this new kit, there may not be as much bashing required?  Plus it has two ready made railcar loading doors which is just what the doctor ordered.  If possible I plan to make some sort of a covered walkway to and from the old and new buildings to keep the workers happy and out of the elements.

On the other side of the tracks is another fictional industry that I called Ozark Irrigation.  This industry receives loads of pipe via flat cars in the yard spur and misc small parts via a boxcar or truck dock.  Finished products are shipped out by truck and or rail depending on the order from customers. 

When I seen the Walthers Two Stall 130' Brick Diesel House I thought this might be a good choice due its overall long and narrow footprint for a company who deals in manufacturing irrigation piping.  The Pipes go in the rear of the building raw and leaves out through the front in crates or pallets?  I plan to do some bashing or additions to modernize a bit.

Now we'll see how this goes and how many changes come once I get started with this project.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Gavilon's piping, sticking of the fork

Going to stick a fork in this scene for now and call it done.

There are a ton of small details that can and will be added to this scene, including weathering, signs, people, vehicles, trees, etc, etc.

As much as I love N scale, I've recently been having thoughts of moving to a different scale... but wasn't exactly sure why?  (rest assured I'm not leaving N scale).  I think some of my issues was that some nights I would go down to the basement and see just how much I had to do to the layout (scenery wise) that I would just sit there and stare at it, wondering what to do next, where to start the next project or just contemplate if I would ever get close to finishing it,  and then eventually turn around and go back upstairs.

Sure, a larger scale would mean less to model per scene but the overall space is still the same square footage to fill.  There were other thoughts as well that come with a larger scale but those would have been nothing more than bells and whistles and some extra sugar on top, which held nothing of real interest for me.  

After discussing this with several friends the conclusion that surfaced the most often was that I needed to unfocus on things and step back.  Instead of trying to finish each scene with all the details, I should instead get the scenery roughed in as I have at Gavilon, and then move on to another scene, then when the mood strikes me, or if I get some inspiration or find that perfect detail for a previous scene, then go back and add it.  

On a layout the size as mine (and I do not consider mine to be a large layout), there is still a lot of area to cover and a lot of buildings to assemble.  Which I have come to the realization is not going to be a quick thing if I want the scene and buildings to look presentable and not just a conglomeration of plastic and foam that is hastily shaken up, slapped together then thrown down on the layout in rush just to get the layout finished, which as they always say; "A layout is never finished"   

So my goal now is to try and just get the scenery roughed in, then move on to the next scene and repeat and try not to get overwhelmed with the small details.  A friend recently reminded me of a quote from the late great George Carlin.

So this is where I stand at Gavilon for now.

Next up:  Fordyce, AR....

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Gavilon's Pump House

I finally made a decision as to whether or not I was going to load or unload the tank cars at Gavilon. Since this is a smaller distributor of fertilizer, the tank cars would be unloaded.  With that in mind I added a concrete pad next to the siding with two little boxes where the hoses would attach to.

One red hose one black hose?  The siding will hold two tank cars.  I have four storage tanks, so there will be two types of material that'll be unloaded here.  Two of the tanks will hold one type and the other two will hold another type.  Simple.

For the pump house, I looked at scratch building one, looked at using one of the BLMA utility shed, but couldn't find one.  Then I thought what about an old boxcar?  A 50' car was too big, but a 40' looked pretty decent?

So I started out with a WM version that I found.  Doug M. suggested that I install a personnel door on one side and a roll-up door on the other side instead of using the actual car door to give it some character.  I also added a couple of vents to the top.  

Joe A. said to give the boxcar a coat of paint to suggest that Gavilon has tried to keep it maintained due to the equipment that it housed,  instead of weathering up as if it's about ready to fall apart.  But I wanted it aged.  So I first wore down the logo before I painted it with a gray acrylic and then gave it a White Wash to fade it a bit.

Once painted I tried several methods to give the paint a weather worn appearance.  I finally wound up using a medium stiff paint brush and 70% alcohol to slowly eat through the gray paint.  If you look closely you can see the Western Maryland fireball and reporting marks peeking through.

With this done I can now proceeded with some piping to carry the material from the cars to the pump house, then to the tanks.

Monday, July 22, 2019

OP session #16, 07/20/19

This session was moved up one week due to scheduling issues, a couple of crews were not able to make it due to moving it, which I apologize for.

Several new things happened with this session.  The first thing was fully making use of the new simplified operating scheme, running with a small crew, reduced top speed of the consists and a few guest operators.

To recap the simplified operating scheme, I've done away with all of the trains except the Winnfield Local.  This train does an "out and back" run across the entire layout.  Train #773 is the SB that runs from Little Rock (staging yard) to Alexandria, LA (back to the same staging yard).  Train #774 is the NB train that runs from Alexandria north to Little Rock. 

This one train starts in the staging yard and the train by itself.  The power attaches the caboose to its own train before entering the layout.  This also allows time for the W&OV switcher in Malvern to get the outbound cars gathered up and set out on the interchange track in Haskell for #773. 

Once #773 reaches Alexandria, the crew uses its power to shuffles the caboose to the cars waiting to go north and also attaches any cars that #773 picked up south of El Dorado that need to go back north.  These trains only work trailing point turnouts so no run around maneuvers are needed.  

Not making any Run Around moves has created an interesting operation.  If the SB #773 picks up a white tabbed car that needs to go North, it will pick up that car and drag it south to El Dorado and leave it on one of the A/D tracks for the NB #774 to grab on it's way north.  Any NB White tabbed cars that are picked up south of El Dorado will get drug clear to Alexandria and then be placed on the string of cars waiting to go north on #774.

Train #774 will do the same thing, but in reverse.  Any SB cars that it leaves in El Dorado will be left there for #773 for the next session. 

In time I may schedule two freight trains to run opposite of #773 & #774 (if we have time and extra crews).  If this pans out, then these two trains can and will probably pick up any cars that trains #773 & #774 leaves in El Dorado, thus keeping the length of the locals at a smaller, more manageable length.

As mentioned we only had three crew who were able to make it this time.  Two of us worked the Winnfield local while the third worked Malvern, El Dorado and the ICG interchange.  Even with just three, everything got done and there was even time for the third crew to get his jobs done and kick back and take a nap.

Although we ran out of time as one crew needed to leave, we could have ran the session within the 2-1/2 to 3 hour time frame. Later it was discussed that I should reduce the amount of cars and industries worked during the session.  

Snipped from the email from Joe the next day:
I think the suggestion of turning down the number of cars/industries switched would definitely address the only issues we saw. As it was, it was fun getting to switch so many customers and experience so much of the layout for my first time, and the trains didn't look too long for your layout, but I did feel like we needed to kind of rush to get everything done. If you knocked the number of industries touched per session to maybe 50-60% of what we did yesterday, I think that would give just the right pace, keep the train length reasonable, and let the crew get down and back in just about the right amount of time. It'd probably also offer more operating variety, since some of the smaller industries wouldn't be switched in every session.

The other thing I did was that I reduced the top speed of the locos by lowering the speed curve via the speed table.  

I went from this:

To this:

This kept the top speed down, and made the throttle feel a little more sluggish.  It also prevented any lurching if the knob was spun to far too fast.  This effectively reduced the top speed from 68 down to 35, but as you can see I increased the values of the last four steps much higher, did this so when I clean the wheels they can spin faster. I can warm the locos up quicker or if I get lazy, I can get the locos somewhere faster. So far I'm liking this.

Another thing I may do is to keep two to three locos consisted in the same set.  For a change of pace, I can then swap out the entire consists for a variety instead of individual locos?  This would make matching the speeds a little easier?  I might even try using the advanced consisting method as well?  Although this will require some sort of a ledger sheet so I can keep track of what locos are in each consist and the details of each loco.  Something to ponder...

As mentioned above, we had three crews this time, Quin, myself and Joe Atkinson.
Joe is the CEO of his HO scale Iowa Interstate layout.  It portrays the West End of the IAIS from Atlantic, IA to Council Bluffs, IA. set in May of 2005.
For those of you who have not seen his layout,
This is his site: 
Here's a link to a fellow blogger who captured a lot of nice photos during one of his visits to Joe's layout:

Joe takes pride in modeling this section of the line as prototypically as possible.  It's a beautiful layout.

Now for a few pictures.

Joe's spotting the hopper at Ruston while Quin handles 
the controls of the SB #773 

After entering the yard at Alexandria, they start adding the
NB cars from #773 to #774's train.

Working the NB #774 at DuBach, Joe waits patiently 
while Quin eases the cut onto the Muddy Creek Mill spur.

We had my mother over for a Sunday visit and since we didn't have time to complete the session on Saturday, I had her give me a hand wrapping things up.
Joe and Quin  tied the NB #774 down in El Dorado, so Mother and I finished the run north working the towns of Fordyce and Haskell, then tied down in Little Rock.  After that we moved over to Malvern and pulled the cars left on the interchange track by #774 and spotted them at the industries in Malvern using the W&OV switcher.   Mom did a great job!

Finishing up the work at Gavilon with the #774.

Preparing to tie down the NB #774 at Little Rock.

Pulling the cars off the interchange track at Haskell.

A few fresh loads for Crushmoore Industries.