Saturday, January 28, 2023

Some re-decaled hoppers.

While working with JMRI Ops, I needed to change some numbers as well as change the lettering on a few hoppers I had and I figured this was a good time as any to do this.

Awhile back BLMA released their GA DryFlo hoppers in N scale. I picked up a couple PRR hoppers for cheap that I planned to re-paint or re-letter fodder. These two became a Rock Island and MoPac versions.

I brushed some Walthers Solvaset on the lettering and let it sit for a bit to hopefully soften up.  I started using a pencil eraser, but it was taking a lot of scrubbing so I switched over to using a toothpick which was a little more aggressive. Once the lettering had been removed, the areas were burnished and shiny, so I gave them a quick shot of Dullcote and applied the decals.

Neither of the two are exact copies due to the decals, but they're close enough in my books.  Of course now that I made these, Atlas will release them, which is the way it always goes.

While looking for images of any Rock Island cars, I actually found one image with a tidbit of info.  Rock Island actually had 5 of these cars and at some point were renumbered after entering revenue service.​

I had a good match on the gray plaque, but when it dried it turned a little darker and a touch bluer. Nothing a good dose of weathering won't cure in time.
I actually kind of like the larger logo?

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

How I setup the Yard and the Trains in JMRI

Well after almost two months of working on JMRI Ops, I think I have finally been able to claw my way out of that rabbit hole?

It’s been an interesting and enlightening trip for me, and would not have been as enjoyable if it were not for the gracious help of a good friend of mine (Dave) who offered his services and time.

He told me early on that he’s been using JMRI for the past 20 or so years and really enjoys working with it as well as problem solving. So we dove in.

One of the biggest issues we had was incorporating and making my “Vast” amount of cars available to the software. Couple this to the fact that I do not have a large capacity yard on the layout. I did at one time, but this was nothing more than a huge staging yard.

Several years ago I ripped it up and re-laid it with a much more modest sized yard with the intent to reduce my Ops and number of trains I ran.


I keep my rolling stock in six cabinets that I made years ago when our group had our Bend Track modules. These were designed to stack and use a 2 wheel dolly to transport them to the shows and back home. 

Each cabinet has 9 drawers and each drawer holds an average of 40 cars (without their jewel cases) for a total of 54 drawers. 
Only about 45 of the drawers will hold the cars that will have a purpose on the layout, the rest are used to store a couple of coal train, intermodal trains and some random like auto racks and 86’ boxcars and other nonessential cars.

After much deliberation, what Dave suggested was to pretend these cabinets were “My Yard” and so we called them the “Drawer Yard” for the location in the software. Each drawer was a track within the yard. So I labeled and numbered each drawer. This one yard will serve as 2 separate yards for the layout: one at the North end and the other at the South end. The software basically sees 2 identical yards, but in reality they are the same yard (or stacks of cabinets) where all the cars are kept.

Each drawer has a label identifying what car type resides in the drawer, each drawer has a number. Then I sorted the cars in the drawer by sub groups by road. This will help ease the search for a specific car when the list calls for a car. The list will tell me to pick up a 45’ Chemical Covered Hopper and will display it like this:

[ ] Pick up   ROCK   507930  CHopChem  45’  Blue   from CHopChem 29

I open the upper right case.

Then go to the CHopChem drawer #29.

Look for all the blue Rock CHopChem and grab the correct number. 

Then set it on the arrival track in whichever yard it’s called for.

The trick was to get the cars from the drawer yard to the layout using the software. So Dave created a couple of digital trains called “NB & SB Select” and created a route for these trains which ran from the Drawer Yard to the Departure track in the yard. These are in reality nothing more than 0-5-0 train (a.k.a. my hand).

As with the drawer yard (cabinets), there is only one physical yard. My layout is nothing but a large loop and the yard is part of that loop, so I run the loop as a point to point layout with the yard acting like one yard on each end of the layout.


I only have two main trains that run on the layout, one North bound and one South bound. Each of these two trains runs on the layout from the North yard to the South yard and vice versa. When the South bound train is built on the NB Departure track in “North yard”, it then leaves the North yard and runs across the layout and renters the same physical yard and same track from where it left. That track is now considered the SB Arrival track in the South yard. The NB train follows the same pattern but in reverse.

Then we created a second set of Digital trains which move the cars from the Arrival track to the Drawer yard, these are called the “NB & SB Store” trains.

After all that was figured out and made, the rest was relatively easy. I entered all the towns for my locations. Entered all the spurs within each location, their lengths, what type of cars they ship/receive and either Loads or Empties. Then we created the routes that each train follows.

So with all this done, I need to start running a bunch of digital sessions and keep an eye out for any anomalies that arise and start tweaking the software so things run smoothly.

At first I was like “This shouldn't be too bad?”, but I had troubles getting my head wrapped around how the software works. If it hadn’t been for Dave offering to help me with it, I would have probably given up on it long ago. It’s a very well thought out system and very flexible and I’m looking forward seeing it in action.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Renumbering cars for JMRI Ops

Since getting El Dorado, rebuilt nothing has been done on the layout since.

Shortly after I that I was conversing with some friends about operations on zoom meeting and they asked me what I use for my Ops.  After telling them about my Tab On Cars they asked if I might be interested in using JMRI Ops which they both use.

Well it didn't take much convincing for me to give it a try.  I downloaded it and started playing with but I just couldn't get my head wrapped around setting it up and using it.  I got the jist of it but then Dave offered to help me with it.

At first I had planned to go with car types but soon decided that I might as well give using car numbers a go.  I was going to have to break down and plan to use my cheaters in order to see some of the smaller numbers on some of the cars, but i figured what the hell, why not.

The first thing I had to do was to get on top of my car list which had gotten out of hand over the years.  So that was my first big project.  The first thing I did was start going through my vast rolling stock and start culling the duplicates and cars that were out of my era.  I had also gotten a lot of newer versions of cars and culled out the older lower detailed cars.  

This took me almost a month to go through the cars and I culled out over 100 cars which now allowed me to add the newer cars that I had picked up over time and add them to the list and my storage drawers.

This proved to be a big challenge as I had sold off around 300 cars several years ago and some I had not removed from my list.  After getting the list straightened out and adding the newer cars I was shown how to copy the .CSV file from JMRI and add the cras from my master list so that I would be able to import all the cars on the list in one single shot.

This worked out good and it was done within a few minutes as opposed to adding them all one at a time.

My next project was to go through the remaining cars in the drawers and make sure all the Accumate trucks and couplers were replaced with Micro Trains trucks and couplers. 

That was followed by finding all the duplicate numbered cars that I wanted to keep and changing the number by either removing a number, applying new decals for a different number or by using a #0000 spotters brush and actually painting a new number.  By painting I mean like changing an 8 to a 0, an 8 to a 3.  This took a little time to do but in the long run it saved me $ by selling the dupes off and buying new numbered cars.  The cost of the cars have have increased to the point that t would have almost broke me, so I took the time and redid the numbers the best I could.

Another minor project that I had meant to do years ago were to restencil several cars that I had picked up that I had planned to apply new reporting marks and logos by making the decals myself.  But in the time that had passed, some of these cars had been released by other companies such as Intermountain who made the Red TCAX grain hoppers that were already in the scheme I planned for so the Atlas versions of the TCAX hoppers I had, I just decided to redo them with new stencils by means of painting out the patches and relettering them with some new decals.

I had picked up six of the Atlas Trainman 4750 hoppers which were lettered for NOKL.  Since NOKL was too new for my era, I dug through my decals and found some new reporting marks and numbers and simply redid them as second cars.

Here's what I wanted to make them as originally but missed them when they got released.

Instead this is what I wound doing with them. I know several of them are probably Foobies, but I doubt many will know the difference if they come over and operate with me.

Here's a MoPac

A Frisco



How about a couple of ROCK second hand cars?

In time I'll further define them with weathering and maybe adding patches of paint to represent the white lettering painted over on the red car body as seen in the first photo.

I also recently picked up a pre weathered MTL GN Airslide hopper, but the number was kind of small and was kind of hard to see with it being weathered.  So I did a little research and barrowed a friends BN decals sheet and turned it into a BN renumbered airslide hopper.  While I like what MTL is doing with their pre weathered stuff, I have shied away from buying many of them as I enjoy weathering myself, plus I won't wind up with the same exact car that hundreds of others modelers will have on their layout.

I don't think we're too far from getting JMRI Ops implemented?  Once it's done and operational, of course we'll have to give it a test run or two.

Then I plan to get back to working on the layout in several areas: get the Ouachita River Bridge scene started, maybe get the area between Calion and Fordyce done with the basic ground cover and then start working on some buildings for El Dorado.

2023 might see a lot of work done on the layout?