Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fun At The Swap Meet

I've always liked model railroad swap meets. Sometimes I find "classic" models from the 1940s and 50s, like Athearn metal or Varney, which I try to make operable on my layout; other times I find more recent (but still gone from stores) models that are also fun to upgrade.

Last weekend I hit the Simi Valley Model Railroad Club swap meet, where I can almost always find something well worth the trip. This included an Accurail Seaboard System ACF Centerflow:

This was in good condition (no missing parts, no broken steps), with metal wheels and Kadees added by the prior owner. (I suspect this was from an estate; I respect the guy for how he took care of the car.) However, there were several things I had to do to bring it up to my own standards. First, it was an early Accurail, with coupler pocket covers held in with press-fit pins. I removed these, shaved off the pins, and drilled out the covers to clear 2-56 screws. This allows coupler adjustment, maintenance, and easy replacement in the future, should this be necessary.

There's a gotcha with some Accurails, too: their roller bearing trucks are a 70-ton prototype, while cars like ACF Centerflows had 100 ton trucks. The good part about this is that many Walthers cars (now in their Mainline brand, but many earlier kits) have prototypes with 70 ton trucks, but Walthers provides 100 ton trucks. So the easiest fix is simply to swap the roller bearing trucks from Walthers (and Athearn bluebox or RTR) cars with the roller bearing trucks from Accurail. The 100 ton trucks also need 36 inch wheels, but since the older cars from swaps have plastic wheels anyhow, you simply replace the plastic wheels with 36 inch metal ones.

Finally, I paint the wheels and couplers with some shade of rust (or the former, much missed, Floquil Rail Brown). Here's the result on SBD 247108:

To my eye, the different trucks and painted wheels are important changes. The 70-ton trucks from the Accurail car went onto this Walthers kit-built FGE car from the 1990s. (They are now issued as Mainline cars in RTR, but the truck issue is still there):

Both these cars still need COTS stencils and weathering.

Here's another covered hopper, a late Roundhouse, that I found at the Simi Valley swap a few years ago:

I had a really hard time finding prototype photos of this car. I finally saw one on a DVD video of the Katy. The prior owner did the very light weathering; I did little more than clean it up and add the ACI label. This car was interchanged onto Ralph V's Kings Port & Western as part of an interchange project on the now-defunct Whistle Post forum. Here it is on Ralph's layout:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Couple of Bachmann Projects

Inspired by a post about some Bachmann maintenance work on the New York Central Train Layout blog, I thought I'd show some recent things I've done with Bachmann locos. These DC-only locos can be found in the $50 range on the web; you can then shop for your preference in DCC decoders that will go in the 8-pin sockets on recent Bachmanns.

First is a RailAmerica/TP&W GP38-2 that's come into the shop for some work before it's ready for the layout. I discussed it and showed it new in my last post. It's been disassembled, with the chassis and intake vents painted grimy black. It will get Kadees in Kadee boxes, sunshades, and a pilot plow before it's ready for the road, as well as a Digitrax DZ126PS decoder.

Next is a Katy GP40. Katy's original GP40s didn't have dynamics, but in the 1980s they leased a good many from Conrail that did. 245 is one of the ex Conrail units. Here it is with just the chassis and intake vents painted grimy black:

Here it is with Kadees, sunshades, and a pilot plow, as well as a Details West brass horn to replace the broken one that came with the loco. I was delighted to find a hobby shop that still had a bottle of Floquil MKT green, a perfect match:
I have my eye on a Bachmann Conrail unit for next month's budget.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

RailAmerica And The San Joaquin Valley Railroad

RailAmerica's red, white, and blue color scheme grew on me, especially after I started railfanning the San Joaquin Valley Railroad. Here's a pair of GP38s on the Buttonwillow branch:

The SJVR's roster isn't well covered by HO models, and none of those that exist have been offered in SJVR paint. However, variations of RailAmerica red, white, and blue sublettered for other RailAmerica properties have been offered on models from time to time, most recently by Bachmann with a currently available GP38-2 sublettered for Toledo, Peoria & Western:

The actual TP&W 3821 is a GP38, not a GP38-2 -- most of the RailAmerica ex RailTex locos in the 3800 series are straight 38s. My view is that the RailAmerica red, white, and blue scheme is hard to paint, so I'm OK with getting the Bachmann loco and not looking at it too hard, especially given the Bachmann's very reasonable price from the web.

Earlier, a third-party painter brought out an Atlas high hood GP38 painted for the one New England Central high hood unit. Very few NECR units got RailAmerica paint, but this one had it:

I'm fond of NECR, since I used to railfan it in a past life when it was the Central Vermont.

Athearn RTR brought out a variation on RailAmerica paint with a Central Railroad of Indiana GP50:

I'm up in the air over whether to reletter the TP&W sublettering on the Bachmann model for one of the Minnesota Northern or Esquimalt & Nanaimo GP38s running on the SJVR, like this one:

There are enough differences in the prototype versions of the RailAmerica scheme between the TP&W locos and the ones on the SJVR that just changing the lettering wouldn't be enough.

I'll have more to say about the San Joaquin Valley and its modeling potential in subsequent posts.