Sunday, December 24, 2017

LFNW 160 Is Lost Then Found!

The Los Feliz and North Western received a message from Empire Belt Terminal Yard freight agent yesterday:
The Terminal Yard freight agent is endeavoring to locate freight car L.F.&N.W. #160 that left Terminal Yard on Sunday November 19th with cases of beer from local shipper Heileman Brewery. The shipment is consigned to Ace Wholesale Distributors in Zenith.

Car routing was Terminal Yard to Elkhart in train LS-1 and Elkhart to Chicago in train BN-1.

Kar Tracker last shows car arriving in Chicago.

But the freight agent copied the Union Pacific on the inquiry, which left the LF&NW confused:
Will get right on it, though I thought the routing was via ATSF Bay City – that could be the problem!
Terminal Yard replied,
You're right!
From my blog;
L.F.&N.W. 160 will be transferred to the A.T.S.F via the Belt Railway of Chicago's Clearing Yard to continue it's trip to Bay City, California on John B's layout.

Looks like the PC sent the car to the UP.
Very prototypical!

Well, this is the age of punch card computing and incompatible NYC and PRR data entry, so who knows what went wrong. I know first hand, that was when computer operators dropped decks of cards and put them back together any which way.

A call to the Santa Fe got things straightened out, and LFNW 160 was on Santa Fe's local from Riverbank for interchange with the LF&NW at Bay City.

Today's Riverbank-Bay City turn had the Santa Fe's Santa Safety Caboose:

The photographer caught the short train again as it ran past 14th St in Bay City:

Later in the day, the car was delivered to Ace Wholesale Distributing in Zenith by a leased Western Pacific S-4:

Ace Wholesale Distributing is a Thomas A Yorke kit from the 1970s:
Well, the beer from Heileman might be a little late for Christmas, but at least they'll have it for New Year!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Pulling Station Track 4

Working on ops videos:

One thing I'm finding is that although sound-equipped locos seem to be better subjects for videos, they don't operate as well at low switching speeds. Still studying the best way to do videos!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Bluebox SD9

I'm a big fan of how fellow modelers and bloggers John R and Ralph V make creative use of vintage models, especially Athearn bluebox locomotives. I used to do a lot with them, and I still have quite a number that I built in the 1970s and early 80s, but I've begun to realize that at 70, I'm less able to do some of the delicate and tedious work like assembling the handrails. So I passed on one of my last unassembled locos to John R, who has done a fine job finishing it and posted about it. The good thing about getting old in this era of the hobby is that I no longer need to assemble handrails with recent locos!

But as I move through the locos I have and install DCC, I've come to some of my own bluebox collection. About ten years ago, I found this DM&IR SD9, a bluebox that had been custom painted, at a swap meet for what I seem to remember was a distress price. As a DM&IR fan, I grabbed it without thinking too much farther, and thereafter it sat in my own virtual swap-meet-in-the-closet.

When I pulled it out yesterday, I could see how beutifully it had been done. Beyond the paint, the guy had added a brass horn and even sanded down the molded-on end ladders and replaced them over the decal stripes:

I originally thought the guy had sold it because newer SD9 models from Proto and Broadway Limited had made his wide-body version obsolete, no matter how nicely it had been finished. But once I put it on the test track, I discovered the reason for the distress price. The motor wouldn't turn over, even though the guy had done work comparable to the paint job upgrading the chassis:

Not only did he install a can motor, but he really went above and beyond by replacing all the Athearn stamped-metal current pickup system with hardwired connections to the motor:

So I debugged it bit by bit. It looks like the lube, whatever he used, had completely hardened around the worm and the worm shaft, so I disassembled the trucks and cleaned off the old lube so the worm would turn. Things moved under power after that. But the motor bearings were completely dry, and the motor screeched when it ran -- this is a sign of dry motor bearings. In extreme cases, the screech is very hard to get rid of and requires much re-lubing and running in. I had to do this here and spent several hours running the loco back and forth.

At this point, the loco still chatters somewhat at high RPMs, but at switching speeds, it's very smooth and quiet. Here's the chassis after I installed a Digitrax DZ126:

Considering how the lube had hardened and the motor bearings were completely dry, the guy must almost never have run it even after he did such a great job painting and remotoring it maybe 35 years ago. I'm glad I was able to bring it back to life. I used to do custom work like this, but I'm no longer physically as able to do this kind of thing, so it was great to be able to bring this one back!

But then I thought about some of the bluebox SD9s that I repainted and detailed for SP. Maybe I'll pull these out soon.

Also I now remember that in an Emery Gulash video, there's a sequence of DM&IR SD9s pulling a freight through the Detroit River tunnel while on lease to the New York Central. Apparently these got around in the winter months when the lakes were frozen.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

50-Year Old Scratchbuilding Projects

At least from the time I was six or seven years old, I was "scratchbuilding" model train items from shirt cardboard and masking tape -- my dad worked for a company that made the tape and brought home lots of free samples. Naturally, I would have preferred the latest in the Lionel catalog, but what I could cut out with scissors and tape together was certainly better than nothing. By the time I was in the ninth grade, I seem to have graduated to thinner white poster stock like you can still find at Walgreen's and similar places, and I think I was using Elmer's to glue it together.

Somewhere around that time, my family visited Washington, DC, and when I got home I made a roughly HO scale model of the Senate monorail car that took the senators from the office building to the Capitol via a subway. That has long since disappeared, sorry to say. But in high school, I was in bed for some weeks with mono. During that time, with nothing else to do, I mass-produced three HO models of PRR H36 hoppers using the thin poster stock, some wood shapes, and Elmer's glue. These seem to be the earliest models I've built that survive.

One thing I still needed to learn about scratchbuilding, and that took me at least a dozen more years to figure out, was the need for a solid and reliable way to mount trucks and couplers, as well as the need for proper weight. Some of my earliest models have stayed in the purgatory box pending resolution of these problems. Recently I pulled out one of the high school PRR H36s. In a previous effort, I filled in nooks and crannies in the chassis with buckshot. More recently, I found a way to mount Kadee coupler pockets to the chassis with screws, and just now I used some washers from the miscellaneous parts box to make bolsters. Here's the result:

The car is pretty beat up from 52 years in the purgatory box, and you can see where I pulled off the crude ladders I'd made in high school. You can also see the Walthers decals, which were awful but all that was available in 1965. I plan to add angle stock to the corners, new ladders, and touch up the paint, but leave the Walthers decals as a way to stay in touch with my aspirations.

Next is a car I did maybe half a dozen years later. By then I'd mastered using basswood roof, floor, and end block stock to build up a car following typical articles in MR and RMC of the time. This is a Milwaukee Road car from a long-vanished RMC:

The overall process of decaling took longer, and for whatever reason, I never quite got around to adding trucks and couplers, so it never ran on any layout. With the PRR H36, I decided to fix it up and make it run. For now, both this car and the hopper have temporary junk box trucks and Accumate couplers that I'll replace with my next trip to the hobby shop. I also need to replace the roof walk, probably with one from Tichy. Both cars are a little short on weight, but I think they'll do.

I gave them a test run, which considering it took them 50 years to actually operate, was very satisfying.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Bachmann Train Set Caboose

Fellow layout-blogger John R recently put up a post that showed, among other things, a Bachmann train set caboose from the 1980s repainted for the Long Island MTA. This reminded me of how useful these early-day Bachmann items actually are. I went looking for what history I could find of the Bachmann cars on the web. The best I could come up with was some catalog pages on the hoseeker site, where the earliest reference seems to be in the 1980 catalog.

Like any of the inexpensive, train-set market cars from this era, these need to have the trucks and couplers replaced, and often they need repainting. But as visitors here know, even the "junkiest" AHM, Tyco, or Bachmann cars often have real possibilities, and they can be found at swap meets very inexpensively, especially if they're missing trucks or whatever, which serious modelers will toss and replace anyhow. As it happens, I have one in "mint" condition from some years-ago swap meet, where I couldn't have paid more than a buck so for it.

This is actually one of the big surprises of early Bachmann -- this is a halfway decent model of a Burlington NE-12 waycar. These were built by the CB&Q Havelock Shops shops as CB&Q 13525-13559 in 1954 and CB&Q 13560-13589 in 1960. Here's a photo of CB&Q 13544 from rrpicturearchives:

They were renumbered as BN 10331-10360 and 10391-10445. Over the years, I've upgraded and repainted a number of these.

John R's caboose struck me as a really good stand-in for the MTA ex-Illinois Central cars on the Long Island. I was able to wangle a set of the decals he'd gotten from a friend from John. As it happens, I have a Bachmann body that I'd already painted yellow, and I can simply paint the roof and underbody blue to match the MTA scheme, so this will be a fun project when i get the decals:

These cars no longer appear in the regular Bachmann line, although the Chattanooga train set apparently contains one. I've always wondered why Bachmann didn't upgrade them with better trucks and couplers, and maybe a separate roof walk, with better paint. But they'd probably want $50 for them, so it's probably better to track them down at swap meets and do a little work.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Closer Look At The Walthers Mainline SD60M

The UP's SD60Ms have long been a favorite of mine, and until recently they were very common in Southern California on hauler trains and manifests. Here's a 2015 shot that shows them in their final state, including heavy tagging:

Interestingly, though, 2456 kept its red frame stripe. Here's the Walthers model, with the only change being weathering on the air intake vents:

The Walthers SD60 and SD60M are easy to convert to DCC, and they benefit from it, because they have only one flywheel to leave room for the speaker. By changing CV 3 and CV 4 to 1, you can improve the loco's momentum. But this time, I also decided to try out the Digitrax PX108-2 Power Xtender, which is a capacitor that allows a decoder to power over dead or dirty track. There's enough space on the chassis to install a Digtrax DH126 on the factory 9-pin plug, and the Power Xtender has a plug that in turn fits into the DH126.

However, the Xtender is a fairly big item, and it was a challenge to find a place for it under the shell. As it turns out, the DC non-sound chassis has an insert that's meant to cover the space for the speaker:

If you unscrew two screws at the top of the insert, you can remove it and find a space for the Xtender:

Here's the Xtender tacked into place with Scotch Magic tape. The decoder itself and the excess wires are also held down with tape to prevent any pinching or dislocation when the shell is installed.

Here is the whole chassis:

And here is an example of how the Xtender works:

I left the headlight on and picked the loco up off the track. As you can see, the headlight stays lit. So far, testing indicates that the capacitor will provide power for varying lengths of time depending on the load. The headlight alone will stay lit for several minutes, but an LED doesn't draw much current. The Xtender will keep the motor running for several seconds, depending on the speed the loco was running at the time the current was turned off. If the loco was running at minimum speed, it will stop within a very short interval. If it is going at medium speed, it will run for a foot or so. I have more testing to do to figure out how best to use this feature.

Regarding details, the Walthers Mainline marque is aimed at the lower-cost-but-acceptable market, equivalent to Bachmann, Athearn Roundhouse, or ScaleTrains Operator. These locos are hard to distinguish from higher-priced ones at the three-foot layout viewing range. The biggest detail discrepancy with this UP unit is that it has a headlight mounted above the cab windows, where the prototype UP units have them on the nose.

I added an Athearn EMD PTC antenna array to the cab roof:

Here's a prototype view of a PTC array:

These have been installed within the past several years and are generally contemporary with yellow sill stripes on UP.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tier 4

I ordered a ScaleTrains ES44T4, but unlike the guys who've posted about it on YouTube, I got the DC-only version with the idea of putting a control-only DCC decoder in it. I like sound in moderate doses, but too many sound units on a layout at once can drive me up the walls. This brought me to some interesting features of the model. Below is the chassis with a Digitrax DH166MT installed:

This is the first one of these I've installed, and I had several false starts until I went to the instruction sheet and learned I was trying to put it in upside-down. So I got it to work, but I found that it lights the ditch lights separately, left light is F1, right light is F2. I will need to remap F2 to work with F1 to turn them both on at once. I also noted that there are LEDs available to light the number boards, but they aren't controllable from Digitrax function keys.

Going to the ScaleTrains product manual, I found that there are DIP switches on the PC board that enable certain lighting features for the recommended ESU decoder. On the DCC-ready version, the DIP switches are off, and ScaleTrains recommends leaving them off for any but an ESU decoder. This is the sort of thing that no reviews I've seen so far have mentioned. For now, it doesn't bother me that I can't light the number boards, since most models don't control them separately.

Most reviews, in fact, like those in MR, cover only sound versions of locos or their DC-only counterparts. Gotchas like what you see here probably aren't worth the space in the magazine, but this is one reason I'm probably going to drop MR when my sub is up for renewal. If I have to find stuff I need for myself, the mag isn't worth it. Someone may one day try using a Digitrax decoder on this thing with the DIP switches on and find it works OK, but so far, nobody seems to think this is a service anyone would pay for.

Here's the loco with the shell on:

I especially like the PTC antenna array on the cab roof. Here's a prototype loco from a similar angle:

Speaking of Tier 4s, I finally got a shot of an EMD Tier 4 yesterday. UP calls this an SD70AH-T4C. This loco is from the series 9062-9096 delivered May through August of this year.

Monday, November 6, 2017

SD60 Update

I found this video on YouTube. The video itself was taken within the past week or two, and at about 1:50, it shows a UP coal train in the Twin Cities with two SD60 standard cab locos as units 2 and 3:

I asked the guy who posted this on YouTube, and he said the UP SD60s were still active in the Twin Cities. That focused me on the Walthers UP SD60 I got recently. With these locos apparently still in service, I decided to add an air conditioner to the cab:

I still haven't been able to find a photo of a UP SD60 standard cab with the lightning stripe, though, and not all UP SD60s with yellow sill stripes have air conditioners.

i also got a SOO SD60, which I find is easy to consist with Bachmann SD40-2s:

Friday, November 3, 2017

Testing New Power

I got some new heavy power recently. The DM&IR has always been one of my favorites, and Broadway Limited has issued a new run of RSD-15s:

Actually modeling the DM&IR can be a problem unless you have a whole layout focused on ore operation, which I don't. The scenery in the area is pretty unique, but the lineside detail is easily recognizable, so parts of any layout can suggest the DM&IR.

This part of my layout, the Bay City-Jaques area, is less finished, but I've been doing test runs of the RSD-15 through it to be sure it does OK on the curved switches. This will be the closest to DM&IR territory on the layout.

I also tested the RSD-15 and the new Bachmann CP SD40-2 on the Walthers bascule bridge: