Thursday, April 25, 2019

Richmond Main Street Station T-Trak Project

After some thought, I've decided to take up a project of roughing out a building in paper and foam core, gradually turning it into a more complete model. This matches well with what I'm coming to recognize is the T-Trak concept, a module that can be swapped out of a home layout or taken to a meet. In addition, my N T-Trak efforts are focusing on contemporary passenger operations, so a passenger theme fits in well.

When I was a kid in New Jersey, the family would drive to Florida for spring break. Since I was too young to drive, I got to spend the days looking out the car window for whatever railfan interest I could find. A big event was when we drove through downtown Richmond on US 1. The bridge provided a spectacular aerial view of the station, an utter delight. I-95 still takes the same route. The photo at left is typical of what I would see. It was taken in 1962 by J Parker Lamb, so this would be toward the end of the family Florida trip period.

The Main Street station was built in 1901 as a union station by both the Chesapeake and Ohio and Seaboard Air Line railroads. You will note that the Seaboard train on the right is not stopping at this station -- the SAL moved out of Main Street several years earlier, and it was used only by the C&O at this point. C&O passenger service stopped in 1971. The station, not used for rail passengers, passed through various owners and a severe fire over subsequent decades. Eventually it was acquired by the City of Richmond, which wanted to restore passenger service in it on the old C&O line to Newport News, which had Amtrak service reinstated. It returned as an Amtrak station in 2003, and currently two or three Amtrak Newport News trains each way stop there daily. The Florida trains stop at the Richmond Staples Mill Road station and proceed south over the former ACL, bypassing Main Street.

This drone shot from the web shows an Amtrak train using the current station facilities. Only a single track passes the station on this side. The track and the station platform are on the second-floor level of the station. The interior has been extensively restored and refurbished and is also rented out as a wedding and event venue by the city.

When I was a kid in the 1950s, I didn't have much hobby money. Most of it went to buying Model Trains, MR, and RMC at the local hobby shop. When something inspired me, I'd use shirt cardboard to rough out a model, or sometimes I could upgrade to the bigger sheets of white poster stock from the stationery store. I revisited that idea several months ago when I built a model of the baggage elevator at the Springfield, MA Amtrak station.

More recently, I began to think about expanding on this childhood idea for a larger N passenger project. I could use white poster stock from Walgreen's and foamcore from Michael's, and I could mount the station on a double-wide T-Trak module. This would be a low-budget project, too. A double-wide T-Trak module kit is $25.00. I note the price of foamcore has gone up at Michael's, it's now two sheets for $10.00, when it used to be $3.00 for a single sheet, but this is still bearable. I have most of the Unitrack on hand.

I was able to get basic dimensional information from the web, as well as a good many photos of the building from all angles. I plan to rough out a basic shape and gradually add details. As much as possible, I want to add "wallpaper" from web images to the building sides, with textures from web dealers like Clever Models where I can. Dimensionally, it looks like a full-scale N version of the headhouse building will fit on a T-Trak module without compression. The shed will be foreshortened, and it will be exterior only, since tracks no longer go into it.

I'll post progress photos as I move along.

Monday, April 22, 2019

PCCM 60 / LF&NW Part 2

This is part 2 and the final part of the LF&NW's contribution to the virtual ops session 60. Two empties are set to return to the New York Central Train Layout, an Empire Belt hopper and PRR box 9553. They'll go via Zenith Yard.

A pair of New York Central/P&LE RS-3s runs up to City Coal to pick up the Empire Belt hopper:

The job pulls back past CP West Zenith and Rattlesnake Rocks once it's grabbed the hopper.
And shoves back down the hill on Main 2 to Zenith Yard.
It finally picks up the PRR box for transfer to the NYCTL.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

PCCM 60 / LF&NW Part 1

This is part 1 of the LF&NW's contribution to the virtual ops session 60. The first step is to rejigger some of the cars to match loads, industries, and interchange a little better based on how the virtual ops system is evolving.

Hoschton Railway 942998 had been at Jaques being loaded with wine, but John R, who is the arbiter of moves, directed it to Reynolds Beverage Distributors, Kings Port NY on Ralph V's Kings Port Division layout. Interchange with the KPD takes place via the LF&NW's West Egg Car Float, which is served by a job out of Mahnattan Transfer. Here's the sequence:

The Hoschton car is first-out on a shove to the car float.
Next is a Virginian & Ohio food service RBL car. (These cars are available from the NMRA Cincinnati Division 7 car project, if anyone wants to get a duplicate for virtual ops. However, as the guys involved get older, they're becoming harder to deal with, so be warned.)
A New Haven boxcar in the final, Alpert scheme.
Erie S-4 528 is on the shove.
Passing EGG Tower
Passing M Neal Milk. Very tight clearance.
And finally onto the car float.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Another N Scale Update

I'm still on serious rewiring of my main HO layout, and working on the N T-Trak modules has been a good break. So I'm back looking for post-2005 freight cars. Here are two I've found from Atlas:
UP 1520534 is a Thrall 2743 gondola. I haven't seen any of these in California, but I've found photos on the web, so this is an actual thing. After I posted on my 1980s Soo Line gon last week, I decided I needed to paint the interiors of all my N gons Tru Color Rust as a start to weathering the interiors. I note, though, that the couplers on this car are truck mounted and flimsy (one broke when I removed the car from the box), and the trucks are still attached with plastic push pins. I will need to body mount Micro Trains couplers, add metal wheels, and mount the trucks with screws.
BNSF 781403 is an Atlas ex BLMA car. Big difference, this has body mount Micro Trains couplers, metal wheels, and trucks mounted with screws. These cars are extremely common in California, as they are used to ship Gallo wine from Modesto.
These cars are heavily tagged, and I'll need to address this.

I went back looking at some of the cars I did in the 1980s. The Philadelphia Bethlehem and New England was the common carrier line that served Bethlehem Steel's Bethlehem, PA mill. The Roundhouse gon matches photos on the web. In the 1980s I added COTS stencils, removed the truck mounted Rapido couplers, added body mount Micro Trains couplers, and mounted the trucks with screws rather than push pins.

This is one of the N gons that I painted the interior with Rust as preparation for more weathering.

Here are two Roundhouse boxcars I reworked in the 1980s. If the prototypes exist now, they aren't painted this way. I still like these, though.
Finally, here's the scenery work around the Virginia Avenue portal on my T-Trak modules:

Sunday, April 7, 2019

N Scale Update

As I've been covering here, I'm revisiting N scale from the time I last modeled in it in the 1970s and 80s, when I mostly had a small N layout in a walk-in closet. One thing I'm finding is that it's harder now to find cars like those I used to see railfanning 30 years ago. The old reporting marks are gone, while contemporary cars are tagged and have yellow conspicuity stripes. Here are two recent cars I've managed to track down:
UP 93047 is a ScaleTrains Gunderson covered hopper just like those you can see all the time on the Union Pacific.
NS 465682 is a Micro Trains car that doesn't match anything I've found out on the west coast, but I've found photos of the prototype on the web that match the model very well. Notice that both this model and the UP covered hopper have the post-2005 yellow conspicuity stripes painted at the factory.
However, as I've said, my main interest with the N T-Trak layout is contemporary commuter and Amtrak operation. Here are two Kato Virginia Railway Express models. It's a shame that other east coast operations like MBTA, Metro North, the Long Island, NJT, SEPTA, and MARC aren't well supported in N, but VRE is appealing, and I lived in the Washington area in my late teens, so I like the photos and videos I see of VRE trains against Washington landmarks. A Kato MP36 refitted with a TCS decoder and Micro Trains couplers:
A Kato cab car:
An ex-Chicago METRA, exx-C&NW St Louis Car Company 6-window coach from Wheels of Time:
These cars were leased from METRA by VRE for early operations. They recently came off lease and went back to METRA. Some have reappeared on METRA still painted for VRE, while others have been partly patched for METRA again. I hope Wheels of Time will re-issue these cars in their METRA patch or repaint schemes.

I have a fair amount of N equipment left over from my N efforts 30-40 years ago. Here's a Roundhouse N boxcar that I repainted for the Southern then:

Here is what these cars look like now:
So not much sense updating it. I'm not sure why I gave it the number I did, but NS did renumber a lot of Southern equipment. The message here is that there's not much I can really update from the models I built 30-40 years ago to be close to prototypical now.

Here's a Soo Line gon that I added a load and an ACI label to back in the day:

Notice that it's missing a wheelset. That's OK, I'll need to replace all the wheelsets on my older models with metal ones. I also see that I never weathered the inside of this car.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Ugh, More Rewiring

I upgraded my DCC system from an NCE PowerCab to an SB5 once it became plain that even as a single operator, adding load to the system in the form of sound locos, current-extending capacitors, stationary and lighting decoders required more power than the PowerCab could handle. Not long before I upgraded to the SB5, I finished the job of extending a 14AWG DCC power bus around the whole layout. However, this simply supplemented, it didn't replace, the 22AWG DC block wiring that was as old as 30 years.

What I found was there was a current drain in one of the oldest parts of the layout, not enough to trip the overload on the SB5, but enough to lower the voltage in the area to 3-5 volts from the 14 needed for full DCC. As best I can figure, some insulation on the old wiring had worn through, or an unprotected solder joint on the old wiring was close enough to another that there was a near short.

So I had a long troubleshooting effort: for each isolated former DC block, I had to disconnect the former DC wiring until I got a reading of 0 volts on my multimeter. Then I reconnected that block to the new DCC power bus terminal strip. So I gradually restored the main line to 14 volts all around. Here's a photo illustrating the effort, a multimeter with a UP hi-rail ruck right over a new solder joint on the rail, with a foam scenery liftout behind it.

I still have to reconnect some sidings and industrial leads to the DCC power bus.