Sunday, April 26, 2020

Lockdown Projects: Improving The Atlas Austria FP7

The Atlas Austria FP7 dates from 1975. This was a big improvement for its time over the circa 1950 Athearn/Globe F unit tooling. It was re-released in 1990 with some body detail improvements, a heavier frame, and a new motor, as well as improved paint. The 1975 loco sold for $25. The 1990 one sold for $99.95, which was pricey for its time. Both versions are now in the vintage category, since several manufacturers have since brought out F and FP units with better detail. However, the 1990 locos in particular are still good layout models, with good weight, and they're smooth runners. The DCC install is at the "advanced" level, requiring cuts in PC board traces and soldering in a hardwire decoder.

I have several of these on hand. I decided to work on converting them to DCC and doing what I can to make them look a little better. The biggest defect in appearance that can easily be corrected is the numberboards, which are clear plastic and stick out at an unrealistic angle. I decided if I could paint these and add numbers, it would make an overall difference in how the model looks. I also had some Microscale 87-793 F unit data decal sets on hand, which would give me decals to add step kick plates and the numberboard numbers. The step kick plates would also be subtle improvements.

Here is a 1975-run Soo Line unit I found at a good price on eBay with DCC installed not long ago with kick plates and numberboard numbers added. i had previously also painted the grills silver and touched up the skirts and steps with black:

For comparison, here's how it looked when I got it:
This will be an ongoing project, with the next steps being a winterization hatch and weathering. These lasted into the 1980s on the Soo and were pretty beat up by that time.

I found a 1990-run Soo Line body on eBay pretty cheaply and installed it on a chassis I had on hand. Again, I added kick plates and numberboard numbers.

This will also get a winterization hatch when the lockdown ends and i can go out for glue and paint. The 1990 run locos had their grills already painted silver.

Here is a 1990 run CP loco that I added a Juneco CP style winterization hatch to when I got it. I added the kick plates and numberboard numbers. The loco has been pretty beat up over the 30 years I've had it, and it will get weathering.

With all these locos, I think small changes in paint and detail distract attention from their less-good vintage features. I really like the way they run.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lockdown Projects: More Scenery

One thing I've discovered is that Sculptamold, an inexpensive and very useful scenery product, is harder and harder to find. You can't find it in local hobby shops any more around here, and you can no longer get it at places like Michael's, either. I tend not to think of it as something to order on line, but things change, I guess, and since I can't go out anyhow, I ordered a 3-pound bag off eBay and made some good progress with it on scenery. I mixed it with some acrylic pigments I got on sale at Michael's not long before the virus.

Here is some scenery surface I added in the German part of my layout:

I posted this in the German Model Railways Facebook group and got some good advice on relocating the counterweights in front of the signal cabin more realistically.

I installed a Bar Mills Bull's Salvage and added some junkyard castings from various sources:

I was inspired by a 2012 visit to this junkyard in Chemurgic, CA:
This is actually something of a railfan destination, since at least at the time, it had some ex SP SD9s tucked away in back.

Finally, I made some progress on the East Slope climb to Moffat Tunnel, "dirting in" some Mountains in Minutes rocks.. Here's the Before picture:

And here's the After:
Now I can start to add talus, other ground cover, and vegetation. However, although this segment had been removable up to now, it looks like the added weight of the new scenery means it'll have to remain in place from now on.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Breakin Run For A Walthers Mainline GP9

I ordered a Walthers chop nose GP9 for Chiago & North Western, which is one of the railroads I like to model. The cost benefit of the Mainline locos with sound decoders is very good. The price on line for a DCC ready loco without decoder is in the $100 range. The price of a loco with sound decoder is in the $150 range. If you consider that a non sound DCC decoder will be in the $25 range plus another $10 shipping, plus the trouble of installing, the premium for a Mainline sound loco is trivial.

Below is my loco with a caboose:

I ran the loco and caboose on the Sunkist Turn, which is a shove from Manhattan Transfer to Sunkist. The train is made up on Track 2 in Manhattan Transfer. The loco and caboose backed into position for the shove:
Here it is setting out and picking up in Sunkist:
Here it is returning to Manhattan Transfer with the pickups, crossing the drawbridge over the aisle.
These locos are very smooth running and outstanding at very slow speed switching.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Lockdown Projects

With a lot of enforced time on my hands, I;m turning to projects that had been on the back burner. It's an opportunity to get some of these done. The first is an Atlas Roco 1990s run FP7. Like the Austrian and early Chinese Alco switchers, these have good weight and are good runners, but they aren't easy to convert to DCC. I went looking around the web and found some hints, but I eventually came up with my own formula.

I retained the PC board but cut the traces to isolate the track pickup leads from the motor and headlight leads. Then I soldered the wires from the Digitrax harness to the isolated traces on the PC board. I left the incandescent headlight in place, mostly because I didn't have a resistor for an LED. Here's the chassis with the decoder installed:

Here's the shell remounted. About 20 years ago, I had added lift rings, grab irons, and a new horn to the roof. I also added Microscale decals for the step kick plates. This loco had a fair amount of running on my layout before I converted to DCC. It really isn't bad looking at all for a vintage unit. The die work is mostly from before 1980 and is one of the earliest Atlas Austria locos. However, the chassis is all new as of 1990.
Here's how the incandescent headlight lights up.
Another project I got to this week was a white metal conversion kit from the 1980s that was meant to convert an Athearn bluebox boxcar kit to a Bangor and Aroostook woodchip car. I had completed about 95% of the work but put the project on a back burner. I had all the items on hand to complete it, which included Highball Graphics decals and a bottle of old Floquil Jade Green.
I got the paint on over the past week, but normally you have to wait until all the volatiles evaporate from the paint, and for some reason, it's taken quite a while for the smell to go away. Hopefully I can get the decals on in the next few days.