Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weathered Some More Hoppers

Well, it looks like I'll have something for the Model Railroader Forum's "Weekly Photo Fun" thread after all. I weathered the last few Atlas hoppers that were looking a bit too pristine. Basically the same procedure as the last batch so nothing new here.

I haven't really done any work on the layout itself for almost a month. Well, it's been a busy month. For one thing, I took a much-needed vacation to Vero Beach, Florida. Then the following weekend, I had a houseful of people as my wife's side of the family stayed with us and went to the Clemson - UNC football game. Throw in a heaping helping of schoolwork and late night classes sapping my energy, it's no mystery as to why this layout is taking forever.

You know what though? Rome wasn't built in a day and this is a hobby, not my life. Sometimes it's more fun to do things other than model railroading. I've adopted the whole "journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step" philosophy. If I have the time and energy to do something on the layout, great. If not, oh well. Slowing down isn't a bad thing at all. Model railroading for me is very much about the journey instead of the destination.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weathered some Hoppers

I had to watch an hour-long video for one of my classes today. It was material I'd already been over, so naturally my eyes glazed over after about 10 minutes. However, I did have a quartet of Atlas 55-Ton hoppers, three fish bellies and an offset side to be exact, that needed new coal loads. So don;t tell my professor this, but I was weathering these bad boys while the video played.

Anyway, after removing the trucks and couplers, I started things off with a coat of weather wash (a few drops of India Ink added to a bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol). Once that dried, I applied the first round of Dulcote. For my next trick I took some black, white brown and gray chalks and mixed them together to create the perfect grime and soot mixture. I brushed it on liberally before sealing it with a final coat of Dulcote.

With these hoppers, weathering is only half the job. See, I've never liked the look of the plastic coal loads that come with them. They don;t look like coal; they look like molded plastic. However, there's an easy fix, which I'll explain here:

  1. Use an Exacto knife to gently pry each load from the hopper.
  2. Take the coal load and brush on a coat of Matte Medium. This can be obtained Michael's or Hobby Lobby.
  3. Place the loads on a sheet of office paper then take some Creatology black and (also available at Michael's) and dump it over the load.
  4. Pick up the load and turn it upside down so whatever didn't stick falls off.
  5. Put the load back in the car and you're done. Dump whatever sand didn't stick back into the jar for later use.
It honestly took me longer to type up those steps then it did to actually execute them. This also works very well for steam locomotive tenders.

Here's a video I made to demonstrate my coal load making:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tinkering with my Minitrix B6

Tonight I tackeled a project I've been bound and determined to get done for a while now, upgrading the headlight in my Minitrix B6 0-6-0 to an LED. I absolutely abhor projects that involve soldering tiny wires at awkward angles. At any rate, on to the blow-by-blow.

Installing an LED can be a somewhat cumbersome procedure. Complicating matter further is pickup from one side comes in from a set of wheel back wipers and is fed to the motor through the red wire seen at the top of the engine in the above photo. Power from the other rail however is routed through the frame itself. This makes tapping the power difficult. 

One solution is to solder one wire from the LED to the frame. I however, took a somewhat more complicated solution. See, like it's bigger brother, the K4 Pacific, the B6 suffers from poor power pickup. Only four of the six drivers pick up current. I added a set of Bachmann tender trucks and hardwired them to the motor. I tapped these connections to power the headlight. 

With the wires in place, I Removed the original headlight tower to make room for the LED and 1000 ohm resistor. Then I used alligator clips to mock up the circuit before soldering. With the engine running forward, I connected the the LED and resistor to the leads to determine the correct polarity. If you hook up the LED and it doesn't light up, reverse the alligator clips. When it does light up, use a sharpie to mark one side of the LED so you remember how to connect it. 

I soldered the LED and Resistor as close together as I could because space in the boiler shell is limited. Once I got everything soldered in and positioned, I put the engine on the test track. It lit up nice and bright but light spewed out from around the smoke box. To stop the light leakage, I glued a small piece of styrene to the bottom of the boiler shell.

While I was at it, I also touched up some of the paint and redecaled the engine.

Spartanburg HobbyCon

The Spartanburg County Library will be holding HobbyCon at the main branch on Saturday Spetember, 20.  The Carolina Railroad Heritage Alliance will have a large model train display. Among the layouts on display will be my N Scale "John Galt Line" portable layout.

The John Galt Line on display for National Take a Model Train to Work Day. The layout has since been summer-ized.
Unfortunatly, or may fortunatly, Iwil not be able to atend HobbyCon due to prior comitments. Here's a link to the library's site: (link)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The BLI M1a is Almost Here

Broadway Limited Imports released pictures of the first engineering models of its long-awaited M1a 4-8-2. It looks like a real beauty. I imagine once mine arrives, most of my diesel fleet will be gathering dust. It sounds like BLI is still taking preorders for these things so if you're interested, head to your retailer of choice and make that reservation. And yes, I know this was a totally shameless plug for BLI.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Steam Team Gets a New Player

This locomotive was originally lettered for my freelanced Cherokee Foothills railroad. It hasn't seen service since the old CFRR became a fallen flag, which is a shame since she's a good runner. Despite the lack of a Belpaire firebox, the engine's high-mounted headlight and styling lines give it that brutish Pennsy look.

I started by removing the old CFRR decals. With that done, I brushed the tender sides, cab walls, boiler and pilot Floquil "Brunswick Green." I painted the cab roof and back tender deck Poly Scale "Tuscan." When that all dried, I slapped on some leftover Pennsylvania decals and called it done.

There you have it, a nice one-evening project. My apologies to the rivet counters everywhere.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Making Progress on the Mountains

Over the past two nights I've gotten a rather large swath of mountains constructed. The mountains inside the tracks are nearly complete from Altoona to the eastern port of the Gallitzin Tunnels.

Unfortunately, I hit a slight bump in the road last night. In an effort to save a few bucks, I bought a few rolls of cheap paper towels from the dollar store. Much to my chagrin, they'd disintegrate the second I lifted them out of the plaster mixture.

As you can see from the photo, I also mocked up the eastern portal of the Gallitzin Tunnel. I'll do the same for New Portage tomorrow.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My K4 is Back and It's Better Than Ever

 As some of you may remember, back in May I sent my Minitrix K4 off to noted locomotive tuner Max Magliaro to be re-powered. I got back today. Unfortunately, due to some difficulty in obtaining parts, the project took a bit longer than both of us anticipated. However, the project was a complete success and couldn't be happier with it. It was totally worth the wait.

The re-powered locomotive sporting a Faulhaber 1319 coreless motor and a new 4:1 gear set.
As I've mentioned previously, out of the box these locomotives suffer a myriad of ailments.. The stock motor and gear set simply doesn't allow any kind of decent slow-speed performance. Max replaced the stock motor with a Faulhaber 1319 coreless motor and the stock gears with a new gear set with a 4:1 ratio. Max was able to creep the loco around a small test loop at about 5 scale miles per hour. I was able to get similar performance out of it on my layout.

In addition to the re-powering job, Max also fixed a rather nasty bind in the drivers, blackened the wheels and running gear and installed a new bright-white LED headlight. He also rewired the tender pickup and added weight to the tender to improve its power pickup efficacy.

"How does she run?" you ask. Well, performance is, in a word, breathtaking. Slow speed creep is awesome. At it's minimum speed, this loco would take over an hour to circumnavigate the layout. The top-end speed is quite reasonable at around 80 SMPH. The locomotive runs very smoothly with absolutly no jerkiness or hesitation.

So that's about it for this project. Back to building mountains.