Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Bachmann K4 Has Landed

I took delivery of my Bachmann K4 Pacific today. All I can say is wow, this locomotive is awesome. The paintwork is crisp, the detailing is incredible. It makes my Minitrix K4 look pretty crude by comparison.

My K4 Pacific fleet. The new Bachmann model (right) makes the old Minitrix (left) look completely dated.
If looks weren't enough, the model also comes with a factory-installed Soundtraxx decoder. Up until this point, I've been pretty underwhelmed by N Scale sound. I mean come on, what kind of sound are you going to get out of a dime-sized speaker? Well, I can tell you the sound on this loco is amazing. I could hear clearly anywhere in the train room and even down the stairs!

My only minor annoyances with this loco are the whistle, a very high-pitched European-sounding one. This "banshee" whistle may be accurate for PRR freight steamers, but passenger engines had a much deeper three-chime whistle. The another annoyance was the trailing truck was out of gauge and would consistently hop the rails on a few turnouts.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tree Trimming at the Curve

I finally took on a project I've been dreading for a while, redoing the trees at Horseshoe Curve. My first pass at the foreground trees was a product of my desire to finish the scene before my son was born. And the more I looked at it, the more I decided it just didn't look right to me. The trees were too tall and as such made the curve look too small. Also, some were the wrong color

The "Before" picture with oversize trees.
Unfortunately for me, pulling the trees wasn't that easy. It was no longer possible to climb up on the layout to get to them, necessitating going in through the access hatch. Not pleasant but survivable. I removed the trees, repainted some of them and trimmed them down to size and started replanting them.

The "After" photo. Much better.

I had another "ah ah moment" came when I was thumbing through noted railroad historian Don Ball Jr's excellent book Pennsylvania Railroad 1940s - 1950s. Back in the 50s, trees at the curve were much more sparse than they are today, owning no doubt to the constant procession of steam locomotives spewing cinders into the air. 

With that in mind, I'm keeping the trees clustered into a few distinct stands and kept further back from the tracks. Anyway, other than trees, all that's left for the curve is turfing a small area. Then I finally get to move on.