Thursday, June 1, 2023

Creating a pair of RailGon gondolas - Part 2

It took quite a bit of time to do the decals but then it's something I enjoy doing.  The larger decals had to be carefully manipulated around the pillars.  The decal set came with decals for 2 RailBox box cars but only one set for the RailGon so I used two decal sets.  The stock road number is 310266.  I moved the numbers around on the second set to make the second car's road number 301662.

The floors of the gondolas were brushed with rail brown and then dabbed with a small sponge brush to give it the texture seen here.  The inside walls were given the same treatment only lighter with some of the black showing through.

After a spray of Dullcoat, 310662 got some light weathering and 301266 got a little heavier weathering.

I had some nice low profile metal wheels that fit the Atlas trucks so kept those trucks and their couplers and sprayed the side frames of the trucks with rail brown and installed those metal wheels.  These roll really well and these two gondolas are now ready for service.  These 52 foot cars are just a bit longer then the cast resin loads I have for the Micro-Trains 50 ft gondolas .  So the next project will be to make some scrap metal loads for these. 

Monday, May 29, 2023

Creating a pair of Railgon gondolas - Part 1

As I have gone deeper into the operations of the layout, I have been trying to gather the correct cars for each of the industries.  One of the considerations is a railroad's preference to deliver one of their own empty cars to an industry for loading.  When looking through the 14 Micro-Trains gondolas in my collection, I found that I had only one Southern Pacific.  I then did purchase a recent release of a Cotton Belt model.  Golden West was a subsidiary of the SP and I was also able to purchase a Micro-Trains Golden West gondola on ebay.

And then I started looking at some lease / private owner gondolas.  I really liked the RailGon gondolas, and Micro-Trains has done a few of those but I have not been able to find any.  Athearn and Con-Cor have also done them but looking at the photos I was not happy with the quality of the paint work, specifically the blurry lines between the black and yellow along the bottom.

At a recent club open house I picked up a pair of Atlas models of the Thrall 2743 gondolas for $7.00 each.  These are not quite the exact model as the prototype photo.  The prototype has 14 panels and the model has 15.  However the models are the correct length and the pillars between the panels appear to be a good match so I decided to try to create may own RailGons.

This particular decal set is no longer offered by Microscale but I was able to find two sets on ebay.

The trucks were removed from the plastic body and metal chassis.  The chassis and body seemed securely attached and I did not attempt to separate them.   I soaked the body / chassis a paint stripper from the hobby shop, then washed in warm water scrubbing with an old tooth brush. 

When the paint removal was done I was surprised to find that one of the models was molded in black plastic and the other in gray plastic.

To have something for a clip to hold on to, I attached a scrap of plastic to the deck of the gondola with E6000 adhesive.  This can be pulled off later without damaging the model.  The gondola was then air brushed with Model Master gloss black.  After letting that dry overnight I masked that areas that would remain black and sprayed with Trailer Train yellow.  I had at first attempted to wrap the tape around each pillar to get a clean line but had trouble keeping the line straight so the tape was just applied to the surface of the pillars in a straight line. 

After just a bit of touch up with a small brush, this is what I ended up with.  I am satisfied with the result of the separation between the black and the yellow along the bottom which is what I had noticed was blurry on the Athearn and Concor models.

This is the end of part 1, I'll continue this project with decals and finishing in part 2.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Securing Micro-Trains HUMVEEs to flat cars

 In a post from a couple of years ago, I showed how I had modified a pair of undecorated Micro-Trains 89 ft flat cars to an F226 configuration with wood decks and hold down tracks in the decks.  A link to that post is HERE.  30 gauge magnet wire was used to create a way to connect the end of the chain to the vehicles.  It was looped through the end link of the chain and twisted.

A .022 drill bit in a pin vise was used to make a hole in the chassis section just inboard of the tires. 

This next view is looking from the top of the chassis section.  The twisted end of the magnet wire was inserted through each hole from the bottom with its length of chain.  The ends of the magnet wire sticking through the top the chassis were bent over and a drop of super glue was placed on each of these. 

After the super glue had set, the copper magnet wire loop that sticks out of the bottom of the chassis with the chain attached was painted with gloss black paint to blend in with the chassis.

A small amount of E6000 adhesive on the inside edge of each wheel was used to secure the vehicles to the flat car deck.   After the adhesive had set, the loose ends of the chains were inserted into the hold down tracks modeled as slots in the wood decking.   A drop of super glue was placed on the ends of the chains to secure it to the deck.  After the super glue had set, the deck was touched up with roof brown paint to get rid of the shiny spots of glue.

I mounted 4 Micro-Trains HUMVEE models on one of my F226 flat cars this way.  3 of these are modified models and 1 is stock.  In the near future I plan to load up the other F226 flat car this way.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Another new layout video - May 2023

Continuing to prepare for next month's N Scale convention in Reno, I am selecting and testing the trains I am going to bring to run on the Ntrak layout.   One of the trains I am taking is a 35-car ice reefer train pulled by my ABBA set of Micro-Train FT's.   This is outside the normal era of the Palisade Canyon home layout so this is the first time I have run it here.  I shot some videos of it passing through different parts of the layout and uploaded the video to YouTube, Enjoy!

Link to the video on YouTube

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Spring 2023 layout update

It's been a couple months since I've added anything here.  We spent 30 days in Japan during February and March.  After returning I was part of a 5-day long exhibit with the AsiaNrail layout, link HERE.  After that there was another short trip to visit friends about 100 miles north of here.  But here are a few things that have been going on with the layout recently.

When starting up the layout for the first time after returning from Japan, I discovered that the inputs to the Digitrax DS64 that controls the upper or WP staging yard were not working.  I tried re-setting the DS64 and then re-programming the routes.  The routes worked when activated from the throttle but not from the control panel using the wired inputs.

So I removed the DS64 and built a circuit that will at least run the turnout that creates the reversing loop.  This was built on a Radio Shack PC board and is similar to others I have built in the past.  Later I will build another circuit that will allow the control panel to select which of the sidings to use.  This is similar to what I did on the lower or SP yard.

Now I am working on some more Micro-Trains HUMVEE modifications and installing them on flat cars.  If these come out well I may enter something in the model contest at the N Scale convention in June.

Before leaving for Japan I got out the figures from the Woodland Scenics Hobo set and made this little scene under the Southern Pacific bridge just east of the Palisade tunnels.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

New decks for bulkhead flat cars

I recently installed some new, more realistic looking decks on my bulkhead flatcars.  I purchased these directly from Micro-Trains.  They appear to be printed images on thin, laser cut wood.  One package is enough to do 3 cars with each having separate pieces for the main deck and the bulkheads.

After taking them out of the package and separating the parts I found the main deck piece to be just a bit too long for the decks on my cars.

This was corrected by sanding down just a bit at each end of the deck. 

The edges to me looked a little too light when I test fitted the decks on the cars so I darkened the edges with a black sharpie pen.

Avery stick adhesive was used to attach the deck pieces to the car.

Here is a comparsion of one of the finished cars and another one yet to be done.  I am pleased with the results and since I don't currently have many loads that I would place on these cars having a more realistic deck makes a difference.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Winter 2022 layout construction update

We got our coldest weather a bit early this year with it getting into the 30's since Thanksgiving.  So I've been running the little heater and spending quite a bit of time in the train room and getting a lot done at the eastern end of the layout.

As mentioned in the previous post, the completion of the east end return loop means that the entire main line is now done.  This first photo shows the return loop with the pair of stub end staging tracks in the middle.  This area is directly above the Weso section of the layout and is at 68 inches from the floor.  This happens to be my height and I can easily reach this with a short step stool.  Trains that come into those stub end staging tracks will need to have there engines and caboose swapped by hand.

This next photo shows the entry into this area which is at the top of the helix.  The arrangement of the turnouts allows for a train to enter or leave the staging tracks from either helix track.  In practice they will mostly enter from the eastbound WP/UP line and depart from the westbound SP line.  I had a box of used Peco turnouts that had been given to me years ago and selected 4 that appeared to be in the best condition.  So far they are working well but all of these are just track nailed down so future repair or replacement is possible if any problems occur.

The short wall that is visible behind the Tortoise motors is to allow mounting of circuits and connections related to this area.  In this next photo some of this is visible including the Digitrax DS64 that controls the turnout motors.  Wiring is still in progress at this point.  The circuit board shown connected to the DS64 outputs is a test board I made up to assist with programming.  The Yellow LED's indicate a closed turnout position and the red ones indicate a thrown position. 

For now at least this group of turnouts will be controlled by this control panel which is currently mounted on a scrap of hard board which is attached to the helix.  Eventually the fascia will be extended from the left and this panel will be mounted to that.

Again this winter I am posting in the annual winter layout party thread.  There have not been any train shows again this year for me to exhibit my Ntrak modules or AsiaNrail modules.  Two events are scheduled next year in April and June but until then I'll just keep working on this layout.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Main line completed

With the completion of the upper east end return loop and it's pair of spur staging tracks, all of the track on this layout has now been completed.  It has taken just over 8 years to reach this milestone.  The photo below shows the location on the return loop where the last spike was installed.  This does not mean the layout is finished.  There are still structures to build for Carlin, scenery to finish and improve on in various places, and quite a few other features I want to add.  A layout is never really finished.


Saturday, December 3, 2022

East End Helix and Return Loop

Over the past couple of months I have been building the helix that will carry the eastern end of the layout up to a return loop above Weso.   This helix is stacked upon the almost identical lower helix and uses the same 5/16 all-thread rods.   Being identical, the details of it's construction can be seen in this series of posts from when the lower helix was built.   This new upper helix is now complete and has been connected to the return loop section of bench work that was already above Weso.  I ended up lowering that section about 1-3/4 inches to line up with the top turn of the helix.

There is not room on the return loop section for a double ended staging yard but I did want to have some sort of staging there so I came up with a couple of ideas as a compromise.  First, there is enough room to have stub end staging for the typical train length run on this layout.  Using 4 turnouts a train will be able to enter or leave either one of two staging tracks.  I am currently working on a control panel for this and the graphic below shows this.

The hex shaped object with the red center represents a push button to route a train around the loop.  The pair of hex shaped objects with gray centers below that represent momentary ON-OFF-ON toggle switches that will route a train into or out of each siding.  A dead section at the end of each siding will stop the train.   The locos will have to be manually moved to the other end of the train.  All of the green indicator LED's show the routes.

The second idea I am going to try is to have up to two trains using the loop as serial staging.  That is what the red LED's and the toggle switch on the far right are for.  This will be covered in detail in future posts.