Friday, July 23, 2021

Expanding the signaling

Over the summer I have been adding several new searchlight signals to the layout.  Track gaps were cut on the Western Pacific line near the Humboldt River rapids and on the Southern Pacific line between the skewed bridge and the viaduct.  Four more single target searchlight signals were built to provide coverage in both directions on both lines.  I have now made 6 of the single target signals and they go fairly quickly now.

 On the Western Pacific line at the Humboldt River rapids

And on the Southern Pacific line

These additional blocks required a new pair of NCE BD20 sensors along with some low current relays to control the signals.  This is located under the staging yard near the PSX circuit breakers for these blocks.






















With these additional signals both main lines are covered from Winnemucca to the Palisade tunnels.  I still need to work on the intermediate signals around Battle Mountain and Weso that will indicate turnout positions.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Techinque for painting lococomotive handrails.

Most railroad have had a practice of painting the handrails of their locomotives and cabooses in a contrasting color as a safety measure.   Sometimes this practice is extended to the edges of the steps.  SP and UP used white Many of the older Kato and Kato made Atlas locomotives I have on the layout did not come with painted handrails. 

On these models the handrails and walkways are a separate assembly that is made of a durable and smooth plastic a little different than the other components.  It is easier to paint the handrails with this assembly removed.

On some of these models it is not uncommon to find a bit of flash on the handrails.  Referring to the photo below, it is not very noticeable in the basic gray color so I placed a bit of white paper behind it.   Once the handrails are painted, the flash is more noticeable so it's best to remove it before painting.  These small flashes can be removed with a sharp Exacto blade.  After this I give the assembly a good washing with warm water and dish soap using an old toothbrush and then letting it dry before painting.   

That durable and smooth plastic of the handrails does not stick to paint very well.  Over the years I have tried several brands and types of paint and ended up having the best results from Testors Practa Racing Finish Enamel.  This is made for R/C car bodies which are made of a flexible plastic.   Even using this paint some of the paint would flake off the handrails over time with handling the models.


Recently I had read about some modelers using spray adhesion promoters to get better results when painting such plastics.  Not finding any product like this at my local hardware store, I ordered the product shown below from Amazon.  It is clear so masking of the handrail assembly was not necessary. 

After some practice I learned the trick to using this product is to spray the hand rails at one end then let it dry to the touch, about 3-4 minutes.  Then paint the hand rails with the top coat within 10 minutes.

I have now done 5 locomotives this way with some of those shown in the photo below.  This technique is getting me the best results yet.  Over time I may go back and redo some of the others with this new technique.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Making the lift gate more visible

The lift gate across the entry doorway to the train room is about chest height on me from inside the room and about neck height when entering the room because of the ramped entry.  One day my wife came looking for me in the train room and did not notice the lowered gate and hit her head on it.  Both she and the gate were OK but it became a priority to make the gate more visible.

The first step was to visit the local hardware store and purchase 2 packages of this reflective tape shown on the left.

The tape is 2 inches wide and 24 inches long.  This was just right to fit along the edge of the gate on both sides.

On the same trip to the hardware store I found some 1/2 inch aluminum channel.  I used this channel to mound bright red LED's on each side of the gate.  These LED's turn on whenever the gate is in the lowered position.   Part of the channel and how the connections are made under the gate are shown in the photo below.

So this is what the gate looks like now when entering the train room.   The multi pair cable seen on the right end of the gate is for the LED's

At around the same time the gate interlock circuit stopped working.  What had happened was that when the magnetic switch on the gate opened when the gate opened, the collapsing magnetic fields on the 5 automotive relays were sending a surge of voltage back to the switch contacts until they burnt out.  The common practice to have a diode across the relay coil to prevent this.  I normally do this on my PC board mounted relays but neglected to add it this time.  Surprised I got away with it as long as I had.  So the automotive relays got replaced with some relay modules that are designed to interface with the outputs of Arduino micro controllers and have isolation circuits on their inputs so should not have any more problems.  These were mounted on the same board under the Palisade Ranch area that the automotive relays had been.  Referring to the photo below the set of 4 on the right control the DCC connection to the tracks on the gate and it's approaches, one for each rail.  One relay in the set of 2 on the left are for the LED's on the gate.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

A new layout video

I recently added a new video of the layout to my YouTube channel.  This one is a tour of the Western Pacific or eastbound paired track following a manifest freight past several scenic locations.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

One more bridge

There are already 6 through truss bridges on the layout but I will be adding one more in the next expansion of the layout.  This one will represent the bridge that was on the Southern Pacific line on the east side of the Palisade tunnels which served the line for more than 100 years but was demolished by a derailment in 2008.

For this bridge I choose to use the brass kit from Micron Arts.  I have only done small brass kits up to the point and this by far will be the most complex one I tried.   I've had this kit stashed away for some time and honestly have been a little intimidated by it's complexity.


The most difficult part seemed to be the first step of the kit assembly.  I found that adding the webbing to the vertical uprights to be quite challenging.  After trying both soldering a gluing these and destroying some of the webbing parts I gave up and decided to leave the webbing out.  I cleaned up the solid parts of the vertical uprights and pressed on and then things went together more smoothly.

Taking my time in building this kit it still went surprising fast.  I was soldering most of the parts and did not have to wait for any glue to dry.  The finished assembly was quite strong and sat squarely on it bridge shoes.  In the photo below it is placed in about the location where it will eventually be installed.

Somewhere I read that brass models should be soaked / washed in vinegar before painting to slightly etch the surface so the paint will adhere better.  I let this soak for several hours and also used an old toothbrush to wash away any solder flux that might be left in the corners.  After the vinegar soak the model was rinsed and left to dry overnight.

Lately I have been trying out some paints from Mission Models and like them.  Using my airbrush I first applied two coats of their gray primer.  The coverage was fine but it took 2 coats to get all the different angles of all the parts.

After letting the primer dry overnight, I gave the model 2 coats of what Mission Models calls tire black which is a flat black.

Now being finished except for some weathering, this will be put away until construction starts on the next expansion.  I don't expect that to happen until winter at the soonest.  The kit came with a section of code 55 bridge track the same length as the bridge.  I won't use this as I like to use a longer section and replace the bridge ties on both ends with standard ties so the joints are well clear of the bridge ends.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Kit bashing a specific type flat car

Not all of the flat cars carrying military equipment are owned by the Department of Defense (DODX).  Trailer Train has a number of 89 ft flat cars that are classified as type F226 and lettered TTDX that are used in this type of service.  I wanted to model a couple of these types to add to my train.

Years ago there was a hobby shop near San Francisco Airport called Trackside Trains.   Even though it was over 20 miles away I visited frequently.  At that time it seemed like undecorated Micro-Trains flat cars were a great deal compared to the decorated ones so every time I visited the shop if he had one I would buy it.  So I ended up with a good number of these and had only finished a few.  I am now using a couple of these for this project.

The molded on detail was removed from the deck and .040 x .040 Evergreen styrene strip was glued along both sides along the edge.

Two flat cars bodies were modified this way then airbrushed with Accuflex Trailer Train yellow which is glossy enough that I could add decals without a gloss coat first.   All of the decals came from Microscale set 60-578 except for the "TTDX" which came from the Gothic letter.   It is surprising how may decals can be used on a flat car and this took quite a bit of time but is one of my favorite parts of the hobby.  Afterwards the car bodies were sealed with Dulcoat lacquer.

In the top photo of 253698 there does not appear to be wood decks but I have seen photos of others that did and I liked the look of it so I added wood decks by adding 3 strips of .156 x .040 styrene strip that had been raked with a razor saw and then painted roof brown.  The spaces be along the edges and between the deck boards represent the chaining channels.

So next I need to finish some more HUMVEES, trucks, or other wheeled vehicles to populate these new cars.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Securing equipment to a flat car

This is another installment in what will be a series of posts on my modeling of a military equipment train.  I was recently asked in a comment if I were going to chain these military vehicles to the car decks and what my technique was for doing that. 

The subject of this chain down is one of the Micro-Trains M1 Abrams tanks.  These kits come with some etched metal tie down chains but I found those to be too fiddly for me so I fell back on a method I used several years ago on another project and used the model chain from Clover House shown in the photo below.  I have used this same method on cast resin, 3D printed, and injection molded models.

I use a staple from a common desk stapler as a pin to hold the ends of the chains.  One end of the staple is cut short and bent at an angle then the end link of the chain is slipped over it as shown in the photo below.   Then the short end bent at an angle is pinched closed with a pair of needle nose pliers.  The long end is then cut off to a length of about 1/4 inch.

Using a pin vise with a .025 bit holes are drilled into the each side of the both of the body as shown in the photo below.  In the case of this model the body is hallow but if it is a solid body the hole should be at least 3/8 inch deep. 

The chain / staple assemblies are inserted into the body of the model and secured with a drop of CA (super glue).  Touch up the paint as necessary.

After all 4 of the chains are attached, the vehicle is attached to the flat car with a small amount of E6000 adhesive.  This adhesive will hold but can be removed if desired.  This M1 Abrams tank is actually slightly wider than the flat car so the E6000 is placed on the inner edge of the treads as shown in the photo below.

After the adhesive has set, the chains are pulled out across one another as shown in the photo below.  The chains are cut so that the last link is in line with one of the tie down tracks on the flat car deck.  A .025 hole is drilled at this spot and the other half of the staple is inserted through the chain link and into the hole.  This is then secured with a drop of CA.

After the CA has set the paint is touched up on the deck, the chains, and the pins as needed.  Here is the completed car on the layout.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Woodland Scenics barbed wire fence

The area around the Palisade tunnels is one of the more photographed spots on the prototype.  I suspect this is because a road called the Palisade Ranch Road goes right over the tunnel portals.  In some of the photos I have seen there is a barbed wire fence on wooden posts along the side of the road.  I have pointed out the path of the road and this fence in the photo below.

As I have included the road on this area of my layout I also wanted to include the fence. The other barbed wire fence that I have used on the layout at Weso has what appears to be steel poles and I can't find any more of that anyway so I decided I would try out the new Woodland Scenics barbed wire fence.

The kit includes one section of fence which is about 12 - 1/2 long, two small gate sections, and several extra posts with some having diagonal bracing.  My project needed about 18 inches of fence so I ended up buying two kits.   The poles are plastic and the wire is some sort of thread.

I basically followed the instructions included in the kit.  Starting from the back I planted the first post and secured it with CA (super glue).  After that dried I made a tool from an alligator clip and a paper clip that would hold the other end so I could make holes for the rest of the posts.  I set the 2 to 3 at a time.   There are no corners or gates so I did not use any of the extra poles.  Depending on the alignment of the posts, some of the threads are not uniformly tight but that's OK with an old fence.   I did break one bottom thread but was able to re-attach it to the post with a drop of CA.

I am happy with the result.  After studying this new photo it looks like I could add some rock outcroppings and more brush to my scene.  I have also been wanting to try out some static grass and this might be an area I could do that.  At first I thought this kit rather expensive but it's actually about the same as the other barbed wire fencing I was using and this one fits the prototype better.  I have some left over that I may install somewhere else on the layout in the future as there are plenty of places on the prototype that have this type of fence.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Video - Westbound SP TOFC Palisade to Weso

I recently put up a new layout video on YouTube.   This one follows a Southern Pacific TOFC train between the Palisade tunnels and the west end of the paired track at Weso, just east of Winnemucca.  The era for this video would be in the early 1990's.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Alternate vehicles for the Micro-Trains DODX flat cars

In the previous post I mentioned that I had purchased two sets of the Micro-Trains DODX heavy duty flat cars.  This is the second of what will be a series of posts related to my project to build up a military equipment train and vehicles to use as loads appropriate for my mid 1970's to late 1980's eras.   The US Army has a large maintenance depot near Susanville, California that has been there since 1942 and is rail served.  This depot is west of my modeled area on the WP/UP line.  It is reasonable to think that movements to and from the east would pass through my modeled area.

Again referring videos I have watched of these types of trains, it is noticed that there are other types of vehicles besides the ones offered in the Micro-Trains kits.   I discovered a great source for some of them at the on line hobby shop PnP Trains.  They offer a line of 3D printed N Scale military vehicle kits of great quality and reasonable prices when compared to other 3D printed vehicle kits I have purchased.

One of my favorites is this model of the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle or IFV.   Thousands of these were built and have been in service since 1981 so could fit into any of my three layout eras.

The HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck) family of vehicles has been around since the early 1980's so it also fits well into 2 of my 3 modeled eras.  This version, the M977 is the only version offered by PnP Trains. Hopefully they will do some other versions in the near future.  I would really like to get a couple of the M978 tanker version.

The M106 Mortar Carrier is based on the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier which has been in service from since the early 1960's so could also fit into any of my 3 eras. 

PnP trains also has a 3D printed HUMVEE that I did not get as I already have the Micro-Trains version but I did get this HUMVEE ambulance.  I still need to put the red crosses on it.

PnP Trains has several other military vehicles besides these.  Some are too modern for my era but others do fit in and I'll be ordering those to add to the fleet.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Kit bash of a Micro-Trains HUMVEE

Recently I purchased two of the Micro-Trains heavy duty DODX flat car sets.  Each set had 3 flat cars and a number of military vehicles.  Between the two sets I got a pair of M1 Abrams tanks, a pair of M270 rocket launchers, and 9 HUMVEEs.

The Micro-Trains HUMVEE is a nice model of the 4 door sloped back version but there are several versions of this vehicle as shown in the photo below which is a screen shot from a YouTube video.  I wanted a variety of HUMVEEs for my military equipment train so set out to modify a few of them.

Because the model is injection molded it is durable and will tolerate quite a bit of modification.  The basic parts are the body, the chassis, and a clear window insert.  This is how I made a 2 door pickup version similar to the one in the far right of the above photo.  On the body he upper part of everything behind the front doors was removed to create an open truck bed.  A solid panel was installed on the back of the shortened cab and the turret hatch on the roof was sanded smooth.  Benches and side boards were added along both sides of the bed.   On the chassis a raised platform was installed to fit inside the bed.  The clear plastic insert was cut to fit inside the smaller cab.

This is what the almost finished vehicle looks like after painting and weathering.  I did not add all of the details as I felt they were going to be too delicate for handling.  I did add the front screen, the snorkel, and the spare tire.  And I still do plan to add some mud flaps.

And here is another photo showing one that I assembled, painted, and weathered without any modification.  I am planning several more versions of the HUMVEE as I build up my military equipment train and some of those will be subjects of future posts.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Finishing the annual Trainboard layout party

Since the middle of December I have been involved with the annual layout party.  Last Sunday was the end of this years event.   This is a thread on the board that last for about 10 weeks during the winter where participants declare a particular project on their layouts and then post regular updates on the progress.  I have been participating in the event for the past several years and each time have expanded the layout.   This year I had just started the Palisade Ranch expansion when the party started with the intended goal to have the expansion mostly completed and the main line open for operation.  I was able to accomplish what I set out to do and perhaps a bit more.   This is what the Palisade Ranch area looked like when I started.

And this is what it looks like now. Still quite a bit of scenery to work on but the basic construction is done and trains are running. The lower photo shows where the tracks exit the tunnels on the other side of the hill and cross the doorway lift bridge.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A caboose train video just for fun

Lately I have been enjoying the YouTube channel called "N-Scale Union Pacific Evanston Subdivision" done by Roy Smith.  On a recent episode someone had challenged Roy to run a train with all cabooses but he has no cabooses as he models the modern era.

That got me to thinking about all the cabooses I have.  Some do run on my mid 1970's to 1996 era layout but many others have never been run on the layout.  So I thought it would be fun to get them all out and run them as a special train.   The train was pulled by an F3A/B pair and I made a video of it.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The main line has reopened once again

After installing the bridge and the track on the westbound / Southern Pacific line, the main line of the layout is again opened.  Test trains have been running with all the different type of cars and one of those is seen in this photo.  There is still work to do on the scenery but it is great to be able to run trains again.

On the other side of the lift bridge in an area that will someday become Carlin, a new return loop and stub end staging yard has been setup with Kato Unitrack.  The 4 stub end tracks are equal in length to the main staging yards below and the passing siding in Battle Mountain.   Using a double crossover at the throat of the yard allows a train to enter or leave any of the 4 tracks.  I am trying this arrangement out here because this would fit in what will someday be the permanent east end staging yard above Weso and I want to see how I like it.