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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

A different finish for concrete

As mentioned in the last post on January 26th, I did something a little different to finish the bridge abutments for the Palisade Ranch area.  I have never been really happy with the look of my concrete surfaces and have been experimenting with different colors and techniques.  I ordered just about every shade of light gray Model Master acrylic that I did not already have and settled on # 4762 Light Ghost Gray (F) as a base color.   The tunnel portals were also repainted in this color and one of them is shown below.

I saw in a Youtube video someone using a technique of splattering tiny drops of white and black paint onto a surface to give the appearance of the aggregate that can show up in a concrete surface.  So I gave it a tray.  It took some practice and some time but I found the results to be satisfying.  Besides white and black I also added some darker shades of gray and some brown.   One of the finished bridge abutments is shown in the photo below.

After some weathering with acrylic washes the same bridge abutment looks like this and I am ready to install it on the layout.  Once it is locked into the right position I cover it with painters tape to protect it while I am adding scenery materials around it.

And here is that same bridge abutment after being installed and scenery material worked around it. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Palisade Ranch is shaping up

It's been a few posts since I have directly mentioned any progress on the current layout expansion and a lot has been done since then so I thought it was time for an update.    Almost all of the land forms along about 4-1/2 linear feet of the layout under construction have been completed.  The building of the mountain side that the tunnels go into will be done after the track has been installed and tested.

Bridge abutments have been made and installed for the two bridges near the Palisade Tunnels.   I did something a little different in finishing these bridge abutments and the details of that will be in a future post. 

Much of the scenery along the back edge of the area is almost done and the concrete trestle has been installed.   The front edge will have to wait until I can get some more tempered hard board for the fascia. 

The track assemblies for both those bridges have been finished.  The bridge in the photo below will have Micro Engineering bridge track with guard rails.  The other bridge will use Central Valley bridge ties put into a section of Micro Engineering track.

Monday, January 18, 2021

A layout video of sorts

Having always enjoyed seeing layout videos I wanted to create some for my own layout.  What has kept me from doing this was that I could not find a video editor that was easy enough for me to use.  Over the past several years I had tried several both purchased and free and I found them all rather hard to learn and tedious to use. 

As a sort of new years resolution I was determined to try again to find something I could use.  After looking at a few more editor programs I found something called Shotcut.  It was a free download but what made it work for me were the many tutorial videos on youtube that are presented by many different people.  After finding some presenters that spoke in an understandable way and did not go too fast, I was able to go back and forth between the program the video tutorials until I caught on.

Not having any good videos of the layout right now I put together as a first project a short slide show of still photos including captions and some background music.  This allowed me to practice working with most of the same functions that would be in an actual video.  When this current layout expansion is done and the main line is opened I plan to get some videos.  So here's the link to the video slideshow:


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Electrical considerations for a lift bridge

When adding a removable section of tracks to span a gap in the layout such as the entry door to the layout room some thought has to be given to a few problems. 

How will any needed wiring pass through the bridge ?

My train room was built in the back half of a garage that is about 70 years old.  The concrete floor was in poor enough condition that I elected to build a raised floor which ended up being about 9 inches above the concrete garage floor.   Anticipating that layout wiring may need to span across the doorway I included a 1 inch diameter electrical conduit that connects each side of the doorway.  This conduit travels down the wall on each side and under the ramp that leads from the garage floor at the door up to the raised floor if the layout room

A pull line had been left in this conduit when it was installed so it was easy to pull in an 8 conductor, 18 gauge cable at this point in the layouts development.  Each end of the cable was terminated on a terminal strip.  A new pull line was also pulled in at the same time so future cables can be installed the same way.


How are the tracks on the bridge itself connected to track power ?

In this case there are 2 tracks that go across this bridge with each being connected to a different DCC Specialties PSX-1 DCC circuit breaker.  While there are special door hinges used for electrical door locks that could be used, these are quite expensive so I am just using 4 flexible wires.  These wires are 18 gauge but are made up of many smaller strands and that is what makes them more flexible.  The ends are connected to terminal strips so can easily be replaced if movement eventually causes any of them to break.  

What prevents a train from approaching the bridge when the bridge is open ?

At the end of the bridge that does not have the hinge,  there is a magnetic switch within the frame that the bridge fits into and it's activating magnet that is within the end of the bridge itself.  The bridge has to be fully closed for the switch to activate.   

The magnetic switch controls this group of 5 single pole relays.  4 of the relays control track power, 1 for each rail of 2 tracks.  When the track is installed, it will have an additional isolated gap a few feet from either side of the bridge.   This will stop a train from approaching the bridge when the gate is up.  The 5th relay will be to control a warning light outside the door indicating that the gate is lowered.


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Adding wifi throttles to the layout

I had been considering adding another utility throttle when the Digitrax LNWI caught my eye.  The LNWI is a Wifi module that connects to the Loconet and will allow a smart phone with a throttle app to be used as a throttle.   These cost about the same as a wired UT4 throttle and will support several smart phone throttles.

There was nothing to installing this new module, I just plugged in the power and connected it to the existing Loconet and it was ready to go.  There are several free throttle apps available and the one I am using is called WiThrottleLite.  It worked the first time I tried it, no problems.  I found the WiThrottleLite app very easy to use and it also has a flashlight function built in which may be handy when uncoupling those cars in the shadows.