SG-11 heads up the grade towards the Laurel Ridge Prep Plant at Summit Springs, VA

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wheels of Time Lumber Load

Last week, I stumbled across a post on Model Railroad Hobbyist's Facebook page about an offer of a sprue of Wheels of Time's lumber load. Simply sending an e-mail request to Wheels of Time would get you one sprue of their new lumber load, and the best part was that it was free! So I sent an e-mail early in the week (maybe Monday?) and on Thursday the sprue arrived in the mail. Not only was the product free, but the service was quick, too. (Sorry- the offer has now expired)

Below is a picture of the sprue along with the small lumber load already put together.

The sprue contains one each of 8', 10' 12' and 14' loads along with vertical stickers to separate the loads. The photo below shows a close-up of the assembled load 8' load.

There is minimal flash on the pieces and they snap together and fit perfectly. There are complete directions along with detail on prototype loads (and photos) on the Wheels of Time website. Here's a link: I plan to paint the loads a lighter color to more closely resemble new lumber and then add the straps per the instructions.

This is a really nice product, very cleverly designed and well thought out. And what a  great way to get people to sample the product! Kudos to Wheels of Time for the neat lumber loads and the innovative advertising campaign. And yes, I have already ordered some for the flat cars on the railroad that have been running around empty for what seems like forever.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


SD9 1774 has finally been retired. A recent change in motive power assignments at North Pierce has enabled the railroad to put this old work horse out to pasture. The unit is shown below after its last run on BC-11, also known as the Big Chimney Roustabout. 

This engine was purchased in sometime in the late 1970's. I spent a considerable amount of time scraping off cast-on details and replacing them with finer parts. New handrails were crafted from .012 brass wire. It was the second diesel painted for the railroad and the second one to be painted in the original "Central Belt" scheme. For more on the CWE locomotive paint schemes, see the July 2016 issue of RMC. At some point along the way, probably in the mid-1990's, I finally got around to re-numbering the unit. The original Railroad Roman numbers were painted over and it was renumbered into the 1700 series.

It wasn't until operations began on the railroad in 2012 that I considered adding a decoder. This engine was paired with another SD9 and was intended for use on the Big Chimney Roustabout, which works out of North Pierce. There aren't any significant grades on this run so one powered unit is all that is really necessary. This old workhorse still had the original Athearn motor in it. Rather than rebuild the chassis, I elected to turn this engine into a sound-only dummy. I removed the motor, replaced the jewel headlight lenses with clear ones, and added a Tsunami and a speaker. The unit performed well in this capacity, although the deep flanges on the original Athearn wheels liked to talk a lot over the hand-laid turnouts.

So 1774 is off to the drawer where a handful of other equipment patiently awaits the display case that will be built some day.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Well that worked!

During the last operating session, one of the old Hankscraft turnout motors finally failed. I purchased these back in the late 1980's and early '90's and they have performed extremely well. However, some of them are getting a little long in the teeth and I expect I'll be replacing more in the near future. Fortunately, the shaft was loose in the motor so the points could be moved by hand. The crews just needed to hit the pushbutton route on the panel to be sure that the power routing to the frog was correct. I cut the power to the motor to keep it from turning and everything worked fine for the rest of the session.

The switch machine in question was on the east end of the passing siding on the Sand Fork Branch. The branch runs the length of one wall and is directly above the old west end staging yard. For more on demise of the old west end staging yard, see this free video on TrainMasters TV: Fortunately, I built some removable foam panels so that I could replace the switch machines if necessary. I removed the trees, which are just wedged in place, and viola- out came the panel. The photo below shows how everything looked at this point.

Removing the old motor was easy- replacing the new one, not so much. The only way to access it is through the opening above. The photo below shows how everything looks from underneath the railroad.

The challenge was in holding the new motor in place and lining up the first screw in one of the old holes, all without being able to see anything. I fiddled with this to the point of total frustration when the solution occurred to me- double sided tape. I applied a small piece of tape to the top of the motor and then pressed it into place. I could then adjust it from below to line up the screw holes. Within about three minutes of applying the tape, the motor was mounted and working. 

Unlike the infamous abandoned west staging yard, the idea of adding these removable panels was a good one. And thankfully, it worked just as intended.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Making Progress

More progress has been made on the two company houses at Logan. The roofs and porches are complete, the foundations have been added and the structures have been weathered. The shot below shows them placed in position.

Steps and railings will be added once the ground cover is in place. Some additional details will be added to the porches as well.

The shot below shows how the houses will be positions relative to the company store. I struggled with what to add to the space on the right side of the green house until I reviewed the prototype photos again. So now there will be a short gravel drive where the pickup is parked.

And progress has been made on the new engine terminal panel at Hollister Yard. The wiring is about two thirds complete and should be finished in the next week or so. Compare the photo below to the one posted here:

Slowly but surely...

Friday, April 28, 2017

V&O Historical Society on Facebook

For those of you who are on Facebook, there is now a V&O Historical Society group. Donald Dunn, who is the creator of the Kentucky, Virginian & Ohio free-lanced railroad, created the page after a visit to the current version of the V&O on Gerry's Albers incredible Deepwater District of the Virginian.

If you are on FB, check out the group. There are some great shots of all three versions of the V&O along with numerous photos of locos and rolling stock. Given the depth and breadth of Allen McClelland's modeling efforts over the years, I'm sure this page will grow quickly with a lot of wonderful memories.

And thanks, Donald, for setting up the group.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Inspiration- Part 2

As mentioned in a previous post, I hit a wall with the porch railing on one of the two company houses that I'm building and they both went back into the box. See this post for the details: A week or so later, I walked back into the railroad room and looked at the porch railings on several company houses that I had previously built- see the photo below.

There was the inspiration! A quick check of Tony Koester's book on modeling coal railroads confirmed that the same type of railing was used on a house similar to the white one I'm modeling. And the photo contained the detail I needed for my railing.

Armed with a new plan, I headed back to the workshop. The railing for the green house appears to made out of 2' x 4's in between 4' x 4' posts for the porch railing. I began by cutting the 4' x 4' posts to size. Next, I cut the vertical pieces of 2' x 4' using a scale rule and attached two of them to the 4' x 4' posts, making sure to leave enough room at the bottom for the 2' x 4' piece that would span the 4' x 4' posts. So far, so good. Then I glued the vertical 2' x 4's to the bottom 2' x '4 at intervals between the posts. It quickly became evident that, despite my careful measuring, the vertical 2' x 4's were slightly different lengths. Placing the top piece of railing over them really showed how off they were. Sigh. The whole mess went into the garbage can.

It took me a couple of days to come up with a new plan. I have always been a big fan of jigs when scratch-building structures, and it seemed a jig of some sort might be the answer for my problems with these railings. But the real key was figuring out how to get multiple pieces cut to the exact length. While I have several different versions of  Northwest Shortline's Chopper, these small pieces of styrene are just too fine for that tool. So I cut a number of pieces of 2' x 4' slightly longer than the required measurement, placed them next to one another on a piece of glass, and then butted them up to a straight edge. Using a scale rule to determine the correct length, I cut them all at once. Bingo! A bunch of vertical 2' x 4's that were all exactly the same length- see the photo below.

Next, I taped a straight edge to the piece of glass that I was working with in order to hold the railing pieces in place while I assembled them. The photo below shows how I added the horizontal pieces to the side railings for the white house. With the front portion next to the side section, I could make sure that the two ends would match up on the 4 x 4 post.

The photo below shows the completed porches ready for painting. Once the base colors have been applied, I'll come back and weather them before attaching them to the structures.

Now it's on to the roofs.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Panel Progress

Since the last op session in early March, two more panels have been replaced. The panel at Nelsonville took a little longer than some of the others as it has two repeater signals on it. The photo below shows the new setup.

The two repeaters are for the signals facing away from the camera in the photo below. The front of these signals cannot be seen by an operator in the aisle.

The second panel to be replaced is the one at East Yard. It's shown in the photo below.

The engine terminal tracks have now been separated into four power blocks. On the old terminal, there were just two blocks- one for both tracks on the left and one for both tracks on the right. I also took this opportunity to clean up some of the wiring behind the scenes.

To date, ten of the old panels have been replaced with the new, route selection pushbutton controls. There are only three more left- but one will be a major project. The photo below shows the main panel for Hollister Yard in North Pierce.

Hooking up the RCS cards won't be that much of a challenge, but providing power routing for all of the turnouts will take some time. Changing this panel will also allow me to cut down on the size. The new panel will actually be two 8" x 12" panels and will look like this.

The smaller panels will allow me to cut the shelf back to the same width as on either side of the main panel. This will create a little more room in the aisle here. The crews have also suggested that moving the panels to the ends of the shelf and placing the car card boxes between may make it a little easier when working the yard.

But next up will be the panel at the engine terminal in North Pierce. The photo below shows the current panel. The controller for the turntable was an add-on- and it certainly looks it.

The new design will simplify the overall appearance and cut down on the size. I should be able to move the engine card boxes from the front of the fascia to the shelf with the panel. The diagram below shows a draft of the new panel. It will include four separate power districts like the current panel, and like the new one at East Yard.

The three red buttons at the bottom right will be used for the turntable controller. A rotary switch will be located in the center of the turntable and will be used for roundhouse track selection. I'm using the PTC III controller made by New York Railway Supply.

Along with replacing these panels, there are a handful of signals left to build. Once all of this is complete, it will time to start on the CTC board. And as I've said before, that's been the goal all along.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tackling a Tichy

The January/February 2017 issue of the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Magazine has an article by Karen Parker titled "150 Gondolas Were Also Pulpwood & Tie Cars." It describes how the C&O converted a number of 50-ton low-side gondolas into pulpwood bulkhead flats. This article provided inspiration for several new projects.

I have one of the old Athearn Blue Box gons lettered for the EL that I weathering and detailed about one hundred years ago. The car was actually one of the first weathering projects I ever tackled. I've held onto all these years thinking it would eventually be put in service on the railroad. Of course, I found out a long time ago that there is no prototype for the car. Still, I though I might find some use for it. And I had actually been looking at it just prior to the arrival of the C&OHS magazine.

Then I found a shot of one of the converted C&O gons and the inspiration hit- I could take that old Athearn gon and convert it into a pulpwood flat for the home road. Cutting down the sides would be fairly simple as would scratch-building some new ends. While looking for photos of pulpwood flats on the internet, I came across some shots of Tichy's pulpwood car. There were also photos of the ends of the car that are offered separately. That settled it- I was going to use the Tichy ends on the Athearn car. While shopping for the ends, I also took a good, long look at their pulpwood flat. It's one of those cars that I have always thought looked great, and I planned to build one some day. So as long as was ordering the ends, I decided to pick up a couple of the flat cars.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the kit is the number of parts. Yikes! I've assembled some the the smaller Tichy parts/kits in the past, but never one of their freight cars. As you can see in the photo below, there's a bit to it.

It's going to take a little longer to assemble the two cars than I had originally anticipated. But they do look to be neat kits. Finding a place to add weight might be a challenge. These cars may end up permanently loaded in order to add enough weight to get them to perform OK on the railroad.

Another concern are the grab irons. The photo below shows how everything came out of the box. Note that the sprue is missing a number of the individual grab irons and they appear to have broken off. 

I'm hopeful that each sprue contains a number of extra pieces and that I'll have enough good ones to complete the kit. While I'm certain that Tichy will provide replacements, it would be a hassle to have to go through that process.

So now I have two Tichy kits to build and two bulkhead end kits to build. Yep- I picked up another one of the old Athearn cars at Tim's Trains and Hobbies in Covington, KY. We'll see how all of these turn out.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Inspiration- Part 1

This past December I started work on the two company houses that will be located at Logan, WV. For a long time, I had debated just what type of structures would look best in this area. Would it be a couple of company houses and a mobile home? Just one company house and a mobile home? Or just a mobile home? I finally arrived at the decision to include the two homes in the photos below.

The more I studied these photos, the more I realized that there were some really neat features of each that would be cool to model. For instance, note the air conditioner in the window of the first house. In the picture of the second house, note the boarded up window above the porch roof and the porch railing that has been made out of 2x4's. It's likely that original railing either rotted out or was broken up at some point and was replaced with a simple design that was easy to install. The first house has gutters and downspouts which are absent from the second one. And note that both structures have siding on the foundations that is intended to represent concrete blocks.

Using the dimensions of Grandt Line windows, I drew up a simple scale plan for the house. Using thin cardboard, I cut out a mock-up to see how it would fit into the area. All seemed good at this point, so I cut out the sides and ends using Evergreen clapboard siding. The windows and doors were installed on the first house as they would be painted the same color as the siding. On the second house, I painted the doors and windows a weathered black color. I also painted a number of pieces of 1x6 to use for the trim.

At this point, the houses appeared as they look in the photo below.

The green color that I used was initially too dark, so I repainted the house with a lighter shade. And even that was too dark, so I lightened everything up with a very diluted coat of Vallejo Aged White. Now it was time to see how they would fit into the scene. As it turned out, there really wasn't enough room in front of the houses to include the porch, a small yard, and the road between the yard and the track. Sigh. I had to come up with another plan. Should I just skip the road and have a path back to each house? Even then, the houses really didn't sit the way I wanted them to in the scene. The foundations would have to be too high due to the contour of the hardshell. Well, this was enough to sap the inspiration altogether. The houses went into a box for later.

Fast forward to an op session in early February. I had placed the houses on the layout as a way to show some progress in the area. While looking at them with Ed Swain, I told him about the issue with the lack of depth. I mentioned that I would have to cut out the hardshell and redo the contour of the scenery in order to get the space I wanted and that seemed like a bit much to do for this scene. He gently prodded me by saying that it wouldn't be that big of a project and that he had done it in several areas on his beautiful Pennsylvania layout. Well, that was just the inspiration I needed to get back at this project. By the end of the next day, I had already cut out the hardshell- see below.

Now I would have the room necessary for everything I wanted to include in the scene. The next step was to start construction on the porches. These would have to be build and painted prior to being mounted to the houses. I originally intended to build the diamond lattice seen on the porch on the white house. It appears to be made of pressure treated lumber similar to what you'd find today at a big box home improvement store. I remembered an article on building a four room C&O style cottage that Bob Hundman had written in Mainline Modeler many years ago. In the article, he described how he made the lattice out of 2x2 strips. I went so far as to buy some more Evergreen scale 2x2's and lay out how the jig would be built before I realized just how much work this would be. Sigh. Now I needed to come up with another railing design for this house. Both houses went back into the box. 

Sometimes it takes a lot of inspiration- at different points in time- in order to get a project completed.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Flea Market Score

Yesterday, Division 7 of the NMRA held its annual Spring Flea Market and Trade Show. It's always well attended and offers a great opportunity to pick up some slightly used equipment. John Miller was there selling some of his excess stuff and I was able to get an Atlas U36C in K&LE paint. The photos below shows the new loco on the home rails.

This unit will be used on grain train run-throughs once a new decoder has been installed. It will be great to have some K&LE power on the railroad.

John also had a U30C for sale at a great price and I just couldn't resist the temptation to add another one to the loco roster. A quick trip through the paint shop and the addition of a new decoder and this loco will be ready for service.

All in all, a successful trip to the flea market!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Horse Car Rides Again!

The infamous K&LE horse car is on the road again. It was last spotted on the Denver Pacific several months ago. This past Saturday, though, it showed up on the Virginian's Deepwater District. In the photo below, the car is rolling across the Deepwater Bridge over the Kanawha River at the tail end of VGN No.73.

After crossing the bridge, No. 73 rolled into Alloy Yard on the Virginian & Ohio. The car is seen below passing DB Tower as the train moves onto the V&O.

While the rascals weren't anywhere to be seen around No. 73, it's a sure bet that they had something to do with this car being on the train. And in case you're wondering who the rascals are, see this post on the blog:

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Gift from the Suffolk Northern Railway

The CWE recently received a gift from the Suffolk Northern Railway. The SNR is the creation of Keith VandeStadt and you can see a post on the railroad here: Keith models the mid-1950's but thought it might be neat to create a more modern paint scheme. So he played around with a number of different shapes and heralds and eventually arrived at the scheme in the photo below.

Keith painted and lettered the car and gave it to me a month or so ago. After the addition of a few details, the car was weathered to reflect how it would appear in 1976. These cars were acquired by the SNR in 1968 so they have gathered a bit of road grime over the ensuing years.

In the photo below, SNR 29307 is in Hollister Yard at North Pierce on a cut of cars bound for Bog Chimney. It will head out during the next operating session on the Big Chimney Roustabout.

It's a great looking car, and it's neat to have some rolling stock from the SNR on the railroad. Thanks again, Keith, for the gift.