Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday Tip: Cheap Grimy Black Alternative?

I think I've discovered a reasonable - and very inexpensive - alternative to the old PollyS Grimy Black paint. . .

I first started using Apple Barrel paint for modeling back last summer (and even started airbrushing it this past Thanksgiving). But it wasn't until this past weekend that I tried to use it on an already-partially finished resin freight car kit . . .

Above is my typical acrylic painting setup, inspired by Model Railroad Hobbyist's Acrylic Painting Guide: palette, 3 cups of thinner/cleaner, and "working brush tray" (click here for more details).

Before starting to decal/letter my B&O P-11 flatcar, I decided I needed to paint the underside of the "wood" floor. I'd left it unpainted to give the glue better adhesion to the frame - and I was going to add fishing weights for weight and figured I'd just airbrush the whole underbody at once after that. But fishing weights aren't lead anymore and the tin substitutes are worthless as car weights. So, I decided to just go ahead and paint the white bits.

I didn't want to have to go through the hassle of airbrushing such a small job, so I got out my little brush and checked out my paints for a suitable color. As you can see above, Apple Barrel "Pavement" is just about dead-on for the grimy black I'd airbrushed before.

Though it did seem to be a much closer match when it first went on and was still wet. Once it dried, it dried ultra-flat and came out just a bit lighter than what was there before - though that may be how the light bounces off an eggshell vs. flat finish - actual artists will have to weigh in on whether the difference is due to the finish or actual color. Heh - and you can see that I wasn't at all careful in my brush painting.

No worries though, it's a freight car underbody after all. Even in the unlikely event that you see it, it's supposed to be messy.

But the main takeaway is the cheap Grimy Black paint alternative - at $.50-1.00 for a 2 ounce bottle, you can't beat it!

Friday, January 12, 2018

The 20% Difference - Goff Brook Trouble Solved!

20% humidity, that is.
Based on a suggestion over at the Model Railroad Hobbyist blog, I got a "Breathe Easy" humidifier from WalMart on my way home from work last night, set it up under Goff Brook, and left it on for 24 hours. And Did Nothing Else. That's all I did. Behold!


I guess increasing the humidity from 15% to 35% (or, rather, allowing the the air to get so dry in the first place) really does make a difference. Not that I doubted any of the feedback I got, but it's amazing how profound the difference is.
Now the only downside is that I won't know whether any expansion gaps I cut will have made any difference. Looking back on it, I might have been better off cutting the gaps first and seeing if the rail would shift back into place before doing anything with the humidity.
But based on Joe Fugate's  "Chester Principle" (belt and suspenders) as well as feedback from others, I'll probably go ahead and cut the gaps anyway. That should certainly prevent anything like this from happening in the future. And, having seen how the rest of the layout copes with "worst case/humidity scenario" now, I'm pretty confident it should all be ok.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Friday (Eve) Fun: Max's Book on the Radio!

Back this past March, I mentioned that my friend, and fellow Photo Librarian, Max Miller was doing a book on the Valley Line. Well, the book has been out for a few months now (click here to purchase) and Max has been making the rounds promoting the book.

Impressively, the latest evidence was on National Public Radio this morning. Yes, our very own Max Miller was featured on the "Where We Live" radio program talking about his book. Click here to give it a listen.

Congratulations Max!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Trouble at Goff Brook

Looks like the line is going to be out-of-service for a while in the vicinity of Goff Brook . . .

I'm a little surprised I'm still getting this sort of problem since the layout (and the associated benchwork, etc.) has been in place for many years/winters now. But here you have it - apparently, the wood benchwork/subroadbed has shrunk and caused the track to lift where it isn't secured. The humidity in the basement is typically around 50-65% during most of the year, but as of today it's just below 15%. I don't want to have to get a humidifier down there, but may not be able to avoid it. . .

For now though, I guess I'll get out the Dremel and cut-off disk and gap the rails in the area - but it's mostly curved track (heh, horizontally not just vertically, as above %^) and I don't want to risk introducing any lateral kinks. And, of course, any gapping will likely require additional feeders to be installed.

And it's not only Goff Brook. Just a little north, near Valley Coal, this turnout is lifting as well. Heh - not gluing down the turnouts seemed like a smart idea at the time. Now I think - not so much.

Until I figure out how best to fix these problems, the track will continue to be OOS. That'll likely undermine the possibility of having a January ops session, but on the other hand that's one of the benefits of having a fairly large layout, made up of multiple branches: I could just operate on the other lines with a smaller number of folks.

The prototype had to deal with similar problems, so I'm not going to stress out about it too much. If you have any great suggestions on getting the track back in service asap I'd love to hear them :^)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

More on the Atlas Alco S-2: Removing the shell & noticing glitches

In the last post, I introduced my new Atlas Alco S-2 which I plan on making into a New Haven RR DEY-5. Click here for some prototype info and photos. As I mentioned, the main problem I noticed right away was how the headlight bulb was positioned.

So tonight I opened it up to see how the headlight was mounted and whether it could be easily moved. To remove the shell, first gently pry the sides of the cab away from the frame. Then you should be able to lift it straight up. Be careful of the small gauge lighting wires that go to the rear light.

The cab holds down the rear end of the hood while the front of the hood is secured by a tab latching into the front of the frame. Once the cab is off, you can gently lift up the rear of the hood and gently pry the front of the hood off the frame.

The first thing I noticed relevant to the headlight is that the bulb is mounted on top of the speaker and the bulb is totally bare - no shielding or anything. Note also that the cab is gently placed off to the side, without stressing the delicate lighting wires.

Speaking of the cab, note that - unlike the headlight, the rear bulb is shielded by a styrene conduit of sorts. Also, the lighting wires are cleverly routed behind the center post between the front cab windows. This arrangement keeps the wires out of the cab and places the bulb directly behind the lens.

Back to the headlight - this comparison shot shows clearly where the bulb is in relation to the headlight casting. Placing it on top of the speaker puts it way too high.

Here's another view for comparison. There's really no easy way to move this bulb lower without changing the type or location of the speaker.

So I think what I may try and do is change out the bulb entirely, substituting a much smaller bulb, and maybe even trying to attach the bulb directly to the headlight lens, which is only a press fit and comes out easily (don't use anything metal to pop it out or risk scratching the lens).

While I was going through this process though, I discovered another couple of glitches which are a bit more troubling since they're not easily fixed. But maybe they won't be as noticeable once the engine is finished/painted/weathered....

For some reason I can't figure out, the engineer's side of the cab is flared out as you can see above. It's clearly bottoming out against something but it's not clear to me what. And I don't want to risk making things worse by removing material which can't be replaced.

For comparison, see the fireman's side. That overhang is prototypical - and on this side as least, there's no flaring.

Also annoying is the gap that's apparent between the front of the cab on the engineer's side and the hood. Ok - I admit it's hard to see in this shot, but it's there. You can see the little mounting recess where the edge of the cab front rests. And there's a gap between the bottom of the hood and the running board/frame too. No matter how hard I press, I can't get these parts to seat properly. The engineer's side of the cab is actually a bit loose, and can be easily moved back and forth.

On the other (fireman's) side, everything fits nice, snug, and secure: no gap between the cab and the hood, and no gap between the hood and frame.

So, be honest, am I being too OCD/nitpicky or is this worth sending the unit back in exchange for another?

Admittedly, a big part of my "problem" is that I'm extremely near-sighted, so when I'm looking at these things I set my glasses aside and can focus literally about 2" from my eyes. That's really great for doing extreme detail work on models, but admittedly a great source of frustration when I notice problems that other folks will likely never see . . .

I think I know the answer to my question, but am really curious to hear what others think - not only about the cab/hood issue but especially about how best to address the headlight issue.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday Fun: New DEY-5

(that's "Alco S-2" to you...)

Based on its early success with Alco's diesel switchers during the 1930s (the famed "High Hoods"), the New Haven Railroad rostered an impressive number of Alco's successor models - the S-1 & S-2. Deliveries started in 1941 and continued to 1949 for a total of 87 units.

These switchers had essentially the same primer mover as the HH660 (a 660hp McIntosh & Seymour Model 531), but while the engine was mounted above the frame on the High Hoods (which is why the hoods were "high"), on the S-1 the same engine (now designated Model 539) was mounted down in the frame to lower the hood and increase crew visibility. Other than some cosmetic differences (different exhaust stack, larger radiator louvers), the S-2 was essentially the same as the S-1 but had a turbocharged version of the 539 engine (designated 539T) that increased the horsepower from 660hp to 1000hp. In 1943, the railroad began taking delivery of Alco S-2s and the "DEY" classification started the following year, with delivery of the last of 22 S-2s (#0600-0621). S-1s (class DEY-3) would continue to be delivered until January 1949 for an impressive total of 65 units (#0931-0995).

The DEY-5 is interesting to me for two primary reasons: 1) during my era, this locomotive type was assigned to three of the four locals I model (below is a photo of #0630 on the Shoreline Local in Essex) . . .

. . . and the DEY-5 actually came in two different radiator louver configurations - vertical (as above) and horizontal (as below, click on the image to enlarge).

The first nine DEY-5s (#0600-0608) were delivered with the horizontal louvers. The photo above shows the Shoreline Local at East Haddam with DEY-5 #0604.

I already have a New Haven DEY-5 - #0615 produced by Atlas with era-appropriate paint scheme & vertical louvers (see photo above), but getting a DEY-5 with horizontal louvers to represent #0604 has proved difficult - until now . . .

For my recent birthday, I got enough money to cover the purchase from TTX of a fresh-from-the-factory (the container actually just arrived from overseas last month!) undecorated Atlas S-2 - with horizontal louvers!

Even though it's undec and requires all the details to be applied, it still looks pretty awesome. And it sounds just as great with a factory-installed Loksound decoder. Excuse the quick grab shot above - I'll post more about this model as I finish it - but I wanted to show the only "bad" thing about the model (which hopefully is easy to fix): the front headlight.

As you can't help but see, the bright LED is SO bright that it shines right through the body shell!

And the bulb appears to be aimed, not through the headlight, but at the top/front corner of the hood. Ugh!

Fortunately, the rear light is fine in all respects - heh - including retina-burning brightness - but at least it's bright through the headlight lens rather than above it.

So one of the first things I'll be doing to this engine is seeing if I can move that front bulb. And I'll probably have to paint some blackener on it as well to keep light from seeping through where it doesn't belong. If you have any experience with this, I hope you'll share in the comments!

Despite the bulb issue, I'm really excited to have a finely detailed DEY-5 (the older Atlas S-2 #0615 has molded-on details) and especially one that's correct for the first nine units delivered.

Now if somebody would just come up with a correct NHRR DEY-3/5 cab . . . but that's a whole 'nuther story . . .

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Christmas 2017

Before we leave 2017 totally in the rear-view mirror, I wanted to post the railroad-related stuff I did (and got! :^) during my Christmas vacation . . .

It kicked off with our Annual Photo Library Christmas Party - a time of reflecting, visiting, watching slides/videos, and desserts!
The vacation itself centered around a visit to Tennessee to see my parents & brother. We can only get down there every other Christmas, so it's especially special. This is my folks' house all set up for the day...

They also treated us to a trip to Dollywood - including two amazing shows/musicals!

It gets especially magical after dark, with everything - and I mean EVERYthing! - lit up and decorated for Christmas. It reminded me of the North Pole scene out of The Polar Express...

And - adding greatly to the magic - was an actual steam-powered train going around the entire town.

On the last day of our visit, my dad and I discovered one of the last remaining artifacts of the Cumberland Northern RR - a privately-owned coal & logging line that operated in the area from 1910-1922. It's amazing that these bridge abutments are still around, considering the entire area is covered with a huge retirement community now.

The old main line through the area was the Tennessee Central. It no longer goes through Crossville - having been cut out between Cookeville and Crab Orchard - but it's still active from Knoxville up to Crab Orchard, serving a huge quarry there. The train above is sitting on the former mainline at the quarry.

And now for the (railroad-related) presents! My folks got me this great UPRR calendar, featuring artwork by Howard Fogg. The main attraction though is that it starts out with my birth month - January 1969(!)

They also got me this cool railroad dining car service dish.

Which is significant since it's from the Illinois Central RR - the line my great - and great great - grandfathers worked on.

And for my research library, they gave me a copy of one of Ted's books. I'm still trying to fill out my collection, but this one fills an important gap.

The Missus gave me this cool portable photo studio from Micro-Mark. It'll definitely come in handy when taking "finish photos" of my projects. If you have one of these, I'd love to hear about your experience and how you get the best results out of it.

And her folks gave me these scenery books - I think the Missus must've suggested them, especially since she's been encouraging me to cover up some more of the plywood and foam on the layout....

She also sent me around the house on a scavenger hunt for all these components for my "dream house." Long-time readers will recall that I got a 1948 calendar last year and it had a painting titled "My Dream Cottage" on it. Well, all the items above will allow me to replicate that painting - Cape Cod house, hydrangeas, climbing roses, trellises and arbor, and of course a picket fence. While certainly appropriate for my era, I may have to stretch a little on the season (summer vs. autumn) - though this may be fun to do as a diorama...
So that's my Christmas in a nutshell - at least the RR-related stuff. We had a wonderful time visiting family and it looks like I have some fun projects ahead!