CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

New York Museum of Transportation (Rush, NY)

One of my train projects that has been on the back burner for over 10 years was the construction of a 1/8 scale caboose to go behind my live steam train. Not really knowing what type of caboose I wanted at the time, I borrowed a book which featured cabooses and found one I liked: a DL&W caboose. It was a classic wooden design, had unusual milk train trucks, and seemed symmetrical and “just right.” I contacted some people in the DL&W historical society and found out some more information. I discovered that a local short line (the original Genesee & Wyoming) close to my hometown purchased one used and later donated it to a railroad museum where it is currently preserved. Happiliy, Model Railroader magazine had published plans for it in February 1952

Magnet from gift shop drawn by Jim Dierks.
As it turns out, none of the diagrams that I had showed the underside of the caboose. I am not a stickler for details such as having all the nuts and bolts and framing exactly in the right place (most people can't see the underside of a live steam freight car when it is on the track right-side up, which hopefully it will be!). But, I thought some rough representations of the brake gear and such might be appropriate and I didn't want the frame I had welded up to interfere with this. So, I had to get underneath one. Thankfully, but G&W #8 and another caboose still exist and both are within about an hour's drive from Rochester. One is near where my father-in-law lives, and he kindly took a ton of useful pictures for me. G&W #8 is located at the New York Museum of Transportation in Rush, NY.

It is a small museum primarily focused on trolleys, but it did have a couple of regular railroad pieces of equipment including the caboose. It should have been simple to visit one day when they were open but recently they moved it into a covered storage building to facilitate repairing the roof. Rats! I didn't want to drive all the way there just to be turned away. However, some networking put me in touch with Jim Dierks, who works there. He kindly arranged to give me a tour and access to the underside of the caboose for picture taking and measurements. So, on a warm Sunday afternoon after spending the weekend visiting with my parents I trekked over (and got lost).

I also quickly skimmed the rest of the museum and got a ride on one of their operating trolley. It was nothing like riding a train, as it was stop and go like a bus, and the noises were much different. Aside from the compressors recharging the tanks for the brakes and controls, it was very quiet. The interior of the car was decorated in period correct advertisements, and the seats flipped back and forth so that you always could face forward. I saw a deer in the woods and it didn't seem at all concerned about the trolley. The trolley line is only about a mile or so long but it does connect part way with another local railroad museum. Occasionally, they run combined events but the overhead wires don't extend all the way so transfers between the trolley and another train are required. 

One last point of interest. When I was a kid, my parents would take me downtown to Rochester's Midtown Mall. Apparently, at one time it was the biggest and best mall in the area but a kid doesn't really grasp things like that. However, I do recall that at Christmas the central atrium area would be decorated to look like the North Pole, their would be clocks that made music and had animated figures, and there was a monorail you could ride. But I grew up, the mall died, and memories faded. But, this museum has the actual monorail in its display! It sure is small (and short) now, and I don't know how I could have fit it in. But, it is a piece of my childhood and I am glad it wasn't scrapped.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy 4th of July!

As we celebrate our Nation's signing of the declaration of independence on July 4, 1976, I thought I would post two of my favorite images of Delaware and Hudson #1976 and Boston and Maine bicentennial RS-3m #1976 decorated engines.

D&H #1976 (9-25-1976)
The first is peculiar in that there is a Rock Island F-unit behind it, so I wonder if this was taken as part of the gathering of Bicentennial painted engines that was sponsored by Trains magazine. They had an interesting article about it in the March 2005 issue (titled the "That 70's Issue").
#1976, (formerly 506, and before that RS-3 #4112), kept this paint throughout its career with the D&H. It later was sold to the Tioga Central Railroad, then the Wellsboro & Corning Railroad, and finally the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad in 2014. The WNY&P repainted her solid black with yellow chevrons in October 2014. Sadly, I didn't have the foresight to take pictures of it when it was on the Tioga Central.

This engine wasn't the D&H's first red, white, and blue engine. The railroad also provided GE U23B #2312 for the 1974 "Preamble Express" (more info here). It would further go through two other paint schemes (solid blue, and blue with yellow nose). There was also GE U23B #1776 (formerly #314) which as far as I know retained its colors through its end on the D&H.

B&M #200 (undated slide)

The second engine of interest to me is Boston and Maine Railroad GP38-2 #200. While the D&H engine was simple and classy, the B&M engine looked like they tried to wrap the entire engine with an American flag! Painting and maintenance of the engine must have been a nightmare, and the broad white bands on the side probably got dirty quick. It was delivered in solid blue (#212) but was painted in this scheme and renumbered in March 1975. It looked brand new in April of 1976 (or perhaps they repainted it). The scheme lasted through the fall of 1979, but by the end of the year it was repainted into their blue scheme with vertical white stripes on the front of the nose. (More online pictures here).

Here is another interesting link showing Andy Fletcher's artwork of bicentennial engines. My favorite on the list is probably Conrail GG1 #4800.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Roster Review: D&H RS-3s in 1984

#4071 (October 1976)
As part of continuing research on the D&H's roster in 1984, I thought I would focus on the Alco RS-3 class next. While the Baldwin Sharks and Alco PAs are more iconic of the D&H in the 1970s, the RS-2 and RS-3 engines were the backbone of the fleet in the 1950s and 1960s and went everywhere on the system. Though they were similar, all RS-2s were gone from the D&H by 1973. Purchased primarily new from Alco in early 1950s, the RS-3 fleet was once 104 engines strong. Sometimes coupled up three or four at a time to move heavy tonnage, they soldiered on for the D&H into the mid-1980s and I believe at least one (#4068) still regularly operates today on the Delaware Lackawanna Railroad.

#4103 (August 1985)
They were delivered in the all black with yellow stripe scheme, but they were then repainted into the lightning stripe scheme. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, a few were given the solid blue dip paint scheme. By 1984 only three or four true RS-3 engines remained. Those were #4075, #4099, #4103, and #4118. If you are wondering why I listed four numbers but said "three or four" remained, it is because there is very little data to confirm which engines were on the roster in May of 1984. The Bridge Line Historical Society's page on RS-3s has lots of details, but it conflicts with other sources. There isn't a lot of photographic evidence for three of them (except for #4075), which is odd because they would have been some of the last operating RS-3s to work on Class 1 railroads.

#4084 (August 21, 1977)

Some odd things happened with their RS-3s during the 1970s. Six were leased to the Providence and Worchester Railroad for their start-up operations, and there they received an orange, black and white repaint known as the "Popsicle scheme." When they came back, a D&H shield was added to the cab. Two more were leased to the Vermont Railway. A pair were swapped with the Boston and Maine for some RS-3 engines with steam heaters for pulling The Adirondack passenger train. Finally, eight units were selected for rebuilding into RS-3m units and they will be the focus of a separate blog post. In general, though, most just stayed with the D&H until they were sold or scrapped.

#4103 in Colonie Yard (March 1984)
I believe that two RS-3s kept the lightning stripe scheme through at least 1984. There is a picture of #4103 but it is absolutely filthy. It is impossible to tell if it originally had large numbers or not, as only ghost images of the words "Delaware and Hudson" are visible on the side. Per the BLHS, it was with the D&H through 1986 before being sold sold. The #4099 has been more elusive, and I haven't come across any photographs of it from the 1980s. It was supposedly gone from the roster in 1984, but when? Before or after May of 1984? 

#4075 in Colonie Shops (April 12, 1984)
Probably the most photographed of all of their RS-3 engines was blue-dip #4075. This engine was actually the second D&H RS-3 numbered #4075, as the first one was swapped to the B&M for a similar engine with steam generators for heating passenger coaches. They received in trade B&M #1508, which was renumbered #4075. Its heritage is easy to spot as it has number boards on all four upper corners of the body, something which the B&M had (but not the D&H). They were never removed. The BLHS has the engine being purged in 8/1982, which doesn't jive with my other research.

#4118 in East Greenville, PA (October 30, 1983)
Also to receive the solid blue scheme was #4118. This engine has been more problematic to track down its history. Some sources have said the D&H rostered it until sometime in 1984, when it was sold to the shortline Octoraro Railroad in Pennsylvania. I have slides labeled fall of 1983 showing it working in East Greenville, PA, There, it was leased to the Octoraro RR's and was working on the old Reading branch (the old Wilmington and Northern Railroad). Not knowing anything about the area, I made a call for help online. Did the D&H loan it to the Octoraro RR to test before selling it to them? Was it sold before 1984? If it wasn't operating on the D&H in 1984 then I don't want a model of it.

Sometime before April 1974. Note the window insert.

As it turns out, I don't own a single RS-3 model. Nearly every manufacturer has made one either ready to run or as a kits and various online forums have debated which one is more accurate: see here for one. I am not concerned about counting rivets, the correct number of headlights, whether the exhaust stacks are parallel or perpendicular with the body, etc. But I do want the model to run well, be easy to convert to DCC, and have it painted in the correct D&H paint scheme for 1984. Several have been released but none with the correct road numbers. Admittedly, the blue dip would be pretty simple to custom paint. And, if the lightning stripe engines didn't have large numbers (or they wore off) then it would be simple to take another one and just renumber it on the corner number boxes.

Only four engines (or less?), and I will eventually acquire models of some of them, but until I know more I will play the waiting game.

Monday, June 24, 2019

New HO display case

My layout, which sadly hasn't been featured much lately on this blog, is below a ceiling that is exposed with rafters and such. Dirt falls from it. I was hoping to have a drop ceiling installed by now but I can't get a hold of the General Contractor I planned to use. And, until that is in I don't want to do any scenery (or ballasting) of the track. And, I also don't want to store my trains on the layout where they will get dirty.

But, it is depressing to have trains just stored in boxes. All of my G scale trains are in boxes, as are my Lionel trains (except the ones I had out for Christmas, which are still waiting to get packed up!) and my American Flyer stuff. Boxes boxes boxes. I want to see my trains. So, for the past few years I have been looking online at display cases. They have to be strong, presentable, and have dust covers or doors (those three characteristics eliminate any D.I.Y. sort of shelf). One has jumped out at me over and over again. Amazon has HO display cases in three finishes (black, cherry, or walnut) for $100. Ebay carries the same line of shelves. I don't expect much from a $100 shelf, but it can't break under the weight of the trains or fail to open/close. Most other shelf options are more expensive custom jobs such as these from Trackside Displays that look fantastic but cost three times as much. I figured it was worth ordering one from Amazon and seeing what you get for $100.

Since my basement walls are cinder blocks, I don't want to drill lots of holes in them. I don't want water to come in, and it is hard to keep the holes from crumbling and enlarging. So, since my rafters are still exposed I built a simple drop frame from 1x2" and 1x4" lumber and supported by angle brackets at the top. It cost less than $10 and once painted blue to match the walls is pretty innocuous. The bottom of the frame wasn't secured to the wall initially but it has a little spring to it, and I didn't want my shelf shaking when I was putting trains in it or taking them out. So, I ran a thick bead of Loctite adhesive (similar to Liquid Nails) along the bottom of the wood frame and pushed it into the wall. Once it set, the frame was stable.

Rear of case showing tiny factory mounting brackets
The display case isn't bad at all for $100. The hardware isn't the best, though the latches on mine certainly keep the lid closed. And the lid is UV resistant plastic, not glass, which cuts down on weight and protects my trains from harmful UV rays. It came with a protective film that was easily removed. Despite Amazon saying it would have green shelf backing, it came with black backing that I like a lot better. The mounting brackets on the back (see picture) are pathetic though, and I quickly removed them. I planned to drill through the back of the shelf and screw it directly to the wood frame, but the back is thin particle board or chipboard. So, I used L-brackets that I had on hand and properly sized screws (in pre-drilled holes in the shelf) to mount it to the wall. The L-brackets are visible but I can live with that. It feels pretty solid now, and that makes me happy.

And now I can see my trains. Some are calling out to me to run, like my RS-11s. Some still need weathering, like my PA1 and my C-424. Along the bottom are some of my Arcade & Attica models, including some custom painted 44-tonners and a tourist gondola I detailed during my younger days. Along the top shelf are two engines in the blue & black paint scheme I adopted for my shortline Rochester and Western Railroad. (I developed that paint scheme independent of Montana Rail Link, though I am sure both were inspired by the Burlington Northern). That Erie Lackawanna GP-50 was my first HO train, though it can't move now as the motor is burned up and the shell is in pretty sorry shape. Various other sentimental pieces adorn the shelves too.

Do I love it? Yes I do! I can now see my trains whenever I want. I can (theoretically) pull them off the shelf and run them instantly. And I can show them to my friends. Sure, the shelf spacing is very tight so if you frequently take stuff on and off it probably will be annoying. And I wish it were slightly deeper. But I think it is great. So great, that I have another display cabinet on order right now! I need it... my three RS-36s are currently in the mail to Elgin Car Shops for detailing and weathering and eventually when they come home they will need a spot to go.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

D&H's blue "Glass service" hoppers

#39058 (9/20/1979)
I have always been fascinated by the D&H's blue hopper cars. So much so that in 2011 I went on an ambitious task to collect as much information about them as possible. The D&H Color Guide was a good start, but the D&H Yahoo online group and other online forums also provided snippets of information. I have also been watching Ebay over the years for slides of them, and various websites have images too. All images of prototype cars are from slides in my collection, and caption dates are based on the labeling. The information below is what I have been able to find, but like anything else involving something from 40+ years ago, take it for what it is worth.

Prototype Information
#39022 (10/1980)
The blue hoppers were part of a grassroots program between the City of Oneonta and the Corning Glass Works in Corning, NY. The hoppers would be spotted in Oneonta by the station on a recycling spur. Located nearby were 55-gallon drums which were filled with the color-sorted glass jars and bottles. At least one source indicated that the bottles were first broken before putting in the barrel, which might be to save space. When the barrels were full, they were then lifted and emptied into the hoppers. When the hoppers were fully loaded they would be hauled to Corning. There were originally three blue hopper cars, one each for clear, brown and green glass.

There were at least three car body styles of hopper cars:

Short 50-ton Fishbelly hoppers. These were originally built in 1944 and delivered by Bethlehem to the D&H (#6001-6100). Between 1939-1944, Bethlehem and SC&F built another 1,400 (#4701-6100). These were the first cars to be painted blue for this service. The only known road numbers I am aware of are #4847 and #6067, but if there were indeed three cars (one per glass color) then another car number is out there. There is a tantalizing picture in the Color Guide of four hoppers (two short, two medium) and based on the grass on the tracks and background building I think the lead off image could be of the same cars in the same location. The Color Guide photo shows that the last digit of the short car on the right is a "2", which means it isn't one of the cars noted above. The cars were not renumbered for this program but retained their existing numbers, and I have no idea why these specific cars were chosen. Note: there were two different lettering/paint variations. I have pictures of #6067 with a centered yellow vertical stripes and no end data, and without the vertical yellow stripe but with end data. As far as I can tell, none of the other sizes of hoppers had this vertical yellow stripe and it may have been used to indicate what colors of glass were in the car.

#39022 (1987)
Medium 55-ton double-bay hoppers. These were originally built in 1951-1952 and delivered by Bethlehem to the D&H (#6101-7100). There were at least three of these cars known to be painted blue and devoted to Glass service- road numbers: #7065, #39022, and #39058. Car #7065 was painted blue in 4/1979, but I don't know if the other cars also received their blue dip at this time. The first car obviously retained its original number, and as other more modern D&H hoppers received numbers in the #39000 series I assume that the other two were originally number in that run. It would appear from pictures that these cars didn't replace the short ones but instead supplemented them in service.

Long: 70-ton triple-bay hoppers. These were originally built in 1958 and delivered by Bethlehem to the D&H (#9000-9199). There is only know known car in glass service: road number #39041, which was painted in June of 1981 in a different, more spartan blue scheme with white outlined shield and no City of Oneonta seal.

#32050 (3/1989)
Some of these cars lasted until the late 1980s in the blue scheme, but by this time though it had horribly faded (like most all of the other blue-dip engine paint schemes of the same era). It would appear that they were pressed into other revenue services besides the glass processing and at least one (#32050) was had a large yellow D&H shield added on one end and the City of Oneonta seal faded or painted out. It is too bad that the large shadow over the middle portion of the car obscures what would be otherwise interesting details. However, it is proof that these cars still existed during the year 1984 that I model even though likely never traveled north up on the Colonie Main.

Similar Recycling Programs
#39058 (12/1989)
There is a photograph in the book Alcos Northeast by Mike Confalone and Joe Posik (an excellent book, by the way) on page 126 showing two freshly painted blue D&H hoppers (whose numbers you can't see but they look to be the 55-ton medium cars) being pulled by a Vermont Railway red RS-3 on the Florence Job. It is dated 1976. I trust the date and the location, but am not sure why they would be in Vermont if the program operated between Oneonta and Corning. Perhaps there was another company in Vermont accepting recycled glass?

Also, there was a program in Greenwich, NY, handled to some degree by the late David Fl. Nestle, who was a railroad author, historian, and teacher. He shipped outbound glass loads via the Greenwich and Johnsonville Railroad or the Battenkill Railroad. However, they used D&H boxcars instead of the blue hoppers. I don't own Nestle's book about the G&J but I am told that there are pictures of the operation in it.

Finally, the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad based in Cooperstown, NY, also had a recycling program and shipping recycled goods. They used ex-Swift Premium reefers which were hand-painted to indicate the service. I am unaware of any published pictures showing this.

Models of the D&H Blue Glass Hoppers
Painting your own cars wouldn't be difficult. It's just solid blue, which faded over time so you have a range of shades of blue. I actually purchased undecorated cars in two different appropriate body styles and painted one blue (using a spray can that was dead on perfect in color) but the corner steps were accidentally broken in a freak bathroom heat-bulb makeshift paint booth drying rack accident. I could have replaced the corners step but that ended my enthusiasm for the project. Then, Walthers announced it was releasing one of the cars in HO (which I still haven't bought yet!) which sealed their fate.

Finding decals for special cars is sometimes difficult, but not here! In 2011 I worked with Ricky Rupp of Modern Rails custom decals by providing him pictures and information, and he produced the necessary artwork to make decals for me to do all three styles of cars. The Town of Oneonta's round city seal was especially well done. Decals for all three styles of cars are featured here on his website.

There are many commercial models out there, no doubt because the blue cars are attractive and use car body styles that are common. Here is a list of the models that I am aware of. Most at least made some attempt beyond painting the car blue to trying to replicate one of the prototype cars. The first one to be released was by Life Like probably in the 1970s. All of the images of the models below were taken from the internet. I will update this list in the future as I find out more information, or as more are released.

N scale - Road #6067, 2-bay (Atlas #? )

N scale - Road #5987, 2-bay (Atlas #41251)

N scale - Road #6067, 2-bay (Micro Trains #05600440)

N scale - Road #39041, 3-bay (Blueford Shops #14241 for single car)
N scale - Road #39043 & #39049, 3-bay (Blueford Shops #14242 for 2-pack)

HO scale - Road #5812, 2-bay (Life Like # 08504)

HO scale - Road #7065, 4-bay (Walthers Trainline #931-1420)

HO scale - Road #1142, 2-bay (Atlas #1832-1, only part of Limited Edition set)

Also, I have seen references to a 3-pack of custom painted HO scale hoppers which used Athearn models and were painted by Third Rail Graphics. They featured blue with yellow lettering including the City of Oneonta's city seal and had at least two road numbers. 

O scale - Road #5998, 2-bay (Atlas #3007102)

O scale - Road #6146, #6135, #6157, #6132, #6138, 3-bay (Weaver #? )

Putting together this post took a couple of hours of digging through old resources, checking websites, and flipping through books. I enjoyed it, and it has inspired me to try and get a couple of these cars. Perhaps I might even use those decals I bought years ago (or more likely, will reorder to get fresh ones).

If you have any additional information or images to share regarding anything listed here, please feel free to reach out to me and I will update this page.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Switch brooms on the Colonie Main

Last fall C.P. started to clean up the right of way along the line between Kenwood Yard and North Menands. They might have been working on other portions too, but that is just what I observed on my daily commute. This included cleaning up the ditches and grooming the ballast and removing overgrown brush around the Surpass sidings. I assumed it was just part of overdue maintenance. Then, in last October the C.P. Executive Train came to Albany and journeyed over that portion of the line. Within days, rumors of C.P. potentially selling this portion of their American trackage were on the internet and the pieces started to fall into place.

Switch to Surpass.
Then we had winter, and I didn't think much more of it. However, in either late April or early May I was driving along the road by the tracks and I saw something interesting. They had just installed bright yellow piping with brooms sticking up! This is, I assume, to aid in clearing out switch points of ballast or dirt (and perhaps snow, though it was a little too late in the season for that). These switches are used somewhat frequently and having a broom here makes sense. It also seems quite ripe for someone walking buy to steal. I don't know how long they will last, and/or if C.P. is installing them on other portions of their railroad, but for those who model the modern scene it is an interesting detail.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Adirondack Live Steamers - Spring Meet 2019

This past weekend the Adirondack Live Steamers in upstate, New York (Saratoga Springs) held their annual Spring Meet. Like nearly all other live steam clubs in the northeast, this one was open for visitors to bring their trains to run on our track. Our track gauge is 7.25", which is also used in parts of Canada and Europe, and trains are mostly 1/8 scale though some trains based on narrow gauge prototypes scale out to roughly 1/3 or 1/4. (Much like On30 models use HO scale track). They make for large trains which are not just ridden on, they are ridden in. My own narrow gauge steam locomotive under construction is 1' = 3.75" scale.

Our club engine... members are allowed to run it with training.
I joined ALS in 2006 after picking up a couple of issues of Live Steam & Outdoor Railroading magazine in a local hobby shop on a whim. I had visited a live steam club in Western NY when I was a child (they are celebrating their 50th Anniversary this August, but that is a subject of a future post) and I wasn't totally ignorant to the hobby. Still, I wasn't sure if this club was for me. Having moved to Albany in 2004 I looked around for clubs and finally sent emails to ALS and the local N-Trak club. ALS responded first, so I visited and joined, and the rest is history. I finally stepped down as Treasurer after 9 years on the Board of Directors, so this was also my first meet where I didn't have to count money, write checks, etc. I could just sit on a bench, watch trains, smell coal smoke, and have a good time.

The inside cab view of a working steam locomotive.
While we usually have a good turnout (no pun intended), the weather was absolutely gorgeous for all three days of the weekend and that is something that I can't recall being true since I have been a member. We let mostly visitors run their trains during the weekend, and they love to come to our club as our track is much larger than other 7.25" gauge tracks in the northeast (nearly 1.5 miles in mainline along), with lots of grades, curves, bridges, tunnels, water features, and road crossings. It is not a railroad you can just set your throttle to "go" and kick your feet up. For an even greater challenge, some days we reverse direction and it creates essentially a new railroad to learn.

What do you do when your train is too long for a single engine to pull? The real railroads would just add more engines, either in the front or the back or perhaps mid-train. The exact same thing is done in smaller scales, though I think we modelers usually do it just for the operational challenge of controlling two motors. Here, while five passenger coaches isn't a difficult load for this LMS pacific on flat track, I heard that the throttle was a bit touchy and it would spin its wheels instead of getting traction at the bottom of our grades. This might be true, but whatever the reason it was necessary for the engine to get an assist over the main line. 

So, the club's very own steam locomotive (0-4-0) was pressed into service and played the role of "banker" and ran with the train along the way. Even with only four wheels, it worked admirably. I think I can, I think I can...

The owner of the large LMS pacific also owns at least two other British steam locomotives: one is a GMR "King Class" (with 4 cylinders and thus twice as much fun adjusting the valve gear) and a chunky 0-6-0 narrow gauge tank engine. This one is built to a narrow gauge scale and thus it is large enough to ride in, not on. And it is a great puller. It easily handled those five coaches above loaded with passengers round after round. It is named "Thomas", perhaps in deference to the other tank engine going by that name. That isn't the owner in the cab but someone who frequently operates the engine when it visits the club. That tender looks mighty comfy.

This is an "Allen Models" locomotives. Allen Models is a manufacturer of locomotive castings for about a half-dozen different styles of locomotives. While no live steam engine project is considered easy, these engines are simple to build and very dependable to run. Lots of people use their castings to build running engines, and this ten wheeler is one of about 5 Allen Models-based engines at ALS. I happen to have the prints for the mogul (2-6-0), of which there are hundreds running across the USA. Someday, if I get my own shop, I may pursue building one of those as I really like the way they look and it is a very user friendly engine. 

This engine was designed and built by one of our founding members using a combination of Allen Models castings, some other manufacturer's parts, and a lot of thinking and building from solid chunks of metal. He essentially took the frame from a locomotive based on a small narrow gauge plantation locomotive (0-4-2) and stretched and reconfigured it to look more like a Colorado based steamer. While I think he did a great job, even those who don't understand what his background or thought considerations were would be hard-pressed not to call it attractive or "cute." The railroad on the tender, "Fitchburg Northern," is also the name of his HO layout.

For those who think that Athearn was the only company building diesel locomotive kits, here is a shell for an SD-40 from the Railroad Supply Company. It is cast in fiberglass and has several add-on pieces at the top depending on whether the builder wants dynamic brakes or not. Unlike in HO scale, switching that around would be a major undertaking here. Windows still need to be cut out, but most of the other details are molded in place or are added separately like a super-detailing project. Then, it needs to be painted and for jobs like this automotive paint sprayers and epoxy paint are good choices for durability.

And what to put under that shell to run it? Here are the guts: it is a 48 volt system that runs off of four deep-cycle batteries (don't get regular batteries which are designed to be discharged a little over time- we need deep cycle batteries that can get drained down to zero and repeatedly recharged) and special control packages to control the motors. Two of the axles on each truck are connected to the gearbox, the remaining two axles are connected to the rest by chains and sprockets. You can also see the handrails are in place. All in all, it is a powerful engine.

That isn't a guy hanging out the bottom. He is working on the
ground on the next engine over. It looks funny though!
One last picture here is of importance. This engine shell has been painted blue for as long as I can remember, perhaps 10+ years. It had no decals or graphics and was starting to get a little shabby and rusty. But, the owner retouched the black paint and unveiled the engine this weekend with Conrail graphics. The slight rust in the cracks and other areas looks like perfect "weathering." But what is so special about this engine? It is painted in actual Conrail blue, obtained from the railroad's engine department. When I said to my friend it might be the last existing engine in genuine "Conrail blue" paint he responded with "Don't forget Conrail Shared Assets engines." Grr, he might be right!

Here is one last picture of our roundhouse area. You can see some of the engines are being steamed up, some are being blown down, and some are being cleaned. All of it is work. Filthy work. No one said that owning an operating steam locomotive was easy. But it is this work that makes the running so much more enjoyable. Those of you who have ever operated a live steam locomotive before (like a Gauge 1 engine) can relate. Except these guys are 100x the work and 100x the pleasure when things go right. And when they don't... oh well... then you get to fixin' them.

If any of you are around in the fall, our Fall meet is the second weekend of September. Feel free to check out our website.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Someday in the future I will post further pictures of the club itself, but for now I am mostly focusing on the engines. The captions are added for points that I think are of interest.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Roster Review: D&H high-nose RS-11s in 1984

My research on the D&H's roster in 1984 is constantly evolving but there are times when I think I have a pretty good handle on it. Take their Alco RS-11 engines, for instance. I love high-nose units. My first train set had an Erie Lackawanna high-nose GP-50 by Bachmann. Not very prototypical, but I loved it and didn't know any better. I would usually run it long-nose forward for some reason (pulling my silver Amtrak cars which seemed a good color match), and when you do that high-nose units don't look as strange as with low-nose ones. So, I first focused my roster on the D&H high-nose RS-11s.

From what I have read on the Bridge Line Historical Society's website and elsewhere, the six high-nose units were originally built and delivered to the New York Central (#8009-8014) in March 1960, but they were never accepted by the NYC. Apparently, the NYC had made a verbal commitment to Alco but after delivery NYC management could not get the authority to pay for them. So, they were sent back and in January of 1961 they were sold to the D&H. Later purchases of Alco RS-11 engines had short noses, which the D&H preferred. In 1973, the #5004 was involved in an accident and during repairs its nose hood was replaced with a cut-down tall hood. Since in 1984 it wasn't a high-nose engine and would require some kitbashing to model, I am disregarding it for now.

I own three models in HO scale already but hope to have every one of their high-nose units someday. It shouldn't be too tough, as there were only six (#5000-5005) and Atlas has been doing an excellent job of releasing them in HO and N scales. The three I own (#5001, #5002, #5005) all came in the correct factory paint and with DCC and sound; two are weathered so far. Once thing I didn't do was dent the corner of the short hood of #5002 as can be seen in the picture, though that would have made for an interesting detail. However, the other weathering patterns were copied from pictures.

(sometime in 1984)
The #5000 should be an easy one to model, as several different manufacturers have offered it over the years. It is available from Atlas with large numbers and that matches what the engine had through at least November 1983. Slides from 1984 shows the engine with the words "Delaware & Hudson" and small numbers on the hood that are in very good shape, which would indicate that it was probably repainted sometime in late 1983 or early 1984. However, you can see ghost images of the large numbers above the word "Hudson" on the side of the hood. Either the new paint over the large "5000" was applied so poorly that it wore off in a matter of months, or else the D&H didn't even bother to paint over it when they added the "Delaware & Hudson" lettering and small numbers to the engine.

Atlas also sold a factory painted #5000 with road name and no numbers, which could be useful as long as I added decals (small numbers below the lettering, and blotchy large numbers above it) to match the pictures I have. Finally, Like Like P2K offered an engine with small the lettering and small numbers, and I could save a step and just add the ghosting large numbers above the lettering. I suppose it is better to have lots of options than no options. But, I am still on the hunt for more information and until I find out what it looked like on both sides in May of 1984 I will wait. 

That only leaves one other high-nose engine, the #5003. While for years I thought that the yellow nosed #5001 was my favorite D&H engine, my opinions have changed and I think I like this one better. There is something about the yellow chevrons that is really classy. So far, no manufacturer has offered a model of the engine in this paint scheme, and I would be surprised if someone ever did. Most modelers don't focus on the 1980s. There are pictures online from 1983 showing on the engineer's side extensive fading and the gray from the earlier lightning stripe coming through, and another from 1985 showing the fireman's side still dark blue with little fading. Did the engine fade on only one side? Did they repaint it sometime between '83 and '85? Is one of the pictures dated incorrectly? The model will likely need to be custom painted, but until I figure out its correct appearance on both sides I will continue to search for more information. 

Some might question why I would want six of the same engines for such a small layout as mine, but the answer isn't easy. Unlike some railroads that owned dozens of the same diesel engines (and where they all looked the same), the six RS-11 engines in 1984 carried what looked like five different paint schemes. Any and all of them would frequently find themselves running on the Colonie Main, so their appearance on my layout wouldn't be unusual. And, it is sort of like collecting baseball cards (or Pokemon) I guess. I gotta catch them all!

Part of getting the models ready for my layout is to weather them. And I don't own an airbrush, and I don't feel comfortable using spray cans on expensive engines, so I have Elgin Car Shops do it for me. Frankly, if you don't weather an Alco engine it won't look realistic! Before I send any of my engines to him, I look for pictures of what they looked like in 1984. Because the D&H occasionally repainted or washed its engines, the weathering would change on the same engine over the years. And while weathering patterns seemed consistent within the same class of engine, little subtle differences jump out.