CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

US Toy Train Company - A&A RR models

I primarily model in HO gauge, but I like to collect anything and everything related to the Arcade and Attica Railroad. As someone who has regularly monitored EBay for A&A stuff for the past 15 years, there isn't much I haven't seen. And if something is rare I know it pretty quickly. I have a couple of pieces in my collection that I believe are rare but it is difficult to say based on EBay sales. One caboose I literally just found this week because I intentionally mis-spelled a word and the caboose popped up. It took me about a second to decide I had to buy it!

#201 Tender
I moderate a post on Railroad.net about all commercially available A&A models and I try to keep it updated frequently. The most interesting items on the list are O scale tinplate models manufactured by the United States Toy Train Company (USTTC). The company had an address of Route 78 and 362, Bliss, NY, 14024. Some of the items were shown in a brief write-up in the February Classic Toy Trains magazine. Oddly, the caboose wasn't shown in the write-up (perhaps it didn't exist yet?).

#501 Coach
I had actually run across a few of the pieces in the Arcade train station, but not all of them. I assumed at the time they were custom painted models. I learned later that they were commercially released. They are pretty rare. In the past 10 years I have seen only two boxcars, two gondolas, one coach, two different cabooses, one tender, and one station offered for sale. That's it.

#301 Gondola
Some history of the USTTC might be in order. As someone who isn't an expert on anything tinplate, I would refer you to this excellent summation of the USTTC. Sadly, the company is out of business. Per a different online thread, the owner passed away in 1989. However, there appears to be a second USTTC with that name! The second company released models of A&A stuff and was a small sheet metal shop as its normal business. They both manufactured tinplate O scale stuff, and because I am not an O scale tinplate expert it looks like they used the same trucks, couplers, and even base cars bodies. Perhaps the second company took over the first?

#403 Boxcar
Regardless, I find these A&A models charming. They clearly were a labor of love, and the boxcar is especially nice. I bought the gondola for a rather hefty price several years ago, and then the rest of the models (except for the Station) nearly fell into my lap when some seller wanted to move them all on EBay and was frustrated at high reserve prices not being met. He then listed them starting at $1 (bad mistake) and I got all the rest for nearly the same price as the gondola. I should have purchased the second gondola just to have a spare!

#901 Caboose
Under the "huh?" category, the company released two cabooses. Neither was featured in the magazine write up, and I assume that they were done later on. But, the A&A actually had two cabooses and the end cupola model is reasonably close to it (well, as close as the coach and gondolas are). I just saw the center cupola caboose this week and bought it, and it looks original. I suppose the owner might have switched roofs, but nothing looks amiss to suggest this. A real quirk of a car.

#901 Caboose
Now, I need something to pull them. I am thinking a Lionel 44-tonner, which isn't tinplate but it looks large enough and is readily available on the market. Repainting it would be a snap, and I will replace one of the couplers with these tinplate hook things so that it can couple to the other cars. Finding a steam engine of the 2-8-0 or 4-6-0 wheel arrangement that is inexpensive probably isn't very likely.

The station I have only seen come up once and it never sold, so perhaps it will appear again. It has nothing to identify it as an A&A model, so it might get listed under a title I wouldn't normally associate with it. Sigh. I guess that is what makes collecting fun!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Broken turnout switch rods

I have been intentionally avoiding working on the layout for months. Longer than that, actually. Since I qualified for my Electrical M.M.R. certificate last summer I haven't really done anything on the layout. And most of that is because I am waiting for my switches to break. When I installed my Micro Engineering switches, I had problems with some of them. Not only were several broken during installation, but three more had their throw rods damaged. Actually, it broke into two pieces and I spliced it together with a piece of styrene on top. But I don't trust it. Several other modeler friends have also expressed recent issues with Micro Engineering turnouts. It is sad to see a great company put out faulty products.

Not knowing if I wanted to replace them with Peco switches or something else, I just left them alone for over a year. Well, this week I finally purchased some printed circuit (PC) board ties from Fast Tracks. I will make new switch throw rods. Hopefully they will be stronger. It will test my soldering skills, but I have come a long way in the past few years. And, if that doesn't work, I won't be any worse than I am right now.

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 Fourth 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 RS3m #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 RS3 #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.

UPDATE: It was acquired by the Arcade & Attica Railroad of all things in July 2023! So she lives on. 

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.