CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Monday, September 30, 2019

Ballasting Colony Liquor and Agway

There are three sidings coming off the main line leading to three different industries in this section of my layout. Based on photographs taken at the end of March 1984 (just two months before my layout's set time frame) at least two of them were still receiving cars. Despite the pictures showing the full effects of winter's desolation and spring's mud, it is still quite obvious that the tracks were not kept to a very high standard. In this first picture, the first siding to the left which went to Southworth Tractor was buries in the weeds. Ties were sometimes visible but mostly it was just two rails sticking out of the ground. The boxcar was likely parked at their concrete loading ramp alongside the rear of the building.

The second siding, which breaks off the parallel side track just after the first switch, is just as covered with weeds and dirt. The track actually extended quite a bit further out and then turned and ran parallel to the Agway building. Even today, there are remains of this track including some old ties in place. I am not sure if they received rail traffic in 1984 as all I have to go by is this photograph. However, as a modeling note I plan to model it so that it also can receive cars. However, I will try and make this track look even worse than the first. You can see that in this picture the three tracks appear to be at three elevations.

Finally, the side track curves and ends up at Colonie Liquor. This is a neat industry where the rail stop was positioned so that a boxcar spotted here would stop with its side door directly in line with a loading dock that was installed at a 45-degree angle at the corner of the building. This track had some evidence of spillover ballast from the mainline in areas and weeds as well, though the ties were visible (and there appears to be piles of old ties near the end of the track. Unlike the first two sidings, the rail heads on this track also appear to be a bit more polished or shiny which might indicate it was receiving cars more frequently.

The real challenge was that all my photos showed the area in late March (late winter), but I am modeling late May (full on spring season). Thus, in my mind I started converting all the brown dead brush to vibrant green brush. But, I really had no idea how bad the weed control problem was at that time. This is typical of the area. With that image firmly set, I was ready to proceed. For starters, I decided to do the siding to Colonie Liquor. It was not only longest but it appears to be the best maintained. In the past I have ballasted track and randomly sprinkled ground foam on it to look like "weeds" but never had I set out to model track that was half-overgrown.

I wanted to make sure that there was lots of dirt showing, but the ties still had to be visible an prominent. Since I had put this track on N scale roadbed, I needed a bit of fill material. I used one of the Scenic Express samples I had obtained which was a gray blend and randomly sprinkled it along the track, including the sides where it formed the ballast slope. Then, I took some W.S. "brown ballast" and tried that... yuk, it didn't look like dirt at all. I sprinkled a few cinders here and there but figured by the 1980s most of the cinder ballast would have finally sunk in the ground. Pulling out my actual real dirt, I applied that liberally here and there. I then went over the area with some find W.S. ground foam. I didn't want to overdo it here, as the other two tracks would be really overgrown and those should get the full treatment.

When I stepped back, it looked like a hot mess. But, the colors seemed right. The dirt brown looked like the dirt from the area (as it should be), I had only used dark green foam which would have been appropriate for May. The ballast was a gray blend similar to the stuff I used on the mainline but not quite, reflecting perhaps a change in ballast supplier in the past. And, some of the worn out ties were visible. The splotchiness matched the pictures, and I was really happy with it. The two sidings into Agway and Southworth Machinery were given a similar treatment, though I made sure to bury those ties even more into the dirt. Scenery materials were actually mounded over the rails in places (intentionally and otherwise) and then I ran a truck set over it to cut flanges. I also used my finger to try and bring the level below rail height where possible to make track cleaning easier in the future.

Admittedly, this looks a bit garish. This is just the initial layer of ballast. During scenery application, I will add broken ties, static grass weeds (which I am currently researching), weathering down the middle of the track, paint to the sides of the rails, etc. Right now, it just stands out as an extreme green area. But, I am quite pleased with it.

The same area looking north (note the 
switches on right) on September 04, 1986
By the way, the picture on the right was taken looking north in 1986. By this time, maintenance had been deferred so much that many portions of the Colonie main line were buried in weeds and grass that you couldn't easily see the rails! And that didn't include the sidings. You can see the switch ladder arrangement leading to the sidings on the right of the picture, buried in the grass. I assume by then none of the three businesses were shipping by rail, but I can't be sure. This is the look I was going for, but to a slightly lesser extent because I was modeling a little be better maintained D&H in 1984. The colors are really vibrant in the picture, with many shades of green on the left and reds and browns in the middle. And the trees haven't even started turning colors yet! The tree row on the left will eventually become the backdrop for this layout section.

And here is the mainline in more recent times. The tracks are well maintained, the sidings on the right to the buildings are gone except for some times and a few pieces of rail, but you can actually see the track. There are some weeds growing between the rails, and I will likely go back and add that to my layout when I am doing more scenery work. You can also see all the colors of the ties (which appear more solid orange/brown in the 1984 pictures above. The oil stains in between the rails in 1984 don't appear as visible here either.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Visiting the Isle of Shoals Tramway

My wife and I recently had the extreme pleasure of visiting with Rich Chiodo and his Isle of Shoals Tramway, a gorgeous garden railway in New Hampshire. Built to a scale of 7/8 = 1' (which is 1:13.7), his models use G scale track to represent 2 foot prototypes. And it has a true Welsh narrow gauge theme throughout. I saw an article several years ago in a magazine about it and I wrote him asking for information. He kindly extended an invitation to visit and five years later things worked out. It is an outstanding garden railway and has proved to be worth every part of the long trip to see him. However, there was a greater reason to go visit then to just see his trains. Read on to find out more...

I have a lot of interests when it comes to trains. If you are a train buff too, then I don't need to explain it. One of them is garden railways. I have always wanted one. When I was probably 10, my father took me to a local hobby store and they had an outdoor layout on the ground. I remember several things from that adventure: it was sleeting or hailing that day so we didn't stay outside long but the train kept running; it was pulled by an LGB mogul (in the early 1990s, probably all trains were pulled by LGB somethings...); and the track arrangement was a folded figure eight and it had a diamond crossover. It was a big train. I love big trains. I was sold. Years later my mother even said I could put a train in our garden but I couldn't see how it would work.

Fast forward to 2004 and I moved to Albany for school. Thinking bigger was better, I purchased a pair of USA Trains undecorated 44-tonner models and detailed them to match the engines on the Arcade and Attica RR (even though one was technically a 65-tonner). I built handrails from soldered brass and purchased extra parts from manufacturers. Then I had them custom painted for the A&A. Since I lived in an apartment with no room for a garden layout outside or an electric layout inside, they sat in boxes. I did start subscribing to Garden Railways magazine though, and formulating ideas for the future.

While the publication, and the hobby itself, has evolved over the decades (I have back issues to 1985), there were certain concepts that I came to realize that I wanted on my own layout. First, without a doubt, it has to be simple. If you read the magazine today you will notice a recent trend to put a model railroad in the backyard. That means lots of track and switches serving industries, with car cards and planned operations for the trains, and an overall complexity that mimics indoor layouts. I won't say this is a bad approach, but it isn't my approach. I want to have a garden with a train(s) in it that I can watch at my leisure and let it run and run around without fear of derailments. Extra switches and sidings I won't use, so they are out. 

Second, it has to have a British narrow gauge railway theme. I want to scratchbuild structures that look like they came from across the pond. Signals, details, and even the trains will evoke British narrow gauge practice. My favorite Welsh narrow gauge line is the Talyllyn Railway and while I may not ever make it there I want a piece of it here. My layout will be built to the scale of 16mm, or 1:19. This is appropriate for 32mm track, but I am using 45mm track so that all G scale stuff I own can run. The gauge will be wider than 2 feet, but I don't care. And most others won't even realize the difference. When no one is looking I can run other stuff, but at its heart it will be a little part of Wales right here.

Third, it has to be a raised railway. I don't mean raised a foot from the ground like some layouts are shown in magazines, and I don't mean on posts like some dedicated live steam lines are. I mean a full garden, raised 2-3 feet from the ground, in nice stonework. This makes access easier for maintenance, and it also means that due to the height of things you can't see everything. This is important, as if you can sit and see over the whole layout you lose the adventure of the train disappearing and you also lose the feeling of isolation from different areas of the garden with their own independent vignettes.

Fourth, it has to be a green garden railway. That means lots of greenery here and there. I joke with my wife that I might just cover the whole thing in moss and leave it at that. I hate weeding, but if she wants to do the work she can install plants. Otherwise, it will look like a green explosion with low maintenance plants and trees that add color and texture but not a time commitment. I am not a gardener and don't really want to spend time on all that, but I do know that some plants stay green year round and they would be perfect for the railway. And it doesn't really matter to me if the plants are too large to be in scale with the trains. That isn't the point. The emphasis will be a background of green for the trains.

Fifth and finally, it has to be track powered. I plan to run live steam, battery, and electrically powered trains. Not all at once, mind you, but all just the same. I might go to a train show and buy an engine and want to run it that day. Not wait a month or a year until I have it converted to battery power. Or, my wife might want to see something run and I don't want to charge the batteries first. I will someday own live steamers and they will run too, but above all track power must be an option. Track cleaning will certainly be required, but I am okay with that. I plan to use nickle silver or stainless steel rail, which costs more, but are better for track powered layouts. Since I won't need much track, costs will be modest.

The big question on my mind for years was: IS ALL THIS EVEN POSSIBLE? Frankly, I wasn't sure. Some layouts have one or more of these items but none have all of them. And the whole raised stone structure is quite rare here in the USA except where it was done up a foot or so just to elevate it from the ground, never the full 2-3 feet. Then I saw an article about the Isle of Shoals Tramway and I realized that it was exactly what I was dreaming of. It had nearly everything I wanted (it didn't use track power, but that is an easy change) and I decided to reach out to Rich to see if I could visit and study his garden first hand. I wanted to pick his brain, explore his creation, and use it as a feasibility study for my own future line. And I am happy to report it exceeded my expectations! 

Rich was a generous host and showed my wife and I all around his garden. While I had read at least two articles about it (it was featured most recently in the December 2018 magazine) there were lots of things that jumped out at me. His structures really had to be seen to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into them. Many had interior details and lighting, and he had some ingenious ways of accomplishing both. His buildings feature stones he "cast" himself out of Bondo and cut into shape, colored, attached to the exteriors of the buildings, and then weathered. His windows have real glass. His roofing featured realistic weathering and small scale rail to accurately represent the seams on the real roofs.

His rolling stock was exquisite. All scratchbuilt, using some castings and a lot of ingenuity, everything was perfect. Lines were straight, interiors were fully furnished the hard way (ex: he stamped his own texture onto the cushion seats in the coaches instead of buying fabric of the correct pattern) and with lights and hand done graphics, they were works of art in their own way. And, built to the British methods of using laminated cardstock for the substructures with lots of details recycled from the smaller scales or other places. Nothing was overdone, and nothing was out of place. He might not have had dozens of cars purchased off the shelf of a hobby store, but what he had was distinctly unique for his line.

One take away that I never fully appreciated from his magazine was the importance of height in creating isolated scenes. While his layout is large (20' x 32'), it doesn't strike me as that because all I could see at one time was a small area. The large plants in the center mounds create effective view blocks and at times there was nothing to see but the area I was standing. The train would puff into view and roll through and then disappear, and that would be that. He had a small rural country station area, two ends that featured track rounding curves with a station halt at one and nothing at the other, and some meandering curved track on the back side with a switch leading to the "operating pit." This is accessed from one side and is a nice spot inside it all to relax and watch the trains run.

As most steam locomotives are, Rich's engine proved a little temperamental while we were trying to run it. However, we managed many laps with his train slowly trundling round and around. It was perfect weather on a perfect day and I couldn't imagine something more enjoyable then to go out to the garden and run a train and observe the nature around you. The simplicity of track power or battery power to allow you to just set a train on and let it go is there, but steam will always be the purest form of the hobby. Rich confided that he does have a battery powered engine on order for times when he just wants to relax and run a train.

I am happy to report that Rich and I are of the same mind in nearly all of our approaches to the hobby. More importantly, his garden railway has demonstrated that while our ideas are definitely not mainstream or easy they do lead to wonderful results. The raised garden structure took an immense amount of time and effort for Rich to build (I will just contract it out) but it certainly enhanced the experience of the garden. He kindly gave me one of his own bricks which I will incorporate into my own structure someday. His green wall of simple plants which he rarely tends proves that you don't need a lot of gardening skills to have a nice garden. He trains ran extremely well and the theme of Welsh narrow gauge came through in every aspect of the line, from the equipment to the buildings to the details to the trackwork.

I went there as a curious visitor and left there as a friend of Rich's. I can't wait to go back again, perhaps with my own trains, and see even more of the layout. Thank you Rich for a wonderful experience!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Collecting real "authentic" dirt

There are several substances you can use to model dirt on your layout, including many commercial ones including some that are just packaged real dirt. I decided to go a step beyond and only use "authentic" D&H dirt on my layout. Part of the reasoning was that I needed some quickly for my ballasting project, and I didn't have time to research various brands. Plus, I had some nice weather in store for the weekend and thought it might be fun.

So, armed with a shovel and an cheap aluminum baking pan in my trunk (I didn't dare use our good baking pans for this project!), I drove over to a place in Menands that is both close to the D&H tracks and pretty much a pile of dirt. There, after examining the ground for the best place to dig, I took a couple of shovelfuls of the brown stuff. At home, I baked it in our oven at 350-degrees for an hour to kill anything living in it that came along for the ride. If you read various forums online, there is a big debate over the need to bake it at all. I said "are you crazy, why not?" and just did it. It didn't smell weird, it was hands off, and it went quickly.

Then, the sifting began. Over the years I have purchased lots of sieves, screens, funnels, and other various sorting devices in preparation for this moment. After seeing Mike Confalone do it on one of his "Scenery Outside the Box" DVDs it looked easy and fun, and so I found three screens that got smaller/finer in size and went outside. The dirt easily broke up on the large metal screen, and the leftover stones and leaves were dumped onto the lawn. Then, two more screenings left me with three different sizes of dirt and rocks. I packaged it up in my cheap food takeout containers and went inside to clean up and watch football. It took less than 30 minutes total.

Some lessons I learned: 
(1) it goes pretty quick but the dirt must be absolutely dry;
(2) a slight breeze is desirable to blow any dust raised up by the process away from your face;
(3) if you overload the filter and it spills into your bowl below containing finer material, you get to start over again;
(4) half of what you gather will be too large, or grass, or leaves, or stones, or blown away; and
(5) pick the right color of dirt. I couldn't get more authentic than real D&H dirt, but if you need red dirt or dark brown dirt you might need to go find it somewhere else than your backyard.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

New PECO switches (replacing broken M.E. ones)

This was a long time coming. As I looked around my layout, I had at least half of my switch throwbars damaged and semi-repaired with styrene splints that would likely never hold up. Micro Engineering switches are expensive and beautiful, but I finally had enough of them. Previous blog posts had documented M.E.'s lack of quality and left me frustrated. I purchased PCB ties to solder up new switch throwbars but getting into some of the locations to do the repair was impossible once they were installed. And trying to remove them just destroyed them. So, in a moment of catharsis, I pulled out three of my switches and prepared to replace them.

I printed out Peco code 83 "Streamline" turnout templates online (a #6 is referred to as a "Sixth Radius" on their website) and laminated a couple to add to my collection. Then, I played around with them on site. They are much shorter lengthwise than the ME switches and are definitely not drop in replacements. But, I can make them work. I decided not to reinstall the Tortoise machines so I covered up the old holes in the roadbed. I liked playing with them when I installed them, but I missed the physical action of "throwing" something a la Caboose Industries ground throws. So, I am going in a different direction the second time around.

The beads remind me where to solder feeder wires.
Tortoise machines allowed me to easily power the frogs (well, if installing all those wires was "easy"). If I use Caboose Industries ground throws I won't have that luxury. And yes, I know about the ones with the built in slide switch contacts but they look terrible and from what I have read aren't very reliable. I am leaning towards using a slide switch mounted at the edge of the layout but that gets away from the fun of a ground throw. To determine if they would work, I ordered several sizes on Ebay. If that fails, I am going to use ground throws and power the frogs with Hex Frog Juicers. A big concern is that with Frog Juicers installed with will be nearly impossible to run straight DC trains on my layout. That is very annoying, and something that will weigh heavy on my mind as I try to make the slide switches work.

Ironically, the cost of the unit that powers 4 frogs is about the same as 4 Tortoise machines. And the cost of a Peco turnout is only a little more than a M.E. one. So, I am essentially paying double to relay this track. Ugh. But, I hope to sell the Tortoise machines in the future and recoup some of my costs.

I used code 83 for all three switches, which minimized the number of transitions I needed to make in rail size (before, I had 83 to 70 to 55). As the frogs are part of the switch and not separate like the M.E. ones, you need to leave gaps in the rails after the frogs or you will have shorts. I closed the gaps with styrene superglued in place and then carved to size. Wiring was done just like I did in the staging yard. Peco solders a wire to their frog for your convenience but it so delicate that I cut it off and solder larger gauge wires to the rail that connects to the frog. Parts of the cork and rubber roadbed were sliced away to leave troughs for the turnout control rods to slide through. Replacement ties then filled in the gaps, and everything was given a spray of Rustoleum camouflage paint. I then individually painted the ties like before. It took several evenings, but I am finally happy with how things turned out.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Scale Track Plan (as of 2019)

The very first requirement for the Master Model Railroader: Civil certificate is to prepare a track plan. It doesn't have to be of your actual layout but since you do have to construct other requirements on your actual layout to meet other objectives it made sense to me to diagram my actual layout. Here is what the specifications required:

Prepare one original scale drawing of a model railroad track plan, identifying overall size, scale, track elevations, curve radii, and turnout sizes. Before you start drawing your layout plan, look at requirements 2 & 3 to see what features you are going to want to incorporate in your track plan. Remember: you do not need to build everything on this plan, just the minimum required part of it. The plan should be neat and legible, but it does not have to be in ink or computer generated.

This plan must include:
- Adequate terminal facilities for handling freight and/or passenger cars;
- Adequate terminal facilities for storage and service of motive power;
- A minimum of one mainline passing siding;
- Four switching locations, not counting yards, interchanges, wyes, and reversing loops;
- Provision for turning motive power (except for switchbacks, trolley lines, etc.);
- Provision for simultaneous operation of at least two mainline trains in either direction.

So, over the winter I drew my layout to scale, using 1" = 1 foot. I drew it on large grid-lined poster board that I purchased at a craft store, but the grid lines aren't really visible in the scan above. With the grid lines in place, it looks a lot more like a scale drawing. It isn't perfect, but I do nearly everything in ink (an old habit) and I think it came out decent. I had it scanned at a copy center just in case I spilled something on it before it was time to submit it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Chief Dispatcher documents for M.M.R.

For the Master Model Railroader: Chief Dispatcher requirement you must develop an operating scheme and then draft up some paperwork. Since my own home layout would never suffice (it can barely hold two trains at the same time), I used the Adirondack Live Steamers track to accomplish my requirements. They regularly hold proto-operation days throughout the summer but they use dispatcher-issued Form D paperwork. It looks like the MMR requirements are more in favor of Time Table and Train Order (TT&TO), so I started from scratch.

Requirement #1: prepare a schematic drawing of a model railroad layout meeting the operating conditions described in (A), and indicating all pertinent simulated distances. 

Below is what I came up with. ALS has actual mileage marker posts every 88 real feet, so creating a properly scaled drawing was pretty simple. Because of the way the branch lines are arranged at ALS, they look a bit larger here than in real life. But, everything else is pretty close. Locations in the schematic in RED represent towns with passenger stations and passing sidings where trains can meet. All other passing sidings shown on the schematic may not be used for train meets. Because the layout is a giant loop, I am using Wilton to represent the westernmost town and Broadway to represent the easternmost town even though they are in fact the same place.

Requirement #2: Develop a timetable appropriate to this model railroad, simulating prototype time, covering a period of eight hours or more, during which at least three scheduled mainline trains move in each direction. 

This was a lot of fun. I started by doing two first class passenger trains (#16/17), one in each direction, which only stopped at the red passenger stations. I gave them 10 minutes at each station to board passengers. Then, I added a pair of second class passenger trains (#18/19). They operated on the same time frame as the first class trains, but presumably have older equipment.

Then I added two local freight trains (#52/53), one in each direction, that stopped at every location and did any necessary switching. I gave them 20 minutes at each location, whether they needed it or not. Nearly all of the towns on the railroad have passing siding track arrangements. There are two industries on each passing siding, one at each end. When switching these locations, crews are sometimes able to use the passing siding to sort cars for spotting. However, if cars are already located on-spot and are not ready to be moved then the passing siding effectively becomes two sidings: one facing point and one trailing point. In such instances, the crews may only spot the cars that they are able to access and the remaining ones must be taken along to a future location where they can be spotted for pick up by a train heading the opposite direction for future delivery.

Most trains are multiple cars long and are connected with safety cords or chains, which need to be removed or installed after each switching operation (much like connecting air hoses). All cars must have their wheels chocked on sidings and frequently on the mainline when left without the engine (much like applying air brakes). Derailments are an uncommon occurrence but must be dealt with as well, much like the real thing. As such, the time built into the schedule to switch various locations reflects the actual time that the crew will need to do their work. When operating trains of this size and weight safety is a real priority and slow and careful maneuvers are necessary. No need to fake adding time for "prototype actions" as we really need to do them here.

Pierson yard is sort of in the middle of the railroad, and I added a pair of Peddler freight trains (#142/143) that work in each direction clearing the yard of cars and making whatever drop-offs it can. Finally, I added a pair of branch line turns (#224/225) which operate two different branches (actually, portions of our older mainline that are now downgraded) in an out-and-back method.

A lot of white-out was required to get it all to work, but here is what I came up with. Time slots marked in orange represent scheduled meets.
Requirement #3: Develop an operating train chart (graph) which interprets the above schedule for timetable operation of the model railroad. Indicate at least one train meet on the schematic drawing required above. Show the position of the trains involved and describe the action, giving pertinent time and movement data to effect the meet. 

I had never done one of these before. I had read an article somewhere about how to do it but at the time it looked boring so I skimmed it and now I couldn't find that article. Doh! Thankfully, once I found a sample online I saw what it looked like and I put mine together pretty quick in Microsoft Paint. Having worked everything out in the timetable, I didn't have a single conflict at all and it all fell together pretty well. I even discovered my schedule was a little back-heavy towards the end of the day so I shifted one of the branch line trains up a few hours. Here is what I came up with:

This represents ten trains in an eight hour span. There are some gaps in the schedule. If I wanted to really get cute I could probably schedule more trains to create more meets (which are always fun). But, there are four scheduled meets already. And, it doesn't show the work that the yardmasters have to do to get the trains ready to go, or the time people have to get their trains out of storage and engines fired up, as well as going through the paperwork. After taking an hour or two to stage everything beforehand and the same to clean up, an eight hour shift in between can really add up! There is plenty of room for a couple of extras, but I am happy with it just as it is.

Apparently, based on a discussion on an online forum you can set up a spreadsheet in Excel to do the hard work for you. But, I am glad I did it myself.

Requirement #4: Develop or adapt a system of operation for the layout in (A), including all the necessary forms and explanations for their use for controlling car movements, train makeup, and operation in a prototypical manner.

I also drew up a station register for the three/four towns that trains will sign in to when passing through. Additionally, at ALS we use waybills similar to the ones originally marketed by Old Line Graphics and now by Micro-Mark. I made some sample cards and filled in industry names actually used as ALS. I even made up some Form 19 order templates which the dispatcher can use to modify trains' schedules or add new extra trains. Finally, I explained my operating scheme for ALS and how we make up trains in the yard based on the car cards, deliver them to the industries at the club, handle the waybills as required, and run trains to clean out yards of extra cars or cars that couldn't be delivered earlier.

It isn't a full explanation of TT&TO operation. You would need a book (or at least a healthy-sized chapter) to accomplish this. Instead, what I did was create a simplified operating scheme based on a timetable of scheduled trains with the flexibility to add additional ones through dispatcher issued Form 19 forms. I think I met all of the requirements that the NMRA is looking for regarding this certificate at least as it involves creating an operating scheme.

Requirement #5: Have participated in the operation of a model railroad, either home or club, for not less than fifty hours. A minimum of ten hours each must have been served in three of the five categories (Engineer, Yardmaster, Hostler, Towerman, Dispatcher), and one must be Dispatcher.

Unfortunately, I still need to accrue 50 hours of operating other people's model railroads. As of right now, I have about 20. Most of the model railroaders around me meet on Wednesday nights for operating sessions, but I am a conflict on Wednesday nights. So it will take a while to get. But, I am slowly getting closer to finishing this certificate.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Roster Review: D&H RS36s in 1984

#5022 (September 24, 1974)
In 2010 I had dusted off my old N scale layout (which was based on the BN/UP Camas Prairie line in the 1970s) and decided to model the D&H instead. I figured I could just switch out the rolling stock and it would be good enough. However, as I looked as the motive power that was available I was disappointed. I am not a big fan of N scale anyways for other reasons (oversize details, difficulty with reliable switching operations, and lack of equipment kits to build) but one thing that really caused me to look at HO was that nearly every D&H engine model was made in plastic. And, for reasons I cannot explain, the Atlas RS36 models resonated with me.

#5012 (June 1982)

Alco built the 1,800 hp RS36 engines (and similar 2,000 RS32 engines) in small numbers in the early 1960s. They didn't sell well, with only 40 RS36 engines being sold total. Of those, 12 went to the D&H who actually had the largest roster of them. The D&H bought them in 1963 and numbered them #5012 - #5023. They were all originally delivered in the lightning stripe scheme with small lettering spelling "Delaware & Hudson" on the sides. Most stayed in the lightning stripe scheme through their careers, but there was one exception. And boy was it an exception! 

#5015 (March 1976)
In September 1972, the D&H repainted #5015 in a brand new and simplistic "experimental" blue and yellow paint scheme with large billboard "D & H" letters on the sides. Per an online Yahoo forum posting from Doug Lezette, in which he quotes an email response he received from Carl B. Sterzing: "The idea behind this paint scheme, according to Chris MacDermot, was to try to develop a simpler design that would reduce time in the Colonie paint shop. As you might imagine, the lightning stripe was beautiful but just the masking alone took a lot of hours per unit. Also, Chris said this was only a test, not intended to be a final answer. For example, the big "D&H" on the side of the long hood was too simple looking, and some fancier script such as the kind of speed lettering the Rio Grande had, was more what he and Dave Huggins had in mind." 

In any event, this scheme was short lived (and not repeated on any other engines), and in early 1977 it was repainted in the solid "Altschul blue" scheme. An excellent photograph of it can be found here. This didn't last long either, and in late 1977 it was modified by painting the nose solid yellow and a yellow sill stripe (similar to RS-11 #5001). It retained this scheme until sold in 1988.

The rest of the entire class was always painted in a variation of the lightning stripe scheme. The engines that kept the original design with the words "Delaware & Hudson" and small numbers on the sides of their hoods were #5013#5019#5020, and #5022.

#5014 (August 20, 1984)
Some were modified with large numbers on the sides of the hoods in the early 1980s. These were #5012, #5014, #5016, #5017, #5018, and #5023. In fact, #5012 was the very first D&H engine to receive large numbers on its hood when it was repainted on 3/15/1981. The picture on the right #5014 is interesting because it is clearly obvious the D&H only bothered to repaint the part of the hood where the numbers had to be and ignored the rest of the body. This shot was taken in Mechanicville, NY.  The only other remaining engine is #5021, and after reviewing online photos I just can't determine what it looked like in 1984.  

#5018 (March 10, 1984)

#5015 (August 13, 1983)
Atlas has to this point really focused on producing reliable HO scale Alco engines, and they not only have a plethora of engine typesbut also have captured a niche by offering them painted for shortline and regional railroads. Atlas really picked up the ball on the RS36 and RS32 engine, because they have released over 100 different cataloged engines over the years in their Trainman line even though there were only 75 total engines made by Alco. For the D&H, they offered a whopping ten RS36 models already painted and lettered! The availability of RS36 engines pushed me to go into HO scale and abandon the smaller stuff. Now, I can't actually tell you the spotting differences between an RS36, a C420, and a C424, but I do know I like the shapes of the RS36 more. Which is probably why I own three and only one C424.

#5016 (March 1984)
About seven years ago I started collecting engines for my layout and at that time assumed that large numbers on the sides of the hoods was the ticket to accuracy for 1984. I have since learned that this is a good starting point but not entirely accurate. Sometimes the engines weathered so much that the large numbers disappeared or faded. Other times, the engines were sold prior to 1984 or were later repainted in a different scheme. However, I got lucky here. Of the models Atlas offered, two (#5016 and #5018) had the large numbers and were correct for 1984. Though disgustingly grubby, both engines' side numbers were still clearly visible in May so my models will work just fine.

Image of train set contents
Note: if you want the #5018 with large numbers, it was only available as part of the Atlas Trainman #0040 train set. I confirmed with Atlas that it was not available separately for sale, though they did offer a #5018 with small lettering on the sides. Apparently Atlas did this with most of their train sets to increase their appeal to buyers, though the number of train sets they sold must have been small and I wonder how much work was required. I am thankful for it though! I acquired mine in a trade with someone who had it and wanted the other version of the #5018, which I had mistakenly purchased.

#5020 (October 1983)
If I want to add some more to my roster, Atlas offered the #5020 (small numbers) and #5023 (large numbers) as well as the #5022 (no numbers on hood). I have been on the lookout for the #5020 but haven't stumbled on a good deal yet. Even though they run great like all Atlas engines should, they are part of the Trainman line and lack details such as separate grab irons, thinner railings, additional details, etc. This doesn't stop some idiots from trying to sell them on EBay at prices that match higher-end Atlas offerings. For those who want to add those additional details themselves, Cal-Scale (Bowser) has a detail kit #190-527 which includes wire formed grab irons, MU hoses, brake hoses, and an antenna.

Atlas stock photo
Atlas even offered the #5015 in the experimental scheme as part of a limited edition release. Imagine that, a model based on a single prototype that lasted for only five years. Thanks Atlas! I think a lot of D&H modelers bought it because it infused something different to those modeling the mid-1970s that had solid rostesr of lightning stripe scheme engines. In a weaker moment, I noticed a local train store had one that hadn't sold in several years so I adopted it. It doesn't fit my layout but I like it just the same.

#5019 (August 1985)
While discussing the engines with my custom weathering specialist Pierre at Elgin Car Shops, we struck a deal where in addition to weathering my engines he would also install the Cal Scale detail kits for me. When they return from his shops, they will not only look great (or filthy, depending on perspective) but their detail level will match my other engines. As can be seen in the picture at the right, it is very difficult to over-weather a D&H engine during the 1980s period. Guilford was certainly strapped for motive power and funds, and just about anything that could move was called into service. I like the perfectly clean yard sign though!

#5019 (October 3, 2009)
Three engines of the 12 survive. #5017 is still painted in the lightning stripe scheme and is located in Arkville, NY, as part of the Delaware and Ulster Railroad. However, it is currently out of service. The #5019 sits in North Creek, NY, where it was once used on the now-defunct Upper Hudson River Railroad. I rode behind it with my wife in 2009, which may be the only time I have ridden behind a D&H engine. It needs wheel work before it can be operated again. Compare this picture with the one above to see how much nicer it looks! Finally, the #5015 may still exist and was recently owned by the Louisville, New Albany, and Croydon Railroad. Searching for its current status online didn't get me far.

Finally, for all you N scalers out there, when I am at the Springfield Train Show I usually ask Atlas every year if they will ever release an RS36 in N scale. Their answer is always the same: "we don't know." I wouldn't hold your breath.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Neon Orange ties?

I have been using paint washes on my track over the course of several days. A couple of interesting things popped out at me during the process. First, the gray ties are by and large a bad idea. They just don't look right when compared to pictures of the D&H mainline that I have. They might work in other areas of the country, but not here so I repainted them. My mainline is now a ratio of about 25% light brown ties, 24% dark brown ties, 25% black ties, and 25% Krylon camo brown ties. I like it much better.

Second, I noticed that as I used the washes more and more the light brown paint was turning orange on the ties once dry. It at first thought it was a fluke so I went over them again with another coat of light brown later on, but they they turned more orange. A day or so later, the dark brown began doing the same thing! I don't understand acrylic paints so I can't explain it, but day after day the amount of paint to water was slowly getting less and less. That shouldn't make it go orange though. I tried doing a black wash over them to look like the really rust-colored ties you sometimes see on sidings, but no dice. So, I made new batches of paint washes with much more paint and the problem went away.