CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Wrap Up

The year of 2019 will first and foremost be remembered as the year of the plague. While I am normally a healthy person, I discovered I have Crohns disease after about ten months of wondering why I felt so lousy and I am only now learning how to cope and adjust to it. As a result, some of the time that I could have spent modeling was instead just wasted doing other things. Still, it isn't literally killing me and there are worse things to have. Oh well.

But, I did accomplish several things in 2019:

1.) I completed the requirements for my NMRA "Master Model Railroader - Civil" certificate. It didn't go as smoothly as I thought it would (a random wire staple used to secure a pair of feeder wires cut through the insulation of both and created a short circuit that I had to track down) but in the end it was worthwhile. The paperwork will hopefully be processed in 2020, and at that time I will revise my fourth layout section to redo the yard tracks and remove the turntable.

2.) I began in earnest to scratchbuild three cars. With my MMR Civil paperwork complete, I am picking up these projects again and am looking forward to progress over the next several winter months.

3.) I installed display shelves along the wall which allow me to look at my HO scale collection of engines and sentimental cars every time I go up and down the stairs in to the basement. This is very encouraging even when I don't do anything else on the layout.

4.) I finally got to New Hampshire to visit Rich Chiodo's magnificent Isle of Shoals Tramway garden railway.

5.) On the 7.25" gauge (1/8 scale) railroad front, I finally finished my battery powered Boston & Maine "critter" engine and Burlington Northern green bulkhead flat style riding car. Now when I visit to the Adirondack Live Steamers I can run my own train, and I will have seat capacity to offer rides to visiting family and friends.

6.) The wife and I visited Baltimore, including the great B&O Railroad Museum.

And, I have some things to look forward to in 2020:

1.) The wife and I are planning a trip to Toronto in April of 2020 to attend the Great British Train Show. Because it is in Canada, I had to get a passport... something I have never had. Naturally, there was a problem with the paperwork but I am hoping it will all be resolved soon. There is a "Little Tokyo" in Toronto too, which means the misses will get to have some fun things to do whilst I am wandering about the show.

2.) I contracted with a company to install a drop ceiling in my basement. This has been a long time coming, and won't be done until May 2020, but I am excited about the prospect of finally having my layout protected from dust and dirt dropping down from above. This will give me the confidence to being adding scenery to my layout.

3.) My 7.25" gauge (1/3 scale) Welsh narrow gauge steam locomotive's valve gear is nearly done. It took a lot of work this past year to fabricate and machine the various bits and pieces of it, and until it was all put together I really didn't have much to show for it. I am hoping the chassis will be able to run on air in 2020. Updates are found on the Chaski home machinist forum.

Here's to hopefully a great 2020!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Rohr Turboliners are coming! (from Rapido Trains)

Port Henry (July 1977)

Any fan of the D&H probably has an appreciation for the Alco PA locomotives that were lovingly saved by President Frederic C. "Buck" Dumaine in 1967 from scrap for service on the Laurentian passenger trains between Albany and Montreal. After that service was discontinued, they were used on promotional excursion trains by new President Carl B. Sterzing Jr. all over the system. When Amtrak and New York State decided to start up passenger trains again, the D&H had the four units restored by Morrison-Knudson in 1975 to pull the newly created Adirondack. When they rolled out of the shops, they were in like-new condition and should have lasted at least 20 years. Sadly, in part because relations between the D&H and Amtrak broke down they were quickly replaced with Amtrak's new Turboliner trains. Boo!

Albany (September 1976)
But, as someone who grew up in Rochester, NY in the 1980s and 1990s, I saw Turboliners quite a bit. I remember even riding one as a child, and the conductor was kind enough to ask my mother if I could go up to see the engineer in the cab. Thankfully, she said "yes" and away I went. Not only did I get to meet the engineer and see the world through the front windows of the cab, but I even got a cardboard Amtrak hat to wear. I have a hunch Amtrak would not allow anyone into their engine's cabs today! Because of these memories, I have very strong feelings for the Turboliners and have waited for years to purchase a model of one. Sadly, none existed....

... UNTIL NOW ...

A Turbo lurking in Colonie shops (April 14, 1977)
Sidenote: why is the front half of #2303 so clean?

Rapido has just announced (on Christmas day, no less!) that they are planning on bringing out the Rohr Turboliner in HO scale. In four different paint schemes no less, With the option for DCC and sound. It looks awesome. It should run well if it is from Rapido. And, like all good things, it won't be cheap (though the price divided by 5 cars isn't too bad). But after hearing the rumor several months ago I emailed Rapido who confirmed that they were planning on announcing the train this year, so I went easy with spending my hobby dollars and saved my pennies. While the "early" Amtrak scheme would be appropriate for my layout (and actually might have detoured over the Colonie Main), I am going to buy the "late" Amtrak scheme with the thinner red stripe and black roof that ran during the time period I actually saw and rode on it.

Rapido put out a video about their new project which shows them walking through the hulks of one of the remaining trains. It is a neat video, though I remembered the trains looking a lot nicer inside when I was a kid. That was 20 odd years ago though, plus the trains have been refurbished at least once (and attempted a second time before New York State sold them for scrap. So, my memories might be a bit confused. One highlight of the video is around 2:13 in where a train pulls into the Utica, NY station... a place where I saw the train several times while trainspotting at the station with my grandfather.

By the way, for anyone with even a casual interest in the history of the Amtrak Turboliners there is an excellent resource out there. Published in 2016, the book Trail of the Turbo covers in exacting detail all of the history behind the Turboliner trains from their initial development through the minor modifications to the final fiasco that became the New York State rebuilding process. Written by Dale Johnson, a person who had extensive connections with the project and apparently was an official photographer for Amtrak at the time, it goes into every nook and cranny. There are some chapters that contain so much detail that I stopped reading and just looked at the pictures. In additional to being historical, it contains a lot of technical data too. The last few sections are pretty depressing as it discusses them turning into piles of rust in Schenectady. Dale had had a table at the Springfield Train Show for 2017 and 2018 (I don't remember about 2019, and don't know about 2020) with books for sale as well as some Turbo memorabilia that he owned. If you can't afford the model train, I highly recommend the book.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Merry Christmas and structure kit with wife

I have wanted to work on a "Christmas" project with my wife for quite a while now. We are usually both very busy so the idea of sharing some quality craft time together sounded relaxing and enjoyable. We were recently at the mall and I came across a structure kit (scale not listed on the box, but it looks like 1:64) which I thought might be just the thing. In all fairness it wasn't a complete scratchbuilding exercise as the walls came already formed with window and trim lines pre-scribed in the material. But, it did require assembly and final painting and detailing was left completely up to the builder.

I opened the package and took stock of the contents: 2 front/rear walls; 2 end walls, 2 roof panels; one base panel; a package of glue; 2 small packages of figures; and some decorative castings. To test both the integrity and deliciousness of the wall material I broke off a corner and ate it... big mistake, as it tasted pretty bad. Obviously, this was a kit foremost and a baked good second. My usual tendency with structure kits is to discard the base as it is too large and unrealistic to integrate with the surrounding scenery, but here I decided to use it (despite it now missing a corner).

The wife's side
We chose to pre-decorate some of the walls prior to assembly, as this would produce the most realistic results. I discovered that the glue came in a squeeze bag that was not really well designed and the results were similar to Testors gloppy cement that comes in the orange and white tubes. However, it smelled a whole lot better (no crazy headaches) and tasted fantastic. In fact, I found multiple places on my fingers to glue just so that I could lick it off.

My wife had much better luck applying it around the windows and doors. Then, we applied glue to the wall and roof joints and assembled the kit. Lacking corner clamps, all 20 fingers were pressed into service. Here, the thinness of the glue proved to be a weakness and it took quite a bit of effort to hold the roof panels in place whilst the glue set. *NOTE: all pictures are curtesy of my wife except the first, which I took. She is a much better photographer.

At the same time, we pressed on with the decorations which led to inevitable bumps and shakes of the building that only further helped to separate the roof seams. However, in retrospect this added to the realistic ramshackle weathering and run down appearance of the building which is popular in modeling circles these days.

My Side
I added a cross-hatched roof pattern to my half of the building, while my wife went for the more traditional sweeping curves. I am not sure which is more prototypical. Finally, additional details such as full-color figures and nut/bolt/washer castings that were oddly shaped as snowflakes were added. It is hard to determine how much realism the figures added even with such further details such as hats or headware added. Looking back, I note we unfortunately grouped the figures in poses that are utterly unrealistic whatsoever. I did my part by removing two from the kit and putting them in as safe a place as I could beforehand (chomp).  

All in all, it proved a really fun way to spend about a half an hour. I am not sure yet on whether I want to submit it to NMRA judging or else just give it to the dog, but I know that I want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Wonderful New Year!

On a more serious note, the true meaning of Christmas...

Matthew 1:18-24 

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Roster Review: MEC U23Bs in 1984

#284 (May 1984)
Wait a minute! Why am I posting about Maine Central Railroad (MEC) engines here on a D&H blog? And am I going to try and research every locomotive owned by Guilford as they existed in 1984? The short answer is "no." The long answer is that through a technicality I can include models of the D&H's General Electric U23B class on my layout even though they were gone from the D&H by 1983. When I picked my era to model I knew I would have to make hard choices. But, in my back pocket was the fact that these locomotives were gone but not forgotten. I didn't research every U23B but here are a couple as they appeared on or around May of 1984.

#288 (March 10, 1984)
A brief history of the class might be in order. There were sixteen total engines ordered new from General Electric, originally numbered #301-316, and later renumbered #2301-2316. Interestingly, they were the first U23Bs ever built and were the only ones with radiator fairings. (No, I really don't know enough about U23B engines to spot all the specific differences). They were all sold to MEC in June of 1983 as part of Guilford's shifting of assets. MEC repainted their logos on the nose and gave them new numbers via patch painting, but they didn't consistently do it (see the pictures).

#290 (April 1985)
Most stayed in their lightning stripe scheme but several were different. Engine #2312 was first painted in red, white, and blue for the "Preamble Express" (more info here) and numbered #1776. Then it was painted solid blue in the late 1970s. Later, it received a yellow stripe along the lower side sill. Another "special" job was engine #2311, which was the only D&H unit to be painted in solid gray with a blue lightning stripe. Nicknamed the "Gray ghost," the story is that the paint shop ran out of blue paint and pressed on with just gray. I love it, even though it is pretty weird.

Atlas has released seven (!) engines painted for the D&H, including the Bicentennial #1776 and the Gray ghost #2311. I knew I wanted one or two for my layout but they just didn't fit my time frame. Barely. However, despite not being a good painter I think I am competent enough to patch paint one or two for my layout. So, it won't be long before a couple are added to my roster as MEC engines, including #2311.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

New engine! - D&H #5003

I love D&H #5003, a high-nose Alco RS11. It was the only high hood engine with full yellow chevron stripes on the end, which made it stand out and pop. I think it has become my favorite D&H engine (even more so than their Sharks, or PAs, etc... don't ask me why). It was a single engine paint scheme that lasted for a short period of time on the D&H, though it was applied to many of their short hood locomotives. Unfortunately, hasn't been offered commercially by Atlas, and the other sellers of RS11s (Proto 2000, Rapido, etc.) are not likely to do it either. Thus, my only option was to have it custom painted.

But, things have a way of working out. I was in a local hobby store (Milepost Hobbies) where Matt the owner is pretty good friends with a custom painter well acquainted with regional and shortline railroads in the North East. Some discussions were had, and before I knew it arrangements had been made to have an engine painted up for me. I just needed a donor Atlas RS11, and it had to be one of the newer ones with separate grab irons and such. The store owner then pointed to an undecorated Atlas RS11 sitting in the case for sale. How long it had been there wasn't said, but within a span of 10 minutes I had made contact with a willing painter who shared my vision and had purchased the exact model I needed.

Some of my D&H engines (with my three RS-36s missing)
And so I waited, though it only took a month. Maybe less, as I think I missed the first message that it was ready. And boy does she look great! The yellow sill is pretty bright but that will be easy to tone down with weathering, and like all other D&H engines this one wasn't immune to leaking oil, grease, grime, smoke, etc. It just hid better on the darker engine. And now that I have #5003, my wall of RS11 engines is pretty complete. I now have an example of all four paint schemes that still existed on the D&H in 1984 that I am aware of (though a lightning stripe scheme with faded or missing numbers might also be in my future).