CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Then and Now: entrance to Kenwood Yard

March 1984
Here is a slide I bought recently showing a southbound D&H train entering Kenwood Yard in Albany in 1984. There are lots of things I love about the shot. The three leading engines all have different D&H paint schemes and the fourth engine is a B&M engine. The fifth is another D&H blue-dip. I don't see any freight cars behind the engines so unless it is pulling some flat cars then it is perhaps a light engine move, or maybe shifting engines around in the yard. The setting sun reflects the time of day I usually have free to get to the Port of Albany to railfan, and taking photos with the heavy shadows is difficult. I like the crossing gate in the middle with its vibrant contrast of colors, too.

CP Executive train in Albany
August 17, 2010
Compare that shot with the one on my blog's masthead, which shows roughly the same perspective. The orange and white building is clearly the same. That is a CP/D&H Executive Train (and a mighty short one at that) which toured part of the system around this time. I remember I was shopping for furniture with my wife but when we saw the train go by Huck Finn's I changed my mind and went to take pictures instead. I barely got this shot! While this area isn't actually modeled on my layout right now, I might add it in the future.


Monday, January 27, 2020

Springfield Train Show 2020

Well, another Springfield Train Show is in the books and now I have to wait a whole year for the next one to come around. It came and went much too quickly. However, this year was different for several reasons. First, I didn't go looking for anything to actually buy. Sure, there were a couple of impulse purchases (see below) but in general I was saving my money for the Great British Train Show in Toronto in April. And, I have a contractor putting a suspended ceiling in my basement in a couple of months and technically that is "fun money" too for budget purposes. Second, my wife didn't go with me and boy did I miss her. She is good at keeping me steered going up and down aisles without missing anything (she practices at the supermarket) and without her I was a bumbling mess. Large areas of rooms I entirely missed, other places I went through over and over. Thirdly, I got tired by the end. I am starting to get old. Ugh. But, I still had a good time.

Outside the show, they had Monson Railroad #3 running on a short piece of track set up in the parking lot. In previous years, they had brought a Baldwin tender engine but this time they had Vulcan Iron Works 0-4-4 Forney #3, which was built in 1912. This engine, along with its sister engine #4, are special because when the Monson Railroad was closed and scrapped in 1943-1944 the two engines were purchased by a scrapyard in Rochester, NY. My hometown. And, the dealer was located only a couple of miles from my house! In 1946, they were found by Linwood Moody and rescued by the Edaville Railroad and restored. As with all other surviving Maine narrow gauge trains, the current history is tortured. If I have it right, the engine is owned by the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum but on loan to the WW&F railroad (and previously on loan to the SR&RL railroad.) Maybe. Anyway, I asked the friendly conductor to take a picture for me. Again, my wife would have been a wonderful asset to have for situations like this.

Picture from Rapido Trains' News announcement #120
I made sure to see the Rapido Trains display as I wanted to know how pre-order sales estimates were doing for their recently announced Amtrak Rohr Turboliners. They are only making them if they get enough pre-orders. I talked to four people: two didn't know the numbers yet; one said that it was too soon to tell; and the last said that if public inquiry at the train show was anything to go by then they would likely be produced. Meaning... I don't know. I also talked with them about the Great British Train Show, as they are the sponsor of the event. Of personal interest, last Friday they sent out News Item #120 and included a picture from their 2019 display at Springfield. When I saw the caption I decided to look and see if I was in it... and I am! If you look closely you might spot me! Just don't call me Waldo. (And if you can't look closely, the red circle may prove useful).

Whilst walking around the show, I saw several interesting things. One was two dealers selling huge consignments of LGB and Delton Locomotive Works G scale trains I think this is the collection.. I have never seen that much large scale at the show before and though I wasn't in the market for them I couldn't help but appreciate the construction of the brass Delton engines. They were from the late 1980s or early 1990s and were marked at $3000 each. Having only seen them in catalogs before, and loving the time frame they are based on when engines were colorful and trimmed in brass, I couldn't help but stop and stare for a while. But, they weren't in my budget.

Athearn also showed examples of their EMD SD80MAC locomotives. Being a Conrail nut, the 80MACs were one of the last examples of Conrail power that came online before the railroad was split between CSX and NS. I love their white cab face, and a discussion here explains how that paint scheme came about. When Kato released the model in HO scale in the early 2000s I purchased one (being a Conrail modeler then) but I sold it when I went to N scale. Do I need this HO scale model now? Nope, but the recent Athearn announcement might explain why I have seen a lot of the Kato models on Ebay recently (not that I was looking for them, eh hem).

I usually purchase books and magazines at Springfield and this year was no exception. I first purchased the recent issues of Model Railroad Planning and Great Model Railroads (not shown in the picture). MRP is my favorite publication currently out and I can't wait to dig in. I also purchased two issues of Back Tracks magazine, a British publication, as both had issues on LMS "Royal Scot" steam locomotives (my favorite). For $1 each I should have bought the whole box! Finally, one table was giving away copies of Steam in the Garden magazine so I grabbed one featuring a review of a Roundhouse live steam engine.

Also, after talking extensively with Dave Meyers at Gaterfoam I had ordered a piece custom cut to serve as the backdrop for my T-trak module. When I picked it up, it was so light and strong I couldn't believe it. I am planning on using full seven foot long pieces for my own HO layout and we chatted a bit about how I could set them up and mount them. He was very helpful, as was his assistant (wife?). Shipping the stuff will be costly but since they are based in Vermont we agreed to just have me drive over and pick them up, or meet part way and exchange them. I won't order and install them until the basement ceiling is in, though.

Finally, I purchased some Japanese prototype trains. Now, I should point out that I really have no idea what Japanese engines or rolling stock go together prototypically, or what eras trains belong in, or what regions they are from. I just know what I like. And I saw only two vendors selling Japanese trains, including the gorgeous Kato #D51 2-8-2 mikado (#2016-9). When I asked the seller if it ran as well as the American mikados he said "better." But, it was clearly an impulse purchase so I first wandered away to the Kato display table.

After talking with them a bit about how finding Japanese trains in the USA was impossible, I went back and bought the steamer. I asked the seller if he had any cars appropriate to pull behind it but he said no. So, I wandered back to the Kato booth who confirmed that a coach set I had seen at the table showing the steamer on the back of the box was a good match. I then went a third time to the same seller and bought the coaches (#10-034). So, now I can run something when displaying my T-trak module. As it turns out, while purchasing my coaches I ran into someone who told me about a vendor somewhere (about 15 minutes from me, as it turns out!) who had purchased a large collection of Japanese trains and wanted to sell them. What a small world this is.

There were other great things I saw, people I managed to connect with again like old friends from Rochester and the RIT Model Railroad Club, and vendors I talk with every year. But, it just felt different this year. Next year, I think I will need to coax my wife to coming back with me!

I will leave you with a couple of nice T-trak modules I took pictures of:











Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Scratchbuilding a Caboose - Part 6 (decals)

Decals with Microset applied
The M.M.R. program has forced me to learn new skills, and I have grown as a modeler because of the new challenges I have had to overcome along the way. I appreciate that this program isn't for everyone, but looking back I am glad I stuck with it. There are good days and bad days. When it came to decaling this caboose, it was a bad day. I had ordered custom decals from Modern Rail Decals and have used them for several projects in the past. However, I personally have never used the decals that I ordered- they were either part of a custom paint job that I paid someone else to do or they were for projects that I never finished because similar commercial models were released while my project was midway.

But, I have experience using decals. While in high school, I spray painted a dozen different freight cars and decaled them for Conrail using every "can opener" logo I could get out of the few decal sets I bought. Without any real experience, I remember the project went well. That was probably because the decal artwork itself was large and provided strength to the decal.

Here, I ran into problems right away. The decals I received were super fragile and despite warnings on the package to soak and then let the decal sit for a total of three minutes (which I did), they broke apart into individual letters and partially shredded. Maybe I should have anticipated this happening but I had grandiose plans of applying the "D&HCC" letting in one long strip. That didn't happen. I had to scrap one side's worth of lettering and then salvage what was left. But, in the end, I managed to get one side done. After first using Microset to get them on and then Microsol to finally "snuggle" them in (only one coat of Microsol was necessary, and they didn't shrivel up at all) it looked really good. Several light coats of Dullcote sealed them.

When I contacted Modern Rails to discuss the decals he tod me he had received a bad batch of decal paper from their supplier and had received complaints about defective decals. Mine might have been part of that batch, and offered to replace them for free. They arrived quickly and were a lot easier to work with!. They were ready to slide off the paper after only a 20-second soak in the water (not that waiting around a minute or so is a real deal breaker) and were strong and held together well. They went without too much trouble. I then used a little black paint to pick out some of the details such as the handrails and bolt heads, which matched pictures of the caboose as it currently is restored. And with that, the body of the caboose is essentially done.

I still need to add glass inside the windows, but that shouldn't be too tough. Thankfully, as the caboose currently exists the dinky little brakeman's seat on the roof is gone so I might not model it after all (building it doesn't scare me, but finding a way to neatly attach it to the roof itself does). I am also not adding the plaque on the side. Some marker lights on the sides would look nice though. As for weathering, that is a future decision as the prototype is currently sitting in a glass-enclosed pavilion and has been protected from the typical weathering that cabooses experience.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Kodak Park Railroad photo exhibit

A couple of weeks ago I saw on Railroad.net a thread about a new photography exhibit titled "The Power to Move Us" that was being displayed at the Kodak Photo Gallery in Rochester, NY, my hometown. Having not been to Rochester in a while, I figured I could combine the trip to the exhibit with a visit with my parents and set up a weekend to go. The exhibit, per the Kodak website, was to contain photographs from local railfans as well as information about the Kodak Park Railroad which serviced much of the Kodak infrastructure in Rochester until only a few years ago. An article in the July 1988 issue of Trains magazine featured the KPRR and included a great map of it. In 2007 the KPRR entity closed, and all switching was transferred to GWI Switching Services.

Of particular interest was the display showing all of the KPRR engines, though many received multiple paint schemes through the years. Some of KPRR's equipment has been donated to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum, a place I haven't been to yet and really should. They started with fire-less steam locomotives (apparently the chemicals used to make film are flammable) and progressed through centercab and road switchers to finally modern switch engines. (A good history of their engines can be found here). The classic black and yellow Kodak paint colors transferred well to the engines, though they did a couple of one-off engines including three painted like automobile hot rods.

Getting to the photo gallery was easy enough, but when we arrived the Security Officer told us that the exhibit was closed. Why, on a Saturday during the posted hours and days of operation it would be closed he couldn't answer, but closed and locked. Thankfully, he opened it up for us. It wasn't very big, or perhaps I was just expecting more. There were lots of enlarged photos taken by several railfans showing interesting train subjects but I had seen many of them online at the gallery's website, so they weren't a surprise. Others were fun and colorful and showed blurs of trains, but alone weren't as interesting to me.

The Kodak Park Railroad is sentimental to me for various reasons. I grew up in Rochester and my father worked for Kodak. My friends worked for Kodak. Everyone worked for Kodak. I modeled it on one of my old HO layout. Driving in the area, you could sometimes see the trains shuffling cars about or moving huge cuts of coal cars around. Kodak used to keep on hand in a giant pile visible from the road enough coal to last for several days, if not longer. Sometimes the coal trains brought by Conrail seemed to go on forever. The last coal train was delivered in March of 2018, and after that an era ended. It was an interesting operation that required full coal trains to pull through the area and then back into the park. It closed a busy four-lane road for a while when that happened. Later, my parents moved to the area and you could see the trains from their backyard but they never seemed to operate when I was visiting. Grr! 

The Kodak Park Railroad even had its own caboose, discussed here, which sadly was in an area of the industrial complex that is not accessible to the general public. Of interest though is that it was converted by Kodak for railroad tours of the property to visitors, and to make it more comfortable for the guests the inside was gutted and benches were installed. That is pretty neat. I think though that Kodak missed the mark by not asking for more local railfans to contribute pictures. Despite not being allowed to legally take pictures on Kodak property, I am sure there are other images out there.

There was also a small display of some trains decorated for Kodak. I have a couple models myself and not all were shown, but there were a couple I was unfamiliar with and will start looking for. Not shown was the infamous K-Line o scale Kodak train set, which apparently was never approved for sale by Kodak and thus had a short shelf life. That would be a fun train to collect. They also had a note that KPRR pins and patches were for sale in the gift shop and I would have loved to purchase them, but the gift shop was closed (and under renovation) during our visit. So, hopefully they are available online somewhere for purchase.

All in all, it was a fun visit. I hope that the history of the KPRR will be preserved but like many other industrial railroads it will probably lowly fade into obscurity as parts of the plant close and it becomes obsolete. Thankfully, there were some who took the time to document it on film (ironically).

I don't know the legality of putting pictures on a blog that were originally taken by others (even if it is a poorly taken picture of another picture), so most of my images show what the gallery itself was like and are not close-up reproduction images of those taken by others. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

T-Trak: Scenery and Roads

Before I got too far along I wanted to get my roads all figured out. In previous layouts, I have either used styrene forms filled with plaster (Woodland Scenics makes a useful kit) or cork roadbed covered with a thin coat of joint compound Aside from the sanding it worked well, but I had only modeled rural roads. Here, I was making roads and sidewalks and wanted to try something easier. Lance Mindheim had described how to model and paint roads off-layout and it was worth a shot. Plus, I planned to use Evergreen #4516 styrene sidewalks which were scribed 1/4" square and 0.040" thick and these would be easiest to glue to a styrene base. So, I transferred my plans to some 0.040" styrene sheet.

It was around this point when I realized I had a slight problem. T-trak modules rely heavily on Kato Unitrak which has a pre-formed roadbed. This prototypically elevates the track from the layout top. Unfortunately, here I planned on gluing the roads straight to the top of the plywood. Where the road crossed the track, which was essential for my layout, there was a jarring height difference. If you look at Kato layouts online they use a preformed crossing that rises at such a sharp degree that I think a long car would bottom out. It looks terrible. I couldn't build up the road gradually here because my module was too short in depth. So, instead I raised up all my roads by gluing some 0.188" styrene strips around the edges and in the middle. Naturally, I ran out part way and had to order more.

While the glue was drying, I worked on my Tomytec station kit that came in the mail. It is designed to work with Kato Unitrack so the height of the platform is okay and I didn't have to shim it up. But, this had a strange side effect of making the station lower than the level of the roads. In Japan, many layouts are temporary and things don't have to be "perfect" so this height difference isn't very important. I have an idea for how I am going to work around that. As I built the kit I added a few additional details and some interior lighting, even though it might make much of a difference in the end.

I then started working on the elevated corner where the Inn will go. I went to the hobby store to look for 1/2" thick foam that I could carve and shape into a hill but they only had 1" thick foam. I was sure Home Depot would have 1/2" foam but I only needed about a foot square and didn't want to have a lot hanging around. As I drove back I considered making the hill with a cookie-cutter roadbed path and then the landforms with plaster or glue-shell (which uses white glue and paper towels or cloth strips). As we got near our house I found a sign on the side of the road that was in bad shape so I brought it home. I used tracing paper to draw my path on the sign and then cut it out with a box cutter. It is similar to corrugated cardboard but all plastic, which is important when using water-based scenery materials.

The two back sides will have the hill rise above the plywood top. To protect the edges, I added a fascia cut from 3/8" thick basswood from the craft store. I glued scrap wood inside and just below the top to attach masking tape to. The front two sides will have a retaining wall but that needed a backer so I used some cheap wooden paint stirrers I had on hand (I didn't feel like going out again!). Before I glued the paint stirrers, I made sure to check clearances with the blue Kato loading gauge. I was cutting it close, but it all fit. Then, I secured the top of the hill area to some more scrap wooded blocks I had and used thumb tacks for temporary support.I also added some ground foam to liven the area up.

The next day work was closed due to a blizzard, so I worked on more scenery. I really like using painters tape but it didn't stick well enough to the plywood for me to trust it to support wet glue-soaked paper towels. So, I switched to masking tape and I swear I have the worst roll ever made. It is a name brand roll but it always splits down the middle when I am pealing off a piece or tears when I don't want it to. The job here took at least twice as long as it should have otherwise. Maybe someday I will buy a new roll... maybe. You can still sort of see the path, hidden in the Van Halen-esque patterns. The hole in the hill is for the wiring of the lights for the Inn.

I then cut up some regular (not industrial brand or cheap stuff) paper towels into 2-3" square pieces. Finally, I mixed some hot (ouch) water and white glue together in a temporary container and dipped regular white paper towels into it. I used my fingers to wring off the excess and then placed them over the tape. I remembered to protect the station and tracks after I was part way through but thankfully before any damage was done. I overlapped the pieces a little but I didn't strive for two or three layers' thickness. Then, I set it to dry for a day or so. After a couple of hours any small issues like corners sticking up or large creases can be fixed, but otherwise you just need to let it sit.

Once it is all dry, it is crucial to seal the surface for subsequent scenery layers as otherwise the alcohol or wet water would cause the shell to collapse. The original article called for lacquer paint (if you can find it) but I substituted a thick coat of green enamel paint. The color isn't critical because it will eventually be painted over with my brown, earth colored paint. That being said, if you do need to purchase oil paint you might as well pick a color that is reasonably close. Sherwin Williams still sells tint-able oil paints, which the big box stores don't have. This green was leftover from a 7.25" gauge riding car project I worked on over the summer that I painted up for the Burlington Northern. A different option is to coat everything with a layer of waterproof wood glue, which is even stronger.

After doing this, I added an initial layer of ground foam and foam clumps which look a bit like bushes in N scale. Then, I secured the styrene retaining wall to the wooden supports and discovered I had a problem. A very small problem. The distance between the wall and the track had disappeared and a clearance gauge just barely touched the vertical supports of the wall. I tested a bunch of N scale equipment and everything went through just fine, but would Japanese N scale trains clear? Maybe not. Compromises here could lead to disaster down the road, so I used a knife and saw to cut out the front wooden support and shifted it back about a 1/4". A spare piece of wood was the perfect size to support the glueshell in the front, and latex caulk sealed the joints.

As for the retaining walls, I first looked online but in the end I realized that I had a ton of styrene lying around and if I built them myself I could customize them to suit the exact layout situation that I needed. I built the wall closest to the tracks first, using a base of 0.040" styrene with a top piece of Evergreen #166 and vertical rails made from #164 (those numbers are so I remember them in the future). The short side of the wall was trickier, as the path only comes down part way and there will be a staircase up to it. Not having the stairs in hand, I estimated their height and built the wall accordingly. Gluing the two pieces together involved a bit of Italian ingenuity.

Once everything had cured, I sprayed them with some beige colored spray paint and let that dry before moving on to weathering them. I didn't want to add any graffiti, which seems pretty rare in the pictures of Japan I have seen. I also didn't want them to look derelict with cracks, or run down with vines growing on them. But, they couldn't look brand new either. I quickly built a "test wall" using spare styrene and painted it the same way. Then, I weathered different sections with different amounts and strengths of black dye/alcohol washes until I found what I liked. Once the entire assembled wall was given this wash and allowed to dry, I glued it back on the repaired layout.

Moving on to the streets, they were given a wash of soap and water and once dry were sprayed with a dark gray primer. I didn't focus too much on the areas that would be covered with buildings later one. After a week or so, I masked off the roads with painters tape and then sprayed the sidewalk areas with a lighter gray paint I had. However, once the tape was removed the paint colors were so close in color (despite the paint can caps being very different) that I decided to repaint the sidewalks. I re-masked the streets again and then drybrushed the sidewalks with a lighter color paint. After that, everything got a treatment of my alcohol and ink wash. Finally, I used some dark pencils to make streaks representing "weathering" and "tire marks" on the road surfaces. Traffic lines are still to be added.

By this point, I started working on some more of the structure kits I had ordered. The 30-60 day delay from ordering to receipt of them had caught up with me and I only had three on hand, besides the grade crossing parts. For the kits I removed or discarded the bases, touched up some of the painted edges and picked out some of the details I liked, and then glued them to the styrene road base. I had calculated on the buildings being larger than they actually were (because the overall published dimensions included the oversize bases) so I have lots of room behind the building for additional detailing and scenes. 

And this is where the project currently stands. Having picked up scratchbuilding my freight cars again, this will go on hiatus for a little bit.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Scratchbuilding a Caboose - Part 5 (roofing and painting)

Yay! I hit the point on my layout where my trackwork was finished and wired up again which meant that mentally I could move onto other things. And, it wasn't a moment too soon as it is getting cold outside which is the perfect weather for "work bench projects" where you can sit down at your work bench and just relax and plug away at whatever strikes your fancy. I have three scratchbuilt cars in various stages of construction, an engine project in the works, and a couple of other things teasing me from my storage shelves. So, it was time to get cracking.

I hadn't touched my D&H bobber caboose in nearly 10 months, and part of that was because I turned my focus to my live steam (1/8 scale) engine and caboose projects. But, this little guy needed some love too. The last thing I remember I needed to work on when I set the project down was installing four wire "hooks" along the sides that would hold the marker lamps. For this, I had purchased a mini-drill chuck for my Dremel tool as well as a speed controller (later determined to not be compatible) to drill the holes. So, I used the miniature chuck in my new battery cordless drill and the four holes were made. It took all of a minute.

Then, I focused my attention on the roof. I had procrastinated how I wanted to model the tar paper roof. In fact, I can't be sure the prototype had tar paper but I assume it did for such an old caboose. Besides, no one else probably knows either. Two ways to model tar paper are to use single-ply tissue secured with glue or paint, or masking or painter's tape struck directly on. Either requires the surface to be clean, and both make it tough to fully wash the caboose after, so I first gave it a bath in soap and water. Then, I went with the painter's tape because I had it on hand and liked the texture of it. Tar paper comes in rolls 36" wide, so I cut my tape into strips 11/16" wide which is pretty close when scaled up. I then overlapped them by what looks like about a scale 6".

I could have drawn lines on the roof where I wanted the edges of the tape to stop, as that would have given me perfect stripes without the chance for errors. But, in real life I don't think they do that and I was pretty confident I could get them "close enough." I made sure to burnish the tape down hard on the roof, and especially by the edges, as any peeling up (though realistic) would not look very good. Having cleaned the body and roof first, I was pretty sure this stuff would stick fine. I did this once for a G-scale freight car roof and it has held up for over 10 years without any peeling. Masking tape, which is even stickier than painter's tape, would probably work even better.

For the area around the smoke jack, I cut away a semi-circle from the edge of the tape before peeling it off my cutting surface. Then, it was just a matter applying the tape with the cut-out portion around the jack. I did this from both directions, and by sure happenstance it all worked out fine. I will go over the area with something, perhaps yellow glue or thick super glue gel, to represent tar that is hand brushed around the cut areas. This will not only look realistic but also secure the cut edges of the tape. Then, the tape was firmly pushed down all over again and the sides were trimmed along the edge.

Now, it was the moment of truth. The body itself is now complete except for two added details: I need to fabricate a three-legged seat for the top and I also may build or purchase some marker lamps. Neither of which will hold up the painting, and getting it red will give me the push I need to start the harder parts like fabricating the handrails or end platforms. So, I first game everything three or four light coats of Valspar gray primer from a spray can. I didn't focus on complete coverage for the coats and instead just made sure I was careful not to flood the car with paint and get drips. I first worked on the windows and overhang areas, and then the sides. With a white body I am not sure the primer is even necessary, but I figured it would help.

Then, looking over my selection of red spray paint rattle cans (I don't own an airbrush) I settled on Testors Flat Red. I assume that because it is Testors and not Rustoleum or Valspar or Krylon that the pigment will be much finer. Since this car is scratchbuilt and I don't know how to strip Rustoleum paint, I couldn't take any chances with the painting. Any drips or build-up will instantly get noticed during NMRA judging. Again, various slight mist coats were applied until I was happy with the red on the sides. I was really pleased with the shade of red, which looks pretty close to what the D&H caboose is.

The roof needed to be painted black, but as per usual I had run out of black paint (unless I used black sparkle paint, which didn't seem to be the look I was after). So, I ordered some and when it arrived the roof was brush painted. The edges came out pretty clean but I had to touch up the red a little by spraying the paint into a cup and then brushing it. I may do a second coat of black but I am not sure yet. I finished by replicating a "tar seal" around the smoke jack by running a thin ring of wood glue along the bottom, then painting it black. Then, after several days (weeks actually) of letting it all dry I gave everything a nice coat of Testors Glosscote in preparation for the decaling.