CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Book Review: Delaware & Hudson Power in color

Recently for Christmas my lovely wife bought me a new book: Delaware & Hudson Power in Color - Three Diesel Eras between 1944 and 1991 by Robert Yanosey. It is a new book (2019), and the subject is one that is right up my alley as anyone familiar with my blog knows how much I love to study D&H locomotives... especially those from 1984! It seems to me that there have been a lot of recent D&H books released in the past five years though that perception might be because I am now buying them and they aren't cheap. While going through it, I was first immediately impressed with how it was laid out. Each class of diesel engine has its own section, and the pictures are very good. Being that it is a "In Color" book I wouldn't expect anything less, but there were many shots of the later diesels that I hadn't seen before.

When it got to the second generation models, especially the RS11 and RS36 engines, I started to laugh because it looked a lot like my own blog. When I started breaking down the D&H diesel engines by road number and paint scheme this book didn't exist, and perhaps if it did I wouldn't have bothered doing it myself. That being said, I plan to finish my series on the blog but for those who want to see just how crazy the D&H's paint shop got this book is a must.

The sections featuring the GE-U boats probably contained the most new knowledge to me as I am pretty ignorant to GE engines as they generally look the same. I wish there was more coverage on the EMD Geeps (there were two of them total) but there was at least one picture of one of them. I was a bit disappointed that the last chapter dealing with the later years didn't feature a lot of the engines that were painted pure Guilford or were from the NYS&W. But, the author's focus was on engines lettered for the "D&H" and not Guilford so technically they wouldn't count.

Admittedly, if you have some of the other color guide books then you probably have seen different pictures of all of the engines featured here (though I don't recall there being any repeat pictures). However, this book is definitely worth the money if you are interested in this niche area.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

New York Central Railroad family retirement check

The local NMRA Hudson Berkshire Division hosted a "Show and Tell" during our monthly meeting this morning. The theme of the event was railroad memorabilia. I was planning on attending but sadly something has come up which precluded it. So, I decided to post what I was going to bring on my blog.

This family heirloom is a New York Central Railroad retirement check written out to my great grandfather Anthony Maggi. I know absolutely nothing about his work history with the NYC RR. It is dated from 1935 during the depression and I am not sure why he decided to keep it instead of cashing it. In today’s dollars it is only worth $1.51 so perhaps he was amused by the low amount. Someone in our family framed it and eventually it was given to me once my grandparents discovered my love for trains.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Boston & Maine Athearn GP38-2 #206

May 23, 1983
Pictures in the mid-1980s frequently showed a B&M locomotive mixed in with D&H power. This wasn't unusual, as both railroads were under common ownership of Guilford. By this time, nearly all of the B&M engines were solid blue with either small or large lettering on the sides. I wanted to get a B&M engine to run in my consists, but I didn't want to spend a lot on a new Atlas or Athearn engine because I won't use it all that much and the nicer details such as separate grab irons won't be as visible between the other engines. And I wanted it to be a dummy, as I have way too many powered engines.

So I watched EBay and finally found an engine that fit the bill for $25. It is an Athearn Blue Box model, complete with metal handrails and other generic details. It is an EMD GP38-2, though the instructions that came in the box were for a GP-35. I mocked up the handrails on the body and they don't fit... they are indeed also for a GP35. A call to Athearn's customer service allowed me to order a set of their metal handrails (yes, they still have some in stock!) but the cost plus shipping (about $23 total) was nearly as much as the engine itself. I hate stuff like that. By the way, an excellent resource for old Athearn documentation is found here.

I love the fact that this is an old blue box model. As a kid, I enjoyed putting them together and even though the handrails sometimes caused problems (getting everything lined up, putting a tiny drop of superglue at the joint, then painting them in a matching color was tedious) they were a lot of fun to work on. I only later learned secrets like using needle-nose pliers, opening up the holes when necessary, and trimming the handrail portions that stick into the sides of the cab down in length. It only took about 20 minutes or so to get all the handrails in place on this engine, and that included only one stanchion threaded upside down which was easy to correct.

I had in my parts box a set of North West Short Line metal replacement wheels for Athearn diesels. They were designed to replace the sintered metal wheels which were standard on powered Athearn engines. I figured putting them on this engine wouldn't hurt, and they were just sitting around doing nothing already. In the process of trying to install them, I managed to break one sideframe from one truck (I forgot that I superglued them on when I bought the engine last summer) and even after that I discovered they won't work on dummy engines because the axle arrangement is different. So, I ordered replacement sideframes on EBay (another $9), which meant that my "cheap" engine wasn't so cheap anymore. But, I now have extra sideframes in my parts box.

The handrails were first painted with blue paint that I matched at the local hobby store. But, the shop has poor lighting in the paint area, the color swatches on the display board are faded, and some of the paint never seems to match the samples anyway no matter how much you shake them. As a result, the handrails turned out darker than I wanted. So I repainted them with a blue craft paint I had on hand. I didn't have to get every speck of handrail like I had with the first color coat (to hide the steel), but I got most of it. Painting handrails with a microbrush was much easier than when I did it as a kid, using a cheap plastic bristled brush that would splatter paint everywhere if you pushed it too hard.

I then mounted Kadee couplers. My first move was to drill a hole in the metal frame and then tap the hole for 2-56 screws, which worked well. However, I couldn't get the coupler height correct using regular #158 couplers (my defacto standard are #58 or #158 "scale" size) and hate using over or under-set shank couplers. I think they look stupid. So, instead I used my Dremel tool to cut off the metal tabs completely. To allow me a maximum amount of space to glue styrene inside the ends to build up a new coupler pad, I ground away more of the metal chassis than I probably needed to. Black paint hid the damage.

I think it always seems to be a guessing game as to whether you have used enough styrene to build up... effectively lower... the pad to the correct height but a Kadee gauge and a spare piece of track were helpful. I marked on the inside of the coupler cutaway with pencil where I needed to get to. Then, various pieces of styrene were glued inside the shell until the correct depth was reached. Thankfully, after drilling and tapping the holes for 4-40 screws and installing the couplers I was spot on. Note: if you drill all the way through the pad, make sure you are far enough in from the front of the engine so that you don't drill right through the deck! 

Finally, the corner railings were picked out in white.

That completes the engine to this point. I have no intention of adding separate grab irons or other details but it will need to be weathered. Also, during assembly I noticed that the upper number board lenses are missing too. Whomever previously owned this kit not only substituted the wrong handrail set and instructions but also lost some parts. I can't bear to pay full price plus shipping for a replacement set (#46031) so I might cobble something together to fill the number board gaps (they aren't going to be lit from behind, so I don't need them to be clear). Then I plan to weather it following the directions on Mike Confalone's new weathering DVD "Weather Like a Pro" volume 2, which actually features a B&M engine.

Not bad for a $25.00 $57.00 engine.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Ground throws for Mohawk Paper

The area featuring the Mohawk Paper Company (Cohoes) had three switches along the backside of the layout which were elevated from the front area. That meant that any ground throw control wires had to somehow gain elevation to activate them. I intended to control them with the same 0.025" (#500) steel piano wire and 1/32" brass tubing (#1144) that I had used elsewhere but the hobby store was out of stock of the brass tube. So, I settled for something larger in diameter. In retrospect, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the required kinks and bends in the tube would have easily bound up the piano wire had I used the smaller tube but the larger stuff posed no such problems.

Bending the tube wasn't scientific but I did try and avoid really sharp breaks. For the area on the right side of the layout, the tube will eventually be buried in scenery and the road so I didn't mind laying it directly on top of the ceiling tile top. For the area on the left where some sort of structure will go, though, I cut a groove in the ceiling tile with a utility knife and drilled under the track with a drill to allow the tubing to pass through. Seeing how easy this was, I wonder if I should have done this for all three? To give the ground throws a firm foundation to attach to, I carved away more of the ceiling tile and glued in small squares of plywood that I had lying around. Everything was secured with wood glue.

Naturally, I ran out of steel wire the weekend I worked on this so I had to get more. My local hobby shop was out of this size (I had cleaned them out from my last two trips) so the only choice was mail order. And would you believe it cost me nearly $14 to get five tiny pieces of wire sent to my house when the local store normally has them for a quarter each. Grrr. Shipping... it will get you every time. The last one I installed was for the switch that controlled the siding to Mohawk Paper. When I replaced this switch in May of 2018 I was still using Tortoise switch machines so I trimmed off the throwbar on either side. Unfortunately, that meant that to control it now with a ground throw I had to run the wire between the headblock ties and bend the control wire to go into the center of the throw rod. Not the end of the world, but I would preferred all my installations to be the same. I ran the brass tubing all the way to the underside of the turnout too.

Once the glue is dry, some brown paint will blend them into the landscape.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Roster Review: D&H U33Cs in 1984

#761 (October 21, 1977)
The D&H didn't own many General Electric U-boat engines (just three classes) and only the U33Cs lasted until 1984. The D&H acquired fourteen U33C engines between 1969 and 1970. The first three, #751-753, were acquired from the Erie Lackwanna in a trade which sent the D&H's three SD45s to the E.L. The engines had never fit into the D&H scheme and it was considered a good trade. Ironically, in late 1975 the D&H traded back the three U33C engines to the E.L.! They were through several patch paint schemes but since they never lasted until 1984 I won't discuss them anymore here.
#756 (March 08, 1981)

Engines #754-762 were purchased new from General Electric. They could be found system wide pulling all sorts of freight trains, but they usually were based in the Pennsylvania Division. They rarely made it up to Colonie except for maintenance. In the late 1970s, the D&H finished purging most of the six-axle engines from its roster by selling off some to Mexico but it decided to keep the U33Cs. They continued to serve as pushers until most of them were placed in storage at Colonie. The remainder, usually #755, #756, #761, and #762, were used as pushers over Belden Hill. They continued this service into 1984.

The engines originally were all painted in the standard lightning stripe paint scheme with "Delaware & Hudson" spelled out in small letters along the side. Sometime, probably in the late 1970s under Dereco, they also received small engine numbers below the lettering on the sides. It appears that one engine, #757, kept this scheme throughout its career. I have seen pictures of it without the numbers on the sides but at earlier in its career it had them so I assume that they just faded or wore away. In 1974 it was involved in a roundhouse fire in Binghamton and was rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen, who used a different long hood which had different door latches and added a nose Gyralite. Since this was not one of the engines regularly used in the 1980s the D&H probably didn't see fit to repaint it with large numbers.

#759 (August 04, 1985)
Engines #754, #755, #756, #759, #760, #761, and #762 were all later updated in the early 1980s with larger numbers on the sides of their hood. Sometimes, entire patches of the hood were repainted gray first and then the larger numbers were applied. Other times, only the lettering and small numbers themselves were patched out (as if someone used gray decal film to block the offending lettering... hint hint for modelers) and then the large numbers were painted over it. These engines kept this scheme until the end, though like all other lightning stripe scheme locomotives they looked pretty grungy in their later years.

#758 (January 06, 1980)
Finally, what would the D&H be without at least one oddity? Engine #758 was unique in the class in that it received the Zebra stripe scheme in either late 1979 or early 1980. Why they chose this engine and this engine alone is unknown, but perhaps it was already in Colonie for a major engine repair or rehab and they repainted it then. Despite the fact that I adjusted the color of the slide a little, the engine still looks pretty good in this picture. Based on pictures I have seen online, by May of 1980 it already was looking pretty grubby. That is a shame, as I think it really stands out well with the yellow on blue.

The entire class lasted into Guilford in 1988 when they all were finally retired and scrapped or sold in 1988. Also, in 1985 Guilford purchased additional U33C engines (#650-656) but they are outside the scope of this review.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rebuilt swing up entrance bridge

This past weekend was notable for the Superbowl but it also was a two-day weekend where I had no real projects going on. Thus, I was able to do little things around the house and work on the layout. We have friends coming over next week and they will likely want to see the layout run, so I wanted to get it in operating shape. That meant rebuilding the lift entrance bridge into the layout. The old one worked fine most of the time, but the layout sections sit loose on the l-girder benchwork and sometimes shift apart more or less depending on the weather, causing the gaps at the end of the bridge to be large. In those instances, I need to physically pull the layout sections together to safely allow trains to pass. What it needed was a locking mechanism.

Originally, the bridge swung down on top of the far layout section and maintained its alignment through via a set of small wooden blocks. Wanting to get away from this, I decided to have the new bridge supported from below by a wooden block which would leave the topside of the open for the locking mechanism. Not wanting to go to the lumber yard, I found a piece of nice 1" x 6" cedar wood in the garage which was left over from some raised garden beds I built for my wife. A little cutting with the chop saw and sanding on the belt sander and the support block was ready to install. I didn't glue it in case I had to remove it in the future to reuse the benchwork section.

The bridge itself is more of that cedar wood, which was flat and wide enough for the locking mechanism pieces to mount to. And, it smelled nice in cutting it (which my wife commented on during construction). The very bottom edge of the end that swings up was beveled slightly to prevent any binding on the side of the layout. I planned to use two latches on the bridge, one on each side, but after installing them I discovered that both were unnecessary so one was removed. The roadboad is cork in the middle but plywood at the ends to allow the track a firm place to nail to. This is very important as rail alignment at the joint is critical to having trains make it over the bridge without derailing.

Then, the hinge block areas were cut and installed. I made sure check swing clearances by using a large piece of rolling stock, in this case some I..H.C. coaches which were remarkably difficult to keep on the track during a test run. Still, they served their purpose of confirming that the bridge was wide enough for trains to safely pass through. The hinge blocks are necessary to raise the pivot point of the bridge or else the bridge binds when lifting. Had I used a different style of hinge I could have avoided them, but that would have meant a trip to the hardware store. Maybe if I rebuild the bridge again...

The track was secured with a combination of wood glue and nails. I reused the Atlas rerailer sections from the older bridge and filled in the rest with new flextrack. Joints were not soldered, as I discovered that the ability to allow the rails to slide a little was a good thing here. Wiring was a simple matter of of soldering two wires onto the rails and then dropping the feeders down and through the edge of the benchwork section, with enough extra wire on the inside to allow things to work well. There is no electro-mechanical lock-out mechanism for the bridge which means that if it is up a train can run right off the layout. However, it swings up and blocks one side of the entrance which cuts that probability in half. It will take a spectacular train crash to get me to change my mind. Once I was done with the wiring, I called in the chief Quality Control Officer (Clover) to review the wiring. Apparently, it met with her approval as her only follow up comments were that she wanted a dog treat and some belly rubs.

Side rails to prevent trains from tipping or falling off the bridge sideways were made from some 1"x2" lumber stock that I did have to purchase at the store. If I had a table saw though I would have ripped some from the cedar stock I had been using for the rest of the project. These were glued to the sides and clamped until dry, and then everything was painted the brown color that I use for the top of the layout. In hindsight I think the edges should probably be the green that I use for the fascia, but right now I like how it sort of blends in with the rest of the layout. In the past I used to dread using the bridge because I could never ensure it would work, but now I am excited that the project is done.

The only downside for the project was that I had my chop saw in the garage and every cut meant putting on my sneakers, opening the garage door, running to the garage, plugging in the saw, unlocking the blade, cutting the lumber, and then reversing the process. I did that at least a dozen times as various pieces were cut, beveled, and re-cut. Clover jumped up and followed me around for every trip, which tired us both out! But, seeing the first train over the bridge (sans the sides... don't tell the safety committee) was a complete success!