CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Utica's Union Station

As mentioned previously, the old NYC Union Station in Utica, NY has a special place in my heart. I have been there dozens of times over the years, and literally stop there every time I go to Utica to visit family. Holidays... birthdays... even funerals all involve a stop at the station first. The pictures below are from March 2005.

It is an imposing structure, and per Wikipedia was built between 1912-1914 in the Italian style. It is currently registered in the National Register of Historic Places. Originally it served 14 tracks via 8 platforms, and they were all linked by an underground tunnel system.

When I first went there in the 1980s, it was a run-down hulk of a building. Decay was everywhere, portions were closed off and weeds choked some of the unused stub tracks. Though restoration had began in the late 1970s, there evidently was a lot remaining in the 1980s. Still, I was impressed by the marble columns and the odd-looking long wooden benches that seemed to go on forever. It looked nothing like the Rochester Amtrak station and I was in awe.

And then things changed for the better. I don't know the timing of everything, but the Adirondack Scenic Railroad moved in and the City of Utica decided to put some of their municipal offices inside. A restaurant, a barber shop, and a tiny hobby shop also rented space. 

The best part of this revitalization was the overhead connecting bridge that spanned the east-bound mainline track. It was open to the public and offered good views of the MA&N train yard (looking north) and the NYS&W yard (looking south). The pictures below are from August 2005

The first shot is of the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern shortline's yard. I remember as a kid seeing it filled with flatcars loaded with pulpwood, though now it mostly stores empty covered hoppers. The blue engine house looks like a model from Pikestuff.

Further east is the old Conrail tower. It was abandoned by the time I saw it in the 1980s, but I am glad it is still standing today. The coaches in the foreground belong to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which will be the subject of another post sometime.

Can you imagine what it was like to have 14 tracks busy with passenger and freight trains? Now, it is all just a torn-up yard. I believe it is the Central New York Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society that offers a beautiful print of a picture of this station showing it in its heyday. Here is a photograph of the painting by Larry Fisher that I took during a train show. Here is the link to purchase a print of it.

And what it looks like now:

This is a shot from the pedestrian bridge looking East. There is an expressway that parallels the tracks in that direction, and many a time I would see automobile headlights in the distance and think that it was an approaching train's ditch lights.

These former Conrail camp cars were likely here for decades. As a kid I always wondered what they were for. They looked like mobile homes on wheels. 

Utica Station is located on the busy Water Level Route connecting Chicago with NYC, so lots of different trains pass through every day. And foreign power is not only possible, but expected. The pictures below are from April 2016.

Other times, all you see is a rail truck. 

Still, this place has special memories for me. When I go to visit my grandmother for Sunday dinner, she knows that my first stop will be here. Usually, Amtrak had an eastbound train arriving around 12:15 and a westbound at 11:40 so getting there around noon meant I would see at least one of them. With Amtrak's new Covid schedule changes, though, I am not sure.

Hopefully I can ride the Adirondack Scenic Railroad soon, and revisit this grand station once more!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Train Troll WW&F flatcars

For the past couple of weeks I have been working on a pair of Train Troll WW&F flatcar kits, and I decided to build them both at the same time to economize my efforts. 

They are laser cut wood kits, a first for me, but they seemed simple enough. Both kits are basically the same, but one includes some boards to convert one car into a low-sided gondola.

The frame was built up from several pieces that glued onto each other, and as each new part was added I applied weight to prevent anything from warping. Honestly, I don't know if that is required with a laser cut wood kit but it was easy to do now and I figured it would be hard to fix later.


The prototype defunct WW&F had similar flatcars, but I wanted to build and decorate my models so that they looked like two flatcars currently at the WW&F museum in Alna, Maine. Those cars are slightly (2 scale feet) longer then the kit's dimensions, and the graphics are different. Still, these cars were better options than trying to rework Bachmann On30 cars. Unfortunately, one glaring detail in the kits that doesn't match the current museum cars is the number of stake pockets on the sides. The kit has 6 per side, whereas the prototype has 8 and the 2 middle ones are close together. Because fixing this would have meant sourcing more stake pocket castings, filing the holes pre-burned into the sides, and then drilling new holes... too much work... I left it as is. 

The ends of the cars have extra nut/bolt/washer castings where the tie-rods would come through. These rods, as well as some other details, were actually included in the kit. Installing the n/b/w casting was an exercise in frustration because they were so small and most of the shaft had to be cut off, leaving little to actually fit into the hole.

The decks on the cars are a single piece of plain, scribed wood. I colored them with multiple different washes of India ink (some black, some brown) and alcohol. I didn't try weathering them at this time, and instead was just attempting to make the wood boards look like individual planks of various types of wood.

Trucks are a combination of Grandt Line and San Juan Model Company's castings (the later acquired the former), with wheels from Reebox. I had two pairs of trucks already in my stash, so I only had to purchase another two pair to get all four cars that I purchased operational.

The truck sideframes were painted flat black, and then I drybrushed them with brown paint.

The wheels were painted in an old styrene jig I made up years ago. I painted four wheels a much brighter shade of orange than the rest so that the car I mount them in will look like it has newer wheel assemblies.

The frames have additional pieces of wood added to make up bolsters and coupler pocket support braces. I masked the truck bolster surfaces before painting so that the trucks would rotate cleanly.

The frames were spray painted with Ace brand red paint. Ace uses nice paint nozzles and the spray comes out even and smooth. 

I later discovered that the trucks needed shims, and not having any Kadee fiber ones lying around I made my own from 0.005 thick clear styrene. Drill a hole in it, then punch around the hole with a paper punch. Easy, and cheap. Any size can be made if you vary the thickness of the styrene.

Then, the trucks and couplers were installed. You can also see my primitive efforts at bending and installing the truss rods. Additionala pieces of wire were included in the kit to simulate crossbraces but I omitted them for sanity's sake. This isn't a contest model.

Castings were included for the brake wheel and the mounting bracket, which consisted of a white metal casting. Though the instructions didn't say to, I drilled out one hole where a molded bolt was included and then installed the casting with a shortened track nail and superglue. This gave the assembly a little extra strength.

Decals were made for me by Precision Design Company. His prices are great, he was a pleasure to work with, and the turnaround time for this project was a day. Bill suggested using a font size and weight that matched drawings of the current cars, but I had him adjust it slightly so that the graphics looked better on the models I actually built (those two missing stake pockets really threw it all off). I am very happy with the results.

Then, I decided for kicks to weigh the near-finished model and discovered it was under 1 ounce per car! Now, I don't think the NMRA has recommended practices for On30 cars but an HO scale car of this length would be at least 4.5 ounces and this wasn't even close. I could add a load, but didn't want to be forced to. 

I talked to Train Troll and they recommended sheet lead, something that is hard to find nowadays. I bought some from Ebay and slipped strips of it underneath one car. Then, I flooded the gaps with Arleens' tacky glue, chosen over superglue because I didn't want the wood deck or sides to the glue and discolor. Even with the lead, it was only 2.2 ounces.. not even half of what it should be.

For the other car, I glued small wooden pieces to the underside of the deck between the frame pieces to make dams and then poured in lead shot. I then again flooded it with tacky glue. I made sure no round shot was visible from the sides and let it all cure up.

Once I was confident I wouldn't need to flip the cars over again, I added the brake wheels and shafts, along with the ratchet castings. They are now pretty delicate cars.

The kits came with wooden brake shoes and hanger parts, which I added to the one truck nearest the brake wheel (per the prototype). However, I couldn't get them to hang properly without being so low as to catch on trackwork details. 

There must be a trick to it, but adjusting them led to me mangling one set of brakes (seen between the cars) and I later removed the other set from the second car. I don't blame Train Troll for this... I blame my lack of skill in assembling them. So look out, these car's can't stop!

Flatcar #126 had the stake pockets painted black to match pictures I saw online. I also chiseled off the tiny n/b/w castings on the end of the car and replaced them with larger ones from my stash to better match prototype photos. If I had more on hand I would have done the other car. Oh well, I like the difference between the two flatcars.

The cars aren't finished yet. I still need to weather them and add some loads, but I don't know what I want to do with them. So, for right now they will sit in my display case.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

D&H blue glass hoppers in M.O.W. service

I really love the D&H's blue Oneonta glass service hopper cars. I have written about them in the past, and built a couple model of them (here and here). I know some of the cars existed into the late-1980s though I am pretty certain that the glass recycling program was over by they. I don't know when it stopped, but some of the cars likely were used for hauling other commodities by the early 1980s. 

When I saw this slide on Ebay I jumped on it. At first, I was drawn to the engines and it wasn't until I looked closer that I saw the hopper cars weren't gray, but actually a faded blue! It is dated September 1982, and it looks like both hoppers were once Oneonta glass service cars. The numbers are patch-painted out so no help in tracing them there. However, on the right panels is what looks like "MOW DEPT" stenciled on. I can't imagine why a typical ballast train would require four engines but perhaps the cars were being transferred to a different division where the gravel was needed. 

Note: Bowser is offering several HO cars in this paint scheme with MOW markings.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Happy Father's Day (belated)

I had an idea to post a picture of my father on Father's Day, similar to what I did with my mother on Mother's Day, but then I forgot. I can't help it... I am nearly 40. It is a scary time in my life! That being said, I really like the picture below. Our family used to ride the Arcade and Attica Railroad on Father's Day every year, and this is us standing in front of #14 in 1986. I can't tell from my expression what I was thinking but I have a really stupid looking expression on my face. My wife says that about me all the time, so I dunno... (in her defense, she is right)

My dad always helped me with my train projects. He took me trainspotting to lots of great places, including early morning dawn rides to Kodak to watch coal trains, trips to Buffalo and Utica and Arcade to railfan, and occasionally elsewhere. He took me to train shows, and always took pictures of trains he saw (he still does) for me. I am a pretty goofy guy but I know it runs in my genes which I got from him. I am proud of that. I even may have more hair then him but that surely won't last forever!

Love you Dad!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Switching boxcars in the yard

I decided to run some trains on my layout, which hadn't seen any in at least the last six months. Having worked on scenery and ballasting, the rails were covered in dirt and glue residue. So, out came the Brightboy to shine them up. My buildings got in the way of the yard area, and the trees on the hill on Cut Corner interfered with the curved switch. But, I managed. I dug out some boxcars (14) because I like them, and grabbed my new Atlas RS11 #5005 with the sound. 

But I couldn't get the train to run! After checking everything out, I realized that I had the DCC system wired up incorrectly. I bought an upgraded ProCab NCE system to replace the PowerCab and made a couple of assumptions with the wires. I was wrong. But, a couple of frustrating hours later I stripped it all out and started fresh and it worked fine.

Then, as I was switching cars in the yard some wobbled and derailed. When I built the kits I hadn't put any washers on the truck kingpins and thought I had left enough room for the trucks to twist and bend, but I hadn't. So, that was fixed.

Finally, I saw that 14 cars swamped the yard with little room for maneuvering. And I had only cleaned as much track as can be seen in the pictures, so I couldn't go very far with the train.

But... it was a start. However, now I am tired of the wiring, cleaning track, and adjusting freight car trucks and don't want to bother cleaning the rest of the mainline for an actual run!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

New Book: Boston & Maine- Three Colorful Decades of New England Railroading

For my recent birthday my wife purchased me a new book about the Boston & Maine railroad. I had read it once before and found it informative and fascinating because it blended railroad history with the actual personal perspective of the author, Robert Willoughby Jones, who rode and railfannned the B&M as a child. It has chapters for every branch line and subdivision of the railroad, including maps (helpful for someone like me who doesn't have an extensive background on the railroad's geography) and lots of great color photographs. 

In researching the author a bit more, we discovered that he has written several other books on the B&M that I might want to also add to my library in the future. But for right now, this is a great addition to my small B&M book collection. Even as I write this, I can slowly feel my undivided loyalty to the D&H begin to dissolve...

Saturday, June 12, 2021

40th Anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark (6-12-1981)

I am an 1980s movie junkie. Four of my top five movies are: (1) Ghostbusters, (2) Raiders of the Lost Ark, (4) Romancing the Stone, and (5) The Princess Bride are from that decade (Star Wars- A New Hope is third on the list). I have loved these movies since I was a child, and in many ways they still keep me young. 

Ghostbusters is definitely my favorite because of the humor. However, when I want to watch a "more serious" (sort of) adventure movie I turn to Raiders. I can't help it: I am a huge Harrison Ford junkie. He is my boyhood hero, and I collect all the movies he is in. Some, lately, have been pretty bad but when he is good he is GOOD. And Raiders is probably his best. For those living in a cave, here are some fun facts about the movie. 

The HO Indiana Jones figure is something I found on Ebay from a seller from Indonesia. The price for the completely painted figure is reasonable, though shipping adds quite a bit. He has custom molded and painted figures from dozens of movies and television shows. I can't determine what he is doing on top of D&H #5005, but he is definitely thinking: "Alcos... why did it have to be Alcos..."

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Old Albany Main under Route 9W bridge (1983)

Here is a shot of a D&H train pulled by RS36 #5016 passing under the Route 9W bridge on the old Albany Main line. As I noted here, the line was torn up in 2000 after one of the railroad bridges near where this shot was taken was condemned. The cost of the repair wasn't deemed worthwhile and thus the line was severed. It is a nice walking trail, and I hope someday to bike along it. Until then, I will only have shots like this from October 24, 1983.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Four Guilford-era paint schemes

When Guilford started acquiring locomotives in the mid-1980s it was cash strapped and quickly pressed them into service after performing basic ("economical") patch paint jobs. The first engine in this shot from June of 1986 is in the D&H's blue-dip scheme with yellow chevrons (which I actually like more than the lightning stripe scheme). Next is a basic blue dip B&M engine. After that, it appears the patched units with the Guilford "G" were likely N&W and Conrail surplus equipment. They aren't very pretty, but at least they aren't this.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

New O scale display shelf

A year or so ago I purchased an inexpensive HO scale display case on Amazon. I liked that it had a see-through glass door that kept dust out but let me quickly and easily gain access to my trains. I hung it up and filled it quickly with prized items... too quickly, in fact... and so I bought another one right away. Just seeing my trains makes me happy and I actually think I enjoy it more than running them. I feel as if I am walking into my own curated museum.

I have a couple of O scale trains that I wanted to display too, but they wouldn't fit in the HO shelf. So what's a guy to do? How about purchase a similar shelf in O scale? I had to have a friend help me install it, but it went up pretty easily. The supplied hanging hardware is worthless so they were replaced with L-brackets, which aren't as pretty but are a lot more sturdy. 

It turns out that those two A&A tinplate cabooses will only fit on the shelf they are on, and in the middle of the row. They are just slightly too tall for all of the other shelves, but the manufacturing tolerances of the cabinet were sloppy enough that they fit there. Wow... the shelf is already nearly full and I have other On30 cars to put in it. I hope I don't need another shelf already!

It's a good thing I don't have a lot of G scale equipment or I would need yet another display case. And yup, I checked but they don't make one. Probably for the better.