Posted by: Roger | November 4, 2017

I Ain’t Dead Yet…

as the cowboys of old used to say!

But I had great doctors and surgeons, so I’m still here.

I thank the great God in Heaven, I didn’t have Stoogie Bowser, Hollywood Cutlass Kid, opening the hood on my chest to fix my valve!

But, in the more than one year since my “great hospital adventure,” it’s been a while since I’ve done much of anything.

Paul helped me figure out the yard, and I got some cork gooped in place, but I’ve gone a bit sidetracked with buying this ancient unsupported massive laser cutting machine.

Epilog Laser

Epilog Laser

I hope I can learn how to use it and make some money to pay for it.

I owe a great deal of thanks to Paul who found it and for helping me get it installed, 220 wiring run, exhaust piping piped, etc.

We started working on N scale trusses, some of which I hope he will get together for his Showcase Miniatures flatbed. We may need more, but it’s proving difficult to laser cut 1/64″ plywood without barbecuing hamburgers in the flames. Our first effort was… illuminating!!

Life is an expensive adventure, if you intend to make a habit of it.

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I had the privelege of running my Northern Pacific North Coast Limited on Mike’s Spokane International in N Scale layout today. The local Amtrak manager asked Mike and other members of the Bellingham Railroad Museum to come to the Bellingham, Wash., train station to help promote the Amtrak Train Days event in northwest Washington state.

Here’s Mike running the NCL while I get the photo.

Mike Pagano runs the North Coast Limited through Sandpoint, Idaho, on the N Scale Spokane International Railway. Mike set up his N scale SI Railway layout at the Bellingham, Wash., Amtrak depot on June 13.

Mike Pagano runs the North Coast Limited through Sandpoint, Idaho, on the N Scale Spokane International Railway. Mike set up his N scale SI Railway layout at the Bellingham, Wash., Amtrak depot on June 13.

We traded off running the Great Northern Empire Builder with the NP’s North Coast Limited all the while contending with a Spokane International or Northern Pacific freight making their way through northern Idaho.

It was great to see the children take such an interest in the “little” trains. A few times during the day they got a bit concerned when a monstrous BNSF freight rolled by just a few feet outside the building. Thundering tons of steel at close range are a bit much compared to little plastic engines that they can get close to. I remember well standing on the platform at Fort Wright station when I was about eight.

Here's Mike chatting with one of the junior conductors and his mom at the Bellingham station. I am sorry I did not get their names. It was wonderful to see future model railroaders being inducted into the hobby.

Here’s Mike chatting with one of the junior conductors and his mom at the Bellingham station. I am sorry I did not get their names. It was wonderful to see future model railroaders being inducted into the hobby. We had many future railroaders spend the afternoon enjoying the layout.

Posted by: Roger | June 7, 2015

Centralia Car Shops Observation Car

Sorry about the stupid theme change. I thought I was goofing with a private blog that didn’t work. I didn’t realize that I was tricked into changing the theme of this blog.
Anyway, I got my Centralia Cars Shops observation cars from BLW a couple weeks ago, but didn’t have an opportunity to photograph them until recently. They are really nice cars.

It took a few years, but the Centralia Car Shops 2-2-1 Observation cars are here. Other than the Con-Cor car, I don't know of any other observation car in the Loewy paint scheme.

It took a few years, but the Centralia Car Shops 2-2-1 Observation cars are here. Other than the Con-Cor car, I don’t know of any other observation car in the Loewy paint scheme.

Here's a detail shot of the vestibule end.

Here’s a detail shot of the vestibule end.

The unlighted tail drum is a nice touch.

The unlighted tail drum is a nice touch.

The roof antenna details area really nice. Lettering is crisp.

The roof antenna details area really nice. Lettering is crisp.

Posted by: Roger | April 17, 2015

Rapido Cafe-Bar-Lounge Passenger Car in N Scale

Have I mentioned that I pre-ordered these cars about FIVE years ago. I did. Sigh!

They are as nice as previous runs with the same dark-dark-dark-DARK green as previous runs. At least they will not look out of place when you run them with other Rapido cars. (That’s called looking for the silver lining.)

Rapido N Scale Cafe car

Here’s a side view of the cafe car.

The details look exagerated in this close-up, but they look fine from normal viewing distance.

Someday I hope I will be able to run them.

Posted by: Roger | April 14, 2015

Mark Responds To My Arnold Rant

Today I noticed that Mark B. submitted a comment on my Arnold U25C Part II post. It’s long, but nice to read for another point of view on this locomotive. I know the comments are a bit hard to find, but you’ll see a link labeled (currently) 1 comment at the bottom of my post.

He asks a couple questions that I will answer here.

1. I would standardize on Micro-Trains couplers.

2. Body-mount couplers. I will quit the hobby if this becomes the standard. It’s a horrible solution in search of a problem. Well, at least I will stop buying new stuff as I think I have enough to run my railroad.

Oh! I didn’t coin the term “unobtainium.” I don’t recall where I first heard that term, but it’s been around for a long time. And I do try to be funny, if only for my own sake. Life is too serious; let’s have fun.

Be sure to read his comment, and thanks, Mark!

Posted by: Roger | January 14, 2015

Arnold U25C – Part II

Well, I didn’t anticipate a part II, but I really think there will be a part III after this.

Did I mention I lost HALF of one coupler after putting in a decoder? That’s right. The coupler boxes exploded when I pulled the screw out to remove the shell. After many frustrating attempts to reassemble one coupler, I watched the lower half slip out of my tweezers and fall to the carpet between my feet. I’ve searched 150 square feet of carpet on my hands and knees for hours with a bright light and a Ryobi handvac. I can only conclude that it disintegrated in the 30 inches between the table top and the carpet. Either that or it went to Never-Never Land and some urchin has put it on a shelf next to Tootles’ marbles.

So, what do I do now, since these proprietary couplers are more rare than unobtainium and a ticket on the Andromeda Galaxy Love Boat? Well, let’s try putting a 1015 coupler into the Arnold coupler box. WRONG! MT N-scale coupler shanks are too thick.

Okay. Let’s try shoving a 2004 box into the Arnold. WRONG! I would have to file out .003 in height, and .017 in width while trying NOT to get the opening off center.

I whined for days about my $121.49 (plus shipping) shelf queen, and then my friend said, “I have some Micro-Trains Z scale 903 couplers. Do you think they will work?”

They will work better than nothing, I thought. So, let’s try the 903.

Paul put it together, but he swore off any thoughts of ever going to Z scale in the process. It fits, sort of. It works, sort of. I can’t rely on it, for sure, so I put it at the front of the loco, and I will be sure to run that at the front of the consist so I never have to use it, because it doesn’t move. I may have to grind off the back end of the coupler box so the loco can go around a tight corner…. and bend the Z scale trip pin so it doesn’t bind on the snowplow, etc.

BAH! This rivet counting BS has to go! Use standard couplers, manufacturers! All you are doing is pissing off your customers and ruining the hobby for the majority so the teeny tiny minority will stop bitching about the fact that the 37th rivet on the left rear truck doesn’t have enough rust on it for March 3rd, 1965, at 2 am.

Sigh. Rant off… temporarily.

So, after all that I got a decoder into one with two functional couplers. I put it on the programming track and programmed it correctly. Of to the Pacific Northwest Railroad.

Give it some throttle.

Okay, give it more.

Hmmm, is it going to move?

Try Warp (step) 75. Well, it’s moving, sort of. Snails move faster in the Antarctic, however, on cold mid-winter days.

“Let’s try Warp 99, Mr. Sulu.”

“Mr. Sulu, I said Warp 99, not micro-minimum baby fart pulse power. Let’s GO! We need to get out of the space dock this year at least!”

“I’ve got it at Warp 2 million Captain! She just won’t go!”

After two hours of running at Warp 2 million, and a standard dousing of Atlas Conduct-a-lube on all the axles, it had almost doubled its speed from 36 scale mph to 59 mph at step 99. As the cranky people say…

WHAT…
THE…
HELL!…

Okay. Lousy photos to come.

Here's a closeup of the goofy electrical contact between the trucks and the circuit board.

Here’s a closeup of the goofy electrical contact between the trucks and the circuit board. This is the front of the loco.

When those contacts become tarnished, it is not going to be fun removing the exploding couplers so I can remove the shell to clean the brass contacts. The upside is that it looks like there is room to add a couple pounds of weight or some 150-watt JBL speakers, etc., for sound in there. I have not tested pulling power, but after running on the PNWRR’s 2.2% grades, we will need a pair of locos to pull a 15-car train up the grade.

Here's a complete look at the chassis with the shell off.

Here’s a complete look at the chassis with the shell off. Front is left, rear is right.

Oh, almost forgot. In the previous post, I mentioned a problem with the handrail that I thought was isolated. Well, it seems to be an intrinsic failure with the handrail on the left side. I used a round toothpick to dab a tiny amount of Hob-E-Tac into each hole to secure the left-side handrail on both locomotives. Yep. It’s finger-sticking GOOD, but that handrail is going to stay there!

Yes, this post is full of snark, but I paid $30 or $40 more than the typical price of a superb Kato for these locos, and I got Austrian-quality Atlas circa 1980 (which cost me $19.95). I am not happy. Yes, I still remember that Austrian Atlas GP-9 with the red plastic gears. I’ve got the parts of one around here somewhere.

Note: I am so glad I am not relying on advertising for a living. But, I get to tell it like it is and not worry about living out of a stolen shopping cart next week after an advertiser tells the publisher to fire me for not writing sweet nothings about his crap.

‘Nother note: I reserve the right to temper my comments after I have cooled down. Or not.

Programming Addendum: I used DecoderPro to set step 1 to 20.  From there I used the log curve to ramp up to 250 at step 28. The next chance I get, I will set it to 255 at step 14 in a straight-line. I do not like cranking the throttle-knob like a pepper-addict asking for more pepper on his salad at the restaurant. Yes, I’ve known a few.

I’m done. Comments are welcome.

Posted by: Roger | January 4, 2015

Arnold U25C N Scale

I got my Arnold U25Cs from BLW on Saturday. I didn’t take them out of the box until I got to my friend’s place on Sunday. I don’t have the decoders yet, but I thought I’d see how they run on my friend’s layout using the 00 address. Short answer: They DON’T. Unlike just about every other DC locomotive I have ever seen, these locos will short out the DCC system when placed on the track. Not cool. Paul then rejiggered his logging line from DCC to DC, and I was able to run the pair on it, at least until they went into a tunnel. Halfway through, I heard a loud snap and you can see in the photo below how this one, which was running backward, came out of the tunnel.

This is definitely NOT cool for an out-of-the-box brand new locomotive.

I think the loose stanchion at the rear steps was sticking out and caught on the narrow confines of the tunnel. I tried to push the stanchions back into the holes, but they would not stay for any reason at all. The worst, and most annoying, part is that it looks like the hole for the last stanchion on the steps wasn’t drilled through all the way. I have to find my magnifier headset, pin vise and a number 80 drill to finish it, then get some type of goo to apply to the rest of the stanchion pins to keep that hand rail in place. The other loco did not have this issue.

It’s a beautiful face to be sure.

On DC, the headlights worked directionally, while the number boards stayed lighted on both ends. I like that. The red nose light could simply be an unlighted piece of clear plastic as it never came on. That would be kind of a bummer.

I’m not sure about these Z-scale couplers shown on the right. That’s a Micro-Trains 1015 coupler in a 2004 box on the left.

Teeny tiny Z-scale couplers! Why? I didn’t shell out all that cash to put these things on a shelf and say, “Wow! Look at those tiny useless couplers.” I hope they work, otherwise I will have to replace them with Micro-Trains couplers, if they fit that is.

Locos with couplers connected.

Here they are connected. They look like they will work, but time will tell. I can definitely say that the Arnold truck side frames are pathetic compared to the Kato SD-45. They look like dirty white plastic instead of silver.

It is, except for those awful trucks, a good looking locomotive.

I wonder how much trouble it would be to paint those horrible trucks with some silver paint? Probably more than I care to invest.

Bottom line in my opinion is that these locos are not worth the premium price they cost, and that is truly a shame. I have to applaud Arnold for doing the U25C, but they have some serious corrections to make if they expect to keep selling them at the price they want. They at least need to up their game to Atlas standards.

I did not disassemble them. I’m saving that chore until I get the decoders and have some patience to spare. Removing the shell means taking out the screw holding the couplers in place.

Posted by: Roger | November 1, 2014

Custom Painted NP SD45s

I picked up my custom-painted SD45s from Kendall at the Lynden train show, but seem to have lost track of time.

Kendall started with this.

Since Kato hasn't made any Northern Pacific SD45s... yet, I bought a pair of these to turn into Northern Pacific locos.

Since Kato hasn’t made any Northern Pacific SD45s… yet, I bought a pair of these to turn into Northern Pacific locos.

and the finished product looks like this.

NP-SD45-3614_DSCN1377

This is one of the first two of my custom SD45s. The layout location belongs to my friend Paul, since I haven’t made much progress on my own.

I was so impressed with Kendall’s work, I ordered two more of those SPSF locos at bargain basement prices. The Puyallup show is in two weeks, so I will get them to him at that show.

You can find Kendall at The Blue Caboose on the internet.

Addendum, with edit:

Getting Micro-Trains couplers at the correct height in these locos takes a bit more work, and costs more than it should. For these locos, I used the coupler box from the 2004 kit and the coupler from the 1015 kit. The under-set shank coupler in the 2004 is too low (or is it high? Either way it’s not right.) to mate with other Micro-Trains-equipped rolling stock. For the ES44 and SD70s, Paul uses the 2003 kit designed for the Kato Mikado locomotive, but this requires drilling a hole in the coupler box cover with a #55 bit. In addition, he puts the coupler box on top and sands the cover flat so the stock Kato clip will hold it in place.

 

Posted by: Roger | September 12, 2014

I’m still here, again! Or is it again and again…

Health is wonderful when you have it. It’s been a… year. Lost another longtime friend, and can’t seem to ever wake up.

I’ve done nothing on the layout, and that is bad. Most of the model railroaders I know are struggling to even care, whether it’s their own layout or the club’s.

The WSMRC open house season starts tomorrow (as I type this), and I hope I can wake up before it’s over. If so, I will head up there and be the MOW guy for everyone else, and if things slow down, I may even run my modern CP train.

I will try to update my calendar doodads here over the weekend with new dates.

Posted by: Roger | April 6, 2014

Yahoo! And Springtime Too!

Well, I may be slow, but I’m really slow. Now that I don’t have to spend a fortune to heat the train room, I’m getting some good things done. I have essentially all of the benchwork done. There are a few curved corners, and fill-in pieces, but the benchwork is ready for some serious track work… er, maybe “intensive planning.” I tried using computer programs to draw trackwork, but I don’t seem to get the sense of “space” doing it that way. There is no spatial connection between the bits on screen and what I can actually do in a given amount of space. I just have to see how much plywood there is and judge how much additional space I need for hills, roads and buildings.

I am SOOOO thankful my friend Paul P. suggested using the long side of the benchwork to finish the climb up from staging so I could put a “roof” over the helix and make that space usable. Without the top deck that I’m showing here, the paper mill would not meet my minimum requirements. I suppose some would be satisfied with onesie-twosie industries (and I’m NOT looking down on that), but I seem to feel the need for large industries with lots of tracks and spots for cars. One illustration of this is in the 2014 Model Railroad Planning issue from Model Railroader. The article on the Post cereal plant enthralls me. That’s similar to what I hope to do with the Hoerner-Waldorf pulp and paper mill that was near Frenchtown, Montana. In the photo below, I’ve temporarily plunked some building down to get a sense of space that I could not get using computer software.

The buildings are temporarily plunked down to see how they fit into the space. I was worried that I wouldn't have enough room, but by placing the mill over the helix, I have plenty.

The buildings are temporarily plunked down to see how they fit into the space. I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough room, but by placing the mill over the helix, I have plenty.

The curved black line shows where a filler piece of benchwork will go. I was really trying to figure out how to include the Milwaukee Road tracks that ran right by the mill, and I think I figured it out. I can bring in a stretch of track along the front of the benchwork, and enter a tunnel behind the mill so the track climb up to a two-track staging yard that will represent the Milwaukee’s Alberton yard. The turnout to the right of the brick building might be where I start the two tracks. I need to give that more thought.

An alternate view of the helix with the paper mill above.

An alternate view of the helix with the paper mill above.

 

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