The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A modern boxcar, finished

Back a few months ago I posted on a boxcar that was nearly done, which is finally done.

Recapping what I did, I had many years ago (in high school, probably) purchased an Athearn 80’ boxcar body thinking I could do something with the sides to make a nice OO model. Subsequently, I did nothing for years … but then the frame you see also came to me in the OO Inventory. The body was missing from a model Bill Johan built. What to do?

After a lot of pondering I finally put the body to use, built it to match the frame, and ultimately opted to letter it for my Orient, matching the recent Diesel projects.

The frame shows when Johann worked on the model, he marked his models well. I will mark the body inside, although pretty obviously I built it. Originally the car body must have been orange (ATSF reefer?) and I left the orange paint on the extended draft gears.

A final note on the topic -- I think I have got the modern thing worked out of my system for a while! I like getting these models out and running them, they look more like the trains I grew up with and run well. But I have no further modern projects planned as of now. What I have out now are a group of steam locomotive basket cases, I have a NWSL quartering jig coming, too many locomotive projects stuck for lack of drivers, but also really all the parts I need to get them going. Will be an exciting and worthy project to get moving forward on them this coming year.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Replacement Scale-Craft bolsters?

One thing that affects Scale-Craft trucks pretty widely are bad bolsters. They shrink, they fracture. There is a point where the solution would be to make new ones.

In my case, I have quite a few more parts for every part of S-C OO trucks other than bolsters … and a box of broken bolsters that can’t be used. If it were cost effective and I knew how to design them, 3D printing replacement bolsters would I think be ideal. Until then, here are some examples of how others have solved the problem and the solution I am working on.

My idea is to use plastic tubing, a round tube inside a square tube, and original S-C brass pins salvaged from broken bolsters. They are harder to get out than you would think, I think they may have put the pins in place before injecting the Bakelite plastic in the mold.

What my method simplifies though is the accurate drilling of the end holes. The complete bolsters seen came from different sources. The common element is they drilled all the holes into solid pieces of modern plastic and used modified screws as end pins. If you had a drill press and made a jig I suppose it would not be terribly hard to drill the end holes, keeping them really square.

In any case, I don’t need more bolsters urgently right now and have to work out a better way to press the end pins on. But perhaps a reader will be helped by this idea for replacement bolsters.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Building Modern Diesels in American OO, Part III: Results

 It took a while but it is great to finally see finished results of big projects.

And here we are, the three “modern” (1970s-80s) era Diesel locomotives are done, two approximations of the original SD-40 prototypes and also an approximation of a GE U23B. Both types are a bit (gasp) freelanced due to the parts sources and not wanting to go extremely heroic in the kitbash job, but even with the compromises they are I think pretty effective models.

Size wise they are correct in all major dimensions and the Shapeways 3D printed cabs were key items to make them work visually next to for example a Kemtron GP7 (not to mention looking correct next to freight cars!). About those cabs, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, they are to scale and are better than any cab I would have scratchbuilt or kitbashed. On the other hand, the surfaces are not all smooth. The roof area of the SD cab is very smooth, for example, but the sides have “lines” of horizontal texture. I could have attempted to sand it off but at the same time felt that might be risky and likely to cause new problems. So I left the cabs as they were.

The cabs drove the paint scheme as well. In my general article on 3D printed parts I note that the FUD material requires special cleaning and acrylic paint. I figured I was best to paint the plastic parts with the standard red I have used for years on Orient Diesels and to paint the cab a contrasting yellow for a modern scheme. That decision worked out pretty well I think.

In part II I was getting to final details. Mostly the handrails are the original ones associated with the donor models. On the SD40s I split the end handrails and added chains, a fun detail to add. Another big final thing was getting them running. Both of the SDs are powered, one drive being not in as good a shape as the other it turned out. I had to replace four of the six main gears on the axles associated with the wheels, they had split. I have had to do this before, it is a design flaw of these old Athearn drives. I don’t think it is noticeable really that the trucks are HO scale, they disappear visually under the model.

The U23B is unpowered. I had a couple options on trucks but decided to use what were originally unpowered trucks off the early type of Mantua/TYCO GP20, with new wheels. I like the look, and they are OO scale wheelbase with correct size wheels so no compromises there. I did go in and add a light wash of black paint in the screens and grids and may add more weathering. One other thing I may change are the fuel tanks. They are constructed from GP20 tanks and are not really the correct shape (as they are EMD tanks). I expect to be tweaking this and the other two models for some time.

A final detail worth mentioning, I used the coupler mounts original to the SD drives, so even with underset shank couplers they are low. The rear coupler on the U23B is also mounted low to match, which is why it is the trailing unit in the photos, the front coupler is the correct height.

I am enjoying running all three together. They will pull anything I put behind them (some of the Johann built modern cars I have are quite heavy) and it has been fun to get out his TOFC models again as well. Finally I have correct engines to pull those cars!

It has been a great project and it will be interesting to see what additional worlds 3D printing opens up in American OO. But as for me I think with these Diesels done I will change directions a bit and focus on some older school restoration projects.

UPDATE: This photo is a bonus photo, showing the completed OO U23B with a comparable Athearn HO U30C body. The OO model is a pretty effective conversion.

Return to Part I of series

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Graceline Swift reefer completed

Updating a post from a few months ago (here), I finally have the completion (and light restoration) of a prewar Graceline reefer, the type with hand painted sides

This as noted previously was a model that came to me almost complete. All I did really was glue the sides on, supply and paint ladders (Eastern), and supply couplers (Scale-Craft). Still, this project took ages, it took a lot more pondering than it should have. The original builder was doing a very neat job building the car, he just stopped for unknown reasons. I wanted to be sure to do my work at that same level.

The result is a very nice vintage piece. One thing not visible in the photo is the model has cast "wood" ends. I have several more of these cars in worse shape, and knowing now those ends are correct I have a bit more insight how to restore those cars.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A nice Scale-Craft 2-6-0 conversion

I have seen photos of S-C 4-6-0 models cut down to 2-6-0s, but this conversion takes the idea to a new level, using a S-C 0-6-0 boiler on a cut down 4-6-0 frame to make a modern 2-6-0.

The photos of this neat model were shared by a reader. The 0-6-0 boiler combined with the scratch built tender combine to make a model that is a pretty fair approximation of a Southern Pacific 2-6-0 with a roomy cab. The cab is very roomy if you compare it to scale drawings, large so that it will accommodate the big S-C Universal motor, clearly seen on this model. Also, the lead truck is from a Nason 2-8-0, it is easy to see the “N” logo (and other details) if you click on the photos for a better view.

This model really appeals to me. I have long liked the 2-6-0, being most heavily influenced by an early gift of a copy of the classic book Mixed Train Daily by Lucius Beebe and also by reading practically every railroad book in our public library growing up. One book in particular that I studied first there (and later purchased) was on the MKT northwestern district that ran into the Oklahoma panhandle. In days of steam, it was ruled by you guessed it, 2-6-0s similar to this one.

I have parts of a started (long ago) 0-6-0 kit. The boiler was soldered together but not much more than that -- and the drive parts associated with it are a mess, it would take huge effort to fix.

With that all said as background, I do now plan to do one of these conversions with that boiler. I will save the drive parts to perhaps fix another 0-6-0. My layout is small and not likely to get bigger, this should operate very well, and I have the 4-6-0 parts to work out the drive. Also, one thing I have noted over years is models that I can’t actually run on the layout don’t get me as interested to work on them compared to others that I can run. So for example I have had a S-C 4-8-4 apart for a while on my workbench that I should get done, it won’t take that long really, but it likely won’t take my curves so … back burner. This 2-6-0, though, that I can run, a perfect short line or branch line engine. Now just to get some other projects done….