The Last One

This is it. The final blog post of the year. As such, I would like to come full circle with another layout proposal.

The Wilco Grain Company consists of a large grain elevator, served by railroad, and possessing its own Diesel switcher. Out of commercially available U.S. Outline products, this could be either a Bachmann G.E. 44 Tonner, a Grandt Line boxcab, a Grandt Line G.E. 25 Tonner, or a Jordan Highway Miniatures Mack 15 ton switcher that has been motorized, only the first one not being in kit form. One could also scratchbuild the little critter or use (if it can be obtained) a German Federal Railways Kof II or one of the numerous British side-rod-driven “shunters”.

Nonpowered rolling stock should consist exclusively of covered hoppers, with perhaps a tank car being spotted every so often in the interest of fueling the locomotive (more likely really two or more that are rotated out at the modeler’s whim, as no model railroader is ever content with just one engine), depending on the era.

A suitible grain elevator could either be scratchbuilt or procured from a Walthers kit, the latter of which would be probably modified to fit on the (congruent to two foot wide) narrow shelf onto which the layout will be built.

In addition, I have obtained this locomotive kit of Japanese National Railways’ class D51, which despite the discrepancy in pictures is in fact the same kit, which is even motorized (despite not containing its motor) off of a AA battery in the boiler, apparently nessiciating a reduction of the number of driving wheels by half, a minor annoyance. I will of course undertake modifications to operate it off of track power and probably add some additional piping from styrene rod in the interest of greater detail and realism.


Middle-Earth, the final frontier?

Or, on fantasy railroading & the last required blog post of the year. No, not like this, though that locomotive has a scratchbuilding appeal all its own, despite looking somewhat like the love-child of Smaug and any one of the numerous American 4-8-2s. In fact, that is precisely the point I want to make regarding fantasy railroad design; don’t mix and match different, readily recognizable prototypical elements that are clearly far above the technological level of your world in terms of both refinement and sophistication! The first locomotives, which happened in a level of technological development roughly corresponding to most fantasy worlds, considering that at least the forces of evil regularly push the plausible technological limit to the 18th century or so, looked like this. In fact, though models of these types of locomotives are not commercially available, models of some later ones embodying a similar aesthetic are, or have been in the past: see here, here, here, and here. As a general rule, you should not build for your fantasy world anything which was constructed in the real world after 1860 or so. However, the vast majority of people do not do this, but instead just plunk down any train they can get for cheap.

A Light Locomotive in HO

Or more specifically, one of H.K. Porter class 2-B-SS-K. Yes, it’s that time of year and I am on that tangent–and for those who are not familiar with my tendencies of writing subject choice on this website,  I mean Locomotive Scratchbuilding (and at last that infernal spellcheck has realized that it is NOT acceptable to separate the word components “scratch” and “building”.

Concerning my previous tirades regarding propulsion mechanisms and chassis, I now have confidence that if equipped with ample and correct tools and some commercial parts, I could indeed scratchbuild one, as in fact I did on the unfinished locomotive, which I will be referring to as the Noodle Incident locomotive from now on (for those of you ignorant, that is a reference of Calvin and Hobbes). But I digress.

Yes, I have gained in wisdom and have come now to the conclusion that, while not absolutely necessary if you are an expert machinist, for the majority of scenrios regarding myself, commercial or 3D printed parts are requisite for Locomotive Building. In fact, I have even contrived to find a brace of options for the acquisition of some attractive HOn30 3D printed locomotive shells from Shapeways for my birthday. While these are both in actuality Australian prototypes, the former is of British origin and very orthodox as to British practice, while the latter looks quite American. These do not pretend to be anything other than incomplete kits, which require power chassis and handrails to be furnished, along with, of course, paint. Not really being a British-outline modeler, I am of course gravitating towards the latter. No, I am not digressing, for that latter locomotive could in fact possibly pass off as a Porter class 2-B-2-S.

Was Tyco Really That Bad?

Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time;     

And then the moon, like to a silver bow

New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night

Of our solemnities.

I liken my circumstance to the Train Show thus.

After that digression, I shall now ask the question: were Tyco trains really as bad as their preceding reputation in the model railroad community makes them out to be- or were they in fact fair for their day?

To most model railroaders, these photographs surmise everything wrong with the brand (if you are not familiar with trains, this is a photograph of the prototype engine), and yes, the driving wheels are missing on the Tyco.

Yet does this mess-up typify and thus condemn the whole company production? I should say not, for a number of reasons, and I will also for the sake of a strong analysis focus upon the points most frequently (probably) criticized.

  1. The motors. Even from my personal experience, I recognize the motors and running qualities of the motive power to be terrible. That is, they only start on their own when the transformer control is turned a full three-quarters of the maximum running track voltage, and then when it does finally start it jackrabbits off and probably flies off the layout. However, this is a worst-case scenario, and bear in mind that Athearn trains at the time had rubber-band drive quite a bit of the time, which was obviously a crude, dubious and poor-running solution to the problem of power transmission. Really, their power system was about average.
  2. The finish. This includes detailing and painting and finishing. One of the most common complaints involving the range is that it’s badly-detailed, toylike crap.However, most of the fault lies in the painting, and once you strip that off, what’s underneath actually looks quite good. Sure, it has cast-on grab-irons, and oversize handrails that are usually plastic, and some of them have fantasy trucks, but virtually all period models had these faults, and they can be easily corrected if you are into model railroading enough to care. Also, most of the range was much truer to prototype, if not relating to the paint scheme, and though some of the details are a bit off, this was a universal occurrence regarding  the model train industry in the seventies. As regarding the paint schemes not relating to prototypical accuracy, bear in mind that children comprised a large portion of the market at the time, and in fact the fantasy paint schemes are in fact quite appealing, so long as the common paint overspray is nonexistent.

In summary, these were fair for their day and today have a fair amount of kitbashing potential, though they’re not something you should really pay that much money for, perhaps ten dollars at maximum depending on the model and the quality. With that, as to you who are incapable of understanding model railroading even in a very basic “I see the intrinsic fun in playing with trains” sense, refer to Willy Wonka.



Train Show in Three Months!

At last, the New Braunfels 28th Annual Train Show Jamboree is within my grasp!

I just have to hold out until April 9, and then I can go on a shopping spree of truly ludicrous proportions through over 300 tables of MODEL RAILROAD GLORY!

Now, as you probably do not know, I have a fascination in British railways, that is, in their steam equipment. British Railways operated steam locomotives up until 1968, and had a charm all their own that was quite different from that of railroads in the U.S..

However, for all us HO scale nuts over here, there is a problem in that, due to various factors and miniaturization problems, in a turn of events stupidly arbitrary and frustarating, America’s dominant scale ended up as 3.5mm to the foot while Britain’s turned out to be 4mm for the same measurement. The reason that Customary and Metric produced this mathematical atrocity in Unholy Union is that a great deal of model railroad equipment was made in Germany, including what I will classify henceforth as “PredusoHO”.

In an additional laziness the track gauge continued to stay the same at 16.5mm, at least allowing the now diverged schools of equipment design to run upon the same track.

90 years later, the only British equipment built to actual HO consists of a few craftsman kits and assorted Italian junk.

This would therefore require me, in the interest of scale fidelity, to begin another  scratchbuilding project using very few commercial parts, somewhat mitigated in difficulty due to the British preference for clean-lined locomotives.

Of course, this requires me to care enough to put forth the time and effort. British locomotives being smaller, I wanting nothing to large, mitigating the .5mm add up, and the fact that 4mm scale, 16.5mm gauge locomotives being widely available (even at Texas train shows), all conspire to let me just purchase a commercial OO scale product, damning the size difference.



Paper Railroads?

Work has progressed on the 0-4-0t to the point of fabrication of the saddle tank,sand dome, and water fill hatch. This engine will undoubtably turn out to be either an abandoned junker or shed jewelery, as being my first scratchbuilt engine it contains a number of flaws. Such is the process of experience.

Concerning the “paper railroad” of a layout, I expect it will be a quarry layout, with narrow and standard gauge, based on the concept of granite or limestone extraction in the 1910s-1970s. Its fictional prototype was formed in 1904 under the name of the Central Texas Quarry & Transportation Co., and quarry operations started in 1906 with a secondhand 2 foot gauge engine (the model I am building in real life). Finding this locomotive to be a piece of excrement, it was abandoned within a month on the property, to be replaced with a Porter 4-c-R class 0-6-4t, which proved infinitely more satisfactory. This engine soldiered on, supplanted by other H.K. Porter products, until 1954, where taking place in the CTQ&T semicentinnial it was duly preserved under cover in a prefabricated metal building in Llano, which along with the locomotive was donated to the city. After 1959, no steam locomotives excepting the first, narrow or standard gauge, were on the property, for dieselization had taken place, the narrow gauge with Plymouths, the standard gauge with a GE 44 ton switcher. In this state both railroads continued, until the narrow gauge was supplanted with trucks, and the standard gauge until the quarry was abandoned in the Seventies.

That first engine is still there…

In digression, on the Internet Archive I have discovered a great treasure: A 1908 H.K PORTER LOCOMOTIVE CATALOG!!


A Thirty-Inch Gauge Diesel

I have been building away all through this weekend, with the net result of having finished the cylinder block and driving wheels (it will in fact be an 0-4-0, somewhat like this, but in black and sans the trailing truck).

Now that I am rolling along nicely on the the unpowered steamer, I’m contemplating a powered locomotive model: a little diesel or gasoline powered, mechanically driven critter-type switcher. Concerning the definition of a critter, despite there being no exact definition, it being a “you know it when you see it” sort of affair, it is generally & somewhat vaguely defined in actual usage as any smaller switching locomotive, not having trucks, instead having the wheels fixed to the frame, & usually powered by internal combustion and/or operating in industrial or shortline service. Here is an extensive but still incomplete definition, and here is a picture, this particular one being an EMD Model 40.

But I digress. As for the model, which may still turn out to be standard gauge, I having a nice little power unit, I have chosen a Jordan Products Mack (of the manufacturer of trucks) 15 ton locomotive (15 tons is light in railroad circles). Here is a picture & database entry from website of the reputable distributor & manufacturer of model railroad products Walthers.

A pretty nice unpowered little engine for under $15.00 U.S., huh? As for the powering in HOn30 , I plan on using whatever nicer N gauge chassis comes to hand next time I visit the train show. (Someone’s already powered it in HOn3o, but I don’t have access to his particular chassis. Link here.)