Friday, December 31, 2010


The new year is almost upon us, and hopefully will bring all that you wish for. I'm not going to make any new year resolutions as they're hard to keep, I find. (still trying to lose a few pounds gained on the christmas dinner). However, I will try and keep the frequency of blog updates up a bit better than I managed during this year, particularly sept and oct were slow, but that was due to work commitments.

At present, it looks like a good year for model railroaders. Several new products, have been announced by the leading manufacturers . Just to name a few:
Athearn announced the GE U50 locomotives, SD45's in the Genesis range, as well as trucks with UPS paint schemes etc.
Exactrail has announced a great looking model of the C50-7 caboose (so has Athearn). I've ordered an Exactrail version, and as soon as I take delivery I will post a review of the model on this blog.
Walthers is shipping it's series of kits and railroad cars for their scrapyard theme, of which I also ordered some parts, including two gondola's in their Platinum range, which are their highest detailed cars yet, look out for a review on those too.
Overland models will be shipping beautiful  (but pricey) models of the NRE genset locomotives, they're outside my price range, but they are beautiful nonetheless.
Rapido trains should be very close in shipping their Canadian F9's, as well as re-engineered  Fairbank Morse C-liners.
Atlas is announcing the GP39-2 model in HO in various paint schemes, as well as several freight cars in both HO and N.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
Wishes I have too, personally top of the list for me would be a release of the Athearn GP15-1 in California Northern livery. All it takes is a paint job, the correct loco is already in their production in the form of the CN&W shell with the correct nose gong bell. Let's hope someone from Athearn is reading this :-)
Let's also keep fingers crossed for more (affordable) steam loco models, and a personal wish is more US sedan car and pick up truck models in HO and N of the 70's, 80's and 90's, or re-releases of them. (Chevy Caprice Classic, Saturns, Chrysler Neons etc etc). I particularly like the 'ordinary' models, the one you'd see on the streets every day, not just some exotic dream car or classic. Adding more of the ordinary, will make your model railroad look much more realistic.

In any case, Happy New Year, and happy 'model' railroading!

 PS: If you're a manufacturer or suppliers and would like to have a model/product reviewed on this blog, feel free to write me, or send me a sample (I will return them of course, should you require that). :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

VERY small parts

In our everlasting quest to add details to our model railroads, some people stop at nothing.
Besides offering some fine quality structure kits, Vector Cut also offers HO scale tools, and consumables like HO scale nuts and bolts, as well as HO scale hot dogs, donuts, hamburgers etc. Very small parts, and very nice too. I guess this does require a steady hand in assembly though...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Switchlist Generator for Mac OSX

If you like switching, or need a way to generate switch lists for your layout, have a look at Switchlist
This little program runs natively on the Mac, although it requires Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard as a minimum.
Those running older versions of OSX (like myself) can't use it, although my wife has a Mac book that runs Leopard, so when she's not looking I'll install it on there.
Be quick to download this little app, as I am not sure how much longer the website will be live. I believe that Apple plans to drop support to their older website hosting systems, and it appears that this is one is hosted as such, I could be wrong though.  Anyway, give it a shot!

UPDATE: THE SITE MENTIONED ABOVE WILL REMAIN ACTIVE, see the comment to this post by the author of the program!.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Railflyer Model Prototypes products

Railflyer Model Prototypes, a relatively new company (well compared to the usual ones anyway) focusses on making diesel detailing parts and in the very near future complete locomotive kits, has just released the following message. I can tell from pictures etc I've seen that their products look very promising, and are extremely well detailed and prototypical correct.
Here's their latest news. 


We received some new test shots for the Clean Air Room Bases and Stanchions this week, images can be found on their website/blog. At this point the tooling on the Clean Air Room bases is almost finished, a bit more to do the stanchions but both are in pretty good shape. At this point we're sending another 30% deposit on each to start the final phases of tooling to get them production ready.

The Clean Air Room Bases are MK 5000 and MK 5001. They are a plastic base that works with our Clean Air Room Sides to give you an extremely accurate replica that matches the unit you want to build. Our initial batch of sides have also gone to our supplier and will be available soon.

MK 5000 works for the GP35, GP38, GP39, GP40, GP15-1, GP38-2, GP39-2 (Including Late Phases), GP40-2, and GP50.

MK 5001 is good for the SD38, SD39, SD40, SD45, SD38-2, SD40-2, and SD45-2.

The sides are MK 5002 – 5014. They are multi-layer photo-etched kits with door latch and cab step detail included.

Our speakers, SK-8701 will be here this coming week. They are 16.5MM X 47MM X 7MM and sound amazing with great clarity and no “Tin” like noise.

We also have restocks on photo-etch, and a new revision in our GMDD SD Dash 2 Tread-plates arriving soon.

Don't forget we completely restocked our Ditch Lights and received our new Salem Filters this summer. The new SMD LED's have also been moving well.

So the main point of this update is that we need a very strong sales push over the next two weeks. We have firm quotes on our new Fans (GP9 – SD70), two Hoods (GP38-2/SD38-2, GP40/40-2, SD40/40-2), and four Dynamic Brake Options. With this information in hand we are approaching a lender but we'll need to cover 25% of the cost ourselves. The help now gets the first complete hood options our for our kits and ensures the arrival of these projects in the next few months. After we get the hoods ready to go, the next aim is the Spartan Cabs and Drive/Trucks along with more details.

Anything you guys can do for us is greatly appreciated, we're trying very hard to get the best possible product out ASAP.

All the best,

Christopher Howard
Railflyer Model Prototypes Inc.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Model Railroad X-mass story

Here's a poem, written by Randy, aka 'River Run', forum owner of 'The Diesel Detailer'. It's a great poem that I thought deserved to get more exposure, so here it is, enjoy, and WELL DONE RANDY!.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my pike,
Not a steamer was stirring, not even a Mike.
My yard tracks invitingly empty and bare,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The diesels were nestled all snug in their sheds,
While visions of DCC danced in their heads.
While I, in my blue-and-white engineer's cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When down in the train room, there rose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the basement I flew like an ace,
Tripped over the cat and fell flat on my face.

I stifled a curse meant for Chessie (the cat),
And I muttered to no one, "I meant to do that,"
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an HO-scale sleigh and eight Preiser reindeer,

With an engineer driving, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than GG-1's, onward they came,
And he blew a steam whistle and called them by name:

"On Athearn! On Lionel, Kato and Walthers!
On Kadee and Micro-Trains, Atlas and others!
To the top of the mountains of Hydrocal plaster,
Now dash away, dash away, dash away faster!"

As dry leaves that behind a new Genesis fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So in through the window the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of trains, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, on my roundhouse, I saw on the roof
The prints in the dust of each HO-scale hoof.
As I drew a deep breath, and was turning around,
From beneath the benchwork, St. Nick came with a bound.

He was dressed like an engineer from head to foot,
And his clothes had that fine smell of ashes and soot;
A bundle of trains he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes - just like marker lights! Dimples, how merry!
His cheeks like a Warbonnet, nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And his beard was so white, it would please Phoebe Snow.

He puffed on a pipe as he refilled its bowl,
And the smoke, it smelled just like bituminous coal.
He had a broad face and a belly (I found)
That shook like a tank car with wheels out-of-round.

He was chubby and plump, and I wanted to shout,
"Yes! The man's got a route the UP can't buy out!"
A wink of his eye as he passed near the door
Soon gave me to know I'd have freight cars galore.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work.
He filled all my yard tracks; then turned with a jerk,
And leaving an airbrush he'd found on eBay,
And giving a nod, he returned to his sleigh.

He pumped up the brakes, blew two blasts on his whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Model Railroad site

I'm glad to report that this blog is now part of the Top Model Railroad sites. A click on the link will bring you to the website, where you can find many other sites to link to. All so you can enjoy this hobby even more. So have a look!

SP model railroad action.

Here's another great video! Notice the prototypical speeds when the train is moving, this is one thing were layouts often fail, the trains are going too fast! Not in this case, very convincing and very smooth too. The only thing I would have liked to see a bit better is the acceleration, a bit too fast for my liking but once running, it looks very good.  A nice example on how it should be done.  The author is commenting on the sound difference on between a QSI and Tsunami decoder. While I can't comment on that yet, there is a difference audible, the GP20 has the Tsunami and sounds a little 'tinnier', it doesn't have the low end rumble of the other engines.  I am wondering though if it has something to do with the speaker used, and the way it is mounted inside the engine, and how much space it has (on the F unit, the hood is much wider, so can have a positive impact on the sound, there's potentially more air to displace, which makes the low end frequencies more pronounced. (a bit like big or small hifi speakers )

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Oldie from the shoebox

Digging through some old files on my computer (it was time for a clean up), I found this old picture of two of my freelance locos in action on my previous layout. The picture is about 12 years old. I thought I'd share it as I like it. At the time my layout was set in the mountain regions of Pennsylvania where my freelance railroad "North Eastern RR' had trackage rights on part of the PRR system.  Here's GP38-2 1623 (ex SP) leading GP9 1407 (ex UP) on a local freight.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Archive work

It helps to shop around :-) I am a member of a couple of model railroad forums, and sometimes some useful tips or help can be found there. I was looking for information on how to obtain drawings of the station building I want to build. To make a long story short, I eventually got in touch with the City of Davis, who were very kind to send me pdf drawings of the station building. I couldn't have asked for more. City archives, and historical societies are the places to contact if you're after drawings and other information when you're modeling something that isn't for sale.  The pic shows a snapshot of the drawings received, I'm reposting it here in general interest, and don't intent to break any copyright laws etc. Should I need to remove it, I will do so.

Model Railroad Tips

To kick of December, here's a nice little video on how to paint a boxcar (part 1). The author has a nice website too. Check it out.

Monday, November 29, 2010

California Northern trackplan revision

In order to increase operational interest, and in addition, to add some elements of the real CFNR in the mix, I've decided to make some changes to the east side of my trackplan. It has been extended along the right side (east) wall(roofline), and the station in the corner is now situated in the middle of a Wye (although the wye is not connected to the north side but dissapears from view). It is somewhat based on the arrangement in Davis, CA. This station is where the CFNR interchanges with the UP. It is an Amtrak stop (the Zephyr passes through here on the way from/to Sacramento) which will allow me to add some passenger action in the future, the interchange with UP is great as it allows me to add my UP loco's in the mix, and if you look at the real station building (google earth etc) it still has an old SP sign on its side wall, giving away it's heritage, so I could also add SP motive power with a little creativity.  Although I've added a few tracks on the west side for operational interest, I had to remove a few turnouts to the east side, but the general feel is still there. I hope to scratch build the pretty station building to some extend, although I may have to shorten and play a bit with it's dimensions to make it fit, but the aim is to capture it's feel.  The new trackplan can be seen above (click on it for a bigger view), the station building below.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Working with Styrene

Styrene is a great material to use for scratch-building structures and the like. As always, for the best results there are a few things you must prepare.
- Good and bright lighting
- A stable clean work surface
- Decent tooling
To cut styrene, I use a hobby mat, which prevents the material from slipping. (you could use masking tape to stick it down in the corners). Make sure it's clean. Additionally I use a steel ruler, which is much straighter, and will not get damaged by the sharp blade of the knife. If you can find one with a cork backing, then that's great as it will resist slipping on the relatively slippery surface of the Styrene. Use a new or very sharp hobby knife or scalpel (be careful, it is extremely sharp remember?) Be relaxed and patient in cutting, it will result in cleaner cuts, and prevent injuries! (sharp knife, anyone? ). Make sure the work surface is well lit so you can see what you are doing.
I usually make a drawing on a sheet of paper of my subjects, then lay the styrene over the top. Most styrene sheets are thin enough to see through. If not, then draw directly on the styrene with a HB grade pencil, instead of a marker pen. Mistakes can then be rectified.
A few more tips:
- Always put the ruler along the outside of the edge your cutting when doing doors and windows, for walls usually the inside (to protect the wall). This way, in the event your knife slips, it will slip into the material that you are cutting away, and not damage the part you want to keep.
- Put minimal pressure on the knife, and make multiple cuts along the same line. It is sufficient to only cut until it's about 3/4 to 4/5th through the material, the last bit can easily be snapped off by gently bending the styrene along the cut. (this way you also keep your drawing below undamaged, and prevent injuries)
- For windows and doorways, it is best to make two diagonal cuts, and around the edges, then pierce the center of the window. You can then gently 'wiggle' each triangle until it snaps away, preventing tears into the surrounding styrene.
Once again, these knifes are very, very sharp, so be patient, focus, and take your time! Don't blame me if you hurt yourself, you have been warned! (sorry for these rants, but people get sued for stupid things nowadays, and I don't want to be one of them......)
The pictures shows some of my tools, a warehouse wall, with drawing below it (notice the window cut pattern on the left).
Enjoy your modeling!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Poncha Yard

While I am working on buildings/structures at present, someone via another railroad forum pointed out this: A switching layout made by some Belgian Modelers. The layout is called New Poncha Yard. The buildings are all build with card stock, no commercial kits, only windows and other small details are commercial parts.
The large buildings really give a lot of perspective and sense of reality.

More on the layout at:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Structure modeling with Google and Bing

Time to focus the attention to the things we find along the rails, or better those that give reason for it's existence, buildings, industries,towns etc! The scenery on my home layout has been a bit neglected recently with me keeping busy with loco's, but now that I've got a few with sound that run well, it's time to move onwards. I've been browsing in towns with Google earth , and also industrial locations of the area I want to model, taking screenshots from interesting buildings etc, going into street view and try to get a few shots from various angles and now in the process of converting them to scale. This is not an exact process (a lot of buildings are much larger than you could actually afford/have room for) but try to capture their essence.
There are certain things you can use for reference, the size of a door for instance. These are roughly similar in size (an adult will have to pass through comfortably) so get a reasonable size and 'guestimate' the other dimensions more or less, using some 'selected' compression here and there. For example a warehouse with 4 cargo doors for delivery trucks etc, can be scaled down to make a version with only 1 or 2 doors, and still feel realistic.
I'd recommend to try it yourself, it's a very handy tool if you model the modern era!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

High hood GP38-2 switching

When I posted yesterdays video, I came across the below video of another GP38-2 model doing switching duties on a great looking model railroad.
This GP38-2 is a high hood type. Enjoy the great detailing of this layout.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Athearn motor replacement

During the programming of my Tsunami decoder, I was not able to get the slow speed response of my decoder as slow as I would like. It is known that there is a difference in DCC decoders, and while the previous TCS T4X decoder was able to accomplish this (be it with hours of tweaking), spending over 5 hours on the Tsunami did not get me the same slow speed crawl. Yet I like the Tsunami for its sounds, so I decided to re-motor my GP38-2.
I removed the old Athearn motor, and replaced it with a Mashima can motor. While I won't be writing an entire article here, I just want to point out a few points of importance. The Athearn motor shaft is bigger than the Mashima, so you'll have to fabricate bushings for the motor to fit the old flywheel, or get new flywheels etc. You can get these from Proto Power-West, among others. Walthers will stock these too. The other important item is the polarity. While the Athearn motor had the contacts on the front, I mounted the Mashima in the same orientation and stuck it on the frame with double sided tape, and used the top contact for the +, and the bottom for the -, as with the original motor. This had as result that the loco now runs backwards when going fwd. The Mashima has no clear markings for + and -, and it depends on how they put the sticker on the motor on how you view what top and bottom is. In the end it doesn't matter how you fit it, but just be prepared to have to swap the polarity of the wires to the motor if the same would happen to you. Video is included with this, sorry for the poor sound quality, it was made with my Blackberry phone, and it's mic is geared towards voice, the bell really muffles the engine in this vid, but in real life that's not the case at all.

In any case, the loco now runs a lot smoother and quieter than it used to do, and has much better slow speed control. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tsunami decoder programming

I've received my second Tsunami decoder for my GP38-2 and set about taking out the old TCS T4X decoder, and installing the Tsunami. A while back, I found this nice little video about programming a Tsunami decoder using JMRI Decoder Pro, which is what I am doing too. Rather than explaining how I do it, I figured this video explains it well enough to give you an idea. Enjoy the video.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Western Union Meet November 2010

It's been a while, but I finally managed to attend the November meet of my local NMRA division this month in Plymouth, UK. A good time was had by all, and my son who came along this time enjoyed himself too. For a taster of the atmosphere see the picture, showing an Atlas UP 'Geep' doing switching duties at the 11th Avenue yard. Forgive me as I did not pay too close attention to see if it was a GP40 or a different type.. :-) I got loads of inspiration and motivation again, and ended up ordering another Tsunami decoder for my own GP38-2, which I brought along. It's working roof beacon drew some attention, so if I can add sound to it too, it could be a nice little crowd pleaser at a train show in the future perhaps :-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tsunami decoder

Okay, a quick update. I've arrived back home and got busy installing a Tsunami TSU-1000 decoder in my Athearn C44-9W, the one I am superdetailing. While the detailing project is not finished yet, I wanted to see if I could get the decoder and speaker in properly. That worked out fine, and I now have my first sound equipped loco on the layout. :-) It did take a little time to get the speed response of the loco to work nice, it's an older loco, with an older Athearn motor, not exactly known for their superior running characteristics, but a bit of tweaking (thanks to some tips from fellow model railroaders) of the BEMF settings worked a treat. BEMF in the Tsunami is configured by CVs 209,210, 212, 213, and 214. They all work in concert together to control various parameters in the BEMF control. If you're not sure I recommend to download the 'Diesel Users Guide' from the Soundtraxx website, and look on page 48, they have some tips on adjusting the BEMF settings. It's a trial and error process, and if you can program in ops mode with your DCC system it will go a whole lot quicker.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lance Mindheim's Miami Downtown Spur layout

One of the model railroad builders I admire is Lance Mindheim. I've got a few of his books, and they've given me a lot of inspiration for my current California Northern switching layout.
I found a video today that give's you a great overview of his layout, from a great perspective, enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NMRA-BR convention 2010

The NMRA-BR convention has come and gone, and from what I've heard those in attendance had a great time, enjoying the layouts, the socialising, the clinics etc.
The link here gives you a photo impression of just some of the fun. Photo's by Mike Ruby and others (credits on each photo where due).
Photo slide show NMRA-BR convention 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Steam on the Western Union

Steam action during the October meet of the Western Union, part of the NMRA-BR.

Video by Mike Ruby

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Western Union meet Sept 2010

Saturday Sept 11th, the Western Union RR group had their monthly meet, which was once again a great meeting for those present (I missed it due to work). Below a picture of the action. Two SP SD9E snow service loco's on the 11the avenue modules, hauling snow fighting equipment.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Hi all, I'm very sorry that my last post is more than 6 weeks ago now. I've had a busy period both in my private life (birthdays, family holiday etc) and professionally (a lot of travel and work abroad) that my hobby has been kind of snowed under for a bit. Anyway, while I'm currently still abroad my situation is this:
- My C44-9W work is progressing but very slowly
- My CF7 paint job has been at a stand still (so I have an unpainted shell at present)
- My California Northern Railroad layout has seen the application of a little ballast.
Photo's of these project will be posted when I am home again.  In any case, I hope you will check this blog regularly, as I will try to pick up the rate of posting here again, when my life is starting to get a little more organised. :-)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Removing acrylic paint

Not long ago I had a paint disaster, which meant I needed to strip a loco shell of paint. I found after experimenting with a few items from the house hold cupboard, that oven cleaner is very effective.
As soon as I sprayed it on, I saw paint begin to run. I then used an old electric toothbrush , of course wearing protective gloves gently brushing the ovencleaner all over the shell to loosen the paint. After letting it soak for a few more minutes I washed it under running water and kept on brushing and with little effort the shell is almost completely clean after a first go. I would not recommend leaving the oven cleaner on too long as it may damage the plastic, I didn't exceed 5 minutes. My oven cleaner was Tesco Oven cleaner (fume free). See picture of the result after a first attempt. I am not sure if it will work with other paints, but this certainly worked to remove Tamiya Acrylic paints.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tsunami decoder

Today I received my Tsunami sound decoder that is going to be used in my C44-9W locomotive.
I ordered it from Bromsgrove models in the UK, and they shipped very quickly, so check out their website (link in the side bar on right).
The construction of this locomotive is slowly moving forward, all steps have been replaced, and now I'm starting on the airhoses etc.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NMRA unveils new logo.

During it's 2010 convention, the NMRA has unveiled it's new logo. The old wheel logo is no more.
In it's place came a modern stylised wheel with new type fonts etc. Perhaps this is signalling the beginning of more changes and modernisations within this organisation. Also it's own magazine was re-named from Scale Rails, to NMRA Magazine. (it used to be NMRA bulletin several years ago) I personally have to get used to it, and it isn't love at first sight for me, but it may be the beginning of something great!
Visit the NMRA at

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Picture of the Week

Santa Fe mixed freight on the Gila River Canyon Bridge, build by dutch Fremo-USA members. Photo taken at their convention in Rodgau Germany in 2009. Photo by Gino Damen.

Friday, July 16, 2010


For all of you who like WiThrottle, there is competition. :-) A small Danish company called Touchcab has an iPhone/iPod Touch application called Touch cab. This is a wireless throttle to control your model railroad. However, it does more than that, it also controls accesories like signals / turnouts etc, which is something WiThrottle cannot do. It works directly with Lenz or ESU commandstations, provided they are attached to a Wifi router via their ETHERNET port. I have asked Touchcab if they also support, (or are going to support) JMRI, and hopefully receive an answer from them.
Also Touchcab is available as a free lite version. You can get it on the Apple app store.

UPDATE: I received a reply from Touchcab, which stated they did not expect support for JMRI any time soon, and are focussing on support for more Xpress net systems (Roco/Fleischmann/Lenz). Today TouchCab supports the ECoS and ECoS2 from ESU and the Central Station 1 from Märklin (which is basically an ECoS inside).
Next up will be Lenz through the announced XpressNet Interface ( which will be available at the end of the year.If you can't wait and are willing to get a computer involved, (which Touchcab does not need), use the WiThrottle solution through JMRI software for now.

C44-9W progress

I've reported that I was starting my next project, which was going to be detailing and converting to DCC of an Athearn C44-9W. That is now well underway. One thing I am doing is changing the molded on steps to brass photo etched see through steps from A-line. These two pictures give you an idea of the before and after effect of this. I've also purchased a DCC sound decoder to go into this loco, this time it's a Soundtraxx Tsunami which I bought at Bromsgrove Models in the UK. (see links list on the right). It gives me the opportunity to compare a QSI (in the CF7) to a Soundtraxx, both in terms of sound, and in running performance. (I have to be honest that the CF7 was re-motored with a Mashima, while for now the C44-9W will retain it's original Athearn motor, but that's also because it is not expected to do a lot of switching.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Here's Model - Railroading in the broadest sense of the word. :-) Photo by my friend Leon Honings, from the Netherlands. A talented model railroader and photographer. Visit his website at: Depending on your choice, there's two types of model railroading to be found. I've warned you!

Layouts don't have to be big

A nice example of a small layout with nice scenery, is Eagle Pass RR by Dave Arday. It's a small 4x6ft layout, based on the UP and Santa Fe somewhere in the 1960's. It isn't following the prototypes exactly, but it has captured the feel, which for most people (including myself) is sufficient. Have a look at his site so read more about it. Here's a taster picture :-)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Picture of the week.

I will be trying to make this a re-curring item on my blog. I find that a nice model railroad picture can work inspiring at times. I will be browsing the web for picture sources, and feel free to send me yours for posting here.So here is the first one for your enjoyment.  Picture by Brian Moore, showing Rio Grande SD45 5507 leading a freight on the Western Union club layout.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Next project

While my CF 7 is not yet finished (I had a paint job accident meaning I'm in the process of stripping off the paint, and start again) I wanted something to do while I'm traveling (I travel a lot for work as you may have read in a previous post). So the next thing to do is to start super detailing a C44-9W. The model I am using is an Athearn Bluebox model. It still had the old style metal handrails etc, but Athearn offers a complete set of plastic new handrails, that are finer and better detailed, so I am going to replace them with those. The steps are being replaced with brass see through steps, the usual airhoses and snow plows will be fitted, the ditchlights made operational, new laser cut windows, and of course conversion to DCC , most probably with sound. Here is the real thing (photo copyright archive& Keith B).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some DCC experience

Recently I've struggled a little bit in getting a loco to behave correctly after converting to DCC.
It involves an Athearn bluebox GP38-2, which I've had for many years, and was converted to DCC using a TCS T4X decoder. I kept having a problem that above a certain speed the loco would just accelerate suddenly. After a long troubleshooting period, with help and advice from others, it was discovered that the BEMF function of this decoder could not fully control the loco at higher speeds.  The solution was to have BEMF cut off at a certain speed, which is done by adjusting CV10. I've set it to a value of around 22. BEMF is now active only on the slowest speeds, and switches off once the loco is moving at approx 10-15 scale mph. I thought I'd share this with you so you can try the same if you've experienced similar problems.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

California Northern

As you may know, I've named my layout California Northern, set in Northern California. There is however also a railroad company by the same name, in the same location, so I've decided that in future I ought to at least incorporate a loco of them in my roster. Athearn recently released a great looking  GP15, which should be a good basis to make one of these beauties! See picture, copyright Trevor Smith.

Airbrushing my CF7

Here's a picture of the CF7 in my garden. It was nice weather so I decided to take the airbrush etc outside, I couldn't get a better ventilated place :-) I've used Tamiya paint which doesn't give off too much of fumes anyway, but it's always better. Here it is after 3 coats of white. I had a very weak mix here so it didn't cover  straight away, so it is going to get another few coats of a stronger mix to make sure the white is covered well. Then I'll be masking of areas that are to remain white, followed by a few coats of the next colour.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Southern Pacific Cab Forward action on the Western Union modular layout.

A slightly different layout this time, as Anson yard was unable to come to the meet, but member Mike Ruby brought his 11th Avenue modules instead. This enabled two SP 1950's reefer trains to be operated each with a cab forward as head end and helper power. this makes for 4 cab forwards on the trains, but a 5th is standing by and can be seen in this video. All cab forwards and reefers are owned by member Brian Moore, and Mike Ruby shot the video. Inspiring stuff! 
UPDATE: Brian has posted another video of the same action on his own web page. It can be found here:  more cab forwards.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wiring up a loco

In preparation for installing DCC+sound into my loco, I prepped my CF7 today. To kind of organise the inevitable wire bundles inside the loco, and reduce them, I used a small piece of  'vero board', also known as experimentation board for electronic projects. On this I've soldered all the resistors as well as two of the leds (one for the front head light and one for the roof beacon). From this board, two wires run to the rear of the loco to the rear led, and a bundle of 4 wires come down from this board to the DCC decoder. This way the installation is a bit cleaner and organised. In addition this small circuit board (which just fits in the roof of the cab)was covered in black electrical tape, and stuck in place with a bit of double sided tape. This way it will prevent light from the LED's to leak into the cab.

A picture of the installed pcb covered in tape can be seen here. (also one of the see through roof fan grilles is just visible).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Trains in the Cascades

Beautiful Southern Pacific Cabforwards in action on a great layout. More on the layout can be found at:Southern Pacific in the Cascades. A must if you like the SP in the 1950's!

I believe it's this kind of single track mainline in mountain terrain atmosphere that we're trying to capture too on the new double sided layout of my local NMRA-BR South West division, the Western Union (see links), of which construction has recently started.

Sound, the next frontier.

I've been contemplating building in sound into loco's. The main issue stopping me from doing so initially was cost. A sound decoder cost around £80,- GBP, or around $120,- USD. For that kind of money, you could easily buy another (DC) loco. However, I've seen several sound loco's in operation, and it does add quite a bit to the illusion and fun. Also, since I am at the beginning stages of converting my loco's, I may as well do it right the first time. (any future new loco purchases are likely to include sound from factory, making it a more economical deal).
So I've decided to put a sound decoder into my CF7, currently under construction. This is a smaller diesel, and I think if I am successful in fitting it inside the CF7, then other diesels (I have a few C44-9W waiting to be detailed etc next) should be a lot easier.  For my first sound loco, I've opted for  a QSI Quantum Revolution (see pic). I've gone for the universal model and have the decoder pre-programmed with the correct sounds by DCC supplies, where I've bought it. (see list with links). I am also fitting a narrow bass-reflex speaker system inside for  better sound performance. Stay tuned for more on this in the near future! :-)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another milestone

Here is my CF7 again, a couple days later, and all the handrails are now completed. Next up will be more details for the roof, pilots, and trucks before she'll hit the paint shop.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More CF7

Last month I updated you on the status of my CF7 project. Here's a picture on where I'm at now.
Both sides the long handrails have been fitted, along with a few other handrails, and internally, I've fitted the motor and driveshafts. This is a Mashima motor with two brass flywheels, and a driveshaft made from A-line universal coupling assortment parts. So things are slowly moving forward. A few more things to do, and then she's ready for the paint shop.

Turnout control

I've had a change of heart. I have started to build my layout with the intention to throw the turnouts by hand, as they are mostly within easy reach. However, I've changed my mind and am going to use Tortoise switch machines. These give a realistic slow motion action, and have a set of additional contacts that can be used to switch power to the frog of the turnout to avoid stalling loco's , and / or use to switch signals according to the position of the turnout.  To see a tortoise in action , see this short clip.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Signal placement

One item I'd like to get right on my layout is the use and placement of signals. Every country, and sometimes railroad have their own standards, depending on which side of the tracks (in case of double track main) the trains run in each direction, and other factors. I wasn't entirely sure where to put them in the case of US railroads. But after asking around, it turns out that signals , when not on a signal bridge, were usually placed on the right side of the track, a rule that was more strictly enforced until 1985. After that date, the placement can be on the left too, which is sometimes needed to facilitate access for maintenance crews, or geographical challenges etc.  So now my search is on to find a great looking model signals, and I think I have found some great looking ones in the range from BLMA models.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Everything Airbrush(ed)

A few posts back I reported that I received a new airbrush compressor, but could not get my airbrush connected to it. I've asked on several forums etc but got no further, due to the age and model of my airbrush. However, when I wrote Everything Airbrush they had a very elegant solution for me. The solution was to get a new hose with 1/8"BSP connections at either side, then a quick connection coupling attached to that, and finally a small quick release tail connected to the airbrush. (see picture , copyright Everything Airbrush) It has the advantage to quickly disconnect the airbrush from the hose to swap with another airbrush if needed. I ordered it, and received the order next day, and it all fits perfectly! So I can recommend them for anything you need for your airbrush! My thanks to them and particularly Tim from Everything Airbrush for their advice and help!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

1000 visits

thanks for everyone visiting here, I've reached a first modest milestone since starting the blog a few months back, and exceeded 1000 visitors. Thanks again and hope to 'see' you back soon!

California Northern Youtube video

I've posted my first short video about my layout on youtube today. It was made with my daughter's toy video camera, so the quality is a bit poor, but you can still see roughly the state of progress as well as me playing around with the Withrottle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Realistic operations is one of the many aspects of the hobby, that can make it more enjoyable. Of course it's not for everyone perhaps, but if you have a small layout, it might add a dimension to it and make it more interesting, and give train movements a sense of purpose. One of several 'musts' in that case , particularly if there is a lot of switching involved, is smooth operating couplers. A lot has been written about this subject in the press, online, and elsewhere, and I can confirm once again perhaps, that the best couplers for this are Kadee. All others that I've tried, just don't work as smooth, and have several problems. The most common are:
- The coupler doesn't center properly
- the coupler claw doesn't operate smoothly
Kadee's (when installed properly) have these problems very rarely.
It has to be said at this point that I haven't tried the realistic couplers made by Sergent Engineering. However, these are quite different in construction from Kadee's and Kadee compatible couplers, which makes them less compatible , so that I have not bought any (yet).

Kadee's it is for now, at least in my case. :-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Airbrush compressor connections

I had a nice surprise this weekend when my parents surprised me by giving me a new airbrush compressor. (as pictured). I have had an airbrush for years but I didn't have a compressor for a while.
The airbrush is a bit older (a Devillbis Aerograph Sprite) and has what I believe to be a NPT thread connection.  The compressor has a more common 1/8"BSP connection. The diameter is pretty much the same, but the thread is a bit different. (the NPT is a bit finer than the BSP thread). Therefore the two don't fit and now the search is on to find an adapter piece, or an adapter hose to be able to use this airbrush with this compressor. I have not yet found the item I need, but when I do I will report on it, so that it may help others.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Next steps

Now that I managed to get 3 loco's working properly in DCC mode, I am shifting my focus back a bit to working on the layout.  I've continued marking out several important scenery details (e.g. position of buildings, roads etc. ) and will try to get a base coat of earth coloured latex paint onto the surface. This should transform the layout into a layout that is more than a few pieces of foam board with track spiked onto it. As soon as the latex paint is dry I will continue putting the base ground cover down in places where I can (but first painting the tracks).  
If the above sounds familiar, then that is because I really like the way Pelle Soeborg constructs and approaches building his layouts. You may know him from his books, articles in Model Railroader magazine, or even in person during clinics at NMRA conventions etc.   If you are not familiar with his work, check out his website, which can be found by clicking here. Here's a taster pic, borrowed from his site. ;-)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Customer services

I recently communicated with both TCS and NCE in regards to a few decoder questions/issues I had. I have to praise both companies for their prompt and helpful replies. I am glad that in this day and age, customer services is still something that is valued by companies, and very much appreciated by me!
TCS and NCE, thank you both!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Western Union meet May 2010

Today, the Western Union held another meet, and I had the chance to test out my first two loco's that have been converted to DCC. One of which didn't work very well, but I found some small issues with it, so I shall be working on that. The other was my SW1200 switcher, which can be seen in action on this picture on the layout.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I just have to 'abuse' my blog for a moment to praise the customer services department of Athearn.
I recently wrote their parts department to order some replacement handrails for one of my C44W-9W locomotives.  They replied next day with a price quotation , and I after I gave the go ahead I received my parts within 8 days. Their website states 6 weeks so I was very pleasantly surprised to receive them that quick. So hereby a big  'THANK YOU' to Athearn!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Progress on the CF 7

Here's a picture on the progress on my CF 7 locomotive.
As previously reported, I use my spare time while traveling for work to do a bit of modeling in my hotel room etc. Seen here is the loco with some of the detail parts test fitted. Compare this with the picture of the loco in one of the earlier posts on this blog in February (although you will have to blow up that pic to see it better :-) ) to see what's changed since then. For some information about the prototype and it's more famous underpinnings, see to get you started.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Making your own etched parts

There are 1000's of small detail parts available on the market today, but there are still situations when you may want to make your own. One way of doing so is by using the photo etching technique.
Rather than explaining that myself, here is a video that describes the process very simply and effectively.
One note, there are sprays available that you could spray onto any brass or other metal plate so you don't need to use a plate as shown in the video per-se.

Traveling Modelers

Not sure if any readers of this blog are in the same situation as me, but I can't help thinking there must be others out there, that have a job that requires a lot of travel, spending time in hotel rooms etc.
In any case I do. So what can you do if you travel, and still want to do some modeling?
My solution to this 'problem' is to take along a small set of basic tools, (no more than fits in a small shoebox or lunch box, a bit like the picture (not my set)) and a small project. My current one is building  a CF7 locomotive. I use a railpower shell, various detail parts etc.
So I spend my free time in hotel rooms to sit at the desk (I've also got a small hobby mat to protect the desk surface) and do some drilling and cutting (with a small pin vise, scalpels etc) to my shell, and fit some of the details that can handle the travel. A small corner of my suitcase is reserved for these items and a few bits of additional foam or bubble wrap protect that corner from all to eager airport luggage handlers etc.
Basic tools I travel with are:
- small screwdrivers set
- Needle file set
- precision file set
- Scalpels
- Pin vise
- set of miniature drill bits
- cordless Dremel
- detail parts + locomotive shell
- masking tape
- ruler and vernier caliper
- desk hobby mat

All of this takes up fairly little space of my suitcase.(I try to pack cleverly, put items inside shoes etc to save space)
If any of the readers here have similar experiences I'd like to know, perhaps I can pick up a few tips :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My first DCC session at home.

After I got home from work today, I wired up the SPROGII to my laptop and layout, and after 10 minutes or so of experimenting (I don't find the manuals of either JMRI and SPROG very clear, but a bit of common sense prevailed) I had JMRI talking to SPROG and saw communication messages flying by on the screen of my laptop. I also got my iPod to talk to JMRI and had Withrottle working. Then I got my only DCC equiped loco ( a Bachman GP35) out and see if I could run/control it, using default address 3. Indeed, I could switch the headlight on off etc but had no movement, doing this from either a JMRI on-screen throttle, and also from the iPod. Then I realised that the last time I used this loco on DC, it didn't run very well. I took off the shell and turned the drive shafts with my fingers while the loco was on the track, and off she went. Controlled by the Withrottle I could run it fwd reverse, and turn the lights off /on etc. Slow speed operation was not brilliant , but I read that these simple Bachmann decoders are not very good for that anyway. However, this loco keeps being tempramental, after 10 minutes or so, it stalled again, and when going to reverse direction, the headlights/rear lights flickered erratically and independent, in fwd direction the fwd headlight is on, but no movement. Until the motor was encouraged again. It looks like I need to take that loco apart do some maintenance (even though it's brand new) and see why the stalling happens etc. unfortunately, I have no other DCC loco yet to continue experimenting and getting used to operating in DCC. I'll keep you posted...

SPROGII has arrived

I'm a happy modeler.
My SPROGII has arrived, together with the 1.25A powersupply I ordered at the same time.
The nice thing is that the powersupply came with the plug already attached and terminated, so the remaining terminals are to go to the track. It should make the whole installation a breeze.  I'm going to try that tonight if I get a moment.
SPROGII comes together with a CD-ROM with all the software needed to get it working, but it is always a good idea to see if updates to the software are available to make sure you install the latest versions.
Also shown on the picture is my iPod running  WiThrottle software, which I will use as my wireless cab.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CP Rail action

My local NMRA division held it's monthly meet last weekend. Unfortunately I couldn't be there due to work commitments, but here's two pictures by fellow member Brian Moore, taken of the action. Plenty of modern CP Rail power in the form of 4000+hp GE locomotives. The top picture shows several being serviced at the Anson depot, while the other picture shows three hauling a string of hoppers past the grain silos and signal bridge at the other side of the yard, while the sun has set behind the mountains, and the crew change for the night  has taken place ....Rumor has it that they controlled their loco's with an iPhone running Withrottle software while nobody was watching...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

JMRI software 2.9.5 test version released

JMRI software is continuing to get developed further and further. April 12 saw the release of version 2.9.5v of Decoder Pro software. It should be stressed that this is a developer/test release, and therefore bugs could be expected. However many previous bug fixes are included and the software has (among others) the following enhancements:

  • Many improvements and fixes to throttles

  • You can have more than one LocoNet connection, for example one for signals and another for throttle connections

  • A new preferences dialog that's simpler to use

  • AutoDispatcher script now included

  • Easier dialogs for adding sensors and turnouts

  • You should note that the official 'production version is still version 2.8.0. The current release is the next step towards the upcoming production version 2.10/3.0 this summer.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    NMRA BR spring meet April 17th 2010

    The below message is reposted from the yahoo NMRA-BR group, in an attempt to make more people aware.

    The NMRA British Region's Spring Meet and Train Show will be held on Saturday 17th April 2010 at Felpham Community College, Bognor Regis, West Sussex. PO22 8EL

    Featuring 16 American themed layouts and trade support, the Meet will be sure to be of interest to all who model American Railroads.

    Open to NMRA members only from 10 a.m., the show will open to the public from 11 a.m. until 4.30 p.m.

    In addition to the trade stands, NMRA members are invited to use the 'bring and buy' stalls to buy and sell their used unwanted items. PLEASE NOTE; Bring and Buy is only available to NMRA members as sellers
    and will NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR ANY PUBLIC PURCHASES UNTIL AFTER 12 noon, providing another NMRA members benefit.

    Felpham Community College is situated near the Butlins Bognor Regis Holiday centre with plenty of parking.

    Admission £4.00
    NMRA members £3.00
    Under 12's free

    Mike Hughes
    Marketing Co-ordinator NMRA British Region

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    DCC and computers

    For some time now I've been researching DCC systems, and as I'm currently on a very tight budget, trying to find the cheapest solution possible, that still leaves many features found on the more expensive systems.

    I initially settled on a NCE Powercab , but then someone suggested to take a look at the SPROGII.
    This little device was designed to be used with JMRI software (which is FREE), to program decoders. However, partly thanks to the power of the JMRI software you can use it as a DCC system throttle, powering a small layout, which is what I have. What's more, I already own an iPod Touch, and there's a nice little app called WiThrottle that through JMRI turns your iPod touch or iPhone into a wireless DCC cab.
    I am very intrigued try this out as it would mean minimal investment for me ,just get the SPROGII, (I have all the other soft and hardware already), and a few decoders and I'm up and running in DCC. Should I get a bigger budget available in the future, then I will invest in a decent DCC system, and continue to use the SPROGII to program my decoders on a separate programming track.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    More Links

    I've added a couple of links to the growing list of what I regard as useful websites of manufacturers, modelers etc.  It is not a complete list, and I do not get sponsored by any of these, it's just stuff I personally (would) use and recommend checking out at the very least.
    If you have anything that you feel I should include, drop me a line or post a comment and I'll check it out!


    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    background sound effects

    Sound is ever more a part of modelrailroading. The advances made in sound decoders for locomotives are ever greater, with prices coming down slowly, and the first surround sound systems are becoming available too. However there is more you can do of course. How about sounds of railroad communications? A friend recommended the following: Railroad Radio has several data streams that can be played through winamp, iTunes, real player etc. When played through a set of separate speakers located near your railroad, it will add to the atmosphere.
    Have a listen. You may have to try a few different streams as they are not always busy all the time.

    Snowplow action

    In one of the first posts on this blog, I showed you the snow plows build by fellow modelers.
    One of which was a Jordan Spreader. I discovered footage today of the real thing today, be it from a different railroad.  I've included the footage below.

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Another railroad blog

    Just by chance, I came across this blog. I've read through some of it and it's really entertaining. I recommend it to anyone interested in (north american) model railroading. :-) Don't forget to book mark mine too though :-)

    Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Rolling road.

    One of my fellow modelers Mike Ruby, build a rolling road to use for his HO loco's when setting up sound etc. Footage from his page on Youtube.
    He writes" This is my rolling road. I use it for testing locos and programming Loksound decoders. Now after getting the speedo to work I can use it to set up speed curves in a controlled and easy way. Something I have been trying to make work for the six month"  

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    RS Tower at London Festival of Railway Modeling

    This weekend it is time for the "London Festival of Railway Modeling" show, in Alexandra Palace, London.
    One of the layouts present will be that of Exeter region (UK) based RS tower RS Tower.
    A quick preview of this exhibition layout can be found below. I personally can't stop by, but it promises to be an exellent modelrailroad show this year. 

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Taft Yard

    Another great layout in the making is that of Trevor Smith in the UK, who has a double layer layout under construction. This Fotopic page shows a nice overview on how he painted his backdrop and is progressing his scenery. The top shelf is california based, while the lower level will be Florida based. He confesses he is influenced by the same modelers as myself, namely Pele Soeeborg from Denmark, and Lance Mindheim from the  USA. Lance models Florida, Pele models California, so this may be more than a coincidence :-)

    Parker subdivision

    Here is a link to pictures of another US modelrailroad, build by Tom Parker. The layout is largely inspired by Pele Soeeborg's Daneville & Donner River.  You can find it by clicking here.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Bearwood HO group

    This footage was shot during a recent railroad exhibition and shows of the modular layout of the Bearwood HO group from Poole in the UK.  One of the builders comments: "It's 30ft x 11 ft but there's no track plan of the whole thing. It is an oval with 20ft long, 10 track yard down one side and one of two available sets of scenicked modules down the other. One set of 180-degree corners is scenicked as shown in the video, the other is totally bareEnjoy!

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    ONtrax 2010 once more

    Another video was posted this week of Ontrax 2010. You can see it by clicking on this link .
    It is nice to see how the layout is enjoyed by young and old. Perhaps a new generation of model railroaders in the making :-) This video is of higher quality than the previous one.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    The Wet Stuff

    Water, and how to do it. There are so many water products on the market, I'm sure you are familiar with most, so I'm not going to repeat them all, just wanted to highlight one, that I think is really cool. Just my opinion though.
    Here is a little video demonstrating it, and if you want to know more, check out the Unreal Details website.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    The next stage

    Track down and wired, backdrop painted, it's time for the next stage in the construction of the layout. This is to mark out the scenery, and then build it.
    I used a black marker to mark out the roads on the layout. I used a width of 25 scale feet, sufficient for a normal two lane road. I've also marked out a service road leading to the location of a signal. Service roads are essential and are a detail that will add realism to your layout, so plan for them where needed.

    Ontrax 2010

    Last weekend, OnTrax 2010 was held in the dutch national railway museum, in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
    Also US model railroading was well represented by dutch modelers that have a modular layout to Fremo USA standards. Here's a youtube video made by my friend 'Chief deadfrog'. he apologises for the poor picture quality as his video camera was defect, so the footage was shot with an iPhone. I recommend to double click the image to view in seperate windows, due to the width restrictions of the blog layout. Enjoy.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010


    One item that is almost unavoidable on a model railroad are trees. Usually more than you think. As you may know, I plan to model California on my layout, so I feel that a few palm trees are needed, placed on a few strategic urban places.
    Palm trees are sometimes a bit harder to find in your average model shop than a birch or pine tree. Although I found a supplier who can supply virtually any type , size and quality of model tree imaginable, suitable for nearly any scale.
    This is"themodeltreeshop" . The pic shows a palm tree from their wide range.  Select the type of tree, then select the size and quantity. Some trees are made to order (like the wire wound types ) others are readily in stock. Check them out, I think you may find just what you need here.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Achievement Programme

    As you may know, the NMRA has an Achievement Programme, or AP in short. The AP is simply said a recognition system for your modeling skills. Sometimes you can enter the fruits of your labour in a contest, and with enough points, you can get a merit award in that particular catagory. Independent judging outside a contest is also possible. The AP has several catagories, among which Motive Power, Cars, Scenery, Civil Engineer, Volunteer etc.
    Depending on the catagory, you need several merit awards to complete that particular part of the AP. Should you do this in sufficient catagories, then you can be awarded the title of Master Model Railroader. I have no illusions that I will reach that goal anytime soon, but rather I want to use the AP program to measure my modeling skills. The point scoring system used is a good way of showing what I could improve, and what I may be good at, and it's a fun way to learn new skills. So at present, besides me building on my own model railroad, I am researching several things towards earning merit awards. Currently collecting drawings and data of several locomotives, and freight car types, for future projects in the Motive Power and Cars catagories. For more on the AP, see  The Achievement Programme .

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Freight train

    NE 1623 rolls into the yard with a short local freight.
    This locomotive is an Athearn bluebox GP38-2  which I superdetailed with a Cannon&Co cab and nose, and several other details added from several detail companies. It also was painted into my freelance colour scheme and railroad name. At the time I build it (approx 1998) it earned 82 points , just not enough for an NMRA merit award.  It is due to get a DCC & sound upgrade, and wire up the roof beacon etc. A few small cosmetic repairs are also needed. After all that is done, I will probably enter it again to re-earn it's merrit award, but I'll have to check with the NMRA if that's allowed first. :-)

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    The clouds

    Just a piccie of the clouds as they are as present, unedited, and no touch up (yet).

    Station Road Baseboards.

    I thought just to write something personal here. As I mentioned in an added comment earlier in the week, I ordered some plasticard (sheet styrene for US readers) from Station Road Baseboards in Norfolk UK.
    The sheets I ordered were 0.5mm x 325mm x 440 mm in size. These sell for 0.72 pence each (approx $1.05 each) . The sheets arrived today and are of very good quality, and were shipped promptly. I can therefore recommend this company, for quality, speed of dispatch and the very good price of the plastic. (You'd pay a lot more for this for one of the well known brands).  Of course this is smooth plastic, cards with a pattern etc are not available from here (yet?) so you'll have to go to your usual sources for that, but this is great for making templates, trial models, or as a base for a model that will be covered with another layer. Also check out the products they offer for the construction of modules etc.

    In the clouds

    Well, paint mist actually, that's where I've been residing in for a bit. I can't stress enough at this point that when painting, particularly in a confined space like my loft, you wear sufficient PPE. Latex or similar gloves, a face mask with appropriate filter cartidges (a dust mask won't do!), and try and vent the space a bit. (I used a desk fan to vent more fresh air into the area.).  Paint fumes are not good for your health.
    I've just been spray painting on clouds and mist etc on my backdrop, and I have to say I'm fairly pleased with the first try. I may touch it up here and there, but I don't think I'm going to attack it with a roller and fresh blue paint to start again.  The key is work in moderation, mist the paint on, and keep the spray can (or whatever you choose to use) moving. Too long in one spot will result in a white dot and that means start over in many cases.. Misting on the clouds so that a bit of the blue back ground still shows through makes them look the most realistic. Be creative, I cut out only a few templates, but used them upside down, back to front, overlaying each other etc to create variety in my cloud shapes.  Go over the top side of the clouds a few more passes than the bottom so that it looks like the sun is shining on top of them. I used mostly white, but I carefully used a few grey mists here and there (there's a bit of rain in the air). Grey was a much stronger colour though, so I toned that down a bit by carefully passing over with white again. Then finally, I misted the whole back drop from a larger distance, and misted the lower parts more than the top parts to make it all 'blend' together and create a better sense of distance. Now I have to wait until the mist settles down, before I take a picture and show the results to you. Time for a cup of tea first.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Back to the backdrops

    After putting old newspaper over the tracks etc to protect it, I painted the backdrop boards. The few replies I received made me deviate from the plan slightly. After the PVA was applied and dried, I first painted the boards with a light blue (left over from an old baby room colour scheme) oil based paint to properly seal the boards. After that I painted the boards with a matt emulsion paint. I used Cobalt Blue from UK's Homebase paint range.  While this may appear very blue and a bit dark on the picture, I chose this colour on purpose. Over this surface, clouds and mist will be painted/sprayed with a variety of white and light grey shades, which will make the back drops appear a lot lighter than they currently are.
    First I need to get some materials to cut out cloud templates though, so if you'll excuse me :-)