The Roster

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Videos of the new loop

Well okay...technically, its videos of all three loops. But these are the first videos out showing trains running on all three tracks. The C&O diesel switcher pulling the mixed freight is on the new inner loop. The Burlington Northern U33C diesel hauling the string of Gunderson container cars is on the middle loop and the American Flyer 4-4-2 Atlantic is on the outer loop.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The inner loop is done...YAY!

Laid the last of the inner mainline track today. Following that I ran temporary power leads to the bridge and successfully ran locomotives around the track. There is one turnout that the Gunderson well stack cars don't like - the cars hit the turnout throw - but otherwise the look works well. I kinda suspected the Gunderson cars would not work on the inner loop with the tighter radius curves. Fortunately, I can still run the cars, it'll just be more of a challenge to get them in and out of the main yard.

No pictures today, but both the SW-9 and an 4-4-2 Atlantic traversed the track.

The only fault...I forgot to install the automatic uncouplers on two sidings. Fortunately, its a relatively easy process to backtrack and fit them to the track.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Landscaping the layout

I'm starting to work on some of the landscaping forms on the layout. I needed a little background on creating hills. Fortunately, I found this nifty video on Youtube from Woodland Scenic on creating detailed hills with rock formations. Well worth 10 minutes of your time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More progress with the inner loop!

I've been busy installing roadbed and track on the inner loop. Its almost ready to run a train on.

Its actually working out pretty well. The 'east yard' has a main line and two passing sidings. One will serve the passenger station while the other will be a place to stash extra cars not currently in use, or serve as a passing siding if the passenger station track is full. The interlocking tower is positioned to observe all the activity on the east side including both the middle and outer loops. I may install a floodlight tower near here to through some light into the yard area.

Pardon the mess - its a work in progress.

Another challenge was the northwest corner. I ultimately decided to install a tight inner turnout to service the west yard (and  to use the original bridge layout). Problem was that the curve of the tracks actually crossed the inner corner of the layout and would be hanging in space.  Soooo...I added a bit of table to fill the corner.

You can see the proposed track line done in red.

The corner is a piece of board with a 1x4 frame under it. On top of the is a piece of styrofoam. It was too tall for the surrounding terrain, but the foam cutter knocked down  the edges to a reasonable slope. I used Woodland Scenics foam putty to smooth out the irregularities and fill the seams along the edges. A little sanding and it is good to go! 

Shot from the perspective of the turnout.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Phase 1 testing accomplished!

I was able to complete my testing of various locomotives traversing the outer loop of the layout today. Both the American Models 4-8-4 Northern and the American Flyer U33C successfully traveled the outer loop including the rebuilt 'ridge' in the back of the layout. Each locomotive hauled the same consist - 4 freight cars and a heavy caboose (the new Lionel Great Northern caboose). The Northern had a little trouble - as to be expected - but the U33C cruised up the grade and around the layout.

Want proof? I actually shot some video of each train. Not the best footage, but it shows the trains in action.

Here's some overview shots that show the new 'lay of the land' on the ridge. Formerly, I'd planned to locate coal loader on top of this hill, but the revised track plan no longer supports that concept. So...I'm thinking that this space will become a neighborhood of small tract type homes with a small church. Sort of a typical lower to middle income area with small homes along a street with the railroad running across their back yards (not too different from what I grew up with back in the 70's).

Overview of the ridge community showing the tunnel for the middle loop.  

Oriented more to show the tunnel and how narrow the ridge has become.

The buildings will be the classic Plasticville Cape Cod homes.

Here's a show of the future 'East Yards" still need to lay the road bed for the sidings

And a shot of the "East Fork" of the river. The inner loop's roadbed in the foreground.

On a related note, I stopped by Wally World the other day and found a neat addition for the scenery - an Austin London Taxi. The model is labeled as being 1:63 scale, so you can drop this in to your layout with little worry. (and you can drop it into your 25mm games as well - who doesn't need an unmarked black sedan to wish your VIP out of harms way).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Plugging away!

I've been on a design and road bed laying binge for the last week. I've almost got the roadbed in for the inner loop. The big obstacle is...a river! I need to bridge it (anyone got a Bailey Bridge?'s an inside joke.) I planned on using the American Flyer girder bridges to bridge the span.

The only problem is the the river is so wide I'd need two spans 'back to back'. Not necessarily a bad problem, but I want to shop around and explore the options to find a large single span bridge. I am already using an American Flyer 750 bridge on one loop. I need something similar for the current project.

Soooooo....its off to the big train show this weekend to search for a new bridge. I've got a couple of ideas. I've seen an O gauge bridge that would work...preferably one that will not break the bank like a River Raisin Models Pratt Truss Bridge.

So we could conceivably have the inner loop done by Christmas or New Year of 2012. It'll be nice to be able to run three trains at once. It still leaves lots to do in terms of finishing off the yards and planning the coal flood loading facility.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Back on track!

I finished relaying the track on the back end of the outer loop!

So the track is back in place. So far its passed most of the tests:

  • American Flyer Atlantics traversed the loop without derailing. (The turnout I left open that led right off the edge of the table doesn't really count - operator error on my part...and I caught it before it fell). This was a very basic test to confirm that the pilots and trailing truck would not derail.
  • Showcase line SW-9 navigated the loop without incident. Another basic test with a short wheelbase locomotive.
  • American Models GP-35 cruised around the back without a problem. A bit longer in length, but still a 4 axle locomotive.
  • American Models SD-60 sailed around the loop. A long, 6 axle heavy hauler. Things are looking good!
  • American Flyer 4-6-4 Hudson. A bit longer in the drivers than the Atlantic. A good test prior to running the Northern 4-8-4 around the loop.
  • In most of these tests, the locomotive hauled a consist of Gunderson well-deck container carriers. The cars ranged from empty to double-stacked. No real problems - the empty cars seem to derail in one spot going clockwise. Its an issue that was present with the prior track that the rebuild apparently did not address.

The next tests will be the American Models 4-8-4 Northern and the American Flyer U33C pulling a variety of rolling stock.

Having the loop working has been a very positive experience. So much so that I laid the roadbed for 8 feet of the inner loop today. If I can keep up this pace, the roadbed and the track might be done before Christmas. Yay!

I'll work on getting picture and/or video of the new loop up in the next few days.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I've been workin' on the (model) railroad!

Re-reading the blog, I've found  that its been over eight months since I realized t hat I needed to rebuild the outer loop of track.

Well, last weekend I bit the bullet and started ripping it out. I was surprised how quickly I could remove the excess grade while salvaging a remarkable amount of the layout. Over the course of the week I've re-cut the tunnel, installed the framing and the tabletop, sanded the new lane to a - hopefully - smoother gradient and installed the new road bed. Whew!

Now I need to get more paint to cover the road bed and install new track (some of the old track didn't deal too well with being removed).

This was so motivational, I cleared the table and started the prep work for the inside loop. I know what this year's winter project is going to be!

S Gauge - The Next Generation

Ran across this video today on Youtube. Who says all S Gaugers are old men?  Greg shows a better understanding of the electrical system than I had at a similar age.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rail Disaster

Jan Mason shared this photo from the recent Dayton train show.

An American Flyer Light Mikado goes off the rails and snags two more trains.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dayton - NMRA Division 3 Train show

This past weekend was the National Model Railroad Association Midwest Division 3 train show held at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio. The Hara show is a large show featuring a number of train club layouts - including the club of which I am a member - the Miami Valley S Gauger's.

The Hara Arena is an older venue, but has the one commodity that train clubs really need - space. This space was split between a large vendor hall and an exhibitor hall full of operating model train layouts and various clubs and businesses.

Vendor hall at the Hara Arena show.

Exhibitor Hall - the MVSG layout is way in the back.

This show is always fun due to the diverse number of exhibitors and vendors in attendance.

Within our own club there were a number of members that brought trains to run on the layout. Saturday featured something of a glut of classic American Flyer trains - Atlantics, Pacifics and Hudsons shared the rails with GP-7 and F-7's.

The main yard on Saturday with GP-7, Pacific's and F-7 raring to go.

Rich brought his customized Franklin locomotive - with a good smoke unit and a LED headlamp, this was something to see hauling a string of Frontier passenger cars and a flat car with a cannon. Of course, I totally failed to take any pictures of his train.

A picture of the Franklin with cars

Another shot of a Franklin

So lots of time to operate trains at this show. I ran my latest acquisition - an Atlantic 4-4-2 (#21160) pulling a mixed string of freight cars. 21160 ran strong for an hour or so. Not bad for a 50 year old locomotive!

Rich also brought my American Flyer 0-8-0 # 343 back from the shop. I got a good price on it, but it needed a fair amount of work to get back to running condition. One nice reward was Rich pairing my 343 with his and 'double heading' the two switchers with the same string of freight cars the Atlantic had been pulling.

Sunday brought a fun annual event - Paul Rinehart running his string of 49 freight cars in S. Paul started pulling this monster with his American Flyer "Big Boy" then swapped it out for the Light Mikado. Both of these locomotives were equipped with Lionel's Train Master Command Control (TMCC) system.

The old yard is empty....except for two Big Boys and a Pacific.

 Joe Greene's cattle yard occupies a prominent corner module and is quite photogenic with its impressive collection of toy cows and stockyards.

Its a busy day at the stockyard, while in the background, Joe (in the hat) and Bob troubleshoot an electrical issue with the accessory computer.

A fun show as always - there were a number of American Flyer / S Gauge vendors in attendance ranging from Art Lofton's parts depot to Dave Blum's Pikeville Models. I managed to confine myself to a few parts and some additional lights from John Gaffney's store.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2012 NMRA Cincinnnati - Division 7 Train Show

This past weekend was the 45th annual train show sponsored by the NMRA Cincinnati Division 7 folks. Held at Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio this is a good sized local show featuring a number of vendors and traders as well as a number of model train layouts on display in a variety of scales.

For the first time, the club of which I am a member - the Miami Valley S Gaugers - set up their small portable layout at the show.

The show kicked off on Friday evening with initial vendor and layout set up. Jon Goins, President of the MVSG delivered the layout and unloaded his boxes.


On Saturday morning. Jon commenced with the set up. I joined Jon just after 8:00 am. Together we finished the set up and tested the track configuration by running my American Models GP-35 around the tracks. Good thing too! We found a few minor rough spots that were causing derailments. A little judicious pushing and pulling got the track into alighment for operations. Jon set up his table adjacent to the layout, conveniently keeping the S layout next to the only dedicated S vendor at the show.

Jon Goins mans his table at the Lakota show.

Turnout from the Cincinnati contingent of our club  was excellent. Jay Reese, Mike Mitter, Bob Davis and Rich Boehm were in attendance throughout the day. Jay's American Flyer work train performed well for several hours and was followed by a great performance by Mike Mitter's American Flyer steamer pulling a mix of American Models tank cars with some classic American flyer rolling stock

I picked up a Plasticville factory kit from Jim Jaehnen for which he'd been searching for me over the past year. I promptly turned around and placed it on the layout.

John Gaffney (another S Gauger from Central Ohio!) was at the show to showcase his business - Lights 4 Models. John specializes in lighting for your models (duh) and has a great selection of LED and neon lights for all your modeling needs. I picked up several sets of lights to use as Flashing Rear End Devices (known as "FRED"). These model the flashing red light and sensor boom that replaced the caboose on most modern trains by the 1980's.  John will be at the upcoming Dayton show if you missed him at Lakota.

Saturday's other purchase was two American Flyer by Lionel (or Flyonel) freight cars from the 80's - a Wabash 3 bay hopper and a BAR plug door boxcar. Nice cars!

The highlight of the day on Saturday would be the fire alarm being tripped just after 3:00pm and the entire building evacuated for about 30-45 minutes. As luck would have it, Rich and I had just sat down for lunch when the alarm sounded, forcing us to take our food outside to finish lunch (and shiver a little bit in the cool fall air). Turns out the cause was a popcorn popper that had caught on fire. From what I could see, most of the visitors to the show left at that point and traffic for the rest of the day was very light.


On Sunday the show opened at 11:00am. Allen Smith led off the day running his American Flyer trains, including his pair of custom modified double headed Pacific locomotives. Later in the day, Bob Davis displayed his custom AF Pacific pulling a string of Pennsy heavyweight passenger cars. I want to give thanks to Bob - he pulled double duty supporting both the MVSG and the Pennsy trains club at this show.

Rich Boehm (left) and Bob Davis watch their trains run on the portable layout,  on Sunday.

Bob Davis loaned us the use of this station for the day. Its a great laser cut kit.

Sunday's "deal of the day" were a pair of American Flyer Atlantics purchased for a total of $30. One was a 303 that Jon gave a good home, the other was a 21160 that came home with me. The 21160 was dirty as all get out, but when I put it on the tracks and fed it power, the old girl stumbled around the layout at a good pace, even if she did shudder pretty badly.
The 21160 right after purchase looking pretty dirty - but mechanically sound!

Nothing that a good cleaning and a little time in the workshop won't fix. At some point this locomotive got a bit of a customized paint scheme.

The 21160 straight from the selling floor.

The front of the boiler is actually silver rather than the gray you see in the picture.

No fire drills Sunday, so the rest of the day was pretty peaceful. Ran into Bob Knecht and had an opportunity to catch up as I'd not seen him since Cincycon back in March.

A few more photo's from the show...
The Plasticville factory, with my Flyer running behind it on the inside loop.

Turn out at the show on Sunday was a bit on the light side. Things were slow later in the day.

Jay Reese and Allen Smith watch the layout as Sunday winds down.

And now its over. Well, the good news is that the fall train season is ramping up with Dayton just two weeks away and Springfield a month after that. For those that could not make it to the show, here's a short snippet of what its all about - S gauge model trains!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

326 Pictures

A few pictures from our recent Spree that capture the refurbished 326 in action. Pulling a long string of freight cars around the MVSG layout.

A nice black and white that really captures the smoke put out by the locomotive.

The same picture in color.

And rounding the corner of the layout

Monday, July 9, 2012

326 Hudson

I'd sent the 326 off to one of our club's members - Richard - who did an amazing job of cleaning and maintenance to the locomotive. It both runs and smokes like it was brand new.

When I find a little more time I'll post some pictures of the engine running at the Spring "S" Spree held in Dayton back in May.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Project 326 - Tear down and cleaning

First step was to disassemble the locomotive and clean off all the grime. The pilot removes with a single screw.

 You can see the accumulated dirt and grime. The rest of the locomotive was as dirty.

The running gear was dirty and had a bit of rust and discoloration.Nothing too bad, or unusual in a locomotive that's been sitting around for a few decades.

The underside of the smoke unit had a bit of corrosion. I had to remove the plate and take the dremel to it, but it cleaned up.

 The tender was just dirty, a good scrubbing with a toothbrush and soapy water cleaned up the dirt.

Here's a shot of one of the tender trucks. You can really see the dirt and corrosion on the truck.

I cleaned off the corrosion and dirt, cleaned the electrical contacts and reassembled everything. I fixed the binding issue. I think it was as simple as one of the running gear rods was not installed properly. After a few cycles of trial and error, I have the wheels turning with out binding.

Set the locomotive on the track and fired up the transformer...and it still does not run. The rectifier in the tender hums, but the motor does not turn and the headlight does not light. Time for some additional research and testing..

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Project 326 - The American Flyer 4-6-4 Hudson

At the recent World's Greatest Hobby show in Cincinnati, I chanced the opportunity to acquire a model of an American Flyer 326 Hudson steam locomotive. It wasn't much to look at, the shell of both the locomotive and tender were extremely dirty, the wheels were filthy, the locomotive didn't run and there was binding in the drivers.. Still, there was potential there, and the price wasn't bad, so I took the plunge.

Currently, the locomotive is being cleaned. I've disassembled it down to its base components. The shell and major assemblies have been cleaned with soap and water. Next up is the clean and oil the running gear. At some point, I'll need to overhaul the tender as well.

Here's my initial assessment;

- The binding problem appears to be due to how the running gear was installed in the steam cylinders. Once I'd removed the steam chest, the wheels turned easily.
- The smoke unit needs work. There was no smoke stack present with the smoke unit. Does not appear to have wick either. Bottom plate of unit has a fair amount of corrosion (i.e. rust).
- What grease there was on the main gears was old and waxy.
- The brushes are dirty and worn. Might need to replace.
- Brush springs might need replacement.
- Some of the wires between the tender and the locomotive are badly frayed.
- Wheels are in fair condition. Whitewalls are dirty and a bit worn.

I'll get some pictures posted soon.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

World's Greatest Hobby on Tour

Spent today manning the NASG booth at World's Greatest Hobby show in Cincinnati today. The show had great turnout with easily over 200 people lined up to get in when the doors opened at 10:00am.

The NASG booth was manned with a contingent from the Miami Valley S Gaugers  - Jon, Mike, Rich, Jack and Ray rotated duties answering questions about S Gauge and keeping two trains running on the MVSG layout. Rich's AF 300 performed yeoman service and ran most of the day pulling a consist of old AF cars and some new custom built flat cars that Rich constructed.  Mike and Ray split time on the outer loop with a mix of modern equipment. Mike's Trainmaster and Ray's GP-35 (both American Model) ran like champs, but Ray's Lionel U-33C kept stalling on the outer loop (It ran like gangbusters on the inner figure 8).

As you might expect the WGH show is a major regional event with advertised on television in the days leading up to the show. Several vendors with their S wares were present including Lionel, Pikeville Models and several hobby shops.

Big news of the show was Lionel's release of the new stand alone American Flyer catalog - not only new, but packed with surprises! New 2-8-8-2 steam locomotives and new road names for the U-33C and a bevy of NEW SD-70ACe in a broad cross section of road names. AND MORE! Lionel appears to be committing to American Flyer in a big way. 

The final day of the 2012 World's Greatest Hobby on Tour show Sunday from 10-5

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grades....nemesis of the railroad (both real and model)

I've been running trains around the new loop and I find that the transition between the grade and the flat plateau is too abrupt for the larger locomotives. The U33C and the 4-8-4 Northern both are having issues transitioning between these sections. This may requires some creative engineering and a redesign of the planning coal flood loader facility.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The U33C in motion

Well 5734 has returned from its trip to the factory for adjustment. It looks like the team at Lionel has done a pretty good job. Its a much quieter locomotive and seems to pull just fine. 

Here's a short video showing it run on the new outer loop in my home layout.

U33C, not so blue

Got the U33C back from the shop. It runs much quieter now. I ran it around the layout a couple of times and it seems to work fine. Didn't test the smoke unit yet, but it runs, the lights work and the sound is phenomenal. I'll post some picures/video this weekend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More pictures of the bridge

Spent some time working on the abutments and pier for this bridge on the outer loop of track. Since some folks have expressed an interest in seeing pictures, here you go!

These are Lionel 'short span' bridges made of plastic. I've painted they in various shades of grey  with varying degrees of weathering and drybrushing designed to bring out the highlights.

As I'm sure is obvious, I have yet to tackle finishing the painting and filling of the streambed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Back on track!

Laid in the final track for the outer loop and ran a number of locomotives and short trains across it for testing. Its looking pretty good! All the locomotives traversed the curves and the grades with no noticeable movement problems. At least none of them rolled off the tracks!

The homasote roadbed over the styrofoam risers is not as quiet as I'd hoped. I'll investigate other sound deadening options as I work on landscaping the layout. 

The big surprise was testing the GP 35 on the outer loop and being startled as the Lackawanna 4-8-4 chugged by on the middle loop. Seems that connections and power transfer and excellent at the junction switches between the two loops. Now I'll have to bone up on wiring to insulate the two loops from each other.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Off track

Just about finished the outer loop. I ran two tests to check clearances by rolling some of the longer/larger rolling stock over the  track and found...discrepancies. One I can live with - a rough join between track sections. But the other...the cars goes into a curve and just...stop. Worse, this is the curve in the very back of the layout.

This one will take some detective work. The leading theory is there is just a lot of friction being generated in the turn. But its supposedly a gentler turn than the middle loop and its on a grade. But friction overcomes gravity.

I'll be playing around with it some more. My worry is that as a train goes through the curve the additional drag could cause uncoupling or derailments.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tom Sawyer and the fence

Got a nice break in the winter weather and was able to spray paint the bridge. Now for the weathering and then I can install it on the layout.

While I work on that, I'm also hard at work creating the hill forms for the base of the cliff at the north end of the layout. Its about five feet of very short slope at the base of the cliff. Construction method is the classic cardboard basket weave frame with plaster cloth layered over top.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why building a layout takes so long (part 2)

I'm up to the last bridges for the outer loop. I've got the bridge pier installed and painted a useable color. I'm about to tack down the bridges when I realize that;

a.) the streambed still is not sealed and painted.
b.) One of the bridges is not yet painted (still in its original plastic glossy black finish)
c.) its too cold and windy to spray paint outside.

so....put the outer loop project on hold for a day or two and move on to laying roadbed for the inner loop! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Scott requested pictures of the recent work I've been doing. So here you go!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Drive those spikes!

After two months of false starts, I'm starting to make progress! 

Got another 9 feet of track installed yesterday! Now if I can tackle getting the bridge piers cut I can envision 'closing the loop' on the outer track. (Then comes the fun of wiring and soldering!)

Also started laying the  roadbed for the inner loop. The western half will be easy, but I need to plan out the eastern half to ensure I get the track in the right place and get all the sidings mapped out. On the plus side - this is the fun part!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Layout maintenance

I found some time to diagnose a persistent current drop that happens on the layouts swing bridge. Didn't seem to matter which locomotive I used, it would 'stall' at the west end of the bridge. (And freakishly, start up again a second or two later). Didn't matter if it was a 60 year old American Flyer or a brand new American Models locomotive, they'd just stop.

Soooo....I ripped out the old feeder wiring...and then discovered that the connectors on the other side of the terminal block were not tightly joined to the wire. I'd crimped them down, but they were still loose. Considering this was the first piece of wiring I installed, I'll chalk it up to OTJ 'learning'.

To fix it, I broke out the trusty soldering iron and soldered the wires to the connector rings and installed new feeder wires to replaced to the two I'd ripped out at the start of the exercise. Nice solid connections all the way to the track!

To test, I ran a Showcase lines SW-9 around a few times with nary a hesitation or other sign of the problem.

A celebratory "woot" is on order!

While I was at it, I banged down a rail joiner that was sitting too high and causing every wheel that struck it to bounce and clatter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Putting the track gang to work!

I was able to find a little time to work on the layout this week. The main accomplishment is getting the road bed laid up to the top of the raised tier. Now to fill and sand it, then I can start to lay track on the outer loop. Just means that I have to deal with the bridge piers soon.

Accomplishing this little bit does fuel the fire. After a long delay, I'm making progress again! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

U33C Blues, part 2

Sent the U33C back to the retailer/service center for service or replacement. We'll see how this turns out.

Monday, January 2, 2012

U33C update

A couple of folks asked if I had oiled the U33C. Yep, I sure did! I don't think that is the problem. You can see it (and hear it!) yourself here.

Micromark comes through!

Got a shipping from micromark today - and it was 100% correct. I needed a replacement hand throw for one that I broke and got some nifty brass screws to aid in installation. In 10 minutes I had the switch repaired and ready to go.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I've got the U33C blues...

Recieved my brand new U33C S Gauge locomotive today. Its very pretty, has really bright lights and a great sound systems....and it runs like a DOG!

If the motor and drive system is supposed to sound like a dull drill bit boring through 3/4" of wood, then mission accomplished! Its embarrassing, the Lionel would ship something that is this shoddy. Guess I'll be spending some time on the phone sorting out the repair process with the manufacturer.

On a related note, I had to nag California Roadbed for the shipment that they billed me for a month ago, but managed to not ship to me. Can't decide if most of the manufacturers in this hobby are customer service challenged, or if I'm being targeted for special abuse.

Happy New Years everyone!