Saturday, December 5, 2015

Weathering Track, part 1

Progress is actually made on the layout, although you might think otherwise. What I am doing is weathering the track. I have started with the back of the rails, i.e. the side facing the backdrop. Pointless some might say, but I do not agree. An occasional future picture might be taken in an angle revealing that side of the rails. And also, I just feel happier knowing the weathering is complete. But to be on the safe side I do the back first, which will later give me no choice but doing the other side (the front) also :-)

What I do is brush on a coat of dirt colored paint, and while the paint is still wet I add weathering powders. First a light rust colored powder and then some darker rust. I apply it generously which creates a texture which in my eyes looks quite realistic.

Next I vacuum the excess powder, which will otherwise uncontrollably spread all over the roadbed. This is followed by a light dusting of dark earth and black powder, applied with a large soft brush. And it all comes out like this.

Monday, November 16, 2015

An SD-40 and its Wheels

I have got myself a loco for the layout. It was one of the guys over at the Railwire that offered to sell me an undecorated Atlas O SD-40. I took the opportunity to get an engine at a nice price and here it is, devoid of all possible detailing:

The engine had converted the wheels of the SD-40 to P48 standards, meaning the wheel profile is prototypical. That was good for me, since that looks better and I want it that way, but also since my (only) turnout has flange ways etc that are more P48 than standard O. The loco axle length had also been adjusted to a more narrow and prototypical track gauge. This was not equally good for me, since my track gauge is standard O.  Don't ask why. It's just is. This meant my new loco would not run on my track, unless I did something about the wheels, or rather their spacing.

So I have done some experimenting with one of the wheel sets. The conventional O scale gauge is 60 scale inches, which equals 1.25" or 31.75 mm but Proto:48 uses the prototypically accurate 56.5 scale inches which is 1,17" or 29.90 mm. That is not a very large difference, and the loco, as arrived, could actually sit tight on my track. It even powers up, and makes all sorts of sounds. But when I throttle up it immediately derails.

Since we are only talking about 2 mm, I simply separated the wheels on one of the axles by that amount. The axle is a little to short for that and I am not sure that the wheels will stay put in the long run. However, there want be much stress on the wheels on this little layout, and it might be enough to secure the wheels with a little Loctite. Another solution would be to buy new axles from NWSL. Fitting axles seems to be readily available for $1.25 each, so that is might be worth the trouble. The picture below shows separated wheels on the axle uppermost in the picture. You can see that the wheels sit tighter on the lower axle, P48 style.

Another problem is that although the gearbox of the truck is originally done for the longer axle, the original wheels were much wider. With the narrower wheels separated further apart there is a risk that the wheel with the gear slides that far out so that the gears lose contact with each other. To fix that problem I inserted a spacer between the the opposite wheel and the gearbox. The next picture shows the left wheel, with the gears, at its outermost position. It still contacts the rest of the gear assembly, even if it is a close call.

The non-geared wheel is electrically isolated from the axle, and uses a sprung pin sitting in the gear box to make electrical contact with the motor. You can see the pin in the lower right of this photo.

If the isolated wheel slides to far out from the gearbox, the pin will no longer contact the back of the wheel, and the electrical pickup is broken. To avoid that I put a spacer on the geared wheel side also. So now the isolated wheel cannot go any further out than this picture shows.

Even if I decide to buy new axles, I will probably start by just separating the wheels on the existing axles. Just to be able to see the loco run.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Painting rail

A short progress report. 

I have started to paint the rails. But running out of the old and proven Floquil Grimy Black, and since no more of that is to be had, I had to find a suitable substitute. I went for Vallejo acrylic Model Color, #168 Black grey. A little darker than the grimy black perhaps, but it will do fine.

This is just a first step. Dirt and rust will follow so the unpainted spots, which can be seen in the picture, do not matter at this point. Also, there is paint on the rail tops which I will remove later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Ceremonial Last Spike

The ceremonial last spike has been driven in. The event was witnessed by Sir Topham Hatt and duly photographed...


But the last spike has really been driven, although the event was not that grand, but like this:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rail on siding spiked

All the rail on the siding has been spiked, and rail joiners have been fitted.

So now a car can roll all the way down to the poor man's bumper.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Lengthening the stock rails

When I started out to spike the rails on the other (left) side of the turnout I remembered that I had made simulated rail joints in both stock rails of the turnout, close to their ends. I had notched the rail heads and added rail joiners for added visual interest. This was when the turnout was just supposed to be a display item. You can see this in the picture below.

When laying the next pieces of rail I would either get a new joint just a few scale feet further away, or have to make that joint invisible. I did not want either of that. So I decided to make those fake cuts real cuts and lay the new rail starting from there.

So the rail joiners were pried loose and the rails cut. But once I had removed the spikes from the now loose pieces of rail, they were still stuck.

Bugger! I had forgot that it was here that I had soldered the feeder wires to the rails! And I had managed to hide theme so well that even I missed them. Well, the feeders were cut off easily enough and the rail pieces finally came off. Like here (you can see the copper colored feeders coming up between the ties).

But now I had a new problem. I had to get the stock rails electrically connected again. I did not want to attempt getting new feeders in from below at this point, so I instead decided to solder the next pieces of rails to the stock rails. Any ugly looking soldering would be hidden by the rail joiners.

Here new rails have been soldered in place.

Not that bad after all. I should have tried for a new invisible joint to begin with, rather than going this tedious route!

With rail joiners and tie plates in place we are ready and can proceed with the rail spiking proper.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Adding hardware

No work done on the layout for a long time, mainly due to a lack of parts. One parcel with tie plates, spikes and other things never turned up, and apparently got lost somewhere in transit. It took me some time to realize and accept that, order new stuff and wait for the second parcel to come through. It eventually did, and now I can continue spiking track!

But first I added some more hardware to the turnout. Not because it actually needed any, but since I could not resist the heftier look.

First I replaced the simple gauge plate I had made out of plain styrene strip with a properly bolted plate from Right-O-Way.

Then I added a second throw bar, also from RoW. The throw bar is a two piece assembly, which you CA together, with a piece of paper or tissue between the pieces to make them electrically insulated from each other. Here are the two pieces before the excess CA-soaked paper has been cut away.


And here the throw bar has been put in place.

Next I painted the new parts with grimy black...
... and applied some weathering powder.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Spiking rail

Finally it was time to spike some rail. But as always, just one more thing to do first - soldering feeder wires. Here I have soldered feeders to the first two rails, and then just laid them down in about the right position.

Next I wanted to mark the position of one of the rails, in reference to the ties. So I pinned down some loose rail, all at about the same position from the end of the ties all along. I tried to get a nice an smooth flow.

Once I was satisfied I marked the position of the rail, on the ties, with a pencil. Now I can lift the rails for feeder soldering as I go along, but still easily get them back in position with help of the marks.

The rail will not sit directly on the ties but on tie plates. I use Grandt Line code 125 tie plates, and Micro Engineering small (1/4") spikes.

Keeping the rail on the previously done pencil marks, the spikes are pushed or driven in with a pair of pliers.

Here are the first few plates and spikes in place - two spikes per plate - one on each side of the rail.

Once the first rail was done, I continued with the opposite rail. Its position determined with an NMRA standards gauge.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ballasting the Siding

Once the main was all ballasted I turned to the siding. When I did the turnout I ballasted the diverging route with Arizina Rock and Mineral's steam era yard mix, which is supposed to be some kind of cinders I assume. Anyway, I continued with the same ballast along the siding. With some N scale cinder ballast mixed in for good measure.

Where the siding ends I also constructed a poor man's bumber out of two ties.

More Hoppers

The lone hopper I have is no longer that lonely. It now enjoys the company of two more hoppers of the same kind. One of the guys on the Railwire forum was kind enough to offer them at a good price.

So here is the entire fleet:

The rails which the BN car sits on are just loose rails temporary laid there for this photo.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ballasting, part 2

Not much progress since last, but I have done some more ballasting. When doing that I reached two of the ties which I had weathered to look like new ties, recently replaced. I wanted the ballast around those ties to also look new and fresh. The problem was I did not have any such ballast, suitable for O scale.

Then I thought I should test to do some ballast from what I had at hand. So I took some of the rubble I mentioned in the previous post, the stuff I collected when they where laying the slabs for our patio. It is some kind of crushed rock, of all possible sizes, ranging from dust to pebbles about 1/4 inch. I put some of it in a strainer, like this,

...and sifted it. Everything that could get through the mesh was gone. That left me we just the larger pieces...

...which I then poured into a colander, with holes slightly larger than the holes in the strainer mesh.


Shaking the colander made the smallest pebbles fall through and into the bowl below.

Voilá, my O scale ballast of crushed stones!

I applied that ballast, directly from the quarry, around the new ties.

Looking rather good, if I may say so myself.

P.S. The strainer and the colander were taken from the kitchen. Washed after use, with no one the wiser.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ballasting, part 1

I have started to ballast the track. I used a few different materials in order avoid getting things to uniform. I imagine that a small outback operation, while not neglecting its trackage, used what was at hand or could be obtained at a reasonable prize, rather by going for a standard "by-the-rule-book" ballast. Thus, when topping off with additional ballast they could have been using a completely different material than the previous time. At least that is what I pretend has been the case here.

Here is what I used

1 - Rubble I collected when they where laying the slabs for our patio. Not the sand for the actual setting bed, but what went under that. It is crushed rock in a variety of sizes.

2 - Sand from a children's sandbox, if I remember correctly.

3 - Model railroad ballast, from Arizona Rock & Mineral. This is their large scale PRR Light Gray ballast. I bought it when I built the turnout around which this layout is built. I think the stones are a little to large, and also to rounded. To use only this material gave the whole thing a kind of whimsical look. At least in my eyes. That is the reason I started to blend it with other stuff (and invented the story above to go with it).

4 - Some more model railroad ballast, this time HO ballast from a German company called minitec. Unfortunately they have gone out of business. To bad, since they did great ballast. N scale too.

I first applied the crushed rock along the outside of the bitumen subroadbed. This is more or less just a filler, since most of it will probably by obscured by other scenic material (grass, weeds etc.). But if any of it sticks up it could give a nice effect.

Then I put done a layer of the sandbox sand between the ties. This is also more or less a filler, and serves the purpose of hiding the bitumen below, should there be any gaps in the layers above.

Next came the ballast from Az Rock & Mineral, topped off with some minitec ballast. Here is a picture showing the various steps:

And a side view:
To fix things in place I used the standard method - wet with alcohol and then soak with a mix of white glue and water. When dry it looks like this:

This was the first stretch of the main, so on to the rest! After that it is time to deal with the spur/siding, which will get a slightly different treatment. More about that later.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Basic Landscaping

Ballasting got postponed some. I did not want any of the pink foam to show under the edges of the ballast, so I needed to apply some basic paint first. But before I could paint I needed to create the basic landforms. Not that there should be any dramatic forms on this layout, but I did not want it to be entirely flat either.

So I removed foam in places and added foam in others. The latter at the back, along the backdrop. This also helps in making the transition from the layout itself to the backdrop less apparent.

After some spackling and sanding I then painted the whole thing with a tan acrylic paint. Great overall improvement, as always when you do this step. But at least I get equally surprised every time.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Tie Replacements

Jon (a.k.a. central.vermont) over at the Railwire forum suggested I should have a couple of ties look like they are close to new creosote, like they just changed out a couple. Nice idea, I thought, and once I was done weathering all the ties I went back and pried a few of them loose...

... and glued new ones in their place. Two of them here, and the other two in two other spots.

I then applied a tar colored stain I had around, but I guess any dark brown, close to black, stain or wash would do. I applied it generously to get a dark creosote like look. I also dry-brushed on a yellow and red mix of oil paints to simulate excess creosote oozing out (or whatever it is that gives the ties that orange look in places). Here is what I ended up with.

Now I consider myself done with the ties and can proceed with track laying, but since I am still waiting for a shipment of parts, tie plates among others, that has to wait. Instead I think I will do the ballasting. I know people who hand lay track often do the ballast before the track, but  it will be a new experience for me.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tie Weathering, part 3

The next and last step in the tie weathering process was to go for that sun bleached look. I did that using a trick I think I picked up somewhere on the Proto:87 Stores web page, but that was before it got its new look. Anyway, the advice was to use  oil paints, namely a mix of Titanium White and Ultramarine Blue. More of the former and less of the latter. Do not make an even mix, but more of a "hotchpotch", like this.

Then I sort of dry-brushed this on top of the ties, with a quite stiff brush. After which I smeared it out with a piece of cloth, which also got rid of any excess. I also highlighted the ends of the ties with the same kind of dry-brushing.

Once the track has been laid, and rust is applied to the track and the tie plates, the ties will also get its share of rust coloring. But that is later...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tie Weathering, part 2

I have applied one more wash to the ties, this time brown with some yellow mixed in. The purpose being to kill the somewhat greenish effect of the dry and diluted India Ink, and also to simply create an overall color variation.  Once again, I used nothing fancy but what I had at hand - light brown hobby acrylics and yellow from a children's watercolor set, mixed in plain tap water. Here what it looks when just applied.

And when having dried. On purpose, the effect is quite subtle.